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Randsco News

It takes time to create blog entries and not everything that happens, merits an entry. So, we've created this 'news' section, to keep readers up-to-date with our misadventures and accomplishments. Read about it here FIRST, before it makes it into a blog entry.

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Clogged Pipes

February 29th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Clogged Pipes] Lately, our wood-burning stove is difficult to light and won't allow a roaring fire. Yesterday, we discovered why.

Surgery Required

Hutton House - When arteries are clogged with build-up, surgery is required. Doctors go in and clean out the blockages, so that blood can flow unimpeded.

What works for the human circulatory system also works for the home heating system.

Filed under: "a somewhat embarrassing tale", Scott spent the better part of yesterday, disassembling our wood burning stove exhaust ducts. Apparently, they were clogged with creosote. Not just a little - a LOT of creosote (think "massive chimney fire").

OKAY ... you'd think as a volunteer firefighter, Scott would know different.

Well, he does. In fact, he cleaned the main vertical chimney this fall, sweeping the ceramic liner with a square, wire chimney brush. He wasn't too worried about the metal ducting, figuring (incorrectly) that it got hot enough that any creosote would be burned off.

We're still pretty new to the whole wood-burning stove thing. We've been in our house for two winter seasons now. We've noticed, this year, that it's gotten more difficult to start fires and get them roaring. (Which was precipitated by Rachel wanting to keep very slow burning fires going all day - not a good idea, apparently).

The other night, after a particularly smoky start to a rather cool fire, Scott thought, "I wonder if the exhaust pipe could be the problem?"

He slapped it with his hand and immediately, the fire went out and smoke began to pour out of the fire box. We opened all the windows and doors, turned on the fans and stared in amazement at the fire, which was now just a mass of white smoke.

We let the box cool and the next day, Scott pulled apart to the exhaust vents. What he saw was amazing ... the pipe was nearly clogged with creosote and ash build up. It was far from the "clean" pipe he'd imagined.

We have no idea how long it took to accumulate this amount of creosote, but we cleaned it all out, wire brushed the insides of the pipes, reconnected them and we're able to - once again - have roaring fires.

We've got a magnetic thermometer that's mounted to the exhaust stack. It shows where the range for "normal operation" is, too low and you're into the "creosote" range and too high, you're "too hot". We try to keep it in the normal range and it will be interesting to see how much build up we get next year.

I guess taking apart and cleaning the exhaust pipes will become part of the annual maintenance, just like sweeping the chimney. ;)

As an aside, we had a bit of creosote staining on the red brick. After trying all manner of cleaner and searching the Internet for a solution, Scott tried oven cleaner. It worked pretty well, though several applications with a stiff brush, were required.

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Updated: 6-Mar-2008
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1993 Bayliner Classic

February 15th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Test Ride] After snow and cold weather hit, we had to postpone our boat search. We're interested in a 1993 19-foot Bayliner Cuddy Classic, which we finally got a chance to test-drive, the day before yesterday.

Test Ride

Nanaimo - After being held up by snow and cold weather, the Randsco executive staff finally got a chance to take a test ride in the corporate yacht they're thinking of purchasing.

As reported in early January, Randsco has been on the hunt for a new, sea-worthy, flagship vessel. After scouring the local countryside, the internet and classified ads, they found potential in a locally-owned, 19-foot, Bayliner Classic Cuddy.

They made arrangements to take it out for a test ride, but that date (and all subsequent dates) have been foiled by weather, scheduling or other issues.

FINALLY, the weather Gods were smiling and everyone's schedule was clear (and suitable sitting was found for the Oop). Randsco executives, along with their nautical engineer, took the 19-foot Bayliner out for a test ride, the day before yesterday.

They plunked the boat into water at the Nanaimo public boat launch, after a short drive. They started the boat and took off out of Departure Bay, rounding Newcastle Island, heading out along Rainbow Channel, turning around at Snake Island. The test lasted the better part of 45 minutes and the staff appreciated both the speed and sea-worthiness of the vessel.

Outside of the harbor, the waves were choppy and the wind was up, out of the northwest. Running with the wind, the boat got up on plane easily, cruising along at about 3600 RPM and 25 mph. From a dead stop, the crew gave her full power, to see how quickly the boat could "get out of the hole". Happily, the boat climbed up on plane without effort and within a very reasonably short distance. With three adults, they were confident that the boat could handle six passengers (as per the 6-passenger, 1200 pound load rating).

On the return trip, the boat was heading into the waves and keeping it on plane made for a very rough ride indeed. The boat, however, handled well and took the abuse well, proving its sea-worthiness. The nervous pilot (Scott), cut back the speed a tad and the boat ride became smoother, as the boat cut through the waves, rather than pounded across them.

The steering is a tad "sticky", the GPS screen is mounted in a bad spot and the canvas (and boat) needs a bit of TLC. All things that could be easily rectified.

The main issue, however, as noted by the nautical engineer, was a 'whine' coming from the top end of the leg. He reported that this abnormal noise, which he said was quite loud. He thought it might be the result of a bearing problem. Randsco staff are working with the owner, to determine what the next step might be, as they're not keen on plunking down good money for an engine (or leg) problem.

Stay tuned.

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Updated: 29-Feb-2008
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Floating Frogs

February 12th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Floating Frogs] Alex finishes level two of her six-level "Learn-to-Swim" program at the Nanaimo Aquatic Center. She received another embroidered badge and is now officially a "Floating Frog"!

Floating Frogs & Tiny Turtles

Nanaimo - Reporters huddled together, outside of the Nanaimo Aquatic Center, last week. They were hoping to have a word with Alexandra Kimler, after completing the 2nd of 6 levels of swimming lessons.

It was a rainy day and though the reporters were soaked, they were not disappointed. A little after 4 PM, Alex emerged from the Aquatic Center, beaming from ear-to-ear and holding up her "Floating Frogs" badge.

"I got a badge," she shouted, waving the small inch-and-a-half embroidered badge in the air.

She was pummeled with questions from every direction: "How was the exam? Do you like swimming? Did you stick your head underwater? Did you float?"

Not one to mince words, Alex answered them all with a single word, "Good!" she said.

The City of Nanaimo - Parks, Recreation and Culture has a "Learn to Swim" program, geared for children. It consists of six stages or levels. Each stage requires children to demonstrate more advanced water skills, building on the stage before.

Alex completed her first stage "Tiny Turtles" in the middle of November. Twice a week she attended the half-hour class, which was taught by a girl named Brandi. The skills she was expected to learn included:

  • Safe entry and exit
  • Safe movement in the water
  • Exhale under water (mouth and nose)
  • Assisted front float
  • Assisted back float
  • Assisted use of pool equipment

The instructors comments on Alex's report card read: "Way to go Alex! Excellent work. Your floats look great and I really like how you put your face in the water and blow bubbles! :) "

The next class was booked already, so it was a while before Alex could join the next class - "Floating Frogs". After Christmas, however, Alex began her next round of swimming lessons.

She finished her coursework last Thursday and it was her Dad that got to see the big smiles and push through the mob of reporters, waiting outside of the Aquatic Center. Her skill levels now include:

  • Complete submersion underwater
  • Bob 3 times in a row
  • Picking up objects off the bottom
  • Unassisted front float (3 sec)
  • Assisted back float
  • Assisted front glide (1m)
  • Assisted back glide (1m)
  • Assisted side jump
  • Introduction to the "big pool"

Comments from her male instructor, Tim, were: "Keep those arms out straight on your front glides."

Next: "Ocean Otters"!

Way to go Alex! (Next time you fall off the dock at the floating cabin, your parents won't be in such a panic, eh?) :p


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Updated: 15-Feb-2008
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100-AMP Drain

January 9th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [100-AMP Burnout] The gory detail about the Christmas Day electrical burn-out at the Hutton House • [Down the Drain] Randsco is on the hunt for a sea-worthy, company yacht.

100-AMP Burnout

Hutton House - Faithful Randsco readers knew there was an electrical fire at the Hutton House on Christmas day.

What they don't know, was that it took 2 days to sort out.

One of the two 100-AMP fuses on the main house panel burned up. The acrid smell of "burnt electrics" was obvious, but the visible damage wasn't.

After some investigations, the head electrician at the Hutton House, managed to isolate the problem. Of course, calling in professional help on Christmas Day was nigh impossible, as was procuring requisite replacement components.

Randsco staff went gallivanting off to Vancouver for more Christmas cheer, while the dedicated and over-worked head electrician remained behind. This was a two-pronged tactic: [a] Procure parts and fix the bloody electrics and [b] Stick around in case anything else burned up!

Turns out that the switch was antiquated and the fuses both expensive and difficult to find. (Nearby neighbors said the original fuses were likely nicked from a saw mill, where the previous owner - and builder - worked. They were 100-AMP, slow-blow fuses ... the kind used to start heavy, industrial equipment).

Faced with few options, the head electrician upgraded the entire switch box, replacing the lot with (2) 100-AMP breakers.

The electrical operation (removal of old box, moving another box to make room for the new box, inserting the new box, connecting the heavy power leads, common and ground wires & then - with fingers crossed - testing the lot) took the better part of the day.

The good news is that we don't have to buy hard-to-get, expensive fuses - we'll just flick the breaker. The bad news is that smoldering holiday electrics added $250 to our merry bill (not including the head electrician fee ... which amounted to only a six-pack of beer and the cost of a couple of band-aids. He works for cheap, eh?)

Down the Drain

Shawnigan Lake, BC - Watch out, here come the landlubbers!

After purchasing the floating cabin and experimenting with the beneficently under-powered "Pugwis", the Randsco Corporation need to find a new, sea-worthy flagship vessel. Something with a dry, warm cockpit, more power, a decent trailer, fishing gear and electronics.

Sources close to the Randsco campus say that Randsco has found a potential candidate. Those same sources were able to obtain photos of the boat, as well as some specifications.

"If it's the boat we think, it's a 17.5-foot 'Double Eagle'. It's a 1978 boat, looks a bit rough, but is apparently solid. It's powered by a 2003 Suzuki 70HP 4-stroke motor (300 hours) and has a 15HP Johnson 2-stroke "kicker". The boat comes with a depth sounder, fish finder and GPS. It's got a galvanized trailer with electric winch," said our source.

We think the asking price is $7800.

The boat is currently own by a Federal employee living in the Cobble Hill area of Vancouver Island.

Apparently, several Randsco staff will be heading down today, to have a closer inspection. They've hired a nautical engineer to accompany them and provide a professional inspection of the boat, motor and other equipment.

"Buying a boat can be tricky," said our source, "get the wrong one and you'll be pouring money into the water for some time to come."

(Seems to this author, that there's already been a tad poured down the drain, but shhhh ... don't tell anyone.) :|

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Updated: 29-Jan-2008
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Server Pressure

December 12th, 2007  · stk

NewsBrief: [Fried Server] Randsco has been offline for several days, due to a massive HDD failure. • [Pressure Cooker] Scott was recently diagnosed with stage 2 hypertension.

Fried Server

Atlanta, Georgia - Well laugh out loud, eh? After all that bragging and feeling cocky about being on a new, super-duper, faster-than-lightning server ... the hard-drive took a nose-dive, over the weekend.

Astute readers will have noticed that was "off the air" from Saturday night till Tuesday morning. OUCH!

The new server is fast as a Ferrari, but like the car, needs to spend a great deal of time in the mechanic's shop. :(

At the moment, we've retreated back to the shared-hosting space we were so eager to leave. Talk about embarrassing!

The hard drive took a nose dive sometime Saturday night. The server was up and down for most of Sunday, then went completely black from that point forward. We couldn't even ping the bloody thing, let alone log in or *gasp* administrate anything.

Out of the bloody rubble of 1's and 0's, my mate managed to ressurect the Randsco database. (Did I mention that we'd been too busy to set up any type of backup plan?)

I've cobbled it back together again and most of the post and comment data appear fine. The only problematic bit is that we've lost an entire month and a half of changes to files outside the database. So if things don't work, or look a little wonkers ... that's why and gradually, we'll get it all sorted out.

Pressure Cooker

Comox, BC - It was last reported that Scott would be attending 'live fire' training. Unfortunately, Scott wasn't allowed to participate, for medical reasons.

In a very twisted turn of events, our Randsco founder and Chief toilet-bowl Swabber (that's Mr. Swabber to you) was told that his blood pressure was boiling over.

"You're ready to pop a gasket," said one Comox firefighter, "This is the highest reading I think I've ever seen!" (Response after measuring Scott's blood pressure at a mind-numbing 210/110, which is measured in millimeters of mercury, or Hg).

After the "no-play" weekend, Scott's been to the doctor, has had a series of tests (blood, urine and ECG) and will be meeting with his family doctor tomorrow morning. Scott's stage 2 hypertension may be caused by a number of factors and the treatment varies, depending on contributions from each. It may also be symptomatic of other underlying health issues.

Of course, stress is one of the big factors in high blood pressure. Things like ... hmmm, let's see ... servers going belly up! :p

"I had no idea," said Scott, who up until now, has always had blood pressure readings at the normal range (120/70).

"You discover something like this and suddenly, you feel OLD," he said.

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Updated: 9-Jan-2008
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