Where Do I Begin?

8/29/2014 04:18:00 PM | 8 Comments
The last week and a half has been interesting, to say the least. Let me bring you up to speed on all that has happened.

First, a week ago Tuesday (August 19), I had Balthazar Vasquez and his son/helper come to take a look at a couple of steel screen doors we have on the Mennonite house. Upper and lower on the same end of the house. We were talking about pulling the doors and frames out and them working on the doors to refine the fit and to replace heavy metal screening in the doors themselves. I wanted them to replace the welds holding the screen in place with screws so the screening would be relatively easy to paint/replace on down the road.

We started off looking at the upstairs (front) door. Actually, the first thing I did was to tie up the dogs to prevent any undue familiarity with them and workers. A security measure of sorts. That went fine at first. When it came time to inspect the lower door, which was where I had the girls tied up, I had to move them so that Balthazar could check out the door.

Not even giving it a thought, I disconnected their main chain (they each had a short length of chain to their collars, which in turn were joined to the main chain) planning on moving them all together to the parking palapa.

Big mistake on my part. The dogs, already excited because of Balthazar being there, and now I was trying to move them as a group. Well too much excitement led to a big fight with the three of them. Poor Cindy Lu, being the smallest took the brunt of it. It probably only lasted a few seconds. I managed to get them separated and secured.

Then I told Balthazar that we could start this project on Wednesday morning and eased them out of the property. During all that, Dianna had checked out Cindy Lu, She had sustained a couple pretty good bites but nothing real severe. I bundled her on her leash into the Isuzu and took her to Dr. Sheila, just to make sure.

After getting some pills for antibiotics and such, we returned home. As I was letting her out of the car, things went to hell in a hurry. I had thought in the half-hour Cindy Lu and I were gone, that the other two dogs would have calmed down and returned to normal. No. They immediately jumped on Cindy Lu and a really terrible fight ensued.

I was trying to get the dogs separated, pounding on Deeohgee and Secret, which did no good at all, and then tugging on Cindy Lu's collar, which slipped off her and sent me flying airborne, landing flat on my back across a concrete curb. As I landed, I heard a loud and distinct 'crack'.

My first thought was that I had broken my back. I managed to get up. It didn't feel too bad right then and I helped corral the two big dogs. Cindy Lu had gone over to the other side of the palapa and was lying down. Dianna went over to check her out.

At that point things began to get a little foggy for me. I began to realize that I was probably hurt more seriously than I initially thought.

Dianna said Cindy Lu was bleeding quite a lot if she moved her. I knew I was not going to be able to drive. We called David and Elizabeth and they came over quickly. Dianna and David carried Cindy lu to his car and they took Cindy Lu back to Dr. Sheila's. Sheila immediately began triaging Cindy Lu's wounds. She said we could probably pick her up at five PM.

After they got back from that trip, we (I think) were talking about if I needed to go to the doctor. I opted for the hospital to get an x-ray of my back, assuming that would be the first thing my doctor asked for. Just then, the phone rang. It was Dr. Sheila with the very bad news that poor Cindy Lu didn't make it. Sheila just could not stop the bleeding. Both her femoral artery and vein had been badly damaged in the fight.
Our Beloved Cindy Lu in Happier Times
We just didn't have time right then to start any sort of grieving process. I know for me, the rest of the afternoon was quite surreal. I know I haven't yet acknowledging her loss. It's weird how things can just become so compartmentalized.

David loaded me into their Isuzu and took me up to the hospital. Elizabeth stayed at our place with Dianna.

When we got to the hospital, I was amazed at how fast I actually got in to see a doctor. He asked a couple of questions and looked briefly at my back. I ended up getting an injection in the butt and a prescription for some pills. Altogether, I was in the hospital about 10 minutes. I had completely forgotten to ask for an x-ray and the doctor didn't mention it either.

So, back to the house. By this time, it's apparent to everyone (not necessarily me) that I can barely move. Immediately, we set up camp in the pool house, as climbing the stairs up to our Mennonite house would be almost an impossibility. And this is where we've been living ever since. Except for today, which is the first time I've been back upstairs so I could do this blog bit and some other things.

Early on, we made contact with Dr. Marc Nadreau, a Chiropractor who also is an acupuncturist. I met with him Wednesday, the day after my fall and I've had three or four sessions with him since. I think that's why I seem to be making quite substantial progress toward recovery.

Yesterday, I also visited with Doctors Natasha and Kishor Punjabi, who run the Five Rivers Medical Clinic just north of Courts. They put me on some pain killers and muscle relaxants. Great doctors and great people. Very easy to talk to, and very knowledgeable.

After four sessions with Dr. Marc, my back this afternoon is finally feeling almost normal. I certainly didn't think I would be feeling like this so soon after the fall.

We're thinking that maybe tomorrow we can begin moving back into the Mennonite house. Of course, if the tropical wave coming towards us develops into something, we may be back down to the pool house as our hurricane shelter. Maybe we'll be slow about moving out. Besides, I don't want to jeopardize my back and the progress that's been made with it.

Back to the dogs for a bit. On the one hand, it was a very bad scene with the fight, and with Cindy Lu dying. It would be easy to say, "That's it, they're gone and get rid of Secret and Deeohgee too". But, they're still lovable. There was no malice in what occurred. It's just one of those things that happens in the dog world. If I'd been more like Cesar and had stronger instincts about dog behavior, I would have probably moved them one at a time and maybe avoided the problem, or when we came back from the Vets, I wouldn't have brought Cindy out with them around. But, I didn't and it happened. We still love them and have them around us day and night - even more so, staying down at the pool house.

It's easy to think of relationships with dogs as being so simple, but at the same time, they seem to be some of the most complicated relationships we have to deal with. Some of the recent research seems to bear that out, with the findings of areas of our human brain responding directly to dog activities. I think we're a lot closer to them than we realize. At least with ours, there was never a thought that we would get rid of them - wring their necks, for sure, but not getting rid of them. they're a part of the family.

And I know, Cindy Lu would want it that way too.

Welcome to Corozal

8/01/2014 10:39:00 AM | 6 Comments
What An Atrocious View
Welcome to beautiful Corozal. Guess what the first thing is that you see when coming into Corozal from points south on the Phillip Goldson Highway (formerly the Northern Highway)? Is it the view of the beautiful bay with its ever-changing colors? Hardly. It's an increasingly ugly display of commercial billboards - right on the water side of the highway.

The Corozal Town Council, in their wisdom, doesn't mandate that billboards occupy the land-side of the highway, where they would still be ugly, but far less intrusive to the view of everyone. Oh no. They have to be placed front and center. It really makes one proud to live in a town that used to have an almost unobstructed view of this gorgeous bay.

Billboards, along with a slowly creeping increase of construction on the water-side, is slowly ruining the premier waterfront parks and unobstructed views that have been the jewel of Corozal, and made it such a treat to see.

Now you can get a glimpse of the water, and an idea of how it used to be. One can only hope that Corozaleños, both native and new arrivals, will let the Corozal Town Council (http://www.corozaltowncouncil.bz/) know just how much they appreciate the beautiful waterfront views they now have. Just press the 'Contact' button to leave them a message. I'm sure they'll respond 'right now.'
This post is a result from a comment by Eddy, this morning, asking if the info from a post of mine (Shipping from the States) from April 7, 2009 was still good.

As you might guess, there's a 'yes' and 'no' answer. Some things are still good, some have changed.

Currently, I use Easy Shipping to Belize, LLC for all my shipments from the States to Belize. There's two reasons I changed over to them. One, They are in Florida. California started collecting sales tax on items delivered in California - even if they were to be shipped somewhere else. Since I don't live in California, I saw no reason to pay California sales tax on items I purchased that were delivered to California-based shippers, and Second, Easy Shipping to Belize ships monthly to Belize. Their contact info is:

Amado Mena and Cherry Cadle
Easy Shipping To Belize, LLC
18340 Robinson Avenue,
Port Charlotte, Florida 33948
941-255-1031 (Office)
941-740-2576 (Cell)
501-620-5718 (Belize)email is: easyshippingtobelize@hotmail.com.

Cherry is the person who you generally email or talk to on the phone. Amado, shuttles between Florida and Belize. He does the deliveries here in Belize.

So, having said that, I skim through the previous posting on shipping and keep things as current as I know.

The first two ship by weight (more or less - as much as you can figure this stuff out.). They both are their own customs brokers as well.

The thing that's nice about Easy Shipping, Marage, and Roy, is that they all deliver directly to your door. Sterling has a warehouse over at Central Farm in Cayo where you have to go to pick up your goods.
Others, you have to go to the Port Authority in Belize City to pick up your stuff. That's worth doing once, just to have the experience. It's a trip. Or avoid it and keep your sanity.

1. Marage Shipping and Trucking Service
3720 South Normandie Avenue, Apt. #3
Los Angeles, CA 90007
USA
323-304-8774
Email: marage@corozal.bz (either for Clifford, Darla, or their son, Brinston)
Website: http://corozal.bz/marage/index/en
I've used Marage Shipping quite a bit. They come down quite frequently, by truck from LA to Houston then by ocean container to Belize, and/or by truck to Belize from LA. They act as their own customs broker.
2. Roy and Son Trucking
2620 West View Street
Los Angeles, CA 90016
USA
Nena Pascascio in LA: 323-732-0376 npascascio@yahoo.com
Roy Pascascio's cell phone in Belize: 621-9353
Both Doug, my neighbor and I have used Roy and Son. Doug more than I have. They don't seem to ship as frequently as Marage. They used to ship by truck to Houston to a container ship to Belize. I think most of the companies truck stuff over to Florida and load onto a ship (Hyde Shipping) there. Roy also is his own customs broker.
The last ships by size. I'm not sure if Sterling is their own customs broker or not.

3. Sterling Freight Systems
SFS
Energy Freight Systems
14310 Interdrive East
Suite 300
Houston, TX 77032 USA
Fax: 011-501-824-2325 (Belize)
Tel: 011-501-824-2496
Cell: 011-501-601-8479
Email Dan Roth, Operations: d.roth@sterlingfreight.com
Website: http://www.sterlingfreight.com
Doug has used Sterling to ship a large generator (350 lbs). I haven't used them.
Each district seems to have shippers located in and/or catering to that district. I can't speak to them, as I've never dealt with them. Again, I would recommend you check with other folks in the areas of Belize you are moving to, to see who they recommend.

Hope this helps.
I got this piece in a roundabout way from Elizabeth Wright, who got it from Damon Russell, who wrote the original post about driving in Belize. My comments, in italics, simply describe the sorry state of my ride, against the criteria as laid out by Damon. I thought you'd enjoy both parts. Thanks Damon, for letting me use your stuff.

Having no towing, roadside assistance, or much by way of service stations in Belize, driving a car here requires a slight rethink of what to bring and how to determine if you should or shouldn’t go on. Here’s a few tips: 
  • In addition to a spare tire and jack and lug wrench, I’d suggest you also carry basic tools, a recovery strap to get you out of the drains, a heavy hammer to bang the bent rims back to stop the tires from leaking after potholes. A tire pump is another must-have accessory, as well as bungee cords, zip ties, steel wire, etc. A machete is also a good thing to have. The smaller one works good for the car. If you wander deep in the bush, a chainsaw might be a good idea as well. 
I have a jack, one of those cute little hydraulic numbers. It's great except it's really too small to be of any use. It takes at least two or three 2x4s under the jack before it can make contact with the axle.
A friend of mine has one of those hydraulic floor jacks, like you see in a garage, that he travels around with as his jack. I'm jealous. I've got a spare tire hanging on the spare tire rack on the back of the Isuzu. I can't remember the last time i checked its pressure. I do have a new lug wrench. I bought it at the same time as I bought the jack. I've got the strap and have used it, having to have the Isuzu towed from Carmelita back to Corozal (roughly 25-miles).
I have the heavy hammer, a 2-lb sledge, just in case. I have a tire pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Unfortunately, I usually keep it under my work bench at home (I know, it's a compliance issue). I have a whole assortment of bungees, zip-ties, and some stainless steel wire. The bungees rubber strands have long ago gave up all their stretch. Now, they make a marginally good rope.
The wire I've actually put to good use. it's what holds my headlights in the grill - more about this later. Machete is in hand, bouncing around the back of the Isuzu somewhere. It also doubles as a bottle opener for those pesky coconut bottles. you just lop the top off and have a refreshing drink of coconut water, pretty much anywhere along your journey. I'm not so sure about the chain saw. That might just be overkill. 
  • If your battery goes dead, a “jump start” in Belize usually involves the helper removing the battery from his car and either turning it upside down over yours while you start your car, OR they’ll remove your battery, install theirs, let you start your car, then switch them back.
I'm ahead of the game for this item. I have heavy-duty jumper cables from the states. The rubber insulation is cracked and beginning to peel. I like the tip about turning the other battery upside down. I hadn't considered that. 
  • If you have a pickup with NOBODY in the back (pan), they’ll look at you funny. Stop and give them a ride. 10-15 people is about the limit for passengers, although at the checkpoints they may balk at 5 to 7, depending on who’s driving, and who’s in the pan.
No pickup (yet). I'm hoping that's my next ride. The most people I've ever seen in a pickup was seventeen - infants on up to the grand parents. Mennonites too. Not a smile in the car-load. 
  • Seat belts are to be worn at all times, when proceeding through police checkpoints. Put them on at least 100 feet before the policeman and put down your beer, or hand it to the passenger, unless they’re a small child.
This one is easy. I've done both parts several times. It's amazing how the old seat belt habit kind of fades away. I have brought bottles of Guinness for the ferrymen. Does that count? 
  • If you have a large hole in your windshield, clear shipping tape may be used to reduce wiper wear and rain entry into the vehicle during the rainy season. Otherwise, remove the glass until the first rains come, or if required to renew your registration.
No hole in the windshield (yet). Dianna's car (long since gone away) used to have clear tape over the hole in the windshield where she took a beer bottle from a passing bus. That counts. 
  • If your wheels are bolted on with 5 lugs, you can break at least three off before you need to concern yourself with getting it repaired. 
This one may be considered a partial compliance issue. I'm only missing one lug nut each on two wheels (both rear wheels). Isuzu lug nuts seem to be somewhat hard to come by down here.
  • If you stop for tacos during your travels, do NOT forget to toss the garbage out afterwards. If you don’t, you’ll be infested with ants or TacoCats the next day. 
I've had geckos living in the Isuzu for months. I'm assuming they're finding something in it to eat, otherwise they'd be long gone, I'm sure.
  • Baygon or Fish [local bug spray] is an acceptable starting fluid for gasoline or diesel engines.
I've used both, and, I've also used WD-40. All three work exceptionally well.
  • Tires have wear indicators at 2/32” tread depth as required by the USDOT. You’re not in the US, so if the tire holds air, keep going. If the belts are exposed, cut off anything that might stick out and scratch the paint.
This is clearly a compliance issue. I have four relatively new tires, purchased at Caribbean Tire. However, two of them do have a near constant slow leak. The only reason I got rid of the old tires was that they were well over seven years old and the sidewalls were beginning to crack. Ok, I wimped out on that one.
  • If your car has every exterior panel the same color, it’s considered rare and increases resale value. If it also has no broken windows, it’s probably new here in Belize. Give it time to acclimate. It’ll happen soon.
I do have several cracks, one that runs virtually the whole width of the windshield. I'd say that puts me in compliance here. Panels are all the same color, but all are nicely dented and/or scratched. Also, the left rear door can only be opened from the inside.
  • Gauges, speedometers, warning lights, etc. are distractions. Pay no mind to glowing “Check engine”, “ABS”, “SRS/Airbag” warning systems and the like. Nobody cares about that stuff. Pay attention to the road, why are you looking down?
This one we're a winner on. The speedometer quit working about seven months ago or so. The Check Engine light has glowed brightly since we bought it seven years ago, and the lower panel of the dash is hanging on by a thread. I can't find where the bolts go, and after a couple of months, the bolts themselves have wandered off. 
  • If you brought in a car with navigation and cruise control, that’s cute. If it’s a hybrid, that’s even cuter. We need them here, all we can get. Thanks! 
Navigation - isn't that what the windows are for? Cruise control - what helps you hit the sleeping constables at speed. I'm waiting to see our first all-electric down here. That'll be a hoot.
  • Exterior illumination is a luxury that even government agencies can’t afford. Don’t expect that single red or white light up ahead to be a motorcycle, it’s likely another car. 
I already mentioned the headlights. An additional feature that they have is that on low-beam, the headlights shine about 5-feet in front of the car. I'd hate to blind an oncoming driver.  Currently, I'm missing one backup light and my right turn signal isn't working. That I need to fix. They will nail you on that at traffic stops. I got a warning for not having two brake lights a few months ago. They both work now. 
  • In the US and Canada, they drive on the right side of the road. In England and much of the EU, they drive on the left. In Belize, we drive on both. 
This is so much more convenient. It gives you so many more options.

Catching Up

7/18/2014 07:10:00 AM | 6 Comments
Well, here we are a good month and a half into the rainy season, and for the most part, as dry as it is during the dry season. Don't know if that's something related to global climatic changes or just a quirk with the local weather.

Speaking of water. We finally got our new tank for the reverse osmosis (RO) system. Hooray! No more toting 5-gallon bottles of water up a flight of stairs. That is a chore that I guarantee is never going to get easier, especially as you (or me, in this case) keep getting older. Of course toting a crate of Belikin upstairs is no joy either. Just that the reward for doing so is much more pleasant once the bottles are cooled down.
New Reverse Osmosis Tank
The tank for the RO is much smaller than the old one. The old one was a 14-gallon tank. I thought when we initially set up the system that I was really going to need the larger size, having nothing to relate it to.
Size Comparison
It soon became apparent that the smaller size was more than adequate. About the only time I would have needed the larger one would have been if I was filling 5-gallon bottles. As it is, we generally only use the 1-liter bottles.

Breakages to report... Well, I guess not breakage - it's already broken. It's a 'repairage', if that's a word. My Shop Vac has been out of commission for some time. I had given it to Cecil to fix, which he did. Then I promptly broke it when I tested the motor and gave it back to Cecil.

Cecil managed to fix it again. So, the motor works fine. The problem is the blower connected to the motor. It's made out of soft aluminum and has two steel flanges (I guess that's what they're called) on either side to provide strength during operation to withstand the torque generated when the motor starts up and runs.
Shop Vac Blower With Flange
Both of those have separated from the blower, allowing the blower to freewheel. I'm going to try some JB Weld today to see if I can glue those two items back to the blower.
J-B Weld Steel Epoxy
It appears they were originally press-fit together.
Blower Showing Flange Removed
There's another flange that fits on the other side of the blower. Gluing these to the blower is my project for this morning. Stay tuned.

Aints and more aints are driving everyone down here crazy. That's ants to the uninitiated. It seems the little buggers are trying to move into our homes to escape the rains which are sure to come... Maybe. Anyway, we've been waging war with them.

The treatment du jour is some stuff we've tried before and it sort of worked. Terro Ant Bait. It came before in these little plastic tray thingies that you cut a hole in it and the aint was supposed to go inside and suck up the juice then leave.
Terro Ant Baits
I think the aints here got wise to the deal and wouldn't have anything to do with the tray. But, Terro, came out with some new stuff. It's called Terro Ant Killer. I don't know if it's the same formulation or not, but it comes in a handy squeeze bottle.
Terro Ant Killer
You put three or four drops on a piece of cardboard (supplied as part of the kit) and place it where the aints can get to it easily. They love the stuff. We've been refilling the stations three and four, or more, times a day and it really does get rid of them. We've been using it so much, that we've taken to replacing the cardboard stations with beer bottle caps - tidier and easier to pick up and place.

Thank God we have a pool - That's our A/C. We're in it every day, and almost all day too. We're averaging mid-nineties temp and humidity. We use machetes to cut a path through the air just to walk.

The car made its pilgrimage up to Rick's again. Only for a day this time. A drive shaft bearing or something like that had gone out and was grinding its way to oblivion. Rick was able to fix it and got it back to me by early afternoon the following day.

I think that's it for this installment. I've got some dishes to do, then to the workshop and tackle the J-B Weld thing. See you later.
Before we get started with today's lesson in electricity, I have to tell you this bit.

The day started off as usual with a walk with the girls. That went as you would expect. After a shower and breakfast, I made a quick trip into town to get some groceries. Nothing unusual there.

Dianna beat me to the pool this morning, so I made it to the pool about 10:30 AM. Roughly about 11:15, Cecil showed up with my ShopVac motor. Cecil had taken it the day before to see if he could get it working. I plugged it in at the gate to test it.

Oh yeah, it worked! Damn near took my finger off when it fired up. Two things - 1) I forgot to check the on-off button of the motor, and 2) I was holding the part of the motor that would rotate at about a bazillion RPM.

So, I plugged it in and promptly dropped it after it savagely mauled my finger. Dropping it didn't do much other than cause the motor to separate into two parts - both trying to go faster than the other, and with a great deal of sparking and noise. The two parts were still connected by wires. After a mili-second or three (it seemed much longer, believe me), I reached up and yanked the power cord out of the outlet.

After picking up the pieces, I returned to Cecil at the gate, and told him the motor worked fine, but would he mind trying to fix it again? I know he thought something  like Geez, what a loose cannon here. But he was too polite to say anything other than "I'll try and bring it back tomorrow."

I then returned to the pool, stopping first to clean up and bandage my finger. As I returned to the pool, I was telling Dianna what had happened at the gate, and suddenly felt a sharp stinging in my left forearm. I saw some little black bug on my arm, which I promptly whacked, and fished it out of the water. It was one of those microscopic wasps. Stung pretty good for such a small critter too.

As I finished telling Dianna about the episode at the gate, and telling her about the wasp, I got bit on the right thumb by a doctor fly. So, what else could happen now? By the time I was finished telling Dianna of my travails, she reminded me that it was a little past noon, and if I was going to catch any of the game (USA v. Germany in the World Cup) I better get a move on.

Thank God for the break. The way I was being attacked left, right, and center, it was not looking good for me to survive the rest of the pool session, much less the afternoon. So, I went back up to the house and turned on the tube to watch USA lose to Germany, but that was OK, as both sides were advanced to the next phase of the Cup.

Now, what I was really going to write about. If you follow the blog, you know I've been having problems with the weather station. After some time, I finally narrowed the problem cause to one of possible electrical error, which I wrote about several times. Billy had read some of those postings and sent along some amplifying information that I'll pass on to you.

All this technical stuff reminds me of when I was in Radar 'A' School, in the Navy, at Treasure Island. Treasure Island was a cold, bleak, wind, rain, and snow swept lump of rock in the middle of San Francisco Bay - within easy view of Alcatraz, the infamous Federal prison. There were some similarities beyond just being co-located. But, that's another story.

What Billy's bit reminds me about, is one of the instructors at the 'A' School. Of course, they were all Navy Radarmen from the fleet, serving a tour ashore. This particular instructor, Radarman First Class, Petty Officer Fogbound (No lie. That was his actual name.) was usually assigned to us for the afternoon lecture - right after lunch. Anyone who's been in the military knows it's a cardinal sin to doze off during a lecture.

Petty Officer Fogbound's favorite topic was advancing our knowledge of electricity and electronics beyond the basics (which we had just spent 8 weeks in San Diego learning about). his favorite tool or example was a character he called Joe Electron, and every time he mentioned Joe Electron, he would give a thunderous clap to the blackboard, guaranteeing that even the sleepiest of us young sailors in the class would snap to and be alert for the next little while.

You know how names sometimes fit the action. Well Petty Officer Fogbound's lectures were just that - fogbound and as obtuse as could be. Thankfully little Joe Electron (BANG!) frequently came along and jarred us awake.

So, here's Billy's piece on AA batteries. Watch out for Joe Electron...

Billy is a friend of ours, who, with his wife Pam, have lived here in Belize, and in Oregon, for several years now. Billy worked in the battery business for around thirty years, so you might say he has some experience in the field. Billy sent me this information about the various AA battery types after reading my posting of the problems I had been having with my weather station and my amazement at finding out that all AA batteries are not necessarily created equal.

Billy said; "A little insight into rechargeable AA batteries. [First, their voltages]: Alkaline - 1.5V; NiCd - 1.2V; NiMH - 1.2V; and Li-ion - 3.6V."

"When multiple batteries are used, you must know the voltage of the device to know whether the batteries are series or parallel. For instance, three Alkaline AA batteries in series are 4.5 volts; and in parallel they are 1.5 volts."

"You can replace Alkaline batteries with NiCd or NiMH batteries in most devices. Due to different charging characteristics you must use the proper charger for each rechargeable [battery] chemistry. Just remember, in batteries, the amount of voltage you get from a cell depends on the chemistry."

"An easy example is lead acid. A lead acid cell is 2.1 volts. A 12-Volt car battery is actually six - 2.1-Volt cells hooked together in series, in a container or case. A 6-Volt Alkaline battery is actually four - 1.5 Alkaline cells in series. A common 6-volt Alkaline lantern battery is really four - D-cell batteries in series, in a case."

"Replacing two NiCd or NiMH batteries with two Li-ion batteries would not be possible. In fact you could ruin the device. Also NiCd and NiMH batteries must be cycled down [discharged] completely before recharging for the longest total life. Li-ion batteries will last longer if they are not totally discharged before recharging."

"Most chargers operate on a timer principle, but some actually measure the charging current and shut off when the battery is charged, thus preventing overcharge or undercharge."

"Some other useful information: you will only get the capacity (amount of energy) of the weakest cell in a series. Kind of like links in a chain. That's why you should always replace all the batteries in a device at the same time."

"And one last thing comes to mind. Sometimes the current draw on a device is so low or the circumstance of its use is such it doesn't make sense to use a rechargeable battery. In fact sometimes it makes more sense to use the cheapest battery you can get. A good example is a smoke detector. They have a very low current draw, but also they should be replaced every year, no matter what battery you use, so why get an expensive battery? I gained a lot of happy customers when they came in expecting to spend $10.00 and left spending $1.99. Also when a battery says Super Heavy Duty don't think it has more capacity than Alkaline. It doesn't , but that is the battery I would use in my smoke detector if I was prudent and changed them every year, if I didn't change them. than I would use alkaline as super heavy duty are more prone to corrosion with age. That's the lesson for the day." 

Thanks Billy. That helps me to understand why my weather station has been kaput for a while now. Hopefully as soon as I get some Li-ion rechargeable AA batteries, I'll be back in business.

I don't think Joe Electron surprised us once, did he?

Boy, it sure would be nice to have someone to help keep things neat and tidy around the house. Something that would be consistent, manage it's own time and not bother us too much. Lord knows, we're busy enough as it is. Something that could...

Robby Helping Around the House
Well, maybe Robby might be stretching things a bit much. Maybe something a bit more domestic is what we have in mind. How about something that was just focused on keeping the place clean. That's good enough for starters...
Rosie, Perhaps?
Probably not quite that advanced, but Rosie's a step in the right direction. Maybe something that's not going to stretch the technological bounds quite so much. Something, oh I dunno, maybe a little smaller than a breadbox, that will do one thing, and do it well...

Something like a Roomba. Why that's it. We just happened to have friends who have a Roomba, and they've been kind enough to loan us the use of theirs for the weekend. Just to try it out and see if something like this is for us.

This is Colleen's little pet, iRobot Roomba, Spot. He or She, is all charged up and ready to go for it's second day of cleaning.
Spot, Charged and Ready to Go
Right about at the stroke of noon, Spot sang a little tune (I guess to let us and all the animals nearby know that she/he is about ready to begin the workday). Right away, Spot took off and began industriously cleaning the bedroom - especially under the bed.

Of course, this new activity requires supervision. Nelson figured he was the one who most frequently goes under the bed, the couch, and just about anything else, so he nominated himself to supervise Spot. Here he is, doing a magnificent job of it too.
Nelson Closely Supervising Spot
Apparently, we have become infected with hitekitis. I think it all started because Huey, our pool-cleaning cabana-boy robot just was so cute, and did such a good job, that the closer we looked at Bruce and Colleen's iRobot Roomba, named Spot, the more we could see similarities between the two.

Huey cleans the pool in a random pattern, if you can call it that. And that's pretty much how the Roomba works as well. So, like I said, the more we looked at the Roomba, the more sense it made for us. Then, Colleen loaned their Roomba to David and Elizabeth to try out. This led directly to their ordering a Roomba of their own. All this suggested that we should try out Spot and see if we needed such a selfless household servant as well.

The end result is, we have Spot for the weekend, and we're giving him/her a good tryout. I think it's a done deal. I guess I had better begin perusing Ebay and Amazon for a reasonably-priced refurbished version of Spot for our very own.

I've got to get out of the way. Spot is trying to clean the office as I type and he/she doesn't take kindly to anyone getting in his/her way.