Monday, August 29, 2011

Steel Support Painting Part 2

Well this project went on way too long.  I know I'm a bit obsessive, so I ended up putting on 4 coats of the rust converter.  I got the first 3 on last R&R, with lots of scraping & sanding in-between each coat.  When I got home and looked at it on Monday, there were a few new rust flecks, so I went a head and scraped it with a scotch brite, and then put on the 4th coat.  It dried over night and actually looked pretty good this morning.  So I went a head and painted with some Rustoleum glossy black for metal.  It went on pretty well and really covered the posts.  I really hope it 'takes' and I don't have to re-do this project for a LONG time.

Wasn't today BEAUTIFUL. Look at all that blue sky (ignore the wild 'yard', I'll do something with it next summer).

Heated Island Counter Top

Boy, today was a day to get a couple of projects finished, which is why it's almost midnight and I'm still not finished packing for my trip to Europe tomorrow.  But that's not the topic of the blog.

Back when we were tossing around design ideas for my house, I came across an article about heating concrete & granite counter tops.  I thought it was a good idea but when I decided to go with the metal top, instead of concrete the whole idea was sort of dropped.  However, after 2 winters with a metal counter top, that can be quite chilly, I decided it was time to revisit the heated idea.  So I did some reading on line.  And then decided to give this product from Thermosoft a try.  It sounded easy to install so I talked to one of the sales guys on line and ordered enough to heat the 'table' half of my kitchen island.

It's basically a felt pad with some heating wires.  They also sent me un-wired pad as filler for the un-heated portions.  Sunday Paul came by and showed me how to get the metal top moved off to expose the wood counter top underneath.  Last night I laid out the padding, and then Don (electrician) came over today and wired it all in.  This required moving an electrical outlet under the counter and installing a thermostat, but it seems to have gone pretty smoothly.

And I have say that I'm going to really like it.  It's not a dramatic change, but it's certainly warmer.  Takes the chill off the metal which will be great this winter.  So I'm happy that this project is done and that I have my island back :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Visa Signature Perks Sweepstakes - Facebook - Amazon Kindle

Well, here it is.  I got my mail all opened up this evening and in one of my boxes was an Amazon Kindle, Wi-Fi only, 6 inch display.  It's really light, only weighs 8.5 ounces.

I looked it up on the Amazon web site.  $114 which isn't bad. It will have some advertising screen savers on it, but that's not a bother.

I actually have a couple of books loaded on my phone and was reading one of them in the airport last night.  It's kind of cool so I'm going to charge this baby up and try to load a couple of books on it.  This means I'll have to get my Wi-Fi router out of the closet and hook it up to my broadband connection tomorrow.  But if it all works I'll download a couple of books and try it out on this trip starting Tue.

Thank you to Visa Signature Perks Match and Win Game, and to Facebook :-)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trip Planning & Itinerary - Italy & France 2011

The seeds of this trip were planted last year when Shari decided she wanted to go Ravenna and take a Mosaic class.
(Ravenna has great Byzantine mosaics, I'm really looking forward to seeing them.) Mom wanted to go along and see a bit of Italy. So I was going to join them for a week. Then we started talking about it and more & more people wanted to go. We haven't been to Italy since our trip in 2006, so I guess we were due :-).

Anyway, the trip grew from 1 week in Ravenna to a 3 week tour of Italy in Southern France.
Here is our planned itinerary:

Tue: Mom, me, Penny & Virg are flying out of Anchorage together on Tuesday afternoon. We are flying Condor from Anchorage into Frankfurt, then Lufthansa from Frankfurt into Florence. 13.5 hours total trip time, as long as the flights are on time :-). It will actually be Wed evening local time when we get to Florence. The over the North Pole trip is great because it's a lot shorter then going to Seattle or the East Coast first.
Mary & Sachiko are also flying out on the 30th, they'll both get into Florence on the 31st, a few hours before we do.

Wed: The 6 of us have 4 nights in Florence. We rented a 3 bedroom apartment through VRBO. It's located close to the Arno River, only a few blocks from the Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens.

Thurs - Penny & Sachiko are going hiking on the Cinque Terre. The rest of us are going to do some sightseeing in Florence.

Fri - Luca with Hills & Roads is going to pick us up at 9:30 am and take us out into the country for a day of sightseeing in Tuscany. We'll get a winery tour, see a couple of old villages and have lunch at a working farm and tour their olive mill. We used Luca's travel company the last time we were in Italy. Penny, Virg & I had a driver for 2 days and toured Tuscany between Florence & Siena. We really had a great time.

Sat - More sightseeing and a chance to do some shopping. I'm planning to spend most of the afternoon at the Pitti Place & Boboli Gardens.

Sun - we're taking the regional train from Florence to Faenza. This is a little train that goes up through a national park, stopping a little towns along the way. It's about 2.5 hour trip, and should be very scenic. Then we'll spend a couple of hours in Faenza and continue on to Ravenna. There we'll meet up with Shari & Val, who are going to be in class M-F. And Linda & Lowry are flying from London into Bologna and will take the train to Ravenna on Sunday. We should all be able to meet for cocktails & dinner.

Mon - sightseeing in Ravenna

Tue - we'll take the train to Venice, probably late morning. Shari & Val will stay in Ravenna, they'll be in class.

Wed - we have a guided tour set up to see the highlights of Venice. Caterina will meet us at our hotel at 9:30 am. We'll have a 3 hour walking tour, starting at the Rialto market, taking in some of the back streets, and ending up at St. Marks. We can then tour St Marks at our leisure and find a nice place for lunch.

Thur - Day trip to Murano to see the glass shops.

Fri - We have nothing in particular planned. I'm sure there will a lot of shopping & sitting in cafes. Sachiko has to leave for home on Friday, so our party will drop by 1.

Sat - A very early morning. Our Easy Jet flight from the Marco Polo Airport to Lyon France departs at 7:55 am. We'll take a water taxi to the airport which should be fun. Once we get to Lyon we'll take the high speed train to Avignon. That's about 1.5 hour trip. In Avignon we pick up 2 rental cars. We've rented 2 houses that share a courtyard & garden in the town of Venasque. I'm guessing it will be 4 or 5 pm by the time we get checked in. Then it will be time to find a nice dinner and relax after a full day of traveling.;

Sun - I really want to go to the Sunday Market at L'Isle sur la Sorge. This means getting up pretty early and trying to be on the road about 8am. I'm not sure if everyone will go, but it should be a fun morning. We can pick up some fresh food to bring home, and have lunch in a café by the river.

Mon - no plans yet, I'm sure sightseeing will be involved,

Tue - Shari & Val arrive in Avignon Tue night. Once they're done with class in Ravenna they're going to Venice for a few days. They are going to take the train from Venice to Avignon, which is about an 18 hour trip. Lots of great scenery to see along the way though.

Wed - Sat - Lots of sightseeing and few evenings sitting in the garden telling stories & drinking wine. We have 2 cars so we can all go places together or split up. Places & things on my list to see (in no particular order) are:
Arles - I'd like to see the old town and do the Van Gogh self guided walking tour
Avignon - walk through the old city. Find a nice café for lunch. Check out the Pont du Gard
Cotes du Rhone - drive around this area and see the scenery & stop at a few wineries. In fact we might stop at Chateauneuf Du Pape, just because it's probably the most well know winery in the area. A walk through the old town part of Orange could be fun too.
Morning Market in Aix-en-Provence (Tue/Thur/Sat).
Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon
Nice   -
Perfume Factory in Grasse.
And at least part, if not all of our party is going to Monte Carlo for a night.

Sun - Linda & Lowry are leaving for Amsterdam on Sunday morning.

Mon - We need to be check out of the house by 10 am on Monday. We're flying out of Marseille on Tuesday at 6 am. So we'll drive down toward Marseille (the airport is out side of town) and find a hotel. Then do some sightseeing in that area and turn in the rental cars. That way we won't have to mess with the cars early in the morning.

Tue - 6 am flight out of Marseille to Frankfurt, then Condor from Frankfurt back into Anchorage.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our new module is in place!

Our new module was moved off the barge and onto it's support pilings yesterday.  The move went smoothly and the weather cooperated.  I guess if you haven't seen it, you might not get it.  But moving that huge, heavy building into it spot within 1/16 of an inch really amazes me.  I would have liked to have been on the island to see it, but I the folks out there kept me up to date and sent a few pictures.
Here is the new module on the barge once the other freight has been unloaded.

Close up of trailers in place.

All trailers in place.

Mod almost to the dock.  See the pilings it will sit on?

Mod just hitting the dock face.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New module is at the dock.

Our weather had been pretty nasty over the weekend, but the wind and seas died down quite a bit yesterday.  So Crowley delivered the barge with our new module to our dock face last night.  There is still a lot of prep work to do, but I believe the current plans is to move the module from the barge, to the island tomorrow.
In order to move it off the barge and put it in place, we've contracted a specialty heavy lifting company, Mammoet.  These are the Scheurerle Trailers they shipped up to move our module.  These are specialty trailers that raise up a bit.  And each set of wheels can be turned independently from the others.  So the end up with a lot of control for making small adjustments and they maneuver the mod into place.  I've been looking at the Mammoet web site, it looks like the driver attaches controls to the front of the trailer(s) and controls them with a joy stick.  That would be intersting to see.

However, I'll be here on shore.  I'll just have to rely on Guy to send me pics, like these he sent me today.  Thanks Guy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Europe 2011 Trip

Well, it's been a long time since I've blogged a big trip.  That last long trip I took was to Italy in 2006.  But here we go again.  We're headed to Italy & France 2 weeks from today.  We've been planning this trip for months.  But it's almost time to start enjoying the results of all that planning.

And I'm looking forward to some good weather.  We've had a cold & cloudy summer.   In fact it's 40 degrees and foggy here at work.  But it's HOT in Italy & France.  YAY!!!
We'll start out in Florence on Aug 31st, so I've added the weather forecast, which I'll keep track of these next 2 weeks. And I'll be posting more info as our departure time gets closer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Module - Northstar Island

Our new module arrived on a barge last night.  It's a 6 story, 7 million pound building that contains a 50 man camp, office, control room etc.  It will probably sit a few miles off shore for the next few days to a week while we finish getting the island ready to receive it.

I won't get to go out to the island and watch the off load from the barge, but I'm sure I'll be able to scam some pictures from the crew on island (like I did with this picture).  

It's a VERY busy time, lots of people going back & forth.   Once the module is unloaded from the barge and set in place, it will take several months to get it all hooked up to our existing facilities and ready to be occupied.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Propane & Propane Delivery...ARGH!

When I built my house, I put in a high efficiency Buderus propane boiler to provide hot water for my in floor heat, etc. There were pro's & con's but I liked that exhaust is mostly water. Since I do roof catchment of rain water for my drinking water, I didn't want a furnace smokestack dumping ash and other contaminates on my roof.

But I certainly didn't do enough research on the propane provider. I just went with the one that convenient. They're office is located on the main road into Homer, so I drive past them when ever I go into town. But it really hasn't been easy. They can't set up an auto pay, which is really a pain since I travel a lot. Though I have to say they've never let me run out of propane. But the cost really keeps going up. I know all kinds of fuel keep rising, but this is getting ridiculous.

Anyway, this years lock in price for winter deliveries is $5.09 per gallon. My last fill up was in May, I'm 99% sure I paid $3.89. So this is a big jump. I was grousing about it to my neighbor, who used the other propane company. She said her lock in quote was $4.37 for this winter. And that's a big difference. So I've been doing some research trying to figure out why. Here is what I've found:

1. Propane delivery companies don't post their prices. I'm so used to gas prices being posted & competitive that I didn't realize that propane prices aren't regulated. The delivery companies can charge what ever they want. And since they don't post their prices, most people don't realize that there can be quite a bit of difference. Shopping around can really pay off.

2. I did some Googling and ran across some documents from the Gas 4 Alaska conference last April. Approx 30% of the propane sold in AK comes AK sources. From what I can tell, mostly from the Tesoro refinery in Nikiski (about 100 miles from my house, not really that far). The rest is shipped up from either Edmonton, Canada or Washington. Argh! This is ridiculous too. We shouldn't have to ship propane, gas, jet fuel or diesel into AK from 'outside'.

And I did a bunch of looking for retail propane prices, but without much luck. The Federal Government posts weekly prices for the East Coast & Mid West, but not for the West or AK. These are only reported Oct-March. March 2011 the average weekly rate in Kansas City was $1.90, up from $1.403 in 2010. That's a LOT less then we're paying up here. I found a posting on a tracking forum for a residential delivery in Seattle, for $3.55 per gallon. That's still a lot less than $5.09.

While I can go on & on about how crazy it is that AK is paying such high propane prices, it still doesn’t tell me why the 2 local companies have 2 such different prices. As far as I know, propane is propane and it should burn the same in my furnace, no matter who I purchase it from. Am I paying $.72 per gallon more because the customer service is better? Boy I hope not.

If anyone can shed some light on this for me, please do so. I'm very seriously considering having my rented tank (another rip off) removed and replaced by the 2nd company. So I'm also interested in any pro's or con's for either propane delivery company on the Kenai Peninsula.