Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Well another Halloween is done. It seems like events around here become bigger and bigger spectacles every year, and Halloween is not immune. Tonight had to have been one of the busiest we've ever had. We planned for 130 trick or treaters and got an extra box of candy just in case. We went through all the candy and had to start rationing and recycling some of what my girls collected to make it through the 2 hours starting from 6pm until 8pm when I shut off our lights and blew out all the candles. My wife estimated that there were at least 200 kids of various sizes begging for candy.

Actually, "begging" isn't too far off considering some of the older kids who show up at the door. Maybe you're familiar with them? The ones who don't bother wearing a costume or show any indication that they actually put some effort into getting free handouts? Some didn't even bother carrying a bag or a pillow case to collect their goodies. Some just carried an open backpack--which made me wonder what kind of stash they were hoping to collect over the course of the night. One boy just held out his hands. I asked him where his costume was. He said he was "a teenager."

"An annoying teenager?" I asked.
"Yup," he responded as I reluctantly placed a couple of the junkiest candies I could find in to his open palms.

This year was probably the best year so far for our girls (and me). They were dressed as two witches and an angel. The two oldest had sprayed their hair silvery and I joined them in doing that. With the youngest being 4 years old, she was able to do all the walking and knocking and saying "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you" with her two older sisters. I didn't have to walk them to the door; I didn't have to remind them to speak loudly and remember their manners--I had an easy time. We returned home for one bathroom break and after that my second daughter decided that they were only going to stop at six more houses (because she's 6 years old) and they would be finished--they had collected all they wanted to collect. The child in me was a little disappointed because I knew that anything that they didn't eat, I would get--I wanted them to keep knocking on doors until their bags spilled over!

I guess there are other parents who feel the same way as me, but at least I think I'm a little more subtle. When we get home and sort through their candy, we take out the candies that are "bad" like the ones with nuts (one of our girls has a nut allergy) or are "bad" because I don't like to eat them. We give the girls other treats in trade. This year the trade was for gummy worms and Wagon Wheels. The candies I don't like to eat, I "recycle" by handing them out to the kids who are still knocking on the door. I admit it--guilty as charged--that's what I do. But I do that in the comfort of my home and it really takes very little effort on my part.

What surprises me is seeing the young parents every year who dress up their young children and take them door-to-door collecting candy. I don't mean the parents who are accompanying their shy or scared toddlers who won't knock on doors themselves. I'm talking about parents with really young kids--babies who can't even walk! They dress them up in silly little furry animal jumpsuits and follow all the other neighborhood kids, carrying their baby in one arm and a plastic orange pumpkin bucket in the other. Usually, dad is at the end of the driveway with a larger bag hanging off the handle of the stroller, ready to unload the bucket that mom hands off to him when she returns from getting the stash. I truly, truly hope that these parents are NOT feeding their 1-year-old babies all that chocolate and processed sugar. But then who is the candy for?

Another thing that we see here every year is a parade of vehicles who come rolling into the neighborhood, unload their crew of unruly pirates and ghouls and swarm the houses like hungry termites. We had so many people this year because at the peak of the invasion around 7pm, our cul-de-sac was filled with more cars than we had at our last multi-house garage sale--and you know how popular garage sales are! It was the most cars I'd ever seen for a single event--way more than the parade of vehicles we had during spring clean-up earlier this year.

So I have no problem shutting down business promptly at 8pm. Most of our neighborhood kids are done by then and it's only the older kids and the roaming minivans and SUVs who are left outside in the cold night. I do feel a little bad though when I look out the window and I see parents with younger kids (like ours) still looking for houses with their lights on. But shouldn't those kids be getting ready for bed? Oh, yeah, another thing that irks me....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkins 2006

Pumpkins 2006
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
We (I) carved our pumpkins tonight. I usually let my daughters draw something on the pumpkins and I try my best to follow it. The one in the center is a face my 6-year-old picked out from a picture. The one on the left was drawn by my 8-year-old, and the one on the right (hearts with "Boo" and exclamation marks) was drawn by the 4-year-old.

2006 Honda Odyssey - Break-in Period Complete

I was able to finish the 1000km break-in period on our 2006 Honda Odyssey this past week and I have a few observations:
1. It's nice having a large fuel tank because I'm able to go further bewteen fill-ups.
2. Although I don't normally have problems parallel parking, the rear camera and backup sensors make the whole process, very, very easy.
3. The Odyssey handles like a large, heavy vehicle. It's not bad. A lot of magazines say it's one of the best handling minivan--but you still can't deny physics. Stepping into our Subaru STI after this feels like stepping into to a purpose-built race car.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Star Trek Cloaking Device?!

Cloaking device works, sort of, scientists say
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British scientists said on Thursday they had found a way to hide an object from microwave radiation in a first step toward making a what they hope will be an invisibility cloak.

From fiction to fact? Ultra cool... I love it!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hydro dam with reflections

Hydro dam with reflections
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I took this picture along side a fun local road that I affectionately call the "Ring"--after the famous Nürburgring in Germany.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey - 706km: Philips Crystal Vision Extreme

I picked up a pair of new low beam headlight bulbs from Costco yesterday. This is what the blurb on Philips website says about the Crystal Vision bulbs:
With a color temperature of up to 4,000ºK, no upgrade bulb is closer to the bright blue/white look of HID. CrystalVision delivers the whitest light available from a halogen bulb. Plus, CrystalVision gives you significantly increased light output for much better visibility of road signs and hazards.
These bulbs are made in Germany so I was more inclined to buy them. At about $38 CAD for the pair, the price was reasonable. It was very easy to swap the bulbs and although the colour change is subtle, I definitely appreciate it over the OEM Sylvania bulbs.

The picture below shows the OEM Sylvania low beam bulb on one side and the Philips Crystal Vision Extreme on the other:

This picture shows the Philips Crystal Vision Extreme bulbs on the Honda Odyssey next to the OEM HID headlights on our 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. The colour is pretty close:

An interesting tidbit of information.... The 2006 Honda Odyssey owner's manual specifies that the low beam headlamp bulb is a 51W (HB4, or 9006). The Philips bulbs are actually 55W. I haven't had a chance to take the van out for a nighttime drive yet, but I didn't really notice any immediate increase or decrease in brightness.

Friday, October 20, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey: Cargo Organizer

Honda makes an accessory for the Odyssey called the "Cargo Board" that allows you to have an extra "shelf" to load things in the back. You can see very clear pictures of how it looks and how to install it on this page. It also lists for a MSRP price of $298 USD! Once I saw those pictures (and that price), I began to think that I liked the cargo organizer I bought for our 2002 Mazda MPV much better. It only cost me $200 USD list and had been sitting untouched in my garage for the last 3 years--ever since we traded the MPV for the Toyota Sequoia. Because the MPV was smaller than the Odyssey, I started to wonder if the cargo organzier would fit. As you can see from the picture above, it actually fits quite well.

Rather than having the (intrusive) metal legs like Honda's version, these covers are supported by a form-fitting plastic tub. It doesn't give you the versitility of being able to have part of the 3rd row folded down, but it's convenient to take in and out of the van. Plus, with 3 kids (and #4 on the way!) there will be very few times that I will have the 3rd row folded down and split.

Next to the covers are two long pockets for holding small items. Inside there are eight sets of hooks to hold the two elastic nets in various configurations. There are also non-slip mats for the main compartment as well as the two pockets. In the following three pictures you can see how it fits in the Odyssey. To the left and the right, the fit is perfect. Towards the rear there's about 3 inches of room that I could use to fit long narrow things if needed. Because of the slope of the Odyssey's rear storage area, the plastic tub doesn't slide around at all.

I'm so glad I didn't get rid of the cargo organizer when we sold the MPV. I even tried to give it away to one of my neighbors but he didn't want it. Our MPV had tan leather so the colour doesn't match with the Odyssey's black interior, but that's a minor issue considering I don't have to spend any additional money on it. We made a trip to Costco tonight and it worked great because we were able to put the small fragile things (like eggs and fruit) in the tub and stack the bulky items on top. Here's the part number from the original packaging when I bought it from a Mazda dealership back in 2002.

Note: At that time, this accessory--although made in Canada--was available ONLY in the USA. I ordered mine through a Mazda dealership in Seattle, Washington. I don't know if that has changed. Pictures of the cargo organizer in the Mazda MPV are available here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey: Traction Control

The rain that we've had this past week has allowed me to try another feature of our new 2006 Honda Odyssey: traction control. Or maybe I should say: the lack of traction control?! Of course, my tongue is firmly planted in cheek, because it's a "feature" that I was pleasantly surprised to discover. I guess the 240 ft. lbs. of torque are plenty enough to get the wheels spinning--especially on a slick surface with all-season treads.

My first experience with spinning tires on the Odyssey was at a 4-way stop. I was going uphill so I thought the force of gravity assisted with the pleasant sound of going nowhere. Actually, it startled me at first so my reaction was to release the gas pedal. I don't think the traction control ever activated. The next couple of times were on level roads. It seems very easy to make the tires chirp when the roads are damp. To avoid drawing unwanted attention, I actually had to control myself and consciously feather the throttle very gently--a strange experience for me.

I'm just not used to hearing any wheel spin with the AWD on our 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Also the fun-killer traction control on our 2003 Toyota Sequoia was quite intrusive so the constant beep to tell you that it was activated was quick to start nagging you to "stop driving so stupid!" I'm curious to find out what the "tsk, tsk" limits of the Honda are....

UPDATE: I found out I can make the tires chirp on flat, dry pavement, too :evilgrin:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Here Comes the Rain Again: 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring Windshield Wipers

It's been a really dry fall this year and yesterday was the first time I had a chance to drive our new 2006 Honda Odyssey in the rain. Here are a couple of observations from yesterday:
  1. The speed sensitive wipers worked well. After going through two other vehicles with just regular intermittant wipers, it was nice having this feature since I could just turn on the wipers and not worry about having to constantly adjust the speed. They worked probably better than the rain sensor wipers I had on our 1999 VW Passat GLX.
  2. An interesting "feature" of the wipers on the Odyssey is that when you have the front wipers on and shift into Reverse gear, the wiper on the rear window will also turn on--even when the rear wiper switch is off. It's a good idea because the rear window collects water very easily. Also, the rear view camera can be hard to see through because of water droplets on the lens. This clears the window for you and you don't have to worry about taking the extra step of turning on the wiper yourself. However, the implementation could be improved. With this automatic operation, the rear wiper is not intermittent but instead wiping at full speed. Now unless rain is coming down in a torrential downpour, there is no need for the wiper to be going at full speed. Even when the rear wiper is turned on normally, the intermittent wipe is too fast so most of the time I leave it off.
UPDATE: September 18, 2006

After a few more days of rain and getting used to the Odyssey and understanding exactly how the speed sensitive wipers work, I've come to the conclusion that these are inferior to the rain sensor wipers that were in our VW Passat. With rain sensor wipers I did not have to be constantly adjusting the wipers speed everytime I came to a stop. Although the wipers in the Honda Odyssey are better than regular interval wipers, I still have to adjust them everytime there is a stop in traffic. (Note: On the Touring model, the wipers can be programmed by the driver to be speed sensitive or regular interval.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mountain View Cemetery

Headstones among the trees
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I was very flattered a few weeks ago when the manager at Mountain View Cemetary where this picture was taken contacted me and asked if he could print out two of my images to use in his office. I emailed him the high-resolution versions and he sent me copies of the enlargements.

I guess it's time for me to buy some frames!

Missing hand
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
Mountain View Cemetery began operations in 1887 and is one of Vancouver's oldest. They began renovation projects including restoring headstones in 2004. They just recently had a dedication ceremony for their new infant area.

Monday, October 09, 2006

U.S.S. Odyssey

I washed and detailed the van yesterday and took pictures this morning. You can see them in this thread I posted at Odyclub.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Subaru STI road construction « CAR [directory] 車

The picture of my STI was posted to this blog: Subaru STI road construction « CAR [directory] 車

2006 Honda Odyssey: Mod Number Two

One of the first things I did when I brought our new 2006 Honda Odyssey home was remove the dealership sticker on the rear hatch and replace the dealership license plate frames on the car. Today I debadged the hatch and added this sticker to show my Subaru love :0).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey: Make it so!

Whoo, hoo! I was able to hack the Honda navigation system and install my own splash screen! Detailed steps to follow.

UPDATE: I posted the steps I did to hack the screen on this page. Additional info is on this thread at the OdyClub.

My kids are growing up too fast

We tested out the wireless headphones for the rear entertainment system (RES) in our Honda Odyssey on Sunday night. The kids couldn't unanimously decide which DVD they wanted to see, so I put in one they hadn't seen in a long time: Blue's Clues. Sid, our oldest, wasn't too impressed, but once it started to play I could hear her getting into it and singing along and following the search for clues.

On our way home, my youngest started to explain to me that, "First it was Joe. Then it was Steve." I explained to her that actually, Steve was first and then Joe came afterwards, but no, she refused to accept it and was adamant that it was Joe who came first. My wife and I both smiled at each other. I guess in her world, Joe did come first.

But I started to think about it some more. Was this a sign of things to come? Did I just get a glimpse of the future? A future where 4-year-old Ken would be in her teens--her rebellious teens--a self-professed know-it-all, who would refuse to accept that us old people had any knowledge of the "real" world and how things worked in modern life? Is she going to be--the fear of all fears--The Teenager Who Rolls Her Eyes at Her Parents?

Sigh. Children grow up too fast. I can already feel the grey hairs multiplying on my head. Long live Steve!

Monday, October 02, 2006

A New Addition: 2006 Honda Odyssey

We first shopped for a minivan back in 2002 when we were expecting our third child. We looked at several different models, but chose a black Mazda MPV with a body kit mostly because of the way it handled and because of the way it looked. Also, at the time, the Honda dealers were very reluctant to move off of MSRP. The MPV seemed to have most of the same features of the Honda Odyssey in a compact size for a better price. Of course, I underestimated the depth of my shallowness and soon discovered that I couldn't get over the fact that it was a minivan and we traded-in the MPV soon afterwards.

Things have changed a lot in four years. The Sequoia that I had so much fun in is gone. Mazda MPVs have suffered poor reliability. The minivan market seems to be oversaturated and sales are slowing. The Honda Odyssey is now in it's 3rd generation with a 244 hp engine and has the reputation of being the best handling minivan. Honda Canada is offering big incentives like 1.9% financing and $2390 cash back for it's year-end clearance. On top of that, I've accepted the fact that we are a minivan family--there's no denying it--we are expecting our fourth child!

So we have a new addition in the garage. It's a 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring in Nighthawk Black Pearl with black leather. With all the bells and whistles like a Rear Entertainment System, an Alpine GPS navigation system with voice recognition, a rear-view backup camera with front and rear parking sensors, and a power lift gate, I figure it has enough buttons and doo-dads to keep me occupied. Oh, yeah, there are 17 cup holders, too!

We have no plans to sell the STI, but when the new baby arrives, it will no longer be our full-time family-mobile. The two vehicles actually complement each other well. The Odyssey is smooth, quiet, luxurious and we can cruise in comfort. The STI has the raw power and a 6-speed manual that reminds me what driving is all about. The Burgman continues to be my full-time commuter vehicle.

Anyway, we picked up the van last Thursday and already found a new game to play: What can we say wrong to get the computer to do what we want? My kids love this! The best one so far: "Radio, ninety-poo point five F.M." :lol:

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