Tuesday, 29 December 2009

EGR Valve

I have some time off work for the week as I do every year at Christmas time, and I quite enjoy the mandatory holiday. I had a great Christmas; it wasn't as hectic as I had imagined despite the conglomeration of relatives at my parents house on Christmas Day, and having Michelle's parents stay with us for a few days after that. On the hypoglycemia front the holidays have been a great boon; I feel better. Today I decided to attempt to check the EGR valve in the car: I figured it might be an all-day job, and I was right--between looking after Kate and playing online games and reading a John Grisham novel, it took all day...

EGR stands for Exhaust Recirculation Valve. No vehicle really needs one to run; however they're good for the environment, and since our Mazda 626 recently failed AirCare, I decided this should be the next thing to check. (It failed on NOx levels only. A mechanic checked our engine codes and found a code 6. There is no code 6. Therefore I was back to square 1. I got the oxygen sensor changed. The car seemed to run better for a day but still failed Aircare. Then a day or two later the muffler developed a hole...argh!) What the EGR valve does is recirculate engine exhaust back into the engine to be re-burned. But if it is clogged or one of the numerous sensors or circuits related to it malfunctions, the EGR valve is rendered useless. I parked the car outside on the street where I had decent daylight to work by, opened my Haynes manual, and set to work.

After a few hours I had managed to remove the air intake housing stuff that was in the way of getting to the offending machinery; identify the valve itself although it was different than the manual described, and I had loosened one of the two bolts that I could feel below. I couldn't see what I was doing half the time, as the part is behind the exhaust manifold and sort of below it as well. This sort of work is hard on the back of the knees! I took a break for lunch and then resumed my toils. I borrowed a small ratchet from an unsuspecting shop to make my travailing easier, and it moved mountains (my apologies for waxing poetic). Victory! I took the EGR valve upstairs to clean it.

There was a little bit of carbon in the holes but nothing that would indicate clogging. I soaked it in WD-40 and wiped what I could with a rag. I checked into the price of a new part and when I heard it was $306 I decided I had better put this one back in and test it later with a vacuum pump--if it's toast I can get a 'new' one at Pick a Part! So I put it back in the car before it got dark, and believe it or not the car started right back up!

Now, for the million dollar question: if cleaning this valve actually fixes my NOx, can I use foil tape to fix the hole in the muffler?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Project Update

The breakfast nook bench is coming along nicely. The 3 lid parts have been cut and the front edge glued on, sanded, stained, and mostly varnished. The laminate toekick is done. The table with nice sturdy oak legs has been bought at a bargain from MCC ($15, luckily I hit a 50% off day!). The seamkit for the table top has been purchased. The drawer rails are purchased also; I just have to build a drawer now...might be a bit of a challenge without a tablesaw, trying to get it square! I am trying to get it functional in time for Christmas guests. Shouldn't be a problem as I only have one more coat of varnish on one piece.

In other news we got some other great bargains at MCC the other day including cutlery and videos. Here is a picture of Kate and me watching the Veggietales Silly Songs Countdown video:

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Day 90

90 days. 3 months. The length of time generally taken to recover from annoying recurring hypoglycemia symptoms while following said diet. Today marks such a day. And of note, I have had a lot more energy than usual this week, working overtime 3 days in a row--and being quite tired three nights in a row. :) I have felt a lot better though. Will it last? Maybe, maybe not--I have had good weeks before. And I still don't feel perfect--a little dizzy last night, a little off this morning...but so, so, so much better than even a few weeks ago. Thanks God!

Today (thursday) I am home on this frosty morning, looking after Joey and waiting for Kate to wake up. Joey is playing with his milk bottle (not drinking it) and has just eaten an enormous quantity of grapes and apples. I am enjoying the rest from physical labour. On Monday and Tuesday I was installing windowsills in a penthouse in downtown Vancouver, and yesterday I installed a countertop at the new Burger King just a few blocks away from my home. It was all decent, enjoyable work, but time pressures and obstacles made it challenging.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Something that Matters

I drove to Vancouver with Victor and Kate today. We left at 1pm, got lost as usual driving to Richmond, and visited Victor's friend Betty in New Westminster (who wasn't home, but he dropped off a card in her mailbox). Then we visited his old house off Knight and 61st, and Kate started to stink so I changed her diaper in the car, squished into the backseat with her because it was raining outside. Victor checked his old neighbour's house too but no one was home. Then we called a few of his friends to see who was meeting us for supper. We had an hour to kill before we went for supper, so I called 411 and got the address of the Richmond IKEA to check out some lights. Then we met Victor's friend Walter at Red Robin at Oak and Broadway for dinner. I changed Kate's diaper again and fed her and managed to eat a few macho nachos too. Victor paid for dinner (I paid for gas). All throughout the day I felt okay but definitely noticed when stress kicked in...and had a few small dizzy spells at the restaurant (it wasn't super-relaxing, thanks to Kate). We drove home in the pounding dark rain at 7pm and talked a bit about heaven. Victor is one of the most encouraging people I know on this subject.

Things didn't go exactly as Victor had planned but I've learned to 'roll with the punches' and it was still an enjoyable day. Victor gave me a Christmas card and I opened it when i got home. It's the first one I've gotten this year...it is a colourful stocking-shaped card; you might get a pack of ten at the dollar store. Yet inside contains profundity. Painstakingly written in Victor's trademark handwriting, a mix of capitals and small letters with decent spelling and atrocious grammar, is a bible verse (Luke 2:7) and a mini sermon/prayer relating to it, and several more humble prayers that demonstrate a heart that loves Jesus more than anything and that is willing to do anything He asks.

As I sat there and read this card (ending with 'HaPPY NeaR 2010") I decided that this could very well be the best Christmas card I will receive this year. Perhaps the greatest gift, even. Thank you, Jesus.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Kitchen Renovations

A project I have had in mind for some time but not had the energy or resources to complete is the creation of a breakfast nook in the kitchen. Finally a few weeks ago I purchased a sheet of plywood and made some boxes (see picture). Then last week I installed them 4 inches above the floor and levelled them out as best as I could. Previously there was a breakfast bar in this corner, so I had to remove that and fill and paint the wall behind it. I was able to cut it up to help fund the efficient use of wood for my boxes and supports.

Next I plan to find a seat for the bench. I am hoping to use 3/4" pine with cabinet door hinges at the back, mitred at 22.5 degrees with rounded edges on all four sides, and stained and varnished with the colour 'Ikea' (to match our other furniture!). Then the table: a 4 sided monstrosity with a 41 inch radius. I was hoping to use the legs from a cheap table I'd seen at MCC, but today when I checked it was gone. The top of the table will (hopefully) be solid surface, using about 10 sink cutouts from a job we did for the Garrison apartments. It will be a ton of work but should look nice (the colour is Corian: Maui). I plan to place wanescotting along the vertical edge of the seats and a white laminate toe kick. All completed the job should cost about $200 plus 200 hours of labour!

Kate took it upon herself to inspect things as you can see in the picture.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


For the last year or so, I have been struggling with hypoglycemia--at least that's my best theory. For the last 2 months I have been taking control in a more deliberate way by keeping track of what I eat, when I eat it, and how I feel. I try to eat protein every 2 hours. I try to stay away from refined carbs but don't do too well at that yet. Also I don't eat sugar, or even concentrated natural sugars such as fruit juice, because they make my symptoms worse. What are my symptoms? Although they seem to fluctuate with severity depending on my diet and stress level, I have experienced: vertigo, dizziness/lightheadedness, fuzzy-foggy brain, shortness of breath, pounding heartbeat, aches in my armpits, confusion, fatigue, extreme fatigue, dry mouth, irritability, depression, adrenaline buzz, slightly blurry vision. Mostly though, I think of it as feeling 'off.'

There are several types of hypoglycemia and I believe the version I have is called Reactive or Postprandial. Basically what happens is about 2.5 hours after eating my blood sugar drops. This has something to do with insulin but I forget what. The way to fix it is to eat foods that release sugars slowly into my blood instead of crashing down the doors. So whole wheat and brown rice are in. I also eat lots of protein because it just helps. Nuts, sandwich meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese are my favourites. Ideally I would eat more legumes such as lentils (eatabean!) as they are rich in protein, and other grains such as quinoa, but I'm still working on that. Did you know that the average loaf of 100% whole wheat bread has sugar in it? So I'm also working on eliminating little sources of sugar like that. I have noticed improvement when I stick to my diet.

Last week I definitely felt better. I even had two 'normal' days in a row with my old energy back. Then on Sunday morning I 'crashed' on my way to church. What went wrong? I think I just ate too much in the way of carbs that morning, plus some white grape jam probably didn't help. Last night I ate some sugar-rich cereal before bed, and this morning I had a 'sugar hangover.'

From what I've read and heard, recovery takes about 3 months after starting a decent diet, then I can start experimenting and figure out what foods are the best for me. I'm pretty sure I'm near the end...it has been great to see improvement.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

New blog

I have created a new blog. It is on blogspot. It is called eatabean, because everyone should eat a bean--they are chock full of protein. I will work on it more later this winter when i am shut inside because of the rain. I hope to post some interesting reflections, pictures, music etc here. God Bless!