Communicator panel

I've had one of these Star Trek door chime panels hanging up on the wall for quite a while now.


It's pretty cool, although rather limited. The button on the front plays the Star Trek communicator panel sound. When motion sensors on the side are triggered, the panel can play the door swooshing sound, a red alert klaxon sound or no sound (determined by the sliding switch on the front).

Over the weekend, the thought popped into my head that I should get a second one and modify it to also function as a wireless intercom system. Push the button, it plays the communicator panel sound and activates the intercom. Add a microphone behind the speaker grill and some LEDs to light up the white indicator box when the intercom is active. How cool would that be?

I've been pondering ways to do this. Cannibalizing an old intercom system or maybe even a couple of FRS radios should be a relatively easy turnkey solution. Something Arduino based using a Pro Mini or Pro Micro with some kind of low power FM transmitter might work too, but require considerably more effort to develop. I haven't opened mine up so I don't know how much room there is to cram stuff into.

I'll let it spin around in my head for a while, maybe hit a couple of thrift stores to see if there's anything interesting to work with. With the move coming up, it will probably be a while before I have much time to work on this.

New house? Sure, why not!

There's something to be said for fresh starts. Connie and I decided a few weeks ago that it was time for a new start for our lives together, beginning with a new house. It's a little sooner than we initially planned on, but we also had a few other reasons pushing us toward this.

Connie had some specific things she was looking for, and we managed to find that in a new development going up between Moncks Corner and Goose Creek. We went up there just to have a look around and by the time we left, we had:

  • met a nice couple who had been living there for a few months
  • got a tour of their house
  • toured a couple of the model homes with the sales agent guy
  • decided to buy a house.

Talk about your impulse buys!

Being new construction and since the house hasn't been built yet, we have the opportunity to add a few additional features to the house to make (radio) life a little easier.

  • Requested a 2" conduit running from outside terminating in the room we chose for the shack. This will let us run coax out to the antenna(s) without having to drill holes in the house or propping a window open
  • Distribution panel for phone/TV coax. Later after we get settled, I'll work on running Cat5 through the same conduits and have network drops along with the cable outlets.
  • Dedicated 120V and 220V outlets in the shack
  • Extra lights and outlets in the garage where the workshop will be
  • Move a few doors around
  • Garage insulation

The new house will be a fair bit smaller than the current one (1500ish sq ft vs 1880 sq ft) but I think we'll actually gain a little more storage and functional space thanks to taller kitchen cabinets and additional wall space. We'll also get the back yard fenced so that the dogs can run around outside (they'll love that). We'll lose our current library space so the bookshelves and their contents will end up getting split up to various places.

The commute between work will be significantly longer than the 10 minutes I have now, but it's something I can live with. It will be a good excuse to put a mobile radio in the car and get in on whatever drive-time repeater chatter there is around here.

For now, the new place feels a little bit like being out in the middle of nowhere, even though there are a lot of other new-ish developments in the area. Nothing is terribly far away though. Goose Creek and Moncks Corner are both about 15 minutes away along some of the back roads. When we head out on road trips, there will also be a little less city to wind through before hitting the open highway.

It's a big thing to buy a house, and just a little bigger thing to worry about having to sell one first, but after all the dust settles the new house should actually be better for the finances since we'll end up with a slightly smaller mortgage and more energy efficiency than the current one.

Now we just need pack everything up, do a little bit of fixing up and renovating of this house (I don't think we need to do a whole lot) and hope we can sell it fairly quickly.

A break in the rain

According to the latest radar images, the river of rain has moved a little to the north, so now the house is just a the left edge of it instead of smack dab in the middle.


It's been a record setting rain with 29.2 cm (11.5 in) measured at the airport and 23.5 cm (9.25 in) measured downtown yesterday. Three days into October and apparently it's already the wettest October on record.

Over by Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, they recorded over 60 cm of rain since Thursday.

Had another round of torrential rain overnight, but now that the rain has stopped here, a lot of the water is starting to drain from the yard. The water in the ditch is back to a still high but more reasonable level and over in the corner of the side yard along the ditch the water has gone down quite a bit since last night.


Now that it's daylight, you can see the line of debris that gives an indication of how far away from the ditch the water got last night.


With the water level in the ditch going back down, the swale is back to draining (slowly) into the ditch rather than the other way around.


Glad for the break in the rain, but with the rest of the state continuing to get hammered there will still be lots of flooding going on.

Wetter and soggier

After a bit of a break in the rain for a few hours, the water in the back and side yards started to recede just a little bit, but it didn't last long. A couple hours of torrential downpour and wind filled up the ditch and yard again to the point where the ditch is overflowing. Of course, being dark it's hard to get any good pictures of it, but I managed to get a few decent ones during a break in the rain.


The water filling up the swale got a lot wider


Along the side yard near the front of the house, water's getting pretty close to the house, and up against the neighbour's house.


More rain on the way and another high tide coming up in a few hours. Seeing a few reports of buildings downtown getting inundated with water now.

So far the house is staying high and dry, aside from a little bit of wind driven rain getting in underneath the garage door seals. A look in the attic space above the ceilings didn't show any leakage or anything, which is good.

Hopefully the rest of the rain we get tonight isn't quite as torrential as what went through a couple hours ago, and some of this water has a chance to drain away some.

Wet and soggy weekend

Thanks to a confluence of weather events, a lot of moisture from Hurricane Joaquin is getting funneled right through the state.


We've been getting a good bit of rain the past few days, and the forecast was calling for an additional 20-40 cm of rain for the weekend. After raining pretty much all of yesterday evening and all night, I ventured out to find the ditch beside the house running pretty high and fast, with the swale coming off the ditch like a tributary.



Normally the swale drains into the ditch, but I think today, the swale was draining the ditch.

The corner of the side yard was looking like this



Looks like it will be like this for most of the day. Apparently downtown flooding was bad enough that the Charleston Police Department closed off the peninsula a few hours ago.

It's not just the peninsula that's flooding either. There are a lot of other areas in West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, Isle of Palms, North Charleston where the water is getting pretty high too.

A day like today makes me glad we got the eavestroughing put up around the house.

Tornado close encounter

We managed to sleep through a tornado that touched down just a few miles from us around 1:30 AM. No damage here (the basil plant sitting on the grill didn't even get blown over), but there were numerous reports of downed trees and power outages when we woke up around 2:30 AM for unrelated reasons. Haven't heard any reports of injuries or deaths, which is good.

Every thing here at the house is ok. Not even any branches blown out of the trees.

Fries and Gravy

Poutine (fries and cheese curds covered with hot brown gravy) wasn't something I grew up with in Edmonton. In fact, I don't think I'd ever heard of poutine until I was in grad school. Maybe I didn't get out enough to see it on menus, but poutine was never a thing at any of the places I did go to.

Now when I go back to Edmonton, it's everywhere. Even Pizza Hut.

Fries and gravy, on the other hand, was everywhere. A plate of hot fries covered with a generous ladle or two of thick brown peppery gravy, or maybe on the side for dipping.

IMG_20150921_124130.jpgAhh, comfort food.

Edmonton 2015

We got back from spending the past week in a slightly cool but still pleasant Edmonton last night after a long day of flying.

Had a great trip out there, and Connie got to meet mom and dad. It was a busy and full week of driving around to visit people and seeing places.

On this trip, we also discovered that since our phones are on Sprint's CDMA network (via Ting), they no longer roam while in Canada like mine did on my last trip (even then it was spotty). Future trips means we'll have to pick up pre-paid SIM cards from somewhere for our stay if we want to stay in touch.

Didn't go for dim sum quite as much as on my last trip in August, but we did make it out for dim sum at least once. My sister Sandi was able to join us in Edmonton for the weekend and Connie got a nice picture of us after we all went out for dinner Saturday night.


We made a couple of visits out to West Edmonton Mall, which we both enjoyed. It's big, and while there are a few things that I remember, a lot of the mall has changed since I was last there.

The Santa Maria


World Waterpark



The Mindbender


I even went skating at the Ice Palace which was probably the first time I'd been on skates in over 20 years. Even though the skates I rented could have used a good sharpening, it was still a lot of fun being on the ice again. Wasn't exactly the most graceful of skating, but I managed to stay on my feet. Connie got some pictures of me on the ice.




While we were walking through the mall, we spotted a penguin walking around checking things out.



The penguin is part of WEM's Marine Life aquarium exhibit and is named Taz. Cool random encounter.

We made stops at Tim Horton's (maybe a few), A&W (mmm, Mozzaburger), a donair place and had a couple of lunches at The Old Spaghetti Factory in WEM. Made it out for beer and wings with the guys, and showed Connie some of the city. We didn't get to see or do everything I was thinking about doing, but we managed to cram in a fair bit during our week there.

Also, Alaska Airlines might be my new favourite airline. They'll be starting non-stop flights between Charleston and Seattle soon, which means it will be easier for us to make it out to that corner of the country to visit my sister and brother and their families. It also gives another alternative route home (CHS-SEA-YEG). Plus they still offer snacks.

IMG_20150922_064622.jpgIt's a little sad that a 14g packet of dried fruit and pretzels is something to get excited about when flying.

Dragoncon 2015

Made it back out to Dragoncon this year for another fun filled weekend of costumes, people and partying. Lots of people at Dragoncon this year, and it definitely felt like it too.

While Dragoncon was another great time, unfortunately this was also the first year I managed to pick up a cold (con-crud) while there, which was not so great. I missed out on the Saturday evening festivities but was feeling well enough to head back out on Sunday.

This year's Dragoncon was (aside from getting sick) a different experience from the previous years. It was less about seeing the people in costumes and attending panels/sessions, and more about getting together with con-friends that I'd met previously and hanging out with them. The costumes were great, and watching them go by was pretty cool, but they weren't the main focus for me this year as they were in the past.

Hung out with some old Dragoncon friends



and met some new ones



This was also the first year I got to stay in one of the host hotels (the Hyatt). Luckily, our room faced the street and offered a great view of the Saturday Dragoncon parade from the 12th floor.



After one of the Space track talks, I stopped by the solar astronomy setup at the Hilton to check things out. It was operated by the Charles Bates Solar Astronomy Project, and they had a pretty nice setup with 4 scopes each with a different filter. One of the things they do is bring solar viewing to schools, which I think is great.


Could be a while before I make it to another Dragoncon. The next year will be pretty busy, so I doubt I'll make it to another Dragoncon until 2017 at the earliest. It will be good to get back when I do make it though.

Broken glasses

Whoops, broke my glasses today.


I was just cleaning them, felt a snap and heard the tinkling of a lens hitting the desk.

Had this pair for about 3 years, and was thinking it was probably time to replace them soon. These ones survived a remarkably long time relatively scratch free unlike my other glasses which have never lasted more than a couple years before they got so scratched up that it was like looking through a hazy window.

This pair was starting to lose the anti-reflection coating though, so it was about getting to the time for replacment.

Fortunately I still had the pair before this one that Connie made me stash away for just such an emergency. There wasn't a significant change in the prescription between the two, just needed replacing because of haziness due to scratches.

Off to the optometrist to get the eyes checked tomorrow for a new prescription.