Planning for Halloween

This is not a post about carving a face into a pumpkin or preparing some form of scary costume. It is about my planning to avoid Halloween entirely.

Halloween for me normally involves getting home from work, turning off the lights and pretending I’m not home. I don’t want to be giving out free sweets to strange folk knocking at the door.

I do buy in a sweet stash for the emergency situation of needing to fend off marauding freeloaders. But since pack sizes are shrinking I’ve had to spend more to have a suitable supply.

This year poses the additional risk of needing to put the bins out. This leaves me out in the open and vulnerable during the process of multi bin recycling. The outside light will be on alerting the opportunistic sugar hunters to my presence. A waste pre-sort will reduce exposure time but I’ll have to move quickly and remain alert.

Next will be my activities for the evening. TV is a no as the excess light washing around the curtains is a give-away that you are in allowing the hordes to pillage. I need to move to the back of the house where I can have the light on without raising curiosity. I have a quick dinner planned, minimal noise no fuss. I have a project that I can work on quietly. A low backlight on the kindle wont be noticeable from outside.

Hopefully I will make it through the night with the sweet supply intact.

Alexa

This week I have taken delivery of an Amazon Echo, a voice controlled speaker. Why did I purchase it? One of my reasons is that I have wanted an entertainment device in the kitchen, the Echo is a hands free streaming radio. The audio quality is good enough for the environment and at half volume is plenty loud enough.

I wanted to time my cooking of a pizza, I set the timer with my voice. The Echo alerted me once the timer expired. This morning I walked in and asked for a weather report, I listened whilst I opened the curtains.

I’m still getting used to calling out to “Alexa” but its suprising how easily it is beginning to fit in to my life. It allows me to multitask in the moments where I have my hands full.

The only limitation so far has been the microphone. It doesn’t pick up well when the kettle is boiling. I’m guessing it generates too much white noise. Microphone pickup is generally good otherwise.

Water

The mains water supply has been off for a few hours. A minor inconvenience. What did please me was the text message I received from Severn Trent notifying me of the outage and giving me an estimated time for the resolution of the problem. The water appears to be on its way back an hour ahead of schedule. There is however a downside, I am now faced with the spluttering and gurgling of the pipework as everything re-pressurises and the air in the pipes escapes.

The Case of the Ghost Whistler

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed on occasion a faint sound. The best way to describe it would be a child playing a single note on a recorder, gradually increasing in intensity before decreasing. Knowing that a family with children of recorder playing age lived next door I thought little of it. Other than being frustrated by continually hearing it and wondering when something more tuneful would be produced.

I began to question what was happening when I began to notice the sound late at night. Not the kind of time once would associate with household attempting to sleep. But it was a bank holiday weekend, maybe the usual enforced bedtime of the children was being ignored.

Tonight I noticed it a little more, always around the door between the kitchen and the lounge. Something must be causing it, the sound was too repetitive. It couldn't be the normal musical talent of a child. I had just finished making a mug of tea when I made the discovery. On pondering tomorrow nights meal based on the dwindling contents of the refrigerator I was struck by the realisation that the sound had reoccurred and was louder. What had I done. Put milk in the fridge? I opened the door, nothing. I closed the door, nothing, no squeaks or creaks or buzzing or whirring. Back to my tea, it was time for a stirring. There it was again, the whistling sound. A thought did sink in whilst my tea I was drinkin'. I opened the fridge door, closing it once more. With my head to the door I counted to four. Then there it was the whistle once more. What seemed to be ghostly was a pressure equalisation; mostly.

AIMS FOR 2016

It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead.

What I intended to do in 2015:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – I only contributed a single bug report. The only open-source projects I contributed to were my own. Needs more work. Failure.
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System) - I have been working on my Wireless Rat Trap Notification System and experimenting with a small OLED display. A variable dummy load is waiting to be built. Success.
  • Tackle the rodent menace in the loft - All the insulation was removed, the holes plugged with wire wool and expanding foam. Re-insulated and as far as I know still rodent free. Success.
  • Clear out Garage – I did clear out the garage but filled it with bags of old loft insulation whilst tackling the rodent menace. Still need to get rid of the stuff. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new Android Tablet – I bought a Pixel C, a vast improvement. Success.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Didn't get around to to it. Failure.
  • Build a new PC – I am still waiting to find a new case I like and instead spent the money on a Tablet. Failure.
  • Repave Back Yard – Main paved area complete. Needs the edges finishing off and a step putting in. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – Still got the old one. Failure.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia – Haven't had another attempt. Failure.

2015 was another mixed year. Plenty of successes, but too many failures. On the positive side the successes were in bigger/more important projects. The failures are things that can be addressed in the future.

What I aim to do in 2016:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – Other than my own this time.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – More experiments, more fun.
  • Clear out Garage – Time for another attempt.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – I have an idea for something simple.
  • Build a new PC – Current systems are around 7 years old.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine.
  • Finish Back Yard – A little bit of finishing off from 2015.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – I like a good curry.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – Might have long term benefits.
  • Perform more off-site data backups.
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015.

2016 has fewer big projects, so hopefully I will have more time to tackle my list. The three I need to get done are the Garage Clearout, Finishing the Back Yard and building a new PC. All should be achieveble and it will be a bad year indeed if I can't manage them.

The Rodent Battle – It’s not over yet

In my previous post at the end of July I had resorted to calling in the Rat Man to assist me in my struggle. When that failed to show results I detailed my nuclear option of removing all of my loft insulation and denying the rodents access.

The button was pushed. I have spent many hours removing all the insulation. It's not an easy or pleasant task but there is no place left to hide. The entry points were filled with steel wool held in place by more expanding foam. You do get some funny looks bulk buying expanding foam but it all got used.

All has been quiet in the loft for the past few weeks. All that is left to do is have a proper clean up of rodent droppings, repair of eaten network cable and re-insulating before winter.
Everything has been going to plan.

Until today. I was sat at the computer catching up on a few podcasts when I heard the noise. The noise that has kept me awake at night, the noise that caused the pressing of the nuclear button. The sound of the rodent scratching about. The precise location I am uncertain about. I suspect that it is not from the loft, unless it has been enjoying its diet of steel and foam. By my estimation the noise is from the cavity wall above the window. I am guessing that little Ratty not being able to ascend to loft level has decided to compromise by setting up home atop the lintel over the window.

How I proceed at this point is uncertain. I need to insulate the loft for winter provided it is still secure. But it appears that a peaceful nights sleeps is not going to be an option in the short term. A new plan of attack is required.

The Rodent Battle

This month I finally called in the Rat Man to rid me of the menace in the loft. He managed to attend 2 out of the 3 scheduled visits. Having time off work and his no show did not go down well. In any case the traps are being avoided but they do like the additional bait they are being provided with. So after 2 visits and not hearing any movement above me I was a little happier. This evening however, following yesterdays no show, I hear scurrying once again. So in summary I have had 3 afternoons off work for no improvement in the situation whatsoever.

I am getting very close to the nuclear option of stripping out all the loft insulation and permanently denying them access by any means necessary (even if it means taking the roof off). It nibbled though my network cable and I have a zero tolerance approach to network intrusion.

6/7

RatBag
A six pack of rats.

To battle the rodent menace I have 7 traps in my loft. Yesterday I went up to check them; 6 were full. Of the 6, 5 suffered a quick demise through a direct head strike. One unfortunate victim was caught by the tail and eventually passed away from probable starvation/dehydration after a struggle with its surroundings.

In an additional observation one of the head strike victims appeared to have had its hind leg eaten off.

Aims For 2015

Time for a look back at what I intended to do last year.

  • Contribute to some open source projects – Failed Completely.
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System). - Work continues, some code committed to GitHub.
  • Get curtains for lounge – Done, it looks more like a home.
  • Clear out Garage (again) – Some progress but it keeps filling up.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Failed, never even thought about it.
  • Pay off student loan – Done, mortgage is the next big one.
  • Carpet master bedroom – Failed, sticking to laminate flooring.
  • Build a Gaming PC and/or Steam Box – Failed, didn't have the games to justify building.
  • Repave Back Yard – Failed, never even started.
  • Use a Linux desktop environment other than Gnome 3 for at least a month – Failed, LXQt was on the list but wasn't in the Fedora Repo. It is now.

So 2014 was mixed, some things achieved some not. Too many not unfortunately.
Time to see if I can complete some of last years goals in 2015.

  • Contribute to some open source projects
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System)
  • Clear out Garage (This time I mean it)
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone
  • Build a new PC – A couple are approaching 6 years old.
  • Buy a new Android Tablet – My Nexus 7 (2012) is starting to show its age.
  • Repave Back Yard – It would be nice to have a BBQ surface.
  • Tackle the rodent menace in the loft – They are back again 🙁
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I need one that matches the rest of it.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia – Previous attempt needs significant improvement.

Another to do list, but as before it will be a good year if I can cross a few of them off.

Ending The Year With A Bang

I appear to have suffered an explosive decompression in my garage. I suspect that the recent cold weather and an already cold fridge to be the cause. The force of the explosion was enough to force the fridge door open and to catapult some of the contents across the garage. It could have been worse, if there had been more beer in there some serious spillage could have occured. I'll settle for having to mop up spilt lemonade.

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