The Feburary 2011 Blizzard

Hopefully it will prove to be ‘the’ blizzard.

We just had the first blizzard in the new house. It was an experience! We stayed warm, eating freshly picked lettuce from my basement aquaponics system – can’t beat that, eh?

Tuesday afternoon, I went home from work a couple of hours early. I cleared the 3 inches of snow that had fallen thus far from my drive and the neighbors drive – mostly to clean up the snow-plow heavy stuff at the ends of the drives.

The power sagged a bit Tuesday night, and we came back up, but across the street was without power for a few hours. We lost power again for about half an hour, and when it came back up, both us and across the street had power. ComEd must have patched something together in the middle of the blizzard.

Wednesday morning, I had a text to work from home from the boss. Sweet. So I watched the neighbors across the street dig themselves out.

Late morning, I took a break from work and figured I would spend an hour with the snow blower. I made one trip from my garage to the street and then helped the neighbor across the road clear the last 3 feet of snow. That snow-plow packed snow is the worst when you only have a shovel. I had just about got him done when one of the belts on my snow blower broke.

Broken Snow Blower Belt
Broken Snow Blower Belt

I went back inside and tweeted the broken belt and the neighbor responded on facebook that they may have one. Sure enough, they did! So I took my broken belt over and the neighbor was snow-blowing. So I grabbed a shovel and helped out. I did around the vehicles, and along the building and up the walk where the blower won’t go very well.

After some more work, I went back outside and put the belt on. Just as I tightening the bolts up, the neighbor came over with his blower. The two of us made quick work blowing out my drive.

Lessons Learned

  • Having good neighbors makes all the difference between an easy dig out and a miserable one.
  • Dryer vents can be easily covered with snow, so make sure they are clear before you use the dryer.
    • High efficiency stoves have the same problem and will shut down (hearsay, my furnace is old)
  • The doors can get drifted shut
  • The snow blower is 6 inches too short – it’s a lot of work to muscle that heavy machine around all stooped over.
  • The snow blower needs spare drive & blower belts. It also needs a good going through with a wrench to tight all the bolts.
    • Bobcat Alternator belts will work in a pinch, but they check pretty bad pretty quickly.
  • Waterproof gloves, once wet, stay wet.
  • The city likes burying the fire hydrants with their plows.
  • If you ship live fish from CA, they WILL be shipped during a blizzard.
  • Somebody will call the cops on you if you go out and look at all of your windows in the middle of a blizzard.

My website was down.

Sorry for the website being down for the last week or so. A table in the database got corrupt somehow. I’ve been so busy lately with moving and with no internet at home, I just never got to fixing it. The good folks at fixed it up for me today.


This event now has a theme-song.

Stolen GPS

Last night my GPS was stolen out of my trucklet.

Entirely my fault to!
I had picked up a few essentials at WalMart, unlocked all the doors and put them in the back seat. I was waiting on a guy to get home so I could pick up an Oscar fish from FreeCycle. I called him, still at work, so I decided to wander around Walmart to kill some time until he got off work.
I locked my door how I always do. The lock touches my knuckle when I open the door, so I just lock it as I push the door open. Quick, Easy, and I always lock the door when I get out of my vehicle. The trucklet locks all the doors every time you drive it, so all is good in the world. Except, I had unlocked all doors since I had last driven. DOH!
Somebody musta tried the passenger side door and grabbed my GPS. Nothing else. Not the Nokia 770, bluetooth headsets, power inverter, winter coat with radio scanner, FM power transmitter, etc. Just the GPS.
I called the cops, filed a report. We where hoping that Walmart security camera got it on film. Nope.
I went home to get the serial number so they could check with craigslist & pawnshops.
You know how I am a packrat. I keep everything. Boxes included. Wouldn’t you know, I tossed the box a month ago? I kept all the paperwork, expecting the serial number and such to be on the warranty card, etc. No card, no serial number. How frustrating.
There could be several lessons learned here:
  • Don’t leave GPS out in plain site
  • Always lock all the doors and not just mine
  • Never, ever throw anything away. Ever. I always seem to need it a month later.
  • Keep a google spreadsheet document with all the serial numbers of all the electronics I have.

So, I have a problem and I intend to fix it.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the GPS could tell me where it is.
Wouldn’t it be cool if I could take my own photo of the theif?

This got me to thinking…

I’ve been wanting to build a security system for my trucklet ever since the ‘OEM’ unit was installed in mine. It royaly sucks!

I haven’t done it because it would be pretty spendy – I really want a cell based internet connection for it so I can ask the truck where it is, it can tell me where it is, and send me photos of who’s driving it, etc. I can’t justify $50 a month for a internet connection even if I can use google maps on the fly on a computer I would replace the stereo with.

A little thinking ‘outside’ the box, I think I found my solution. It’s 2 peices, but I didn’t find anybody that has put them together like I want to.

An Eye-Fi Pro is an SDHC memory card with a built wi-fi card. It will take photos that are saved to it, geocode them, and upload them. How cool is that? You don’t have to stick the card into the computer to get your photos.
For $15 a year, it will connect to a paid, public wifi connections including the ones at McDonalds. My data-plan woes are now addressed, $15 a year is very reasonable!

The other half is the camera. A search revealed the following.

A Defender STEALTH1 Covert Security DVR w/ Hidden Surveillance Camera. It is a motion detector with a built in camera. It can take photos and video which it saves the the memory card.

The freaking awesomeness comes when you combine the two together. You now have a motion detection surveillance camera that automatically uploads photos to a place where you can see them when your away from home. No wires to run half way across the house, just plug it into the nearest power outlet. It can email, text, or even twitter you when it’s triggered. It runs for 17 hours on battery if the power goes out. Put your modem and router on a battery back up, and your set!

How sweet is that?

I got to thinking, all the motion detector is, is a hunter’s trail camera in a house-friendly looking enclosure.

I can get one of these for the trucklet instead. I was going to shell the camera unit out and install it into the dash anyhow, so why not use a cheaper camera that does the same thing?

So, for around $260 I can either build a really slick house security camera or one that I can cut into the dash of my trucklet that works anywhere.



  • Nice looking ‘normal’ security motion sensor.
  • Automatic uploading of photos/video using home network.
  • Ability to view photos even if home computer or security camera itself is stolen!
  • Notification of events via email, text, twitter.



  • Less expensive camera that I can take apart to install into vehicle
  • Automatic uploading of photos/video using home network or any of 10,000 public wifi accesspoints.
  • Geocoding of photos.
  • Ability to view photos even if they steal the vehicle – they just need to slowly drive/park near a wifi access point.
  • Notification of events via email, text, twitter.

Now, to find a few extra hundred dollars, because I need a GPS, a couple of motion camera, and a couple of memory cards….