Smart(er) Home – Knowing when the power is out

One of the benefits of a smart home system is knowing that everything is okay when we are not at home. We live in an area with a very high water table and have water in our sump pump year round. Over the past ten years in the house there have been 3 sump pump fails, but only one resulted in a bad flood. I needed a way to know if the power has gone out. Yes, there are battery backups, and I will invest in one at some point, but for now just getting an early warning will do. It was time to come up with some technology to solve the problem.

I thought of ways that I can use a RaspberryPi to monitor the sump crock water level, but if the power goes out, the internet goes out, and the notification will not be sent. To get around this I wrote a small script that will ping my router. If it is offline, then the script will look at our local power companies outage page to see if there are reported outages on our street. If there is an outage it will use Pushbullet to send a notification to my phone to tell me that the power is out, how many customers on my street are impacted, and a time that it is expected to be restored. Now I have an early warning that there may be a problem, and I can head home to address it. I put the script together in Bash, however I may move it to Python at some point.

OUTAGE_URL={URL for the Power Company outage page for my town}
STREET=(My Street}
USERS_TOTAL=`grep (My Street} savedFileName.html | cut -d '>' -f5 | rev | cut -c 5- | rev`
USERS_OUT=`grep (My Street} savedFileName.html | cut -d '>' -f7 | rev | cut -c 5- | rev`
ETA=`grep (My Street} savedFileName.html | cut -d '>' -f9 | rev | cut -c 5- | rev`

# Test to see if home internet is up
if [ $? ] = 0 then
echo "Internet is Up, Power is alive"
`wget $OUTAGE_URL`
#if curl -s "$OUTAGE_FILE" | grep -q "$STREET"
if grep -q "$STREET" $OUTAGE_FILE
echo "Users Out: $USERS_OUT"
echo "Power Expected Back: $ETA"
# curl -s -u $PUSHAPI -d type=note -d title="Power May be Out" -d body="Users Out: $USERS_OUT ETA: $ETA"
echo "I have the POWER"

I have this running on a VPS that I have purchased for a few dollars a month to play with. Sometimes the internet will stay up in a power outage, and my servers and modem are plugged into a UPS, but for peace of mind it is better to run this offsite. Over the past year I have had 1 false positive, but there were two times that this saved our basement from a flood. I had ample time to get home, hook up the generator and keep things dry.

Homemade Poutine

Homemade Poutine with Stout Gravy – The bowl was full about 5 minutes before this.


Happy New Year!

It was New Years Eve and we had a craving for poutine, so off to the kitchen I went. Made up the fries, added the cheese curds and topped with vegetarian stout gravy and fresh herbs. This hit the spot for a cold December evening, the bowl was empty in 5 minutes.

Homemade Stout Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons All Purpose (AP) Flour
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 250 ml Stout Beer (I used Guinness)
  • 1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Thyme and Marjoram

Make a rue by melting the butter and adding in the AP flour, cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add in the liquids and raise heat to bring to boil. Add seasonings and simmer until desired thickness.

The Day After

There is so much anger, heartbreak, hate and fear that came out of the decision that the citizens of this country made last night.
I am feeling many of these emotions as well, but it is time to step back and take a breath.

The world has not ended and none of us know what will happen next. We can look at history. We can look at what the President Elect has done in the past, and what he says that he plans to do. We can look at what the VP-Elect has done in his state and what he believes. All of these things give us insight to what may happen. None of them tell us what will happen.

Right now there is a lot fear of what will happen next. Many are playing into the same fear that got this person elected. The best way that I can think of to handle this is to be present and mindful. Life is happening right now, and that is what I am choosing to focus on.

If we are all collectively present and mindful we will see the signs that the things that we fear are coming true. If we see that the new regime is starting to take away our rights we can organize and act.
If are mindful we can rise up and prevent the future that we fear from becoming a reality.

This is not the time to turn and run, this is the time to take off to strengthen ourselves, to treat everyone with respect and move forward. We have to be aware and not get distracted. We can not be misinformed. We have to look for truth, and start to have conversations. Fear comes from misunderstanding and not asking questions and digging deeper.

Fear is what got us here, and I am choosing not to be afraid. I am choosing to be mindful to the world around me, and change what I can, and if needed to take a stand for what is right.

Starting Soccer at 36

I have been watching soccer for over 20 years. I really started to follow during the summer of 1994 when the World Cup was in the United States. The US was not a great team but were fun to watch. I became a spectator, and started to follow the national teams of Germany, Ireland, and the US. When I could find Bundesliga games, I would watch Bayern Munchen and Wolfsburg. I never had any desire to play soccer, that was far too much running.

Something changed in the spring of 2015. Some friends that I had made supporting out local indoor soccer team played in a co-ed league. They needed another guy to play, and as a joke my wife told them to ask me. “You don’t want an out of shape guy that has never played on your team” I told them. But there was something inside me that said “Hey, this might be fun.” After some thought, and a couple of beers watching a game I said “Sure, I will give it a try, but I am telling you, I am going to be horrible.”

Match Day 1 arrived. I had not done training, made no real preparations, just bought some shoes and shin guards. I showed up and was thrown right into the fray. I made it two minutes and 14 seconds before I wheezed out for a sub. I played a total of 24 minutes my first game, not bad for an indoor virgin. The next day was hell, my body hurt everywhere. My legs were throbbing and my feet were swollen. But I survived the game, and I was looking forward to going back the next game.

I have improved some, my fitness has improved a bit, and I am having fun. I have scored some goals, I have made some tackles, and I have fallen down many times. Aside from a suffering a concussion from being checked headfirst into the dasher boards, I have had no major injuries.

Well that left a mark. #soccer #ouch

A post shared by Mike Schroeder (@mt_schroeder) on

I am never going to be a pro, or even a really good amateur player, but it is never to late to start.

Working at a standing desk

Just about three years ago, I read a couple of articles on the benefits of working at a standing desk. I had been sitting in a cube for several years, and I could tell that it was taking a toll on my body. I had put on weight, I was stiff and sore all the time and generally felt like garbage.

I thought about it for a day, and looked at my work environment to see what I could do. I started small by using a couple of paper boxes, and a small cube storage unit to raise up my screens and work surface. It worked pretty well, the first day I was able to stand for about two hours before I was too uncomfortable to keep going. That night my legs were throbbing, I was exhausted. I slept well, and started the next day on my feet. Over the next week I built up a little at a time until I was standing for almost the whole workday. During that week as each day passed, my legs were not as tired. That 3 o’clock slump did not come, I was more productive. There was an added benefit that I had not considered, after two weeks I had lost ten pounds. No other changes were made, just standing 5-6 hours per day, and my weight went down.

Fast forward three years to today. I am still working at a standing desk. I have made a more permanent setup that works well for me in my existing workspace. I have two cheap ClosetMaid Stackable organizers topped with a 24×48 piece of cherry plywood that I sanded down as my desktop. I built a monitor stand out of four 8″ x 1/2″ black iron pipe and a cheap 36″ shelf that I had around the house. This gives me enough room for my notebooks, mug of water, phone and iPad, all within reach.

My DIY Standing Desk Setup
My Standing Desk Setup

I have an anti fatigue mat which is hugely important. I don’t wear shoes when I can get away with it, but if we have clients in the office I will slip them on (most of the time). I was able to get a high desk chair, so when I do choose to sit I am able to without having to move everything.

Several of my coworkers have also adopted the standing desk. They have all cobbled together what works for them, one was even able to get the boss man to pony up for a Varidesk Pro. He likes it quite a bit, I found it to be a bit to cramped. I am hoping that when we move to our new space, I will be able to get a StandDesk. These look to be well made, and affordable to boot.

No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!

“I’ll be damed the boy way right.” Those were the first words I thought after it was confirmed. My mind was racing with so many questions “Is he on a hoverboard? Did he pan handle his way across the outer rim? Did Jar Jar have something to do with it!?!” Fraking Jar Jar, I hate that guy.

Aiden and I watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars pretty much every Saturday morning. Father and son on the couch, in PJ’s, coffee in my mug chocolate milk in his. I am not going to review the show here; I like it, there are some groans from time to time (See Jar Jar Comment), but overall it makes up for the clusterfrak the prequels were. There was an episode that aired recently Witches of the Mist, and at the end of it there is a face shown in a crystal ball.
“That’s Darth Maul!” Aiden yelled.
“Can’t be. He is dead, Obi-Wan killed him on Naboo.”
“No Dad I am positive it is Darth Maul.” Aiden was steadfast, but I had my doubts.
“Ask Uncle Bill, he knows everything about Star Wars, more than you do Dad.” Ouch, low blow kid, but it is true, when all else fails there is UncleBill-apedia.

I never followed the comics, but Darth Maul survived. He somehow lived through getting cut in half (lightsabers cauterize wounds), falling down a vent shaft (there was just a foam pit at the bottom), got out (Jar Jar finds the near dead top half of the body. Thinking that the Jedi may need it for something “Mesa will putta it here ons dis ‘overboard“) and somehow got cyborg legs (Must shop at the same place Grievous does). OK,sure I’ll buy it; Darth Maul was a cool character that went out like a punk. Bring him back in cartoon form (Sell More Toys) and the kids will love (buy) it. This will make for an interesting storyline for sure, but the premise of bring back dead characters is a bit One Life to Live.

I am just ranting because I lost nerd cred to a six year old. I am a proud NerdDad today.