A week of Strangeness

Strange LampSo a couple of odd things happened this week, things that give one pause to wonder about the strangeness of coincidences.

My roommate is one of those people that likes to go to car rallies to show off his classic car. I, having spent almost a decade working for a major automotive importer, never got the “stand around in a parking lot with a bunch of cars” as being a fun pastime but he enjoys it.

Well the paid participants of these events receive a shwag bag full of little things like playing cards and such. This one event provided some large promotional balloon that quickly got placed in the discard pile. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good giant balloon I thought I would blow it up and leave it as a booby trap for the cat to play with.

The balloon sat around the house for a few days waiting on the cat’s attention and that wait soon removed the trap from my attention in spite of the fact that the balloon was in plain sight.

Around 3:30 am Thursday morning I was awoken by this really loud cracking sound and it was close by. Sleeping with the window open I just attributed it to something outside, one of the neighbors dropping something as they got ready to drive off to work. I lay awake for a while listening for the sound of a car door or ignition but it never came. Unable to go back to sleep I turned the TV on and watched that until my bladder would no longer be ignored.

Prior to going back to bed I ran in to the roommate as he was getting ready to go to work and I asked him if he heard that noise and he also heard it as it woke him up even though his room was on the other side of the house. Curious we started looking for the source of the sound and it wasn’t long before I noticed the shredded pieces of rubber that used to be the giant red balloon. I started to laugh as I commented about how my little cat trap worked to which the roommate responded with how when he woke he thought the noise was due to the cat but the cat was lying on the bed beside him so it couldn’t have been the cat. We both brushed it off and thought no more about it.

This morning, at around 5:30, I once again woke up needing to use the bathroom followed by a glass of cold water. On my way to the kitchen I noticed that there was light on in the living room. It wasn’t very bright and as such I knew instantly which light it was that was on.

A few years back my younger sister died due to her life long battle with child diabetes. When she passed our mother offered up a few of her favorite possessions to my children as mementos and one of my kids chose her favorite lamp, one of those lamps that responded to the touch to turn it on and off or dim. Kids being kids, a couple of the mementos chosen remain in my care but that is of no concern as I hold them in safekeeping for their eventual retrieval.

After our recent epic black out I thought I would put the lamp in the living room and use it for its intended purpose and lighten up a normally dark corner. This was the light that was on when I woke up this morning, it was on the dimmest setting with not much light given.

I crossed the rooms and stepped down into the sunken living room to tap the lampshade 3 times in an effort to shut it off. As I was doing that I tried to recall if I had turned the light on and forgot to turn it off before going to bed but dismissed the possibility because I knew the light wasn’t on because I turned everything off prior to turning in for the night.

Turning around to leave the room and go back to bed I thought about the strangeness of the event and what could have turned the light on, vibrations from outside the house perhaps when all of a sudden the light snaps on again but this time at its fullest brightness setting. This was especially odd because in order to get to that setting one would have to tap the lightshade 3 times, once for the lowest setting, twice for the middle setting and a third for the brightest. The damned light went straight to the brightest as I was crossing the room.

I thought perhaps my light footfalls created a vibration to set it off so after turning the light off once again I then started thumping my way out of the room in an effort to try to activate the light but to no avail, the light stayed off.
Prior to going back to bed I took one last look to make sure that the light was off and it was so I went back to bed to try to grab a few more hours sleep. No sleep came so after an hour or so I gave up and got out of bed to find the light turned on to the lowest setting once again.

How is that for a week of strangeness?

Evergreen Line of the SkyTrain Light Rapid Transit System

I was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan but relocated to British Columbia with my family when I was a toddler. While I was too young to recall all of the details I do know that we moved to the rural area of Port Coquitlam. The very small port town was a hub for CP Rail and other industries. Probably the most famous person to come out of this community was the world renowned Terry Fox. Not only did he and his family live just down the road from my family but I went to the same elementary school although a grade or two behind him.

The area in which I grew up was basically very rural, lots of forests leading into the nearby mountains. Close to where we lived there was an old quarry that eventually became the man made Lafarge Lake. This small lake then turned in to a park for the ever expanding developments that sprung up in the hills and mountains close by. Soon a community and recreation center was built across from the lake followed by a high school and a college. Lots of houses and townhouses sprung up in the foothills and before you knew it several high rise apartment complexes sprouted up as if from nowhere.

Forty years later my childhood so called “off-limits” playground of Lafarge Pit is quite the well developed parkland with everything one could ever need for easy access recreation. Given all of the other amenities that are very close by it only made sense to make Lafarge Lake the terminus station for the brand new Evergreen Line of the Light Rapid Transit Skytrain system.

Friday night I went for a quick walk down the street and I noticed that they were working on the elevated tracks for this driverless train and that they were only a couple of sections from completion. I snapped a couple of pictures and thought I would share them with you.

I live only a few blocks from this new transit arm but I will more than likely be moving out of the area before it is completed, not that I would use it even if it were completed before I left.


They suspend individual sections, somewhere around 20ft long, and join those sections between the supports structures before moving the whole thing down the line.


There are only a couple of support structures left to be spanned before the elevated section is completed, only a few days from now judging by the speed in which they are moving.

Black Bear Encounter on Sidewalk in Coquitlam BC

Sunday morning finds me like most mornings, out for my daily walk. Rain or shine I try to get in an hour of exercise by walking some of the local trails and for me Hoy Creek Trail is fairly convenient as it runs parallel to you guessed it, Hoy Creek.

Hoy Creek is a nice little salmon bearing creek that runs down from the local hills that eventually spills into that empties in to the Coquitlam River before it flows in to the mighty Fraser River. Naturally all of these rivers have nice networks of trails that form some of this city’s fantastic green belts which generally begin up in the mountains. Just like in most places mountains mean wild life and wild life means predators are out and about looking for prey and these green belts bring them right in to the heart of many neighborhoods in their search for food.

Fortunately these predators are more interested in the easy food stuffs lying around in the form of garbage than us and our pets but it does put us in contact with them from time to time. Sure we lose the occasional pet to a coyote or two. Every once in a while you hear about an eagle or some bird of prey swooping down and snatching somebody’s idea of a dog up but generally speaking, most wild life encounters are more like sightings.

As my walk progresses along I am forced to leave the trail as none of my options provide a way under or over some of the very busy streets that cross the trail. Making my way down the sidewalk the rain starts coming down even harder as I turn off of Guildford and start down Johnson. The rain is really coming down hard as I hunker under my huge black umbrella. Fat drops of water are cascading off the points of my umbrella as I am look down at my feet trying to gauge just how many of them are actually landing on my shoes and pant cuffs.

The study of the run off occupies my attention for a few minutes as I walk down the sidewalk. Having decided that my feet are going to get wet regardless of anything I might try I look up from under my umbrella to see a huge black bear amble towards me. Because I was not paying attention to where I was going the black bear is like 30 feet in front of me before I notice it. By the look of it the bear has no intention of moving out of my path and to be honest the options are few for either of us.

Black Bear Encounter Coquitlam BC

“A” is the first bear encounter and “B” is the sighting that happened a few minutes later

To my left the bush is quite thick with no good openings to escape our encounter and to my right is a busy 4 lane road. I am standing there thinking to myself what the hell am I going to do? I know you are not supposed to run when encountering large predators as your running transforms you in to prey and the buggers will instinctively chase after you. Besides where am I going to run to? That when I look and notice that the oncoming traffic is caught up at a red light and I see that the light behind me has just turned green.

Thinking to myself I if I start running across the street right now I can just make it to the other side before the traffic gets to me. If that bears tries to chase after me well the cars might scare it off of me and I might escape. That is exactly what I did, ran across the busy 4 lane street. The black bear continued on its way down the sidewalk until it disappeared in an opening in the green belt.

Continuing my walk I couldn’t help but wonder what the bear would have done had I kept walking on the same sidewalk without looking up to see it there before me. Would we have passed each other like a couple of pedestrians ignoring the other as we make our way through our busy workaday lives? Or would it have dove into the bushes regardless of the brambles rather than get that close to a human? This would probably been the reaction but it could have given me a swat with its great paws as a warning for getting too close?

As I finish my walk guess who I ran in to again? That’s right the black bear again. In the time it took me to walk around the block I see the bruin stopping traffic across the even busier Guildford as it made its way back up towards the mountain.

3D Printing and Molding – Rapid Prototyping

So for the people who have known me for a very long time you will know what I am talking about without having to go in to too much detail as to what I am working on. For those of you who do not know me well I will briefly describe what I am working on.

Back in the winter of 1982 – 1983 I awoke in the middle of the night one evening from a dream where I was playing a game. I lit up a smoke and and quickly drew out a rough version of the game and went back to sleep. I thought about this game off and on for about 5 years before I actually created a prototype.

Over the years I have tried various ways of making these prototypes that generally involved wood beginning with taking a broom handle and planing it to a long hexagonal rod that I would then cut to my desired lengths. Then I would take these cut off tiles as I call them and then spray paint them with plastic paint. Surprising how much paint it would take as the wood would absorb the paint.

Once armed with my painted tiles I would then apply the information to each tile by hand. In the beginning it was all hand drawn that eventually became decals. These looked pretty good but not very cost effective so I continued to find an easier and cheaper way to create these tiles.

Fast forward a few years and my meeting with a Fellow named Ken who introduced me to the world of hand mold making and a product called Smooth-on. This system, while not perfect, seemed to be a possible solution for my “on demand” printing solution. Of course the making of the molds required a positive to use as the source and for that we went to wood once again.

3D Rapid Prototyping

7.5 inches by 5.5 inches positive mold created by 3D printing.

Fast forward a few years more and I check out 3D printing to make my molds. Viola – very precise positives to work from.

This sample is 7.5 X 5.5 inches and took approximately 11.5 hours to print and cost $280.00. The plastic is kind of sticky to the touch for some reason and while it looks strong and durable the reality is that it is not quite that tough. I guess it makes sense when you take in to consideration that it is printed by laying 1 thin strand of plastic, about the thickness of a human hair, upon the previous strand until you have built up enough layers to finish your finished print.

They all do not work that way but the one I used did and this was not a cheap 3D Printer as it was a commercial grade printer that cost upwards of $50,000.00.

Armed with my new 3D Printed prototype that would allow me to make a dozen blank tiles at a time I mix up a batch of Smooth-On mold making goop and proceed to make my first mold – or so I thought.

The molding material takes 24 hours to cure so I wait a solid day before I make the attempt to de-mold. Having never used this material before I soon discover that removing the mold from the positive is going to be a lot harder than I thought. Not only does this rubber grip everything tightly but there is actually no place for me to grab the mold as the sides of the positive are higher than the mold surface.

Smooth-on Mold

The extracted Smooth-On mold from the 3D printed positive.

I was hoping to use the positive to make at least 6 molds but I am fearful that I am going to have to break my positive to get access my mold. It took me over an hour to coax up an edge of the mold high enough to clear the edge of the positive so I could grip the mold and pull it out of the positive. In the process I actually cracked the floor of the positive and while I will be able to use it to make at least one more mold I am hopeful that by gluing the positive to a stronger surface I will be able to get my 6 molds.

I guess the take away from this would be that while 3D Printing Rapid Prototyping is a fast way to make your molds you have to keep in mind that they are not that strong. If you are going to be using this method to make your molds then you would be well advised to reinforce the prototype by gluing Plexiglas panels to the bottom and sides as the forces required to de-mold may break your 3D printed prototype.

I will continue to use this process to make my components so that I can “Print on Demand” my game creations.

A Drone Outside Your Window What Do You Do?


Replace the camera with a remote controlled gun!

So I had a rather morbid thought today as I went for my morning walk. As some of you know I enjoy crime dramas and documentaries and in some of these programs they perform a particular forensic test to determine from which direction a bullet was fired by tracing the trajectory with lasers pointers from the point of impact. Pretty sure if you have seen a crime drama you have seen them do this test.

Any way my thought was quite simply this; what could stop someone from mounting a remote controlled weapon such as a small calibre rifle, on a remote controlled drone and parking it outside your window and start shooting at people, places or things? Pretty easy frame up eh? Want some revenge on somebody, set them up for a little or a lot of public damage by making it look like they were shooting off a gun from their 10 floor balcony.

We could actually take this another step further by using these drones as an assassination tool to off politicians and other high level targets. Again armed with a silent drone that has a range of 3 miles or so and viola, the assassin gets the shot off from three miles away or so thus enabling them a much higher escape rate. How do the authorities defend against something like that?

I am going to step out on a limb here and make the prediction that this method of attack is going to be used by terrorists to make attacks here in North America. And wouldn’t that offer up some more irony? The US military complex uses sophisticated drones that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to strike with and the terrorists will use off of the shelf toys that cost tens of hundreds of dollars that will cause way more damage given the value of the targets the two combatants aim at.

Black Bear along the Hoy Creek Trail Coquitlam BC

Yesterday was a bit unusual for me as I had back to back to back conference calls that started early in the morning and went through to mid-afternoon. The early morning start interfered with my daily walk leaving me the choice of going in the afternoon or just waiting until the evening which would make for a rather dull Friday night. After sitting at the computer for hours straight I needed to stretch my legs so I opted for the afternoon.

In behind my apartment complex there is a nice stretch of the Hoy Creek Trail so I often start my walk there, get some fresh air before going out to the sidewalks skirting some heavily trafficked roads. As I walk along the trail I round a slight corner and notice some movement on the little bridge crossing Hoy Creek up ahead. Much to my surprise a large black bear steps off of the bridge on to the trail about 10 yards in front of me and casually starts sniffing his way down the path.

Naturally I just stopped and remained motionless and continued to watch the bear ever so slowly walk in the other direction. Looking at the bear I think about who does one call to report a bear sighting in the city, do I call 911 or some other group? Upon further thought I figured that by the time anybody responded to my call the bear would have already left the path he was on and surprised whoever was at the other end of the trail. Knowing that this part of the trail opens on to a very busy sidewalk at a bus stop on the even busier Johntson Street I figured this could get real bad real quick. I thought it would better if I circled around and warned the people I knew that would be on the sidewalk of the impending arrival of the bear.

Taking a different path I hurried to the other end of the same sidewalk that the bear would soon be on and began warning people of the danger ahead. The first 2, an older woman with a young teenage girl in tow thanked me and continued on their way towards the direction of the bear. A little further ahead there was a group of 6 elderly people enjoying the view of Hoy Creek and all the little salmon fry swimming in the waters below the overpass they were on. I warned them to be on the lookout for the bear and continued up the road towards where the bear would eventually immerge. Next, a young woman tuned out with her iPod was walking towards me so I stopped her and warned her as I knew the bear had to be close by and likely in the bushes to her right.

Upon arrival of where the Hoy Creek trail joins the sidewalk I looked down the path and sure enough here comes the bear. By this time the little old lady and her granddaughter caught me up and I pointed out the bear. The young woman with the iPod turns around and comes to join the three of us as we watch the bear slowly walk towards us. About 15 yards from us the bear turns off of the path and goes in to the bush to cut across the creek. This I know will put the bear heading straight towards the group of old people admiring the salmon fry so I warn them once again and they start walking off.

Black BearSeeing the group of the old people walking away I also see more people walking towards us, I start walking towards them in an effort to try to keep the bear from coming out of the bush right on top of these unsuspecting people. Armed only with my camera, and making a lot of noise, I tried my best to parallel the bear as he went through the bushes in an effort to keep the bear in there.

Suddenly the bear charges out the bushes right between the two divergent groups of people and runs across the busy 4 lane street causing a few emergency stops and scarring a lot of people. Once on the other side of the street the bear walks along the sidewalk to where the Hoy Creek trail continues its way deep in to the neighborhood.

As we watch the bear go back in to the woods surrounding the creek the little old lady and her granddaughter catch me up and she says in her thick eastern European accent, “I have lived in Canada now for a long time and I have never, ever seen a bear.” To this I could only respond with as I resumed my walk, “You can’t say that any more.”

Summer 2014 update – Heat yawn!

So the summer is cooking along nicely and I find my that my new place out in Coquitlam BC does not work well with the heat wave we got going on right now. My unit is on the second floor and well shaded throughout the day but it still gets way too warm in here. I have had apartments on higher floors that stayed cooler than this place. When I took this place the ad read Executive Apartment but as I spend more time inhere I find that the only thing executive about this place is the rent!

I know it has been a while since my last post and for that I am sorry even though I am pretty much just apologizing to my self. I would have done it sooner but I had to remove my Feedburner account first due to the new spam laws here in Canada. No I wasn’t spamming anybody seeing as originally the people who had subscribed to my feed did so through a double opt in system but the new laws required that I seek their approval prior to July 1, 2014 and I wasn’t about to do that. Sure there might have been only a few hundred people but I just couldn’t be bothered so I had to delete the list before I posted again.

I also meant to post something about the constant crow attacks but I did a youtube.com video about it instead. Below is that video and I am also going to re-post the little blurb I did on the subject.

This morning I was out for my usual walk but with a slight difference; today I strapped a GoPro camera to my head so that I could document how I am being dive bombed by crows. I watch as other people stream by the same locations throughout the day with no attacking crows dive bombing their heads but as soon as I walk outside the crows start diving at my head. Sure I know it is fledgling season and their young birds are out in the trees but I am not going near them. In fact in the beginning of the video you can see the first crow come out from behind the top of a high rise apartment building to set up his first swooping attack. Towards the end of the video you can see how one of them actually comes in contact with my head as it jiggles the camera view.

I just moved to this neighborhood and these buggers are just outside of my apartment complex. Upon occasion they perch in the trees just off of my balcony and look in my window and scream at me while I am watching TV. Lucky for them it is against the law to kill crows here or I would do away with the little buggers as I can’t even go out to the store without them diving at my head and dropping things on me from on high.

My next post should be a cob house update.

Cob House – Hobbit House: The Project Begins

This past weekend I finally managed to make it up to my brother’s property, located near Lone Butte BC, to have a look at the patch of ground that he is going to allow me use to build the cob/hobbit house. I took 2 of my son’s up with me and we spent the Saturday pulling nails and sorting lumber from the cabin my brother and his friend salvaged. We didn’t finish all of it but we did manage to deal with the most valuable cuts at least.

While I was up there inspecting the potential building sites I snapped a few pictures to document the process of building the little cob/hobbit house. The first picture is facing south (it may be off a few points) and I took the rest turning slightly to the right to approximate the main compass points.

South View

South View

South West View

South West View

West View

West View

North West View

North West View

North View

North View

North East View

North East View

East View

East View

South East View

South East View


























As you can see in the pictures we will have some decent trees surrounding our little cob house once it is done but we will certainly need to do some clearing as well.

What you can’t see in the pictures is the location of the road, our site will be about 75 yards off of the main road and it is off to the East. Also it may be hard to notice but the site is at the top of a little hill that levels off quite nicely to the North. The steepest part of the hill is to the South and will work well for drainage.

I brought back a soil sample so I can test it to see the clay content, make sure that it is suitable to build this hobbit house. There was a very thin layer of top soil but under that it looks like there is a lot of sandy material and rocks. Looks pretty good for drainage but I will consult my “How To” books to make sure it is going to be adequate to our needs. If the soil isn’t suitable I would be left with the choices of either selecting a new building spot or scraping off the unsuitable soil until I find a decent sub-strait. If it is too deep it will drive the cost up for foundation stone which would force me to find a new location.

For those of you who are curious I am basing the construction of this project from a book called “How To Build A Cob House – Step by Step” by Alex Sumerall. His site is a good resource on building with Cob.

On a slightly different note; my brother’s property is divided in two by a road and the section of property across the street from his house has this old dilapidated cabin on it that seems to garner a lot of people stopping on the road to take pictures of it. Oddly, the old cabin also seems to receive a lot of visitations by some of the local deer as they can hole up in it from time to time. Below is a picture of that old cabin.

Old Cabin

Old Cabin

Better late than never…

Alright. I know it has been close to a month since my last post but what can I say, I’ve been busy.

I am almost all moved in to the new digs out in Coquitlam, BC. I still have to move the remaining contents of my storage locker to the new place but there isn’t much left. Mostly my large collection of games and the required shelving to hold them and that is about it.

I have sprung an interesting spring for myself and it is about to begin. I bribed one of my kids with the building of a hobbit house up on my brother’s property in the Caribou. Nothing too fancy just a round little 2 bedroom house built of cob.

For those of you who do not know what cob is they are little balls of mud, sand and straw that you pile up over a period of time to resemble a small cottage. The nice things about using cob are that you get to sculpt your house rather than build it and it is far less expensive than traditional housing. They also regulate temperature very efficiently, making them economical to live in.

A lot of people who build these things do it because they want to reduce their footprint upon the environment. Power to them for all the difference they actually make but that isn’t my motivation. Hell, I am going to use power tools to do all of my heavy work. I am not that noble, I don’t have the time to be.

My son and I have gone over some rough plans and will be finalizing a blueprint real soon. We know the basic size of land that will be required and I am going up that way to scout out the building spot as well as secure the various equipment and supplies required to build the foundation.

I haven’t decided if I am going to make a new site to chronicle the building of our hobbit house or just make a section for it on this site but I will be documenting the undertaking somewhere.

The hobbit house will be named either Broderick Hall or Logan Manor, we haven’t decided yet. Also, the patio with the sculpted outdoor oven will also be a memorial to my sister, Shannon Romhanyi.

Scary project? You bet but it will also be a fun one for the next couple of years.

Sand Wars – Who Knew?

I just finished watching a documentary called Sand Wars and talk about an eye opener.

I like most of us outside of the aggregate industry take sand for granted. The stuff is used in just about everything, from the homes we live in to the bank cards we now use instead of money. It is so common that we never really think about it unless our toes are digging in it.

The sad fact about sand is that it is not a renewable resource and we are running out. Sure you might think there is tons of the stuff lying around in all the desserts of the world and while that is true it just isn’t the right kind of sand for building. Dessert sand has been blown around so much that the grains are rounded whereas sea sand is much coarser with harsh angles and this coarseness makes it perfect for building material.

So why is this a problem as the oceans are vast with lots of sea sand at the bottom you might think but the truth is that there really isn’t that much sea sand out there. While it is true that huge quantities of sea sand is being dredged up from the seas the problem is that when you suck up all of the sand out at sea, the actions of tide and wind is pulling the sand from the beaches to fill in those dredged hallows. This erosion is problematic on land as well as it is at sea. For example there are approximately 15 islands that have disappeared from Indonesia because of sea sand harvesting.

The demands on sand are so vast that sand is now the 3rd largest commodity traded around the globe, right behind oil and water. At present there are not a lot of regulations regarding the harvesting of sand and as such it is like a gold rush with companies springing up to harvest the limited commodity, which is free to harvest once you have the equipment to do so. Apparently there are no limits to the willing buyers around the world for the stuff as it becomes harder and harder to get.

The majority of the people of this day and age of this so called enlightenment have no idea that this issue exists and sadly by the time John Q Public discovers this potential crisis exists there will be little that can be done about it.

Sand Wars is a very informative documentary about the biggest problem you were unaware of.