Category: Family (page 2 of 2)

Lofty ideals

I have spent the last two nights up in the loft, trying to clear some space, because we are decorating the kids’ bedrooms and some extra electrical wiring needs to be run in.

Now, I know that most of the stuff up there  (which Mrs Masher refers to as ‘a load of old junk’, but is actually all really useful stuff) is mine.

And I know that I really do need to sort it out, sometime.


It’s not ALL mine.

You know those Really Useful plastic boxes that they sell in such places as Homebase and Staples?  We’ve got loads of ‘em up in the loft. All different shapes and sizes. And all full of tat. Apart from a couple of them that belong to me, that are obviously full of really useful stuff.

Really Useful boxes filled with really useful stuff.

But, there are several boxes full of stuff that the kids did when they were young: paintings, small clay models; shit like that. Why are we keeping it all? It’s memorabilia.


There are boxes of clothes that Mrs Masher is hanging onto, just in case she’s ever likely to squeeze into them again.

Slim chance.

Wallpaper!  You know when you finish decorating and you have half a roll of wallpaper left over, and you think “I’ll hang onto that, just in case some bizarre accident ruins a single piece and I have to re-hang it” , then up in the loft it goes?  Well, yesterday, I brought down dozens of rolls and semi-rolls of wallpaper that had ended up up there. Some of it dated back twenty years to when we first moved in and Mrs M and I spent quite a while going through it all; recognising various wallpapers but not being able to remember which room they’d been hung in.

And suitcases!  We are a family of four. So why did I count thirteen different suitcases? Jeez!

Now, I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, that loft IS going to be sorted out.

This year.

You heard it here first.

But I think I may need to order a skip.

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

Mutt News

We had a few concerns about Saber’s back leg: she would often cry out in pain if she put a lot of pressure on it and she didn’t like it being touched. So, knowing how German Shepherd dogs can be prone to problems with their hips, we booked her in for a check-up at the vets.

The vet checked her all over and said she was in fine form, but that there was some obvious tenderness around that particular leg. She suggested an X-ray, to see if there was an issue. At 300 quid, I wondered whether we could just take her up to the hospital, but apparently not. Saber was duly booked in and earlier this week, Mrs Masher took her back to the vets.

This time, she saw the owner of the practice, the venerable Julie. She checked Saber over fully, from head to toe, even sticking a finger up her fanny to check whether she was in season or not (well, that was her excuse for doing it, anyway). Then she got Mrs M to take Saber through the doggy obstacle course that they have in the back garden. She watched how she walked, trotted, turned and jumped and then declared that she doubted there was anything wrong and that an X-ray was not needed. Result! That’s a handy saving, just before Christmas!

However, she did say that we are giving her way too much exercise at this stage in her development. At nine months-old, this dog has so much energy and we now have to cut her exercise regime down by more than half!

It’s for the best, but the poor thing cannot understand why I don’t take her in the woods anymore and let her chase the squirrels. 

The bushy-tailed vermin, on the other hand, are probably quite glad of the respite.

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