Autunite is a beautiful and rare uranium mineral that’s common in Spokane, WA. That’s a four-hour drive from my home in Seattle. However, in the 1975 out-of-print book “Minerals of Washington” by Bart Cannon, there is brief and ambiguous mention of some closer to Seattle in King County!
Marten Creek, eh? This one sentence appears to be the sole reference for this mindat entry, which appears to just be a random dot along the creek.
Middle Fork road is totally paved these days, so there’s just about 0.5 miles of gravel at the end. Very easy access. The hike starts out as a walk on the road, and then a nice, fairly flat trail for 2.7 miles. The turn-off on the left to Marten Lake is not labeled, but you know you went too far if you get to a beautiful bridge about 2.7 miles in.
There’s a dog park under the I-5 interstate in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. It’s here on a map. Many dog lovers hate it. It’s been called sketchy, dystopian, horrifying, and so on. But it’s not all bad. This post describes it a bit.
As you’re entering you’ll see a bit of graffiti, ripped up Amazon boxes, and assorted garbage. This has come and gone over the last few years but is fairly common today.
After a brief climb, you’ll find the entrance
It has a gravel surface that gets a bit dusty, and it’s also fully covered by I-5. So it does stay dry in the rain!
It was time to get my townhouse painted and as the bids were coming in, numerous contractors noted that my cedar shake siding on just one wall was cupped badly and failing. Given the magnitude, they all said it’d be better to reside the entire wall rather than just try to replace a few. They also told me that it might be wise to put up a stronger material like Hardie board. Given the cost and south-facing exposure, I thought this was a good idea. But I worried that doing Hardie on one side and leaving cedar on the other sides might look funny. They said it would be notably different, but when painted might not be that bad. I couldn’t find any examples online, so here are some now that I’ve done it.
I wanted to try out a camper van for a vacation to see what it was like to van life it. I found a pet-friendly local option in my area (Seattle) called Indie Campers that rented out vans. They were pretty pricey, but a lot cheaper than like, buying a van. So I went for it. I wish I had paid more attention to the negative reviews of Indie Campers before doing so. Here’s an explanation of our negative experience with Indie Campers.
Pickup location bait and switch: 2 hours away
At first, it said the pickup location is at the Seattle Tacoma airport. Great. There’s public transit to there, and it’s just 15 mins down the road. As the time for the vacation got closer, I got more concerned about details about where exactly at the airport to pick it up. I kept following their FAQ to get details and it said to go to the center of the passenger terminal. That’s suspicious. Then, a few hours before pickup (right when the cancellation deadline moves into “no money back no matter what” category) they reveal that ope the location is actually in Enumclaw, a full 1-hour drive beyond the airport, in good traffic. 2 hours in bad traffic. And that’s one way, so this adds between 2 and 4 hours to your pickup plans all of a sudden. Slap in the face.
When we got there, there were 5 other customers there, and they all thought the pickup location was at the airport. They flew in and had to spend an ungodly amount of money on an Uber to get there. Super deceitful. After this, we added the spot to the google maps for the next person. You’re welcome.
This is a legacy post, written originally in 2005.
I, Nick Touran, built a bubble wall. You can build one yourself if you want. You can follow my example.
What is a bubble wall?
Basically, a bubble wall is a thin, clear wall of any size that is filled with water. Bubbles rise up throughout the entire wall and are lit up. It is basically an inch thick empty bubbling fish tank. I saw a 6-foot tall one in Las Vegas for $2,500 and decided I would just make my own. Mine will be a little smaller so that I can transport it.
Seeing radiation with your own eyes is incredible. It wows everyone who sees it, and is a perfect ‘hook’ to bring people over to your nuclear education table. “Hey, you guys want to see some radiation?”
I’ve used a normal dry ice cooled cloud chamber many times in science demos at corporate family nights, at demo tables at the Pacific Science Center, at schools, and so on for many years. You can still find dry ice at a number of grocery stores, but it seems to be getting more difficult. Plus, the dry ice runs out after a few hours, and you have to get more. I’ve heard of people using thermoelectric cooler (TEC) pads for this and thought I should try it out.
Being a nuclear engineer, I thought it’d be fun to find some Uranium in the wild just out there in the nature, sitting somewhat dormant since it was made by neutron star mergers and giant supernova billions of years ago. I just wanted like a tiny rock with some uranium ore in it.
I found an old document from 1957 describing where Uranium had been found in Washington State. The vast majority of it is around Spokane in Eastern WA, but there are a few spots closer by worth maybe checking out.
The ones up in the central cascades all looked to be in the Galena area, which is difficult/impossible to get to at the moment due to the washout on the index/galena road.
I thought I’d go for the one East of Rainier, which is on National Forest land and talks about super high-grade ore, but all the reasonable approaches require either a 14-mile one-way hike or access to closed-off lumber roads. I spent a lot of time on satellite maps before I convinced myself that you could not get past Ohop on the logging road, thanks mostly to this post. (Along the way, I learned about the Electron Dam down there, which seems pretty cool, as well as Vancouver Notch).
So anyway, this one by Bumping Lake West of Mt. Rainier looked much easier to access.
I don’t like the concept of decorative combustion that much, but I do have two tiki torches in my yard. I fired them up and checked my indoor vs. outdoor air quality sensors from my weather stations. Here are the results:
Reading the joystick in Python is super easy using pygame. I ran the demo code toward the bottom of the joystick page as my first step. It showed all axes and buttons working great out of the box with my controller.
Amcrest cameras support the ONVIF protocol. The python-onvif-zeep package supports sending ONVIF commands from modern Python (I used Python 3.10 for this project).
Specific example code demonstrating how to use the package from Python to send PTZ commands to the camera can be found e.g. here.
The package is pretty limited at the moment but does handle PTZ controls. It pans and tilts with the left joystick and zooms when you pull the right trigger and zooms out when you pull the left trigger. (Note that for this particular camera, zoom is purely software, but on an actual zoom cam it would work the optical zoom).
And there you go I saved myself $500 vs. getting one of those fancy joystick camera controller things.
I have a fancier PTZ ONVIF-compliant camera on order which is the real reason I wanted to try this out on the smaller cam.
A family member upgraded his stereo and offered me his Peachtree Audio Decco as a hand-me-down. I couldn’t say now because my previous hand-me-down has recently become buzzy. But, in order for it to work with my home automation setup, I needed to be able to turn it on and off, switch inputs, and change volume from my Home Assistant home automation system via my Raspberry Pi. I useLIRC for this but there is no remote config for the Decco. So I used the remote and recorded the pulses.
Using irrecord didn’t go that well. The dots were coming in but very slowly. I’d have to sit there for 10 minutes pressing in order to get enough dots for it. So I used mode2 to record raw commands on my pi. Then I hand-edited it to have the right format for a conf file and then ran irrecord -a on it to convert it to actual codes.
Since the LIRC remote DB hasn’t been updated since 2018 and has a few open merge requests, I figured it’d be easier to just post the file here for the next person who needs it. It works great. Here you go.
I have some of those mini-split Fujitsu heat pumps in my house that have infrared (IR) remote controls. This post explains how I set up my smart house to be able to automate the heat and air conditioning with a raspberry pi and Home Assistant.
I rigged up some holiday lights that switch between a number of color palettes based on what holiday is coming up next. I used a $25 light strip, a $5 WiFi microcontroller (ESP8266), and Home Assistant to make it all happen.
Setting up the light strip
Using a “NeoPixel”-like addressable RGB light strip is pretty well-covered online these days. I got this waterproof one. I plugged in one of my ESP8266’s and loaded it up with some demo code from the FastLED library. I bought an outdoor waterproof enclosure for the 5V power supply and ran outdoor wires in a small trench over to my fence, where I then used one of these outdoor wire coupler things to both protect the connection and store the ESP8266 itself.
My mom has used Windows computers since the early 1990s. During a visit in October, 2021, I set her up with a Linux desktop computer as her daily driver, and so far she loves it.
My mom is by no means a computer power user, but she does do most of the basics that people do. Email, zoom, chat, read the news, check the weather, print and scan stuff, watch Youtube tutorials, go on Facebook, etc.
I plugged my Geiger counter’s audio cable into my oscilloscope just for kicks the other day and saw ~9V pulses coming out when it occurred to me that I could easily read those into an Arduino or Raspberry Pi or ESP8266 microcontroller and respond to them. As a demo, I made a hardware random number generator (HRNG) out of a esp8266.
I like the concept of measuring flows and so have sensors on my water main and my electric mains. Naturally, I wanted to add a reading of how much bandwidth I’m using and get it displayed in my living room. I already have the following in place:
A year ago I built 2 DIY weather/air quality sensor packs to monitor the ambient conditions inside and outside, including carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels. Meanwhile, I got a COVID-puppy who sleeps in a covered dog crate. I got to wondering what kind of CO₂ levels that crate got up to at night. So I measured it.
I just slipped the sensors under the cover like this and let it run all night.
I graphed the readings from the previous day (outside the dog crate) and then inside the dog crate, as indicated with the arrow. As you can see, CO₂ levels did spike quite a bit but did not get above 2000 ppm. For humans, this would be expected to cause drowsiness and complaints about stale air, but would not be harmful.
So in conclusion, a mostly-covered dog crate isn’t deadly, but may be unconformable. I will be opening the back panel at least. I’m a little worried that if the cover was placed so that there were fewer gaps, it could get much higher.
Since the product is no longer sold on Amazon, I am left with putting this product review here. I got a bunch of GE smart toggle switches back in 2016 and installed them in various smarthome builds. Then, just yesterday (2021-03-14), I was (ironically?) installing a different smart switch on the same circuit. I turned the breaker on and off a handful of times while installing/testing the new one. And then I heard a clicking. Click… click…click… click… click… like a metronome with 1 second delay. It was the GE 12727 smart toggle from 2016. It was just clicking and clicking and clicking. At first I thought for sure the new switch was interfering with it somehow so I disconnected it and the clicking continued.
I guess a 5-year life isn’t terrible, and that one of the issues of going all in on home automation is that complexity generally leads to lower reliability. I can handle replacing the ones in my home, temporarily with the OG dumb switches and then with new upgrades (I’ve been using Inovelli switches recently based in Michigan what what!, which have cool extra features). It’s a lot more problematic when something like this happens at my mom’s house and she has to like call an electrician.