– Ben Martens

United States Fully Electric Vehicle Sales

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

In the last three months, one in every 26 cars sold in the United States was a Tesla.

Staggering! In the third quarter of 2022, 6.1% of all US auto sales were full electric vehicles with about two thirds of those being Teslas and most of the Teslas are either the Model Y or the Model 3. With the way things are going now, it is looking like the fourth quarter will end with Tesla will be one of the top 10 auto brands by quarterly sales in the United States. They’re growing very rapidly while traditional auto maker sales are still roughly flat.

Electric vehicles are very common in my area. I pulled up to a stoplight the other day driving our Model Y and of the six cars waiting at the light with me (all going the same way, not spread around the intersection), FIVE of them were Teslas. Ford is coming on strong too and looks to be in solid possession of second place. I know that I’m living in a bubble of EVs so while the percentage of EVs being sold is huge out here, I didn’t expect it to average out to 6.1% for the whole country.

There’s a long way to go as the country shifts to EVs, but it’s awesome seeing so many people choosing this on their own and not being forced into it by legislation. EVs might not be for everyone yet, but they’ve certainly earned serious consideration in every car purchasing decision.

Wooden Luther Roses

All of my CNC work up to this point has been two dimensional. I draw lines and then have the machine cut them to a certain depth. But there’s a whole other world of three dimensional carving that I have never tried so I invented a project to learn a bit about that.

For a model, I picked a Luther Rose model from Thingiverse. I brought it into Fusion 360 and spent a long time learning about all the different 3D tool paths that it has. I knew that I wanted to do one roughing pass to get rid of most of the material and then do a finishing pass with a much smaller bit to get the detail. I planned the first pass with a 1/8″ endmill and then a follow up with a 1/16″ ball nose mill. (I had to buy a special collect to hold the 1/16″ endmill because it only had a 1/8″ shank.)

From there it was off to the CNC to try it out. What followed was a long series of errors. The board would slip, I’d lose my zero when I changed bits and not be able to reset it, the bit would slip in the chuck etc. I started with some cheap pine boards and eventually moved to 3″ walnut squares.

These are all failures… err… steps in the learning process.

With much perseverance, I finally got it dialed in! On the 3″ walnut pieces, the first pass took about an hour and then the second pass would take 3-4 hours. Usually I stay in the garage when the CNC is running, but this was the first time that I let it run attended. I would go out and check on it regularly and I’d watch it via the camera in the garage. Working from home was a big advantage because I could run it throughout the day while I worked.

After I made four successful roses and ran out of the walnut board, I felt like I still had more to learn. I also had some very wide scraps of wood leftover from the dresser build. So next I set out to make a couple 8″ roses out of cherry. I switched to a 1/4″ endmill for the first pass and an 1/8″ ball mill for the finishing pass to keep the total time down. Neither one of those cherry roses was flawless, but with a lot of sanding afterwards, they look great. And then the pièce de résistance was a 9.5″ wide piece of walnut. That one started warping a bit as I cut it, but I was able to salvage it with a lot of hand sanding.

It was a huge learning experience, but it was also a lot of fun. I feel like I’ve unlocked a new woodworking skill! There’s still plenty to learn, but I won’t avoid a project if I need to do some 3D stuff on the CNC.

After the first pass with the big piece of walnut
Second pass

Follow me on Instagram @martenswoodworks. I usually post mid-project updates to stories and then make posts for the finished projects.

So Much Smoke

We’ve had a lot of smoke this year, largely due to the Bolt Creek Fire which is burning about 30 miles east of here. Whenever the winds are easterly, we get inundated with bad air quality. When someone asked “Has it been smokier this year?” I got to wondering how you would quantify that. To the data we go!

I run the website which is a simple view of the air quality right around our house. When Elijah says “Is the air ok outside for me to play?” I can quickly open my phone and see. It pulls data from about 10 different sensors in our area (links for the detailed data are at the bottom of the page.) I’ve been running that since the summer of 2018 so that’s as far back as this post will cover. Here are some stats:

  • The smokiest day we ever had was September 15, 2020 when we hit 274 ug/m3 which is into the “Hazardous” range of the scale (the worst category.)
  • If we look at total days where we hit the “Unhealthy” category, 2022 has had the most (12 days) followed by 10 days in 2018 and 9 days in 2020. Dropping down to “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” gives the same ordering.
  • Looking at Unhealthy days by month, October 2022 ranks third on the list behind August 2018 and September 2020. And since we’re only about halfway into October, we could break that record this month. So far two thirds of our October days have had Unhealthy air quality. But the hope is that as things get cooler and wetter, the smoke should die down.

Looking at it in those terms, this has been a bad year, but looking at the year as a whole, we’ve had it rather good. We went very deep into the summer before we hit wildfire season. The Washington Smoke Blog has a good post about that showing that our total particle count this year is less than it was in 2020.

What’s going on? Why all the smoke? I won’t repeat the entire post, but if you’re interested, read Cliff Mass’s excellent post on what a “normal amount of smoke” is for this region. It is well-summarized by this chart showing the number of protected acres burned by year in Oregon.

More fires have returned to the area, but these are healthy for the land and still very different from what “normal” was before we were trying to suppress every fire. He concludes his post with this: “wildfire is a natural element of Northwest ecology and meteorology and that the 50-year period of suppressed wildfire and smoke are anomalies from the natural state of the region.”

We wait all winter for dry, warm weather and when it finally comes, it’s easy to be frustrated by the smoke. Thankfully, modern HVAC systems do a good job at protecting us during these periods even if it does mean that we need to carefully monitor the amount of time we spend outside.

Easy Data Backup

One recurring theme on this blog has been encouraging you to back up your data. Imagine going home and one of the devices in your house is completely and irrecoverably dead. How much do you lose? Are those family photos gone forever? The strategy I recommend is a 3-2-1 strategy: keep three copies of the data stored in at least two places with one of them being offsite.

If you don’t have this today, you can remedy that very easily by going to and paying them to keep an encrypted copy of all your data. They aren’t sponsoring this post, but I’ve used them for ~4 years now both here and at church and I’ve been satisfied. The key features for me are that it runs automatically in the background and there are no limits on how much data you can store which is good because I currently have 5TB stored on their servers.

Since I recently updated my setup at home, I thought I’d give another overview of my setup. We have a central server in the house that runs Blue Iris (security cameras), TeslaMate (Tesla data capture), and Plex (video streaming). It also serves as our file storage. All our computers use that server for file storage. Backblaze is running on that server to keep everything backed up to the cloud. Our phones also have everything backed up to the cloud through services like Google Photos and OneDrive, but periodically I take the photos off the phones and put them on the file server so the full resolution copies are backed up too.

The file server is a bit complicated though. We have about 7TB of data on it, and I don’t trust having all that data on a single drive because I’ve had a handful of drive failures over the years. Sure, it’s backed up to the cloud, but the goal is to never have to resort to the cloud backup. So our file server uses a feature of Windows called “Storage Spaces.” I shove various drives into the machine and then it is configured to keep each file on two different drives. I previously had four 4TB drives (giving me 8TB of duplicated storage) but we were hitting the limits of that setup so I swapped out two of the drives for 8TB drives. (Pro tip if you’re going to use Storage Spaces: leave one port open so that when you get a new drive, you can plug it in and then decommission the old drive. I’ve also done it where I just pull a drive out and tell Windows that it is dead, forcing it to rebuild on the new drive, but that’s a lot messier and riskier.)

When I upgrade drives in the file server, I take the old ones and put them in external enclosures. The Silverstone tool-less enclosure is the best one that I’ve used. These drives get another copy of all our files and they are protected by BitLocker. When I worked in the office I would keep them in my desk at work. I wouldn’t pay to add this layer of protection, but it gives me something to do with the drives that are retired from the file server.

As I mentioned at the beginning, you don’t have to get this fancy to protect your data, but you do need to make sure you’re protecting your data. When (not if) one of your hard drives fail, you don’t want to be bummed that you’ve lost things you can never get back.

Disclosure: I don’t work on the Windows team, but I do work at Microsoft.

Blyth Park Disc Golf Tournament

I played my first disc golf round in early August, so less than two months later, I’m clearly ready to enter a tournament, right?

We play most often at Blyth Park and I saw some signs up for a tournament. This was an “unsanctioned” tournament meaning you didn’t need a PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) membership to enter. I figured it would be a stretch for my skill level, but the $40 entry fee included three discs and that’s about how much three discs would cost so it seemed like a reasonable way to add more discs to my bag and learn more about the sport. The catch was that you can only use those exact three discs in the tournament even though you’ve never thrown them before.

My tee time was at 12:30pm so I showed up around 11:30am not knowing what to expect. We got there just as an ambulance was pulling up. I quickly learned that a player had broken their leg on the course! It winds through the woods and there are some very steep sections. He took a bad step and SNAP! That delayed everything by about half an hour so I didn’t end up teeing off until 1pm. The injury happened in the furthest point from the road so it took them a long time to extract him.

There were three other guys in my group and thankfully they were all nice to play with. Most people in the sport seem to be very nice but there are always a few of “those guys.” The first whole on the course is very difficult. There’s a row of trees across the fairway and it feels a bit like the windmill hole on a putt putt course. You try to get it right but there’s a lot of luck involved (at least at my skill level.)

I was encouraged to see lots of other players hitting the trees too. That was a common theme for me during the day. Lots of other people struggle with the same things that I do. Anway, my tee shot survived the trees (in a different gap than I aimed for) and my next shot from about 100 feet out hit the chains and bounced out! I was thrilled with a par on that hole and told me teammates not to expect more throws like that from me in the future.

We were keeping score right in the UDisc app. I don’t know if there are other disc golf apps, but this one seems to have pretty much cornered the market. They’ve done a really good job with it and I keep all my scores in there. For the tournament, it easily let one person track scores for the whole group and all the stats show up right on everyone else’s phones so they can find errors, track live leaderboards, etc.

When playing the course normally, there aren’t official out of bounds areas clearly marked but they had them all marked for this tournament. Some of the baskets are within a few feet of the out of bounds line so that adds a significant challenge. On hole three, my putt hit the chains of the basket, bounced out, and had an agonizingly slow roll just barely across the line. So my par 3 turned into a 5. Ouch!

I can finish a round (10 holes) by myself on an empty course in 25-30 minutes. If I play with Elijah, it’s about 45 minutes. But it took us 1.5 hours to finish our first 10 holes. (For some reason this course has 10 holes instead of 9.) Thankfully, the weather was perfect. It was a real blessing for being so late in September. It was in the low 70s and sunny, and if there was anything to complain about, there was just enough wind to make you think about it on some throws.

I get to spend a lot of time learning my recovery shots when I hit a tree and end up off course.

I finished the first 10 holes at 4 over which is good for me. I’ve had two rounds at 3 over and if you factor in the OB rules that I had to contend with this time, I was very happy. Two of the other guys in my group were a stroke or two under par and the third guy was quite a few strokes behind me.

The second 10 holes was rougher and looking back, I think I was getting tired. It had already been a long day and I usually only play 10 holes at a time. The whole course is in the woods so it’s not uncommon to hit a tree, but usually I can recover and still get par or bogey. But I hit multiple trees on both holes and double bogeyed both. I was able to pick up a birdie later to offset some other less than stellar holes a little and ended up +6 on the back 10 for a final score of +10 over 20 holes.

Tyla and Elijah came to watch my final few holes and take some pictures.

There were some extra competitions happening within the tourney too. You could pay an extra $5 for an “ace pot” to be split among any players who got a hole in one. As far as I know, only one player got it so he won $500. (It was on hole 8 if you know the course. He had a good throw plus a bit of luck with a friendly tree bounce.) The other competition was “closest to the pin” on every hole. There was an orange flag marking the closest tee shot. By the end of the day, all of the flags were either touching the pole or within a couple feet. It was amazing to see some of those throws when I’m happy just to par the holes.

I’m waiting to see the official results with the full 100 players, but the UDisc leaderboard says I was 65 out of 84 players. My goal going in was to have fun, stay out of the way, and not be last. I’d say I accomplished all of those goals!

Will I do it again? Yes, but probably not very often. I like that you get free discs for playing the courses, but until I’m good enough to have a chance at making it into the money, I probably won’t do more than one a year. The top 30 players got a payout in this tournament and a score of +1 was the cutoff for that. That’s a big stretch for me right now but my personal goal is one round (10 holes) at even par. I have a ways to go before I’m in possible contention for the money but it seems achievable.

First EV Savings Milestone

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m pulling in a lot of car stats with TeslaMate. I’m also using the GasBuddy API to record the prices at the six gas stations closest to my house. This lets me calculate how much I would be spending on gas if I drove the exact same distances at the same time. I assume that I would fill up every day which isn’t accurate, but over time, it should be nearly spot on.

I take all that gas price data and compare it against the cost for every charge I’ve put into the car. Most of the charging is done at home (92%), but if I’m on the road, I have all those prices as well too.

So if I compare my actual charging costs versus the estimate gas prices for the same driving pattern, we have saved our first $1000! Despite the high entry price, we bought this car because I believe it will be cheaper than if we bought another Escape. Using my conservative estimates and the lower gas prices from last summer, I expected to save $1000 every ~8000 miles, but we hit the first $1000 of savings at 5800 miles.

Digging into those charging costs at home a bit more, here’s a chart for our electric usage for the last 11 years:

You can see where we got the new car at the end of the chart, and our monthly usage can vary quite a bit based on how much we drive. Do you see that spike back in January 2014? That winter we tried running a space heater in one room. I cut that off quickly after monitoring how much power it used. The space heater wasn’t cheaper than just turning up the furnace a bit more. So if you’re nervous about the additional cost of charging an EV at home, look around your house at those space heaters. If you have one or two of them running, that’s roughly the same as charging an EV (caveat caveat caveat but they can be in the same ballpark.)

Gas savings alone won’t make this car cheaper. I’m also counting on lower total service bills (no oil changes, less moving parts to fail, etc) and a higher resale value. We won’t know how all that plays out for many years, but it’s fun to see it working out better than planned so far!

Disc Golf Newbies

The new craze in our house is disc golf. I asked for a cheap starter pack of discs for Father’s Day, and all three of us enjoyed it the very first time we went out. There are about half a dozen free courses within a 30 minute drive and the closest one is only 5 minutes away.

I was a bit nervous/embarrassed the first time we went out, but I’ve found the disc golf crowd to be extremely friendly and welcoming. Plus, we quickly learned that lots of people are just out there having family fun and we weren’t as slow or bad as we thought. Course etiquette is very similar to golf so I was able to work on those social norms with Elijah first and then we started learning more about the game.

YouTube is a great resource for learning disc golf and it helped us understand the basic form, the flow of play, special rules, etc. While there are people who are extremely good at the sport, I’ve found it to be very accessible for inexperienced players. You can go out there knowing nothing and have a blast. And while it would take a huge amount of time to master the sport, you can find bits success early on. For example, only about 10 rounds into the sport, we’ve all made a par and I was a few inches off from a hole-in-one. You can pick up a starter set of discs for around $30, and as I mentioned, many of the courses are free. The UDisc app is a great way to find nearby courses and keep score.

It’s fun to discover a new activity where I can compete against myself, play for basically free, and see myself rapidly improve since I went in knowing nothing! If you’re in the area, I’d be happy to share some discs with you and show you what it’s like. At the very least, you get to enjoy walking around in a park for an hour.

Streaming Packages

For our TV watching, we almost exclusively use streaming service. We do have an antenna set up for some locals with a DVR hooked up to it, but that’s only used for some Seahawks games. We always have Amazon Prime Video since that comes with our Amazon Prime subscription, and we pay for YouTube with no ads, but otherwise, we rotate our services so that we only pay for one other one at a time.

That’s the goal but it doesn’t always play out that way. For the past few years, we’ve had Disney Plus. In November of 2019, we did a three year pre-paid deal which came out to less than $4/month. That is expiring in a couple months so it has me looking at streaming service prices in more detail. Netflix is expensive but it’s a single service so it’s easy to add and drop. The complexity comes with Disney Plus and Hulu. Those prices are all going up by a few bucks on October 10. They make it tricky because they offer a bundle of Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus that is less a pretty good deal if you’re ever going to have two of those services.

  • Hulu $14.99/month
  • Disney+ $10.99/month
  • ESPN+ $9.99/month
  • Bundle all three for $20.99/month

I don’t know that we’d ever watch ESPN+ but it’s hard to decide if we’ll do monthly Hulu and Disney+ alternating individually or get the bundle. (Those prices are for the services without ads. I will pay to avoid ads anywhere possible.)

The nice thing is that these decisions are low cost and effort. It’s so easy to subscribe and unsubscribe from month to month. I’ll frequently hit unsubscribe on whatever service we have an see how long it takes us to notice that it died off. Otherwise, it’s easy for the costs to pile up quickly and silently.

Dege Peak Hike

We signed our fourth grader up for his free National Park Pass as soon as he was eligible, and we’ve already put it to use! Last weekend we headed to Mt. Rainier for a hike up Dege Peak.

The trip almost didn’t happen though. There was a lot of smoke in the area from wildfires burning east of the Cascades, but based on the webcams at Rainier and Crystal, I thought we’d be mostly above the smoke. Then there was the wind. I was not expecting it to be so windy down there, but when we hit Enumclaw, we were greeted by ~30mph winds. And finally, anytime I visit Rainier on a weekend, I wonder what the crowds will be like. We hit the tool booth on the way up to Sunrise at 9:21 and only waited 7 minutes to get through.

As I had hoped, the smoke was thinning as we pulled into a parking spot at the visitor center. We hit the bathrooms, applied sunscreen (which was very eager to come out of the bottle with the elevation pressure change!), and set out on the hike to Dege Peak.

The trail itself isn’t anything to write home about. There’s a bit of elevation gain at the beginning and the end, but otherwise it’s a straight dusty trail along a ridge. The incredible views are what make it a winner. Heading to the peak, Rainier is at your back, but there are still magnificent views to both sides, and it would have been even better without the smoke. Coming back, Rainier is always in your face. I had to consciously pay attention to the trail because walking while staring at the mountain is a combo built for tripping.

We didn’t stay on the peak very long because the wind was so intense. Elijah was nervous he was going to get blown off, and while that’s an exaggeration, we were all holding onto our hats, and we had our snack somewhere else. There’s not a lot of room up there, but the high winds kept people from loitering too long and we got our fill of the unobstructed view.

There are so many other hikes that I’d love to do down at Rainier. It’s a wonderful gift to have that national park within a two-hour drive of our house!

Woodworking Instagram Reborn

As mentioned previously, I lost control of my @martenswoodshop Instagram account. Since then, I’ve realized that I really do like having a single place that can easily function as a portfolio of my work. “Oh you build stuff? What do you like to make?” It’s a lot easier when I can just send a simple URL. And it’s also good motivation for me when I look and see how long it has been since my last project post. It makes me want to get out and do more!

So if you’re at all interested in this kind of thing, please follow @martenswoodworks. I reposted some of my projects to that account and I’ll be posting more going forward. I’m wrapping up a project soon that involves 3D carving on the CNC!