– Ben Martens

Site News

Air Quality

A few years ago, I wrote a quick website that shows the air quality around the northern end of Lake Washington here in the Seattle area. There’s not a lot to it, but it’s a very quick way to check the air quality and get some quick links to more info.

That site died when I had to move my hosting, but I’ve brought it back to life at If you were using the old site, please update your bookmarks.

Hopefully the wildfires this year won’t be as we’ve had in the past!

Look Ma, No Server!

Serverless computing is all the rage in cloud computing. When cloud computing first began, people thought about how to move their local servers to servers in the cloud. They would end up with a Windows or Linux machine hosted by Azure, etc. That was much better than operating your own data center, but technology is progressing and even managing your own machine in the cloud isn’t really necessary now. There are so many services available that simply take your code and run it for you. Don’t worry about where it’s running or what machine it’s running on. This lets you focus almost 100% of your time on the core business logic in your application and let someone else handle Windows Updates, disaster recovery, backups, etc.

I like to play around with all this stuff and this website is one way for me to do it. Quite a few years ago, I moved this web application to Azure Websites, but I still had a virtual machine running MySQL on it. Now that Azure offers MySQL, I don’t have to run my own VM anymore.

The only other thing I had running on that VM was a little timer job that records the number of customers of my power company who don’t have power. I like to run that from Azure so that I can track power outages even when they affect me. Running a scheduled task on a dedicated VM is extreme overkill so I migrated the code to an Azure Function. I literally pasted C# code into the Azure portal, told it to run the code every 5 minutes and voila! It costs fractions of a penny every time it runs and I don’t have to even think about what machine it’s actually running on.

There’s so much of this great cloud computing geek stuff to get excited about these days.

Mt. Baker Chair

There is a ski lift chair being used as a bench on our back patio, and, in our guest bathroom, there’s a photo of that chair when it was part of Chair #1 at Mt. Baker. It’s a fun piece of history and nostalgia. I wrote about the process of buying the old chair and then receiving a photo of the chair back in 2008.

Fast forward to 2017 and I got contacted on my Instagram woodworking account by an artist who had seen the photo in that post and did a pen and ink drawing of it. She was asking if I could point her to the original photographer so she could give her credit. The photo came from the wife of another guy at work who bought one of the chair. Yada yada yada, we’ve lost touch over the years after I changed groups and he left the company, but I found him on Facebook and sent him a message. We were able to connect all the dots and put the artist in touch with the photographer. Yay for the internet!

You can see the drawing on Instagram at and now you can also think about this story every time you use the guest bathroom at my house. You’re welcome.

Taking A Breather

How many things have you done every single week day since July, 2002? Aside from things like breathing, eating and putting on clothes (maybe that doesn’t even hold true for everyone), I’m hard pressed to come up with a list.

There is one big one though: blogging. I’ve consistently put up a new blog post at least once per weekday for the last 14 years and 10 months. To my knowledge, I’ve never duplicated a topic. That’s a lot of unique content. A LOT. Like six Moby Dicks. Except six Moby Dicks wouldn’t be unique. The printed version of my blog takes up a lot of space on my bookshelf and I haven’t even done books for the last 2.5 years.

I’ve been diligent in not missing even one day of the schedule because people are a lot more likely to stay engaged when the schedule is consistent. And while I do this mainly for myself, it’s a lot more fun knowing that there are people reading my ramblings.

Along the way, I often wondered when it would end. I came very close many times along the journey, but then I’d get a flood of new ideas and the posts would continue. These last couple months have been a slog though. I sit there a couple hours before the normal post time with a blank cursor trying to think of something to write. I’m not usually very proud of the posts when I am scrambling at the last minute to come up with a topic. Is it really keeping the streak alive if I’m just writing a filler post to keep the streak alive?

So, what does this mean for the site? I’m not naive. I know that once people stop a regular writing schedule, it very often devolves into a dead blog, but I’ve got almost 15 years of momentum behind me so I’m hoping I can keep it going, but I’m not going to hold myself to a daily schedule. I think that some weeks I might have one post and other weeks I’ll have 5. I’m just not going to force myself to put something up every single day. Hopefully when you do find a post here, you’ll find something that you have a higher likelihood of enjoying. If you want to get notified of new posts instead of coming to the website to check, you can subscribe via RSS or follow the Studio711 Facebook page.

Also, please consider following me on Instagram. I’m really enjoying that platform and I post a lot of content that ends up there and nowhere else. I have two accounts: @benwmartens for daily life and @martenswoodworks for woodworking posts.

It’s hard to click the publish button on this one. It’s such a long streak, but keeping it alive for the sake of the streak doesn’t seem like a good use of my time at this point. I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out if I really let a day lapse without a blog post…

Martens Woodworks On Instagram

I’ve been using Instagram a lot more than Facebook. I get more interaction with random people who are interested in the same things as me, and it generally feels like a happier place.

I want to use Instagram even more to connect with the woodworking community, but I also don’t want to bombard friends and family who don’t care about that stuff. So I’m segmenting my posts under two accounts. The @benwmartens account will still be normal day-to-day, family-life pictures. The new @martenswoodworks account will have lots of pictures all related to woodworking and will show day to day progress along with the finished project.

If you like it all, it’s easy enough to just follow both, but I won’t be offended if you don’t like seeing lots of progress pictures for my projects.

Some day I dream of supplementing my income with woodworking and maybe this is the first step down that path. For now, it’s still totally a hobby but maybe I can start building a brand.

No Blog Books

I have books sitting on my shelf containing all of my blog posts from 2002-2014. I love the idea of having these all stored in paper form, but the reality is that they NEVER get pulled off the shelf. But I think I’m going to stop making them…

First of all, these books take a long time to publish. I wrote a program that pulls each post from the database and puts it into a Word doc, but it’s very rough and I have to go through each post to clean it up. Then I also add in all my tweets and Instagram photos and whew, it’s a solid couple weeks of effort per book.

I told Tyla I wasn’t going to do this anymore and she thought, “AUGH! What if you die? How will we save all your posts?” So here you go: if I die, someone with WordPress knowledge should ask Tyla for our master Last Pass password and then export it all to a text file. I’m pretty sure you can handle that. And if not, all these pages are probably stored on anyway.

This blog is unlikely to live forever. I’ve had many thoughts over there years (and they’re increasing in frequency) about dropping the blog and regaining a big chunk of time. It will happen some day. Maybe then I’ll decide that it’s wort the effort to finish out the book series to have a complete set. But until then, I’m going to save a bunch of time and some shelf space and not make dead tree versions of my ramblings.

Take a second and check out Ha! That’s right! I finally own it.

What is Rum Friday? It’s pretty complicated. See if you can stay with me here: you drink rum… on Friday. Why? Umm… why not?

I don’t have any big plans for the domain name, but I’m happy to add it to the collection. I should have bought it years ago when I first looked but I delayed and then someone snagged it. They finally let it go and I anxiously waited through the period between their last payment and it being released to the general populace again.

So for now it just points to this blog along with these other domains:

  • (points to Elijah’s facebook page)
  • (points to Tyla’s facebook page)

If you’ve never bought a domain name before, it’s incredibly easy. Use a registrar like or, pay about $10/year and you’re done. You can just have it point to your Facebook page or anywhere you want. And if you pay a little bit more, you can get email forwarding set up so that any email sent to you at that domain name gets redirected to your regular email.

Follow On Facebook

facebook-wordpressFacebook is a monster. They have over a billion and a half unique users who visit every month. That’s a staggering number. So the odds are that many of you are on Facebook and some of you might even preferred to get notified about new posts via Facebook.

I recently added a WordPress plugin that automatically publishes a news story in Facebook for every post that I make here. They all end up on the old, but rarely used, Studio711 Facebook page:

If you Like that page, you should start seeing some of the posts show up in your newsfeed. Due to Facebook’s algorithms, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see all of them, but you’ll, of course, always be able to find the full list once you come to this site.

I will take no offense if nobody follows that Facebook page, but I thought I’d throw it out there in case it’s useful for you.


Azure IP Blocking

A few days ago I noticed that my website was getting a little sluggish. It wasn’t much but it wasn’t as snappy as usual. I checked out the website dashboard on Azure and noticed that the number of requests to my server were steadily rising. A quick scan of the logs revealed that a single IP was flooding my server with requests. It was trying to hit the URL where I used to serve up CascadeSkier data so I doubt it was an intentional DOS attack, but the effect was ramping up to be similar.

I wrote previously about blocking traffic to Azure websites, but new features are always getting added so I looked around again. Indeed they have added the ability to block specific IPs. Check out the final section of ScottGu’s blog post for more info.

It was a one line configuration file change and the results were immediately apparent. Even if you don’t understand any of the geek gibberish that I just wrote, I bet you can figure out when I implemented the change:


One Million Words

The median word count for a book is about 64,000 words. Moby Dick has 212,000 words. The NIV Bible has 728,000 works. This blog? Over ONE MILLION WORDS. Granted, the vast majority of those million words are not worth much, but I guess there’s something to be said for quantity over quality.

Microsoft Word can calculate the reading level of your text using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula. I ran that for each year of the blog and the average is somewhere between 6 and 7. I found a few sites that recommended targeting a 7th grade reading level for general audiences so I guess I’m a little below that. The reading level is based on the average length of a sentence and the average number of syllables per word. You can see that it has been increasing over the years, and since I’m a data scientist now, I’ll include the R-squared value on the trendline.


There should probably be some sort of prize for those of you who have been reading all this stuff since the beginning. A million words. That’s a lot of time. The average adult reads 300 words per minute. That’s 55 hours of your life devoted just to reading this website. That’s a lot of time, but it’s actually quite a bit less than I expected it to be when I started doing the math. So meh, cancel the prize. You only wasted two and a half days over the past 12.5 years.

Every time I do one of these posts looking back at the volume of text I’ve accumulated, I’m left wondering about when I’ll eventually stop writing. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know when this post will come to an abrupt end.