Studio711.com – Ben Martens

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Kids’ Music

Caspar-BabyPantsElijah loves music. He especially likes to listen to it in the car and when each song ends, he immediately makes the sign for “more.” Finding kids music that doesn’t make my head explode is a challenge, but we’ve locked onto a couple good singers so far.

  • Caspar Babypants – This is Chris Ballew who is/was the lead singer for Presidents of the United States. He lives in the Seattle area and now spends most of his time writing music for kids. He does lots of small, free shows which Tyla really enjoys attending. One of our favorite albums is his cover of a bunch of Beatles songs that have a fun kids message to them. I love the idea that Elijah and I are both enjoying listening to the same guy as we grow up!
  • Raffi – This is more traditional kids music, but he has a good voice and does a good job with his songs.

What else is out there? What albums do you fire up when your kids want music? I’m especially looking for ones that adults don’t mind!

Little Helper Tower

The ordering period is now complete. Thank you to everyone who placed an order!

  • Platform adjusts securely and easily within seconds to heights of 7”, 11”, 15” and 19”
  • The overall tower is 18″ square and 40″ tall (to the top of the arches.)
  • Edges are rounded and everything is sanded smooth to help keep kids safe as they climb in the tower
  • Built from beautiful unfinished pine boards ready for you to paint and/or polyurethane
  • Sturdy base helps to prevent tip-overs
  • This is a onetime offer! Orders must be placed by 10/31/2014. Payment is required up front.
  • Orders will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
  • Two models are available. For the model with hinges, you can pull the platform out and fold the tower flat for storage. The model without hinges still has the adjustable platform but it cannot be folded flat.
    • Permanent, non-hinged version – $80
    • Fold flat, hinged version – $120
  • To order or ask questions, please send an email to [email protected] or contact Tyla.
  • You will be contacted when your tower is available for pick up at our home in Woodinville. No shipping.

If you want to view the plans to see specific dimensions or even build one yourself, they are available for free online here: Ana White’s Little Helper Tower

Note: Adorable child not included. You must provide your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I pay extra, will you stain/paint it for me if I pay you? Sorry, no. Finishing all these would take more time than I’m willing to commit to. You can use them unfinished. It just means that spills might leave a stain.

Can you make a modification to the design if I pay you? Again, sorry, but no. I’m all set up to crank these out according to the existing plans and making changes will add quite a bit of time.

Nail Gun

I’ve wanted an air compressor for a long time, but I just couldn’t justify the cost. Until now. Part of this backyard project is building a fence and while, yes, I could build it without a nailgun, it would move along MUCH faster with one. I also wanted to pick up a little big bigger than average air compressor in hopes of being able to blow out my own irrigation lines (albeit much more slowly than the pros do it.)

To that end, I picked up an 8 gallon air compressor from Lowes. It’s nothing fancy but it should get the job done, at least for the construction part. It remains to be seen how long it will take to blow out my lines with this. After checking rental prices for nail guns from Home Depot, I decided I could get the exact same Hitachi model for about the price of 4-5 days worth of rental. Done! The last piece of the puzzle was a 50 ft retractable air hose.

Put them all together and I’m ready to build a fence! I look forward to picking up a smaller brad nailer for my woodworking too.

Home Improvements For Baby

When I look back at all the things I did around the house before our son was born, I’m amazed at all the free time I had. But there are a few home improvements that stick out and continue to pay benefits. If you’re having a baby and you’re a little bit handy, consider these projects:

  • Dimmer switches: Put one in the nursery so you don’t blind your child or stumble over toys when he’s crying in the middle of the night. If your child is going to spend some time in your bedroom, put one there too. The nursery can be a regular dimmer switch, but for the master bedroom, consider splurging a little on a dimmer switch with a remote control. I think that’s Tyla single favorite project that I’ve ever done. It’s so handy to be able to shut off the lights without getting out of bed or to turn them on a tiny amount in the middle of the night.
  • Tamper resistant outlets: You’ll probably want to buy these at Home Depot or Lowes instead of Amazon, but they will remove the need to cover all your outlets with those plastic plugs. I replaced every single outlet in our house with these, mostly because we had some flaky old outlets, but it’s paying off now.
  • Black out drapes and blinds: I added black out drapes and blinds to the nursery. His windows will catch the sun in the summer when it’s up the latest and you can’t make a nursery too dark. We might even have to add a bit more covering to catch the light.

There’s lots of other things that could go on the list but those are the big three that I recommend. Feel free to comment if you have anything to add to the list!

Finding A Sirius Station With Power Query

We got a 6 month trial of Sirius with our Ford Escape and then extended it for another six months once we finally got a good offer from Sirius. Listening to music without commercials is addicting and they have a lot of good stations to choose from. The one thing they are missing is a feature on their website that lets me tell them the artists I like and then gives me the stations that play those artists the most. But hey, it’s just data right? I should be able to figure this out. I do, after all, work on the team that is producing the premiere (I hope) data experience for Excel: Microsoft Power Query (part of the Office Power BI suite).

The first step was finding a playlist history for all the Sirius stations. A quick Bing search revealed http://www.dogstarradio.com/search_playlist.php. It has a bunch of search parameters and best of all, they are dumped right into the URL so you can easily build your own searches just by modifying the URL.

Next I built a function inside of Power Query that takes an artist name and returns one page of results. I wrote a function on top of that which calls the first function multiple times to collect each page of data. (Unfortunately there’s no way on the website to view the entire result list at once.) The last step was feeding in a list of artists I’m interested in. I grouped the data by radio station and the count of the songs that were played. Voila. I should be listening to channel 31 “The Coffee House” which features singer-songwriters, or as I call it “guy with guitar.”

I wish Sirius offered this feature directly on their website, but it’s really cool that I was able to answer it myself with Power Query in a few minutes between meetings at work.

Orcas Island

While Dad and Mom were out here, we hopped on the ferry at Anacortes for the one hour ride out to Orcas Island. Tyla and I spent a few days there back in March before Elijah was born and thought it would be a fun place to show my parents. We had lunch on the waterfront at The Madrona Bar & Grill (our favorite restaurant on the island), stopped at the Rosario resort to walk through the mansion, and then drove to the top of Mt. Constitution. We had been encased in fog the entire day but the top of the mountain was above the clouds and had a spectacular view!

We intended to catch the 5:20 ferry back to Anacortes, but when we arrived, we learned that the 2:20 ferry had run over a sailboat. The whole schedule was messed up and yada yada yada we were going ot have to wait for FOUR HOURS to get off the island! That’s bad enough but with a three month old kid in the car, we were wondering if we’d survive. Thankfully Elijah was a champ and hardly put up any fuss.

Unfortunately Mom and Dad never got to see the awesome views from the ferry ride so maybe we’ll try another island next time they come out.

Some photos are included below and I also posted a quick Photosynth from the top of Mt. Constitution.

White Noise

When babies are in the womb, they have quite a noisy environment with all the blood rushing around in addition to the muffled noises from outside the womb. So it makes sense when they are born that it’s comforting to have some white noise playing while they sleep. There are tons of white noise generators on the market, but we picked up an hour long MP3 called “Baby Got Colic.” I dropped it on an SD card and put it in a small radio/SD/USB player. That little gadget is great because it plays from a variety of sources and has a rechargeable battery that charges with a USB cable. We play that thing every night, all night long. I wonder if Tyla and I will be able to sleep without it once Elijah moves into the crib in his own room?

GoPro Clamp Mount

There have been numerous times when it would be useful to attach a GoPro using a clamp, but the only thing I found on the Internet was around $40 and that seemed ridiculous. After searching around for some homemade solutions, I built this:

All of the parts came from Home Depot and the total bill was less than $2. The only specific part that you’d need to copy is the bolt. A standard camera mount accepts a 1/4” bolt with 20 threads per inch. That was the standard number of threads in the bolts at Home Depot so it all went together very easily.

Don’t pay more if you don’t have to!

Seattle to Dry Falls and Back

As soon as FrankL, DougW and I got back from our British Columbia motorcycle ride, we started talking about the next one. We settled on a trip out to Dry Falls in central Washington. This past Saturday was the day that had been circled on the calendars but we woke up to rain. After the driest two month stretch in Seattle history where we only got 0.02 inches of rain, we got rain on the day we picked for the ride! We met at Doug’s house anyway, and, after checking the radar, decided to give it a shot.

The rain ended somewhere around North Bend and from there it was clear sailing. Our route took us up US 97 right through the Wenatchee forest fire. The fire has burned 143 square miles and there are firefighters from all over the country trying to put it out. It started as a series of smaller fires caused by lightning and quickly got out of control. A little bit of the smoke has been drifting west into Seattle, but it was nothing like we experienced over there. The sun turned to a dull red ball, visibility was greatly reduced and you could feel the sting of smoke in your eyes. At one point where the fire was the closest, they had closed down the road and were leading single lines of cars back and forth with pilot cars. The website says that “fire is approaching the highway from the east and crews are conducting burn out operations from the road. Firefighters and their equipment will be along the roadway and visibility likely will be reduced by heavy smoke.“ The fire’s page on inciweb.org shows just how close the fire is to the highway right now!

Once we were through that area, we headed east out to Dry Falls. It’s a big dry canyon/riverbed and the sign said it was once the largest waterfall in the world. After taking in the sights it was back on the bikes heading west through Wenatchee again, then Leavenworth, Stevens Pass, and finally back home.

All told it was just over 400 miles in one day. We were pretty sore during those last stretches, but what a day it was!

This was my first major test of the Go Pro camera. Instead of mounting it on my helmet, I mounted it on one of the wind deflectors over my right side mirror. I got just under 2 hours of video recorded before the battery ran out. I posted it all on YouTube if you really want to see the raw footage. I also edited it down to about 5 minutes, added a soundtrack (Eddie Vedder from Into the Wild), and recorded a little commentary to explain what you’re seeing. The version embedded below has the commentary but if you don’t like me talking, you can watch the edited version with no commentary. Confused yet? Just watch the video below!

Caribbean Cruise Photos

It’s going to take me a while to edit all the video so I thought I’d post some pictures. I tried to write useful titles and descriptions to help you understand what they are. They aren’t all in order since they are combined from three different cameras. The video will tell a better story, but these are some good point-in-time snapshots. You can find them all in the photo gallery under Caribbean Cruise 2.