Studio711.com – Ben Martens

EV Battery Recycling

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

We hear a lot about cars burning fossil fuels. Don’t electric vehicles do the same thing? Batteries rely on raw materials like lithium and nickel. As more companies make plans to build EVs and as the global supply of these materials is in question since Russia is a big supplier, the prices are already going wild.

Are we trading one resource problem for another? Thankfully, no. While it’s true that as the EV ramp up happens, we’ll be mining materials from the ground, that won’t be the case forever. Those materials can be completely recovered from batteries once their lifespan is over, and there are numerous ways to reuse batteries once they’ve outlived their usefulness for high demand electric vehicle scenarios.

But until a sizable portion of our battery production comes from recycling, there’s going to be a big squeeze on these raw materials. This is one place where Tesla is far ahead of other automakers because they’ve already secured long term supply contracts directly with mining companies and they are producing their own batteries. They control the supply from the ground to the finished product. Other companies can make promises about how many EVs they are going to produce, but if they have no batteries to put in them then their promises are worthless. It will be a challenge for them to overcome Tesla’s current market share while also looking for sources of raw materials at manageable prices.

“Alone” Review

There are a lot of “survival” shows on TV today and they range from educational to completely fabricated but they share one thing: the people aren’t really surviving. Or rather, they are surviving very easily because they have food and supplies. There’s no real chance of anyone dying.

The TV show “Alone” is different (or else they do an exceptionally good job of faking it.) On this show, 10 contestants are each dropped in their own piece of land in a remote area. They all get the same basic items and then they can choose 10 more from a list. The last one to give up wins $500k. Their only contact with other humans is when they have periodic medical checks and somehow they swap out camera batteries and SD cards with the producers. Yes, along with surviving, they have to film everything themselves too. That’s a lot of heavy gear to carry.

It’s amazing to watch as some people tap out on the first night when they realize they are literally camping next to wild animals that can kill them. Others stay so long they get pulled out because they fail their medical checkpoints. Shelter usually goes well for most contestants, but food is always a struggle. The locations include Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Patagnoia, Mongolia, and Great Slave Lake in northern Canada. None of those are hospitable places to try to survive and they always start the season towards fall when everything is starting to die off and get cold.

I started watching the show because TimS got hooked on it and convinced me to try it. I started with season 7 because it happened to be on Netflix at the time, but if you watch, I recommend you start with season 1. (Season 7 is the best one and I think it would be even better if you built up to it to see how good that season’s contestants really were!) Currently Hulu has the first 7 seasons. Season 8 is only available for purchase. There’s also one season of a spinoff called “Alone: The Beast” but it’s not worth watching.

If you’re squeamish about watching someone gut big game with a Leatherman or try to repair a gash in their hand from an axe that slipped, maybe this isn’t your show. But I loved this show and I hope they keep going with it. The psychology of the whole thing was amazing, and I feel like I learned some bushcraft by osmosis.

MC Etcher Drag Engraver

For Christmas, my father-in-law gave me the 120 degree MC Etcher diamond drag engraver bit from Carbide 3D. It fits into my CNC router but is used without the router powered on. The tip is spring loaded so that it will have constant pressure with the surface as it gets dragged along. You can drag engrave many different materials so on a trip to Home Depot, I randomly picked out a couple tiles.

My first attempt was making a sign for the reloading bench that my father-in-law was building. I drew up a design with a herringbone background not knowing if it would work. The sound is a bit like nails on a chalkboard, but it worked great! I ended up going over parts of the design multiple times to get a more defined line.

Later I also made a plaque for the garden bench that I posted about before.

I’m looking forward to trying some other materials too. I think a smooth granite tile could make really nice award plaque and some acrylic could be neat with edge lighting. The possibilities are endless and it’s a fun tool to have at my disposal.

The Best Pen

We have a lot of cheap pens around our house. They get collected from random locations and every time I grab one of them, I’m frustrated that they are not great to write with. I heard someone on a podcast mention the Pilot G2 0.7mm gel ink pen and they went on and on about how they threw away every other pen in their house once they found these. Then I randomly heard someone else talk about the same pen a few weeks later. Maybe it was some sneaky social marketing campaign, but it worked and I bought them.

This is now the only pen I buy. I will walk around the house to find one instead of writing with anything else.

(This isn’t a sponsored post, but that is an Amazon referral link.)

3D Printed Volume Knob

We still have a set of Motorola FRS radios that I got about 15 years ago. Elijah and his friends like to play with them, but the volume knob comes off easily. Sure enough, one of the knobs got lost last summer. When it happened, I thought, “If I had a 3D printer, I could make a new one.” Well now I have a 3D printer so I decided to give it a shot. There was an existing model on Thingiverse, but it was the wrong shape for my radio.

I’m a Fusion 360 newbie but I’ve been through I Like To Make Stuff’s excellent Fusion 360 For Makers class twice. It was time to try a design from scratch with no tutorial. It took me about 45 minutes and I’m sure that I did a lot of things the “wrong” way, but in the end, I had a model that looked pretty close to the original. I set everything up with parameters using measurements from my calipers so that if it didn’t fit quite right, I could just adjust the parameters and quickly change the model. The image below is an upside down view since that’s the part that actual matters the most. The only thing that I didn’t match from the original was the curved slope as it rises from the base to the top. I tried to do that a few different ways but gave up for now as it doesn’t make any functional difference.

It took about 25 minutes to print and I figured I’d have to go through a few iterations to get it to fit correctly, but to my shock, it fit perfectly the first time! It is very snug so it won’t be coming off by accident. In fact, it was so good that I printed a second one to replace the knob on the other radio too.

That image shows the original knob on the left and the printed knob on the right. It felt so good to go from idea to physical object in an hour or two! I even uploaded the model to Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5316963. I’ve found so many fun things to use there, I feel good contributing a bit too.

COVID-19: Day 731

Yesterday marked two years from the semi-arbitrary date that I picked to be the start of COVID for our family. As much as I don’t want to write another COVID post, I feel like it’s good to keep documenting.

On Friday, Washington state lifted the mask mandate. Voluntary mask wearing was still nearly 100% in most stores over the weekend, but we’ll see how long that lasts. Over 80% of our county (12th largest in the country) has been vaccinated and if you cut it down to people 5 years and older, 92.5% have received at least one dose. This is awesome progress!

At work, campus is opening up again. This whole time I’ve wondered if everyone would slowly filter back into the office and give up on remote work, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. I don’t think I should share numbers, but a much larger percentage of people than I expected are working remotely at least part of the time. And even more encouraging is that a number of senior managers are moving to other parts of the country to work remotely full time. This really does feel like it is here to stay and I’ve officially given up my office at work.

Globally, the virus rages on. Countries are still setting new record highs of case counts and deaths. Vaccination rates are exceptionally low in most of Africa and other poorer countries. The vibe in America seems to be “yay it’s over!” but we can’t let up on the accelerator. There’s a lot of work to be done.

I also have a tough time believing the “yay it’s over” vibe. It does look like a lull in the storm, but as vaccinations wear off and we hit the end of summer, I don’t see anything preventing us from getting another spike in cases and/or another strain of the virus. We’re going to be living with this for a long time, but hopefully we’ll be able to use vaccines, masks, and social distancing to control the spread and kill as few people as possible.

It’s easy for me to spend my time looking ahead and wait for the next spike to come, but I’m trying to focus on enjoying the lull in the action and being thankful for it.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Hawaii 2022

Do you remember the big thing that happened in March 2020? It was HORRIBLE. Our vacation got canceled! (Also, there was a global pandemic.) We had a trip to Hawaii planned and up until a day or two before we left, we didn’t know if we were going or not. The world decided for us and air travel was pretty much shut down. Our flights were canceled and eventually they decided to give us credit for them. Those credits were set to expire this spring so before Christmas, we somewhat randomly pointed to a calendar and rebooked figuring that either we’d cancel again and just forfeit our credits or things would get better and we’d go. Instead of the hotel/resort we had planned before, we booked a condo instead so that we could comfortably eat indoors even if COVID was raging. Days after we booked, Omicron hit but luckily for us, it peaked and by the time our trip rolled around, vaccinations were going well and states were rolling back mask mandates. We were able to take our trip during a very low risk time period just before the mask mandates ended and before the Safe Hawaii (vaccination or testing required) program ended. It was pretty much perfect timing! Ok, I think that’s enough COVID backstory, let’s get to the vacation!

Our direct flight landed on Oahu on Thursday afternoon. The day had started around 4am so Tyla and I were ready to find some food and crash in the condo, but Elijah didn’t want to just SEE the beach, he wanted to swim! So we dug out his swimsuit and he got his first taste of swimming in the ocean, or at least in a sunny, warm ocean.

I won’t give a day by day recap, but each day involved some combination of swimming at the ocean and swimming in the condo pool. The condo was about a block off the ocean so it was a good mix of price and convenience. It came stocked with a beach umbrella, beach chairs, sand toys, boogie boards, and lots of other beach goodies.

We purposely picked this condo because of its location so that we wouldn’t need to rent a car, but a couple weeks before we left, I found a great deal through work. The condo came with a free parking spot (amazing!) so we pivoted and rented the car. That gave us a little extra mobility which helped immediately on our first night because I was able to go to Safeway and stock up on breakfast, lunch, and snack foods. For dinner, we tried various food trucks (Munchwagon and Five Star Poke were our favorites) as well as takeout from some restaurants.

Our condo had a good view of Diamond Head Crater and we since we were still on Seattle time, we decided to get there right around sunrise (6:30am) and hike up before it got hot. Silly us. The lot opens at 6:00am and the lot fills up at 6:00am. The lot attendant suggested that we come back around 7:30-8:00 when the first batch of hikers come back down, so we drove around randomly until then. We randomly ended up at Kawaikui Beach Park and walked down to the beach just as the sun was peaking over a hill! The parking lot had quite a few cars but most of them must have been surfers because there were only a handful of people along the beach.

It was a beautiful quiet spot to hang out until we headed back to Diamond Head. Thankfully the tip was correct and we got a spot. The hike up wasn’t too bad physically, but it was packed. I know I say some trails around here are busy but this was solid people the whole way. We didn’t linger long at the top viewpoints because it was just a mass of hot, sweaty people. But despite all that, we were all glad that we did it and Elijah was really proud of himself for making it to the top. When we got back down, we hit the obligatory treat truck to get a fresh fruit bowl served in half a pineapple and a shaved ice. On our way back, we drove around a bit looking for some place to buy fresh, local fruit. We ended up at Whole Foods which had a decent selection, but you have to be careful to actually find stuff grown in Hawaii and not imported from Mexico or South America.

Another day, we walked over to the Honolulu Zoo. It’s not huge, but it was just about the perfect size. As we finished seeing most of the exhibits, we were all ready to get out of the sun for a bit. The animals were fun to see and Elijah learned about a new species of penguin, but my favorite part might have been the amazing trees!

Other activities included a visit to Leonard’s bakery, boogie boarding in some waves, finding our annual ornament at the Waikiki Christmas Store, geocaching, a second trip to Kawaikui Beach Park, and checking out the Koi pond in the lobby. Our condo was on the 29th floor and our balcony had a nice view of the sunset. I suspect that in a couple weeks, the sunset view would be blocked behind another building, but the timing worked out well for us.

We had four complete days there with a travel day on each end. On our final day, we got packed up and had an extra hour or so to kill so we drove to Pearl Harbor Nation Memorial. It has free parking and free entry. Thankfully we got lucky and found a parking spot so we were able to walk around the grounds. The boat ride to the Arizona is free too but you have to book weeks in advance. I knew that going in and our plan was to just see the area but skip all the various museums and things that required tickets and entry fees. While I’d love to spend more time exploring the museums, I’m very thankful that we got to stop there so I can have a memory of that area. The historical accounts feel even more real when you can remember standing in the spot.

Our flights both ways were smooth and uneventful. We were tired when we got home but we were so thankful to have had the opportunity to take the trip and to get there and back safely and in good health. Aloha!

Free Kusto Cluster

I’ve written before about the Kusto big data tool (aka Azure Data Explorer or ADX.) If your Azure budget was tightly restricted, you might not have a good way to play around with it and get enough confidence to push for it with your management.

Now you can visit http://aka.ms/kustofree and create a cluster for free very quickly! It’s obviously not a full-blown cluster but you can do plenty of exploration (more info.) I’ve been using one for my own random home projects and it’s great!

The Kusto docs have a good guide for getting started with the language and there’s even a short introductory course available too. If you have access to Pluralsight courses, here are some good ones to check out:

Keep calm and Kusto on!

Tesla Politics

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

It’s interesting to see the reaction when someone finds out we are getting a Tesla. There are all the standard general EV responses, but there are also people that assume this means that I have a Bernie Sanders shrine in my house. It did get me wondering whether most Tesla buyers really are Democrats though.

A recent survey shows that 22% of Democrats were considering buying a Tesla and 17% of Republicans were considering it. [source] I suppose that a car choice can be political for some people, but for me it was long term cost of ownership, an interest in the technology, and a desire to buy American along with all the other reasons I cited in my original post.

In happier, non-political news, we continue to creep closer to our estimated delivery month of May. The estimate changes a bit so I don’t put a lot of stock in it, but every day that passes gets us closer.

Today I looked at the used car market and found our exact model for sale with 4000 miles. It was listed for $1839.49 more than what we’ll pay even after taxes and delivery/doc fees. I really do want to replace the Escape so that’s not enough to make me change my mind but it’s interesting to think about. Usually you drive off the lot and lose value, not gain it.

Cedar Garden Bench

Elijah’s school is having another charity auction this year. I got ahead of the game and donated another wooden flag since those are fairly simple and it brought in a lot of money last year. A couple weeks ago, the school posted on the parent teacher group asking if someone would be willing to make a garden/potting bench. I don’t have enough to do so I volunteered.

My first step was downloading the Potting Bench plans from I Like To Make Stuff. This project isn’t rocket science, but it’s so nice to have all that thinking done for me. I was able to walk into Home Depot and get the right amount of wood in a single trip. I made a few changes to the plans though: I didn’t add the sink in the top and I made two shelves along the top instead of one. Since it was all screws and butt joints, I was able to finish it in a weekend.

To add a little more to the project, I tried out my new diamond drag engraver bit for the CNC machine. I used it on a random tile that I bought at Home Depot. I picked a vaguely garden-related Bible verse (you have to squint and kind of take it out of context) and found a good SVG on Etsy that I could alter for my purposes. I didn’t etch is super deep, but when you’re up close, it’s easy to read the message and see the flowers on the sides.

I think that this is going to be part of a classroom project. The kids will donate related gardening supplies and then it will all get auctioned as one unit.

And since I was curious about wood prices when I started this project, I’ll share that the wood and a box of screws came to just under $200. It’s cedar so it will weather nicely outside or easily accept stain, but you could probably save a little money if it was pine.