Studio711

Snow Storm Recap

We survived Snowmaggedon 2019! February was the third coldest February on record in Seattle and all that cold weather meant that our normally wet weather ended up being snow. The snow kept coming and coming over many days and schools were closed for the majority of two straight weeks. The official total ended up being around 20″ which puts it just behind the 2008 storm and almost double the 2012 storm.

Thankfully it didn’t have a huge effect on us other than some canceled school days. We had plenty of food in the house and we were able to restock easily by walking down to Safeway. I kept waiting for the power to go out towards the end of the storm cycle when we had a really heavy snow, but it never went out for more than a few seconds. I guess I’ll have to keep waiting to use my fancy transfer switch that lets me plug the generator right into the electrical panel.

Elijah LOVED all the snow. He spent a ton of time outside with Tyla sledding down the street, building forts in the snow piles and playing with all the neighbor kids. A huge thanks goes out to Tyla for all the time she spent playing with him!

Analyzing Water Data in Azure Data Explorer

One of my favorite systems at work officially launched a couple weeks ago as Azure Data Explorer (internally called Kusto). I’ve been doing some blogging for their team on their Tech Community site. You can see all my posts on my profile page. This post will use Azure Data Explorer too but I thought it fit better on this blog.

A year or two ago, our local water company replaced all of the meters with digital, cellular meters. I immediately asked if that meant we’d get access to more data and they said it was coming in the future. The future is now! If you happen to live in Woodinville, you can get connected with these instructions.

The site is nice and lets you see charts, but by now you probably know that I love collecting data about random things so I immediately tried to figure out how to download the raw data. The only download directly supported form their site is the bi-monthly usage from the bills, but from the charts, I could see that hourly data was available somewhere. A little spelunking in the Chrome dev tools revealed the right REST endpoint to call to get a big JSON array full of the water usage for every hour in the last ~11 months.

I pulled that into Azure Data Explorer and started querying to see what I could learn. This first chart shows the median water usage by three hour chunks of the day. Tyla and I usually both shower in the morning so it makes sense that 6-9am has the heaviest usage.

WaterUsage
| summarize 
    sum(Gallons)
    by Hour=bin(hourofday(Timestamp), 3), bin(Timestamp, 1d)
| summarize percentile(sum_Gallons, 50) by Hour
| render columnchart  with (title = 'Median Water Usage by 3 Hour Bin', legend = hidden)

I feel like there’s probably a better way to do write the next query, but this works. It’s the cumulative usage throughout each month. The four lines at the top of the chart are the summer months when I’m using the irrigation in the yard. The lines that drop off at the end of the month are because I ran the x axis all the way from 1 to 31 for every month so months don’t have enough data, but it still conveys the general idea. It’s interesting how similar all the non-watering months are.

union
(
    WaterUsage
    | summarize Gallons=sum(Gallons) by bin(Timestamp, 1d)
    | extend Month=monthofyear(Timestamp), Day = dayofmonth(Timestamp)
),
(
    // Original data had some missing rows
    datatable(Timestamp:datetime, Gallons:long, Month:long, Day:long)
    [
        datetime(2018-11-26T00:00:00.0000000Z), 0, 11, 26, 
        datetime(2018-11-27T00:00:00.0000000Z), 0, 11, 27, 
    ]
)
| order by Timestamp asc
| serialize MonthlyWater=row_cumsum(Gallons, Month != prev(Month))
| project Month, Day, MonthlyWater
| make-series sum(MonthlyWater) on Day from 1 to 32 step 1 by Month
| render linechart with  (ycolumns = sum_MonthlyWater, series = Day, Month, legend=hidden, title='Cumulative Gallons By Month')

The data is in 10 gallon increments so it’s not super precise but it’s a LOT better than the two month resolution I had previously. I’m excited to play around with this data and see if we can start decreasing our usage.

Along these same lines, I heard that the local power company is starting to install power meters with Zigbee connectivity so there’s a chance that I’ll be able to start getting more insight into my power consumption in a similar fashion…

Best Of YouTube

First up is Steve Ramsey with a bunch of woodworking tips. I love watching woodworking and making videos on YouTube, but it’s really easy to fall in to some traps if you only learn that way. Steve gets real and gives 18 good tips for woodworking. He labels the video as tips for beginners but I think that any level of experience would benefit, even if it’s as a reminder.

Over in Toledo, David Picciuto enjoys going to the antique mall and rehabilitating old things. His xylophone video is a great example and the soundtrack he made using the xylophone is one of my favorite parts.

And why not stay with David to show his “bowl without a lathe” video. Tyla has been asking me to make a bowl for a long time and this might be a way I could pull it off. I’m not sure it’s exactly what she’s looking for but I’m interested in trying this.

Big Decisions

There are points in my life where I’m faced with big decisions even though I feel largely unqualified to make the right choice. Two of those came up recently.

The first was “Where should we send Elijah to school?” Proximity to school through grade 8 was a big reason why we bought this house. It would be so nice to just walk out the door and be at school instead of dealing with traffic and commute time. But on the flip side, we’ve really been enjoying our experience at our church preschool and kindergarten. Tyla and I both attended WELS grade schools and we have reaped the benefits both spiritually and intellectually. There are some great WELS schools in the area but they are too far away to make them work.

At the marriage retreat last fall, we talked to a Pastor from our area who mentioned Zion Lutheran School up in Lake Stevens. It’s an LCMS school and after visiting it, we felt like God was nudging us in that direction. It will mean a ~30 minute commute one way to school, but it’s doable and we’re going to give it a shot. We don’t love it as much as we’ve loved the WELS schools and we’ll need to pay closer attention to the doctrine he’s taught, but we’re going to give it a go.

The second big issue arose after I popped my head up into the attic for my annual (well… less than that because I’m lazy) check of the crawl space and attic. I discovered obvious mold. I stared at it for quite a while before acknowledging that there was no way to ignore this and hope it went away. Thankfully, we found a contractor who has been great to work with and the remediation plan is well underway. We caught it plenty early so that no structural damage was done and there were no health concerns. Once we finish the remediation plan, there will be a lifetime warranty that gets transferred to future owners so I feel pretty good about the situation.

During the decision making processes, there was no avoiding the fact that both choices could have dramatic and long-reaching effects on our future. The school one was obviously more important, but making the wrong choice with the house could easily cost us tens of thousands of dollars in the short term or when we sell the house. Through it all, my prayer was always “Lord, you know the path I should take. I feel like you’re leading me to this choice. Please make it obvious if I’m supposed to choose something different.” God has it all planned out for us and it can feel like a shock when he reveals some of the bumps to us, but there’s comfort in knowing that he’s going to make it all work out for the best. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

Cord Cutting the Super Bowl

We canceled cable last summer and for the most part, our antenna has filled our needs. We get great reception on FOX, but not great on NBC. CBS and ABC are somewhere in the middle. Since we host a party every year, reception of the game is kind of important.

CBS had been working fine in the days leading up to the game so I wasn’t too concerned, but then it started snowing (for the first time this year) a couple hours before the game. Since we’re kind of on the fringe with our reception, the snow was just enough to start messing with the signal a little more. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it’s not fun having 20 people watching a glitchy signal.

Thankfully CBS was streaming the game for free and they even supported Chromecast so I used that on the projector. Our experience there was generally good but it probably buffered 10 times and once I had to restart the stream completely. Downstairs I needed it on the Roku so I signed up for a free trial of CBS All Access. (I used a privacy.com temporary credit card number so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting to cancel my subscription!) I didn’t watch that TV but the people downstairs didn’t ever see it buffer and didn’t realize that it wasn’t a “normal” TV feed.

So it was definitely not as easy as traditional cable, but it was pretty good. I think next time I’d use my Xbox to stream the game through a paid service (like CBS All Access) instead of using the free stream from the website and I suspect that would have gotten rid of the few problems that we did have.