All posts by Ken Martin

Saint Paul Public Libraries and

I’m not sure many folks know this, but I didn’t until I stumbled upon it: Saint Paul residents having a valid and up-to-date library card can access online training for free, and you don’t need to be in the library to use it (like you do for some references, like ALLDATA).

It can be a little confusing to sign in. This worked for me:

  • Visit and click “Log In”
  • Click “Sign in with your organization portal”
  • Type in and click “Continue”
  • Type in your “Library Card Number” and leave the “Password” blank
  • Click “Log In”

You should be in and may need to enter a little information to set up your profile.

Solving the refrigerator problem

We have a refrigerator downstairs that once in a while gets left open, and since it’s downstairs, we sometimes don’t catch it in time to save to food. Will and I decided to make something to help solve this.

Our plan is to use our Particle Proton (a tiny Wi-Fi development kit) and connect a temperature sensor. We’ll report that temp to “the cloud” and if the temp rises above some threshold, we’ll use IFTTT to text or call us to let us know to check the fridge.

I got us a free DS18B20 temperature sensor as a sample from Maxim Integrated (how cool is that?) and found some nice sample code here.

The prototype is now sitting in the fridge (photo above), dutifully sending out the temp every 10 seconds. The code is crazy simple.

Things we talked about while doing this:

  • Resistors in parallel and in series
  • Reading resistors
  • Analog-to-digital conversion
  • What numbers look like in binary
  • Trusting a component’s data sheet first
  • How to debug when Papa tells you to put the resistor in the wrong place

Refrigerator Problem_bb

UPDATE: The 2200mAh 3.7V battery didn’t last until morning, so Next up will be to see whether there’s a way to reduce power consumption. Fewer temp reports to the cloud will obviously help. I wonder if there’s a “low power mode”.

The “number one” goes dark until further notice

Saint Paul’s First National Bank building has a new owner and they’ve turned off the wonderful, nostalgic red neon “1” until further notice because of wind damage.

I know; it’s only a sign, and I suppose I shouldn’t be sad. But I think all of my kids have had that point at which they can recognize that we’re close to home, and it’s by seeing the red number one.

Also, I just like neon. There’s something warm and simple and  different about it. (Go admire this amazing picture.) LED restorations are wonderful and I’m glad that iconic signs sometimes get new life that way (for example, the Schmidt brewery sign), but it’s not the same.

KARE11 article here.

Before “The Martian” there was “The Cave of Night” (1956)

If you enjoyed The Martian, you might like The Cave of Night, an episode of the excellent 1950s X Minus One radio series; herculean efforts to save a stranded astronaut. Listen all the way to the end.

Old time radio disclaimer: Yes, it is a little dated – after all, it’s 1950s radio – but it actually holds up quite nicely and is well done and entertaining. The sci-fi and suspense genres hold up better than comedy, oftentimes.

Love as Witness

First published May 2012 in the Minnesota Christian Examiner.

The recently released movie Blue Like Jazz is an interesting genre-challenging movie that will, or at least should, stir up some excellent conversation. Based on Don Miller’s semi-autobiographical book by the same title, it deals with Christian spirituality without being what would commonly be thought of as a Christian movie.

Some controversy surrounds the movie. It has an honesty and authenticity that connects with some and troubles others. It’s easy to understand why. Seeing uncomfortable or embarrassing church moments played out, or secular college campus life portrayed (albeit not condoned), are things you don’t expect from a “Christian movie”.

These were conscious decisions by Miller and director Steve Taylor. They, along with lead actor Marshall Altman, discussed this approach after a pre-screening of the movie at Macalester College in Saint Paul. Taylor spent some time describing some of the difficulties he encountered in making this movie. At one point, he emotionally described how some in the broader Christian movie industry had made statements and decisions that (it seemed to me) broke his heart. It was a sad moment.

Continue reading Love as Witness

Problems with Blade Nano QX 3D Replacement Motors

We recently got a Blade Nano QX 3D and it’s really quite cool. However, after not really very much flight, and no poor treatment, we had to get replacement motors as one of them just stopped working.

I got official replacements from a local hobby store, but they seem… weaker. We tried both new motors in the front right spot. The motor works but the help can’t get off the ground anymore.

Anyone have ideas on how we can resolve this?