April 14, 2018 Storm in Saginaw, Michigan

On Thursday it was 64° when I ran outside. Then we had a winter storm come through the weekend.

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Since it’s rare to get a storm this late in the year, I thought it would be neat to document it.

My makeshift ruler and stand was a complete failure; it blew over, spun around, and wasn’t readable. I’m happy with the rest of the project though. I really like the worms crawling around, seeing the water freeze, and how the lines of the bricks come through.

I used a Raspberry Pi Zero W and the camera module.

In order to get images for the time-lapse I added cron job that ran a bash script every minute, which in turn called raspistill to capture a photo. It was very easy to set up. Here is the bash script.

#!/bin/bash

DATE=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S")

raspistill -vf -hf -o /home/pi/time-lapse/images/$DATE.jpg

This is the line I added to my crontab.

* * * * * /home/pi/time-lapse/capture.sh

Before transferring all of the images to my Mac, I compressed the images folder.

tar -czvf images.tar.gz images

Then, from my Mac I could grab them by doing a secure copy.

scp pi@pi.local:/home/pi/time-lapse/images.tar.gz images.tar.gz

In order to stitch everything together, I imported the images into iMovie, changed the crop style to fill, and set a 0.01 second duration.

JAY-Z & Letterman

Last night I watched JAY-Z on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. I can’t recall ever watching an interview with JAY-Z before this, so it surprised me when he seemed a little awkward and uncomfortable. Especially for someone who might be the best artist of our generation. He had such a different presence than I got from Dr. Dre, another hip-hop legend, in The Defiant Ones. It’s quite possible it was because of editing or the format of the show though.

I’ve been listening to JAY-Z’s music for a long time, but never knew much about him. It was good watching him talk about his life and experiences as well as some of the tough conversations our country is having.

Photo Challenge: Awakening

I’m struggling with the “awakening” theme for this week’s photo challenge. While it’s the middle of April, spring is nowhere to be found here in Michigan. It’s 39° outside with a big winter storm starting in the morning. Nothing is growing yet. The best I could come up with is hope, which I what I thought when I saw these rose bushes at Sam’s Club.

Link Dump – 2018/04/11

 

Replace Fluorescent Tubes in a Light with LED Bulbs

A few months ago I helped my brother rewire some lights for his shop to use LED bulbs instead of flourescent tubes. I decided to do the same thing for my kitchen light, which had been flickering and didn’t always light up every tube.

Years ago, a friend rhetorically asked me, “Are you an electrician?” after I screwed up some wiring, which left us without heat on the coldest night of the winter. I’d say I’m the perfect man for this job. 😉

Jokes aside, it is an extremely easy wiring task. Electrical stuff can be scary for a lot of people, so I figured I’d document my process. Fair warning… I am not a professional and I’m not telling you how to do this. This is just an explanation of what I did. I’m also not a lawyer.

I did this at night, guided by some battery-powered LED lights, so the lighting in the photos isn’t very good.

First I TURN OFF THE BREAKER connected to my light. Absolutely no shortcuts here. Then I took the tubes out and removed the fixture covers.

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Those black boxes are the ballasts, which limit the current in a circuit. To use LED bulbs those need to be bypassed. I cut all of the wires and removed them.

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Then I stripped the ends of every wire I had cut.

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In these particular fixtures, one side used 2 blue and 2 red wires and the other side used 2 yellow wires. The yellow side did use some short white wires to connect one tube to the other, but those white wires were not directly connected to the ballast.

This is the key step. All of the wires on one side of the fixture needed to be connected and then connected to either the black (hot) or white (neutral). It doesn’t matter which side goes to white and which goes to black, but it’s very important that everything on one side of the fixture goes together.

As you can see here I grouped by dark (blue and red to black) and light (yellow to white) colors. I screwed a wire nut on each bundle of wires. When I have 3 or more wires connected like this I gently pull on each wire to make sure nothing will come loose.

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Before I closed everything up, I flipped the breaker and made sure the light switch was on. Then I took one LED bulb and tested it in each spot to make sure everything worked. There’s nothing worse than having to take something apart after it’s been closed up. Everything worked great, so I wrapped each wire nut with electrical tape.

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For the final step I put the covers back on over the wiring and slipped in the LEDs.

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It made a huge difference in my kitchen. Here are some unedited before and after shots.

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The camera really shows how green the light was from the flourescent tubes.
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You can see how much more natural the wood looks.

What happened with that wiring mistake I made years ago? We got drunk and survived a cold night. I woke up early the next morning determined to figure out what I had done wrong. I fixed the mistake and learned not to assume that speaker wire running through a basement ceiling was useless. I’m probably lucky the wires I cut were only used for thermostats instead of something with a higher voltage.

I didn’t let my friend’s joke discourage me from trying. To this day I continue to learn.

Beginner Lock Picking

I’ve always wanted to learn how to pick locks. I’m not sure why I never bought a lock pick set though. Seven years ago I did learn how to get out of handcuffs while riding a San Francisco subway.

Then AdaBox007 came with a starter set of lock picks and a clear training lock. After reading and watching some videos, I learned that the set was missing some important picks, so I ordered the SouthOrd PXS-14 – Beginners Lock Pick Set (reviewed by bosnianbill of Lock-Lab). Each night I’ve practiced while watching TV. I can’t believe how easy it is to open up some locks, so I had to make a video.

If you’re interested in learning, grab a beginner set of picks (don’t go too cheap) and read Lock Picking: Detail Overkill (free PDF download). Then watch some videos on YouTube (bosnianbill has a playlist for beginners). I’ll publish a future post when I acquire more skills.