Roth 2010

Last year I put my Roth contribution into Fidelity Contrafund, a large cap growth mutual fund. It did pretty well, returning about 26% on the year. But in late March it seemed sluggish so I took some out and put it in the peppier Fidelity Small Cap Growth fund which turned out to be a good move since it has gone up 51% since then vs. Contrafund which was up “only” 36% since that time.

If 2009 trends continue, then small caps will continue to outperform large caps and international funds will do well (I put some money into Vanguard’s emerging markets index last year and holy cow! 70% gain). But I looked at how my Roth funds are allocated now and I feel like I have a lot of representation from small caps already, so I think I will put some money in large caps and hope they have a good year. I tried to see what sectors underperformed this year, thinking they were due to do better next year. Some of the big tech companies haven’t done as well and biotech didn’t do very well. So I was thinking that I might try out Vanguard’s FTSE Social Index fund again which has pretty big positions in tech, health care, and financial companies. Maybe those will do pretty well, so I was thinking I would put $4k of the 2010 IRA contribution there and then throw the remaining $1k I’m allowed to contribute at Vanguard’s Total International Index to give me a little more foreign diversification.

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Top 10 Movies of the Decade

The Siskel and Ebert movie review show that started out as Sneak Previews on PBS eventually has morphed to become At the Movies with Michael Philips of the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott of the New York Times. This is a better pair than some of the iterations they have had in the past, though Richard Roeper was pretty good as a replacement to Gene Siskel.

Anyway, even though the current pair have only been on the show for a few months, they are both professional movie critics, so they have been watching movies long enough to compile a list of the best movies of the decade, which they presented on the show over a period of ten weeks. So I’m going to show you their picks and then, based on my database of movies, I’m going to take a stab at it as well. First, A.O. Scott’s list: Continue reading

Bad Flashlight Decision

In just the last few months, new LED’s were introduced for flashlights by the company Cree. Cree assigns bin numbers to LED’s that indicate how bright they are. All of my newest lights have various Cree LED’s and bin numbers. The Fenix is XR-E LED with a Q5 bin. The tiny flashlight is a XP-E LED (smaller than the XR-E) with a Q5 bin. There isn’t a Q6. For whatever reason, the next level of brightness is R2. The stainless flashlight I just got has an XP-E R2 LED, but I couldn’t tell that it was brighter than the Q5’s. Now there is a new LED called the XP-G which has bin numbers as high as R5. That should be significantly brighter. So I went looking around for cheap R5 flashlights, but couldn’t find any. For whatever dumb reason, I wound up buying an R2 LED that promised to be 250 lumens (my brightest is 180 lumens), not thinking that that probably wasn’t even possible with a R2. Worse, I bought a 6-mode flashlight with 3 different flashy modes (fast strobe, slow strobe, and SOS) and I didn’t realize that the light wouldn’t accept lithium-ion batteries which are the only way to get significant brightness out of a 1xAA light. So it showed up yesterday and it was a kind of decent light. I posted a review with all the details. Anyway, I didn’t like the light and the only way I was going to like it was if I could make it brighter by using a lithium-ion battery, so even though you aren’t supposed to use one, I put one in there anyway. And the light wouldn’t work anymore. I had burned it up. I didn’t even have it a whole day.

s10headx.jpg

But as it turned out, the “driver” which is all the electronics in between the battery and the LED that give it the modes and provide a uniform voltage had burned out. The LED itself was still working. And the switch was still working. These LED’s need 3.6 volts to light up. So a 1xAA flashlight has to boost the voltage up to that level. But a lithium-ion battery is already 3.6 volts. Most lights that use a lithium-ion battery still regulate the voltage so that the brightness doesn’t fade as the battery voltage fades, but you can also “direct drive” a LED. So I found the wires leading from the LED and soldered them onto some plates that were connected to the positive and negative ends of the battery. It didn’t work, but I think that was because of my lousy soldering. I fiddled with the soldering and I would get just a flash of light every now and then. So I fiddled with it some more and now it works! So I have a 1-mode direct drive light. It won’t work at all with an AA battery, but it is quite bright with the lithium-ion battery (maybe my brightest light). So that’s better than nothing.

Uniquefire S10 6-mode Review

Why I bought this light

I bought this light on impulse. With the Cree XP-G R5 lights out, I was looking for something that would be brighter than my Fenix L1D. The L1D is good, but if you use a lithium-ion battery it loses the lower modes. I found some R5 lights, but they all used 18650 batteries. So I searched for R2 and came up with the S10, which advertised 250 lumens. I know to be skeptical of DX and KD claims, but that is what got me interested, even though it is an XR-E, not an XP-G LED. Really, the R2 is only one bin above the Q5 I have in my Fenix and the same as the Trustfire XP-E F23 that I had on the way already. DX has some S10 lights available which they say have mode memory and can take a 14500 lithium-ion battery. I checked Kai’s Domain and they had S10’s as well for a couple of dollars less. None of the lights had reviews from owners, which should have kept me away. And I just assumed that KD was carrying the same light as DX, but it turns out that KD does not claim memory mode and says the light is AA only with a maximum voltage of 1.5. If I could get 250 lumens out of an AA, that would be fine, but nobody else is making anything like that, so I should have know the claim was bogus. Anyway, I ordered it. I don’t even like having 3 flashy modes. So it was pretty much a mistake from the beginning and I was too quick to buy.

http://www.kaidomain.com/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductId=10303

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Trustfire XP-E F23 Review

Here’s my review of the Trustfire XP-E F23 R2 with beam shots comparing it to my Fenix LD1 Q5 and iTP A3 EOS upgraded. I got the Trustfire from DealExtreme and it took a really long time for it to show up. I filed a PayPal dispute after 4 weeks from the ship date, but it showed up a few days later and I closed the dispute.

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.24291

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DealExtreme Dispute

I seem to be getting into a lot of disputes lately. Last month I ordered a pretty little flashlight from DealExtreme. I was pretty happy with the batteries and charger I bought from them previously and this light got some good reviews. It takes 1 AAA battery like my tiny flashlight, but it is stainless steel with a brass ring that looks real sharp. It also has a tail power button and remembers the last mode it was in. This means if you had the light on High before, it will come on in High again. I like that. The tiny flashlight always comes on at Medium, then Low, then High. Most of the time I want High. This light has three modes, but one is strobe (pretty useless). So I would have to skip over that one. And the low is 80 lumens instead of the high of 150 lumens. I would like for the low to be lower, maybe 20 lumens (turns out to be about 10 lumens).

Anyway, it was only $13.80 shipped from China, so I thought I’d try it out. I ordered it November 1 and although DealExtreme said it was available in a few days, I didn’t get a shipping notice until November 10. Once shipped, they said the light should arrive in 5-10 working days (ignoring the favorable part of their range, that’s two weeks, or November 24). Well that didn’t happen, so I gave them another week and still nothing. They have an online form where you can tell them the item never arrived and they are supposed to get back to you in 24-48 hours. However, 48 hours later I hadn’t heard anything. Every day I’m checking my mail and now I’m checking my DX account to see if they are trying to contact me. Nothing.

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Peace Corps 2010 Reunion

This is a place where Thai 92 people can write information about a possible reunion in 2010. Starting off, let’s see who is interested and offer a suggestion for a general place. Then we can figure out a week. Then maybe we can actually get a head count and make a reservation. I think Marci and Julian should be in charge.

I’ll start out. I’m interested and will go just about anywhere. My only conflict is June 6-12.

Please post a comment below and we’ll see what happens . . .

eBay Dispute

Generally I haven’t had problems with buying things on eBay. I typically don’t buy from eBay when I want new items because the bids often get beyond what I can buy the same thing for online or in stores. But I needed some lithium batteries and they’re hard to get a deal on, partly because I think Energizer has a patent on them so there is no competition. So before I bought them in a store I thought I’d look on eBay. The Buy It Now prices were all higher than in stores, but I found a couple of auctions ending the next day that still didn’t have any bids (turned out they were 1-day auctions), so I figured I had nothing to lose and bid $1.25 (8 batteries would be $16 in the store) plus there would be $3.50 shipping. I was winning. Within a couple of hours I had been outbid, but the same seller had two other auctions ending at the same time with no bids. Why fight against someone else? So I bid $5 on another one and got beat pretty quickly. Now I had to think how much was it really worth? One scary thing was the seller had only been online for a month, with 15 sales, most of which were purchases. The items sold included some cosmetics and a couple of baseball cards. I wondered where a person would get these batteries and thought maybe they just steal them. How hard would it be to pocket some batteries in a drug store and then sell them on eBay? But I knew with eBay and PayPal that really not that much could go wrong and I would be protected. I needed the batteries and they were going to cost $16 plus maybe $1 tax at the store, so if I subtracted out shipping I could bid up to $13.50, so I bid $8.90 which held against a number of other bids until the next day. Soon I was beaten again, so I bid on the third one for $11.15 and this held, bumping up a dollar or so to beat a last second bid, with the auction ending at $10.50 (the other two finished at $9 and $9.50). So I won and would still save $3. It was a far cry from getting them for $1.25, but eBay does an amazing job of finding a price.

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