Ultrafire WF-504B with XR-E R2 Drop-in Review

I was interested in getting a flashlight that could accept P60 drop-ins. After reading Don’s review at jayki.com it seemed like the 504B (from DealExtreme) would be a good choice for a host because he felt like the heat-sinking was good and he liked the button. It looks good too and it is able to tailstand. I figured since the anodizing on these is Type II instead of the more durable Type III that I would be better off with the natural aluminum version because it wouldn’t show if any of the finish flaked or wore off. I liked the shiny finish in the pictures (looked like stainless steel) more than the shiny black finish (it seems like black should be more of a matte finish than glossy).

Continue reading

AeroPress Coffee Maker

I got the fancy coffee maker I wrote about earlier. It’s just a collection of plastic pieces. If you saw them, I don’t think you’d guess they are for making coffee. They almost look like medical or lab equipment.

I’m not sure if it is because I am using twice as much coffee, or if the thing really works, but it does seem like the coffee is better. If I followed their instructions they would have me using 4 times as much coffee as I use in my Mr. Coffee. So to make it stretch further, I am increasing the stirring time and adding more hot water. The water is probably a little hotter as well. I know if I used freshly ground beans, it would go way up in quality, but I don’t have a grinder or any beans, so that is something I may do later.

I have made coffee with it three times now. The most time-consuming part is heating up the water in the microwave. It takes about 3.5 minutes to get 8 oz of water to the right temperature. While it is heating up I can load a small filter in the bottom of the maker and measure out the grounds. Then wait on the microwave. As a hungry Homer Simpson said on meatloaf night “Isn’t there anything faster than a microwave?!” So then you pour most of the water into the maker, stir, and just set the plunger in to make a good seal, but don’t press. Now add some milk to the rest of the hot water from the microwave and put it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds or so. The reason you put the plunger in first is otherwise the water will all gravity feed through the filter. So then you press and you find out you press the water out pretty quickly and most of the time you’re just pressing air through the filter. It seems kind of silly to press air, but it does help in the cleanup because the plunger is like a squeegee down the inside of the other chamber. Once you’ve done that, add the rest of the hot water to the cup (the coffee has drained directly into the mug).

One thing is you don’t get that coffee smell in the kitchen, which I guess is good because maybe that lost flavor is going into the cup instead. Once you are done it seems like there are a lot of parts. There is the plunger, and then the container and the filter cap plus the stirrer and you have to have a second mug to heat the water in originally. With the Mr. Coffee there is just the basket and the coffee pot and they all go back together to air dry. So I don’t think cleanup is as easy, but you can heat up water any way you want, so you aren’t dependent on electricity. Some people have a special boiling hot water tap and that would really speed things up. In fact, this would be ideal for people like that. There are a ton of reviews on Amazon and some people take this to work with them because the community coffee isn’t that good and they want to make their own.

A Good Cup of Coffee

Today I was researching coffee for some reason. So I started off researching french press coffee makers where you pour hot water over some coffee grounds and then force a strainer down over all of that and wind up with coffee on top and grounds trapped at the bottom. The nice thing is this is a pretty simple machine and they are cheap. People swear by these. I was watching a show on Discovery about coffee (maybe that’s what set this off) and a couple of the experts said that is their favorite way to make coffee. The problem with the french press is the filter is pretty porous and it lets fine grinds past, so you end up with cloudy coffee with some sediment. You can avoid that by grinding the coffee to end up with bigger chunks. Sounds simple, but most grinders can’t do that and you end up with some big chunks and some little ones in economical grinders. So french press lovers say you need to spend $200 on a special burr grinder that will only produce big chunks of beans. So much for economy: a $15 coffee maker requires a $200 grinder.

Continue reading

Fan Lights Now CF

Almost all of the light bulbs in my house have been converted over to compact fluorescent bulbs using 75% less energy, but I was never able to replace the little lights in the ceiling fan of my bedroom until today. Today at Home Depot I saw that they had compact fluorescent fan lights. cfbulb.jpg The fan has candelabra bulbs in it that burn out all the time, so it would be nice if I could find something that wouldn’t burn out and would be more energy efficient. These have a kind of chubby shape to them and you can see a skinny helix inside the bulb despite the frosted glass that covers it. They’re certainly not as attractive. But they were also only $1 each. So I bought three of them. They are made with the narrow base that my light fixture uses, but they come with adapters so they can be screwed into a regular base. One of them has some flicker to it, so I will take that one back.

They seem to take a little while to get to full brightness. It isn’t just a few seconds, but maybe 30 seconds or more. The tint of the light is decent, but they aren’t quite as bright as the old bulbs I had in there, which are labeled as 25 watt while these CF bulbs are labeled 15 watt (and actually use 3 watts). Here is a mix of the bulbs installed for comparison with the incandescent bulb on the left and the CF bulbs in the middle and on the right:

Continue reading

Flashlight Suspension

I have been learning a lot about flashlights for the last year and most of it has come from reading the discussion forums at Candlepower Forums. I’ve learned enough that I have written a couple of reviews of lights and I answer questions from newbies every now and then (I’ve also done a lot of editing of their Wiki, which was terrible). By and large the people are very helpful and incredibly knowledgeable. There is just a lot to know. And there are thousands of threads for a newbie to search through, even using Google search. It helps that the forums are strictly moderated, so flaming, bad language, etc. are simply not to be found. They have a lot of rules and zero tolerance of people who break them.

Long story short, I got suspended from the flashlight discussion board. Not long, just for a day. Here’s how it happened.

Continue reading

Deferred Compensation

A few years ago, I wrote about my Deferred Compensation Plan at work and said that at the time, I was averaging a 7% return over the previous 13 years. Since Jeb posted his Green in Wintertime post, I thought I would post this graph which comes from a spreadsheet I use to keep up with how much I have contributed, how much my account is worth and the difference between the two which is the gain or loss.

defcomp2.gif

You always want the yellow line (the current value) to be above the pink line (total of my contributions). If the yellow dips below the pink, I am losing money. It has happened twice, but is not happening right now. The neat thing that happened in June 2000 was the blue line (gain or loss) crossed the pink line. That meant that my gains exceeded my contributions, or, in other words, I had doubled my money! At the time I had an average annual return of 33%, which was clearly unsustainable. About two years later, I had lost every penny of my gains and was showing an average annual loss of 1.18%. Five years later, I was showing a lifetime average gain of 11.3% but nowhere close to doubling my money yet. 18 months later, I had lost all my gains again and had an average loss of 0.31% per year over the previous 16 years. Now I’m showing a gain again of 4%, which is pretty lousy, but I’ll take it. Though the account value is back to where it was before the 2008 crash, you can see that today’s gains are about half of what they were then.

The Old P60 Drop-In

More research on flashlights, so you can skip this . . .

The main high-end US flashlight company, Surefire, sells innards of a flashlight called a P60. It consists of three parts: a reflector, a bulb, and the electronics that drive it. Surefire uses this assembly in several different models of flashlights. It has become a standard part and now many off-brands offer P60 drop-ins that can be used in Surefire lights. And because there are so many P60 drop-ins and Surefires are so expensive, now people make P60-compatible bodies that will accept the drop-ins. So instead of spending $150 on Surefire’s system, you can spend $18 for a generic.

Continue reading

Green Weather Network

In 2006 Target had a sale on Oregon Scientific indoor/outdoor thermometers and I found out that they supported up to three different wireless temperature probes although they only came with one each. So I solved that by buying three thermometers and sharing the gauges. Two of the gauges read all three probes, while a third is only designed to read one probe, so I made sure that probe is the one outside (the other two are in my crawlspace and attic). Then in 2007 I got a wireless rainfall gauge which reads a tipping bucket gauge that is on my roof. It also came with a fourth temperature probe which runs at the same frequency as one of the other probes, but will be ignored by the other gauges as long as it is on a staggered 43-second reporting cycle. So I have the fourth probe in one of my closed off bedrooms to see how cold they get. Only the rainfall gauge reports that temperature.

Continue reading

Fourth Quarter Report

I had a pretty good quarter on Amazon, but it was primarily due to some flukey things. At the end of October someone bought an expensive GPS system that earned me $31 all by itself. Then in December one of my co-workers did all of her Christmas shopping through Amazon and remembered to use my web page to start it off. Also I got my count of items way up when someone bought about 20 MP3’s from Amazon after following a link. At only 99¢ per song, even with a 10% commission I don’t get a whole lot of money (MP3’s have a bigger commission than anything else). So for the quarter, I sold 69 items worth $1,835 for $87.30 in commissions. The most unusual item I sold is a Bottle-Top Pod which screws into the tripod mount of your camera but has a bottle cap on the other end that lets you use a bottle as the tripod.

AdSense revenue stayed about the same at $10.09 on the quarter. And this is despite me replacing the old private party ads on my iPod pages with Google ads after my advertiser stopped sending money due to my loss of Page Rank. I used to have a couple of pages listed on DMOZ Open Directory under iPod, but they seem to have cleaned that up and axed my pages. Then my Page Rank went to 0.That was some easy money. After PayPal fees, he paid me $867.84 since he first approached me.