Austin Credit Card

Jenny at work, who adores Austin, has pictures of him that she has printed out on regular paper all around her desk. She has almost as many Austin pictures as she has pictures of Johnny Depp. So for her birthday last week, her friends gave her two framed pictures of Austin, so she would have something a little nicer than paper pinned to her cube. One of them was a picture I had take one day when I was taking pictures of flashlights outside during the daytime to get better light (my camera doesn’t take good pictures indoors). Austin got tired of me doing that and laid down. So I got a picture and it was one that Jenny printed out and then was one of that was framed for her. So that got me thinking that when I got my Capital One card, I could pick any picture and I had been waiting until I got a good picture of the dogs to use. So I went ahead and ordered a credit card with this picture on it:

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Fresh Ground Coffee

I’ve been using my Aeropress coffee maker for a couple of months now, making coffee a few times per week. After researching how to make a good cup of coffee I was looking forward to getting some fresh ground coffee once I worked through my brick of Publix decaf. At some point the Sunday paper came with a coupon for a free bag of Millstone coffee and even included the bag that you would take to the store. I scoped my Publix but all they had was pre-ground Millstone. Kroger had whole beans and a grinder, but the only type of decaf I saw was for Hazelnut flavor. With less than a scoop of the Publix brick left, I went to Kroger at Toco Hills today hoping they would have straight decaf. It turns out they did have it!

I have never ground coffee before. I remember Mom doing it when we were kids and would go to the grocery store with her, but not much more. I had looked at the machine earlier and noticed that you could vary the coarseness of the grind from French Press (big chunks) to Espresso (fine powder). In between that is Automatic Drip Coffee. The Aeropress says something finer than ADC is needed, but reviewers said an Espresso grind is harder to press the water through the filter.

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Driver Swap

One of the key components of a flashlight is the driver, which is the electronics between the battery and the LED. The primary function of the driver is to regulate the voltage going to the LED. So if you have a 1.5V battery, the driver will increase the voltage to the 3.6V or so that a LED needs. If there are 2 3V batteries, a driver is needed that will reduce the voltage from 6V so that they won’t blow out the LED. But drivers can also give different light levels or provide strobe and SOS modes.

Not long ago I bought a flashlight that uses P60 drop-ins. The advantage to that kind of light is it uses a bunch of standardized parts that can be swapped out. So of course I was on the lookout for some kind of modification (or “mod”) I could do to the light. It is a good light, but comes with 5 modes by default (High, Medium, Low, Strobe, SOS) and always comes on in High. Really I would rather have a 2-mode or 3-mode light that would remember what mode it was in last. If you want Low, it stays in Low until you change it. Well, obviously all I would need to do is find a new driver.

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AKOray K-106 3-mode Programmable

This light has already been reviewed once by sb56637, so this is just my take though the conclusions are mostly the same. This light is very popular among flashlight enthusiasts due to having 3 programmable modes and remembering the last mode you were in. Most budget lights always include one or more strobe modes, including this one where the default settings are High, Low, and Strobe. So it is very nice to be able to get rid of the strobe mode. Also 3 modes provides a very good mix. One mode will always be maximum, and it is nice to get a good low of less than 10 lumens for looking at things up close. The middle mode can either be closer to max to give good output but longer battery life, or closer to to low, especially if the low is set very, very low. The ability to program levels puts this light in league with other programmable lights like the JETBeam, Liteflux, and the Nitecore D10.

AKOray K-106 Flashlight

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Zipper Repair

I have a windbreaker that I bought a few years ago at Sears. The zipper had problems fairly early on, getting stuck so badly one time that I broke the pull tab off and had to replace the ring that held it on with a piece I cut off of a safety pin. That held for a while, but lately it has been hard to get aligned correctly and when I tried to zip the jacket, the teeth didn’t engage and the zipper would get stuck. Last Friday no matter how often I tried to get it to be aligned correctly, the jacket just wouldn’t zip.

It is kind of late in the season to find a new jacket. I hoped there was some way I could repair the zipper, but I didn’t look into it until Sunday evening. I found an about.com article saying how easy it is to replace the slider. They said the slider should have a number on the back of it indicating the size (I looked on the back of mine it said YBS 5, so I figured it was a size 5). Then all you have to do is go to a fabric store and find another slider the same size and, if they don’t have the right color, choose one a little darker. Then you remove the zipper stop at the top of the zipper you have, which is just a bent piece of metal that clamps onto the cloth of the zipper. I was able to pry off the stop pretty easily and slide the old slider right off the top end. Maybe this really would be simple!

So Monday night I went to a fabric store and asked about zipper parts. They showed me a wall of different parts, but only a few were zipper parts. They had some individual sliders for $1.79 but they were the wrong size. Then they had a collection of at least 10 different size slides in a “zipper repair kit” and I could see a couple that looked like the right size and color, but the kit was $14.99. They said maybe it would be easier just to have a seamstress take off the old zipper and sew in a new one, but I was thinking there is no way anyone would do that for less than $14.99. But an alteration shop might have loose sliders they could sell to me pretty cheaply.

I thought this is the perfect kind of cheap thing I should be able to get from China, shipped directly to me, like some of the different flashlight and electronics I have been ordering lately. I started doing research online and didn’t find any place like that. Wikipedia says the first zipper was manufactured in 1913 and the largest zipper factory in the world is owned by the Japanese company YKK and located in Macon, Georgia, with 900 employees. I did find that it is important not just to get the right size but to find out if the zipper has teeth or coils. Mine has teeth. One place had a number 5 slider for only 79 cents, but when I put it in my cart, they wanted $4.50 in shipping. I didn’t want that. I checked some other jackets I had, but some of them had plastic zippers with a top stop fused into place. I don’t know if you could easily replace that kind of slider.

So the next night I went to Walmart to see if they had parts. They had an awful lot of kinds of buttons, but no zipper parts. However they did sell entire zippers, including one for jackets that also had a number 5 on the back of the slider. The whole zipper was $2.79, so I got it. It is shiny gold instead of a dark metal color like my original. And I couldn’t pry those zipper stops off of the replacement for anything, so I just cut the zipper in between two of the teeth to get the slider off (I didn’t need that zipper anyway). It slid right onto my jacket’s zipper. I slid it all the way to the bottom, lined up the bottom insertion pin in to the retainer box (Wikipedia terms) and it zipped up easier than it ever has before. Done!

Speeding Cameras

In an online discussion group recently, one guy commented about needing to keep an eye on his speedometer because they had installed a lot more speeding cameras lately. He is in the UK, but I thought that was interesting that they were giving speeding tickets automatically in other countries. Here we have red light cameras that send a ticket if you run a red light, but I didn’t think there had been any speeding cameras installed yet. So I looked into it and it turns out that Arizona has been installing them lately. People really don’t like these cameras and I found news stories about how people had sprayed silly string over the camera lens or stuck post-it notes on them to block their view. In Arizona, only 38% of the people who get tickets actually pay them. Instead a lot of people are protesting the tickets so, their court system is now clogged. They are booked through 2011 if you want to protest. Meanwhile you don’t have to pay the ticket, so why wouldn’t you protest? It’s like 0% financing. An article in the LA Times says one guy has been caught 40 times in Arizona, most of the time wearing a mask. He plans on saying there is no way they can prove it is him driving the car. So far he has had 4 cases dismissed and had to pay on 7 others.

In the United Kingdom, the cameras have been in place for years, but they have tripled the number of cameras in six years according to this article. It says they are generating 100 million pounds in fines per year. As a result, a number of websites and databases have sprung up locating where the cameras are installed. This can then be put into a GPS navigation system which can warn you that one is coming up.

I was talking about red light cameras with some people at work and we figured that the cameras probably result in a lot more rear-end collisions since people will slam on their brakes when the light turns yellow. Sure enough, a Wikipedia article says a Virginia study showed that right-angle collisions dropped, but rear-end collisions increased, with overall accidents and accidents with injuries both increasing at intersections with red light cameras.

Undeterred, California is proposing to install speeding enforcement at intersections that already have red light cameras. Even if you go through a green light, if you are moving too fast, you would be photographed and sent a ticket. It’s a pretty good idea because the equipment is all in place except maybe for the radar gun.

X2000 Flood to Throw Flashlight

Some lights are good for general purposes, some are really bright, some have a really good user interface, and lights like this one are more of a gimmick. They do one trick, in this case, it is able to go from a fairly faint flood of even light to a tiny beam of light that can be thrown at least a hundred yards by using an aspherical lens that can be moved with respect to the LED. At the tightest spot, you are actually seeing a representation of the LED itself, including the 3 strips of a XR-E LED (picture below is of the beam projected onto the ceiling; in real life you can see more detail including some of the bonding wires).

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