Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rainy Days In The RV Will Never Be The Same! - GAMES!

My LED Pico Projector
    Back many years ago, I used to be a bit of a shark at the old quarter-per-play arcade. Classic games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Defender and Tempest were some of my favorites. Over the last few years, I had found you could play many of those old arcade favorites on your PC with a piece of software called MAME (Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator). If you could find the game ROMs you could play them in all their original glory. That was/is pretty cool. These days, with higher powered computing devices that can be taken anyplace, you can now emulate all that and MORE on just about any platform. Take that little bit of info and add a mid-level Android tablet and you have an entire arcade in your RV. Best of quarters needed!

I use a small tablet with a keyboard dock (it adds 16 hours of battery life and full-sized USB ports!) -- it has really nice 1920x1080 resolution. I usually just use the 10.2" screen to get work done (Yes, even writing these articles on the road!), but for games I've taken to connecting its' HDMI output to my mini projector/screen combo and using the combination to play games on a HUGE screen. They're even larger than they were when playing in the arcade! Sound comes out of the tablet or you can use a Bluetooth speaker for more fidelity. If your tablet has a hard-wired port for sound (like a mini headphone jack) you can simply plug it into a powered speaker system (or even your RV Stereo system).

Since my tablet/dock is an Android device, I used a slightly different program than I did on my PC (though you could download it for your PC/MAC as well) called Retroarch. While the MAME application was pretty simple to get setup and working, it was limited to older coin arcade machine games. Retroarch is a bit different. It uses CORES. A core is a chunk of computer code that allows Retroarch to emulate nearly any gaming machine, either arcade or console. Console? That's just a fancy name for all the machines you could (and still can) buy for home use. Old and New! You'll still need to download the ROMs (Games.) Many of them are freely available under a public license or even in the public domain.

How do you control all the onscreen action? You could use the keyboard of your device (if it has one) or buy an add-on keyboard. can buy a Bluetooth controller. These come in a myriad of flavors and colors. From duplicates of console game controllers down to micro and mini ones that are really inexpensive ($4), feature rechargeable batteries (they use a micro-USB cord to charge) and work great for more than games. I use mine to click through slides during power-point presentations and control music and videos on the fly. You can configure the buttons to do just about anything you like on your device.

Retroarch is a bit finicky to set up and use, but once it works on your system...look out! You have access to a massive amount of gaming entertainment on board your RV. Rainy days in the RV will never be the same again!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

***UPDATE*** If you are having problems with setting up Retroarch on your android device. I know it too me a LONG time to get it working right, you could always install individual emulators for each game type. For example,,,,MAME for old coin-op games. A quick search on the play store reveals lots of choices for almost every video game device out there, past and present. From Atari 2600's all the way to Playstations! As always....YMMV!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sometimes Even The Smallest Things Can Be Incredibly Useful!

Home Sweet Home
    Yesterday I was browsing through, yet another, liquidator shop nearby. Hey, it's cold and nasty up here in the Northeast and at 0 degrees, working on the RV is tough, not to mention uncomfortable! So I have to do something. The easiest thing to do is search through these types of shops for useful items for the RV (and sometimes every place else, too!) This time I discovered a little gem. It's one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" items. A tape measure with a built-in sticky notepad and small pen. You can measure something and write down the numbers all in one go. Great for me....I forget those kinds of things as soon as I take the measurement. This little gizmo prevents that memory lapse. For 99 Cents! (No brand name on it.)

All Fits Together Compactly.
While it's only a 6-foot tape length, that's plenty for almost any job I would tackle myself. When I break out the 25 footer or even the 50 footer, it's usually a job for more than one person. Usually they get a pad and writing implement with which to take down my measurements. That's a great way to furnish yourself with "artificial memory." When you pull out this tape, it stays at the length you've left it at. Most tapes I have require you to press in a button or lever to keep it extended. This one works the opposite, you press in on the button to retract it so it's very easy to use by yourself.

Tiny Pen, Still Usable!
Before you extend it, you open a small, clear plastic door that gives you access to the little pen and the sticky note pad. Both are replaceable. I am not sure, but I believe a tiny pencil could be used as well. Once extended to the length you desire, take the measurement and write it down. It even has a built-in level! Great for hanging pictures and shelves (as long as your RV is level in the first place!). I removed the sticker that told me it included a notepad and pen....this way when you go back to use the measurements you've taken, it's easy to see them through the "window." Once you have all your measurements done, close it all up and put it in a drawer. It's not much bigger than a couple of matchboxes.

I truly love little labor-saving/aggravation reducing gizmos like this. If I can save some steps (or some re-steps because I've forgotten the numbers), it's a great thing. Work smarter, not harder. A good motto to live by. A great one if you love RVing!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Oil-less Turkey Frying? - Is That Possible And Does It Taste Good?

Not Quite Warm Enough To Travel!
    A while back, a friend told me that there was nothing more tasty than a deep fried turkey. That is a pretty big claim. I mean, I am a big fan of Thanksgiving and Turkey is great to have around at other times during the year. I especially like the leftovers as I make (what I believe to be) the world's best turkey salad out of the leftovers. I am always a bit wary of deep frying anything. There are the health concerns, of course, but the RV environment really isn't conducive to deep frying. The clean-up alone gives me nightmares! That being said, you could still take a propane-fired turkey deep-fryer with you. And the couple of gallons of fry oil you'd need. Well, maybe you! I just don't have that space. What if there was a way to "fry" without oil?

While walking through a big box home improvement store a few weeks ago, I saw a deal I just couldn't refuse. It was an (alleged) oil-less turkey fryer. It even had the well known "ButterBall" name and logo on it. Originally it was $119.95, but had been reduced to $24.00. I am usually wary of buying cooking and kitchen products that are "one trick ponies."

 Hmmm, according to the box, it would cook other foods as well. Ham, vegetables, etc. Why not give it a try? Based on the weight of the box (Heavy!!) the build quality should be pretty decent. So, I bought one and brought it home.

The supermarket I shop at (a lot!) has a promotion each year where you can get a free turkey or ham or a few other items when your purchases total more than a set amount. Since I do lots of shopping I usually end up with two items. One of them is always going to be a turkey. (The other, a ham!) So I had a couple of them in the deep freezer. I couldn't wait to try this thing out. I retrieved the frozen turkey and began the thawing process. For someone without patience, this takes a long time. A really long time. A few DAYS later after defrosting in the refrigerator I was ready to prep the bird.

Pull everything out of the inside and rinse well. I know, to get the best results I should soak the turkey in a brine overnight, but I had already waited days! I wanted to try it out so I started pre-heating the oil-less fryer, washed the turkey well, dried it off and spiced it up. Pushed the supplied thermometer into the thickest section I could find and then it goes on a stand that fastens to a round wire rack that, in turn, fits in the bottom of the basket. Then that basket is lifted with the supplied heavy duty handle and placed inside the oil-less fryer and the vented glass lid placed over it.

The basket is funnel shaped at its bottom as is the bottom of the oil-less fryer. A large dripping pot with handle sits under the outlet and really does catch all the fat and grease that drips out. The instruction manual says 10 minutes per 1 pound of bird (up to 19 lbs.), so this one was 150 minutes. I checked with a non-contact thermometer, the oil-less fryer gets up to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit when it's ready to cook. A simple orange light shuts off when it's ready to go. It draws about 15 Amps (120V) when the heating element is on.

150 minutes later I had a REALLY crispy (on the outside) succulent, moist and perfectly cooked turkey with VERY little mess. I used the supplied handle to lift everything out of the oil-less fryer and let it set (per the directions) for 15 minutes. Then I disassembled the turkey. Wow! It was perfect. Since I STILL haven't eaten a piece of deep fried turkey, I may be missing out on something..... but this tasted really good, I will be trying it with some other recipes. I will DEFINITELY use the wood chip smoker box next time...will really increase the flavor. And I will try and have the patience to brine the bird before-hand. Maybe...

While this device does take up a LOT of valuable space, if you have a lot of people to feed, or you want leftover recipes for a long while, it makes sense to have. If it works as well for other foods....bonus! I may just take it along for special occasions.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

[Editor: Check out several oil-less turkey fryers at Amazon.]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Maintaining Hair Harmony - Blow Dryers For Any Power Source

My Lavatory Sink Mirror And Cabinet
    Hair Dryers. I'll freely admit, once in a while I use one. Can't help it....growing up in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's made it mandatory. Especially the 70's! Folks with long hair seem to require the use of one more often that their short hair counterparts. Many people with significant others find themselves in the position of needing to make sure that a hair dryer will work in their RV's no matter where they are. I am NOT pointing fingers here....but you all know who you are! I'm glad to inform you that not only is it possible, it's even easy to accommodate the use of a hair dryer in an RV with or without hookups. No, really.

Most hair dryers require lots of power to operate. I've seen ones that use 1875 Watts of power! That's a little over 15 AMPS at 120V. Wow! If you RV has 30 Amp service, that's half of your power going to the hair dryer. If you have anything else on that requires serious power or a bunch of little things, there is a good chance the main circuit breaker will pop or a fuse will blow. Things like 1500 Watt electric heaters or the microwave are the usual culprits, but the hot water heater running on 120V electric can be a power hog as well. The big Watt versions will also take up much more storage space. You can easily find one that has a reasonable amount of Watts and folds quite compactly.

The last thing you want is the Hair dryer to quit working just when someone is using it to "make themselves presentable." Believe me, I know this to be true. Well, the easiest solution is to make sure the hair dryer is the ONLY large draw device that's on. The other choice? Get a lower wattage hair dryer. Yes, I know that sometimes this is out of the question, but the smaller ones do work quite well. Yes, they will take a bit more time to dry hair, but it's a relatively easy substitution. Though I wouldn't recommend it without first speaking to all the serious hair dryer users on board.

What about when Boondocking? Hmmm You could run the generator for as long as you need the hair dryer running. That really seems wasteful. Make sure you have enough power from the generator!!! Some smaller ones are only 3000 Watts and the tiny portable ones can be as low as 800 Watts continuous power output. What about the times you simply don't have or don't want to run the generator? Since I installed a solar charging system, I hate running my generator. I will, if I absolutely have to, but I'm not all that happy about it.  What can you do?

Run the Hair Dryer on 12 V power.

Two 115 AmpHour Deep Cycle Batteries
I'm not talking about using an inverter. Though you could if the draw was low enough. I'm talking about a 12 V version of the hair dryer. There are Several around and they really do work. I know they aren't as powerful as a full blown (pun intended) 120 V version, but if you absolutely MUST have the use of a hair works. It will draw about 12 Amps at 12 Volts, so once your batteries are fully charged and you have sun left over, you could run it for a very long time. I generate around 40 amps with my panels, so that's not too much of an issue. be VERY careful running it when your batteries are low and you have no sun. If you have a smaller battery or two, it could really draw them down quickly!

In order to maintain hair harmony.....for those that understand.....this article will be an especially helpful bit of news. For you others.....if you want a new hair style...maybe now is the time to try it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"