Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Incredible Coffee Warmers!

Only ONE Way To make Coffee Aboard!
    I drink coffee. Sometimes a lot. Often I have a piping hot mug that I put down and forget about for a while. Usually too long. Then it gets cold...yuck. Unless I WANTED iced Coffee that is. Even then, that's NOT the right way to make it. So, what's a guy to do? Enter the internet and the handy dandy Amazon search tool. I did a quick search for keeping coffee mugs hot and came up with a winner! Simple and small, it allows you to keep your mug nice and hot no matter how long you procrastinate. Well, within reason that is.

USB Powered. Not JUST For Coffee
It's an incredibly simple device. You plug it in, turn it on and place your hot coffee on top. That's it. I bought three. The first one works with a standard USB (A) connection and draws about 1/2 Amp at 12 Volts (it's really using only 5 Volts, but the converter is built in). Now this one won't heat your coffee, or even keep it hot, but it will slow down the rate it gets cold (pretty significantly). The second one runs on 120V house current and draws 0.1636 amps, so 1.636 amps (or so) at 12 Volts (a tiny bit more with an inverter). I figure it at 2 Amps/hour consumption. Not that it ever takes me an hour to get through a mug of coffee! This one will keep coffee hot AND even reheat it....just watch the amp consumption while on battery power alone. Of course, you can use any of these for ANY beverage, not just coffee. Tea is OK too!

The last one runs on a 12V cigarette lighter plug and WILL reheat coffee from iced cold. It draws about 48 watts at 12 volts or about 4 amps. But it doesn't run continuously, just turns on and off to maintain your set temperature. The problem is, you have to use their mug. It's a pain to clean while keeping the electronics and control panel clean. This one is best for driving. You can keep it plugged in and the alternator will not have an issue with 4 amps extra, when needed. I like this one on long trips when I am flying solo.

The latest ones have a lithium ion battery and will hold temperature (allegedly) for two hours away from their charge base. I haven't tested it (yet) as they are around $79.95 - a bit steep for a mug, in my humble opinion. Perhaps I'll get around to testing it when the prices get into the $20.00 range. It's a cool gizmo, but not THAT cool!

I like hot coffee (iced too) but hate it when it goes cold in the middle of a mug. If you don't like that either, these solutions will help. I promise.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Amazing Beef Stick!

Midnight Snack Anyone?
    OK, so I know the title could mean a whole lot of things, but let's keep this above the neck, shall we? I'm speaking about those convenience store staples, the jerky-like so-called meat stick. There are many brands around these days, but the one I identify with the most is the Slim Jim. They've been around for a long time and I remember having them when I was much younger. I have tried a bunch of different brands (some even with cheese sticks along side), but always seem to gravitate back toward the Slim Jim variety. Perhaps it's just nostalgia. I mean, how could something like this be good for you? Well, it can't. But that's OK; every once in a while I like to live dangerously. Ever want to know what's in one? I did. And I was VERY surprised by what I found out.

Old Reliable!
First off, let's discuss the ingredients. There is meat in them, but what kind varies! No kidding. There are things like, something they call, "mechanically separated chicken." MMMmmm.. Well...maybe not MMMmmm, but tasty nonetheless. Normally I stick to regular beef jerky products, sometimes I even make my own. (That's a whole 'nother article!) But you can't beat the convenience and price of nostalgic old Slim Jims. Yes, I know that the sodium content in one small stick equals your entire daily allowance, but it's not like I eat these things at every meal...Maybe one in a long while. They even come in various flavors now. The Tabasco flavored ones are really quite tasty.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life!
Understand, I am in no way advocating these as a health food. Now that I read that last line I realize how silly it was to type. Of course, it's not a health food! Yes, it has low carbs, but that's about their only redeeming quality. Sometimes you just have to NOT care. I look at it this way: If you can have only a select few vices, they should be ones that aren't hurting anyone and don't do too much damage to yourself. I mean, some folks think COFFEE is a you well know, I am certainly NOT one of them! Coffee on the road is a pleasure for me and not a guilty one at that!

Every once in a while, do something that you like. Something that other folks think is "bad for you." If you like it...why not? Just remember to moderate. I believe your state of mind will improve. I know mine does!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Is It With All These "Special" Screws!

    Seems that every time I need to open up and repair anything bought within the last few years I need some kind of special tool. It's getting crazy. I have about 30 single purpose screwdriver tips that I had to buy just to be able to open the various devices. I remember when the, so called, security screws were there to prevent tampering with sensitive or dangerous innards. That I can understand, but replacing the AAA batteries on a flashlight shouldn't be all that dangerous! Luckily, I have found some inexpensive screwdriver bit sets that cover most of the security screws I have encountered so far.

I began by doing a quick search online for security bit sets. Oh my! There were a TON of them. The trick was having the largest choice in a variety of sizes to fit the most screws. There are few things more frustrating than having the correct type of screw bit in the wrong size! Believe me, it's happened to me so many times I have lost count. Amazing what a regular flat bladed screwdriver on a crazy angle will actually open. Of course, when it slips across the screw head and stabs you in the hand it isn't so great. I have the scars to prove it! So, back to security bit sets.

After narrowing the field down to a select few, I decided to order two of them and directly compare them in person. One was a set with 32 bits and a handle all in a plastic carry case with a clear lid so you can see what's inside. When opened and flipped over, the lid acts as a stand. It had mostly smaller sizes and also included tweezers. This one was decent for computer and small electronic device projects, but since there were no larger sizes it wouldn't be my first choice. It was only 7.99 on Amazon, so not a huge price to pay. It now lives in the computer room to use on hard drives and other computer hardware. It's a nice set, but without enough uses for me to use up the space onboard the RV. I have so little to spare...

The other set was from Harbor Freight, it was the 100 piece screwdriver bit set ( item#68457). This one had everything you would need for most jobs. I am SURE there are other security screws out there, but not that I have seen. It is packed in a sturdy plastic case and contained adapters to use the bits with both a power drill/driver or a standard sized screwdriver handle. That's the only hitch. Either you already have a hex drive handle (I had several) or you need to buy one that will work. I had one that I got with a Harbor Freight "free" coupon (Item #69470) that works perfectly. This kit is only 9.99 for 100 bits. A better deal in a much sturdier case.

At some point, you will find yourself up against one of the oddball security screws, wishing you had a way to easily remove it. This is the way!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Labelling Everything - Is It Possible To Have Too Many? YES!

The Rarely Seen, Back Left View
    A while back I purchased a portable label printer to label all the connections and wires in my Solar Charging System installation. This type superseded the old Dymo style tape know the ones you turned a daisy wheel to a letter and then squeezed to "indent" a plastic tape (sticky on one side) with the text. Very 70's technology. Worked well, know me, I like newer, more multi-purpose gizmos. When I purchased this one I had all the best intentions of labeling everything..well not in a crazy way! But, rather each one of the transparent storage containers I use with an idea of what the contents would be. Never did get around to that! Recently, I needed to label an overhead panel in the helicopter I trailered home a few months ago and went to use my labeler. No dice, needed 8 more AA batteries AND a fresh cartridge of tape labels. There had to be a better way...and there was!

A Little Worse For Wear, But Still Functions Great!
So, the one I bought originally had a bunch of batteries and a small rubber keyboard with letters and symbols. It let me pick a couple of fonts and sizes. It used a roll of material in a cartridge that fed out an appropriate amount of label each time you hit PRINT. Squeeze the cutting lever and you had a label.Worked great too.  I've had it for years and years at this point. While researching the cost of labels and the sizes available, I found a great deal on a MUCH newer style with a rechargeable Li-ION battery pack and the ability to connect (via USB) to the computer for a only a few dollars more than a 3 pack of labels for the old machine! This one is a Dymo LabelManager 280. Seems like it was time for an upgrade! I am very glad I did. I am still going to use the labeler I have, but the new one is much easier to get customized labels out of.

Black on White AND White On Black!
I can print up to 1/2" wide labels in a multitude of colors. My old one could do a few different styles, but it was essentially black type on a few color backgrounds. Mainly I used white. The new one does all that too, but has lots of additional colors for both the text and the label itself. Best part? They have a cartridge that can do WHITE text on a BLACK background. Exactly what I needed for the helicopter's overhead panel. So rarely do things work out so perfectly. The included software with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software made figuring out the spacing and sizes for the labels simple. AND each one was saved to a file, if I need to print them again.

With USB!
The new one still has a small built-in keyboard to create "on the fly" labels in various fonts and sizes, but I like the software! I got the opportunity to play "What if?" a whole bunch of times before having to print anything at all. Saved lots of label material. Another real benefit is the larger, multi-line LCD screen on the new one. Sure beats the single line one the old one had. Of course, now I HAVE to begin labeling all the storage bins...and maybe some other stuff too! This could easily get way out of hand. I'll have to control myself.

If the price wasn't so easy on the pocketbook, I probably would have stuck with the old ones and simply purchased some more batteries. But now, I get to have my cake and eat it too.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"