Training Drivers with Light

I walk a lot.

A minimum of 3 miles a day, but sometimes as much as 5.  Depends on my mood, the weather, and time of day.

If you have a “herding dog” or a “stock dog” and live in a city, you’re going to walk them.   If you don’t you’re going to have a problem child driving you crazy.  Trust me, walk your dog.  You’ll get a lot out of it, and so will the dog.

It’s one of the reasons I’m in the shape I am.

There is a rub here.  South Florida doesn’t believe in Sidewalks.

That took an adjustment, moving from Philadelphia area where not having a sidewalk in front of the house was an exception.  A rare exception in fact.

Wilton Manors and most of the older areas “East of 95” in Broward County tend not to have sidewalks.  The result is that you’re walking in the street or on the first six feet of the property.  That’s called the Swale here, basically you’re maintaining the area and it’s semi-public access.

The problem is not the lack of sidewalks.  The problem is that if you’re in a car you are speeding.  Ok, not a complete fact.  My little-old-lady neighbor drives her pickup truck very slowly around town, but she’s the exception and not the rule.

Most of you people on your way from Point A to Point B are speeding.  Yes, Five Over is speeding.  If the sign says 25 and you’re doing 26, you’re speeding.

So people from Up North come down here and are flying all over our streets with people walking on the edge of them with their dogs that are no longer bored and are basically acting clueless.

That’s where the lights come in.

Walking the dog means you sometimes have to “Pick Things Up” and since I have yet to be in a neighborhood that has appropriate levels of lighting on the streets, you need a flashlight.

Over the years, a flashlight went from being a joke to something quite useful.  With LED lighting, they can be so bright that you get the typical warnings.  “Do Not Shine Light Into Eyes”.

You know, Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball?


So I’m out there with my LED Flashlight.  One of those “Do Not Taunt” kind of lights.  The penlights went from being a candle to being a 25 watt light bulb focused to a point.

Mine is a 1200 lumen monster that runs on a laptop battery cell.  That’s basically a 75 watt light bulb in my hand.  I can light up a parking lot with no trouble on that walk that is frequently more than an hour before sunrise at the push of an orange button.

We’re walking a boisterous Mc Nab Dog puppy bouncing around who is mostly black with a white collar, “Shepard’s light” and blaze down his nose.  A car approaches and I shine the equivalent of a reading light on a dark dog in the middle of a dark block.

…and the Skies open with the Choir Eternal…

Cars shift lanes or stop and wait.  They avoid us because they can’t understand where all that light is coming from that is shining on the pavement.

A glowing dog in the middle of the dark, a right leg with a sneaker glowing, and a large pool of brilliant white light.

Yep.  That will do it.

Much easier than jumping off the pavement into a yard that has been indifferently maintained, shining a flashlight and turning your feet into a beacon by a small handheld appliance is an interesting way to help  people maintain traffic laws.

We got started doing this because there are too many speeding and DUI cases around this area.  They leave the bars and fly through the neighborhood seemingly aiming at you with their 2 ton metal beasts wondering “How Many Points is a Dog Walker Worth These Days”.

A 75 watt light bulb will sober them up fairly quickly.  Technology to the rescue.

Lately, a lot of bicycle riders are taking this technology to heart.  I’ve seen people riding around with simple “blinky” lights on their bikes.  That’s sufficient to adhere to the law of “bikes must be lit at night”.  On the other hand, folks are getting quite creative.  Take a strip of LEDs from your holiday lights and wrap your bike’s frame in them and you’re all the sudden very visible.  It’s entertaining seeing a bike moving around at 10PM in the dark glowing in four colors and blinking in time to an unheard beat.

You do certainly see them when they come near and that is the purpose of all that light.  To train the drivers to slow down and take notice.

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Why Do I Have A Dead Bosch Water Heater On My Porch?

When we moved into this house, we decided that any time we would replace an appliance, we would get the most energy efficient appliance possible.

The refrigerator has LED lights on the front.
The bathroom mirror has dimmable CFL lighting.
The post light in front of the house has a very bright CFL in it.
The washer is low water use and front loading.

And then there’s this monstrosity.

Yes, the Bosch AG 250 SX LP water heater.  The bane of my showers.   This was a mistake from Day One.

We never were able to use a low flow shower head with this beast because it required a much too high a flow of water to keep the thing running.  That was always a thorn in my side.  It effected how we would do laundry and dishes as a result since it required a lot of water flowing through the heater element to keep it running according to programming.

At one point we were so frustrated that we contacted Bosch for relief and they sent us a completely new computer for the inside to go from “Rev 4” to “Rev 14” or something like that.   It only made it a little better.  The person at their helpdesk was very helpful but said it was “a problem with this model” and made happy noises.

When the freak storm came through two months ago, it rained down the chimney and flooded the unit.  Rather than being disappointed, I saw it as an opportunity to get rid of this beast and get something that actually WORKED!

We limped through a week of cold showers and other annoyances until the new tankless water heater was installed.

It is a Rinnai.  Much more efficient since the water flow to trigger the heater is somewhere around 4/10 gallon a minute, it will use much less propane.   At 95 percent efficiency, the Rinnai RU98 actually uses a piece of PVC pipe for a chimney.  It also has a very low current draw to the unit so if we were out of power, I could rig up a 12V battery with a car inverter and power it long enough to get work done.

That sort of thing is important for storm prone South Florida.

So frankly I am completely put off of Bosch appliances.  I will not have another once the washer and dryer die.  I will not recommend them to anyone else as a result.  It may be my own personal opinion but it reflects the frustration that we had with that horrendous water heater.

If you have one of these monstrosities, my condolences are offered.   Get a Rinnai.  I can turn the shower down to a near trickle and still get hot water.  They seem to be the water heater of choice in South Florida.

No More Desktop Computer? Same Here!

I moved down to South Florida, Lock Stock And Barrel as the saying goes, in 2006.

Shortly after moving here, Florida Power and Light “decided” I didn’t need that desktop computer that I built.  There was a power spike and Poof! It was gone.

I was “That Guy”.  The one everyone leans on to fix their computer after their 10 year old discovered this cool website sitting on a server somewhere in Russia… that infected it with a virus.  The guy who built computers since Back In The Days of the 486. 

Remember those?

I would say it’s fair to put the number of Desktop PCs I’ve built in the area of 200, perhaps more.  It was never my job to do so, but it was always something that I found fun enough to do that I kept up with the trends.

Until I moved here.

Here is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 square foot house.   Down from a 3 and 1 1/2 1900 square foot in Philly.

I kept my skills up, but there were some things that I found I really didn’t care for about a desktop computer.

The main reason why I stopped using a desktop computer was space.   My desk is in The Florida Room, and that room is the warmest one in the house.  The Redundantly named Florida Room would be between 5 and 10 degrees warmer depending on the time of year, and since I keep the house at 78 … I migrated to the living room.

The thing is that it required that I keep a desk out there.   That desk got used less and less and became a thorn in my side that illustrated what was said about Possessions Enslaving You.

While I was migrating off of that old desktop computer, I kept the desk there to do computer repairs when I needed to, but I realized that I was using the laptop more and more.   They got cheaper to the point where the laptop I use now costs less than some of the motherboards that I bought in the past.

Unless you were playing a game, you really didn’t need a cutting edge desktop computer in the home. 

I noticed that many of my friends and clients were doing the same thing.   Why keep a boat anchor next to a desk in a house cluttered with “goodies” when you really wanted to be in the comfy chair in a living room or media room with your feet up?

A cutting edge desktop computer got less expensive as a result.  You can get a good desktop computer from many vendors for less than $500 these days, but when you can get similar laptops for the nearly the same price it led me to ask why.

I still have parts laying around the house.   A spare power supply here, a fan there.   For the most part, that Hardware Closet I used to keep in Philly is reduced down to a box of odd junk and a computer case.   I haven’t been asked to repair a desktop computer in over a year – fix a Virus problem, yes, upgrade a laptop, yes, but fix a desktop?  Nope!

Besides, you’d be shocked how much benefit you’d get out of a couple gigs more memory, and a really hard look at what you have installed on the computer.  If you don’t need it, uninstall it!

It seems that a casual glance in a big box electronics store will prove my point.   Rows of Laptops being hovered over by people, curious folks tapping at a tablet to try to wrap their head around what it is, but the desktop computer aisle is empty.   It’s even hard to get someone to tell you about a desktop computer in a computer store these days. 

There used to be a great amount of strategy that you’d have to employ to get just the right computer.  Now, you pick your price point, buy a laptop, and within two years you start looking to see what’s out there again.

Which is great for me, since I have a nice stack of Hand-Me-Down laptops from people who know I’ll pass them onto someone who needs them.  Your computer “slowing down” is usually because something installed itself on your browser that needs to be banished – toolbars, for example are useless.

For the vast majority of us out there, those home users of the world, you do not need the high end computer that the salesmen of the world push you toward.  In fact, I’d wager if you really look at what you need, a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 10 would be more like it. 

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague there, this isn’t intended to be a specific discussion of what to get now, since many of these articles are re-read in the future.

So if the salesperson is trying to sell you a computer for the home that is a laptop, at least these days, if you’re paying more than around $500 or so, step back and think about it.  You may be happy with the ego side of the purchase, but you probably do not need the extra expense.  The one I’m using to write this on, I paid $225 for in September 2012, and I’ll probably get another 2 years out of it.

But the Desktop?  Stick a fork in them – in the home, they’re done.

Ode to a Weedwhacker

I was out back repairing a gas powered weed-whacker and realized that it’s probably my favorite outdoor tool. 

I’m sitting here in bits of weeds, bougainvillea, and coleus clippings, smelling slightly of gasoline and sweating but it’s fine. 

You see it saves me a lot of time.  Manual tools have their use in a yard, but if you know what you’re doing, you can replace many of those tools or at least supplement them with a snarling and smelly handheld beast.

I went out to replace a primer bulb and of course had to test the thing out.

Since the motor started almost immediately, I then could have switched it off or finished what I had started the day before with the tool. 

Before I was through, I had edged the pool deck, trimmed bougainvillea and podocarpus, got rid of some Virginia Creeper, and got rid of some of those sticky seed weeds that were growing out of my banana tree’s pot. 

They will all be back, we’re going into the wet season.

Oh and Since Your Mileage May Vary, I would say trimming trees with a weed-whacker is truly one of those things that you Should Not Try At Home… although you will and at your own risk.

I have two gas powered ones.  The first was given to me and after a lot of effort I got it to work fairly well even if it is stubborn to start.  This other “newer” one was one that I got off of a trash pile on “Bulk Pickup Day”.  I found out why it was there shortly after getting it home.

In the last two days, I have replaced the gas tank, the primer bulb, and broke the pull start handle.   Seems to me that Homelite was using the wrong plastic when they made it.  “It” is a Trim ‘n Edge™ – UT20024B.  Homelite doesn’t even exist since they got bought up by a company that also owns Ryobi in the interim, but for a 6 or 7 year old tool, I’m happy.

It worked fine!  I was out there using the monster in an “off-label” manner and having fun.  The reason I came in was that the pull start handle had broke.  The yard looks fine, and the gasoline will wash out in the shower.

That reminds me… time to get cleaned up.  If you will excuse me…

Ikea Koncis Can Opener Torture Test

Yes, it failed.  Spectacularly failed.  Like in one of those memes with a big FAIL in white using the “Impact” font. 

You see, I’m more than patient when it comes to gadgets of all kinds.  Kitchen Gadgets should work first time, every time.  Simple machines shouldn’t test your patience.  They shouldn’t make you consider them an act of atrocity against all human kind.  A kitchen gadget should be function over form and not something that laughs at you in a Swedish-Chinese accent.

I’m very good at assembling those flat packed boxes you get at Ikea and other retailers.  Strange faceless figures that are meant to guide you in a cartoonish manner to put together a chair or a coffee table, book case or a computer desk.  All of those items I had successfully built in the past, but this simple appliance of a mechanical can opener called “Koncis” had me stumped.

Being a simple item, I even broke from writing this and tried to use the can opener to open a can of Pineapples in Juice.  Anyone want some?   Oh well, I suspect I’m going to be having them for lunch.

You see, I had tightened the one screw that holds the cutting wheel down as tight as my hands could make it.  The gears don’t match.  The cutting blade shined at me as if to say that I wasn’t up to the task.

Then I set it down and got out “Rusty” the old can opener.  We’ve had Rusty for more than a decade.  It works, flawlessly.  In fact when Rusty got rusty, I even oiled it with some rather tasty Extra Virgin Olive Oil and brought him back from the brink of the bin.  Yes, I was just about ready to throw out my old friend Rusty.

Rusty is a good friend, especially in an emergency.  Rusty is a lifesaver.  He will feed you by opening those hard to open cans and give you the treats in side when the power is out.  In South Florida, with the power infrastructure about as stable as a ring of lime green jello out doors on a hot day, it is a Survival Skill to find a friend like Rusty the Can Opener and keep him or her close. 

Rusty is such a good friend that his sister lives in the same drawer as he.

When I was back at Ikea, I saw this bin of shiny can openers and they spoke to me. “Vould yew like tew take one of uss home vit yew” I heard in a Swedish Chef Accent.   Mork Mork Mork, it followed up and said “Yew Need Us!”.  It came home and we tried it excitedly.  No, sadly, Ikea, your Swedish Perfection and Style hasn’t been taught to the Chinese who built this thing.  The Quality of Koncis is nowhere near as good as your Billy Bookshelves or your Husar Desk that I so prize.

So this taunting piece of Koncis kitchen crap is going to have one more duty before it ends up in the recycling bin.  It’s going to be a wheel chock before I roll my Jeep over top of it.  I’ll giggle derisively as I hear it crunch against the concrete ending its useful life.

“Mork Mork Mork” indeed.

Why I Will Not Buy Another Bosch Product

Water Heaters are a conceptually simple device. 

Bring water into an area, add heat, and bring it out once it has gotten “hot enough”.

We have been building these things for centuries.   First it was called a kettle or cauldron and sat upon a fire in a hearth.  Then someone got the bright idea to containerize the lot and you have the familiar tank that sits in many homes as a result.  They don’t necessarily need electricity, but they do need a source of something to produce heat. 

When I moved into this house it had an ancient washing machine, creaky dryer, and a frightening water heater.

The Water Heater used no electricity at all.  I am in a hurricane zone and this would have allowed hot water and comfortable showers assuming that there were actually water being pumped into the house – which I understand is not a given.   It also was rusty and looked as if it would die at “any second”.

What went first was the Washing Machine.  This threw a coupling and could be fixed at a cost greater than a new washer.   All the mechanicals were broken as a result of the coupling breaking and left the carpet in the laundry covered by some rather soapy water.

We went out and bought a Bosch front loading washing machine.  The idea was that we’d get the most water and energy efficient machine we could find and save on water and electricity despite the greater cost. 

There was a problem.  Bosch in their wisdom went with a computer controlled washer.  Their programming was typically German Precise.  Perhaps a bit too precise as if you put too much soap into the machine, it will happily rinse out the extra soap for you.  It will do so by running an intermediate rinse – over and again until it determines that the soap is all washed out.  IT also requires this “HE Detergent” which has the benefit of being in big bright colored containers and costs more. 

Once the clothes have been washed, then spun at 1200 RPM and sounding like a distant Jet Engine threatening to fly them off to Boschland or where every flying washing machines go, it leaves them glued to the inside of the drum to be pealed off and put into the dryer.

The dryer seems to work well if you like to come back to a giant ball of clothes that is an illustration of how not to dry clothes.  Dry on the outside you reach the damp or wet center and put them back in.

This is particularly evident on Thursday Mornings.  I should say Afternoons as last week I pulled the bed apart and started the laundry at 6AM.  XXSanitary mode meant it was run through the hottest water I could provide, then heated electrically to something nearer steam, then washed thoroughly.  Over and Over until it is spun down to give me a wet ball of blanket, sheets, and pillowcase.

Needless to say this wretched machine needed a number of extra spin cycles and didn’t finish until 12:30 PM.

6 and one half hours of laundry for “one load” of linens.

Then onto the dryer which knowing that it has a penchant for turning things into a progression chart of wet, I put half the linens into then pressed the button.

The Dryer has a helpful time display of 1 hour and 8 minutes allowing me to count down the time until I have to unroll the ball and put them back in for another cycle.

The bed was finally made at 2:30 in the afternoon.  8 and a half hours for one load – two sheets, a pillow case, a light blanket all washed after being “Extra Rinse Foam”ed and spun until a wet sodden blob.

Once those two pieces were replaced we then bought a Bosch AquaStar Water Heater.  Tankless thing, I have a laptop brief case that is smaller than the heater.  Model number ag 250 sx lp

My contempt for this Water Heater knows no bounds.  AVOID this Water Heater!

It saves Propane by turning itself off with a helpful “E0” error code.   We really are not sure what that means, nor is the internet since the going wisdom is to turn it off then back on to reset the code.

I’m hoping for when the Washer launches to BoschLand it takes that bloody tankless water heater with it.  Right out of the wall and off to what ever dump it ends up in.

You see, while it uses on the order of a quarter of the Propane that the old beast of a water tank used, it doesn’t stay on when you need it.  Run the dish washer (thankfully a KitchenAid and very dependable and NOT a Bosch Product) and the water heater model ag 250 sx lp turns itself off.  There’s that E0 code.

Go take a shower.  It’s a crap shoot whether you will complete it without taking a cold shower as it will turn itself off at least twice a week.   So two in every seven showers are a rude surprise.

Today, it was more cantankerous than usual.   Today this beast of a water heater turned off five times in a rushed 10 minute shower.  It took two people to perform the shower.  When the water ran cold, reset the water heater, then jump back in washing what ever body part is needed and quickly because it would run cold again.

E0 anyone?

So my bottom line recommendation is to avoid Bosch Products.  When these go, I will NOT be replacing them with another Bosch Product.  German Precision aside, these things are not “Suitable for Purpose” as we learned.  The Water Heater came with a 12 year warranty which is a good thing since it hasn’t worked right since day one.

Kevin is now saying that they have some sort of fix that he can perform with a voltage meter himself.   This should be entertaining, and at least I Know CPR.