Monday, May 28, 2012

Chinese 1 or 2 AA Cell Flashlight Battery Life Test

Someone asked me to do a run time test on this thing to determine what the typical battery life is. So I brought it to work with me today along with some Ray-O-Vac platinum rechargable AA batteries that were recently recharged. I put the batteries in the light and turned it on and hung it from my cork board behind the door in my office where I can keep on eye on it through out the day. I started the test about 8:10 am.
I didn't pay real close attention to it. I know it seemed fine around 1:30 pm with no discernable change in the perceived brightness level. However, when I looked at it around 4:15 pm, it had shut off altogether. I turned the tail switch off and left it sit for an hour or so and turned it back on. It went back to being about as bright as it appeared previously, but dimmed after a short period of time. I guess the batteries recovered some in the meantime. In any case, I checked it periodically during the morning for overheating, and while the lamp end did warm up, it was no more then just barely noticable.

Tried again today. I turned the flashlight on at 8:30 am. I noticed it got kind of dim around 3:15 pm. I turned it off for about half an hour and then turned it back on. It went back to being pretty bright, but did not stay bright for long. Tomorrow I will try it in one cell mode.

I turned it on with just the one cell about 8:20 am this morning and hung it on my cork board. To my untrained eye, it appears to be about as bright as with both AA cells in place.
At 5 pm when I left for the day, it was still as bright as it was when I turned it on this morning. I checked it periodically throughout the day and it never seemed to get even a little bit warm like it did with both batteries in place. I just left it on when I left for the day.

I fully expected the light to have shut off or at least dimmed by the time I came in this morning. But it seems as bright as when I left work last night. Totally unexpected.
It was still going strong around 2 pm, but when I looked around 2:50 pm, it was noticably dimmer. So, I just shut it off about 3:30 pm. It was quite dim by then.

Thought I would try it in 2 cell mode again. Turned it on about 8 am when I got in. I noticed it was still bright about 2 pm, but around 2:15 pm it appeared noticably dimmer. By about 2:30 pm, it was quite dim, so I shut it off for the day.

After I got home I converted it to single cell mode and turned it on again starting about 5:25 pm. It was still going strong when I went to bed that night, and when I got up the next day. In fact it was still just as bright about 11 pm on 5/26/12 when I went to bed. It was still going when I got up in the morning on 5-27-12 about 7 am, but just barely. Quite dim.

I put another battery in about 7:20 am for another run in single cell mode. It was still pretty bright when I left on an errand on 5-28-12 about noon. When I got back about 1 pm, it was quite dim.


In 2 cell mode it is not substantially brighter (if at all) than in 1 cell mode.

In 2 cell mode, battery life with the batteries I used is 7-8 hours.

In single cell mode, battery life with the batteries I used is about 30 hours.

I did notice something odd in single cell mode. For some reason while handling it, sometimes the light would flicker on and off. Maybe the switch just doesn't work all that well. It did not do it all the time, but enough that it was noticable and somewhat of a concern that it might develop into a permanent problem.

However, for $3, it is hard to beat. Based on the light output and battery life, it might seem like it is a no brainer to use it only in single cell mode. However, I have noticed that it is somewhat handier in some respects to have the longer flashlight. It is not like I use flashlights all that much anyway.

Thread on another forum about this here.

Menards LED Screwdriver

I got this for free from Menards as a birthday gift. They send me a coupon for a free trinket every year. Last year it was this flashlight.

I went and picked it up today. It came in a plastic case.
My first thought was to toss the plastic case, but it came with 12 bits, and only about 6 of them will fit in the hollow handle. The ring style light that goes over it has no switch. There are two contacts that are connected when it slides over the end of the tool. It is very similar to this tool I got for Christmas.
I guess I will have to keep the plastic case to store the bits and the light in. I don't know how useful a small screwdriver with a light will be, but it was free.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012_05_26 Willow Creek Bike Path

Fran dropped us off at the dam at Rock Cut State Park and we walked home along the Willow Creek Bike Path. There is a bumper crop of poison ivy along the path within Rock Cut State Park. Not so bad west of Perryville Road.

Wilma had a good time in the creek.

It is lighted from Perryville Road west all the way to Harlem High School.

This is the route of the Willow Creek Bike Path.
Here is some video I shot.

ETA 6-10-12

Recent stuff

It was pretty windy last night. The wind blew open this cable TV junction box that was installed as part of the construction work. I had thought they were maybe for the street lights, but a CATV sticker appears on them not long ago and as you can see from the picture, it is definitely a CATV box.

The wind blew this tarp into my yard. It was not in the best of shape so I put it out with the trash. Conveniently it was trash day this morning so I just dragged it out to the curb and set a couple of recyling bins on top of it to keep it in place.
Turkeys seen on Harlem Road near Rock Cut State Park.
Goose in creek at Rock Cut State Park.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More road construction

5-24-12 I took a picture of this red thing they have inserted into the sidewalks at each street crossing. I guess it is an ADA thing. Not sure exactly what it is supposed to do. Maybe a rumble strip for wheelchairs to warn wheelchair users they are about to go out in the street?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Update on road construction

5-22-12 I don't know when they planted these arborvitae along the road, but it is recent. I just noticed it this morning while Wilma and I were out walking. The people whose back yards are on Roosevelt Road across from the Harlem Community Center will no doubt appreciate it.
I have also noticed several places that post bases have been poured. Likely for street lights.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chinese 1 or 2 AA Cell Aluminum Flashlight

Another eBay purchase. The item title was:
5W Newest Bright LED Waterproof Flashlight Torch Outdoor Camping Carrying Light
It cost me $2.98 including shipping. Only took a couple weeks to get here from China. Shipping included tracking. The eBay seller name is SNSLED2012. The seller does not have all that many feedbacks yet (166 as of the time I got it). Perhaps his feedback level has something to do with the price. The light seems well built and fairly bright. It is made in three sections so it can be used as a 2-AA cell light and a 1-AA cell light just by removing one of the sections. The eBay item description included these bullet points:
• 1 LED slim Super Bright Torch with white LED light which is brighter than normal LED
• This Handheld Flashlight is compact and easy to carry and a great outdoors companion!  
• Ultra-bright, visible over a long distance in the dark  
• Slim body combined by 3 sections, the middle part can be removed, so this flashlight change from a long flashlight to a mini one freely (longer length is 14.5cm, shorter length is 9cm) 
• Durable black aluminum alloy casing, durable but still light weight  
• ON/OFF press button at the end of the Aluminum Flashlight body  
• Powered by: 2 x AA batteries for the long flashlight, 1 x AA battery for the short one (batteries are not included)  
• Head diameter: 2cm  
• Color: black  
• Weight: 90g
I am not sure how useful a flashlight than can change from a shorter one to a longer one will be, but when I saw it, I thought it was kind of a neat idea and for <$3, I can't really lose anything.

It came in this small padded envelope. It had been unscrewed so it was in two pieces so it would fit in the small envelope.
The bezel unscrews as well, for no obvious reason. It is not for focusing. Maybe just the way they chose to assemble it.
All screwed together.
Nice amount of light. No appreciable difference in the amount of light I could casually detect between 1 cell or 2 cell mode.

ETA 5-28-12 Some additional discussion here.

Trail scouting 5-19-12

Illinois Prairie Path Looking south as the path crosses E. Tryon Grove Road near the intersection of US 12 and IL 31 in Richmond, IL.
Looking north as the path crosses E. Tryon Grove Road near the intersection of US 12 and IL 31 in Richmond, IL.
Looking north as the path crosses E. Tryon Grove Road near the intersection of US 12 and IL 31 in Richmond, IL.
Long Prairie Trail.
Eastern terminus trail head at County Line Road. I guess this is some kind of historical note.
Looking west from the trail head.
Sign at the entrance.
I think there are 8 parking spots, a trash can, and a pit toilet. No water.
Across County Line Road to the east, it appears the rail road is still active. At least they use it for parking rail cars as you can see by looking closely thru the brush.
Poplar Grove. This is the trail head where it crosses Poplar Grove Road near Main St. It is easy to drive right past because it is not signed. In fact I drove right past it and had to come back. This is looking east. On street parking.
Looking west.
Looking west. Note trash can, picnic tables, and some pop machines along the trail here.
To the north side of the trail on the west side of the road is this store called Trail Stop. No idea what it is. Appears to cater to trail users though. Has a pop machine and a wall mural beckoning trail users. We drove by a little after 7 pm on a Saturday and it appeared to be closed. There is a Mexican grocery store across the street that was open though.

ETA 5-20-12: A web search turned up some additional information that this store may be a diner and ice cream store.
Poplar Grove - looking east at Fairgrounds Road.
Poplar Grove - looking west at Fairgrounds Road.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today's adventures

5-19-12 The water store was having their annual party. Free hot dogs and Pepsi, And a clown.
We saw these turkeys walking across McFarland Road at Harlem Road near Rock Cut State Park. 
Fran got the porch flower pots planted this week.

Fran's tomato farm

Fran bought this upside down tomato planter a couple years ago but did not get around to using it until this year. The tomato was planted 5-16-12. I don't know what variety it is.
This one was also planted 5-16-12, in a more conventional manner. It is variety Roma.
I will try to periodically document the progress of her farm.

Road construction

5-14-12 They are slowly finishing up. They graveled in the bike path along the road (part of the Bauer Path) upto Indigo Lane. No concrete yet. They extended a wide sidewalk from there to Scott Lane, but my understanding is that it is technically not part of the bike path, as the bike path will eventually head north along Indigo. I guess it is just a wide sidewalk.
Several places they have painted these odd arows on the street. No idea what they are for. never seen anything like them before.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farm and Fleet Work n' Sport Work Boot Socks

Work n' Sport seems to be a Farm and Fleet house brand for clothing and shoes. I have bought a number of items over the years in this brand and generally found them to be a good value.
I have not tried this particular style of sock before. I have had several socks fail on me recently so I needed some new ones. Thought I would try these so I picked them up on my way home from work 5-10-12. They were about $7.50 including tax for one package of two pair.

The package says they are 64% acrylic, 28% nylon, 6% polyester, and 4% spandex. Oddly, that adds up to 102%. Must have rounded up a couple of the figures. The package claims all kinds of features on the back of the package including anti-microbial treatment.
The first thing I noticed when I put them on was they are really designed around short, ankle high style boots. They are not tall enough to extend to the top of an 8" or 10" tall boot. That will work fine for me for daily wear as I have ankle top boots for daily wear, but might not work for hiking where I have taller boots to get better ankle support.
I have since worn both pairs I got. They are comfy, although they feel like they bunch up some in the toe area. I think this is just the extra padding there. It is not uncomfortable, just noticable. I did not find the supposed arch support of any real value. I did not even really notice it. There is some extra padding in the toe area, but whether it would be helpful in a steel toed boot is doubtful. It just seemed to bunch up on me. I have never found any need for extra padding in the toe area in a steel toed boot that is sized properly anyway.

I couldn't tell you if the cooling channels did anything either, although the socks did seem to wick away whatever sweat I had very well and my feet did seem cooler. Maybe not a good choice for winter wear.

While they are good socks, I probably won't buy any more of them, mostly due to the short height, which is not suitable for the boots I often wear, although a taller version of the same style might be fine. I will wear them some more and see before buying any additional socks. I am a little nervous about how warm they would be in the winter.

Incidentally, I did wear them with my hot weather boots for today's 2+ mile walk with the beagle. The top of the sock is about an inch below the top of the boot, but the liner sock underneath it that I usually wear with boots extends about an inch above the top of the boot, so it is sort of usable with these boots. I may try them on a hike some time just to see how they work on longer walks.

They are labeled as made in the USA.

an experiment in the amazon ratings system

Not long ago I accidentally ended up on some kind of semi-private forum for top reviewers at Amazon. It had never occurred to me how obsessed these guys are with increasing their rating. They have a whole forum that seems devoted to complaining the rating system is unfair and how to game the system to improve your rating. Yes, I know that is somewhat ironic in itself.
I really don't care much about my rating. I am not even sure I realized I had one until I landed there. It is not like it is hidden, so I have probably seen it, but just did not know or care what it is. Based on a few things I read on the reviewer forum, I thought I would try an experiment. It was speculated that negative reviews impact your rating, while positive reviews improve it less than negative reviews hurt it.

Not realizing how serious these guys take their reviewer ratings, I posted that I did not think much of the whole review system, given how obviously screwy the system is IME. Admittedly that is mostly in the book section and of late mostly in the self published book section where there is pretty obvious and rampant sock puppetry going on.

Shortly thereafter, I received two negative votes on each of a couple of hot sauce reviews I had written. I suspect that my comments on the forum may have had something to do with the negative votes on my hot sauce reviews. In any case, it gives me an opportunity to see just how screwy the system is. As suggested, I am going to delete the two negative reviews, and then repost the exact same reviews and see what it does to my ranking. I had given both the hot sauces the same exact review. This is what the reviews said.
I copied this from a post I wrote on my blog a while back. I only changed the price to XX.
This has become my preferred hot sauce. I had never heard of the brand before but saw it on the shelf at Walmart maybe a year ago and bought a small bottle to try. I really like it so it is now what I use mostly as hot sauce, several times a day usually. It comes in regular and extra hot. I have tried both and prefer the extra hot, although it is not that hot. It is about right for me. I go through a bottle or 2 a month.
Ingredients: Water, Chili Peppers, Vinegar, Salt, Spices, 0.1% sodium benzoate as a preservative.
As an added bonus, the 1 liter bottles are <$XX. Made in Mexico. it comes in a smaller bottle as well, but I get the 1 liter size. I have one at work and one at home.
Before deleting the reviews (5-14-12 and 9:30 pm CDT) my reviewer statistics were:
Customer Reviews: 101
Top Reviewer Ranking: 33,872
Helpful Votes: 102

The email I got confirming the hot sauce reviews the first time I put them in said this:
Reviews written: 95
Reviewer rank: 21,478                   
Helpful votes: 100  of  166 

Incredibly, after I deleted the reviews, a link appears to the product page so that I was able to immediately re-enter the same exact reviews. I will wait and see what happens. Supposedly the reviewer ratings are recalculated daily.
This morning I checked it again.
Customer Reviews: 102
Top Reviewer Ranking: 33,935
Helpful Votes: 103

I added a review in the meantime and I guess I picked up a helpful vote, but it did not seem to change my rating any. Both of the reviews were immediately reposted. They showed back up with the original date but with the negative votes missing. However, only one of the reviews shows up in the list of my reviews. The other one is still there, but you have to go to the product page to get to it. Very odd.

For some reason Amazon does not show the total votes cast on your reviews on screen, but does send them along with the notices it emails you when you post a review. So I went back thru the emails they sent me.

After the last review I wrote (after deleting and reposting the two hot sauce reviews but before posting the latest review), the email notification said this:
Reviews written: 102
Reviewer rank: 33,872
Helpful votes: 102 of 176

The email notification for the previous review said:
Reviews written: 101
Reviewer rank: 32,083
Helpful votes: 102 of 180

It does appear that it did remove the negative votes, but it did not change my rating very much. It is not like I really care anyway, and the whole episode starting with the inadvertent posting on the forum of self important reviewers has been pretty much a waste of time for me.
I went back to a few of the emails from Amazon. Not sure if they mean all that much.

Reviews written: 85
Reviewer rank: 24,773                   
Helpful votes: 86  of  140                 

Reviews written: 51
Reviewer rank: 25,985                   
Helpful votes: 52  of  79                 

Reviews written: 14
Reviewer rank: 8,452,461                   
Helpful votes: 9 of 23

Does any of this prove anything? If nothing else it does prove I was willing to waste time on something (the reviewer ratings) I consider all but useless.

ETA 5-16-12 7:15 PM.
Oddly, my ranking has gone up by >3000 places during the day. No new reviews, no additional good votes since this morning. But, both hot suace reveiws are now shown in my review list.
Customer Reviews: 102
Top Reviewer Ranking: 30,534
Helpful Votes: 103

ETA 5-17-12 shortly after lunch time I wrote another review and this is after I finished the review but before it went online. I wonder if when your rating changes it changes gradually.
Customer Reviews: 102
Top Reviewer Ranking: 29,111
Helpful Votes: 103

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Menards 60 Lumen 1 W flashlight

It was a freebie I got a year ago as a birthday present from Menards. Every year they send me a card with a coupon for a free something in it. Last year was this flashlight. This year it is a multibit screwdriver with LED light. I have not gone to pick it up yet. Appears to be SKU 5751017 on their web site. I don't have the packaging anymore so I don't know for sure.

Long Prairie Trail Scouting Report 5-12-12

Wilma and I were coming back from Rush Creek along route 173, so I decided it would be a good chance to do a little scouting on the Long Prairie Trail. Wilma and I have hiked the far western section between Caledonia Road and Roland Olson Forest Preserve previously. It is a 14 mile long trail so doing it all in one chunk would be close to 30 miles round trip, so it is doubtful we would do that. But, we could do it in more manageable chunks. It is getting kind of warm for Wilma now, so probably we won't get to it until fall.

I just wanted to take a look. We come this way pretty regularly as Fran's relatives live to the east.

Capron - looking NE where the trail crosses East Street.
Capron - looking SW where the trail crosses East Street.
Capron - looking SW where the trail crosses Route 173. Note picnic shelter along trail. I don't know if you can park next to the shelter there or not. Being in town though, there is probably a lot of on street parking.
Caledonia - the trail head here has a nice map. It is located about 1/2 a block south of where the trail crosses route 173. The map does not show Brown Conservation Park which is at Caledonia Road. There is a relatively new trail head located there with bathrooms, parking, a well, and a picnic shelter.
This is the trail head viewed from the SW. The sign next to the picnic table has the map on it. No bathrooms here.
I did not investigate the trail heads in Poplar Grove or at County Line Road. Maybe some other time.

Rush Creek Conservation Area 5-12-12

This is part of the McHenry County Conservation District, 26 miles away from where we live, so not all that far. Wilma and I had a good time here. This trail map was extracted from a brochure found on their web site. They also had boxes for trail maps at both the horse parking trail head and the hiking trail head. I did not check the box at the horse parking area, but there actually were trail maps in the hiking trail head map box. There were numbered posts we encountered on the part of the hiking trail we were on. None on the horse trail. The trail marker numbers are not depicted on either the map I got off the web site or the one at the trail head. In any case, the trails were all well marked.
We did the whole horse trail and part of the hiking trail. I had planned to do most of the hiking trail but it was getting late and I was not sure exactly how long it would take or when the park actually closed, and did not want to get locked in. In retrospect, it probably would have added only about 15 minutes to our hike to catch most of the rest of the hiking trails instead of walking what we did twice to save a little time. Base Camp claims 7.5 miles. Seems about right.
The park seems in good repair. We only encountered two other people hiking - no horses. And the hikers we saw were coming back off the hiking trail after we were already back. We did see a few people fishing when we came in.

It is a nice place. Seems well maintained. We saw a deer. Lots of creek time for Wilma. The horse trail has three places you have to ford the creek. I did not have my waterproof boots so got a bit wet. No big deal. It was in the upper 60s and I was in no danger from wet feet. 

The creek crossings are at 3:55,  8:20, and 9:10.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ray-O-Vac Platinum Charger and Battery Update

From a review I wrote at Amazon.
I bought this package at Walmart back in Sept or Oct of 2011. I was just tired of paying for lithium batteries for my camera. I use my camera a fair amount to make video records of my hiking excursions with the beagle for my blog, among other things.
I have not used the AAA batteries at all, so this review is oriented toward the AA batteries contained in the package along with the package of AA batteries I later purchased to supplement those that came with the charger.

Believe it or not, there are a bunch of people who spend a lot of time with very expensive chargers and very expensive batteries that claim this charger and these batteries are not "good enough". Maybe they are right. I have recharged them dozens of times and never had any issues. No doubt I have saved my self the cost of the Lithium batteries they replaced many times over by now. So as far as I am concerned, it has worked out pretty well for me.
I suspect some of the concerns the detractors raise may well have an element of truth to them. And if I were willing to spend 5X what I paid for this package to resolve the fairly minor issues they raise, I might do so. But I am not. One cannot avoid the cost aspect in determining value. It is a critical part of the equation.
I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 for two reasons. One is that it can only charge batteries in pairs. Since my use is for a camera and a GPS that always use them in pairs, this is not that big of a deal. But, if you use batteries one at a time, it might be an issue to you.
The second reason is that I think the suggestion that it recharges batteries a little faster than it should for optimum battery life is probably true. There is a bit of a marketing thing going on here I suspect. Trading battery life for a faster recharge cycle may be an attractive proposition to some people. It is not to me. I just plug them in over night and the charger shuts off when it is done. So even if it took twice as long to charge up, it would not matter much to me.

Belleville ICW Boots Update

Update to
[copied from a review I did at Amazon]
I got mine elsewhere back in Sept of 2010. I was looking for something to go hiking and walking in during the winter months that had some good ankle support. Mine are Bellevilles. I don't know if there is all that much difference in brands. The instructions said not to wear them below 10 degrees F. It only rarely gets that cold around here, and if it gets a whole lot colder than that I am staying inside. I know I have worn them down to around 5 degrees F. I never found my feet getting cold, but I was in nearly constant motion and that makes a difference.  
My boots came with two pairs of booties. I had never worn boots with this style of booties before, but they work well. My feet seem to sweat a lot even in the winter and the sweat wicks right into the booties and away from my feet. 
I usually wear them with a pair of thin liner socks and boot socks. I find them pretty comfortable, if maybe a little heavy.  
I love the ankle support. My ankles appreciate it too, especially on rough terrain. 
I typically wear them on my daily 2+ mile walks with the beagle once it gets cool enough to warrant doing so, and on our hiking excursions during that part of the year. They have proven to be water proof, as evidenced by multiple creek crossings. Once, just to prove to myself that they were waterproof, I stood in a creek in about 5 or 6 inches of water for several minutes. The longest hike I wore them on was just under 12 miles.  
The booties have developed some holes in them over time, but I have not bothered to replace them. 
I sometimes wear them in warmer weather if I go hiking someplace where I know I will be in a lot of water, as my other boots I wear hiking are not water proof. 
The tread is surprisingly good in the typical snow, ice, slush and mud I run across. I also wear them while shoveling snow and operating the snow blower.  
I have worn them 2 full seasons now. I am pretty sure they have well over 1000 miles on them, and they are still going strong. No unusual wear patterns on the soles. No failures at all. Even the original laces are still going strong. 
I have pictures on my blog, but Amazon does not appear to allow links to such things.

Friday, May 11, 2012

More road construction updates

5-11-12 Yesterday the stripe crews were out. They put in the double yellow lines and other paint markings on the street and the side streets.
You can see here where the final layer of asphalt has been added to the side streets. The blacktop is now at the same level as the concrete gutters.
Most of the dirt that was removed has been replaced and grass seed has been put out. It started to sprout and in many areas is growing pretty well, although the weather turned a bit cool the last few days and has discouraged any new sprouts for now.