Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Mod Squad”

The ARB Digital Tire Inflator

Airing back up after a rough trail has just gotten a lot faster, more convenient, and more accurate.

I’ve mentioned this product before, but it’s worth reviewing again for anyone who airs down tires more than occasionally. This post is more video-centric, but you can get more product details here. Most four-wheelers (day-trip rough trail enthusiasts) approach readjusting tire pressures like many campers approach basic no-frills overnighting. They rough it, and enjoy jettisoning convenience. They poke something/anything into the tire valves to let air out, and periodically check pressure with a pocket tire gauge. Then to air back up at the end of the trail, they monitor the built-in gauge on their favorite air pump. Since their vehicles are light and typically use tires that Read more…

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I Had the Cutting Board Blues

The 7-minute video below presents two ways to address kitchen knives that seem to dull too quickly – the Epicurean Cutting Board and the Edge-Mag knife sheath. They are both very good products that are worth their price – except that the Edge-Mag needs an easy mod before it should be put into service. As-is, I can’t recommend it. Modded, it’s a definite winner.

The presentation itself is not a winner, there being two strikes against it. I’ll mention my end of the difficulties below, and save the hardware geekoid aspect for another post. The non-geekoid aspect of the geekoid aspect is simply the toll that age and heavy use take on electronic gizmos. Much like myself, they get cranky and obstinate. They develop quirks. Thus in this video, you’ll notice audio volume changes, tiny pieces of the video missing, and audio going out of sync. I’m working on exploring the issue and getting the bugs out of the process, but whether I will succeed or not is unknown at this point.

The other strike is that I do not particularly enjoy being in front of the camera in the few videos that I create, for reasons that become obvious once you take in the footage. But some presentations for topics become more communicative when a human being is there, yapping at you. It looks more like an honest word-of-mouth recommendation than some kind of paid viral product sales job. I enjoy the creative process of making videos, but I do not enjoy being in them.

From the start, I wondered “Why bother with a video with its setup, capture and editing, when I could just take a few snaps and write that I like these two products?” After all, a writeup is so much easier. And then people will never discover that I pause and say “Umm” a lot when I try to speak while I’m waiting for the next thought to rattle down the pipe. “Why bother” is that video is a realm that I’ve done a few times out of necessity. You’d think that if you can capture stuff in photographs passably well, then capturing them in video surely can’t be much of a difference, right? Nope. There is remarkably little similarity, other than looking through a viewfinder and pressing a button. If you want to get past the home movie stage, it’s a lot more complex and more involved. A really good video never reminds you that it’s a video about something, drawing attention to itself. It just presents its topic, and that’s what you dwell on. I don’t know how easily this skill comes to some people, but as for me, no, I can tell it doesn’t. It requires a different way of thinking and approaching that I’m simply not used to. It also requires a lot more energy and effort, start to finish. But, since I find it interesting and mysterious, thus you are made to suffer for my art, my learning process. I certainly prefer that to my having to suffer for it. So, out they come one by one, here and there. Fortunately for you, you can let them pass by unwatched, and no one’s the wiser. Win/win!

I’ll insert here a loose quote from Martin Scorsese, the noted film director, who I guess has either semi-retired or has a lot of nervous energy. He’s running ads promoting his new course on film directing. I’ve seen it here and there on the Internet. In it, he notes something in his fast, clipped tone, something a lot like, “When you’re starting out at this and have gotten a chance to take on a project, if you watch that day’s footage and don’t become physically ill – and I mean physically ill – then you’re doing something wrong.”

Well, I’ve done some event coverage videos in my former life that I thought were okay for what they were, at the time. Car shows, gymkhanas, road races, mud bogs. Many were merely photo stills with Ken Burns slow-zoom effects and soundtracks, and some were real action videos. Some were a mix of the two. I posted them, proud and happy. Event coverage means that they must be done and posted in a very timely way, so they don’t need to be filmmaking epics. Then on a passing whim, if I watched any one of the “real videos” a few months later, it became obvious that it had problems. I can’t specifically identify a fix to a lot of those problems, but they are certainly there. I can smell the faint stink wandering between capture limitations, editing issues, and sound. Rewatch the same video a year or two later, and it’s an embarrassment. The raw footage is okay – you can only get certain set vantage points at an event with one guy and one camera, after all – but the editing, the way the final presentation comes across, is head-in-hands awful. It’s not that I had learned a lot in the interim, but that I’d finally been able to separate myself from the work enough to be objective.

The difference between me, a guy just goofing around with a camera, and a trained and skilled pro, is that he can see his mistakes the first time he looks at just the raw captures of the day. Me, I’m glad to have gotten anything at all, so my disappointment usually takes months or years after the project has been completed and posted. I may not know how to do a certain part of it better, but I do come to know that something is seriously wrong…eventually. The pieces do not fit, or do not work together to do what I was assuming they did. If nothing else, I want to move that sense of disgust much further forward. Thankfully, I have never recognized enough at any one viewing to become physically ill, despite the stakes being personally quite high for me at the time. But, I do recognize – with considerable delay – that the bulk of video work that I post is at kindergarten level. That’s humiliating of course, but it also makes me want to be able to sense what’s wrong during the process, and see some options on how to address it. These days, I can only do so much with the equipment I have, the energy and time periods that I have available, and the simple types of pieces that I want to do. I don’t even need to get good. I just want to get to that point where I can look at it later with the same viewpoint I had when when I first completed it.

The video above? Well, it’s horrid too, but at least it’s obvious what’s wrong, and what would be needed to fix it: raw footage without glitches in it, more aggressive editing to shorten it up and give it a sense of direction, and certain casting/personnel changes. I’m doing what I can to see what can be done about them, although there aren’t a lot of options for problem #3. Still, as far as I’m concerned, this is progress already – I’m recognizing specific problems during the editing process. Oddly, the whole goal is not to get to where you the viewer enjoy watching any videos that I may churn out while I continue to fumble around with this new-to-me format. That is of course important to me, but when push comes to shove, the absolute priority is that I progress enough in the process such that I’m satisfied with the end product. Unless I like it first, I can’t really hear whatever you might have to say about the effectiveness of the presentation (not the topic itself). Are we having fun yet?

Rock Cut State Park

Picturesque.

Due to the 14-day limit at Chain o’ Lakes State Park, Rock Cut, out near Rockford Illinois, is the only viable alternative for a short stay. But with all the necessary activities and need to get out and about most days, I haven’t seen much of either of these parks, actually. Between that, the heat, and the frequent fronts of rain moving in, taking care of business is usually the order of the day. “Business” that has included seeing good friends, my beloved chilluns and grandchilluns, annual medical checks, and registering a home address change with the entities that I do actual business with.

The drivers license change will have to wait until next year, since they want me to produce mail with the new address on it, which is not easy when you just moved and you’ve selected “paperless” as your preferred receiving mode. I’ll have to remember to turn on the “paper spigots” next February or April at the latest, in order to accumulate mailings from the “proper” kinds of outfits in time for my next arrival. Pity my poor son, who will have to use a laundry basket to store my mail instead of a handy little envelope-sized bin.

Of necessity, life here more resembles a continuation of the Read more…

Cranes, and Stuff

Awww, look at that little guy!

Yesterday began nicely, even though it once again was destined to become hot and humid. I had spotted the crane family you see above days before as they wandered around both the campsites and the shallower water areas. This shot as taken just as I was leaving for an appointment in a nearby town. As photos go, it’s a miserable one to be sure, but who knows when I’d get another chance?

There are snapping turtles in the area too – one lady recently found one that had been run over by a car, put it in her trunk, and hauled it back up to the entrance shack, where she was encouraged to take it to the Read more…

The Americanization of Overlanding

Like a modern-day Norman Rockwell painting, this photo has every possible “Adventuring” cliche packed in. Photo Source: Expedition Portal

Travel has always been popular, but ever since the 1920s and 1930s, world travel picked up as the thing to do, if you had the funds. Hollywood glamorized it as a way that sophisticated people could take in other interesting cultures in exotic locales. Whether by ship, by train or even by aircraft in the later years, travel and stories of travel and adventure held a fascination for people unable or unwilling to take on the very considerable challenges that world travel could sometimes impose. Modified cars and trucks tended to be used only for well-funded “expeditions”.

World travel tends to be very different today, because the world is very different. One has to look hard for areas that have not been heavily Westernized such that such that the original dress, diet and culture that were once so alluring have been largely erased. With business, political, and military interests driving colonialism and the forced installation of accommodating governments, conditional foreign aid payments or covert operations where direct force would appear a little too obvious, a sense of moral and even racial superiority, plus tourism itself, where the clientele expect Western accommodations, diet and conveniences after they’ve viewed what they came to see, and individual corporations striving to change the local culture enough to accommodate them – these have all taken their toll over the years. In the end, many of the culturally-based things that people go to see are now recreations maintained just for the sake of the local tourism industry. Once authentic, they are now museum performances. Any authentic vestiges of the culture are often only viewable by making the effort to get away from the areas of even moderate development.

World travel today isn’t so much “travel” as “arrival”. Whatever romance or inconveniences the slower mode of travel included, those are gone.

World travel in the twentieth century has always been principally based on mass transportation. It still is today. You use it to get to a destination directly, then depart it, explore, and experience. What is today called overlanding is a branch of world travel that dispenses with mass transportation and substitutes getting yourself across the landscape to Point B by way of a personal vehicle. Classical overlanding is planned vehicle-based travel, typically including border crossing(s), making or providing one’s own shelter, and carrying enough food, water and fuel to be able to reach various supply points along the planned route. This not being a jaunt from motel and restaurant to motel and restaurant, self-reliance is required for both Read more…

Air Spring Day

After an overnight stay at Escapees North Ranch in Congress, Arizona (a judicious stop to shower, do laundry, take on water and get rid of trash for $7.50), I made my way to Nichols AutoFab in Prescott to have some air springs installed on the rear suspension of the Mighty Furd. Recommended by my Four Wheel Camper dealer Adventure Trailer, AutoFab has a shop and a couple of bays packed into what is the most claustrophobic hole in the wall mixed-use shop mall I’ve ever seen. The limited parking lot for the group was claustrophobic for the Mighty Furd, anyway.

In a repair bay intended mainly for Jeeps, the Intrepid needed a cautious backing up.

Prescott is an interesting town nestled within the Prescott National Forest at an elevation of 5,600′, measured at whatever point they consider this burg’s nexus to be. The general landscape for the town is challenging, requiring either that the roads follow valleys or paths along forested hillsides, or that massive walls be built beside the newer multi-lane roads to keep back the earth and rock that they short-cut through. With a population of just 40,000 people, the terrain turns the city into a genuine sprawler, each home and business finding a Read more…

Equipment Follow-Up

The Evelo Aurora, fitted for an errand run.

This here’s a minor post on the e-bike and the printer, just to indicate how things are working out for those who might be considering adding these items to their Squandered Resources Arsenal.

The indications of a fading e-bike battery is becoming confirmed. I rode the 4 miles to town and back yesterday, although the total mileage actually expanded to over 14 miles. The principal casualty was of course my posterior, since it takes regular outings to condition same for longer rides. That hasn’t happened over the last 9 months or so. I’ve been walking. Despite the special Ergon grips, my Read more…

Gags, Humor, and Solar Power

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

I recently managed to replace the misbehaving Outback SmartHarvest 20A MPPT solar charge controller with a proper Morningstar controller, and now all is right with the world. The Outback was exceptionally naughty right out of the box, and its replacement was no better. The USA office of Outback appeared to be manned only with sales types and customer service reps, with no technical staff on board. The sole solution seemed to be trying another unit. So I did, but opted for the Sunsaver. Since I could not in good conscience sell or even give the SmartHarvest away, it is now residing in the local landfill, where it belongs.

With Morningstar’s remote temperature sender attached to one of my batteries, the Sunsaver now operates in tandem with their TriStar MPPT 45A. The Tristar handles everything coming in from the 360W roof panels, while the Sunsaver serves to feed power in from the 200W ground panels via the external rear wall plug that comes standard with the Four Wheel camper. (A simple internal wiring harness change was needed to feed both of these units to the same battery pack for my installation.) Four Wheel uses the less expensive Read more…

Traction Jackson

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn't make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn't from lack of trying!

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn’t make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn’t from lack of trying!

[This post is a long one, so you may want to read some and return later. I do not follow the convention of breaking it up into its components, since each of those components interweave with each other to some degree. When the overall topic is finding traction, I’d just as soon publish an article that can serve as a reference, than shotgun the thing just so I can get more web traffic, with the hope that you will consider subsidizing my lunacy. (That comes later, after I’ve established my empire. But don’t worry, I won’t be sending in Brownshirts or anything, for intimidation. They’ll be more like Desert Sage-Shirts, or possibly Taupeshirts… Camo has been SO overdone!) Thus if you have an interest in this traction topic, you can saw your way through. And if you don’t care to infect yourself with it, you won’t be subjected by its different parts for weeks.]

A frequent question I come across among campers in relatively small camping vehicles is “Do I need four-wheel drive?” If you’ve already been camping for awhile and have established the types of places you prefer, the answer is already apparent either way. If you are either an armchair camper planning to get out there someday, or already camp but want to expand the types of places that you drive through or to, the answer can be more elusive.

I’ve been working on this particular topic for well over a year, and the end result is markedly different than the start. I’ve dumped it and started over a couple of times in an attempt to get down to the nitty gritty of it. It started out as a review of all the different types of 4×4 driveline systems as well as tire types and their applicability to different terrains. I found that epic type of presentation to be more overwhelming and boring than helpful. So if you think this article is bad, you should have read its predecessor. While I consider it essential to understand certain basics of how your vehicle reacts Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Scan & Print

Primera Trio with its cover open.

Primera Trio with its cover open.

If there’s one thing I quietly agonized over while setting up the Intrepid, it was what to do about scanning and printing. There have been times when I’ve needed to receive PDF forms which can’t be edited on the computer, so they must be printed and filled out by hand (and perhaps signed) and then either be mailed, or scanned and emailed back. These tend to center around either medical forms, or such things as fishing licenses, which then need to be printed out and carried with me. This can be a problem in the boonies. The vexing thing is that printing and/or scanning isn’t a frequent thing, so once you figure it’s worth the money and all-important storage space, then you need to decide whether you really need both capabilities, and whether you really need to be able to handle letter-size sheets.

Naturally, I researched the usual compact printer solutions. They tended to be rather large, and my available space to stow them is very limited. Adding in the need for scanning complicated this further. In my experience, inkjet printers don’t do well with inactivity – the cartridges dry up and go gimpy, then it’s a battle with a wet paper towel. I looked at thermal transfer, dye-sublimation (sub dye) and laser printers as alternatives, and couldn’t Read more…

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