Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce in the Garage


I love this picture of my GTV in the garage. I just drove it 170 miles (275 km) over Mount Laguna this morning; that's my regular run to exercise the car. I try to do that at least monthly.
I drive it with my earplugs in and the radio off. It's great to be out there with no distractions, just the steering wheel, the pedals and the road! Forza Alfa!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

"Fast" guys: Crossing the Center Line?

Oops, there is a car coming! In this still taken from a video, the driver has crossed the center line when an oncoming car appears. He does return to his lane, but his recovery appears to force him wide as he exits the corner.

I’ve recently seen a few driving videos where the driver crosses the double yellow center line. My reaction is always… WTF?

The idea seems to be that the driver can go faster by straightening the curve. This is a racing concept for a driver trying to go as fast as possible. (Of course, it isn't legal, but I won't get into that here.)

On public roads, I know some drivers think that if they can see ahead to the next corner and the road is clear, there is no harm in crossing the center line of the road. So they play at racing and cross the center line when they are trying to be “fast”.

But… I have always considered this to be bad form, less fun and dangerous for other drivers (or at least impolite). Please let me explain:

Style and form: 
On the street, no one is truly racing or on a time trial, so there is no real motivation to straighten the corners by crossing the center line. The goal isn’t to get to the destination the quickest, or the driver would take the straight superhighway instead of the curvy back road. On the curvy road, the fun is in cornering, and thus tight sharp corners are fun. Also, staying on the narrow path of your single lane is harder, as it is a greater constraint to the driver, and isn’t the challenge the fun part? I always thought that the more curvy the road, the more fun it is! 
Politeness to other drivers 
It may be true that when the driver can see far ahead, through 3 or more corners, that there may be little risk to crossing the center line for the first corner. But many cross the center line when they can only see the corner they are approaching and the next corner beyond… and this is a true problem for other oncoming drivers. An oncoming driver may come around a corner and find the violating driver across the center line. While there may be plenty of time and space for the violating driver to return to their lane, think of the oncoming driver! That driver doesn’t know what the violating driver will do and there is at least a moment of fear and confusion for them. And that fear and confusion can result in dangerous choices on their part.
Many times, I have come around a corner to find an oncoming car partially in my lane. A few times the oncoming car has been completely in my lane! It’s always a real scare and a concern. What will that driver do? Do they see me? Are they in control? Will they get out of my lane? Or are they going too fast to return to their lane? This experience of being the innocent and frightened oncoming driver has taught me to be polite myself. And thus my personal rule: I don’t cross the center line just to straighten a corner. I have the skill to stay in my own lane, and I can enjoy that challenge.

Another point, imagine two drivers heading toward each other are both crossing the center line. Now you have both drivers in a conundrum! If you are a "center line crosser", are you trusting that you are only driver doing this, and that you won’t encounter an oncoming driver doing the same?

Crossing the center line on public roads isn't an "advanced fast driver technique", it is cutting the course: a dangerous cheat.

Here is my advice: If you cross the center line when driving, try not doing it for a while. And ask yourself, why am I motivated to cross the center line? Is it truly “more fun” to drive that way? Or is it perhaps a lazy habit, because you don’t actually want to do the driving work to follow your designated lane completely through the corner? Or is “going faster”, just a daring exercise to see which driver can cut the corners more, effectively taking the shortest shortcut? What is your personal motivation to cut the corner by crossing the center line, and is it really more fun? I suspect if you stop doing it for a while, and concentrate on all your fun while still remaining in your lane, you may arrive at your destination a few seconds later, but you will have enjoyed the drive just as much and you can be satisfied you haven’t scared any other drivers in the process.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Oil Filter Cutter



Somehow I convinced myself to buy an expensive oil filter cutter.

The purpose of this thing is to see what's in your old filter after you swap in a new one. I also wanted to see inside two different manufacture's filters to compare their construction.

Looking around the web, I saw most liked the Longacre cutter... but I found one made by "Joes Racing Products" that seemed like a nice design to me.

It really is a nicely made tool.

Worked great!




Thursday, June 27, 2019

Tar Topper


I always thought these Tar Topper battery covers seemed like a silly idea. I've always just bought a plain black battery and removed the stickers. And sometimes put a Magneti Marelli sticker on top for the fun of it.

But... I needed a new battery and bought a Tar Topper cover to go with it just to see. I picked the red tops to match my car.
The Tar Topper itself is just a really thin and cheesy piece of plastic.

But, it looks pretty good!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Johnson 250-888-2 Mic with a Anytone AT-5888UV-III


Well, the above diagram about covers the topic! Sadly, the results were disappointing. The mic works well if you hold it about 1 in from your lips, but has poor audio at typical desktop distance of about 12 to 16 inches. I'll have to come up with a way to add a little gain to it...
Likely a little pre-amp. Or maybe I'll swap the innards with those from a Turner +2.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Anytone AT-5888UV-III Tri-Band FM Transceiver Review


I picked up this Anytone AT-5888UV-III Tri-Band FM Transceiver about 2 weeks ago. I purchased it on Amazon, but the same unit is available from the seller on eBay too. Note a very similar two band unit exists, but that this is the tri-band "III" unit.
Note this is a amateur radio, or ham radio. As such, in the USA, you need a Amateur Radio License from the FCC to legally transmit with it.

So far I love the thing.

I'm a relatively new ham, so take that into consideration. Most of my experience has been with a Kenwood handheld and a BTech DMR handheld (essentially identical to the popular Anytone AT-D878UV). I'm good technically, but have limited experience evaluating ham radios.

I really wanted a tri-band radio, 2m, 1.25m and 70cm. There were only a couple choices, and this looked like the best option to me. Right now I'm using it with a mag mount mobile antenna on a cookie sheet in my garage, but it will get hooked to a rooftop tri-band Comet CX-333 antenna soon.

A few random comments:

Note this radio is similar in design to the Yaesu FT-8900R, TYT TH-9800 and Alinco DR-638T and I strongly suspect they all come from the same factory.

Everything works and I have been getting very nice signal reports.

I've played with much of the menu system and everything seems to work as it should, but programming through the software is easier. It's also a pretty complicated device and as usual, the manual doesn't always do a great job explaining things. The Bank, Hyper and Limit memories can be confusing and are not really explained in the manual. But the Yaesu FT-8900R manual does provide a little description of these, you may wish to take a look at that manual, from the Yaesu website (the Yaesu buttons and numbers of memories are different, but the concepts are the same).

For a moment I thought I was having some selectivity issues from two repeaters right next to each other in frequency, but that ended up not being true. So far so good.

Note that the radio comes with an updated manual, the older manuals I have found online have some inaccuracies.

The "TV/SQL" button has nothing to do with TV, it is used for memory bank switching and squelch (long press is squelch). Other versions of this radio offered some TV function and had a dedicated TV output but that connector is used for an external speaker with this version of the radio.

I have used the programming software that came with it with good results but it does not have great capability to move channels around. I have also tried the RT Systems software and it works better. Sadly, CHIRP does NOT work with the version (III) of the 5888UV radio.

The fan runs after a couple minutes transmitting and it is a bit louder than I would like. But after using the radio a bit I don't notice it anymore

The unit has speakers on both the top and the bottom. The bottom speaker is the "main" one. You can use the main bottom speaker for all the bands with the top speaker turned off. There is a setting that enables the top/sub and the external speaker together. The second speaker setup kind of strange with some division between UHF and VHF between the speakers. There is also a microphone speaker that can be enabled.

Some tech details:
Claimed output is 50W on 2m, 25W on 1.25m and 40W on 70cm.
Note 1.25m band is only available on the left side of the radio.
The unit also receives 350 - 400MHz on the left side of the radio.

FCC ID sticker:

And here is a copy of the User's Manual:


Monday, March 25, 2019

Too Many Utility Knives: a Comparison of Box Cutters


From left to right:
Top row: OLFA SK-9, OLFA LA-X, Stanley FatMax 10-777, Stanley FatMax Extreme 10-815, Stanley Titan RB 2-10-122
Bottom Row: Sears 9488, Stanley 99E, Sheffield 12113

I personally purchased and tested all these knives. I broke my leg 8 weeks ago, and in my pain killer induced haze and my stir crazy condition, I ordered far too many options!

Note, if you use the links in this post to buy one of the knives I will receive some compensation from Amazon. Frankly, I'm just curious if anyone will actually ever do that!

The Problem:


I've been using "standard" box cutters like the Stanley 99E and Sears 9488 for more than 40 years. And they have been fine and I haven't had much trouble with them. But the last couple years my use of them has changed. Now I frequently use them about once or twice a week to cut down shipping boxes to put them in our recycling container. And I have found two problems. One: changing the blade is a pain because I have to get a screwdriver. Two: we don't always close the blade all the way and leave it dangerously protruding in the drawer, just waiting to nip us when we reach for it. This style knife has multiple detents on the switch that moves the blade back and forth, and with casual use it is just too easy to miss pulling it all the way to the retracted position.


So, I decided to find a better replacement.

The OLFA Knives

The OLFA SK-9
OLFA 1086095 SK-9 Self-Retracting Safety Knife With Tape Slitter


For cutting down boxes, I wanted a knife that is easy to use and automatically retracts. We have found that using regular utility knives like the Stanley 99E, sometimes the knife gets put away with the tip of the blade still extended. This knife is easy to use and solves that problem. The only negative is that it takes special blades. But these blades are made in Japan and easy to change: OLFA 9613 SKB-2/10B Trapezoid Blade, 10-Pack. We've been using this knife for a couple weeks and love it.

The OLFA LA-X
OLFA 1072198 LA-X 18mm Fiberglass Rubber Grip Heavy-Duty Utility Knife



This is a good knife, but maybe not for box cutting. I've never liked snap off blades. I've always been concerned they might snap off at a bad time or fly through the air when snapping off. That said, it's fast to get a new cutting edge. VERY sharp, and requires special OLFA blades: OLFA UltraSharp Black Snap-Off Heavy-Duty Blade. I'll use it for fine work, but I do not recommend it for cutting down boxes.

The Stanley Thumb Wheel Knives


The picture above shows the various style of Stanley thumb wheel knives in the open position.
Thumb dial knives have the advantage that when the dial is tight it holds the blade firmly and the blade doesn't wiggle much. But when the dial is tight, it is tough move the thumb switch that extends and retracts the blade.  (It is possible to move the blade with the thumb screw tightened down, but I do not think it is intended that you use the knife that way.) So these are slow knives to use: loosen the thumb wheel, extend the blade, tighten the thumb wheel. Then when you are done, you have to loosen the thumb wheel, retract the blade, and tighten the wheel again. Really, this is best when you need a tightly held blade and don't need to retract or extend the blade.

The Stanley FatMax 10-777
Stanley 10-777 FatMax Locking Retractable Utility Knife


I do not think this knife is a good occasional box cutter because the thumb wheel prevents extending and retracting the blade. Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.  It also seems expensive (approximately $15 at this moment) for it's construction. On the plus side, it feels very good in my hand!
To switch blades, you have to loosen the thumb wheel all of the way and then you can pry open the handle at the yellow triangle and swing the handle open. It works, but it is awkward. It uses standard utility knife blades.

The Stanley FatMax Extreme 10-815


This thing is hard to find... and I wouldn't use it at a occasional box cutter. But if you need a heavy duty knife, this is the one! Again: Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.
To switch blades, it you open the thumb wheel all the way and there is a spring that automagically rotates the handle open! (You do not have to pry it like the 10-777). Very nice. The blades are held in place with a spring clip so you don't have them rattling around and getting dull. It uses standard utility knife blades.
The construction on the knife if great. All metal construction. Nice castings. Brass thumb wheel. It is really solid, and it's big too, much bigger than the 10-777. If I was cutting roofing or something heavy and making lots of cuts between retractions, this would be my knife. Look for it on eBay from sellers outside the USA.
If I need a heavy duty knife, this is the one I'll grab.

The Stanley Titan RB 2-10-122
Stanley 1-10-550 Knife"Titan" with fixed blade, Silver (this version comes with a holster, which I didn't have to test.)


Almost fish-like in shape! It is up to you if this shape appeals to your hand. I thought it was a bit slippery. Heavy duty, all metal construction, brass thumb wheel. Once again:  Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.
To switch blades you loosen the thumb wheel all the way and flip the handle open on the hinge. Easy enough! Unfortunately the blades are loose inside the handle and rattle, perhaps dulling them.
I just didn't like how this knife felt in my hand.
Note they sell versions of this knife that requires a screwdriver to open (without the brass knob), be careful what you order.

Folding Utility Knives

These have a big following and lots of people love them. 
But personally, I'm not a fan. I carry a folding pocket knife all the time in my pocket, and I'm OK with the operation of opening and closing it. I'm always careful. But for casual use I don't think these are a great idea for someone who doesn't use a knife like this every day.

The Sheffield 12113
Sheffield 12113 One-Hand Opening Lock-Back Utility Knife, Blue

I selected the Sheffield 12113 because it got great reviews and had a mechanism that securely held the blade in place. (I've seen complaints about knives like this with button release blades opening accidentally.) But I found I really disliked this knife: One, the flip open mechanism is just hard someone not familiar with this kind of knife to close safely. Two, see the metal tab that says "OPEN":

That is the latch to release the blade, not to open the knife! Wow, that seems dangerous for a casual user. As someone familiar with these knives I didn't notice that, but the first time my wife went to open it, she started prying on that blade release and I stopped her before an accident could happen.
So, I really do not recommend this knife for casual users. Leave these to the professionals.

Summary - My Choices

For the box cutter that we will keep in the kitchen drawer:

For detailed precision work in the shop:

For heavy duty work:
The Stanley FatMax Xtreme 10-815 Try eBay here.