Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Miscellaneous Thoughts, Tips, and Recommendations:

First, some humor:
Things that don't make sense (WTF?):
a.  Pandora seems like the most annoying music service ever dreamed up  Because it is not allowed to play a song that is specifically requested, it will play every song EXCEPT the one you want to hear.  WTF? 

b.  I have a friend named Tom.  He is a brilliant guy, who earned a PhD in linguistics, knows all kinds of computer stuff, and has osme of the least common sense that I know.  One of the things that he bragged about, the last time I saw him, was that he was one of the first people to sign up for Match.com.  As a result, they gave him a free lifetime membership.  Hey Match.com -- does this not show little faith in your product?  WTF? 

c.  If you call a restaurant and order take-out, then you pay once you get there and your food is ready.  Why, then, are you forced to pay in advance if you order takeout at a restaurant in person?  This puts the customer at a real disadvantage.  The restaurant can take all the time it wants, because it already has the customer's money.  I've had this happen to me several times now.  I've ordered takeout in person at a restaurant, been forced to pay upfront, and then sat around for 40 minutes waiting for the food that was promised in 20 minutes.  Now, if I am in this situation, I sit in my car or call from the sidewalk outside the restaurant, and order using my phone.  It solves the problem.  If the order takes too long, I can always leave.  I've never had to do this, but I also don't see why I should have to pay upfront when ordering in person.  

1.  Ship USPS First Class with Tracking:
Let's say you wish to ship something via USPS First Class Mail (which is a great service!).  As an individual, you can't get tracking of First Class Mail packages by going to the post office or putting stamps on the package.  You also can't ship packages over 13 ounces via First Class Mail. 

If you use Paypal, however, you can send packages up to 15 oz via First Class Mail, and those packages provide tracking.  I love shipping packages using USPS since I just put the package in my mailbox. 

Here's a link to use to ship USPS using Paypal, even for non-Ebay transactions:

2.  Buying replacement bulbs for old flashlights, and saving 10,000%! 
I have an old underwater flashlight that I now use for getting my dogs out of the backyard at night, and the bulb blew out.  Here's what the user guide said:

"In an emergency, use a common PR-size bulb approximating 10V in place of the high-intensitybulb #0042.58.  Any standard PR base bulb for batteries can be used." 

Online, the replacement bulb for the light was over $11 plus shipping.  That was far more than I wanted to pay for an old flashlight to be repaired. 

I went to Bulbtown online and called them.  Here's what I learned. 

The "standard PR base bulb" was the very common P13.5S base (flange is 13.5mm).  Bulbtown has videos for their PR bulbs showing the measurements which are useful and easy to understand. 

Bulbtown had various PR-type bulbs.  They all had the same physical dimensions, but they differed in their voltage rating. 

I ordered the following bulbs, all of which were about 10 cents each:

PR16: rated at 12.5volts.  Bulbtown stated that this would be a bit dim. 
PR20: rated at 8.63V.  Bulbtown stated that this would be brighter.  The customer service representative there stated that it is fine to have 8-C cells (12V) powering a bulb rated 8.63V. 

The rep recommended Krypton bulbs for my flashlight.  I ordered:
KPR12 - 12V
KPR18 - 7.2V

When I got the bulbs, I put the halogen PR20 in the flashlight, and it worked fine.  I have not tried the others. 

I hope that this post saves you some money the next time you need to replace a bulb in a flashlight.  Ten cents for a bulb!  Shipping did add $8, and I was disappointed in how long it took Bulbtown to get the items to me.  They waited a week for some reason, then blamed a hurricane for the second week that it took to get to me.  I looked up the timeline, however, and they had my order for a full week before the hurricane hit.  The order ended up taking about 20 days to reach me from the time I placed the order. 

3.  Tower Inflatable Standup Paddleboards are AWESOME: 
I love my Tower inflatable standup paddleboard.  It weighs only about 30 pounds and is very heavy duty.  It's made from material that is similar to what is used in inflatable boats.  I have an Avon inflatable boat in my garage that is over 30 years old, and it still works fine. I used it for diving in the mid and late 1980s around Monterey, San Diego, and in Baja -- and the material is just fine.  The paddleboard should be around for a long time also. 

I liked the first Tower so much that I bought a second one.  Here's a link to what I bought:

Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer Inflatable 9'10" SUP Package
Price is $699 on the Tower site, but less on Amazon. 

Tower's customer support is awesome.  I took my paddleboards to camp at a river with low water levels, joining some old friends with kids.  They all had plastic kayaks, which weighed much more and took two people to carry.  My Tower SUP was much lighter, by contrast, and made it down most of the river, even in water less than six inches deep.  I did take out the back fin, and the SUP did get stuck in some very shallow areas where the kayaks were able to float past. 

I (well, my friend Doug) had to hack through a metal screw fitting that held the back fin in place on the paddleboard.  I ended up misplacing the back fin, and I needed a new fin screw also.  I wrote Tower, described the situation -- and they generously sent me a new back fin and screw.  The new screw is plastic, so it won't corrode like the old metal one.  I am a happy camper and a fan of Tower Paddle Boards

Moose, our chocolate lab, likes the SUP particularly well and could hardly be persuaded to get off -- even with the temptation of a thrown tennis ball, which normally gets him to do ANYTHING. 

Oh, I almost forgot the most important point to this post.  The great thing about the Tower SUPs is that you can deflate them for travel, and inflate them once you get to your destination.  Tower supplies a hand pump, but I would discourage anyone from using the hand pump to inflate a SUP.  I tried using their hand pump to pump up a Tower SUP in my basement, over a period of several days.  It was exhausting, and I never got there.  I had to give up!

I then did quite a bit of research.  The first thing to know is that a $15 foot pump from Target or Walmart will NOT do the job.  These pumps are designed to inflate plastic inner tubes and other toys, to about 2 pounds per square inch (psi).  Tower SUPs need to be inflated so that they are very rigid, which is a bit over 10 psi. 

Most consumer hand and foot pumps, and electrical pumps, are designed to fill up toys to about 2 psi max (plastic Intex inner tubes, air mattresses, etc).  I went to West Marine and bought a professional foot pump that is used to pump up inflatable boats.  This pump works great; it takes about five minutes to pump up a Tower SUP to rigidity.  It cost about $70. 

There were some electrical pumps that might work -- but NOT the Coleman ones from Target.  Any pump must be able to pump up to 10 psi. 

Here are some pumps I found that will likely work to inflate a Tower SUP.  I have only tried the foot pump:

WEST MARINE: Bravo Foot Pumps: I believe that I bought the heavy-duty one for $69.  The PSI rating of these pumps is not in the specifications on the website, unfortunately -- but I did get mine from West Marine, and it is yellow and gray -- and works great. 

Sevylor 12 Volt 15 PSI SUP and Water Sport Pump:
The listing states: High-pressure pump inflates up to 15 psi for rigid SUP boards

There's an adapter that allows the use of portable air compressors that can go to very high PSIs, as much as 150 psi.  I use one of these portable air compressors to pump up my car tires.  This adapter valve allows one of these pumps to fill your SUP.   However, I imagine that you have to be super careful to watch that you don't overinflate your SUP, and I also imagine that these portable air compressors won't put out enough air and may overheat before the job is done. 

Slingshot SUP High Pressure Inflator Valve: about $25

Here's a good post on pumps for SUPs:

4.  Tip on Charging a Garmin Using a Car Charger and Regular USB Cable Rather Than the Official Garmin Charger: 
 If you have a Garmin nuvi (car navigation unit) and have tried to charge it with a standard mini USB cable, it may not work.  I tried this a few times in my car with a car charger, and at my office off a wall charger.  The Garmin would go into a "connected to computer" mode and would not go into its regular driving mode.  I discovered that the charger must put out 2 amps -- the same as a charger for an iPad.  Most car and wall chargers put out only 500 milliamps, not enough.  Find a USB charger that puts out 2A, and this will charge the Garmin as well as let it operate normally while charging. 

5.  Studentmags.com is a great site to get a newspaper or magazine subscription:
I have always had trouble trying to figure out how to do things related to my Wall Street Journal subscription.  Their account website is horrific, terrible, impossible to use. 

I gave up in frustration and subscribed (getting a great deal in the process) at

This website and their customer service is awesome!  They offer subscriptions to all kinds of magazines and newspapers, and give great deals.  Most subscriptions are for the general public. 

When we went on vacation in July, we simply called studentmags, spoke to a nice,  helpful customer service representative, and VOILA!  she was able to look up our WSJ account number and suspend delivery while we were on vacation.  She even extended our subscription for the days that we were gone.  That's the kind of customer service that is rare to find these days.  www.studentmags is AWESOME! 

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