Fall Wallpaper 2013

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Fall Grass 1024x640 Fall Wallpaper 2013 Red Panda 1024x640 Fall Wallpaper 2013This fall I did not get any good photos of changing leaves in 2013 as the weather was not really right for it so I have been using these two photos I took as my wallpaper this fall. The panda photo is actually over a year old, but it is just so nice!

If you click on an image it will open at full size. After the image loads, right-click and download the wallpaper. As they are quite large (3200×2000 pixels) they might take a few seconds to load on slower connections.

My Solar Power Setup

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I have always been interested in alternative power, and my interests have particularly focussed on solar power. Over the last few years I have managed to get my solar power setup working pretty efficiently and have managed to move a lot of my small power requirements off the grid. I would love to move everything off the grid, but that is just not realistic in a normal rental apartment in Tokyo.

My Solar System 791x1024 My Solar Power SetupWith my current setup I find that I can charge most of my small devices using solar energy. I am currently charging my iPhone, GoPro 2, Eneloop batteries (used in various things), Knog Blinder Road 3 and Blinder Rear lights, Garmin 800, and my DSLR batteries. I do occasionally charge my iPad as well but it really draws too much power to be able to charge it entirely off solar while charging my phone everyday.

So, as you can see, I am by no means off the grid but a lot of my convenience devices, all of my electronic bike gear and my cameras are charged with solar. As for emergency use, assuming a moderate number of sunny days I would be able to keep enough lights, a radio, iPhones and other little bits running pretty much indefinitely. Along side a gas stove, a good supply of water, sufficient food and emergency toilet supplies I would be reasonably comfortable in the short term as long as I could stay at or near my apartment.

What is my setup? Well, I am running 3 portable solar panels (2 Goal Zero Nomad 7s and a Nomad 13) in series for a theoretical total of 27 watts. I really expect no where near that output in anything but ideal conditions. I have a Goal Zero Yeti 150 solar generator, which has slightly upwards of 150Wh of power storage and a supplementary 10.4Ah Li-ion battery pack with 2 USB outputs. All together it has cost me about $450 over the last few years for the hardware. I find that using the sun to trickle charge the Yeti 150 and then using it to charge the Li-ion battery pack works pretty well. That way I can top off my Yeti 150 regularly with good run of sunny days while using the Li-ion battery pack for my daily iPhone and small device charging needs. I very rarely lose any solar power that my panels are pulling in through this setup. The only time I would lose any potential power is if I were to go on a vacation of some kind and be away from home for 5 days or so. Even then I would come home to nice full batteries!

As for the charging time for the system, it seems to take anywhere between 12-30 hours to charge the Yeti 150. I am generally using the panels behind glass in my room which really cuts down on efficiency. Luckily, the windows in typical apartments here in Japan are thin, single-pane and do not appear to have any UV or other coatings. My apartment bedroom window is facing 165°S so the panels can get direct sun exposure from sunrise until around 11am or so. I do find that even on cloudy days my panels pull some charge but really not enough to do much more than charge 2 AA batteries in a morning.

I do hope to have a proper solar system in place one day, but for now I will just make the best of what I’ve got icon wink My Solar Power Setup

Timbuk2 100th Anniversary Tour de France Messenger

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Timbuk2 Tour de France 2013 Limited Messenger Bag Timbuk2 100th Anniversary Tour de France MessengerI have a fairly long history of buying Timbuk2 bags. Although I typically use a small custom messenger as my daily bag I do have a need for a larger bag to carrying my laptop and extra gear on occasion. For quite a while I have not owned a medium-sized bag and was looking around to get a new one. While shopping with Yoko we ran across the Timbuk2 100th Anniversary Tour de France Messenger Bag in a department store here in Tokyo and it got me to thinking. Hmmm… to new messenger bag or not to new messenger bag. Yoko solved my dilemma by buying it for me as a really early birthday present! I, of course, was very happy to take it home. They actually gave it to me in the store in an even larger shopping bag (huh?) instead of asking me if I needed one, but after leaving the store I soon stuffed the shopping bag and the small messenger I was carrying into my shiny new bag and continued wandering around with Yoko.

I don’t feel that there is much I can add to the many, many reviews of this series of bags that has not already been said, but I will just run through a few main points that pop to my mind.

  • This specific bag was originally limited to a run of somewhere around 100 bags but was later expanded due to popularity (sometimes a good business practice).
  • It is still a limited edition bag and although it does not really have and specific features not available on other bags, it does have the colour stripes that move out of the typical 1/3 panel on the right side, as well as having a fun “VIVE LE TOUR” label as part of the typical Timbuk2 label/blinky light mount.
  • It is made of lined ballistic nylon that I have found to be very durable and water-resistant over many years. It also has their typical cam buckle on the shoulder strap that allows you to have two quickly accessible lengths that I have found very useful when I have used the bag for riding.
  • It includes a plain black shoulder strap, but I have never really had much discomfort without the extra shoulder padding unless I have a rather extreme amount of weight in my bag.
  • Internally it features an internal divider at the back of the bag that I find useful for holding my laptop (in my friendly Mujjo MacBook Sleeve), my iPad or just some papers as necessary.
  • It also has a horizontally accessible front pocket that is still easy to open and get into when the bag is closed, especially nice on those rainy days.
  • Along with my custom-made padded camera insert it is a great choice for going out on those friendly photo shoots as well!

Overall, I would say that it is a very nice bag for bike, train or foot commuting and seems to have the qualities that generally make Timbuk2 a good buy for the long haul.

*The large shopping bag mentioned has since been used as a paper recycling bag so it was actually useful before it got recycled.

Hakusan Shrine Nerima Festival 2013

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Hakusan Shrine Festival Hakusan Shrine Nerima Festival 2013It is August here in Japan and that means that it is now festival season. There are many types of festivals, some for religious reason, some for sporting events and others just to blow fireworks up. Not really being one for large crowds of packed sweaty trains, I tend to avoid most of the big festivals in Tokyo but I still enjoy seeing the lights and other arrangements made to liven things up. Last night while Yoko and I wandered towards home we noticed that one of the local shrines, Hakusan Shrine Nerima (練馬区の白山神社) was just shutting down for the night. I liked having a chance to just enjoy the beautiful lanterns in peace.
 

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Summer 2013 Alternate

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Shima and Ms Heart Kindan Grande 1024x724 My Custom Coffee Tumbler   Summer 2013 Alternate
This custom coffee tumbler liner is not an entirely new design but is actually a refurbished version of a liner I made quite a number of years ago. I had originally designed it on Corel Draw but as I have been using Illustrator for the last few years I ported it over. In transferring it I lost the original text and some of the graphic details, but I think I have nicely recreated the missing bits from memory. As it is summer themed I thought that I would publish it now for those cat lovers out there as my cup liners so far have been a bit dog-centric. I hope you like it!

You can download the printable PDF for grande cups here.