Fall Wallpaper 2013

Fall Grass Red PandaThis 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

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 SystemWith 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 😉

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Summer 2013 Alternate

Shima and Ms Heart Kindan No Ai Grande
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.

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Summer 2013

 

Shiro Natsuyasumi 2013 GrandeAs it is already well into summer I thought that it was time to make my new custom coffee tumbler insert. I originally had an idea for a summer coffee tumbler during the rainy season but it was a bit rain-specific, so I decided to go with a new purely summer theme now that it is hot and sunny pretty much everyday. As it has been over 35°C and sunny most days lately the beach was an appealing and appropriate setting for the new cup. I doubt that I will make it to a nice beach this year, but even if I don’t I can live vicariously through my coffee tumbler 😉

As usual I have prepared a download here for anyone who would like to print it out and try it in their own grande cup. Cheers!
 

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Spring 2013

Shiro-Sakura-2013-Grande

 

Spring is almost upon us here in Tokyo so I thought that it was time to move on from winter and embrace spring. To reflect this I have designed a new grande cup liner for my custom coffee tumbler to add a bit more of a spring feel. I have also designed a tall size version for those with tall size cups. Although I am not super fond of pink it really did work best as the background for the most popular spring flower here: 桜 (Japanese cherry). To tell the truth, I think we have more cherry blossoms in my hometown in Canada than one would typically see in Tokyo, but people in Japan tend to associate cherry blossoms with being a very Japanese thing and the strongest association with the coming of spring. As they tend to bloom here for not much more than a week in each area it can be a bit of a briefly dramatic spectacle. It is a nice time to go to Shinjuku Gyouen (新宿御苑) on a weekday and have a picnic, shoot some photos and relax. Go to a local park on the weekend and you will be lucky if you can sit down never mind picnic.

I think that by the time cherry blossoms have come and gone I will be happy to do another cup design that is not quite so pink 😉

Update: By printing it on 和紙 (Japanese traditional paper) that is slightly off-white I have managed to make it look a bit more classic and a lot less pink!