Guess what? An inexpensive child-proof electrical plug outlet cover makes for a perfect iPhone stand.

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Ahhh, the fresh air. One of the joys of camping — or glamping (glamour camping) — is the mountain (or ocean or lake) air once you step out of the air-conditioned (or heated) mini-condo. So fresh, so clean, so …

Burnt.

Egads. Obviously the failed-chef camper in the site next to me doesn’t have a Cuisinart Digital Temperature Gauge with Color-Changing Display.

Cuisinart digital temperature gauge

This gadget is nothing short of miraculous. I can tell it whether I’m gunning for rare / medium / well done meat, or if I’m cooking poultry. It’ll then display the correct target temperature, depending on the setting. The thermometer itself is at the end of a 3-foot cable. And when I, um, insert the thermometer, it’ll display the actual temp thus far. When the internal temp hits the target temp, the display will change color to inform you that the meat’s, ahem, done.

Folks, I can tell you this right now: this gadget doesn’t vibrate.

Anyway.

I grilled my turkey burgers to perfection using this gadget. Never was this yummy before!

My turkey burgers with Cuisinart temp gauge

This handy gadget even has a magnetic base for affixing to the grill, and has a few other settings and options. I daresay I’ll find out what else it does during my next trip.

Can’t wait. ;-)

(Please check out my other glamping article as well.)

My family and I got a Travel Trailer last year, and we love it. It’s like a condo on wheels. All the comforts of home in the wild.

Travel Trailer

Why go camping if it feels like home and not roughing it? Ah, um, some may argue that we’re glamour-camping – “glamping.” Think of it this way – we wouldn’t have gone into the wilderness otherwise. We wouldn’t have been able to expose our children to the sights and joys of the wilderness (or as close to these as we can manage to) unless it was with the day-to-day comfort of home. Air conditioning to help us sleep, electricity for the coffee machine so that grumpy Daddy gets his daily java, bath / shower so that we can wash off the grime, etc etc.

We’ve already had or scheduled nearly ten camping trips this year. Trips which we wouldn’t have gone on or planned if we didn’t have a travel trailer. So, don’t knock us for wanting to go glamping.

And of course, we gotta buy lots of gadgets and accessories to help us camp – uh – glamp. This blog post is hopefully the first in a series of gadgets I use or yearn after while camping / glamping.

So, here goes …

We have two propane tanks that we use for cooking, heating our hot water, and operating our refrigerator (the latter two especially when not connected to an electrical supply). In the picture above, the two tanks are inside the relatively small white container at the very front end (right side of the pic) on top of the tow hitch.

Our particular travel trailer doesn’t come equipped with a gauge showing us how much propane we’ve got left in these tanks. Last time we asked our service to top off the tanks, we found out the tanks were only fractionally used – and the service technician was like, “why did you ask us to fill these tanks anyway?” Kinda embarrassing for us city folks.

So I resolved to find a low-tech way to measure how much gas I had. Um, that didn’t sound right. How much propane I had left. That sounds better.

Anyway.

I ended up buying a pair of these removable magnetic propane gauges.

These gauges are actually not much more than a magnetic strip that you affix to the side a propane tank. It almost looks like the changing-temperature temperature gauge on a fish tank. Almost.

Next, you microwave a cup of water till it’s steamingly hot. (What, you don’t have a microwave oven while camping? I’m talking about glamping, folks!) Pour it over the side of the propane tank so that the hot water runs over the magnetic gauge. Don’t worry, the gauge won’t be damaged, and the tank won’t explode.

Miraculously (ok, so I’m fishing here), the color of the gauge will change from yellow to orange. After a few seconds, a portion (or all) of the gauge will turn back to yellow, with the portion above the propane line remaining orange. But be quick – the gauge returns to its inert state after approx 30 seconds.


(Image from tolin.cn)

Magic? Nah. Just really cool, like a high school science experiment. And very useful. You can even use this for your barbeque gas grill’s propane tank. No glamping needed there.

Now go forth and glamp. And enjoy the air conditioning.

When I moved into our new house earlier this year, we immediately ordered high-speed DSL Internet service from Verizon. In addition, we installed a security system via a Monitronics contractor. While Scott, the Monitronics contractor, was installing the alarm box and hooking it up to a phone line, I asked him if there should be a DSL filter as well. He explained that the alarm system would only actually use the phone line during emergencies, and that it would work without a DSL filter anyway. I took his explanation at face value, and he hooked up the alarm system without using a DSL line.

In the months since then, we’d been having trouble with our high-speed Internet service. It’d shut down / cut out several times a day, mostly at inappropriate times especially during important videophone conversations. At other times, it’d slow down to a trickle and our pages would l-o-a-d o-h s-o s-l-o-w-l-y … I kept trying different things to fix this problem — calling Verizon, paying $$ for a new wifi router, paying more $$ for an all-in-one modem/router from Verizon, shortening the phone / cable lines, tweaking router settings, etc etc etc. Nothing seemed to remedy the DSL service problems, which was quite embarassing to me — after all, I’m a Proud Geek who prides myself on my ability to solve computer and network problems!

Then I had a brain fart, ahem, notion: what if the alarm system was indeed interfering with our high-speed Internet service? After all, it was installed without a DSL filter. So, I emailed Scott and asked him to come and install a DSL filter (that we already had from Verizon) between the alarm system and the phone line. Despite protestations that the alarm system is NOT interfering with our DSL service, he came the next day, charged us $85 (sigh), installed the DSL filter in minutes, and left.

And behold and lo, our Internet service has (miraculously?) improved! It has not shut down even once in the week since Scott’s visit — even during ultra-important and lengthy videophone conversations. Connection stays swimmingly high, and our pages load quickly and consistently. YAY! My Proud Geek reputation stays untarnished!

Moral of the story? Don’t listen when alarm technicians tell you that alarm systems don’t need a DSL filter. If you get DSL high-speed Internet service, insist that alarm technicians do plug alarm systems into a DSL filter then into the phone system.

What are DSL filters, and why do we need them? High-speed DSL service uses the same phone line we use. These phone lines (mostly) have 4 “wires” within each phone cable. (Office phone lines often have six wires for additional phone functions like intercom, conferencing, etc — that’s why office phone lines are sometimes thicker.) DSL service uses two of these wires and voice service uses the other two wires. But when regular telephones are plugged into a phone line that is being shared with DSL service, users can hear an electronic “hiss.” In addition, DSL Internet service users may see interruptions. DSL filters are used in between telephones and phone lines to make sure that telephones use the two wires that aren’t being used by the DSL high-speed Internet service.

As an aside: we had our Monitronics alarm system installed for free, including numerous wireless window sensors, a motion detector, two strobe lights, and an alarm console. We pay $38 a month. If we get several referrals (maybe 2? maybe 4?) of people who then use Monitronic’s alarm system, our first year’s payments are waived. If we get a few more referrals (2 more? 4 more?) after that, then payments for the following year are also waived. If you’re interested in getting the same deal and would like to be one of my referrals (and then you could work on getting your own referrals), email me at josh@proud-geek.com with “Monitronics” in the subject. I don’t get paid nor get advertising dollars for doing this blog, so I’d consider this semi-payment! :-)

The Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLR McLaren Roadster sells for a cool $497,750. Positively cheap compared to that $1.4 million Lamborghini I previously blogged about.

2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster

Here’s what a half mil buys you:

  • 617 hp @ 6,500 rpm (will someone tell me what that means?)
  • Top speed of 206 mph (who-ah, that’s like breaking the law several times over!)
  • Swing-wing door design (good for swingers out there)
  • Fully retractable semi-automatic soft top (handy for lazy folks trying to look cool)
  • Bi-xenon twin headlights (as if just being gay or straight isn’t enough)
  • 7-speaker Bose sound system (making for more than 3 speakers per seat and a higher proportion of late-deafened Mercedes drivers)
  • Flip-top start button (just don’t go crazy thinking it’s a missile launch thing)
  • Carbon filter bucket leather seatings (oooh-la, what a feeling)

SLR McLaren Roadster with swing doors up

  • 0-60 seconds in under 3.8 seconds (don’t you ever want to be first when the light turns green?)
  • 6 airbags with 8-way protection (you can’t be too careful nowadays)
  • Ultra-light, ultra-rigid carbon filter frame can absorb 4 times more energy than steel in the event of a crash (but still, ow, bye bye $500k)
  • Intelligent design makes commanding control within easy reach (but I thought Intelligent Design was a cover story for teaching of biblical creationism in school)
  • Dry-sump lubrication system allows for a low center of gravity (I’m sorry, maybe it’s me, but this sounds vaguely pornographic)

SLR McLaren Roadster aerodynamics

Honeybear, I want one. I don’t care how much it breaks our bank account, and I don’t care that there are no backseats for our young daughters (even though I know they’d LOVE this car).

I. Simply. Want. One.

I Want One

June 27, 2008

We’re in the process of adding a new bathroom to our new house, and I WANT ONE OF THESE!

Japanese Toto toilet controls

This is a Japanese Toto toilet. Google has these installed in some of its bathrooms. It has settings for cleaning your (ahem) rear and your (double-ahem) front. It can even dry your bottom. The warmth and pressure of the cleansing water can be regulated with the rear-cleansing option receiving (triple-ahem) stronger pressure than the front-cleansing option. Vibrating and pulsating jets of water (raising eyebrows here) can be added as options. The seat can be heated, the lid can be automatically raised or lowered (a boon for women everywhere!) with proximity sensors that can tell whether the person is facing forward or facing away (I wonder if it’d clam shut before my cat could get in to drink?), music can be played to relax the user, deodorizing spray can be released, etc.

My question is thus: what’s the (quad-ahem) wand cleaning function for? And dammit, how do you flush?

(Thanks, TechCrunch and SFist!)

Imagine checking an Internet website to keep track of how much you recycle a week, and cashing in “Recycle Bank Dollars” for coupons on Starbucks coffee and other things.   Sounds like a dream?   Not in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is using smart technology to keep track of how much each household is recycling.  A computer chip (more accurately, a RFID chip) and bar code is embedded into each recycling container.  As a “smart truck” empties each container, it also scans the chip and weights the container.  Residents can then check an Internet website to see how much they’ve been recycling.  As an added bonus, they get Recycle Bank Dollars that they can then redeem for coupons on Starbucks coffee, groceries, gas, clothes, and more.

This “carrot approach” has gotten Philadelphia residents so fired up that the recycling rate zoomed up from 6 percent (one of the worst in the nation) to an incredible 90 percent.  Talk about giving an incentive to recycle and how this actually produces results!

I’d love to see this come to my hometown as well.  Anything for more Starbucks coffee!

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