The Yellow Box of Power

After Hurricane Sandy, I became slightly obsessed with alternative power, but focused most of my energy on generators, always remembering that I can only store so much gas. The natural alternative to engines and gasoline is solar power, but I wasn’t sure I was looking for a whole-house solution since we don’t have room for batteries and I’m not a fan of selling my surplus energy back to the power company. An idea for a portable solar solution rattled around in my head for years, and while studying for my Amateur Radio Extra Class license exam (K2GAD/AE!), plans started to germinate that resulted in what you see here. I present to you the Internet unveiling of The Yellow Box of Power.

The Yellow Box of Power is a very yellow Pelican box (size 1550) loaded up with 36 amp-hours of 12-volt battery capacity that can be charged by way of normal 120V household power or through one or more solar panels. It is mostly self-contained, is completely portable, will charge laptops and phones, run a ham radio station, or just light up a room. It will even float! Actually, it won’t float for long since I cut a bunch of holes in the side, but it’s pretty darn water resistant. Read on to learn how I made it after a quick rant about the term solar generator.¬† (more…)

Teller Signed my Lemon

Being in New York City for work from time to time, I’ve often taken advantage of the ability to score great seats for Broadway shows when buying only one, and this time I scored a seat in the front row of the center orchestra, the day after Penn & Teller on Broadway opened at the Marquis Theater in Times Square. Though I assumed I’d have a good time, my evening turned into an unexpected tale of the kind I like most: one that is fun, and just a little bit left of normal. (more…)

Change over Dollars

Something evil has happened in retail, and I’m not talking about the latest glut of sub-standard merchandise from China. No, this is something far more sinister, and it affects us all, or at least all of us that still use cash.

For some reason, whenever I buy something, my change is now handed to me bills-first, followed by the receipt, with the change placed carefully on top of the pile. With the change delivered to me in this fashion, I am then dismissed and expected to get out of the way for the next customer who is no doubt eager to pay for her venti frappa-cappa-chupacabra so she too can be on her way. The problem is that I can’t, because I am now immobilized with indecision as to how to deal with the pile of financial paperwork in my hand. (more…)

Paper on Cones

I like ice cream. I prefer soft ice cream in what we Easterners call regular cones, but hard ice cream in a sugar cone will do in a pinch.  Since ice cream vernacular can vary with geography, allow me to explain that we call the cones in these pictures sugar cones. The pictures are from the event that prompted this particular diatribe, where while on vacation, my displeasure with the modern ice cream cone industry came to a head. For those of you disinclined to read the entire tale, the following summary should suffice:

Whoever had the bright idea to adhere paper to our ice cream cones needs to have canvas luggage straps stuck to their skin with a hot glue gun, after which disgruntled children, recently deprived of their half-eaten ice cream cones, will attempt to rip the straps off without breaking any skin. (more…)

One Man’s Quest for Gas Cans that Don’t Suck

If you’ve had the pleasure of buying a gas can in the past few years, then you’ve likely come to the conclusion that all modern gas cans suck. After Hurricane Sandy prompted me to buy a generator and stockpile gasoline, I came to the same conclusion when looking for containers for my gas-hoarding pleasure. Not one to give into frustration, I solved the crappy gas can problem, and I’ll tell you how. But I think a bit of history is in order. Why do all these new cans suck anyway?

From what I can tell, this is pretty much an American problem. As of January of 2009, all new portable fuel containers in the US must meet new Mobile Source Air Toxic regulations based on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) regulations, and they must meet the requirements of the Children’t Gasoline Burn Prevention Act. Now, clean air and children not being burned by gasoline seem like good things, but the these new rules have inflicted us with a plague of vile gas cans outfitted with maddening, useless spouts. Why? (more…)