Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rose's Panamanian Walk by Phonelight

Do you have any flashlight or candle stories to contribute?

hmm, maybe
while in Santa Catalina, Panama, we were staying at a hostel a ways in from town, and we had to go down a dirt road and then a paved road for a while to get to this restaurant that we wanted to try out the first night we were there
it was light enough out while we were walking there
anyway, after we got there we found out they didn't take credit cards, and not everyone had enough cash, so 2 people stayed behind to eat there, and 3 of us walked back to the hostel
by that point it was getting pretty dark... so thankfully, my phone has a built in torch
i turned it on and we were using it to try to find our way... but somehow we ended up missing the sign to turn to our hostel
and we went too far, had to turn around and ask someone which way to go
we made our way back, but we were worried about our 2 friends back at the restaurant, who didn't have any flashlight
and of course, they made it back just fine
i guess they just made it back with their night vision

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cat night light

Light: Peak Matterhorn 1 LED, High power.

Lately I've been feeling very nostalgic for my Peak lights that I carried up until the end of 2006, when I switched to my first HDS.  I pulled them all from their storage spot on a shelf, dug out the spare bodies, mix-and-matched them into configurations I hadn't seen in years, and, rather to my own surprise, started regularly carrying the little single LED Matterhorn.  To be honest, my primary Clicky, the G2 170Cn, has started to develop the dreaded switch intermittency, so that's partially what triggered my nostalgia for these trusty old twisties, and it's also why I suddenly felt the desire to back it up with a tiny, old, utterly reliable 5mm AAA light.

Anyway, I just pulled the Matterhorn out of my pocket and was idly examining it when an old story occurred to me.  This was back in 2008 while I was staying at my mom's place in SLO.  She wasn't there that night and I also had to leave for the night, but her cat would be staying there, alone and mostly in the dark.  As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed how dark it was in the bathroom, where his litter was, at night with no night light and the main light off.  Cats are, as I recall, six times more sensitive to light than we are, but they still need some light to see, and it was just about pitch black in there.  I thought a moment, then remembered that I was carrying my little Matterhorn with me, for whatever reason (I think I had a week of nostalgia-carrying it back then too).  So I hung it from the towel rack and left it there for the night, ensuring that Humphrey would have at least a soft glow for the rest of the night.  I don't know how helpful that was to him, and it's certainly not any sort of exciting use, but it made me feel so much better knowing he wouldn't be fumbling in the dark in there.  It made me feel so much better that even now, all these years later, it's still the story I think of when I look at this light, and I still feel such an appreciation for it because of that, for being there and being just right for the task of helping out my feline friend, who has since become only a happy memory himself.  Sometimes, it really is the little things, and even the most basic flashlight, in the right place at the right time to perform the most basic task, can make a big difference and a lasting memory.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

National Flashlight Day walk 2011

December 21st, 2011
Involved: Me (HDS 100Chc), Samy (HDS 120CThc), Dylan (Petzl headlamp).

This is old news now, but I completely forgot to mention the traditional night walk I took for the 2011 National Flashlight Day! I'll soon move this back to its proper date, but since it was so long ago I'll leave it up here for a little while before burying it.

For anyone not familiar with this wonderful holiday, this video should be everything you need to know:

I started the celebration with my traditional annual cleaning and lubricating routine.  I didn't do all of my lights because I've learned in years past that being unnecessarily thorough turns it into a real ordeal. Instead, this year I just selected the lights that see regular use and freshened them up with some Nyogel.

Here's the high CRI Clicky, ready to go.

And then around 10PM I headed out for a ranch walk with Samy...

and Dylan (who brought along his Petzl headlamp)...

and decorated pine trees in the middle of the nature preserve.

I mostly used my high CRI Clicky on 17670 body.  Sam used his Clicky.

For old times' sake, he gave it a good toss for us.

We ended up walking a narrow trail down the backside of the hill to the trail road that intersects with the highway.  Here we are walking blurrily through the night:

Along the way we encountered some impressively sized golden mushrooms.

And the old well, now covered.

It was a nice celebration of portable illumination.  We spent about an hour just wandering through nature and admiring our shiny toys with childish glee.

And then we packed it in for another year.  A good time was had by all and (hopefully) we all left thinking that we should make a point of taking another such walk soon.  Sadly, I now know that this would be the last such walk for a long time to come, and that Flashlight Day 2012 would go mostly uncelebrated.  It's so nice to get out in the quiet darkness and make use of our lights, I can't believe we don't go out and do this all the time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Clicky assistance at theatre

Light: HDS Clicky 170Cn.

Tonight I was at the theatre to see a musical retrospective. A lady sitting a couple seats away saw me using my light before the play began and asked at intermission if she could borrow it to go look for some piece of jewelry she'd dropped. I didn't hesitate to click it to an appropriate output (30lm) and hand it over—helping people at times like that is always rewarding, and also it has story potential for this blog—but I was a little antsy until I got it back. Taking into account the cost of the Moddoo clip, total value on the light was around $190. But she returned it about 10 minutes later, no harm done. She didn't find the jewelry, and there was still some time left in the intermission, so I went out myself to look around, but no luck. Not a story with a happy ending, but I'm glad that being able to provide a light at least created the potential for a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Another Halloween. I'm never quite sure what to do for this holiday. It's the only major holiday that involves skulking around in the dark, so it should be a good night for flashlights, I should be into it. But, if you go out and participate with other people, there's not much opportunity for flashlight enjoyment, and if you go off into the woods alone, it's just another night as far as the trees are concerned.

Well, it might be a little creepier than normal.

But this year I was determined to do something, so I went out and joined the crowds on Wood Drive, which is our town's trick or treating epicenter.

When I got tired of the crowds, I wandered through the mostly deserted town and eventually ended up on Moonstone Drive.

To end the night, I found a nice outlook and took a quick light-painting shot using my high CRI Clicky and SF M3LT. With that accomplished, I called an end to a pretty successful Halloween.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

American apple pie assistance

Light: HDS Clicky 170Cn

The world can suddenly seem awfully nice when you end up sharing a post-fireworks apple pie with total strangers on the fourth of July.

As usual, I went down to Moonstone Beach to watch the fireworks display.  This time I decided to get closer than usual, so I walked all the way to the hill overlooking the beach where the launchers are set up.  This area was crowded with people and parked cars, but I strolled up between two pickups and positioned myself between the families tailgating out of them, and I got a great front row view of the show.

The family to my left was very friendly and talked to me a little about photographing the display.  They had a table set up and it was covered with food for their celebration.  When the show ended, they started their dessert, which happened to be a Linn's apple pie, but I could see that they were struggling a little in the dark, trying to find things and get the pie cut and served, all by the dim blue light of a cheap LED lantern.  I was a little reluctant about stepping into their event, but I couldn't let them continue to struggle, so I lit up the table with my Clicky for a few minutes so the older lady doing the serving could get it done more easily.  Afterwards they invited me to join them for some pie, and after the second invite I accepted.  They were using disposable plastic flatware, which saddens the eco in me, so I accepted their paper plate but provided my own titanium spork.

It felt good.  I was there celebrating the holiday alone, but I ended up getting pulled into the celebration of a family of strangers, and I was able to contribute to their celebration.  For a brief moment, I got to play at normal family holiday life, and it felt pretty nice.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Low light headlamp use

Just a quick tip that's related to my previous post about light positioning. I recently went out for a short walk to do some much needed geocache maintenance. It was the night before the biggest full moon of the year, so there was plenty of natural light to walk by, and I didn't want to draw attention to myself, so I decided to keep a low light signature (how can I say that so it sounds less ridiculously tacticool; low light profile?), but, as noted in a recent post, I don't walk by moonlight, I learned not to. My solution was simply to leave my headlamp, the Zebralight H51Fc, on low while walking. Low is rated at a somewhat diffused 2.6lm, which is so dim compared to very bright moonlight that it's hardly even noticeable while walking, but because the light is mounted in close alignment with the eyes it will still cause reflective surfaces, such as the eyes of nocturnal animals, to stand out at 50+ feet, even without aiming the central spot at them. Of course it also allows for a high level of adaptation. This allowed me to walk by moonlight and stay safe too, and it didn't require me to walk in any awkward torch-aiming position. A simple trick, but I think it's one worth pointing out because it's easy to overlook how useful light can be even when it's not serving to illuminate in a typical fashion, and even at an output that might initially seem too dim for the environment. I don't think I'd want to rely on this in a more wildernessy area simply because skunks tend to plop themselves in the way and not turn their eyes in my direction until I'm almost on them, but it gives a comforting added awareness in more open areas without having to resort to lighting the place up.

Of course I was still carrying my 170Cn in one hand; I really don't like walking by handheld light, but just relaxedly carrying one is usually fine, as well as just a good and prudent idea. It's said that you need a torch to look for things and a headlamp to do things, and that's an apt assessment. You can do things (like walk, or work on something) with a torch, but it's awkward and often inefficient; you can look for things with a headlamp (checking out a noise in the dark, peering into dark crevices) but the fixed relative position and shadow/contrast-minimizing alignment can reduce clarity and make it difficult to put the light right where you need it. When walking, especially when keeping light low as in the example, it's ideal to have a headlamp providing the longer term "doing" lighting (monitoring for eyes, navigational light) while still keeping a big torch (let's be serious, a 170C is a very "big" light for most any normal, non-competitive use, especially when you're not blowing out your rhodopsin) immediately accessible to provide "looking" lighting (checking on eyes and sounds, responding to the unexpected). I'm preaching the obvious but, again, I think it's worth it: not enough consideration is given to the optimal and most practical use of different kinds of lights. That goes even, or perhaps especially, for lightphiles/flashaholics, who often get distracted by the hobby mentality with which they approach lighting, resulting in a "more lumens!" lighting technique, or a "torch *or* headlamp" choice based on which "camp" they fall into, as silly as that sounds. The night is its own wonderful world, and considered use of light can greatly enrich the appreciation of it.

The Trouble with Twisties

Tonight I got a lesson in selecting lights for someone else. Michelle has been having cat troubles lately: she brought home a new kitten and her cat is upset about it to the point of running off and hiding for long periods, forcing Michelle to go searching for her at all hours of the night. She started out searching with the E01 I gave her, but that's obviously very limited for outdoor use, so I wanted to help out by loaning her something more powerful in case she has to go through the same thing again. I looked over my lights for an appropriate loaner. Of course I have an abundance of HDSes, but they're inappropriate due to value and complexity. I considered the Inova T1; it's got good power, runs a reasonably long time, has a simple on/off clicky, and the pleasing tint of its K2 TFFC distinguishes it as a torch of serious quality. It would serve well... but, its thick walls of anodized aluminum make it heavy for its size, and Michelle's tiny build makes weight a definite consideration. Also, loaning a light to a non-flashlight-person will always put the light at the greatest risk it will ever see, so I'd rather not send a nice anodized light off to get dinged and scratched up by someone who doesn't appreciate it.

Instead, I settled on the SureFire G2L. It's a little larger, but its plastic body makes it feel light, the plastic will shrug off drops and abusive handling with no lasting damage, it's secure and comfortable to hold even when out in the cold, and it puts out enough light to be pretty impressive to anyone not too jaded, though the tint is a little lacking. Plus its bright yellow color makes it somewhat endearing and difficult to lose. I thought I'd chosen a perfect light to send off to do a good deed.

But I was mistaken.... There was one thing I hadn't taken into account. I realized that a twisty switch is liable to cause initial turn on problems due confusion because many are so accustomed to MiniMags that they can't figure out which direction to twist, but I figured that wouldn't be an issue as long as I gave a quick demonstration of usage. What I didn't realize was the potential for problems with turning it off. When I use a true tactical switch (momentary button, twist for on), I hold the body in my hand and twist the tail between thumb and forefinger. However, someone with much, much smaller and weaker hands isn't going to do that naturally; instead, they'll grip the light with both hands and screw the tail down. This results in the tail getting cranked much harder than it ever would when I'm using it, to the point that it can be difficult to turn the light off if you don't have the necessary hand strength to break it loose again. And this is exactly what happened on the very night I gave her the light. I was on the phone with her while she was out using the light to search for the cat, and when she found, to our mutual dismay, that she wasn't able to unscrew it again. After some failed attempts on her part, I got the problem solved by advising her to gently step on the tailcap to hold it securely in place while she gripped the body of the light and used her weight to break it free, but the incident gave me pause to think about how tricky it can be to figure out what light features would be right and wrong for someone else. Turns out, I should have given her something more like the Inova.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Enchanted Sparkles at Fairy Godmother's House

Involved: Me, Dylan.
Lights: HDS Clickies (170Cn and 100Chc); ZebraLight SC51w.

I attended a birthday party for lady known as the Fairy Godmother, at her enchanted fairy forest house. I won't try to describe too much of what it's like because I couldn't do it any justice, but the garden is filled with little sculptures, wood carvings, baubles, signs, mirrors, lights, and candles.

The part of the decor most interesting to the flashlight crowd was the sizable disco ball hanging from a tree over the driveway.

Of course I lit that up with my 170Cn and high CRI Clickies, to the delight of onlookers, who were reminded of both being underwater and being drunk.... I've flashed a lot of disco balls in my time, but this was the most magical, given the size and brilliant reflectivity of the ball combined with the enchanted environment. I also added in my SC51 on a little hanging display of mirrors for a similar effect up in the forest.

When we left the party, we had to walk out through the dimly lit forest, through a gate, and out onto an unlit road with hardly any shoulder. For the, I'm sure, mostly unlit attendees, this was really a pretty dangerous situation that could stand to be addressed in some way for future parties; I might mention it. I pulled out my two Clickies again, set them both to max, pointed the 170 forward over the heads of the three people I was with to provide more than adequate lighting to see by and be seen, and then I pointed the high CRI mostly down and behind me to act as an additional marker to drivers since the group was walking on the wrong side of the road. One of the group, to her credit, pulled out her iPhone and activated its rear light. I'm always happy to see someone actually prepared for darkness, though it took her a few seconds to load the appropriate app and get it activated, by which time I already had everything well illuminated, and I actually didn't realize she'd turned her light on until we reached the parking area and I moved my beam away from the group.

Dylan was there too, and I noticed, as we parted ways at the gate, that he was ready with the Battery Junction keychain light I gave him last Christmas.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mag 3D: The Most Useful Flashlight in the World

As I was rushing out to a lecture in town, I reached for my phone, which was sitting on the windowsill, the only place it gets reception.... And dropped it behind the headboard of my bed. The bed is pushed against the wall fairly tightly, the mattress fits into it too tightly to reach around behind it and under the headboard, and it's about 3.5 feet from the top of the board to the floor, and another 3.5 feet from the side to where the phone was sitting. I needed a highly advanced tool... like a stick... but more than a stick... a stick that emitted light too. Enter the 3D Mag, the handiest and most useful lighting tool in the world, for this moment. I turned it on so I could locate the phone, stuck it over the top, and managed to hockey puck the phone over to where I could reach it. Day saved, dashed off to my lecture.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Palm Springs visit

For Easter I traveled to the strange environment of Palm Springs. As might be expected of me, I put a lot of thought into the EDC items I'd travel with. The flashlights, of course, were pretty easy: I took my two main Clickies (170Cn and 100Chc) and the ZL H51Fc for headlamp duties. Knives were a more thought-provoking decision. The standard CA local ordinance length restriction is 3", so that was my limit for traveling through unfamiliar areas. Initially, I wanted to stay under that by taking the Cat, my old campus knife, which would be only 2.5" but give me a sturdy little blade of S30V; however, I didn't have time to sharpen it satisfactorily, so I left it. Instead, my main carry was the UKPK Rescue, which is colorful and friendly but able to cut through anything. I also ended up taking the Tasman, but I shouldn't have bothered; I mostly just took it in case I wanted a peanut butter knife. Neither of those got significant use.

The real hero was the Ladybug Salt. (Readers of past entries might remember my frustration with its edge; no such problems now that I've reprofiled it.) First day there, I had lunch at a restaurant surrounded by water (interestingly, you see a lot of small bodies of water in the desert, like they're balancing out their surroundings) and ordered chicken kebabs sticking out of a big piece of grilled mango sitting on top of a slice of pineapple. Turns out, grilling makes mango very tough, to the point that a standard restaurant knife isn't capable of cutting it so much as smushing through it. The LB sliced right through, cleanly and without drama. Another night, I had steak but didn't have a steak knife. Another easy task for the little yellow knife.

I like a variety of knife designs and sizes, and lately I've been gravitating more towards the bigger stuff, the excessively large really. This little vacation reminded me of what I already knew: there's very little that can't be done with just a Ladybug.

Flashlights didn't get a whole lot of use, but still the usual quick daily stuff. The H51 was very helpful when going through bags since an overhead room light does a very poor job of illuminating inside things.

Finally, a few quick notes about other things I had with me. Beyond the usual cutting and lighting tools, there were various other things that I was very glad to have. The day before I left, I received my new blue (and now French-made) Parker Jotter, which is loaded with a space pen refill and now serving as my official geocaching pen, though I also like to use it for receipts. For protection from the desert sun, I had my wide-brimmed Patagonia cap with rear protective cover. I ended up having to buy a UPF protective shirt while down there because I realized as I was packing that I had nothing that offered decent protection without being too heavy for serious heat. Ended up with a basic but functional Rugged Exposure collared shirt, and I was so glad to have it. My big regret in this area was that I didn't buy the UPF 50 NRS gloves I'd been looking at before the trip. It's not something I think about so much until I'm actually out in the sun, but my hands are right in harm's way, and covering them in sunscreen will always result in smudging up glasses and camera lenses.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trip planning knife humor

A conversation while deciding what knives to take on a trip.

Ian: no, take the khukuri
me: Nah, too big. It's like a 2.5" blade mounted at the end of a 1" arm that may or may not be considered blade. Since the standard CA local restriction is sub-3", I'm not taking anything larger than a UKPK when traveling.
If I need a bigger knife, I'll combine Cat, two Ladybugs, and a UKPK, Captain Planet style. And the Bug, I guess it's the rainforest heart kid.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Improvised seed bag repair

My finch seed bag developed a hole, so, I decided to try fixing it the old fashioned way, by fashioning a needle from a palm leaf tip. It worked... not quite as well as hoped, but after some trial and error I got it figured out and managed to stitch the bag back up with an inner strand from some paracord. Pacific Salt handled the cutting.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Catch Me If You Can

Contributed by Samy, taken from his Twisty review.

JUNE 5TH, 2008 - EastWest Ranch, Cambria, CA, 10:00pm PST.

I've had the Twisty for a little while now... I have run a small lanyard rope through the two holes in the tailcap just long enough so that I can comfortably hang the twisty around my neck... I find that during the day I don't need to use the light very much so I keep it tucked away under a layer of clothing... I've also worn the o-ring down a little, so that the pressure needed to twist and activate levels is a little lower.. It still feels tight, but no longer stiff.

Last night I put in some real action.. A friend of mine was going to take a walk through about 1/4 of a mile of wooded forest and scrub terrain that locals call "East-West Ranch".. She isn't a flashlight kind of person [That's an understatement! - S9], so she left that night with no illumination tools what-so-ever (not even a key-chain fauxton) [As I recall the story, she actually did have a fauxton I'd given her, surprisingly. She used it to get through the forest but decided not to make a return trip. - S9]... She had asked if I wanted to come along, but by the time I had prepared myself with the proper clothing she had left...

Eventually I make my way to the trail head.. I stopped there and stared into the dark forest for a few minutes, letting my eyes adjust to the moonless night.. There are some houses around, so some stray photons were illuminating a bit of haze in the air...

About this time, I pull my Twisty apart to let it reset, enter into programming mode and set the second stage to .33lm. High had already been set to the maximum of 85lm, and I keep red on low... It took me all of about a minute to program the light to a certain level where I could shine the beam 6-8 feet in front of me and still be able to look up into the darkness with minimal residual "memory" of the beam profile that burned up my rods. I start hiking the trail using .33lm for navigation.. It's surprisingly very easy to see with that much light, considering how much is available from the torch if I need it... Things seem flat, as far as color is concerned though.. The beam and terrain just look silver, and more two dimensional than anything... Vision at that point was strangely more a sense of texture and contrast rather than of depth and color... I walked a good distance until I payed some attention to my surroundings, and learned from my 'gut' or 'instinct' that I wasn't going to run into my friend at that point..So I decide to head back out, but just before I turn around I hear a bunch of crunching and branches snapping, so I switch the twisty to high so fast that it didn't need a tactical tailcap, and shot out 85lm straight into two adolescent buck who were messing around about 50 yards ahead of me...After being startled by them, I resume my exit and on the way I switch between red and .33lm.. Both are actually still bright enough to be useful but insignificant enough to not harm night-adapted sensitivity of vision (even though I just blasted myself and the deer with 85lm)... Oddly, I kind of savored the color red, after walking around with .33 of white. The red felt satisfying to the cones I suppose...

As time went on I ended up having to pick my mom up from work because she didn't have a car that night, so I get back to my car to start heading down the highway. As I approach the intersection near by mom's work, I see my friend at the cross walk.. She had hiked all the way through the woods with no lights, or cell phone, and when she came to the other end of the trail, she decided it was way too dark and scary to head back home so she began walking through town to the gas station (to get a phone and call for a ride).. Luckily timing was right and I picked both her and my mom up and took them home.

I'd like to note here that the 85Tr does have a really well focused spot.. It throws very well... But it doesn't stop there.. The flood portion of the beam smoothly transitions from the spot to be all one level of brightness (no rings, or artifacts at all)... I'd say that at 1' distance there's a 14" diameter beam in total (7" from one edge of the spill to center of the spot) and the hot-spot is about 4" in diameter. At 5' distance there is a 5'6" diameter beam in total (2.75' from the edge of the spill to center of the spot) and the hot-spot is about 8" in diameter. It's a pretty good focus/flood ratio (pretty equal distance vs. beam-width too) (measurements taken by tape measure, margin of error < or = to 2"). Throw is exceptional, I can't stress it enough. Though the somewhat 'lavender-white' beam tends to become 'flat-silver' at the farthest reaches of the spot even at 85lm, kind of limiting rendition of objects even though there is light on them..I think if the tint was a bit 'warmer', rendition would be better.

I noticed that the donut of the red diode, being right in the center of the beam profile, was visible in use, but that the strength of the corona around the donut and the proceeding spill is in fact bright enough to provide useful illumination of the immediate trail and bushes ahead. In fact, the lack of a focal point is kind of pleasant, because I find that red is a rather 'thick' color, and the lack of that 'thickness' in the center is useful in that it doesn't promote tunnel vision.. It kind of forces the user to pay attention to the terrain instead of watching the beam. Though if the red beam was more traditional, I wouldn't have complaints.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Clicky house call

Tonight I paid a visit to Linn's to see Kristin & Ben and to inspect Ian's Clicky 120CT, which had jammed shut once again. For some reason, it has a defect that I've never heard of in a Clicky before: It was difficult to open when new, continued to be so difficult that Ian was reluctant to use it much for dread of having to replace the battery, and now it had become so completely jammed that it would not budge even with his prolonged efforts at it, so he passed it off for us to have a go at it and we passed it around throughout the night, with no luck. Finally, toward the end of the night, I decided some creativity would be needed. I searched through my pack for possible tools and pulled out two pieces of tether cord, each a few feet long. I tied one cord to each half with a tight prusik knot, wound the cords tightly around their half of the body in the appropriate direction, tied a loop in the ends, and then used some silverware from the table as levers, thus fashioning a crude strap wrench that was able to break the seal. Turns out his Clicky seems to have some kind of strange machining error that allows the threads to lock up when tightened all the way. Since it's not at all necessary for them to be tightened down completely, it's a minor problem as long as it's treated properly. I gave it a good greasing with Nyogel, closed it back up gently, and it was good to go.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I don't walk by moonlight.

And I'll tell you why, because I just realized that I somehow neglected to include that story here. This took place probably in late 2007, early 2008. Taken from a post about it on CPF:

I almost never indulge any urge to walk by moonlight these days. About four years ago, with a reasonably bright moon overhead, I went for a walk on the boardwalk of a nearby nature area (the ranch). I like to see what's around me, so I normally have a light on whenever I'm out walking, but this time I gave in to some peer pressure. I thought of a friend of mine (Piper) who always complained about my lights and insisted that it was much more enjoyable to just walk by moonlight. I decided to give it a try and shut off my ML1. It was very nice, until the bush I'd seen silhouetted next to the boardwalk suddenly jumped at me when I got near it. I jumped back, backpedaled about 20 feet while fumbling to get my light back on, then got the area lit up and saw what had happened. The skunk wasn't trying to come after me or anything, it just thought it would be funny to hide next to the path until I was about a foot and a half away before jumping up on the boardwalk and dashing across a foot in front of me. If I'd been looking off in another direction, I possibly would have accidentally stepped on it or kicked it as it crossed. Now I remember this incident and almost always keep at least a little light burning when out walking in an even slightly wild area.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Man saves son from mountain lion

What's not mentioned is that the knife used was a Spyderco Caly3.5. Not the ideal knife to have to press into service as a weapon, but it sure saved the day when it had to. As the saying goes, the best ______ is the one you have with you.

The aggravating thing is that other written versions of the story completely leave out that the father fought it off, let alone that he used a knife to do it. Instead, it mentions that the lion attacked other hikers earlier and they fought it off by hitting it with a backpack. For this later attack, they merely mention that it grabbed the kid and was now being hunted by rangers. It saddens me to think that this was an intentional exclusion of details caused by our culture being increasingly frightened of common hand tools. To their credit, CNN's video interview tells the whole story and includes a photo of the knife.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Ocean Dash

Contributed by Samy.

The annual ocean dive always revives my spirit. A level of fear, a level of love, a mixture of powerful proportions. The truth of the matter is that light -- l i g h t -- is the key to the whole situation. Without it, fear would take over. A black pacific ocean against a black night sky, is like a door to the subconscious realm of terror. Light is a key, that keeps the doors locked. 170CN and 120CHC in both hands bring me that sensation of comfort, safety, and peace.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Balloon liberation

Knife: Spyderco Bug

I spent the evening at Mr. O's retirement party at the new(ish, but we still call it that) grammar school. In one of those classic moments where something you always have but rarely make use of is needed and you don't have it, my friend Des asked if I had a knife to cut off a balloon that was tied around a small child's wrist. Now, I'm not hampered by the type of under-developed morality that confuses law with morality (or with religion), but I do try to be a stickler for knife laws, partly because I generally agree with them, partly because I feel that knowing and observing them is simply a part of responsible knife ownership and of being a good ambassador in a world that has developed some unfortunate prejudices and misconceptions. So, unfortunately, I had to tell her that for once I couldn't help her with that, because state law prohibits any kind of blade on a K-12 campus (don't quote me on that, but it's what the law boils down to) and I try to follow that even after hours. However, after a frustrating few seconds of frustration and irony, I realized, wait, I actually can help because I forgot to take my tiny Bug, which I guess I don't even really consider to be a knife, off my keys. And that's how the Bug saved the day. Cutting that tough ribbon off a kid's wrist sure would have been easier and safer if I'd had one of my usual blades available, such as the sheepsfoot on my UK Rescue or the hawkbill on my Ladybug, and it also would have been much easier if I'd been left to handle the job myself rather than having someone getting in the way trying to help and removing all the slack, but I was glad that I still managed to help, even if it was only because of fortunate forgetfulness.

And then Michelle pulled out her Tasman. Oy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mobile mustache trimming

Tonight I went to the theatre for Jim's 99th birthday. Lots of people there, lots of nice food for him, music playing. It was nice. Except for one thing that was ruining everything: I could feel an out of place hair from my mustache poking me in the nose every time I moved my face. So I slipped away to the green room where I knew I could find a mirror, located the offending hair, and let the Spyderco Military deal with it. Yes, clearly an appropriate tool to trim a single hair. Facial hair is ridiculously tough though, so I'm glad I had something very sharp. Scissors still would have been better.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hospitality Night 2011

Involved: Me, Dylan.
Lights: HDS Clicky 100Chc, SureFire M3LT, NiteCore D10, assorted unknown lights and glow sticks.

The town was hit by a freak windstorm (reported as hitting 50mph) that did considerable damage, requiring the replacement of 10 power poles. This is very rare; we have wind pretty regularly, but usually it takes the combination of wind and rain to do extensive damage, so any kind of outage without rain is very rare. This one did it though. Power was out when I woke up, came back midday, and went out again around 4. Fortunately it went out just before I was going to shave off my beard, not during, so I didn't have to go out with half a beard or try to take off 2" of fur with a regular razor.

Went to Hospitality Night (every year on the first Thursday in December the downtown shops stay open late and serve festive treats) around 5.30 and found the whole town dark except for the highway traffic lights. It was beautiful actually. I parked near the Bluebird Inn, went to Painted Lily but found it closed, then continued toward the east end on foot, almost entirely alone and by the light of my flashlights. Again, it was beautiful.

Found some signs of life in the east village. The bakery was open and lit up, giving out cookies and stuff.

Mozzi's saloon was lit by candles and glow sticks and had a good crowd. Ran into Dylan near there, so I went back in Mozzi's with him while he had a beer. Chatted pleasantly with Garret (a local rancher and schoolmate through high school) a little while he played pool by torchlight. I must say that warmed the nostalgic corners of my heart. I remember a full decade ago he had a little keychain squeeze light on his keys, and I think it was LED; that would make him probably the first LED flashlight owner I knew and the first EDC carrier of a pocket light. Now, there he was with what looked like a pretty standard multi-5mm light hung from the hanging lampshade over the pool table.

The most interesting light I saw tonight.

After his beer, Dylan and I walked west, played with flashlights a bit near the rodeo grounds, then took my car to the Plough for an appetizer of spicy soup that they'd intended for the hospitality visitors. They were lit up by candle I think, pretty dimly, so I stuck one of my lights (I think the D10) on a table for some area light. Had to light up the kitchen area to get some soup too.

After helping the Plough get rid of some of the soup, Dylan and I walked around the west end, visited the pet accessory store that for some reason had a generator, wandered down past the lit up and densely packed Main Street Grill, got some M&Ms at the Shell, and then headed back. Around that time, at about 8, power returned to downtown, lighting up whatever decorations had been left on from earlier. After a night of walking through the darkened village, it was a bit disappointing.
The chamber of commerce's Christmas tree.

The town's biggest flashlight, returned to life.

With Hospitality Night mostly called off and the novelty of having the village blanketed in darkness now gone, we both headed home. Not the kind of evening I'd been looking forward to, but certainly a memorable one.

Power remained out at home for about another half day. I missed my computer, but other than that it was a nice change. I kept things well lit with my usual Clickies, ZebraLights, and the occasional LED Mag.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More set work at the Plough

Lights: ZebraLight H30; HDS Clicky.
Knives: Spyderco Manix2 SE, Persistence.
Other: Widgy pry bar

I was once again called in to help with set preparation at the Plough, this time in preparation for their Gershwin tribute show.

My main job was to cover a wall with a thick, diamond-patterned, felty, velvety cloth. I had to get it stretched properly over the uneven surfaces of the wall, securely staple it down, and then once I had it hanging properly I had to trim off the excess at the bottom. Knowing that I would probably be asked to do a job like this with a pair of dull scissors, I made sure I brought along an array of more appropriate cutting tools. For this I chose the Manix2, which cut through the thick cloth easily and cleanly with its smooth serrations. Very glad I chose it, because I don't think any knife I have could have done a better job, but also because I've really gotten so little use of M2 over the years.

Later, I needed to create a sturdy shim to get a high, metal-framed chair to sit evenly on the uneven stage surface. I found some scraps of fiber board, scored one side with the tip of the Persistence, and then was able to cleanly snap them along the scoring. A stack of two board pieces, secured together and attached to the chair leg with gaffer's tape, made the chair much more comfortable and safer.

I also opened a small paint can with my little pry bar. I think this might actually be the first time I've mentioned it on here? Normally it just gets used to pop the top off my car's washer fluid reservoir.

My lights didn't get much use, but I had my ZL H30 clipped to my jacket in case I needed some hands free light, and I used one of my Clickies—probably the 100Chc—to search the carpet for lost staples and other little bits of debris.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ladybug Frustration (Frustration with myself, really)

Today's lesson: Never give up, as long as you have reason not to.

I wasted about two hours doing a complete resharpening on the Ladybug Salt. I can never get an edge on it, it won't even cut paper. So I put it on the sharpmaker a little and studied the effects with a loupe and I determined that it might not be sharpening because I'd been hitting the shoulders, which is a problem I've never run into before. If that really was the case, I guess it shows just how much time I've put into trying to make it work in the 22 months I've had it. I put it on the stones at 30º, reset the bevel with a total of probably around 200 strokes using all sides of the coarse rods. I got it looking pretty good, the bevel looked fresh and shiny and even, like it really should, based on what I've seen in sharpening tutorials. But I still couldn't get what felt like a good edge on it and had to just move on to the other steps without feeling like I'd truly gotten where I wanted to be. I continued at 30º and gave it 20 strokes on every side of the fine rods, for another 120 strokes total, all the way up to the UF for I think 20 on an edge and 20 on a flat. Then I went to 40º and did it all over again, 20 strokes on all six sides of the coarse and fine, then another 40ish on the UF. I tested along the way at each step, inspected with the loupe, tried to get rid of any burrs by running it through soft plastic, but at no time was I ever able to get it to cut, though it did actually feel sharp. In the end, after two hours of labor and hundreds of careful strokes, I ended up with the prettiest and shiniest bevel I've ever created, and an edge that still can't even slice paper cleanly.

At that point I gave up and just polished the edge with some chromox since looking shiny is apparently all this blade is good for right now. I really love this knife, I love the bright yellow, the tiny size and weight, the secure grip. It's been my true EDC knife more than any other since I retired my Mini-Grip, riding in my pocket every day no matter what else I'm carrying, but at this point I'm thinking I really have no choice but to just retire it, unless I can figure out what's wrong with it or get someone else to. I bought it to be a polite and inoffensive little knife to always keep with me, but it's never cut very well so it's never really been able to serve that purpose properly. Instead, I've used it as a food knife, to neatly slice open bananas more than anything else, but it's not even sharp enough to open a granola bar so it's very limited. I like having a clean and easily washed knife to open bananas in a neat way without having to gunk up my nails, so I guess I might still take it along just for that sometimes, but I mostly eat them at home anyway. If it won't cut, there's just no justification for continuing to let it occupy space in my pocket, especially now that I also have the hawkbill version.

I'm saddened and will miss it. I carry lots of bigger, nicer, more interesting, more expensive knives, but this one, more than most, has a real attachment for me because of how much carry time it's gotten (perhaps undeservedly). I think it's safe to say I'm done with H1 plain edges too. I can now get my Tasman very sharp if I really want to, but it takes a lot more effort and attention than most other steels/blade types I use and has given me a lot of frustration. Maybe the LB just needs a particular technique like the Tasman did? But it shouldn't since it's a regular blade and doesn't have special requirements due to blade shape. Maybe I'll put it aside and give it another try sometime when my wrist has had a break from today's marathon session, but I don't have high hopes for figuring it out if today's attempt at a complete redo didn't work. In the meantime, I'll probably try carrying my Grasshopper as a small and polite knife, but it's bigger, heavier, less sturdy, not a one hander, and not nearly so cute. Doesn't matter though, it'll only be just in case I need a small plain edge for some reason. The LB Hawkbill Salt can probably fill in adequately on its own in most cases.

Update (12/11): The Ladybug's back! After I got over my frustration, I realized and accepted (with some outside help) that despite all my efforts to establish a new edge, I still was not actually touching the edge somehow. Obviously, since it still wasn't cutting at all after hours of sharpening. They say that H1 isn't very abrasion resistant and is easy to sharpen but... in my experience, the actual edge of H1 stands up to a damned lot of abrasion without losing nearly as much material as you'd expect. So, this time I'd had enough of messing around with it. I set aside my preferred Sharpmaker, got out my Lansky kit, set it for the most obtuse edge it's capable of, and gave the LB a quick session on the diamond stones. The result is not a great edge by any means, but... it cuts! It actually *cuts* rather than wedges things apart again. For now, that's good enough, and I'm happy to have it back.

And, to welcome it back with a story: The other night, I was out to dinner at a seafood place having fish and chips. Because it was a take-out oriented place, the vinegar came in those annoying plastic packets that are so difficult to open cleanly, making cutting them open vastly preferable to trying to tear through without spurting delicious acid all over the place. Since it is so acidic and potentially corrosive, I'd rather not put a normal knife through it if I can avoid it (yeah I know, S30V or VG10 would have been fine, but I'd still prefer not to), and also it was in a crowded restaurant environment, so it was a perfect job for H1, and for a cute and friendly little yellow knife that recently remembered how to cut.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For Deer Life

Light: HDS Clicky 170Cn

On my way to town to watch a football game, I came to a stop sign at the right branch of a fork. I was turning left onto the main road, but a short distance down the left fork, to my right, was a deer strolling very slowly and casually across the road. Further down that road and around a corner I saw headlights approaching. The left fork is the continuation of the main road and has no stop sign, so traffic moves through the intersection from that fork at a quicker pace, especially since it's the run-up to a moderately steep uphill, so I was afraid that the approaching car might be coming too fast to react in time to the deer standing in their lane and just around the bend in the road. Rather than proceeding, I remained at the stop sign, pulled out my Clicky, set it to burst, and when the approaching car was just starting around the bend and coming into a direct line of sight with me, I put the light against my passenger window and gave them three flashes. They kept coming and I'm not sure how clear my signal was to them, but they must have seen it very clearly so I'd imagine they probably did ease off a bit and hopefully start looking for a reason for unusual blasts of light in their direction. Whatever the case, the deer made it to the side of the road by the time the car got there. It probably would have without my help, but maybe it would have been a little closer if I hadn't (probably) slowed the car down, which might have made it less of a non-issue.

Friday, September 30, 2011

September usage commentary (with some thoughts and opinions)

Not a whole lot to report for September because I pretty much spent the month locked inside working on photos. That being the case, my primary usage of EDC-y stuff was in lighting my room with my flashlights since my wired lighting is so abysmally bad (funny/ironic).

A few notes for the month:
3rd - The Woman in Black came to the end of its run tonight, so I stopped by the cast after-party to document the event. They were opening gifts and one of the young fellows in attendance pulled out a small traditional pocket knife. Later, I pulled him aside and commented on it. He started to explain why he has it as if he felt it needed some kind of defense, but then I showed him my Military. Cool to see someone from a slightly younger generation carrying one; these days it seems like so many of them regard their phones as the only worthwhile tool with which to equip themselves.

8th - This is something new: a story about not carrying. This was the day of the first home football game at the high school. I love going to local sporting events and photographing football games, so I always go to the home games. The unfortunate part is that it's illegal to carry basically any bladed implement on high school grounds. So, before every game I have to go through a funny routine that feels rather unnatural to me. I load my pockets, but the checkoff routine changes to: Phone, keys, NO KNIVES!, wallet, light, hand cleaner. I go through the pockets of my bag removing all additional knives (usually my UKPK Rescue), SAKs, any multi-tools... it's sometimes kind of fun to go through and pull out yet another knife that I didn't even remember I had stuck in there. I even take the little Bug off my keys. The process leaves me feeling very underdressed. I'm not a very insecure person and I don't feel any separation anxiety over a brief period of forced ill-equippedness, and the truth is there's hardly any chance I'd even want to cut something while there, but I'm set in my ways and have decades of built up habits, so there is a definite feeling of relief when I return to my car and get my pockets back in proper order.

10th - I took part in a wedding. Since I don't have much to say about actual usage here, I'll take this opportunity to say I don't actually believe in the idea of dress knives. Obviously, I'm a strong advocate of carrying various helpful tools and gizmos at all times, that's essentially what this blog is all about. Obviously I'm comfortable with knives and regard them positively. However, if you're dressing for a formal event, the appropriate knife to carry is not the one with the shiny carbon fiber and chrome that somewhat matches your outfit, or the one with the endangered animal bone handle or the Damascus blade, and it's not whichever is your most expensive that you can't bring yourself to actually use so you wear it like jewelry. The appropriate knife to carry is whatever will go unseen and not drag down or damage the usually light cloth of formal clothing. Perhaps it differs depending on where you are, but, in general, if you're dressed in your best for a fancy event and you've got a visible knife sticking out of your pocket—or a screwdriver or a wrench or a roll of duct tape—it's not going to reflect well on you, even if you think it's the coolest and most interesting part of your outfit. That said, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't carry a knife to an event, but I am saying that buying a knife with the idea that it will be for formal occasions is a little silly, and probably mostly just an excuse to buy an unusually expensive knife that you realize isn't practical. So, getting back to today, the wedding that I attended and took part in: what did I carry? The knife I chose was my Spyderco Khukuri. Yes, because I regard it as a special knife that I like having with me for special occasions; yes, because I think it has a certain strange elegance to it; yes, because it's expensive and it's difficult to disassociate price from class sometimes. But really, it's just a nice knife that's also very thin when folded, so it disappears in a back pocket and remains completely hidden under a suit jacket. It definitely wasn't purchased with any intention of making it a dedicated dress knife or matching it to an outfit. It's scaled in foliage green G10 after all. As for a flashlight, well... I just stuck my Clicky (170Cn) in my other back pocket. It's heavy, it's bulky, there's nothing about it that's really appropriate for formalwear carry, and choosing it seems to defy my support of going for a minimal, unobtrusive route. But, it's just what I carry every single day, it feels strange not to have one, and in the end it doesn't matter because, like the Khukuri, it remained hidden under my jacket and no one knew I had it on me. Which, as I said, is the only important characteristic of a "dress" tool.

11th - I saw Eisley again. Carried much the same stuff as last time, though didn't get into a conversation about it with the band this time. Don't want to take anything aggressive or intimidating into a club environment, so I took my friendly little green UKPK. I kept it out of sight, but really the only thing they were concerned about was my camera gear and where I'd be pointing it. Carried a Clicky of course, but upgraded from 140Cgt to 170Cn. The real hero amongst my EDC items ended up being a pen, my Parker Jotter. I got a few autographs last time, but this time I decided I wanted to try to get every single one of them. I didn't think about it until I was actually there though, so I was glad I had a decent pen along.

And that's all I can think of. Like I said, September was mostly an indoor month for me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Opening wine at cove

The day after Kristin's wedding, I joined the wedding party at the cove for a little beach party. Her dad showed up with wine, but he had no opener. He took a look at me and thought I might be able to help, and I fortunately did have my Victorinox Climber Deluxe with me. Very likely the first time I've actually gotten to use the wine puller on it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wedding dress preparation


Shortly before her wedding, Kristin needed some loose threads cut from the bodice of her dress. The bridesmaids tried scissors, but the threads were pretty tough. Ian came to the rescue and took care of them with his large Sebenza. Yeah this pretty much fully justified the purchase of the knife.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The price of consideration

Lights: HDS 100Chc; SureFire M3LT.

At about 3.30am, I went out for a stroll on a night left quite dark beneath a blanket of clouds. I walked to a beach access toward the farther side of the neighborhood, looked down to the sand, and saw an odd sight: a couple bamboo mats and a crumpled up, brightly colored blanket, but no sign of anyone around. I went down the ramp for a closer look, still saw no one. I went over for a closer look and found there was also a fitted sheet, a bunch of cups, a pack of cigs, and a lighter. About 20 feet away, a washcloth lay on the sand. This was especially strange to me because a few nights ago on Moonstone Beach I found a couple of folding chairs sitting not far from an abandoned pair of baby shoes. I looked around again with the Chc, still saw no sign of anyone, and then broke out the M3 for a scan of the entire area, including the shoreline and the kelp bed not far out, because I was a little concerned I might find floating bodies in the surf or something. Still nothing. So I walked over to a rock to get back to what I'd come there for, to relax and listen to the ocean a little.

After a few minutes, I saw lights coming from an approaching car on the street above. As I crept farther down the beach, I saw the lights come closer and, as far as I could tell, stop in the parking lot. I got up close to the concrete cliff protection and quietly edged down and around an obtuse corner to get out of direct line of sight in case they came down and shined a light around. I waited a couple minutes, but saw no light and heard no sounds of anyone getting out of a car or coming back to the little encampment. I crept quietly back in the direction I'd come, and out towards some rocks closer to the water so I could get a better angle on the area but still have some cover. Still I heard and saw nothing, so I figured the car I'd seen must have just parked up there and might still be up there, maybe waiting for me if they were there because they or someone else saw my big light searching around.

I considered my options. I could keep walking down the beach to the other access, but that would mean covering about seven blocks over sand and rocks at, by now, 4am. Since I wasn't sure anyone was even there, I decided I needed to chance getting a better look at the parking area above and try to get out the way I'd come. I waited until a wave came in to give me some masking noise then quickly moved from behind my rock up to a spot close to the wall again but nearer the access ramp. I stood still there, looked and listened. I still couldn't see anything, but now... I could hear something... people laughing. I remained there for five or ten minutes, remaining still so I wouldn't be noticed, listening to sounds of laughter and soft conversation, considering my options. I wanted to just walk the remaining 30 feet to the ramp and head home, which would bring me within about 20 feet of them, but in the end I decided that there was just no way I could get past them without risking screwing up their night: if I went up casually with a light on, they'd be scared that someone had come to confront them; if I walked by quietly in the darkness, they'd be paranoid of the shadowy figure lurking around the beach where they're trying to sleep; and if they were doing something intimate when I passed, they'd be all the more freaked out. Rather than risk disturbing them, I turned and quietly made my way down the beach, hopping between large rocks as much as possible to avoid waking the people sleeping in the houses above, for the next 20 minutes. I was able to walk on clear sections of the beach without a light because my eyes had adapted during my time hiding on the beach and I'd been using mostly low light to begin with, but when I got into the rougher areas I used the Chc on its minimum level in hopes that it would not be observed by the campers. When I felt I was far enough away and had enough rock formations between us, I used my 3lm setting to make things a bit easier. I was grateful for the high CRI light, which made it much easier on the eyes to walk over countless light grey rocks and pebbles. It ended up being a pretty strenuous walk since I was trying to take the quietest path instead of the easiest, and I nearly sprained my ankle once, but I made pretty quick progress once I upped my light level to something more practical. I arrived home a little after 4.30 in the morning, sweaty, thirsty, and tired.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

High CRI wildflowers

(Samy holding his 120CThc and NT 2AA Classic with high CRI XPG.)

Participants: Me, Samy, Tia.
Lights: HDS Clicky 100Chc; SF L1.

I went for a walk on the point with Samy and Tia. There was a bit of adventure as we snuck up on a suspicious light we thought was coming from a group of nefarious hippies, but we never found any trace of them and later had to chalk it up to ghosts. Toward the end of the regular trail, in the middle of the dull browns and weathered greys of the windswept point, we suddenly came upon a small patch of vibrant flowers. We stopped to admire them and Tia was surprised by the sudden beauty amongst such colorless surroundings. Then she looked at it with her own light, the L1 I'd loaned her, which has a very good tint itself, and was less impressed. She remarked that maybe it was just my light that made them look so nice. Of course I was using the high CRI Clicky, and it was indeed doing its job very well at that moment.

(Under flash.)

(Under high CRI Clicky light.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Night biking

Lights: HDS Clickies (140Cgt, 100Chc).

I've had the TwoFish LockBlocks on my handlebars for months now but never used them for anything more than a quick test ride around the block. My bike hasn't been in the best condition lately, needing some new brake pads and adjustments, but for too long I allowed that to keep me off it. Finally, I got up the motivation to take it out for a night ride around the neighborhood, across the ranch, around another neighborhood, and back.

Total distance of probably 4-5 miles. To light my way, I strapped the Clickies on my handlebars with the GT (with 17670 body) at 100lm and pointed a little farther down the road and the HC at 25lm providing a nice pool of light directly in front of me. For a long and straight section that I wanted to cover at higher speed, I kicked the Chc up to high as well. Used just the HC at 25lm to cruise quietly through a little neighborhood with narrow streets so I'd be less likely to disturb anyone (I feel the warm beam is stealthier since it stands out less than a splash of dazzling cool white). With this combination, I had enough light to pretty much ride as fast as I cared to as long as I wasn't making big turns (little peripheral light). The lights were certainly very nicely cooled too, with the rush of cool, foggy air never allowing them above a standard room temperature.

The Clickies did well. I hate to say it, but I was glad to find a good use for the GT, since the beam is good for it, tint doesn't matter so much, and it combines good power with high efficiency and the ability to use the 17670. These days, it doesn't see a lot of use because it's not often that I don't have a better light for something, and usually a better Clicky. It's kind of sad that I need to look for jobs where "tint doesn't matter" for a Guaranteed Tint ($50 option) Clicky, but, pure and white as it is, that tint is just not one that I can unreservedly call "great" by today's standards. But it made a great bike light.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mini light-fi

Participants: Me, Samy.
Me - HDS Clicky 100Chc Moby Click.
Samy - HDS Clicky 120CThc?, NovaTac modified with high CRI Cree XPG.
Both - 170Cn.

We don't light-fi quite like we used to, it seems. Tonight, Samy and I went out for a walk in the woods, to enjoy the night and play with some lights. I also wanted to show him what my new M3LT could do, and we got to compare our 170s side by side in actual use. (Really amazing how similar they are in performance despite beam differences.) It was a nice walk, very peaceful and relaxing.

Along the way we encountered some very large spiders and webs, as well as a kind of pretty moth hiding under a bridge. Illuminated by high CRI Clicky:

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th photoshoot

Lights: SureFire L1s (white gen6 and red square body & TIR)

To celebrate Independence Day, SureFire held a photo contest, looking for shots of their products with fireworks. Here's their exact wording:
Freebie Friday!!! In honor of America's upcoming anniversary, here's your assignment (Ends July 5th). Two chances to win: 1) Take a picture holding/wearing your SF product w/ fireworks in the background. Post it on our wall. Our favorite wins an M3LT! 2) No fireworks? Snap a photo using your SF doing something fun or creative, other than shooting--sorry, that's too easy. Winner gets a LX2! TWO PHOTOS PER PERSON MAX.

So, I stuck the remote release on my camera and went down to Moonstone Beach to have a go at it. For the prize, an M3LT, why not? I spent the entire fireworks show running back and forth on the beach from my camera to my chosen spot amongst some driftwood with my back to the display, so I didn't really get to enjoy much of the show. Good thing I won. :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing by Nightlight

Contributed by Sam

Location: Suburb
Light: 120Chc

It was no less a dark night, with slithering withering sunlight slanting below the horizon. Martha and I traversed the urban jungle, broiling ideas with imagination and a light batter of criticism.. It was a good night..

We eventually found ourselves perched on a rooftop, eager with creativity. Martha needed to begin writing the finished ideas down, and so furnished a notepad and pen. Just as handily, I equipped my Chc, and powered on to my secondary level. A pleasing glow soothed the page, and the ink glistened as ideas minted themselves fluidly.

The perfect merger of art and gadgetry.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leatherman earring help

Ian demonstrated how to use a pair of Leathermans (Wave and Juice I think) to do some work on Katie's ear.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bed switching

Lights: Princeton Tec Apex, Ra Clicky 140Cgt.

Long overdue, but I finally got rid of my more than 20 year old mattress. Dragged it out and realized how it's flattened to about half normal thickness in places, dragged out the boxspring and saw how torn up it is, and then got down to vacuuming the area along the wall that had been behind it, clearing away dead bugs, scrubbing the bottom of the walls, and so on. It was after sunset by the time I got to cleaning, so my underused but always appreciated Apex was a huge help. Also used the 140Cgt on 17670 body for quick lighting tasks and illuminating close to the ground to spot debris. This job would have been a lot tougher without good lights.

Sadly, shortly after this, I noticed that my Apex has developed a crack at its mounting hinge. PTs were kind of known for such cracks for a while, but mine was from the "improved" batch, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to worry about this kind of thing. Considering how little it's been used and how easy I've mostly been on it, it's very disappointing. I'll have to see if it can be superglued back together, because it's a great headlamp and I'd hate to have to retire it. As it is, the mount has been weakened enough that I'd be worried about hitting it against a branch and snapping it off.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fluffy feathered friend comes to visit

Light: HDS Clicky 100Chc

The other night, a little after midnight, I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink when I saw some movement at the window. I looked closer and found a young little bird on the other side of the glass peering in at me like it wanted to come in. At first I was worried that it'd be spooked if I hit it with too much light or moved too close, but I found that it responded only with interest to whatever I did. I ended up right on the other side of the glass from it, lighting it with my high CRI Clicky and trying to get a closeup. It was opening its mouth like it wanted me to give it a worm, which I didn't have, so I slowly opened the window a little and dropped some bread crumbs next to it, but it wasn't interested in those. It flew up against the window a few times like it was looking for an opening, then it headed off into the night. Looking back, I almost wish I'd tried to bring it inside so I could see if it was alright and try to feed it, since it seemed to want to come visit.

Later I took the Clicky out into the backyard to look for any sign of it, but found nothing. Hope it was just being social before heading back to a cozy nest.

Sorry for bad photo, it's a screen capture from a video taken through a window covered in ocean spray grime. Anyone know what it is?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Output relativity

I was on my way home, heading toward Cambria along 46, when I noticed the beautiful view out over a sea of clouds, illuminated by a bright moon. I stopped at a vista to take some photos. While maneuvering my camera and changing settings, I was mostly using fairly low amounts of light to maintain adaptation, but I did a little light painting too. At one point, I became interested in the output of the high CRI Clicky, because I was noticing that it was just a little bit dimmer than I expected and wanted at the distance I was trying to use it. This is a common problem for me actually, and a strange one. I have this Clicky set to 25lm at its primary level because its max is only 100 and four times the output is required to achieve a perceived doubling. The problem is that, for some strange reason, 25lm always looks just a little dim to me, whether on this Clicky or another, with or without diffuser, inside or out, with adapted eyes or hardly at all. What I'm describing here is, I believe, impossible; it's not how eyes and perceptions work, but it's what I've consistently found for some time now. Anyway, I was looking at the output, noting how it was just ever so slightly, nigglingly dimmer than I wanted, so I started adjusting it back and forth between 25lm and 35lm, to once again confirm for myself that there was some kind of barrier between good and not so good at these outputs. I ended up deciding to just go ahead and set the level to 35lm instead, giving up on my attempt at technically correct spacing. After making the change, I switched levels on the light to compare, to see how the new setting worked with the others, and I got a bit of a surprise. I hadn't been on the primary level. I just thought I was because my eyes were so much more adapted than normal that I assumed the moderately bright level I was seeing had to be my 25lm primary. I had actually been going back and forth between 3.1lm, where I have the secondary set, and 4.4lm. I'd completely believed I was comparing 25 and 35.

Another thing I found interesting was that 4.4lm was, until quite recently, my standard setting on that secondary level. I chose it years ago because it looked right to me, then changed it down one recently for reasons not based on its appearance to my eyes. What this mixup demonstrated to me, beyond just the obvious relativity of output perception, was that my eyes consistently find ~4lm preferable to ~3lm, just the same way that they prefer 35lm to 25lm, and that if I let my eyes choose the settings instead of my head, I am likely to end up with results that are surprisingly consistent over time and in varying circumstances. I do not understand this. I don't understand why my eyes would have preferred levels that are so specific and fixed, but they seem to. Incidentally, when I got my first HDS light, five years ago, I noticed that 0.33lm just struck me as an unusually "nice" level. Perhaps it's another one of these lumen "sweet spots" that I react positively to. I haven't used 0.33 very much because I generally prefer to trade it for something much lower instead, but whenever I return to it I'm still struck by that same reaction, that it's just a really good level. Very strange.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Light positioning

I'm going to add in a post I made a few days ago on CPF about light positioning, just because I already have it typed out so I might as well include it and add another item to the technique tag. It's from the Tips for effective flashlight use? thread and is in reply to someone else mentioning the advantages of holding a light low in rain or fog.

"I'm surprised I didn't see this one mentioned earlier. This is a good tip, and one that applies not just in rain and fog but in any atmosphere with a little moisture in it, to some degree. A few years ago I did some experiments in a large field on the coast, comparing what I can see through the slightly misty air with a light held in different positions. What I found was that with a light held up around my eyes, in a standard "tacticalish" position, I could see eyes reflecting and a vague form around them, but I couldn't make out detail due to the backscatter. With the light held at arm's length, I was suddenly able to identify the creature as a deer. This has become a standard part of checking my surroundings when out in a wildernessy area: I hold the light by my eyes, scan for the eyes watching me, then hold the light out to try to determine what's observing me. Perhaps the effect is less dramatic in places with totally dry air... but I don't have any of that near where I live.

Light positioning is an important part of using a light effectively, and many of the tips in this thread reflect that. You want it horizontal and close to the surface when you're trying to cast large shadows, close to your eyes when looking for reflections, and far from the eyes when trying to minimize reflection."

Friday, June 10, 2011

100 lumens is SO MUCH LIGHT!

I just went for a walk around my neighborhood. Not even the neighborhood, like two or three blocks. I didn't bring a bunch of lights to play with. I didn't even plan to do it, I just felt like I had to while out doing the laundry. I didn't even bring a knife, my pockets were empty. And it was the best walk. The sky was fairly clear, temperature a mild 52º, no wind. We've had so much inclement weather lately, but suddenly it's just... so nice. I had the little Zebra H30 clipped to my jacket and used it on low a little to just stroll hands-free, but it was a little too much light in too broad a spread. Mostly I used the high CRI Clicky at the minimum level (rated at .07lm but actually around .14 or .2); walking softly in the still and quiet night, lighting softly. With that tiny amount of light, I could see where I was stepping; using proper eye techniques I was able to spot deer at a reasonable distance; with the light at eye level I could see eye reflections about as easily as with a normal light level. Reflective street signs were easily readable at 30 feet, with less light than a match would provide. It was a nice change, it was relaxing. I need to do it more often.

When I did hit the high level, to check up a street (mostly just to compare and contrast against the experience of using as little as possible), the whole street lit up, one end to the other and the houses along the sides. It's *only* 100lm, it's only the less powerful high CRI model, which sacrifices raw power for color rendition. But it's so bright. Remember when 100lm was something amazing to strive for? I remember when I paid $144 for a SF L2 that put out a 100lm donut of greenish-tinged light and drained two CRs in about 45 minutes... and it was glorious. It's gotten so easy to forget how much light 100lm is, but it's so nice to stop and remember.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June winter light-fi

This will be the blog's 100th published post! I will be adding in other posts dated before it, but it will be the 100th published at least. To celebrate, a light-fi report.

Me: HDS/Ra Clickies (100Chc, 100wwCT, 140Cgt), ZebraLight SC51w, SureFire G2Z-M60.
Samy: HDS/Ra Clicky 120CThc; NovaTac 120 Classic.

At the beginning of June, on an unseasonably rainy night (we've already seen more June rainfall than any year since probably the 1930s), Samy and I visited Linn's and then headed to Moonstone Drive for a little adventuring. We walked along the boardwalk, down the boat ramp to the beach, then up and across the bridge and into Leffingwell. This area is always good for playing with lights since the dense trees make it very dark and the heavy ground cover gives a lot to look at and maneuver through. Of course nice views down to the beach too. I mostly relied on my SC51w and the Moby Click 100Chc while walking. The Zebra did its main job of providing comfortable walking light very well, though the tint advantage of the Chc was unmistakeable. Samy used his Chc but his batteries started to die about halfway through. I loaned him my 100wwCT, so he could reexperience how good the warm Osrams really were. He also tried out the Cgt a little, which we both agreed looked downright bad compared to the other lights we were using. Sad really. I also used the G2Z with Malkoff M60 a little to get a better view down at the beaches.

While in the area we did a little geocaching. Sam found his first cache earlier in the evening, so I helped him to bag a second: Leff Inkwell. I led him to the correct area beneath the trees and left him to find it from there.

We ended the evening by scrambling down to a little section of rock just above where the waves were crashing in most fiercely, sending up dramatic sprays. We stood about 10 feet back from the edge and waited for a big enough wave to come along and splash us, then we packed it in for the night. A successful little light-fi walk.

Samy, post-wave.

Samy's final flashlight thoughts on the night.
"Warm's the best, hands down. Pump that cri to the max and i'm happy. The wwc isn't as bad as i remembered, does pretty well actually. The cgt is nice when nothing else is shining but it's still flat 2D distortion that the cri's just murder. [I agree.]

Glow Pocket

Contributed by Sam

Light: 120Chc
Location: CalPoly music room

During rehearsal, a pretty girl sitting behind me noticed something in my pocket.

"Hey, Sam!... Something is glowing in your pocket!"

"Oh yeah, that's just my... flashlight. Thanks for noticing."

Real classy, Mr. Clicky...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Study Lighting

ZebraLight SC51w, H30-Q5;
HDS/Ra Clickies (100Chc, 140Cgt) and Twisty 70Tr;
SureFire 6P-M60Wl, L1;
Inova T1.

May is a month of intense studying; the first half of it at least. For years, one of my biggest study problems has just been finding a comfortable amount of light. My room lighting is... awful. I love portable lighting, but fixed lighting holds little interest for me, and I tend to prefer dim environments anyway, so I'm not well equipped when I do actually need to see what I'm doing for long periods indoors. For a while now, I've used my flashlights, usually with diffusers, to fill in for my missing desk lamps, with mixed results, but recently I've improved the situation a little. Since I've just come through an extended period during which this was the most important (and sometimes only) use of my lights, and I was relying on my lights to allow me to get my work done on a nightly basis, I'd like to devote a post to taking a look at how they serve me in this role.

My Nalgene lamp (with 100wwC Clicky attached) was a clever idea, I thought, but not truly that useful for this application. I have the terrible habit of trying to study on my bed, so getting this lamp to stay in one place and aimed correctly was more effort than it was worth. Still, something to remember if I ever go camping.

This has been my most successful technique for about the last year: a series of lights with either diffusers or very floody beams suspended over my bed. Here we see my 6P with Malkoff M60Wl and Inova T1 (the 2008 edition with the K2 TFFC). Not sure what's above and behind them.

Eventually I wised up and cleared some desk space for myself, just in time for my final study sessions, after months of doing math propped in bed. Here are a couple of Clickies standing by while my new ZebraLight SC51w lights up the book from above.

The ZL SC51w has kind of revolutionized my study lighting. The output, beam, tint, and runtimes make it a breath of fresh air for this kind of use. The neutral XPG emitter has a tint that is very comfortable on the eyes and produces a beam with a very wide spot that can actually be used to read even at fairly close distances without a diffuser. (The effect is a bit better than it appears in this shot.) Wish I'd had it sooner.

A look at the lights used in the days leading up to this year's final, including that wonderful little green Zebra standing there with the Clickies. Lying in the crease is the gen6 SF L1, though I can't remember how I made use of it here. At rear left is the ZL H30, which is always useful, though I've found its cool tint and limited runtime at high outputs rather limiting for this application.

The hanging setup over the desk, similar to what I strung up over my bed before. I've got the SC51w, 6P-M60Wl, and a Clicky going here, though I found I could usually make do almost as well using just the ZL alone. It really is great, I can't emphasize that enough. Because it doesn't have to be diffused, its beam remains focused. Because it retains its normal throw, less output is needed to put proper lux on the page. Lower output means greater efficiency and longer runtime, and its efficiency is already cutting edge to begin with.

Another look at the desk setup. This time I had the SC51w and the diffused high CRI Clicky (Moby Click) hanging above to provide page lighting while the Twisty tailstands in the center of the desk and reflects a little soft area lighting off the folded paper above. At the top right corner of the book stands the little H30 set to a low level. It's adding a little lighting to that corner of the book, but its primary function there was actually just to provide a little illumination on the calculator screen with the edge of its beam.

Final look at the same setup, showing one of the other Clickies (the 140Cgt) attached to the bookcase a few feet up to add another 35lm of area lighting when I wanted it.

My study lighting setup is probably far from ideal, mostly because of the battery concerns and trouble it takes to set it all up, but the results aren't too bad and I'm very grateful that I'm able to create adequate illumination to work despite my lack of more traditional lamps.