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.