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Programming with OpenSCAD

I recently picked up Programming with OpenSCAD from No Starch Press. I’ve been using OpenSCAD for over 10 years, and I’ve not yet mastered it, but I’m definitely proficient at it. I’ve learned a lot of tricks over the years and I’ve created some complex 3D objects, but there’s always more to learn.

So did this book help? Yes. I read it while I was “offline” (meaning, on vacation away from home for a week) and it was good to just read a book and have a reference without being distracted by a computer. If you’re a complete newbie to using OpenSCAD, this would be a great book for you. I could still do most of what I do without ever having read it, but I feel like I picked up enough tips and tricks to make it worthwhile.

Other things to check out are the OpenSCAD Cheat Sheet, and the GitHub repo for the book which has all the code you’ll find in the book in case you want to grab any of it.

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Trader Joe’s Chunky Salsa

A few people seemed to enjoy my Kroger Private Selection Salsa review so I’m back again with another salsa. I picked up this “Trader José’s” salsa for $1.99 USD, so expect another cheap salsa. It’s mild, and… well, it is mild. If you want plain, cheap, dare I say boring salsa, this is it!

While the Kroger Private Selection Salsa was probably going for an upscale/artisan look with the label, this Trader Joe item is full on “Mexican Restaurant in America” style. It’s fine. Say “fine” to the salsa. It’s 10 calories per serving but I eat half a jar at a time so whatever.

I had to spice it up a bit, and instead of the Sriracha I grabbed the Old Bay hot sauce for a bit more flavor. That helped.

So yeah, boring salsa, but cheap. Not too much liquid like the Kroger Private Selection Salsa so at least you get your two dollars worth. Chips Ahoy!

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Kroger Private Selection Salsa

What started out as one of my Critique this label posts on Facebook turned into a full review of this salsa. Some of the comments from others included “Tomatoes are listed 4 times.”, “It’s staunchy design.”, “Pretty generic. Too many fonts…”, and “Tomatillo salsa should not have tomatoes in it.” So here’s my take…

First I’ll start off by saying I bought this because it was on sale for $1.99 USD. I like a good medium salsa, and the “Smoky, Tangy” flavor sounded good. It’s definitely got a smoky flavor to it, though I would call this a “hot” salsa instead of a “medium”. I can handle hot stuff just fine but I really think they should label this hot instead of medium. If they do have a “hot” I don’t think I want it.

My main complaint about this salsa is the amount of liquid content. This is not a “thick and chunky” it’s the opposite, a “loose and watery” or something, though putting that on the label would probably affect sales. I decided to run the salsa through a strainer to get some idea of the amount of liquid in it. See the photo below.

Wow! I got about 5 ounces of liquid, which accounts for more than 25% of the contents of the jar. So even though this salsa was $1.99 USD I really only got a jar that was about 70% full of salsa after the excess liquid removal process. (I also wonder if most of the hotness was in the liquid, because it did not seem as hot after I de-liquified it.)

In conclusion, it’s an okay salsa. Will I buy it again? Probably not. Though the low price was appealing, once I finish the three jars I have (?!?) I’ll probably move on to another brand.

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Review: GE reveal LED Light Bulb

GE reveal Light Bulb

I received a GE reveal® LED Light Bulb and was asked to write about it. Besides being given the light bulb, I was not compensated in any other way. Also, I’m sort of a lighting nerd. I use lighting at work for photo and video production, and I’m very particular about much of the lighting in my home and office.

If you want to see some of the typical comparisons, check out the GE reveal® Lighting page. The info I’ll provide below is a bit different.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

This is a standard compact florescent light bulb. I sort of hate CFL bulbs. I find the light they produce quite terrible, and the big clunky base of the bulb is annoying. From a design standpoint, I find the spiral ridiculous. I do like the energy saving potential of the CFL bulbs, and we do use some around the house, but overall I hate them.

Standard Light Bulb

This is a standard incandescent bulb. I love these bulbs. They tend to produce a nice quality light, and they are cheap, and the design is beautiful. When I think of a light bulb, this is what I picture. Of course, these are quickly becoming illegal (sort of) and being phased out. Sadly, at some point in the future, you won’t be able to buy incandescent bulbs in the United States anymore. Sadness!

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

This is the GE reveal Bulb, which, design-wise, is close to an incandescent bulb, which is nice, especially if you have shades that go directly on the bulb. (Yes, older lamp shades did have a metal clampy thing that went right on the bulb. I still have some of those lamp shades.) One of the benefits of this bulb is that it matches the physical shape and size of the old incandescent bulbs. That’s a big improvement over the CFL bulbs.

Lighting Difference

As for the quality of light, it’s a pretty nice light. I found it to be just a little cooler than the incandescent bulb… in a good way. I definitely like the light it produces. The LED bulb gives off a great light! Slightly better than the incandescent, and much better than the CFL.

One little annoying thing about the design is that you only get light from half of the bulb. I know this is due to having to shove all the electronics into the other half of the bulb, but I can see this causing issues in some situations where you actually do want light spilling out in every direction.

Old Time Light Bulb

I decided to put the bulb into place in my painting room where I’ve been using an incandescent bulb. Now, our house is old, and the light sockets are old, and this old incandescent bulb has been doing the job fine, probably for years and years, but…

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

When I put in the GE reveal Bulb, it did not work. I tried a few times. I also pushed the bulb up against the fixture, and no luck. It’s worth noting that the socket is a bit wobbly, but the LED bulb just did not work. Maybe there are some sockets it won’t work in?

I should also note that I weighed the three bulbs, because I was curious about the weight. The compact fluorescent bulb (the largest I have in the house) weighed in at 6.4 ounces. The good old incandescent bulb was 0.99 ounces. (Yes, it was less than an ounce!) The GE reveal LED bulb was a whopping 7.3 ounces. That’s a heavy bulb! I can see this causing some issues if you’ve got a lamp that may already be top-heavy. I guess if we’re moving to a world were we have to convert high-voltage AC power to low-voltage DC power in every bulb, that may be the price we pay.

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

I moved the GE Reval bulb to another socket and it worked fine. This light also had a metal shade on it which would normally reflect light down, but since the GE reveal bulb doesn’t really shine light up due to the half-bulb design, the shade probably doesn’t do much. But hey, the bulb worked… that’s good!

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

The good news is, the GE reveal bulb is suitable for damp locations, though it does warn that it is not for use in totally enclosed luminaires. This will limit where you can use this bulb. Even though incandescent bulbs can product a lot of heat, they can also stand a lot of heat, like inside your oven! The electronics used in an LED bulb are sensitive to heat, and may not survive being in an enclosed fixture. (And yeah, never use one in an oven!)

There’s one more feature of the GE reveal bulb I’m really excited about… it’s dimmable! Yes, there are dimmable CFL bulbs, but none of the ones I have are dimmable, and the ones that are seem to be pricey. Incandescent bulbs excel when it comes to dimming. I put the GE reveal bulb in our bathroom fixture and it did indeed dim. It did not go as dim as my incandescent bulbs, but hey, it did work. I then tested it in an X10 controlled lamp, and the results were much better, though there did seem to be a slight flicker at the lowest setting.

GE is marketing this bulb to people who want to have beautiful light in their home (or elsewhere) to “reveal” the decor and surroundings, and for that, I’d say this bulb does the job. It provides a lovely light, and is well designed. A quick search online revealed this bulb to cost about $20, which is ten times what you might pay for an incandescent bulb. Of course the LED bulb should be more energy efficient, and should last much longer. In theory.

So that’s my review of the GE reveal® Light Bulb. Pretty much everything in this review had to do with testing, evaluation, and my own opinion. Now that’s all of that is out of the way, I’ll put the bulb into place and give a real-world test for a while, and then if I have new insights, I’ll share those as well.

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Laser-Cut Cardboard House

Laser-Cut Cardboard House

I took the family to Discovery World over the weekend and we checked out the Design It! Lab where we built laser-cut cardboard houses. (Well, the kids and I built houses, Dr. Dana made a snowflake ring.)

I was a little disappointed there wasn’t as much “designing” and “making” as I thought there would be. We were handed a piece of laser-cut cardboard (with no instructions) and were tasked with putting it together by folding it along the score lines, and inserting tabs. I was hoping for a bit more… I wanted to use a laser-cutter, or at least see one in operation. It sounded like if you sign up for classes, you get to do a bit more hands-on things like that. Maybe the kids and I are just so used to making things that this seemed fairly simple to us. For first-time makers, maybe this is a good starting point.

On the bright side, I did drop the names of some people I know who work there, and the Design It! Lab guy brought out the Makerbot for me to see. It’s not quite up and running yet, but should be soon.

(If you’re interested, I’ve written up a review of our Discovery World experience over at Yelp.)