Monday, 3 June 2013

09:14 – We did a Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. With Mary’s and Barbara’s advice, I picked up some stuff to ship off to the Marine unit in Afghanistan. I’m very glad they were there. For example, one of the items the troops requested was wipes. So, as I was picking up a bottle of Chlorox2 bleach for us, I happened to notice a large box of Lysol disinfectant wipes. I picked it up, and Barbara intercepted me. Although she phrased it more politely, the message was basically, “No, you moron, they want BABY WIPES!” Me: “There’s a difference?” So she led me to the next aisle, where I picked up a case of 900 baby wipes.

As it turned out, Paul and Mary were already quite experienced with sending CARE packages to the troops. Mary’s cousin was over in the Middle East, and they’ve been frequently sending packages to him, so they’re intimately familiar with stuff like filling out customs forms, which items can’t be sent and so forth.

So now I have to figure out which items and how many of each will fit in each USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate Box B. That offers by far the best bang for the buck. It costs only $8.47 to mail to an APO AE address, versus $13.30 for the slightly larger PM Large Flat-Rate Box. The one downside of the RRBB is that it’s limited to 20 pounds, versus 70 pounds for the LFRB, so I may end up using an LFRB if I’m shipping a lot of heavy stuff like canned goods.

The one universal piece of advice is to seal the items in ziplock bags, ideally two bags per item. I’m going to use just one freezer-weight bag per item, because they’re pretty impermeable to odors and such, but I’ll use my heat sealer to run a seam between the ziplock and the edge of the bag. That way, they can cut off the heat-sealed part and rezip the bag if they need to. Anything to keep sand out. I’ll use the sink method to exhaust air from the bags: fill the bag, zip it most of the way closed, and then lower the bag into a sink full of water to press the air out.

09:14 – I just shipped off the first box to the Marines in Afghanistan. I managed to get nine 7-ounce cans of tuna, three Kraft mac & cheese dinners, and two 100-packs of baby wipes into the box, which is all the cubic would allow. Other than the tuna, I bagged and heat sealed everything. As I told Barbara, it costs so little to do that we cab send packages frequently without even noticing the cost. Even counting the $8.47 postage, I don’t think the entire box cost us more than $25 or so.

You wouldn’t know that from the customs declaration, though. I entered the description as “Tuna, 7-ounce cans”, the quantity as “9”, and the value as $10.50. It wasn’t until I’d already printed the label and stuck it on the box that I noticed the 2976A customs form listed 9 cans of tuna with a total value of $94.50 rather than $10.50. Oh, well.

If I’d mailed the items in a regular box the same size as the RRBB, postage for the 12-pound-2-ounce box would have been $18.83 rather than $8.47 with the RRBB. But that gave me a cunning idea. Unless I filled it entirely with canned goods, it’d be difficult or impossible to hit the 20-pound weight limit on that box. But I can send 12+ pounds via Priority Mail for $18 or $19 even in a box, presumably within reason. Cubic is really limiting on the RR Box B, so I think we’ll start using those only for dense shipments. For less dense items–tampons, facial tissues, and so on–I’ll start using a larger box.

15 thoughts on “Monday, 3 June 2013”

  1. We did a Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday.

    Don’t get tempted by the LED bulbs that Costco sells for $20.00 for three. Out of four packages we have had three defective bulbs and another is becoming intermittent. Problem with Costco is you have to return the entire package contents so we would have to return 3 bulbs to get three more. And one of those may be bad.

    Instead consider the CREE bulbs from Home Depot. We have replaced most of our lights with LED bulbs where possible. We ditched the CFL bulbs as the LED turn on instantly, run cooler and are more efficient that CFL. Up front cost was high though. Don’t know that I will recoup what I paid over the next 10 years.

  2. I am not at all happy with the new crop of LED light bulbs. They are 10X the cost of CFL bulbs and do not provide omnidirectional light, only unidirectional light. If you have them pointed in the direction that you want then they are good, otherwise you have massive shadows.

    However, I still use the cheapie CFL bulbs (23 watt and 13 watt) from Wal*Mart. The 13 watt last forever, I use them outside for security and just leave them on 24×7. The 23 watt seem to have a life equivalent to that of incandescent so I am probable using them wrong.

    I also still use the philips 45 watt halogen bulbs in my home can lights. Excellent light and life. At the office we are using the 23 watt CFLs in the can lights since we have so freaking many of them.

  3. I am not at all happy with the new crop of LED light bulbs. They are 10X the cost of CFL bulbs and do not provide omnidirectional light, only unidirectional light.

    Take a good look at the CREE bulbs that Home Depot is carrying. They look almost like regular bulbs and the light is omnidirectional. You cannot tell the difference in a light fixture. There are no shadows at all.

    They are more expensive than CFL by about 5 times which is not too bad. They come in 40 and 60 watt equivalents and in daylight and warm. I personally like the warm bulbs.

    The bulbs work great in outdoor fixtures, especially when cold as there is no warm up time. The bulbs can be dimmed using any standard dimmer. The bulbs do not get warm although the base will get warm. Not nearly as warm as CFL.

    Buy one or two and see what you think. You would only be out $20.00 if you don’t like them which is not much in the overall scheme of things. The 40 watt equivalent only use 6 watts of power. Multiple by a few dozen bulbs and the reduction in power is significant.

  4. Where is the 100 watt equivalent CREE LED bulb?

    I note that the 60 watt equivalent CREEs are 9.5 watts at $13. The six pack is $75 ($12.50 each). The 60 watt equivalent CFL is 13 watts for $2. Still looks like a non-bargain to me.

  5. There is no 100 watt equivalent, yet. I suspect that heat dissipation from the LED’s is still a problem.

    At 3.5 watt reduction in power is 10%, fairly significant. I also feel the light is better than CFL as it is a broader spectrum light. You can also dim the LED lights but cannot dim many CFL bulbs. I also think the LED bulbs look better in a fixture than a squiggly CFL. You also don’t have warm up delays as you do with CFL. Lights in my outdoor mower and storage building take several minutes to get to full brightness in the winter.

    In the beginning CFL was no bargain over incandescent bulbs. Eventually that has changed over time time. LED will follow the same pattern.

    Buy a couple and see how they work. If you don’t like them you are not out a lot of money.

    I am also one that has no problem spending $200 on a LED flashlight. I enjoy them and the LED lights. I also would not spend $300 on a gun as I have no desire to ever own a gun. (Viet Nam will do that to you.) To each their own as to how they spend their money. To me, even though the LED bulbs are not a bargain, it was a reasonable expenditure. I have 10 security lights around my property and all of them have been replaced with LED.

    I put this light over the garage.

  6. “I also would not spend $300 on a gun as I have no desire to ever own a gun. (Viet Nam will do that to you.)”

    I must have turned out differently somehow, but I plead that they put me in the security police, so we always had guns, even back in the World in “peacetime.” I left boot camp and went right into MP training and it dealt with most of the stuff in the AF small arms arsenal, and then later I went through their combat training (twice) and got to learn all the rest of the stuff we were to use in the combat zones; the security specialists back then (security forces now, I guess) were the mechanized infantry for the AF at its air bases and other installations, like bomb dumps, for instance. Once I got out, I figured the only jobs I could qualify for, during a recession with unemployment officially at 15% in Maffachufetts then, was cops and security, so that’s where I ended up in my 20s and 30s, with lots of guns.

    So $300 for a gun for guys like me is usually a bargain of some sort these days.

  7. It’s not really different from them taking fingerprints on arrest, which they already do. I don’t think they should be allowed to take fingerprints or DNA from someone until that person has been convicted.

  8. I don’t think they should be allowed to take fingerprints or DNA from someone until that person has been convicted.

    For DNA this is the policy in Texas, except for sexual crimes. A local legislator wanted to make it law, but it got hung up procedurally, and died.

  9. Cheek swabs are not different from fingerprints until the data is routinely sent to, say, the IRS — you know, the keepers of Obamacare. You know, just for statistical purposes.

    I’m about to the point of figuring that I might as well just kill anyone who tries to arrest me even for jaywalking.

  10. After installing florescents everywhere in our house/business, we gradually got accustomed to the crappy light/slow warm-up times. Except in the public parts of the business, where we bought top-end fixtures – nice light, immediate full brightness – but at a whopping price.

    So now LEDs: I can confirm that the good bulbs provide great light. However, as someone noted above, they cost a lot more than CFL. We should not forget: if LEDs cost (say) 3x what CFLs cost, and CFLs cost (more than) 3x what incandescent lights cost, well, the price we are paying to get back to what we had is just ridiculous.

    Energy savings? Nonsense! We heat well over half the year here, meaning that the waste heat of incandescents did not go to waste. Given that we live just down the road from a lovely nuclear plant, it’s likely that our electricity is more eco-friendly that our heating oil. It’s been a long trip, with far too much government involvement, and the primary effect is to cost us a great deal of money for nothing at all…

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