Sunday, December 31, 2006

Full throttle into 2007....

The problem on New Year's Eve when you are a father of 3 young girls with no child-care (because the nanny is off for a 2-week holiday) is that you really can't go out like you used to and since you are the only male in a household with 5 females (MIL lives with us) you tend to over-compensate just a little....

My wife bought me Need for Speed: Carbon for Christmas so I hope to be doing more of this tonight.... Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Monkey Personals

Monkey Personals- Online personals for monkeys
It's nice to see that monkeys, too, can use the incredible power of the Internet to find their true love.

Shopping on-line for Boxing Day 2006

I'm not sure what's more exciting: opening up presents Christmas morning or the Boxing Day sale the next day.

Boxing Day is a big deal in Canada and stores offer massive discounts. Most places now try to extend the frenzy to "Boxing Week" but the truth is, in order for you to get the best deals you'll need to set that alarm extra early and line up for the door crashers.

The last time I did that was a couple of years ago. And it wasn't really by choice. The week before Christmas I had bought myself a Panasonic 60 gig HDD/DVD recorder that was on sale at Future Shop. Best Buy forced my hand by advertising the exact same machine in their Boxing Day flyer. When it came to sleeping-in or saving another $100, the choice was made and on the morning of December 26, I got up at 4 am and drove down to Best Buy to line up with the rest of the freaks/geeks. There were probably at least 30-50 people in front of me, and I was kicking my own butt thinking: I should have got up earlier!

Once again this year, I got sucked into the shopping fray only because I was determined to get a good deal on something--I just didn't know what it would be at the time. The week before I commanded: "Do NOT throw away any Boxing Day flyers. I want to see them." To my disappointment, our local newspaper carrier decided to take a holiday and did not deliver any to our door. Un-fazed, I went online and scoured the screen for something to buy--which wasn't hard to do.

The online Boxing Day sale offered several advantages:
  1. Start shopping before everyone else.
  2. Don't have to wake up early to stand in the cold and line up for several hours before the door opens.
  3. Don't have to run through the store to find desired goods.
  4. Don't have to line-up at the cashier for an hour to pay for said goods.
  5. Plus, if online shopping fails, then I can always fall-back and do it the traditional way.
Well, it took me two hours of clicking "Refresh" on my web browser to actually make it far enough the see my shopping cart and check out, but now I have to wait for delivery because one of the items was back-ordered and they won't ship until next week. Which means I probably won't get my toys until after my holidays are over.

I hate delayed gratification....

Friday, December 29, 2006

Possible jumper on Burrard Street Bridge?

Kat Kam

I first discovered the Kat Kam web site when I was using Google Earth to explore downtown Vancouver.

It's usually pointed at the Burrard Street Bridge on the West Side and sometimes there are some spectacular sunsets. Right behind the bridge you can see the H.R. MacMillan Space Center and in the distance you can see the UBC Endowment Lands and the Spanish Banks. Here's a great animation of one day from sunrise to sunset created from images captured by the web cam.

After I updated to the new Blogger template last night, I decided to add a link to Kat Kam on the side bar. This morning I checked it out and just happened to see one of the infamous "police incidents" that occurs occasionally on our city's bridges. It was a strange feeling looking at the picture and knowing that it was taken only minutes before.

From then on, I just at the computer pressing "Refresh" until the next shot uploaded. Thankfully, it looks like it was resolved without any serious harm.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Welcome to the new Blogger!

I've completed the switch and I can say that I'm really happy with the new Blogger templates. You'll notice that I've made some changes:
  1. The large custom banner at the top is removed. I thought it just took up too much space.
  2. I've added R32Argent as a contributor to this blog (Behind the Wheel).
  3. There are more links on the side bar (Logbooks) to the information from my old web site. Some of that content is searched very often (like the VW Climatronic Codes and Dixie Air Horns) so I'll gradually migrate it over to the new site.
  4. In addition to my Blog Roll, I've also included a link to my bookmarks.
  5. Tags (Road Markers): I like this feature the best. It should make it easier to find specific information.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The moon as seen by me

The moon as seen by me
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
...from our front porch in Vancouver, Canada on the 27th of December in the year 2006.

We bought a 10" Dobsonian telescope for Christmas and this was the first night that the skies were clear. The sun was just setting and after letting the kids have a look, I tried taking some hand-held shots through the eyepiece. The biggest surprise for me? How quickly the moon moves because every couple of minutes I'd have to re-aim the telescope to take some more shots. I now understand why astrophotography will be beyond my grasp without some serious (meaning expensive) equipment.

This picture pales in comparison to what the eye actually sees through telescope.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home for Christmas

It seems appropriate that as I'm visiting family during the holidays I'm also 'visiting' my brother's blog. Anywhoo, it took several minutes for me to type the previous sentence, so I'm about tapped out for inspiration. Begone, vile writer's block!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Lens

I received the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens I ordered from B&H Photo when my brother arrived from Washington, DC. I've read a lot of good things about this lens, mostly about it's sharpness and low light capability along with it's great price. It will be fun using it, but I'll have to buy some new filters because lens diameter is smaller than the kit lens that I have (52 mm vs. 55 mm). I really love my circular polarizer so I don't think I could live without it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hankook W300 Ice Bear performance winter tire - tread wear bars

I mentioned in an earlier post that there were two different tread-wear bars on the Hankook W300 Ice bear winter tires I bought. You can see them in the picture above. The one on the lower left is presumably for minimum winter traction and the other wear bars on the right are for minimum "legal" traction.

2006 Honda Odyssey - Hankook W300 Ice Bear new tread

I picked up the wheels yesterday from the Honda dealership after the tires were mounted. You can see how much tread there is compared to the old ones.

Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 Suburu STI - Hankook W300 Ice Bear performance winter tire - 9100 km

I was taking a closer look at the new Hankook Ice Bears I bought for our Honda Odyssey and compared them to the ones that I had on our Subaru Impreza WRX STI from last year and I have to retract the things that I said about tread wear.

I had to keep the winter tires on the STI through to hot weather because my summer rims didn't arrive until late June. I always thought despite that, the tread wear was very minimal even with the hard driving I'm known to enjoy. But upon closer inspection, I noticed that there were two tread-wear bars: one regular for normal (legal) traction, and one for winter traction. Obviously, the winter tread-wear bar is much higher because you need that to get traction in snow. After over 9100 km of driving, I'm very close to that bar right now and I can only forecast about 1 or 2 more winter seasons of use. Hopefully it will be longer because there's no need for me to ride on them through the spring.

For that reason, I'm reluctant to put the new winters on the Honda since the weather has been quite warm lately. I'm trying to hold off until some time during the Christmas holidays, but temperatures are predicted to drop again with some snow flurries in the forecast for this weekend.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

2005 Suzuki Burgman Type S - Vandalized

My Suzuki Burgman was vandalized a few months ago while I was at work but I forgot to mention it. I left the glove-box unlocked and my rain pants were stolen. They also removed a rear plastic body panel probably because they wanted to get into the storage area under the seat. They must have known that the helmets were kept there. Luckily, they didn't get in. So they either knew about mega-scooters, or perhaps were watching me as I put my gear away?

I actually didn't realize the back panel was missing until I got home because even though I did a walk around, I was scanning the ground and not paying attention to the scooter itself. I went back to the parking lot to do another scan to see if they had just tossed the panel to the side somewhere, but did not not find anything.

It took a few weeks for the new panel to come in, but luckily it only cost about $30 to replace. Also, Coast Mountain Sports had one more pair of exactly the same pants I had before and I replaced that, too.

The skies above....

The skies above....
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
There are moments sometimes when I get caught up in the chores of every day life and I forget to look up and see the beauty that encompasses us all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey - Steel Wheel Nuts

A few days after the early arctic blast that left us with over 2 ft of snow, I decided that maybe it would be best to get some winter tires for the Honda Odyssey just in case. The roads were already clear at the time, but because I'm a lazy bum, getting stuck in 5 inches of snow that I refused to shovel on our flat driveway 15 ft from the garage entrance sealed the deal.

I bought another set of Hankook W300 Ice Bears from Tiretrends-- you just can't beat the peformance for the price of these winter performance tires. I love the way they handle on our Subaru STI. The steel wheels that were back-ordered from the Honda dealership finally arrived today and I'm getting the tires mounted and balanced for about $48. I picked up the wheel nuts for the steel wheels. They are slightly different than the ones used for the alloy wheels in two ways: 1. The taper is slightly different; 2. They are designed to accept Honda wheel covers. Howver, I didn't expect all 20 nuts to be individually packaged and sealed!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My favorites on Flickr

I orginally signed up on Flickr simply because my web host was filled and I needed a place to store pictures online. Flickr also allowed me to control who could and could not see my pictures. There are a lot--and I mean a lot--of pictures shared on Flickr that range from the mundane to the truly inspirational. Sometimes I try not to look at too many of the really spectacular shots because I get an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It's like the photo thread at NASIOC which is populated by a lot of professional photographers.

Despite that, I want to share some amazing photos that I've saved as a "Favorite." I've seen a lot of great pictures, but in order for me to click the "Add to Faves" button, a picture not only has to look great but it also to take a hold of me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but these shots also speak to my heart. There is something in each of these pictures that draws me in and makes it difficult to turn my eyes away. Click the link below to see a slideshow of my faves.

A slideshow of istargazer's favorites on Flickr

Monday, December 04, 2006

Snow at dawn

Snow at dawn
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
The biggest problem with all this wonderful snow around is that I had to work all day and didn't get a chance to take many pictures. I took this shot one morning last week just as the sun was rising above the horizon.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Our Festive Odyssey

This is another twist in my quest to make our 2006 Honda Odyssey "not like the others"--the other countless minivans filling the roads out there. The first was back in October with some bats for a little Halloween Spirit. Now it's Christmas lights :lol:

This is something that I've been doing for about 3 years starting with our 2003 Toyota Seqouia. It actually started because I had an extra string of lights and I was trying to think of a way to use them. What was nice about the Sequoia was that the 2-prong outlet was at the front and there was a power switch on the dash so I could turn it on and off.

Since on the Odyssey's electrical outlet is in the rear and there was no power switch to control it, I had to buy an extension cord with a switch on it so that I could control when the lights were on or off. It cost me about $10 CAD from Canadian Tire.

Anyway, it's become sort of a tradition and my kids look forward to it. They help me string the lights around the interior of the vehicle. Oh yeah, today I loaded the 6-disc with Christmas tunes, too :^D.

Some shots of our festive Sequoia in the snow can be seen on this page: Cypress Mountain 2003 (night).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hankook W300 Ice Bear winter tires

Fun in the Snow 5 - 2006
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
We've had quite the weather the last few days. First, we had a major snowfall on the weekend. It was the most snow that I remember falling at one time. It actually started snowing Saturday afternoon and didn't stop until Monday morning. On Tuesday we had an artic outflow that dropped overnight wind chill temperatures to -20 C. Then last night we had another storm with snow and freezing rain that dropped over another 12 cm (5 in) onto our steps. Overall, where we are at the top of the mountain, we've had over 60 cm (2 ft) of snow these last few days. It's quite unusual for November in the usually balmy "Rain-couver." Our neighborhood, which has always been well plowed and salted in past years, was not maintained as much--probably because work crews were busy attending other areas. Buses stopped coming up the hills and garbage hasn't been collected all week. At least the worst of it is over for now. Temperatures are predicted to rise for the weekend.

During all of this I've been happily driving around in the Subaru STI and am very impressed with the performance of the Hankook W300 Ice Bears I bought last winter. They've performed very well in the snow, ice, and slush with very little signs of slip unless I go heavy on the throttle. Consumer Reports gave these tires a "poor" rating for snow traction and I agree that in fresh, deep snow they may slip more than other tires with really deep grooves. But the Hankooks are performance winter tires and Consumer Reports also rated them "very good" in the important safety areas such as braking on ice and wet, as well as in handling and hydroplaning. It rated "good" for dry braking. All of these factors are more important to me than deep snow traction, because living in the Lower Mainland, those are the conditions that I encounter the most. I also know from last year that the treadwear was very good. When I was waiting for the WedsSport wheels to put on for the summer, I had to keep using the Hankook Ice Bears well into June and hot weather. When I finally took them off, they showed very little wear.

I was so impressed with the Hankook Ice Bears that I bought another set for our 2006 Honda Odyssey. Originally I wasn't planning on buying winter tires for the van. But considering that we live above the snow line I just felt that it would be safer to drive on proper tires and not have to predict what the road conditions will be before we go out. With winter tires on the Odyssey, I have the extra security knowing that the tires will be performing at their best. I really think it's important because the tires are the only thing keeping us on the road. I ordered the tires from TireTrends, the same place I bought them from last year. Compared to other brands, the Hankooks are quite cheap and considering the performance they give, it makes them an awesome deal. I paid $117/tire for 225/70/16. This size is close enought to the OEM tires (235/65/16) not to cause any problems. Unfortunately, there is only one winter tire available in the OEM size: Bridgestone Blizzak WS50. However, even though I've heard that the Blizzak's perform very well, I've also heard that they have terrible treadwear. I ordered steel wheels from our Honda dealership to mount the Hankook Ice Bears on, but they're back-ordered so the tires are just sitting my garage now.

I actually drove out to Maple Ridge in the STI after work yesterday (just at the beginning of the last storm front) to pick up the tires. Despite the falling snow and busy traffic, the trip wasn't that bad. The STI just performs so well in these slippery conditions especially because of the Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD). (The picture on the left shows the Japanese-spec control switches. On the North American STI's, the dial and the switch are reversed.) It allows me to adjust the torque split between the front and rear axles. When it's on automatic, the computer puts the power when and where it's needed. In the snow I switch the DCCD to full LOCK and I'm able to power through throttle-induced slides with great ease. It's a blast! I guess the STI's rally-car heritage really shines in these types of road conditions :0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Informed For Life - Saving Lives Through Knowledge

Informed For Life -- This very interesting web site was posted on the Odyclub. It uses published statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings as well as fatality data to calculate a single score that is comparable across vehicle weight classes.

I'm glad to say that the 2006 Honda Odyssey did quite well.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Garden lights and falling snow

Garden lights and falling snow
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I used a combination of a long exposure, zoom, flash, and manual focus to limit the depth of field and make the illumination from the garden and the falling snowflakes appear as circles of light.

The full scene is available here.

First snowfall 2006

Fun in the Snow 2 - 2006
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I'm so glad I put the winter tires on the Subaru last week. We had our first snowfall last night and it was a doozy. Weather forecasters had predicted a storm with 20-30 cm of snow this weekend and being up where we are on the mountain, we got a lot more than that. It started yesterday afternoon and as of now it hasn't stopped.

We were thinking of buying winter tires for the Hondy Odyssey, but since the Subaru STI has a set of Hankook Ice Bears, there's really no reason for us to do it right now. I packed the family in the STI this morning and found an empty parking lot to make sure--ahem--the tires were working properly. I'm really happy with the performance of the Subaru STI and the Hankook Ice Bears--they had lots of grip and even at the limits of adhesion there was lots of control.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

YouTube - I Love You Impreza STi

Brembo Brakes
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
YouTube - I Love You Impreza STi

ELD4AU6 over at told me that he saw some pictures of mine in a video hosted on YouTube. I was surprised to see it there. They were some of the photos I've posted in my Flickr gallery and I'm flattered that someone took the effort to use them to make their video.

Monday, November 20, 2006

2006 Subaru STI - 16217 km - Winter tires installed

With the series of storms passing through here the last couple of weeks, the local mountains have been getting a lot of snow. Whistler Mountain was even able to open up their ski runs earlier than the originally-planned US Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

It's still warm where we are but I thought this weekend was a good time to install the winter tires back on the Subaru STI--just in case the temperature drops. It will also give me a good excuse to look for some snow :0).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sun in morning fog

Sun in morning fog
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I took this picture back in October one morning but didn't get a chance to process it until last week. I found out today that it was placed in Flickr's "Explore" photos for Nov. 8, 2006. It's best viewed as a full-sized image.

Note: The Flickr link is dynamic so I saved one of the page views in PDF format.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

R32Argent's VW R32

R32Argent: Road-trip: Skyline Drive - My brother took his Volkswagen R32 on a road trip yesterday to Shenandoah National Park. His car is another one of the things that influenced me to dump our massive Toyota Sequoia Limited. The Sequoia simply had no character and drove like an appliance (reliable, but boring). Unfortunately, the VW R32 is not available in Canada, so the selection of pumped-up fun cars is limited. That's why I decided to go all the way and get the Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from yesterday....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey - 1381 km - Tighten Fuel Cap Update

RE: Tighten Fuel Cap message in multi-information display

Well the "Tighten Fuel Cap" message finally went out on our 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring after 5 days, 241 km, 1/2 tank of gas, and numerous restarts. The owner's manual stated that it would reset itself after certain conditions were met, but other Odyssey owners on the forums listed all sorts of other situations that had to happen before the error message cleared. Some took it to their dealer who reset it for them. Some even had to have their gas caps replaced. I simply continued to drive as normal, which unfortunately consisted mostly of short trips and slow speeds. I even filled up the tank with gas. What I think has to happen to reset the message is several good steady stretches of driving at highway speeds with the engine at normal operating temperatures and cooling down in between.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey - 1140 km - Tighten Fuel Cap

I got this "Tighten Fuel Cap" error message on the Honda Odyssey today after work.

I stopped at the side of the road and checked the cap by removing it and putting it back on. The message did not go away. I restarted it a number of times hoping to clear the error but that didn't work either.

First hiccup? The thing is I'm usually pretty careful about tightening the cap and making it click several times. I do admit on the last fill up, I thought the leash for the cap was twisted a bit strangely around the cap. I didn't bother to re-do it at the time.

After checking the 2006 Honda Odyssey owner's manual, this is what it says on page 82 about the Tighten Fuel Cap message:
should go off after tightening the
fuel cap, turning the ignition switch
off and on, then driving over 30 mph
(48 km/h) for at least 45 seconds.
Due to different driving conditions, it
may take a few driving trips to make
the message go off.

If a loose or missing fuel cap was not
the cause of the TIGHTEN FUEL
CAP message coming on, the
message will turn off and the
malfunction indicator lamp will
come on. If this happens, have your
vehicle checked by your dealer as
soon as possible.
So I guess I'll need to drive it a few more times and see what happens.

UPDATE: 6 November 2006 - 1381 km

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Well another Halloween is done. It seems like events around here become bigger and bigger spectacles every year, and Halloween is not immune. Tonight had to have been one of the busiest we've ever had. We planned for 130 trick or treaters and got an extra box of candy just in case. We went through all the candy and had to start rationing and recycling some of what my girls collected to make it through the 2 hours starting from 6pm until 8pm when I shut off our lights and blew out all the candles. My wife estimated that there were at least 200 kids of various sizes begging for candy.

Actually, "begging" isn't too far off considering some of the older kids who show up at the door. Maybe you're familiar with them? The ones who don't bother wearing a costume or show any indication that they actually put some effort into getting free handouts? Some didn't even bother carrying a bag or a pillow case to collect their goodies. Some just carried an open backpack--which made me wonder what kind of stash they were hoping to collect over the course of the night. One boy just held out his hands. I asked him where his costume was. He said he was "a teenager."

"An annoying teenager?" I asked.
"Yup," he responded as I reluctantly placed a couple of the junkiest candies I could find in to his open palms.

This year was probably the best year so far for our girls (and me). They were dressed as two witches and an angel. The two oldest had sprayed their hair silvery and I joined them in doing that. With the youngest being 4 years old, she was able to do all the walking and knocking and saying "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you" with her two older sisters. I didn't have to walk them to the door; I didn't have to remind them to speak loudly and remember their manners--I had an easy time. We returned home for one bathroom break and after that my second daughter decided that they were only going to stop at six more houses (because she's 6 years old) and they would be finished--they had collected all they wanted to collect. The child in me was a little disappointed because I knew that anything that they didn't eat, I would get--I wanted them to keep knocking on doors until their bags spilled over!

I guess there are other parents who feel the same way as me, but at least I think I'm a little more subtle. When we get home and sort through their candy, we take out the candies that are "bad" like the ones with nuts (one of our girls has a nut allergy) or are "bad" because I don't like to eat them. We give the girls other treats in trade. This year the trade was for gummy worms and Wagon Wheels. The candies I don't like to eat, I "recycle" by handing them out to the kids who are still knocking on the door. I admit it--guilty as charged--that's what I do. But I do that in the comfort of my home and it really takes very little effort on my part.

What surprises me is seeing the young parents every year who dress up their young children and take them door-to-door collecting candy. I don't mean the parents who are accompanying their shy or scared toddlers who won't knock on doors themselves. I'm talking about parents with really young kids--babies who can't even walk! They dress them up in silly little furry animal jumpsuits and follow all the other neighborhood kids, carrying their baby in one arm and a plastic orange pumpkin bucket in the other. Usually, dad is at the end of the driveway with a larger bag hanging off the handle of the stroller, ready to unload the bucket that mom hands off to him when she returns from getting the stash. I truly, truly hope that these parents are NOT feeding their 1-year-old babies all that chocolate and processed sugar. But then who is the candy for?

Another thing that we see here every year is a parade of vehicles who come rolling into the neighborhood, unload their crew of unruly pirates and ghouls and swarm the houses like hungry termites. We had so many people this year because at the peak of the invasion around 7pm, our cul-de-sac was filled with more cars than we had at our last multi-house garage sale--and you know how popular garage sales are! It was the most cars I'd ever seen for a single event--way more than the parade of vehicles we had during spring clean-up earlier this year.

So I have no problem shutting down business promptly at 8pm. Most of our neighborhood kids are done by then and it's only the older kids and the roaming minivans and SUVs who are left outside in the cold night. I do feel a little bad though when I look out the window and I see parents with younger kids (like ours) still looking for houses with their lights on. But shouldn't those kids be getting ready for bed? Oh, yeah, another thing that irks me....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkins 2006

Pumpkins 2006
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
We (I) carved our pumpkins tonight. I usually let my daughters draw something on the pumpkins and I try my best to follow it. The one in the center is a face my 6-year-old picked out from a picture. The one on the left was drawn by my 8-year-old, and the one on the right (hearts with "Boo" and exclamation marks) was drawn by the 4-year-old.

2006 Honda Odyssey - Break-in Period Complete

I was able to finish the 1000km break-in period on our 2006 Honda Odyssey this past week and I have a few observations:
1. It's nice having a large fuel tank because I'm able to go further bewteen fill-ups.
2. Although I don't normally have problems parallel parking, the rear camera and backup sensors make the whole process, very, very easy.
3. The Odyssey handles like a large, heavy vehicle. It's not bad. A lot of magazines say it's one of the best handling minivan--but you still can't deny physics. Stepping into our Subaru STI after this feels like stepping into to a purpose-built race car.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Star Trek Cloaking Device?!

Cloaking device works, sort of, scientists say
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British scientists said on Thursday they had found a way to hide an object from microwave radiation in a first step toward making a what they hope will be an invisibility cloak.

From fiction to fact? Ultra cool... I love it!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hydro dam with reflections

Hydro dam with reflections
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I took this picture along side a fun local road that I affectionately call the "Ring"--after the famous Nürburgring in Germany.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey - 706km: Philips Crystal Vision Extreme

I picked up a pair of new low beam headlight bulbs from Costco yesterday. This is what the blurb on Philips website says about the Crystal Vision bulbs:
With a color temperature of up to 4,000ºK, no upgrade bulb is closer to the bright blue/white look of HID. CrystalVision delivers the whitest light available from a halogen bulb. Plus, CrystalVision gives you significantly increased light output for much better visibility of road signs and hazards.
These bulbs are made in Germany so I was more inclined to buy them. At about $38 CAD for the pair, the price was reasonable. It was very easy to swap the bulbs and although the colour change is subtle, I definitely appreciate it over the OEM Sylvania bulbs.

The picture below shows the OEM Sylvania low beam bulb on one side and the Philips Crystal Vision Extreme on the other:

This picture shows the Philips Crystal Vision Extreme bulbs on the Honda Odyssey next to the OEM HID headlights on our 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. The colour is pretty close:

An interesting tidbit of information.... The 2006 Honda Odyssey owner's manual specifies that the low beam headlamp bulb is a 51W (HB4, or 9006). The Philips bulbs are actually 55W. I haven't had a chance to take the van out for a nighttime drive yet, but I didn't really notice any immediate increase or decrease in brightness.

Friday, October 20, 2006

2006 Honda Odyssey: Cargo Organizer

Honda makes an accessory for the Odyssey called the "Cargo Board" that allows you to have an extra "shelf" to load things in the back. You can see very clear pictures of how it looks and how to install it on this page. It also lists for a MSRP price of $298 USD! Once I saw those pictures (and that price), I began to think that I liked the cargo organizer I bought for our 2002 Mazda MPV much better. It only cost me $200 USD list and had been sitting untouched in my garage for the last 3 years--ever since we traded the MPV for the Toyota Sequoia. Because the MPV was smaller than the Odyssey, I started to wonder if the cargo organzier would fit. As you can see from the picture above, it actually fits quite well.

Rather than having the (intrusive) metal legs like Honda's version, these covers are supported by a form-fitting plastic tub. It doesn't give you the versitility of being able to have part of the 3rd row folded down, but it's convenient to take in and out of the van. Plus, with 3 kids (and #4 on the way!) there will be very few times that I will have the 3rd row folded down and split.

Next to the covers are two long pockets for holding small items. Inside there are eight sets of hooks to hold the two elastic nets in various configurations. There are also non-slip mats for the main compartment as well as the two pockets. In the following three pictures you can see how it fits in the Odyssey. To the left and the right, the fit is perfect. Towards the rear there's about 3 inches of room that I could use to fit long narrow things if needed. Because of the slope of the Odyssey's rear storage area, the plastic tub doesn't slide around at all.

I'm so glad I didn't get rid of the cargo organizer when we sold the MPV. I even tried to give it away to one of my neighbors but he didn't want it. Our MPV had tan leather so the colour doesn't match with the Odyssey's black interior, but that's a minor issue considering I don't have to spend any additional money on it. We made a trip to Costco tonight and it worked great because we were able to put the small fragile things (like eggs and fruit) in the tub and stack the bulky items on top. Here's the part number from the original packaging when I bought it from a Mazda dealership back in 2002.

Note: At that time, this accessory--although made in Canada--was available ONLY in the USA. I ordered mine through a Mazda dealership in Seattle, Washington. I don't know if that has changed. Pictures of the cargo organizer in the Mazda MPV are available here.

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