Coleman 425E Experiences

No “Liquid Fuel” Stove Works Like Your Kitchen Stove

You have to go through a process to light them, because they don’t actually run on liquid fuel: they boil their liquid fuel, then run on the resulting vapors. That’s because it’s difficult to directly burn a liquid fuel cleanly and efficiently.

But a cold, unlit stove can’t boil any gasoline, so it must be briefly operated directly (and inefficiently) on some sort of liquid fuel (typically its own gasoline) to heat it up to the point where it can boil its fuel and get running normally. The exact procedure varies a great deal from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer.

That only takes about a minute, and Coleman actually came up with one of the best such procedures, but it does still take a minute. You don’t just turn on the gas valve of a cold “liquid fuel” stove and have an instant clean flame ready to go. Worse, it looks strange to the uninitiated, who often tend to worry that the stove is about to cause a conflagration of explosion when in fact it’s just acting normally for a cold start.

This was not a surprise to me, but I figured I’d mention it, just in case some random person unaware of it happens to read this post.

The 425E Is Even Less Like a Kitchen Stove Than a One-Burner White Gas Stove

Not only is there a lighting process to go through, but the burners don’t operate independently of each other. There’s a main burner (whose heat vaporizes the fuel) and an auxiliary one (that piggybacks off the vapor made by the generator and main burner). For flame control, there’s a valve that controls the fuel going to both burners, and one that controls the auxiliary burner only.

If you want only one burner on, that has to be the main burner. If you want one burner on high, and the other on low, it’s the main that must be the one on high. Upshot is you often end up swapping pots around instead of (or in addition to) just adjusting the burner flame level.

All of Coleman’s multi-burner gasoline stoves are like this, not just the 425E. None of the above is a surprise, because I remember how my parents used such a stove decades ago.

It Does Simmer, and It Is Stable

The tippiness and the limited simmering ability of my one-burner Coleman 440 were the main motives for wanting an alternate liquid fuel stove.

No More Annoying Wasteful Canisters

What are the annoyances of propane canisters? Let me count them:

  1. There is no legal way to refill a canister. You throw the empties away.
  2. Recyclers typically don’t take the empties. They go in the trash, not the metal recycling bin.
  3. Don’t want to take a partly-full canister on a trip? Too bad; see point No. 1 above. Either suck it up and take it, or add it to your growing collection of partly-full canisters and take a new full one.
  4. A canister is a declining source of power. The emptier it gets, the worse its performance gets. Below 1/4 full, performance is seriously impacted if the temperature is below 50°F/10°C. Which of course is precisely when you most want a nice, hot meal.

I’m Still Keeping the Propane Stove

Why? Revisit the first two sections. White gas stoves intimidate many people, particularly when first lit. That’s a minus on group camp-outs, where you want something simple that won’t surprise or startle novice users. The other 95% of the time, however, I’ll be using white gas from now on.

All in All, It Seems to Be a Good Deal

For one quarter the price of a new one-burner MSR Dragonfly, and one-half the price of a used one in unknown condition, I got a reconditioned, known-good, Coleman two-burner stove. The Coleman stove was also approximately one-quarter the price of the necessary hardware (tank, hose, adapter) to run my two-burner propane stove from a refillable tank instead of those annoying and poor-performing canisters.

The only real downside is the vastly greater weight and size of the Coleman stove compared to the Dragonfly. Since I only very seldom backpack, that’s a minor issue, and basically countered by having an extra burner to cook on. I already have two stoves suitable for backpack use, anyhow.

Russia Reset, Kompromat, Etc.

First, Trump’s Russia Reset is Dead

Trump’s possibly treasonous Russia collusion backfired, bigly. It was too galling even for most members of today’s Republican Party. With its sanctions bill, Congress has hobbled Trump with respect to Russia.

It’s somewhat surprising that Trump didn’t decide to force the issue with a (doomed) veto. He’s certainly immature and short-tempered enough to do just such a thing. His handlers probably had to argue with him quite a bit to get him to acknowledge the inevitable, and accept today’s humiliation of having to sign a hated bill into law rather than tomorrow’s humiliation of an overwhelming veto override.

Onward to a New Cold War?

In the short term, definitely. Even through the medium term, quite likely. That really sucks, but with the successful (and unrepentant) Russian interference in the US (and other nations’) political systems, non-sucky immediate-term outcomes simply don’t seem possible.

Of the sucky outcomes possible, a new Cold War seems to me the least sucky. It exerts consequences on the Putin regime, whose domestic economy is quite weak already and which was counting on a Russia reset in the West to end sanctions, create domestic economic growth, and boost the regime’s popularity.

Now all Putin gets is a short-term opportunity to rally Russians around the flag while he copes with a long-term set of economic constraints that will act to undermine his regime’s popularity.

Karma Has Bitten the West, Too

Don’t think Russia is the only nation hoisted by its own petard for interfering with other nations’ politics. The West interfered with Russian politics in a huge way by backing Yeltsin’s 1993 coup against Russia’s constitutional government. That coup created the imperial presidency that Yeltsin’s successor Putin used to create the dictatorship that ended up destabilizing the USA and other Western nations.

Kompromat? Probably None of That

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the alleged (and it was always alleged; there never was any hard evidence of it) extreme dirt Putin had on Trump probably doesn’t exist. US/Russia relations are now totally in the doghouse, so Russia has every possible reason imaginable to retaliate against Trump with every diplomatic weapon in its arsenal. If it doesn’t come out in the next week or two, it’s safe to conclude the kompromat simply doesn’t exist at all.

Deals Galore in Mount Vernon

Last fall, I took my old single-burner Coleman stove camping. It was the first time in decades I had used it, but I knew how badly canister stoves acted when temperatures were in the forties, and this was a trip to Wyoming, where lows could be expected to be in the twenties each night.

The pump didn’t pump well when I tried it. After some research with a search engine, I fed it a couple drops of household lubricating oil and waited a few minutes. It pumped perfectly. I filled the tank and did a test firing. The stove operated just as I had remembered it from years back.

And it was very nice to have a stove the just belted out the heat, no matter how chilly it was. Gone forever was the “tank is only partially full, so performance sucks in cold or even cool weather” syndrome. But it was tippy, vulnerable to the wind, and difficult to make it simmer reliably.

I had been lusting after an MSR Dragonfly, but those are way too spendy to rationalize on my presently limited budget. So I’ve been keeping an eye on the local Craigslist instead. Most of the Dragonflies there were still $70 and up. Then I spied a Coleman two-burner car-camping stove on sale for $35, about $10 less than the norm for such things, in the “items available in nearby areas” section. Its picture showed it in very good condition, atop a stack of other such stoves, and the ad mentioned the seller being hard of hearing. Ah, thought I, a fully checked-out and restored stove from a retired tinkerer with a hobby business to pass the time. Probably every bit the deal it appears to be.

It’s not lightweight like the Dragonfly, but I seldom backpack anyhow. My Dad had (still has) one and used it for years on camping trips and (when burn bans were in place) picnics. It never let him down. It was not tippy. It simmered easily. It performed acceptably in the wind.

But it was for sale in Mount Vernon. Add the ferry tolls and gas and it’s totally not a justifiable expense. Except that I was going to Lopez Island this weekend, and Mount Vernon is essentially on the way there. So I contacted the seller and said that if it was still available Sunday (today), I was interested in buying it. It was, and the seller was basically as I had sussed him out. He demonstrated the stove worked, we chatted a bit, and I left with it. It set me back 1/4 the price of a new Dragonfly.

My ride partner had asked to be dropped off downtown, so he could visit a used book store he liked. While the proprietor was ringing up my friend’s purchases, I remembered a highly-regarded (and out of print) book on mosses I had been wanting for some time. I asked where the botany section was and darted off. And there it was, priced at $9.95. It sells for $40 and up on Amazon. It followed me home, too.

Tech Work and Alternate Plans

Well, chalk up another blown interview. I’m not sure if it’s just age discrimination at work (and deliberately creating impossible hurdles as a pretext) or just trends moving in ways that I am fundamentally incompatible with (so much of the “agile” trend might more accurately be described as “give software developers as little privacy and personal space as possible, and maximize the number of interruptions they are subject to”).

Whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that today’s tech workplace is probably not for me. I could make yesterday’s work, but that was yesterday, and yesterday is gone.

So I’m increasingly thinking it’s time to move on to something else. The big question is what.

Sodium Sesquicarbonate, the Best Floor Cleaner?

Some years ago, I was renting a room in a house. In the utility room was a box of a product called “Dirtex,” which could be used for, amongst other things, a floor cleaner. Because I needed to clean a floor that day, and it was handy, I tried it. It worked wonderfully.

A glimpse at the ingredients showed that it was mostly “sodium sesquicarbonate,” a compound new to me at the time. It’s basically a double salt of sodium carbonate (a.k.a. washing soda) and sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda).

I couldn’t find that product after I moved to Bainbridge Island, but the grocery store here sells both washing soda and baking soda, and I have a gram scale. So it was a simple matter to weigh out 286 grams of washing soda (being a decahydrate, it has a high molecular weight) and 84 grams of baking soda, and mix the two.

No, that’s not making true sodium sesquicarbonate unless I dissolve and recrystallize the result, but given that I’m just going to be dissolving it in a bucket of mop water, it makes no difference to the resulting solution. And yes, I’m sure there’s a little bit of variation as the powders separate and settle, but mopping the floor isn’t a precision science. It works well enough.

Which, to the best I can recollect, is about as well as the commercial product worked, which in turn is quite well indeed.

Really? A Four-Hour Timed Test?

Just to be able to talk to an actual person at the company? Does this anonymous employer have any idea how onerous a demand that is on someone’s schedule?

Demanding a four-hour time investment just to be able to speak to a human, even a personnel droid, is bad enough. Demanding it be in the form of a timed on-line exercise that cannot be paused takes the cake. Now it has to be four consecutive hours, blocked off in one’s schedule. That’s nearly as big a time commitment as a half-day on-site interview!

And realize, I do poorly on timed exercises. My style is to shelve things and think about them “in the background” for a while while working on other things. Timed exercises are fundamentally incompatible with that technique. So it’s hardly a surprise that the number of job applications that have gone further as a result of attempting such things are, in my case, exactly zero.

With those kind of odds, you can bet I am not falling over myself in eagerness to start the exercise. I may still attempt it, but frankly, there’s things right now I can do that have more promise than this particular time sink.

More Curmudgeonly Smartphone Bashing

A few months ago I had the opportunity to use an iPhone. Unbelievably, the thing took eight keystrokes to simply hang up an in-progress call. Eight! I am not making this up:

  1. After 30 seconds or so of idleness, the phone locks itself due to security measures. (The phone for some reason considers itself to be “idle” even though it is actively in use for a call at the time.)
  2. Given virtually all calls last longer than 30 seconds, that means you must first get the attention of the now-locked iPhone. Press the one and only actual mechanical button offering tactile feedback the device has (1 keystroke, 1 in total).
  3. It is now time to enter the unlock code for the phone (4 additional keystrokes, 5 in total, and counting).
  4. Despite the device being a phone, and a phone call being actively in place, for some reason you are now in the phone’s default mode, which has nothing to do with making or managing telephone calls. Tap the icon that puts the phone in phone mode (1 additional keystroke, 6 in total, and counting).
  5. Despite there being a phone call actively in place, when you enter phone mode you are placed in the mode where you can make an additional call, not for managing the existing in-progress call. You must manually select the current call (1 additional keystroke, 7 in total, and counting).
  6. You are finally now presented with the desired icon to click on that will end the call. Click on it (1 final keystroke, grand total of 8).
  7. Congratulations! You have at long last managed to hang up.

By the time that’s all done, odds are at least 50-50 the other party has long since hung up already and the call has timed out before you could hang it up.

Why would I want to have a device that packs so many non-phone duties into itself, and implements its total set of duties so poorly, that using it for its primary intended purpose is then severely compromised? The nearly 40-year-old 2500DM set on my desk never has firmware to update, will never radically and unexpectedly change its user interface, and has a set of hook switch buttons that are always there waiting for me to use them on a moment’s notice whenever I want to hang up on a call. Even the cheapest flip phone has an END button that’s always there waiting for me to use it. Neither phone decides in the midst of an in-progress call of all things that it’s “idle” and now needs a password to be unlocked.

The killer came when I realized that this is an iPhone, and Apple has a well-deserved reputation for the best-designed system software. That is how the best smartphone on the market implements its user interface. The other smartphones are almost certainly worse.

Why I Dislike Recruiting Firms (One More Example)

So, I see a job listing. It’s obviously posted by a recruiting firm, but it’s a distinctly better than average match, and I haven’t sent anything to such people on a long time, so I decide to give it a try.

It almost immediately prompts a callback. There’s just something sleazy about the level of eagerness in the guy’s voice, and how it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. Finally he calms down enough to where I can ask a few questions.

At that point, it becomes clear that:

  • No such job actually exists; he just crafted the job description to prompt responses and pad his list of existing contacts (he even admits as such), and
  • Most of his clients are in Bellevue, despite his listing the job as being in “Seattle.” Bellevue is an unacceptably long commute for me, so I deliberately ask Indeed to search for jobs “only in” Seattle proper.

And that’s why I have such a dim view of recruiting and consulting agencies, and as such generally shun them. They misrepresent.

Two Incompetent Plumbers

So, I’m in this basement where a washing machine has just been installed. Two plumbers are there, having just added the supply and drain lines for the machine. There is also a washtub sink in the basement.

The basement lies below the level of the sewers, so both washtub and washing machine drain to a small tank which has a lift pump in it. Note I said small: the tank was intended to serve the washtub sink only and has not been upgraded to reflect the new washing machine. I point out to the plumbers that it’s almost certain to overflow and flood, and they both dismiss my claim, pointing out my lack of professional experience as a plumber.

The first load of clothes is loaded and the machine started. When it reaches the end of the wash cycle and drains, sure enough, the tank overflows. The plumbers express surprise about this mystifying and unexpected (to them) outcome, and propose solutions that fall short of expanding either the tank and or pump capacity sufficient to prevent further such incidents.

I point out that at minimum, the tank needs to be able to accommodate the maximum volume expected to be drained from the sink at any one time plus the volume of water from the machine, or the pump must be able to accompany the sum of the two corresponding flow rates. My objections are dismissed; there is insufficient space for a large tank and it is considered too costly to replace the line from the pump with a larger one.

At this point I wake up.

Getting Inked?

I was at the grand opening of BARN today and a woman first commented on my style (or would that be my anti-style) then asked me what tattoos I had. “None” was my answer. I’ve never managed to come up with a design I’d want to have permanently on my body, you see.

To which she suggested the text of some quote that was meaningful to me. At that point, I knew immediately what the quote should be. It’s somewhat long, and would have to coil around my arm a bit, but I’ve seen tattooed texts that do that on other people and they are often very attractive. (I am not going to divulge the quotation ahead of time.)

It’s all very early in the process, so this is something that may well never happen. The process is so difficult to reverse that it must be considered irreversible. The regret from a little extra delaying and consideration pales in comparison to the regret for having it done at all.