New Dash Camera: Transcend DrivePro 100

Thanksgiving and Black Friday have passed us by this year. I didn’t do much Black Friday shopping this year, since I don’t think I need to give anybody presents, and there aren’t that many things that I want on sale. The only item I bought was a dash camera for my car. I picked up the Transcend DrivePro 100, and here is what I thought of it so far.

Transcend DrivePro 100 Box
My newest gadget.

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Replacing My Car’s Engine and Cabin Air Filters

Today I just replaced my car’s engine and cabin air filters, because they were due for replacement according to the maintenance booklet. This is the first time I did any of the maintenance myself on my current car. I had replaced the engine air filter on my old car, but my current RAV4 is nothing like the ML350 that I had, so this is a new “experience”.

changing engine air filter
Getting the old engine air filter out of its housing

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My Second Car

After passing my PhD dissertation defense, I finally had some time to go car shopping to replace my totaled ML-350. I look around and decided that I’ll still buy a SUV since I’m used to the higher seating position. Even though I liked my ML-350 a lot, at this point of time I didn’t want to bear the cost of a luxury vehicle, whether it’s the purchase price or maintenance costs. In the end, I bought a 2011 Toyota RAV4 from a local dealer. It’s a base model with the 4 cylinder engine and 4-wheel-drive, with a Pyrite Mica exterior and a tan interior. I had to put in a few thousand in addition to the payout from the insurance company for my old car, but I think it’s a decent purchase. The RAV4 is in great shape and only has 20600 miles, and it’s Toyota Certified used vehicle which means it comes with extended warranties which gives me some peace of mind.

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Bye Bye, My First Car

As stated in my previous post, I got into a car accident earlier in the month. My 2006 ML350 received a fair a bit of damage, but I was able to drive it home. I didn’t think the damage was that bad, but unfortunately, being a Mercedes, the replacement parts were really expensive and given the car’s age, the insurance company decided to total the car instead of paying for the repairs. And so I had to say goodbye to my first car.

The 2006 ML was a really nice car, and certainly more than I had hoped for a first car. It was roomy, comfortable, surefooted on the road, and great for cruising on the interstates. It did guzzle gas a bit (averaged 17 mpg, on premium gas), and maintenance was expensive, but that’s what you get with a car like this. I’ll always have the fond memories of driving around on road trips in this car during the last three years. If the car wasn’t totaled, I probably would have kept it for a little while longer until after I secured a job, but accidents happen, and it was fortunate that nobody was hurt and the accident wasn’t worse.

So for now I’m without a vehicle, but it’s just a minor inconvenience. I have other pressing matters to deal with in the next few days, but after that I’ll look around for my next set of wheels. I’ll close this post with the last photo I took together with my car, during last year’s trip to see Vermont’s fall foliage.

Car Accident and Spring Break

There is a first time for everything, and unfortunately I got into my first car accident a week or two ago. My car got rear-ended by another SUV, and it was a little more than a fender-bender as you can see in the photo. Fortunately nobody was injured, and I was able to drive away from the incident. My ML-350 took a pretty good hit in the back, but the fact that I was able to drive it for quite some distance to go home shows that these German cars are definitely built solid. I took my car to the shop, and it’ll probably be there for a while since the bumper, real left tail lights and the whole tail gate near to be replaced. It was good that I wasn’t liable for the accident. I was fortunate this time, and I’ll certainly strive to be a safer driver. Hopefully I’ll get my car back soon.

Damage to Tony's car
My car was rear-ended and it got a fair bit of damage.

On a lighter note, this week was my university’s spring break. I’m still busy with preparing my dissertation and trying to find a job, but I did find a day to go skiing with some friends. We headed to a mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont for a fun day of skiing. Even though I haven’t skied in a year, I did pretty well and only really fell once during the whole day. That ski hill was nice in that most of the trails were pretty wide, so there was room to turn. We also went on a weekday so the place wasn’t crowded, and the weather was great for skiing: not too cold or too warm, and mostly sunny. I had hoped to go to another bigger ski hill during the week, but things didn’t work out. Still, being able to go skiing once was a nice break from work. Now that spring break is coming to an end, I’ll have to work hard to make sure I graduate, and also find a job to boot.

Work and Winter

I realize I haven’t posted here in a little while. I left Vancouver a couple weeks ago and returned to the little town in the Northeastern region of the US to continue my PhD studies. I’m trying to graduate in May, and I am also trying find a job. The graduation part looks like it’s on track; the job part isn’t so sure. I have been in contact with some HR people, but haven’t gotten any interviews. It’s hard to get past the HR people, and it won’t be easy for a guy like me who doesn’t have much recent work experience. To be honest, I probably should put a bit more effort into my job hunt, but at this moment I want to make sure I graduate first.

This is going to be a good workout.

Returning the Northeast also meant a return to the long and often snowy and frigid winter. The weather in Vancouver was quite good during my time there. There were some rainy days, but there were a number of days that didn’t rain, and even a few days of sunshine. And of course, the temperature is cool but not really that cold. In contrast to the mild winter in the West Coast, the Northeastern winter this year is quite tough. I avoided a couple of storms and a “polar vortex” by traveling home, but I have already been treated to two polar vortexes and two significant snow storms. Going out in the morning when it’s -20 Celsius out during the polar vortex was somewhat painful. I haven’t felt that cold since the 2010-2011 “Snowmagaddon” winter. The most recent snow storm also left over a foot of snow, and so for the first time I actually had to use my snow shovel to dig out my car (see photo). I bought the shovel after I bought my car in 2011, and I have never used the shovel until today. The previous two winters were not that bad, and my SUV can drive over a couple inches of snows without problem. A foot and a half is a different story though. It took me about half an hour to clear the snow off the car and shovel the snow behind my car so I can back out and park into another spot. It was a nice work out, and the good thing was that it wasn’t that cold outside. Hopefully this snow dump is the last blast of winter we’ll see this winter. I don’t know if this winter matches up to the 2010-2011 winter in terms of total snow fall, but it’s getting there.

New Dual Lens HD Car Dash Camera

Another piece of electronics I bought during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period was a car dash camera. As their names indicate, car dash cameras are installed in cars (sometimes on the dashboard) to record what the driver sees. It’s useful for providing evidence in the case of an accident, and also one can use the footage to make a travel movie or something. My dad wanted one of these things so I got one. Car dash cameras range from $20 all the way up to $300+, depending on the manufacturer and the features. I didn’t want to spend too much, so that pretty much limited the choices to some no-brand cameras of questionable reliability. I looked around and ended up getting the what is known as the F70/i1000 dual lens HD dash camera. These are Chinese-made, no-brand cameras that seem to come in various different names and configurations, but all feature a main unit with a small screen and a front lens that records at 1280x720px, and a long wire connected to a rear lens that records at 720x480px. Reviews on Amazon and other shopping places are not that great, with some people getting decent units and others getting bad ones, but I pulled the trigger anyways because this was the only model in that price range that had the features I wanted. Here are my first impressions.

F70 Dash Cam Box
The box for the dash cam.

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New GPS: Garmin nuvi 3490LMT

This Thanksgiving/Black Friday I bought a new vehicle GPS. No, my nuvi 1490LMT isn’t broken. I bought this new GPS for my parents. I was originally thinking of getting a Garmin nuvi 2455LMT or 2555LMT, but there was an Amazon Lightning Deal on the higher-end Garmin nuvi 3490LMT so I decided to try get buy it. Of course, I had to open up the box and test if the GPS works, and here are my first impressions.

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT Box
The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT waiting to be opened.

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