The clown fiesta that was replacing my broken headlights

I love bright white lights. I replace all my indoor light bulbs with 4000K pure white bulbs because anything less than that feels yellowish and “unclean.” Naturally, I did the same with my truck—I replaced the stock halogen headlight bulbs with LED conversion kits with a color temperature of 6500K. That’s generally considered about the color temperature of sunlight; anything more and it starts looking more blue than white.

GMC Canyon at Mount Charleston

(Yes, I realize my headlights aren’t actually on in that photo, but it’s one of the pictures that I had conveniently available, and I didn’t want to go all the way downstairs and out into the residential parking garage to take a new photo just for this post.)

Unfortunately, the LED conversion kit has been a bit of a pain. When I first got them installed, they worked fine, but after a few months, the driver-side headlight randomly went out while I was traveling in California. When I took apart the headlight assembly and yanked out the LED conversion kit, I realized that the orb-like piece that actually emits the light was completely gone. I sent the photo in and requested warranty service, and CarID gave me a replacement conversion kit.

Broken headlight LED conversion kit

Another handful of months later, the passenger-side headlight went out… coincidentally, it was doing another California trip back in early July. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, the GMC Canyon’s passenger-side headlight assembly is literally about 20 times more difficult to access than the driver’s side headlight assembly, so I literally didn’t bother trying to get it fixed until now. I don’t really drive around too much at night anyway, and on the one or two occasions that I did, I just drove around with one headlight and two fog lights on.

I have another California trip coming up towards the end of this week, so I wanted to get the broken headlight taken care of before I left for travel again. If things go as they historically have, another headlight is due to go out while I’m in California, and if I don’t repair the passenger-side headlight, then I will have no headlights driving around out-of-state. Also, while in California, I definitely will be driving around at night.

The LED conversion kit that I originally purchased off CarID was a few cents shy of $150, and it was a catastrophic failure of a product. This time, I decided to buy a much cheaper LED kit off Amazon from an Asian manufacturer (Asian manufacturers tend to make very cheap products that are sort of hit-or-miss—they are either absolute garbage or godlike good, and I’m obviously banking on these being godlike good). I ended up picking the BeamTech H11 LED Headlight Kit.

The driver-side headlight assembly is just a cover that you twist and open, but the passenger-side headlight assembly has two large plastic pieces block­ing access to the headlight. In order to even get in there, I needed a T15 screwdriver, which I did not have, so I bought the Powerbuilt 646017 Maxi-Grip Handle Star Screwdriver off Amazon along with my new headlights.

The two products arrived in the mail today, so it was time to get to work. The parking garage of the high-rise condo where I live isn’t very well-lit (nor do I think any parking garages on the Las Vegas Strip can really be considered “well-lit”), so I drove my truck up to the rooftop of the parking garage where it was uncovered and had direct sunlight. Luckily, I did this early enough in the day such that the temperature was only in the 90s Fahrenheit (Las Vegas has been under a heat wave lately and temperatures have easily gone over 110°F), but I was still dripping sweat by the end of this.

What ensued was a clown fiesta of things that literally should not have been possible.

Driver side Passenger side Result
CarID #1 CarID #2 Original configuration; driver side worked, passenger side did not
CarID #1 BeamTech #1 I replaced just the broken side and it still didn’t work
CarID #1 CarID #2 I put the seemingly broken bulb back in the broken side and it started flickering but wouldn’t stay on
CarID #1 BeamTech #2 I replaced just the broken side with the other new bulb and it still didn’t work
Empty CarID #1 I replaced the broken side with the bulb that was working in the driver side and it didn’t work anymore
CarID #1 Empty I put the working bulb back in the driver side and it stopped working
BeamTech #1 Empty I put one of the new bulbs in the driver side and it worked fine
BeamTech #2 Empty I put the other new bulb in the driver side and it still worked fine
BeamTech #2 BeamTech #1 I left the working driver side as-is and put the other new bulb in the passenger side, and it didn’t work
BeamTech #1 BeamTech #2 I swapped the two new bulbs on either side and both worked fine

Now keep in mind, the passenger-side headlight assembly is difficult to work with, and I couldn’t actually even get half the push screws out, so I was trying to manage my way through two massive bendy plastic protective pieces to even access the headlight connection each time. On top of that, in order to not get electrocuted, I was taking my keys out of the ignition each time I tested a new configuration, so I was literally pacing back and forth over ten times.

Ultimately, my headlights ended up working, seemingly out of sheer luck because the configuration that ended up working definitely was not logical based off my series of trials.

Hopefully the California gods don’t smite one of my headlights this time around so I won’t have to go through all this all over again.

 

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Oops

I guess this is what happens when a garbage truck operator decides to randomly press the “release” button while still driving down the road

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How much value I got from my Chase Sapphire Reserve in the first year

Most people are hesitant to sign up for credit cards with annual fees because they never know if it will be worth it. Back in July 2018, I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve because, after a quick calculation, I knew for a fact that I would get way more value out of it than a regular, no-annual-fee credit card.

Now that one year has passed, I decided to do a deep dive on all the spending I’ve done on my Chase Sapphire Reserve to see just how much value I got out of it.

Before we begin, I want to separate this benefit from everything else: I received 50,000 rewards points as a sign-up bonus, which is equivalent to $750 worth of travel redeemed through the rewards portal. All monetary value calculations of points will be done at the 1.5¢ per point rate, as I actually use all my points to their fullest extent (then usually still run out of points and end up buying more travel out-of-pocket).

According to my account’s spending report, here is what I bought between August 2018 and July 2019 (I don’t think all these categories are accurate; I’m just going off what Chase thinks each purchase is):

Category Spending Rewards
Automotive $ 324.72 $ 4.87
Bills & utilities $ 7,272.35 $ 109.09
Entertainment $ 386.00 $ 5.79
Food & drink $ 4,025.55 $ 181.15
Gas $ 1,664.72 $ 60.38
Groceries $ 2,061.33 $ 30.92
Health & wellness $ 2,240.28 $ 33.60
Home $ 1,759.77 $ 26.40
Personal $ 445.01 $ 6.68
Professional services $ 2,955.82 $ 44.34
Shopping $ 6,715.17 $ 100.73
Travel $ 4,678.49 $ 210.53
Total $ 34,529.21 $ 814.47

With that being said, here are the key points:

  • The annual fee is $450, but the card comes with a $300 travel credit that I am guaranteed to redeem each year, so the effective annual fee is actually $150.
  • If I had spent $34,529.21 on a 1% cash back credit card, I would’ve earned $345.29 in rewards. By using the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, I accrued $814.47 in rewards points during the year. That is $469.18 more than if I had stuck with a regular credit card.
  • I am enrolled in Global Entry, but I enrolled one year prior to getting a Chase Sapphire Reserve, so I haven’t used the card’s Global Entry credit yet. However, over the span of the five-year renewal period, this benefit is equivalent to a value of $20 per year.
  • In regards to Priority Pass Select, my travel tendencies tend to fluctuate a lot, but if taking a very rough average, I travel about once a month and often enter an airport lounge 2 times per trip, for 24 visits per year. The cheapest way to enter an airport lounge this frequently is through Priority Pass Prestige, which is $429 per year. Now of course, if I didn’t have Priority Pass Select with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I just wouldn’t use airport lounges, so the weight put on this benefit is different than the raw monetary value of other benefits. However, I do get free food in lounges, and if I were to assign a conservative value of $5 worth of food eaten per lounge visit that I otherwise would’ve had to buy elsewhere, the benefit is worth about $120.
  • The card comes with various elements of travel insurance, like for flights and rental vehicles, but I’ve never needed to use this insurance, neither during the 1 year I’ve had the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or at all throughout my entire life of travel. Thus, because it is so difficult to predict when emergencies and inconveniences will happen, I’m not going to assign a concrete value to travel insurance.

This is a lot of information, a lot of which is situational. But if you want a raw number without having to account for the arbitrary value of benefits, it is $319.18. I will passively make about $319.18 each year just for using the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead of a no-annual-fee credit card.

With benefits considered (including the introductory offer), that number goes up to $1,189.18 earned in the first year (non-repeatable, of course).

 

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Visiting Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

As the final “event” of my trip to the Midwest, I went to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, accompanied by Monica Wang, Jordan King, and his daughter.

I’ve never really been that interested in the zoo, and I’m conflicted about the captivity of animals—it feels like they’re being forced into confinement against their will, but I also acknowledge that, in some situations, their environment might actually be better than what they experience in the wild. Because of that internal conflict/confusion, I never really went out of my way to visit a zoo.

But, when I asked Jordan King for suggestions for what to do during my final full day in Lincoln, he suggested the zoo, so I went along.

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Full album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/adamparkzer/sets/72157710147372767

 

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The only two photos from our road trip back from Minneapolis to Lincoln

Last week, I spent some time looking back to some of my tweets from 2011-2014 and realizing how nostalgic and interesting it was to relive my past, even if it was less than a decade ago. Because of this, I promised myself that I would create more content—both on social media and on my blog—so I can look back in the future and see what I did at any particular point in my life.

Unfortunately, the road trip back from Minneapolis to Lincoln yesterday wasn’t very eventful, and as a result, I forgot to take many photos. But, in the same spirit I had last week about my old tweets, I still wanted to post to maintain continuity in my life timeline for when I inevitably look back at my younger self.

One of the two photos I have isn’t even taken by me—it was taken by Monica Wang, an esports manager from Tempo Storm who was road tripping with us and sitting in the back seat. As you can probably tell, I’m extremely bored, and Jordan King is knocked out and asleep.

Driving from Minneapolis to Lincoln

When I finally did remember to take photos was when we were at one of our final stops before making it back to Lincoln. We stopped at the Flying J Travel Center in Avoca, Iowa, a random place between Des Moines and Omaha. It was actually a pretty nice travel center—it had a bunch of food places, and it sort of reminded me of the Grewal Business Center in Baker, CA, which I visit often whenever I drive back and forth between SoCal and Las Vegas.

Stopping by Wings America

 

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