I ate my wafer...


In the news...20yr sentence for Internet Surfing

So, in the latest roundup of BBC headlines:

A very unlucky "student-journalist" in Afghanistan dodges the death penalty for downloading articles about woman's rights & islam, but gets 20 years. Considering the former student journalists I know, this has to be the most innocuous material a student-journalist has ever downloaded. In protest, later this evening, I plan to view unacceptable internet material, such as uncovered women's faces, homebrewing , and heretical science, while watching decadent western TV, drinking a beer, and eating a BLT. (Correction, relatively normal evening apparently doesn't count as protesting)


The I ate my wafer 2008 energy platform

I like ethanol, for drinking that is. For an automotive fuel, fermented and distilled from corn or the like, its damn near useless. Oh sure, when the price difference between E-85 and regular gasoline is large enough, I've used it in the past, but that's a stunning example of selling out principled objections for saving $15 or so. I know there are many decent articles already floating around explaining the math, but here's fast simple explanation:
1. Ethanol cannot compete economically or environmentally with gasoline, especially as straight ethanol has 34% less energy than gasoline. Sure, you can blend straight ethanol to make E-85, but if you do, you need to extract all of the water from the azeotropic ethanol, which is an energy intensive pain. Even then, if gasoline costs, say, $4.00 a gallon, E-85 needs to cost, without subsidy, ~$3.04 to break even. . More than likely, corn ethanol production is limited in the long term by inevitable price increases in phosphorus, etc. Oh, the other problem is that trucks and jet engines won't run on alcohol.

2. The focus on ethanol detracts money, time, and public knowledge away from better alternative energy sources. My personal favorites are oil from algae and butanol, though there are lots of other candidates. If I had to steer U.S. energy policy, I'd eliminate every incentive for corn ethanol immediately, pump research funding into algae, butanol, non-corn ethanol, and battery technology. On top of that, I'd build nuclear power plants as quickly as possible.



I return to blogging....As many of my friends might remember, I have learned the lesson of blogging too candidly, so I shall be brief: I am very gainfully employed in the Midwest, in a position that currently uses all of my skills and interests. I am still working on a variety of side-projects (which include airplanes, locks, guns, cars, motorcycles, and boats at the least).


Now with all the atomic-powered cars you want...

So, back in the pre-internet era of my childhood, I liked reading old Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Mechanix Illustrated magazines. There was a pretty good supply of the 1960's and newer ones floating around at my grandmother's house, so if I was getting a bit bored or underfoot in the machine shop, I'd pick one up, sit in the corner by my bench and read them. Now, nothing against the modern incarnations of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, but they don't hold a candle to the mid-20th century ones. Even better, by the time I was 12 or so, I discovered that Popular Mechanics magazines from the 1920's and 30's were availble (rough shape w/o covers) for less than a buck a copy from Volume One books in Hillsdale.

The depression era magazines are highly facinating, from the somewhat economically desperate nature of the advertisements, "If you don't use Lifebouy Soap/Gillette razors you'll bomb the job interview" to the historically amusing features. I have a 1930's PM magazine that discusses safety features for future cars, including "steering wheels as thick as an axe handle" and "safety belts for all cars" which, come to think of it only took another 40 to 50 years to come about.

Anyway, I've discovered a VERY cool blog that consists mostly of scanned articles from this sort of magazine: Modern Mechanix: Tommorow's Technology Today


The Grey Truck Part 1

So, quite some time ago, Silliman wrote a little blog piece about the end of his green S-10. I owe a similar piece about the Grey Truck, but I can only really do disjointed paragraphs on the topic.

The Beginning:
The grey truck was a S-15 Jimmy, with two-doors, 2.8L TBI, 700R4 Transmission, a NP207 Transfer Case, and 3.73 gears. After some very hard negotiation, I paid $2800 for it in February 1999. At the time, believe it or not, it had no visible rust whatsoever, though the A/C was inoperative, and the heat didn't work well either. The A/C turned out to only need a good thumping on the compressor clutch to free it up, and the heat only needed a new $4 thermostat. I was pretty smug about talking the dealer down so far on the price, then having the good fortune to fix the A/C and heat for a whopping $4.

The first summer I had it, I needed a trailer hitch installed, and spent a fun Saturday morning making one, after sneaking up to a parked truck to take measurements off its hitch. The homemade hitch would serve to pull incredibly heavy items over the next 8 years, from a stuck H2 Hummer to a large surface grinder/trailer combination that exceeded GMC's tow limit by a high margin.


I'm Sorry, but I was too busy building weapons to post

So...long absence, no real explanation. Other than that I was busy trying to make stuff for my side venture here at shooting solutions.

(I have a new car, and will soon post a eulogy for the Grey GMC, stay tuned for it!)


Random old news item: the Russian Federation apparently faces an immigration debate akin to the current U.S. one.


Arming sunni insurgents...a breif note from WWII history

So, last week when I read about the recent U.S. attempts to arm selected members of the Sunni insurgency in order to harm al-Qaeda a couple of relevant thoughts came to mind:

A. Probably the best historical comparison is the German attempts to guide "Home Army" Polish resistance towards attacking Soviet allied partisans in eastern Poland. Probably inevitably, the home army (Armia Krajowa) attacked various Soviet oriented resistance groups occasionally, while using the German support to obtain intelligence information, gather weapons, and attack Germans on the side. At least as far as I know, the historical example is pretty good and relevant: occupying power supplies major resistance organisation in the hopes of attacking additional insurgent groups by emphasizing ideological differences between groups. Heck, Sadaam methodically avoided arming or supporting al-Qaeda since he rightfully believed it would rather weaken his regime than help control his Kurdish problems.

B. If we're going to mess with arming the "friendly" insurgents, we shouldn't be giving them 7.62x39mm AK's since the ammo is all over iraq. We should pick an unusual, and lower performance (i.e. sucks against body armor) weapon to minimize damage from misuse and theft and enable forensic tracking. I'd suggest pistols and submachine guns or carbines in 40SW or 45 ACP. Heck, buy 40SW Hipoints for ~$175/rifle or something like the M3A1 grease guns (still in US inventory?), but don't give them untraceable, easily resupplied AKs or other comblock weapons.


24 Hours of LeMons

So, I was flipping through a an issue of Car and Driver, having exhausted the 2 month old news magazine selection in a waiting room last week. Hilariously, although Car and Driver has a more adult (as in reading level, unfortunately not as in violence and sex) tone than most car magazines, it also has some pretty unconventional content. A pretty amusing example, which I also read in a waiting room last summer, would be the article comparing sub-$1500 diesel used cars by racing them across country.

Anyway, the February 2007 issue of Car and Driver has an article in which several C&D staffers enter the 24 hours of Lemons automobile race. The race is, quite simply, the most brilliant sporting event ever conceived. Contestants enter cars that cost less than $500 in an 24 hour endurance race that mocks the famous 24 hours of Le Mans race. The rules are simple, and hilarious, including a secret ballot vote in which all contestants vote to pick a car for destruction, either by dropping from a crane, or in a pinch, by attractive women with sledgehammers. If you win, you get $1500 in nickels. If you cheat by entering a radically over budget car, you run the risk of the even promoters electing to purchase your car for $500.

Oh, and did I mention that besides a tech inspection with officials dressed up as English barristers with wigs, there's a qualification section that includes slalom through old lady mannequins and reaction/braking testing in which event promoters push baby carriages in front of your car?

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Keep Moving Forward

So, about a year or so ago, I heard about the polarization based, "Disney 3D" method of 3-D cinematography, and decided to see it, even if it meant watching a horrid children’s film. As it turned out, my efforts to watch Chicken Little in 3D were thwarted by my local movie theatre’s accounting department, which had forced a switch to the regular 2D version, resulting in my watching of part of Chicken Little without 3-D, then more or less forgetting about the entire Disney 3-D concept.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see “Meet the Robinsons” in polarized, digital 3-D. It definitively was worth the obscene, $10/student discount ticket price, both for the excellent 3-D experience , and for the admittedly somewhat sappy plot.

Not to spoil the movie, but in my current position as a newly minted inventor, the memorable line from the movie, “keep moving forward,” was very amusing. If nothing else, it made me realize that as much as Cornelius Robinson uses that line, I use various versions of “It’s not what we can do with (the tool/item we wish we had), but whether we/I can figure out a way to do it with (what we have right now).” So...can anyone post a good comment involving my use of that phrase? The next time we meet face to face, I'll buy a beverage for each person that can come up with a good Mcguyver-esque story.

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