eBay bargain

It seems eBay has lost a lot of the “garage sale” bargain nature it had back in the early days. It has gone from the place we went to sell our cast off to basically a cheap e-commerce system for retailers who can’t figure out their own e-commerce system… or just like the easy exposure it provides them. For example I just bought a fuel transfer pump for my home-brew Diesel setup… I found it via eBay (but didn’t BUY it via eBay.) I just went straight to the web page of the seller (a pump retailer/farm supply in the midwest)… I had given up on finding a bargain. I found that transfer pumps sell on eBay at the same price, OR MORE than they sell at retail. Looking around, it seems this is true about just about everything on eBay. Sellers see the prices and inflate theirs accordingly. Suddenly there are no bargains.

I remember days when you could buy stuff for pennies on the dollar, auctions were really auctions and you could find just about anything you wanted for a reasonable price.

While it seems that the days of finding a bargain, or even a reasonable price on eBay are gone, I’m happy to say I found one recently. I’ve been scrounging for a stock S1 air cleaner assembly for the Jaguar, but I’d rather not forgo my kids’ college funds to do so. It seems these items are becoming unobtanium. The three major components (trumpets, plenum & filter cannister) routinely sell for well over $100 each on eBay, even in poor condition. “New” from the usual vendors, you would spend well over $1000 for the set.

A friend pointed me to an eBay auction with both a plenum & trumpets, with less than a day to go, and I was able to grab the set for under $50. Whoo hoo.

They are a little grotty, but should clean up well I hope.

So I packed the trumpets in the car today as I headed up to Chilliwack to visit Geoff Pickard at English Classic Cars. Geoff wanted to have the car back, 1000 miles into my rebuilt engine to have a look and check on it. So I played hooky from work and headed north, stopping in Bellingham to grab a S3 fuel pump from Greg Bilyeau to courier to and from Geoff for repair or replace. I figured Geoff would appreciate the deal I found on eBay, as we had discussed the price of these parts before.

Drive was wonderful, car ran fine, border crossing was painless. Geoff gave the car a checkup, and fine-tuned the carbs. He used a combination of techniques, mostly “ear” along with some “eye” in the form of three “Colortunes”… which are in a nutshell see-through spark plugs. He put one in a cylinder served by each carburettor. You could see the combustion change color (from blue to yellow) as the fuel/air mixture was adjusted. It was the first time I’d seen one in use… pretty cool. Hard to photograph them in ‘action” though as it is best in low light and timing the shutter would be near impossible.

Above: the Colortunes in the XK.

We decided to tackle my loose left rear hub. Thinking it would just be a few shims, it turned into yet another “Archeology Expedition of Doom” unearthing more horrors from the past… but I’ll leave that for another post…

So to keep me out of his hair while he fixed the hub, Geoff parked me in front of his media blasting cabinet with my grotty trumpets and let me loose. What a blast. =)

The trumpets look great now:

Above:2/3rds done.

All done.

Now I just have to find some hammerite paint.

And find a cannister.

Hockey story

I posted this as a comment on Chuq von Rospach’s blog, but I enjoyed writing it so much that I figured I’d share it here. I haven’t written enough hockey stuff anyway, so here you go. A discussion of hard shots to the groin started it…

In my goaltending days I was an equipment modder. Taking Jacques Plante’s lead, I did my best to fill in every gap (pucks are very good at finding gaps in armor!) and beef up parts that mattered. The cup was a wonder of Red Green style handiwork. I had a nice air-padded goalie-style strap, with a metal cup. Around the metal I added some closed-cell foam strips, and carefully wrapped the foam and attached it with… Duct Tape! That stuff has amazing impact-absorbing properties. I played with some guys with some pretty damn hard shots, and never even lost a breath over a cup-shot.

Speaking of hard shots: I did scare the hell out of a bunch of guys on a casual-hockey night once though. I played for a while with a group of guys here in Seattle on a couple of weeknights back in the 80s, several ex-pros and college players. One of them was a guy named Jim McTaggart, who played two or so years in the NHL (Caps IIRC… yep Google sees all!)… anyway, great guy, and a ton of fun to play with. Jim had a real hard and heavy slapshot that he rarely fired off… mostly because he didn’t want to hurt anyone in a casual drop-in game. But the game had gotten intense and he broke out of his end and found himself with nothing but ice between him just outside the blueline, and me… way out in front of the net. He cocks the stick *way* back and *boom!* lets one fly.

The problem is… I can’t see it.

(the following sequence of events happened in milliseconds, but in that odd goalie-time, it seemed like minutes to me at the time… I still recall every moment)

Instinct tells me it is going for my head… so I start rising up to take it in my chest. Usually changing the viewing angle, even just a bit, will allow you to pick up the puck in flight again. Basic trigonometry. I raise up, but still can’t pick out the puck(!) I KEEP going higher and higher, hoping to give that puck a nice fat chest protector to bounce off of, but STILL can’t see the damn puck. I have popped up so fast that I’m now off the ice, in mid-air, with that weird shoulders-up, head retracted-to-hide-your-neck posture that we assume when we sense a puck flying high towards the noggin. Like a “Rock’em-Sock’em Robot”… on ice.

Sure enough, I finally make out the puck… in perfect clarity (it had “Made in Chekoslovakia” in raised letters on the side, slightly lower than halfway down the left side)… about a foot from my nose. It was as if it teleported there.

I’m five feet eleven inches tall, with another inch or so in my skates, about four inches off the ice, in mid-air, with a (very) fast moving puck now eight inches off my nose, closing fast.

My brain stops thinking like a goalie, and reverts to pure, animalistic “fight, or flight” and my brain’s not really in a fighting mood. My body has in all likelihood reached the apogee of it’s short-hop vertical takeoff, but my head, with the brain in the lead is beating a hasty retreat. They say your head can move very quickly… faster than any other part of your body, when properly motivated. I swear mine jumped back a foot. Unfortunately the puck was moving faster. At that point I closed my eyes.


The puck hits squarely on the vertical bar that runs down right between my eyes, and ricochets off straight up. My helmet and cage go flying off my head – straight back and into the net. My body, likely thrown more by my high-speed cranium retreat than the impact of the puck, lies out horizontally and I fall straight down to the ice, in what would be called a belly-flop, were I face-down.

Jim swears to me later that he firmly believed that he had shot my head off.

I open my eyes in time to see virtually everyone on the ice, Jim being the first (on his knees and with abject panic on his usually cheerfull face) come to a stop over me in disbelief… both in what they saw, and in the fact that I was perfectly fine, with no injury whatsoever.

site rank

Just so you know, this isn’t exactly a technorati realm blog… according to Netcraft, this site ranks as the 8,717,350th most popular website on the planet!

That is going by the name chuck.goolsbee.org, it ranks 8,789,401th by its other name blog.goolsbee.org.

I stumbled upon this stat while doing some work investigating bandwidth usage by some of our clients. We have some folks that pull in a lot of traffic for reasons that are not readily apparent. Usually though they are really obvious, such as:

Adam Engst’s TidBITs at 69,044
Glenn F’s isbn.nu site weighing in at 99,231
The MacSlash boys at 10,542 (a shockingly high rank, way to go guys)
Shawn King’s Your Mac Life at 67,059
John Rizzo’s MacWindows resource site at 24,534
The Steves, who have several sites high in the rankings such as BidNip at 23,828, and cheatcodes.com at 56,623.
Perennial d.f favorites Car*Toys at 74,450
And at the top of the heap, Neoseeker at 4,045

The one that caught me by surprise?

bbs.trailersailor.com at 21,007

Quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

I’ve waited until almost midnight on the west coast to say this (as I don’t really like to toot my own horn) but I was quoted in a technology story in the WSJ today. Pretty cool.

It was an interesting social experiment to see who among my “Internet friends” spotted it and emailed me today. A lot of people I assumed would be WSJ readers did not notice and many who I would not pick as WSJ readers did. Interesting.

Reading update.

I realized today, halfway through my latest book, that I haven’t updated my reading selection on the weblog here. Sorry. I finished “Madison’s Notes” weeks ago, and am now deep into Keegan’s “Intelligence in War.” John Keegan is my son Christopher’s favorite author, and this is Chris’ book I am borrowing. Good stuff so far. I’ll update links tomorrow.

Forests & Trees

I went to the JCNA AGM on Saturday, and like the making of sausages, I would be better off not knowing what goes on behind the scenes.

(Of course meetings are about the least effective method of getting things done. No great human achievement ever came out of a meeting. But I digress…)

In this case I was able to observe large-scale nearsightedness: Shortly after I arrived they discussed with alarm the shrinking membership numbers and subsequent loss of revenue. They pondered the fact that the club was not attracting any “young” members. A look around the room seemed to confirm to me at least that the average age was somewhere between “retirement” and “deceased”… and the presence of the three of us there to talk about XKEdata … all of us firmly in our “middle age”… helped to pull the left side of the bell curve downward quite a bit. The sad reality is that Jaguar is not a car sold to young people anymore. They stopped making sports cars in 1970 (the S3 E-type is a GT car, not a sports car), and have priced themselves out of the “young” market anyway. The new XK is very nice, and a bargain compared to the Aston-Martin, but hey… $100k for a car?? Very few “young” people can afford that! The since-70 cars are becoming ‘inexpensive’ in a relative sense, but… The XJ cars are big sedans, and even though they are available for cheap nowadays, they hold little appeal for the average “car guy” really. The XJS is aging gracefully, but 12 cylinder cars will always be thought of as “exotic” rather than “fun.” So the reality is that “young” people do not buy Jaguars. Sure, there are the “tarted up Fords” – the X- & S-Types, but I have to wonder how many of those buyers are interested in joining a club for their cars? A very small percentage I would guess.

The other “young Jaguar owner” demographic that the JCNA is missing right under their collective noses is the “Second Generation Car Guy”… which would be me, and those just like me. We are their children, and grandchildren. Odd that they’d not see us eh?

Well, I can tell you why: They have chased us away.

From what I can observe, the focal point of the JCNA of late has been Concours, and the focal point of the Concours has become “Ultimate Originality”… meaning the car that “wins” is the one that appears as close to how it did “when it left the factory. ” This is kind of silly because it means that the “winner” eventually becomes the guy who can effectively seal his car into some sort of perverse time capsule… becoming a sort of “Ship in a Bottle.”

I would think that William Lyons would spin in his grave at that notion. He designed and built cars for people to USE, not preserve for all eternity.

Of course the other way to “win” this Concours is to $pend your way to victory. This is also ironic since Sir William was notoriously cheap, and pre-dated Wal-mart by decades at success-by-squeezing-suppliers for dirt-cheap components (not to mention paying his staff poorly… but once again, I digress.)

I guess the JCNA doesn’t want the Concours competition to come down to whose car came out of the Chrome & Buff shop or had the most recent full-body Armor-all dip ala the hot rod roadster crowd… but to be honest, I’d rather bring my E-type to a local small-town car show & shine, than a JCNA “Concours d’Arrogance” (a wonderful term coined by “Eric The Bastard” on J-L’s E-type list). At least at a local show & shine, the people will be interested about the historical importance of the E-type, rather than tell me that I have an incorrect screw in my headlight surround and that my centerlaced wheels are not stock.

So by making the focus of the club the creation and maintenance of ONE car, because really only one car & owner can “win”, they are actively discouraging the vast majority from participation. The vast majority of us have no interest in spending metric tons of money to create an undrivable “perfect” car… as that is a fruitless endeavor. In the end you have no money and a collection of trophies. Yawn. We’re the ones that have inherited, rescued, or resurrected our forebear’s cars and are their current caretakers. The vast majority of us are not intimidated by technology and embrace Internet based communities. We also are aware of the vast leaps in automotive engineering that have occurred in the past 50 years and not afraid to adopt them to keep our old Jaguars running and driving as their designers intended… racing, and running country roads at speed.

Cars are for DRIVING. The club need to put an emphasis on tours, rallies, slalom, autocrossing (slightly different but similar to slalom), gymkhanas, etc. Car shows are frankly… boring, and the hyper-critical anal-retentive JCNA Concours are the absolute pinnacle of that mountain of boring.

So, once the subject of declining membership was concluded, they went on to some amendments to the competition rules. Slalom went by swiftly, and (predictably), Concours went on for hours. Hours. Literally from noon until almost three, they debated such inane subject as “whether license plate frames should be considered in judging”…. I swear I’ve had root canal work that was more enjoyable than merely being in that room. I had to leave on a few occasions. Thankfully Rick Korn’s E-type racing car was on display out in front of the hotel. Far from being Concours-perfect, it was nonetheless a stimulating car to observe. Sigh.

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” –Helmuth von Moltke

So Steve, Roger & I planned our talk a few weeks before. I was there for two purposes:
1. I have a lot of experience as a public speaker.
2. I could “moderate” the talk and prevent Roger from droning on and on.

This is not a dig at Roger, he actively sought out somebody for the job! I volunteered and I knew that I was quite capable of doing the tasks assigned to me. Unfortunately the room was laid out for a meeting, not a presentation. To use the clock metaphor: The “table” was a large circle with the screen at 6 o’clock. They had a computer there (a Dell laptop) and a projector, but they were only using it to show the agenda. There were three microphones, but they were at 9, 12 & 3 o’clock.

(Ironically, whoever had put the laptop there did not set the screensaver to “off” prior to the meeting, so a woman seated at the 7 o’clock position would stand up about every 10 minutes throughout the day’s meeting, to scrub the trackpad in an effort to prevent the screen from blanking! Weird.)

As it turned out, I went to the 6 o’clock station and swapped the projector into my laptop and adjusted the screen resolution on the fly (thankfully I drive a Macintosh so that was a painless exercise.) Roger was at 9 o’clock, Steven at 3 o’clock, and the JCNA president held the other microphone, standing on the other side of the table and about 50 feet away from me at 12 o’clock. Roger and Steven started into the presentation, and I was left to the role of “demo-boy”. So, rather than speaking, I was the mute guy at the far end of the room clicking links on the sites (I had bought the $10 a day wireless Internet access from the hotel).

Thankfully Steven was coherent, and Roger managed to NOT drone on and on too much. He started to twice and I gave him as much of “a LOOK” as I could, and Steven interrupted him to swing the talk forward. Unfortunately just as we were getting to the logical end and a potential Q&A section, Roger did get into a bit of an apologetic rant repeating himself a few times, and avoided eye contact with me… which meant he drifted into his “on and on” stage… and then, somebody distracted Roger by walking up and talking in his ear. Steven started to talk a bit more, then the guy at the 12 0’clock microphone interrupted us and shut the whole meeting down. Bang. End of everything.

Roger later told me the guy had told him that they “already had a registry of E-types.” My answers to that are how useful is it? How up to date? How can I search it? How accessible is it to somebody in Australia for example? Since it is likely on paper, the answers are: “Not very.” “Who knows?” “Not without access.” and “Not at all.”

Worries about declining membership. Three hours of arguing about license plate frames. Then 5 minutes of what appeared to me as reaction ranging from indifference to hostility. Hopefully somebody in the room appreciated what we had to say, and more importantly what we represented… namely the next generation of POSSIBLE club members. And of course a group holding at least one of the answers to their questions about stopping their declines in membership, a database of just two models of Jaguar which together, represent a number larger than the current JCNA membership.

I am a member of JCNA and the Seattle Jaguar Club, but in terms of interaction, I really am more of a “member” of Jag-Lovers. I participate in JCNA events about three times a year… I participate in Jag-Lovers almost every day of the year. Like the computer user group, it could be that the car club, at least on a physical, regional basis, is a thing of the past. Maybe technology has outstripped the usefulness of a regional club. We still need to get together in “real-time” to participate in events, especially driving events, but if the clubs do not EMBRACE technology to facilitate communication among their membership, they risk extinction.

Paper newsletters and book-based registries do not scale to global communities. I can get better information about keeping my car running, from people all over the globe, in literally seconds… than I could ever hope to get from a lifetime of club meetings or newsletters. Yes, we still need to meet face to face. But it doesn’t REQUIRE a club to do that. The JCNA needs to adapt to that reality.



Some pictures from recent events…

1. A couple of weekends ago I took two boys up to Mt. Baker for some skiing. Well I did some skiing, but the boys chose to give snowboarding a try. I used to snowboard about 15 years ago, but gave it up after getting involved in a collision (and NO, it was not my fault!) with two drunken skiers up on Snoqualmie Pass. Plus, I think snowboarding is only fun when the snow is really wet and deep, otherwise it is just a pain in the ass. Literally.

I don’t think the boys had as much fun as they thought they would. I think Nick is going to stick to skiing.

Here are the pictures.

2. The Jaguar Clubs of North America are having their Annual General Meeting here in Seattle, in fact a stones throw from my office. So I’m attending (actually speaking to the group with Roger Los & Steven DuChene about XKEdata.com). They had a dinner last night at Boeing’s Museum of Flight (even CLOSER to my office) so I took some pictures. The first new Jaguar XK on the west coast was there, so lots of pics of it too.

Here are those pictures.