, serving useless content from an undisclosed location since 1997

June 30, 2006


Filed under: Cars,Weird Seen — chuck goolsbee @ 7:37 pm

Don’t really know what to say about this one.

June 28, 2006

An Environmental(ly Friendly) Disaster

Filed under: Cars,life — chuck goolsbee @ 10:17 pm

Legend has it that Captain Joseph Hazelwood had been drinking beers and vodkas in the hours before his ship became tragically intimate with Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. I will admit to having a margarita on Monday night, though my oil tanker is thankfully nowhere near the size of the Exxon Valdez. I also didn’t run into anything, certainly not a reef… my catastrophe was a bit more complicated.

You see, I have a home-brew Diesel fuel setup that filters waste vegetable oil and turns it into something I can put into my car. Being a lazy human with neither the time nor the energy to pump heavy, thick oil through 30 and 10 micron filters, I have created a system that takes advantage of a free energy source to push oil through a filter; namely the mass of the planet and its by-product, in the form of gravity. Oil, like any liquid, naturally flows downhill. I carry the oil up the “hill” in 5 gallon increments, which takes me 10 seconds. It comes back down the hill, this time through filters, at somewhere between a drip and a trickle. It can take a week to produce 20 gallons. This is fine since gravity pretty much works all the time: 7/24/365. Gravity is a reliable source of energy since planetary mass remains more or less constant, and should it experience rapid change, lowering the cost of operating my car will likely become the least of my worries. The only variable I need to be concerned with is ambient temperature.

Summers in the Pacific Northwest are not what anyone outside of McMurdo Sound would describe as “hot”… in fact on the first day of summer of 2003 I spent my day sitting in a chair in front of a roaring fire updating my website after the New England 1000 rally, with outside temps 15 degrees above freezing. But this past week we experienced a relative “heat wave”, with temps reaching 90°F (33°C). We are not mentally or physically prepared for such levels of heat here. Very few facilities or houses have air conditioning, as temps rarely exceed 80°F (26°C) thanks to our latitude and close proximity to the largest body of known water in this solar system, perhaps even the universe.

Monday I was working from home, and towards the end of the day I was doing some pre-sale mechanical work on the Bug before it went on ebay. I was out in the barn around 3pm, and everything looked fine. Around 5 pm I had made myself a margarita and wandered out to the barn again and was greeted with a shocking find. Coming out from under the pickup truck was a steady stream of vegetable oil. I ran to the back to find the bottom barrel of my gravity-fed system copiously leaking from an overflow condition. I shouted to Nicholas, who was out playing with the dogs to run and get the truck keys. I dove for the stop-valves to put a halt to Isaac Newton’s invisible forces.

Nick returned at a run with the keys and I got the truck out of the oil spill. Veggie oil destroys rubber. Tires are made of rubber last I checked. By now Sue and Chris have arrived to find out what was going on. I started evacuating things from the expanding puddle, running oil off the top of the overflowing barrel, put Nick to washing off the truck tires, while the others brought me a pile of old newspapers. I spread the newspapers out over the spill:

I finished removing everything removable from the space (it needed a cleanup anyway), spead some of my oil absorbant and couldn’t really do anything until the newspapers soaked up some oil. We decided that after this little flurry of family activity that we needed to take a break, so we went out to our local Mexican food restaurant and had dinner (I had another Margarita!)

I took the next day off work to focus on the cleanup. The night of sitting on the oil did the trick with the newspapers, they were soaked. Off they came and into a 55 gallon drum, and another layer went on. While that soaked I set fire to the previous layer in the drum, and performed a general nonoil cleanup of the area. Entropy had led to disorder, which I set to correcting. I also processed what oil remained in the barrels “uptream” to cover the deficit lost in the spill and 20 additional gallons I had picked up from the burger joint I get it from the previous week (you can see that in the form of white PVC 5 gallon buckets.) I have no idea exactly how much I had lost, but I suspect it was between 15 and 30 gallons. That represents about 650 to 1500 miles of driving! Oh well.

Thankfully it is completely organic, and completely non-toxic as it is basically rapeseed (aka “Canola”) oil, and molecular bits of potato, with some onion ring batter thrown in as well. Actually since this was at the “end” of my processing system it was pretty clean (filtered to 10 microns) so virtually pure oil. I take it from that last stage down through a combo 5/1 micron filter sock and from there into 5 gallon jerry cans. So unlike Hazelwood’s blunder, my spill wasn’t going to do significant harm to my local environment. In fact, it’s benign to the point of being edible. One of our dogs in fact ate some. To them, a bit of spilled oil is a treat. Dogs are not known for their discriminating palletes, especially ours.

Above: Yours truly sweeping up oil-soaked newspaper.

After the second layer of paper came up, I fired up the pressure washer with a inline injection of Simple Green cleaner and started to spray:

The cleaner was spread over the entire area, and allowed to sit for a bit, then the long, slow process of going over every inch of the affected area under high pressure spray began. Pressure washing is something of a Zen activity. It requires focus and concentration. You have this object, that if allowed to behave naturally, would be flying around haphazardly, being propelled by a 2100 PSI stream of water. You have to hold onto it, then make it do what you want, which in this case is coax a film off of, and some level of saturation of oil out of concrete. Thankfully oil and water do not mix, so you can visually see when you have removed most of it, and move on to the next section. It took a while, and two full passes at the area, but I’m pretty sure I managed to get most of it up.

We’ll see after it has some time to dry. I didn’t bother to look at it this morning when I left for work. I really don’t want to look at it until I know I’ll have some time to start work again. The upside of this situation is that I now know that my filtration system goes from a trickle to a torrent when the temperature approaches 90°F. It all seems logical in hindsight of course, since in the depth of winter the stuff would barely drip. Sometimes the blindingly obvious takes a little hindsight to light it up.

Thankfully, it was only a portion of one barrel, not a portion of 1,480,000 barrels.

I’ll drink to that!

June 27, 2006

I have become a Used Car Salesman

Filed under: Cars,life — chuck goolsbee @ 11:17 pm

Have a look and see for yourself. I’m off to buy some white patent leather shoes and a cheap suit. 😉

June 25, 2006


Filed under: Cars,life — chuck goolsbee @ 10:00 pm

I’m sitting here at home, sucking down the final remnants of a “Top-Shelf” Margarita (made with some of the wife’s Cabo Wabo).. a fitting end to a fine day out. My son Nicholas & I just got back from a trip to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia for a JCNA Slalom event in Vancouver.

I haven’t slalomed since July of 2004. I of course took a year off from it due to the “Great Collapsing XK Engine Incident of 2005“… which ruined my year, and doomed my children to community college. I had a dim recollection of how fun it was, but today brought it all back. It is more than fun… it is a blast! I strongly suggest getting out and doing it yourselves. Ton of fun.

JCNA runs a standard course and timing gear, so you can compare your performance against other people in the US & Canada. Honestly, I’m not really looking for any sort of award, or national standing… to me this is just too much fun to NOT participate. I have an excellent car and feel that as a DRIVER I could stand a lot of improvement, so I really only care about how I do “against myself.”

It is about a 70-90 minute drive to Vancouver from my house depending on conditions at the border. Nick & I left around 8, and arrived at the 49th Parallel around 9-ish, only to be met with a snarled border crossing. They only had two lanes open, which is odd for a weekend (there are something like 8 lanes available) so people were queue jumping like mad in the outside lanes. I’m surprised there wasn’t any fisticuffs. I would have been there right on time, but I missed a turn on highway 1A, and ended up doing a big lazy “S” through Surrey, and finally dead-reckoned my way to the Scott Road Skytrain station parking lot (after a stop for some $CDN out of an ATM) where one of the BC MG/Jaguar clubs was holding the event.

Nick & I signed in, paid our fee, went through tech inspection, and prepped the 65E for it’s runs (this involves the giant “reverse Tetris game” of unloading all the spares, rags, tools, garbage, flotsam, etc from the Jaguar cockpit and boot. Once excavated, my pile was quite impressive. People were shocked at how much crap I had stowed away in such a small space! I am a master at Tetris! (and I wasn’t even carrying all my spares!)

I grabbed my camera and shot some stills of the folks who were making their runs. These included Bruce Cox, the fellow E-type owner from Burnaby whose new Pirelli tires I had smuggle^X^X^X^X brought over the border earlier this year. Bruce drives a very nice maroonish red Series 2 OTS. He & his better half Jayne have owned it since the late 60s. Good to see a “survivor” on the cones course!

Our turn came very swiftly, and Nick & I headed out onto the course after I’d handed my camera to Bruce to get some shots of us. Like I said, it has been two years since I last did this, and I was chanting out the mantra: “hourglass, figure 8, oval… hourglass, figure 8, oval… hourglass, figure 8, oval…” in my head, but of course it all fell apart once on course… somewhere I lost concentration and mistook one cone for another… here I’m thinking that I’m swinging wide at the bottom of my second lap when all of a sudden A CONE JUMPS RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY CAR!

I’m amazed at how quickly I stopped. I didn’t actually hit the cone, but I’m sure I scared it enough to give it second thoughts about jumping in front of me like that again! Of course, I had to reverse to get away from the wayward, evil, scheming cone, so I DNF’ed that run. (Kudos to Bruce for managing to capture that critical moment!)

We queued up to run again, and got some advice from one of the organizers. He refreshed my memory as to how to run the course, and told Nick to hold on to the grab handle. He got tossed around a bit, and in fact his helmet banged my right arm at one point, which is still sore as I type this nine+ hours later. We managed to complete our second run without mishap, and turned a respectable 00:49.291. We queued again and this time I concentrated on being smooth, and Nicholas did an excellent job of calling out lap sequence for me as we ran the course. This time we ran it in 00:47.560.

Given that my best time from 2004 was 48.6 this was my new “Personal Best”.

I still felt like I over-braked in the far opposite corner during the “figure-8” lap, so next time I concentrated on improving that. Result: 00:47.400.

Whoo hoo!

The last run, I figured I’d push it a bit more, and ended up getting some messy oversteer midway through the figure-8 lap that robbed me of a bit of time. Pushing that envelope! Final run clocked in at 00:48.140. Not bad actually.

After everyone’s timed runs were done, the course was open for “fun” runs, so Nick & I went out for three more, but this time we brought the camera in the car and Nick used the “film mode” of my digital camera to capture the event in full motion and sound. Unfortunately Nick is still pretty young, and not tall enough to see over the bonnet. The first time he held the camera up to his eye, and captured an excellent movie of the dashboard and the sky. =)
(BTW that run we turned a 00:47.940)
The next run wasn’t much better camera-wise, but I got my time down to 00:46.800.

Finally, after watching his results while we waited our next turn, I suggested that he hold the camera UP and sight along the bottom of the lens, and angle it as we approach turns.
The result was excellent

It also turned out to be our best time of the day, and my best time ever:

Too bad I couldn’t pull that off when it counted!

I wanted to try to get a particular style of movie… the traditional “out the side of the car” shot, so I recruited Bruce to drive for me. He grabbed a helmet and climbed into the 65E. I don’t know why he was so nervous, but he started up the car and lurched into 1st gear before I even had my door closed, and promptly killed the engine. Poor Bruce… he probably thought he’d broken my car because it then refused to start. The starter was obviously heat-soaked, either that and/or my battery was so weak from last week’s alternator shenanigans that it just didn’t have the grunt to spin the hot starter… I’ve had the car do this to me before when very hot like this. (Did I mention that it was hot out today? It was!) I hopped out my open door, and rocked the car back and forth while it was in gear, then out of gear and hit the starter, and eventually hit the right spot where it would fire.

That crisis solved, we hit the course
It was fun to run it while not driving. It seems a LOT easier from the navigator’s seat! Bruce ran a respectable 00:52.250 and I had a fun time… capturing it mostly how I wanted.

We then reversed the Tetris game repacking the car, had to push/rock start it again(!) and bid adieu to Bruce & Jayne, and headed for home. We stopped in White Rock at a Baskin Robbins for some ice cream to cool us down (I parked the 65E on a down-slope in case it was still too hot, but after the our cool-down, it was cool too and started on the first try. The border crossing at the Peace Arch was insanely long, so we hopped over to the “Truck Crossing” and found it also backed up… we continued east on ‘0 Avenue’ towards the Lynden/Aldergrove crossing, and found it backed up too, though not as bad. It REALLY sucks to sit out in the open, surrounded by queued cars, baking in the hot sun on the asphalt. It seemed like an eternity before we made the 100m trip to the customs stop. Both us and the car were overheating and tired… thankfully the border guard didn’t ask me to turn off the car. He had searched a few cars ahead of us in the queue, and I really didn’t want to go through with that *and* suffer the indignity of the car requiring a push start! Thankfully he waved us on and we were very happy to be running in the wind again at speed. We angled east towards the mountains and took back roads up into the foothills seeking shade of tall Alders, Douglas Firs, and Western Red Cedars. It felt GREAT to get out of the sun. We eventually found our way onto SR9 and followed it home to Arlington.

Nick & I are tired… the sun just sapped our energy (we are both burned, despite frequent application of sunscreen) but we’re enervated and happy, having spent a great day out together.

Speaking of kids, there was a 16 year old out at the event today driving an MG B. He too looked like he was having a blast:

That is my favorite image of the day.

Here are all of them.

I think it is time for another Margarita.

June 24, 2006

Tools We Use

Filed under: digital.forest — chuck goolsbee @ 9:32 pm

If these are tools and equipment you are familiar with, and can use well, we may have a job for you! digital.forest is hiring. We’re looking for technical support people. The job will be posted soon.

(Damian Amrhein, our facilities manager shot this photo while making a dumpster run… it pretty much sums up the past week @ d.f. 🙂 )

Buying a new car & You’ll never believe what I saw!

Filed under: Cars,Diesel,life — chuck goolsbee @ 10:39 am

Got home from work yesterday afternoon (left work early… one of the small benefits of being “the boss” I guess. But given the distance of my commute, it is a wash) so I could drive my wife to pick up her new car. Well, it isn’t a car really, and I had nothing to do with her choice, other than her choice of fuel. She picked a Jeep Liberty, with the 2.8 liter common rail Diesel. It will be her second oil-burner; she drove a Volvo 440TD when we lived in the UK. I had been looking for an older Mercedes S-class or E-class Diesel for her, but the prices for used oil-burners has gone nuts. Plus her accountant filled her in on the rules our wonderful IRS has dreamed up and her choices suddenly became very limited.

You see she is self-employed (an attorney) and works out of our home. She doesn’t really need a car at all, except to go to court, or other work related things. She wanted to have a car specifically for her business and have it be owned by the business, paid for by the business, and therefore deductible as a business expense. The IRS though says you can’t do that with a Car. But you CAN do it with a “Truck”. Sigh… no wonder there are so many SUVs on the road!

She did want a Diesel though, as she’s seen the massive drop in fuel costs since I started making my own for the TDI Jetta. The primary thing that attracted to me to my wife when I met her was the fact that she’s CHEAP. (OK, so it was the secondary thing, but over time it has become the primary thing! =)

Her choices of Diesel “truck/SUV” were limited to gargantuan pickups, heavily armored urban assault vehicles, or the “cute” Liberty. She chose the latter.

She’s a diminutive woman, and on the surface very shy and quiet, but lurking just below is a litigator that can strike fear into the heart of any mortal. She jealously guards her bottom-line, and fearlessly attacks any weakness shown by opposites in negotiation. I let her do all the car buying in this family as she is my secret weapon against car salesmen. It is a joy to watch her tear them apart. In this purchase however, I was not around, I just drove her to the dealer to pick it up. Naturally, we took the E-type. I mean, how better to add insult to injury? =)

Being a Friday afternoon in the Puget Sound area, I chose to stay off the main routes for our trip south to Monroe (a town NE of Seattle), and chose instead my tried and true “back road” that I used to take to work when my office was in Bothell (another town NE of Seattle). The “back road” is a joyful, twisty set of two-lanes that meander along the base of the Cascade Foothills from where I live east of Arlington, through Granite Falls, Lake Roesinger and ending in Monroe. The first half follows the south fork of the Stilliguamish river, the second half just follows some wonderful hilly bits down to the Snohomish river. Even though it was a Friday afternoon during “rush hour”, we only passed two cars the whole trip. Meanwhile, just downhill to the west thousands of cars were struggling along the choked I-5 and SR-9 routes. With the wife in the car I didn’t really do the usual “drive it like I stole it” but she still had to hang on to her hair & hat and did dive for the grab handle and close her eyes a few times. Mission Accomplished. =)

I drop her off at the dealer, get my first look at her new “car”, and head back north for some more spirited driving on the return trip. The road through Monroe, US2 was choked with cars, as it was around 6 pm, but once off on my “back road” it was all clear.

It was actually wonderful. Open road. The sun on it’s odd Solstice tangent course towards the northern horizon, snow dappled mountains glimpsed between tall Douglas firs and Western Red Cedars, the roar of Sir William’s Sixth Symphony echoing off it all. I had forgotten my radar detector but had thrown caution out of the cockpit, this road was all mine for the moment. I recall seeing a speed limit sign and glancing down to see the needle indicating over 2x. The car was even more confident than I, handling every curve like a dream and eating every straight away like a cop on a Krispy Kreme. I did have to slow to pass two cars, but both happened to be near passing zones. THREE times cars going the opposite direction flashed the lights and gave me the thumbs up. The last of these was a guy in a T-bucket hot rod basically out for the same ride. I guess this secret was is no longer secret.

As I neared the end of my journey, out of the corner of my eye I saw, and recognized a shape. A lithe, unique shape. An unmistakable shape. My whole head turned, then the Wilwoods brought the 65E to a sudden, straight stop, and I popped the car into reverse and pulled into a driveway.

Right here, before my eyes, in Arlington Heights, Washington of all places, is *another* Jaguar E-type!

It is an unrestored, series 1.5 2+2, in Beige (unique to 1968 I think). I look it over, grab a few photos with my cell phone (one of the rare moments without my real camera close at hand!), knock on their door (no answer), and finally write a note on my business card and leave it on the passenger-side window of the car with my phone number. I drive away dumbfounded. I never would have imagined seeing another E-type out here in the woods. The wife’s new Jeep will fit in quite well, but I always feel the oddball behind the wheel of the E surrounded by jacked up pickups and gigantic SUVs around here. I hope to meet the owner soon.

The wife’s old New Beetle goes on eBay soon. Off to give it a wash!

June 23, 2006

Weird Seen: Jet Truck

Filed under: Cars,Weird Seen — chuck goolsbee @ 1:07 pm

OK, so everyone has seen the jet-powered “hybrid” New Beetle, right? Speaking as a former Beetle driver, I can confirm that the guy is insane. The VW New Beetle has the aerodynamic properties of a wing. They start to take off around 120MPH. Ask me how I know!

The thing is, the guy is using the wrong car. He needs something with the aerodynamics of either a brick, or something with some serious downforce. Also, the guy is using a little jet engine from a small helicopter. If he had some balls he’d use one of these:

What is that you ask? Well, just about the biggest jet engine you can get. Living here in Boeing country we see a lot of weird stuff on the roads. Sections of fueselage, engines, entire wings driving down the freeway. So one day I see the engine from a Boeing 777 driving down Interstate 5:

Fire that baby up and set a land speed record for a tractor trailer!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress