Tuesday, August 31, 2004



I guess it's an unfortunate fact of life in our culture that there are few events important enough to tear us away from our daily grinds to get together as a family other than funerals.

Well, this past weekend I found myself at my grandfather's funeral. The feelings I experienced were a bit unexpected. Of course we were all sad that he had to go. There was plenty of mourning just like at any other funeral. On the other hand, at the risk of sounding callous, most would consider 105 fruitful years a good life. I think we all knew it. The overwhelming tone was not sorrow, but joy. We were there to share stories about him and to celebrate his life as a beloved family member and as a common link that we all share. In that room we had five generations of family members from his siblings to his great- great grandchildren. I don't think I've ever felt that close to my family before. There was really a feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself. I think the others felt it too. There was talk of planning a family reunion. I really hope that comes into being. We shouldn't wait for a death to be there for each other.

God's speed, Grandpa.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I Bet a Small Block Would Fit..

I Bet a Small Block Would Fit..

Having re-installed my car's intake silencer and let my subscription to "Sport Compact Car" run out years ago, you could say that I'm a bit out of touch with current custom trendz. That's not to say that I'm not interested in cars anymore. I just have to figure out what this "growing up" stuff is all about before I drop large sums of money (which I don't have) on something so frivolous. I'm sure "growing up" will involve cars to some extent as my wife and I have a '73 Standard Beetle which we're fiending to fix up, but the import tuner scene is not likely to be my scene, if and when we do get into it. That being said, I do enjoy my Impreza, and if it didn't have to have a somewhat responsible appearance I'd most likely enjoy spiffing it up a bit.

About a month ago I was at a cruise night/ car show with my wife and father-in-law. I was reminded of a look that I had seen before and really liked. Way back in history ( way before me, anyway) when a guy just wanted to make his car go fast and didn't want to fuss too much with a paint job he might spray a coat of flat black paint on it and be done with it. The first time I saw a car done like this I was not quite sure what to think. It looked a bit like they sprayed a primer coat but no finish coat. As I got accustomed to seeing this I realized that I kind of like it. It was a pretty menacing look. All business with on extra flash. I mentioned to her that if I were to do something with my car I'd want to do a kind of 50's hot rod style make over with a flat black paint job and smoothie rims. That would be pretty unique.

A few days ago I was in the local Auto Zone buying 4 quarts of synthetic oil and a filter. I glanced to the side as I waited in line to pay and I couldn't believe what I saw. "Sport Compact Car" magazine was running a feature on a new STi Impreza done up old school. Sigh. Not only had they had the same idea with the same flat black paint, they used essentially the same car! I paid and left in disbelief. The next day, I decided to check out the SCC website. I found no information about the matte Impreza, but I did find (of all things) a flat black Mini Cooper S. It was a very cool car, but my bubble had been burst. I guess it's time to look for a new unusual thing to daydream about.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Now With Photos!

Now With Photos!
Originally uploaded by cafn8.
Well, I'm not sure how many people actually know about this blog, but I guess I'll be spreading the word out to a wider audience soon. From the beginning, I had intended to set up photo blogging and assuming all the bugs are out, I'm fully set up. Expect more pictures to come.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Talkin' to my PDA before it was cool

The other morning as I drove to work I noticed a well dressed guy waiting for the bus talking on a dark blue cell phone. It wasn't the usual candy bar style or flip phone style, it was a blackberry, a little box roughly 3" x 5" x 3/4" with a big LCD screen and a QWERTY keyboard. I couldn't help but see the similarity to my old Visorphone which only comes out of hiding when I need to record my gas consumption or figure out a sheet metal bend allowance. Even then, it's without the phone module that was once my constant companion. I have mixed thoughts about that PDA. I can't deny that it was that gadget which hooked me on access to web and email everywhere I went. Pocket sized wireless internet is a very nice thing to have when you become accustomed to using it. At the same time, I became accustomed to making excuses for the device itself. "Sure it's big, but I can browse the web on it" or "Sure it's awkward, to talk on without a headset, but it's great for email." So for 2 or 3 years, I carried that biggish PDA around practically everywhere I went, enduring the occasional implication that I may not look entirely un-tool-like with my PDA on my belt at a party, baseball game, or even at work. Then it happened: they cut off my data. There was no explaination from the wireless carrier. It just stopped working. No longer did I have the powerful synergy of a wireless phone and a light-duty computer in one little box. I had a good organizer which doubled as a phone phone with a barely-audible ringer, poor sound quality from both the speaker and the microphone, short battery life and bad signal reception compared to even the chintziest phones. My "yeah but" had vanished and left me a geek disconnected form my data. Every time I used the phone I was shamed by the has-been gadget.

I had to do something. After all, I was still paying for service. If I had a cheap phone I could at least make clearer calls and hear the ringer when someone would call. I investigated phones with IR ports to connect to the PDA. I even investigated Bluetooth phone/PDA combos. In the end I chose to replace my "PDA that thinks it's a phone" with a "phone that thinks it's a PDA". I have to say, I like this better. As a phone, it's rather big by today's standards, but not un-pocketable. It does just about everything the PDA could do as well or better via software add-ons, and even had additional connectivity options. The only things I miss are the touch screen and the superior text entry. The text entry problem is handled surprisingly well by predictive text entry, however, and the lack of a touch screen actually helps to make it more durable (no matter how careful you are, drops do happen.) What I didn't really expect is the social effect. I'm not saying that I meet people using it, but instead, the phone affects the way people see me less than a PDA would. Why? Well, the more obvious reason is that it lives in my pocket instead of on my belt and only comes out when I need to use it. The less obvious reason is what it says about me. To the casual observer, a wireless PDA carrier/user looks like a workaholic who wants to be at the office, even when he's not or who can't escape the offic even when he wants to. The phone, on the other hand, makes much less of an impact as more and more people have phones these days. I'm no different than any other of the millions of people carrying cell phones. There are, of course, the technophobe types who take offense to cell phone use, but most just object to loud one sided conversations and would hardly notice the soft "plocka- plocka" of an email being typed, a URL being entered or a web site being navigated. The geek effect is mostly absent.

So what's the point, you say? Well, I guess the Blackberry has a strong following, judging by all of them I see around. I can't help but wonder, though, if these folks will ever get tired of holding those little tablets to their heads and they'll drop the crackberries and go with a smartphone. Once you have data, it's hard to go without.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Last Man Sitting?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm about to be the only person left in my department of 3 people here at work. Several days ago the other guy that does basically the same thing as I do told me that he has been looking for another job it seems to be common knowledge, so I guess he's not really keeping it a secret. Not really a big surprise, considering that he's about to get an Engineering degree and has been looking (unsuccessfully) for a house in his price range that meets his needs. He's not here again today. Must be on an interview. I can't help but think I should be getting out of here too. Is it a bad thing to be a bargain?

The head of the department is also out this afternoon. To be fair, he does visit vendors on occasion to check on the status of things, but for some reason he didn't say anything about where he was going today. What's more, the boss just came in to ask if I knew where he was. I don't. It makes me a bit suspicious. I suppose there could be worse things than being the only one left here, though.

Friday, August 13, 2004


You know, ever since we got back from the honeymoon we've been drinking fancy coffee that we picked up in New Orleans. In the past I would just get the jumbo can from CostCo and just use that. I just used the same amount every morning and never really had to figure out proportions. With all of these different types of coffee, however, I've started reading instructions since some use more or less coffee for a given amount of water. They do have one thing in common, though. Like the coffee pots, they measure a cup of coffee as 6oz. Why? I certainly don't use a cup that small. Most mugs are not that small. A real "cup" is 8oz. The only place I've had a cup of coffee that looks close to 6oz is in a fancy restaurant. That stinks. There's so little mass in a 6oz cup that it's cold in about 30 seconds (that's if you try to savor it and it actually lasts that long.) I say just bring me the 20oz latte mug and a bowl of sugar. Fill my cup and leave of alone to enjoy my coffee.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

More On Alternative Fuels

Ok, so I've been thinking a lot about alternative fuels and such lately since that little electric car of a couple posts back sparked my imagination. When you're looking for information on one fuel source or alternative you often run across information on other fuel sources. Well, this is another case of serendipity. I was looking into electric cars a bit and I ran across a movement that seems to have a fair number of followers. These people are converting all sorts of vehicles which originally ran on diesel fuel to run on vegetable oil. That foul stuff that restaurants dump out of their fryers powers a diesel engine just as well as the stuff that comes from the pump at the fuel station. This, at least until this gains popularity, provides a practically free fuel source for anyone willing to take it off a restaurant's hands, filter it, and dump it into a special heated fuel tank in their vehicle. Restaurants, of course, are generally glad to get rid of it, since they will otherwise have to pay someone to dispose of it.

I don't remember where I read it, but somebody recently predicted that the world's oil production would peak and begin to drop due to a dwindling supply around Thanksgiving 2005 (no I didn't make this up.) Now, this could be total BS propaganda or there could be something to it. The way I figure, It doesn't really matter that much if we're using vegetable oil. Waste not, want not, right? Now I know I'm ignoring the bigger picture here. If everyone was driving on veggie oil, we would obviously need a source other than used french fry drippings. Veggie oil would be set aside for automotive use, there would be less to go around, Food prices would go up, yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, I'm not here to talk about that.

I'm here to talk about yet another hair-brained half-baked scheme of mine that will not likely ever be done but that I enjoy thinking about. So let me tell you about my veggie burner the way I would make it. I've had some experience with diesel passenger cars, having had friends with an old diesel VW Rabbit and an old Mercedes 240D. What's more, My father had a diesel VW Jetta and even offered it to me to replace my Ford Escort that I drove at the time when he bought a new car. All three of those were loud, smelly and painfully slow. As I understand it, modern diesel cars are actually hard to tell form gas burners and benefit from the better fuel mileage and simplified design inherent to diesel engines, but that's not the road I want to travel. Why worry about mileage when fuel is practically free. My veggie burner will have a big, loud turbo-diesel engine and transmission from a truck, van or bus. To accomodate such a monstrous engine I'd need a rather large vehicle to avoid ending up with a nose-heavy terrible handling slug. I think a late model Chevy Caprice (preferably with the police package) would do the job. The main fuel tank would be replaced with the largest heated veggie unit that would fit. A smaller diesel fuel cell would be added for cold start-up and an axle with a final drive more suited to the high torque, low rev engine would be used. That's about it. Now wouldn't that be fun? It would take me back to my fast food days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Huh? Ooh.

I am an idiot. I have had this cell phone for.. well long enough for it to get good and beat up. It's been well over a year. Maybe two. Anyway, yesterday I hit the key to check my email as I always do, but this time I must have held it a bit longer and got the message "no voice tags present." Cool, my phone has voice dialing. Now I just have to remember the voice tags I programmed.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Speaking of alternative engines..

Here's a story..


about a guy who mounted jet engines in the the trunk of his GM EV1. At 4 MPG it's pretty inefficient, and the jets only get it going to about 67 MPH, but you know, whatever floats your boat. I guess range really IS a big issue.

A Little Car That Could Change Things

Several days ago, I ran across some news blurbs about a little commuter car called the Tango 600. Since then, I've been unable to get it off my mind. At first glance it looks like other specialized commuter car. It's a little two seater that takes up about as space on the road or in a parking lot as a motorcycle (it's a tandem, not side by side.) Its proportions are tall, narrow and cartoonish. It's an electric car with a quoted range of about 80 miles. You may be wondering what makes a car like this stick with my thoughts like it has.

A quick visit to the website commutercars.com and a glance at the specs told me that I wanted one (and the $85k price tag told me I won't likely ever have one.) This is definitely a different spin on the commuter car. It seems that in the past little electric commuter cars have simply been spartan little responsible vehicles intended to get you to work and home as efficiently as possible. This is a recipe for yawns. Obviously, this not the most effective way to get someone to pay big money for a new type of vehicle that has a short range and little chance of refueling away from home. The Tango uses a different strategy to get itself sold. It may look funny, but it's godawful fast. It's not as light as you might think, with all of its lead-acid for power storage. It weighs as much as your average gasoline powered economy car. However, you will not find very many Civics producing 1000 foot pounds of torque at the wheels (that's right, three zeros.) What's more, that's from an electric motor, so 1000 foot pounds start at 0 RPM and don't give out until it reaches its top speed. That means performance numbers like 0-60 in 4 seconds and the standing quarter mile in 12 seconds at 120 mph. For you non-car-enthusiast types out there, that's supercar territory. It also supposedly handles quite well as shown in the autocross footage on the web site. There is very little lean to the tall car even during hard cornering on race tires.

This car, unlike many electric cars of the past (although I'll admit that I haven't researched this topic much) is not a golf cart modified for the street. It is a fun car that is fast and furious enough enough (sorry for the reference) to earn itself some credibility among buyers and other drivers, which is the only way I see this sort of car surviving (especially at that price range.)

At the risk of throwing out an idea and not explaining it adequately, I can definately see this as the pocket rocket of the future (thank VW for the original GTI.) Hopped up econo boxes made small cars more palatable. Maybe this (if production numbers go up and prices go down enough) could do the same for "zero emission vehicles"

Friday, August 06, 2004

Fun Appliance

We recently got a new appliance which we've been wanting for a while but just never got around to buying. It's a confetti-cut shredder. At first, I thought we bought one that was more than we needed. Maybe it is, but it's nice to be able to turn those credit card applications to confetti without even bothering to open them.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The "Induce Act"

I've been reading a few articles lately about Congress's Induce Act, and the fact that they would even consider making something like this a law is very frightening. I pray that common sense and understanding of the potential of the technology to be used for legitimate purposes will win out over the recording industry's attempt to have its way by making all sorts or technologies illegal. (we're doomed). I am not involved in the peer to peer file sharing programs that seem to have spawned this bill. I just don't have that kind of bandwidth. This still has me afraid because of its broad reach due to its (most likely intentional) vagueness which would affect all sorts of software and hardware. I wouldn't call myself a remotely political person, but this one has of considering sending my congressman a note. Scary stuff.