Notice I don't call it "vacation," and here's why. On the other hand, it sure was a nice break to not have to be "on" for classes all week!
  • I've been writing several mornings, every week since mid-December. Completely revised the opening scenes of The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella, completely re-envisioned how I'm handling POV (which means significantly rewriting every single other scene, too), wrote many more notes for future scenes, and cut thousands of words while writing thousands more... I've passed a total of 44k words, which means it's more than half-way done (based on a projected 70k)!

  • Finished updating all three syllabi and Blackboard sites (that's the web interface for KU courses) for my spring semester classes. Sent all the students links to where their syllabi live online. HOORAY! Good lord, is it just me or does it take everyone most of a day to do this for each course?

  • Worked a bunch on the hot-rod Newport, including rebuilding the broken valvetrain; finishing installing the new fuel-injection system; installing half the custom exhaust (with electric cut-outs for added raucousness on demand!); designing a crankcase-ventilation system that won't put so much smoke into the intake and getting started installing that; and finding a great deal on a new front-drive system that'll upgrade the alternator to handle fuel-injection duties, the A/C and power-steering pump to something that works, and convert it to a simpler serpentine-belt system that'll make it more reliable and more efficient - oh, and it's all polished aluminum, so it's much lighter and really pretty, too. ETA for street duty: a week or two! Assuming something else doesn't blow up....

  • Did a bit of work on the Chevelle, but I want to get the Newport mobile, washed, waxed, and covered before really diving into this project; picked up some more parts I'll need, though. ETA for street duty: Late spring.

  • Rewired a cool vintage ceramic lamp and installed it in the ceiling of my living room. MUCH nicer than the old (light-free) ceiling fan that used to clutter up the space:

  • Did a bunch of updates on the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's website, and planned much more. Oh, and we're working with a major donor right now who's intending to support not only a full-ride scholarship for the summer Workshops, but also something even bigger for a student coming to study SF during the regular semester. Details to come....

  • Started reading for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel. Loving everything so far, which is great, but could also be trouble come decision time....

  • Got back into astronomy, with a new (to me) 100mm f/9 apochromatic refractor. WOWEE, does it provide gorgeous images! This is my first apochromat, a type of refractor that uses varying types of rare-earth glass to produce lovely, sharp, and color-free images. On a really nice German equatorial mount with dual-axis drives and a handy through-the-polar-axis North Star finder:

  • Resumed a regular, hardcore workout schedule at the gym. Tried the beautiful-but-useless fancy fitness center here at KU (Ambler), because it was free to staff & faculty last week; we usually use beat-up, old, and dingy - but free - Robinson, because of its really useful and large free-weights room, and only visited crowded Ambler that once.

  • Oh, and on a related note: Not to sound braggy or anything, but over Break the awesome Clevermanka started giving me regular, multi-hour massages at least once a week, sometimes EVERY DAY. OMG, I am so lucky.

Other stuff, too, like watching the new BBC Sherlock series! (Which starts on PBS tonight.) LOVE IT SO MUCH.

What did you do over the past month, whether or not you got a break?

Unfortunate news for getting the Newport ready by Saturday's "Rev It Up" car show: This morning I tore into the valvetrain on the affected side (where I had discovered the bent pushrod), and got some news:
  • Turns out not one but two pushrods were bent (both on the affected cylinder) - not surprising, what with nowhere for the expanding gases to go when the exhaust valve wasn't opening. (This would explain why I was getting low temperature readings on that part of the exhaust header, as well... more on that in a moment.) But it is surprising when assuming the bending happened while trying to get the new digital MSD setup to fire. My oh my am I glad that I purchased a full set of new pushrods instead of just one. The intake pushrod on the #7 cylinder was bent into such a curve that I had to use a Vice Grip to straighten it enough to remove. Yowza. And as soon as I pulled it out, the ball-end that sits in the lifter just dropped out onto the floor. Thank the Gods of Internal Combustion that it didn't fall off inside the engine when it was running, or this would be a tragic post.
  • I removed the full rocker-arm assembly, so I could check the other cylinders' valvetrain, as well. Thanks again that they're all fine.
  • The little balls on the ends of the roller-rocker arms (where the cup-ends of the pushrods fit) were pretty galled up, so I had to grind them smooth. The underside of the aluminum rocker for the exhaust valve was really marred, too, but the bearings appear unharmed. Clearly, now, evidence pointed to the engine having run with bent pushrods for a good long time. Eep. (On the plus side, I can't wait to see what kind of power it puts down with 8/8 of the engine running instead of 7/8.)
  • I put everything back together, properly assembly-lubed and anti-seize-lubed as appropriate, then torqued as appropriate. Then I went through each rocker-arm assembly and individually set the lash at "pushrod just barely spins when tightened down," as directed for a hydraulic lifter setup.
  • With everything buttoned up, I manually rotated the engine through a full 360°, so I could double-check the valve lash before sealing up that valve cover - never assume everything is correctly adjusted after just one set of tests.
  • Surprise! The exhaust pushrod on our friendly #7 cylinder? It was sitting loose in the head. How could this be, as I had carefully adjusted it? Well, I loosened the lock-nut, then turned the ball-stud bolt where the pushrod rests on the rocker-arm... and discovered that it wanted another half-inch of adjustment. Now, I may not be perfect at adjusting everything the first time, but a half-inch off? It had just the right amount of rotation when I locked down the nut just a few minutes prior. So I checked the pushrod length, and it's not a half-inch shorter than the others.
  • What does that leave? Collapsed lifter is what.
I sincerely doubt I could have destroyed a lifter with a couple of backfires while trying to start the car in my driveway. The (new!) lifter must have been collapsed all along. That would explain why:
  1. The rocker-arm could be so badly chewed up.
  2. Early tests with a temperature-gun showed #7 to be running cool: Non-firing cylinders don't get hot.
  3. The engine always ran a little ragged - I had assumed it was just the semi-radical cam.
  4. The timing was so hard to get right.

The first sign something was wrong....

So the car will not be ready for Saturday's car show. Sadness. On the plus side, the broken lifter won't cost much to replace, just a huge amount of time: This task requires pulling off the AC unit, the intake manifold, the valley pan, plus all associated hoses, wires, throttle cables, and so forth. Not a one-day job. On the other plus side, forecasters tell of guaranteed rain on Saturday, so the show might be a bust, anyhow.

Now, off to class. More later -

Over the past few days, I've spent a bit more time trying to start the newly fuel-injected, digitally programmed, updated Newport than I'd care to admit. No luck. Got a few nice misfires, but nothing remotely resembling "running." Yesterday, my buddy MadMattMax came over to help get it fired up, as I thought I'd reached the point where it'll happen. I'd set all the initial parameters in the MSD computer, I'd customized the ignition-timing curve, and the distributor was clocked correctly with the camshaft. When cranked, however, the engine disagreed. Turns out that the instructions in the MSD manual are wrong... well, wrong if you don't follow their suggestion to not use MSD computer control of ignition timing until you get the engine running. Well, my distributor was locked out, so I have to do it that way. So I was initially off on the timing by at least 20 degrees. That might not seem like a lot, if you consider a 4-stroke engine has a total of 720 degrees of rotation per cylinder's power-stroke; actually, though, it's more than enough to prevent the car from starting. I spent some time on the online forums and found my answer, we pulled the distributor and re-clocked it against the cam gear, and all seemed right in the world.

Oh, and even here I had to do custom work, like everything else on the Newport, this time a special, custom-ground distributor cap. Yep, to make the new MSD digital distributor's cap fit (and so I can rotate it as needed for tuning), I've had to grind it a bit:

It's a tricky balancing act, because I don't want to remove too much material to make it weak, but it won't fit right or work correctly if I don't remove just enough....

Anyhow, back in it went with the new timing adjustment, but of course by then we had cranked the engine a lot of times, and the fuel injection dutifully kept squirting in more gasoline the whole time. So we flooded it. The spark plugs were pretty much dripping gasoline. Time to let it sit and dry out.

This morning I went to the parts store and picked up a new set of spark plugs, because the soaked one also looked fairly filthy from previously running on a carburetor and poor ignition timing. I put the plug back in, then continued along to piston number 1 (the magical cylinder where one sets one's timing). Just to be safe, I decided to pull the valve-cover to make sure I had inserted the new distributor at TDC (top-dead-center, when the piston rests at the top of the cylinder, half-way between the up-stroke and down-stroke), which is when the spark should fire and create the power-stroke, rather than at the anti-TDC (same as normal TDC, only when the valves are open to let the exhaust out and the fresh charge is starting to pour in). I got a little surprise when I pulled the cover.

I guess this explains at least part of the difficulty I'm having in starting the car:

See that curved gray tube near the right-center of the photo, just below the cork gasket on the right side of the head? That's the end of a pushrod (minus its little cup-end, which had fallen off entirely - but thankfully didn't drop into the bottom of the engine). It should look like its sibling, the straight rod just to its left, resting against a ball on the bottom of an adjustable black nut on top of the valve's rocker arm.

Time to order a new pushrod. I guess I had better check the other side, too, just in case. Engines don't run well when they can't open valves.

In writing news, I'm coming along on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella - just had a few breakthroughs in understanding Jack and Stella and their personal character arcs. Hooray! Also making more progress on a new SF story.

In teaching news, just started diving in to the final projects for my summer Intensive Science Fiction Institute course. Had to deal with a really annoying and slow new version of Blackboard to do so, bless the little hearts of the Blackboard programmers; can't wait to figure out how to turn off all the new crap that gets in the way of doing my job.

That's all for now. If you live around these parts, I hope you're enjoying our new Fall-Like Summer in Kansas! (Seriously, weather? Temps in the 60s and all-day thunderstorms? *sigh*)

Okay, so it's 88 degrees Fahrenheit up here in my writing office, so I decided to go work on the Newport a bit. I mean, if you're already boiling to death and can't think straight to write, you might as well go outside where it's even hotter and do some manual labor, right? I think my reasoning went something like that.

I have a wonderful air-conditioner-slash-dehumifier in the garage, and it displays a temperature readout. Normally - that is, in temps below 100 - it does a great job cooling the garage, and even allows me to cool my back with the door open. But not today. Here's what it looked like just a few minutes after opening the garage door:

It's so hot outside right now that I watched a grackle hide in the shade of a lawn chair, mouth gaping, as it occasionally took a dip in the birdbath. In case you're wondering, I've given up on working outside. Thus this post instead of actually making more progress.

Here's what I finished installing - the new EFI fuel pump with pre- and post-filters, high-pressure fuel line, and wiring to fill the new MSD Atomic EFI system:

Yes, it's still in my driveway. Foolish me, I pulled the carburetor, old distributor, and associated parts a while back, WHILE IT WAS STILL OUTSIDE. In the lovely spring weather, that seemed like a good idea. And I thought I'd have the EFI system installed before the start of the Science Fiction Summer program. Ha. I should always remember the formula for how long something takes to do compared to the estimated time: "Double it and add 30." Now I'm dehydrated, dying of heat, covered in mosquito bites, and bruised from lying on pebbled in the driveway. Someone please remind me that I like to do this stuff.

Other under-car hijinks included installing this collector-reducer onto the header. Note the newly installed oxygen sensor that tells the EFI system how much oxygen and unburned gasoline is in the exhaust:

Here's the injector setup mostly installed on the engine; the sensor array and computer reside beneath the finned cover that says MSD. You can also see the primary computer installed on the far side of the engine compartment, the red box near the top of the photo. The new digitally controlled distributor is the red part on the right with red spark-plug wires coming out of it:

From the driver's side; nice-looking machine, isn't it? The red cylinder in front of it is the high-energy coil, and you can see the newly installed distributor behind it. The distributor is necessary because the old one kept losing timing, even with the old optical sensor; on top of that, it'll also be awesome because now I'll be able to plot a digital ignition curve via the MSD computer interface: No more crappy idling, pinging, or sluggishness!

Why EFI? Because a carburetor is nothing but irritation is why. If you haven't had to deal with one, congratulations! After - what, two years? - of poor starts, regular adjustments, and other tinkering, I got fed up with the carb. EFI provides better fuel mileage, easy starting, better throttle response, precision tuning, usually more horsepower and torque, and many more benefits. I hope to let you know how it runs in a week or two!

mckitterick: (1968 Chevelle SS396)
( Feb. 27th, 2013 01:08 pm)
This is one of the most-charming family car stories ever. My cheeks are damp.

From Hagerty, my classic-vehicle insurance company: Joe and Beverly Smith were the proud owners of a 1948 Plymouth Convertible until they had to sell it when Joe was drafted to serve in the Korean War. As a 60th wedding anniversary gift, their son, Joel, found a '48 Plymouth through Craigslist, fixed it up, and gave it to them as a surprise. The car will now forever stay in the family and be passed down through generations:

Okay, back to work, but I had to drop in to share this.

Had to share this article about a woman who has been driving for 94 years:

Margaret Dunning, a charming, energetic 102-year-old from Plymouth, MI, burst onto the national car scene last summer, becoming a popular and honored guest at motoring events from coast to coast, most recently at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

"It’s a dream come true," Dunning said, standing near her 1930 Packard 740 Custom Eight Roadster on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. "They’ve treated me very well. A lot of people want to talk to me, but I don’t know why everyone is making a fuss. I just love cars like everybody else."

Click the image to see the article at Hagerty.

The truth is, Dunning isn’t like anyone else. She is a walking treasure, eager to share first-hand knowledge of life in pre-Depression America. Certainly there are few people - if any - with more driving experience than she has. While growing up on a dairy farm in southeastern Michigan, she served as a tool chaser for her automobile-loving father, of whom she said, "I adored." Dunning’s dad taught her to drive at the age of 8, and when he died four years later, she was awarded a driver’s license so that she could drive her arthritic mother wherever she needed to go. That means Dunning has been driving for 94 years and has carried a license for 90.

"Oh, yes, I’ve driven my share, that’s for sure," she said.

Dunning still enjoys getting behind the wheel of her cream-colored Packard, which she has owned since 1949. "I love third gear. The car just sings," she said. "I never used it as my everyday driver, but I do like to get it out at least once a month. They were made to be driven, you know."

Daniel Clements, son-in-law of Dunning’s best friend, Rachel Churches, maintains Dunning’s collection of classic cars, which includes a 1931 Model A, ’66 Cadillac DeVille and ’75 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Clements is also something of a caretaker for Dunning whenever she travels. "Not like she needs to be taken care of. She’s like the Energizer bunny," Clements joked. "I’ve been around the hobby for over 30 years and have been taking care of her cars for 15-20. She doesn’t like to sit; she wants to be involved. She could stand here all day and talk to people."

Dunning did a lot of that at Pebble Beach. Among her many well-wishers were NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, popular actor and Concours Master of Ceremonies Edward Hermann, and the Maharana of Udaipur (India), Arvind Singh Mewar, who kissed Dunning’s hand and offered her a gift. "It was all very exciting,” she said. “It certainly makes your heart thump."

Dunning has a great sense of humor, and she isn’t afraid to share it. Asked the key to her longevity, she said, “I never got married.” Whether or not there is truth in that statement, Dunning proved long ago that she can stand on her own two feet. She built her fortune in the retail clothing industry, sold her business in the late 1960s and now enjoys serving her community, particularly the Plymouth Historical Museum. Dunning’s love of history, particularly classic vehicles, makes perfect sense considering that she grew up just down the road from Henry Ford, who knew her parents and would sometimes stop by to visit. "I was told he even rocked me in my baby carriage," Dunning said, repeating a story she shared with Henry Ford III and Edsel Ford II while at Pebble Beach.

"Meeting all these good people just shows that car people are car people," Dunning said. "We come from difference places and different backgrounds, but we all have that in common."

One thing is for certain: None of the car aficionados that Dunning met at Pebble Beach has driven as long as she has, and few - if any - can match her 63-year "marriage" to her award-winning Packard.

"I’m so pleased to see that the old car is still desirable," Dunning said. "It gives me such pride. It’s quite a thrill."

I want to be like Maragaret when I grow up.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
( Oct. 29th, 2012 01:23 pm)
Y'know, checking my posting frequency really reveals how much time grading and teaching-related work consumes a teacher's life from mid-terms through the end of the semester. Sorry! Dropping in for a quick update before, yes, getting back to grading.

But first, I'm going to VOTE EARLY at the Burge Union at the University of Kansas! You can probably vote early where you live, too. But whether you do or you wait for the Big Day, VOTE.

Over the last week, I've:

* Tinkered with the Chevelle. Wanted to do a lot more, but... life.

*Finally bought myself a proper solar telescope, which I've been coveting since the Venus transit observing event in the spring. I got a super deal for it barely used on eBay; it's a double-stacked Coronado SolarMax 40mm Hydrogen-alpha with the SM40 and T-Max tuner. Here it is:

As soon as it arrives (just got it from eBay - half price!), you KNOW I'll drop it onto my antique German equatorial mount with slow-motion handles to track the Sun across the sky, take some photos, and post 'em here.

* Reorganized the sheds to make room to move the (wrecked, soon-to-be Land Speed Record) Aprilia RS50 and put the BMW R100S away for winter. This means the covered front-porch parking spot is available for my winter transportation: My Vespa S150! (With windshield, of course.)

* Wrote another 2500 words on the novel, which means I finally broke the 20k barrier! I'll be using the NaNoWriMo excuse to work lots more on it this coming month.

The Galactic Adventures of Jack and Stella progress:

In case you haven't seen it yet, John Scalzi wrote a smart (and disturbing) response to some politicians about rape and politics. Check it out, but be warned it's just plain creepy. Some of the responses are disturbing in other ways. But it's an important thing to read right now as we head into politics season, as The Handmaid's Tale becomes less SFnal and more mimetic.

Speaking of politics,
xkcd does it again with a fascinating infographic on changing political demographics in the US.

To those who live out East, please be safe as the big storm blasts your way.

In July, my charming Vespa S150 - also my primary form of transportation in Lawrence - went kaplooey and stopped running. Not only would it not start, it wouldn't turn over at all, and even the dash lights wouldn't come on with the key.

I've researched and messed around and tested stuff, but finally decided I WOULD NOT STOP TROUBLESHOOTING UNTIL IT WORKED. After a Friday afternoon, I discovered:

Not the starter relay - like new inside.
Not the ignition switch - turning the key drops battery voltage.
Not the starter - like new inside after taking it apart and reassembling.
Not any of the fuses - took apart the front end and the underseat area, and the fuses are all good.
Not the kill switch - switching it changes voltage.
Not the wiring - nothing frayed, disconnected, or damaged.
Not the coil or spark-plug wire - they're intact and firmly connected.
Not the computer - each input and output work as advertised.
Battery holds 12.8 volts, above the 12.6-volt minimum...


So I didn't think it was the battery, but upon reflection, I realized that the voltage was almost completely going away when I switched on the bike. Odd. wapped in my 1978 BMW R100S's battery, and the bastard fired right up.

AARGH! I could have been riding it for MONTHS if I'd just tried that before! Damn you, voltmeter, for lulling me into accepting your reading.

Nonetheless, it runs now! I ordered a new Shorai lithium battery for the Vespa, a small, light unit like the one I put in the BMW, only even smaller. Should arrive later this week. This place has the best prices on these batteries by far, and it's not that much more expensive than a lead-acid battery ($80 vs. $126) - especially when considering it claims to have a much longer life and deals with sitting around unused far better, too. Oh, and it weighs less than two pounds, versus the 10 or so of the stock battery.

In the mean time, I can technically ride my Vespa again, though the BMW's battery is a couple of inches larger, so it sorta jacks up the seat. But soon! Soon, it'll have its own, new battery of awesomeness, and I will be fully mobile again.

mckitterick: The ale tasting at the 2009 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. (RenFaire Chris)
( Sep. 6th, 2012 12:30 pm)
I did not end up going to WorldCon this year, despite initially having planned to do so; the educational track didn't come together as hoped, so I saved my pennies and simplified the start of the semester by not heading to Chicago for the weekend. Which is too bad, because on Sunday night new KU creative-writing prof Kij Johnson won the Hugo Award for best novella for "The Man Who Bridged the Mist"! This is the same story that also recently won the Nebula Award. That's what I call starting one's teaching career with a bang.

Instead, I had a real vacation weekend. This included writing, of course (further progress on The Adventures of Jack and Stella), tinkering with the vehicles, reading (right now it's the first book of the Harry Potter series and something called, Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos), hanging out with friends, and two more events.

The first, on Saturday, was this year's Greaserama. For the first time at this punk-car-culture event (and its second car-show ever), I drove the hot-rod Newport. Friends Matt and AJ drove over with me. Here we are at the show:

Lots of photos from the show on my website (let me know if you have issues with the gallery - experimenting). At nightfall, we watched a double feature at the Boulevard Drive-in theater where the event is held: "Boulevard Nights" followed by "The Warriors," both circa 1979. Just as the first movie was about to start, everyone fired up their rods' engines and made as much noise as possible. It's not just parental pride when I say it was the loudest bastard out there on Saturday. How do I know? Because not only did Matt and AJ have to back away while I revved the hell out of it, but the roar was actually painful enough that it forced me to cover my ears, and afterward I could hear nothing but a muffled hum for a while: 747s on takeoff have nothing on this beast! Also, one of the car-club members who runs the event, "Weirdo Harold," fell in love with it and invited us to park in their row.

A beautiful (after the rain broke) day out with good friends, awesome cars and bikes, turkey legs and corn dogs, delicious tequila at a double feature in an old-school drive-in... happy-making.

On Sunday, after getting a bunch of work done, I got together with a bunch of friends to celebrate a birthday. Said friends then headed over to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival on Monday, where we practiced archery (only Matt hit the bullseye in 7 shots):

And tested our Mjolnir skills (I rang the bell!):

Then we went to everyone's favorite event at Faire: The Royal Smoker, where ten bucks gets you two drinks, a cigar (or soda), finger-food, and entertainment ranging from baudy humor and music to belly-dance (courtesy Chernobylred). Super-fun weekend!

Yesterday saw another cluster of meetings at work plus class, and same for today. This weekend? I'm going to get SO MUCH WRITING DONE on The Adventures of Jack and Stella, I tell you what!

What'd you do on Labor Day weekend?

Oh, John Scalzi, I love you!

See, a few days ago, some self-appointed arbiter of geekdom wrote a piece for CNN about how "fake geek chicks" are ruining his fandom. See below:

Click the cosplayers to see Peacock's icky piece.

This misogynistic fella hates on models hired for Comic-Con, cosplayers, and women in general, because they do not meet his geek standards. Well, thank you for playing, Mr. Peacock, but you're missing the core point of what fandom is. Scalzi says it best thus:

Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think - and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking - that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”

Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.

This statement has that kind of intuitive rightness that speaks directly to one's soul. I'm not only an SF geek, but because of my love for a multitude of things and powerful desire to share that love, I'm a geek in pretty much every aspect of life:

For example, I love building machines - and then sharing photos of said machines, taking people for rides, going to car and motorcycle shows, and so on. It's pleasurable to work on them myself, and I get great satisfaction from making an engine work better, but it's sharing the results with others is where I get my real pleasure.

Click the image to see a page about the most beautiful engine of all time - that of the Vincent Black Shadow.

I love astronomy - my favorite thing to do with a telescope is to show other people things through it; one of my favorite jobs in college was running the public-viewing nights at Hobbs Observatory. Heck, I started the science club in my high school because my greatest pleasure in doing science is sharing it with others.

Click the image to see the NASA page about lightning on Saturn.

When I get student feedback on my classes, a common comment is that my enthusiasm for the topics I teach helps them get more involved in the material, even if they didn't care for it to begin with. I'm a teaching geek!

I'm a thousand kinds of geek... like most geeks. I would argue that most likable people are geeks of some kind. Though I don't like sports (and actively dislike much of the culture), one of my best friends is a huge sports-geek, so it's always fun to watch a game with him. He's also a Marvel Comics geek, so going to superhero movies with him is fantastic, because he knows the backstory that makes the movie meaningful.

And this is the core of what it means to be a geek: Loving something (often weird, but sometimes mainstream) and sharing one's love. In his mistargeted article, Peacock forgets that. If a person's geekiness is dressing up (or taking off clothes) to get attention, well, what makes that not valid geekery? The point is to share that love of *insert fandom here* with others in a way that lets them in on what you love. If you go to a convention and see a gorgeous costume, do you look away or do you watch the costumer for a while? How about if you see a person clad only in a chainmail bikini - or even just body-paint? If you find someone attractive, does that somehow invalidate the person's geekiness? If that person's greatest pleasure comes from feeling the attention of other people, can't that also be sharing one's love? So can't even Peacock's greatest villains - models - also be geeks? I have trouble imagining none of them love doing what they do and sharing it with others, but cosplayers are some of the biggest geeks out there!

Geez. Mr. Peacock: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Wanna save the world? Wanna make it a better, more accepting place? Here's how you do it: Love things deeply and share your love for those things, one person at a time. If someone wants to share their love, give them a chance. Don't exclude people, don't dismiss their love... until they've spent an hour detailing their latest D&D adventure. There are limits ;-) However, that doesn't mean that only your geekdom is a valid geekdom.


Okay, people have wanted to hear the mechanical music of the two hot-rods dwelling in my garage, so here they are! I apologize for the non-scripted narrations and noise-protection sticking out from my ears; I make no claim to being a pro film-maker. You can hear 'em start up at the end of each vid.

First up, the 1968 Chevelle SS396 drag-racin', corner-carvin' machine of doom <-- click that link if the video below doesn't load - it's not playing nice with my IE9:

Forgot to mention a few other mods: Also has ported heads and will soon be getting a 6-speed transplant plus A/C.

And the 1966 Chrysler Newport hot-rod Town Sedan:behind the cut )


Damn, I love this car. Even with transmission issues (linkage problems, including no way to get into 1st gear and tricky 4th and reverse) and sloppy suspension, this thing is a blast to drive! When we first took it out for a drive to visit T&N, upon leaving it seemed the right thing to do was to do a little burnout. Y'know, just because. The car certainly has the power. So I brought the revs up a bit - nothing crazy - and dropped the clutch. That's when it felt like I was getting shot in the back by a cannon. Repeatedy. The thing bucked and hopped and spun, repeat, only during one of the violent hops it fired a wheel "beauty ring" into the grass beside the car. Too much! We were laughing our brains out.

Much of what I'm doing to improve the suspension includes getting the rear end under control: heavy-duty, adjustable control arms top and bottom; mega-duty sway bar where it now has none; heavy-duty drop springs; QA1 adjustable shocks; and Delrin bushings all around - firm, quiet, and non-binding. This thing will be PLANTED. The front, also sloppy, is geting a QA1 adjustable coil-over setup, tubular A-arms with 1" raised tie rod for better cornering, a sway bar with twice the control of the stock unit, 11" drilled and slotted disk brakes hanging from drop spindles, and all Delrin bushings like the rear.

Here's a fantastic promo shot of The Latenight Callers, clearly up to no good:

The band is (left to right): Krysztof Nemeth, Ellen O'Hayer, Nick Combs, Gavin Mac, and Julie Berndsen. Photo by Mat "SLIMM" Adkins.

So the issues will be remedied soon, and it will handle like a modern sports car. Also, a modern 6-speed double-overdrive transmission is soon to replace the old 4-speed. Why shouldn't muscle cars get to enjoy high-tech handling? Why shouldn't they also have low revs on the highway and lots of gear ratios to choose from? Well, this one sure will!

More on this soon, as the parts are already starting to arrive. Next up: into the garage for a tear-down and build-up. Can't wait.

These photos were taken in downtown Lawrence, just across the street from The Bottleneck, where tonight a few of us went to see the fantastic band, The Latenight Callers, born here in town but now operating mostly out of Kansas City. Don't know them? They ROCK. Check 'em out on their website or visit them on their Facebook page. Get to know them now so you can say you knew them before they were famous.

Below is Krysztof Nemeth, a friend and co-founder of the band. I took this shot using his smartphone with no flash and some funky digital effects - blurry, yes, but he liked it this way so here it is:

Just got back from the Highway Patrol VIN inspection: It passed and is ready for a new title!

Also took it by the local tire & suspension place for an inspection, and they said it looks solid - even has modernized (and new) bushings and other suspension parts that are grease-able. Good news!

About the way the mufflers are hung (straight-through glasspacks that dump in front of the rear axle), he said, "This is cute, but I've seen worse." They just kind of dangle from straps. They won't fall off or anything, but clearly making it high-tech was not on the prior owner's mind ;-)

He suspects the loose handling is due to the rear end being jacked up and having big tires out back and small ones out front. He said the springs could be replaced, but they don't look shot, and that just putting on reasonable tires will go a long way toward making it drive better. Needs front wheel bearings, but that's about it.


And now: New photos!

I am in love with this angle. I mean, LOOK AT THE SHAPE OF THIS THING! A timeless and beautiful design.
click for more photos )

I'm in love.

Look what just arrived this morning! A badass 1968 Chevelle SS396! Okay, almost certainly it's a "tribute" car rather than a factory SS model - which would have cost about $10-20 grand more - but it is an original 396 4-speed, and now it's even faster than stock!

Here it is after a 600-mile trip from Milwaukee. The fellows who delivered it are great and brought it here for half what others charge (can't find a website, but they're Double-D Hauling from Milwaukee, I believe, and I found them through Progressive Auto Relocation). Everything about the delivery was perfect once I finally found a shipper... that part was a huge pain. If you ever need to have something delivered fast, affordably, and with good humor, these are your guys! Here they are backing the Chevelle off the trailer, driver in the car and helper guiding him off:

I love how the only color in that shot is the Chevelle. After a minute or so of warm-up (it's actually winter in Kansas now), he backed it right off and parked it in the street, where I got this requisite "Hooray my car arrived and it's as nice as I hoped!" photo!

Yes, this is the first time I bought a car off eBay without being able to inspect it first. Scary. Also scary was having it delivered by people I'd never worked with before. Let me tell you, but did I ever do my research. Even so, I still had nightmares about shippers turning out to be car-thieves, or the car getting here and turning out to have been totally misrepresented in the ad, and so forth. *whew*

I had been looking at and occasionally bidding on Chevelles for months now, particulary the 1968 model (my favorite because of the angled nose, sleek tail treatment, cool interior design, and elegant body shape), and had actually bid on this one a few times. Yes, it's a sort of hobby. I didn't want to pay a lot, which was tough because I preferred a 4-speed and the big-block, both of which add big-time to cost. This one had been relisted several times, with a pretty horrible ad that used photos taken with a cell-phone camera. The seller never updated his ad with more description or better photos for the month or two I kept track of it, though he did lower the reserve a little each time. Finally, after the bidding once more ended without a winner, I got a "Second Chance Offer" matching my high bid (almost $4000 off the reserve price!). HOORAY!

We exchanged a few emails and calls, and he sent me a much nicer photo he had from when he first bought the car. Though it wore the wrong wheels (and too big, in my opinion), it revealed that this was not a complete basket-case. I should point out that I paid about half of book value in medium condition, so I figured that even if it needs some work, whatev! We can spend some time and moolah to fix it up and even improve it. See, Chernobylred is also a big muscle-car fan, and we wanted something to use as a regular driver, so it didn't need to be perfect and we both kind of preferred it that way - it's a little scary to think of driving an expensive, historically significant car in the rain! In fact, it's going to be the first car she works on, too. There's little more satisfying than having been part of the restoration and customization process of your classic car!

This came at a really good time, too, because the Saab's fuel-injection is once again failing. *sigh*

Anyhow, its condition is about what I expected: a few areas of bubbling under the paint, a couple of small holes in the trunk floor, tires need to be replaced, driver's-side door panel needs to be replaced, the shifter linkage is a bit wonky, it needs to have one of those aftermarket AC/heater systems installed, and a few other things need to be addressed. On the other hand, the engine is clearly newly rebuilt - and built to the back teeth! It uses a gear drive (what an incredible sound!) to drive a hot cam, the heads are ported and polished to flow more air, it has new long-tube headers, and the power it puts down is pretty awesome to feel. Who needs first gear? Well, it'll be nice to get that fixed, but still - WOW! And even though it delivers about 450 horsepower to the wheels (way more than stock), it's a little quieter than the hot-rod Newport because it has Cherry Bomb mufflers that dump right before the rear axle, which is located using drag-race-style ladder bars. What a sound it barks out the exhaust, by the way!

Oh, and I took it for a spin around the block. I discovered that it'll go a little sideways in all the gears when the roads are damp and you give it lots of throttle... heh heh.

Anyway, once I got it back to the garage I spent some time wiping off the wet road grime and inspecting it. Verdict: I'm happy with the new addition to the stable. WOOHOO!

I am not ashamed to say that I am now in love with the automotive and motorcycle designer Michail Smolyanov. I am SO INSPIRED by so many of his works! For example:

YOU MUST CLICK the image to go look at this and dozens more designs. GO NOW. The internets will still be here when you get back. GO!

Must. Resist. Building custom bike. Until after getting well underway on The True-Life Space Adventures of Jack and Stella (which, by the way, is about 12,000 words of random snippets and scenes along...).

Never have I seen so many awesome vehicle designs that inspire in so many ways.

Just wow.

1) Asimov's Science Fiction magazine editor Sheila Williams writes a lovely editorial about KU and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, including happy memories of riding on the back of my scooter ;-)

2) Excellent article examining the Occupy and T-Party movements - how they're really just two halves of the same thing:

Click the image to read the piece.

3) I had hoped to show a pic of my fully repaired electric bicycle:

Unfortunately, I can't get the hub all apart to strip the torn wires. Backstory: Last year, I got a flat on the rear, where the motor resides in the hub. The lazy SOBs who assembled the bike in the first place had installed a nut on the axle in such a way that stripped the bolt, so when I removed said bolt, it rotated the axle in such a way that tore the wires loose *sigh* Last week, I got the wheel back from a local machine shop - axle's all fixed - and hoped to solder the wires this week. Not so much. Can't get the nut off the other side in order to get inside and work on the wires. Hmph. Later.

4) Pumpkin carving at my house over the weekend!

5) The KU Science Fiction Film Club also watched (John Carpenter's) The Thing after carving pumpkins. We'd intended to see the new prequel afterward in the classic movie-marathon tradition, but the motivation just wasn't there. I think everyone was concerned that it wouldn't live up to the original. I still plan to see it, but maybe on Blu-Ray....

Aw, yeah. On the street across from my house:

It'll be at Lawrence, KS Rev It Up! car show tomorrow. It's a benefit for Big Brothers, Big Sisters in town, and it's free! Starts at 10:00am and goes until 6:00pm in South Park, downtown - across the street from the Lawrence branch of the Occupy Wall Street march, which starts at noon. More details on their website.

Everything worked great last night for the 10 or so miles the Newport roared around town. So today I re-torqued the exhaust headers, drained and examined the oil (looks better than expected for a new rebuild!), installed a new K&N oil filter, poured in new synthetic oil, topped off the other fluids, and then fired 'er up to listen through a mechanic's stethoscope for untoward noises. Valves and rockers sound smooth, as do the lifters, and the same with the bottom end.

Doctor says she's ready to roll!

I take a surprising amount of pleasure from just driving around in the machine I designed and built myself, all pretty and rumbly and roar-ey, fast and smooth, vintage and comfy, chrome and black and bronze, elegant and antisocial.

What fun! And the cops didn't even pull me over to complain about the exhaust note. Which, I might mention, is FRAKKIN' SEXY music.

I want to drive more now! My compatriots seemed to enjoy it, too.

I am pleased and proud of how things turned out.


JUST TOOK THE NEWPORT OUT FOR A SPIN! Woohoo! I flushed and bled the brakes, so now she stops, too (that didn't happen last night during an aborted attempt...).

You need proof? Here you go, parked under the carport after a quick run downtown:

And she kicks ass!




RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags