Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Blessed Relief from Summer

As some of my good friends know, I'm a strange puppy. I basically prefer winter to summer time, even though I enjoy summer activities like bicycles, motorcycles, cars, etc. But somehow, winter has a strong appeal for me and, when it gets hot and humid, I look forward to winter's coming. This is a picture of the beautiful Lake Michigan, just west of the bridge on a sunny January day.

I also enjoy the odd combinations of the seasons. These bicycles are in Houghton, Michigan in the middle of February. They are probably parked outside of student apartments, but it leaves me to wonder if they have been left there since fall or if someone comes out, brushes off the seat, and rides one to class.

I've threatened to retire to someplace in the north. Perhaps Houghton or, my other current favorite, Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Lake Superior at its best.

And finally, a little ice to cool down your summer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ballet Slippers? No, bicycle shoes.

Recently, I've found myself making quite a fashion statement. There is nothing like white crew socks and little black Italian shoes.

Almost a year ago, I managed to hurt a ligament in my foot and, not knowing what was happening, I kept injuring it over and over. Finally, this spring, I got some help from a specialist and have recovered enough to ride a bicycle. Hence the funny shoes.

I've been thinking about things as I ride. First it was things like; "Boy am I out of shape!" and "This bike seat sure is skinny and hard." Later I found myself thinking about getting older, how we live and travel, and the cost of gasoline.

I've been quite lucky in that I haven't been very affected by the increase in the price of gasoline. I know a lot of people are suffering. I'm lucky enough to have cars and motorcycles that get very good gas mileage and live close to town and work, so that I don't drive many miles. At this point in my life, I could even ride my bicycle to town if I wanted to.

My mother always insisted on living in a small town and being within walking distance of shopping. That was mainly because she didn't like to drive and didn't want to be dependent on driving, especially as she got older. I live 5 miles outside of a small town, so I don't quite measure up to her goal, but at this age, I feel close enough to get anywhere I needed to, even if I had to walk. It does bring up the interesting question of how long will I be strong enough to live comfortably in the country. If I can follow in my father's footsteps, it will be a long while.

This gas crisis has also got me thinking about the difference between living in a small town compared to a city. When I drive into the city to headquarters, I've noticed that I get much worse gas mileage with all the traffic and stop and go of rush hour. My colleagues that live near headquarters talk about getting gas mileage that is about 5-10 mpg worse than I get out here.

Some experts say that in the future, we will all need to move into city centers with mass transit so that we won't have to drive everywhere. I guess I'm happy for anyone who wants to live in a city to do so. But I think, in this day of computers, networks, and internet that some of us will be even better off in small citys and towns where things are even closer and rush hour is a dream.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Twin Tech

We had our Open House on Saturday and this is a great example of why I really enjoy this group. In addition to a lot of interesting conversation and cars, we talked to the builder of the Twin Tech shown in the photo. It's a Harley engined toy car from the imagination of a few imaginative guys. What I really like about this is their own artistic expression about what a car might be. I'm sure I wouldn't have done the same things, and even disagree with some of their ideas, but the cool thing is the statement they are making. If you are interested in looking at some better photos, plus specs, please check out their website,

Dave Pionteck, the builder of the Twin Tech also designed and built the Sport Tech which was converted to the Tzero by ACPropulsion and is an pure electric sports car that eventually led to the Tesla. Check out if you are curious about the Tzero, Alan Cocconi, and his electric vehicle drive systems.

I'll try to bore people a little less with cars in my next posts.

Friday, July 4, 2008

More Point and Condenser....

This crew is Nate and John Chamberlin, Lynn Riehl, and Bill Bastow. Lynn is the "goddess" of our little group. John gets to spend all his days working on car projects, which makes those of us not retired just a little jealous.

This is my favorite picture of Ken Davis. It seems like everywhere he goes, we can find him peaking underneath a car. I would say something stupid like, "Oh, this is where the motor is", but it more likely that Ken is trying to figure out if those are hydrobushings in the suspension. Curiosity, especially technical curiosity, is a great thing and I hope Ken never loses it.

An example of the unusual car's we sometimes see. This is the Stradale (?Spelling) which was designed to be a Trans Am car, but this one is for the street and has only 600 HP.

Finally, a Dax with a Hayabushi engine.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Points and Condenser Preservation Society

Something that is true of me is that I never seem to take pictures of people. As this weekend is one of my most social events, the monthly gathering for the Points and Condenser Preservation Society Open House, I decided to post a few pictures to show that I do know one or two real people. The car in the picture above is Bill Milliken's replica of a Chrysler Le Mans racer.

Some of the photos below are of lesser quality because they were scanned from slides. This roll of film was my last hurrah before purchasing a digital camera. The gent below is Bill Bastow, one of our professor emeritus of dynamics who is enjoying his retirement and thinking about his next car project.

This smiling devel is Ed Argalas and he and the motorcycle, a Honda Trans Alp, are responsible for getting me into motorcycles. Before Ed invited me to sit on his Trans Alp, I believed that all motorcycles were too small and didn't fit me. I've tried to buy the Trans Alp from Ed, John Chamberlin has tried it too, but he keeps hanging on to this classic bike. Smart man.

Joe Bartusek and his son Peter are infrequent visitors to the Open House, but at least I have them posed next to a similar Alfa that is their project.

Ken Davis on the left and Dave Dobry on the right are new and old friends from work. We are losing Ken to a new project, but hopefully he will stay in touch. I think he took the new assignment in part to keep Lynn from trying to fix him up with loose women. Dave started at Chrysler about the same time as I did, just out of college. We hung around those days because we were both racing. Dave is still racing and has achieved great success. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Power in the Pot

Some of you may know that I like to play around with electronics. Sometimes I discover something on the internet that I just have to try. In this case its what is known as a "chipamp" or an audio amplifier where all the circuits are built into a little electronic chip about 3/4" x 1".

After reading up on the nice quality sound from chipamps and the nice specs provided by the manufacturer, I just had to build one. Now my friend, Bob Wilson, was just moving into a new house. Some of you may know that he loves his music, especially the 60's, and although he has very nice stereo equipment, his power amp is his oldest piece, an old Dynaco Stereo 80 which he built from a kit in the 70's.

Putting these two ideas together, I decided to build Bob a new power amp based on chipamp technology. I was able to buy a kit for the National Semiconductor LM3886 chip and assembled the rest of the components to try to match the gain of the old Dynaco amp.

Although most of this was straight forward, I had fun with the enclosure design. You see, torroidal transformer (part of the power supply that turn AC power into DC power for the amp modules) are large and heavy and round. It seemed to me that it would make sense to put a round transformer into a round enclosure. After looking around for appropriate round shapes, I fell on using an aluminum cooking pot. In this case, a 3 quart saucepan, turned upside down with the handle removed. The rest of the power supply is mounted on a circuit board attached to the bottom of the pot which is now the top of the enclosure. There are places for plugs and fuses and switches and even cute little blue and red lights when its turned on.

The power supply provides DC power to two amplifier modules that are small, dominated by their heat sink, and are intended to sit behind the speakers. The whole thing makes more than 50 watts per channel of clean amplified sound.

Now its all in Bob's hands. I'm looking forward to hearing how it sounds.