Category: Musings

So I’m looking at ordering hard drives, and I see that the one in my laptop (only 128 GB) is pretty full up. I tell my wife I’m going to order one to put in here for more space, as I don’t need the speed so much (I don’t use this computer very often or very hard; longer load times won’t really be noticed). The following conversation ensued:

“Didn’t you just put that high-speed drive in there?”

“Yeah, but it’d be better elsewhere and I need more space here. So I’ll swap the bigger one here, and move the fast one to another computer. Hard drives are kind of communal property; they tend to circulate to whichever computer can use them best.”

“Ah. So hard drives really are whores, then.”

“Ummmmmm…lolwut?” I was totally confused on how she got there. It seemed pretty random to me. Then she explained:

“Well, think about it. First off, they get shared by everybody. Secondly, they often times end up with viruses. And a lot of times, they got those viruses from porn.”


I died. Logic like that? Bulletproof.




I moved some wires in my basement. Ended up increasing my download speed from 11 Mbps to what you see here. Now, if only I could get my upload running faster…

Side note: I also happen to like Paul Oakenfold. 🙂

As a big fan of XKCD, I have to share this with everyone else out there. I don’t have the coding experience to do this kind of thing for myself, so here is a fellow XKCD lover’s take on it.'s Blog

Today’s xkcd comic has probably the largest comic frame ever drawn. You can explore it via clicking and dragging, as the title suggests. It is so large, that it takes a really long time to go through it. So I decided to create an overview map, to aid you in navigation.

This is what I did:
I figured out, that the map pieces follow the URL pattern[n|s]Y[e|w].png,

where n, s, e, w are characters to select the quadrant, and X and Y are positive integers (>=1) with no zero padding. The images are each 2048×2048 pixels in size and are arranged in an orthogonal grid.

The bounds can be found in the JavaScript file

var size=[14, 48, 25, 33];

These are the bounds of [n, e, s, w] respectively, however, I did only find images for [13, 48, 19, 33], a little bit less in the n-s…

View original post 499 more words

I know it’s been a long time since there have been any updates, but fear not! I and my compatriots that are working on the project are still here. I’ve changed jobs and have a smaller commute, so hopefully I’ll have more time to not only post updates about our progress, but also time to make progress as well.

We’re going to keep going with the Jetta, even though it needs some body work. I’ve got easy access to a shop with all the necessary utilities to make easy work of the needed repairs, so that’s not something I’m concerning myself with very hard. It does mean that we need to totally strip the interior however – seats, carpet, and all.

At least it appears to be easy work to start with that can be done in small pieces! One seat here, one seat there, feels like progress – even if it is small progress.
We’ll be in touch!

I drove a Volt!

So I ended  up running to the grocery store on Friday. It so happens that the local GM dealer is across the street – and I was shocked to see the following sight:

A Volt! Here, in little old Berwick, population ~12,000. GM must be really trying to get them out, if a small town like mine has a demo unit, either they’ve got lots of spares running around, or they’re really hurting for sales.

So Saturday I get some free time, and take it for a spin. WAHOO! It was great to feel the rush of EV power. Very quiet, just a few “spaceship noises” – gentle electric whines and a few whirrs. The center console is a little odd – it was gloss white; seemed a little out of place.

I tried to use mountain mode to force the gas engine to fire up, but no luck – I must not have driven it far/hard enough. Just a little jaunt around town, I did 3.2 miles on 0.8 kWh. That works out to 4.0 miles/kWh even; 250 Wh/mile. I could have done a little better had I taken more time or if I had been gentler on it – but where’s the fun in that on a test drive? 😀

I think that with some time and experience, it can EASILY be pushed far beyond the 40 miles quoted EV range. I’ve heard from folks that have done 60-70 miles electric range. I think that $32,000 would be a better price point, but I’m just one guy. If you live in the Berwick area, I suggest you go check it out if for no other reason than to get the “EV Grin” – there’s no feeling like stepping on the accelerator and feeling all that power coming on instantly – with no roar of exhaust to go along with it.

Top Gear and the EV1

Just got cross-linked to this post  from elsewhere on the web. Even back then, Top Gear wasn’t a fan of EVs. However, it definitely IS fun to see him torch the Volvo.


There’s a small shop on my route home from work that fixes welding equipment. High end and large scale welders often use some electronics that we are looking for as part of the controller we are building – IGBTs. I had a few minutes, so I stopped in to ask if they had any trash equipment I might be able to scrounge one from.

I got a LOT more than I bargained for.

When I asked the fellow there if they had any trash equipment that I might be able to salvage an IGBT out of, the first thing he asked me blew my mind:

“You’re not using them to build singing Tesla coils, are you?”

My brain promptly went into overdrive and shut down. Another Tesla Coiler?! Seriously?

Turns out, one of the other guys that works there uses parts from welders and builds Tesla coils. Not only that, but he has a “singing” one – just like you could see in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” if you saw the film. I was given a card and a YouTube channel to check out. I left them with Scott’s YouTube channel.

Even though this place is on my way to work, the guy himself lives in Kingston – even closer to home! Now, it looks like we’ll all be getting together for some major coiling fun!

With that, here’s his Tesla coil playing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Happy Pi Day(s)!

As many know, and many don’t, yesterday was ‘Pi Day’ according to the Gregorian (normal) calendar. March 14th, 3/14, aligns with the first two decimals of the number π, 3.14. It also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein. Personally, I take it as a two-day celebration. π is 3.1415 to four decimals, so why limit it to the 14th? Celebrate 3/14/15!

So if you didn’t know about it yesterday, redeem yourself. Have some Pi(e) today and think on the ratio of its circumference to its diameter.

We had pot pie for dinner last night and pie for dessert. Tonight I shall watch the movie π. Enjoy!

Used Car Shopping

My wife’s 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix that we purchased from her aunt as a car to tide us over when we were running on one vehicle has served its purpose well. Now, the time has come to replace it – and with good cause. It had some dents when we got it; now it’s got a few more. Oil leaks from somewhere, but I haven’t put the time or money into fixing it. Electrical gremlins abound; the reverse lights are on a toggle switch I installed to get it to pass inspection and the shifter can’t be moved out of park without the use of the manual override, even though the sensor that controls the lockout has been replaced.

With all of that, and the addition of a third child to our family, we’re using a portion of our tax return to go shopping for a used vehicle to replace the car with. Car shopping for a used vehicle can be frightening, because the condition of the vehicle can be completely unknown. With that being the case, I thought I’d share my used vehicle “shopping checklist” with you all to perhaps make your life easier in the future if you are on the hunt for a vehicle.

1. Go equipped. Take a flashlight, pen/paper, and a rag. Rubber gloves are a good idea too. This will allow you to note things, look into dark areas, and poke/prod to your heart’s content without getting filthy.

2. Know trouble spots. Some year/model combinations are known to be prone to certain issues. Be aware if your choice has a trouble spot, and inquire about the history of that item in particular.

3. Touch. Poke, prod, push, and pull on EVERYTHING. Test it all – you don’t want to find out after you commit to buy that the driver’s seat only moves one way and then gets stuck, or if a window doesn’t work right, etc.

4. Smell. Inside and outside, in the engine, in the trunk. Pick up floor mats. If it smells heavily of air freshener, it probably means that something was being covered up. Smell the trunk – if it smells damp, there’s a leak somewhere (or it was left open in the rain. If it smells of mold, then it got wet and never dried properly.

The engine bay has its whole own set of smells. I’ll go over the major things to check quick:

  • Oil: pull the dipstick (normally yellow). It should smell of…well, oil. Kind of a cooking oil smell. If it has a sugary/sweet smell, that means that there may be some anti-freeze/coolant mixing with it – DO NOT BUY. If that’s the case, it means that the head gasket(s) need replaced. Color should range from gold to brown. If it’s black, then it hasn’t been changed properly. Open the oil filler cap. Make sure there is no water condensation, or any sort of “gooky” stuff on it. If there is, that’s bad (aka possible engine damage). I
  • Transmission: This applies for automatics. Pull the dipstick (normally red). Fluid on it should be pink to light/medium red. If it’s dark red to brown, then it hasn’t been changed on schedule. It should smell a little bit of floor polish. If it REEKS of varnish and smells kind of burnt, then the car has been abused and may need transmission repair in a relatively short time frame. There normally is no fill cap. Manual transmissions don’t have fluid to be checked, really. With the clutch in, they should shift easily R-1-2-3-4-5-6 (or however many they have) and 6-5-4-3-2-1-R. They should NOT be able to go from top gear (4, 5, or 6) straight to R – you should have to come to neutral first and then to go R. This mostly applies to 5-speed manuals with R opposite 5 – it’s known as ‘reverse safety’ or ‘reverse lockout at speed.’
  • Brake fluid: This is normally towards the back of the engine bay on the driver’s side. Brake fluid is normally clear. If it’s black, then it’s never been changed/flushed. An orange/brown color is to be expected and is okay. Not much to be said of smell here.
  • Power Steering: Basically the same as brake fluid. Found by the engine belts, it’s also normally clear and gets orange/brown with age.
  • Coolant: Several varieties. Should smell sweet and sticky. Can be orange, green, or pink. NEVER MIX COLORS. If there is gelatin-like substance on the radiator cap (not the fluid fill cap), then the various kinds of antifreeze have been mixed (VERY bad). If the color is extra pale, or there’s no color at all, then the owner has too much water in it and the vehicle could have had a leak in the past and not been put back to the proper ratio of water/antifreeze.

Tires are easy to check. Take a penny with you. Put it upside-down into the middle of the tread. If it doesn’t cover Abe’s hair, then the tires need replaced.

In cold weather, exhaust leaks are self-evident. In warm weather, they’re harder to find. Rev the car with it sitting still – if there’s a “race car growl” as you rev up or as it comes down to idle, then there’s an exhaust leak somewhere.

Flashlight is good for just about everything. Looking for rust in behind the tires, looking in the back of the engine bay, and most importantly, helping you spot leaks. If you look under the car, you should see very little that’s shiny. If something looks shiny and wet, that could mean there’s a leak somewhere. If it seems that everything is crusted over with a layer of what looks like tar or black grime, then that could signify an oil leak in the past.

That’s pretty much everything I go through. Make sure you check A/C, even if buying a car in the winter, and heat even if buying it in the summer. It doesn’t stay hot (or cold) all year long, and you don’t want to find out too late that you need to get one or the other fixed.


I hope something in here is found helpful by at least one of you!

As the social media market grows and businesses learn how better to use it, I think some of that awkwardness will go away. It’s like the teenager going to their first school dance.

Had an interesting experience on Twitter tonight. I'm not terribly prolific there, any more than I am here. Occasional commentary or sharing of articles, some conversation with others, usually EV related and almost never "breaking news". Tonight I ran across an article from the New York Times, by a writer who had a Nissan Leaf for the weekend and learned what many of us already know: that a couple of days in an EV tends to cure range anxiety. Not … Read More

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