September 9th, 2011

#2925: Okay, now we're cooking

While I was on my way over there Og got the tank on, and then we put the seat back on after Og discovered that there was a mouse nest in the air box.

He was taking the air box apart to show me how to get at the filter; and when he got the cap off we saw it was full of gunk, mostly shredded paper towel. He grabbed a big pair of hemostats and removed the mouse nest, then pulled the filter and made sure it was clean before vacuuming out the remains of the nest from the box.

The battery in there is deader than disco, though he reports that he did get it to crank a couple of times before he went to bed tonight. Nonetheless I'm going to O'Reilly's tomorrow and buying this battery which is an exact replacement.

It's supposed to rain a lot tomorrow and Saturday, of course. Worst case he and I will make arrangements for me to pick the thing up on the first non-rainy day--we discussed such in a preliminary fashion this evening--and in any event we'll have to get the spare parts over here, too, but those'll just go in the back of the Jeep. No problem.

I can understand Og's sadness at parting with the motorcycle. But, he pointed out, the money I'm paying him for the bike will quite nicely cover the cost of all the other parts needed to build his AR-15. I am not paying a lot for the thing--$400 with the helmet--but there's a kit he can get for $399 that includes everything but the lower. Then he can assemble it and shoot the thing, and replace parts as he decides they need it.

Win-win: he gets the dough to finish one of his gun projects, and I get a kickass deal on a kickass motorcycle. "Some assembly required", and so what?

* * *

One thing we talked about on Saturday was the fact that I could rebuild the spare engine into a functional replacement.

...and then talk wandered over to the concept of a three-wheeled go-kart, with a fat-ass drag slick in back. Actually, I think a bigass 50-series drag radial would do (like you see on the doorslammers, or "outlaw" class cars). Last night I caught myself thinking about how to mount the axle and run the brake line for the rear brake. Heh. And a single swingarm would be easy to construct; use a single coilover for the shock. Not a problem.

The front suspension would be simple: just get a Beetle front axle. (The old kind, with the torsion springs, not the Super Beetle's MacPherson strut suspension.) Make the thing a single seater with pedals for clutch, brake, and accelerator; have a single shift lever. Use the same chain the motorcycle uses.

The only problem is, how the hell do you back up? Since it's a motorcycle engine and transmission, there is no reverse gear. If you need to back up, do you have to get out and push the thing backwards? That'd be a royal pain!

Then I thought, "electric motor"!

It'd be child's play--I mean, if you're already building a freakin' trike--to mount a small traction motor such that it had a sprocket that meshed with the drive chain. When there's no current, it spins freely; supply current and it'll move the thing. All you need is a switch to turn it on and a relay to control the massive flow of juice; but a single car battery will provide enough oomph to back out of a parking spot or whatever.

Best part: since it's a motorcycle motor, it counts as a motorcycle. You can register and plate the thing, and drive it on the road. (As long as you have headlights etc; and why wouldn't you? After building a custom frame, adding electrical accessories is an incremental cost!)

Other factor: if you got tired of the two-piston GS450 engine, you could always go find yourself a GS850 engine and mount it. The two engines fit the same motorcycle frame, so mounting the bigger four-banger on the trike frame would be easy-pasy.

...possible for me to do this, yes. Likely, no.

* * *

There was something else I was going to talk about, and I thought, "I'll surf to the appropriate site after I check the Fiero forum...." and by the time I was done with the Fiero forum I'd forgotten all about it.

Argh etc.

Oh well; I've got things I want to get done before bed, so I'd better go do 'em.

#2926: It's not even restorable

The speedometer's back plate is so rusty the rubber housings for the backlight bulbs are rusted in place. They wouldn't move, not even with pliers, until the rubber back broke off; then I could push them through the wrong way, but still not get them out.

These bulbs are for indicator lights, so they're housed in metal tubes; the metal tubes were so badly rusted they crumbled.

So what have I got? I've got a good faceplate and needle (both which are missing from the bike) and some good 6v indicator bulbs. I've got a speedo wiring harness with only one intact socket. I've got two bezels, one which is kind of crummy and one which is rusted and needs painting inside.

I took the speedo off the bike and disassembled it. It's got no pinion for the needle; and of course the speedo/odometer mechanical assembly is designed to be put together and never taken apart again.

So: I've got one assembly which would work the way it's supposed to if there were a way to attach the needle; I've got another assembly which has a place to put the needle but which is so gunked up with rust and crud that it's jammed.

You know how speedometers work: there's a rotating magnet on one side, attached to the cable, and the other side is a freely-rotating steel disk, attached to a stationary point with a carefully-calibrated clock spring. When the magnet turns, it pulls on the disk, and depending on how fast the magnet turns the disk deflects a certain number of degrees. No problem.

...except if the magnet has collected rust flakes and other shit, it jams up against the steel disk, and the whole thing ends up locked together.

So what I'll have to do is put the jammed assembly in a vise and carefully bend back the tiny bits of metal which stake the front plate in place, so I can remove the thing; then I can see if I can clean the gunk out of the magnetic coupling. At the very least I'll see what I have to do to fix the assembly that works but has no pinion.

Then all I have to do is figure out how to calibrate the f-ing thing. *sigh*

I sure would like to go back in time, find the person that mangled the shit out of this motorcycle and didn't fix it correctly, and kick his ass. WTF.

* * *

"Pretty decent shape." "Not sure if it works."

Well, I guess that's why it was $10. *sigh*

#2927: Hydrogen sulfide!

Well, I went to O'Reilly's and got the battery, and filled it; now it's charging.

Working with acids of moderate strength makes me nervous about the same way working with a chainsaw does. I know I'm messing with something that can bite me if I'm not careful, so I'm extra careful.

Still, red fuming nitric acid it ain't. I've spilled a few drops of battery electrolyte on my skin before (including today) and all I had to do was wipe it off, and wash with soap and water in the immediate future. The stuff that comes in the bottle with the battery isn't all that strong, because the battery is in a state where you add the electrolyte and then charge it: the acid will get stronger as the battery charges.

Of course dumping fresh electrolyte into a brand-new battery produces gas, and the battery got noticeably warm after I'd filled it. I could smell the hydrogen sulfide (hence the title of the post) and knew that this thing was soon going to be chock-full of electrons eagerly seeking a lower energy state. Whee!

* * *

This is a factor I hadn't considered but it fits with my "China is not going to take over the world" assertion.

One of the economic truths that applies to any country dragging itself out of the 15th century is that--as industrialization progresses--the workforce becomes more expensive.

When someone has a choice between working on a farm and working in a factory, wages can be pretty low and still be attractive, because agriculture is hard labor. (Seriously, I don't know why people do it; but thank God they do, you know? Because otherwise we'd all be eating mud pies and grass clippings.) But as the economy becomes industrialized, things start happening and people start wanting/needing/expecting higher wages. For one thing, the average worker hates it when he's building gewgaws he can't afford to buy himself, but that's not the whole picture: the other problem is--as the article asserts--that price competition begins to be a factor when the inevitable demographic changes begin.

A scarce resource commands a higher price than a common one. While there are 1.2 billion Chinese breeding away indiscriminately, there's plenty of low-educated-low-skill workers being produced.

In China's case, the demographic change is deliberate; the government introduced a policy to keep the populace of the country at only mildly insane levels. But the unintended consequence of this is that the pool of cheap labor is shrinking--and because cheap labor is becoming more scarce, it's ceasing to be cheap labor.

The same thing happens in any developing economy; in China it's just happening earlier in the cycle. In other countries people voluntarily breed less as the average income rises, for various reasons--but the result is the same.

* * *

So Obama gave a big jobs speech last night. I didn't listen to it; I had more important things to attend to. (Like ANYTHING ELSE AT ALL.) Anyway, because I'm such a genius I can sum it up even without having seen it:
Blah blah blah jobs blah blah blah economy blah blah blah taxes blah blah blah fairness blah blah blah working families blah blah blah millionaires and billionaires blah blah blah high speed rail blah blah blah saved or created blah blah blah increase spending blah blah blah infrastructure blah blah blah.
Did I get everything?

...the Dow dropped two hundred points after opening. All the gains of the week are gone. As I write this, a bare 90 points seperate us from open of business on Tuesday, right after the huge "OMG EUROPE IS GOIN' DOWN IN FLAMES!" drop happened.

To be fair, however, it's not all Obama. (Like he could possibly be that effective.) Karl Denninger says, "Greece has the mother and father of all inverted yield curves, with the 1 year now trading at or near an implied 100% interest rate."

See, if your bonds are good, the interest rate is low, because the investor's risk is low. So if you buy a $100 US savings bond you can expect that you'll get a certain return on it--and at worst you'll get your money back--so it's safe, and the interest rate is low.

If, however, it's possible that you won't get your money back, the interest rate must rise: the risk of owning the bond is substantially higher, thus the potential reward for taking that risk must be correspondingly higher. The longer the odds, the higher the payout. (That's why the lottery can have a $100 million grand prize: the odds of winning are infinitesimal.)

So if Greece's bonds are trading near a 100% yield, it means they're not a good risk. If you buy a Greek bond and it's not rendered invalid before maturity, you get back twice as much as you paid for it...but that assumes that the bond will actually still be valid at maturity. The market thinks it won't be.

Greece's budget is coughing up blood. They're kiting checks; there's no money in the checking account and there's no paycheck coming in a day or two to cover the outlays.

What can we do? Nothing. This is all Europe, here.

* * *

On my way back from Og's last night I was listening to more of the old anime OST CDs. One of them had selections from the OST for the Kimagure Orange Road special. That's the one where Saeko Shimazu (who did Shinobu in Urusei Yatsura) did the voice for Madoka. She's good and has a nice voice, but it is decidedly not Madoka's voice.

Hiromi Tsuru has the Madoka voice. Sorry, Shimazu-san.

...anyway I bought this disk in 1995 when I was desperate for anime music and it was virtually impossible to get, thinking it was the OST for the OVA series. Wrong! ...but it was pretty good, so I enjoyed it. Anyway.

I was listening to it on my way home from Og's place, and in a couple of quiet passages I was hearing the sounds of running water, like a fountain or a stream. It's been long enough since I last listened to these CDs that I thought, "Hey, that's a nice touch."

Then I hit the track advance button...and could still hear the "running water" sound while the drive mechanism sought the next track. Uh oh.

Got home, shut everything off but the blower, and listened...and sure enough, with the thing set on "vent" and running at moderate speed, I could hear water sounds. A check of the carpet on the passenger side revealed wet carpet.

It's been raining, so I must assume that there is a blocked drain hose somewhere that's keeping water from draining correctly, so it's puddling in the HVAC unit and dripping onto the carpet. Argh.

I guess I know what I'll be doing after it stops raining!

#2928: A Friday Night of Peril!

...not really peril in the conventional sense, really, but there were a few tense moments.

So I took the new battery to Og's, and for a wonder there was enough of a gap in the rain that the streets were reasonably dry and I was able to ride the motorcycle around his neighborhood a bit.

Problem is, the motorcycle is still exhibiting the same behavior that it has all along: you can start it and ride it around the front yard a bit; but after about five minutes on the street the engine dies and won't run.

This motorcycle has a funky fuel petcock. Okay, most motorcycles which aren't fuel injected have a petcock with three settings: Off, Run, and Reserve. This one, however, has On, Reserve, and Prime.

The fuel petcock closes automatically, and opens only when sufficient engine vacuum is developed to draw back a diaphragm against spring pressure. It doesn't take much--1 PSI will do it--and the entire idea is to make the motorcycle more convenient for the rider. He doesn't have to switch the fuel on and off most of the time. The only time he ever has to muck with the valve is when A) the bike has been sitting for a long time, or B) when it runs out of gas.

So when you're riding around on the street and the thing dies, the only way to get it running again is to switch the petcock to "prime". This is after, by the way, you've been tooling around for a bit with the damn thing in the "on" position.

Og and I spent the better part of an hour--while doing other things--batting around ideas as to WTF is going on with the fricking thing. Sunday I'm going back over there and I'll try riding it around the neighborhood in "prime" and see if it exhibits any of the behavior it does in "run". If it doesn't, it means there is something wrong with the way the petcock is behaving; if it does the same shit, it means the petcock isn't the problem.

Our thinking is that there may have originally been a diaphragm-type check valve in the vacuum port of the thing, which succumed to the vagaries of age (there was goo in there, we found). If so, it would explain a lot; but we ran out of daylight and energy and dry weather to keep fooling with the thing tonight.

...especially maddening when you get to ride the damn thing and then can't ride it home. But, as I pointed out before leaving, he's a robotics engineer and I'm a freakin' avionics technical writer. This is a motorcycle and it ALMOST works right. If we can't get it working...

"...we might as well just blow our heads off and get it over with," he agreed.


But I got to ride it. This bike has more than enough power for me, and it's going to be fun...when it's working right.

Anyway, so then I leave Og's cave just as it begins raining; and as I'm tooling around rural Elsewheresville it begins raining buckets. The wipers are on high speed and the defogger is running full blast and I'm still having trouble seeing through the murk. Argh.

I get home, put some stuff in the garage, take out the trash; deciding I want cinnamon rolls, I start the oven preheating and peel back the paper on the container--

Cinnamon rolls: BLAM!!!


The rolls blew up in my hand like some kind of sinister IEP (Improvised Explosive Pastry). There were no signs of islamic terror on the container, though, and I was unhurt, so I kept on with my task, secure in the knowledge that at least this time the terrorists did not win!

Then I laughed at how silly it all was. I use Crisco butter-flavored spray to grease the pan; to be mean I spritzed the cat with it. Obviously a little butter-flavored oil isn't going to hurt her any more than it would me, and she'll end up just licking it out of her fur. "OMG, I haz a flavor! I iz tasty like butter!" or some such.

* * *

...took a bit of a break to look over the factory service manual for the bike, and what do I find?

I'd like to direct your attention to callout number 5:

There is the check valve, and its design even fits with my expectations of what it would have looked like before dissolving into black tarry goo.

So there does indeed have to be some kind of check valve there, because otherwise vacuum fluctuations cause the petcock valve to flop open and closed. You can hear it; and this is a not-good thing because it starves the motorcycle for gasoline.

I really, really, really hope this is the problem.

Now I'm going to frost my cinnamon rolls and play WoW.