January 11th, 2012

#3148: It's been a really mild winter this year.

So I'm looking at the forecast for Thursday with some skepticism:
... Winter Storm Watch in effect from Thursday morning through
Friday morning...

The National Weather Service in Chicago has issued a Winter Storm
Watch... which is in effect from Thursday morning through Friday
morning.

* Timing... snow will develop by midday Thursday and continue into
Friday morning.

* Accumulations... snowfall totals in excess of 6 inches are
possible.

* Hazards... in addition to the falling snow... winds will increase
to 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 35 mph by Thursday evening and
continue through Thursday night. The strong winds will cause
considerable blowing and drifting snow... especially in outlying
and open areas. Wind chills are also forecast to drop to near
zero.

* Impacts... accumulating snow will likely make travel difficult
for the afternoon commute Thursday... with travel conditions
possibly becoming treacherous and even dangerous in open areas
Thursday night into early Friday morning.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow... sleet... or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.
I'll believe it when I see it.

Militating factor: Og sent me an e-mail last night informing me that Exploder 2.0 now needs a new front differential even though a scant week ago he thought the problem was fixed.

The Exploder has a true independent suspension, so there's a differential that's connected to the front wheel with halfshafts, just like with a front-wheel-drive car. It is better for handling and maneuverability, but when the pumpkin blows it's a bitch to replace it.

Step one: disassemble front suspension, because you've got to remove the axle shafts to get the pumpkin out. *whimper*

In the case of a truck like the Jeep--which has live axles at both ends--it's a hell of a lot easier just to replace the whole axle, and in fact you could probably drop the front axle, as a unit, in about an hour. (If you had a good impact wrench, anyway.) Assuming you could find a suitable replacement at a boneyard, all you'd have to do is to change the lubricant, bolt it in, and then go get it aligned.

The rear axle is even easier because it's got a leaf spring rear suspension; it's held onto the rear springs with four u-bolts. Remove the brake lines, let the impact wrench hammer the nuts off the u-bolts, remove the spring shackles, and pop the drive shaft off. No problem. Oh: there's a rear sway bar, I think, but that'd held to the body with another four bolts. Not a problem; your biggest issue here will be overcoming however many years of rust are holding the nuts on the various bolts.

But Og's looking at an all-day job at the least, here--assuming he can find the appropriate "pumpkin" at one of the local boneyards. And he'll be removing two and installing one; and one will entail lying in the dirt and grunge and crap without easy access to power tools and stuff.

He said he'd let me know what's up via e-mail this morning, so I'm waiting to see what goes on.

* * *

GM is scraping the bottom of the barrel. "Affordable exotic"? "Mini muscle car"?

...didn't they try this kind of thing once already?

Via DPUD, which echoes my sentiments: "Meh."

These are concepts; if they actually go into production they'll be bean-countered and parts-binned into existence. At the $20,000 price point they won't be able to do much of anything else to build these cars and make anything approximating a profit. As DUPD predicts the interiors will be plastic crap.

They're going to feature 1.4 liter turbo engines? Isn't that basically the same engine they use in the Volt? The Volt's engine is non-turbo and optimized to run continuously at its most efficient speed, but changing that basically means a new camshaft and program for the computer.

The "mini muscle car" says it'll have 150 HP and a "mild hybrid assist" system, whatever the hell that is. Expect that these things will look fast but not go fast; a 1.4 liter engine simply will not develop all that much torque, not even if turbocharged.

"What are you talking about?" You say. "The Subaru WRX STi makes all kinds of torque!" That's a 2.5 liter engine, turbocharged out the wazoo and intercooled. It also costs well over $30,000.

I don't have much confidence in GM's ability to make fast cars that don't have V8 engines in them. Every time they've done it, it's either been a fluke or they've very quietly killed the car as soon as possible to keep it from doing anything to the Corvette.

(I could reiterate the story of the Fiero with the Quad 4, but I don't really need to, do I?)

So what these cars will end up being is parts-binned econoboxes that look fast, and they won't sell very well beyond their initial 6-month sales period because people will get wise to the fact that these things are slow cheap junk.

...exactly the way they did with the Cruze. Count on it.

* * *

But for the moment, I'm going back to bed.

#3149: Home from Og's cave

I finally took my leave of Og around 5:30-ish, because I was starting to feel hypoglycemic.

When I got to his place, he just about had the bad differential out; and once it was, he changed clothes and I took him to the boneyard in the Jeep so he could pick up the new pumpkin. It's a yard where they pull the parts, so it cost more, but it saved him having to pull it himself on a winter's day, however mild, and it saved him some time in the bargain.

When I left, Og had the pumpkin in and had buttoned up the driver's side, and was starting on the passenger side.

He called me about noon. I hadn't slept but an hour or so after my last post here--the damn phone rang off the hook all morning!--and ...

[...and I remembered just in the nick of time that choir practice was on Wednesdsay this week, so this interjection represents a 1.5 hour break in writing...]

... I just got out of bed, put on pants, and went over to Og's place. I stopped at Wendy's for some food cartridges. Double stacks now cost more for some stupid reason, so three of them cost me $5. WTF.

* * *

Anyway, let's get on with the links. I was almost falling asleep in choir practice and I want to go to bed.

DOOM!

Have you seen the price of Twinkies? How the hell can they be going bankrupt only two years after they went bankrupt? "...debt, high labor expenses and rising ingredient costs." Because Twinkies are apparently made with union labor, I guess.

Greek bank runs but in slow motion.

Greece has an aspirin shortage. Price controls have done what they always do: limit supply. Meanwhile there's plenty of money in Greece for its military. Yeah, Greece is done. Expect major problems soon.

Oil companies pay penalties for not using cellulosic ethanol in their fuels. Problem: there's no economical way to manufacture large quantities of cellulosic ethanol. The EPA believes that there is, but there isn't, and so we all pay more for fuel. Why the hell don't they just specify unicorn flatus and get it over with?

* * *

After reviewing the tabs I had open, I closed all of them except for t3h DOOM! because they weren't that interesting.

Or maybe I'm just falling-on-my-face tired. I don't know.

* * *

While I was at Og's I espied a couple of motorcycle parts which he had said he was going to unload on me, so I grabbed them. I now have the front and rear wheel assemblies for another year of the same motorcycle, which ought to get me...something. Maybe I can sell 'em on ebay or something. These are 19" wheels, which my particular year of bike doesn't use. But the brake parts are interchangeable, anyway.

That stuff is still in the Jeep, and can stay there for a day or two. Nobody cares.

I'm going to bed now.