Archive for September, 2006

Voter cynicism: ask a page boy

September 30, 2006 7 comments

Stories about hypocrites in Washington are hardly news, but this one rises above the slime average a bit. Apparently 52-year-old Mark Foley, the congressman from Florida’s 16th district, wrote sexually predatory email messages to a 17-year-old page boy, whose parents found out and turned over to the House ethics committee.  Foley resigned after the predatory emails were made public.

In itself that doesn’t strike me as unusual – public virtue often masks private corruption.  There is even an old joke about the reason Congressmen don’t use bookmarks, because they like to bend the pages.  But it also transpires that the GOP leaders knew of Foley’s messages for several months and failed to do anything about it.

Keeping a hold on legislative power is apparently so important to the GOP that they failed to do the obvious thing, rather than risk losing a seat.  There was not even any need to make it public – the boy’s parents had asked them not to make a big deal.  All they had to do was get Mark Foley in a room and say; “You’re done.  Resign now.  Say it’s for your health, or to spend more time with your family, whatever, but go.” 

Of course, that would be the “B” answer.  The “A” answer would be: handing all the evidence over to the police immediately.  Because – you know if you or I did something like that, there’d be hell to pay.  This wasn’t exactly an office affair between consenting adults.

Failure to act wasn’t even good strategy.  Now Dennis Hastert and the whole ethics committee are on the hook. They let a sexual predator go on as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus. 

And some people have the nerve to blame voter cynicism on The Daily Show…  as if it were possible to parody the likes of Mark Foley.

Categories: Politics

Humility from software

September 26, 2006 10 comments

When I first started learning to use computers, there was no one to help me.  I bought one, put it together, (it was pretty obvious what plugged into what) turned it on, and it said something about “Operating system not found”.  It sat there and nothing I typed or did would make it do anything.

The dealer had dropped off the machine with a box of accessories.  Among them was a shrink-wrapped box the size of a collegiate dictionary, entitled; “Microsoft MS-DOS 4.01” and another, similar box entitled “Microsoft Windows 3.0”.  By random chance I opened the DOS one first, and there was a book inside.  I started on page one.

In the months that followed I turned to my old buddy, the bookstore.  As expected, there were fat books there waiting to be studied.  So I did, encountering unfamiliar jargon and concepts, and plunged ahead waiting for the pieces to look familiar enough for assembly.  Before long I’d connected an HP scanner, given it a SCSI address, installed relevant software, and was retouching photos.  That is not a simple undertaking on Windows 3.0 with 8 mb RAM, so I learned about memory optimization, and the deeper possibilities in config.sys, autoexec.bat, win.ini and system.ini.

Then came DOS 5 and Windows 3.1 – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  I bought a 486, installed the wonderful new OS, and plunged ahead.  But I never forgot the helpless feeling of frustration of not understanding a single word on the page and not knowing what to do next.  Today I make an effort to remember that feeling when I’m helping users with their creative mistakes.  (And hell; dropped into a similar situation, my mother figured out CPM from scratch the same way, so I’m not exactly a rocket scientist here.)

Now I’m trying to learn Linux.  I have the benefit of years of experience with DOS, Windows, Windows NT, 2000, 2000 Server, XP, and Server 2003.  I’m fooling around with Vista beta.  Yet, first out of the box, Linux just locks up on me and won’t do anything.

It really takes me back.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Linux can’t lock up or crash.  If it fails to properly interact with the hardware (always a possibility given the nearly infinite combinations) it can fold it’s little penguin wings, and regurgitate partially digested squid all over your keyboard, just like Windows.

I have even heard rumors that the vaunted Macintosh can do the same.  “It just works”, my ass.

A Linux forum helpfully advises:

All I had to do was enable Frame Buffer Objects under Graphics in the Cedega Global Settings. Note also that fgl_glxgears does not work on my system unless I run it with the -fbo option

As Noah said to The Lord in Bill Cosby’s ‘Ark’ story; “Riiiiiiiight!!!”

The reason Windows seems intuitive to me is that I’ve been using and administrating it so damn long.  There is a tendency to confuse the familiar with the logical and/or the virtuous.  Hardly surprising, this; it is at the root of all ethnocentrism.

There’s a scene in a Simpson’s episode where the cops are sitting in KrustyBurger discussing a trip one of them took to Shelbyville.  He had eaten at a strange restaurant called, ‘McDonald’s’:

‘…and they don’t call it a KrustyBurger.  You know what they call it?’
No, what do they call it?
They call it a ‘Quarter Pounder!’
Really?  Wow, that’s wierd.
And another thing!  They don’t call it a ‘Hydrogenated vegetable-product imitation KrustyShake.’  They just call it a Shake!  What about that!?
“Man, you don’t know what you’re gettin’!”

Anyway, I figured out how to get it started up in “Recovery” mode, which is sort of like KrustyBurger Windows Recovery Console and enter the following command:

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

It’ll be a while before commands like that have any real meaning for me.  “Xorg”?  Isn’t that some sort of giant menacing creature in a video game?  “I was attacked by a Xorg, but I used my BFG on him!!!  Pass the Cheetos.”

Thus entered the video configuration utility, which is in good old reliable text-mode.  I went through a bunch of options and set the infernal machine to ‘Vesa’, which is a word I do recognize as a video mode that almost every video adapter extant supports.  At this stage, I don’t need the fancier features of my video card – in fact I’ll probably never need them because I don’t play computer games or use CAD. I’m still learning how to use the OS and then how to do Windows network administration from an alien, Linux machine.  And in Vesa mode, the thing works just fine – hasn’t locked up since. It’s surprisingly fast, too.

Now I can play with the applications and with joining it to the Microsoft Active Directory.  I’ll fix the video drivers later, when I have a clue where they can be found.  So if you’re a newbie user, frustrated by your computer, I understand.  As my favorite president said, “I feel your pain.”

And if you’re using Windows, I could even help.  Linux?  Not so much.

Categories: Geeky, Software

The numbers on the pump are not a moral compass needle

September 26, 2006 2 comments

Watching Faux News at the gym on Saturday, I witnessed a number of talking heads going on at length with their Rove talking points (“Democrats: all out of ideas, or just anti-American?”) and then they turned the corner to a more hopeful concept.  Would the lower gas prices, they wondered, help the president and the Republican party – the true Americans – in the upcoming election? 

Apparently (I shudder to think they may be right about this) there are voters on both sides of the aisle who may vacillate back and forth depending on such ephemera as this week’s gasoline prices.  Price goes up: “Darn that Bush!” as if the president has his hand on some sort of economic faucet.  Price goes down: “I dunno, Bush brought the gas prices down” – same empty-headed idea.

Speaking to those voters, if they exist:

“Whether you support the president or not, if you would change your vote based on an irrational (that is to say, ‘ignorant of economics’ ) view of an issue that is only tangentally affected by the presidency, please, please, stay home next election.  You are a loose cannon on the deck of state.  Spend the time watching the excellent PBS video series on economics, Commanding Heights.  Read up on the history of Iraq, only this time go back at least to 1258.  Hell, read Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guide to US History if you can find a copy.

Above all, base your voting convictions on something deeper than the price of gas this week.  That is all.”

(Wanders off, sputtering and muttering…)

Categories: Politics


September 24, 2006 6 comments

A couple weeks ago I was riding home and saw an interesting trash pile; there were automotive parts, bucket of rusty tools, and a trash can full of garage type stuff.  No, I can’t resist checking that out.

Found an unopened quart of 90wt gear oil (and I happen to need some!).  A pretty nice screwdriver that just needed regrinding (easy).  And an axe with a leather blade cover.  Looked pretty nice except someone had tried to chop a cinder block in half or something – the working edge was pretty ragged.

People look at you funny when you’re riding a bicycle down the street, carrying an axe.

This morning I reground and filed the cutting edge – good as new.  Except, when I want to cut branches I use a bow saw – I don’t know what I need an axe for.  It was just too nice to let it go to the landfill.  Do people still use axes?  Any Boy Scouts out there?

Categories: Artifacts

34pict-3 carburetor final

September 23, 2006 29 comments

UPDATE: 22 November 2008
This post has attracted a lot of comments, and I’ve added new information in the comment stream that does not appear in the main post.  The result is a bit jumbled and hard to read for reference purposes.  At this time, I am closing comments on this thread, pending a complete re-write that will integrate all information from both the main post and the comments into one.  Then I will re-open comments. 

In the meantime, please be sure to read through all the comments.
- George

This post is everything I’ve learned about the 34PICT-3 carburetor, all pulled into one place.  Warning: long post with lots of pictures.  It is intended to supplant previous posts on the subject and I will update it rather than make new posts when new information comes along.

In the early sixties, VW had a 1300 engine with single-port heads (both cylinders shared an intake port), coupled to a Solex 32PICT carburetor and a Bosch vacuum-advance distributor. (Mind you, this is my memory talking, so don’t bet the rent-money on it.) It was a very successful engine if you weren’t in a hurry, but American buyers wanted more power.  VW responded with the 1500 and then 1600 dual-port engines, for which the super-reliable 32PICT carburetor was too small.  In many stages thus was born our nemesis, the 34PICT-3 carburetor.

This larger carb was far more complicated and was almost big enough for the engine.  Really, VW should have gone with a 2bbl carb, but I was ten years old at the time so for some reason they didn’t seek me out to ask my opinion. 

I currently have a 1600 DP engine with a 34PICT-3 carb, and it has been a challenge to get it running right.  Fuels have changed (15% alcohol has less oomph per volume, so needs to be mixed differently) and modern fuels tend to clog the jets with lacquer condensates.  My car ran very badly and I was determined to correct it. 

The 34PICT-3 really needs a longer advance curve, so you can begin with a dual-advance distributor (having both a mechanical- and vacuum-advance component.)  This is broadly known as a ‘Mexican taxicab distributor’ and has a modified one they call the SVDA.  They have the advance cam reground to their own specs and specify a different timing setting that eliminates the flat-spot on the 34PICT-3.  It’s a good distributor.

Be sure to use a fuel-block (shown) to connect the vacuum outlet on the left side of the carb to the vacuum advance.  This is simply a metal tube bent in such a way as to prevent fuel from ever running down into the vacuum-advance can on the distributor and ruining the diaphram therein.

Also, get rid of your points.  Install a Pertronix or Compufire and forget about the crappy Bosch points adjusters.  (I always liked GM’s system – you could adjust the points using a dwell meter and a hex wrench with the engine running.  So simple!) 

Notice the bright red intake manifold section boots.  I think they’re made of silicone or polyurethane or something besides rubber.  They are far more resistent to cracking than the old rubber ones.

I use copper ignition wires with Bosch 1K ohm plug ends, but that’s just me.  You might do fine with fancy fiberglass-core wires.  I assume you are using the right spark plugs for your engine – the ones that came with my engine were wrong.

Next the jets in the carb need to be changed.  They are a bit lean to begin with, even assuming pure gasoline.  Your boxer engine likes the fuel mixture a bit rich.  I couldn’t find a new Solex carb, so I’m using a Bocar 34PICT-3 carb, and I installed a 130 main jet, and a 55 idle jet.  Remember on the 34PICT-3 the idle jet affects drivability and power up to about 2,000 rpm when the main jet takes over.  In other words, it’s extremely crucial for in-town driving. This helped a lot.

I think the original idle jet was a 50, but the replacement jet orifices (orifii?) were visibly larger in the new jets than the old ones.

One repeating problem I had was blown needle valves.  If you turn the carb upside down you should not be able to blow air (lips on fuel intake – do NOT use compressed air) into the float chamber.  I’d adjust the fuel pressure by stacking gaskets under the fuel pump (which is the official method from the VW service manual) but the needle valve would still go.

The symptom was that the car would run rough, smell of gas, plugs would foul, and adjusting the air idle screw would make little difference.  (This is very bad for the engine, by the way.)  Gas mileage was terrible.  I finally reckoned that the nominal fuel pressure was probably going sky-high when the engine compartment got hot.  Between the fuel pump and the filter, that’s a lot of volume to expand and alcohol has a high coefficient of expansion.  I carry a spare needle valve now – they’re only about five bucks.

The pressure solution was two-fold.  First, get all unnecessary fuel components out of the engine compartment.  You don’t want a large reservoir of fuel inside there getting hot during operation.  There is also a safety reason for this.  Once in a while the weight of the filter bouncing along on the line will work the brass fuel intake out of the carb, with flaming results.  This has never happened to me, but I have seen pictures. 

In this picture, you are looking straight down behind the left side of the engine between the oil cooler exhaust and the #3 cylinder. The steel fuel line enters the engine compartment (wrapped in an insulating cotton sleeve made from the hem of an old t-shirt) and turns upward along the front of the engine shroud, and bends across.  It is best to use a tubing bender for this operation.  Just four inches of rubber flex line remain between the steel line and the carb.  The steel line is held in place by a magnetic network cable clamp, which works great.

Notice at left there is an elaborate pass-through for the steel line through the front tin.  I enlarged the hole to accomodate a rubber sleeve around the steel line, and it is held in place by fender washers and clamps.  Maybe I am just being overly fussy, but I don’t want the sheet metal rubbing through the steel fuel line.  I don’t want it rattling, either.

I suggest two fuel filters; one under the gas tank, and one in the transmission compartment.  You don’t want any crud going in the carb.  (There is another source of jet-clogging; we’ll get to that in a minute). 

Second, regulate the fuel pressure to about 1.5 lbs/in2.  I tried one of the old Ford-type adjustable regulators, and it worked fine until it sprung a leak and blew gas all over the place.  This was corrected by retorquing the screws around the circumference but it was unnerving all the same.  Also note that the markings on the regulator are completely inaccurate.  Use a fuel-pressure gauge to adjust your pressure.

After the gas-spewing incident (and calming down, no harm was done), I got a Holly low-pressure regulator.  (Specify low-pressure: it also comes in a higher-pressure model that you don’t want.)  It is well-made and has two outputs which is nice if you ever decide to go with dual carbs.

The regulator comes with a mounting bracket which can be screwed to a firewall, and then you screw the regulator to the bracket.  I made a little secondary bracket out of some sheet metal and riveted it into the transmission well, then simply hook the regulator bracket in (with a piece of inner-tube to prevent rattling) and put a zip-tie on to hold it in place.  Anytime I want to service the regulator, I can just cut the zip-tie and slide it out.

The Holly regulator is set with a hex screw at one end opposite the intake; the farther in you screw it, the higher the pressure.  Notice in the picture how far out I had to screw it to get a low enough pressure.  Then you lock it in place with the locknut.

I gave up on mechanical fuel pumps.  It was so easy to mount an electric pump.  This one was rather cheap – someday I’ll get a totally silent rotary pump to replace it.  One nice thing about an electric pump is that it will fill your float bowl in a few seconds without having to crank the car.

In this picture you are looking up into the transmission well (with the driver’s side heater-duct removed).  The clutch lever is visible at lower-right.  At lower-left is the cheap electric fuel pump.  Fuel from the frame fuel line (large loop of flex line) enters the pump at bottom – mounted as low as possible so if I am parked pointing downhill and am low on gas the pump will ‘grab’ OK).  Then to the fuel pressure regulator at center, and out to the fuel filter at right and into the engine.  If any of these components malfunctions, they will leak fuel onto the nice, cool, non-sparky transmission rather than onto the hot, electrically sparking engine.  Not visible in this picture is a plastic mud-guard fashioned from a plastic jug and held in place by strong magnets.  The wires and hoses have been neatened up a bit since this picture was taken – I don’t like stuff flopping around, but I don’t like it held too rigidly either.

The second fuel filter is mounted in place with a ‘bracket’ consisting of a bit of plastic from a 2-litre bottle, molded with a heat-gun around a filter, and secured by two powerful magnets from an old computer hard drive.  This makes it easy to swap out the filter anytime (except for the inconvenience of crawling under the car).  I use ramps for that – they are safer than jacking up the car.

Note that with an electric pump, and with the Pertronix magnetic pickup, you don’t want to sit there with the ignition on but the engine not running for more than a few seconds.  Wire your radio accordingly.

To adjust the 34PICT-3 is different from previous models.  On earlier carbs, the adjusting screw on the throttle arm set the idle speed; on the 34PICT-3, it only sets the butterfly valve closing clearance.  You want about four thousandths of an inch clearance along the outer edge of the butterfly valve when it is in the closed position.  Do this by backing out the throttle arm screw until it just touches the lowest part of the choke cam, then turning it back in about ½ turns.  The main thing is so the butterfly valve doesn’t “stick” in the closed position.  Once this adjustment is made, you never have to set it again.

Engine running, valves adjusted, timing set: now adjust the idle speed using the great big screw on the left side of the venturi.  This is the ‘air-idle adjusting screw’ and it passes air, not fuel.  Set your idle to about 850 rpm.  Then turn the little fuel-idle adjusting screw below it clockwise until the rpm just begins to drop, then back it out about ½ to ¾ turns.  Then fine-adjust the idle with the air-idle screw again.  Repeat three or four times with the engine really warmed up to get it perfect.

A word about air cleaners.  I really like the oil-bath cleaner that VW used to use.  If you live in a volcano zone (like my brother does), it’s really the only cleaner to have and generally I just think they’re neat.  But for some reason my oil-bath cleaner wouldn’t clear my Scat powder-coated shroud – go figure; German car, Chinese shroud, 40 years apart…

Anyway I got a new Mexican VW air cleaner with a paper element and it fits perfectly.  It is an original VW part and well made but notice how it sits at a goofy angle.  I’m always wanting to straighten it out.  I still miss the oil-bath cleaner.  Damn modern innovations… 

Now on to the other cause of clogging.  I tried every gas under the sun but the jets would still clog.  A friend of mine who knows about fuels explains: modern fuels are formulated for fuel-injected engines.  The fuel is piped to an injector under tremendous pressure.  The injector is screwed into a blazing-hot cylinder head, so the fuel doesn’t evaporate until it is well clear of the injector.

Now put that same fuel in a carbureted engine.  The fuel is under zero pressure in a float bowl.  The venturi effect sucks the hot fuel through tiny jets, which are ice-cold (sometimes literally).  So in the confined space inside the jet the fuel drops 80 degrees in a fraction of a second and the additives precipitate out as lacquer just inside the jet.

My car would get to idling crappy and performing badly; I’d remove the jets and soak them in carburetor cleaner and ‘Vroooom! it would run great… for about a week. (Be sure not to neglect the tiny little trim jet just to the rear of the idle jet on the right-hand side of the carb – it has a really small opening.) Using an old product called “Seafoam” – as needed – fixed the clogging.

Heat management; notice the heat risers on the intake manifold are wrapped in fiberglass.  I want them to warm the intake manifold, not the engine compartment.  I also wrapped the muffler in fiberglass which reduces the heat in the engine compartment considerably, and I put a cotton sock (secured with bailing wire) over the oil pump filter to insulate it from the heat of the muffler and blowing off the left 2 cylinders’ fins. 

Obviously a lot of the stuff in this post is beneficial no matter what carby you have.  I’m sure there’s more and like I said, as I try new stuff, I’ll come back and update this post.  I’ll start a new fuel post only if I go to dual carbs, and there’s lots of other stuff I want to do before messing with that.

Categories: Personal, VW

Iranian president offers new plan for world peace

September 21, 2006 7 comments

Following the annual marijuana harvest in Iran, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations in New York on Wednesday:

“Jews are respected by everyone, by all human beings,” he told a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York…

“No, I am not anti-Jew,” he said. “I respect them very much. Let us remember that there in Palestine there are Muslims, Christians and Jews who live together,” he said.

Later, he added: “We love everyone in the world – Jews, Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians… We are against occupation, aggression, killings and displacing people – otherwise we have no problem with ordinary people.”
- BBC News: Iranian leader ‘not anti-Semite’

Off-camera, Ahmadinejad was heard to remark, “Duuuude… you all should totally try some of this sh*t!” before lapsing into giggles and a raspy cough.

Categories: Humor, observations


September 20, 2006 9 comments

From a Pharyngula Kook alert relating an NPR interview with Christian enthusiast John Hagee, who explained the New Orleans flood thusly:

“New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God…all of the city was punished for the sin that was in that city.” – John Hagee

And the winning rejoinder of the day goes to a commenter, who said:

“Obviously, this guy hasn’t been to Amsterdam lately. Decriminalized soft drugs, legalized (and unionized) prostitution, gay marriage, pioneering needle exchange programs, softcore porn on major TV networks, gambling, and a comfortable atheist/agnostic majority… all in a city that’s 4 meters below sea level! Yet, for some reason Jehovah, the intergalactic party pooper, hasn’t smitten them with a flood in centuries—go figure. Those people in New Orleans must have been very naughty!”
- Posted by: j.t.delaney

I can’t think of anything to add to that – this is just a post where I give props to someone else’s bullseye!  Good one, JTD.

Categories: Religion

Toyota’s new 3-cylinder car

September 19, 2006 5 comments

I bet the new Toyota AvGo is a perfectly ordinary car that they already sell in other countries, and they were just waiting for Americans to wake up and realize how cool it would be to have a 51-mpg urban car.

Don’t let the 3-cylinder engine fool you; it’ll get around just fine.  I once had a Geo Metro XFI with a 3-cyl engine, and it had plenty of zoom (just not insane amounts of zoom).  It also got 50 mpg in town, which was a nice feature. 

But I didn’t like its flimsy construction, (stuff was always breaking) and it lacked air conditioning which made it unpopular with MrsDoF.  The new Toyota comes with a 5-star collision rating and being a Toyota, will probably beat the Suzuki-made Geo on durability as well.

Probably won’t be able to drive it down a creek bed like my Beetle, though.

One projector, or two?

September 19, 2006 2 comments

Once economies of scale kick in, smaller often means ludicrously cheaper.  And totally new applications…
BBC News: Projector size of sugar cube made

Categories: Science & Technology

Nun shot four times in the back by peaceful…

September 19, 2006 6 comments

An Italian nun was killed by gunmen at a children’s hospital in Somalia yesterday in an apparent revenge attack for the Pope’s speech about Islam last week. 

Sister Leonella Sgorbati, 65, left, was shot four times in the back by two men at the entrance to the hospital in the capital, Mogadishu. Her bodyguard was also killed…
- TimesOnline: Nun shot dead as Pope fails to calm militant Muslims

An extreme, but not isolated incident despite the Vatican’s hopes.  A great deal about this has been written by others more astute; it appears that not everyone is in agreement over the corrosive effects of violence upon dialog.

Want to convince the world that your religion has a place at the table in Humanity’s future?  Here’s a hint: the world is getting too small for violent response to verbal insult.  Be among the first to just shrug it off… or just draw some rude cartoons about it.  It beats burning churches or shooting a pious 65-year-old woman in the back, anytime.

Categories: Religion