What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

“It’s Precision Technology!”

Filed under: Gadgets,Geek — Tags: , , , — dave @ 8:12 pm 2011/01/30

Here’s something fun; a ‘manual’ straight from Haynes on Wallace & Gromit’s Cracking Contraptions!

I’ve probably enjoyed the Wallace & Gromit claymation movies more than the kids; Gromit is probably the most entertaining of the pair, even though he never speaks a word.

A few favorites from YouTube
The Tellyscope
The Bully-Proof Vest
And The Turbo Diner“That’s 300 horsepower of pure suck! Not bad, eh?”

BMWotD — 1973 3.0csi

Filed under: BMW Of The Day — Tags: — dave @ 10:13 pm 2011/01/29

Now this is a gorgeous car.

I’ve always loved the body lines of the BMW e9 coupes, and this one has received some improvements that make it even more desirable. For one, the original carbureted M30 has been replaced with a fuel-injected M30B35 for better reliability and lots more horsepower.

The e9’s are notorious for rust, but this particular car was stripped & repainted by Hardy & Beck in Berkeley, CA. Hardy & Beck also provided the wheels, which fit the car’s style to a ‘T’. Up until last week the car was owned by one of the “>mye28.com members“; he bought it a little over a year ago, but some recent financial & life difficulties forced him to sell. It was listed on CraigsList with some of the gorgeous beauty shots shown below, an oddity that caught some attention at Jalopnik. Bring-A-Trailer also picked up on it. All the attention led to it being sold pretty quickly in spite of the $25,000 price tag.

Much as I like the looks of this car, there is just no way I could own it unless I could garage it and only bring it out on the nicest of days. And considering the car, its relative rarity & value, that would be only fitting. So, like so many other cars, I’ll just enjoy it vicariously by way of the photos.

Murilee Martin Is Quite A Guy!

Filed under: Cars!,PCH — Tags: , , , , , — dave @ 12:18 am

Jalopnik has long been one of my favorite online haunts, and one of the features that I enjoy(ed) there was the Project Car Hell challenges;

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that’s the coolest… and the most hellish!

Basically a game where you get to choose between two hopeless basket-case project cars that were found on eBay, CraigsList or wherever. In 2008 I stumbled across & submitted a pair of oddball cars I saw on eBay, a 1967 NSU Type 110 and a 1985 TVR 280i. They were pitted against each other in a post called Project Car Hell; Alphabet Soup Edition (get it; TVR? NSU? alphabet soup? Yeah, corny, but it was the best I could come up with!)

One of the perks for readers who submit cars for a PCH challenge is a custom-made t-shirt designed & built by Jalopnik contributor Murilee Martin. Not sure exactly what happened, but I didn’t get my t-shirt. I think it had something to do with a shortage of Dave-sized shirts at the time… Like I need another t-shirt anyway (just ask my wife!) Time went on, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Then last September, Murilee announced that he was dropping the Jalopnik gig for bigger & better things. I left a comment on the post expressing my disappointment (as well as my understanding and support for his new endeavors), then the next day I remembered the missing t-shirt & threw a comment on that thread about it. And whaddya know, Murilee offered to make good on the oversight!

A few emails were exchanged (including one that I totally overlooked for quite some time), then yesterday I had a surprise waiting for me at home; a package from Denver with my name on it. Inside was the long-lost t-shirt:

Yvonne’s reaction was predictable; “You’re not really going to actually wear that, are you?” I don’t think that was a question. It was the team shirt for the Tetanus Racing Neon Team from the Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez 24 Hours of LeMons race that was held in New Orleans in November, 2010. Team Tetanus came in 9th overall out of 50 entrants in that race; not bad, especially considering it was a true 24-hour race, using a $500 car!

In reality, the shirt will probably sit on the shelf in my bedroom closet until one of us puts it in a box destined for a thrift store. Still, it’s pretty cool that Murilee made the effort to send it. He also threw in his business card (finally ending my curiosity over what his real name is) and a cool little window/bumper sticker from LeMons. My car will wear that sticker proudly!

I still miss Murilee’s posts on Jalopnik — the PCH and DOTS (Down On The Street) stories were the best. Plus Murilee had a way of putting together great stories. I still follow Murilee’s online stuff from time to time — he maintains a website featuring a catch-all blog, a photo gallery from past LeMons races, and a pile of desktop wallpaper images from the junkyards he frequents. He’s got one book under his belt already and is currently working on another. Yes, Murilee is a true Renaissance man; gearhead, author, blogger, LeMons judge… He’s quite a guy, girl’s name notwithstanding.

Awesome Visible Shock Wave Video

Filed under: Cool Technology,Just Stuff — Tags: , , , , , , — dave @ 10:12 am 2011/01/25

This sort of thing has always fascinated me; a plane moving at supersonic speed leaves a shock wave in its wake. The sonic boom is one thing, and is pretty awesome to experience, but the visible shock wave is something else entirely! This video of the launch of an Atlas V rocket shows a visible shock wave that radiates out horizontally as the rocket ascends; it looks like waves in a pool after a rock was thrown in the middle. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

And this video has the same event but from a different camera & vantage point (it’s toward the end of the video, at about 2:20.) Lots of other good video footage in it that I’ve seen before, but still amazing.

When I was in the SD Air National Guard we had somewhat regular training exercises where we would do our jobs as if we were really at war. To add some realism, pilots & aircraft from other bases would often be recruited to play the aggressors. On the Saturday morning of one very memorable training exercise, an aggressor snuck in under the radar and screamed past the base at supersonic speed (or very near it.) I happened to be walking across the flight line as he flew over, and remember it distinctly; looked up & saw this F4 Phantom fly past silently but incredibly fast. A half-second later the shock wave hit, and it almost knocked me over it was so LOUD… Wow. Because I was on the flight line and he was dropping imaginary bombs and strafing the aircraft on the line with imaginary 20mm rounds as he flew past, I instantly became an imaginary casualty and spent the rest of the guard drill laying on a cot in the morgue. Cheery.

He Didn’t Lie; He Was Just ‘Mistaken’

Filed under: Politics — dave @ 2:31 pm 2011/01/24

This is rich;

… former Vice President Al Gore on Monday said he made a mistake in supporting corn-based ethanol while he was in office, admitting he was more interested in farm votes for his presidential run than what was best for the environment.

Wonder when he’ll ‘fess up & admit that he was similarly “misguided” in his ranting about Global Warming Climate Change. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it.

Define Curb-To-Curb Plowing

Filed under: Just Stuff,The House — Tags: , , — dave @ 10:11 am 2011/01/21

I glanced at the Argus Leader in the break room at work yesterday, and the letter to the editor on the front page of the Voices page jumped out at me; it literally warmed my heart!

Snow accumulating along curbs

Could someone define curb-to-curb snow removal?

The snow in our neighborhood is 5 feet or more from the curb and not because cars were on the streets when they were plowed as we are diligent about moving them before the plows arrived.

Get it wrong the first time, and the snow gets farther from the curb with each new snowfall that requires plowing.

If I put the extra snow back in the street, all along my property line, could I call the street department and request someone to come get the leftover snow, or will the city put it back in my driveway because it had a do-over?

Or, could I call a private plow operator and send the bill to the city?

Mail is not being delivered to our curbside mailboxes because the mail trucks can’t get close enough. Why should homeowners be required to move the snow that shouldn’t have been left there in the first place? Maybe Mayor Mike Huether could pick up our mail at the post office and deliver it to us on his way to Whisk & Chop to discuss the events center.

When the city plowed the emergency snow route at the end of our block, twice, it left the extra snow at the end of the street. That made it pretty tough to get through, and the snow turns to concrete as we have to drive on it until we are blessed with a snowplow.

Does anyone at City Hall really listen when concerns are called in? What are we paying taxes for?

The work is half-baked at best.

I’ve been singing that tune ever since I became a homeowner and have had to park a vehicle on the street. At our house — with it’s narrow, short driveway and an attached single-car garage that rarely has room to fit a single car — four of the five vehicles we have are relegated to park on the street. Several of our neighbors also park on the street, so when the street narrows because of snow accumulation, we really notice it.

When the snowplows come by our house they typically have the edge of the blade a good foot or so from the curb. When they are pushing a good amount of snow, a lot of the snow falls back behind where the edge was, so the snow ends up even further from the curb. And when they’re not being especially careful about where they have the blade they can start out a good two feet from the curb, and then the lost space really starts to add up.

At our house we’ve resorted to going out after the snowplows have been by and digging the snow by hand right up to the curb. We pile the snow between the street and sidewalk, but that has its limits; right now the peak of the snow pile is a good five feet tall, and throwing more on it just lands it on the sidewalk. The photos above are from a year ago, but it looks the same this year; you can hardly see the roof of my 735 from the front window of the house, and the Hondas just disappear behind the pile. It’s a little ridiculous. It also makes clearing frost & snow from the windows interesting because there’s so little room between the car and vertical snowbank. And forget about opening the passenger-side door; just ain’t happening.

On the side streets the distance between the snow pile and the curb is one thing, but there are a couple of places near home — on 22nd and 26th Streets, near the VA Hospital and Children’s Care Center &mash; where the same street-narrowing thing happens, and many employees continue to choose to park their cars there anyway. With heavy traffic flowing in both directions through those areas, it gets a little dicey driving past those spots.

I can understand that the plow drivers need to keep their distance from the curb a bit to avoid damaging the curbs and their equipment, but it’s pretty annoying for them to keep moving further and further from the curb each time. Even though we go the extra step in clearing the snow right up to the curb for them, they still maintain their distance when passing our house, but even if they did push the snow up against the curb in front of our house, the snow would have nowhere to go anyway, so…

It’s there that I run out of steam on my rant. Beaten again by overthinking the issue.

The Psychology Of Being Watched

Filed under: Fun!,Just Stuff — dave @ 12:18 am 2011/01/20

The pressroom manager at work — Steve — has been having trouble with some of the night & weekend shift guys getting on his computer and playing games & whatnot, and generally making a mess of his desk by getting ink on his stuff, so he came to me a couple of weeks ago for some help with an idea… He wanted to put up a dummy camera in his office pointed at his desk to deter some of the stuff that was going on. I told him he’d have better luck keeping them off his computer if he just changed his password & kept it a secret, but he was wanting to also keep them away from his desk. So I tracked one down (much easier and cheaper than I thought it would be) and installed it yesterday. The reaction thus far has been pretty amusing, and a bit surprising.

The camera arrived on the perfect day, coinciding with some employee meetings that were going on, so I did the installation while the night shift guys were in their meeting. I made a point of walking past the room where they were meeting carrying a ladder and a roll of cable. The job of installing it was completed well before the meeting was done, and it didn’t take long before they noticed the camera and its blinking red light. And reacted.

The pressroom manager got a call from one of the guys last night, mad as a hornet… “What the (insert expletive) is going on with all the (insert expletive) cameras around here?!?! We feel like we’re being watched!!!” He calmly responded that it’s one camera, and it’s not intended or being used to watch anything but his desk. Today, things were tense all over; people were upset that they were being “watched”. That the camera was evidence that they weren’t trusted. The truth of the matter is that his reaction was evidence that things were going on that shouldn’t, and he feared the camera’s presence would give him away.

The funny thing is not only that the camera is a dummy, but that for the last three years we’ve been running an iPrism web filter device that keeps tabs on every excursion to the Internet, tracking the sites everybody on the network visits and how long they spend on them. Everyone was informed of the iPrism’s presence and function when it was installed, and the pressroom people are reminded of its presence any time they try to get to the Internet from a non-authorized computer. Even if the camera was real and was really watching that one desk, their online activities are actually being “watched” and scrutinized more thoroughly by the iPrism. Yet because they see the camera and don’t see the iPrism, the camera is the problem. And that phony camera will probably keep them in line far better than the iPrism ever will.

Steve is getting a good laugh out of it the whole situation. A few people around the company know it’s a dummy, so I’m not sure how long the secret will last. I’m sure he’ll milk it for all it’s worth though.

Day-later update: God has a great sense of humor, and timing. I wrote that yesterday, then today’s devotional in Our Daily Bread had to do with the very same thing:

Someone shared with me her observation about two bosses. One is loved but not feared by his subordinates. Because they love their boss but don’t respect his authority, they don’t follow his guidelines. The other boss is both feared and loved by those who serve under him, and their good behavior shows it.

That’s pretty telling of the atmosphere at work; very relaxed, almost too relaxed at times, which leads to low productivity levels. Steve stopped by my desk this morning and said that press output jumped considerably in the last couple of days. If one dummy camera can do that, he’s wondering where he might put a second one, just for good measure. Amazing what a newfound fear of the boss can do for people.

BMWotD — The Way The eta Oughta Look

Filed under: BMW Of The Day,Cars! — dave @ 12:21 am 2011/01/17

Somebody in the San Francisco Bay area signed up as a member on mye28.com last week to post a for sale ad for his 1988 528e. And it looks like a nice, nice car.

From the ad:

For sale is my 1988 528e. 5-speed manual. ETA engine. Royal Blue with Beige interior.

311K miles, and no outstanding problems. Clean title, no accidents, recently smogged.

I’m the second owner and I have all service records since I purchased it 20 years ago.

Other details:

– Non-smoker.
– Garaged.
– The only addition is a Clifford alarm system with keyless entry.

The car is a reliable daily driver, but I’m getting too old so I switched to an automatic.

Located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

PRICE: $2500.

Amazing condition for a $2,500 car. The paint looks good. The interior looks great. No cracks in the dash. Tires look new… And with 311,000 miles on it? Dang.

This is how I wish my 528e looked.

Z’Kota — From Endangered To Extinct

Filed under: Fun! — Tags: , , , — dave @ 11:50 am 2011/01/14

I missed my last opportunity to enjoy my favorite sandwich at my favorite restaurant chain; the last of the Z’Kota restaurants closed its doors over New Year’s weekend. Sad.

Z’Kota was a locally-owned chain of four restaurants; three in Sioux Falls and one in Brookings. Originally the stores were part of the Hardee’s franchise until the owner, Scott Fritz, broke off from the chain in 2002. His plan was to provide customers with a slightly more upscale fast-food experience and larger selection of menu choices that were a little out of the ordinary. I think it was a success.

For the last several years, Hardee’s had been looking to get back into the Sioux Falls market — as if Sioux Falls restaurant-goers needed yet another choice of national restaurant chains — and last year the four stores were purchased from Fritz by a Wisconsin-based Hardee’s franchisee.

On a work day I’ll often go home for lunch, but when time is short, I’ll sometimes hit a nearby McDonald’s or Burger King (and I’m a sucker for the $2.65 Pizza & Pop Combo at Sam’s Club!). If I’ve got a little more time and want to eat out, I prefer going to a locally-owned restaurant or diner, mostly to get away from the mass-produced plasticky food served by the bigger chains; the West 12th Street Z’Kota was a good place to go for me, just a quick run down I-29 away from work. Now though, I’ll have to work a little harder at that with Z’Kota gone. There is Rosie’s, Jono’s & Marlin’s, all within a ten-minute drive from work, but it seems most of the locally-owned restaurants are in the downtown area; a little too long a drive for a lunchtime outing.

The Z’Kota restaurants were a bit of a paradox; part of a chain, albeit a small one, but were put together very well and presented very professionally, more so than some of the bigger chains, yet far more polished than the average mom-n-pop local restaurant. Yet, even with the polished look, it still held something of the mom-n-pop charm that was very appealing.

The food though was where Z’Kota separated itself from the run-of-the-mill restaurant chain; fresh ingredients assembled after you placed your order, and seasoned perfectly — not too much and not too little. My favorite item on the Z’Kota menu was their Cajun Chicken Sandwich. For about $7 or so you got a char-grilled chicken breast on a bun with cajun seasoning & sauce on it, with cheese & lettuce, a helping of fries and a drink. It doesn’t sound like much, but the seasoning & sauce they used made it by far the tastiest thing on their menu, and the tastiest thing in town, fast-food-wise.

Another thing to like about Z’Kota is that on most warm Saturday evenings, the South Minnesota Avenue location hosted a loosely-organized street rodders’ car show. The boys & I would go there as often as we could to see what kind of cars were there… Because there was no organization, no entry fees and no visitor fees — pretty much a free-for-all — it was really a mixed bag of cars that would be there on any given Saturday. I’ve seen everything from brand new Ferraris to the rattiest rat rods to pro-street drag racers to restored Model T trucks to slightly modified tuner-style cars. That store converted over to Hardee’s last fall, right around the time the weather got too cold for hanging out in a parking lot all evening, so it’s unclear whether the show was exclusively a Z’Kota arrangement or if the new ownership will be as accommodating or not. It was rumored that the Z’Kota owner was a rodder himself, but I can’t say that I ever met him on a Saturday evening.

The West 12th Street store was within a quick lunch-hour drive for me, but even after that one converted to Hardee’s I would drive across town for one of their Cajun Chicken sandwiches. Mid-December was the last time I was there; the girl at the counter told me they were closing down in early January, so after the turn of the year I made the trip again. Unfortunately the only vehicles in the lot belonged to contractors working on converting the store and swapping the signage from Z’Kota to Hardees. It was a sad day for me. It’s been a while since I visited a Hardee’s restaurant; Deane says they’re not just another me-too food franchise so I’ll likely give them a try, but I’m thinking the bitterness I feel over the change will keep me away from Hardee’s restaurants for a while.

The Z’KotaGrille.com website went offline recently. Just for posterity’s sake, I pdf’ed the entire site; download it here if you like.