Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Time-Value of Money

Earlier this week my parents sent me the original purchase contract for The Triumph. They bought it for just under $5100. It got me thinking: what could you buy with that today?

Adjusting for inflation $5100 in 1974 is equivalent to about $22000 in Dec 2009.

So off we go to Edmunds to see what comparable 2009-model car we can get for our $22000...

Mini Cooper:
A base-model Mini convertible starts at $23,900. Close enough. For that you get 2745lb car with
  • 1.4L I4 engine (114hp, 118lb-ft of torque).
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • 28/36 mpg
  • Four-wheel ABS
  • Traction control
  • Stability control
  • Front and side air bags
  • 5-star roll-over protection
  • A power convertible top (with remote control)
  • Power windows, door locks, mirrors
  • Air conditioning
  • AM/FM radio with CD-player
(On a completely unrelated note: I saw about 25 original Minis in Redmond this morning. Clearly a club headed out for some fun. Hopefully the 27-degree temps won't cause any problems.)

Pontiac Solstice
A base Solstice is $24,275. (And given the state of Pontiac I bet if you can find a new one you can get it for alot less.) The Solstice is a 2860lb car with
  • 2.4L I4 engine (173hp, 167lb-ft)
  • 5-speed manual transmission
  • 19/25 mpg
  • 4-wheel ABS
  • Trction control
  • Stabilty control
  • Front airbags
  • 5-star roll-over protection
  • Power windows and door locks
  • No air conditioning (it's a $960 option)
  • AM/FM stereo with CD player

Mazda Miata
The Miata starts at $21,750. And that gets you a 2450lbs-reason why I have absolutely no respect for you. Why? Simple. In 1989 (when the convertible was considered nearly dead) Mazda came out with the Miata. By all accounts it was a fun, 2-seat, top-down, toy. Sounds good, right? Then they decided to market it as the "Return of the classic British Roadster". Sorry, no. It's a mass-produced toaster. So I refuse to spend any more time on it.

1974 Triumph TR6
The TR6 is a model of modern technology and innova... okay sorry, I couldn't contain that little laughing fit right there. A TR6 is 2450lbs chunk of iron. What you get is
  • 2.5l I6 engine (104hp, 140lb-ft)
  • 4-speed manual tranmission
  • About 23mpg
  • No ABS (unless it counts as ABS if the braking system doesn't generate enough pressure to lock up the rear drums)
  • Organic traction and stability control (in the form of a gas pedal and steering wheel)
  • 0-star roll-over protection. The windscreen can support about 300 lbs. In a roll-over it will surrender faster than the French.
  • No power door locks, windows, mirrors. Not even power steering.
  • No airbags.
  • No air conditioning
  • AM/FM stereo with 2 speakers strategically placed to play into the drivers right knee and the passengers left knee.

The conclusions:
  1. You can get more bang for your car-dollar today than in 1974.
  2. A Miata is a bad choice unless you're shopping for a victim the local Truck-A-Saurus. [Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!]
  3. If you own a mini you'll have lots of company in Redmond.

Hemmings Motor News
Sportcar Market Magazine

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Priorities Change

I felt old before. Sometimes I think I had a mid-life crisis at 22. But now I'm really old.

On Sept 18th I became a dad.

(Excuse me while *I* have to reread that last sentence.)

I'm an engineer. Sometimes, when faced with a nearly incomprehensible statement like that one, I have to put some numbers on it to cope. Unfortunately not all numbers help. Here are a few that have passed through my head lately

  • She'll be in the high school class of 2027.

  • I'll be 56 at her graduation.

  • In-state college will be about $32,000/year. Private school will be twice that.(Inflation adjusted)

  • If I save $365/month starting now I might be able to cover 4 years of an in-state school.

  • My dad, when he was my age, had a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.

  • The ratio of eggs-to-baskets just went from 1:1 to 3:1. (Was two people supported by two paychecks. Now three people on one paycheck.)

  • When she gets her license The Triumph will be 51 years old. (Luckily, by then, there won't be any gas and all the cars will be DeLoreans powered by "Mr Fusion" so I won't have to worry about her wanting to borrow it.)

This isn't helping.

So, what does this mean for the garage? I'm not sure yet. Certainly it will mean less funds to play with. The track season next year will be shorter (if it exists at all). I might have to give up the Seahawks season tickets. And, if you know anyone in the market for a Mallard TR6, please let me know.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Stadium

Yesterday was the first Seahawks home game of the year. A preseason game against the Denver Broncos.

Football season is a mixed bag for me. I love football. There's nothing better to have on the TV while you nap your way through a Sunday. But it also marks the end of the summer. And around here that means the start of a long gray season.

Anyway, here are a few things I learned (or reaffirmed) yesterday:
  • Segways aren't any cooler when they're branded by Ferrari. I saw one downtown with red fenders and chrome wheels. Sorry, dude, it's still a Segway. (And this is coming from a guy with a Ferrari-branded laptop.)

  • Clydesdales are ginormous. They're like snorting mountains with hairy hooves. Budweiser had one of their Clydesdale teams at the game. I swear they were over 6 feet at the shoulder.
  • I'm not a classical music guy, but it's hard to beat an opera singer delivering the national anthem unaccompanied.
  • Even preseason football is entertaining if the crowd is into it.
  • Recession or not. People will pay to watch the NFL.
  • Bleached hair, jeans, boots, and the ability to prop up your drunk boy-friend as he yells at the guy rooting for the visitors seems to be the main criteria for women attending the game.
  • If you're flushed out of the pocket on 4th and goal from the 2 you eat the ball. Run out of bounds. Throw it incomplete. Dive for the goal line. Do NOT flick it up for grabs in the endzone.
  • It's okay to leave a pre-season game early.
  • The sound of a big Healey running through downtown on a summer night is something special. Judging by the look on the drivers face he knows it too.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

I have offended the motorcycle gods. Somehow, somewhere, I did something wrong and they became angry and vindictive.

I decided to join SBNW 2009 with a NESBA track event at ORP. Sounded like a good plan: ride the gorge Wed, Thurs, Fri, listen to Reg Pridmore speak, ride Maryhill Loops road, then head to ORP for the weekend. I felt one of the problems I had with the Ducati the last time at ORP was simple unfamiliarity. I hadn't been on it in months. A few hundred twisty miles in the gorge should solve that and I'd be prepared for ORP.

Unfortunately the gods decreed that it was not to be.

During the drive down on Wednesday it was 108. The fairgrounds in Stevenson don't offer air-conditioning or much shade and it was over 95 throughout the week. Riding was pretty much limited to the early morning hours. The afternoon was reserved for Gatorade and sitting in front of the fan wearing a cooling vest.

Friday morning I repeated the route Joe and I had taken at last years SBNW to the Goldendale Observatory. It's *much* better in the daylight. (Although still a little iffy in some spots.) That put me close to Maryhill Loops so, after a quick stop for a 396-oz Double Death Gulp at the local convenience store, I went to wait my turn to ride MHL.

I like the attention that the Ducati gets. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Red, white, green and Italian. It looks good. People, especially motorcycle people, are attracted to it. But, what I don't like is when someone is staring quizzically at my bike then says "Is the tire supposed to look like that?" My front tire, with only 600 miles and one track day under it's belt, was splitting between the bead and the main carcass. Doh!

No MHL for me. I headed back to the fairgrounds hoping to find a tire vendor and a professional opinion. Unfortunately none was to be found. My riding was over for the day. I decided I'd take the bike to ORP Saturday as planned and address the tire there.

Friday afternoon I spent the usual 2-3 hours converting the bike from street to track. Not a fun experience in the heat. In the middle of that project I got a message from Joe who was supposed to come to SBNW that afternoon. "TJ ... I had an accident. ... I think broke my wrist. ... I don't know where the bike is. ... " Luckily, after getting ahold of him (well, sort of, he wasn't entirely conscious) I was convinced that he wasn't calling from a ditch and was in fact in a hospital in Vancouver. Sounds like he'll be okay.

The heat at ORP on Saturday was nasty. There is *no* natural shade unless you're the size of a ground-squirrel. I missed the first session of the day dealing with my tire. (I swapped it out with one I had brought with me.) The 10am session I ended after 3 laps because I wasn't thinking straight. I got a few good lap in the 11am session but the heat wasn't making it fun. I skipped the noon session, and there was a lunch break from 1-2. The 2pm session was 2 laps. I felt good at the start (after the long) but by the middle of the second lap I was losing focus on the task. A quick risk-assessment and it was time to go. I rolled out of the pits by 3pm headed for home.

Two tracks days had been reduced to less than 10 laps. But the bike is still shiny and my leathers are still unscathed. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that.

I thought they were done with me. I had admitted defeat. I was headed for home. Contrite and penitent. But the gods had one more warning, just a parting shot. They decided to trigger the transmission-overheating warning light on the Nitro in the middle of nowhere. "Slow down boy. We may be the motorcycle gods but we're good friends with the tow-vehicle gods too." ... Okay, okay, I guess I can climb the hills at 45.

I have started a repentance plan. I stopped for a biker who had run out of gas on freeway.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Delegation of Power

I've been on a green kick lately. Replacing bulbs with CFL, looking into solar power (yes, even in Seattle) and a few other things. It's not an attempt to reduce my utility costs (although that's a nice side effect) but to use less power. We use 30-60kWh of electricity per day and that's too much.

But where does it go? 30-60kWh per day means at any given instant I'm using 1250-2500 watts of electricity. ... 2500 watts. That's a crapload of power.

Being a geek I need numbers. I bought a Kill-A-Watt from Amazon for about $25. It's exactly what I need. It measures the power consumption of a single outlet. Plug it in, plug an appliance into it, let it collect data for awhile, then move it to measure something else. It'll take some time to get all the data I want but here's what I found so far:
  • A/C. We have a wall A/C unit in the bedroom we use for maybe 10 days/year. It draws an average of about 450 watts on the days we run it. That's alot but not a surprise. Since we use it so rarely I doubt this contributes much to our yearly average consumption.
  • Office PC. Our main computer is almost always on and is a pretty hefty PC but I had no idea it draws 250 watts. Even when it drops into sleep mode and kills the monitors it's still sucking 180 watts.
  • Garage fridge. I figured this would be a beast. It's a cheap full-sized fridge we bought about 4 years ago. But I guess it's pretty well insulated. 28 watt average.
  • Dehumidifier. I live in Seattle, I have metal toys, rust sucks. So a dehumidifier seemed like a good idea. I should have guessed since it functions much like an A/C but I was shocked to see it draws an average of 375 watts. And since it's on all the time so far this looks like our big offender.

I'm still checking a few other things like the other PCs in the house, the stereo, the instant-hot-water tap, the home theater. I'd really like to find some other power hog. Even turning down the dehumidifier gives me the willies.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just Waiting

I found a near-perfect track trip:
- Sunday and Monday : travel 1100 miles
- Tuesday and Wednesday : track days at Streets of Willow
- Thursday : travel 250 miles
- Friday : Vegas baby!
- Saturday and Sunday : track days at Pahrump
- Sunday night : travel 650 miles
- Monday and Tuesday : track days at Thunderhill
- Wednesday : travel 700 miles
- Thursday : fall down in my own bed
Well, okay, maybe 650 miles in a night between track days isn't really feasible. But it still looks like fun on paper. Unfortunately it's in early October and I doubt I'll be allowed out of the house then.

My friend John is buying an oxy-acetylene welding rig. (He and I took the welding class a few months ago.) Personally I'd opt for a MiG but his needs are different from mine. Regardless, I'm hoping to mooch some fire-time from him once he gets setup.

Project #1: a tripod bench for a vise.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Hello? Is There Anybody Out There?

Two track days at ORP this weekend.

Apparently the track day crowd is out of money or got lost on the way to the track. There was hardly anyone there. A typical track day has about 100 riders. Saturday there were 21. Sunday there might have been 23.

That's rough for NESBA's finances but it makes for a nice open track.

I couldn't find anyone to split the gas and hotel costs so I decided to bring both bikes. (I figured if I got there early enough on Friday I'd take a ride on the Triumph.) Turns out it was a good plan. The Ducati was a pain in the first track session on Saturday. I just couldn't sort anything out. So I quickly converted the Triumph and took it out for a few sessions. Hoping to find a clue.

It worked well. The Triumph is alot easier to pilot. The ergonomics suit someone of my ... um ... magnitude a little better. Or maybe I'm just more used to it. The Ducati was out in the afternoon Saturday and I split time between the bikes on Sunday as well.

Based on the videos from May I was turning laps in about 2:18 on the Triumph. That's me, in charge, thinking I know what I'm doing, going to the whip.

Based on the data collected this weekend I was turning laps in about 2:18 on the Ducati. That's me, scared out of my friggin mind, hoping to survive, trying the rein the bike in.

I guess I need some more practice.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Down On All Fours

It's a beautiful day and I want to go out.

The Suzuki needs a tune-up (again). The Daytonas battery died (not sure why). The Ducati is still dressed for the track.

Luckily I have backup for the backup for the backup. I have toys with four wheels.

After a little time on the battery charger (and a little time under the hose) the Green Machine was declared road-worthy. (Okay, yes dad, you're right. No 30+ year-old car is road-worthy. Particularly one made at a British factory more famous for labor strife than efficiency. But, hey, I work with what I've got. It starts, it turns, it even stops. That equals "road-worthy".)

I decided to try the route I took Monday on the bike. (Minus the mud-pushing.) Ignore the moronic path between F and G. Google Maps is missing some data I guess.

View Larger Map

Every time I ride the Suzuki I'm amazed at how pleasant it is. Much more relaxed, much more like a weekend should be.

The same was true today except an order of magnitude bigger. I was going a robust 32 mph but it sure felt good. Top down, no helmet, no heavy leather jacket, same twisty road. I could even carry a refreshing beverage.


I think this four-wheels-with-a-motor thing might just catch on.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feeling a Little Loopy

Saturday Duane and I went out for a nice long motorcycle tour. The freeway sections were a little rough but overall a nice way to burn most of the day:

View Larger Map

Monday I wanted to do some focused wandering. My intent was to go up Paradise Lake Rd (I had heard it was pretty nice) and investigate a few minor variations on my typical weekend ride. The plan was:

View Larger Map
Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't mention that
  • Most of the roads are unmarked
  • Many were dirt or unmaintained.
  • And some are permanently blocked.
Oh well. I suppose it's good exercise pushing your bike around gates and through mud. And I did see some interesting scenery.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fake Right, Go Left

Back to Oregon Raceway Park over the weekend. Two full days. Exciting stuff. I even considered bringing the Ducati since I knew the track a little.

The weather forecast was "Sat: 80, sunny, no wind" "Sun: 85, sunny, no wind". How can you beat that?

By Saturday afternoon the track and I had come to a mutually-acceptable agreement: I'd accelerate over blind hills and the track would agree not to move between laps. Wonderfully efficient. I was feeling good, moving well, not scaring myself nearly as often as usual. I think I may have even passed someone.

Sunday morning I was back and ready to pick up where I left off.

Then came the word: "Today we're going to ride the track in other direction." ... Dammit! Back to square one. A whole new set of blind rises and corners. I was so slow I switched to the beginner group Sunday afternoon (partly to have more space since there were 1/2 as many bikes in that group).

I wasn't the only one struggling. Sunday was pretty rough all around. There were more than a few downed bikes. The ambulance had to respond twice. (Once for an on-track incident, once for a spectator that collapsed in the heat.) Happily everyone was fine but it was hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I'm sure glad I didn't bring the Ducati.

Here's a lap from Saturday. (It's similar to the lap from April with more of the motion-sickness inducing aspects that I know both of my readers crave):

Here's a nearly traffic-free lap from Sunday afternoon:

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Random Odds + Ends

ORP (well, actually the dirt road leading to ORP) highlighted some problems. Everything inside the trailer was covered in dust. So I spent the week taking apart the interior and trying to reseal it. We'll see how successful I was in a couple weeks.

I ran out of batteries to power the camera too. Thought it would be easy to tap into the bike for power but the fuse I pull to disable the headlights also disables the tail lights, turn signals, and license plate light. I'll need to poke around and find a switchable source that's easy to get to and not effected by that fuse.

My cousin is off on his road trip.

I'm still planning to go back to ORP in a couple weeks. I'm waiting for the weather forecast before signing up and getting a hotel.

BTW, if you're ever in need of breakfast in The Dalles Oregon, I suggest stopping by the Country Cousin Inn. Get a cinnamon roll. Fresh basked and as big as your head!

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Day at ORP

Saturday I was at the newly opened Oregon Raceway Park. The track is more construction zone than finished product. The in-field is dirt, the last 3 miles of road leading to the track is dirt, there's no power, no water. In the afternoon when the wind and dust kicked up the visibility dropped to zero. A few sessions were cut short and I called it a day around 2pm.

But the track surface itself was in place. And early in the day the weather was nearly perfect. Here's a video of one of the early laps:

It definitely has some interesting sections. Lots of blind areas where you have to remember where the track went last lap and hope it hasn't moved since. Once they sort out dirt control (grass in-field, added curbing) it should be a great track.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Things Change

Yeah, it's been awhile since I posted. 'Life', it's what happens when you have other plans.

Big changes are on the horizon for the garage-life. My wife is expecting our first child in September. (Thank you. And, to the smart-ass in the peanut gallery: keep your 'condolences' to yourself.)

One of the biggest questions I've been asked is: "When are you going to sell the motorcycles?" And the answer to that is "I'm not, unless I run out of money." My wife is okay with the bikes, and I confine my true craziness to the track where it's comparatively safe. So the bikes and toy cars are staying.

However, that doesn't mean things will be unchanged. First, it means my wife will take some time away from work and that means less disposable income and that means fewer track days. Second, it means fewer trips. (She has some funny notion that I shouldn't go to an out-of-state event on Sept 29/30 if she's due on Sept 25th. ?!?! Women.) Third, the garage layout needs to change. I have to move everything out of the guestroom (helmets, leathers, boots, etc) to make room for BabyX. Right now I'm planning to get one of these to handle the storage.

I'm sure a whole lot else will change too, but we'll handle that as it comes up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hotter Than the Surface of the Sun

For those of you who are also Seattle-ites: "Sun" is a yellow point-source of light and heat in the sky. No, no. That horizon-wide, mildly glowing, gray thing is not "Sun" that's what meteorologists call "a bad place to live".

My welding class is now about half over. This week we were introduced to the plasma cutter. Possibly the coolest thing ever. The plasma is about 16000 degrees and the cut is about 1/16". You can almost write your name in steel with it.

I made, then messed up, then repaired, then almost destroyed my first project (a metal box) this week. But now it's time to move on to another project. ... Any suggestions?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Playing with Fire

Tuesday I started a welding class. The course is offered by Pratt Fine Arts Center. As you might guess from the name I'm the lowly laborer in a room full of artists. The class began with introductions.

The other students: "I want to incorporate steel into my wood-working art." "I need to make metal molds for my glass blowing." "I want to learn to braze my custom jewelry."

Me: "Uh, I want to weld stuff."

The first class was filled with safety lessons and introductions to the equipment. But near the end we did get a chance to light the oxy-acetylene torch and "weld" some scrap.

Mom will be happy to know I still have all my fingers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The American Dream

"A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage"? Uh, no. Sorry Herbert, guess again. A single car?! Don't be ridiculous.

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"? Eh, not bad. How about more feeling.

"Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"? Well, yeah, that's pretty much it.

My American Dream is ... "To be a motorized hobo." (I know, I know, a Reverend-King-quality orator I'll never be.)

To reduce my life to a small bag, toss it on a bike or in a car trunk, and go. Anywhere. Everywhere. Sleep when you're tired, eat when you're hungry. If you're bored move on, if it looks interesting stay a few more days.

12 years ago I took a small trip that might fit that description. 4 weeks and 6600 miles in a TR6 with no real plan to speak of. It's one of the best months of my life.

I'm happy (and more than a little jealous) that my cousin is headed out on a much larger hobo-trip in the Spring. So far his plan seems to be "See people. Go places. Come home when the money runs out."

Sounds like a solid strategy to me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Snow, and Why No Sane Person Likes It

Yesterday I was victimized by snow.


I guess the Snow God didn't think bursting two water pipes and taking half of my vacation days was enough.

Of course, being an idiot, I figured the Snow God had been vanquished. It was, after all, over 50 degrees and had been for several days. In my 6 years as a physics major at Caltech I'm pretty sure someone said something about the melting point of snow being much lower than 50 degrees. But hey, that's just scientists blathering, what do they know?

How does one become the victim of snow when it's over 50 degrees? Well...

1. Start with some snow. Alot of snow.
2. Mix in cars that can't handle the snow.
3. Add tire chains.
4. Take your newly chained-up car onto a freeway.
5. Drive until the chains snap off.
6. Wait patiently until it's raining like Niagara when TJ will come by, run over the chain fragments, and blow a tire.


Wasn't that fun?

On the plus side, I do highly recommend a remote tire pressure monitor. They come in handy occasionally.