The parts they leave out when you have a real-life superpower

Yes there are real superpowers in this world, yes I have one, and yes there are side effects that aren’t pretty. My “superpower” is extreme durability, the one we are coming up on the 18th anniversary of the event that led to my discovering it. Well, it comes with the side effect of making the person highly susceptible to stone formation, like kidney and gallstones. In my case I literally make rock inside my body as there were calcite crystals forming along the bone scar lines and on the implant that held my leg together, calcite being a mineral mostly made of calcium.

To prevent the formation of kidney stones I need to drink lots of fluids, more than the 8 glasses of water Oprah said to drink. Not a problem most of the time, except that I’m about to be 61 in a month, and I have a bladder of the same age. Or as I put it to Mrs. the Poet, “I stood up, now I have to pee.” I literally can’t get too far from a bathroom, because I have to urinate several times a day, or risk getting huge kidney stones. I pass a few during the year already but they are small and don’t notice unless they make a noise when they hit the side of the toilet. It might also be another aspect of my high pain threshold. I don’t know they are there so I don’t notice any pain. but I do notice having to use the bathroom several times a day and a couple times a night.

And that pretty much covers everything I need to say today except Harley-Davidson is going all the way back to their roots and building power-assist bicycles again, only this time with electric motors instead of gas ICE.

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It’s coming up on the least wonderful time of the year

Yeah, that time of year again. I do the Monty Python sketch montage (I’m not dead yet/I got better), drink to the dude who killed me and himself inside a year, drink to the people who didn’t come back from the dead, do a quick check to see if any scars have faded away completely, and a final toast to fuck you immortality without invulnerability.

That’s coming in 9 days, while Mrs. the Poet is back in NY celebrating our niece’s 2nd wedding to the 3rd father of her kids. Nice kid, not a good judge of character, we hope she’s got this one right. Funny thing, of all our extended families between all of the brothers, sisters, and cousins, Mrs. the Poet and I are the only ones still working on a first marriage, and everybody thought ours was the worst marriage because I proposed to the eventual Mrs. the Poet while she was recovering in hospital from delivering our son at home by herself. That’s right I married a true badass woman, because for the third kid she did it again.

But as much as I would like to say that I got up and punched the lights out of the guy who tried to murder me, 1) he wasn’t there to punch, 2) I was blind because of all the flipping and tumbling on all 3 axis I did, and 3) I had one leg that was just barely hanging on and also bleeding profusely and broken in multiple places. So the most badass thing I did that night was to ask if anyone got the number of the truck, because it was too late at night to be a bus. Oh and explaining monkey butt to the EMT who cut off my bike shorts and discovered I wasn’t wearing underwear. That’s badass I guess. Or not having monkey butt is goodass badass. I’m rambling now, sorry.

So anywho, party at Casa de El Poeta 8/31 1800. Chips, dip, and Shiner, RSVP so I know how much dip I need to buy.

OK Finished the Archive Crawl of QC

I finished the archive crawl of Questionable Content last night early early this morning and saw patterns in his creative processes, but I really didn’t help my problem. I did see an ongoing art evolution that gradually became more of a character evolution, but aside from taking my mind off the subject enough that I am able to post this about my observations I didn’t find anything that would break my creative block, at least as far as writing is concerned. Now for the Sprint-T and the Mini Sprint-T I have found a few things to move that design along, but only in details. So far the major parts of the build are pretty much set in stone, but there are a ton of details that have to be resolved before the design can move forward as the tiny details cascade backwards into major changes in other parts of the build.

One of those tiny details is the steering arm location and orientation on the spindle. There are two locations and two orientations that result in 4 different locations for the drag link connecting the pitman arm on the steering box to the steering arm on the spindle. This cascades into different locations for the steering box because the drag link needs to be pretty level, or close to it if other things get in the way, which basically means there are 3 different places I need to put the steering box depending on how I mount the steering arm on the spindles. That’s because there are 2 combinations of mounting position and orientation that put the drag link in pretty much the same place.

Actually there’s no real technical reason for making the drag link level. The drag link and the panhard rod or lateral link (same device, different names) need to be parallel to prevent bump steer, and ideally the lateral link should be roughly level with the ground to prevent excessive side-to-side motion which would change the way the car turned depending on ride height. In the end it just makes things slightly easier to finagle to have the lateral link level at design ride height, and as stated earlier having the drag link parallel to the lateral link prevents bump steer and other steering maladies.

Another tiny detail is mounting the alternator, and I think I have that one nailed down. The only belt-driven device on the engine will be the alternator as the power steering will be electric, so no power steering pump, no AC so no AC compressor, and the water pump will be electric to reduce total drag on the engine and also improve cooling efficiency by driving the pump at the speed for best cooling regardless of the engine speed. That only leaves the alternator that needs to be driven by the engine directly. As I pointed out a while back there are 3 bosses on the passenger side of the block that are designed to have a bracket for an engine driven device bolted to them, the bracket for the AC compressor specifically, but there is no reason why that device can’t be the alternator instead. What I was thinking is a plate that bolted to the side of the block and another plate that gets welded to that plate that the alternator bolted to with one bolt hole being the arced slot that the bolt that adjusts the tension of the belt slides through. That front plate can be just bent from the side plate to avoid a welded joint, but that’s more of a “what can I do with the materials and tools I have?” than the other kind of design question. Obviously both bolts that go to the alternator would have to be on the same plane or pretty close (talking washer thickness differences more or less) which means I need to do a little bit of measuring when I go to the parts store to pick out an alternator, but for the Mini Sprint-T I just pull one from the parts box and bend a bracket from sheet plastic to glue to the block and alternator to hold it. I just have to line up the crank pulley and the alternator pulley until the glue dries, then run a simulated belt around the pulleys.

And there is a valid reason the alternator goes to the passenger side of the engine that goes back to mounting the steering box on the driver’s side of the frame and leaving room for the box and the steering shaft. If you thought Tetris was fun wait until you have to package the front end of a hot rod. At least when I have to shave material off the model to make things fit a hundredth of an inch on the model is a quarter of an inch on the full size car, or what’s basically molding flash on the model is major structure on the real car. And the engine and transmission is going to be offset to the right to counterbalance my weight to the left, another design decision made a long time ago. I have to find good weights for the engine and transmission.

I have a weight from a GM technical publication of 255 pounds full of fluids for the transmission, and a weight from a GM parts catalog of 614 pounds for the fully-dressed version of the motor I will probably get from the junkyard but nothing accurate for the junk I will be pulling off. Anyway I can assume about ~50 pounds for AC and power steering and assorted junk brackets so 565 for the engine and 255 for the transmission and 30 for the full of fluids torque converter adds up to 850 (!) pounds for everything on the right side of the car, balanced by my 210 way further from the center on the left. Doing the math my moment is 210 pounds times my arm of 11.25″ or 2362.5 Pound inches of moment and dividing that moment by the 850 pound engine gives a 2.78″ moment to balance or 2.8″ to take the driveshaft into account. That works out to 0.112″ on the Mini Sprint-T which is enough to be noticed on the model. The inside to inside on the Sprint-T cowl is 26″ and the bellhousing on the back of the engine or front of the transmission is 19″ outside to outside and moving the engine 2.8″ to the right gives me 0.7″ clearance on the right side of the engine if I use a mini starter instead of the honking huge OEM starter that actually sticks out from the side of the engine, getting back to the subject of Tetrissing the engine compartment. And I know I did this calculation for an SBC a while back, but I didn’t feel like going through the archive to find it because I just finished diving the QC archive in the way early hours of this morning and diving a comic archive is much quicker than looking for specific words in a blog archive.

And it’s getting late because I have been watching YouTube videos between paragraphs and I have almost 1200 words according to the editing program that comes with WordPress. So this seems like a good place to wrap this and post.

I can’t make anything for a while so I have been crawling a webcomic archive

Seriously, I’m creatively blocked for the moment so I figured why not research someone else’s creativity? The webcomic in question is Questionable Content. He has been publishing for over 15 years and more than 4000 comics, so an archive crawl is a prodigious undertaking. I have been at it for a couple of days now and I’m only up to 1995 and the current comic is 4069. Also it’s a good chance to see art and writing evolution in action without cringing through my archives. Seriously, my attempts at viewpoint journalism ranged from awful to terrible, with flashes of brilliance. It was those flashes that both kept me going and eventually made me give it up, along with the nightmares and flashbacks caused by the links I had to read before I put them in the blog. I didn’t write much about it at the time, but after a while doing the blog was a serious impediment to my mental stability. Like depression and flashbacks and PTSD triggers impediment, but I was getting so much positive feedback about how this blog was helping I felt like that I couldn’t quit doing it, until I had to quit doing it. Seriously when you go to a regional planning meeting and your blog is mentioned in the presentation, it’s like a huge “Like” thumbs up ego stroke that you’re doing something right, even though doing the right thing for other people is the wrong thing for you.

Anyway one of the things that has been blocking my creativity is I have to make some of my tools and fixtures, and I have been trying to wrap my head around doing that, specifically how to get the outside-to-outside distance between two bending posts within a few thousandths of an inch tolerance when I can’t even mark the stock for the tool to that tolerance. Sure I can CAD two holes where the holes need to be, but going from a picture on my laptop to holes drilled in a piece of wood with stainless steel bolts screwed into them is another thing entirely. It’s not like I can just put the raw stock into a computer controlled milling machine and get perfectly spaced bending posts like some people can. I found the board sitting on the curb on trash day and the posts are some bolts that happen to be the same size as the tube bending die except in 1/25th scale and cost less than a buck for everything. I’m the cheap guy, not the rich guy. Hold on a second, let me open another tab and check my Lotto numbers, I might be A rich guy (I’ll never be THE rich guy). I mean I always get the annuity so I’ll never be actually rich unless I hit one of those billion dollar jackpots that have annual payments larger than the jackpot for the Texas Lotto.

OK I’m back and I’m not rich, I basically had a draw. There is a thing with the Texas Lotto called Extra that gets you more money if you don’t win the jackpot, and because I spent the money for Extra I essentially got a Free Play or a “push”. I got my money back and that’s it. So I will use the money to buy another Lotto ticket for Saturday’s drawing, because “You can’t win if you don’t play.” And at this point I won’t be financially secure if I don’t win. I’m OK right now, it’s not like we are looking at living off beans and rice until we die, but if we get another bout of inflation like we got back in Nixon’s first term, even with social security things are looking grim around Casa de El Poeta.

Just dropping this in because it was brought up in a QC comic, but I’m 1,921,741,954 seconds old as of the composing of this post. Almost 2 trillion seconds, wow. And that seems like a pretty good place to end this.

I really need to be doing something

Seriously, something, anything, that results in some physical object I can show as a result of my labors. I’m getting close to having the bits and pieces to make the Mini Sprint-T, but I need to know where a few more things go on the real thing before I can make the model. And I realize that one of the purposes of building the Mini is to help in visualizing where $#!+ goes on the full size version, but I still have to have a clue about what I’m doing with that before I can make a scale version. I have the LS engine, albeit the LS7 instead of the LM7 that I will probably be using but in 1/25 scale the only visible difference would be the intake manifold.
This is the 5.3 engine

And this is the LS7 engine.
This is the Corvette engine in crate motor form

And in that picture of the crate LS7 you can see where I’m going to hang the bracket for the alternator, off the three threaded holes right in front of the engine mounting bracket. Still don’t know where I’m going to put the tension bracket, but there’s still time for that. But it is also easy to see that the truck engine in the top picture has a much taller intake than the 7 liter Corvette crate engine in the bottom picture. This gives the two engines comparable low-RPM torque below 4000 RPM in spite of the displacement difference as this is the RPM range the truck engine is designed and tuned for while the Corvette engine is intended to make its rated 505 HP around 6000 RPM. So, really for the application I’m building for the truck engine with the tiny turbochargers I linked to a few posts back is superior to the sports car engine with 1.7 liters more displacement in having more power where I need it. And it’s $14000 cheaper than the sports car engine, WOO! More power where I need power, and cheaper to boot, screw you expensive prestige engine. Also the as-installed truck engine is going to be pretty much stripped down as much as the bottom picture with the alternator hanging off the passenger side of the engine and some kind of electric water pump and that’s it.

But since they don’t make resin replicas of truck engines and they do make replicas of the Corvette engine, for the purposes of the Mini Sprint-T I’ll make do with the Corvette engine, and throw a cover over the intake manifold that will simulate the extra height of the truck manifold. Sorry for thinking out loud through the keyboard again, but sometimes it helps to put my thoughts into a tangible form.

I need to find a sponsor and a fab shop

Seriously, can you imagine what this blog would look like if I had the funds and facilities to make everything that popped out of my fevered imagination. Think an amalgam of The Hacksmith, Cleetus McFarland, and Mythbusters, on crack with a side order of Battlebots, and I can’t even think of an analogy for the human powered monstrosities. Speaking of which I was contemplating a pedal powered cell phone charger using readily available parts using an old kid’s bike I have in the garage, a stool, a alternator, a 12V SLA battery out of a lawnmower, and a cigarette lighter plug USB outlet. You would have to supply your own charge cord, but if you had good cadence you could get your phone from zero to 85% in about 15 minutes. Cell phones have relatively tiny batteries and can stand charge rates of 5C up to 85% without damage. Seriously most of your charge time is spent packing that last 15% in without damaging the cell, because that’s where the Lithium cell starts building the heat. A healthy non-athlete can easy put out 150 watts for 15 minutes, back when I was riding every day I tested at 150 watts for an hour and was barely breathing hard by the end of the hour. That was the year I managed to finally finish the Hotter ‘n’ Hell Hundred without breaking the bike.

Anywho, back to the finding a sponsor for my madness, who do you think would be a good match? I’m thinking a pharmaceutical company on account of how many years I spent as a lab rat. Something along the lines of the old “Better living through chemistry” slogan DuPont used to have. Or maybe a casket maker, “Opus will never need our products, but you will eventually!” Or maybe an energy drink that wants to show how their product sharpens the mind. The possibilities are endless… as are the reasons to use somebody else as a spokesperson.

I just had a flash on the last one; “I was killed in 2001, if 20,000 Volt Energy Drink keeps me moving just think what it will do for you.” Yeah, I know morbid and silly. That’s actually a pretty good description for me personality wise. Anyway background of a recreation of the wreck scene with a CGI depiction of my body crushing the truck’s roof and flying through the air while the not-dead me extols the invigorating qualities of 20,000 Volt Energy. “The blend of caffeine, B-Complex vitamins, and amino acids combined with that fresh citrus taste really keep me going through those long creative sessions inventing usefully fun stuff. Sure beats chasing people down for their brains. And remember, when they scrape your broken body off the street, pop the top on a 20KV and say you’re not ready for a body bag yet.”

You think Monster Energy is ready for a new sub-brand yet?

I have other things to think about than the Sprint-T

I sometimes try to not think about the Sprint-T, and think about other things I want to make, like bicycles and furniture (I have a plan for a bed stand/storage thing to put a mattress on that has been rattling around my head for years ever since the last repair to the futon frame), but for some reason I always seem to keep coming back to race cars for SCCA Solo Racing A/MOD class. The rules are simple, minimum wheelbase of 72″, minimum tread of 42″ and minimum weight of 900 pounds with driver. A few safety rules to protect the driver in case of a rollover, and that about covers it. Oh and a maximum of 20 ft2 total wing surface and unlimited underbody downforce developers, bodywork covering tires optional, that kind of thing.

My design philosophy has been lots of tire and suspension built to keep it square to the road, lots of brakes and an engine that can motivate without adding too much weight. Usually I come up with motorcycle or go kart powered things that have all the weight in the center of the wheelbase and as close to the centerline of the car as possible, but the latest fantasy was an LS7 coupled to a shorty Powerglide mounted to the right of the chassis and the driver seat to the left just enough to balance left-to-right, and a chain coupled transfer case to get the power to the center of the chassis to line up to the input of the rear, and front, axles. That’s right AWD traction to get 505 HP to hook up on a sub 1000 pound car. Of course I’ll never have the funds or facility to build this mini-monster, but it’s fun to think about. Given that there is scant difference in weight between the various naturally-aspirated LS engines but huge differences in low-end torque it makes sense to go for the 7 liter big dog, and the shorty Powerglide is the lightest transmission capable of handling a standing start that will bolt to the LS family bellhousing pattern (which it shares with the venerable SBC first sold in 1955), and the possibility of 4 smoking tires when the loud pedal is used too enthusiastically were just too much for my fevered imagination to bypass, so I didn’t. Estimated weight is 900 pounds without driver making it weigh about 1100 with my lard ass in the driver’s seat, or about 2 pounds per HP on 93 octane pump gas. The number of cars with this power-to-weight that are intended to make right and left turns on the regular in competition can be enumerated on the fingers of one foot. I think there are a few sprint cars in the same ballpark, but they are literal grenades, and there were some F1 turbo cars back in the 3-liter formula days that might be in the same power range, but again those were literal bombs on wheels with 1499.9 cc turbocharged engines putting out about 900 HP in qualifying trim and good for maybe 3 laps at full chat and very little time at rated output before exposing the inner works to the world. And if you think I’m exaggerating look up some YouTube videos of late ’70s to mid ’80s F1 qualifying sessions especially the Renault powered cars. In comparison the LS7 is an anvil used as a paperweight

So anywho, you have insight on my fantasies of power and glory, enjoy!

Just in case you were feeling generous…

There’s something I need for the Sprint-T build, that might not still be there when I have access to that much money again. This was the oil pan I was thinking of making to get clearance for the bottom part of the front hoop under the engine. This looks like a 50 -60 hour fabrication job for me, vs $330 cost to buy and install. I would need to buy or make the oil pump pickup either way, so that’s a wash.

But seriously I need that oil pan for this build or I need to go dry sump, which is even more expensive because it requires external tanks and extra pumps, or a special crankshaft and front cover if the factory dry sump system is installed, which while better than the wet sump for hard cornering is inferior to the aftermarket, and almost impossible to find in junkyards (they only came on Corvettes and Corvette engines are bought before the vehicles even get to the junkyards).

Now I’m going to go watch the Michigan NASCAR Cup race. Y’all have a good one and remember that Hephaestus wants you to build something that improves somebody’s life. Even if it’s only one person, make that person’s life better.

NOTE I had to edit this after I hit post because I didn’t catch the typo of my deity’s name, now I need to beat on some iron or something in pennance.

I barely survived picking up dinner

Getting dinner last night was a struggle of epic proportions. I went to the local Whataburger to get the entre, and the rest came from the pantry. What made it a struggle for survival was the bus home went by before the sandwiches were finished and I didn’t have the stamina to wait 40 minutes in the heat.

Ah, yes, I need to update you on the weather yesterday afternoon. Hot and humid with bright sun. Dry bulb was 97°F, heat index was 104, and no wind to speak of, and Casa de El Poeta is 1.08 miles (1.74 km) from the Whataburger. Now there were lots of people making sure I was hydrated during the day, I was even given a free glass of ice water by the Whataburger before I left, but because I use one hand to walk with my cane, and needed the other to carry dinner I didn’t have any way to carry the water on the walk back to the house. I had to drink as much as I could chug and toss the rest.

So, there I was slogging along with Mrs. the Poet’s Mushroom Swiss burger and my Bacon Cheese Whataburger in a bag in one hand, and my cane in the other and the heat was just draining me of energy and fluids. Even with my glow-in-the-dark sun hat I still got plenty cooked. And it showed in my pace as tracked on the fitness app on my phone as my pace sagged from the 3 miles in an hour start to almost 2 (it sounds so much faster to say “almost 2 MPH” than less than 2 MPH) average. The app has a trend line that shows your speed at the point that you can tap to find out where you lost time on your workout, and I was pushing a 19:30/mile when I left the bus stop and about 33:10 at the end, averaging 30:10 for the trip, as I needed frequent stops to straighten out my back. Near the end (as in 6 houses from Casa de El Poeta) a nice lady did offer a ride, but by that time it just didn’t make any sense to go through the effort to get in and then back out of the car in just a few seconds later.

But anyway as this blog post shows I did survive to complain another day (HA!) and present my breathless prose about it to you.

What does it mean when you have dreams about fabricating car parts?

I mean besides the obvious that you want that particular car part something fierce. The junction where the discharge ducts from the turbochargers merge together and connect to the throttle body on the truck intake manifold is one of the most important fabrication projects of the Sprint-T, and if I don’t get it right it will both impair the performance and look really ugly and both are deadly sins for building a hot rod. And last night I had a particularly detailed dream of how to build it, down to where to cut the feed tubes and where to make the first tack welds to get the best looking transition from two pipes to a single inlet.

There are usually 3 iterations in building a hot rod, “making it work” is the schematic stage where the parts are assembled into a functional order. After that is the “making it work right” refines the rough edges off the first stage and reduces any inefficiencies in the design, followed by the “making it look good” stage. A seasoned fabricator or experienced designer can usually combine the last two stages into a single build. A freaking genius fabricator or designer can sometimes get through all three stages in his/her head and produce a perfect part/assembly right off the bat, but that’s usually the result of a lot of thinking and mulling over of possibilities that usually not possible before the first stage unless the project has no deadlines to meet.

Well this build is one of those kinds of builds, it can’t even start until there is an actual budget to buy parts with. And right now there basically is no budget, there’s “I have money now, I will buy what I can afford from my build list” parts being bought. Since I never know when I will have money I can’t take advantage of sales unless having money coincides with a sale, like it did for the suspension parts I bought the beginning of this month.

That’s why I have been resorting to Dream Aided Design for this particular assembly. First because of the relative sizes of the parts, the two 2.5″ (63.5 mm) outlets from the turbochargers that have to merge and feed clean-flowing (non-turbulent) air to the single 84 mm (3.3″) throttle body on the intake manifold, and second because this assembly will be front and center on the engine out there in front of Gawd and everybody to see. I’m even thinking of putting the blowoff valve on the underside of this assembly to hide it somewhat, unless the valve I happen to get is especially blingy and worth showing off a bit in which case it goes on top. Which means the final version of the connection between the turbos and the intake may only get built after the blowoff valve is bought. Or it might get rebuilt later if a nicer-looking valve is bought or otherwise obtained after the car is “finished”.

Portions of this build get changed because I see a new part or a part that is old but I never saw before, like the swing arm that is normally used in dirt race track cars to both locate the rear axle fore and aft and mount the coilover spring/shock assemblies that I’m using to do what it’s designed to do in the dirt racers because it means I don’t have to make two separate brackets to attach the springs and the radius rod to the rear axle. Well it changed again when I saw THIS! over at the Speedway Motors web site. Intended for use in building radius rods and track bars, I’m going to weld this particular one into the chassis and use it as a place to bolt things on to the frame, this one in particular is going to be for mounting the front end of the previously mentioned swing arm. I weld the bung to the point in space where it’s supposed to go and then triangulate additional frame members to make sure it stays at that point in space. And I just realized the previous sentence made it look like I was welding a part to the fabric of the universe and then cutting it loose after I welded some parts from it to the frame, instead of what I was thinking and welding it to the frame and then moving the rest of the universe to get the bung where I needed it to go. I will use other sizes to get other bits onto the frame, in particular the 4 ends of the 4-bar that restrain the front axle in 2 dimensions/freedoms of movement.

Last thing, while using the bathroom the phrase “Pain is weakness leaving the body” drifted past my consciousness, which by the way is a total bag of bullshit. Pain is the body telling you that “something is broken, please stop what you’re doing before irreversible damage sets in”, or in my case “You have damaged ligaments and tendons, make an appointment with an orthopedist ASAP” and “You should apologize to the driver of the car truck about his insurance rates going up”. That part was true for 3 of the five times I was hit, one didn’t do a whole lot of damage to either of us and the other just triggered a panic attack for me and caused his driver’s side mirror to fall off and break, with some confusion as to the order of events because I might have broken it before it fell off when he started crowding me into oncoming traffic while I was setting up for a left turn into the bank parking lot.