Mike Beversluis

Friday, March 31, 2006

Road signs (via John)

Italy is funny:

Which brings up a chicken and the egg koan for you: Which causes which? Roberto Benigni or Italy? Pass through that empty gate, and you will have achieved enlightenment.



Not really. Still, don't look straight at it.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Organic exposives

Green, organic explosives. Not what you think. Kinda.

Oblique References to my Life: Chapter "I'm a tool"

Inspired by my brother's suggestion for a vanity plate for his Taupe Camry:

I've been trying to come up with suitable plates for myself, which range from hopelessly nerdy:

to color references which go from bad to worse:

Note - blogger's whigging out on me. More to come later. Whether that's a theat or promise is your call.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

An oblique reference to events in my life

9.4? I totally agree. Or rather, I all-encompassingly agree.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Powers of Ten vs Coffee Grinders

If you like to drink coffee, you should use a high quality grinder. In fact, the grinder's more important than the coffee machine. Spend a lot or a little, but whatever grinder you buy, it should cost the same or more than your coffee machine.

Here is the Macap grinder, which gets Much REZPEC from the afficionados. And from people who like coffee too. It will run you around $400. It is enormously overbuilt, which besides having a certain old-school Mercedes feel, allows it's motor to run at a lower speed and still grind quickly. The maker claims that the lower speed also imparts less heat to the coffee, although I don't think this matters.

It is not built like a tank, but you're not going to drive it into Normandy either. Here are a series of logarithmic plots summarizing my experiences with the two grinders:

On the particle size distribution "plot" the Macap is the second series, and each plot is supposed to represent one click on the adjustment ring.

The Cuisinart does a really good imitation of a garbage disposal. They may be related. The Macap isn't whisper silent, but people will attempt to have conversations while it's on (even if you're turning it on while they speak on purpose).

Use the Cuisinart with a French press and you will make good coffee. Don't use it with an espresso machine (a real one, anyway - if you have a fake one, then feel free to use a fake grinder). Use the Macap for either. Note - a good part of the Macap's "value" is its social cachet. It has broadened my social horizons at work, which is pretty impressive if you know me.


Monday, March 20, 2006

[LMS] Coffee and cigarettes

Coffee and cigarettes, by Jim Jarmusch (USA 2003)

If one thinks he can withstand getting a little bored, this is a beautiful movie to see: a dozen or so sketches in each of which two or three characters gather around a table and talk among coffee (sometimes substituted by tea) and cigarettes.

The center of the movie are communication problems. People cannot find anything to say to each other, often because they do not share any interests; one can clearly perceive, in some of the sketches, the intense desire of the characters to limit the time they spend together and cut all the possible developments of their conversation.

This happens to me as well; sometimes a criterion used to establish the validity of a book or a movie is just this: see whether the situations that are described have happened in the lives of the readers or viewers.
In this case we should add one detail: situations as these, if they happen, could be considered as irrelevant because they are considered both "to be avoided" and "easy to avoid".

My personal judgment is that it is interesting seeing these things in the fiction of a movie.

Another small note is the following: in order to find something to say to each other, the characters recur to some synthesis of reality; not descriptions, but general considerations that sometimes include the expression of a judgment and in any case a complex activity of the mind that tends to get rid of details both for the difficulty of keeping them in focus and also to free up from a sense of discomfort that details sometimes can give (see for example the Tesla coil episode)

Ok, in case it comes your way, you can spend your time with this movie.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Real Life Simpson's

In between liste ning to wax cylinders on my Edison phonograph ("it's so pure it hurts") and recording daguerreotypes of the trees out back, I came across this viral of the Simpson's Intro Redux.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Knife storage (besides my back)

So my new apartment is an apartment, and hence has three drawers in the kitchen. Not a lot of space, and they are crap at that. At first, I was hmm... or possibly that... But $120? Diy? Or, just run down and pick up the $26 knock-off:Here's the deal - it's a wood box filled with plastic noodles. You shove a knife in, and it stays in place. The insert is removable and can be tossed in a dishwasher. Why it would get dirty, I'm not quite sure. Anyway, highly recomended.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It vs EU

It turns out they're different. But the North isn't the South and other equally profound statements too.

Gravity isn't really slowing him down.

R8 hillclimb.

Microsoft iPod Packaging

Sunday, March 12, 2006

IQ test

The real IQ test is whether you have any better to do than this...


Nifty (use your illusion for real)


Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Brick Testament

Auto vs Semi-Auto

There been an interesting back and forth about non-manual transmissions over at The Truth About Cars. Says Robert Farrago:

The day F1 racing cars switched to paddle shift control, the clutch pedal was doomed. Only the paddle system's violence kept the left pedal from a date with old Sparky. Ferrari’s ground-breaking attempts at a passenger paddler were representative rubbish; the clunky F1 system transformed the sublime F355 into a herky-jerky one-track pony. Other early systems were equally obtrusive, equally foul. At the same time, style conscious high-end manufacturers added wheel-mounted button shifts and gate activated “tip shifts.” Although the technology simply handed customers slushbox control, computers eventually transformed the systems into a reasonably convincing halfway house between mindless ease and endless excitement.

Aston's Vanquish got closer to the real deal. If drivers tapped its over-sized plus paddle at the exact right rpm, the V12 GT rewarded them with a perfectly timed gear change. If not, not. Other systems followed: Ferrari, Maserati, BMW, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, even Toyota (MR2 Spyder). All of these paddle shifters downshift magnificently-- even blipping the throttle on your behalf-- but they either slur their upchanges like a drunk handing you a cigarette or smack you in the back of the head like a sadistic schoolteacher. And that’s without considering the challenges of around town ambling or, God forbid, reverse (a non-issue for F1, obviously).

And then BorgWarner and Volkswagen AG developed DSG. The direct shift gearbox (DSG) features two wet plate clutches: one engages the odd-numbered gears, the second the even-numbered gears. When the first clutch is putting down the power, a computer readies the second clutch to engage the next gear (pre-selected according to engine revs and speed). When the driver bangs the paddle for another gear or the automatic calls for another cog, the first clutch is released and the second engages. Gear shifts are fast, smooth and accurate; both up and down the ratios. The DSG’s computer-- complete with 12 sensors-- stands guard against “inappropriate” gear selection; an over-twitchy paddle shifter can’t stall or blow up the engine.

Not so fast my friend, Bob Elton replies:
Automotive pundits in these parts have lauded the new Audi DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) as if it was the Second Coming of Dr. Ferry Porsche himself. In reality, the “dual clutch” design has long been discredited amongst most modern automobile engineers. Don’t get me wrong. BorgWarner and The Volkswagen Group have created a truly impressive version of a 50-year-old concept. But the dual clutch transmission is still nothing more than a wonderful toy, a mechanically elaborate dead end.

Paddle shifters-- and all the other excuses for avoiding a true automatic transmission-- remain a simple matter of stirring gears around in a box, like cars did nearly a century ago. The only difference between DSG and ye olde stick shift is how the gears are stirred. Hudson, Cord, Reo and others tried to make a manual gearbox shift by itself. None of these ideas were successful because the basic gearbox just didn't lend itself to the task. In fact, Audi's DSG traces its roots to the 60-year-old Chrysler transmission: the M-6. Chrysler developed the concept of overrunning gears, and almost made it work.


Again, it’s this 50-year-old overrunning gear principle that allows the Audi transmission to work as well as it does. Given the level of engineering ability at The Volkswagen Group, why didn't they apply it to the development of a truely modern automatic transmission? Ideally, an improved automatic transmission would keep the engine close to an ideal rpm range for the speed, load and performance of the car. It would accomplish this task with as little lost power as possible and not interfere with the driver's ability to drive. At the risk of reigniting the flame campaign against automatics, the world’s best paddle shift system is still a distraction, asking drivers to worry about gear selection when monitoring direction, traffic, available grip and speed should be their paramount priority.

He doesn't quite say it, but I think Mr. Elton would advocate CVT's. These transmissions make the most sense on paper, as you simply run the engine at it's peak power/peak efficiency speed, and adjust the tranmission's gear ratio to match the wheel speed. Removed from the need to rev, you would optimize the engine's power band, resulting in a strongly peaked output. Normally, this would be horrible to drive, but if your transmission can bridge that gap, that's how you should do it.

The problem with this, I think, is the feel. The engine speed won't change (much) when your driving, which will sound and feel weird. The car's response will heavily depend on how the transmission is programmed to respond to your inputs, which will likely be unsatisfactorialy.

Essentially, I think people want a transmission that works like Gran Tourismo 4, where you can blip up and down at will. I think this is the look and feel that Farrago likes about the VW system. But I suspect this is a result of programming and fine tuning, and not the mechanical design of the transmission. Personally, I think a CVT with a combination of a hybrid motor - electric motors for the low rpm's (electric motors make maximum torque at 0 rpm), gas for the high speed (especially with efficient high-boost turbocharging), switching over where their torque curves cross - would be ideal. You could make a AWD car with separated drivetrains - FWD gas, RWD electric, which could greatly simplify the drive train for that too.

I've only driven sticks my whole life. At the moment, I'm looking into a new car, and the prevalence of automatic transmissions on the lots makes negotiating on a manual transmission a little hard. Currently, my commute does not involve stop-and-go traffic, and the terrain around here is pannekoeken flat. But if I had to drive out of downtown Seattle and go North on I5 at 5 O'Clock each day, I'd get the automatic right away, even with a high-reving Acura four-banger. But I don't, so it's still an open question.