So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

February 17, 2010

Welcome to 2010

Filed under: blogging,car,grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 2:42 pm

It has been a while since I’ve written a post. I sometimes visit my own blog in a vain attempt to trick coerce or otherwise tempt myself into writing something new. But here I am today. I’m not sure there is a point to this other than to mark that once again I’ve reached a time where I have to make decisions about my life. Decisions that for better or worse will have impact that I will feel for a long time to come.

I’ve been in a relationship for about a year now. It’s had its ups and downs and a couple hiatuses. Now though, I’m not sure whether it can continue. However, this could be because I’m feeling stress in other areas of my life. I’ve started working on a research project and have been unpaid for the past two months. Running broke with my car breaking down and requiring repair, behind on bills, work, and projects, my outlook is no longer as optimistic as it usually is.

When this happens, my patience for other things wear thin and suddenly things that may bother my slightly become problems. I start to wonder if this relationship is ok for me because it always sours when I’m under a lot of stress. I guess I feel like I carry the weight of supporting both of us and while I honestly don’t mind am happy to do so under normal circumstances, there are times, this is the time that I want the roles to reverse and they can’t.

As I find myself approaching 26 years of age, I wonder just how much of my life I’ve wasted. Could I have accomplished more? Probably. No, definitely. If I worked harder 6 years ago, I could have started the grad school process 2 years earlier. I could be right now at this moment putting the finishing touches on a dissertation or even be done and starting work somewhere as Dr. Kamakula. I could be in a stable relationship with good credit and buying a house.

But I’m not. And I look to my future and only see things getting worse. I have a year left and only a vague outline of the research and work between here and graduation. I will need to spend 40-60 hours a week working, reading, studying, testing. I will also want to spend time fixing my car, building my robots, and working on side projects. Between school, work, hobbies, and friends, do I really have time for someone else?

A couple days ago I was asked to list the qualities in my ideal girlfriend. At the time, I thought to myself, that is not possible, that people are different and I cannot expect to find one set of qualities in a person absent other idiosyncrasy that would bother me. But maybe I should make this list. I find myself daydreaming about going out, meeting someone who may for example say “I’m a physics major and work for X company” and asking her to solve some freshman physics problem and responding with “It was nice meeting you” if I don’t get the correct answer.

I’m sometimes often accused of being cold and emotionless. Uncaring and not willing to sacrifice anything for a relationship. Does this mean that I’m not truly invested. If I were an outside observer, would I draw different conclusions than the ones in my head? What does it mean that the same charges are leveled at me over and over again? The cynic in me says there is only one answer – you do not learn, you do not change.

There are times when I wish for a guidebook to life, even though I know, like just about any other source of advice that has been volunteered to me, I will read, listen, then follow my own lead anyway. I think this is just a search for validation. I don’t need guidance, I just want an authority that tells me my decisions are always the right ones.

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August 12, 2008

The run your car on water hoax

Filed under: car,kamakula,rant — kamakula @ 11:53 pm
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I know I should not get worked up over this and mostly I don’t. However, every once in a while, I happen to stumble across an ad for some website that is bilking people out of their money or see some article somewhere and for some reason, it just raises my ire.

I suppose I have an above average understanding of chemistry and physics, but I’m really disappointed that the US education system is not apparently good enough that most people can see this for what it is. Unlike other scams which prey on your emotions, greed, and naivety, this one specifically targets your logic!

First, they attempt to convince you that there is some special “brown’s gas” aka HHO that is somehow different from H2O that is produced. Second, they attempt to argue that you can get MORE energy out of turning H2O into HHO than you waste in breaking it!! However, that is a pretty hard pill to swallow even with the (apparently) crappy education system that we have, so they attempt to tie in all sorts of anecdotal “evidence” and phenomena to show that it would work.

Some places claim to use sonic vibrations at the resonant frequency of H2O bonds to break them at very low energy. Why they say it works. . . uh because opera singers have been known to shatter glass with their voice. Umm. . . first – they shattered very special glasses – wine glasses whose composition differs from other run of the mill drinking ones. Also, the wine glasses used typically have a minute imperfection, not on the order of VVS in diamonds (ie, you could probably see the imperfection without needed 10x magnification), but something that if you held up the glass to show someone in front of you or over a tv camera, nobody would really notice.

And that’s just the beginning. Then, they claim results which are never EVER scientifically substantiated or are even reproducible. In EVERY SINGLE test ever conducted (under legal duress – ie, someone got sued for selling a fake product), somehow, it always failed. Of course, the whole industry operates under a huge conspiracy umbrella, that big oil, congress, your grandmother, and little Timmy down the street are all out to get them and foil everything they do.

Then, there are the testimonials where people claim to have improved their gas mileage by <= 10mpg. Hmm, that is NOT hard to do at all. Proper tire inflation, engine tune ups, all sorts of things which are probably happening behind the scenes. The biggest one is playing around with the oxygen and Mass Air Flow sensors on the car. Again, perhaps I have above average knowledge of how modern engines work, but it doesn’t require a genius to understand that if I screw with how much air the engine thinks it is getting, it will inject less fuel.

So, in the short term, you get better gas mileage. Long term, you’d probably need to replace your engine at some point due to the damage it’s accumulating. . . then I suppose you’d have to see if the $$ you saved compares to the cost of replacing the engine. . .or car.

Of course, each and every one of those systems violates a fundamental rule of thermodynamics – namely that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. They do it in numerous ways, but the easiest one to demonstrate (textually) is the claim that the water (fuel in this hoax) gets converted BACK TO WATER when done. So, you’re telling me that the fuel I burn to run my car. . . get’s returned to me.

Nobody expects the gasoline that is burned in the engine to come back out. That is plain foolishness. People almost understand why that doesn’t happen. So, why do you believe someone when they tell you that the water that powers this system gets recirculated back?

And seriously people, name ONE product EVER mass marketed and used that the science of the day unanimously said was impossible. ONE!

July 30, 2008

Ahh, Finally a relaxing week

Filed under: car,grad school,kamakula,pittsburgh,writing — kamakula @ 12:39 am
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Despite the fact that it is 12:30AM and I’m at work (I took a few hours off between 10 and 12 to goto my Tuesday night hangout – the Shadow Lounge), this is still a pretty relaxed week. Yes, there is some work to be done on my car, but nothing approaching the amount or intensity of any weekend in the previous two months.

I can now actually get out again and do stuff. . . or go places and not do stuff if I so desire. Perhaps it was the alcohol, or perhaps it was the affirmation, but I feel really good right now. Let me explain:

Tuesday nights at Shadow Lounge is open-mic night. I’ve gone up a couple times to share things and this week, during the break, I made an effort to go and chat with a couple people (after first talking with the chick who seemed to be eyeing me when I first came in). Anyway, someone told me that they liked my presentation from last week.

I was floored because frankly I feel that most people who come up are on a much different level than I. Even with that in the back of my head, I still felt good hearing that. Hopefully, this keeps up through next week when I’ll do a more or less finalized version of this.

Tonight, I also again put the car through some paces. . . whew, I’m falling in love all over again! This is a good thing. I already know that events such as accidents or major failure tends to alienate people from their cars and they usually end up selling it once it’s fixed. I’m glad that I still have the same enthusiasm for it. One thing that helps is that the car is, as my cousin put it on Saturday, “timeless”. I just love the look and can see myself with it for a long time. Having 50 more HP doesn’t hurt either 🙂

I’ve always felt that I could do well enough without having others to validate me. Certainly, that is a trait necessary for survival in a small company or research lab. But validation definitely has its good sides. Even though I’ve got a minimum of three more hours of work before I leave to catch some Zzzs, I feel really hyped to get my work done.

I think this is how I envisioned my entire summer experience. I’d work reasonable hours and be relaxed enough to enjoy it, even when doing boring things. Now, my goal is to attempt to replicate this zen-like feeling during the school year. I talked with a TLH friend online this evening and he mentioned leaving to go play volleyball. I definitely reminded me of the big sports void in my life. I’d love to get back into a volleyball and/or soccer league. That will definitely be on my calendar this fall semester!

July 21, 2008

It’s Alive!!

Filed under: car,kamakula — kamakula @ 11:43 pm
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After a month and a half of spending whole weekends fixing my car, not to mention week days working full time while attempt to track down parts and negotiate good prices, the car finally runs!

There are still some issues:

  • Need an auxiliary fan to keep the engine from overheating in slow city traffic.
  • Need to figure out how to fix the driver’s side window
  • Need to get the ABS working
  • Exhaust work needs to be done (this week).
  • Buy and install AC compressor
  • Swap suspension for stock 6cyl stuff
  • Clean up car.

Aside from that, it runs pretty well. The extra 50hp shows up everywhere. It’s very noticeable in the low and high range. 1st and 2nd gear barely exist the car goes through them so fast and it’s a lot more torquey in 5th. 3rd and 4th feel the same, though the car is likely a lot faster there as well.

The good news is that now my weekends are back to being rest and relax. . . I suppose installing AC compressors is relaxing compared to my previous weekends 🙂 But having this done makes a big difference. I can focus more at work and spend less hours there since I won’t be distracted with looking up stuff for the car. This will also free up my week nights for relaxing as well. Rather than the work/sleep/repeat grind.

The other good thing about having my wheels running is that I can now go out again. That part of my life has been on hold for the past month and a half as well. I wonder if the haitus has been good for me. I’ve certainly started thinking that I want to explore other places than just the SouthSide. I feel like I’ve hit saturation on the demographic of people I’m going to meet there. I need someplace with different kinds of people.

It’ll take some time. One reason I’ve stuck with the SouthSide is Tiki Lounge. There was something about that place that attracted me and is very comfortable for me. I’m pretty much a regular there, friends with the bartenders, waved in by the bouncers, etc. Even acquaintances of mine seem to know that the Tiki Lounge is “my spot”.

Still, I’m tired. Time to sleep tonight. Will need to spend several hours tomorrow cleaning the apartment and car.

July 2, 2008

Alert! Alert! Burnout Emminent

Filed under: car,kamakula — kamakula @ 11:15 pm
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It was no accident or laziness that made me decide as early as January that this summer was supposed to be a summer to chillax. By that, I mean not working more than 30 hours a week, spending several hours a day on my couch or in Schenley park reading (a fiction) book. Perhaps a couple hours on the odd weekend working on some issue related to my car.

So, now that I find myself spending most of my weekends fixing my car and pushing 40-60 hour work weeks (I only bill 40 because I spend time during the day thinking/planning/buying/etc related to fixing my car).

I’d planned to drive to DC to visit family for the July 4th weekend. However, due to several issues – the most annoying one being that it’s almost been a month and the guy I bought the motor from has sent me everything except one module. I can get the car running w/o it, however, having it saves me ~$150 which is plenty of money in my current state.

So, I’ve spent all of today (and a couple hours after writing this) working on the car. After this point, it should be 6-8 hours away from starting and running (assuming I either get that EWS module or take it to a dealership for realignment).

However, today, even though I worked with my usual. . .uh. . .tenacity? Bah, I’m too tired to think of the word I want – I started to get to the point where fixing the car became a chore. Work has almost gotten to that point which signals to me that I’m approaching the burnout point. I hope this weekend will be enough to recharge my batteries.

Even though I know I’ll be extremely excited and happy once this is done, I no longer feel the joy of getting more work done and this bothers me a lot. I still find work to be interesting and fun. Hopefully that continues until I’m done with the car and can start to catch up on cool down periods.

June 19, 2008

I feel good and bad at the same time

Filed under: car,grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 12:55 am
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Good because things seem to be moving pretty well with fixing the car. Bad because I feel I’ve not been giving my work as much of my attention and time as I should because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and working on finalizing details such as tracking down parts, figuring out what things need to be done, etc.

So, I’ve got everything ordered up minus some miscellaneous bolts which I can pick up anywhere, an engine hoist that I’m buying on Friday, and the wheels I want to put on my car – the seller is dragging his feet. Nate volunteered to come this weekend so I’ll have help. The good news, likely things will move a bit faster. The bad news, I can only afford to pay for a hotel room for one night this weekend. So, we’ll have to make the best of the time we’ll be there.

We should arrive Friday afternoon, pickup the hoist (and hopefully my engine), finish disconnecting the existing engine stuff, remove the engine and transmission, then hopefully swap the transmission to the new engine after installing my new clutch and flywheel, then get the new assembly into the car and bolted down.

After that, get some sleep, then the next day, connect up everything to the engine and transmission, perform fluid flushes, and attempt to start the engine. If the engine starts and idles ok, we can do some miscellaneous things like fixing the bumper, headlights, foglights, then putting those back on the car.

After cleaning up, we can head back to Pittsburgh. The following weekend, he can drop me off Friday afternoon. I’ll complete reassembly of the front end, install the new brakes and exhaust, swap the rear end suspension components and install (hopefully) my new wheels. Do a final cleanup of the garage and drive home after returning the keys on Saturday.

This is good because it builds in two full days to catchup on work if necessary.

June 16, 2008

Weekend Warrior

Filed under: car,kamakula — kamakula @ 1:05 am
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So, this was the first weekend working on the car prepping it for the new engine. While I learned a lot, I definitely accomplished little of my goals for this weekend. Additionally, the costs of this swap keep adding up. At some point, I’m going to have to make a final reckoning.

Part of the problem of comparing a swap to other upgrades (like a supercharger) is that a swap necessitates things like upgrade front brakes, new exhaust system, perhaps a new (and stronger clutch), complete fluid drains, flushes, and fills, etc.

So, there is a lot of work and cost that goes into it that normally would be spread over a much wider period of time (for those of us who are monetarily challenged). So part of the reckoning, at least for comparison to those who say a supercharger is cheaper is identifying what components are the bare minimum for a swap.

Then, I can price those for comparison.

June 12, 2008

I’m Still a Poor Grad Student

Filed under: car,grad school,kamakula — kamakula @ 6:00 pm
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I was reminded of this today by someone on a blog I read when I attempted to make a job about putting in my 3 cents – that my thoughts were more expensive due to the rising gas costs.

Ah well. Today was one of those that we starving grad students live for. I got to attend a talk that I was pretty interested in followed by pizza and soda afterwards. Then a few hours later, the secretary for my research lab came by to inform us that there was food available (I guess some high level meeting people did not consume all the provided eatables).

I wonder if there is more to come today? Sadly, I’m still hungry. I’ll probably end up eating the stuff I brought for lunch anyway, meager as it is.

In other news (if you know me, the ONLY other news would be related to my car), I’ve found someone near Philly with EXACTLY the wheels I’ve been salivating over for the past few months. I may be able to get them for about what I want to spend too. I got a quote for shipping through greyhound ~ $85. Hmm. . . I believe I’ll be taking advantage of Greyhound’s cheap shipping more often.

I realized the other day that I needed a 6cylinder exhaust system for the swap. I found one, called the guy and tentatively made a deal, then realized that he likely has other parts that I need. Rather than scavenge things from several different sources, if he has all the stuff I need, I can likely get a better price since I’ll be buying a lot of stuff from him, thus paying a bit more, and he gets rid of stuff faster, etc.

To be honest, you’d make more money by selling things piece by piece, but most people when they get around to it always feel a need to get rid of the junk car in their yard as soon as possible. So when someone comes along that wants to buy a lot of stuff, they compromise on the total amount that they could have made.

So, brake upgrade, exhaust, engine (which I have), and a few other assorted (small) things are all I need for a complete (and drive safe) working swap. So far, I’m still on track to finish in the time I want. Of course, I’m making huge assumptions about how easy the engine stuff would go. I mean, I plan on putting in at least a full 20+ hours of work over the weekends.

A pro shop (with lifts, experience, and all needed parts) can do this in a day’s time. Assuming that’s two guys at 8 hours, that’s 16 man hours. I figure it should take me four times as long – 64 man hours which fits into doing three weekends at 20+ hours a week.

In any case, this weekend should be a yardstick that I can use to determine if I’ll be able to make my schedule.

June 9, 2008

Hate to Write and Run But. . .

Filed under: car,kamakula — kamakula @ 11:10 pm
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So, the unsecured linksys router in my neighborhood is now secured. This means I no longer have reliable internet access at home. It’s now 1100pm and I’ve got ten minutes before my bus arrives so I can go home. Why am I out so late, well, I started this 3 hour research thing at 630p and realized after it finished that I’d have to wait about 90 more minutes so I could catch the last bus going to my apt.

Good news though, the $30 I earned should pay for most of my food this week! This is awesome because I’m going to essentially be on starvation rations for the rest of this month since all my available cash will be diverted towards paying the next month’s rent and fixing my car.

Even better news, I bought a new engine. I’m going from a stock m44 with 143k miles to a m52tu28 with about 122k. Sure, it cost about $500 more than replacing with another m44 and will likely be a bit more work to swap in. However, the extra 50HP or 100ft-lb will be worth it.

I further justify this by reminding myself that I’d planned on doing this anyway. . . just a couple years from now (when my current engine would have been older with maybe 35k more miles and the incoming engine with about what I’m getting now).

Likely, I’m going to have to goto a dealership to have my existing eyes aligned to the EWS-II module for the new engine. I hope that they’ll do it without me having to bring them the actual complete car. That would be such a hassle. I’d have to likely use another AAA Plus emergency tow. Then hope the engine stuff was done well enough to start so I can drive it away from the dealership.

In any case, like all my car projects, I’m under a time limit. Must finish all work before the July 4th weekend. I suppose I’ll be telling my parent’s about this. But I’d feel a lot better about it if I was doing it from the stance of “yeah, I know, but I’ve already fixed the problem so I don’t want to hear any more about it”.

Engine ships Wednesday. So, this weekend will likely be spent fixing the window regulator, bumper cover, removing the transmission, and disconnecting and labeling all the engine parts. I’m so excited!

I suppose someone has cursed me with “may you live in interesting times”. Well, I’m glad for it. Whoops. . . I really gotta run now.

May 30, 2008

Cautiously Happy, Menancingly Optimistic

Filed under: car,grad school,kamakula,pittsburgh — kamakula @ 11:14 am
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Yesterday I met with the head of a research lab (and one of her top lieutenants) to discuss what I’d do with them over the summer. I got the feeling that she was trying to feel out whether I wanted to use this experience working in her lab as a jumping off point for my own PhD dissertation. I tried to express that my primary goal for the summer was to gain some experience doing research in a different environment, that it didn’t necessarily have to be within the exact domain where I will settle.

I don’t quite think I was successful. But whatever, I’ve got the “position”. So, starting Monday, I’ll be working with them. I also needed this for a couple other reasons:

  1. I need a paying job this summer, especially now that I need to fix my car.
  2. Working for a CMU research lab is pretty prestigious in the graduate student engineering/robotics circles. Will look great on my resume.
  3. I do really need to get a better feel for what counts as research. For example, would a lot of the work I’ve done before on other robot projects be examples of research work?
  4. I need people to write me recommendation letters in the fall. A CMU professor will carry a bit more weight, and this will provide recommenders who can discuss recent work that I’ve done.

I’ve discovered that I can have my car towed 100 miles with a AAA plus membership. That still leaves another 100 miles to go. Unfortunately, AAA does not allow piggy-backing of your tow privileges (up to 4 a year). I’m still thinking of taking them up on it and perhaps finding someplace closer to store the car.

Maybe someone on the forums lives within 100 miles of Angola and wouldn’t mind having my car left in front of their house until I could work out the next step in getting it to Pittsburgh. Getting the car back here on the cheap (like $200 vs $600) makes it more affordable for me to fix it myself.

The labor estimate to have it done by a shop in Angola was $875. So getting it down and doing it myself if I had to go the UHaul option would likely not save me anything (I’d be up to $800 after the tool rentals and other things) and still have to spend a couple whole weekends actually doing the work myself.

I’m glad that this is at least getting easier.

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