Lunch break auto mechanickery

It turns out that lunch breaks are a fantastic time to get some auto repair time in. I changed two of my spark-plugs yesterday before work, two on my lunch break yesterday and the final two on my lunch break today. It's perfect; there's nice, flat, well-lit tarmac in our parking lot and I've got an hour of free time. I don't need a garage as long as the weather is ok and most of the minor work I'm doing doesn't take even an hour, so why should I bother waiting for a weekend to have some time during the day to work on my car (I don't want to bother with getting lights to work at night). I still need to change my oil, but I'll probably end up doing that at home tomorrow because I don't really want to wait for the end of the weekend and I've finished replacing all my spark-plugs, so there won't be any more work to be done on my car right in the immediate future. Oh well, even if I don't need to do anything more, it's good to know that I've got a good place and time to do my mechanickery when I do need it.

Acetone: Conclusions

As of the most recent refill of my truck's gas tank, I am confident that I have enough data to draw some conclusions about the effect on fuel economy of using acetone as a fuel additive.

To recap, for anyone that might have forgotten or missed out, a number of months ago, I came across the suggestion on the internet that fuel economy could be improved by using a small quantity of acetone as a fuel additive. Since I wasn't terribly concerned about the risk of breaking my truck and desperately wanted a way to save some money on gasoline, I figured I might as well give it a shot. I started out by buying a gallon of pure acetone and adding a little bit by funnel every time I filled my gas tank (before the gas to encourage mixing). Initially I saw what might have been an improvement in fuel efficiency but I was relying on my memory and quickly saw my information as purely anecdotal. Understanding how useless anecdotal information is, I decided to approach the matter in a scientific and controlled manner. Now, 22 tanks of gas and nearly four months later I am ready to draw conclusions from my data.

I have found a near linear increase in fuel efficiency up to a peak increase of about 10% at a concentration of acetone of 0.2%. Further increases beyond 0.2% result in a very steep fall-off in fuel efficiency such that a concentration of 0.25% is less fuel efficient than no acetone at all. For those that don't want to think about concentrations, 0.2% acetone is almost exactly equal to 1/3 cup acetone for every 10 gallons of fuel.

Just to be political, or something like that, for a moment, if I can finagle a 10% increase in my fuel economy out of ¢10 worth of acetone, I am doing a huge service to my bank account and the environment (acetone doesn't pollute any more than gasoline). Now let's just take a moment to think about how much of an impact there would be on the environment if every single car in America improved its fuel efficiency by 10%; acknowledging that, why isn't there a government mandate on gasoline requiring it to contain 0.2% acetone (or thereabouts)? My guess would be because your monetary savings would come straight out of the oil companies pockets, but that's beside the point. I think everyone should start adding acetone to their fuel tanks, saving themselves some money, helping the environment and cutting back on our oil consumption. Hmm, maybe I'll write my senator.

I should like to add the caveat that these results are true for my truck and other vehicles may have slightly different acetone concentration sensitivities. If you decide to follow my lead and add acetone to your vehicles fuel tank, you should perform some experiments on your own to determine your vehicles efficiency peak concentration. You should use pure acetone (solvent from a hardware store), not the scented stuff you can buy at CVS. Also, if you do something stupid and blow up your car or something, it'll be your fault alone.

Snow instead of Savannah

Until just a little earlier today, I was scheduled to go on a business trip down to Savannah, GA but as a result of intercorporate politics between the customer I was going to be dealing with and another company, they've asked that we put things off a little bit. It's kind of unfortunate because I was looking forward to going to Georgia for a few days. Oh well, at least it's snowing here; maybe I'll go sledding later.

Sunset on Neptune

I've invented a new cocktail, which I've decided to call the Sunset on Neptune because it's blue, red and pretty. The drink looks different depending on what direction you look at it from and your lighting conditions, ranging from light blue, to deep violet, to dark red. In addition to its fantastic aesthetic qualities, the Sunset on Neptune is a very tasty and fairly alcoholic orange/grenadine flavored beverage. The ingredients are as follows and there are a few different ways to make it: (all quantities are approximate and should be varied to personal tastes)

  • 1 part Vodka
  • 1 part Blue Curacao
  • 2 parts orange juice soda (Polar Orange Dry, Orangina, or the like; not orange soda)
  • 1/2 part Grenadine

Take a glass full of ice (preferably large cubes) and pour in the vodka. Add the orange juice soda and stir. Add the Blue Curacao to the mixture; now if you stir, the mixture will be blue, but it you don't there will be a thin green/orange layer on top with a slightly different flavor. Now, slowly pour the Grenadine into the mixture; if you stir now, the drink will be purple but, if you don't stir, you will have a red layer at the bottom and a blue layer on top. If you decide not to stir the Curacao or Grenadine layers, you'll get a really neat red/violet/blue/green/orange/etc. thing going with a nice flavor gradient as well. Overall, I'm fantastically pleased with the concoction and would love to hear feedback from other people.

Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that the same thing can be done with orange juice instead of orange juice soda and I'm going to go ahead and coin that Neptune's Screwdriver.

Oh, and if you've got a better name, I'm not married to Sunset on Neptune.

Transformers: The Movie is teh suck?

Transformers: The Movie came up in conversation at work and one of my coworkers forwarded me a link to a rant about how much the movie sucks. I love that movie and I was expecting a stupid read that I would thoroughly disagree with, but instead I find myself agreeing with everything said. The rant is absolutely spot on in pointing out that Transformers: The Movie sucks and I find no fault in the diatribe; even so, I love the movie and am going to take passion over rational in this case.


Necessary Background: I fenced (the sport with pokey things) in high school, a whole lot. Good, now that that's out of the way, on to the post.

One of the guys at work is a member of the fencing club (Prise de Fer) that is run by my high school fencing coach and I noticed this when I saw him wearing one of the club jackets. This discovery on my part led to a brief (~1 minute) conversation. Then, today, Wayne, this particular co-worker of mine, relayed a message from my old coach that I should drop by CC (CCHS, my old high school) to, at the very least, say hi. I decided to go by and drag my old fencing gear along, just in case I felt like fencing. I ended up watching the latter portion of the meet and then heading over to Prise de Fer's club space, fencing for a while and hanging out for a little bit. Despite not having fenced in ~5 years, I'm not as out of practice as I expected but I am more out of shape than I expected. Anyway, it was an awful lot of fun fencing again, even though I suck now. I think that I've probably found a good way to stop regretting that I gave up fencing, ungiving it up.

Incidentally, I was pretty good back in the day. I was varsity three years in a row, captain my senior year and ranked as the 163rd best, under 21 foil fencer in the United States.

Acetone and the truck status update

It's been a while since I've mentioned my experiments adding acetone to my trucks fuel tank, so just to prevent you thinking I'd given up on the matter, here's an update. I've improved the algorithms I'm using in my Excel spreadsheet because I was bored, so now I compensate for remaining acetone as a result of refilling before the tank it empty, volume of acetone added and I get rather more informative analyses. Additionally, I've added a more data points, putting me at 17 tanks of fuel on the chart. Currently, data suggests a near linear economy increase for my truck of about 7% at 0.15% acetone concentration (1MPG at 1/3 cup acetone). This linear increase isn't showing any signs of leveling off, so I'm going to start pushing the concentration up in the next few tanks. I'll give you a better write up with more manageable units when I'm satisfied that I've found the acetone concentration of maximal economy for my truck. I expect that I'll probably repeat this experiment with my next vehicle, and every vehicle thereafter for that matter (as long as they still run on petrol).

Moosilauke: 1, George: a little less than 1

Before I get into the meat of this post, right now I'm eating a Beef Stick and sharp cheddar omelette and let me tell you, it's fantastic. I'm making this stuff for breakfast next time I go camping with the guys.

Anyway, yesterday, I decided I'd set out to climb one of the White Mountains today. Taking a hike struck me as a good way to spend some time and try out my new snowshoes (Xmas loot, kind of). I was looking through my list of good hikes that I want to take and I decided to try to get up Mount Moosilauke (there's debate between whether it's pronounced to rhyme with rock or rocky, but I prefer pronouncing it as though it ends in uh). The plan was to set out around 7a today, get to trailhead around 10a, reach summit before 5p, turn around, camp at sunset and finish up tomorrow. That I'm writing this now means I obviously didn't succeed.

The problems began when I pressed snooze until 6:40a, then I had to go get some food for my trip so I ended up with setting out at the equivalent of 8a which put me at the trailhead around 11a. 11a was still a pretty reasonable start time by my figuring but then between there being a whole bunch of snow, the trail up Moosilauke being really steep and me being plenty out of shape, I hiked woefully behind schedule. By 2:00p, I had made it up 2/3 of the elevation and 3/8 of the distance, which gave me 3 hours to make it the rest of the way and find shelter. Figuring I wouldn't make summit before sundown, I figured I'd turn around, so as to be able to sleep in a proper bed tonight. Also, it was really cold up there (definitely <20°F, maybe <10°F but certainly >0°F), which had me a little concerned that my 0°F sleeping bag might not cut it. So I took the safer approach and turned back.

Coming down, as is always the case, was mighty quick, taking under an hour to cover the previous three's distance. Seeing as there was a whole ton and a half of snow, going down was a mixture of glissading and ass sliding almost the whole way. Also, the steepness that had been a bother on the ascent made the descent fantastically keen. I almost wish I'd brought a sled with me, though that's probably the sort of bad idea that would have tossed me off a cliff.

In summation: I'm fat and slow; Moosilauke is really steep; I like my new snowshoes.

Afternote: The highlight of the hike was the wonderfully amusing sign on a privy by the shelters where I took lunch that read something very nearly, 'THERE IS NO "P" IN THIS RIVY USE THE WOODS'.