Tuesday, 17 September 2019


I love how much of the English language is transmitted through context and implication, rather than through the actual words. "Can drink" for example might mean "is at least eighteen years of age", "has finished a course of antibiotics", "isn't in charge of a motor vehicle" or "has a high tolerance for alcohol".

My mother says that her cat talks to her, but I'm pretty sure that all the information is got from context. The things that her cat has apparently told her are "I'm stuck up a tree" , "I'm hungry", "I'm on the wrong side of this closed door" and "wake up! It's breakfast time"

Richard "can't drink" B

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


I've just come back from a fantastic track day at Pembrey and there were two useful learning experiences.

I got straight out of a passenger ride in a racing car (GT5 spec Ginetta G40) and into a passenger ride in my own sports car. The difference between a racing car and a sports car becomes abundantly clear. Mine felt like a Rolls Royce with it's easy ingress/egress, comfortable seats, smooth ride, good ventilation, quiet engine and transmission, abundant leg room, gentle gear changes and sedate pace. Ordinarily it feels harsh, loud, cramped and fast.

My guest was an experienced driver, but new to my car and that circuit. At one time he seemed to have lost the ability to turn the car to the right. We went out, spun off a right hand corner, came back in, went out spun it on a different right hand corner came back in. I though he was being clumsy, he thought he had lost his touch. It took us a long time to realise that the problem was related to the oil spill that I had driven though on the previous session. Our left rear tyre (only) was contaminated even though we could see no indication of it. It took a long time to get it warm and scrubbed in again.

Richard "clown car" B

Wednesday, 4 September 2019


At the weekend I serviced a Renault Clio 197 and I made a terrible mistake. I put a drip tray under it, undid the sump plug and let the oil drain out. There wasn't very much oil and it was surprisingly clean. It later became clear that I had actually drained the gearbox oil! As luck would have it we were thinking about changing the gearbox oil too and we had oil and a drain plug washer in stock. What it did mean in that we couldn't move the car until we had located the filler cap. We used the internet, an endoscope and a mirror on a stick before we found it. You have to take the wheel off before you can see it.

Richard "Quick Fit" B

Tuesday, 27 August 2019


One of the things that I love about the English language is how seeming gibberish can make sense to certain people if they have the right background and context. My friend once told me that she had "aeroplaned the boiler to 7" and it made sense. I lived with her in a golden age of easy to operate central heating boilers. The main control on mine was a slider that selected the function, if you went on holiday you slid the main control to a little picture of an aeroplane. We called that "aeroplaning the boiler". She now has a smart thermostat and the best you can do if you don't want heating but don't want anything to freeze is to set a low minimum temperature – in her case 7 degrees C.

I was playing a board game in which you had to get your teammate to say a certain word without mentioning it or any closely related words. I knew a scene in The Simpsons that he liked that mentioned the particular word. I just said "Nice name. Thanks I got it off a ..." and he correctly replied "hairdryer". Our opponents thought there was some kind of cheating or witchcraft at play.

At the weekend I wanted an ultrasonic cleaning bath, but I don't have one, so I had to make do with  a Lucky Lizard Super Fog. Years ago I was at a zoo and one of the lizard enclosures had a little machine for generating fog. It was made by "Lucky Lizard" brand and called a "Super Fog". It's a device that uses an ultrasonic emitter to excite tiny droplets on the surface of a bowl of water. I don't know what they're really called but I call them a Luck Lizard Super Fog even if they're a cheap Chinese off-brand copy.

Richard "Max Power" B

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Part Numbers

The horrible mix of units on tyre sizes has always bothered me. Your tyres have three numbers on them, and unless you're driving a racing car or a mini metro, one of them is in mm, one is scalar and one is in inches.

I've recently been dealing with spark plugs and they're even worse. The motor mower that I curate last had a new spark plug about 30 years ago. By pretending that it was for an old British outboard motor I was able to buy a spark plug that fits. By correlating the box that it came in with the NGK charts I have been able to identify a plug which is still manufactured, will fit, and should run at the right temperature.

This damned plug has a 18mm by 1.5mm thread on it AND a 13/16 Imperial hex!

A spark plug that is running too cool doesn't burn off the carbon from the insulator. A spark plug that is running too hot cracks the porcelain. Different plugs absorb more or less heat from the combustion gasses and throw away more or less heat to the cylinder head. The nomenclature and numbering system for these thermal properties is ridiculous:

A "hot" plug doesn't have much cooling, is in a "low" heat range and has a low number in the NGK system.
A "cold" plug has lots of cooling, is in a "high" heat range and has a high number.

To clarify:
Lawnmower - hot - 1,2,3
Racecar - cold - 9,10,11

Richard "simplicity itself" B

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Storm Damage

"Plumbing's just Lego innit? Water Lego" – Super Hans. If that's true then guttering must be Water Duplo, and it was still nearly beyond me.

We had violent storms at the weekend and the guttering downpipe on the front of my house was damaged. The pipe comes down the front of the house vertically and there's about a 150mm horizontal offset to where it enters the drain (vertically) made out of two 120 degree elbows. On Saturday morning the downpipe was still screwed to the house but various elbows and joiners were in a pile. I tried many times but I couldn't make the pile of parts back into something that connected the downpipe to the drain. It eventually dawned on me that one piece must have blown away. It would seem to have been about 30mm of downpipe to make the two elbows fit together.

Downpipe is sold in length of 2500mm, so I now have around 2470mm in stock ready for the next 82 times this happens.

Richard "I'll put that back in the garage for the next 20 years" B