Friday 21 June 2024


 Welcome to the boring world of Positive Crankcase Ventillation systems. Little did I know that on modern (post 1960's) cars, they connect the crankcase to the inlet manifold so that blowby doesn't pressurise the crankcase, and so that the blowby and the oil mist get burned in the engine. Damn Los Angeles and their smog problem!

I took my sports car to Snetterton last week and had a miserable time. I got black flagged twice for making excessive smoke. So much in fact that people came out on to the pit wall to gawp and speculate. While we did get to do some high speed driving (after the oil level had dropped), and engine ran pretty well it used A LOT of fuel.

I have since done a compression test and the engine looks a bit worn, but not catastrophically so. This is my best guess about what went wrong: The engine is just a bit more worn out than it was the last time I used it. The oil was topped up right to the top. There's a long right hand corner which pushed the oil up towards the PCV system. This combination of factors overwhelmed the PCV system and pulled a load of oil into the inlet tract and we burned it whenever we opened the throttle wide. The soot has messed up the lambda sensor in the exhaust, and it's now overfuelling wildly. The engine is already out of the sports car and in the back of the Fiat Panda waiting to go down to the engine builders.

I record this here just for the next time I have to do it: It takes more than a day, but less than two days to take the engine out of my Caterham. You have to have three people present when you crane it out. I know we've all seen Ed China do it with one assistant, but I simply cannot replicate that.

Richard "Catch Tank" B

Zip File

 The Mandela effect is nothing but data compression, but it's going on in the human brain. One of the main techniques in data compression is to look for commonalities and to encode repeated data in a shorthand form. Just as an example, imagine we're trying to compress some text. You could replace the word "the" with the letter "t" and it would save you a couple of characters each time it came up. You'd then lose a few characters if somebody used "t" as a word on its own and you had to disambiguate it. He was wearing a white do-not-expand-t shirt.

The Mandela effect is where a large number of people all have the same false memory: Nelson Mandela died in the 80s. Darth Vader said "Luke, I am your father" Pikachu has a black tip on his tail. It's fun to think that they're connections to alternate histories, or artifacts of programming changes in the simulation that we're living in. Sadly, after a long chat with my boss I now believe something much more prosaic.

The only Mandela memory that really bothers me is the Fruit of the Loom logo. It's a company that makes cotton goods, their logo is a pile of fruit. I remember the fruit being in front of a horn shaped basket, but it isn't. What we think is actually going on is that every time you see a pile of fruit in that style, it's in front of a horn of plenty. You've seen it on pub sigs, menus, invitations, and countless other places. When my memory filed away the Fruit of the Loom logo from when I bought a packet of sewing needles, it coded it as just another example of fruit in front of a horn of plenty. Every time I retrieve the memory it comes out with the basket included. It's quite disconcerting.

Richard "cornucopia" B

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Grow Up

 Since my last blog a general election has been announced. I had a delightful chat about it with my barber, and we are now part of a grassroots political campaign. You should join us! Like me, she doesn't think that any of the political parties represent our views and our values. Unlike me, she was unaware of the idea of a spoiled ballot. She loved the idea that she would still have to attend the polling station, and so couldn't be accused of not taking part in the democratic process. She loved that spoiled ballots are counted, and that there could potentially be more spoiled ballots than votes for a particular candidate. She then correctly pointed out that we could draw a crude little picture – "like you used to at school".

The only political positions that I want to hear about for the rest of this campaign are when you spoil your ballot, whether or not there are going to be veins visible on the shaft, and whether there will be teardrop shapes shooting from the tip.

Richard "can I count on your support?" B

Imaginary Cat

 In my late 20s and early 30s I was in a serious relationship with a woman. There were a couple of memorable things about her.

Looking back at 20 years remove, I think that in one respect I was slightly less sympathetic to her than I now am to an imaginary cat. I lived in Plymouth, my girlfriend was studying in Southampton, so during term time I would travel up there by motorbike every couple of weeks. The journey was cold. noisy, uncomfortable and time consuming. It was made even more hasslesome by her worrying about me. I thought that I was the one taking the risk and who would be inconvenienced or injured if anything went wrong. I found all the checking in to re-assure her a chore. It didn't, however, discourage me from using a motorbike.

I now live alone and I often consider keeping a pet. I realised that if I had a cat at home which wouldn't get fed if I wound up in hospital, that I wouldn't dare to get on a motorbike for fear of starving the cat.

Imaginary Cat:1, Wendy:0

Richard "slightly autistic?" B

Tuesday 14 May 2024


 At the weekend I made several chainsaw mistakes. Not the types of mistakes that put your limbs in danger, but that type that spoil your day and hit you in the wallet. As well as a sweet little baby chainsaw I own a big hedge trimmer and I had agreed to help trim a hedge for a friend of mine's parents. Mistake number 1: I didn't go and look at the job before agreeing to do it. It sounded like I was just going to have to give an ornamental box hedge a haircut, but it turned out to be much more than that. Mistake number 2: I put my chainsaw in the back of the car, thinking that I might have to cut one or two bigger stems with it, but I didn’t bring the tools that go with it. I wore chainsaw trousers, sturdy boots, long sleeves, ear protection and eye protection. Mistake number 3: I didn't take a sunhat.

Giving the box hedge a haircut was simplicity itself. However there was an overgrown hedge on the other side of the garden made of leylandii, bamboo, and bramble. It was all too sturdy for the trimmer and the whole job had to be done with the chainsaw. Somewhere in the middle of the hedge was an iron post that I ran my chainsaw into and blunted it. Mistake number 4: It seemed to still be cutting, so instead of driving home and getting the sharpening kit I carried on. I overheated the bar and the chain jammed up. Mistake number 5: Even after seeing the householder's tools I still didn't drive home and get proper tools. I stripped the bar and the chain off it with inferior spanners that didn't quite fit.

When we had "finished" we discovered that the householders were in fact responsible for both sides of the leylandii hedge, and we had to go on a long steep walk to find the overgrown footpath at the side of their house, and start the whole job again.

They did give me £20 for the petrol, bar oil and my tea, and a VERY nice bottle of gin.

Richard "HS-45" B

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Heavy Metals

 Over the weekend I did the first trackday of the year in my Caterham. It was quite a big deal for me because it's the first time the car has been used hard since my friends and I had then engine out to change the clutch. We've also rebuilt the cooling system and some of the rear suspension. It all worked like a charm.

Unfortunately during the day a badly maintained Radical sprayed my car with oil. It didn't seem to cause any problems and we wiped the worst of it off. The next day I washed the paintwork, but when I checked over the car the front brakes seem to have been badly contaminated. There was a greasy, rusty residue on the inside of the disks and the pads seemed oddly "crumbly" when I tried to clean them. All of which is to say that I needed to buy a new set of front brake pads.

Environmentalists and bureaucrats can spoil all kinds of thinks that I like. We can't have proper solder any more, so all our appliances go wrong and get thrown away. We can't have low temperature silver-solder any more, we can't have real creosote, naptha, absinthe, and codeine is always cut with something.

Over the years I have discovered my favourite brake friction material. It's made by Mintex, it offers excellent braking and thermal performance on a car as light as mine, it doesn't produce a huge amount of dust or chew up the disks too badly, and it offers a good balance of cost and longevity. Although it is a bit squeaky. Back in the day it used to meet the basic European standards. For the last couple of years it's been marked "Not for Road Use". Now it's no longer available and has been replaced by a less poisonous, less polluting compound. I can only image it'll be inferior.

Richard "Farewell Mintex M1144" B