Is It Any Wonder?

Today I decided to eat a hamburger in town. I don’t eat these things often maybe one every three to four months. Fast food type burgers I’m referring too. Anyhow I pulled over in the parking lot and began munching away. I also don’t usually listen to the radio much these days. Oregon, in my humble opinion, doesn’t have any really good radio stations that play the kind of rock and blues music I like. However I finally fumbled around and found an old station I used to listen to a long time ago. KINK. 101.9 on the FM dial. I used to listen to it a long time ago, back during the hippie days. It played the most hard-core, psychedelic music on the air on those days. Then something got hold of KINK and it went down the toilet to corporate America, is my only guess. The music it was playing right up until just a little while ago was so offensive to me I’d rather be handcuffed to a chair and forced to listen to rap all day. This stuff was so geared for yuppies it made me ill just listening to it. Add to that some of the DJ’s they had peddling this garbage and I avoided it like the plague. Before I found KINK today I was listening to another station I don’t even know what it was KXL perhaps. Anyway they started off with a commercial. It went on for the entire half an hour I sat there eating my hamburger. One commercial after the next. Some I heard more than once. A solid thirty minutes of one ad after another. In my opinion, and if I were paying for advertising on that station I’d be pissed off. Why? Well most people I know wouldn’t sit there and listen to that tirade of commercial garbage and the ramblings of some auctioneer speaking moron insulting everyone’s intelligence with their spun non-sense. Who would sit there and wade thru half an hour’s worth of bullshit to hear any commercial? No one would. So the poor persons who are advertising and happen to get their ad aired last probably aren’t reaching their target audiences.

Is it any wonder people change the channel? Nope. Not rocket science at all. A friend of mine sent me an email and she told me it made her sad. It was someone’s opinion of where network television and radio and some other iconic institutions are all headed and that is oblivion. This email said that with the advent of streaming video into people’s televisions that more and more folks are watching Netflix and similar companies that offer streaming video. I know I do. Is it any wonder? Nope, why would you not want to watch a program all the way thru without half a dozen moronic commercials thrown at you. Why would you not want to ignore this crap?  If you get out your stop watch and time how much of your favorite program you get to see in one stint VS how long you have to endure commercials it will amaze you. I think I tried this one time and it went something like 5 minutes of programming and 10 minutes of commercials. No I don’t like to hear about women’s freshness and hygiene products, watch this burned out, grizzled old piece of trash dude sitting with a couple of good-looking women and having some idiot tell me he’s the most interesting man in the world. If he is, we’re all really in trouble. Nothing this shit head could say would interest me in the least. Is it any wonder network television may be going the way of the passenger pigeon?  If you own a radio station or a TV station, are an operations person, then listen or watch your station and wake up. If you don’t then you deserve to be phased out. End of story.

I’m happy to announce that listening to KINK radio on the way home was a pleasant experience and I’m truly glad they are back to playing Santana, Clash, and some other rock and roll that was worth listening to. Someone woke up. Way to go KINK.  Thank the Lord there is still common sense and some intelligence left on planet earth.


Electric Guitars With More than Six Strings

Today’s electric guitars are quite a departure from the standard Strat and Les Pauls we old timers are used to. Some of the innovations are active pick ups , more control of the voicing of the guitar, at the guitar. I think the main innovations have been the addition of extra strings in the lower registers.  At first I didn’t realize where these extra strings were added. As I came to own some seven and eight stringed instruments I soon found out. Right now I own two seven string and one eight string guitars. All three are manufactured by the Agile name. They are made in Korea. Don’t let this throw you, these guitars are very well made, and play as good or better than some of their American snobby counter parts.

Most of these multi-stringed instruments are a product of our heavy metal brethren. If you don’t like heavy metal that’s fine, I’m thankful to the brotherhood for demanding their production. These guitars have a niche in music that cannot be duplicated with anything less.  Sure you can unwind a tuner and drop tune an E string but why do that when you dont’ have to?  To me it’s a Mickey Mouse way of playing below concert pitch on a guitar.  I’ve been playing electric guitars for over 36 years now, and I never thought I’d be into anything else but the classical electrics, Strats, Tele’s Les Paul’s  SG’s Firebirds. Most of these guitars use what I consider to be a shorter scale length. The Gibson’s seem to be the shortest followed by the Strats.

So what are the scale lengths of the 7 and 8 strings? My first Agile is what’s called an interceptor Pro 727.  The numerical suffix says that it’s a seven string with a  27 inch scale length. What’s the big deal about scale length? A lot of guitarists I know couldn’t tell you or just don’t care. I can’t explain all of it either except to say that the tones are spaced further apart on the neck and give you better access to them. I find longer scale length guitars are easier to coax harmonics on than shorter ones.  Strats are much easier to make “Squeal” than my old Firebird was, and my Agiles are even easier.  The last seven string I bought was an Agile Baritone Interceptor 730.  Yep a 30″ scale length. This thing is really fun to play. I run it thru a Marshall Mode Four and it outputs thru a Marshall 1960 B 4 X12 with Celestion Vintage Thirties in it. The Mode Four is a very bassy amp, it has tremendous bottom end and will shake your brains loose with enough volume and a good 7 or 8 string guitar. Positively thunderous comes to mind here!

Playing these instruments isn’t a big deal as far as the seven strings go, it more or less depends upon how big your hands are or how long your fingers may be. I have large hands and long fingers so this isn’t a big deal at all for me. However the 8 strings are considerably wider than the 7’s are.  Getting around on my 828 Agile is a little challenging, but after an hour of warmup on it I’m ok. I found I had to modify the way I use my left hand on the neck of this instrument. The neck on the 828 is thinner but wider. It requires you to roll your hand or arch it a bit to access the lower strings. Playing on the very bottom string is a real experience with an 8 string guitar. You could almost put a bass player out of business with one of these things.

If you play a seven string or an 8 string for any length of time you will come to rely on the lower strings more than you think. When I switch over to my Strat or Tele, I sometimes find myself really missing the ability to swoop down there and hit some low octave notes. They grow on you in a sneaky but fun way.

My 727 Agile has Seymour Duncan Black Out active pick ups on it. They have a nice sound that’s actually pretty versatile. They work well for blues, rock and metal. Being active gives them tons of drive and you can really sock it to your amp with them. My 730 Agile has EMG active pickups on it and they are voiced a bit different from the Seymours are, a bit more edgy maybe?  The 828 has EMGs on it also and they sound completely different from the 730 does. Why this is I don’t know, it just a pick up with another pole piece in it but sound different they do.  I really like all the pickups on these guitars. You can switch on the bridge pickup and they dont’ shoot razor blades into your amp, like the Strat and Tele does. This is okay when you want it but trying to tone that down sometimes is a pain in the ass and never seems tonally acceptable. Having this built into the EMGs and Seymours is cool.  All three of my Agiles have ebony fingerboards. There are no position markers in the middle of them either. Instead they are located on the side of the neck. Having played guitars most of music career that do have position markers on the fingerboard means that I get a tad disoriented at times. No big deal really just takes some getting used to is all.

The finish on the Agiles is fabulous! I could find no flaws in any of my guitars. I have seen no reviews in Guitar Player on these guitars.  I wonder why?  For the money these guitars are in a class all by themselves. You can’t touch them with all the features they have, their flawless intonation, set up and finish make them untouchable in my opinion. If you are an old school player and stuck with the classics, fine. I urge you to play one of these things sometime. Don’t compare it’s voicing with a Strat or a Tele or your Les Paul. They aren’t gonna be even close. If you play it listen to its voice and see if it’s something you would like to incorporate into your stable of tones. If not then don’t bother with them. I don’t know any guitar players that don’t like more than one voice. I’m betting if you play one you’re gonna like it. I’ve seen some other seven string guitars, Shecter Guitar Research makes one called a Damien 7. It’s a beauty of a guitar but isn’t in the 27″ scale length like most of the Agiles are.  The Agiles are a mysteriously kept secret and why that is I can’t tell you, suffice to say that it does put a smile on my face and on the faces of all the other brothers who play Agiles as well. There’s a reason for it .

If you find this blog intriguing and have been looking at 7 strings take a look at this link.  they sell them over the internet. They are a good company and I have never had a bad dealing with any of the three guitars I’ve bough from them. They arrived undamaged and ready to play. Well the 8 string required about half an hours worth of tuning before I liked the way it sang. Most of that time was me getting used to tuning an 8 string.

The only complaint I have is that you have to unplug the guitars every time your done using them because if you don’t you’ll be changing 9 volt batteries often. The Agiles have a small plastic battery compartment on the back side of the body. It’s easy enough to open but they don’t have much length to the battery wire leads which makes getting a battery out of the body a trick without something to poke into the compartment to pop the battery out with. I took the larger plastic panel off the back of all of my Agiles where the pots and wiring are and was able to “pull” some more slack and length into the battery wires which makes changing the batteries a lot easier.  The pickups do have a healthy appetite for Duracells. I’m going to try some rechargeable 9 volts if I can find some decent ones and see how they work. Other than that I love the Agiles, they have added a whole new dimension to my playing, and I welcome that.


Here’s Gasoline

My last article was on energy content of gasoline, alcohols, and nitrogen compounds (aka nitromethane).  Compared to this article that one was a breeze. Gasoline is a complicated compound full of all sorts of different hydrocarbons, and additives to make even a fuel engineer dizzy. This science is an ongoing proposition by the oil refineries and engineers. Researching this subject became mind-boggling in a way to present it in an article so that it makes sense to everyone reading it.  To really understand the total concept of the way gasoline works you need to be a chemist and an engineer. Suffice to say I am neither.  Most of the readers out there are not either. So I’ll endeavor to keep the chemistry lesson to an absolute minimum for my sanity as well as yours.

Gasoline is made up of hydrocarbons. These guys are classified like the Hatfields and the McCoys with the Smiths and Browns throw in for balance.  The first group of hydrocarbons are called paraffins. Nope this is not the same stuff Mom used to heat up and pour into the tops of jam jars to seal up homemade jam. The second group is olefins, then napthenes, and aromatics. An example of a simple hydrocarbon is methane. It has one carbon atom and is bonded to four hydrogen atoms. It’s chemical abbreviation would be CH4.  A paraffinic compound like n-Butane has four carbon atoms bonded to ten hydrogen atoms. So it looks like this: C4H10.  n-Butene is an olefin that I believe is double bonded having four carbon atoms double boned with eight hydrogen atoms, or C4H8. Like I said I’m no chemist so when I look at this stuff it taxes me probably like this is taxing you right now!  Continuing on, we have a real sci-fi sounding compound called Cyclohexane. C6H14. It’s in the napthene family. Benzene is an aromatic at C6H6. The Napthenes and aromatics are ring-shaped molecules. Strange looking dudes to say the least.

Gasolines are made up of either olefins or aromatics or a combination of the two. Olefins with double bonds, tend to have higher energy content but lower octane and are less stable. They aren’t used much in regular pump gas because aromatics are highly stable and exhibit high-octane the conjugated bonds resonate and behave like one and half bonds. “Lubrizol.”  Wow what a mouthful that was!  Enough of this stuff!  Hydrocarbons liberate huge amounts of energy when oxidized with the correct (stoichiometric) amount of air. Remember now we’re talking about air not pure oxygen. What is air? Well if I remember right air contains only about 23% oxygen and 73% nitrogen and smog, doggy breath, and other odd gases. It’s the oxygen that combines during the oxidation of gasoline. This process is a weight-based operation not a capacity based deal. What I am saying here is that the air-fuel ratio is based on pounds of fuel and air burned together. We can’t say well I burned one gallon of gasoline with 14.6 gallons of air. Doesn’t work that-away.  Gasolines have several things designed into them. The first one everyone is pretty familiar with is octane. Old gasolines used to be set up thusly. n-heptane was pretty much the base stock, but it was really poor in its octane rating. So Iso-octane (2,2,4-trimethylpentane) was added to boost heptane octane. Octane numbers below one hundred, such as 89 octane was a combination of 89% iso octane and 11% heptane.  Gasoline with 100 octane was pure iso-octane with no heptane.  Then someone got the bright idea to add tetraethyl lead to the mix. This compound was very effective in boosting octane easily. Octane numbers over 100 were easy  such as 104-106. Problem was that tetraethyl lead (TEL) came out of the tail pipe and went into the environment which became bad for humans. So it was outlawed.  Other octane boosters came on-line such at Methyl tertiary butyl either (MTBE) and Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) Whew!  These are popular in unleaded fuels as octane boosters.

Flame speeds are an important consideration in today’s higher revving engines. The faster the motor spins the less time it has for the combustion process. So getting a fuel to burn rapidly without detonating is a good trick. There’s a fine line between the two. Evaporative cooling effect can increase power by creating a denser fuel/air charge into the engine or a sort of unmechanical supercharging effect if you will. Gasoline isn’t real good at this by itself. It has a very high heat content but it’s evaporative cooling effects aren’t nearly as astounding as the alcohols are.

Specific gravity is the ratio of the mass of fuel or any other solid or liquid to the mass of an equal  volume of distilled water at 39.4 degrees F.  The higher the specific gravity the denser the fuel is. Gasolines specific gravites (SG) vary quite a bit. This is unfortunate because it affects the air-fuel ratios in engines.  Fuel management systems in today’s cars compensate for this much better than their old carburetted counter parts.  This is due to the various sensors in a closed loop fuel system.  Such sensors are: oxygen sensors placed in the exhaust system to monitor how much free oxygen is exiting the combustion chambers, throttle position sensors to tell the electronic control module (ECM) how far open the throttle is, mass airflow sensors to tell the ECM how much air is flowing  into the engine. The ECM takes all this input into consideration and  sends what’s called and injector pulse width voltage to each fuel injector telling it how long to turn on and when to shut off in each rotation of the crankshaft in degrees. Carburetors can’t do this at all.  This turn-on, turn-off cycle in fuel injection of today’s cars is what is responsible for good mileage and power and great cold running manners today’s cars exhibit. When alcohols are added into the fuel mix this causes an upset in the gasolines natural SG. It has a tendency to increase the SG of gasoline because alcohols are denser than gasolines are. This has the effect of leaning out the mixture too because of the added hydroxy radical  that ethanol brings into the mix. We already have a specific amount of fuel mixed with air which contains oxygen, so by adding an oxygen-bearing chemical into the fuel we are adding more oxygen than what’s stoichiometrically correct. See where this is going?  It’s no wonder oxygenated gasolines produce less power and mileage than straight gasolines do. I think the newest of the new cars these days probably have this factored into the fuel management process, which is fine for people with fairly new cars but not so good for all of us that don’t.

These’s another really important factor called the “distillation curve.”  What is a distillation curve you say?  Well our “good friends” at the oil companies determine distillation curves by heating their fuels and measuring the temperatures at which successive 10% segments of the fuel vaporize.  Gasolines and other refined fuels like propane have what’s called “light ends” and “heavy ends.”  Light ends vaporize readily at lower temperatures. This is great for cold starts. Not so great for hot starts. So a fuel distillation curve has to have qualities that make the fuel acceptable upon cold starting and still start-up fine when the motor is warmed up. This should be all done by about 300 degrees or so. Easily done in a gasoline engine. Hydrocarbon fuels with components that vaporize about 400 degrees are not considered gasolines but are placed in the diesel category!  There’s a component called the Reid Vapor Pressure Number that tells the volatility or vaporization levels of gasolines. This number is very important to aviation gasolines. AV gas Reid Vapor Pressure numbers are usually 7 psi and below and  automobile gasolines are 9-15 psi. What this means is that if you have an airplane that’s running along at 3500 ft ASL  and it’s normally aspirated (no super or turbo chargers attached) it’s going to need a different distillation curve than a car that’s putting along on the ground at something slightly above sea level and a lot warmer.  It’s the old temperature VS air density thing going on here. Running AV gas in race cars used to be considered cool due to AV gas’s better octane ratings. When you add in it’s RVP number and the fact that it’s considerably lower in SG than pump gas, getting it  to light off when starting the car is a trick. I used to run AV gas in a small block Chev drag car. I remember spinning the motor over so many times to get it to light that I was afraid of running the battery down! Trying to jet a car running on straight AV gas is a joke  because it doesn’t “color” the spark plugs worth a damn. Reading plugs on AV gas is a waste of time. I remember jetting my 4150 Holley out to the same size jets as a 4500 Dominator used and not being able to tell much difference in the way it ran!  When I mixed AV gas with the same amount of pump gas, all those troubles went away. I increased the octane a little bit by using the AV gas and improved the AV gas by the SG pump gas has, and by the increase in the RVP number and pump gas distillation curves.  Race gas is a much better fuel to go racing on than screwing around with AV gas and pump gas. I been there and I done it.

There are other additives that controls metal formations during the combustion process, ones that handle water content. So you see gasolines are pretty complicated chemicals. They will probably continue to become more like this as time goes on. Just my opinion here.  Do I think that all this techno stuff that’s engineered into todays gasolines justifies the price? No! not no but a big NO!  Sure there’s lots of processing involved but how long have the oil companies been doing this now? One would think they’d have a handle on it by now right? I do.  I know, it’s the price of crude oil.  Then I hear how much oil we have here at home and it’s supposed to outstrip all the oil in the middle east by a huge factor.  I guess it’s all up in Alaska? Who knows?  All this stuff gets spun by whomever is mouthing it at the time.  The tree huggers don’t want the oil companies drilling up in Alaska because they’ll “Valdez” the area. Well they really don’t have a great safety record anymore do they? Are you listening BP?  But then what are we supposed to do just quit driving?  The government already screwed the pooch on subsidizing corn crops for ethanol production. Ethanol isn’t a practical fuel to replace gasoline anyway due to its air-fuel ratio. It’s not as bad as methanol but it’s still lower than gasolines making mileage drop considerably.  Well if we aren’t going to use gasoline any more and ethanol isn’t real good, then there’s hydrogen and electricity. I’ll take electricity please. I’d love to just plug-in my T-Bird and “filler up” please.  How about combining Hydrogen and electricity. Both pretty non-polluting and looking real “green” to me.   Because I’m a true old school gear head I dont’ want to see our marvelous internal combustion engine go the way of the Passenger Pigeon.

This wasn’t intended as dissertation on the chemical engineering of gasolines. It was just presented as a little bit more of an understanding of this strange, over-priced liquid we all have to use to get from point A to point B and back again. I hope you found it interesting a little bit at least?


The Light In My Soul

The Light In My Soul

Her silver beauty illuminates my soul.
Thoughts of her take no toll.
Upon this heart full of holes.
She alone makes it again whole.

Eyes of azure, limitless, rolling ocean.
Flirting glances with asynchronous motion.
She burns within a platinum flame.
She’s the haunting melody of Mystery Game.

Her vision I’ve chased all my life.
Through trials and strife.
She comes easily unto me.
Her heart the flowers of the Judas Tree.

A gentle woman with gentle ways.
This light of my soul never strays.
Around my heart she is entwined
She is the playmate of my mind.

To me she makes other women look plain.
When I view lost loves with disdain.
Like platinum smoke she circles and winds.
Round the windmills of my mind.

I can’t get her out of my mind.
An enigma on an endless time line.
Blowing through my soul like a solar wind
As welcome as a Northwest Wind has ever been.

She comes and goes.
Her beauty ebbs and flows.
Without and within me.
I wish her eyes for me would see.

She lays on my heart light as the silver mountain mists.
Her visions to me still persist.
For now until the end of time.
An enigma on an endless time line.

Gentle woman, beautiful soul.
She is the player in my hearts role.
My soul she is forever within.
Somehow I feel she always has been.

I don’t know how to tell her any other way.
These feeble words that play.
With my heart and my thoughts.
That others are not.

The light of my life.
She should have been my wife.
In times gone by.
Her solar wind within me sighs.

Dave Proffitt

Gasoline and Other Exotic Fuels.

With the price of gasoline going up I was considering how it relates to buying race gas and other non standard fuels that make an internal combustion engine go up and down and round and round. Just for goofs I wanted to look at the chemical composition of gasoline. Regarding the fact that 50% of it has cat pee in it, the rest is a mixture of hydrocarbons. Gasoline used to contain three basic ingredients; heptane, Iso Octane and tetraethyl lead. With these three ingredients the oil companies used to produce the best gasoline in the world. Iso octane is an octane booster. So is tetraethyl lead(TL). TL was banned a long time ago because it put out rather unhealthy lead by products which humans don’t utilize in a healthy way. So that left Iso Octane as the octane booster. There are some other products that were added but didn’t work as well as TL. I hear all the time when the subject of race gas comes up, how much more explosive and hotter it is than pump gas. This isn’t really true. High octane pump gas and race gas have burn rate controllers in them. These were chemicals like TL, iso octane etc. What they really do is slow down the flame front and promote more uniform flame propagation thru the combustion chamber. When fuel explodes all at once in the combustion chamber of your Japanese SUV, it is called detonation. It’s no different from watching a box of dynamite go boom. Same process. The gasoline rather than burning uniformly explodes all at once. This produces a shock wave that impinges on the piston crown, the valves, cylinder head. Not good for those in attendance! We want a controlled push on the top of the piston not a slug! Octane boosters  prevent detonation and promote the nice smooth push we are looking for. With the advent of computer controlled timing, compression ratios in cars has gone up, even thought the quality of US gasoline has gone the other direction. Higher compression and more spark lead (advance) aggravates detonation in low octane gasoline. So the car makers installed anti-knock sensors in the blocks and heads of the new motors that can “hear” detonation before it really starts happening big time. It sends this information back to the ECM (Electronic control module) which tells the ignition system to retard the timing bit by bit until the detonation goes away. It constantly keeps the timing ramped up close to detonation for the most power and economy. It works well  and allows for high-compression ratios. Higher compression adds power and torque by squeezing the air-fuel charge up tighter. This makes more power. It’s a mechanical power adder that can be designed into an engine without bolting anything on. Cool.

Okay lets take a look at other fuels. I’ll start with ethanol. We all know what this stuff is right? It’s the stuff the oil companies are fond of calling “oxygenators.” Yeah right. Ethanol is a grain alcohol. It’s chemical composition is C2H6OH. So we can call it a oxygenator because it has what’s called a hydroxyl group attached to it that makes it an alcohol. The (OH) part is the hydroxyl. One atom of oxygen and one atom of hydrogen. The rest of the formula contains two carbon atoms and six hydrogen. We have to be concerned with another 25 cent word called “stoichiometry.” This is a geeky name for air/fuel ratio. This ratio is the balance of fuel to air to achieve the best combustion. Gasoline’s best “stoich” is 14:7.1. It takes fourteen point seven parts of gasoline to 1 part air to burn best. Best power is less around 12:1. We also have to be concerned with the fuel’s latent heat energy. Another fancy way of saying how much heat-energy is in each fuel. This is measured in BTU’s. Gasoline is about 20,700 BTU’s per gallon! WOW! Ethanol is near half that at 12,800 BTU. So where are all these numbers going? To see how much energy is liberated we have to do some arithmetic with the numbers here. If you divide the fuels BTU content, in the case of gasoline, by its a/f ratio (14.7) you get 1408 BTU’s burned in one pound of air. Now lets look at what happens when you burn ethanol. More math. So ethanol’s BTU number is 12,800 divided by it’s “stoich” number or a/f ratio of 9 and we get 1422 BTU’s produced in the combustion of 1 pound of air and ethanol. Wow, an increase in thermal output! Not much of one granted but still better than gasoline. Ethanol has a couple of other things going for it besides better energy output, it has a pronounced cooling effect and a naturally high-octane number about 106 methinks. Well watering it down in our cat pee gasoline of today at the ratio of 10% also called “E10” at the pumps doesn’t really do anything for power. If you ran ethanol straight you would notice a slight improvement in power however, probably not very noticeable but I doubt your older car would ping on it either. Moving up the scale in fuels we come to methanol. This is a product of natural gas modification or wood distillations. Methanol is the dark cousin of ethanol. It’s very toxic and if you decide to take a swig of it will most likely kill you and cause you to go permanently blind all at the same time, so don’t get it inside you. It’s chemical composition is; CH3OH. Notice the hydroxyl group on the end? It has a BTU content of 9800. It’s even lower than ethanol, which is an advantage believe it or not. Methanol’s a/f ratio is 6.4:1. So if we divide 9800 by 6.4 we get whoa Nellie! 1531 BTU’s. Woo hoo! A considerable increase in heat energy per pound of air. This is the sole reason why alcohols produce better power in gasoline engines is their latent heat energy and the Air-fuel ratios. Not because they’re explosive, you can see by this that they aren’t even close , not because they’re alcohols and that’s what Robert Mitchum ran in his 50 Ford in the movie Thunder Road. The alcohols by their nature have a very cooling effect on engine components. They are so good at this that because of their air-fuel ratios, some car’s dont’ even bother with radiators! It’s true. Methanol fueled engines run very cool. Their inherent natural octane makes them a very good automotive racing fuel. Methanol for all it’s goodness has some dark sides to it as well. It is corrosive and hygroscopic to aluminum and some older non-nitrophyl seals. Higher compression ratios can be run in normally aspirated engines by a bunch without detonation at all. More spark lead can be and should be run. All of this makes mo powah!

 The last bad boy we come to is Nitromethane. This is the product from the nitrification of propane. It goes thru some other processes too. We don’t want to run nitro in our SUV. Huh uh! Nitro has a terrible octane number of like 50 or 60! It’s air fuel ratio is 1.60:1. It has no hydroxyl group on it because it’s not an alcohol. It’s chemical composition is: CH3NO2. Notice it has two extra oxygen atoms attached to it? Nitro’s BTU content is really in the crapper at 4500 BTU. So more math and we come up with 2813 BTU for each pound of air and nitromethane burned. Holy Cow Bat Man! Big big difference! This fact alone makes Nitromethane a great race fuel. It used to be combined with some very strange and dangerous chemicals to make it get along inside a top fuel motor. I used to see fuel recipes in the old hot rod magazines of the fastest fuel cars of the day. IT’d go something like 10%methanol, 5% hydrazine, 5% benzene, 75% nitro. All the other chemicals were used as “ignition modifiers.” Lighting a 1.60:1 fuel air mixture in the 1950’s and 60s, was pretty good trick because we didnt’ have the great electronic ignitions of today. So they had to jiggle the cans a bit to get it working. Adding hydrazine to nitromethane was a really bad idea. After it set around in the can it would turn into a high explosive all by itself! I’ve heard old horror stories about old nitro cans blowing up at the drag strip when the crews would “toss them over the fence”! Some top fuel teams would really push the envelope and add more nitro than was the norm. This was called “tipping the can.” Yeah nitro used to come in steel five gallon cans. Not plastic carbouys like today. At one time I was about to race a top fuel Harley Davidson. Yep I had some serious brain fade at that period in my life. I had a Boris Murray chassis that Boris hisself built. Boris had a top fuel Triumph motorcycle dragster that featured two 750 Triumph Twins mounted in tandem on the bike. He ran it on fuel. Would smoke the back tire the entire quarter-mile. I got to be pretty good friends with Boris, he is a nice guy. Looked like he walked in off of a Hollywood movie set. Tall, over six feet, thin, dark hair, side burns, and a great smile. Boris told me that most of the Harley racers at the time were not using hydrazine in Nitromethane any longer but instead something almost as bad Propylene Oxide. I never had to worry about mixing up my own fuel and I eventually sold the frame and so ended my career as a top fuel Harley pilot. Guess God had other plans for me A? Well I know this is aimed at a select few but I hope some folks got something out of this? That’s all I want.

Dave .

Teacher’s and Parents Pet Phrases

During my educational years I’ve been privy to several teachers and what I call their “Pet Phrases.” So if you went to school with me you’ll remember these too perhaps. If you didn’t,  maybe this will remind you of some sayings your teachers used.  This is not meant in a derogatory light. It’s meant for amusement and the nostalgic value.

The first teacher that comes to mind is a gal named Mrs. Klussemann. I don’t know if I spelled her name right to or not. It looks Jewish-German to me. Just my opinion here, but she had one phrase that has always stuck with me. She would ask the entire class a question on a problem she would poise. If  no one raised their hand or spoke up (which was common) she would without fail say “Well we’re all as sharp as basketballs today.” Yes heir Klussemann we are.  Be that as it may I kinda liked Mrs. Klussemann. If she knew you were trying she would go out of her way to make you understand whatever it was she was trying to put acrossed.

My eighth grade teacher Mr. Warner had a pet phrase that was not sarcastic but always grabbed my attention when he used it. “As if by magic.” He’d say these words to set off a sentence about something scientific. Mr. Warner was a great science teacher.

In high school I had a history teacher named Mr. Glenn. He spoke in a mono tone and he almost put me to sleep every day trying to listen to him. He said the same thing every day when he’d walk in the door. “Alright class open your books, sit down Dave.”  meaning for me to sit down. I was always walking around in class, so it became part of his daily address to our period class. “As you know we’re moving on.”  I got pretty good at imitating him. Enough to get a laugh out of Vicki Grandquist, my life long buddy.

 Mr. Wagner taught electronics.  Myself and my side kick Dave Fanning used to get kicked out of his class almost every day. Bob Sundstrom did too. Actually it was the three musketeers of Mr. Wagner’s electronics class. So he’d tell us almost daily, “Proffitt and Fanning get out!”    “go to the office right now!”  

This takes care of all the teachers I can remember. Now my parents had a virtual vernacular of phrases and sayings!  My Dad had the most, followed by Momsy, and my Uncle John and my Aunt Wilda.  Maybe I should list them by who said them?

Hugh Proffitt (Dad).  Dad was always harping at me not to hot rod any of his cars. I guess he thought I”d blow them up. In actuality he blew them up and not me!

Here we’d go on a Saturday night when I was going take out the Dodge.  “Don’t ram the Dodge Dave, she won’t take ‘er.”    “If I find out you be rammin the car I’ll jerk the keys.”   Sometimes I’d get this pep talk about why I shouldn’t  “ram the Dodge.” It was complete with Dad’s visual aids. He’d hold up both hands with all of his fingers spread out and bump the ends of his fingers on each hand to the tips of the other ones. “ya see son, when you ram the gears they do this!”   And he’d bang his fingers into each other, like I wasn’t smart enough to figure out for myself how abused transmissions and missed shifts resulted in a transmission going south. If he wasn’t talking about cars then it was me being smart-ass to Momsy.  “You better button yer lip son.”   or “you’ll be laughing out of the other side of your mouth.”  “I’ll box both of your ears!”  “Wipe that smile off yer face!”    I also got lots of lectures on the great depression and what happened when he was a kid.  He was also the king of mispronunciation!  Some words would just flat trip Dad up. Confiscate was the worst offender. Hugh’s version of it was  confisticate. Con-fist-ti-cate.  Vinyl was Vin-ul.  Bison wis Biss-on.   He used to be a paper boy when he was a kid, and he delivered papers for the Enterprise Courier. When I worked for them Dad would always revert back to the paper’s name when he was a kid. So when he was having a conversation with one some of my parents friends and they asked him if I was working Dad would always tell them “Oh yeah Dave works for the Banner Courier, or  The Courier Enterprise.”  I always corrected him. I dont’ think he liked it but he was a cool guy about it. When he was talking about one of the other kids around town he always stuck on the qualifying adjective “young.”  So if he was talking about Butch Hickman or Dennis McFall it was always “young Hickman, or young McFall.”  

Momsy had her share of phrases too. Most of them cautionary I think. I heard most of these when she was haranguing Dad about something. “Well for Pete’s sake Hubert!”

“I suppose you won that rifle at a Mill Pool then?”  Poor Dad had to invent things to tell Mary whenever he wanted to buy himself something which was hardly ever. So he used to tell her that he won it in a pool the guys in the mill had. I remember thinking that Dad was the luckiest guy I ever knew. LOL!   He used to give Momsy the check and she’d manage to make ends meet with it. When Dad would try to talk to her about buying something for himself that just NEVER flew. He’s get a lecture on why we couldn’t afford it. His standard reply after that was always “Oh for Christ sakes Mary!”

My Uncle John used to come to dinner, bring us tons of firewood, Christmas trees and all sorts of stuff like that. He was a good-hearted guy, an old lumberjack from way back. Going hunting with John was like trying to stay up with a mountain goat. Impossible.  John didn’t know squat about cars and most mechanical stuff but he could build things out of wood pretty good. He came over one time when I was pulling the engine on my 56 Chev.  His reply to me upon seeing the new motor was “I see your puttin in one of them high-speed moeders.”  I used phonetic spelling on motor because that’s the way he said it. Motor-“moeder.”    John had a brother named Charles. Charles was also a logger and got killed in a logging accident. He was married to this woman no one in the family liked. Her name was Wilda. She wasn’t liked because she spent his money faster than a subatomic particle decays!  She was always overweight and gave new definition to the word “bossy.”  When Charles was alive they would come over to dinner sometimes with brother John and my cousins. This made a total of four kids in the house tearing around and playing with each other. This was always a signal for Wilda to go into “boss the kids around mode.”  That didn’t fly with Lois and I worth a damn. She used to hang out with John and Avis a lot so my cousin Dolly and Sharon were used to her crap but not Lois and I. So we just basically ignored her. When she’d try to get physical with us either Dad or Momsy would put a stop to it graciously. Wilda always loved to eat. I remember one day  at a big family dinner Wilda was in “hog mode”.  My aunt Avis ( a real beauty of a woman and nice too) asked Dad, “Hugh what can I get you?”  To which Dad replied “I believe I’d like some more peas.”  Before anyone else could speak up, my cousin Sharon spoke up quickly saying “There ain’t no more peas, Wilda ate ’em all!”  It so surprised everyone that we just sat there and stared at Wilda. Her reply was, “Well ya gotta fill up on somethin!”  Amen Wilda. Fill up on anything.

Speaking of Wilda, reminds me one time when her and Uncle Charles were at our house for dinner. Wilda used to make herself right at home which included taking her shoes off first thing after walking thru the door.  Wilda’s shoes were something that should have been handled with those robotic arms that handle radioactive material.  My Sister had a ornery side to  her which I just loved because we’d alway laugh ourselves sick when she’d get one of her ideas.  We left the table after dinner and Wilda and the rest of the adult crew stayed there drinking Momsy’s rocket fuel 125 octane coffee. She’d get Wilda so wired on coffee she couldn’t sit still and would start scratching her face and fidgeting!  We went into the living room and Lois saw Wilda’s shoes lying under the coffee table.  I had given the Dog some asparagus sprouts because I hated them then. Well the Dog didn’t think much of them either I guess. He spit out  a couple of sprigs next to Wilda’s shoes.  Lois said to me “hey Kid, let’s put those in Wilda’s shoes!” So I scooped up one and Lois got the other one.  We dropped them into Wilda’s clod hoppers.   Wilda was a smoker. Hell everyone in the house smoked except Charles and Lois and I. Wilda made the announcement that she had to go outside to the car and get her smokes. So she came staggering into the living room while Lois and I watched TV and took side-long looks at Wilda while she put her shoes on.  Much to our amazement she never much noticed there were two dead asparagus sprigs in both of her shoes!  Well she went out to the car and came back in. By now the rest of the entourage was in the living room smoking and drinking Momsy’s rocket fuel.  Wilda plopped her size 15 butt down on the couch and took off her shoes. One of the smashed asparagus sprigs was hanging off the bottom of her stocking.  She was totally unaware of it too.  My Uncle Charles spoke up “Wilda you got somethin on yer foot!”  She put her hand down on her toes and pulled off this smashed- to -shit asparagus sprig! “What in the world?”  My Sister and I couldn’t take it so we hauled ass out of the living room and into the bedroom. Lois laughed so hard she peed her pants! 

In about 15 minutes Dad came into the bedroom. “I don’t suppose you two know how asparagus got into Wilda’s shoes do ya?”  Oh no Dad.

A note worth passing on. My aunt Avis was a very special woman. She had this fiery orange hair. A great figure, sparkling blue eyes and beautiful smile. She was the kind of woman who would just take your breath away when you looked at her. A very gentle soul, soft-spoken, flashing eyes. She got multiple sclerosis and died an untimely death. I really miss her even today.  She is buried up in a little pioneer cemetery in the tiny community of Elwood.  I go up there to pay my respects to her and the rest of the family that’s buried up there. It’s like stepping back in time.


What Are You Willing to Put Up With?

Nowadays Americans are asked to put up with nonsense more and more. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, because I don’t live there. I guess you can take this as a semi-bitch session. Hey I’m 64 years old, gives me license to bitch, well just a little. No this isn’t going to whine throughout.

I have to take this over counter medication occasionally. They are little itty bitty pills about the size of womens birth control pills. They are enclosed in a bubble pack tab. In order to get them out, you first have to separate one pill from the rest of them on the tab. They should just tear off evenly because they are serrated on each pill. In reality they don’t tear at all. I think this is because the serrations aren’t deep enough. So I use a small pair of scissors to cut off each pill from the tab. Then you have to take a fingernail or thumbnail and insert it between the bottom of the paper layer and the top of the plastic and pull the bottom paper part off. The trouble with this is that you are holding onto a miniscule triangular tab with just your thumbnail. It takes a lot more force to separate these too that can be generated with just your thumbnail unless you work for the WWF.

You knew this was gonna eventually turn about to a car deal didn’t you? Well dear readers please hang in there I won’t dedicate it entirely to this.  I have read tons of car magazines in my day. Most aren’t very informative, at least to me. Okay that sounds arrogant? Well doing this for as long as I have I feel I can honestly say that most of the articles in here are geared for the newbies. I have built lots of engines, most of which have seen drag strip action. None of them have blown up. The cars all ran the numbers they were supposed to so  I must be doing something right.  Here’s where this is going; I do occasionally read some new car magazines. In them I see how to build good street machines. Remember now the magazine’s main thrust is to sell lots of magazines and have lots of advertisers. That’s the main driving force with these publications,is making money. Never mind how accurate the info is, or useable. This is another reason I don’t bother with them because I see lots of errors in them. Engine building being one of them. If you are going to compare anything, be it apples to oranges or Fords and Chevy’s the base lines have to be as close to each other as possible. I’m not seeing that in these dyno shoot outs they are doing. The other things are recommendations to new people to be very conservative. That’s okay for new people, makes the learning curve a little easier to climb. There are tons of old gear heads out there like me, blowing around like ashes from  previous hot rod camp fires decades old. The basics of hot rods remains the same. The physics of what it takes to make a motor that runs good hasn’t changes. The way in which we do that has. Fortunately there are two sides to this structure. Old school, and the new way. Old school is basically much simpler and usually, but not always cheaper. There are sides of the new technology I like too, fuel injection being one of them. It all just depends upon when you were born. That’s it. That’s all it is.  Today’s young hot rodders like all the new stuff because it’s timely during their life. I see some youngsters that love the old school way of hot rodding and I love to see it. There so much to learn from this side of the fence. There is so much to learn from the high-tech side also. I have to admit that the denizens on my side of the fence aren’t looking thru the slats into the high-tech yard too much.

Ok so what has this to do with putting up with things? Well if you build your car like the magazines say you should you will have a nice, sedate car that idles fairly well, drinks pump gas with a smile on its face, and has pretty fair performance. The cars usually have what I call the Conestoga Wheels on them. These are the big round dudes of 18-20 inches and up. You can tell I don’t like them no? Well right you are. Just my preference is all.  What if you want a little more than the “magazine special”?  Raise your hand.  That’s me. I usually want way more than these things give you. It comes from my childhood. My parents used to buy me Japanese toys.  These things broke the first time you used them,  unlike anything from Japan nowadays. Anyway I got a complex from those things that broke and it affected me the rest of my life. I’m actually thankful for it because it impressed me enough to understand quality as a seventh sense. It impressed me enough to break my ass every single time I ever did anything as a mechanic. Seeing something come back into the bay because of something I should have done better is just  not acceptable to me. So this also means that I like things on the extreme.

This also means I’m willing to put up with street driven machinery that most people would find down right objectionable. My Oldsmobile would make the worlds worst get away car. Not because it’s slow, but because to get it running takes a series of steps. It resembles more closely cranking up an airplane or helicopter. If these steps aren’t followed it probably wouldn’t start. Why do I put up with this when I don’t have to? Well it has to do with how much asphalt I want to see go underneath the car when I put the loud pedal down. It requires sacrifices in areas of the car’s temperament that bump into the creature comforts of operation.  Having raced drag cars I know how they behave. So it’s a no brainer for me to deal with that sort of operation from a car that’s more than a “magazine special.”   In fact I’m seriously considering redoing the engine just a bit. I was taking to Tim Posik at Superchargers USA about installing an 8-71 Roots blower on the car with an Enderle Birdcatcher  injector hat. Don’t worry about this nomenclature, suffice to say it’s on the radical side for street cars. You can Google 8-71 superchargers and Enderle Birdcatcher fuel injectors if you want to see what they look like. It’s an expensive way to pick up 500-600 hp.  Yep that much. If you don’t believe it call me and I’ll explain it to you.

Enough car stuff; I promised to make this open to everyone. Here’s another deal to think about. Unless you are a computer engineer, you probably don’t understand why there are so many different codecs and audio file extensions do you? Well neither do I.  Let’s see, on audio files there is .wav, .wma, .mp3, .mp4, and aac files for Macs. I know there’s lots more. I burned a CD that contained .wav files and guess what? My stereo wouldn’t play them! Imagine that? So I had to screw around and download a free converter to convert them to something the stereo machine liked.  I could devote an entire blog article to all the Mickey Mouse crap connected with PCs.

When I went down to renew my driver’s license I was told that I needed a copy of my birth certificate, and a couple other pieces of ID.  So why have your picture on the driver’s license then? If the jerk off behind the counter at DMV can’t tell from the picture  on it that it’s you then why have the pictures on the damn things in the first place? They all make us looks like we just killed our parents with their shitty, straight from the decommissioned penitentiary, ID camera. So I had to get a copy of my birth certificate with my expired drivers license. It’s a good thing the people who issue those were a bit lenient with me because it says you are supposed to show them or prove to them that you have a valid driver’s license. If they hadn’t accepted mine I would be in a grand catch 22 wouldn’t I?

All the new gadgets we get are designed by people who are really smart. Their intelligence uses up all or most of their hard disk space so there’s no partition labeled “common sense.”  So when they write software or design firmware that makes a Blu-ray player what it is, and a flat screen LCD Or LED whatever you have, look like someone is really standing in your living room, it has the common sense factored out of the owner’s manual. You have to assume way too much. Most manuals are ambiguous at best and most are woefully inadequate.  Then there are some glitches in the stuff we just bought that defy the trouble-shooting section in the manual. I have a Samsung LCD  TV. I have a Bose sound system hooked up to it via the video port on the back of the TV. I  have a Panasonic Blu-Ray machine hooked up to the TV via a HDMI cable. So when you turn on the Blu-Ray machine it turns on the TV. If you don’t do some sequence just right you will have no sound out of the sound system. It’s like the computer part of the TV didn’t detect the Bose link when it scanned the ports and didn’t load any sound drivers. I don’t know if the damn TV works this way or not. It sure as hell isn’t in the manual.

In every section of every owners manual that I have ever read I have NEVER had a problem covered in the FAQ sections. I’ve never had a problem shown in the “Trouble Shooting” sections of these manuals either. You know what I think? I think some geek sits around and dreams up problems that are most unlikely to happen. Then they publish them in the owner’s manual along with the Spanish section, Portuguese, German, and French section that makes at first glance what you think is an informative manual due to its many foreign dialect sections tacked on. What a joke.  During the great techno civil war in 2013 a justice finding body was formed. It consists of a police force dedicated to all the above mentioned defugealties, and a court. Guess who the judge is?  If you think it’s me your wrong. It’s you and all the rest of the American people who every day have to put up with the same sort of horsecrap!  We get to question to our hearts content why someone would print a manual no one understands except an engineer, or worse yet why someone would write a program as vast and complex as Photo Shop is and sell it without a manual? Hey let me ask this question please!

Were in court now, the judge asks “prosecutor you may question the defendant now. ”  “Hello Mr. Smith, my name is Dave Proffitt. ” I’m a special prosecutor for the Consumer’s Justice League, do you know what we do?”

Def. “Yes I do.”

“Alright so you are one of the soft ware leading engineers for Adobe Photo Shop correct?”  Def. “yes”.  “Well why wasn’t a manual included with the program? I mean after all the program is over six hundred dollars.”  Def. “The manual is available on-line in a .pdf format.”  “Is it really? is this manual referenced during the installation process of the program so we know where to down load it?”  Def. “No it isn’t.”  “Well don’t you think that would be a good idea?”  Def. ” I can’t comment on that.” “And why not?”  Def. “the program is for advanced users of Adobe Photo Shop, so we felt that the transition to the newer version would not be difficult to most users accustomed to the program.” “What about users that are new to it? Are we supposed to think they are just “shit out of luck?”  “Do you really think that not including a users manual is saving the company lots of money? After all it retails for over six hundred dollars, don’t you think you could have thrown in a manual for that amount of money?”  Def. “I can’t comment on that.”

Well the judge got disgusted and sentenced him to write a manual for Photo Shop. It has to be re-written until everyone in the United States can understand it. So he’ll be at it for a long time.