Yellow Gates

I went up to the Welches Thriftway last night. A park ranger pulled in beside my car. Make a long story a little shorter, he came out of the store the same time as I. I asked him about all the closed roads up here and in the Mt Hood National Forest. He told me it was because of people dumping trash up on these roads, the vandalism, parties etc. Looking back on this I don’t ever remember this sort of stuff being a problem. I’m wondering what lines of code got corrupted or left out of people’s behavioral programming today?  People dumping their trash up in the woods is terrible. What’s so hard about going to the landfill in Sandy? Sure it might cost you twelve bucks for a minimum sized load, so what?  What’s so hard about picking up after yourselves if you have a party in the woods, or why tear up forest service signs and picnic tables? What the hell is wrong with people nowadays? There’s a different breed of human out there these days folks and they are reckless, careless, thoughtless, and dangerous. I wouldn’t let one of these clowns in to my camp on a bet. If I had to run them out of the area I would. Then people wonder why normal folks want concealed carry permits? Hell I understand that completely.

So when you see a big yellow gate crossed a forest service road you’ll know why. My ranger told me that if I were to come up to one of these gates to just walk in. I told him I was an armature photographer. So at least it looks like I can still get into these areas at least on foot. Now if summer will just get here…..



Dog Hugs

I give my dog lots of hugs. He needs them too. Just a pat on the head is ok, but doesn’t do much for their emotional needs. Dogs like to be appreciated, and they should be for their devotion and friendship they provide the human race. They also like to be told what great dogs they are. They have egos, but the praise doesn’t go to their heads as it does for us. It’s my belief that dogs also should be talked to as much as possible. Who cares if people think you’re a bit eccentric because you have words with your dog? They like it. I know they do, Zeph looks right at me and smiles while I’m talking to him.

It’s said that dogs DNA is  98% compatible with wolf DNA. That said, that means that basically a genetic separation of only about 2% exits between dogs and wolves? Well I think there are other markers as well. However the difference between wolves and dogs on a behavioral plane is vastly difference. This comes about from the dogs going to Manners University that we as humans have put our canine friends thru. It’s true when you consider how long dogs have been domesticated by humans. Dogs have become accustomed to having decent manners around humans with just a little coaxing from us when puppies. Dogs usually don’t lift their legs on speaker cabinets in the house or relieve themselves unless we fail to let them outside when they ask. If they have accidents then, well it’s our fault wouldn’t you say?

I watched an interesting documentary that the NOVA folks put on. They got two wolf pups and brought them into the house and amongst the family. This was a test to see if a wolf could be domesticated. Everything went fine until the pups graduated to being more of youngsters at the age of a year. Then they went thru some behavior that really separated them from the dogs. They would get up on the table to get food, and didn’t respond to being told not to. They just didn’t care if the humans liked it or not. They were skittish and fairly crazy when kept inside a house. So it would seem that wolves really don’t make good pets. It’s the difference between wanting to please your owner or not giving a shit. The wolves obviously don’t care. Dogs do. They want our approval, at least that’s my experience. It’s also important on how easily one can train a dog. If your dog doesn’t really care what you think of him he isn’t going to want to learn anything and he won’t  if he doesn’t want to, period. I’ve seen this. I think this sort of attitude comes from lack of attention. Dogs aren’t dumb, actually none of them are. They are quite smart, more so than the primates we’ve been spoon fed with stories of how human-like they are and how smart they are. Hogwash to me. I’ll take canine intelligence to a damn monkey who throws his dung at people any day.

I’m not going to sit here and say that we should set a place at the table for our dogs, or to let them climb in bed with us. That’s not necessary. What I am saying is that dogs need more than a full food dish and water. If you are one of these owners that leaves your dog in a cage 24-7 and only talks with him when feeding him then you don’t deserve to own a dog. How would you like to be left in a cell with no companionship for the span of your lifetime?  If you have a house that’s so tidy that you don’t want your dog in it why is that? Is it because you don’t take care of him and brush him? If he’s leaving hair in your home then you need to do something about that. It’s called grooming. It only takes 5 minutes a couple of times during the week to take care of shedding. It will make him look better and feel better. It’s also a time of bonding whether you know that or not. Dogs like lots of personal attention. If you are just getting started with that then they may wonder “what’s up” and not be exactly cooperative. Don’t scold him of have a temper tantrum if your dog doesn’t stand perfectly still for you. He’ll get used to it and so will you.

Dogs like companionship and that means having your pet in the house with you. I’d much rather go to someone’s house and see dog hair on the floor than see him tied up or in a run outside. You dont’ have to have your dog in the house all the time, if you have a run put him in there if you are outside doing something that may  be dangerous to you or him if you attention is distracted.  My dog is in the house with me when I’m in the house. When I’m outside he’s outside. I run the vacuum cleaner around the house a couple of times a week. He has long hair and it does come off of him. It’s no big deal to vacuum the floor.

So among other things talk with your dog. He’ll start following you around and before long you will be amazed at how much they really understand of what you say to them. I’ve been preaching this forever, that dogs understand way more than we think they do. I know they do. I’ve had German Shepherds most of my life and I know how they utilize human speech.

Dogs are like people in lots of aspects. They can be scary as the dickens just like we can. German Shepherds, Dobermanns, Rottweilers, Pitt Bulls are all on the canine “Scary Dogs” list. The only reason these dogs are scary is because people do dipshit stuff with them like trying to make other people afraid of them by teaching them bad behavior. German Shepherds aren’t born with a “bad attitude” no more so than Dobermanns or Rottweilers or Pitt Bulls for that matter. True they have some inherent characteristics, but not to the point of making them “anti human.”  This comes from people not maintaining their dog’s emotional health. If you are going to own a dog then you are responsible for his emotional health as well as his physical well-being. If you aren’t willing to do this then you shouldn’t own a dog, period end of discussion. Dogs are a responsiblity. Not as much of one as say a horse, but still you need to take care of them. The rewards for this are amazing. You will have a friend that doesn’t care what the hell you look like when you get up, will always be happy to see you no matter what time you come home,is more than  happy to sit there and listen to all your “boring old stories of glory days.”  They will give their life for you without even thinking about it if he feels you need protection. How many humans can you say that about? I can’t think of any.

Give your dog a hug, tell him what pretty or handsome dog he is and fuss over him. Do this every single day. When  he passes you wont have to kick yourself in ass wishing you would have.


First Pull

I like stuff that works. I can’t stand stuff that doesn’t.  Case in point is my Honda lawnmower. I guess it’s about ten or twelve years old now. Only had one oil change, no spark plug changes, air cleaner that has been washed and blown out maybe three times including today. Lots of gasoline thru it and grass under it.

It’s one of these self-propelled guys, all that means is that it gets to drag you around the yard and force you to torque it around tree trunks, flower beds and the like. That’s ok though it’s better than pushing it. It has an overhead valve motor that makes about five horsepower I think. Plenty of power for a mower. It has a magnesium base, and adjustable wheels. These things when all the way up makes it look like a Hyster straddle truck. I use it to mow tall grass on the order of three to four feet! Yep it will mow it too. You can’t plow into grass this high at warp speed but it will cut it if you are patient and don’t make a habit of killing the motor, or wading into it when it’s full of dew drops and rain water.

Well my plan for the day was to mow my fenced it side yard. It’s gotten a tad out of hand and due to lots of limbs coming out of the trees above it, has been a cemetery for dead tree fallings. So I got a couple of saw horses out and my new reciprocating saw, battery-powered wonder. Using one of these saws is so much easier than dragging out the chain saw and risking personal limb removal if you miss the wooden kind. This thing is good for limbs about three inches in diameter. That’s as long as the blade is. So I cut up all the limbs that were out there that weren’t already cut. This saw is a DeWalt by the way and I have the entire little tool kit, drill, recip saw, circular saw, light, 3/8 drive impact driver. I love the DeWalt tools they work great, and outperform the Makita stuff all over the place.

So I got that all done and put the saw away, stuck the battery pack on the charger and went to fetch my mower. Now I have a John Deere riding mower. I use it for all the lawn mowing and it does a fantastic job. It has a twenty-three horsepower V-twin Briggs and Stratton overhead valve motor on it. It takes some serious cranking to get it started. It always starts but it takes a bit.  Ok so I got he Honda out because I need to do some close in work and I was going to try mowing the tall stuff first. It works better than the riding mower for cutting tall grass. I haven’t figured this out yet. Anyway I sucked some stale gas out of it, refilled it with some stabilized fresh gas, checked the oil, it was ok and took the air cleaner apart. It was a little dirty so I blew out the paper filter and the foam one. I put it all back together. I turned on the gas and gave it full choke. I oiled up the wheels with WD and the adjustment mechanisms.  I was sitting down on my favorite motor sports stool and decided to see if it would start. I gave it one pull and it started! Ran fine! I got the grass around my flower bed cut and some tree trunks. However the tall stuff is still too wet to mow, so I decided to wait for a sunny day. Maybe tomorrow?

It just is amazing to me that this motor is so willing to start.  I was over at a friend’s house the other day. She was sort of looking down her nose at the Japanese motors specifically Honda’s. Well I’m as American as the next guy. When I want to get a job done I want to get it done so I can do something else. I don’t want to fart around trying to coax a cranky lawnmower motor to start, giving it artificial respiration with a can of starting fluid. So I told her,” you can run down the Japanese stuff all you want, but the Honda motors start and run when you want them to, that’s all I care about.”  If Briggs and Stratton made a motor that ran like the Honda’s do that would be great, but they don’t. They are much better than they used to be when they were all flathead engines. Seems the birth of overhead valve engines in small applications like mowers and tillers has made hard starting a thing of the past, even for Briggs and Stratton. Why my John Deere takes thirty revolutions to fire up is probably due to the bogus vacuum fuel pump it’s saddled with. For two cents I’d put on a Holley electric fuel pump and by-pass all the stuff the motor doesn’t need back to the tank again. I dont’ know how much fuel pressure the carb can hack on this thing or I’d do it. Not too much methinks.

Well I just wanted to say thanks to Honda for making such a great mower. In my book this is what performance is all about.


Occular Migrains

A few years ago I was at work and I noticed something different about my vision.  I thought this peculiar because my eyes and vision have always been one of the best parts of me. So when this started it got my attention right away.  I was having a show in the middle of my vision without drugs!  I decided to go sit down in the office. I did and the visions just intensified. What was I seeing? Well this thing looked like a combination of a sort of transparent, sparkling snake that moved around all by itself. It sort of kept it’s shape like the outside perimeter of a spilled liquid on the floor, if you can picture that. It reminded me of a kaleidoscope image in a way. I had a hunch this might be blood pressure-related so I leaned back in the chair and tried to really relax. I decided to close my eyes and see if it went away. It didn’t. I could see the snake winding around in that dull light red medium we see when we close our eyes. So then I decided to see if it was in one eye or both, so I put my hand over one eye. Dumb because if it showed up with my eyes closed this wouldn’t really show anything.  It was in both my eyes as well. This thing was ambling around from the very center of my vision to the left peripheral side. It also seemed to be expanding a little. As I sat there I kept watching it and it kept expanding and expanding. Finally it got so big it felt like it went clear out of my eyes, which it did. It was gone. It never came back for about two weeks. When it did the next time I decided to go to the eye doctor.

He examined my eyes and told me that other than being middle aged and having typical vision for a man in his late 50’s my eyes were fine. So what’s the light show about? He explained to me that it’s something called a occular migraine. I told him that I had no pain usually associated with a migraine. He said that it’s fairly typical to have no head aches with these types of migraines. He said that the medical people did not know what caused them, they were thinking it might be blood pressure-related and have something to do with nerve centers in the head and neck. He also told me that they were nothing to worry about. He said that some people have them on a regular basis and some people only get one or two in a lifetime.

I had one this morning when I got up. It has since gone away. This makes the third or fourth one I’ve had in my life. I’m glad they aren’t around all the time they would tend to annoy me. So if you get one of these vision anomalies, don’t panic. Chances are it’s just a occular migraine. It would be best to go to your eye doctor or regular physician and get checked out just to be safe. Just try to relax and I’ll bet it’ll go away in fifteen  or twenty minutes. Mine usually only last ten to fifteen minutes if that. I have talked with other people who have had them. It’s interesting to hear what shapes other folks see. One guy told me he sees chevrons, another one said very transparent snow flakes!  I guess these things would be entertaining if you could turn them on while sitting in the doctor’s office for half an hour.


Natural Gas and Propane as Motor Fuels?

I see this sort of thing all the time. Using natural gas and propane as a motor fuel. During my tenure as a mechanic I worked on various heavy trucks and passenger cars that ran on either propane or natural gas. First of all natural gas has less energy output than either gasoline or propane. It requires large, heavy tanks than can contain high pressure liquified natural gas. It takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to refuel a natural gas-powered vehicle, not 15 minutes like the gas stations. Propane systems for vehicles in existence today will not work with modern vehicles because the propane industry has dragged its feet and have not kept up with current computer control fuel management system using digital fuel injection. Propane makes less horsepower than the same engine running on gasoline, and less torque too because it doesn’t have the energy content gasoline does. To make matters even worse, it has  high combustion temperature, and it goes into the cylinders as a dry gas. There is absolutely no lubrication to valve guides, upper cylinder rings. In fact because of it’s higher combustion temperatures, compression rings lose their ductility and become less elastic taking a set to where they finally decided to expire. This causes massive amounts of blow by past the compression rings that gets lost going into the crankcase. I’ve seen propane engines that leaked on the average of 45-55% into the crankcase or past burnt valves. These engines were in such poor shape that they would not run on gasoline without a complete overhaul.

    Natural gas engines have similar maladies as well. For all intents and purposes you can lump the natural gas engines in with the propane engines when it comes to areas problematic to these types of fuels.

    I’ve also heard that propane and natural gas engines don’t dilute crankcase oils. Well they don’t. But they do something just as bad. They increase the viscosity of the oil. This happens because the lack of liquid combustion residues leaking past cylinder rings into the oil doesn’t occur. Instead the higher heat from propane fuels boils away the light ends of the engine oil increasing its viscosity. I’ve seen 10-30W oil that had the viscosity of 40W single weight oil.  Multigrade oils won’t remain multiweight in propane engines. Low viscosity oils are important in providing faster lubrication into critical engine areas during cold start-ups etc.  Higher viscosity oils can’t do this as well. They also increase the drag on the oil pump, cause more windage problems for the crankshaft assembly. Crankcase oils in propane engines still experience mechanical degradation from shearing just as gasoline engines do so you can’t claim extended oil changes with a propane or natural gas fueled engines if you want to keep your bearings in one piece.

    Because of higher under-hood temperatures I’ve seen wiring harnesses become cooked and brittle, requiring their entire replacement. Certain engines cannot be satisfactorily run on propane. Case in point is the 392 International Harvester engine. True this engine for reasons unknown to me have been run on propane extensively. The school buses I worked on had these engines in them that were running on propane. The problem with these engines are manifold. First of all propane takes a hotter ignition because it’s a dry gas and has higher spark plug inter-electrode resistance than gasoline engines do. The IH engines I worked on had marginal ignitions on them for gasoline let alone propane or natural gas. So they needed a hotter system like MSD aftermarket distributors and boxes to run they way they should. Second problem is in the combustion chamber in the heads. The intake and exhaust valves are very close to each other. There’s very little material around the valve seats and because of the higher combustion temperatures and lack of a decent amount of valve seat area to sink the heat away from the exhaust valves would instead crack between the intake and the exhaust valve seats. Due to propane’s lack of lubrication, valve seat recession occurs as well. Couple this with the cracking problem and you have a cylinder head that’s ready for the scrap yard.

Valve seat recession isn’t just a problem for IH engines. I”ve seen big block and small block Chevrolet’s and large and small block Fords with valve seat recession problems. In fact I saw a recession problem so bad that the edges of the exhaust valve gradually eroded away from the outer radius and stuck itself into the area of the exhaust port below the seat. This caused a rocker arm failure and a bent pushrod, and a collapsed lifter on the same cylinder.

If all this isn’t bad enough, then you come to the problem of trying to make this stuff work on new cars. An overview of a propane induction system is in order first so you understand how it works and the problems with trying to adapt this antique technology on today’s cars. First of all propane is stored inside a low pressure tank. Most motor vehicle tanks are required to safely contain 312 psi. Most propane tank pressures even on the hottest days only run around 110-120 psi. The propane is pumped into the tank as a liquid. It stays that way as long as it’s under pressure. If you release the pressure it converts itself to a gas at minus 44 degrees below zero. Think of it as watching a glass of 7-up bubbling away. Propane looks similar.  To get the propane into a usable form for the engine it must be carried from the tank as a liquid up to a device called a converter. Before the converter it goes thru a safety device called a  fuel lock off valve. This filters the liquid, and lets it pass to the converter if this valve  has manifold vacuum applied to it. If it does not, it will not allow propane to flow into the converter. Okay so the converter is just what it sounds like. It converts liquid propane into a gas and steps down the pressure to about 1/2 psi for use in the mixer. The converter has engine coolant circulating thru it to keep it from freezing up as it flashes the liquid propane off to a gas.  So why not just convert the liquid into a gas in the tank? Well it’s a little thing called BTU loading and wetted surface area. An engine requires a huge BTU load to run compared to the wetted surface area of the fuel tank. What is wetted surface area?  It’s the amount of internal surface in a propane cylinder that can vaporize a given amount of propane for the load it’s connected to. If you increase the load and don’t increase the surface area, the cylinder will freeze down. First frost forms on the outside of the cylinder due to the moisture in the air around it. As this process continues the frost freezes into ice. The ice effectively insulates the tank walls from the warmer air and the process degenerates as time goes on. As this process continues the pressure in the tank continues to drop because less and less liquid is being converted into a gas. The way to get around it is to extract the propane from the cylinder in a liquid form and flash it off to vapor using the converter.

As the propane exits the converter it gets sucked into the mixer. The mixer is nothing like a gasoline carburetor. It has very few parts by comparison. It has a primitive diaphragm controlled idle circuit and an even more primitive power control. A large bolt with a flat plate attached to it that works similar to a faucet. There is a diaphragm controlled slide that allows the propane vapor to mix with air sucked in thru the top of the mixer so that it creates a stoichiometric air to fuel ratio the engine can run on. This system is typical of almost all propane vehicle induction systems.

   One company I know of experimented with liquid propane injection and it worked very well. It even allowed for all the vehicles OEM on board systems to remain.  This company has since gone out of business and I don’t know where their research went.  The propane company I worked for converted several new small school buses over to propane and some larger ones. This was done by installing an old-fashioned propane mixers in front of the throttle bodies. Then the port injectors were disconnected. Some were removed. The buses had to have the ECM (electronic control module) removed and sent back to a company to reflash the firmware in them for a propane fuel curve. Any such modifications to a new vehicle would most surely void the manufactures warranty.

   I could build a motor that would run on propane. Several modifications should be made to the engine before. A ring set that can handle elevated combustion temperatures should be used, I’d probably use a gapless top ring. I would also increase piston skirt to cylinder wall clearance a little. I’d use liquid injection instead of the antiquated vapor systems. I’ve seen the vapor systems explode and blow air cleaners off motors, bend throttle shafts on throttle bodies they were in front of, blow up plastic intake manifolds on newer GM small blocks. All this takes is a back fire thru the intake track which happens more often than not on propane systems. Hardend valve seats in the heads would be in order. Sodium filled or valves made from some exotic materials such as ICONEL, Stellite, or maybe even Titanium to help with the heat.

   I’m not so quick to jump on the propane/natural gas band wagon as some are. Propane is just as expensive as gasoline maybe more so. Until someone in the propane industry decides that the old way of getting propane into an internal combustion engine needs to be looked at again, I’ll pass on its use as a viable motor fuel. I know because I worked in the propane industry for over 12 years. I did everything from unload rail cars, I  worked in a huge gas plant, I  worked on fleet vehicles powered with it. I ain’t making this stuff up.