Monday, October 29, 2007

Good advice...

What Do You Do?

by Thomas Day

I’m sitting in a line of vehicles, waiting to turn left into a university parking lot. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. I can almost see a bluish tint from the sky leaking through the smog. The temperature is, as always, perfect for motorcycling or any other warm weather outdoor activity. But I’m solidly on edge. I’m in southern California and I’ve been tense for the last two years.

The two cars in front of me have turned tension into action. The lead driver made the radical decision to stop on yellow; almost a driving felony in southern California. The driver in the following four-by-four practically stood his pickup on its bumper to avoid rear-ending the lead car. Before the pickup tires stopped squealing, the driver was pounding on his horn. The driver in the front car offered a one-finger salute in response. In true California tradition, the action turned serious faster than you can sing “We gotta get outta this place.”

The guy in the pickup jumped out, reached behind his seat, pulled out a shiny blue aluminum baseball bat, and started stomping toward the car at the head of the queue. The other driver calmly reached under his seat, took out his pistol, and got out of his car to face the guy with the bat. I’m sitting on my bike, third in line, solidly in the line of fire, with a great view of the action, looking for a way to get back into the flow of traffic and away from the war zone.

Traffic is flowing without the tiniest space between vehicles and I’m stuck. The car behind me has left about six inches of clearance between his bumper and my rear wheel and I have about four feet to work with in making myself scarce before the shooting starts. From behind me, several cars back, a cop fires off his siren. The two whack-jobs dive for their vehicles and, when the light changes, the lead car jumps into the right lane and drives away from the scene, while the second car makes a u-turn and bolts in the opposite direction. I turn into the parking lot, find a space, turn off the bike, put away my gear, and begin another crappy day in Paradise.

We’ve survived another year with the occasional case of mad-dog-driving-an-SUV marring an otherwise mild and beautiful Minnesota summer. Rightfully, we get pretty upset about Minnesota Nice turning into Minnesota Madness. It’s not that bad here . . . yet.

To put this in perspective, the scene I just described occurred in 1985 in Costa Mesa, California. Just a few years later, Steve Martin tossed a “Thursdays are for handguns on the freeway” scene in LA Story and everybody, except southern Californians, thought it was pretty funny. To those of us who lived in SoCal, most of LA Story was a romantic documentary and only funny in the way that scary stuff you have in common with thirty million other crazy folks can be funny.

I tend to think of road madness as just another symptom of overpopulation. You pack living things too close together, they get crazy. Rats do it, hogs do it, coyotes do it, and people are somewhere down the evolutionary tree from those animals, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we do it. We haven’t even begun to go mad in the Cities, but we’re working on it. Adding freeway lanes won’t slow down our two-wheel drift into lunacy. More lanes will just compound the feeling that there are too many people in too small a container and folks will just get more and more violent as they thrash around trying to make elbow room for themselves. And more people will fill the available space. It’s human nature, especially American human nature. In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore tried to figure out why we’re specially inclined toward violent behavior and he only managed to piss off Charlton Heston in his search for an answer. I don’t have any better answers than Heston gave Moore, but I’ve witnessed, first hand, the experience of North American population pressure and it’s not pretty.

When I first moved to California, from Nebraska, I was amazed that almost everyone I knew kept a loaded gun in their glovebox, or under the seat, or stuffed into their belt anytime they were on the road. I mean everyone, as in ordinary people from from every walk of life. The owner of the company that employed me, an upper crust, extremely wealthy, Volvo-driving, Sierra-clubbing Yuppie, had a 9mm automatic under his seat. The scrawny, long-haired, guitar-playing, mild-mannered tech who wrote the code for our automatic test equipment had a silenced .22 automatic under his vintage Austin Healy’s seat and a .45 caliber revolver in an under-dashboard mounted holster. The over-weight, middle-aged woman who ran our manufacturing floor carried a stubby .32 in her purse. Our CFO had a short-barrelled 20-gauge shotgun stuffed under his BMW’s seat. And the list goes on until I felt like I was living in a freaky SiFi western populated with Japanese and European cars instead of horses and wagons. I grew up in Dodge City, Kansas, so I know a little about living in a cowboy town, but southern California was way more hostile and far better armed than Dodge ever was. With our shiny new “conceal and carry” law, we’re heading for California attitudes.

While I lived in Orange County, I watched the night dirt track races most summer Friday evenings. One evening, one racer took a particularly vicious fall and was seriously injured. His mother wrapped him up and stuffed him in her van and took off for the nearest hospital. Apparently, she cut off a guy on a freeway exit on the way to the hospital and he took exception to that mortal insult to his family pride. He pumped a clip load into her van, leaving her and the injured rider to die. The rider survived the incident, but his mother didn’t. The driver/gunner was a middle-aged guy on his way home from work who just couldn’t let a freeway insult pass without voicing his opinion . . . with a pistol he always carried in his glovebox.

Keeping our tendency toward vicious reprisals in mind, I try to remind myself of a quote from the MSF’s Basic Rider video, whenever I start to get worked up over someone else’s driving; “a motorcycle will never win in a battle with a car.” No matter what silly crap you’ve seen in the last 50 years of Hell’s Angels movies, a car beats a motorcycle (or motorcycles) like rocks break scissors. Four wheels and several tons of mass will shove two wheels and 500-1000 pounds of bike and rider pretty much anywhere the four wheels wants to take the two wheels. If you include the weapons storage capabilities (and likelhood) of SUVs and other large vehicles that often contain specially irritated and irritating cagers, you don’t have a chance in a one-on-one confrontation.

I’d recommend that you choke down your rage, think about something pleasant (while keeping your mind on the road and traffic), and keep that fickle finger on the handlebars. It might be therapeutic to vent on the highway, but, if you’re not careful, you could be in need of several months of physical therapy after everyone is finished venting. That’s assuming that you live through the confrontation. Ride fast, ride safe, ride often, and control your emotions.

Original Article

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Three whole pages of custom PEZ dispensers Here.

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Be VERY specific when you order a cake with a message...

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What do Princess Diana and pink Floyd have in common?

Their last big hit was the wall.




Excellent costume idea, terrible video...(0:22)

Now that's depressing - reporter reports on his own destroyed home...(2:22)

Sure Lock - A True Poo Story...(3:15)


Trick or Treat Horoscopes

* Aries pushes the others aside to get to the door first.

* Taurus will only eat the finest Swiss chocolates.

* Gemini goes around the neighborhood once, changes costumes and goes around again.

* Cancer stays at home and gives candy to the other trick-or-treaters.

* Leo plans their costume for months, then won't go out because someone else had the same idea.

* Virgo wears a neatly-pressed suit and tells everyone they're a bookkeeper.

* Libra is still standing in front of the closet trying to decide on a costume.

* Scorpio isn't in it for the candy.

* Sagittarius will manage to wander to the next town.

* Capricorn makes a list of all the houses that give good candy and the optimal route to take.

* Aquarius builds their costume out of spare flashlights and spends all night tinkering when it shorts.

* Pisces skips the whole thing to compose poetry to the Moon.

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A Telescopic View of Erupting Comet Holmes
Credit & Copyright: Igor Chekalin

What's happened to Comet Holmes? A normally docile comet discovered over 100 years ago, Comet 17P/Holmes suddenly became nearly one million times brighter last week, possibly over just a few hours. In astronomical terms, the comet brightened from magnitude 17, only visible through a good telescope, to magnitude 3, becoming visible with the unaided eye. Comet Holmes had already passed its closest to the Sun in 2007 May outside the orbit of Mars and was heading back out near Jupiter's orbit when the outburst occurred. The comet's sudden brightening is likely due to some sort of sunlight-reflecting outgassing event, possibly related to ice melting over a gas-filled cavern, or possibly even a partial breakup of the comet's nucleus. Pictured above through a small telescope last Thursday, Comet Holmes appeared as a fuzzy yellow spot, significantly larger in angular size than Earth-atmosphere blurred distant stars. Although Comet Holmes' orbit will place it in northern hemisphere skies for the next two years, whether it will best be viewed through a telescope or sunglasses remains unknown.


Tunes You'll Like...

Two old school and one new...

Men Without Hats - Safety dance

Meryn Cadell - The Sweater

Minus The Bear - Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse



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I used to want to try my hand at the infamous TT, not anymore. Hold on for a lap as David Jeffries ( who won but was killed at this track the very next year ) takes you on a well narrated flying lap of the worlds most dangerous race. Think you're fast? Not after watching this...

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Motorhead Messiah
Check it out. It's actually a jet engine," says Johnathan Goodwin, with a low whistle. "This thing is gonna be even cooler than I thought." We're hunched on the floor of Goodwin's gleaming workshop in Wichita, Kansas, surrounded by the shards of a wooden packing crate. Inside the wreckage sits his latest toy--a 1985-issue turbine engine originally designed for the military. It can spin at a blistering 60,000 rpm and burn almost any fuel. And Goodwin has some startling plans for this esoteric piece of hardware: He's going to use it to create the most fuel-efficient Hummer in history.

Warning...Loooong techy article ahead

Goodwin, a 37-year-old who looks like Kevin Costner with better hair, is a professional car hacker. The spic-and-span shop is filled with eight monstrous trucks and cars--Hummers, Yukon XLs, Jeeps--in various states of undress. His four tattooed, twentysomething grease monkeys crawl all over them with wrenches and welding torches.

Goodwin leads me over to a red 2005 H3 Hummer that's up on jacks, its mechanicals removed. He aims to use the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid. Like most hybrids, it'll have two engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin's secret ingredient. Whenever the truck's juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it'll recharge a set of "supercapacitor" batteries in seconds. This means the H3's electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What's more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it's time to fill the tank, he'll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease--as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double--from 300 to 600.

"Conservatively," Goodwin muses, scratching his chin, "it'll get 60 miles to the gallon. With 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. You'll be able to smoke the tires. And it's going to be superefficient."

He laughs. "Think about it: a 5,000-pound vehicle that gets 60 miles to the gallon and does zero to 60 in five seconds!"

This is the sort of work that's making Goodwin famous in the world of underground car modders. He is a virtuoso of fuel economy. He takes the hugest American cars on the road and rejiggers them to get up to quadruple their normal mileage and burn low-emission renewable fuels grown on U.S. soil--all while doubling their horsepower. The result thrills eco-evangelists and red-meat Americans alike: a vehicle that's simultaneously green and mean. And word's getting out. In the corner of his office sits Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1987 Jeep Wagoneer, which Goodwin is converting to biodiesel; soon, Neil Young will be shipping him a 1960 Lincoln Continental to transform into a biodiesel--electric hybrid.

His target for Young's car? One hundred miles per gallon.

This is more than a mere American Chopper--style makeover. Goodwin's experiments point to a radically cleaner and cheaper future for the American car. The numbers are simple: With a $5,000 bolt-on kit he co-engineered--the poor man's version of a Goodwin conversion--he can immediately transform any diesel vehicle to burn 50% less fuel and produce 80% fewer emissions. On a full-size gas-guzzler, he figures the kit earns its money back in about a year--or, on a regular car, two--while hitting an emissions target from the outset that's more stringent than any regulation we're likely to see in our lifetime. "Johnathan's in a league of his own," says Martin Tobias, CEO of Imperium Renewables, the nation's largest producer of biodiesel. "Nobody out there is doing experiments like he is."

Nobody--particularly not Detroit. Indeed, Goodwin is doing precisely what the big American automakers have always insisted is impossible. They have long argued that fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel cars are a hard sell because they're too cramped and meek for our market. They've lobbied aggressively against raising fuel-efficiency and emissions standards, insisting that either would doom the domestic industry. Yet the truth is that Detroit is now getting squeezed from all sides. This fall, labor unrest is brewing, and after decades of inertia on fuel-economy standards, Congress is jockeying to boost the target for cars to 35 mpg, a 10 mpg jump (which is either ridiculously large or ridiculously small, depending on whom you ask). More than a dozen states are enacting laws requiring steep reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Meanwhile, gas prices have hovered around $3 per gallon for more than a year. And European and Japanese carmakers are flooding the market with diesel and hybrid machines that get up to 40% better mileage than the best American cars; some, such as Mercedes's new BlueTec diesel sedans, deliver that kind of efficiency and more horsepower.

General Motors, Ford (NYSE:F), and Chrysler (NYSE:DAI), in short, have a choice: Cede still more ground--or mount a technological counterattack.

Goodwin's work proves that a counterattack is possible, and maybe easier than many of us imagined. If the dream is a big, badass ride that's also clean, well, he's there already. As he points out, his conversions consist almost entirely of taking stock GM parts and snapping them together in clever new ways. "They could do all this stuff if they wanted to," he tells me, slapping on a visor and hunching over an arc welder. "The technology has been there forever. They make 90% of the components I use." He doesn't have an engineering degree; he didn't even go to high school: "I've just been messing around and seeing what I can do."

All of which raises an interesting possibility. Has this guy in a far-off Kansas garage figured out the way to save Detroit?

America's most revolutionary innovations, it has long been said, sprang from the ramshackle dens of amateurs. Thomas Edison was a home-schooled dropout who got his start tinkering with battery parts; Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in his cramped Long Island kitchen. NASA, desperate for breakthroughs to help it return to the moon, has set up million-dollar prizes to encourage private citizens to come forward with any idea, no matter how crazy. As the theory goes, only those outside big industries can truly reinvent them.

Goodwin is certainly an outsider. He grew up in a dirt-poor Kansas family with six siblings and by age 13 began taking on piecework in local auto shops to help his mother pay the bills. He particularly enjoyed jamming oversized engines into places no one believed they'd fit. He put truck engines inside Camaros, Grand Nationals, and Super Bees; he even put a methanol-fueled turbocharger on a tiny Yamaha Banshee four-wheeler. "We took that thing from 35 horsepower to 208," he recalls. "It was crazy. We couldn't put enough fins on the back to keep it on the ground." After dropping out of school in the seventh grade, he made a living by buying up totaled cars and making them as good as new. "That," he says, "was my school."

Along the way, Goodwin also adopted two views common among Americans, but typically thought to be in conflict: a love of big cars and a concern about the environment. He is an avid, if somewhat nonideological, environmentalist. He believes global warming is a serious problem, that reliance on foreign oil is a mistake, and that butt-kicking fuel economy is just good for business. But Goodwin is also guiltlessly addicted to enormous, brawling rides, precisely the sort known to suck down Saudi gasoline. (I spied one lonely small sports car in the corner of his garage, but he confessed he has no plans to work on it right now.) When he picked me up from my hotel, he drove a four-door 2008 Cadillac Escalade XL that should have had its own tugboat. He parallel parked it in one try.

If Goodwin is an artist, though, his canvas has been the Hummer. His first impression of the thing was inauspicious. In 1990, he bought an H1 in Denver and began driving it back to Kansas. Within 50 miles, the bolts in the transmission shook loose, forcing him to stop to fix it. "By the time I made it home, after three roadside repairs, I pretty much knew that the Hummer was not all it should be," he told me. He didn't think much of the 200 horsepower engine, either, which did "zero to 60 in two days. It was a piece of junk."

So Goodwin decided to prove that environmentalism and power could go together--by making his new lemon into exhibit A. First, he pulled the gas engine so he could drop in a Duramax V8, GM's core diesel for large trucks. Diesel technology is crucial to all of Goodwin's innovations because it offers several advantages over traditional gasoline engines. Pound for pound, diesel offers more power and torque; it's also inherently more efficient, offering up to 40% better mileage and 20% lower emissions in engines of comparable size. What's more, many diesel engines can easily accept a wide range of biodiesel--from the high-quality stuff produced at refineries to the melted chicken grease siphoned off from the local KFC.

Putting a diesel engine in the Hummer, however, required Goodwin to crack GM's antitheft system, which makes it a pain to swap out the engine. In that system, the engine communicates electronically with the body, fuel supply, and ignition; if you don't have all the original components, the car won't start. Goodwin jerry-rigged a set of cables to trick the engine into believing the starter system had broken, sending it into "fail-safe mode"--a backdoor mechanism installed at the factory. (At one point in his story, Goodwin wanders over to a battered cardboard box in the corner of the garage and hauls out an octopuslike tangle of wires--"the MacGyver," his hacking device. "I could have sold this for a lot of money on eBay," he chuckles.)

Once he'd picked the car's lock, Goodwin installed the Duramax and a five-speed Allison--the required transmission for a Duramax, which also helps give it race-car-like control and a rapid take off. After five days' worth of work, the Hummer was getting about 18 mpg--double the factory 9 mpg--and twice the original horsepower. He drove it over to a local restaurant and mooched some discarded oil from its deep fryer, strained the oil through a pair of jeans, and poured it into the engine. It ran perfectly.

But Goodwin wanted more. While researching alternative fuels, he learned about the work of Uli Kruger, a German who has spent decades in Australia exploring techniques for blending fuels that normally don't mix. One of Kruger's systems induces hydrogen into the air intake of a diesel engine, producing a cascade of emissions-reducing and mileage-boosting effects. The hydrogen, ignited by the diesel combustion, burns extremely clean, producing only water as a by-product. It also displaces up to 50% of the diesel needed to fuel the car, effectively doubling the diesel's mileage and cutting emissions by at least half. Better yet, the water produced from the hydrogen combustion cools down the engine, so the diesel combustion generates fewer particulates--and thus fewer nitrogen-oxide emissions.

"It's really a fantastic chain reaction, all these good things happening at once," Kruger tells me. He has also successfully introduced natural gas--a ubiquitous and generally cheap fuel--into a diesel-burning engine, which likewise doubles the mileage while slashing emissions. In another system, he uses heat from the diesel engine to vaporize ethanol to the point where it can be injected into the diesel combustion chambers as a booster, with similar emissions-cutting effects.

Goodwin began building on Kruger's model. In 2005, he set to work adapting his own H1 Hummer to burn a combination of hydrogen and biodiesel. He installed a Duramax in the Hummer and plopped a carbon-fiber tank of supercompressed hydrogen into the bed. The results were impressive: A single tank of hydrogen lasted for 700 miles and cut the diesel consumption in half. It also doubled the horsepower. "It reduces your carbon footprint by a huge, huge amount, but you still get all the power of the Duramax," he says, slapping the H1 on the quarter panel. "And you can feed it hydrogen, diesel, biodiesel, corn oil--pretty much anything but water."

Two years ago, Goodwin got a rare chance to show off his tricks to some of the car industry's most prominent engineers. He tells me the story: He was driving a converted H2 to the SEMA show, the nation's biggest annual specialty automotive confab, and stopped en route at a Denver hotel. When he woke up in the morning, there were 20 people standing around his Hummer. Did I run over somebody? he wondered. As it turned out, they were engineers for GM, the Hummer's manufacturer. They noticed that Goodwin's H2 looked modified. "Does it have a diesel engine in it?"

"Yeah," he said.

"No way," they replied.

He opened the hood, "and they're just all in and out and around the valves and checking it out," he says. They asked to hear it run, sending a stab of fear through Goodwin. He'd filled it up with grease from a Chinese restaurant the day before and was worried that the cold morning might have solidified the fuel. But it started up on the first try and ran so quietly that at first they didn't believe it was really on. "When you start a diesel engine up on vegetable oil," Goodwin says, "you turn the key, and you hear nothing. Because of the lubricating power of the oil, it's just so smooth. Whisper quiet. And they're like, 'Is it running? Yeah, you can hear the fan going.'"

One engineer turned and said, "GM said this wouldn't work."

"Well," Goodwin replied, "here it is."

Goodwin's feats of engineering have become gradually more visible over the past year. Last summer, Imperium Renewables contacted MTV's show Pimp My Ride about creating an Earth Day special in which Goodwin would convert a muscle car to run on biodiesel. The show chose a '65 Chevy Impala, and when the conversion was done, he'd doubled its mileage to 25 mpg and increased its pull from 250 to 800 horsepower. As a stunt, MTV drag-raced the Impala against a Lamborghini on California's Pomona Raceway. "The Impala blew the Lamborghini away," says Kevin Kluemper, the lead calibration engineer for GM's Allison transmission unit, who'd flown down to help with the conversion. Schwarzenegger, who was on the set that day, asked Goodwin on the spot to convert his Wagoneer to biodiesel.

Observers of Goodwin's work say his skill lies in an uncanny ability to visualize a mechanical system in precise detail, long before he picks up a wrench. (Goodwin says he does much of his mental work during long drives.) "He has talent unknown to any mortal," says Mad Mike, Pimp My Ride's host. "He has this ability to see things so exactly, and I still don't know how he does it."

For his part, Goodwin argues he's merely "a problem solver. Most people try to make things more complicated than they are." He speaks of the major carmakers with a sort of mild disdain: If he can piece together cleaner vehicles out of existing GM parts and a bit of hot-rod elbow grease, why can't they bake that kind of ingenuity into their production lines? Prod him enough on the subject and his mellowness peels away, revealing a guy fired by an almost manic frustration. "Everybody should be driving a plug-in vehicle right now," he complains, in one of his laconic engineering lectures, as we wander through the blistering Kansas heat to a nearby Mexican restaurant. "I can go next door to Ace Hardware and buy a DC electric motor, go out to my four-wheel-drive truck, remove the transmission and engine, bolt the electric motor onto the back of the transfer case, put a series of lead-acid batteries up to 240 volts in the back of the bed, and we're good to go. I guarantee you I could drive all around town and do whatever I need, go home at night, and hook up a couple of battery chargers, plug one into an outlet, and be good to go the next day.

"Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to," he adds.

In reality, Goodwin's work has begun to influence some of Detroit's top auto designers, but through curious and circuitous routes. In 2005, Tom Holm, the founder of EcoTrek, a nonprofit that promotes the use of alternative fuels, heard about Goodwin through the Hummer-junkie grapevine and hired him. When Holm showed GM the vehicles Goodwin converted, the company was duly impressed. Internally, Hummer executives had long been looking for a way to blunt criticism of the H2's gas-guzzling tendencies and saw Goodwin's vehicles as an object lesson in what was possible. So GM decided to flip the switch: It announced the same year that, beginning in 2008, it would convert its gasoline Hummers to run on ethanol; by 2010, it said, Hummers would be biodiesel-compatible.

"It was an influence," concedes Hummer general manager Martin Walsh, of the EcoTrek vehicles. "We wanted to be environmentally responsible by having engines in Hummers that run on renewable fuels." But until I contacted Hummer for this story, GM didn't know that the man behind those machines was none other than Goodwin.

GM's commitment is a start, however halting. Overall, though, Detroit still seems to be all but paralyzed by the challenges of fuel economy, emissions, and alternative fuels. And it's not just about greed or laziness: Talk to car-industry experts, and they'll point out a number of serious barriers to introducing radically new alternative-fuel vehicles on a scale that will make a difference. One of the highest is that low-emission fuels--biodiesel, ethanol, electricity, hydrogen, all of which account for less than 3% of the nation's fuel supply--just aren't widely available on American highways. This creates a chicken-and-egg problem. People won't buy alternative-fuel cars until it's easy to fill them up, but alternative fuel makers won't ramp up production until there's a viable market.

Goodwin admits all these things are true but believes the country could be weaned off gasoline in a three-step process. The first would be for Detroit to aggressively roll out diesel engines, much as Europe has already begun to do (some 50% of all European cars run diesel). In a single stroke, that would improve the nation's mileage by as much as 40%, and, because diesel fuel is already widely available, drivers could take that step with a minimum of disruption. What's more, given that many diesel engines can also run homegrown biodiesel, a mass conversion to diesel would help kick-start that market. (This could have geopolitical implications as well as environmental and economic ones: The Department of Transportation estimated in 2004 that if we converted merely one-third of America's passenger cars and light trucks to diesel, we'd reduce our oil consumption by up to 1.4 million barrels of oil per day--precisely the amount we import from Saudi Arabia.)

The second step in Goodwin's scheme would be to produce diesel-electric hybrid cars. This would double the mileage on even the biggest diesel vehicles. The third phase would be to produce electric hybrids that run in "dual fuel" mode, burning biodiesel along with hydrogen, ethanol, natural gas, or propane. This is the concept Goodwin is proving out in his turbine-enhanced H3 Hummer and in Neil Young's Lincoln: "At that point, your mileage just goes really, really high, and your emissions are incredibly low," he says. Since those vehicles can run on regular diesel or biodiesel--and without any alternative fuel at all, if need be--drivers wouldn't have to worry about getting stranded on the interstate. At the same time, as more and more dual-fuel cars hit the road, they would goose demand for genuinely national ethanol, hydrogen, and biodiesel grids.

For Goodwin, navigating this process is all about imagination and adaptability. "The point is to design cars that are flexible," he says. "You'll see a change in how vehicles are fueled in the future. Which fuel source will be the exclusive one or the one that'll take over the petroleum base is, you know, anybody's guess, so it's like the wild, wild West of fuel technology right now. I think it'll be a combination between a few different fuels. I know hydrogen will definitely come around."

Imagination and vision, of course, are often rewarded. As global pressure increases on the United States to reduce our carbon emissions, those rewards are likely to get juicier. Under some versions of legislation being considered in Congress, for example, companies voluntarily deploying superefficient vehicles in large fleets could be awarded substantial offsets. Take DHL, the FedEx rival: Goodwin says his company, SAE Energy, is negotiating with the shipper to convert 800 of its vehicles to dual fuel. "We could get them an offset of something like 70 cents a gallon," Goodwin says, "and reduce their cost of fuel by 50%."

Industry insiders and observers agree with many of Goodwin's prescriptions, particularly his concept of fuel flexibility. "We have to have alternatives," says Beau Boeckmann, vice president of California's Galpin Motors, the largest Ford dealership in the country, who recently partnered with Goodwin to convert a 2008 F450 truck to hydrogen and biodiesel. "Only with a combination of things can we get alternative fuels off the ground." Boeckmann believes hydrogen is the true "silver bullet" for ending greenhouse gases but thinks it'll take more than a decade to figure out how to create and distribute it cheaply. Mary Beth Stanek, GM's director of environment, energy, and safety policy, also agrees with the multifuel approach--and points out that this is precisely how Brazil weaned itself from regular gasoline. "They pull up to the pump, and they've got a whole bunch of different choices," she notes. She, too, predicts diesel will make a comeback because of its inherent fuel efficiency: "You will see more vehicles going back to diesel over a lot of different lines."

Yet in reality, American carmakers seem conspicuously slow on the uptake. Stanek is about as ardent a fan of alternative fuels as you're likely to find inside GM, but even she admits no one there is seriously thinking of abandoning the gasoline engine anytime soon. The 300-million-gallon U.S. biodiesel business is a fraction of the 12-billion-gallon ethanol one. And Detroit is extremely cautious about what the market can bear.

A Detroit carmaker does, of course, have to worry about selling millions of cars at reasonable prices. But we've been hearing this refrain for a long, long time. And with European and Japanese carmakers driving ever harder into our market--and with Chrysler having become just another meal for Cerberus Capital--this hardly seems like the time to be overly cautious. (Those ultralow-emission Mercedes BlueTec diesels, for example, include a four-wheel-drive sedan that gets 37 mpg and goes from zero to 60 in 6.6 seconds.) Moreover, after decades of consumer apathy, improving fuel economy and reducing carbon output are becoming urgent national priorities. The green groundswell has arrived, and, given the stakes, anyone who ignores it does so at his peril. If Detroit can't sell diesel now--especially a clean, high-performance, money-saving diesel--it never will.

Goodwin, perhaps, can afford to be a visionary. He has the luxury of converting cars for fancy clients who'll pay handsomely to drive on higher moral ground. (He charges $28,000 for a "basic H2 conversion to diesel--custom concept cars cost far more.") The future of the American car will likely be won by an automaker that can split the difference--one that may innovate more slowly than Goodwin would like, but a hell of a lot faster than the Big Three.

Goodwin himself seems more oracle than implementer, slightly unsure of how his ideas could be brought to the masses. He's working on patenting aspects of his and Kruger's dual-fuel work and would love to license it to the big carmakers. But the truth is, he's a mechanic's mechanic--happiest when he's solving some technical puzzle. He loves getting his hands dirty, "throwing wrenches around" in his shop, pioneering some weird new way to fuel a car. Today, he's thinking about taking his wife's Infiniti, outfitting it with a tank of ether, and powering the engine via blasts of compressed air in the cylinders. "Zero emissions!" he crows. It's the visionary inventor's curse: constantly distracted by shiny objects.

Goodwin eyes the turbine, which he has dragged out to the center of the floor. Just for kicks, he says, he's thinking of mounting it on a wheelie board and firing it up. "I'd love to see how fast that goes," he says. "I'm just not sure how I'm going to steer it."

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Many more at RoodieDoodie

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American kids, dumber than dirt
Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

I have this ongoing discussion with a longtime reader who also just so happens to be a longtime Oakland high school teacher, a wonderful guy who's seen generations of teens come and generations go and who has a delightful poetic sensibility and quirky outlook on his life and his family and his beloved teaching career.

And he often writes to me in response to something I might've written about the youth of today, anything where I comment on the various nefarious factors shaping their minds and their perspectives and whether or not, say, EMFs and junk food and cell phones are melting their brains and what can be done and just how bad it might all be.

His response: It is not bad at all. It's absolutely horrifying.

My friend often summarizes for me what he sees, firsthand, every day and every month, year in and year out, in his classroom. He speaks not merely of the sad decline in overall intellectual acumen among students over the years, not merely of the astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood, or the fact that cell phones and iPods and excess TV exposure are, absolutely and without reservation, short-circuiting the minds of the upcoming generations. Of this, he says, there is zero doubt.

Nor does he speak merely of the notion that kids these days are overprotected and wussified and don't spend enough time outdoors and don't get any real exercise and therefore can't, say, identify basic plants, or handle a tool, or build, well, anything at all. Again, these things are a given. Widely reported, tragically ignored, nothing new.

No, my friend takes it all a full step — or rather, leap — further. It is not merely a sad slide. It is not just a general dumbing down. It is far uglier than that.

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

It's gotten so bad that, as my friend nears retirement, he says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain. It is just that bad.

Now, you may think he's merely a curmudgeon, a tired old teacher who stopped caring long ago. Not true. Teaching is his life. He says he loves his students, loves education and learning and watching young minds awaken. Problem is, he is seeing much less of it. It's a bit like the melting of the polar ice caps. Sure, there's been alarmist data about it for years, but until you see it for yourself, the deep visceral dread doesn't really hit home.

He cites studies, reports, hard data, from the appalling effects of television on child brain development (i.e.; any TV exposure before 6 years old and your kid's basic cognitive wiring and spatial perceptions are pretty much scrambled for life), to the fact that, because of all the insidious mandatory testing teachers are now forced to incorporate into the curriculum, of the 182 school days in a year, there are 110 when such testing is going on somewhere at Oakland High. As one of his colleagues put it, "It's like weighing a calf twice a day, but never feeding it."

But most of all, he simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens' decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words "agriculture," or even "democracy." Not a single student could do it.

It gets worse. My friend cites the fact that, of the 6,000 high school students he estimates he's taught over the span of his career, only a small fraction now make it to his grade with a functioning understanding of written English. They do not know how to form a sentence. They cannot write an intelligible paragraph. Recently, after giving an assignment that required drawing lines, he realized that not a single student actually knew how to use a ruler.

It is, in short, nothing less than a tidal wave of dumb, with once-passionate, increasingly exasperated teachers like my friend nearly powerless to stop it. The worst part: It's not the kids' fault. They're merely the victims of a horribly failed educational system.

Then our discussion often turns to the meat of it, the bigger picture, the ugly and unavoidable truism about the lack of need among the government and the power elite in this nation to create a truly effective educational system, one that actually generates intelligent, thoughtful, articulate citizens.

Hell, why should they? After all, the dumber the populace, the easier it is to rule and control and launch unwinnable wars and pass laws telling them that sex is bad and TV is good and God knows all, so just pipe down and eat your Taco Bell Double-Supremo Burrito and be glad we don't arrest you for posting dirty pictures on your cute little blog.

This is about when I try to offer counterevidence, a bit of optimism. For one thing, I've argued generational relativity in this space before, suggesting maybe kids are no scarier or dumber or more dangerous than they've ever been, and that maybe some of the problem is merely the same old awkward generation gap, with every current generation absolutely convinced the subsequent one is terrifically stupid and malicious and will be the end of society as a whole. Just the way it always seems.

I also point out how, despite all the evidence of total public-education meltdown, I keep being surprised, keep hearing from/about teens and youth movements and actions that impress the hell out of me. Damn kids made the Internet what it is today, fer chrissakes. Revolutionized media. Broke all the rules. Still are.

Hell, some of the best designers, writers, artists, poets, chefs, and so on that I meet are in their early to mid-20s. And the nation's top universities are still managing, despite a factory-churning mentality, to crank out young minds of astonishing ability and acumen. How did these kids do it? How did they escape the horrible public school system? How did they avoid the great dumbing down of America? Did they never see a TV show until they hit puberty? Were they all born and raised elsewhere, in India and Asia and Russia? Did they all go to Waldorf or Montessori and eat whole-grain breads and play with firecrackers and take long walks in wild nature? Are these kids flukes? Exceptions? Just lucky?

My friend would say, well, yes, that's precisely what most of them are. Lucky, wealthy, foreign-born, private-schooled ... and increasingly rare. Most affluent parents in America — and many more who aren't — now put their kids in private schools from day one, and the smart ones give their kids no TV and minimal junk food and no video games. (Of course, this in no way guarantees a smart, attuned kid, but compared to the odds of success in the public school system, it sure seems to help). This covers about, what, 3 percent of the populace?

As for the rest, well, the dystopian evidence seems overwhelming indeed, to the point where it might be no stretch at all to say the biggest threat facing America is perhaps not global warming, not perpetual warmongering, not garbage food or low-level radiation or way too much Lindsay Lohan, but a populace far too ignorant to know how to properly manage any of it, much less change it all for the better.

What, too fatalistic? Don't worry. Soon enough, no one will know what the word even means.

Original Article

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So, the deviants over at have come up with a new crop. As always, most are NSFW, like..

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I'm not a pistol kind of guy, but I found This Torture Test of someone's Glock and found it pretty impressive. The guy buries it, shoots it, salts it, etc, etc drops it out of a freaking plane, etc, etc... it still fires.

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You never know...(2:59)

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The Canal of Corinth separates mainland Greece from the Peloponnese Peninsula. Among others, Rome's infamous emperor Nero unsuccessfully attempted the construction of such a canal, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that this task was completed. The almost vertical, up to 63 m (207 ft.) high flanking cliffs of the 6,343 m (20,810 ft.) long canal provide a unique cross-section of the local geology. The cementation of individual particles with carbonates lends a relatively high stability to the marine and lacustrine sediments constituting the canal walls. Nevertheless, faulting of the sediments and seismicity in this tectonically active region make the rocks prone to landslides, some of which have required the canal to be temporarily closed.

The picture in the inset was taken during a flight from Athens to Munich and shows the canal in its complete length, connecting the Gulf of Corinth (upper left) with the Aegean Sea (lower right).

Stolen from the Earth Science Pic of The Day archives

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Working in Haiti, Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View, Calif., saw the need for small-scale wind power to juice LED lamps and radios in the homes of the poor. Conventional wind turbines don’t scale down well—there’s too much friction in the gearbox and other components. “With rotary power, there’s nothing out there that generates under 50 watts,” Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washington’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).

Frayne’s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. “Kerosene is smoky and it’s a fire hazard,” says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. “If Shawn’s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.”

Frayne hopes to help fund third-world distribution of his Windbelt with revenue from first-world applications—such as replacing the batteries used to power temperature and humidity sensors in buildings. “There’s not a huge amount of innovation being done for people making $2 to $4 per day,” Haas says. “Shawn’s work is definitely needed.”

Great idea, alternative thinking. You can see a short video on the Popular Mechanics site.

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Sick Joke time...

What's red and silver and slowly gets smaller?

A baby playing with a cheese grater.

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You see them everyday, Speed Traps. The police may be out in the open, hiding behind bridge abutments, or passing overhead in an airplane. As is obvious from the traffic flow, the speed limit is grossly under-posted and universally ignored.

Traffic is moving safely and expeditiously, but not legally according to the posted speed limit. As fast as the pen can be applied to paper, driver after driver is issued a speeding ticket that results in exorbitant fines, points on their driver's licenses and insurance surcharges.

Fortunately, you know about the speed traps on your regularly traveled routes, but what about those times you are on unfamiliar streets and highways? If only there was a way you could share your knowledge of speed traps, in exchange for the speed trap knowledge of others.

The Speedtrap Exchange

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This is an All-Bran commercial. I'm flushed because it's not crappy....(0:30)

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Just two pics I liked. I'd tell you where they were from, but I can't remember. Such is life. You'll get over it.

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The origins of the Bloody Mary are disputed, but there are two main contenders.

The first, and the one accepted by TABASCO®, is that the drink was invented by Fernand Petoit, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s. He mixed tomato juice and vodka and said that “one of the boys suggested we call the drink ‘Bloody Mary’ because it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, and a girl there named Mary.” Some say, though, that the rich, red cocktail was named for Bloody Mary herself, Queen Mary I, persecutor of Protestants.

When Petoit moved on to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York in 1934, the hotel wanted to change the name of the unique drink to the Red Snapper, but it never caught on. Then as New York patrons wanted a big more spice, Petoit added salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and Tabasco, and the Bloody Mary as we know it was born.

Maybe, because the second theory says that the half tomato juice, half vodka combination was the invention of George Jessel in the mid- to late 30s. This contention is supported by Lucius Beebe’s December 2, 1939 gossip column in the New York Herald Tribune in which he wrote: “George Jessel’s newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town’s paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka.”

Here is a basic Bloody Mary

• 3 parts top-quality tomato juice
• 3 parts top-shelf vodka, depending on strength of drink
• 1 teaspoon horseradish
• 6 shakes Tabasco Sauce
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
• Juice of ½ lemon or lime
• 1/8 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or cayenne pepper
• Celery stalk

Combine all ingredients except the last and shake well. Pour over ice in tall glass and garnish with celery stalk.

Now if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can always try variations, replacing the vodka with sherry (Bloody Bishop), absinthe (Bloody Fairy), sake (Bloody Geisha), tequila (Bloody Maria), whiskey (Brown Mary or Whiskey Mary), dark rum (Bloody Pirate), scotch (Bloody Scotsman), or gin (Ruddy Mary).