With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

archeology is the search for fact

2007 April 25 22:53

Hold the phone. I'm probably not going to be able to drive my beetle to Oshkosh this year. I think some part of the engine is nearing the end of a wear cycle.

I was all jazzed thinking that since it's still April, I have enough time to get the paint patched a little, and wax it, and get the brakes recondition and the engine running right so that I can take it cross country. Recently, I got enough equipment to actually check the timing of the engine so that I can get that right. That's all part of the plan to get the engine idling right.

Now that I can measure and set all the parameters, I am planning to go through the full tune-up procedure. First, that starts with setting the valves, a very important operation in an engine with solid (non-hydraulic) valve lifters. The only other time I set the valves in this car was about 1000 miles ago. At that time, both of cylinder #1's valves were way too tight (the #1 exhaust valve clearance was too small to measure), but the others weren't too far off. I set all the valves to .006 inches clearance.

Well, this last Saturday, I went to set them again, and the #1 exhaust valve was once again too narrow a gap to measure (#2 had drifted slightly, #3 and #4 all valves were still dead on). Uh oh. The #1 exhaust measurement is bad news. The valve has moved catastrophically out of adjustment in 1000 miles of driving, for an adjustment that's normally done every 6000 miles. That means that something is severely changing shape or length in the engine, which isn't a good thing. According to the lore, it means that the #1 exhaust valve is burning; that is, it's letting exhaust gases go by it and the gasses are acting like a cutting torch, making the valve stretch (causing the change in valve train geometry) and will eventually will break the head off the valve and cause catastrophic engine damage.

The first time I set the valve clearances, I noticed the heads weren't the same. This time I took photos:

Right hand side; this is the one that's failing

Left hand side; this one is doing fine

Left hand side close-up of the casting number

The two heads are the same part number (113 111 375A) but different casting numbers, 66 for the left and 157 for the right. I'm not sure what I can conclude about the casting numbers. Perhaps the only thing is that I can be mostly sure that those heads aren't both originally. Perhaps the right head, the one that's failing, is orginal and now it's finally failing. The left one started to fail a long time ago, and so it was replaced, which is why it's still working fine. So...looks like I'm going to need to go shopping for cylinder heads.

making a list and checking it twice

2007 April 22 09:38

Up until yesterday, it had been a month since I'd flown. My 90-day solo sign-off had expired, so I needed to up with an instructor before I could do pattern work. The guy I've been learning from is gone on vacation for the weekend, so he arranged for another instructor to come fly with me a sign off on solo flight.

This new instructor wanted to check out what I knew, and he's a very detail oriented person, so he ended up quizzing me in the airplane about a bunch of stuff. He asked me multiple times "what do we need to fly?". He wanted me to be able to execute procedures without looking at the physical checklist, which is different than I'm used to doing it. He made the point that you should do the check list without the printed list, then check the list to make sure you'd done everything.

After a very long discussion, I started the engine, and then he went over some other things while the engine was idling. About two minutes in, the engine stopped. I said "that's wierd; that's never happened before.". The first thing I checked was the fuel shut-off valve--it was OFF. He'd turned it off at some point, after my pre-flight (where I checked that it was ON) but before I got in.

I was very angry and annoyed at the time, but on the drive home from the airport, I decided that the point of the lesson was that I needed to be able to do the important checklists without reading them. Some of those operations I may need to do in a hurry, or with lots of other things going on, and it may be that I won't have the luxury of being able to pull out the written list and check it.

I am now also incredibly paranoid about fuel shut-offs. :-) Which I suppose is a good thing.

everyone and their dog

2007 April 07 20:33

Apparently, putting the charlesinspace.com URL on all the national news channels was too much for their server:

The multimedia version of CharlesinSpace.com is undergoing temporary maintenance due to the out-of-this-world traffic generated by the international news coverage. It will be back online shortly. In the meantime, you can read the latest blog and Ask Charles content here. -ed.

It's been fun catching on his blog as he went through training for the flight in Russia. I've heard in vague terms before about some of the training there, but it's fun to read about some of the exercises in detail.

in space, no one cares about vi vs emacs

2007 April 07 12:40

Charles Simonyi is about to launch to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. His web site has coverage. You need Flash 9.

[Update: As of the afternoon of April 7, www.charlesinspace.com appeared to have been replaced (maliciously?) with a page that just showed this:

pool::take a swim::
3547 5845 3956 3024
5680 9852 5743 9420
3889 7739 7255 1244
5528 8787 5599 6397
6659 6613 7948 4673
8971 9374 4294 7059
3878 6357 6196 2490
2398 5544 1143 4946
1060 0000 0000 fini

I hope it gets fixed soon; I'd hate to want to blog for orbit and have my site down.]

[7pm Eastern time: And now there's something back; not the full site, but a normal looking blog.]

at the beep the time will be...

2007 April 07 10:35

In graduate school, my advisor read and recommended the book Longitude. I bought it and read it when we toured the Greenwich observatory in the summer of 2004.

This morning I ran across the Wikipedia entry on John Harrison which, if it's true, expanded my knowledge of the subject somewhat. I already knew that Harrison created the first mechanical clocks in the world capable of the precision required to determine longitude at sea over a very long voyage.

Something I hadn't heard about was the specifics of the re-discovery of Harrison's clocks. Here's the paragraph on that from the article:

After World War I, Harrison's timepieces were found at the Royal Greenwich Observatory by retired naval officer Rupert Gould. They were in a highly decrepit state, and Gould then spent many years documenting, repairing and restoring them. It was Gould, not Harrison, who gave them the designations H1 through H5. Gould is the author of the book The Marine Chronometer, covering the history of chronometers from the Middle Ages through to the 1920s. It includes detailed descriptions of Harrison's work and the subsequent evolution of the chronometer. It still remains the authoritative work on the marine chronometer.
So I did some brief searching for this book. It was published in 1923 and it's hard to come by. There's a facsimilie edition from 1988, but it's kind of expensive. However, it seems that perhaps there is another facsimile going to be published soon.

Since I like to put nifty photos in my blog posts, I went to see if I had any photos of the Harrison clocks. I don't, apparently. However, the Greenwich museum has some nice photos on their web site.

I did take one neat photo at Greenwich. There's lots of touristy stuff to take photos of there, but what interested me was the old telescope that was at the observatory. The central axis of that telescope later became the definition for 0 degrees longitude:

all that and a bag of GSM?

2007 April 05 10:32

I finally got back yesterday from the UK after 2 days of travel and for 8 days before that no Cell phone and crappy internet access.

I got a Cingular phone last summer because it was simpler. However, now maybe I wish I'd bought a GSM phone. Anyone have any experiences with taking a GSM phone to the UK/Europe and using it for internet access? Under Linux, preferably? If you have, please drop me a line with "GSM" in the subject.


a tv tuned to a dead channel

2007 April 03 14:49

My flight back to the US has been delayed 14 hours. I'm sitting in the alcove of a Cafe' Nero near the University of Manchester. They have wireless that I'm paying to use. The weather is cold and grey; I've spent the last half an hour talking to a collegue and work and my wife. It's all very Cyberpunk.

Hopefully all will be back to normal on Thursday.