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

what do you get?

2009 September 27 23:23

Ok, today was dry and I got to catch up on stuff. So a couple photos of what will become the new non-muddy parking spot.

Here's the freshly dried-off bed this afternoon, looking toward the garage. It's not particularly smooth, but the idea is that it's going to be a bed for the hexagonal concrete tiles I have.

Here's with some water seeped in from the ground. The red arrow indicates where the water tends to collect. That's the corner toward the house. I'd prefer that it drained in the direction of the green arrow (which points toward the driveway), but wasn't careful enough when I was setting up the forms. However, the important thing is that it drains away from the uphill corner, in the upper left of the photo, and that it does.

A quick photo of the slab with one of the tiles on top to show it's shape and size.

Now that it's dry, the next step is to keep the concrete wet for at least a week, maybe two, so that it has water to feed the curing process. So now it's covered with sheets that I'll keep saturated. In a couple of weeks, I'll mortar in the tiles.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

2009 September 26 19:33

Our lifestyle is such that my wife and I both need a reliable car for work. We can go for short periods with just one car, but that becomes problematic when I need to go on a business trip.

Once we realized that the vintage beetle had problems, we needed to have a third car. That brought us up to three cars, with a two-car garage. So starting from then (three years ago) the third car parks outside, mostly on a spot where the right front tire sits in what used to be a flowerbed.

That's fine when the weather's dry. However, when it's wet, the car sinks into the dirt and makes a mess. So at some point I bought some hexagonal concrete tiles that I could park the car on. That wasn't much better. Again, fine when the ground was dry. When it was wet, the car pushed the tiles into the ground and made a bigger mess.

Since then I've been exploring options for putting a base under the tiles. I finally came around to the idea of putting a bed of concrete in the ground and putting the tiles on top of that. That should keep them stable. Sometime this year, I started excavating the ground in a triangular shape. As late summer and then early fall continued, I realized that I was running out of time to do it this year.

I got serious at the end of August. Here's the hole on August 31:

Heres the whole earlier in the week, with wood forms on two sides and the bottom of the whole approximately level.

Yesterday, this is the whole with sand in the bottom to smooth out the surface.

Unfortunately, I got up too late yesterday to get the concrete in before the rain came. And it was predicted to rain all day yesterday. For whatever reason, I ended up getting up early this morning, an little after 6. I looked at the radar and there wasn't going to be rain for about an hour, so I went ahead and got the concrete put in. I was in enough of a hurry that I couldn't take pictures. I'll have some tomorrow, hopefully.

I put tarps over the concrete to try to slow down the water seeping in. It worked somewhat, but the ground started leaching water into the area. We finally got a break in the rain after supper, so I went out and checked the concrete. It seems intact for the most part, and more or less how I wanted it. I don't think the rain did any grevious damage. Tomorrow's supposed to be dry and warmer, so I'll get a better chance to look at it then.

tin (but not lizzie)

2009 September 24 00:40

Working on getting the engine tin installed in my Beetle's engine.

This evening I got the final muffler clamps installed (circled in green) and the heat riser tubes preliminarily fitted (circled in red).

Two deflectors at the back of the engine installed

And finally the tin piece that goes over the oil pump but under the crankshaft pulley

The next thing is to fit the apron piece at the back of the engine, to make sure the riser pipes go through it Ok. It, however, has to stay off until the engine is installed in the car.

manifolds and gaskets

2009 September 22 22:47

I passed a major milestone working on the beetle this evening.

Recently I've been working on getting a usable intake manifold for the engine and prepping it for installation. Over the weekend, I got the heat riser tubes set with JB Weld. One task remained yesterday, to put a vacuum port in the neck of the manifold for the thermosatic air cleaner valve. The manifold that was other wise right just had a threaded hole in the neck instead of the vacuum port:

I JB Welded a small piece of fuel pipe into the threaded hole. So when I started this evening, I had the intake manifold with the riser pipes fastened into place

and the vacuum port installed

so this evening I continued assembly.

The intake manifold is in 3 pieces, and it connects to the muffler. The heater boxes also connect to the muffler. It really is best to put everything together without gaskets and make sure that everything fits and tightens down before you begin assembly, because inevitably you'll end up loosening some things.

I think the way to do it is to put everything together with the fasteners loose, and then once everything is connected, tighten all the connections together slowly. This evening I had to loosen the muffler to get the heater boxes to connect to it.

In fact, at the end, the left heat riser flange didn't quite tighten down to a good joint. As you can see the flange doesn't quite meet up:

After all that work, I wasn't about to pull everything back apart, so I slathered all around the flange with high-temp silicone caulk. I know it can stand up to the exhaust gas temperature, I just hope it will hold up against the exhaust pressure.

SO...finally...the engine is assembled up to the intake and exhaust systems. Huzzah!

There's lots still to come. The assembly of the intake and exhaust systems is probably the biggest single sub-assembbly step in the engine, and the most annoying because everything depends on everything else. The sheet metal is easy to bend or modify if the need arises.

cut and fit

2009 September 20 22:22

The last we saw our hero working on his Beetle, he had an intake manifold that didn't fit (from a company in Effingham, Illinois. Ahem).

So I bought another one from CB performance. The heat riser tubes are separate pieces that slot into the center section, so that it's adjustable. So I cut them down until the thing fit. So this afternoon, for the first time, the intake manifold is assembled, and the heat riser ends are fastened to the muffler on both sides.

Left side, manifold outlined in green, red indicates the heat riser flange that didn't fit with the first one but does with the new one:

Right side, same thing:

I called the vendor and asked how I was supposed to attach the side tubes. They said they don't need to be attached; they just seal up with soot. I prefer for them to be attached and sealed somewhat. I picked up some JB weld, a two-part metal bonding agent. We'll see how that goes:

So with the intake manifold all put together, I've put JB Weld on the joints.

I'll let this cure overnight. That will slightly fasten the ends into the center section. Then I'll take it all apart, seal it better again, and then I can (finally) continue the assembly.

internal dialogue

2009 September 12 11:59

I flew to DragonCon earlier this month, so I got to town relatively early on Friday. I took the Marta train from where I landed to downtown, and then I had to walk a couple of blocks to the hotel to check in. I had a minor, almost involuntary detour for some lunch. This was the dialog that I thought up while eating which I then wrote out when I got checked into the room.

I don't do creative writing very often, so I thought I'd post it here. Warning: the story has a serious potty mouth, because I think it's funnier that way.


Somewhere in downtown Atlanta.

Craig's cerebellum: Roger, right turn, wait for the light, then cross the street. left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right...

Craig's cerebrum: Hey, cerebrum, why are you turning right? We're going south to the Sheraton to check in.

cerelbellum: Huh? I received an order to turn right and cross the street. Don't worry, I coordinated with the ears and eyes to make sure we crossed at the light.

cerebrum: What? I didn't order us to turn right! The Sheraton's south of here, we're off course. Halt immediately, reverse course, turn left.

stomach: cerebellum, belay that order. Maintain this course, turn left in about 20 steps and go through the door.

cerebellum: affirmative, twenty steps, then left. Left, right, left, right...

//a chilly silence//

cerebrum: Stomach, did you just give a navigational order? As you know, that's my job. The spinal column is allowed to issue contingency orders to the muscles in emergency situations, but you have no authorization whatever to do so. Your job is to digest food, and stay out of navigation.

stomach: Look, we just got done flying through three states. You're off thinking about VOR beacons and flying procedures and whatever the fuck it is you do for hours after we're done flying. I figured since you were contemplating and debriefing, I'd make a quick detour and get some chow to make sure we're fed and up to speed. Cerebellum, have us walk up to the counter and order something. Lots of salt and fat and stuff.

cerebrum: Hey, stomach, stop giving orders. This is mutiny! You've never done this before; this is totally out of line!

cerebellum: left, right, left, right, tuuuuuurn...

stomach: Look, cerebrum, you've got a lot to think about. You're debriefing from the flight, and only you can do that. You're also thinking about DragonCon this weekend, and what we're going to go to and where it is. I'll take care of this quick side trip.

cerebellum: Ok, the eyes tell me we're at the counter. Sorry, stomach, I can make the mouth move but I can't generate speech without the cerebrum's help, and it's not cooperating.

stomach: Do I have to do everything? Left arm, wave vaguely at the menu. Lungs, make a grunt. Ok, the dude behind the counter is making something, so we're set. Cerebellum, when he gets done, start sliding to the right, have the right arm pick up a bag of chips, and then continue to the right to where the cash register is.

cerebellum: Huh? This too complicated.

stomach: Oh for pete's sake! Cerebellum: slide right, grab bag (doesn't matter which one), slide right, stop and notify me when you get there.

cerebellum: Gotcha. right, slide, right, slide...

cerebrum: Stomach, I insist that you stop trying to run things. That's an order! The stomach can't be in charge! The cerebrum is in charge of planning, that's the way it works. I know about contingencies, and plans, and forward thinking. You're just a mass of smooth muscle!

stomach: Look, cerebrum. We've always been friends. I appreciate your way of running things even though I can't understand it. And I'm grateful for thinking to buy water at the airport to drink en route.

cerebellum: Ok, left arm, grab a bag. No, doesn't matter which one. Got it? Legs, right, slide, right, slide, right...

stomach: However, I would would like to point out that the legs, shoulders, and back have been lugging two heavy non-rolling bags through Atlanta's mass transit for almost an hour, and they're really pissed. If they don't get some glucose and electrolytes things are going to start getting ugly. You do recall that you have the worlds best rolling suitcase currently sitting in your closet at home? As a matter of fact, you have a perfectly good rolling suitcase IN THE CAR at the departure airport. And you say you're the expert planner? Why don't you just go back to taking care of whatever it is you do, pilot stuff or programming or science fiction or whatever the hell, and let me deal with the real world?

cerebrum: Shit, I hadn't thought of that. Um...Ok, point taken. Sorry I left you short-supplied. Er...anything I can do?

Ears: Um, stomach, sir, the guy at the register just said something. Sounded like "chips and a drink?".

stomach: cerebrum, thanks for being a pal. Yeah, say something witty to the guy at the counter so we can pay for this. Then I'll navigate us to a table, on-load supplies, and then we can return to base course to the hotel. Believe me, if we get fueled back up it'll be much more tolerable to wait in line, especially if we can't check into the hotel yet and we still have to carry bags.

shoulders: ...groan...

cerebrum: Ok, I'll say something witty, get the food bought, and then go back to thinking about flying procedures. You can let me know when we're at the hotel. How's that?

stomach: Ok, cerebrum, that sounds fine. Ok, I've re-enabled authorization for you to connect to the mouth and ears. Go ahead.

cerebrum: ...Ok, something witty. We're tired, DragonCon...ok, here goes. [[I would like you to sell me as much sandwich, sugar, caffine, and salt as is legally allowed to be possesed by one person in the state of Georgia.]] How was that?

Ears: The guy just asked "So you're here for the con?".

Stomach: Ok, cerebellum, just nod the head, that'll take care of it, then grab the stuff and head for that table behind us. Ok, cerebrum, thanks alot, we'll let you know when we're at the hotel and we need to talk to the desk staff.

Cerebrum: Ok, I we should have changed our flight plan rather than closing it...

Stomach: Ok, cerebrum has checked out. Cerebellum, make for the table. Let's go...

test post

2009 September 12 10:06

Test post from my new GMail account; transferring my account from old address to new.

Much to my surprise, there was a "how to do this" message in the Blogger Help FAQ. Nice.

do it NOW

2009 September 09 20:28

We went to DragonCon this last weekend; that's another post.

To increase the flexibility of my time, I decided to fly myself there in my club's Cessna 172. It was fun and a great learning experience for me, both going down and coming back. For student pilots, here are a few lessons on the day.

When talking to approach controllers, they will sometimes specify that you are to fly at "VFR altitudes". They mean 3500,5500,7500 etc. if you're going east-bound and 2500,4500,6500 etc. if you're going westbound. Coming into the Atlanta airspace from the northwest, I had been flying at 4000 feet get get below some clouds. I was told to "fly VFR altitude", and it took me a couple of tries to figure out what the controller meant.

A common direction when coming into an airport is to join the approach on the downwind leg. I'm used to being able to see runway when I do this, and so when I got to Peachtree-Dekalb airport in Atlanta, I got confused because some of the runways are concrete (white-ish) and some are asphalt (black). The downwind leg will be the reciprical of the heading of the runway itself. At the time, I was flying toward the airport from the northeast and I knew from the ATIS that I was going to get landing directions for runway 2L (with roughly a magnetic direction of 020). That means when I got close to the airport, flying southeast (or rougly 135), I needed to turn about 70 degrees to the right to around 200, which would put me with the airport at my left and flying parallel to the runway.

As far as flight planning, remember: if you're having weather issues, it makes sense to get closer to your destination. That means that you can hit a narrower window in the weather. It also means that if someone has to drive and get you, the driver will be shorter. I had originally intended to fly down to Atlanta in one shot and back the same. Both times, due to weather in Tennessee and North Carolina, I ended up landing in Chattanooga to check weather.

When you're under control of air traffic control, if you need something or aren't sure, ALWAYS ASK. If you're just getting used to flying under control that way, then this will get you the proper information, it will also let them know that you're a little less experienced and they might well give you a little more time or room or consideration as a result, which is nice for you. When I got confused flying into Peachtree, I got confused about which airport was which. I acknowledged that I was to turn downwind for runway 2-left, but that I couldn't tell which runway was which and could the controller give me a steer to turn the proper direction. She did so, and once I got turned properly, I could see the markings for the runway at which point I knew where I needed to be.

And always be polite. It's the controller's duty to assist you and to do everything they can to make you and everyone else safe, but they're human too--if you ask instead of demand you're far more likely to get what you want.

Some airports will set you up for departure with a discrete squawk code (Chattanooga does this). Others will just have you set the squawk code for VFR enroute flying (1200). Maybe class-C airports and larger do the former, and smaller airports the latter? Don't know.