17 November 2010

[VW] Sam And The Art Of VW Maintenance: Fine Literature

I reintroduced myself to VW repair books over the weekend.

But I didn't stop at Chilton or Clymers. Oh, no, not there.

There's a book that some may have heard of. It has a great title. It's called How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step-by-Step Procedures for The Compleat Idiot. The author is John Muir ... not the famous Scottish-American naturalist, but a fellow in who worked for Lockheed back in the 60s, dropped out, moved to Taos, New Mexico, and began a hippie-fied life as a long-haired VW mechanic.

It must be added that, at this point, I happen to like hippies. They're nice people.

Muir's book is written in a conversational, straight-plain talking style, filled with verbiage that comes right out of the 60s counter culture: there are references to Eastern mysticism (especially warmly humorous in the section where the author tells you how to go about buying a Volksie (which is what Muir pretty much calls VWs throughout the book)), and when money is mentioned, it's usually expressed with the word bread.

But it's clear that Muir was sloppy in love with VWs, as all us lucky vintage VW owners are, and cared about his ride (and yours). And you can use mechanics if you want, but this book is aimed toward making you savvy and literate enough with your Vee Wee that you can, if you had to, fix it yourself. It's imbued with the sense of making you aware of the system that moves you, so you can give to it ... so it can keep giving back to you.

The illustrations, by the late Peter Aschwanden, come straight from the 60s underground comix vibe. They look as though R. Crumb could have drawn them if he'd dug car parts and evoke a sense of time and place with the merest glance. Being so drawn, of course, they pick out just what you want to know in a friendly yet precise way. It all looks a lot less scary via Peter's illustrations, and while I'm nowhere near competent enough to rebuild a VW air-cooled, much less change the oil just yet, it all makes a bit more sense and I'm a lot less scared of that engine.

It really was a simpler time.

Sadly, John Muir is no longer with us either - he died young, of a brain tumor, at age 59 in 1977. But I'm glad he left us what he did.

I'll be looking to put this one on my shelf.

You can find it at the library or Amazon.com. You know how to do teh Google.

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[VW] Sam And The Art Of VW Maintenance: Seeing Mechanic Bill

Stopped by Trafton's yesterday. It'd been 600 miles since the engine was replaced on the 72 VW Beetle, and it was time to get the valves adjusted and the oil changed apres-engine installation.

This service is a free after-installation service that Bill Trafton's shop provides. And it makes sense. You can't just install a rebuilt engine and say "see ya later, alligator" ... you have to take another look and make sure it's a happy engine. Bill's shop does this.

One of his employees did the work, and I got to watch a bit of it. Primarily the thing I wanted to see was the changing of the oil. This is something that just about anybody can do on most cars, or can be shown or taught, but on the old VW air-cooled engines, it's a whole 'nother thing. Type 1 engines, you see, didn't have an oil filter. The oil is strained through a metal screen in the bottom of the sump before being sent back up to the crankcase for another go-round.

This screen is held in place by a plate which is held in by seven bolts - one in the middle, six on the circumference. The literature I read says you do it thus: unbolt the big bolt in the center, which allows the oil to drain. Once drained, release the plate by taking off the outer bolts, remove the oil screen and the gaskets, clean the oil screen in solvent if necessary, reinstall the oil screen (with new gaskets), and reinstall the plate. Fill with SAE30.

It's a little more complex than replacing an oil filter, but not really that much more.

We were there for about 1 hour and tootled along out of there.

When it comes to VWs on the east side, Bill Trafton's my man.

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15 November 2010

[art] Mandala Monks In The Library, Part II

We took some time out from OryCon 32 on Friday afternoon to peep the mandala I mentioned in the previous-minus-one missive. It had come quite a way, well towards being finished.

I, sadly, forgot the camera and do not have pictures. A completed version of one can be found at this page, click on the image just to the left of the text and it will expand for you; also some pictures of a similar one under construction can be seen here. A picture of a similar mandala, produced for the Dalai Lama's visit to the British House of Commons in 2008, (which suggests some style variation is allowed) can be seen right; it's sourced from Wikipedia here.

I can say that the impression upon approaching the mandala is that it's remarkable just how much surface relief it has. The nearest visual analogue I can cite is the way that the tops of decorated sheet cakes you get from the Safeway look. There is a granular visual texture to everything, and the fact that they are creating small ridges, mounds, and piles of colored sand are obviously explicitly taken advantage of the the monk constructors to cause some design elements to lead the eye about and stand out somewhat as focal points.

As I mentioned above, it looks like some variation in execution is permitted. Left, find a photo clip of the interior; an eight-petaled design. Notice how the gradations in color from the center to the outside of the petals at NW,SW,NE, and SE are discrete bands of color. In our library's version, the monks have achieved a gradation worthy of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. It's truly impressive to see, and I'd love to know how it was done. Sadly, in as much as I'm not Buddhist nor a monk nor looking to be one, I should probably never find out. But it is suggestive of one of my favorite ideas, which is freedom within bounds and limits, of creativity amazingly unleashed which you are made to work within a canon of expression, which is utterly counter-intuitive but seems to be the way life works.

I've experienced it. But it defies easy explanation. And I digress.

When we got there, it was just before quitting time for the day, which was 5:30 PM. Four days into a five-day construction program, the mandala was largely complete, with just the outermost ring to be filled in. The circle of petal-like shapes just inside that were about 99 per cent completed.

The construction of the mandala depends of steady and exacting precision application of those colored powders by each of the monks. The tool for this is called a chakpur, which pictures I took can be seen in the entry two-back, and they're simply long metal funnels with a sawtoothed area on one side. The monk scoops up some colored sand from one of the bowls, strokes the chakpur with a metal stylus to make sure that sand has packed up against the applicator end, then lays the funnel against his forearm and goes to work. By lightly rapping the serrated surface back and forth, an almost waterlike stream of sand is deposited. The rest, I'm guessing, is practice and skill.

Once again, the mandala will remain for public viewing (the mere act of viewing seems to be held to impart a blessing to the viewer) until the 29th at noon, at which time the mandala will be ritualistically dismantled and the sands will be deposited in the Willamette (no worries, people, it's non-toxic. You think Buddhists would want to harm a fishy?) in order to release the compassion blessing to the world.

A good idea of what physical effort goes into creating a sand mandala can be seen at the Liveleak video here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b42_1275511628. Six days condensed into about two minutes. Very enlightening, let's say.

Complete info, again, is here: http://www.multcolib.org/events/collins/mandala.html

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[art] Banksy At The Door of Number 10

How does Banksy do it? We'll never know, but I strongly suspect that Banksy is, in reality, the British PM.

Clicky to go to the original article
where the whole piccy can be escryed. May be NSFW,
YMMV, or if you clear the screen off real-quick-like when
the boss or any kids come in the room

The picture referenced, published by a British humor publication of sketchy rep, can only mean that, or that Banksy is more awesome than many of us assumed.

“Well of course it is embarrassing,” said a cabinet minister who asked not to be named,” but then again the value of the house has just gone up by about half a million pounds. Money is tight these days so, you know, and to be honest the Treasury is saying ‘well hang on a minute, lads – there might be something in this…’”

Well, we all have to make sensitive decisions these days.

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10 November 2010

[art] There's Tibetan Monks In The Library, Making A Mandala

I have had a passing interest in temporary art, sand paintings and the like, so when The Wife™ scryed that Tibetan monks were going to be creating a sand mandala on the 3rd Floor lobby of the Multnomah County Library's Central Branch, in downtown Portland, we just had to go see this.

Construction of the art began somwhere around 5 or 6:30 PM, and we ran a little behind. Whatever benediction was performed was over before we got there, but we didn't miss too awful much.

As things wore on, I realized that I was watching something I enjoy watching ... artists at work. Oddly, I didn't realize that before. Strange for me.

The opening moves for the mandala is to construct the layout skeleton on which the design will be "hung", and the first thing to do here is to make the construction lines. This is accomplished - on a square table - by something so mundane as snapping chalk lines. A great many of them, as it turned out. By the time they were moving on to laying in the design itself, the table was an absolute hash of fine chalk lines creating a most astoundingly-detailed grid.

On a table to one side sat the colors and their application tools:

... patiently awaiting their employ. The colored sands, we found, were pigmented with opaque watercolors, presumably non-toxic.

The layout tools, some of which lay next to the sand funnels:

... consisted of tools hardly any more complicated than what the average elementary schooler would use in geometry class. Rulers. Compasses. And that's about it. The white pencils will be used to lay in the actual design's lines; they look, for all the world, to be nothing more than white china markers.

A great number of patrons milled about the work at first. A photograph of the Dalai Lama occupied what looked to be an altar used for the opening blessing, in front of which were lined brass bowls filled with rice, incense sticks, and water with saffron strands in. Off in a corner, as with every travelling act, a table for vending merch.

But the center was occupied by the table upon which the design was being constructed, complete with four Buddhist monks, garbed in red robes with blue piping along the arm-holes. They allowed us to get unexpectedly close. Though they seemed to be aware of us, our presences - and our wordless insistances to get close enough to get good flash photography, from which nobody discouraged any of us - deterred them not at all.

This I understand. When I drew all the time, much more than now (and as much as I ought to be doing) I occasionally drew in public for people who were watching, and once in the zone, I didn't care who was watching. Me, the pencil, and that paper were the only things that mattered in the universe.

Drawing has always been a kind of meditative activity. And why not?

As the construction lines became numerous enough, the china pencils, rulers, and smaller compasses were pressed into service.

At the time I was curious as to how the design was going to be completed if they rubbed the chalk markings away; at the time, I didn't realize that the chalk marks were meant to support the white wax markings. The table did seem to hang on to the chalk though, and the lady who was the monk's "tour manager" (this being a fundraiser for their monastery, which is located in southern India) told us that the table's surface, essentially, had the "tooth" required, just like with paper, to hold the marks for as long as needed.

The table was square, but there was nothing ritualistic about its dimensions. Regular squares and circles make practical sense, and while the design can scale up and down a little, the size is just right to do the work.

It was at this point that I really began to understand what was going on with the chalk and pencil markings. The intricate construction grid is staring to be brushed away, but if one can look close enough in the web-resolution picture above, the details of the final design are beginning to emerge as curves are now laid in.

A bit of a better angle with still more curves laid in. The familiar mandala design is beginning to emerge. One more thing before we all had to leave the library, and that was the snapping of more chalk lines, and the laying out of big circles that will enclose the interior design.

With this, the mandala's design is starting to really come out from the chalk lines.

Four Tibetan monks, one to a quarter, working in concert, talking little, but in tune with each other, taking cues from one another, laying the foundation for an artwork that is the definition of ephemeral.

They'll be working on it for a few more days, however.

We will be trying to get by there by Thursday to see the progress. Stay tuned.

MultCoLib info, including the sponsoring organizations links, can be had here: http://www.multcolib.org/events/collins/mandala.html

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07 November 2010

[liff] Billyuns and Billyuns

Today, Carl Sagan would have been 76 years old, and we'd have to kill him and bury him to get him to spin in his grave over the way some things have been going on around here latterly.

Today therefore is worldwide Carl Sagan Day, in which we light a candle against the darkness of a demon-haunted world. Science, baby!

You can always celebrate as Sarah Mayhew (va the Bad Astronomer) does.

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[liff] It's Mahtab's Big Kid Cooking Show ... The Much Anticipated Episode 8

ZOMG, you guys ... it is, indeed, Mahtab's Big Kid Cooking Show, Episode 8, starring the cutest, smartest new celebrity chef out there, and her guest-chef, Gilbert.

Today it's fruit kebabs-delightful, healthful, kid-friendly, and delivered with only the panache that Mahtab herself can bring. Here you are:

It's true, hummus is something you can never say you really like until you've tried it, and the hummus-cracker-tomato idea sounds pretty delectable actually.

Go watch Mahtab, leave nifty comments for her on her YouTube video page, and encourage her. Passion is sweet and keen to watch, yes?

Four stars for this one.

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05 November 2010

[liff] I Heart Headlines: If They Find A Radioactive One HERE, Is That News?

Tell you what - If I'm looking for one of these, I'm not sure where I'd start but I'm sure this is probably where I'd end up:

Like, I know: where else are you gonna look for a radioactive Bugs? The 7 Eleven store?

Well, okay, maybe. But nowhere else!

Story at KGW.com.

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03 November 2010

[OR liff] The Election Comes To The Suburbs

No matter how the election turns out, the enduring memory will not be so much who wins or who loses (considering) but the effect, I think, on traffic.

Here's how we roll, out 122nd way.

The most popular drop site is the Midland Regional Library branch, on SE 122nd Avenue at Morrison Street. The libe itself is a wonder and a beauty, and an essential part of our lives. And, ideally located in what I like to think of as "downtown 122nd Avenue", near SE 122nd and Stark, it is near a major transit point.

A lot of people come and go through there, and know how to get there. So, it's a natural. And here's what you faced if you chose to run that gauntlet:

Southbound 122nd's lanes are directed into the library parking lot. Once in, you were directed westward through the lot, toward the end that abutted the park, where the permanently-installed ballot drop box is. You drop your ballots, and exit the lot, directed southbound again on 122nd. If you were actually visiting the library, as we were, you do a dance with your fellow cars in the stream angling for a parking space.

Yeah, it's a bottleneck and a bit of a snarl, but it's the price of democracy.

After concluding one's business at the libe, we go south on 122nd, turn a yewie as soon as safe and apparently-appropriate, and repair to the Burgerville at 122nd and Stark, assuming a space near the big curving window at the north end of the building and view the things that perforce ensue, which is a whole bunch of cars coming from the west on SE Stark Street and from the north on SE 122nd Avenue and place bets on whether or not some of the ensuing ensuage involves democratic fender-benders of the people.

It did not.

And so it goes.

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02 November 2010

[OR liff] I Heart Headlines: Election Day Traffic Report

Some headlines capture the zeitgeist in their hot little hands most perfectly. Oregonlive, today:

If you're voting, though ... good luck.

The full story at this link here.

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01 November 2010

[OR liff] Last Stop On The Pineapple Express

This is one of those things that's quintessentially Cascadian, if not outright Oregonian.

Quizzically, some things Oregon get oddly tropical names. Banana belt, for instance, which is typically taken to refer to the area of the coast from about Port Orford south, where the weather is warmer and milder than up the coast - the Oregon Riviera, if one wills. And, lately, due to the vicissitudes of Pacific Ocean influence, we have the Pineapple Express.

If you were out earlier today, you no doubt noticed that, in addition to the usual Oregon pall, the weather was remarkably warm. This is because, when certain things happen somehow, and La Nina has something to do with that, we get a stream of warm, wet air that fires up here at a quick pace directly from the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.

This satellite image, clipped from the KGW website just a little while ago, shows the Express rather clearly - it's the long, filmy stream of clouds straggling into Oregon and Washington from the vicinity of the "6:31 PM" banner. Just below and to the left of that is the approximate position of the Hawaiian Islands.

An even more amazing diagram of the route of the Express is here: http://zebu.uoregon.edu/humid.html.

We do do things a little different in Oregon. Here, a Maui Wowie isn't necessarily something you buy to get you high.

And when you get yourself outside on a November day in Oregon and the weather seems a bit wetter, know that it's from O'ahu with love.

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