Reply to: [YouTube] Sports Cars are Not Selling – Look in the Mirror

I just found this video a few days ago and couldn’t stop thinking about its topic. The video was released six months ago so sorry about being late to the party, I hope I still have something constructive to add. It would be helpful to watch the video first but I tried to make this not too centric.

The video’s creators forgot something that I believe has become another big reason and that’s the social aspect of driving an expensive car on public roads. I live in the Mid-West and people I’m seeing don’t like to see new expensive cars on the road. Old muscle cars are fine but I’ve seen they really dislike new BMWs and exotics. If a car makes a lot of noise it really upsets people and I imagine they are quick to call the cops and report it. If something happens those same people are willing to shoot a little video and you’re ratted out with what I’m sure is pretty good evidence.

Recently I saw a Hellcat rumble down the road, these cars are loud to start with and it’s driver was intentionally operating this one in a rather loud fashion by constantly blipping the throttle and bringing the RPMs up into the loud range before changing gears. Now this car was in traffic and a Hellcat does not look exotic or expensive but the reaction from the people around me from the noise was rather telling. The grumbling started immediately and I could see people saying, “Idiot” and stretching their necks trying to see who was making the noise. It’s just not acceptable to make loud racer type noises on the street anymore.

Whether the reason is poor people are hurting, we’re running out of fossil fuel or global change is destroying the world the auto and especially the cars of the 1% are deemed more responsible for it and that just looks bad. If I could afford a very expensive car this would be the main reason for not getting it, you can do the same thing in a cheaper car and not piss anyone off. If I’m going to live in the USA I’m going to drive a Chevy just so nobody bothers me.

On the topic of public roads, public roads at least around here suck. The pavement is utter garbage and even repaired sections don’t seem to last and when you do find a quiet smooth patch the cops watch it like blood sucking hawks trying to replace lost tax dollars with speeding and excessive noise tickets. Even Jay Leno who lives in always sunny LA constantly complains about the road breaking his expensive wheels and suspension, I wonder what he’d say about around here?

Then there’s drivers, I was asked a few years ago to man a booth at a very large auto show. It was shocking how few people that came up to our booth even had drivers licenses and we were selling race car driving courses! More recently my wife and I stayed at a hotel that coincidentally was next to a stock car race track, I got up early and went to breakfast myself and ended up sitting with a bunch of the drivers who were laughing that they tried to provide an event where fans could take a few lessons and drive a lap or two in a stock car. They had to pull the event when nobody who showed up could drive a manual transmission! These are stock car fans who signed up and paid for a course and didn’t even know what kind of transmission the cars had. I’m not saying that you have to know how to shift gears to know how to drive but if you have had serious exposure to cars what are the chances you don’t know how to drive a stick?

You make some alludes to the finances that I don’t think really applies to except for young people and insurance which has become pretty crazy but the price of cars per performance is likely better than ever. In 1969 a top model Lotus Elan sold for barely $5,000 which is about $35,000 in today’s money. The top of the line 2018 Miata does everything better than the Elan and costs about $33,000. Even gas prices can’t be blamed as a thirty-three cent gallon of 1969 gasoline comes to about $2.33 in today’s dollars which is what it was when I went out yesterday.

I have friend’s who’s kids that call themselves gamers own personal computers that cost between $5-$10,000, they have home theatre systems in the same range and collections of games and portables in the same range. Add all these together and I think you’ll find where the youth auto dollar want. Why buy a car when you can borrow dad’s SUV and save your money for fun stuff?

Personally I don’t like to drive fast in modern road cars on the street. Maybe I’ve outgrown my antisocial traits or don’t want to have my fun fund the local police force or have to suffer the deprecation of a vehicle that never gets to do what it was made to do but whatever it is it could be that I have had the experience of going to the track and putting it all out there with slick tires on a road course with a stick shift engine solid mounted to the frame and no driver aids, no computer controlled street car with 10 air bags and a cushy seat can match that. They used to call that man and machine, today it’s more man and robot and kind of a dim robot that does not even know to turn off traction control when it’s not needed (I’m so tired of seeing that).

I’m not even surprised that the latest car craze is a parking lot ballet that makes a lot of noise and goes nowhere with no clear winner. I gave up being a spectator at races when my favorites all moved to temporary city circuits from race parks because I quickly got tired of trying to watch a race through ten layers of chain length fence only to have one open spot where they flash by in milliseconds. Marketing said the city circuits brought more money and that’s what won. It might be exciting as an event but you don’t encourage people to take up racing if all they see is that crap.

My father and grand father took me to races and we walked up to the cars and could see most if not all of the track from our seats. We talked to drivers and the crew and were close enough to see, hear, feel and smell what was going on, you don’t get that from the jumbo-tron. As a ten year old child I had a race license and raced motocross and quarter midgets which was accessible to normal people then and there were plenty of tracks and organized races near where we lived. Only the children of the super rich can do that today so few are exposed to driving at a young age and that directly cuts into the number of sports car drivers there will be in the future.

Maybe you can learn from a video game, I hear that the current Formula 1 champion started on video games but I suspect he’s the exception that proves the rule and most people will never venture past video games even though you can buy a real race car for what a good computer game setup costs.

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I feel very fortunate that as long as I can bolt an engine to a frame and find a track I can have my fun but I worry about people who don’t know how to turn a wrench or find the line that are out on my streets with 600hp cars and brag about how the car will do everything for them.

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I’m very proud of my anti-backlash five start acme nut

I know it’s beautiful isn’t it? I’ve been using and researching acme screws for about ten years and at one point had access to a fancy acme tap which has since gone missing and that’s a shame as it cost a few hundred dollars. This tap would have allowed me to create the same style anti-backlash nut as shown above but in a more solid material like brass or steel.

Thanks to some kind thingiverse user I found a cad model for this exact thread and I used it to 3D print a few hex nuts just to see if it worked. When I printed and then threaded the nut it was a bit more than surprising that I could actually print a thread, mind you a 1/2″ acme thread is about as course as you’ll ever see this side of ship or bridge parts. 

In the cad image above you can see clearly how the threads on a five start acme nut work. The springs apply tension to keep the nut from wobbling on the threads so the small nut is located from turning by the 10-24 bolts. Better hardware would be some kind of shoulder bolts and I will keep my eyes open for them but for now the tiny threads pose no problem for the amount of travel required here.

The test fixture pictured above allows some torque to be applied and the deviation measured by a dial gauge (not pictured, sorry) Meccano is handy for quick fixtures.

Here’s the nut mounted to the side of my Y axis gantry.

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Another shot of the gantry.

If you’d like to see the CAD files check out my Thingiverse page.

When cancer comes home

I haven’t mentioned this here because I don’t like to talk about it but now that the worst of it is over I’m feeling a bit more able to not only put my words down but to be able to read them. My wife was diagnosed with cancer one year ago today. I’ve been with her every step of the way supporting her and holding her hand and doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. Scary things too but not only did I manage to do them I somehow excelled at it as all the compliments from doctors, nurses and generalists attested to.

Okay I kind of made up that last part but at the start of this I did almost pass out a couple of times when they were drawing blood. I didn’t know it was going to happen as the room slowly turned grey and the nurse said I should go for a walk and get some air, I didn’t even know she was watching me!

I quickly got used to seeing them poke needles into her but it brought up some thoughts about myself and how I have never taken care of anyone before. I hadn’t even done a very good job of taking care of myself up until now. As a full grown adult I was not proud of this but now I’ve come to terms with it and have moved on.

Theresa is feeling much better now and has returned to what we believe is normal or is going to be the new normal. You know she’s a writer and has kept a pretty through blog about the events of the last year but a warning to those who are easily disturbed as she pulls no punches, you get the real deal here. Well you have been warned. Happy-Cancerversary!

The Big Fish Eat Everything

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I just got a lesson in free market economics. My local garbage collection company was bought up by a huge multinational corporation. We’re told that economies of scale and market forces determine costs, while this may be true if you are operating the company it has little to do with what the consumer pays for services.

The first change we noticed that our pickup time started to move all over the place and we have two collections, one for recycle and one for waste and they could pick up one early in the morning and the other in the late afternoon. There was suddenly no consistency which forced a change in my schedule as I used to put the cans out when I took Theresa to work in the morning but now I had to put them out Sunday night to make sure wouldn’t miss the pickup.

Next change was the sudden arrival of a new recycle wheelie bin, it’s nice to have a clean new bin but this one also happens to be slightly smaller and since in our area we are limited to using this bin only it is a reduction in service or in other words an increase in our cost.

Finally I notice a couple weeks back that they have neglected to empty my new smaller recycle bin. A week later the bin is emptied but not the next week. I dig out a flyer they sent us and it stated that from now on we were only getting recyclables picked up every other week.

These changes mean that we’re getting more than a 25% reduction in service while paying the same fees. If this were an isolated event I might say it was just the unintended side effect of merging two systems but this happened when our local internet provider was bought out by a huge national carrier and when our local cable provider was bought out by a huge corporation.

Huge corporations are only more efficient when it comes to making money for themselves but when you’re a customer they take every advantage to leverage their huge size against you the tiny individual customer in what can be easily compared to a mafia style shakedown. There are few other advantages to companies growing this large, they don’t support my local area as the head office is way down in Texas and all the good paying jobs are there too all we have is the labor and they take the profits and things like the local professionals that used to service the old company are moved elsewhere.

 

When is a company not a company?

I’ve recently become aware of a couple examples of how much the world has changed while it tries to conceal this fact. In my first example is something I had know about but since not being an insider did not understand the implications. I believe we have huge portions of the economy that are basically false advertising and are getting away with it because it happened slowly over a long period of time.

I have a friend that I’ve known for likely ten years, we met at a blogging site but since have met in person a number of times. He worked as a highly skilled assembler of  aerospace parts, something he thought was safe until his company moved overseas. This move happened at a time that a number of other companies pulled the same move and suddenly there was a glut of highly skilled workers and he was forced to come to grips with his future being shattered and at the same time expected to recareer.

He took some time off and decided he’d like to drive a truck. Long range and complex loads were for him as he could pass the tests and acquire the licenses being a pretty sharp guy with a mechanical background. He did this quickly and was on the road but it soon became evident that the same big business ethics that dumped him on his ass in another industry were at play in his new role.

The company he works for is called a trucking company, they advertise the service of trucking but they don’t own any trucks. The modern way to operate is to put up a sign and hire a room full of office people that pose as a trucking company but when an order comes in they “hire” a trucker like my friend to move the goods. This way the company does not have to pay truckers as employees even though they are posing as a trucking company. They also don’t have to maintain any equipment since all that is the employee’s I mean “contractor’s” responsibility. You see what is going on here?

I was a little shocked to learn this as it came out slowly because this is an accepted practice, for now. When he posted about buying a truck I did not understand that he was reaching into his own credit to buy that truck that immediately was sent to the paint shop to have the company colors applied, his name and his first name only appeared in tiny letters near the door.

Later he wrote about how the company used numerous tactics to get out of paying him, like how he would be called for a pickup at a certain time and then made to wait hours that he would not be paid for. They also penalised him for not making connections that were impossible if not illegal to make. Since the company had divided the work over numerous small contractors they were able to take advantage of them being the big fish while the driver was the easily replaceable small fish.

Even though he owned the truck and made all the payments he was not allowed to take any jobs from anyone else which is odd as you’d think that being under the complete direction of one employer would instantly make you an employee.

You should not be allowed to present your company as something it is not. If you call yourself a trucking company you should not outsource your entire business, what they are is brokers and not truckers and deserve no exclusive rights without offering employment.

Here’s my second example in this early similar scenario that reared its ugly head about 18 months ago when I spoke to a local fellow who does groundskeeping. The fellow said he also worked as a roofer actually he said his main skill and trade was as a roofer but had to supplement his trade and chose to call himself a grounds keeper because there are laws that prevent him from calling himself a roofer.

We spoke more and he had an interesting story. It seems that the local industry of those who legally call themselves roofers are actually just roofing brokers with signs and business cards that falsely purported them to be actual roofers as they have no hammers and no trucks and worst of all no employees but they do have a lic. and those are limited and hard to get.

The trouble is his “boss” only calls him when he has a job, actually bosses as he contracts to a number of “license holders” who not only expect him to show up at a job site with one day notice but if you can’t because you are finishing another job they often penalize them for it by withholding future jobs. Worst of all with this new system of exploit the lowest is as a contractor he is no longer able to claim unemployment during the winter months as he used to when he started in this business as an employee.

He’s on his own for the bad times and it seems for the good times as well as the company scoops the bulk of the profits because they can. All these changes were know about in advance by those who perpetrated them, it was only a surprise for those who were negatively impacted.

 

Lightning strikes, lights flash, Mac stops.

This is what now passes for my server room. Gone is the 200 square feet of serviceable lead acid batteries or raised floor and halon fire system but in return I have, well I have smaller problems.  Okay what I have now is two cable modems, one for internet (bottom) and one for phone service (top), a 24 port 10/100 switch and an Apple Time Capsule. The Time Capsule has three gigabit ports two of which go to my two Macs and the third goes to the switch to service everybody else in the firm and by firm I mean just a couple of boxes for mostly entertainment so there. I also distribute wi-fi to service the wireless devices on the network, you know stuff like a couple of phones and a tablet. There’s one more thing, it’s a UPS further down where you can’t see it and that pretty much makes up for the server room and not even a single glass wall in sight.

Now back to the story, last night after the light show and the noise and the flickering lights I went to the studio to shut down when I found the Mac on an endless loop of rebooting and restarting. Something had damaged the system format and it was unable to complete the boot cycle. After a few rounds of fsck and some disk diagnostics plus the old four finger startup and four “BUNG”s I determined that the drive needed to be reformatted and the system reinstalled.

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Normally this is a tragedy but I’ve been planning ahead, when we moved here I had to buy a cable modem for the new system, at the old house I just split the cost of internet with my neighbor and pointed my wifi antenna at his basement window & job done, worked great for years. Now I had to buy equipment. TWC wanted to sell me their “high end” wireless router but some research said it was an overpriced piece of junk and I’d be better off getting my own. Some writers even claimed that if you used the TWC unit they had access to your network and could read your rants and turn on your webcams. Time to put on my tin foil hat and crack the books.

Not wanting to wear the hat of shame I located a great deal on an Apple Time Capsule. It’s a router, a wi-fi connection point, a print server and had its own hard drive for backing up other computers. All you have to do is run Apple Time Machine as shown below and both my Macs will be safe. There were safe for almost three years up until last night. I do daily backups but don’t turn the machines on every day which gives me a pretty good snapshot to work with.

This is how Time Machine looks if you need it while the system is running which mine wasn’t. You can find lost files and draw things out of your archive if you need to.

My system is not functioning, I have a backup but I’ve never had to restore from that backup. I bite a bullet and reboot. Now comes the tricky part, I hold down the command key until this pops up. Tricky part over.

Clicking “Recovery HD” finds my backup on the network and all I have left is to click start that’s it, takes a couple of hours but no other input is required on my behalf. This article says what I just did dosen’t work, I beg to differ but I don’t have a fancy column in a fancy Mac trade paper turned web site. He actually describes a scenario that was totally unlike what I had just gone through. I check the date of pub and it’s barely a year old, could it have changed that much in a year? He sounds like some kind of crazy doom sayer.

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I wish I had more to say but I don’t, it just worked and I’m back to work. The machine that everyone says is too expensive just cost me nothing to fix, I didn’t have to call in the Geek Squad and my hardware is still good enough to do the job it was doing yesterday. I will replace the batteries in the UPS that supplies the sensitive gear in the studio but that’s it. -See you later.

What is the V-Machine?

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The V-Machine is a standalone VST player. What that means is that tiny box can run the same software that the big studios use to produce the sounds of just about any instrument. Same software is an important distinction because it allows someone who creates music on a computer at home or a big studio to have access to that same sound without the big computer.

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On the back are the connections, from left we have the power button and input then the USB jack for programming and next to that are two USB instrument jacks for keyboards and such, a headphone jack, two 1/4″ line outs and finally a stereo line in a mix knob.

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I bought this unit when I was playing out a couple of times a week and it cut down on the amount of equipment I needed to carry around. I often plugged a midi keyboard into it and used my VST piano/organ/Rhodes patches and it saved my bringing a computer and I/O device to access the same sounds I was using with the computer DAW. After I got the Fishman Triple Play midi to guitar system I would just plug the Fishman dongle pictured above into the back of the V-Machine and I wouldn’t even need to bring the keyboard anymore.

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Plugging in the Fishman guitar synth is really amazing as it gives you a wireless guitar synth and you still have full use of the normal function of your guitar. My band did a lot of classic rock and new wave covers and most of that music has some part that includes something that is not the basic guitar, bass, drums and this box can add that. As second guitar I could also play a couple of organ or electric piano notes when needed which allowed us to zoom in on the feel of the original song. So many of our tunes needed some kind of percussion or a few note synth riff and now I could have all those without taking up any extra stage room. What’s Sympathy for the Devil without congas or Centerfold without that cheesy synth? A midi foot pedal is nice to have as it makes changes easy and fits within the footprint of a mic stand but for simple operation the Fishman has UP – DOWN – LEFT – RIGHT buttons on the controller as well as a volume and mix control as seen in the above photo.

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Here is a photo of everything I have with the V-Machine. This one has all the original parts and pieces including all the registrations for the VSTs plus it has been expanded with larger ROM and more RAM.

I’m getting ready to put this one up on ebay and I may try the local social media groups for musicians, new owner gets everything. I don’t play out anymore and haven’t used this in over a year so it’s really just a waste to keep when someone could be enjoying it the same way I did.

I’ve made a few videos of the operation that I will link to here when they are uploaded.