Tuesday, April 5th 2022 at 9:23 pm
by Jonah

Berck had just started up an episode of Mad About You, sitting down on the couch with his plate, when he tried to shout something through a full mouth and over Paul Reiser. He was unsuccessful. He jumped up with his plate and backed away from the couch and attempted communicating again. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. He pointed to where he had been sitting. “My what?” I demanded, as Berck, now standing in the hallway, put another forkful of food into his mouth. He gesticulated with his fork even more forcefully at the couch and the remote, which was now out of his reach. I still couldn’t hear what he was saying over the TV volume. “Your department!” he managed to get out between bites. “What?” “There!” “What’s there!?”

Berck swallowed.


Now that I knew what I was looking for, I saw it, hanging from a silk from the ceiling, right where Berck’s plate had just been, its impossibly shiny black skin, save for a golden hourglass, wrapping a fat abdomen near to bursting with poison. It was casually letting itself down. I knew I had seconds before it hit the floor and then headed in who knows what direction.

I grabbed a map off my desk and turned to capture the beast. By now it has alighted on the table in front of the couch, next to the remote. Spiders are my department because I have a strict no-kill policy with spiders. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and spiders capture and eat mosquitoes and flies and Miller moths. But dealing with this particular spider was going to have to take extra care because she was a black widow (did you know black widows can have yellow hour glasses or even two unconnected triangles?)

I carefully held one end of the folded map and edged the other end toward the widow. She tentatively stepped from the table onto the map. When a majority of her eight legs had made their way onto the map, I pulled the map away and started heading for the door. Perhaps she would find a place to hide outside in the near 0° temperature before she froze to death.

I had just rounded the couch toward the door, when the spider was suddenly yanked by an unseen force off of the folded map. She didn’t fall, and she didn’t jump. Simply, one moment she was on the paper I was holding and the next she wasn’t.

Now it was time to panic.

I ran upstairs. I tore off my flannel shirt. Then I glanced at the cuffs of my trousers and decided they had to go too. I grabbed the vacuum out of the broom closet and headed back downstairs in my undies.

“Where did it go?” asked Berck.

“I don’t know.”

“Is it on you?”

This was a non-zero possibility. I ripped off my T-shirt, socks, and panties. I examined my now naked skin, finally convinced I was spider-free. Then I took the vacuum’s plug and ducked around Berck, who was still eating in the hallway and also unhelpfully standing between me and the nearest available outlet. Then I removed the wand from the base and, without bothering with any attachments, turned the machine on.

Now brandishing my very loud weapon, entering battle as naked as a Pict, I approached my foe. The opportunity for amnesty was over. It was kill or take a trip to the emergency room. My scorched-earth plan was to vacuum every inch of the couch and work my way outwards, throughout the whole room, if necessary. Vacuuming, it turns out, is also my department.

But then I spotted her, right where I had previously found her, this time heading up her strand, apparently deciding to nope out of the area and head back to the ceiling. I struck hard and fast, lunging forward, stopping the tip of the vacuum’s stalk right next to her. Then, just as she had disappeared in a flash off of my map, she vanished into the bowels of the vacuum cleaner.

Our vacuum is one of those bag-less types with a canister you can empty into the trash. I imagined her patent-leather body exploring the maze of hoses and compartments inside the vacuum. I switched the machine off, opened the door, and walked outside, still wearing nothing, into the below-freezing weather.

In the morning, confident that an arachnid could not move in single digit temperatures, I opened the vacuum cleaner and emptied the canister into a trash bag. I didn’t see any spider parts, but I didn’t dig through the debris looking for any either. The trash bag was tied up air-tight and taken to the street for the garbage collector coming that day.

The vacuum cleaner is still standing outside on the porch, and now it’s snowing. But the vacuum can never come back inside.


It’s Legal!

Tuesday, March 15th 2022 at 3:54 pm
by Berck

I think this weekend I’ve managed to accomplish everything necessary to call the car legal for ARA. Still plenty to do, but the major welding hurdles have been accomplished thanks to my codriver and fellow Vee people.




Top of the brace bars done:



Overall, great success! I didn’t get a photo of the finished bars yet, but they came out reasonably well considering the retrofit. The must-do list is shrinking. I need to paint the new bars, install a modern rally computer and intercom and sort out the shifter and I should be good to rally.

Rally Fire Suppression Complete

Saturday, March 5th 2022 at 6:57 pm
by Berck

Fire suppression finally installed. Stroud did, in fact, send the right bracket/clamps. It’s just the bracket looks short and the clamps didn’t reach because the car is bent. Some massaging with a sledge hammer and it fits fine now. I hope to be done bending and flaring tubing for awhile. The steel stuff is rough.

Driver side nozzle is under the steering column:

Codriver nozzle is under the soon-to-be-removed terratrip.

Next up: I need to do something about the driver position. Actually, the driver position is mostly fine. Maybe a little higher than I’d like, but that gives me enough pedal clearance. I can barely reach the steering wheel, which is easily fixed with the steering wheel spacer the car came with. I think the original builder was taller than the previous owner. Unfortunately, that does nothing for the shifter. It’s pretty hard to reach in 1,3,5. I’m thinking I should buy some cheap ebay shifter and bend it. Open to advice from Josh or any other E30 people reading. (I don’t really care whether it’s a “short” shifter or not, except that short will probably also make it easier to reach).

Rally Fire Suppression

Sunday, February 27th 2022 at 7:32 pm
by Berck

My fire suppression system finally arrived! I went with a Stroud 10lb F-36 (halogen replacement) system. Pricey at $800 shipped. I could have gone cheaper with one of the foam systems, but I didn’t want to for several reasons.

(1) The foam systems have a minimum temperature limit. They can freeze, and I live in Colorado at 9,200ft. The car lives outside when I’m not working on it, and for instance, it was -12F a few nights ago. I don’t want to have to deal with taking the bottle in and out of the car.

(2) Foam makes a mess. I accidentally discharged the fire system in my Vee once. It was an unfortunate $500 accident, but at least I didn’t have a giant mess to clean up. I’m not actually sure what happened–I’m not sure it was correctly installed. I noticed that the fire handle looked like it was about 1/8 an inch out from where it should be. With the pin in the bottle, I pushed the handle back in. To make sure it was fine, I pulled the pin on the bottle. It wasn’t fine.

(3) Gas systems require fewer nozzles. My 10lb system only has 3 nozzles. Easier install.

I also could have legally gotten away with a 5lb system. But I think that something the size of a rally car is probably more properly equipped with a 10lb system.

Thankfully, the fire bottle (barely!) fits behind a seat. Unfortunately, Stroud sent the wrong bracket/clamps. I’m pretty sure they sent me the bracket/clamps for a 5lb bottle, which means that they won’t secure my 10lb bottle. I assume this is an easy thing for them to make right, so I sent them an email.

So, I got the system about halfway installed. This system requires bending and flaring 1/4″ steel tubing, which does take a little time. It also has 2 outputs from the bottle. This works great for, say, my Formula Vee where you want one tube to go to the engine bay and another to go to the cockpit, but less good for a rally car where I’m just running both of them forward.

ARA rules say to install according to the instructions. The instructions are vague. Dragsters should install one nozzle on the driver, and one each over each exhaust header. Circle track racers should “blanket the driver”. I’m going to to install one nozzle from the driver, one for the codriver, and one for the engine compartment.

Thus far I’ve managed the co-driver and engine compartment nozzles.

The fuel comes in on the intake side and that seemed the more likely place for a fire, so I put the nozzle on that side. Presumably with a gas system the location isn’t super critical. A little annoyed that while they supplied steel lines, they went with aluminum fittings. But I guess if the aluminum fittings have melted, I’m dead anyway.

On the wheel hunt. Facebook marketplace only has 3 15″ MINI wheels in the Denver area. They are phone dials, but they’re painted black, which isn’t the right color for a rally car and look pretty rough. $75/each is a more reasonable price than ebay, at least. Of course, getting them requires driving 1.5 hours each way. I’ll see if they’re available next time I drive to Denver.

I went ahead and bought a Stilo Trophy DES. The yellow one, because it’s cheaper. I was initially just going to buy coms for my full face helmet, but I realized that even with the visor up, I’m never going to be able to keep my glasses from fogging with that thing in a closed car, and I’d just be much happier with an open faced helmet if I could wear one. Annoyed that there are no FIA/SA2020 Stilo rally helmets, but whatever.

In the cloud, finally.

Sunday, February 20th 2022 at 12:48 pm
by Berck

It had gotten silly that now that I work for a cloud network services company that the blog was sitting on my home DSL. I’m probably going to cancel the DSL and rely solely on Starlink for home internet. Starlink does not come with a public-facing IPV4 address, and its IPV6 implementation only appears to work for 10 minutes at a time. This means that even though I have Starlink, the blog is still being served by the same 768kbit/s DSL uplink that it’s been on for the last decade. A decade ago, your own internet was slow enough you only sort of noticed, but it’s gotten silly.

So, now the blog (and the N45HX blog) are hosted on AWS’s Lightsail behind Cloudflare’s free service. It should be noticeably better.

Maybe I’ll even start posting here more often.

The gallery has not yet been migrated. I’m going to try, even though gallery3 is mostly abandonware at this point, so keeping it chugging along continues to prove to be work.