Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   muffler spring hole
Monday, August 31 2009

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

My most urgent goal today weas to fix whatever was wrong with the Honda Civic, whose exhaust system had been making terrible sounds for most of the drive back from Philadelphia. I jacked up the car and had Gretchen rev the engine so I could pinpoint the source of the sound. Eventually I put my hand in the narrow space above the muffler and felt pressurized gas escaping. The muffler had a hole in it. Mind you, that muffler is not even three years old; I'd replaced it in September of 2006. But I'd bought it online and it had obviously been a cheap aftermarket unit. Still, I wasn't ready to give up on it quite yet.
Taking the muffler off was easy; three years ago I'd used stainless steel bolts to assemble the exhaust system, a small luxury I heartily recommend to anyone replacing theirs. Once I had the muffler in my hands, I could see what the problem was. I'd welded a stout spring to the frame of the car to keep the muffler from banging against it, and over time this spring hand worked its way through the muffler like a punch. It had left a clean, circular hole about five eighths of an inch across. The exhaust escaping through this hole had helped to corrode the outside of the muffler in a hand-sized patch. If I wanted to fix this muffler, I'd have to weld on a piece of steel about the size of an eight and a half by eleven inch sheet of paper.
I have a bunch of that Cor-Ten weathering steel (scraps given to me by our friend Chris, the photogenic vegan Buddhist who'd been using it as a siding material for his new house on Zena Road), so I selected a suitable piece that just happened to be about the correct size, and then I bent it into a curve along one dimension so it would match the ovoid-cylindrical surface of the muffler. I started out bending it in the vice using a hammer, but it proved much easier to do it in a sequence of small bends using my eighteen inch bending brake. This particular sheet stock is so thick that bending and cutting it isn't easy, but it should make for a tough patch for a muffler hole.
I wasn't confident in my ability to actually weld this patch onto the muffler, so before placing the patch, I covered the hole with furnace cement sandwiched between two pieces of fiberglass mesh. Then I strapped the patch in place using wires and began to weld, doing so along existing seams in the muffler whenever possible. The seamless parts of the muffler were so thin that it was easily perforated by the process of welding, even when using the low power setting. Still, I surprised myself just by the fact that I didn't completely destroy the muffler. I even managed to make a seemingly gap-proof weld all the way along one side of the patch. Then I spot welded here and there along the other edges, which were out in the fragile seamless part of the muffler.
I put the muffler back on the car, started it up, and it sounded perfect, like it hadn't in weeks. Mission accomplished! (With exhaust systems, every victory is temporary at best.)

Another problem I began tackling in earnest today was the problem of household internet speed, which had become increasingly slow in recent weeks. I'd tried swapping out switches and even the DSL router, all to no avail. More recently I'd noticed that the internet seemed to work at an appropriate speed whenever Gretchen's computer (Badger) was off. Possibly its on-board ethernet had gone wonky, so the other day I'd installed an ethernet card, but seen no improvement. Another possibility was that some malware had gotten onto the computer and was doing the internet-clogging bidding of nefarious hackers in a basement on the other side of the globe. It had indeed been infected a couple times by the sort of assware that claims to be a virus scanner and then tries to convince you to buy their "solution." So I decided to build Gretchen something close to an exact replica of Badger and, when I was done, swap it for her computer.
So today I began putting together a nice new computer, one with a DVD burner and a reasonably-fast Pentium IV processor (that might sound retro to those buying new equipment, but it's more than enough for Gretchen's needs). Somehow I got sucked down a rabbit hole with a series of motherboards that didn't work, one of which appeared to have destroyed one of my Socket 478 Celeron processors.

In the evening Gretchen wanted me to cook dinner, so I made pasta with sauce from our own home grown tomatoes. Unfortunately, though, I made a miscalculation when adding pepper flakes to the sauce. Pepper flakes normally seem weak to me, but that's because when I eat them I'm only exposed to their outer surfaces. Today, though, the sauce I made was something of a reduction, and those flakes stewed in the bubbling sauce for awhile. By the time I served it to Gretchen, it was a little too hot even for me. She made do, though, tempering it with vegan sour cream and drinking lots of water.

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