Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Ever Happened to Turkey Fuel?

A few years back, I wrote about a promising technology called Thermal Depolymerization, or TDP. It was supposed to create various types of crude oil from bioproducts, such as leftover turkey parts.

And then we never heard anything about the technology ever again.

Today I read this article about a plant opening up in Gilroy to produce jet fuel from municipal waste (another thing TDP was promising to do), and that made me wonder, "what happened to our old friend TDP?"

Apparently, it didn't work so well.
CWT still exists as a company today. Like cellulosic ethanol, TDP is a technology that actually works. But the technology was hyped beyond reason. People did not apply enough skepticism before embracing the promise of the technology. It was really going to be "the next big thing."
Hope that Solena Group does a better job with its bio-jet fuel.

Monday, April 28, 2008

China Understands Capitalism

A coworker pointed out this article, that the flags being used to protest the occupation of Tibet were made in China. Anyone think they don't understand capitalism?

Along the same vein of "people who don't understand economics", a good commentary on U.S. immigration. Unfortunately the ones who don't understand economics are the public. From the article:
A quick rule of thumb: If it fits on a bumper sticker, it's not a workable policy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bienvenidos a Mexico!

Although it's convenient and relatively close, stories like this one have severely damped my desire to vacation in Mexico any time soon, at least in my own plane. My next trip to Mexico will probably be on a commercial airliner, assuming all the airlines haven't gone out of business by then.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Beware the Ides of April

Interesting (and humerous) article on taxes by Glenn Beck at CNN. My favorite part:

However, I'm a little unsure which approach is better. Democrats burst through the front door of our convenience store with a gun and tell us to empty the contents of our cash register into their little bag with the dollar signs on it.

Republicans walk through the store and smile at us while shoplifting furiously when we turn our backs. When we catch them on surveillance cameras, they just claim they learned their lesson and won't do it next time. Either way I'm being ripped off, and both parties seem to have the attitude that we should be lucky they graced the store with their presence.

(And in case you're not aware where the reference in the title is from, you can read the Wikipedia article)

Monday, April 14, 2008

One-Way Trip

On sunday, the weather seemed nice and we had some free time, so Joahnna and I decided to fly to Paso Robles and have lunch. After a nice lunch at Matthew's we went back out to the plane and tried to start it up.

Since it was fairly hot, and my plane is a dark color, it had some problems starting up -- vapor lock in the fuel lines is fairly standard, and when it happens the engine needs some coaxing to start. While I was trying various combinations of full-throttle / closed-mixure and whatnot, the engine partially caught and then kicked back (briefly ran in the wrong direction).

And after that, trying to crank the engine only resulted in an ugly grinding noise.

I went out to try and hand-crank the propeller to a different position, hoping this was some sort of transient fault, but when I moved the prop, I saw that the starter gear and the main gear were now just brushing over each other rather than meshing cleanly, so this needed some attention from a real mechanic. Unfortunately, real mechanics don't work on sunday.

So, with some help from the kind people at the Paso Robles Jet Center, we rented a car one-way back to San Jose, and left the keys for the mechanic at the attached shop. He gave me a call today and informed me that I had broken the starter housing, and I needed a new starter.

The new starter is on order, but for the time being my plane is grounded.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This Has Been A Test Of...

Every now and then, I have a moment of surprise and shock when not only does someone in our government have a bright idea, but they actually implement it. The FCC has started work on a cell-phone version of the emergency alert system.

I remember listening to the old emergency alert broadcasts on the radio, which were a great idea at the time, but now almost no one I know listens to the radio, except for a few that might tune in during the morning commute instead of listening to their CD or iPod. But pretty much everybody has a cell phone these days, and they're always on.

Of course, this now means that every now and then, we'll get a text message that says, "This has been a test of the emergency SMS system. This is only a test. If this had been a real emergency, you would be reading text that is of actual value to you."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Aborted Flight

On saturday, Joahnna and I had a world-record shortest flight. The plane never even left its parking spot. The air pressure in the main wheels was a bit low, so I hooked up a portable compressor to pump them up a bit. When I removed the compressor fitting, I heard a loud hissing noise, which got louder as I moved the filler tube to try and figure out what was going on. About thirty seconds later, the tire was completely flat.

I didn't have the right equipment to change the tire, and I'm not really supposed to do maintenance in the tie-down spot I'm in, so I decided to skip flying for the weekend and have mechanics fix the wheel on monday. Or whenever they get around to it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Second First Solo

I finished my check-out for the Comanche last weekend, so I'm cleared to fly without having to cart along that pesky instructor. The weather looked pretty nice today, so I skipped out of work a tad early, grabbed Joahnna, and took a quick flight down to Hollister.

Once we got there we found a fairly hefty crosswind coming across the runway, so I elected not to complete the landing, and headed back to Reid-Hillview. We didn't really go anywhere, but I fulfilled my primary criteria for my first flight in the new airplane -- it was uneventful.

We Want Scum

A green thumb in Texas has figured out a more efficient way to produce algae. While ordinarily known as "pond scum" and not something you would want to produce in bulk, algae turns out to be one of the most efficient ways to produce biomatter for ethanol/biodiesel production. And not just a little better -- they're claiming about 2000 times more output per acre of the next-best crop (soybeans).