Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering...

Sometimes I ask myself if what I am posting is worthy of other peoples attention. Most of the time I could care less. Other times... the question just seems irrelevant.

From the Meno

Men. O Socrates, I used to be told, before I knew you, that you were always doubting yourself and making others doubt; and now you are casting your spells over me, and I am simply getting bewitched and enchanted, and am at my wits' end. And if I may venture to make a jest upon you, you seem to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him, as you have now torpified me, I think. For my soul and my tongue are really torpid, and I do not know how to answer you; and though I have been delivered of an infinite variety of speeches about virtue before now, and to many persons-and very good ones they were, as I thought-at this moment I cannot even say what virtue is. And I think that. you are very wise in not voyaging and going away from home, for if you did in other places as do in Athens, you would be cast into prison as a magician.

Soc. You are a rogue, Meno, and had all but caught me.

Men. What do you mean, Socrates?

Soc. I can tell why you made a simile about me.

Men. Why?

Soc. In order that I might make another simile about you. For I know that all pretty young gentlemen like to have pretty similes made about them-as well they may-but I shall not return the compliment. As to my being a torpedo, if the torpedo is torpid as well as the cause of torpidity in others, then indeed I am a torpedo, but not otherwise; for I perplex others, not because I am clear, but because I am utterly perplexed myself. And now I know not what virtue is, and you seem to be in the same case, although you did once perhaps know before you touched me. However, I have no objection to join with you in the enquiry.

Men. And how will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you did not know?

Soc. I know, Meno, what you mean; but just see what a tiresome dispute you are introducing. You argue that man cannot enquire either about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he knows, he has no need to enquire; and if not, he cannot; for he does not know the, very subject about which he is to enquire.

Men. Well, Socrates, and is not the argument sound?

Soc. I think not.

Men. Why not?

Soc. I will tell you why: I have heard from certain wise men and women who spoke of things divine that-

Men. What did they say?

Soc. They spoke of a glorious truth, as I conceive.

Men. What was it? and who were they?

Soc. Some of them were priests and priestesses, who had studied how they might be able to give a reason of their profession: there, have been poets also, who spoke of these things by inspiration, like Pindar, and many others who were inspired. And they say-mark, now, and see whether their words are true-they say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed. And the moral is, that a man ought to live always in perfect holiness. "For in the ninth year Persephone sends the souls of those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom and are called saintly heroes in after ages." The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, rand having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue, and about everything; for as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things; there is no difficulty in her eliciting or as men say learning, out of a single recollection -all the rest, if a man is strenuous and does not faint; for all enquiry and all learning is but recollection. And therefore we ought not to listen to this sophistical argument about the impossibility of enquiry: for it will make us idle; and is sweet only to the sluggard; but the other saying will make us active and inquisitive. In that confiding, I will gladly enquire with you into the nature of virtue.

Men. Yes, Socrates; but what do you mean by saying that we do not learn, and that what we call learning is only a process of recollection? Can you teach me how this is?

Soc. I told you, Meno, just now that you were a rogue, and now you ask whether I can teach you, when I am saying that there is no teaching, but only recollection; and thus you imagine that you will involve me in a contradiction.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Replacing the Replaced Crank Seal, Again

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was rebuilding my Honda PA50II engine as it was showing signs of a bad seal: no idle, overheating, and other inconsistencies. While your replacing a seal it's usually a good idea to replace the bearings, especially if your running a kit. Honda cranks are pretty tough and I don't think performance versions are readily available, so I'm sticking with the stock crank. I ordered new bearings and bought a set of seals off a friend who also has a kitted PA50II. When I opened the cases (for which I had to make a special clutch-puller out of a Honda axle nut welded to a pipe with a M14 nut a bolt at the other end), I found the magneto side seal had completely worn through and that the seal spring was in contact with the crank. This was definitely the problem. 

Here is the bad magneto-side seal:

The split cases with existing bearings and seals:

I removed the old bearings, cleaned the cases inside and out and installed new bearings by heating the cases in a toaster and placing the crank (with bearings installed in a freezer) and then lightly hammering them together with an added layer of Yamabond.


After I had installed the new bearings and seals and almost reassembled the entire engine I realized that the stator plate has a little lip which requires that the magneto side seal be recessed in the cases about 1/4 inch. I hadn't realized this when I installed the seal, so I tried pressing the seal further into the cases. 

Well, I pushed it too far... Needless to say, I had a much worse case leak on my hands.

This was all in October.  I took a break... and about three weeks ago I cracked the cases again to reposition the seal only to find that the seal had been destroyed by the inexplicable PA50I worm gear on the crank (don't ask me why I have a PA50I crank in PA50II cases because I don't know).

The destroyed seal: 
 Regardless, the seal was done, so not wanting to leave my cases open for too long, I put the old seal that I thought wasn't bad back in. 

Apparently that seal was bad too...

So, I ordered another seal, and fresh cases gaskets from Treats along with a Malossi 21mm intake so I can run my 21mm PHBG carburator (off the Puchavus) as soon as I find it... I cracked the cases again, replaced the seal at the correct depth and reassembled the engine.
Variated cases are beautifully simple:

While I had the cylinder head off I noticed the piston was wearing around the edge, probably only at quite high RPM's because the damage was very light. I took a Dremel and cut a deeper squish band into the head.

Here's the damage, I'll try posting pictures of the modified squish band later:
The new engine runs very well, with some minor overheating that I think is a result of poor timing... I'll get to that later. In the meantime the carb is leaking... Ah, mopeds!

My current setup is a 70cc Polini cylinder with stock 12mm carburator and stock exhaust with notched stock variator. If I can get the overheating issues cleared up I expect to see 45mph at The Bourbon Bandit's Whiskey Business.

Next up 21mm PHBG carb and Motion Left exhaust.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Classicism and the Purpose of Architecture

Classicism and Tradition
The classical is a term used to denote works of architecture of the past which are prized by later generations as the most perfect examples for the guidance of current practice and for the assurance of future success. The classical is the embodiment of the best in a continuous tradition of architecture stretching from the origins of building to our own time. As such, the form that the classical takes is necessarily contingent on the requirements and propriety of both time and place. The classical of one era will not take shape in the same way as that of another, nor will the classical of one place necessarily resemble that of a different place even at the same time. Conventions such as habits, fashion, language and ways of building change over time and in different places, gaining their correctness through general acceptance and tradition. To understand this is to realize that tradition is the way things change, the means by which universal truths are translated to the particular and conventional, or more importantly, the means by which we have access to the universal. Tradition is not an impediment to change, but a proven system through which innovation and adaptation are given the possibility of realization. Within a tradition knowledge, skills and customs are guarded and handed on to succeeding generations, and it is through the tradition that they are necessarily altered.

American Tradition
As citizens of America our tradition is that of the West. This is not to say that the tradition of Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian architecture is the only one in our country, or the first, but that it is the embodiment of our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The need to separate our new republic from the colonialism of England and justify our classical system of government prepared America for the embodiment of its constitution in an architecture of western classicism. Little wonder that the author of the Declaration of Independence should also design the new capitol of Virginia using the classicism of the Roman temple. Fiske Kimball in his American Architecture (1928) asserts that “the classical ideal thus embodied was ultimately to rule in America to a degree unknown in Europe." Indeed, it was to precede it by more than a decade.

The Purpose of Architecture
To the contemporary architect wishing to participate in the tradition of classical architecture the question of what is unchanging in a tradition is of singular importance. In a tradition so full of seemingly different forms it has been difficult to determine what it is that should guide contemporary practice. The embodiment of the political order in the architecture of America is significant in that it points to the most essential truth of the classical tradition: the understanding that the highest good in life is the perfection of our nature, a good held since the Greeks to be accomplished through the moral life led in community. This is the self-evident truth behind all of the greatest political systems of the past and the guiding principle in the formation of our American system of government, and the one still at work in our constitution. What this means for architecture is that our ability to pursue our highest end as individuals is dependent on the freedom insured by our government, and that architecture serves this good as the embodiment of the state. In other words, architecture is the visible part of the more important politics.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Laundering Literature

Bowdlerization – A form of censorship named after Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), a prison reformer trained as a physician and avid chess player who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1807. Words, themes and even characters which Bowdler deemed inappropriate were removed entirely, however he claimed proudly not to have added anything! After the relative success of “The Family Shakespeare” Bowdler set about a similar task, this time with Edward Gibbon’s monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire which his sister published posthumously. Though perhaps not as preposterous as an alteration of Shakespeare, the attempt to make Gibbon less “racy” was met with much less success and even well deserved ridicule. To the idea of liberal learning perhaps only outright censorship could be more antithetical than this regurgitated version of primary sources. The desire to sanitize literature is the bright side of the more evil rewriting of history.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Building Expansion Chambers

Two weeks ago I started learning how to form 18 guage steel into the Motion Left RevRun expansion chamber. Hand forming the steel cones with a sand-filled hammer is labour intensive and takes a deep understanding of how the metal stretches as it is bent. Even with a special turned rock maple form it is necessary to constantly make adjustments to account for the gradual stretching of the metal.

An expansion chamber operates on the principle of acoustic reverberation. Partially combusted gases are usually wasted as they are forced out of the cylinder and into the standard exhaust. An expansion chamber takes advantage of this partially combusted gas as it is forced out of the cylinder and bounces it back into the cylinder in what can best be described as an "echo." This principle only works with the two-stroke engine since every stroke is powered as opposed to the four stroke cycle where every other stroke is powered. Through the use of variously composed cones this echo can be tuned to take advantage of a specific cylinder, power range or speed. Since the cones are fixed it means that top performance is achieved only at specific reverberations. This means that an engine running an expansion chamber will have a "power band," or a specific rpm at which there is a sudden increase in power. Through the use of multiple cones the power band can be concentrated at a specific rpm, or spread out over a wider range. Where this power band falls and how broad it is is determined by the geometry of the cone angles. On the other end of the process, un-combusted gases forced back out of the carburator can be retained using a velocity stack.

It is generally acknowledged that while many computer programs and formulas exist explaining it, the principle remains a black art only perfected through experiment, which is exactly what Motion Left is doing. The RevRun is the first expansion chamber from ML and is designed for 64cc and smaller engines, specifically the Polini. 


By the end of the day I had beaten my thumb to a pulp with the sand-filled hammer, my arm ached and I had sliced open my hand, and learned the basics of tack welding light-guage metal.

I have been told that a member of Seattle's Mosquito Fleet recently reported 62mph with a RevRun he had just purchased and ran on his 64cc Polini with stock 15mm Bing carburator. Other reports describe jumps in speed in excess of 10 mph at speeds above 50 mph. Not bad... 

For more information on how expansion chambers work and an amazing animated GIF click here.