28 Jun 2009

I get things done by focusing on one task at a time. As you know I’ve recently fixated on Cooper’s departure and as a result, concentration on Midlana has suffered and today was no different. Yesterday we visited several animal shelters, finding – not unexpectedly – that impressions gleaned from a website are often quite different than when meeting a dog in person.

Today we visited another county shelter, arriving with a short list of dogs we were interested in based solely upon their web picture. The ones I really liked (the appearance of) turned out to be a real handful – kind of like dating a beautiful Hollywood starlet who’s a head-case, I’d imagine. Many of the young Terriers were (reminding us of Cooper as a puppy) something like miniature Arnold Schwarzenegger piranhas, or maybe like playing with a thorn-covered medicine ball. My wife said, “you don’t need another chainsaw.” As beautiful as the young dogs are we realized we just don’t want to deal with the whole puppy thing at this time – maybe it’s because I’m a decade older. It works out well for everyone since puppies are adopted fastest, followed by young dogs, and lastly, seniors.

Older dogs especially, are of course far more calm. This shows my own hangup, that after going through what we did, we just can’t bring ourselves to get a senior dog that… how do I say it… may not have many days. I hate writing off a dog (or anyone for that matter) based upon age, but I also can’t ignore the impact losing my best buddy made on me – I’m just not ready to have it happen again anytime soon. (I realize nothing’s guaranteed; health issues can cut a young dog’s life short, too, but you get the idea.)

Another variable is color; regardless of breed, dark colored dogs aren’t adopted nearly as fast as lighter ones and it’s just how people are. We were guilty of this, too, and only looked at lighter-colored dogs.

Anyhow, after looking at them we didn’t find any compatible kids and headed back to the truck. We were just getting in when the girl who let us spend time with the dogs came by walking another dog. She asked what we thought of Piranha Boy (having probably guessed since we were leaving empty-handed.) I thanked her for her time and said that while he’ll make some family very happy he was just a bit much for us. Then she said, “Oh by the way, there’s another dog that’s really calm yet not too old, did you meet him?” No… so back we went.

So she gets him out and we meet him, a nearly all black one-year old Terrier mix that was surprisingly calm, acting more like a four-year old than a puppy. We’d walked right by his cage earlier because… well… because he didn’t fit our myopic view of what’s attractive. However, instead of jumping all around, ignoring us, or trying to figure out how to dig out of the concrete enclosure like the other ones, he was happy for the company, quietly chew on his squeeky-toy while laying next to us. Uh oh, he’s getting under my skin.

The saying is right, you go to the pound to adopt a dog, but the reality is that it’s not up to you, the dog adopts you. He’ll come home tomorrow, right after being relieved of his manhood… By the way, yesterday, one of the dogs decided – several times – that I’d make a wonderful mother to his children. “Let… go, get… off… of my leg!” Anyhow, so now there’s the question: what do we name him? “Turbo?”… eh, no. “Pinion?”… no. “Midi?”, as in “mid-engine”, maybe. Regardless, you’ll be seeing a lot more car updates now that the dog trauma is passing.

26 Jun 2009

One consequence of the physical build getting ahead of the book is the inherit flying-without-a-net that goes with it, not having a drawing to follow. Last night the steering chapter was finished up so the CAD drawings were compared to the actual chassis to make sure everything’s in the same place… nope. A careless mistake of measuring off the edge of a tube instead of the centerline means the steering rack mounts are offset. It’s good to catch errors like this… but a whole lot better to catch it before holes are drilled and tubes welded! It’s not so much the effort to correct it, but the time wasted.

25 Jun 2009

The engine continues to move along; the sleeved block is on the way back to Jeremy of Drag Cartel to be built up. Meanwhile the head’s getting ported, a valve job, plus a new valvetrain with Inconel exhaust valves. Good stuff.

One dog I was pretty interested in disappeared off the website this morning which means it was adapted. There was a brief instance of, “hey, I wanted that one!”, but that was quickly replaced with being happy that that the little guy found a home. I read an interested quote about adapting a dog: “You may think you’re choosing a dog, but the dog is actually choosing you.” Who know what furry kid we’ll end up with.

24 Jun 2009

Here’s a good example of how not to design an inboard suspension pivot bracket: a wide bracket welded to a narrow tube (as many Locosts have.) In the first picture, this passenger-side bracket has nearly failed – note the crack. How was this noticed? Because the same thing happened on the driver’s side, but wasn’t caught until the suspension broke off (second picture); the grinding marks are from it dragging on the asphalt. In both failures, note the angle of the A-arm tube, how a line drawn along its axis intersects the crack? All the bending force is aimed right at an unsupported portion of the bracket, so it’s guaranteed to flex the bracket and therefore is a guaranteed eventual failure… These brackets will be fixed by adding top and bottom plates to box-in the structure, though the right way is to make the bracket and tube the same width to start with.

Visited several animal shelters to check out the doggies… so many of them. What bothers me is that it seems like Cooper’s been gone a long time. I don’t understand and expected more of a “seems like he was here just yesterday” feeling. I feel bad, guilty really, that his sense of presence is fading so quickly. Of course he’ll never really be gone from my memories, but with only nine days gone by it feels like a year already, with just a dull uncomfortable emptiness in the house. We gave his bedding, pull rope, and leash to the local animal shelter. As we stood in line I noticed that the lady ahead of us also had a bed and leash. Sure enough, she’d gone through the same thing and slowly broke into tears; I gave her a hug and did the same. Life goes on…

22 Jun 2009

Working on the cowl and front cover chapters. The manuscript is now all caught up so it’s time to start making progress in the garage again. Some people asked if I miss Cooper’s company in the garage. Actually he doesn’t… crap, see, I did it again, present tense… sigh… anyhow, he didn’t like being in there due to the noise, and I was fine with that because I was concerned about him stepping on sharp metal or hurting his eyes by the UV from the welder.

21 Jun 2009

Today is my traditional garage day, but between Fathers Day (dropping off Cooper’s left-over food and treats,) and thinking about Cooper I’m sort of… what, listless, my thoughts adrift. I’m working on the cowl and cowl frame in CAD but my mind keeps wondering. It’s been six days and I haven’t yet made it through an entire day without tearing up at least once. (Fortunately no one at work has walked in during one of my “episodes.”) I’m doing okay today… but than again, today’s not over yet. (Nope, didn’t make it today either…)

I had forgotten about the Cooper video I had posted on the Kimini site. This was recorded one year to the day after his big operation, after he had learned how to walk again, making it five years ago now. When I played it this week I expected it to make me really sad, but it had a surprising impact instead. I saw a very happy and active dog having the time of his life, and how much it contrasted with how he had become in the last few months. Now, with this sudden five years of hindsight, I think he was in some pain, but Terriers don’t show it. (When the vet gave him shots he didn’t yelp, cry, jump, or even look around.) Toward the end he didn’t want to lay down, and once he did he didn’t want to get up, but he never complained.

Rant: Technically, Cooper is… was, an American Staffordshire Terrier, though many people thought he was a Pit Bull (the breeds are related.) Yet I’ve never known a more friendly happy dog who never bit a dog or person, just watch the video and decide for yourself; never was there a dog happier to say hello and play with another dog. Interestingly, a recent Sports Illustrated magazine had an article on what happened to all the dogs involved in the Michael Vick mess (Pit Bull fighting.) The article was notable for the tone running through it, that SI appeared to feel somewhat responsible for perpetuating at least some of the media hype regarding this breed. That’s because back in the late 1980’s, SI ran a somewhat alarmist article about Pit Bulls that fed the fire of panic about the breed. I’ve been around lots of dogs and been bitten exactly twice, by little yappy dogs. And before anyone says, “well, they don’t rip your arm off,” that’s not the point. I’ve never seen an unfriendly Pit Bull and feel the media are nothing but sensationalistic story chasers who use creative license to embellish stories, publishing only select stories to further their agenda. With our TV having been disconnected eight years now I don’t miss all the sensationalized “news.” Yes, I know there are dangerous – trained – dogs out there, but to me that says a lot more about the owners than the breed. Of course it’s alot easier to put dogs to sleep than people. Anyhow, we might get a similar breed next time, and maybe not, but it won’t be due to their damaged reputation.

17 Jun 2009

My block at ERL ready for sleeving.

In a sad irony, with Cooper gone I have more time to work on this site, the book, and the car. Since taking Cooper for walks is (I really did type “is”)… was my primary source of exercise, the situation will have to be corrected eventually.

16 Jun 2009

Thank you very much for the dozens of condolences for Cooper; it’s clear there are many dog owners who’ve gone through this same thing (and others who are about to). I knew I signed up for this yet it doesn’t make it any easier; who thinks of the sad parts when getting a pet? Sharing a pet in our lives is to live life and share ours with another – companionship. The notes I received contain many heartfelt words that could have only come those who’ve experienced this. I sincerely thank everyone.

As rough as this is I very much plan to get another dog (though my wife’s is not, having lost three herself.) I even stopped by the pound on the way home, walked in, looked at the first dog and whoa, too soon, losing my composure right there. It was the way they were looking at me, like they could see something. Regardless, no more dogs from breaders. Once I realized how many thousands of animals there are in local pounds made me vow to never again pay a breeder – there are way, too many unloved dogs in our pounds that need a home. Then there’s the health issues with purebreds and in fact one time my Vet once said somewhat sympathetically about Cooper, “Poor little guy just has a bad set of genes.”

Anyhow, life moves on, Jeremy of Drag Cartel sent a few pictures of my block in-work at ERL. It’s being align-bored, sleeved, and even runs through a vibration process called Meta-Lax to relieve stresses inside the block. Once it’s shipped back to Jeremy he’ll get to work assembling it so I have to press onward.

15 Jun 2009

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, knowing that I’m making Cooper’s last meal, knowing that he’s walking around the yard (oddly stopping often, like he was wanting to remember it,) carrying him out to the truck, made all the worse by him being happy to go – he always loves… loved, truck rides. Walking into the vet’s office and Cooper being unafraid as always, knowing that I’m there for him, it just killed me. Then, when I was leaving I saw a lady in the waiting room with her dog and said, “Enjoy every day with him…” but being unable to finish my sentence. There’s something very raw, a feeling of being stripped of all the facades we hide behind, suddenly breaking down and crying in front of complete strangers.

I’m left with a terrible mix of emotions, having been eternally hopeful that he’d somehow magically get better yet knowing he would not. Having his trust in me that I’d always be there for him, yet walking him to the gallows, and now being filled with a great sense of loneliness mixed with a feeling of deceit, like I tricked him into this, like I could have waited a few more days or weeks, yet watching him continue to wither away. Mix all this with a feeling of a huge empty void, a presence now absent – it just kills me. He was always here, through the Kimini build, the first book, the Midlana design and much of the writing of that, always happy to be with me no matter what I was doing, most often napping at my feet next to the computer. I feel like a big part of me has been ripped out.

To those who’ve never loved an animal like a family member you may wonder what all the fuss is about. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or be happy you’ve never had to go through this.

Farewell my friend, rest in peace. I thank you for choosing us and making our lives better through your presence. You were a strong dog who never complained, always happy for a walk, attention, or simply to be with us not matter what we were doing. You knew everything we were saying and were like our own child. I hope that wherever you are that you’re loved, and know that I’ll never forget you. I miss you terribly already.

14 Jun 2009

Built up the inboard suspension pivot fixtures, starting with the rear. Setting it in place (with great trepidation) showed that the forward lower pivot point was off 1/2″… huh? Had to go back through the CAD drawings, suspension design software, and measuring the chassis to figure out where the error was introduced. It appears I used suspension number from one of the endless iterations for the chassis and a different iteration for the fixture. No harm done as neither the A-arms nor pivots are in place yet. The new location was run through the suspension software to make sure it’s okay, and it is. Just have to fix the one A-arm fixture.

Anyhow, so that was the rear fixture. The front one went together fine and setting it in place doesn’t show any problems so that’s good to go.

Saving the actual suspension bracket fabrication to next week, I wanted to do something different. The Honda RBB intake manifold was modified to work with the RSX-S throttlebody and Hondata gasket. The nice thing about this manifold is that I don’t have to make one (for now), it flows pretty well, and it’s a lot lighter than the OEM CRV intake setup. Got a note from Jeremy at Drag Cartel saying he’ll be visiting ERL back east and will try to get some pictures of my block going through the sleeving process. (I requested that I get my block back instead of an exchange because I know the VIN is clean. I don’t want a block that could possibly be stolen.)

Here’s a shot of the Koi pond from last week after we put the babies in; they’re just visible in the foreground at far left. The big fish have just noticed me and are heading over to ask for food.

We’ve been spending time with Cooper – this is going to be a very difficult week. He’s at my feet now, running in his sleep, even though his rear legs don’t work well anymore… it breaks my heart.