• A while back I got a rush from rewiring the power brakes' vacuum pump: it had been directly connected to the battery, allowing it to turn on at odd times, even when the car was off. I rewired it to be part of the ignition circuit.

    The rush came with a nasty let-down. It turned out that the pump blew the fuse regularly. So I increased the fuse rating (which everyone knows is a bad idea). The big problem turned up a little later: sometimes the car would "stall", refusing to turn on unless the vacuum pump was running.

    At least I could just pump the brakes to restart. But it was still a safety issue, and not just from a driving standpoint. My wires weren't rated for the pump's current, and they were getting warm.

    This weekend, I bought a 40A relay off the shelf in my local auto parts store. I left the vacuum switch wired to the ignition circuit, but instead of running the pump, it runs the relay. The pump is connected to the battery through the 40A side of the relay.

    It works! Of course, there is a tradeoff.

    Continue reading "Judebert's EV Conversion Diary: Keep Em Separated"

  • Yesterday someone ripped the Obama bumper sticker off my wife's car. Two days earlier, someone uprooted the sign in our front yard.

    These were minor acts of vandalism, but they expose an underlying problem: Americans can no longer discuss politics.

    Once we held debates. We discussed issues and candidates in town centers, in theaters, in bars. Now we silently keep our opinions to ourselves, sharing our ideas only with our close friends and family, if even them. The media's sole useful purpose is to expose abuses of power and contradictions in authoritative declarations; but even the media is afraid to report on the doublespeak so often utilized today. After all, they could be considered "leftist", "treasonous", "insensitive". That job is left to The Daily Show, Bill O'Reilly, and The Colbert Report. Yes, we cannot accept the truth in its raw form: we require it predigested, as humor or bombast.

    It's because we are intolerant. We cannot bear the existence of other beliefs, so we avoid anything even remotely uncomfortable to our views. If we must confront something, we berate the presenter, declaring them idiotic, uninformed, or even dangerous. With a straw man thus constructed, we can easily dismiss it, along with the uncomfortable issue.

    We refuse to examine anything too closely for fear it could contradict our faith, so we simplify complex issues to single, often unrelated points. The financial crisis? Greedy poor people. Greedy bankers. Deregulation. Democrats. Republicans. War? WMDs. Oil. Honor. Terrorism. Democrats. Republicans. We pick our "side" and denigrate anyone with the temerity to disagree. We characterize them as liberals, conservatives, terrorists, warmongers - then we can dismiss them, their opinions, and even their data.

    By our characterizations, we dehumanize our opponents. And that turns them from opponents to enemies. Then, if they refuse to capitulate, to accept our own views as the one and only true and correct way, we can retaliate.

    And the retaliation is cowardly. How can I respond to the vandals who destroyed my property? (Granted, it was very minor property, but it was mine nonetheless.) The anonymous acts left no room for discussion, no opportunity for understanding, no chance for growth. Just damage. Not necessarily monetary or visible damage; today I'm just disappointed that someone in my neighborhood could be so petty and unthinking.

    There's fear in that thought, as well. If today someone can dismiss me easily enough to tear a bumper sticker off my car, tomorrow will he break my window to take the decal I replaced it with? Later will he rip the t-shirt from my back? How many steps are there between disrespect and contempt?

    We need to learn to accept differences. If we cannot, we must at least tolerate them, in the tradition of our great country. Otherwise we will eventually, perhaps violently, eliminate both our differences and our greatness.

  • Because I built for reliability, I invested about $2000 in a battery management system (BMS). It includes a "smart" charger (the PFC-20) and regulators that monitor the state of each battery, communicating with the charger when unusual conditions occur. This system keeps the charger from damaging the batteries with improper charging (especially overcharging).

    But everything needs to be set up and calibrated to work properly. And I'm having problems accomplishing that.

    Maybe it's because of a dumb operator, but I'm blaming it on dumb batteries. Read the rest of this (very long) entry to see what I've been doing for the past three months now.

    Continue reading "Judebert's EV Conversion Diary: Smart Charger vs. Dumb Batteries"

  • For years, I've been quoting a scientist who did research on economics with monkeys. He found a currency for the monkeys that they would exchange for other goods, and measured how much was required to distract them from... well, whatever monkeys do in their spare time.

    What I've been quoting: "There is no quantity of bananas sufficient to distract a male monkey from the hindquarters of a female in estrus." (Emphasis mine.) Of course, I shorten it to its acronym, "TINQOB", in the same way that science-fiction fans do TANSTAAFL. I think tinqob.com would make a great name for a men's website.

    Turns out I've been quoting it wrong. The scientist Michael Platt, was using juice, not bananas, for monkey currency. (The article covers a lot more. I found it fascinating.)

    But TINQOJ just doesn't seem as memorable, to me.

  • Electric Love

    I just made my first design, "Electric Love", available at CafePress! (I originally tried ShirtCity, but they couldn't make a decal in two colors, and their servers were too slow.)

    It's designed for electric vehicle drivers, although it's pretty generally appealing, I think. It's available as a decal for your car and a matching T-shirt for... well, surely you know how to wear a T-shirt.

    Support alternative energy with an Electric Love T-Shirt!