Thursday, September 15, 2005

Inventor Makes fuel out of Rubbish, and Cats??

So, an inventor, patent-holder, in Germany claims he has created some form of refinement process wherein he can take ordinary trash, including rubber, paper, textiles, plastic, etc. to make biodiesel at 1/5 the current cost of a liter in Europe. His firm, Alphatek GmBH, owns the patents to the technology.

Obviously anyone would love to see this technology, should it be legitimate, be scaled up to a large scale to reduce our fuel costs everywhere. However, I have one small problem with the technology, it is only diesel fuel, as far as I can tell. I'm not quite ready to get rid of the "Premium Sipping Ride" (i.e. my Outback, see previous post).

The CNN Article: Inventor denies dead cat fuel story - Sep 15, 2005

My Deal Blog

Folks, I've started another blog that posts daily deals. These deals combine various coupon codes, sales, and other promotions to get you killer discounts on the items you love best. You should check it out:

Critical Mass Deals Blog

As time goes on, I will continue to tweak and modify the blog to become more comprehensive and easier to search. But, as we all know, you have to start somewhere. Right?

2005 Subaru Outback 2.5XT 5-spd Manual Review

Fresh off the lot.

I am a self-admitted car nut, more specifically, a self-admitted Subaru addict. There are only a couple things I'm addicted to and SUBARU is one of them. Despite my persuasion, I will attempt to give a somewhat objective review on the rocket I've been driving for the last year.

Given that the end of August marked my one-year relationship with my car, I thought I'd celebrate with a review.

I purchased the
Subaru Outback 2.5XT at Doug Smith Autoplex in American Fork, UT. The overall experience at the dealership was positive. However, there were a few hiccups as I waited, ever so patiently, for my $500 deposit to make interest for the dealership. . .err, I mean, for my car to arrive 2 months after promised.

The car finally arrived, and I was able to commence the gruelling 1,000 mile break-in period. (I actually tried my hardest to log 1,500 miles before really romping on the engine, as I figured it could only help)

Having come from my previous
machine-beast of a car (a 1995 Subaru Legacy), I was fairly content to deal with the break-in period. Not to mention that even under no or light boost, the new XT thoroughly destroyed the Legacy in all aspects of performance. (Note in the pictures thorough scuffing on the drivers side body panels. Well, as an aside, I decided to try my mad-tyte skills at rally driving. In other words, I tried to further enhance my already well developed drifting skills. Despite my best attempts, I successfully rolled the car onto its side on a very moderate bend in the gravel road in a National Forest road. I ended up using a Suburban to pull the car back onto all fours, as my cousin and I were unable to roll it back over, despite our brute upper body muscular structure. Despite rolling it onto its side, the Legacy performed like a champ right after and gave an additional 30,000 no headache miles. The car was eventually traded in earlier this year with over 165,000 miles on it.)

In quick measure I broke in the new Outback and began to put it through its paces. When I used to have a job, I would commute through a mountain pass that allowed me to really put the Outback through its paces. Where the Legacy puttered out in 4th gear at 6,000 rpm, the Outback tore up, without even downshifting from 5th gear. This car was amazing!! It would pull on a 4-5% grade at 120 mph, no problem. The turbo really shines in the altitude with this car. The vehicle seems to have gobs of power throughout most of the power curve, and when driving within reason of the speed limit. The engine runs extremely smooth and quietly. At a stand still, the engine is so quiet that, if you listen carefully, you can hear the nicely tuned grumble of the dual-exhaust tips in the rear.

The overall fit and finish of the vehicle is very impressive. Subaru did an excellent job at stepping up the interior aesthetics of the dash design. The dash feels like one coherent whole, as opposed to the choppy feel of the previous generation. One drawback, however, is the integration of the audio system. This integration prevents simple aftermarket upgrades. In addition, the stereo system does not have mp3 capability, or digital input capability (such as plugging in an iPod). The stock stereo system has more-than-acceptable sound, and the 6 disc in dash feature is a plus for long road trips.

Earlier this year, I went down to Moab for a week of decompression. During this trip I slept in the rear part of the car. With the rear seats folded down, there was sufficient room for my 5' 10" frame to cuddle up with my sleeping bag. Given the miles of off-road trails and roads in Moab, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try out my 8.7 inches of ground clearance. The car handled nicely off-road, but the tires are definitely designed for the road.

I'm sure the automatic would be a little nicer for starting out on steep terrain. But, with my manual 5 speed combined with the gearing, I had to rev the engine to get the car moving uphill after a stop. This revving resulted in a pungent stench coming from the engine (this smell seems to be exclusively shared with all Subarus for at least the last decade). The gearing could probably be changed to help with offroad performance; but, then you'd have to say good-bye to the turbo performance that makes this car so fun to drive. However, the AWD (All Wheel Drive) works flawlessly and transparently. Perhaps the best AWD on the market, definitely the best AWD in this price range.

Many will say that this car wasn't made for offroading anyways. Well, you may be right, but why then did Subaru tempt me with 8.7 inches of ground clearance? I may never know, but I like the combination of the turbo and the ground clearance, so I'm not complaining. If I didn't I would have purchased the Legacy GT.

I love this car in crappy weather. The 4 stage heated seats are wonderful for the cold women in my life, and the heated windshield and wipers work perfectly. The rubber floormats do a great job keeping the carpet clean and keeping any fluids contained within the mat. They don't look the best, but they work wonders.

Given my active outdoor lifestyle, this car is a perfect blend of sport, off-road prowess, power, and pure driving enjoyment. The ride inside is quiet and solid. I've added
Yakima Destination Hardware to the roof to transport all my toys. Nothing beats two or three bikes on top of a Subaru, and a bunch of camping gear in the cargo area. All you crunchies out there know exactly what I mean. OK, maybe a Volkswagen Westfalia beats it, but that's about it.

Overall, I absolutely love this car. It is a blast to drive and most people appreciate it, especially after they ride around in it and experience it. I'm pretty anti-SUV in most instances -- Who really needs to get 14 mpg to buy groceries, go to work, and take the kids to soccer? With the Outback, I get better ground clearance than many SUVs, better gas mileage than most, and performance that competes with the Porsche Cayenne.

I'm definitely not complaining. (OK, I am complaining about the premium gas and I would like a little better gas mileage)

A beautiful sight, 4 Subarus in a row. (Spotted at REI, duh!!)


Subaru 2.5XT 5 spd AWD
2.5 Liter Turbocharged
250 HP, 250 ft-lbs Torque

Cloth interior, Auto-Dimming Mirror w/ compass & Homelink, rear cargo nets, rubber floor mats

Current Miles 18,356 miles and counting

EPA 19/25 city/hwy
Actual 20/22.6 city/hwy

Warranty Issues:
-Driver's Side door pull rubber texturing flaked off (fixed under warranty)
-Slight engine hesitation under moving acceleration(hesitation appears to have disappeared, maybe I've just gotten used to it)

Gas Prices

Here is probably the closest thing we will get to being able to buy fuel online: Gas Buddy

But, the real kicker comes from the following telephone number: 732-829-1249

This guy is outta control. But, thanks to him, you will always know where the cheapest gas is located.

Thanks to The Jewish Blogmeister for the information.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Extend your Wi-Fi by building a better antenna

OK, so my computer is tied in to our Wi-Fi network that never fails to piss me off!! The router is very spotty, even though I'm less than 40 feet from it, my signal says it is low. Given this less-than-optimal situation, I was very pleased when I came across this article in Popular Science Magazine. Basically, with some tape, cardboard, and aluminum foil, you can boost your Wi-Fi network/router to perform, in my experience, significantly better. I mean, we're talking going from a Low signal strength to an Excellent signal strength. So, in a quick 20 minutes, a bunch of gidiness from the increase in performance, and a blog later, I'm now enjoying speeds closer to what I've been paying my service provider to give me.

I've attached pictures for your viewing, and idiot-proof pleasure.

The tools needed. You will need a piece of cardboard, scissors sufficient for cutting, Aluminum Foil, Tape, and the cut-out template. You can get the cut-out template HERE.

I first placed the template over the cardboard. With scissors, I perforated the cardboard on through each 'X' on the template.

Here is the perforated half-circle section.

Here is the culprit, a Belkin wireless router (I don't remember the model). It is critical, as the article states, to have the hole for the antenna, or the focal point, in the proper location. Otherwise, the signal won't be boosted as effectively. So, test fit the "focal hole" over the antenna to ensure it will fit properly.

Here is the taped foil over the cardboard (backside is pictured). Ensure that the foil is as flat against the cardboard as possible.

Here is the final product, mounted on the router. You will probably have to mess with the booster and aim it properly. But, once completed, you should notice significant improvement in performance.

Monday, September 12, 2005

French Fry Holder


French Fry Cup Holder

If this invention wasn't inspired by our Fast Food Nation, what is?!?

LOTOJA Classic Bike Race

Claiming to be the longest 1 day USCF sanctioned road race in the U.S., the LOTOJA Classic got off on a great start on Sept. 10, 2005. However, not long after the race began, the storm clouds rolled in and the rain and snow began to fall. Since I didn't get to race this year in LOTOJA, my brother and I went and volunteered with the race. For those unfamiliar, the LOTOJA Classic is a race that begins in Logan, UT, and ends in Jackson Hole, WY. In the process of the race course, the racers ride in three states: Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

For the last 4 or so races, the course actually ended in Swan Valley, ID, and never made it into Wyoming. This was due to road construction in the Snake River Canyon going up to Jackson. As such, the race was roughly 184 miles long on those years.

This year, the road construction was completed in time for the race course to end in Jackson, effectively increasing the total distance to 204 miles long. That's right, 204 miles in one day, on a bike. This year, the snow pelted the ill-prepared riders. So much so, that they ended up bussing approximately 4 buss loads of riders down Strawberry Canyon. Many riders began experiencing the early stages of hypothermia. Though 1,000 riders registered to race, approximately 700 actually showed up to race (presumably because of the weather forecasts). At nightfall, approximately only 360 riders had crossed the finish line.

This year, given the conditions and elements, the race tested the true ability of the riders. But, had the riders been more prepared, hypothermia wouldn't have been as much an issue. Even this Performance Gore Windstopper Shellwould have done wonders in keeping the riders warm.

New Blackberry 8700 "Electron"

Folks, it is coming, real soon. Due out sometime in Oct/Nov, based on what others are saying. The new Blackberry 8700, or "Electron". Based on the info I've gathered, it has:

  • Speakerphone
  • Bluetooth
  • Full Keyboard
  • Polyphonic Ringtones
  • EDGE highspeed wireless access
  • GPS capable
  • IM built in
  • Faster processor, including 64 MB of RAM

Possible Drawbacks, however, include:

  • No Camera
  • No WiFi
  • Lacks VOIP capability

Check out The Unofficial Blackberry Blog for more info. This thing should be pretty awesome in functionality. The only problem/question I have, is that it will only continue to blur the workplace and with your personal life further. It is only a matter time before technology will require that employees always be available. That time will suck!!