Friday, November 07, 2008

Straight Vegatable Oil vs. Bio Diesel

So I converted my 1981 Mecedes Diesel to run on waste vegetable oil Last summer. I wanted to do it years ago but I didn’t, largely due to the advice given by the web site. The site looks very informative and thoughtful, however I am now of the opinion that it’s “facts” are presented in a highly biased and opinionated manor, that ended up bullying me into not doing a dual tank SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil) system by presenting it as some sort of very bad idea. It’s not a bad idea, it might just be a good idea. In their web site they refute other’s claims that it’s not a bad idea. I’m going to take time to refute some of their assertion. Journey to tomorrow’s authors makes bio-diesel, and they feel they have to criticize any competing ideas.
Also I believe that running some striaight diesel, or better yet Kerosene in one tank is preferable. Even though you don't use much of it, it's a solvent, and it helps to stop build-ups in your filters, lines, and inside the motor too.
They present the idea that making a Mercedes diesel run on SVO is “a terrible thing to do to a great engine.” This is based on a fallacy that these cars are somehow indestructible. Well, firstly, screw you I’ll do whatever I want to do with my property and it’s not your right to judge it. If you can get a couple of years of lower pollution, low cost fuel use out of one of these cars then you’re ahead of the game. The biggest mistake is getting an old car and somehow worshiping it. If you’re gonna use a car daily it won’t be a show car, and don’t expect that if you baby it will work forever. Old cars are a good way to waste a lot of money. Never pay a lot for an old car, get your use out of it, and know when to cut loose and get another one. The fact that these cars last so long was an unintended consequence of making them so well. Mercedes has reportedly fixed this “problem” and they cars are not being make differently. They were not designed to last 20 years, they rust and wear out. An old car can be dangerous as well as expensive, don’t get attached, it’s not a person, it’s a car.
Yes, the engine last a very long time, but the automatic transmissions die regularly, the cars rust and wear out just like any other car, these cars are not meant to last forever. A 20 year old Mercedes was a thing of beauty, but now most are inefficient, oil burning, rusty, cars that if you get a decent one, should give you a few more years of service. The argument that they present that using SVO in this car can take 20,000-50,000 miles off the engine life falls short mostly because the engines don’t up and die, but rust, electrical problem, transmission and suspension parts failure will stop these cars years before the engine dies . I have owned 4 old Mercedes in the usual so-so condition that you find most 20+ year old cars, and they all did from transmission problems. These cars are so heavy that the real shame is to run them on petroleum diesel, getting almost 50% of the mileage of a smaller lighter more efficient VW diesel.
They only recommend “a professional” (read as “expensive”) one tank system as the only way to burn SVO. I believe this is a bad idea. The beauty of a two tank system is it’s easily un-doable, and easy to switch to regular diesel if you experience any problems on the road. If you use waste SVO it can be un-relyable, and having a back up fuel system is a great idea. The lower cost of a dual tank system makes it more affordable for more people to try it out, and once again “investing” good money in an old car is never a good investment, so a dual tank system is ideal for an older car. Everything in the system can be easily removed, and put into the next used car.
So they had me convinced that making bio diesel was the only way to go, but now I’m not so sure. Making bio diesel is an involved process, especially for something you intend to burn. Making bio diesel requires a dangerous chemical, methanol (aka rocket fuel). Absorption of methanol through human skin can cause blindness and possibly even death. In making bio diesel, you produce Glycerin. Glycerin, a key component in explosives, is also dangerous and highly flammable. Accidents do happen, and I believe if you can avoid dealing with these dangerous chemicals you should, even if you agree with some that it’s not the best way to get every last mile out of a 25 year old engine.
The 1981 has been going for more then a year a year and saved me over $1000, and is saving it's current owner much more, he commutes. This summer I converted a 1984 300D and it’s running fine. All in all I've burnt hundreds of gallons of waste vegetable oil successfully, and I recommend it to anyone interested.

What I'll Be Doing On Election Day 2008

What will I be doing on Election day? I will spend most of the day at home, and I will not be going to work. Why? Because I live in Russia, and in Russia, it's a holiday. That's right, over here in the EVIL EMPIRE they get our election day off, but Americans have to juggle going to work, driving the kids around, and going to the poles. Voting becomes another thing on our already long to do list. In Russia it happens to be: "Day of National Unity."

Every year it is said that such a small percentage of Americans vote, and it's some sort of shame, but every year voting just gets harder, not easier. Have you been erased from the rolls? Will you have to fight for the right that men and women have died so that you can have? Do you have the proper ID if your state requires it, do you have to lie up at the booth and then again to get your vote into the computerized reader? Did you successfully fill in the ballot? Are you chads hanging?

Every year some or other wack-o proposes the following crazy idea of solving the problem, this year I am that wack-o. Election day should be a national holiday. This will leave everyone plenty of time to vote, and stand in line if necessary, and defend their rights, and even jump through the hoops required. Then celebrate this right! Have parties, make pumpkin pies out of old Halloween pumpkins, help those who can't easily get out to vote do that. Volunteer at the poles, most election workers are retirees, because only they have that day to volunteer. It makes more sense in every way. For those who think adding one more holiday to the calendar is not good, we can take one away, Presidents Day for example, isn't it more important to elect a President then go shopping for a car? And with that rhetorical question I think I just hit on something, some would say the answer is NO, especially if your job is selling cars. The fact is the people in charge of creating this voting holiday are the same people who it may not benefit.

I'm not talking about Republicans OR Democrats, I'm taking about Republicans AND Democrats. The people in power make the election rules, and they aren't about to do something that's not in their own interest. More turn out at the poles would change the fragile balance of the American political system. What would it do, I don't think that anyone can really tell, but what is for sure is a lot of people who ordinarily don't vote would vote, and it wouldn't be 51/49 anymore. Some people would say SHHHH... you don't really want those people voting anyway, they'll vote against your interests. I give Americans more credit, I think that it could open the door to a third party, more independent candidates, and all sorts of new opportunities in democracy. As I said I am writing this from Russia. Where they get their election day off, as well as ours. They have a one party majority, we have just one more choice. Here in Moscow, the Moscow Times reported a quote from the Chechen president on the eve of his re-election saying "I expected very high turn out, 100% maybe even more." We can easily look at their one party majority that they have carved for themselves and say that it's unfair, but honestly our two party system is just one step away from that. I believe a national holiday for elections can help save our democracy. Making the day a holiday will give it the reverence we need to really teach civic responsibility, the importance of the vote and voter education.

Also it will up turn out on non Presidential or Congressional election years. These are the times when people who try to slip the crookedest ballot legislation past us, once again low turn out give them their power to do this. And like any other holiday we can gather with family and friends, or we can go out drinking, or it would be a great day for football, of course it's too early to make for a bowl game for the day, but and election day double header would be a very American way to celebrate such a day. Lets face it, our fall holidays as they are now kinda suck. There's Thanksgiving, also known as get in a fight with your drunk uncle day, and Halloween which is fine if you're a kid, or your an adult who wants to dress as a Nazi or prostitute one day a year, but it's not a real celebration of anything, just an excuse to eat candy or get drunk.

Where will I be on election day? I'll be in bed. Maybe I'll wonder if my absentee ballot was ever received maybe not, and most likely I won't even get the results until the next day. So when you're rushing around trying to get everything done and somehow vote, or if you're like millions of Americans who intend to vote but just don't do it because there not enough time, remember me being oppressed over here in the pseudo-democracy with all the time in the world on November 4th.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



Commonly referred to as Russish, Russian English has developed into it’s own unique version of English. This brand of English is generally not limited to just Russia, but to most of the former Soviet Union, and finds its roots in the Soviet time. I have coined the term Bleenglish from the words blin (pronounded as bleen), the beloved Russian pancake, (translated by Russians as pancake but rather actually a crape) and English. Blin is also a very light curse in Russian, sort of like shucks or darn in English, that people commonly say in frustration, so the word Bleenglish also reflects the frustration that Russians commonly express in communicating in English, or listening to English.
The existence of one’s own brand of English in and of itself is not a bad thing; English has many distinct versions all over the world as both a first language and second language. Speakers of English are used to hearing many different versions of English, even in their own country. However the goal of studying English is to be as understandable as possible, so it is necessary to shake some of the old habits of Bleenglish in the further study of English for Russians.
The evolution of Bleenglish can be found in the isolation of the Soviet Union, especially during the period known as the Cold War. I will identify four causes for this:
  1. During this time of isolation foreigners were discouraged from visiting Russia and Russians were discouraged from visiting abroad. So Russians practiced speaking English with Russians, and often repeated or learnt each other's mistakes.
  1. To prevent propaganda, or other unofficial information in this period, all text books were to be written by Russians, even those about speaking English. As well, in the Soviet time there was standardization of textbooks, meaning everyone all over the Soviet Union learned from the same textbook. This made it so only a few people were the English experts for a nation, and often they would pass their unique version, as well as mistakes, on to the entire nation. It's a simple case of "grapevine", or "telephone line" as the Russians call it, one person tells someone who tells someone who tells someone, and soon the message is completely different.
  1. Russian is essentially a phonetic language. It is largely written and spoken the same. Of course there are exceptions, but they are in comparison with other languages few. English is written and spoken in very different ways, with sound a-likes that are spelled different, look a-likes that are pronounced different, and many other complications that are conceptually unusual for Russians to handle. Russians tend to read English with an often too phonetic approach, or some learn to read well, but can’t pronounce the words properly.
For this and many more reasons the Russian English has developed. As I mentioned above simply having your own take on English is not necessarily wrong, as long as it doesn't interfere with communication. In recent years it has become common for foreign textbooks to be used and there are more native speaker teachers in Russia and Eastern Europe than ever. Why is this important? Firstly with globalization English has increasingly become the language of business, and secondly because English has become the unofficial language of the internet, and with that, the passing of information. The need for English in people's work, and daily life is increasing, and all signs point to that trend increasing.
Other then lexical and pronunciation shortcomings in Bleenglish, there is another effect that is the most difficult to deal with: A language gap or barrier that Russians feel when they converse in English. This has also lead to a lack of confidence and a shyness to speak on the part of Russians who speak English. The use of the Grammar-Translation method in education, along with an emphasis on memorization has left Russia with a huge number of people who know some English but can't converse.
This may sound daunting for Russians learning English; however the news is not all bad. Luckily for Russians their years of isolation have lead to a love of all things foreign, including foreign languages. Russians have become concerned with learning English and even re-learning English in order to improve the opportunities in their lives. Also a positive remnant of the Soviet educational system has left an emphasis on the study of humanities, whereas in North America and Western Europe the emphasis is changing to specialty education. This emphasis will expose more Russians to the study of English and benefit in the improvement of Russian English.