Friday, June 13, 2008


I'm drivin' heah!

J and I went on a tour of Timken at Clemson's new joint venture, ICAR. First a huge thanks to Ron and Timken for allowing us to come take a look at their operation. There were around 25-30 people who showed up for the tour and were instructed to bring a racecar or unique car if they had one for a group picture. The Focus with her dented hood didn't quite make the cut. A supercharged/turbocharged Honda hatchback, 2 Lotus Elise and a Daytona Coupe were among my favorites who showed up. As the Roush built V8 powered Daytona Coupe left, it scared the crap out of J and I. The straight pipes with side exhausts were LOUD! We were also standing right next to them.

Timken is a "white collar" machining facility as described by our wonderful tour guide whose name I didn't catch. Basically it's a two story building with a plethora of engineers, math aficionados and managers upstairs who sit around and think up new bearing designs. They send those designs downstairs, get a few made and test it to see if they revolutionized bearing design or if the crack monkey is back in action and they should try again. They also have many rooms for testing all the spinning parts of an engine. They might get a design from an automobile manufacturer, or a part, and they will test it for them and send the results back.

Huge pieces of machinery that start with a spool of smooth metal and then form that into a bearing abounded. The engine testing lab was loud. They were testing the bearings around the camshafts as they spin. They use electric motors to turn all these machines instead of gas, but it's still loud. We were not allowed in the metrology lab, where they super accurately measure their parts, but it looked really neat. We walked around and I kept wondering if they hired any chemists or materials scientists. I found him! We walked past one lab which had an instrument which said spectraflame, which I can only assume was an AAS, or atomic absorption spectrometer, where the lone chemist hung out all day surrounded by engineers. I imagine any chemistry related question gets posed to him or her, whether they like it or not. J wondered how many women Timken employs. Very good question.

Then we had a lecture on sound and sound control. It drug on a bit but was also informative. The SCCA, sports car club of america, has set that no racecar can be louder than 103 decibels, but there are a few ways to beat the system, or at least use the system to your advantage.

Since I picked up J from work and she didn't want to follow me home in Tercel, we drove home together and I drove her to work this morning. It was fairly trafficky but not too bad. (I guess congested would be a better word there) There was a Jeep Cherokee left lane hogging because he felt his 72 in a 60 was fast enough to warrant it. The 4 or 5 cars backed up behind him seemed to disagree. Our exit was coming up so I accelerated into the middle lane just as the Lincoln Towncar in the middle lane was moving into the right lane, so I kept my foot in it and planned to accelerate past that car to get to my exit. Whilst this occurred, the Cherokee left lane hog encountered yet another left lane hog who was going even slower than him; a red Civic if you're curious. Cherokee sees the Towncar move over and without signaling, starts to pull into the middle lane; the only problem with that being there is an accelerating black Focus that is already plugging the hole left by the Towncar. A simple honk of my horn avoids the impending accident and I pull into the left hand lane and exit. The Cherokee does the same after I get out of the way and proceeds to get very close to the back of my car. Even when we turn onto the surface street and I slow down to the very slow 35 (especially after hitting 80ish on the freeway) with a gentle cajoling from J, he stays behind me. The speed limit goes back up to 45, still there. I move to the left lane to ready us for our turn and he stays in his lane but doesn't pass. I don't look over as he drives by but he does drive by on his way to work instead of doing something crazy like following me to work for a discussion. The strangest part is that he was a school resource officer with "Police" and lightpod on his Cherokee. When he exited with me I was mildly concerned that he would pull me over but seeing as how we were both in the wrong for speeding and he was clearly slower traffic not staying to the right and changing lanes without signaling, I wasn't too worried. So to that officer, sorry it went down like that and no hard feelings.

If I post this weekend it will entail my trip to Drift Atlanta back in May with some pics that are up on my Flickr account if you want to get a preview and check those out.

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