I love it when an air compressor system comes together

9 05 2012

You’d think an air compressor system would be simple enough to set up. Actually, scratch that – you probably don’t think an air compressor system would be simple enough to set up, because you probably don’t spend much time thinking about air compressors at all.

Neither did I, really, until last summer. I decided it would be a great idea to invest in a nice 80-gallon stationary air compressor. It was supposed to be the key unlimited automotive restoration opportunities. Cutting. Drilling. Impact wrenching. Sandblasting. Painting. Nothing would be out of my reach!

Except that things didn’t really work out that way. Turns out that, while compressors are simple in principle (obnoxiously noisy motor crams a bunch of air into a beefy metal canister) there are a lot of other variables at play. Before the air goes from the canister to whatever air tool you are trying to power, it has to pass from through a complex system of lead hoses, air filters/desiccators, regulators, turbo encabulators, etc. Read the rest of this entry »


The Road More Traveled: Why Statism Persists, and the Importance of Fighting Back

3 05 2012

I wrote this essay for an Intercollegiate Studies Institute essay contest. I did not win, but putting it all together was a useful exercise. I have reproduced it here:

Since F. A. Hayek penned The Road to Serfdom, the world has witnessed a series of seemingly unequivocal affirmations of his central thesis: that central planning leads to economic decline, moral decay, and inexorably, the rise of a liberty-destroying total state. While Hayek lived to see the implosion of the Soviet Union – perhaps the most tangible sovereign manifestation of the statist impulse – he could have only imagined the incalculable benefits free trade and new technologies have brought to billions of individuals across the globe in the two decades that followed.

Yet every triumph of classical liberalism[1] has been tempered by setbacks, and these setbacks only seem to be mounting as the 21st century progresses. States have spent far beyond their means, virtually guaranteeing that future generations will be held in debt-driven subservience. Personal dependence has become a virtue to be rewarded by a munificent, ever-growing welfare state. Regulations choke innovation while benefiting those willing to engage in political entrepreneurship and rent seeking.

Certainly, Hayek would not be pleased. He might also be a bit perplexed. For centuries, Hayek and other liberal intellectuals have diagnosed the cause of our most enduring troubles and prescribed a simple solution: increased personal and economic freedom. This solution has worked wonders to the extent that it has been attempted, but relapses are nevertheless frequent – and frustrating.

The liberal’s persistent frustration is explained by an error of perception, not understanding. The road to statism and the road to liberty are not the two possible trajectories that a given society might follow. Rather, statism is a threat that must be fended off constantly, even in societies that appear relatively free. As soon as one slackens in the Sisyphean task of defending liberty, the leviathan resumes its march. The road to serfdom is always and everywhere the path of least resistance.

Though it may be disheartening, that the loss of liberty is never more than a generation or two away explains the enduring relevance of liberal thought. The Road to Serfdom is as vital in America today as it was in 1944. The same can be said of the works of 16th century French protolibertarian Étienne de La Boétie, who lived and died centuries before America – let alone Hayek – existed.

Unlike the many strains of utopian collectivism, classical liberalism recognizes mankind’s limited capacity for fundamental change; rather than lamenting the fact that there can be no “New Liberal Man,” it incorporates its individualistic understanding of human nature into its worldview. Importantly, liberal thinkers acknowledge the central importance of self-interest as the motivation for man’s actions. At its best, self-interest reveals itself in the peaceful cooperation between Adam Smith’s butcher, brewer, and baker. In a different context, however, the same self-interest can transform men into cruel feudal lords – or Goldman Sachs executives. Read the rest of this entry »


27 04 2012

One of the great things about this past semester is that I had to take a “senior colloquium” to complete my history concentration. I chose “Michigan in the Era of Industrialization,” which focused on – that’s right – Michigan in the Era of Industrialization (basically 1880-1920).

The purpose of the class was to devise a topic for a term paper and then spend time doing research on that topic. I chose the development of the Detroit Museum of Art, which later became the Detroit Institute of Arts (a timely topic, given the DIA’s current funding situation).

Anyway, everyone taking the class was forced to do research at the Bentley Historical Library. And by forced, I mean required to use an awesome on-campus resource that most students probably don’t even know exists.

I looked into the William C. Weber and D.M. Ferry Papers for primary source material. “Looking” really means “browsing,” as one has to search through reams of interesting if largely irrelevant material to find suitable content.

Often that browsing turns up bits of ephemera that is pretty interesting in its own right.

Like this:

I snapped a photo of this letter, dated March 31, 1914, just because I liked the “Hotel Pasaje” letterhead. It was in the D.M. Ferry Papers along with a bunch of other material on the Detroit Museum of Art from the mid-1910s.

Reading the first few lines after the fact, however, I wish I had copied the entire letter. It says:

My Dear Mr Ferry-

A large collection of old masters is for sale here in Havana.

Whoa. Cuba was a very different place pre-Fidel, but I hardly took it to be a repository of priceless art. What happened to those old masters? Were they sold? Are some of them in the DIA? In Fidel’s place? Again, little bits and pieces of correspondence or old memos raise questions that are fascinating, but one must set them aside to focus on the topic at hand.

Still, some day, it would be interesting to follow up on Havana’s old masters. It might make a great story.

bringatrailer.com threatens productivity, wallet

28 02 2012

Strip away the romance and mystery surrounding the cult of the automobile, and you’ll begin to realize that classic cars are really just a hobby like any other. The unique challenge a passion for cars presents is that is that the damn things take up a lot of space once you manage to acquire them.

Other hobbies can be just as costly, but they tend to be a lot more compact. Think about it: Stamps go in a binder. Cigars get smoked. Dead animals get turned into rugs, wall hangings, and other bits of attractive home decor.

Cars are relatively large and durable; when they’re not sucking down gasoline, they sit around occupying valuable garage space, leaking transmission fluid, and succumbing to rust. And unless you’re Jay Leno or Ralph Lauren, you almost certainly can’t afford the massive garage and team of technicians necessary to maintain a fleet containing every rustbucket  that catches your eye.

Seriously, I see a lot of potential here! Look, the body is straight, and someone already stripped off the paint!

But it’s nice to dream about potential projects, if only because it distracts one from the actual projects at hand (I will get the Packard running by the Dream Cruise this year).

Enter bringatrailer.com.

Read the rest of this entry »

The pursuit of perfection as an obsession

29 01 2012

Every so often you come across an individual who can turn what others see as just a job into a true vocation–a person who approaches his trade with the attitude and skill of an artist. I have nothing but respect for these all-too-rare individuals, and I try to learn about them whenever I am able. Over the past few months, I’ve heard of two–and they share an interesting connection.

First, I stumbled upon the work of a certain Shin Yoshikawa. He runs a shop called “Studio Time Capsule” out in California. He also creates insanely intricate cutaway technical drawings of vintage cars. He recently built fabricated a replica Toyota 2000GT body. By hand. From aluminum. Shin’s English may not be great, but the same cannot be said about his craftsmanship.

No words.

A few weeks ago, my dad handed me an article about Hidetaka Takasaki. “Taka” specializes in the repair of old Japanese motorcycles (much like my 1980 Honda CB 750K). But he doesn’t advertise his services, and he doesn’t pride himself on his speed or efficiency–his reputation has spread on the strength of his artistry. Read the rest of this entry »

Ah, Summertime

14 07 2011

Classes may have been over for a few months now, but as usual, I’ve got many (probably too many) plates in the fire/irons in the air/what have you. But I’m trying my damnedest to bring my ability to execute a project in line with my ability to conceptualize, and these days, that means spending most of my spare time working on the Packard.
After spending too many years as a two-ton turquoise paperweight, I decided that this summer would see the Packard’s resurrection. So far, I’ve gotten everything taken apart—which is, of course, the first step towards getting everything put back together.

Oddly, the more parts I took off, the more intimidating the whole project became

I’ve chosen the Woodward Dream Cruise as my deadline, which gives me…a little over a month to get everything in order. It’s a pretty optimistic timeline but I’m outsourcing some of the repairs and tackling others myself. In order to take on some of the repair projects myself, I’ve turned the garage into a mini-shop complete with a stationary air compressor (no tools though,  yet) and soon, a MIG welder. Sure, it’s an investment, but with the price of labor these days, I’ll save money after completing just a few repair jobs myself. Plus, at the end of the summer, I’ll have invaluable mechanical experience and a garage full of tools. Pretty good deal in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »