52 States in 8 Months

Graham went through Germany!

Posted in Forreign blogs by Ulf on April 30, 2009

crossgermanyOk, this one should have gone into one of the previous blog posts: Graham, the around-the-planet adventurer who is writing a great blog, has just published his notes on how he crossed Germany. Everything worked on this day, he even got his hamburger in Hamburg. It reminds my of my eating at KFC in Kentucky.

So if you’re looking for something more exciting, try the story of how Graham got busted after entering Russia without a visa. His latest twitter is about some Moldovan border guards who thought his passport was a fake, so I’m also looking forward to his blog post about that :-). Also, don’t forget that Graham writes his great blog to make us donate money to WaterAid.


Do not waste your money on “Try-It-Racing”.

Posted in Stupidities by Ulf on April 30, 2009

During the Washington Auto Show in February Alex and I met a chap called Soloman who convinced us to get whelen_americansome racing experience with “Try it Racing“. On April 19th we finally went to the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia. This is one of about 60 tracks nationwide that are used for the weekly “NASCAR All-American Series“, the lowest level of racing which uses the NASCAR label (“National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing”).


Now, Alex and I paid about 180€ each for driving around the 3/8 mile oval 15 times on our own, and afterwards being taken around the track another five times by a professional racing driver. Now, as you can already guess from the headline, this was not the adrenaline filled experience which they promised (please don’t be confused by my “thumbs up” gesture on the next picture — that was before the racing).

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So, let’s start with our own 15 laps driving. Driving they 355 cubic inch V8s was very simple. The clutch works just like in any other car, and you only have two gears: first gear for starting the car, and a second gear for driving it. Yes, really! It sounds stupid, but that’s it! Obviously these race cars were not designed to make use of the power which the engine could have offered. Then, what was the “racing” itself like? You start you car and continue driving behind the pace car for 15 laps.
They told us that one bend of the oval would be tighter than the other one, but that was a completely useless information: since the pace car was going very slowly we hardly felt any centrifugal forces. Therefore we really didn’t have to worry about the curve radius. To give you an impression of how boring the whole thing was: I never ever had to use the brakes during the whole event! My pace car never allowed me to go anywhere near full throttle, and somewhere in the middle of the straight it already started to decelerate. The engine drag was enough not to keep me away from rushing into the pace car. Come on, racing without brakes, what is that? Seriously: my weekly trips to the Kaufland in Stuttgart (a local supermarket) were more exciting than our “Try It Racing”!

The ride-along was a little better. Michael Southard (he was on position 188 in the 2008 All-American series) showed us that their cars can in fact go around the track fast enough to produce some lateral forces, and he even had to use the brake a few times. Still, I was taken around the Porsche test track in Weissach in either a 911 Carrera S or a 911 Turbo by some Porsche research engineers (I’ve forgotten which car it was). That joyride was free and much better than Mike Southard’s ride-along. When I was working for GETRAG we also took the Ferrari California from Heilbronn to Würzburg on the A81 which also was more thrilling than the Try it Racing.

From analyzing my video material I concluded that we averaged 75mph during the ride-along and roughly 55mph when we drove on our own. How boring is that? There are normal roads in some states where the local authorities encourage you to drive 80. And on the Autobahn, the officially recommended speed is 81 mph.

Before I forget it, an advice to all Internationals: Mike Southard (who apparently runs “Try It Racing”) really isn’t easy to understand on the phone. He is mumbling all the time, and only after asking him three times what he said he opens his mouth and suddenly speaks English.

Now, some doubts about the professionalism of “Try It Racing”:

  • I did not see any safety stewards around the track. So if I had an accident, well, I don’t know what would have happened. I hope my crash would have had been louder than the engines at the grid, but I’m not sure about that.
  • I did not see any fire extinguishers at the grid. Therefore even if I had witnessed an accident of another driver, I’m not sure if I would have had been able to help him.
  • I did not see any fire extinguishers in the racing cars.
  • During the drivers briefing we were not told how to get out of the car in an emergency. That means that we’ve never trained to open our seat belt, we’ve never trained to open the window net, and worst of all: When I tried to get out of the car I realized that I did not even know how to remove the steering wheel, so there was no way of leaving the car! From a safety perspective, “Try it racing” is probably one of the most dangerous things I ever did.


And now about the power itself. Since these cars do not have rev limiters it’s pretty much impossible to quantify the maximal engine power. Soloman told us something about 600 horse power, and on the track they said something about 400hp. Now, let me calculate an upper bound on the power we’ve actually used:
four_stroke_cycle_compressionTheir V8 engines have a displacement of 355 cubic inch which is 0.0058 m3 (a little less than 6 liters). I’m pretty sure they don’t have any turbo chargers and only use air instead of NOx for burning the fuel. That means that they can only burn 0.0058 m3 of air with every two engine revolutions. Assuming that the throttle valve is fully open (not true, I was never close to full throttle), the intake pressure could be close to 1 bar. That means that I could have burned n=pV/RT= 100000 N/m2 · 0.0058 m3 / (8.314472 J/K/mol) / 300K = 0.232 moles of air in the engine with every two rotations (if I would have completely pressed the gas pedal). Since air weights about 0.029kg/mol, that is about 0.0067kg of air. At an air ratio of about 14:1 I can burn about 0.00048 kg of fuel with every two engine rotations at full throttle, which releases about 43 MJ/kg of heat. That is about 20 kJ of energy per two rotations, or (assuming an engine efficiency of 30%) roughly 3400 J per engine rotation. Now, this is a new information: we did not have a speedometer in the car, but we could see the engine revs. We never made more than 3000rpm which is 50rps. That is 170000 J/s=170kW=230hp. And please keep in mind: t_cycle_ottoI did not consider any losses yet besides the heat-to-work conversion efficiency of 30%, and also I assumed that the throttle valve is completely open which is nowhere near the truth. And during most of the laps we were well below 3000rpm, so that also makes it an overestimate. If you want to hear a serious guess: We used about 50-80hp. Alex guesses it was even less.
What they call a racing car might look like one from the outside, and it might also sound like one since they did not bother to put on any real silencers. But when it comes to the engine power, you’re better of if you take any street with a real gear box (which allows you to always keep the engine revs somewhere close to the red line). It doesn’t even have to be an M3. I could have taken my Audi 80 for keeping up with the pace car! When they say something about 400hp, they’re simply lying.

One last blame on Try It Racing: While we were there Mike made doughnuts with two of the passengers during their ride-alongs. Well, I also asked him for one, but he refused. He said he wanted to save his tires for a child which has his birthday or something. Sorry Mike — I guess I paid no less than this child, and I’m also a customer who wants to be satisfied. And you did not manage to come close to anything of what you promised! But your not driving a doughnut with me makes it even easier for me to ask any potential Try It Racing customer not to waste their money!

So, to conclude this: Try It Racing claims that they “offer an experience of a lifetime”. They do indeed. But the experience has nothing to do with racing, it is the experience of having tossed money out of the window.
If you really want to have fun, go to some Go-Kart track. It’s cheaper, much more fun and way safer!

The swine flu comes to UD

Posted in Newark by Ulf on April 29, 2009

img22451451a8c9d48596A few minutes ago the University of Delaware dispatched an automated voice message on our phones. This is what I remember:

This is a UD health alert. Four UD students have been identified with influenza that meets probable definitions for swine flu. Visit UD’s homepage for more information.

Okay, nothing really serious so far, these are no confirmed cases yet. But wait. I got this call, my room mate got this call plus a text message and my lessors even got this call twice, both on their home phone and on their cell phone. That alert has reached me five times within 15 minutes.

Or was it really always the same alert? I mean, how do I know the difference between one alert just being repeated, and consecutive alerts occurring? Maybe these were five distinct health alerts? Wow, that’s 5·4=20 UD students with the flu in just 15 minutes, or 80 in an hour. By tomorrow morning roughly 600 UD students will be affected, and that is only a linear extrapolation. I guess I’ll also be infected by tomorrow evening at the latest, and this is not a joke[1]!

The UD health alert can be found here. It lists possible symptoms for the swine flu. These include fever and body aches for example. The UD doesn’t mention diarrhea although other sources say that it is common among the Mexican swine flu patients[citation needed]. The UD website also tells us to seek care from our personal physicians if we experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Stuffy nose
  • Cough

It’s in the middle of the night, I’m tired. I have to choose: I can either go to the doctor because of my fatigue symptoms (it might be the swine flu!), or I can drink coffee to cure it. I guess I’ll simply go to bed.

Edit: The UD website has been changed, this is the new health alert. Now they only make us go to our personal physicians if we’re experiencing flu-like symptoms. Well, that makes sense. But wait. They only want “faculty and staff” to go to the physicians if they experience any symptoms. WTF?

[1] My room mate made me promise not to make any jokes about the UD Health Alert or the swine flu, so that’s why I mean it serious.

Lower Saxony dies out slowly

Posted in Europe by Ulf on April 28, 2009

439px-kinderzahl_je_frau_2003_bezogen_auf_landkreise_2007-07A few days ago I found an interesting map on Wikipedia. It shows the average number of children per woman for all German counties. This is the color code:

  • green: more than 1.7
  • yellow: 1.51 to 1.7
  • orange: 1.41 to 1.5
  • light red: 1.31 to 1.4
  • red: 1.3 and less

It seems like Lower Saxony is still the most fertile place in Germany, while Eastern Germany is just the opposite. Maybe the PDS-voters in Eastern Germany wanted to have a red-painted map and therefore decided not to have any children?

Anyway, a birth rate of about 2.1 would be required to keep the population steady. We’re far away from that…

Go Graham!

Posted in Forreign blogs by Ulf on April 27, 2009

I told you a long time ago that Graham Hughes tries to visit every nation on this planet in 2009. And Graham isn’t cheating as I am, he doesn’t use planes at all and almost no cars.
Well, he is a bit behind schedule, so he only made it to Europe a few days ago. Anyway, I wanted to let you know when he visited Germany. Bad news: I missed it! I followed his Twitter news and his website, but only his map reveals that he has already been to Germany:

Graham, I’m looking forward to reading about your illegal visits to Cuba and Russia. Must be funny stories!! Haha :-). Good luck! And please find a solution with Lonely Planet such that we can see your awesome videos again! I’m so curious about the next episodes!!

Everybody else: Graham is not only a month behind schedule on his journey, he is also still almost a million pounds away from the amount of money he wants to raise for WaterAid. Please read about his great journey, and then donate some money (I donated £5 so far, but I might feel obligated to donate more unless I see the names of a couple of friends of mine in the list of donors *g*).

Some search engine hits

Posted in Forreign blogs by Ulf on April 27, 2009

Some time ago a friend of mine (or maybe just one of her friends) published a list with search engine terms that were used to find her blog. At that time this blog was still rather small, and I had no search engine hits at all.

Nowadays this has changed, Google really directs people to my blog (although they will most certainly not find what they’re looking for). These are a few of the Google terms that were used. For some of them, I don’t have any clue why Google (or any other search engine) would return a hit for my blog. Do you?

  • “automatic control” + wordpress
  • 52 states wikipedia
  • antidifferentation lecture
  • avocado de colombia
  • banana bread for surfers
  • big milk
  • big milk jugs
  • british airways cutlery
  • bundesadler
  • buy propylene glycol nicotine
  • car sales statistics
  • chinese food
  • evoting germany
  • german electronic vote
  • harlem
  • harlem bronx
  • google-birthday-doodles

  • how we got all 52 states of america
  • http://ww3.unipark.de/uc/facebook_survey
  • international spy museum
  • j fullsize 4dr
  • juergen ruettgers boston
  • karl-theodor maria nikolaus johann jacob
  • landesamt für besoldung baden württember
  • las vegas, new mexico
    (There is a Las Vegas in NM, but we visited the one in NV)
  • lbv kundenportal
  • lohnsteuerbescheinigung
  • lohnsteuerbescheinigung 2008
  • lohnsteuerbescheinigung usa
  • look new yorkais
  • monument valley
  • museum of art el paso tx building
  • natural logs
  • naturholz wikipedia
  • neuland mckinsey miami
  • nyc sights
  • propylene glycol
  • steffi graph
  • t1 el prat
  • things to do in nyc
  • weihnachten marchen
  • weihnachtskarten aus hawaii
  • why did electronic voting end
  • witham station
  • wordpress hawaiiphotobank

Additionally quite a few people google for “52 states in 8 months”, and I guess these are the only ones who really find what they are looking for. Now, having published this list, I’m afraid I’ll get even more random traffic of disappointed Google users.

I hate high temperatures!

Posted in Newark, University stuff by Ulf on April 26, 2009

In the last days I was teasing Andi a bit because he claims that California would be the golden state with sunshine all around the clock. Now, the weather in Newark is much better than the weather in Palo Alto right now.

Newark, Delaware:weather_newark

Palo Alto, California:weather_palo_alto

But to be honest: I hate this weather! It’s much too hot, I can’t stand the humidity and I already got a sunburn today (it’s still April!). Summer really sucks. Maybe this is the reason why I’m afraid of global warming.

You might now propose to go into some building. Right, most American buildings have aircon. The problem is that our administration at the University of Delaware just doesn’t get a plumber to fix our heating / aircon system. Yes, the controller itself is working. Yes, the shown temperature matches the room temperature. So I conclude that some valve must be stuck or something:

Chopstick action — or just my third Chinese meal

Posted in Meals by Ulf on April 25, 2009

When I first talked about my Chinese meals, Caro proposed a chopstick eating challenge, and Pingu asked for some action scenes. To give you an impression of how superior my chopstick eating skills already are, let’s have a look at my third Chinese  meal.

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The name of this dish is Guo Bao Rou. It’s very simple. Just take some large pieces of pork, coat them with breadcrumbs, fry them and finally serve them together with rice (and very little vegetables such that there is a little bit of green color). And finally, eat it all with chopsticks. So here we go:

I guess it takes a lot more training until I can really compete. But I’ll take my new chopsticks with me, so we can start the challenge in Stuttgart!

Update: Unfortunately the cook who prepared Chinese food for us every Wednesday has gone back to China for three months, so this might have been my last Chinese meal here in Newark.

My second CAD drawing

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on April 24, 2009

You’ll probably remember that I created my first CAD drawings not long ago. Well, I wanted to find out how much I could do without following any kind of tutorial.
So, these are the three parts which I created:
robot1 robot2 robot3

I called them “foot”, “leg segment” and “torso”. But the third picture alone would reveal what I had in mind. So here it is! This is the first assembly I created on my own:

robot4 robot5

As you can see, the joints do actually work! That means that I can use the mouse to drag the leg segments around. Run, Robot, Run! :-)

There obviously is a reason behind my drawing humanoid robots: Varsha works on some models of the human walking mechanics. Her current visualization is still “preliminary”. Therefore we try to create a nice 3D model which she might make use of in future presentations.

My private aircraft.

Posted in Las Vegas to El Paso by Ulf on April 23, 2009

On March 31 I went from Albuquerque, NM, to El Paso, TX. Originally I planned to do this trip by car, but Alamo refused to let me take a New Mexican car to Texas. I have no idea why, but I could not change it. I tried Amtrak, but their proposal to get from Albuquerque to El Paso (266 miles) was taking a train from Albuquerque to Los Angeles (789 miles) and then another train from Los Angeles to El Paso (802 miles). Unfortunately I did not try Greyhound who would have taken me all the way for $20. Instead I booked a flight with Pacific Wings which cost me about $60. According to their website the regular fare is $156.00, but I booked it on cheaptickets.com (or was it expedia.com?).

When I arrived at Albuquerque Airport I found out that the flight was operated by New Mexico Airlines. The check-in process was quite different from what I was used to. There was a little phone on a desk. I picked up, a woman asked me where I am, I said “Albuquerque”. She asked for my name, and then she said “Ok, you’re checked in. Please proceed to gate E something.” — yes, that was it!
So I went to the gate. Both my pilot and my co-pilot were already waiting for me. They scaled my bag and asked me for my weight. After a few minutes we went to our plane. On the left-hand side picture you can see my copilot (she put on some make-up just for my flight, but I believe she would also have been cute without it).

2009-03-31_06-13-13-springbreak-7451-ulf 2009-03-31_08-52-06-springbreak-7485-ulf

Well, they started our Cessna Caravan 208B, and flew me to Alamogordo. We stopped at there for two reasons: For one thing Alamogordo Regional Airport is the New Mexico Airport of the Year 2001, awarded by the New Mexico Airport Managers’ Association. Wow! For another thing, we had to drop one more passenger (an old lady) who I did not mention so far. But yes, on the leg from Alamogordo to El Paso there was just me in the plane, and the two pilots. Still they had to give me a safety briefing in the beginning of both flights, telling me about emergency exits and so on *g*.

Just the fuel for that flight cost about $200 (my own estimate). So how can New Mexico Airlines survive and continue wasting energy? It’s very simple: There is a law in the US which declares NMA as an “Essential Air Service“. The company gets an annual subsidy of 1.6 million dollars. That means that the US tax payers have paid for my stupid flight and my waste of energy. Sorry folks, but seriously I was not aware of these facts when I booked the flight!

Anyway, these are some of the things I’ve seen during the flight. First of all, there is the Trinity site. It must be somewhere on the next picture. It is the place were the USA tested their first atomic bomb, about 2.5 weeks before they dropped a bomb over Hiroshima. If I had done a better job while planning the trip I could have visited the Trinity site on April 4th. They do only open it twice a year since it is in an active missile testing range. But since I was in the area four days earlier, I could only see it from about 10 miles away.


The next two pictures show Alamogordo Airport and a bit of that area. I’ve probably taken the pictures for a very simple reason. Alamogordo simply is the only seriously inhabited place between Albuquerque and El Paso. And if they didn’t have the Holloman Air Force Base, then Alamogordo most probably wouldn’t be inhabited at all. Btw: There are about 700 Germans in Alamogordo. The German Luftwaffe uses the US facilities as a training site since they don’t have good test grounds for the Tornado in Germany.

2009-03-31_08-28-04-springbreak-7472-ulf 2009-03-31_08-28-17-springbreak-7473-ulf

Near the Holloman Air Force base you can once again find strange stuff somewhere in the landscape. This is how some strange stuff looks from the top, and this is what another one is like on Google Maps. This was my view:

Somewhere close by there is a really dense system of roads in a place where I would not expect any roads. Once again, I don’t know why. Maybe they searched for oil at this place?

2009-03-31_08-37-56-springbreak-7480-ulf 2009-03-31_08-38-07-springbreak-7481-ulf

Or maybe they train invading $ARABIC_COUNTRY$?