SRSMEEBBQ March, '99 Meeting Report

--Wow! What a good time we had. And the most amazing thing of all, for only the second time since I instigated the first BBQ Club more than 8 years ago, I actually broke even!! Thanks go to the many consciencious individuals who were thoughtful enough to contribute to the BBQ Fund. It's always a special occasion when the freeloaders stay home and the devotees have the day to themselves.

--I am als indebted to the eager few who, when I frequently yelled out "I need a volunteer", came running to perform this or that odious chore. Thanks especially to Dick Vennerbeck who took out the garbage and who manned the BBQ when I was called away and to Todd Guldembrein who not only operated steam equipment, but helped me with the dishes and clean-up after the event. Thanks also to all those folks who brought interesting show-and-tell items. Mike Kan's cooling apparatus was of particular interest (alcohol behaves like molasses when cooled almost to the freezing point!), as were John Woodson's pop-pop boats, which are reaching new levels of sophistication and control.

--We had 14 people at the meeting, including a new face or two. Some folks couldn't make it due this or that problem, but all in all it was a good turn-out. There was quite a bit of good show-and-tell and the sit-down meeting went off without a hitch. I didn't manage to poison anybody, either!

--In addition to photos and text, I have added a list of URLs belonging to listmembers. If you are part of our band of merry persons and yours is not included, please email it to me and I will update this page post haste! After that I have included some interesting sources of supply that were unearthed during our get-together.

At the bottom of this page I do have a bit of a rant concerning who chooses to participage and who does not... But let's start with some notes I took at the sit-down portion of the gathering, followed by captioned photos. Enjoy!


--With better than a dozen on hand, there was much to talk about and most everyone had interesting things to say.


Photo #1: An array of small engines and other apparatus brought by participants.
Photo #2: L to R: John Woodson, Mike Kan, Todd Guldenbrein and Dick Vennerbeck lurk in my workshop.
Photo #3: Mike holds a small "popsicle" made from a toothpick stuck into a copper cap full of frozen Isopropyl alcohol. Using a refrigeration device consisting of a Stirling engine driven by a small oscillating electric motor, similar to the kind used to aerate aquariums (aquaria?), the cold end of the heat engine can be cooled to temperatures low enough to liquify air.
Photo #4: Here's another shot of Mike's Stirling refrigerator in action. When the LED he is holding was lowered into the chilly interior, it brightened considerably, demonstrating the reduction of resistance that can achieved at extremely low temperatures.
Photo #6: Interesting connundrum: first attach a large steel ball to the magnets fastened to the base. Stretch the string just a bit so that the paperclip touches the ball. Let go and the paperclip *always* takes the ball away from the magnets! Why???
Photo #7: Ah. The infamous Maytag lawnmower. Said to be a nightmare to operate, as one stone would cause the blade to explode, lopping off the operator's feet at the ankles. Hitting an obstruction also tended to break the delicate, hollow crankshaft, so this surviving example is quite rare!
Photo #3: Unknown table engine, brought by--??
Photo #8: Always in the lime light?? John Woodson holds the genuine article: a lime light, as used in theaters a hundred years ago. The cup-shaped thing on the left is threaded to accept a hunk of limestone.

Links (and primary interests of) List-members:

Dewey, Dave steam boats & locomotives
Haas, Ed poppet valve steam engines & weird art
Kan, Mike electronics & vacuum coating
Mumford, Bryan electronics & woodworking
Smaalders, Bart steam propulsion machinery http://playground.Sun.COM/~barts
Vennerbeck, Dick ultrasonics & steamboats
Woodson, John software & pop-pops

Sources and Supplies

In situations where flexibility is needed, Bart Smaalders is using teflon tubing with a stainless braid protective cover for steam lines in his boat. THis material is good up to 500deg. Farenheit, which is more steam pressure than any of us use in our boilers, so there is a good safety margin. Bart buys the stuff from an outfit called Power Industries. I'll have further details in a few days.

If you are looking for cast iron bushing stock (very handy for making your own cylinders, as it already has the center "removed") two sources were mentioned. Metal Mart and Grainger both carry the material.

Now, about that Editorial Rant...

--We had a good turnout for this, our second meeting, but there were no kids and no members of the female persuasion to be seen this time. I really, really don't want this to devolve into a "boys club" and I would like to take steps to achieve a more balanced membership, but I am at a loss as to how to proceed and suggestions would be welcome.

I was informed by a third party that a female attendee to a previous meeting found my manner to be ...well, authoritarian and this was percieved to be off-putting. In addition there was said to be excessive whining by some attendees, concerning a number of things including excessive weight, not being successful, etc., i.e. all the things that people without any social graces tend to whine about. I believe I have at least partially addressed this problem by limiting the time any one person has to speak at the round-the-table session, using a simple formula: 90 minutes, divided by the number of folks present. At this last meeting that gave each person 9 minutes to speak. The more astute whiners realized they only had a certain amount of time to get to the point, so distractions from the subject at hand were kept to a minimum. The less astute ones don't get invited back, so the problem should be self-correcting in the long run.

As for my "authoritarian" manner, the current size of our group tends to dictate (ha-ha) this behaviour. That is, any time there are more than two people in a gathering, if someone doesn't lead, there will be chaos. Until the group can be grown to a decent size, the best leadership scheme tends to be an absolute monarchy. I yearn for the day when the organization is big enough to include several people with a yen to hold offices necessary to run a larger group and I would gladly step down in favor of an elected leadership. Roberts Rules of Order would be necessary at that point and everything would become less informal, but there you are. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass to not only barbecue the food, but to additionally keep folks focused long enough to have a meeting. I would love to see things delegated between a group leader, a cook, a secretary and so on. When (if?) the chance to adopt other "crowd control" methods arises, I will embrace the change!

-- I can't do it all: there are things that will call me elsewhere from time to time, this year in particular In keeping with these thoughts and a bit of strategy based on my previous observations, I have asked for volunteers to host future meetings. This will also help to help "stir the pot" a bit, i.e. folks that would not otherwise make the journey to my remote digs might be more eager to attend a meeting in The Valley or another metropolitan area. To my great delight (and not too much arm twisting) there were not one, but two volunteers.

The April meeting will be held at the home of Dick Vennerbeck in Silicon Valley and the May meeting will *probably* be held at Todd and Arbuckle Guldenbrein's digs in Vallejo. I'll be hitched by June and I'll host a meeting that month, but then we'll be off on a belated honeymoon so other arrangements will have to be made for July. Beyond that is too far to plan at the moment, so stay tuned... In any case, I hope we can keep this thing growing: the goal is to maximize what for lack of a better term I would call "cross-pollenation", i.e. a mixing of hobbies and disciplines to accelerate the learning curve. That, and to share good food and a good time! Rant mode OFF.