Category Archives: geek stuff

Locost, plans to-date

Continued from Locost, part 3.

The same highschool friend that clued me in to Locost USA shares a tidbit of news he got when he purchased a bike engine and transmission for his project: there are some pretty strict branding laws regarding crashed motorcycles in Ontario that mandate damaged motorcycle frames never see road use ever again. Digging around, I find a FAQ at the Ministry of Transportation Ontario regarding vehicle branding that has a pretty damning footnote:

Vehicles branded as “Irreparable” can never be driven on Ontario’s roads and can only be used for parts or scrap. Motorcycles are included under the “Irreparable” category where there is frame damage requiring replacement.

What does that mean to me? Well, that means that if I want to build a Shrike, or any other reverse trike, it means I’d have to do one of two things:

1) Buy a bike that has not been branded, which would mean either a working bike, or a damaged-but-repairable bike.
2) Buy a branded bike, remove everything I need, and build a full frame for the vehicle, replacing the damaged motorcycle frame.
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Locost, part 3

Continued from Locost, part 2.

In building a Locost, you pretty much have to build everything that you can’t use off of your donor vehicle. In general, the most complex area that falls into that category is the suspension, both front and rear. Even with a good how-to, or using someone else’s design, you still have to build it. Ditto with the frame – you need to build the skeleton on which you’ll re-assemble your donor vehicle. However, the idea of building off of a motorcycle gets around a lot of that, because you already have half of the frame, the entire drive train is already mounted, half of the suspension is already in place, and you’ve even got an entire working electrical system that you only need to tap in to. That leaves only designing the front suspension and the frame from where it mates to the motorcycle frame forward. For that much work, you get a vehicle that would be equally fun as a Locost, for roughly half the work. Do we have a winner? Yeah!!
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Locost, part 2

Continued from Locost, the introduction.

I had just joined the Locost USA forums and found not only a wealth of information about building a Locost, but also a bunch of information about building so-called “non-traditional” vehicles. Ooooh! Some of these were Locost-based vehicles, but used a FWD drive train from a donor vehicle placed behind the driver to make a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive vehicle (also known as an MR layout). The alluring logic of that is that, as I’ve noted previously, the number of available FR layout, manual transmission vehicles is extremely small as compared to when (and where) the Lotus Seven was first designed. Being able to chose a vehicle with front wheel drive (FF layout) provides one with infinitely more opportunities in terms of donor vehicles. What’s more, a FWD drive train combines the transmission, drive shaft, and axle into a transaxle, saving precious space and weight on your vehicle. Well, that sounds like a slam-dunk decision, doesn’t it?

It did – until I learned about BECs – Bike Engined Cars.
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Locost, the introduction

When it comes to me and cars, there have been two consistencies throughout my lifetime:

1) I’ve always admired the Lotus Seven, a.k.a. Caterham Super Seven.
2) I’ve always wanted to build a kit car.

More recently, say in the past 10 years or so, I’ve also wanted to build an electric car. When I recently realized that there are plans available – for free, no less – on how to build your own Lotus Seven (know as a Locost – combination of “Lotus” and “low-cost”), I thought, “Eureka! I can kill three birds with one stone! I can build an electric Lotus Seven!” And thus some voracious reading and searching began.
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Have you been wondering where my blog disappeared to? I have! Fifteen is an eternity in the Interblogs, but thanks to the until-today-unbeknownst-to-me Worpress app for iPhone, the long dry spell may be at an end. MAY be. Stay tuned.

big opportunity, but big move

As of Wednesday night, I’m going to be out of work. I have a few leads that I’m chasing, and of course I’m always actively looking for more, but one in particular has caught both my attention and my imagination.

It could not have come from a more unlikely place – a singular posting I made on a forum many months ago that I simply assumed would continue to be ignored. Well, someone paid attention and contacted me, and is apparently interested enough in me to have floated the possibility of a job offer.

Yes, there is a fleeting possibility that I might get to work on a project destined for the Automotive X-Prize. How cool is THAT??
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keeping lottery pools civil and fair

Do you remember about a year or two back there was a lot of media attention around a group of A&W employees out on the West coast? So far as I remember it (I wasn’t following the story by any means, I was subjected to it by the major media outlets) the group regularily played one of the major lotteries together, but in one instance a few people did not play (for whatever reason). That happened to be the time that the group won the jackpot. Suddenly the people that didn’t play that week wanted their cut, the people that won said they had no cut, and then the lawyers got involved. Ugly. I don’t even know how it ended (and am not curious enough to bother Googling it to find out).

About the same time, my extended family and I entered into a lottery pool. I eventually took over the administration of it (a job I’m still doing well over a year later) and wondered if there was some way to avoid what happened to those A&W employees. With family it could either be a lot less messy, or a lot more messy if the same situation happened. I decided to come up with an equitable way of playing as a group that would not exclude someone simply because they couldn’t cough up $2 one week.

The way most lottery pools that I’ve been involved with work is simple: everyone pays in a certain dollar amount, and any winnings are either re-invested into more tickets or split equally among the people who have bought in. It works well enough until you get a situation like the one above. The problem with that system is that it ignores the history of the group; people may have been playing for years together, but if they ever miss a week, they’re SOL if the group wins.

The method I’m now using fully tracks the history of the group, and uses the accumulated information to determine how to split any winnings. Instead of just splitting winnings based on if you’ve paid in or not, winnings are split based on the historical total contribution you’ve made to the group, based on the historical total contribution of the entire group.

There’s no getting around doing some math to show an example, so let’s dive in. Three people, each paying $2 per week, play for 3 weeks. Each person has paid $2 x 3 = $6, making the total contribution $18. Say in the next week one of those people is recovering from the Bacardi flu and can’t play, so only $2 x 2 = $4 is added tot the total historical contribution for $22. They win that week! Two of the people have contributed $2 x 4 = $8, and one has contributed $2 x 3 = $6. So the winning will be divided based on 8/22 (36.4%) for the two people and 6/22 (27.2%) for the one that missed a week. The one who missed a week gets less, but still gets something.

This also allows for some flexibility; if you don’t WANT to play one week (because the jackpot is a paltry $2.5M, and you can’t retire off your split of that), you don’t have to. Your split ratio will go down some, but not much. Heck, you could even work it such that each group member pays in as much or as little as they want, and tickets are purchased with whatever the group contributes each week. You can even participate in multiple lotteries at the same time, and track them individually or all together. It’s fair, and fairly flexible!

In my case it’s relatively complex: We’re playing two different lotteries (6/49 and Super7), and the group only starts playing with jackpots at or above $10M, save for one of us that plays starting at a $15M threshhold. I also allow everyone to make “deposits” into their “lottery account” so I don’t have to chase them every week (which I can’t do because we live so far from each other); I just pay for all the tickets, knowing I’ve been pre-paid for them. Thus I track not only split ratios but how much everyone has in the “bank”.

So far the most we’ve ever won is $20 plus a few free tickets, so there hasn’t been any squabbling. If we ever do win the jackpot, however, the only squabbling going on will be over how many decimal places we calculate our split ratios to. (I say 3 decimal places or one percentage decimal place [.364 versus 36.4%], and rounding goes in favour of the one keeping track of it all!)