Saturday, January 24, 2009
Anyone can comment, you simply have to go to the bottom of a given post and click the word "comments" it should pop up a new window that you can write a comment in.
If you are on blogger (not sure if it works off of blogger) you can follow a blog and have it appear in your ´daily reading´ on your blogger account. This may also email posts, but i´m not sure about that.
You can subscribe using an RSS feed, which is latin to me, but apparently it will email you the posts as they happen, or at least a notice that a post has been put up.
Hope that clarifies things,
Keep coming back and spread the word!
Sure enough, night time rolls around and in pops Carlos with his son and another assistant. The next few hours were the fastest i have ever seen Carlos work. I´ll try my best to describe what i saw.
The device he is working on, it turns out, doesn´t need to hold the weight of a human, and by its size probablly wont even have a human inside of it at any point. No, this will be the center piece of a wooden table/stage, which is what the dancer will actually stand on while dancing around the giant flower.
What you can see here is that there is a central post, which stays still, around which are five lengths of metal rebar passing through an old bike, um, a... shoot! i should know this word by now. Anyway, they are passing through the part that the bike chain wraps around on. The rebar is attached at the bottom to a tube length cut very small, maybe three inches, to fit around the stationary tube. All of the rebar are welded to a big ring that is welded to this moveable tube. The moveable tube then has a bolt on it which connects to a crank arm on a -again blanking on the name- big bike wheel full of cement with an axel and cogset attached. In hindsight, i should have taken more pictures.
Basically someone will sit and bike this weighty wheel, all of the power of which will force the rebar up and down, opening and closing the flower. The part at the top where the rebar passes through will act to guide the rebar up and allow it to fall open, creating the blooming effect. (It might make more sense to see it in action).
Needless to say, the whole thing took a lot of welding and, unfortunately, re-welding as Carlos worked through design flaws while building. (Dont worry, i had my eyes shut for this shot)
Here´s a part of the re-constructing as Carlos makes incisions to mark where to add additional welds to constrict the movement of the rebar at the base (they were getting stuck because they were too floppy).
Beth and I chop apart the rear end of a bike to serve for the pedalling part of this mechanical feat. Apparently my sawing skills are impressive as i got applause and request in spanish to show off my muscles.
Despite Carlos´request that we all come help, there were too many cooks in the kitchen. One by one we all made our way to the actual kitchen to journal and sit. Eventually sleep got the better of us and we all passed out. Though Beth, and i think Josh, stayed out there with Carlos until he was ready to go eat. I didn´t get to see how it happened, but the design changed yet again, this time it was the openings up top- they weren´t sized correctly for the proper range of motion.
You can see here the circle had to become a star. And the rebar was to rough to raise and lower smoothly, so it got covered in thin PVC piping.
Carlos, invited us all to come out for food and drink, but most declined, knowing it would lead to a much later night.
And a much later night it was.
At about 1:15 in the morning Carlos and his poor kid were back at it in the shop. I was awoken to the sound of welding and bright bursts of light zapping across my bedroom walls. I took what i thought was a stealthfully unseen shot, but i was wrong, Carlos´son saw me and smiled. It was as if his eyes said, Aha! i know your secret, but don´t worry i won´t tell anyone, because secrets are exciting!
I wasn´t sure if i should feel bad for him or not, at his age i probablly would have been really excited to stay up real late, especially if it meant getting to hang out with my dad.
Friday, January 23, 2009
As i discovered during our brainstorming session with Rubin, the volunteer coordinator, Maya Pedal is not particularly well run. Carlos and Johanna are amazing and sweet, but apparently they have very little business sense. And, unfortunately, the bicimaquinas are not donated to indigenous farmers as i had thought. They are sold a little over material cost (which means they lose about 1000 of their local currency on labor). It was dissapointing to learn this, though it provided a good impetus for us volunteers to begin envisioning cost saving measures. Will is beginning to work on a model that would require less materials and work and hook up to an existing bike, instead building it all. Its a very exciting design, and there will be more about it as he progresses.
Beth suggested that the liquadora could be an add on to the rear of an existing bicycle, sitting on top of a rear rack. This got me thinking and tinkering.
I decided that the best way to understand the liquadora, by far the simplest of the bicimaquinas, was to take it apart and rebuild it.
So I did.
Here you can see that the blender turns, not by a gear, but by the friction of a rubber cog against the rubber of the tire.
I could recognize some of what i was looking at, but i lacked the language to describe what i was seeing, Beth helped me there:
The big silver part standing up is a hub, it comes from the inside of the front wheel, its the place where all of the spokes meet in the center.
The long bolt is a rear hub bolt (there may be a different name for it that im blanking on) But basically this bolt comes from the inside of the rear wheel, and beacuse it is long enough to accomadate the cogset, or casette, it can handle the rubber piece needed for the blender.
The rest of it goes as follows, the two gunky looking rings are bearings housed inside of bearing cages. The object to the upper right of the rings is a cone, its what screws onto the bolt to hold the bearings in place. To the left there is the one removed nut (the other nut and cone are still on the bolt). And the rubber comes from old tractor tire.
I love how they use materials here
This bolt is deceptive. At first i thought the square end was part of it, but anyone who knows about bikes would catch that this cannot be. No, Carlos ground down the end into a near-perfect square to fit into the blender. Man, he is good.
I then took some time to clean up the pieces, using gasoline, which i love the smell of. Ironic, i know. And then i carefully regreased the whole thing and put it back together. Tightening it was tricky because each additional part that you put on changes the previous parts you just tightened. And you dont want it to be too tight, otherwise the thing wont spin, or at least not very well. Getting it just right involves some patient fine-tuning.
This is roughly what the placement would be of the part on a rear rack. Of course there´d be some sort of plywood or something, plus it would have to be touching the wheel to work, but this gives an idea of placement.
After i was finished, i put the liquidora back together completely. The cleaning and greasing seemed to help it run a little more smoothly. I joked with Carlos that i made it better because i am awesome, he gave me a look, and i admitted it was just the regreasing.
I asked Carlos about the possibility of me making one to work on a rear rack. He said that he had designed one before and that he´d be happy to help me. He´s pretty busy, what with the expanding flower for tomorrow´s village festival, but when things calm down a little he´ll show me how. Lets hope it fits in my carry-on.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Hopefully with the problem identified i can start taking shots again, i´ll try my best to infill the naked posts of yore with delicious bike-laden pixels.
Angelina with her stitching
The next piece of excitement came when Josh suggested to Will that to clean his bike chain he:
1. pour gasoline on it
2. set it on fire
3. whip it on the ground
The liquidora, or blender, was what brought me here in the first place. I was flipping through MPs website, growing increasingly excited and then i saw the bicycle-blender and practically cried. So you can imagine the pure joy i experienced sitting in the warm sunlit shop blending local naranjas, bananas and piña into smoothies for all to enjoy. As i was pedalling i could barely contain my happiness, a huge grin appeared on my face and i thought to myself "i will remember this moment for the rest of my life."
After serving smoothies to a very appreciate audience of busy technicians i joined in with Anna Lisa to learn about what she was doing. She was trying to adjust the derailluer, the part that shifts the chain between gears. The problem being that chain would skip one gear when downshifting. She showed me the areas where one could adjust the range of motion of the derailer, but after sometime none of it seemed to work.
Next i shadowed Josh, who seems to know a great deal about bikes. He is an excellent teacher, very patient and thorough. Plus he seems to really enjoy sharing the knowledge he has. He showed me how to remove the cranks from the axel (the arms that hold the pedals), clean them, switch the pedals -which are put on backwards for packing purposes- and put them back on. Next was oiling all of the places that need regular oiling: the pivot points, the cables and the chain. I took copius notes and drew myself plenty of diagrams, which definitely seem to help with retaining the knowledge (thanks for the idea and the notebook mom!).
As the day wound down i was going to move on next to truing the back wheel of Josh´s bike (basically, making sure that it is straight and balanced, i.e. true) But i got pulled off of that to jump into a welding lesson from Carlos. Everyone seems pretty excited about welding, so there was lots of spontaneous participation. Part of a bike had been chopped off, specifically where it houses the axel, to be attached to a square metal frame made of angle iron. This will eventually turn into a bicimaquina called a mollino (i think) which grinds grain, de-kernels corn and can do other things. The previous day i had ground off all of the paint around where the welds would be, mostly to avoid releasing very tocxic chemicals into the air. Carlos very patiently showed us how to operate the welder and stuck the axel onto the frame. Of course he made it look very easy.
With all of the collective excitement around welding, we decided that we would practice while constructing something useful. (And the way the shop works is that, as long as we arent in Carlos´way, we can pretty much do whatever we want.) So we found some old bike parts not being used and excitedly envisioned what our contraption might be. I suggested we take a walk through the spaces to see where it could fit and what it might serve. We went to the kitchen and Nina had a great idea- our gross rags for dishes get/stay gross in part because there´s nowhere to hang them, and voila, we had a plan.
So we took the bike tubes, a triangular piece that would house one of the wheels, and split it into two. We then ground down the paint to prepare for the weld, meanwhile long bolts were being welded end to end to form our bars. Though the welds were ugly, and somehow in the process one of the two end pieces got reversed, we built a very strong, totally over-engineered, rag rack. We could hardly contain our glee. Especially when we did the honors and put it into place. It was a very special moment at Maya Pedal.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Gallos aside, the atmosphere here is terrific, my co-volunteers, mostly from the states and canada, are awesome and super-friendly. We make all of our meals together and swap duties as far as purchasing, cooking and cleaning. Everyon has fascinating stories and great projects that they have been or are involved with elsewhere.
I´m somewhat at a loss as far as bike mantainence goes, but it doesn´t seem to matter as i´m surrounded by intensely knowledgable bicycle enthusiasts. So far today i teamed up with Nina on an inner tube patch, which gave us some trouble but we (really she) got it figured out on the second try. I also started grinding down a bike part (i´ll have terms soon) to become part of a grain mill. This is really where my heart is, the bicimaquinas. I´ll love to learn how to take apart, fix and tinker with bikes, but making bicimaquinas is why i´m here. Unfortunately my camera is on the fritz so i dont have much by way of photos today. (P.S. if you can spare some positive vibes for my camera i would owe you a big hug and a high five, we could even hug while high fiving)
Carlos and Johanna, who run the shop, are the nicest people ever, seriously rivalling my driver Jose Luis. Maybe they could have a nice-off. This afternoon Johanna and Carlos sat us down, gave us cake and welcomed us as part of their family. Carlos is a real jokester, today he called me a kitchen dog, which probablly has some cultural context im totally missing- he thought it was hilarious. Carlos is the head technician and the genius behind the designs, Johanna is the business person and takes care of the logistics. Though i get the sense that distinctions like this aren´t as cut and dry as in the US- everyone does a little bit of everything and helps out with anything when needed. I really like both of them a lot, they´re fantastic.
It sounds like this weekend there is going to be some kind of crazy festival, for which we are to build a giant flower structure that holds several people. Furthermore, it needs to "bloom" these people up out of a tube and then be strong enough for them to dance on. For Hours. Pretty ambitious considering that we haven´t started on it and there doesn´t seem to be any rush to. *For those who´ve not travelled in Latin America, its a much, much, more laid-back place. Schedules are far looser here. Things happen when they happen. People work hard, but at their own pace.
So several of us will be here for a months together, some are leaving soon and one, Jason, left this morning. Its nice to know that there will be a core of us here together for a while. There is a great sense of camaraderie in the shop. Its nice to be part of a team of enthusiasts.
Monday, January 19, 2009
So after a 35 mile "detour" to pee, we finally got back on the right road and rolled into San Andreas Itzapa.
Maybe i was projecting my own estaticism (is that a word?), but the people seemed noticably happier past the "welcome to" sign. The previous town, Chimaltenango, was fascinating, but gross. Most of the people looked overworked and stoic. Cars dominated everything, though the donkey made a pretty courageous showing.
A "liquidora" and, the other, i´m not sure, but i think it takes the kernels off corn
Sunday, January 18, 2009
And giant candy.
There were also machines that rented out laptops, and even stranger ones that rented out charging capabilities- you just pay to open the appropriate little door that already has the specific cord you need, plug your thing in, lock it, and come back in a few hours. I don't know about you, but when i take electronics i take the cord. Obviously people forget, but enough to have a vending machine selling electricity?
These things may seem normal to some, but my scientific analysis concludes they are not. Airports are very strange places, like shopping malls, but even more disconnected from real life.
And of my time here so far, an excerpt from an email to my family-