27 May 2014

Got tired of the brake pedal being so hard. Well, “hard” is good, but not when you have to press it at 100 lbs to lock up the tires. So I swapped in some spare master cylinders which, of course, went too far the other way, resulting in a squishy pedal due to system compliance (not air). So the proper replacement was ordered today and should be here in time to replace this weekend.

However, the real work was getting under the car and cutting some access holes in the engine tray so I could at least reach up in there and mount the oil/coolant heat exchanger. At the end of the day it was done – not pretty – but functional. The issue now is that with the mounts, the heat exchanger sits up higher than it did and the hoses get too close to the engine. The concern is that engine vibration may rub through the lines, and of course the hose clamp screws point upwards to where they’re hard to access from below, but they need to be loosened so that the hoses can be reclocked.

All this is so that the car is ready for a ~200 mile drive coming up in a couple weeks. Planned by my buddy Ron, it includes Cars and Coffee, driving up and over the coastal mountain range, then up through sevaral small towns, lunch on Palomar Mountain, then out into the back country. Should be fun if I can have the car all ready.

20 May 2014

Fires are gone – for now.

Had dinner with Internet buddy Justin, who for several years served as mentor, puttin up with my endless questions about TeX, the editor package used to develop the Midlana book. While it isn’t near as bad as Microsoft Word for managing pictures and figures, it takes a while to learn – think of it like editing Internet website source code using raw HTML. Anyway, we drove down the coast and back, and Justin explained that he was already gathering parts to build his own Midlana, and then his wife said they were expecting an addition to the family. I though better of saying, “You know, if you’d spent more time in the garage…”

14 May 2014

If we needed proof of global warming, here it is, 100 degrees in SoCal in mid-May, our traditional gloomy season. Worse, the accompanying Santa Ana winds drive dry winds with 3-4% humidity through here at 10-60 mph, depending upon location and time of day. Today no less than nine separate fires popped up, all “apparently” unrelated to each other. The pictures were taken from our local park, looking west and north, the direction of the winds. Then I turned to leave and saw some smoke on the horizon east of us, which was bad news since the wind would push it our way. Sure enough, within an hour, it had grown into a nasty thing, forcing many to flee. Finally, but as we headed into the evening, the winds stopped and slowed the fire’s advance. So as of now, we’re okay.

6 May 2014

Took this week off, as we’d ordered an aluminum pergola for our patio which replaces an old dry rotted one crawling with termites. It’s scheduled to arrive today but already there’s a problem – the manufacture used suspicious math to determine tube spacing for the percent shading which was ordered. The math is pretty simple: I requested 50% shade. To most people, this means that, using 1.5″ tubes, there will be 1.5″ spacing between the tubes. Said another way, the 1.5″ tubes should be located on 3″ centers, only they aren’t. Per their mystery math, “50%” means 4.5″ of space between tubes. Using real-world math though, 1.5 / 4.5 = 33%, not 50%. Did they make an honest mistake, or have they been screwing customers for years figuring they wouldn’t notice? I wonder… because that little difference makes a $300 difference… in their favor.

I’ve gone back and forth with them, and at first, they tried using circular reasoning, “well, our website clearly shows that 50% shading is 1.5″ tubes on 4.5″ centers.” I agreed that yes, their site does say that, and it’s incorrect. I eventually got the sales guy to agree that 50% means half and half, half sun and half shade, so it’s getting escalated to the higher-ups. Oh, and he offered to send the additional tubes… at extra expense. I think I have them cornered – legally – because they made me sign off on the plans – which specify 50% shade. Unfortunately, actually getting them to ship the tubes at their expense could be a different story. The drama continues.

4 May 2014

With the weather so warm, this weekend was perfect for driving Midlana along the Pacific Coast Highway, so I backing it out of the garage and felt something wet drop on my leg. One little voice said “Meh, don’t worry about it.” The other little voice – the engineer – said, “So you’re ignoring the only fluid source above your feet… brake fluid?” Sigh, back into the garage. Apparently, when the cover blew shut last week, it tapped the top of the remote brake reservoirs hard enough to unseat them. Either that, or it was sheer coincidence that the clamps for both reservoirs just happened to loosen at the same time – not likely.

This sort of nickle-and-diming stuff bugs me. If anything, I trust the car less than I did before – it’s supposed to be the other way around. Not much to do other than plow through each problem until Midlana calms down. With the brake reservoirs fixed it was time to try rebuilding the trust: Three laps up and down the coast, and up Palomar Mountain and back, about 200 miles without incident.

As before, Palomar Mountain had a lot of sportbikes zipping up and down it (there was even a photographer part way up the hill). It’s pretty nuts, some of the guys dragging their knees around the turns, which is no problem as long as they stay in their lane. Speaking of that, on the way up I got stuck behind two people on a sportbike. It must have been the driver’s first time at having a passenger onboard because he wasn’t doing so well in the turns, slowing way down (like, slower than 20 mph) and still drifted wide into the other lane around blind turns. Really? And he couldn’t pull over to let the parade of cars pass? Thankfully nothing happened, at least when I was around.

It was interesting the very different reactions I got between sportbike and Harley riders: probably a dozen sportbike riders gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up as we passed each other, versus absolutely nothing from any Harley rider. I guess I don’t have the credentials: not wearing black, no tatoos, no facial hair, the car’s not black, nor is it covered with skulls. Am I stereotyping? Of course, but it’s happened too often to neglect commenting. Harley and sportbike riders make a point to ignore each other, but I didn’t realize that Harley riders have classified me as one of “them”, with the sportbike crowd. I guess they’re right.