Shipwright's Disease

Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 11:23
I'm sad to report that I've come down with a bad case of shipwright's disease. I got started doing a few improvements to the Miata for this year's autocross season. Last year, all I did was change the oil and buy new tires. This year it was going to need a little bit more.

I needed new front hubs, since I had one wheel that was really noisy and getting sloppy. I'll just get that done quick before the season starts. No problem.

Except . . .

The best place to order is from Mazdaspeed Motorsports. Since I'm ordering from them and paying shipping from the USA anyway, I might as well order some of newer the R/LE type tie rod ends that have better geometry for lowered Miatas. And oh look, that's a decent price on adjustable sway bar links, let's just replace the stock links in the back as well.

Ok, so far so good. Then Chris C. gives me a good deal on his Diamond race wheels and Kumho V710s. No problem, pick those up too. Whee!

Buuuut . . .

I know the clutch is slipping and should probably be replaced. I can baby it and if I don't do hard launch drag starts it's not too bad. However, the new tires are a lot stickier and will make the clutch slip even worse. I was a little intimidated to tackle that job in my garage, but after talking to a few people and helping a friend do a clutch on his Miata (albeit on a lift, not on stands) I decide I can do the job. Well, if I'm pulling it all out anyway, might as well order up a lightweight flywheel at the same time.

No sense going in and not replacing the pilot and throwout bearings as well (and they come in the clutch kit).

And while I'm in there, it's a really good idea to replace the rear main oil seal and the transmission F/R oil seals.

Oh! Now I remember I have a braided stainless steel clutch line I bought two years ago and haven't installed yet. I have to remove the clutch slave cylinder anyway, so this is a good time to replace that line.

Come to think of it, I really don't know how old the clutch master/slave cyls are - probably best to replace both of those at the same time. It's no "extra work" to re-install a new slave instead of the old one.

Easiest way to get the room needed to drop the trans is to pull the exhaust off. Out of curiosity . . . 26 pounds?! Hmmm. That's more than I thought it would weigh. I know the muffler isn't original and it isn't a very sporting sound so maybe that should be replaced too.

Well . . .

Now I'm only 9 bolts away from having the exhaust manifold off and there's an inexpesive new header from Raceland that seems to be getting good reviews. OK, order that, done. Will get a new pipe and lightweight muffler put in at a local shop.

Only, in order to get to the exhaust manifold bolts, the intake has to come off. Well, since it's off anyway might as well modify it a bit for better airflow. And the new header will run without the factory heat shield, so I'll need to fabricate a new shield for the intake.

Oh, and due to a blown valve cover gasket a few years back, everything under the car is coated in a thick gooey black oil/dirt mixture. Makes for a very messy job. But since the transmission is out anyway, what better time to clean it up? So I loaded it up in the truck and took it to the local wand wash where I got a couple odd looks, but mission accomplished. See before, during, and after:


So what started as a couple simple jobs spiralled out of control until I had a garage full of old and new parts, a car missing several of it's important bits - like exhaust, transmission and wheels - and a stomach full of anxiety about my ability to put it all back together again.

Well, I'm happy to say that I'm mostly done now, save for a few minor tweaks and double checks. I did learn two interesting facts that you may want to know:

  1. There are at least 19 unique ways to spill transmission fluid on the floor, the car, your tools and yourself.
  2. It doesn't taste nearly as bad as you'd think.

A friend also pointed out: 
  1. (b) - There are at least 154 ways to discover you've spilled it (which usually involve soaking some part of your clothing or hair in the puddle)!

p.s. While putting the transmission and center console back in the car I found an aluminum shifter bearing I'd also bought a while back and then threw it in the console and forgot about. So I installed that too. So now I'm wondering what else I might have forgotten to do!

Revealed: The REAL Reason you can't buy iTunes games with store credit in Canada!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 19:47
OK, so I thought I was done writing about this topic. And I really do want to be done with it, but what I didn't know previously was that my daughter had a school assignment to write a business letter to a company and so she'd chosen to write to Apple Customer Care to ask why shy couldn't use her iTunes allowance to buy games. I don't think she really knows about my letters to my MP and my other correspondence with Apple on this issue; this was purely her doing to try an get an answer from Apple. She was pretty disappointed when she bought her iPod touch with her own money specifically to play games on it and then couldn't buy any games with her account.

Yesterday she got a response back and showed it to me. Here it is:

Incredible. It's all so obvious now! Because "you may only purchase software, games and applications using a credit card". Well, that clears it all up then. You can't use store credit or a gift card because you can only use a credit card! What an awesome answer to give to an 11 year old kid. She was happy to get a response back but annoyed that her question was ignored. I'm doubtful it was even read. "Brian" from Apple didn't even sign the letter.

The one good thing that I'm pleased about is that my daughter has learned that it's good ask questions when things don't make sense and to not be afraid to challenge a big company on their policies and a situation that she's unhappy with. Sure, the response was completely unsatisfactory, but to me the important thing is that she's thinking for herself and taking some action to at least try and get an answer. That's a positive outcome and an outlook that will serve her well in the future.

Apple iTunes gift cards vs. Canadians - a footnote

Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 17:22
This is probably my final update on this topic.

I finally got the promised refund from Apple iTunes Store. It's nice that they came through. I now have the money back from my daughter's account and she did use one of her free music downloads to pick up a song that we are learning to play on guitar.

Unfortunately, there's still no real solution for Canadians who want to give gift cards or iTunes Allowances for others to use for games or apps. It's still music-only and Apple has no explanation for this. I'm pretty much out of ideas for inquiring why this limitation exists. I've satisfied myself that the original reason of "Canadian commerce law" is invalid according to both the Canadian government and Apple, but there is no other reason forthcoming from Apple other than it's policy.

The solution I settled on was to discontinue using my child's account on her iPod Touch and sign her in using my iTunes account. She knows to ask before purchasing an app that gets charged to my credit card and I trust her. This has the added benefit that we can share games on both her iPod and my iPhone. Obviously, this isn't a good solution for friends/relatives who would like to simply give a gift of games to someone.

I'd still like to see this whole situation resolved for Canadians, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ahhh... Tax Time - Time for another knee in my package

Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 12:14
Well, it's officially tax time now and paying taxes is still just as much fun as a "knee in the package"!

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