Saturday, April 06, 2019

Summer tires and summer fuel

Swapped over to a set of 215/45R17 Continental ExtremeContact Sports on the MX5 and I can't believe what a difference it makes. The rear end feels far more planted, and the steering response is far sharper. Being this is the first time I'm properly driving on summer tires, ever, its a very welcome surprise.

The amount of grip imparted gives me even more confidence in the high speed corners, and I'm really looking forward to pushing these at the next autocross.  I choose these tires as they appeared to be a good blend between dry/wet performance and their price wasn't too obnoxious. I've driven about 300km with them so far, with most of the mileage clocked up was on boring highways. They do feel much better than the winters on acceleration and braking, and I'm surprised how much more lively the car feels with them.

Now in the twisty corners is where these tires shine. I can take most twisty corners at the speed limit when regular cars have to brake (bad comparison, honestly. roadster vs econobox) and I can feel them really latch on to the road. I could do that in my winters (WinterContact SI) for sure, but I could hear the winters squeal when I push them too hard, and it just doesn't feel as confidence inspiring.

Ride quality wise, I honestly find it tough to say how much better it is compared to the winters. It takes the usual speedbumps I take _perhaps_ a little firmer, but that could be because my winters are on a 16 inch rim versus the summers on a 17 inch.

One final reason why I spent so much cash on new tires is unsprung weight. The Michelin AS3 (no plus) tires that came with the car are supposed to be really good, but they are about four pounds heavier per corner compared to the Conti ECSs. That adds up to a fair bit of unsprung weight on for a lightweight roadster, and they're run flats so... yeah no. Regular tires please. Plus the threads on the ECS looks far more boss XD

Originally, I wanted to get some Dunlop Direzza ZIIIs as they look frakking cool, basically a semi-slick. Unfortunately, they're not commonly available in Canada, and I am not so hardcore as to pick up a set at Point Roberts.

Plus, I've read that these top performance tires are not really good for a newbie autocrosser; their performance can mask the driving errors on the circuit. I've decided that in the off chance that I really get into autocrossing, I'm going to buy some really lightweight wheels (Enkei PF01SS 17x9 perhaps) and RE71s just for that.

Next up, summer fuel prices! I did not know about this an it is absolute bollocks. I used to fill up 91 octane about 1.50/l, but my last top up was 1.73/l, and I've seen some posts online with 91 octane now over 1.80/l! OUCH!

While I'm thankful I don't drive everyday, the amount I drive on weekends probably exceeds most people on the weekday commute lol.

Finally, I had the chance to go on a ride in a Lotus Elise last week. It's a very interesting car for sure! For a start, it's much smaller than I thought, and the passenger seat is actually much more spacious than my NC MX5. I can actually stretch out in the passenger seat of the Elise, while in my MX5, the passenger's footwell is narrow and does not allow me to stretch my legs out. It also has a transmission bump that extends into the passenger footwell! On the flip side, to get a narrow car, the elise is tight. Really tight. The driver and I were shoulder to shoulder in the cabin, and getting into the cabin is far more tedious than I thought it would be.

I was also surprised to be told that the windshield frame is fiberglass, and it could be damaged if I used it as a support for getting in and out of the car. Shocking!

On the road though, the car grips like nobody's business, and that was on Nokian R3 winter tires. I wonder what it'd be like on high performance summer tires. It takes high speed corners very flat, and I felt like it could easily push way above the speed limits if desired. The engine is behind and I honestly didn't think I liked the sound of it that much. It's fun to hear it rev out to nearly 8k rpm but if it's for a long drive I think I would tire of it rapidly. The ride is not as punishing as I thought it would be, but I swapped over to my mx5 after the Elise and immediately I felt like I was in a luxury car lol.

It's not a cheap car either, looking on autotrader, for a used model, it's almost three times what I paid for my mx5. But it is an exotic, and one of the most affordable cars on the road. It's guaranteed to turn heads no matter where you go.

Initially, when I got in the car... I was like... damn, I really should have said fuck it to my bank account and got an Elise for the hell of it. It's a really nice car. But after having sat in it, just the effort and care need to get in... it's one of the cases of "Don't meet your heroes". It takes a hardcore car enthusiast to own one of these, and I'm definitely not an car enthusiast, nor am I a "car guy".

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Short weekend jaunt to Alice Lake and Alexander Falls

I'm having mandatory 6 day work weeks now, so I'm curtailing my longer distance explorations for the time being. This weekend I just drove up to Alice Lake for a short hike. It was a brilliant day, with pretty high temperatures that are more suitable for summer tires. I'm still on my winters till the end of the month, just in case.

The hike around Alice Lake took just over 2 hours, then I headed over for lunch near the Eagle Run Viewing Shelter. In the proper season, eagles can be seen roosting on the trees across the river. None were there, but lunch at the Watershed Grill was pretty good, especially with the views.

After, I visited Alexander Falls. The area around the falls were still frozen, so much so I was wondering if I was in the right area. But no, the maps said I was right where I was supposed to be... it's just that the path to the falls was snowed in. About 10 feet high.

I'm a bit surprised this area was not closed as everything was packed under the snowfall. If you look closely at one of the photos, you'll see how high the snow had covered the outdoor toilet!

Brilliant day out, and I can't wait for summer to properly arrive!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Putting on weight

I've added a few accessories to my MX5 - some seat covers and mudflaps.

 Above: Original Seats
 Above: Eurosport Seat Covers

First, Eurosport Seat Covers from Moss Miata. Given that it's a convertible and exposed to the elements, the covers should keep the original seats in great condition. Installation was a snap, the back seat/headrest is one piece, and slides over easily, and a velcro strip mates the front and rear cloth pieces.

The base cover is connected using two straps under the seat. There are also side flaps that seem to be for the side air bags, but the flaps appear to open to the rear (???). I'm curious how it'll actually work when they really need to deploy lol.

In use, the seat covers do change the feel of the stock cloth seats a little bit, they feel much firmer. They also give the impression that the seats are much sturdier than they are previously, and the knowledge that any wear is going to be on them, not the original seat makes it so much easier to slide into the seat instead of doing the wiggle dance.

Next up, mudflaps!

Given that I'm going to be travelling in areas where the "roads" are basically a gravel path, I thought it would be prudent to get some mudflaps to reduce the effects of rock chips on the paint. The next step will be to apply some transparent vinyl to the rocker panels, front quarter panel and perhaps part of the door.

Previously on the trip up to Lillooet and Cache creek, the kickup patterns are pretty obvious. The mudflaps should reduce this by a great amount.

Can't wait for summer!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Weekend drive to Keremeos

I was waffling about posting here as the trip wasn't very exciting per say, but decided, why not, it's a good way to remember some travels around BC :)

Originally, I wanted to do a drive north to Penticton then loop back via Keremeos, but I had a dinner meetup in the evening and that would take far too long. I decided just a drive to Keremeos and back would suffice :)

I started with a breakfast stop in Abbotsford, then a refueling stop in Hope. I also stocked up on some drinks and food items in case thing went awry. I then drove to Keremeos.

There were several towns of interest that I have to revisit come the summer; Hedley is a tiny township that has a gold mine, and in Princeton I drove past what seemed like a milkshake place.

The roads were pretty clear, not too much traffic, but there several times I drove over patches of ice where I could feel the car travel sideways. Slightly disconcerting but I was white knuckled the first time it happened!

Now, you might ask, why Keremeos? It's a tiny village filled with vineyards and fruit markets. Well, it was just to visit an old shop that used to service Mazdas back in the day, Eunos Automotive.

They used to operate out of North Vancouver, but moved to Keremeos awhile back. I thought it'd be cool to visit their new location just for fun.

I didn't dawdle too long, I had a few snaps, the grabbed lunch nearby at K Mountain Diner.  Just a quick sandwich lunch. One thing about the food outside of Vancouver, is how fresh it is!

With that done, I turned around and headed back for Vancouver. I stopped at Princeton to refuel, as they were the only place I could find with ethenol-free fuel. And yet another stop at Hope for a refuel and bathroom break.

The last leg of the trip I avoided the highway and took the backroads back to coquitlam for a quick diy carwash before heading back to Vancouver.

Overall, yet another brilliant drive. The scenery both ways were amazing, and difficult to share via dashcam footage.

Sadly, work has now started doing mandatory 6 day work weeks, so I only have Sunday left to do any roadtrips. Still, there's lots to explore here and there's the entirety of Washington just two hours south. Till the next post!

Monday, March 04, 2019

First autocross!

A quick short blog as I'm pretty exhausted. Woke up just before 6 for the drive to the airfield, froze my ass off in the middle of the airfield, but what a day.
Unfortunately, not much photos as I was trying to keep up with everything. I arrived just after the gates to the airfield opened, found a parking spot and removed everything from my car and dumped it into a rubbermaid container I bought the day before.

Next, is "tech", where I had my car inspected. Pedals and battery were checked, as were the emptiness of the boot, and tires. Soon after, there was a driver's meeting, and being the first time doing autocross, had a novice meeting. Novices could have experienced drivers tag along for feedback and guidance.

The runs are very short; my first run took 56 seconds. There were three runs, then I parked the car, and went to do track duties. What makes autocross an affordable motorsport is the participation by the drivers when we're not driving - most will be hanging around certain parts of the track (see the numbers in the photo above) to radio back to control if any drivers hit a cone (a time penalty), or goes off the track (Did Not Finish - DNF). They also have to replace any cones hit. They're other duties as well and I'm not certain of what the lot are, so do google it if you're keen!

Once that's done, I have time off while waiting for my next run; it was noon by this time and I drove to a nearby strip mall to get some grub.

Once back, I watched the other cars go around the track, and ops it was soon my turn.

We had five more runs in total, and after that I once again did my track duties. And that was it! Some folks would stay to pack up the track but for most of us who have did our runs and duties, that was it and I left. Got the car cleaned up at a self-serve car wash, then headed home :)

Overall it's really fun. I get to test the maximum potential of my driving "skills" and my car in a safe environment. The flip side is the actual time on the track. In total, I drove for less than 8 minutes for the 7 hours I was there. I do wish I could get more runs in but oh well.

I actually got a gps and RaceChrono to capture my runs, however the gopro decided to die after an hour in the cold (~2c) recording barely 2 minutes of footage. My runs were very, very bad, so I'm not going to bother posting them. I was overdriving the car, and only got better at it in the afternoon runs.

Pretty sure I'm gonna become a regular here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Winter drive up to Lillooet and Cache Creek

I had a brilliant drive over the weekend. Starting from Vancouver, I headed up the Sea To Sky Highway, stopping over at Galileo Coffee Company for a quick rest.
My next stop would be at the Chevron just past Whistler. The roads were piled high with snow on the sides, but the roads themselves were perfectly clear.
Originally, I wanted to head up to Pemberton for lunch, but I was not feeling hungry, and decided to push on to Lillooet. On the way up, I searched for a rest stop to take some photos of the car. There weren't any, but there was a wide open area that I went past the last time that worked just as well.

Duffey Lake Road had very few vehicles on either way. While the roads were clear, they weren't as clean as the roads I travelled on earlier, and the sides of the car took a nice coating of the mud and snow. Now that I know what slush and dirt does to the car, I will be adding some modifications and wraps to deal with that.

Once I hit Lillooet, I had a quick lunch at an A&W, then pushed on to Cache Creek. It was already pretty late, so I didn't dawdle as I didn't want to stay out too late after dark in my tiny roadster. It was dark by the time I reached Hope and refueled at another Chevron - the 94 Octane has no ethanol added, and I _think_ it helps with the fuel economy - I was always keeping the engine in it's power band for hillclimbs, and I still got close to 9/100km for this entire trip, with certain legs averaging 8.13l/100km!!!

At the very end, I went to a car wash to clean the car off, and I detailed it by hand myself on Monday. I had lots of fun in the corners, and saw too many beautiful sights that I wish I could share with you. But all I can offer is the forward view from my dashcam. Can't wait to go on another drive :) 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Pitt Lake and Cultus Lake

 Cultus Lake, BC

Pitt Lake

Going for another run tomorrow and will have to go for a nice car wash after :)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Finally getting good fuel economy :)

8.84l/100km (26.61mpg)! Doing good, doing good! In fact, the mileage should be better as the tires I have on the car are roughly 3% taller than stock.

I did a fair amount of road tripping today; travelled from Vancouver all the way up to Squamish, then decided to do Paradise Valley Road. The road changes from paved to gravel, and I turned around. On the way back though, I found myself a bit confused with the road markings, and went up Squamish Valley Road. It was a brilliant drive along snow covered roadsides, and I shared the road with some locals on horses. Once again, I stopped when the paved road ended* and the gravel trail began.

I called it quits then as I was hungry, so high-tailed it back to a petrol station then went home. While I did flog the engine, it was just to get up to speed on the highway, or when overtaking. If not, I kept the rpms between 2k and 3k, and it felt really good on the road. The sea to sky has a a good balance of hillclimbs and downhill, and it was so much fun rev matching to engine brake downhill.

Miata, you are too much fun :)

* this actually marked the start of Squamish River Forest Service Road

Sunday, February 17, 2019

New Winter Tires and an alignment!

This week I got a set of winter tires for the miata. After much research, I decided to go with Continental Wintercontact SIs for my shoes. Even though I had  a budget set aside for tires.. I've totally blown it as I forgot to include the price of the rims. On top of that, the tire shop charges a fee for installation and balancing, another set of lug nuts and hub centric rings. And there's also a tire disposal fee collected by the provincial government. Ah..... Still, I do want to run my car in winter, so there's that. 

The new tires are much quieter than the Pilot Sport AS3, but I kind of miss the road whine that the AS3s had - they gave me the impression of a supercharger lol. That whine is now gone, and its not missed - the ride is now a bit more refined. The rims, Core Racing 16x6.5 Impulses, were basically the cheapest rims that were of similar weight to the stock alloys. Thinking about it now, these rims are really quite heavy - the stock 17in alloys are about 17 pounds; these 16 inch rims come in at 18 pounds (supposedly - that's what Kal Tire told me, I could not find specs on the web). The WinterContact SI tires are definitely lighter than the AS3s - they're not runflats, and are 205/55R16 vs 225/45R17 for the AS3.

One other thing, the black rim/tire against the white/red car felt like black pools of dense gravity. I felt there needed to be some kind of colour to make the tire pop, so I got a red tire paint pen and picked out some of the text. To clean the tire, I scrubbed it with some steel wool and cleaned the surface with some waterless spray cleaner. After painting the letters, I let it set overnight, then covered it with 303 Aerospace Protectant. It's only day 2, so I'll see how long this lasts! 


Earlier today though, I took it to Aria Auto Services to get some scheduled maintenance done. Did the suggestions in the owner's manual: Engine oil, oil filter, transmission fluid, differential fluid. The power steering fluid was grimy, and the brake fluid had 1% worth of water, so both were changed as well. For the brake fluid, I got some fancy ATE 200 brake fluid that has a higher boiling point as I intend to autocross my miata later this year. It's unlikely my brakes will overheat as a newbie, but I do want to take the best care of my car.

Most of the fluids were replaced with Motul oils, but the transmission fluid I requested for Ford Motorcraft XT-M5-QS. I'm very, very surprised by how good the shifter feels now, I thought it was already pretty solid, but the Ford fluid almost removed the shifter's snickety-snick feel, and shifting into 2nd is oh so smooth now.

After the fluids were done, the guys at the shop then did an alignment of the wheels to bring it back to stock. I can't say the alignment was uber awesome or anything - I drive pretty conservatively in the city and it is unlikely an alignment would be felt. Even so, I wanted to be sure the angles were all in the ballpark.

All in all, the changes to the fluid have miraculously improved my fuel mileage - I didn't see much of a change with the new tires, but the new fluids have bumped my winter fuel mileage to about 12l/100km. I'll be running up the Sea To Sky tomorrow, and I'll see what that brings, but when summer comes around, I think I'll be selling those AS3 tires for some Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires* :)

Zoom zoom!

* In the running: General Tires G-Max RS

Sunday, February 10, 2019

One week with the MX5

So... I'm a proud owner of a new-to-me 2013 NC MX5 Miata :) 6 speed manual transmission with a retractable hard top, and it's the "GS" trim, which comes equipped with bilstein shocks and lsd. The previous owner also did some mods to it, like hid headlights (gonna remove 'em when one of them blows) and the rx8 wiper swap. It also came with Michelin Pilot Sport AS3 tires. These are much wider than stock 205 tires, and run flats at that. I'm haven't yet figured out how heavy these are compared to the stock tires. I'm reading really good reviews for them, but if they're killing my fuel economy they will have to go. Let's start with that.

Fuel Economy
Oh my god it's bad. I always though the stated average of 24mpg ~ 9.8l/100km was reasonable for a convertible, but I'm getting horrendous fuel economy, at 16.6l/100km (14.2mpg). Oh my god. I think it's a combination of winter, bigger heavier tires and my inexperience at driving a manual transmission, and the tendency to rev the engine out. Some forums have mentioned a stuck thermostat causing poor fuel economy, but I'll see how it goes when summer comes around. I also haven't checked the tire pressure, so I hope I figure this out soonish.

10th Feb 2019 - Drove it to Horseshoe Bay this morning, then looped around to the Spanish Banks. It started snowing then, and decided not to push on to a car meet. When I checked the fuel economy, it read 14.8l/100! Yes it's going down! Perhaps sitting for half a year at the dealership messed up the reading. I'm also rapidly improving my clutch control, and figuring out better shift points, so that might have helped.

13th Feb 2019 - Finally got around to filling the tank for the first time! Woot! Cost me 46.65 CAD for 30.9L of 91 octane (OUCH). That was with the gas gauge at about 1/4 tank left. The mpg improved a fair bit as well, it's now at 13.6l/100km, about 17.3mpg. Getting better! I have a gut feeling the horrible economy is caused by crappy fuel used by the dealership.

16th Feb 2019 - Now that I have winter tires, I took the car over Aria Auto Services to get my some scheduled maintenance done. While it's still "early" in terms of mileage, the car is over 6 years old now, and I don't trust the dealership or the previous owner to have maintained it properly. I got the engine oil, oil filter, differential fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid (upgraded to ATE 200 :)) changed, and then got an alignment done. On the way back, the mpg readout quickly jumped to 12.xL/100km, and the best I got on the way back was 11.9l/100km (19.76mpg)!

Pretty sure that all the fluids haven't been maintained. I got Motul fluids but the transmission I requested for Ford XT-M5-QS. I'll detail these in another post.  This is in the cold of winter as well, and pretty much start-stop traffic, only a short stretch on the highway (2-3 minutes?). I'm pretty chuffed to see the improvement.

17th Feb 2019 - Doing 8.84l/100km or 26.61mpg :)

6 Speed Manual Transmission
It's great! Ok, so this is the 2nd manual car I've driven and it's definitely waaaay nicer than the Toyota Echo I learned on. In the week after I bought it, I've been practicing how to more gently take off from a stop, as well as figure out hill starts and parking in reverse... without a camera! All these, in the parking garage. I think the fruits of practice paid off, for today, I set off for my first journey, to buy a set of winter tires! Tires I wanted were out of stock, but I thought I handled the car well. I'm surprised at how many roads I've driven today had an uphill grade; when I used to drive an automatic I don't really care, the car just goes when the throttle goes down. Here, I have to pay so much attention to everything. Must say I've made a few mistakes like start in 2nd gear lol.

The convertible top
I'm 184cm, and the car feels just right for me with the top up. Not too closed in, and I still have headspace. The seating position is really low; my eye line is just under the door handle of some vehicles. In addition, the windshield frame just perfectly blocks my vision of the lights if I'm the first vehicle. It's a bit annoying as I have to crane my head under to make sure I can see the green light in time.

The blind spots with the top up are also pretty bad. With properly adjusted mirrors it's livable - unlike regular passenger cars where I can check the blindspots without my shoulder blades leaving the seat, I need to turn my upper body a bit more to properly check them.

Now, with the top down, the situation is greatly improved, but still not perfect. When I check to my left it's great as there's nothing in the way. No B pillar, nada :P Checking the right though, the passenger roll hoops do obscure my vision a bit. Pretty sure it would hide a Caterham there!

Backing up is also not ideal. Unlike a regular passenger car where you'd look downwards out your rear window, I'm sitting really low in  the Miata, and even with my height I'm really, at best, just looking over the boot. It gets really sketchy when I'm reversing up hill and I have to do a reverse hillstart lol!

Even though it's winter here in Vancouver, I've seen and read so many other Miata drivers who drive top down with the car, and it does it really well. With the top down, windows up and the heater on, it's surprisingly comfortable. The heater generates a surprising amount of heat, and the vents can be aimed at my hands where it seems to get cold first.

Apart from that, thanks to my height, my hair goes awry in the wind. But, I bought a golf visor and that worked out great. The visor keeps the sun out of the way, and I can still feel the breeze without looking like a Pantene commercial gone wrong.

One final thing, fuel economy isn't as good with the top down, so I read. So perhaps I should drive more top up if I want to improve my fuel economy lol.

I wish I can tell you this car drives on a knife edge and takes corners exceeding 2Gs, but hey, I've only been driving on my own for barely 4 months, and it's mostly city driving. In addition, I don't really have any other cars to compare it against. What I can say is, on the highway I need to give a tiny bit more steering input than say, Mazda 3/Prius/Honda Fit. Just a bit. In terms of the steering feel, it's great. It's not like a prius or honda fit where it's pretty light, it's a good sort of heavy that's not tiring. It's in between say a Scion FR-S (feels really heavy, and I could feel it after I returned the car!) and Mazda 3 (It's been a while since I drove a 3, but I remember it having a good weight as well).

I guess I might as well slot in a mention to some upgraded components on the GS trim - namely the torsen lsd and bilstein shocks. I don't really care about the shocks, as I would probably upgrade them once I get to grips with the car. The lsd though, sounds great in theory - it splits torque, so both wheels get drive. Unless one of the wheels lift, then it acts as an open diff, or so I understand.

And so that we're on the same page, this car has a FR layout - front engine, rear wheel drive.

The ride is surprisingly comfortable. I thought the more sporty suspension would be harsh, but I found it otherwise. The damping appears to match the way I take bumps, and it goes over it without the car feeling underdamped. Under heavy braking there's a fair bit of dive, so I've learnt to modulate the brakes and keep a greater follow distance.

Sidetrack - tires
As mentioned above, the car came with 225/45R17 Michelin Pilot Sport AS3 tires. While I won't comment on the handling as I have nothing to compare against, I was very surprised that this tire did not come with a M+S or snowflake symbol as I've seen videos of people driving in snow, and the marketing for their newer AS3+ goes on about better snow performance.

The M+S or Snowflake is required between October and March in BC when travelling further into the province. I'll definitely be getting some winter shoes for my mx5 so I can head up the Sea To Sky Highway for some sightseeing :)

Update 12th Feb 2019
About -1 degrees C outside, wanted to do my first ever refueling run. And since I still have the Pilot Sport AS3, I thought it would be good to see how the tires performed in Vancouver's "snowmageddon".  Outside my apartment complex, is a somewhat steep upward slope. With momentum, I managed to get up the slope but... there is a stop sign... on an incline. And with that, I could not get any more forward traction XD Thankfully, the tires are good enough to hold the car on the slope with no problems, but trying my usual hill starts... nope. Can't do it. The tires would spin and my tail wobbled and started to drift into the curb. Uh oh. Thankfully there were no cars behind me, and I just reversed back into the parking garage. Bleh. Can't wait to get my winters.

Update 13th Feb 2019
We had a clear blue day in Vancouver, and most of the slush had cleared off. I took off the same uphill tonight with zero problems even thought it was cold and wet. Upon entering North Vancouver though, I had to drive through several uncleared lanes and parking lots. I had my reservations, but as I was on a one-way street I had no choice but to soldier on. The AS3s did perfectly fine going over the white snow, I even had to start on a gentle incline. While it felt a bit squirmy on the rear, it never felt like it was going to fishtail. I do these these tires are pretty solid for most conditions, except for the one important one in Vancouver: cold icy slush.

The cabin is quite rumbly with the top up, I have no idea why. Probably, to keep the car light, there's not as much insulation. Could be my tires as well. I only really notice this when I'm driving on the highway - most of the time, I'm too focused on the road and shifting.

With the top down, it's louder - especially when driving besides trucks and semis, but the rumbly experience is gone. And what's better, I can hear the very distinct *snick* of the shifter. It is so very satisfying to hear to it shift, it's pretty much worth it to drive with the top down on a cold day.

The GS trim comes with cloth seats. Which is exactly what I want, as I don't want to deal with leather. Bleh. The leather seats in the GT trim does come with heated seats, something folks in colder weather conditions might like to have.

Out of the few brands of cars I've drive, I found I fit Mazda seats the best. The Mazda 3's seats are great, and the MX5's are great too, but while the former is very easy to get in, the MX5 I have to almost fall into the seat as it's that low.

There are only manual adjustments, which is great - weight savings!

Now, the passenger side looks to have similar seats, but there's significantly less legroom. I haven't gone on long trips, but the space on the driver side is good. The passenger side though... I feel a bit... tight. Can't stretch out the legs.

It's a tiny car. The glove box is reasonably sized, and there are 4 cup holders, one on each door, and two in the center armrest. There's also a storage bay between the seats, but it's pretty small, and awkwardly sized, no idea what I'm going to use it for at the moment.

The boot is tiny for sure. For me though, I'm using it to haul roadside supplies - a tire plug kit, a screwdriver, a portable jump start battery. The right corner of the boot also has the tire jack. I planning to go on long road trips with this car, so I think I might need to get a spare, some emergency triangles, a first aid kid, fire extinguisher etc etc.

Unlike the soft top mx5, there are no storage behind the seats - that's taken up by the hard top.

It's a tiny car. Last I checked, the MX5's wheelbase is smaller than a Mazda 2, and that car's pretty compact. Every time I see my Miata parked in the stalls, I find it hilarious that there's so much space around it.

On the road, I can leave more space on the right when passing cyclists. I haven't yet encountered any issues, but it is a small car. Not as small as a Fortwo or kei car for sure, but it's more or less a step up from a motorcycle. Add to the fact that it's so low, bigger vehicles might not see it in their blindspot.

I'm always keeping an eye on large SUVs that don't always keep to their lanes in turns, and I try to use my speed (ha!) to get ahead of semis.

There's cruise control and an aux jack. I can play CDs if I didn't use one of those cd player handphone mounts. It doesn't even have those beeping backup sensors lol. This is why I'm attracted to the car, there are a few safety features, like side and front airbags, and the car is designed to more modern crash standards. Keeping it simple.

A backup camera would be nice, but I'm a bit too lazy to wire one up. And where would I put the display? I see some folks replace the stock headunit with a high-tech pioneer double din. But yeah. Laaaazy.

The speakers in the GS are nothing to write home about. There is a distinct lack of bass, but the mids and highs are alright. I like to play music while detailing my car, and the kicks just don't have the same impact, but eh. My car is for driving.

Side note: I use a smartphone with google maps to navigate areas I'm not familiar with. The dashboard is curvy and most of it has a pebbled texture, so it's difficult to use a phone suction mount. There are some suction mounts with "gel" pads but these seem like more of a semi-permanent solution and I don't want to mar the finish of the plastic. I ended up getting a cd mount, and it worked quite well.

Why the 2013 MX5
Primarily, it boils down to budget, running costs/maintenance and safety.

Budget wise, I'd love to get a newer car. The ND Miata or Fiat 124 would be great. While used prices for 2016 models are still quite high, it's doable. But the problem is, insurance. My ICBC insurance is crazy high as a new driver, and I only count as having one year of driving experience, so only 5% off my insurance. The ND or 124 would be far to expensive to justify as I don't daily drive. There's also the fact that I'm a new driver, and this will be my first car. I could afford a newer ND or 124... but if I damage it... ouch!

Running costs and maintenance wise, the ND is the obvious winner. The car's newer, smaller, lighter, and the new engine has crazy good fuel economy. I'm slightly regretful of that. The NC is pretty old and has been in production for a decade. But, because of this, the later model years have had the bugs worked out and in general, it seems like a very solid car with excellent reliability.

As much as I'd love to own a NA or NB Miata, they are over a decade old, with some of them about 30 years old. Rust can be an issue with these cars. If I had my own garage, I might've gone with the NA, because, popup headlights.

But I live in an apartment with a parking spot, so I can do little more than clean my car :-/

The safety aspect is also important. Newer cars have more safety features, and while I think the newer ND's safety features are slightly over the top, I think the NCs are just perfect. I would really like to have a parking camera, but I'll deal with that when I really need it. For now, I think the NC is great for what it is.

I'm looking forward to summer!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Looks like I'm getting a Miata...

Long story short, my car sharing jaunts have been somewhat costly, and buying a car would probably be cheaper. This would be true if I bought a nice used car (Mazda 2 mmmmm) but I really wanted something that's:
  • Convertible
  • FR or MR Layout
  • Small and lightweight
  • Ideally with a lsd as an option
That's pretty easy, let's narrow down some brands I can think off the top of my head and if they're in the running:
  • Mercedes - I know they do some convertibles but I honestly don't know what they are. I also don't happen to be mr moneybags, so, nope.
  • BMW - Z3, Z4. Concerned about cost of maintenance, and those within my budget are long in tooth. i8 roadster looks amazeballs, but even if I earned big bucks, that's a bit too flashy (and big) for my tastes.
  • Porsche - Targa 4S is cool! Used ones are just slightly above my budget but I have concerns about maintenance costs. Also, not rich.
  • Honda - Del Sol is out, FWD - if not it looks really cute and awesome with the Integra-ish front. S2000 is no longer in production, unmodified ones are very expensive here - you can almost buy a brand new ND for some of the good AP2s.
  • Mazda - MX5 of course, in budget, very lightweight, small. Japanese reliability. Strong community. There were also a few convertible RX7s when I wrote this post in my area, but they're really old, and I don't want to deal with worn apex seals.
  • Toyota - I'm honestly very dissapointed with Toyota... Minor rant: I don't consider the new 86 a toyota. Neither the new Supra. They've seem to have forgotten the amazing history they've got in the past..... They appear to have given up on the sports car market and I have lost interest in them. The Solara is fwd, which means nope.
  • Subaru - I accidentally listed them here because, the wrx is an icon. I don't remember them having any convertibles lol.
  • Mitsubishi - OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU WHY ARE YOU MAKING ONLY SUVS BRING BACK THE GLORY DAYS OF RALLYING! Their Eclipse is unfortunately FWD. Not a fan of the styling either.
  • Nissan - their Z is really the only choice but I'm not a fan of their styling. And it's quite heavy.
  • Hawk Cars - One day, if I have a garage, they'll be in the running
  • Lotus - Elise? I'm not that hardcore. Neither can I afford one lol.
  • Factory Five - Like the other kit cars... one day, if I have a garage.
  • Caterham - there's actually one for sale in my area when I wrote this... this car is a few steps above the Elise in terms of hardcore level, so a definite nooope for me :P
  • Koenigsegg - I'm trolling you readers at this point.
  • I'm excluding US cars from the list, as apart from a few iconic cars e.g. Trans Am, Viper, Corvette, Mustang etc etc I'm not that familiar with 'em.
So it seems like the Mazda MX5s are the main choice. That's great, early generation MX5s are tiny and very affordable.  But I want to balance a few things
  • Budget
  • Age of car
  • Safety
  • Cost of Insurance
  • Running costs
  • Maintenance Costs
I'm going to skip the budgetary discussion - I'll just say I can afford a used NC mx5. The ND, while I am certain I can qualify for a loan, I can't justify the depreciation. In addition, I don't commute, else the ND would jump to the top of the list as it has amazing fuel efficiency. Another reason why I'm less keen on the ND is the styling. It's quite a looker, and I want something more low-key. Honestly if I wanted something on the ND platform, I'd prefer the looks of a Fiat 124 Spider.

So, between the NA, NB and NC, I had a hard time choosing, but first - can I fit in the car? The NB is purportedly the tightest of the three, so probably not that. Now the NA looks amazing and popup headlights for the win! However, the NA is also very old, with the newest ones produced in 1997? That means all the NAs on the road are over two decades old, with some reaching three decades old.

I don't want to deal with a classic car, so that kinda leaves the NC. It basically ticks all the boxes: I can afford/justify it. The age of the car isn't horrendous (I was looking primarily at vehicles under 10 years old), insurance for the NC is a fair jump from the NA, but doable. Running costs appear to be reasonable. Oil changes and tires aren't super expensive. The fuel mileage I actually consider it to be quite poor, but I'm not driving it everyday, and I'm comparing it to the ND with it's modern fuel efficient engine as well as the econoboxes I rent. So it's fine.

Maintenance wise, it seems like it's a really well sorted car. There are some issues to be wary of, for example, the coolant tank appears to wear out in about a decade, and can lead to catastrophic engine failure. Thankfully it's not too expensive to swap in a new one, and there are aftermarket metal tanks.

There are 3 versions of the NC, they run from 2006-08, 2009-2012, and 2013-2015. I'm not fond of the so-called NC2, that ran from 2009-2012 - they had a front grill trimmed in silver. Urgh. I'd buy the car if it was right, and get some plastidip to paint over that trim. The original one, has what I consider a very classic look. While the final revision, dubbed NC3, had a more aggressive fascia. I choose the 2013 primarily as the trim with the lsd has a very nice front lip.

I've driven a two NCs now, and I found that I fit. Just. I have 2-3 inches of space above my head with the top up, hopefully that would be sufficient space for a helmet when I go autocrossing. The shifter. Wow. Well I've only driven a Toyota Echo before this, but the shifter's response is awesome. Snick snick snick. And the clutch is very easy to engage. The seat was also great. Of the few brands I've rented, Mazda seats, for some reason, fit me the best.

The throttle though, threw me off. The first NC I drove in a suburban area and the owner had no insurance on it, so I took it super easy, only first gear. Eh. However, a few days ago I took a test drive with a 2013 NC and visited the highways. Oh my goodness this car has some punch! (I'm pretty sure all you experienced drivers are laughing right now :P) Thankfully after a few minutes I got the hang of it and drove it without revving the engine uber high. It felt like it had alot of power just waiting in the wings to be unleashed.

The car I drove had a power retractable hard top, PRHT in miata-speak, and with the top up the cabin it felt snug. There were no problems chatting with the salesperson. The blindspots in the NC3 with the top up are pretty bad. Say the Mazda 2/3s or Fits I tend to rent, I could turn my head left to check the blindspots while keeping my shoulder blades against the seat. Not in the MX5, I really had to lead over to make sure things are clear on the left, and the right side is basically one big blindspot.

Even so, I made the test drive with little issues. When I got the car back though, I went through a checklist of things to check out, one of which was of course the top. Pressing a button and watching the sky open up above you is just... wow.  And with the top down, blind spots are a thing of the past.  Visibility is amazing, as is the open air experience. Sadly, I did not get a chance to drive with the top down, but that will change shortly :)

Not sure what else to say. I'll be taking this car for a pre purchase inspection soon. Can't wait to see the chassis bracing and aluminum arms once it's on a lift :) If all goes well, I'll be a proud owner of a used MX5 soon.

I do hope to purchase a new MX5 next, as I think that Mazda is one of the few manufacturers who still cater to people who care about driving, and I will vote with my money.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Buying a car in Vancouver

Blargh. Did you know in British Columbia, you'd have to pay 12% tax (5% GST + 7% PST)? I found that out a few days ago and it's been a bummer :-/ Factoring in the high ICBC insurance for a new driver - I was quoted 3.2k++ for one year's pleasure insurance (i.e. not a daily driver), and I also have to pay for monthly parking. Add all the maintenance costs, and petrol for the car... Gah! It adds up for something that is not a necessity in my life.

Last month though, I took my carshares over 1400km, and the bill is not pretty lol. I thought it'd be nice to have a car to take _really_ long distances, as well as to go autocross with. I'd budgeted enough to pull the trigger on some pre-2005 NA/NB Miatas, but then came across this 12% pst and that totally blew through what I'd budgeted >.>

That said... I've been considering what I want to use a car for:

- Travel around BC, Northern USA (Primary use)
- Autocross (Not a priority, nice to have)

And I definitely want a Miata as my first car, so I am now considering getting a 2006/2007 model, the NC.

Reasons to get a NC:
- Newer vehicle, with more modern safety design
- 11, 12 years old vs some NAs that are over 25 years old
- Largest Miata, should fit my fat butt
- Modern amenities

Reasons not to get an NC:
- Price
- Lack of pop-up headlights
- Purist think it's not a real miata - like I care

Going to check out some NCs at a dealership tomorrow, then I'll have to decide how that will slow down my retirement plans. The easy way out, is to do overtime. Sadly I haven't been doing much as I've been finishing work ahead of schedule >.>

Friday, October 19, 2018

Duffey Lake Road

Last weekend, I traveled 522km from Vancouver up to Lillooet and back just to drive along Duffey Lake Road. It was a brilliant day out, and I made several stops, one at Squamish for a short rest break, and then I had lunch at Grimm's Deli in Pemberton. From there, it was just under two hours to get to Lillooet along Duffey Lake Road. I then retraced my way back, but I only stopped at Squamish for dinner, as the drive took far longer than expected, and was almost dark by the time I returned to Pemberton.

This road winds through the mountains and it used to be the old way to get to the interior of BC but now its superseded by the coquihala. As you can see in the video, not many vehicles travel this route. I rented out my favourite Mazda 3 for the day, and it did admirably all the way.

Once April comes around though, I'm going to do it again, but with the Scion FRS - between October and March only vehicles with winter/M+S tires are allowed up north, and the FRS only has sport tires. Whatever that means. I think it'd definitely carve up those mountain roads with impunity :3

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Dash cam observations

One of my favourite pastimes is watching dash cam videos. Primarily, I use it as a tool to observe situations and how I can learn from the mistakes of others and to avoid getting into those situations.

First, people are just too damned assertive of their right of way. If someone wants to enter your lane, even if they are not in the right, just back off, let them in. I keep seeing people just speeding up to close the gap instead of just letting people in, and both vehicles get damaged. What's up with that? Is it worth your time and money just to be right? I don't get this.

Next, drive defensively! Oh my synthesizers, why do people drive so fast and also keep close to the cars ahead? Leave enough space in order to respond to the situation ahead! It also gives a much better view. I just don't get people.

That said, I'm one of those lucky few that don't need to commute to work and only drive for pleasure. Perhaps if I had to drive everyday, I would sing a different tune.

My experience so far in Vancouver has been very positive. Sure, I've encountered red light runners and idiots that don't turn correctly. But in general I feel that other drivers are pretty chill. I've also been reviewing my own footage, and I think that - based on the stripes on the road - that folks here in Vancouver don't drive as fast as footage I watch in the states down south.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Got a dashcam.. because.

I recently purchased a Vantrue N1 Pro dashcam. I thought it'd be good to have after watching all the bad Vancouver driver videos on youtube. Thus far, I must say I haven't met any crazy bad drivers - yes, I've driven through Richmond and Surrey - and if anything I thought most of the folk are pretty chill. Definitely have met some people with no regard for others, but just slowing down and letting 'em go ahead does the trick.

So far, I've been using it to improve my driving skills. For example, over the weekend, I entered a right turn lane over a solid line instead of the dotted lines closer to the intersection. Not going to make that mistake again!

The N1 pro is one of the "middle" of the pack cameras. It doesn't have the almighty super capacitor people rave about, and it only does 1080P. It doesn't have wifi, and it only captures the forward view. What I did like about it is the price, and contents of the package.

First, it comes stock with a suction mount. That's perfect for people like me who drive only carshares. Next, there's a 12V to USB mini cable for powering the camera. That cable also provides an additional usb port for charging, pretty neat. Also included is a micro usb cable. You can power the camera via mini usb through a port on the suction mount, or to the camera via micro usb. Interesting design choices, but eh.

In use, it's fine, I guess? It's my first dashcam*. It captures the going-ons in front of my ride very adequately. To be clear, it's not one of those "2k" cameras, and license plates and similarly small details are only visible up close when everything's not moving. The controls are not very intuitive, but once you've read the manual, it's clears it straight up.

One minor annoyance of this camera is the input for the mini usb faces to the driver's left, I wish it was on the right. If not, the camera works great for it's price. I could use the micro usb cable, which is exits on the right of the camera, but I won't subject a tiny microusb cable to the weight of the cable, and the mini usb is the one that has the 12V adaptor connected to it.

The packaging is probably my main gripe. It's too damned nice. I really dislike how "wanna be Apple" the packaging felt like. For gods sake, all I need is a a box with some protection, I don't need no fancy slide out paper sheath with quality printed manuals. And a separate box to hold the cables and mount. Slick, high quality bag of the camera. No seriously, I'm not sure how much the packaging adds to the price. It's really nice, and I'm just going to toss it in my storeroom till I sell the camera.

If there's one thing I hope the camera will be updated with is the exposure compensation. Right now you can only adjust it in gradations of one stop, that's pretty massive. I think having the option of half stops would really improve the blown out skies. Also, there's no memory card with it. I'm using a 32GB card with it at the moment and it fills up pretty rapidly; three minutes of footage runs about 345mb, so about 4hours-ish of footage. No biggie, as the camera has a loop mode that erases old footage when the card fills up.

I must say some days I wish I'd just blew more money and got a top of the line 2k camera. But I don't drive that much, and if I really wanted good driving footage, it would be better money spend getting a mount for my dslr.


*I originally bought a Viofo A119S, but it just stopped working like after fifteen minutes. Didn't want to deal with that so returned it andn got the N1 instead. The A119S does seem like a better camera though; high resolution, super capacitor. And the button layout made more sense. Packaging was not over the top. But yeah, failing after barely half an hour? Nah I'm good.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


I've got my N license in British Columbia a few weeks ago! This means I can drive alone in a car, but only with one passenger, and restrictions like no electronics usage etc. After two years, assuming I'm still alive and not maimed anyone, I can be upgraded to a full license and will be able to use a gps (yes!) and carry more people.

Now cars here in Canada are extremely cheap, from a Singaporean's perspective. A brand new Mazda 3 GT for example is about 25k. EXTREMELY CHEAP. That would probably cost like 3,4 times more back home.

Now, I'm one of those idiots that care about investing for retirement and personal finance. Can I afford a car? Easy. Can I justify it? No. So, I've opted instead to go with car shares. There's lots of car shares (and rental companies) here in Vancouver. I've barely over a year of experience, and some carshares need over 2 years of driving experience (e.g. Zipcar, Evo). The two that allow, as afar as I know is Modo and car2go.

Haven't driven much with car2go, mainly because it's a bit more expensive than Modo. Modo's about 2.50 for half an hour plus .30 a km, but car2go runs about 32 cents a minute, so even a ten minute jaunt costs a fair bit. It gets cheaper if you get one of the packages, e.g. an hour is 13 bucks, or 22 cents a minute. But Modo's five bucks an hour for their regular vehicle + 30c a km.

The key advantage of car2go is they're great for one-way trips. You don't need to return the vehicle to its start point, so long as it's parked at a proper parking space. I try my best to plan out one way trips because the smart car is good fun, but it rarely occurs.

Now the smart for two is a pretty solid vehicle. I love the throttle and brakes, and the car is so easy handle. A few things I thought might not be so good, especially going downhill, is that I need to crane my head down in order to see the traffic lights.  Visibility on the rear isn't the best either. Overall, it's a fun peppy car. Haven't taken it on the highway sadly, I'd be keen to see how it handles there.

Modo is Vancouver's big car share co-op, and the one I've been driving the last few weeks. I've driven a few cars and thought I'd put down some thoughts about them:

2016 Honda Fit (Blue)
Compact, throttle is a bit more responsive than I like. I'm sorry to say while I think this is a brilliant ride for the price, I thought it was a bit forgettable. It's.... a car.

2016 Honda Fit (Red)
I'm not sure what's with this particular Fit, but this car drives great! It had a "Eco" button that I don't remember seeing on the Blue one (edit: It's there, I checked recently). With that enabled, the car accelerates really nicely, but eco turned off, the car became really sensitive to throttle input. The fuel economy of this car appeared really bad though, I drove about 100km (downtown to Belcarra National Park, to New Westminster then back downtown) and that ate up nearly half a tank of gas (?!). Odd.

2016 Honda CR-V
I never liked SUVs, but I had to find out exactly why they're clogging up the road. This car feels damned planted on the road, and the steering feel is excellent. Eco mode is brilliant, makes for easy throttle control, and regular mode was a bit more touch but gives plenty of power to go uphill in New Westminster. It's wider, but I think the higher seating position allows me to better know where I am on the road. Lots of space inside, and lots of usb ports to share too, plus two 12v ports! I can see why people like 'em but I think I'm gonna stick to smaller cars like the Fit.

Fiat 500
I really want to like this car, and I will definitely rent it again, but it's the most twitchy car I've driven so far, it's rather scary when driving on a wet highway. The engine noise is also the loudest of all the cars I've tried. It's fun to hear the revs, but I soon got sick of it. The auto transmission also shifts around the 50km/h mark, which is annoying. The steering has zero feel, but it's super maneuverable.

I love the interior though, it's so kitsch! Unfortunately I don't like the rpm/kmph display, it's confusing with the RPM reading on the inner ring, and the kmph on the outer ring with a gear/cog motif that makes it difficult to read exactly how fast you're going.

Still, it's a very popular vehicle and I've not been able to rent it when I needed a car. There's also other variants that I want to try, like the 500C (convertible! oooooh) and the performance model, the Abarth. Not a big fan of the later - don't like the text emblazoned on the sides, and the interior is a boring single tone, not kitsch enough for my taste.

While this has 4 seats, there's no way anyone's going to be sitting in the back lol. Well, maybe if they're like, tiny. One great thing about this car, only two doors, brilliant. That way, you only need to buy one bazooka, point it to the right, and let it rip when you see a t-rex trying to get in. Don't reload when driving, that's unsafe.

Mazda 3 Sport
OMG this car rocks! It's got good enough power for hillclimbs and getting on the highways. Interior is boring and un-kitsch but super comfy. Throttle is... not super direct, I feel there's a slight lag but it's a good thing. I thought I could control it the easiest. Dashboard is boring and utilitarian.Two usb ports and a 12v socket in the center console.

Handling is pretty solid, I felt very confident on the highways or narrow roads. I've also got brand bias, as I'm a big fan of the MX5 and FD3S, both of which I've never ridden lol. #initiald

If I ever needed to buy a car, this is probably at the top of my list. The main problem: It has 4 doors, meaning 3 extra egress points for velociraptors to enter the vehicle. It's expensive to buy like, 3 mini guns as anti-velociraptor defense.

(2014?) Toyota Prius C
I think this car is brilliant for city driving in mostly flat area; it doesn't have the strongest engine and you can hear it whine when you're on-ramping a highway or climbing steep hills. And New Westminster has steep hills! Not the steepest in BC but yeah I can easily floor the throttle and the car just.... tries its best to accelerate. The throttle positioning is also a bit tight; I had to keep shifting my foot to get a good place else I'd be trying to push against the right wall.

The throttle is great at low speed and for city driving, I feel it's very optimized for that range. When on the highways, yeah, flooring it doesn't really do much lol. Steering is very solid, it doesn't feel as "on rails" as the Mazda 3, but I felt very confident with it. I like the brakes as well, it was easy to slow down without over compensating.

The shifter does feel a bit cheap, but usable. No dashboard behind the wheel - the speedo is in the center and it's a digital readout. I thought this was a great speedo unit - unambiguous and easy to read. Definitely the car I had the easiest time keeping my speed with. I also think it was the only car I've driven so far that has a dash cam.

And yes, this car has 4 doors, which presents a problem when being assaulted by dinosaurs that know how to open doors. Consider buying one anti personnel mine, aimed at yourself, it's cheaper and you'd probably feel less pain than being eaten alive by dinosaurs.

2017 Toyota Prius C
The prius c above was recently replaced by this newer one. I only took it out for a short drive for dinner, and essentially I think it's a more refined version of the older one. Environmental controls were a tad confusing but I just put it into Auto mode and set a temperature and it worked great. Didn't get a chance to use the cruise control, mainly because I couldn't find it in the dark and I had to get to a dinner. Mazdas and Hondas have it just by my right thumb, and makes it easy to toggle on/off. I did think the older Prius C had more grunt off the line, but it was rainy today so possibly the TC kicked in. The headrest also felt rather hard, definitely not a car to go for long cruises in. I think, like the previous version, that it's easy to park and a very good city use vehicle. Oh, the e-brake mechanism? Very delightful to use :)

2012 Mazda 2
Eh, this is like Mazda's analog to the Honda Fit. Overall, I think the Fit is a better vehicle - but I'm comparing a 2012 vehicle to a 2016, so I'll stop there. That said, I really enjoy this car. Of all the brands I've tried so far, the Mazdas fit me the best. Even this budget car fits me really well. Handling is good, and small size means easy to park.

2018 Hyundai Elantra
The impression I got was that Hyundai made less than good cars. Evidently that's in the long past. While I don't fit just quite right with it, it was an excellent ride, and I really loved the backup camera in this car! I will have to take it out for a long jaunt like the Mazda 3 to really get the feel of it. If I had to nit pick, I would say that compared to the Mazda 3 it has a slight understeer entering the turn, and the steering wheel's grip was a little on the smooth side.

2015 Nissan Versa Note
Eh, I doubt I will rent this car again. I found the handling a bit too squirrelly for my taste, and I did not fit very well in the driver's seat. Throttle response I felt was smoother than the Mazda 2, which was nice, but the brakes felt really weak.

2016 Scion FR-S
Best handling car of all the cars I've driven to date. Wow. This thing just takes corners like a champ. And it's super flat in turns. Throttle is amazing and shifts so fast. Zomg. Come next year, I'm taking this up the mountains for a spin. The ride quality is rather harsh though. It also has rear seats, which I'd totally forgotten. Definitely only for kids. If not, it's a great place for bags and stuff.

2018 Toyota Prius
Oh my god. This car is the plushest car I've ridden. It goes over bumps and rougher patches of road effortlessly. Handling is vague, feels like I'm driving a cloud. I do think the Prius-C has more driving character. On the flip side, the interior of this car is pretty nice, and the one I drove had a backup camera is is sweeeeeet!

One interesting tidbit - the back of the prius is mostly plastic - I could not stick my N sign on any of the surfaces. The sides of the car are metal though, my N sign sticks well and fine there. Acceleration is nice and smooth, and the brakes are also quite nice, and they can jam the car to a hard stop if you push it deep enough. I think thus far, this and the Mazda 3 are my top choices for long trips.

Unfortunately, the Prius has 4 doors, so yes, it increases the difficulty of defending yourself if sharks attack.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Leckerton UHA-4

I was wondering about my storage rack today and came across this bit of kit I bought when I was still working in Australia, a Leckerton Audio UHA-4 portable DAC. I bought this waaay back in 2015 when I was still messing about with gear, in particular, the Focusrite VRM Box.

The VRM box allowed you to simulate speakers using your headphones, and while I have no idea how accurate or usable the simulations were, they did one thing really well - I really thought the audio was coming from in front of me, like I was listening to speakers. Too many times I panicked when I'd looked at the clock and realized I was mixing after midnight - only to realize.... whew... I was on my headphones. On my vrm box.

With regular headphones, the music usually appears inside of you, somewhere between your ears, with stereo material coming from the left or right. I won't go into the details why this is so, but consider this: When you listen to speakers, both speakers contribute to both ears. Some of the sound enters your ears directly, but lots of it enters later - after bouncing off your table, ceiling, walls.

You get none of that with headphones - the audio goes directly to your ears, one earcup covering each of your squishy input receptacle.

The UHA-4 was bought after much reading to get the same effect of the vrm box with my mp3 player. It has a crossfeed function that bleeds some of the source from one side into the other, simulating what we'd hear with speakers.

Unfortunately, the reason why I haven't touched this piece of kit for years is that the crossfeed doesn't really do much for me. I tested it with logic by panning a mono source to just one ear, and with crossfeed on, there is definitely bleed being sent to the other ear, but I had no change in spatial difference, nothing like the vrm box. It was still inside of me, if a bit warmer. I decided it was time to sell it, so I packaged it up good... and never got around to selling it.

So today I picked it out again to try the crossfeed for shit and giggles, because hey, maybe my hearing has improved with age!!! Yeah riiight. But still I plugged it in and listen to some tunes with my pair of Grados SR80 and I realized something.

This baby makes the bass much "tighter". The bass in the SR80 is normally sufficient but this amp seems to balance out the music really really well. On top of that, the really detailed high frequencies which always make me take off my grados after an hour or so appear to have been tamed and smoothed out. I'm really impressed. All my music is new and fresh again!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Vintage watches

Recently got back on the watchmaking bandwagon, and instead of just fiddling around with antique pocket watch movements, I decided to get some "mostly working" vintage watches that I could use as dailies. I'm hoping to learn how movements fit into cases,so I can fit my other movements into cases. That would be something to actually do with the hobby, since I can't really have a lathe or mill in my tiny apartment. Not unless I want to endure the ire of my neighbours.

This Girard Perregaux above is my current daily. There's something about the vintage dial that gives me strong bauhaus vibes. According to the seller, it's equipped with a Girad Perregaux cal 03 movement. This handsome piece has been running nigh-perfectly on time in the last few days, so I'm reluctant to pull it apart. Pretty amazing for something build decades before I was born.

My issue with this watch is how small it is. The crown is miniscule, and the act of winding it up is quite harsh on the fingertips.

The straps it came with are terrible though. Supposed to be new, but the buckle broke apart the very first time I wore it >.> Time to go searching for a nice comfortable band.

Now this Gruen is another one I hope to put to use on occasions I wear a waistcoat. Unfortunately the movement - a Veri Thin Precision - appears to be a bit sticky - it works for a few hours then stops. Then goes, then stops. I hope the balance staff didn't get damaged in transit. Will be pulling this baby apart to give it a good cleaning/inspection to see if that would help. More than likely I'll break it into a few million pieces.

I'll be visiting Germany later this month, one of the things I hope to buy there are vintage watches made in the GDR. For example, GUB, Ruhla, Glashutte. Need to read up more on how Lange saved the german watchmaking industry. For that reason, I'm heading down to Dresden, then Glashutte to soak in the history of german watchmaking.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Getting Redshift3D to run on a macbook pro

Getting back into more houdini out of work, and thought I'd try out the Redshift gpu renderer.

It took me several hours, but I finally got it workingon my 2014 macbook pro.
- Purchase Houdini Indie (Apprentice does not allow 3rd party renderers)
- Install CUDA Drivers
- Install matching Nvidia Web Drivers
- Setup houdini.env file
- Install specific version of houdini to match the compiled dso.

And... then I found out I the mbp's 2GB GT 750m had insufficient vram left over to run anything heavy. Just a few toruses and I was out of vram >.>


I guess I'll have to research egpus tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Kurious : 1 minute

I had the privilege of attending a session of Circ du Soleil's Kurious this fine evening, and my words are simply inadequate to describe the spectacle I saw.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I was somewhat put off as I could not find any narrative to the amazing performance. Hey, one of my hobbies is writing, ok?

But when the show ended, it came to me there... perhaps there was a narrative. What we experienced over the two-hour long performance, was really an expansion of possibilities for every minute in our lives.

If you watch the show, watch the clock.