Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dark Space (Book 3): Origin by Jasper T. Scott (Book 2014)

I finally finished this series. Gosh...talk about something you don't want to read anymore, but you just have to because there are currently 3 books in the series. A bit obsessive-compulsive but oh well.

I believe I briefly covered it in a previous review, but this author is great at creating characters you'd love to hate. All of the characters, from the primaries to the baddies to the expendable ones are all crappy people who make bad choices wherever they go. Doesn't the author know that a reader has to kinda relate to at least one character in order to enjoy a story? If everyone is making no sense with their choices, how is a person supposed to take the plot seriously?

Yeah suffice to say, this weak attempt at a space opera was disappointing and tiresome. This actual book was better than the second one, and the ending was actually OK, but the road to get there was a bore. No more from this Jasper fellow.
Rating - Mid

Thursday, April 24, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire (Action 2014)

Yup, as expected this movie was pretty much just like the first except for a different set of characters. You had your hero, a bestie, lots of dying, a dash of lust, and bucketloads of blood.

No joke though, it really was just like the first movie down to speeches about freedom, honor, legacy, and sacrifice. All it did was take the original story and expand upon it by following around the other Greeks that didn't help King Leonidas in the first. The main baddie chick was a nutter and all so that was fun to see, but as a movie this one felt way lacking...again because it brought nothing new to the table. If you saw 300 you've already watched this one, just change the red capes to blue.
Rating - C

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dark Space (Book 2): The Invisible War by Jasper T. Scott (Book 2014)

I sometimes find it baffling how an author can screw up a story with so much potential, but Jasper T. Scott has certainly done it with this one. The whole first half of this book made me dislike the personalities of all of the primary characters. On top of this the plot was all over the place. It would have a suspenseful ending at the end of a chapter and then the start of the next, all the suspense was dumped by the wayside.

It's like ending a chapter with a scene where a boat is sinking in the middle of the ocean and the survivors only have one life jacket and one bottle of water. But then in the first paragraph of the next chapter it describes how a submarine surfaced and rescued the survivors. WTF? Who writes like that?

Either way, I'll read this last book since it's free but yeah no more after that.
Rating - Low

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott (Book 2014)

This book was a fairly good read for the price. It created a compelling story with the main characters and allowed for a whole universe of opportunities to arise. It was a bit lacking in regards to descriptive detail since the plot flowed a smidge too fast, but for a short read it was worth it. Hopefully the other books in the series are longer and takes more time to develop things better.
Rating - Mid

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Homeworld (Odyssey One) by Evan Currie (Book 2013)

Another great continuation to this space saga. This time the baddies get to Sol Sector and the good guys have to make a stand. Not much else to say other than I very much enjoy this author's way of writing as well as the stories he comes up with. For a Sci-Fi book, I'm all about this type of pace and style. Lots of science, character building, and a good plot to back it all up. Have to wait a few months before the last book comes out though...
Rating - High

Friday, April 11, 2014

Apocalypse (The Wasteland Chronicles, #1) by Kyle West (Book 2012)

This was a zero cost book off of Amazon so I read it while waiting for my month of Prime to be freed up so I could rent another. The story and writing were a bit elementary when compared to other series' I've been reading. It wasn't bad, but you could clear out this book in just a few hours.

The story follows around a guy who has lived in an underground bunker his whole life after the world went to shit after a meteor struck the Earth and released some bio-virus. It reminded me a lot of Fallout 3 mixed in with the TV show Defiance. The characters are like cardboard cutouts because they have absolutely no substance to them. Not sure if things get more interesting in the next few books, but I can't say there is any real interest there.
Rating - Low

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back to Zero

Well my project car is gone. There are a bunch of reasons why that is and I'm sure I'll get into all of it, but yeah let's let all that soak in for a while...

The main reason I sold it early was that I came to the realization that after I would've spent X thousands more to fix it up, I wouldn't be as happy as I should be for the single solitary reason that has poked at me throughout my entire driving life: I really don't like driving a manual transmission although for some reason I always try to convince myself that I do. Whenever I took the car around the block, I couldn't help but be annoyed at the fact that I was shifting and that it always felt weird and sounded very rough. And of course let us not forget the wonderful world of stoplights, hills, first gear, and rolling backwards. Although I was much better at shifting than I used to be down in Arizona, it still annoyed the hell out of me.

The second reason was that I had thought the car was vanilla and that it just needed some minor fixing up. This wasn't the case. After taking apart a lot of the innards of the exhaust and engine, I came to the realization that many of the nuts and bolts had been removed in the past meaning that it had been worked on. This wasn't so bad, but then I noticed little details that alluded to a non-mechanic as having done the work. This got me to the point where I didn't trust the car in that I had no idea if a problem I was having or would have in the future could be attributed to a previous owner mucking things up 20 years ago or if it was because of the actual age of the car.

Anyway, after realizing this, and being annoyed at driving a stick, I just lost interest in investing any more time into the car. That and after I replaced a shit-ton of gaskets, the fucking thing still leaked oil...

Here are some tidbits that I learned along the way:

Labor
Fixing up a car isn't too hard in terms of what is actually being done. What is hard is getting to a specific part and needing to remove a bunch of parts to make that happen. This is where experience and a lift comes in. The first time you take something apart it may take x number of hours, but it takes mere minutes to put everything back together again. Same thing would occur when doing the same job on another car of the same model. After doing it once, the second time will take at least 70% less time.

But here comes the kicker. Minor jobs are A-OK to do in one's garage, but any major job may be better to take to a real mechanic because most common folk will lose patience, do it wrong, not have the correct tools, not have a lift if needed, or plain begin hating their car because of the frustration involved. I was surprised to read that a lot of people do this even though they may know how to handle a major task. I guess that goes along with the time value of money. And trust me...during certain moments I would've given a ton of money to have certain problems with my project car just go away.

Spray Painting
One cool thing that I have something to show for was spray painting. In the past all I ever did was just buy a can, spray something, then call it a day. The paint was always scratchable and I really never knew why. Found out later that I had been doing it wrong my whole life. The correct process is the following:
  • Spray outside. If you try to do it in a ventilated garage, the spray can will leave a nasty paint residue on the floor that is annoying to clean up. It literally floats in the air, tries to attach to something (i.e. metal or wood), and if it doesn't it will just solidify and wander to the ground.
  • Degrease the metal surface using alcohol, mineral spirits, brake cleaner, etc.
  • Use sandpaper to scratch the whole surface down. Rough grit to finer grit is best if you have differing strengths.
  • Do NOT do what I did and get out the Dremel. There were some elevated metal parts and I thought I could lightly grind them down with the Dremel, but I could never get it perfect and always made a slightly deeper divot. Sandpapering the hell out of it would've evened it out.
  • Soap up the area with dishwasher soap and a sponge and spray it down with a hose.
  • Let it dry.
  • Spray 3 coats of Grey Primer. Read the instructions on drying times. The brand I used wanted all of the spraying to occur within an hour and the let the whole thing cure for 7 days.
  • Spray 3 coats of the color you want, unless you like Grey. And of course get the high temperature engine enamel if you are spraying a part of the engine or exhaust.
The valve cover turned out pretty good I think. Before Pic (Sanded, degreased, and washed)

After Pic (3 coats of Grey Primer)

Transmission
I had convinced myself that a manual transmission was the way to go since I had thought the maintenance level would consist of getting a new clutch and flywheel, which would cost under $800 for both parts as opposed to having an automatic transmission rebuilt for $2-3k. But what I didn't know was that transmission work requires for it to separated from the engine, dropped, taken apart, then put back together. You need major tools like a lift to get the car high enough and a separate transmission lift to support the heavy-ass transmission. My DIY mind had it all wrong as this task would go under the category of a major service because of the tools involved. When you factor that into the mix, why not just have a good ol' automatic transmission?

Tires
Did you know that tires age and when they get too old they aren't supposed to be used anymore? Well I didn't. I thought that because my project car had a shit-ton of tread left that I would be good to go. But it turns out that tires are only "good" for around 4-6 years and somewhere inside of that time you're supposed to change them out because they will get hard, crack, or even have a blowout on the freeway if the structural integrity of the aged tire cannot withstand the heat and friction of the road. So yeah that would've been $600 that I did not plan for.

Anti-Seize
Many Youtube videos always said stuff about putting anti-seize lubricant on bolts and nuts to prevent rust and having bolts get stuck and such. Bad thing is that they fuck up the torque spec because the threads become totally overly lubricated. This leads to over-torquing and snapping of bolts. My unprofessional advice would be to not use it or to barely use any...bad experiences.

Parts
I had thought that because I would be working on an older car, the parts may be cheaper because people would want to get rid of old inventory, but alas that is not the case. The parts actually get more expensive because of the rarity. And then when you can't find any parts at all you are forced to go to a junkyard to find said parts. How about no.

Timing Belts
So older cars made before the mid 2000s used rubber timing belts that needed to be changed every 60k or 90k. These things only cost $30-$60 but it's one of those jobs that has a lot of labor associated with the task because it takes forever and a day to get to the part. You have to take apart so much of the car and also you need to drain the coolant because usually a timing belt replacement includes a water pump replacement because the part is right next door. Looking up varying labor costs for different types of cars, this job ranges from $300 all the way up to $1k. I had wanted to tackle this task on the project car, but then I discovered that I lacked the tools, lacked the room on a mid-engine setup, and lacked the experience without a video tutorial. Fucking up without knowing it and then spending hours to put everything back together just to find out that I would have to take everything apart again would not equal a happy day.

Modern cars have a timing chain that are supposed to last for the life of the engine meaning that as long as you maintain your car, you will never need to replace it before you sell the car. Now that's what I'm talking about.

Gaskets/O-Rings
Gaskets and rubber O-Rings become brittle and non-functional over time in keeping oil and coolant where they're supposed to be. The older the car, the more likely these will need to be replaced and oh boy does a car have a shit-load of these everywhere.

Support
The Internet barely existed back in the early 90s, so thus there aren't many forum postings with new members. For a DIYer, having videos, pictures, and an active forum is very necessary. MR2s have an existing support group, but many people on there are assholes and aren't very helpful. The best is if you had a group of friends that had the same car so everyone could help; if you're solo it makes it much harder.

Experience
So to summarize the experience, getting a 10-20 year old car is cool in that you can get it for real cheap. Bad thing is that either it has super high miles (anything over 120k) which means that things will be leaking, breaking, or a major engine rebuild is in the car's future. If you are lucky enough to find a low-mile car, the engine is probably still OK, but you'll have to worry about everything else like the tires, rust, coolant, suspension, o-ring leaks, etc. It's not really a win/win any way you look at it because of the age thing. I always thought that a car was like a computer in that you could grab an unused computer from 1995 and everything would be OK. Sure the CMOS battery would need to be replaced but the HDD would be fine as well as the other electrical components assuming that the box wasn't in a super humid place. Not so with cars. The rubber ages, anything pressurized will lose pressure, liquids will seep out, and plastics will weaken and become brittle.

Even as I say this, the second a low-mile, good condition, auto-tranny car that goes up on CL for a few thousand, I'll be tempted to jump on that shit right quick. But project cars are fun only when they stay fun. Too bad I didn't know other people around me who liked to work on cars as well...it's lame always referring back to the Internet and not getting a straight answer.

I still think the most practical way to buy and own a "dependable" car is to either get it brand new and maintain it to death or to get a CPO car and do the same in terms of maintenance. This way someone else eats the initial depreciation cost and you usually get at least 1 year to make sure the car doesn't need any warranty work. It's difficult to find a used car that has all of its maintenance records. Normal people don't keep track of that stuff it seems.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks (Drama 2013)

This one was OK. It told the story of how the movie of Mary Poppins came to be after Walt Disney woo'ed the author into signing over some rights. Don't know how accurate all of it was with regards to a "true story", but as a drama it wasn't too bad.

I remember Emma Thompson from other slower, British movies of the past, I don't recall her acting being as good as it was in this movie. She really took the part and ran with it. Tom Hanks was OK as he played a very different eccentric character of Disney, but Emma was still better.

The film was a bit boring though, as it slowly followed through the past and present of Emma's character. Definitely a story-based film.
Rating - C

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Pretty good movie. It's totally in line with The Avengers the first time you see it. It had a lot of action, good plot, lots of baddies, multiple good guys, and some small twists and turns. Great comic book flick.

Like always it opened up the ending to another slew of spinoffs and more movies in the series. Good stuff, exactly what I was looking for.
Rating - B