Sturgeon’s Law

Ninety Percent Of Everything Is Crap

Derived from a quote by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who once said, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud." Oddly, when Sturgeon's Law is cited, the final word is almost invariably changed to 'crap'.


A Decade Ago



#MotoringChallenge Still looking for your Epic Sunrise photo? Now, a way to predict when it is worth getting up for
- Tuesday Apr 26 - 9:27pm

Tonight, Jamie and Claire are a long way from Scotland when they arrive at Versailles. #Outlander
- Sunday Apr 17 - 12:40am

Proud to be the 879th backer on @BackerKit for Bernie Sanders Action Figure | Thx @fctry!
- Friday Apr 15 - 10:03pm

#motoringchallenge @MossMiata Pine pollen season here in SC! My sheet on the OTM trunk lid. Bring on the hat.
- Thursday Mar 17 - 2:31pm

#MotoringChallenge Honda powered Minis and now V-6 Miatas at Mini Tec in Royston GA. This'll be Sneak Peek No.1b
- Saturday Feb 27 - 10:57pm

Reconstituted Dinosaurs



Sonata or Miata

Hunting Aliens

  • Member since 17 Sep 2000
  • Total credit: 930,338
  • RAC: 914.84
  • Classic workunits: 5,099
  • Classic CPU time: 28,190 hours
  • Team: Miata Club
  • SETI@Home Status:


Ask Brian

61,000 Micro-inch Pounds of Torque

Red Valve Cover II

After the last time I put the valve cover on it ended up leaking, so I thought I’d just get a new gasket and start over. Relying on my vast mechanical experience, I also thought maybe because last time I just tightened the eleven bolts holding it down by feel I may have under or over tightened them. The cure to hopefully not create another leaker maybe would be to maybe actually read the manual and torque the bolts to the proper value.

The specifications I have, thanks to a friendly Forum member, 68.6 to 96.3 in/lbs, but the torque wrench to use, not so much. When I started looking for an in/lb torque wrench I was surprised at how much they wanted for them and I really didn’t want to spend that kind of money on something I might not use very much. I thought maybe I might be able borrow one. I could have bought one off Amazon for $22, but how good could it be for that price?

I had a line on one from a co-worker, but he couldn’t find his or forgot or something or other, so that was a bust. Today we were at a birthday part at a friend’s house and I asked a fellow MMC member who as there too if he had an in/lb torque wrench and if so could I borrow it. He did, so I told him I’d call later to see about getting it. When I called, he told me his was a beam type wrench, but it was for a lot higher range than I needed because the gradient marks were 50 in/lbs apart. That meant I would have to find the spot a little more than halfway between mark number one and mark number two. And even if I did, how accurate would that rating be with it so close to the bottom of the scale?

Figuring I had wasted enough time and effort chasing the whole borrowing thing, it was time to bite the bullet and just buy one., So I did some internet shopping of the local places and there was only one auto parts store that one in stock, but they wanted $120 for it. So I checked the local BBHIW stores and Home Depot had one for $70. I am now the proud owner of a Husky 20-200 in/lb click style torque wrench.

If you compare the above photo of the red valve cover with the one from earlier this month, you’ll notice that while I had the cover off this time I did some more painting on it – the lettering is now black.

Yesterday on the way home from work the Purple Whale slipped past the 61,000 miles.

Bonus Time

Sneak Peek 2a - Valve Train Issues

Walked by the neglected Moss Motoring Challenge list on the desk yesterday and noticed that the cutoff date for the second sneak peek photos was fast approaching. July 1st was just next Friday and because of the timing and exhaust issues on the Emperor we really haven’t been very active Challenge-wise. Right now the Miata is sitting in the garage with the valve cover off so I can change the cover gasket which is leaking (from the last time I had it off.) The perfect opportunity at least for the first one of the possible two sneak peeks was just waiting for us in the garage.

Fingers crossed I’ve got the VVT timing issue solved, but now I have to figure out the ugly exhaust sound. Almost 2 months ago Rudy brought me his Borla muffler and a spare stock muffler along with a stock mid-pipe from John. I picked the Borla, but it turns out that was the wrong choice. So guess what Donna and I did Tuesday evening? Right, drove the Sonata to John’s house and re-borrowed the stock mid-pipe and muffler.

Plan for tomorrow is to put the valve cover back on, with a new gasket this time and on Sunday maybe start on the exhaust issues. The muffler should be no real problem, while the mid-pipe is a whole ‘nother story, as it has about a four undercarriage braces that need to come off first. Then the two bolts on the mid-pipe upstream near the header (and higher temperatures) that haven’t yet been removed, so they probably will be harder to break loose and require more hammering that ones at the muffler a few weeks ago.

Motoring Challenge Points 1, Approx Miles Driven 0
Totals So Far: 58 points & 970 miles

The Woman of a Thousand Faces

Now that Orphan Black’s 4th season is finished and Season 5 has been announced as the show’s last, what is an actor who has played 12 clones to do after the shows run? Why replace the internet of course.

Here is is auditioning to replace emojis:

Here’s one where she bids to monopolize the comment reaction GIF market:

White Is Alright

Tonight we put a new bit of carpet in the dining room. To do this we needed to move the sideboard and so while we were at it, it was time to dust off all the photo albums (kids, go ask your parents what photo album means to them) that sit on the middle shelf. Whenever we do this, it always leads to several hours of traipsing down memory lane.

One of the albums was from stuff that happened in 1989, which included us moving to SC from NJ, buying a house and most importantly, buying a Miata

The purchase of the 1990 “Smurf” Blue Miata happened on November 7, 1989. We traded that car in 6 years later on a 1995 Lauguna Blue in November of 1995. The ’95 was traded in on the Garnet Red colored Emperor in November 2003. As you you can see, there is a pattern here, so any talk of buying a new Miata now is premature. So this will be the last post you see here that includes any 2016 ND Miata discussion.

The new Miatas are available in the the three levels, the Sport (AKA: the base model), the Club (AKA: the boy racer) and the Grand Touring (AKA: the Luxo Version.) All I want is the Sport model because I don’t need any of the geegaws on the upper models and I don’t want to spent the three to five thousand dollars more. The Sport is available in 4 colors. I wanted black so I could vinyl wrap it in a non-standard color and be the envy of all those driving just regular color Miatas. Donna didn’t like the black color and she didn’t like spending $25k on a new car and then spending an additional 10% more just to get a different color (hard to argue logic with desire.) Donna looked at the stock colors and offered up the red which I said no to for un-understood psychological reasons, so that left white and something called ceramic (a satin metallic very light gray.)

Right now, white is the winner, but come back in November to see what happens.

Started up, went down, went up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 06/25/15: 188

Thank You For Your Service

Yesterday morning we drove the Miata to lovely downtown Trenton, SC. We were with 9 other Miatas from the MMC and we were on our way to drive in the 46th Annual Ridge Peach Festival parade. This was the 13th year the Club has driven in the parade. Donna and I were among the 8 cars that first year, and while we haven’t done it every year, but I bet this was the 8th or 9th time.

During the parade you are allowed to throw candy to the crowd and we always spend about $20 so that we have enough to last the entire 2/3 of a mile route. When we could drive 2 abreast we would and Donna would throw candy to the crowd-side herself, but when the crowds thickened and we had to drive single file she would throw to the right and in between, hand me candy so I could toss some to the left. It was during this time when I tossed a few Starbursts at a couple of kids that I happened to make eye contact with the mother and she said to me, “Thanks. And thanks for your service.”

That woman at the parade was thanking me based solely on the hat I was wearing. A month ago when we toured the USS Midway I bought a hat in the gift shop to commemorate our visit and my time aboard almost 40 years ago. This has happened a couple other times too, once in Barstow, CA and once again here in Aiken, both times it was just because of the hat. Not that I don’t slightly deserve it having spent 10 years in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club, but any schmoe who’s toured the ship or spends around twenty bucks can get one from Amazon or eBay and that weirds me out because they’ll get thanked for possibly no service at all. I’d like to wear the hat, but I’m going to have to only do it when there will be little chance of interaction with people and definitely not on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

And then again maybe it is probably just me who has a problem with this, but when I joined the Navy in 1973 people were still into calling servicemen returning from Vietnam baby-killers and now after the middle-east conflicts it has become fashionable to call servicemen (and women) heroes and to thank them for their service and I am not of that era.

Started down, went up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 06/25/15: 186

Fun With A Scan Tool

So I answered Steve’s last email:


There are a couple of plugs/sensors back there, not sure which is which, but both connectors seem intact and the wires look OK.

Worth trying to swap that Engine Temp sensor back there? What other signals is the ECU relying on to actuate the VVT system that might provide a cheap troubleshooting method?


He replied:
I don’t really believe the VVT stuff is tied to the temp sensor, just that if it were out of whack, it may default to some other map. Do you have a scan tool? It would show the timing advance real time if it’s a decent one.

Well of course I don’t have a scan tool, so I asked the MMC and I got several replies, but the first one was from my new best friend David. He had one and seeing as he was going to be in the neighborhood this afternoon he would drop it by my house. And that’s right, it is the same David who tried to give me the muffler off his back and made a trip to see me to let me drive his car to see what a real NB2 Miata should drive like. I think I need to add a codicil to my will and cut him in on some of that Bogardus thousandaire wealth in the event of my demise.

When I got home, sure enough, there was an Innova scan tool in between the storm door and the front door. I opened up the carrying case and David had thoughtfully included the manual. I read through it real quick to see how I go about recording some data, thinking I had it down, I backed the Emperor out of the garage and promptly spent the next 5 minutes idling in the driveway to get to the right spot on the menu. I backed out and headed to the 4-way stop at the end of my street, turned right, then took the next right and I was on a street with a half mile straight that has only two horse racing tracks and one driveway on it. Perfect, all I could do was scare a couple horses, so I stopped the car and launched it. Shifted at more than 6000 RPM in both 1st and 2nd gears before easing to the stop sign. I turned the corner, found a spot to do a u-turn and got back on my nice straight away to repeat the run in the opposite direction. Pulled back into the driveway and hit a couple buttons to go see my live data. “No Live Data Stored.” Hmmm.

The small guide included with the scan tool’s case was not much help, it told me how to get to the Live Data Recording menu and how to choose from one of the three styles of data collection and how to start recording, but was vague on how to stop the recording. It did tell me that if I went to I could get the full manual. So I did. It was a lot more in depth and after reading its section on Live Data Recording I was sure I had it, I needed to hit the return key instead of the LD/M button. Re-ran my same course, returned home hit the return key a second time and it still continued to record frames. Huh? Pushed the LD/M key to get out and sure enough, “No Live Data Stored.”

Back to the manual. This time I read the Live Data Recording section forward, backward and upside down. It said it records 100 frames several times in that section, I thought that meant it could record up to 100 frames, but as it turns out it needs to record 100 frames before it considers itself through recording. So back on the road I go. This time instead of u-turning after the first high speed run I turned right and ran thru 1st & 2nd again with anger before cruising to the stop light. I check the frame count on the display and it reads 48. So I do the u-turn before crossing the road in front of me and head back while repeating the way too loud and too fast for regular street driving towards home. As I cruise into the garage the Innova 3130c beeps on the passenger seat. Success!

Inside the house I start to review the data I just recorded. Because I recorded using the default settings there were like 50 data points per frame. But because the small display shows only a half dozen lines it takes awhile to read all the info by scrolling, and there are 99 more to go. Obviously the folks who made this know that this is not acceptable, they make it easy to download the info to your PC. All you have to do is download a program called “Innova_V02.03.12_PCLink” and install it. In less than a minute I am double clicking on the .exe file. Not so fast pardner, to run this program you also need to install “Microsoft SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP ENU” & “Microsoft SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP x64 ENU”, still, in short order the link program self starts and a window opens mid-screen with a fancy graphic background and two buttons grayed out.

The left button reads disconnected, so I use the supplied USB cable to hook it into the computer and the unit turns on and the button shines with the word Connected. The right button lights up with the word Diagnose, so I press it. My browser opens up to the home page of Innova, the same place that led me to the manual and the software. I’ve seen this sort of behavior before when you run a program for the first time, so I close the window. Nothing else happens. So I hit the diagnose button again, and the browser opens again. Oh, this is rude, they are going to make me register to download this data.

Oh, well, after all the work it took to get the data I’d like to see it, what’s one more login and password? So I fill out the form with name, address, phone number, email and make up a password. I am informed to check for a confirmation email. Its there, I click on the activation link and I’m back on the Innova website saying thanks, go ahead and sign in, I do and I end up at some sort of dashboard. I now go back to the PC Link software and tap the Diagnose button again, another browser tab opens and before I can go further I am presented with another form to fill out (which you can’t bypass, I tried.) The first thing they want is the year make and model of the car(s) you’ll be using the tool with. I select 2003 and Mazda, but there are only four models listed, none of which are a Miata! So I pick one at random. I use the same strategy for the next few questions by selecting random radio buttons, so when I hit submit this time I’m advanced to the next page. This one has three more blanks that need filling out and one of them is the VIN number. I don’t remember what the other two are because right here is where I decided I didn’t really want that data after all. I closed the browser and uninstalled the software.

The data is still in there and if David wants to read it he can have it. The Emperor hasn’t thrown a CEL in a couple weeks and after changing the last Cam Position Sensor it feels like it is running right. It still sounds crappy at higher RPMs with your foot heavy on the gas, so I wonder if John (Clunk) Haff would still let me try out that stock midpipe and muffler?

Started up, went down, back up, back down, still down.
Miata Top Transitions since 06/25/15: 185

Maybe I Am Crazy

This morning on the way to work the Emperor felt his usual self (VVT kicking in at 3400 RPM with a solid pull up the rev range) until he got fully warmed up, then he reverted to the off tune style acceleration (VVT hitting at about 4500 RPM and sluggish acceleration.)

Thinking I have another another clue to my troubles, I emailed Steve at Panic at Panic Motorsports:

Saturday I put a new Cam Position Sensor in and now the VVT seems to act right – for the first few miles. Once the car is fully warm the VVT “surge” moves from ~3200 RPM to around 4500 and becomes almost unnoticeable and the car feels out of tune.

Is this warm/cold thing a clue or another red herring? Should I tackle the actuator itself even though it appears to be walking a high wire without a net?

His reply:
mmmmmmmmmmmaybe. There is a temperature sensor on the back of the head, sometimes you can grab on to them and twist (gently) to see it if moves. It shouldn’t. Fishing here, via emails obviously, but always happy to help you fix on your own if possible.

Today after work it seemed like the VVT would kick on at the higher 4500 RPM, but then it would solidly pull to 6000 RPM. I’m waiting now for the motor to cool off enough for me to reach between the firewall and engine to see about those wires. My logical, but ignorant mind, thought for sure he was going to say it must be that actuator because it is so oil pressure dependent and the change is due to the multi-viscosity oil thinning after it heats up. But no.

I still think it is the ACTUATOR, VARIABLE VALVE TIMING Part #BP6D-12-4X0D, but no where near sure enough (remember logical & ignorant from above) to just pull the trigger on one. Let alone know how to change it out. Trouble being that what resides inside that actuator remains a tightly held secret, no wait, I forgot Google, I’ll be back in a couple of hours, wait here.

Started up, went down, back up, still up.
Miata Top Transitions since 06/25/15: 182