A Journey of a Thousand Steps…

Begins by staring at the road in front of you and debating whether you’re dumb or not.

Narrator: “He was definitely dumb.”

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Yep, That’s The Engine

So a couple months ago, two words that every petrol head fears was in the back of my head.

Head.  Gasket.

Consider me triggered, fam.  For those of you reading this without a single mechanical inclining in your body – the head gasket is a thin piece of metal sandwiched between the block and the head of the engine.  It seals those two important parts of said engine, to prevent stuff from leaking out or between each other.  Simple enough, yeah?  Well, when that thin piece of metal breaks or begins leaking, it’s bad for everyone involved.

Especially one’s mental stability.

Long story short, I did some testing and determined yes, the head gasket in the TT is probably shot.  Smell of coolant outside on cold starts, slow loss of coolant from the reservoir, brownish deposits in the coolant, inability to hold pressure when a vacuum is applied, etc.  I was in denial for a while till I ran a sniff test, which sealed the deal for my psyche.

Air from the coolant reservoir is pulled through a special liquid that reacts to exhaust gases (hydrocarbons, to be exact).  In the presence of exhaust, the liquid changes color from blue to green or yellow.  I ran the test twice and both times the liquid turned bright yellow.  No bueno.

So from there, the decision came down to this:

Do I fucking send it for the next 1.5 years, and hope the leak doesn’t get worse?  Or do I pull the engine, fix the head gasket, and have a fun project for Winter 2018?

Obviously the choice was to pull the engine.  I’ll try to blog the steps taken, with pictures, of the entire process.  There’s no real how-to on the internet for pulling an engine.  It seems daunting when looking at the mess of pipework, vacuum lines, and components, but I’m finding that by focusing on one thing at a time it’s not too bad.

A lot of internet gatekeepers will try to say, “If you need instructions on how to pull the engine, you shouldn’t be pulling the engine.”  I say fuck that, everyone needs to start somewhere.  Prior to doing the timing belt on the TT, I had never done a timing belt before.  Prior to doing the exhaust, I had never replace an exhaust system before.  So fuck the haters, and their inability to help the noobs.  By all means, use these coming posts as a starting point for your engine pull.  It’ll be more than I’ve got currently.

A Storied Past

Over the last few days, I’ve been finally taking care of some work I’ve been meaning to do on the TT.  In particular, doing the front brakes and testing the car’s coolant for exhaust gases (to see if the head gasket has failed).  I figured while I was doing the brakes I’d paint the calipers red to match the powder coated rear calipers that I put on a couple years ago.

It’s been a multi-day project, only because I’m lazy and did one side at a time – waiting a day for the paint to dry for each side.  But while I’ve been waiting, I had the urge to go back through and try to categorize and put all of the work I’ve done over the last three years into a single database of sorts.  A place for me to see the work, see the age of the work, and keep track of the cost and timing of everything.

It’s been a long road thus far, and I’ve done a lot of work.  From more serious work like servicing the timing belt and replacing the soft top, to smaller things like oil changes and car washes.  I dug out the spreadsheet I put together when I first bought the car, where I cross-referenced the CarFax with the actual garages that did the work, and contacted each garage in hopes they could forward me the service records they had for the car.

Some of it was boring same ole same ole:  5K scheduled maintenance.  25K scheduled maintenance.  35K scheduled maintenance.  Etc.  Some of it was intriguing though: Interior trim repaired after 1400 miles.  Clutch/flywheel replaced after 22,000 miles.  A storied past.

It got me really thinking.  The car has nearly 100,000 miles on it now.  That’s nearly four trips around the planet.  I’m the fifth owner of this little black roadster, and I sincerely hope to be its last.  It was first purchased in April of 2004, which makes it over 14 years old at this point.  In April of 2004 I was just finishing up my sophomore year in high school.  I wouldn’t have my driver’s license or my first car for another year and half.

It’s interesting to think about the car’s history before it came into my possession.  I have no idea who the previous owners were, what they did for a living, or how old they were.  Maintenance was clearly lacking from some of them.  It wasn’t modified, but it was driven hard.  Can’t help but think about who left the baton underneath the driver’s seat – why they had it, what they thought when they realized they left it there for me to find.

I wonder about the front-end collision the car was involved in years ago.  Insurance was never involved so I have no idea where the car was worked on, or what was replaced.  But the skid plate is completely gone and the battery box is broken in multiple places.  In fact, a lot of trim is missing from under the hood.  The covers for the battery and the power steering pump in particular.  Where did they go?

It’s fun to think about where the car’s been and what it’s seen.  The work that’s been done over the years, and who has had their hands on it.  The conversations that’ve been had in the cabin.  The abuse it’s endured, the care it’s received.

To some people a car is just a piece of property that gets us from Point A to Point B.  Something remarkably uninteresting and resigned to its job as a utility and nothing more.

But to others, it’s an unfinished book.  A book with pages missing from its earlier chapters, but a book that we’ve taken authorship of nonetheless.  And I just hope that I can make this little TT’s future chapters as interesting as it’s past.

2018, Year of the Best

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, which isn’t terribly surprising.  I’m not one of those peeps that make a point to write something at least once a day.  I’m like, once every 6 months at this point.  But yeah, I figured it’s update time since I’ve got a free minute and there’s nothing else pressing at this point.

Soooooo, life is pretty grand!  The jist of this whole post is that 2018 is literally going to be my year.  We’re mid-April but things have been pretty stellar since this year started.  Let’s break it down:

I quit smoking.  This has been a thorn in my side for at least the last couple years.  There’s been a solid two stretches that I’ve quit before – the first being in 2011 when I was dating my ex, and I quit for her.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  The second stretch was while I was my last job.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  So now we’re on the third real attempt at kicking the habit, and so far so good.  I’ve had some fall-off-the-wagon moments, but there’s a concerted effort going on so I’m feeling pretty good about it.  The real difference this time is that I’ve improved my coping mechanisms in dealing with stress.  People that have never smoked or never tried quitting don’t get just how addictive nicotine is, but believe it, it’s insane.  I had a lot of reasons to quit, but never truly had the motivation to until recently, so I’m pretty thankful for that.

In addition to quitting smoking, I’ve really focused on improving my health in general.  I started buying groceries, which for me was unheard of.  Cooking at home, and paying attention to the nutrition and healthiness of my choices.  It hasn’t been easy, by any stretch.  When your body has been running on processed foods, fast food, high fat, high calorie options for years, it doesn’t just go willingly into this new era.  It hits home when I think about this article I read years ago about what’s called an Extinction Burst.  Basically, it is what happens when your body forms a habit and you attempt to break that habit – when the habit is threatened with extinction.  Your body deals with being cut off to a point where it throws a tantrum in one last attempt to get you to go back to the habit.  The link explains it a lot more in depth, but it’s a truly fascinating read.

So I’ve been eating better.  I haven’t had a soda in over a month, I drink water on the regular, been cooking at home a majority of the week, and I’ve even been a lot active physically.  Hiking a couple times a week, and a couple days ago got back on a bike for the first time in years.  You might remember back in the day I was riding my bike like a mofo, you know, 30 mile tides and all of that?  Well my most recent ride was barely 5 miles and it absolutely wrecked me.  I hurt all over.  Granted it was a mountain bike that is far too small for me, but that just made it clear how out of shape I’ve gotten.

I’ll be honest, midway through that last paragraph I tried to find the posts about my weight loss and all that jazz.  In particular, these two posts:

Fuck Your Title (04/09/2013)
Fuck Your Title – Redux (04/09/2015)

Ironic that they were both the same day, two years apart.  And here I am getting back on the health kick three years after the last.

But anyway, I was trying to find those two posts and ended up copying a bunch from The Wayback Machine, since my database got deleted when my hosting lapsed a while back.  It was fun reading my thoughts from years ago, so I guess it isn’t such a bad idea to keep blogging.  Just gotta make sure I don’t lose months or years worth of entries.  We’re self-hosted now, so I can’t foresee these latest posts disappearing, but I’m definitely going to be keeping better backups.

So I got sidetracked finding those posts and now I can’t remember what I was on about.  Guess it’s a good point to wrap this up then, deuces!

Last.fm, wot is dis?

Holy shit a new post.  Yeah I dunno, the feeling hit me tonight to write some shit so here we are.  And it’s gonna be a pretty awesome post, just a heads up.

Music is great, I think we can all agree.  When we’re feeling like shit, we put on some tunes.  When we’re feeling awesome, we put on some tunes.  Travelling, driving, working, relaxing – it’s always there.  I won’t try to psychoanalyze why our brains like the repetition of beats and sounds, but there’s something to say that we’ve been making music for most of our existence.  From banging on drums and tapping your hand on your desk, to playing a real physical instrument or an electronic software instrument, it’s as old as we are.

Now more than likely, you have a music library of some sort.  It could be a library of CDs, or a meticulously organized folder of tunes on your computer, or a group of playlists hosted by some music streaming service (Spotify I love you).  But one thing most people don’t think about, is how cool it is to analyze your listening habits.  Enter, Last.fm.

I’m a massive sucker for stats and shit like that.  I check in to movies and TV shows I’m watching (see that Twitter feed on the right?  All automatic), but I also record what music I’m listening to as I listen to it.  This is called scrobbling, and it stems back to the mid-2000s when I first got started.  Last.fm is what the service is called now, back in the day I think it used to be Audioscrobbler?  It’s free, and it integrates with most music players out there.

It’s neat because at the end of the year you can see what your listening habits were that year:

Yeah, so I listened to over 10,000 songs in 2017, an average of 28 per day, and a total of 25 days, 5 hours of listening time.  Pretty crazy, and you can go back year by year and get the same info.

It’s interesting because if you’re curious what you listened to on this day sayyyyyy, 3 years ago, you can:

There was a lot of the same shit I listen to today.  But there’s a few gems in there I haven’t listened to since.  It’s pretty cool.  It can also show you some embarrassing shit, like the obscene amount of the Battlefield 4 soundtrack I listened to on this day, January 26, 2015.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for information like this.  It’s fun to look back and see where I was, what I was listening to.  Sometimes it’s depressing, like a song that brings back bad memories or a song that reminds you of better times.  Meanwhile it could be invigorating, like rediscovering a song or an album that you totally forgot exists.

The nice part is Last.fm is free to sign up, and you can immediately link it to your Spotify account here, under settings:

But there’s an even better way, which links Last.fm with Spotify, and works completely agnostically from what client you’re using.  Xbox, Android, iOS, computer, web, even your Amazon Echo.  They will all scrobble if you use the Spotify Scrobbling (Beta) plugin:

https://www.last.fm/settings/applications

Pretty slick shit.  I tried it this evening and it scrobbles everything, you just need to remember to turn off the above mentioned client-based scrobbling.

Check it out audiophiles, you won’t be disappointed.