Friday, February 24, 2006

Tires and Toyota

In the spirit of the mundane, I have spent most of the morning on the phone shopping for tires.  We need a set of summer (ref 3-season) tires for my wife’s truck.  It’s a Toyota 4Runner with a unique and bizarre tire size: 265/70R16.

This is a recurring problem for this truck that it eats tires.  It’s a multi-facetted problem, ever since we bought that damned thing.

The original tires on this truck were low-level Bridgestone tires that sucked rocks.  I immediately swapped them out after purchasing the vehicle.  In retrospect this was probably a bad move.  I’m still alive to talk about it, so obviously it wasn’t an unwise decision per se, but...

The problem cropped up at the second oil change.  The new tires I had put on had started to wear unevenly.  Feathering and cupping on the inside front tires - both.  The Toyota dealer I went to for servicing told me this was “normal”.  Like it’s actually normal to screw up a set of tires in less than 10000km.  The battle lines had been drawn.

My research showed that this kind of wear on a tire to be completely abnormal.  As did every expert I talked with, except, of course Toyota.  I even called customer service to be told that this was normal and especially not their problem.  After all, I did change the tires.  It was my own fault that I should have kept the original tires!  So it is that the original tires would not hold the road in wet weather, but would not wear down unevenly.  A bizarre trade-off.

It’s funny how things work when responsibility is involved. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, except Toyota was claiming a problem with the truck itself.  I didn’t care whose problem it was, I was simply looking for a fix.  I wasn’t even looking for compensation.

The 1-800-Toyota customer service rep told me to fuck off in no uncertain terms.  The only recourse I had was the dealership.  I then found out that the 1-800 number was simply there to file complaints against the dealers, not so much to help customers.  I wonder to this day why it’s called Customer Service.  They just didn’t want to help in any way shape or form.  It was downright insulting actually.  I even sent an email into the web site, which was ignored by, you guessed it, the same people answering the 1-800 phones.

I didn’t want to complain against the dealership.  It wasn’t their fault that the tires were wearing unevenly.  They even put the truck up on the alignment machine and everything was up to spec.

My tire-dealer knew of this problem, apparently quite significant, with many 4Runners.  He gave me the Bridgestone rep’s number so that I could have a chat with him, seeing as Bridgestone is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for tires on the 4Runner.

The conversation was enlightening to say the least.  Bridgestone tells me that they put their hardest wearing tire on the 4Runners systematically – read: “wears like iron, drives like it too”.  

Additionally, they also recommend taking some 4 to 6 pounds of air out of the tire (from 32 down to 28 or 26psi).  This almost completely solves any problems.  I’m concerned about the danger of this, he tells me that it is somewhat dangerous, especially under heavy loads, but still within tolerances allowed for this tire.  I mumble something about insanity, and he tells me to simply pump the tires back up to 32 or 34 when carrying or pulling heavy loads and voîlà!*

* We will of course remember the great Ford-Bridgestone cluster-fuck a few years back. Blowouts due to tread separation – we will remember too that the cause of the separation was over-loaded but under-inflated tires!  Lucky for me, none of this had happened yet, otherwise I’m sure Bridgestone would not have been so forthcoming with their information.

Well, it was a solution anyway.  Not one I wanted to hear.  I further ask him what the root cause of this problem is.  He replies it is Toyota.  They want a fat-looking tire on a 7-inch rim.  The 265/70 was never meant to be mounted on a 7-inch wide rim.  The specs say it’s possible, but it’s really pushing the design limit on the tire itself.  OK, I can accept this, so why doesn’t Bridgestone do anything about this if they know there is a problem?

I really should have known better than to ask.  Indeed I knew the answer as it was being formulated in the reps mind.  Bridgestone doesn’t want to piss off Toyota, so they just shut up in order to keep their contract!  Toyota certainly won’t change their wheels, and Bridgestone complies with a design-limit solution.  

There are a few other forces at work of course like tire design, type of driving, and load conditions, but the basis of the problem is wheel size vs. tire size.  As an additional case in point, this problem doesn’t occur on the smaller shod 4Runners, in the 225/75R15 tires.

This was a most helpful conversation if there was one.  Finally, he gives me the number of the Toyota Warranty manager.  A big cheese apparently.

It’s been a few weeks of running around at this point trying to get a decent answer on what I should do about the tire replacement.  My tire dealer suggests that I purchase 16x8” wheels which would sort out some of this problem for next time.  Also, rotating the tires every 3000km wouldn’t hurt.  That’s twice the recommended rate.  Or simply get narrower tires, like the 225/75.  Hell, I want the fatter tires; Toyota thinks it looks good and so do I!

So I call the cheese at Toyota warranty.  His reply is curt, to the point and oh-so very clear. I quote:

“We know about this issue.  It is well known and well documented.  Since it’s not safety related we don’t really care and we won’t do anything about it.”

Finally, someone with enough gumption and honesty to give me the straight goods!

So I purchased a set of 16x8 Eagle magnesium-alloy wheels.  They are simply gorgeous.  And I replaced the tires again with new ones.  If I am not mistaken, the first set lasted some 20,000km maybe less, before the new rims.  This last set wore on for about 40K to 50K km.  Same type and maker of tire at that!  

The winter tires are still the ones I purchase the first year I had the truck, they are pretty much shot now.  Oddly enough, they haven’t succumbed to the odd and uneven wear, and they are on 7-inch winter rims.  Very odd.

So now, I’m on my way to purchasing a 4th set of summer treads.  

Here is what I need is:
  • Harder compound,

  • Stiffer sidewall,

  • Near-closed block edge,

  • Resistance to aquaplaning,

  • Outstanding traction on wet pavement,

  • Higher capacity to allow for knocking out a few pounds of air,

My choices are somewhat limited because of the weird size too.

Hmmm, now I’m wondering, since my winter tires are shot anyway, might as well keep them on for the summer and finish them proper.  They fit the above requirement as is.

PS. OB tire sizing 265/70R16
265 = 265millimetre
70 = 70% of above 265mm, so 185.5mm thick
R = radial,
16 = 16 inches diameter, on the wheel, ie. the “hole” size of the tire.

The rim width is not mentioned as this tire size can fit from min 7.00” to max 9.00”

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Influence the Great One

Given my propensity to detect conspiracy, here is a nice little one for you: Team Canada got nuked out of the Olympic Men’s Hockey finals.

Why? Because they sucked? Maybe... but why did they suck? Could it be because their coaching staff was not up to snuff? Could it be because of loss of confidence in their executive?

Wayne Gretzky (Executive Director of Team Canada) has already accepted all the responsibility, as the great man he is. But why such a dismal failure after such an outstanding show in Salt-Lake City?

I say, the gambling accusations against Gretzky were directly related. Furthermore, it’s a nice non-provable way to ensure a team’s loss. Even if the players were not directly affected, they still would have talked about it. Even if they all reached a consensus – very doubtful - on The Great One’s innocence, or guilt, this would still take away mind share from the game at hand.

When competing in sports at the Olympic level, your concentration on the task is tantamount. Even a fraction off and you lose! And accusations are precisely the kind of outside subject matter that would mess up concentration.

Injuries, drug-testing, psych-out, politics, healthy and unhealthy competition, are all in the vocabulary of an athlete of this calibre. Underhanded power play is not.

The timing of the accusations could not have been any better to fuck up the team. This in itself is proof enough for me. Couldn’t it have waited 3 weeks? Couldn’t it have been exposed 6 or more months ago? Nope, mere weeks, if not days, before the Olympics!

When the news came out, I was wondering who the hell has a grudge against Gretzky? And even if it’s all true, why now? Then I heard over the news the of Team’s loss… it became crystal clear.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m imagining all sorts of conspiracies to explain why my Team has lost.

But what if I’m right?

Here’s the litmus test:
IF “the whole gambling scandal fizzles out in a few weeks” THEN      I was right,
     Someone was looking to make a killing on,
     you guessed it: illegal gambling,
     against an odds-on favourite. (BIG money)
     I was wrong,
     No one was looking to get rich by betting against Canada.
     Someone really is after Gretzky.

Here’s the clincher. I don’t give a damned about the Olympics, nor about our peoples’ performance. I don’t care that Team Canada won or not.

What I do care about is these are athletes doing something they enjoy, the dream they are pursuing. I wish victory for themselves, in their minds and hearts.

But I also wish them to be able to compete without interference. Especially interference from external sources looking for illicit gain! If I’m right, a whole team of people just had their dreams crushed by unknown forces for financial gain, and that my friends, just ain’t right.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Contest Ramblings

The Canadian Authors Association is holding it’s 4th annual short-story contest. It ends February 28th, so if you have any submissions, I urge you to send them in quickly. Check out the link at Canwrite! Conference Story Contest.

This morning I sent in a short story that I wrote a while ago. This partly explains why I have been remiss in producing blog entries as I was doing some serious editing.

Also, I am currently working on a novel.

When I first started this Blog, I was looking to write for myself. Shortly thereafter, I wanted to see if I could keep up a writing schedule to make a living at it. The conclusion I came to: I can produce some 1000 words a day or more, but not sustained. I have come to prove that a daily column in a newspaper isn’t quite right for me. Maybe a weekly?

By the way 1000 words a day is a LOT. On average my blogs run about 800 words. A novel is 60,000 to 100,000 words. James Clavell, may he rest in peace, novels are about a ¼ million words or more. A daily newspaper columnist writes for 800 to 1000 per paper. Short stories are typically 1500 or less, but sometimes up to 2500.

I do my own editing, which can either cut down or explode then time it takes to punch out the words. Think of writing as building but editing is the polish and varnish. If I want to spend a lot of time perfecting the text, I can, and have, spent days in editing and reediting. As with anything one creates, you can add touches and make changes until the cows come home and still not be satisfied.

At some point, you have to call it quits and declare “good enough”. This is hard to do for a writer. It’s easier for a communicator. Once the point is made, you are done. But the former wants to create phrases that are delicious, that have a weight all their own, that are filled with artistic value, and quality.

And quality takes time and care.

So a published author has reviewed my short story, which I took off these very blog-pages. I then took a week almost full-time to re-edit before sending it in. It now sits at 1491 words. I hope quality words at that. I sent in the mess and now the wait begins.

Every once in a blue moon you create something that moves you. For some unknown reason you want to keep polishing it, you want to keep adding beauty to it. You don’t want it to end. And that is when you found something really special.

I hope the judges see this, as I have.

PS. I’ll keep you posted on the results… if any.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Suffering contradiction

Thou shalt suffer by where thou has sinned. Maybe sooner.

A couple of weeks ago I taped a report about the Nortel financial fiasco, and I got around to watching it. It was on French CBC (Radio-Canada) in one of the docu-report shows.

It outlined in rather broad terms the financial shenanigans of several officers over several years. There was nothing new, at least not to me. One thing did catch my attention.

A member of Nortel’s administration council, a chartered accountant no less, was on tape saying something to the effect: “the accounting reporting practices were not exactly state of the art”.

This is an obvious statement that everyone is well aware… now. But then in the same sentence, no interview editing that I could see, she goes on to say “we are not responsible for ensuring that the public at large understands…” I’m thinking to myself, no problem there. Obfuscation was obviously the order of the day.

A few minutes later, and it’s really hard to tell which part of the interview came first, she then exclaims with a tinge of reproach in her voice that “the company officers were less than transparent” when asked if she knew about the president’s financial transgressions. That’s OK babe, the officers aren’t responsible for making sure the administration council, at large, understands. And she seemed genuinely surprised at what she was saying.

I wonder, in watching things like this, if people realize how so very stupid they sound, or think. If this were in isolation, I’d use my fallback position that “when you are born stupid, there is not much you can do about it”. But this was a person of education!

Now it’s entirely possible that some creative editing was done to create this dichotomy in her speech, but I don’t think so. It was too smooth, and I feel the editing was more so to point out the contradiction.

I do hope this lack of transparency cost her retirement, but I doubt it. Maybe this will be a lesson for the next council that she’s on… but I doubt that too. She’ll be cautious from the lack of transparency from above, but I’m willing to bet that she won’t make any kind of effort to ensure the public, at large, is properly informed.

And there lies the true dichotomy. There is no business case, no onus, no responsibility from any administration council to do what’s right. It has to come from individuals with higher moral value. Doing what’s right is it’s own reward, but it sure as hell won’t ensure a decent retirement.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Organize and disinform

David Warren's editorial in the Ottawa Citizen today Organized outrage, one lie at at a time drives home several valid points.  He speaks of disinformation to not only spark violent protest among the more influenceable - read extremist - Islamic congregations, but to keep fuelling the riots for days. Disinformation of this magnitude requires a certain amount of organization; furthermore it requires a serious amount of ill will.

I was going to stay away from this subject altogether, but now feel compelled to point out the evil as I see it.  It is genocide.

Genocide is defined as: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group  (Merriam-Webster).  By destruction of course, we mean death.   Usually genocide is considered a ‘bad thing™’.  It is a universal truth that we all consider to be a heinous and subhuman thing to do.  Or is it?  

Our own, dare I say western, sensibilities are formed by the holocaust, by the slaughtering of tribes and communities among many African countries, by many examples world wide of evil men doing atrocious things.  Our view on this is quite clear.  

I submit that evil is defined as perpetrating so heinous an act as genocide, or calling others to do so.  What’s the difference between: “kill the Jews” (Hitler) and “kill the infidels” (recent extremist fatwah assignment)?   It is the same order of evil and potentially an order of magnitude greater… Either of these weren’t orders to a war of capitulation these were (are) calls to systematic elimination.

It appeared in my studies of religions back in Catholic CEGEP, that all valid religion concepts are based on holding human life in the highest regard.  So it was with both contemplative and social religions. Transgressions have been made throughout time where this important point was sorely missed.  For example, Catholics are still trying to live down the Crusades!  Others should take heed of this example, unless of course there is no-one else left…

So who in their right mind would call for genocide, for any reason, in the name of a religion, or worse, a singular prophet?  My point is that these people are not in their right mind.  They may or may not be evil, time will tell, but their actions are.

Extremists of this type are always that, and while their cause might be worthy, their actions can never be condoned, support should removed, one can never go along with evil. But most certainly, we must never, ever, accede to their demands.  Ever. If only out of general principle.

And here is the key: proper information.  Everyone needs access to proper – if only mildly biased - information.  If all you have to go on is disinformation, you have nothing!  Furthermore, disinformation exists for the sole purpose of manipulating.  This is the problem and leads to the kind of shite of which Mr. Warren is speaking.

No matter the name of the religion, one must disassociate from those that call to genocide.  As I’ve said, genocide is inherently evil by its very definition. It’s that simple. If nothing else, no matter how worthy, the cause will be damaged beyond repair by association.  

I pretend to be aware of what’s going on. But seriously, am I more inclined to respect “the Prophet” now that there is a hit out on a cartoonist in Denmark?  I somehow don’t think so.  I may fear making fun of said prophet, but I sure a hell won’t respect him, nor any of his followers any more, nor anymore.

So here is my sweeping statement of the day: Muslims should condemn their own extremists for fucking up their goodwill and good standing, and then proceed to explain to the rest of us why it’s so very intrinsically bad to lampoon the extremist’s prophet.  

And here I touch the real nerve of west vs. Islam.  The west is willing to separate the Real Prophet Muhammad who deserves respect, from that iconoclastic figure portrayed specifically by and for the extremists.  Muslims, it seems, are not so willing.  Newsflash: it may be close in your heart, but he ain’t the same guy!  

THE Muhammad is a great individual, perfect even.  He has enduring qualities and is an inspiration.  Another version exists: he is a mean-spirited, violent, genocidal prick… Does this sound like the same guy?  One interpretation deserves respect, the other sheer contempt.

As for the Danish cartoonists, if the editor called for cartoons depicting, say the Sunni’s Prophet, I daresay they would have drawn people holding hands, or bowing, or praying, or a thoughtful individual writing thoughts in a little notebook, or a gathering following some kind of paladin figure to Mecca, and nothing at all to lampoon.  Get my point?  

The sooner Muslims dissociate themselves completely from their extremist brethren, the better for all.  The extremists to Islam is the KKK to Christians.   KKK are simply pro-white, and extremist Muslims are just as blatantly pro-“fidel”.  The advantage we have, as Christians, is that sometimes the KKK will wear white sheets and pointy hats.  This is an obvious trademark that we can point out in a visual manner, makes it easier to distance ourselves.  Not so the extremists.

So there is no grey zone here, people: disavow these morons outright and do it soon.