Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Reading Plan - Part 2

Back at the beginning of the year I posted about my plans to read the entire OT during 2011.  The plan was to divide the OT into three sections - the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The first phase involved reading the books of the Law by the end of March.  I did accomplish that (think I actually finished a day early).

The regular reading plan has been on hold for a few weeks now while I catch my breath and prepare for the Prophets.  This also gave me a chance to finish reading Dr. Craig's book On Guard.  Last week I sat down and prepared my reading plan for the Prophets.  I have it scheduled to start on Easter Monday and to finish on July 4th.  The books included for this phase include:

  • Joshua

  • 1 Samuel

  • 2 Samuel

  • 1 Kings

  • 2 Kings

  • Isaiah

  • Jeremiah

  • Ezekiel

  • Hosea

  • Joel

  • Amos

  • Obadiah

  • Jonah

  • Micah

  • Nahum

  • Habakkuk

  • Zephaniah

  • Haggai

  • Zechariah

  • Malachi

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bullfrog Run 2011 Recap

In lieu of my normal written recap, this run's recap has been completed as a video blog.  I clearly have much to learn about making videos, but I had to start somewhere.  Hope you enjoy.  If you are interested in looking at some of the still pics, there is a gallery for the run.

THMMC Bullfrog Run 2011 from Jeff Causey on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

R56 MINI Cooper S Spark Plug Change DIY

Note: A PDF version is available.

Another DIY for me. This time a relatively simple job – changing the spark plugs on my R56 MCS. The spark plugs on an MCS should be changed every 60k miles (so I am overdue by quite a bit). On a MC the interval is 100k miles. With the way life has panned out for me, I don’t think I’ve ever changed spark plugs on a vehicle, so this was something new for me.


First up was to find the proper spark plugs. I was fortunate to find a couple threads over at Motoring Alliance on the subject. First up was a post – A Basic Guide to Spark Plugs – which helped me get up to speed. The second was a thread about what spark plugs people were using in their MINIs. I’ve gathered at this point that there are basically 3 choices (4 I suppose if you get them from the dealership) – Brisk, NGK, and Beru. NGK is what comes installed in the MINI (at least in mine they were). However, I decided I wanted to maybe notch things up just a bit compared stock, so I ordered some of the Brisk plugs - MR12YS – from Alta Performance (a Google shopping search will yield some other sources, but I couldn’t find anything cheaper than Alta, although per piece I could if I ordered six at one time as packaged for a Mitsubishi Evo 10).


Before you get started though, you will need one other special item. The stock spark plugs require a 14mm 12 point spark plug socket. This is probably not something you are going to find at the local parts store. Fortunately, BMWs require this as well, so it was not hard to find an Assenmacher (ASSSP1412) 12 Point Thin Walled 14mm Spark Plug Socket on And kudos to Tooltopia who had it to me in only about 3 days.

My final pre-install step was to gap the spark plugs (may not be necessary if you go with NGK or Beru). The Brisk plugs come with a huge gap and I had to get them down to .018”. That took some patience to do it without messing up the tip.

The installation itself took maybe 15 minutes. One tip I picked up was to remove and install one plug at a time so as not to get wires crossed up (which may not really be possible with a MINI, but better safe than sorry). So I worked right to left looking at my engine from the front of the car.

The first step is to remove the ignition coils. These are the four connectors you see along the top of the motor. There is no trick to getting them off – you just pull them straight up. Go ahead and really pull up on them!



Once you have them loose, pull them on up and out. They are about six inches long. The bottom part is rubber, so it is flexible if you are worried as you pull them out – with the wires connected, the angle gets a little sharp. Looking down, you can see the spark plug down at the bottom.



Put the socket on an extension and unscrew the spark plug. Then screw a new spark plug in. For an MCS, the spark plugs should be torqued to 14.5 lb-ft.


One issue I did run into is that the socket had such a strong grip on the spark plug, that I could not pull it back out without it coming off the extension bar. That was solved by using some electrical tape to hold the socket and the extension together:


I did use some tape and marked each of the spark plugs as I took them out (using the right to left numbers). Since the plugs I’m using required me to gap them myself and are a little different from stock in the material they use, I wanted to be sure I could revert things if something doesn’t work out. I know the plugs I’m taking out work, so if needed I can re-install them. It may not matter, but I’d want to put them back in to the same place they came out of.


Finally, below is a pic showing one of the plugs taken out and the Brisk plug next to it. The plugs that came out looked to be in pretty good condition to me. Obviously used, but no unusual discoloration.


Upon completion, I did test things out and started up the MINI. I’m glad to report that I did have fire with the successful start! And a quick drive down the road seemed to be a smooth run. I’ll keep an eye on how the MINI runs the next couple weeks to see if I notice any stumbling, misses, or major changes in fuel mileage.

The spark plug change itself is pretty easy. Hope the tips in this DIY are helpful!

Enjoy motoring!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

RMHC VIR Charity Laps Recap

MINIs join Ronald and his Clubman

This was no April Fools joke.  On Friday, April 1st, VIR partnered with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of SWVA and NC to hold a charity laps events.  For at least the past three years (and I think longer), these events have normally been held in November for the benefit of the Salvation Army.  So a spring time frame for one of these events was a new twist.

Before getting to the track, I donned my blue PUMA driving shoes in support of Autism Awareness Day and wearing blue was a sign of support for that (you'll see in one of the pics, I had on my blue shirt and hat as well).  Been a while since I've worn them, but apparently they have finally stretched out to fit my feet.  Normally they border on being too tight for me (they tend to run narrow).  Maybe because it had been a while, but I could certainly tell I had on some thin-soled shoes as I could really feel the pedals and feedback through them really well.

Ready to go for my first session

Got to the track about 9:30 in the morning and I was still in Group 2.  So it didn't look like it was going to be nearly as crowded as it was this past November.  That proved to be the case as the day panned out.  Of course, I would have thought that with the numbers down, it might be a little easier to get in some quicker runs.  That was not the case though.

For this event, they were just running it on the North Course (Bertil Roos had the South Course).  This was my first time running the North configuration.  The turn off the esses to head up into the infield was a nice corner and the additional esses are probably a lot of fun at speed.  However, there were several slow cars mixed in with the group which kept speeds down.  I noted in my second run that we were only going 20 mph through the Carousel.  For the first session, my top speed was only 83 mph.  Second session didn't exceed that.  In the third session, I managed to get up to 95 mph on the front stretch one lap.

A group of MINIs

In between sessions, we discovered that the RMHC had a Clubman that they use for getting around to events.  We managed to strike a deal to get our MINIs on pit road with the RMHC Clubman for a group photo.

So a little slower compared to the full course, but still a lot of fun.  That was helped in part due to all the THMMC MINIs who showed up.  I think we had around a dozen that attended the event.  Much better than last fall when there was only a small handful of us.  Here is the link to the page of photographs.  I also have some video that I grabbed with my new GoPro.  Still learning how to use it and how to process it into a decent video (along with the differences between vimeo and YouTube - used vimeo for this).