Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas

I just spent four days with my wife. What a great Christmas! :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's snowing!

Today is December 5, 2005, and it's snowing like crazy outside. I can't remember a snow this early in the year since 1986. Normally I'd be excited, but there are 3 mitigating factors:

1. My wife is very pregnant. Amanda's at almost 8 months right now, and according to the baby calendar, she's due to have our child somewhere between 3 and 8 weeks from now. Why is this important to the snow? Well, first of all, she's at work, and must drive home at the end of the day. Secondly, she has a class to attend this evening on the opposite end of town. I don't want her to go, but she's willful (love ya, babe!).

2. I'm driving on wholly-inappropriate tires. I had hoped to be back to stock wheels & tires by now, but there simply hasn't been time to swap my brakes back to stock, which means I can't even mount my stock wheels. So I'm on Max Performance Summer tires, which have absolutely no grip in the snow. Fun.

Anyway, kick back, enjoy the snow, and enjoy a hot cup of cocoa: it's snowing!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Update!!!

We bought a crib and dresser! Yippee!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why I suck

I missed November. There's no excusing that, but it was an exciting month with thrills and chills, and honestly I found very little time to update this thing.

Alastair:

Amanda and I took a month-long class called "Confident Childbirth". We learned all kinds of things that we'll undoubtedly forget, including what can go wrong or right in childbirth, relaxation techniques, breathing methods, and a wide variety of things to keep you from sleeping at night (with pictures).

We also took a one-day class called "Newborn Nuances", where we learned how to change diapers and basically tend to a newborn.

We received our child-seat and its two bases (thanks, Randy!). We learned from fitting the child-seat that we won't be coming home from the hospital in the MINI. It forces the passenger-seat all the way forward, which will not be comforable for a woman who's just given birth.

We also found out last night that our preferred crib and furniture are no longer being made. That's fun. Every time we find something we like, if we don't buy it that day, it gets sold out or discontinued (or both) before we get around to buying it. I think it's a government plot.


MINI:

I got new wheels and tires at the beginning of November: Kosei K1-TS 17x7 wheels in silver (14.1 lbs) with Kumho ECSTA MX 215/40R17 Max performance summer tires. The tires provide a shorter radius than stock, so acceleration is improved, and are lighter than the Avons on my SSR's. Overall weight is up only 0.1 lbs over my old setup, and the real upshot is that there's no more rubbing on the wheel-well liner. Yippee!

I put these brand new wheels / tires to the test (after only 80 miles of use) in an autocross. That was kind of foolish. I wasn't so much steering the car with the wheel as with the brakes and throttle. The car was virtually uncontrollable, and yet I kept it on course, and never hit a cone. That came with a price: terribly slow performance. Oh, well. There's always next year.

The real coup de grace, though, was just last weekend. Mr. K sponsored me for a day of track driving at VIR (www.virclub.com), one of America's top road courses. I got four 30-minute sessions with several other cars, and managed to keep up with the pace car throughout the day. I learned how to heel-toe on the fly, flung the car around quite a bit, and had more fun in the first half of that day than I've ever had in the car.

The second half of the day was another matter: we had a different--and far slower--pace-car driver. Whereas we'd taken the uphill S'es at 95 mph in the morning, we were taking them at 55 or 60 in the afternoon. Yuck. That, coupled with the apparent lack of skill from some of the other drivers, lead to some very boring driving in the afternoon. Granted, running up the the very edge of the road, heel-toeing hard, and slinging the car around in a tight arc was still fun, but not nearly as technically challenging as it had been.

I learned a lot, and really hope I'll have an opportunity to do it again.


Work:

By far the biggest time-suck in November.

We received word early in the month that something very very big was coming, and that "Thanksgiving might be canceled". Great. As the something got closer, it got bigger and bigger. I imagine it was the mental equivalent of watching a devastating tsunami approach, and knowing there's nowhere to go.

Anyway, I was eventually led to believe that I would have very little to do with this activity, until Friday the 18th. On that date, with only one hour left in my work day (and three work-days left until Thanksgiving), I got a call that boiled my blood. Turns out that a huge amount of work was being abandoned by another department, and they needed me to get it done. Now, the premier social event of the year was scheduled for the following night, and I was told that I might have to work through the weekend if I expected to get Thanksgiving DAY off.

I sat at my desk, stewed about it for about a while, and finally just decided to make it happen. Unfortunately, the tool we were supposed to use was hopelessly broken, and the developers were nowhere to be found. We called, we complained, and they sent us an updated tool. It was worse. Finally, I had to reverse-engineer some guy's software and rewrite major parts of it, which we in turn distributed to all of the other sites that were struggling. I wound up getting out of work after a 14-hour day, got the rest of the weekend off (mostly), and got my Thanksgiving.

It was a very busy time, and I'm glad it's over. The downside is that all of the other work was postponed until that project was over, and now we're trying to figure out what got ignored.


Anyway, Amanda has at least two baby-showers in the next week or so, my car's in the shop for a new windshield (stress fracture--should be covered by warranty), and I'm finally hanging the new kitchen light that we bought in August (or was it September?).

It's busy-beaver time.

Go see "Walk the Line".

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Goings on

I got a new cell phone. I decided to move boldly forward into the 21st century on Monday. Got myself an LG VX8100 with Verizon Wireless. Hot dog. It's got a 1.3 Megapixel camera, bluetooth, VCast (not enabled), and lots of other doodads that I'll probably never use.
But the Bluetooth rocks. My intention is to get a Parrot 3200 color car kit so that I can have rockin' conversations with my car stereo. Also quite groovy is the software I have on order that will allow me to synchronize my Outlook phonebook with my phone. No longer will I have 2 or even 3 separate databases to maintain. Rock!!!

Amanda went to and safely returned from Canada. I met her at the airport with roses. She rocks. She is my rock. Amanda rocks socks. My time without her was miserable. I walked around the house with no particular direction and had trouble figuring out how to do basic things like eating. I don't deal well with separation.

I got a really freakin' cool part for my car. A new(ish) company called Um-Nitza started manufacturing carbon-fibre strut braces for MINI's. The first review was glowing and the part was gorgeous. So I bought one. It doesn't fit. After first fitting it into place, the bonnet wouldn't close. I pushed a littler harder and buckled the hood. Doh! Fortunately, the dents aren't very serious, and are barely noticeable. It looked so beautiful in place, and really brought me down.

That's about it for me. Ho hum.

( had a lot of energy when I started writing today, but had to take a long break, and it sucked the life out of me.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Johnny Cash makes me cry

Amanda and I went to the 67th National Folk Festival on Sunday. What an experience. We watched Ralph Stanley (wow!!) and the Clinch Valley Boys, a group of under 18's called "No Speed Limit", and a bunch of other Southwest Virginia groups. What struck me was the amount of Johnny Cash and Carter Family music that was played. Of course, there were also several songs from the "O Brother, Where are thou?" soundtrack, but the whole thing got me in the mood to pull out the Johnny Cash album we bought.

I'm listening to it right now, and it's just amazing. At least two songs have actually gotten my tears flowing (which is potentially embarrassing at my desk), but the worst of all was "If I Were a Carpenter". Egads, just thinking of that song makes me cry.

Johnny: "If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?"
June: "If you were a carpenter, and I were a lady, I'd marry you anyway; I'd have your baby."

It's a neat song about the power of the love they shared, and it just turns my thoughts so strongly to Amanda.

I love my wife.

(By the way, if you like bluegrass, check out "No Speed Limit". They rock, and their guitarist is the national flatpick champion.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I've been internalizing

So I keep forgetting to write. I read other people's posts all the time, but constantly forget (or just don't find time) to write my own. I've returned to my instinctive mode, which is to internalize everything, allowing the rotting fruit of discontent to fester with the good stuff, effectively ruining everything in the storehouse of my mind.

The Bad News:
1. Tomorrow is my annual review, and it's been a soft year.
2. House preparations are not moving quickly enough; I'm getting edgy.
3. Monday is a useless federal holiday, and I might have to lose 8 hours of accrued vacation or personal time for it.
4. Next Friday is a company meeting, which will further erode my work hours.
5. Last month was a bumper month for overtime, which means taxes next year will be hell.
6. Amanda is going to Canada in less than two weeks.

The Good News:
1. We've chosen a name: Alastair Paul Ramsey Amos. Alastair is the Scottish form of Alexander, a name we liked, but was over-represented in the family. Paul was my maternal grandfather's middle name, and Ramsey was my paternal grandfather's middle name.
2. Amanda is doing very well.
3. Work has started to get busy again.
4. House preparations have begun, and furniture is being picked out.
5. With a little luck, we'll own a new washing machine tonight, and we'll finally have good reception for watching Lost.

When I try to list things, it seems that the bad out-weighs the good, but that's only because the bad has been clouding my thoughts. I'm actually happy, but need to remember that the bad stuff only goes out of the tub if you open the drain. Writing accomplishes that task. Stifling does not.

Monday, September 26, 2005

To the Little Orange People, I am a Hero

I ran in my second ever autocross yesterday. Wow. Take all of the excitement of rallye driving, pack it into 55 seconds, then do it 5 times within an hour. The result, when mixed with an hour of course-work, an hour of walking the course and memorizing it, and at least two hours of prepping the car and watching others (oh, yeah, and driving 45 minutes to and from the event), is utter fatigue. With a little sunburn.

Every part of my body wanted to crash when I got home, but I still had to take another 30 minutes putting the car back together for street driving. This stuff is exhausting.

The course, which was set up at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, was based largely on the North Course at this year's SCCA Nationals. A fun, fast, and complicated course ranging over a huge piece of tarmac, it featured slaloms, hair-pin turns, narrow channels (some that curved), super-fast straights, braking nightmares, and everything you'd (n)ever want to encounter on the street. In short: it was awesome.

I think there were close to 100 competitors, including 6 MINIs (7 drivers), a bevy of Porsches, BMW's, Subies, a Mitsubishi Evo, and a Ferrari Modena 360 Spyder. Nice. Some of the cars were trailered in, raced, trailered, and taken back home. I can't imagine having the financial wherewithal to trailer a 1983 Morgan Plus 8, or a custom-built race car.

Anyway, in the first heat (of four), Daniel Gohlke and I were assigned to the third safety station. Our job was to reset cones if they got knocked down, to call them in as penalties, and to red flag drivers if an unsafe condition presented itself. That turned out to be ironic, as the third station was in the most unsafe possible place. We were in a place that was responsible for traffic coming from two opposite directions, and once had a BMW M Coupe come sliding right at us.

During the second heat, I watched a number of great competitors, and watched as the bar was raised higher and higher. This enormous course was being run in less than 50 seconds, and some had it down to 43 seconds.

Finally, our time came. I went out and did my very best, each time learning a little more about the nuances of the course: where to apply power, where to shift, where to brake, and when to turn. By the last run, I had figured out how to drift slightly through some of the later gates, which allowed me to turn the wheel before getting to the gate, kick out the back end, and wind up pointed at the next gate. As a result, I wound up cutting just over 4 seconds off my time.

Run 1: 57.170
Run 2: 55.329
Run 3: 54.555
Run 4: 53.701
Run 5: 53.127

And I never hit a cone. This stuff is addictive.

Monday, September 19, 2005

2005 British Car Days



Yesterday was the 2005 British Car Days, put on by the Central Virginia British Car Club. For some reason, there was a theme this year: "Tour of Europe". This meant that other European cars were invited to participate.

At first, I wasn't keen on the idea of having a bunch of random German and Italian cars in the mix. But yesterday, when I got to see a 2004 Maserati Coupe next to a Ferrari 360 Modena, everything was OK with the universe.

There were Porsches: 911 RS (American version), 930 Turbo (ah, memories), various Carreras, and fully race-equipped car (that burned a hole in the grass with his exhaust). There were VW's: R32's and Beetles (one done up as a baseball, complete with Rawlings leather seats and a baseball bat e-brake handle). There was a Citroen, a complement of Saabs from every era, a couple of really cool Volvos, and some other cars I simply couldn't identify.

The piece-de-resistance, however, was the 1969 Ferrari Daytona. With the hood open, you could see how spotless each of the 6 2-barrel carburetors were and how perfectly clean the hood-batting fabric was. This thing is well kept. From what I heard from others, it's well-kept for good reason: it's insanely rare. It won for "Best of Italy".

Mr. Kimmelshue took home the trophy for Best new MINI. Rock on! That car was spotless, thanks to Richard's incredible diligence.

I spent a good deal of time hanging around the EuroClassics Lotus Elises. Wow. That orange Elise was just begging me to buy it. The guy let me get inside, which I used as a photo op. I have never fallen more deeply in love with a piece of machinery.



The biggest disappointments of the show, however, were Crown MINI and the food. The food was awful and exorbitantly over-priced. Typical. Crown, though, has no excuse. They put a bunch of money into this thing every year; their ad shows up on the back cover of the program, and they just sat around all day. They didn't set up any signs, didn't hand out flyers, didn't do squat. No, that's not true. They left the cars for a long time and wandered around, then took my seats when they came back. Bunch of clowns. Just to make the disappointment complete, upon closer inspection, their whole-page ad on the back of the flyer was awful. The MINI in the picture looked like it was printed at 72dpi. Very amateur.

Anyway, we all sat in the intense sunlight and 90-degree heat for about 7 hours, taking in all the beautiful machines, and then headed over to Legend to rehydrate.

I had a great time, but wish it could have been about 10 degrees cooler and a little bit cloudy.

I can't wait 'til next year. Hopefully we'll be able to field more than 6 cars, although I was delighted to note that all the MINI's out there were members of RCM. REPRESENT!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Schroth and Autometer and Aubrey / Alistair

I've now competed in a speed-based event in my MINI. I participated in Sunday's Autocross, and boy oh boy did I have fun. I got a wicked sunburn, but I had fun. And I'm doing it again!

The harnesses made all the difference in the world. Previously, to keep my butt in place, I had to push my arms hard against the steering wheel, my knees against the sides of the cockpit, and my left foot hard against the dead-pedal. On Sunday, with the harnesses in and drawn tight enough to reduce circulation, I was free to just drive the car.

I was surprised that, over 6 runs, I never upset a cone or veered off course, although I went through a bunch of rubber. The course began with a zig left and a zag right, followed by a short downhill slalom, a sweeping uphill left 180, a very short straight, a sweeping downhill left 180, slaloms again, the uphill again, a hard brake, a hard left, and then a quick launch to the finish line. Amazingly, I didn't come in last place. The little Cooper showed its teeth, and while my times were nowhere near record-breaking, they demonstrated that this car can be mean. I was only .05 seconds off the best time of a Cooper S. Of course, he was competing in a stock class, and I was competing in a virtually unlimited class, but I think that, with a little more experience (and perhaps a performance driving school), I might be able to post some really good times.

My fastest run was 34.402 seconds, and my slowest run was 36.418; just 2.016 seconds difference. But, watching the videos, that 2 seconds is fairly easy to see. I need to see if there's a way I can make a split-screen video of the fastest and slowest runs.

As mentioned, I got lots of tire squeals, managed to get her a little bit sideways (on purpose), and had an absolute blast. I can't wait for registration to open for the next one.

---

I have now received my AutoMeter gauges, but they're going to be tricky to install. I don't have the highest expectations, but they will at least be in the car for the British Car Show on Sunday. I hope to have them both functional by the autocross on the 25th, as one of them directly measures lateral G-forces, and I would like to know exactly what I'm doing to the car on these runs.

---

Enough geekdom. Amanda is edging closer to the third trimester, and we still haven't fully settled on a name. Or perhaps I mean that I still haven't fully settled on a name. I like Aubrey (I just mistyped it "Aubrye", and thought it looked really cool). Really, I do. But it's so inexorably tied to Jack Aubrey that I might have trouble over time. I think it's also a name that I would tire of saying. But it's such a classic and classy name. Full of power and history. It's a name that I associate with emotional and physical fortitude.

Alistair, on the other hand, lends more to intellectualism and royalty. Yes, it's tainted by the famous Satanist, but every name has been assigned to at least one ill-bred fellow, right? Just think about all the poor folks named Adolf, Saddam, Fidel, or Kim. We can't hold the circumstances of history against them just because they share a name with a tyrant.

Both are the types of names that children often eschew in favor of their more mundane middle names (which, for Lumpy, will most likely be Paul, in honor of my grandfather: Albert Paul Chamberlain).

So which is it: Aubrey Paul Amos or Alistair Paul Amos? There's always the dark horse: Addison Paul Amos.

We've looked over scads of more pedestrian names, and they just don't ring true with either of us.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Boyracer...

Gauges and harnesses, baby!

Three weeks after ordering them, my harnesses finally arrived. I got them installed a couple of days ago, and just that simple change makes the interior of the car look mean.

Now, to complement them, and to give me some knowledge of what's going on under the bonnet, I'm getting some gauges. I've ordered an Alta gauge-pod, and had my dad order an air/fuel ratio gauge, along with something called a D-PIC, which measures G-forces, wheel horsepower, acceleration, and braking. Both have lots of flashing lights and should give me a good indication of what changes need to be made to improve my performance.

It's all very exciting.

Even more exciting is the fact that I've put 356 miles on this tank of gas, and the OBC is telling me that I can get 61 more miles out of it. This might be a record. My computer's reporting an average fuel-economy of 29.7 mpg, which might be just a touch low compared to actual usage.

Unfortunately, I'll have to refuel today, but I'm not putting in more than half a tank. Why? I'm participating in my first autocross on Sunday, and experienced racers will tell you never to run with more than 3 gallons of fuel in the car. Gas weighs over 6 lbs / gallon, so running with 3 gallons shaves 60 lbs of weight.

Taking out the spare tire and toolkit takes off another 48 lbs, so I'll be running 100 lbs lighter than I generally run. w00t!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My Day

Music: Belly King
Netflix: Team America World Police

I've spent the better part of the day in my own personal Hell. People keep asking me questions, then they either talk over the answer (requiring me to say the answer 3 or 4 times), or they ignore the answer and ask the guy next to me. Thanks, people, way to make me feel appreciated.

Then there's the fellow who keeps calling. This guy calls several times every day, and is one of the most odious conversationalists I've ever met. He derives great pleasure from inane discussions of "things that would suck", like the day he told me that it would suck to have your head crushed by two logs. Freak. So he calls me every day to report problems, then proceeds to advise me on how I should fix them. Then he won't let me off the phone until he's verified (and often re-verified) that the problem is fixed. I frequently have painful 10+ minute phone calls with this guy. Today, by noon, I've already had 5. No, wait, he just called again.

---

I saw Team America World Police last night. What an odd movie. I didn't find it to be nearly as funny as I had expected, but I think that might have been the point. The music was the funniest single element of the movie, particularly the song about how much Michael Bay sucks.

I did, however, really enjoy the treatment that the Film Actors Guild members got. Quality.

Overall, it was quite amusing. I could have done without the bizarre marionette sex and vomiting, but it was pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

:(

Right as I'm celebrating my 30th B-day, Hurricane Katrina had to come along and destroy one of the most wonderful places I've ever had the pleasure of visiting: New Orleans.

Pray for the people of New Orleans, and go visit them after they get cleaned up. They're gonna need all the help they can get.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is the Fad Over?

Music: Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

I've noticed a number of my friends' blogs have gone silent recently. Has the allure of blogging begun to ebb? Have people run out of things to say? Does it just take too much effort?

I've not been very serious about mine, but it's nothing more than a collection of thoughts and musings. But I do enjoy reading others' blogs. It gives me a certain insight into what goes on behind the scenes with folks.

I like the anonymity of posting, even though everyone knows exactly who I am. I like that I can express things that I would never say out loud. It's a cathartic release, and much cheaper than a shrink.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The big 30

Music: The Cranberries
Movies: March of the Penguins (tomorrow)
Netflix: Punch Drunk Love (weird, but Adam Sandler is more interesting as an actor than an idiot)


Sunday will mark...nothing. I will turn 30, but what does that mean? I've had trouble remembering that I'm 29 for the last 4 or 5 months. I've been 30 in my own head since right after Amanda turned 30. In fact, I think I felt 30 from the moment we discovered Amanda's pregnancy. So what is 30? Is it any different from, say, 26? 35? It doesn't feel any different, except that the drugs I'm on for my back aren't as good as they were two years ago. C'est la vie.

To celebrate the "momentous" occasion, I was given the task of deciding what I want to do. Yeah... I'm not such a big fan of planning "fun" activities for myself or others. But, as it turns out, I'm not much of a fan of others arbitrarily filling up my schedule, either.

We've chosen to go to Irvington for a relaxing time on the river. We'll spend some time on the boat, read a little bit, relax a whole lot, play some bocce, and eat well. Then, on Monday, we'll go to Williamsburg and spend some money. Perfect, right? Except that the day keeps getting crowded with "good ideas". z.B., my mom wants (very badly) to have lunch with me on Sunday. Well, that's utterly impossible, but that didn't stop her from laying on the guilt trip. (Hey, mom: if you're so desperate to see me on my birthday, where were you for numbers 14 to 20?).

Now, my dad has found some people whom we simply must meet, but who want to meet on some horrid sounding place called "Mosquito Point". Yikes. I'm assured it's beautiful, serene, and that the people are first-rate. But what if I get bored? After all, it's the one day of the year where I'm guaranteed the right to be as selfish as I want. Do we get to leave at a moment's notice? What about spending too much time in the Sun? We'll have to ride there in the open-top boat, spend time on Mosquito Point, and then ride back in the open-top boat. I don't want to endanger Amanda, who has marvelously sensitive skin. Nor do I want a deep burn (to which I'm prone, as I always forget to renew my sunscreen).

I'm sure I'll have a good time. I get like this every year: I can't come up with anything I want to do, so I just let others plan for me. I dread their plans, but wind up having a blast.

---

We find out next week what Lumpy will be (boy/girl) -- assuming Lumpy is facing the camera.

I've been reading Amanda's "The Three Martini Playdate", and am inspired to find there are others who feel that children are not the center of their universes.

If you put the child at the absolute fore-front of your life, then the child will naturally come to assume that he/she is infallable, and that all social encounters will be favorable to him/her. This extends into adulthood, and can be seen in this bizarre notion of entitlement that we see in so many of today's young adults.

Screw that. Our kid will have serious boundaries, will not be bargained with, and will learn to respect others. Or else we'll sell the child to gypsies.

---

Last night, the assembled members of the RiverCityMINIs Board of Directors took a couple of runs down Riverside Dr. The first was a fast run with Dad and Chris K. While it was fun, I got a lot of barking from the tires; I think they're down to their last few months of life. The car was full of clicks and clacks from the brakes, and did not feel good.

But she felt very strong. This car, now that the airbox and coil pack have been replaced, is pulling much harder than she ever has. While I can't keep up with Chris, I can stay closer to him. This, however, has a trade-off that I hadn't considered: previously, I had never gained enough speed on that run to really need the brakes. Sure, I had to squeeze them once and again, but this time I was on them hard and often.

On the second run, I incorporated some techniques I've seen in watching professional rally videos. Instead of holding the wheel on a constant angle through the apex of the turn, I tried sawing it back and forth in 15-degree motions throughout the turn. To my utter amazement, the car felt more composed, and the tires only barked once. Of course, I think I was moving a tiny bit slower, out of fear that the sawing would spin me...

Harnesses are coming. I'm giddy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A rough month, this...

Not one week after my great-grandmother passed, Amanda's uncle Mark was suddenly taken from this world. A shocking loss: he wasn't quite 53 years old. Evidently, he had been feeling unwell at work, and went to sit in his truck to enjoy the A/C for a few minutes. Co-workers found him unconscious in the truck, and he was rushed to the hospital, where he expired.

Horror upon horror. This has not been not a kind August.

Please pray for Amanda. Pray for her mother and brother, for her aunt Brenda and cousin Hannah (15, and to lose her father!), and for her grandmother. No person should ever have to out-live his or her own children.

Monday, August 08, 2005

ANNIE BETTINI SELF "MISS ANNIE"

GREENSBORO -- Mrs. Annie Bettini Self passed away on Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, at Moses Cone Hospital.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Forbis & Dick, North Elm Street Chapel, by the Rev. G.M. (Bob) Bettini officiating. Interment will follow at Green Hill Cemetery.

Mrs. Self was born on Sept. 4, 1905, in Guilford County to the late Peter Francesco and Dora Schoolfield Bettini. She was the widow of Luther E. Self. Also preceded her in death was her son, Luther W. Self, six brothers and three sisters.

She will be remembered as an excellent seamstress who had the pleasure of making the presentation gowns for 14 Miss North Carolinas (one becoming Miss America) during the 50's and 60's.

Mrs. Self was the oldest member of Carraway United Methodist Church. She was also a member of the True-Blue Class and the United Methodist Women.

She is survived by two daughters, Marjorie King, Clara Ozment of Greensboro and a son, Joseph Self and wife Anne of Bernardsville, N.J. She will be dearly missed by all who have known her. Her love, thoughtfulness and warmth have touched the lives of 12 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren. She will live on as wonderful memories for her family and friends. She leaves an extended family in North Carolina, NC, NJ, VA, GA, PA, CO, CA, TN and FLA.

The family will receive friends from 7 to 8:30 p.m. today at Forbis & Dick, North Elm Street Chapel and at other times at the home of Mikie & LuAnne Honeycutt, 5305 Bancroft Road, Greensboro.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Carraway United Methodist Church, 1301 16th Street, Greensboro, NC 27405 or to Hospice, 2500 Summit Ave., Greensboro, NC 27405.

The family wishes to thank the staff at Greensboro Retirement Center, Moses Cone Hospice Unit and Dr. John Griffin for their kind and excellent care of their loved one.

My beloved great-grandmother has passed. Thank you to all of you who have offered your prayers and support. It has meant a lot.

The funeral was as wonderful as it could be. Very simple, very brief. And though tears were shed by all, it was very uplifting for everyone, and turned into a celebration of her life.

We all agreed that she would have really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Empire Struck Back, followed by Revenge of the Jedi

You may remember my post (that I'll call "A New Hope") about the obnoxious DSCR Rent-A-Cop, the retarded parking ticket, and my aggressive letter-writing campaign to restore Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Well, I was very proud of that little skirmish, and felt that balance might have returned to the galaxy. Not so.

Yesterday I got out to my car and found another love letter from the same Rent-A-Cop for parking in the same space. I was, once again, infuriated, but this time I was also a little amused. I figured the guy might have something against me, and that wasting my time was a good way at getting me back for getting away with the heinous crime of defeating his first parking ticket.

Now, I wasn't nearly as angry this time: just highly annoyed. You have to admit it seems fishy: 3 weeks and nobody else gets a ticket for parking in this spot, then I park there again and get one. I would know--I've been religiously examining windshields for tickets.

So I wrote another letter, this time short and sweet, to the guy's boss and boss-boss-boss. I insinuated that he might be harassing me personally (you have to admit, a red MINI stands out against the back-drop of Toyotas and Hondas that regularly use that spot), and that I had been lead to believe that the issue of that parking space was resolved.

Minutes later, I got an e-mail from the police captain telling me to tear up the ticket, that she would, once again, "take care of the situation".

I wish I'd gone to law school.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Random Updates

Movies: War of the Worlds
Netflix Pick: Spirited Away
Books: Master & Commander, by Patrick O'Brian

I got a new laptop at work. It's very shiny. Ooh, shiny...

Preparations are coming along well at castle Amos. New tool chests have been purchased, assembled, sorted, and pressed into production. New cabinets were purchased yesterday to clean up the pantry area, and windows are on order for half of the house.

Next up is to find a concrete contractor to pave the driveway, then paint some rooms, make-over a bathroom, and start buying furniture.

There's much to be done, and just over 25 weeks to do it. Sheesh.

I think mods to the car are all but done for a while, with the exception of cleaning up some prior issues and maybe upgrading the ignition system.

Now for the downer: my great-grandmother is dying. She is 99 years old, and will (would) be 100 in early September. She has suffered pin-strokes for decades, was put into assisted-living a few years ago, and has had two serious strokes in the past few days.

Pray for me, for her, and for my family as she goes to be with God.

Lumpy: 14 weeks, 2 days

Monday, July 11, 2005

GoFast

I put in my first go-fast goodie on Saturday: an Ultrik MiniMania intake. PITA to install, but the car feels much stronger.

I'm happy.

I also finally got all of my tools stored nicely in convenient tool chests.

Last Wednesday we ordered new windows for the house, and we're getting serious about finishing some very necessary work on the house. Exciting times are coming!

Lumpy: Stage 1 complete, Stage 2 + 1 day (@13w, 1d)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Showdown with Johnny


Music: Interpol, Antics
Movies: War of the Worlds
Netflix: The Butterfly Effect, The Terminal


I got my first parking ticket on Wednesday. I wasn't happy.

Anyone who knows me well will know that I attempt to live my life above reproach, which means I don't litter, I park neatly between the lines, and I give no latitude for others to hold me responsible for any illicit activity. I was devastated by my first and only speeding ticket, and felt the same way on Wednesday.

But on Thursday, I fought back.

I had a verbal show-down with the DSCR Rent-A-Cop, and he handed me a ticket and told me to take the issue up with his supervisor.

So I wrote a letter. Everyone told me not to send it; they said that I was putting my job on the line for contesting a parking ticket; they said I had no legal rights to fight a parking ticket, especially as there is no fine for it.

But I have a fundamental problem with letting issues like this go. When we decide that it's not worth our time to fight an unjust parking ticket, we give the government implicit permission to hassle us over minor legal issues. We set a precedent of acceding to bullying, and I won't stand for it. The erosion of civil liberties begins when we accept a parking ticket as "no big deal". F that.

Here's the letter:

Yesterday afternoon, as I was returning to my car, I watched as a DLA Police vehicle pulled up behind my car and began writing a citation for a parking violation. This had me utterly flummoxed, as I cannot perceive how my parking job was a violation.

My parking spot yesterday was next to 163 down by the Community Center. This is the spot that is partially inhibited by a jersey-wall, and is next to the bus-stop. I have, over the past two years, parked in this spot more times than I can remember, and have often been denied that spot by others who have also used it. Never have I seen anyone receive a citation for parking in this spot, nor had I ever received one.

Obviously, that changed yesterday. Since I got to watch the officer write the ticket, I asked him what made my choice of parking spot invalid. He replied “this is not a parking spot.” I asked him why, and he replied that the jersey-wall was inside the space, and that the second white line was obstructed. I replied to him that there are many spots on base that have only one white line, and he told me that those other spots are “different”. When I asked him how they’re different, he advised me to contact you and handed me a ticket.

No citation was issued for the car parked next to me, whose back wheel was over the line.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the past two years have seen a number of parking spaces disappear or go from being unassigned to assigned. Several spaces have been converted to non-parking use (and clearly marked as such), and a few non-parking spaces have received official recognition as parking spots.

Take, for example, the last space (17A) behind Building 34. I have seen co-workers receive citations for parking there before there was a number, under the charge that it was not a proper parking space, since there was no white line on the curb-side. Now, it is an official space, as is 1A on the same row. While it may be officially assigned (Maintenance in 17A, DSCR-D in 1A), these were previously spots that – when unlabelled – would get ticketed.

There is nothing that marks my ticketed spot as invalid. There is no yellow paint, no white paint on the curb, and no sign (although there is a sign-post, like there are at many valid parking spots). Motorcycles, however, regularly park in clearly illegal spaces, and long trucks and SUV’s regularly double-park, all without fear of citation.

So my questions are thus: what, according to DSCR (or DLA), explicitly defines a parking spot? Did my parking job yesterday explicitly violate any standing statute, or is it up to the discretion of the officer to determine what is proper vs. improper parking? Can I get a copy of the directive that defines legal, valid parking spots, so that I can educate my coworkers and prevent any further infractions?

If I did not violate any explicitly defined statute, I request that my citation be revoked.
The reply I got was astonishing. I got a call from the Captain, who told me not to worry about the ticket, that it had been "taken care of". She also APOLOGIZED for the officer's actions, which was completely unexpected, and her boss told me to bring him the ticket so that it could be rescinded.

So how about that? The little guy comes through, every once in a while, and Truth, Justice, and the American Way still hold.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My Fabulous Weekend

So I had a great 4th.

The weekend started normally enough, with a couple hours of shooting near Beaverdam, VA. Mr. Stanley’s grandmother lets us take guns out in her backyard, and we went to town on some paper plates.

I took my great-grandfather’s 22-Long Rifle out for the first time, and really enjoyed squeezing off 15 semi-automatic shots at a time. Man, that thing is accurate, and there’s no kick at all.

The .45, on the other hand, was putting rounds all over the place. I couldn’t tell if it was my nerves or the gun, but I couldn’t hit crap with it. The first shot would usually be good, but the rest were uncontrollable.

But it was fun, and now Amanda and I are going to take a class to get a concealed-carry permit.

Sunday, after Church (which was far more entertaining than usual), we packed up and headed to the Northern Neck.

First stop was the Kimmelshue lake house, where – shock of shocks – Amanda got in the river. She was brave enough to walk out past the pier, up to her stomach. Then we put her on a sailboat! I swear, this is not the same woman I married – that woman was an aquaphobe. This woman got out on a 16” Hobie-Cat and smiled all the way.

I was delighted to work the jib, and felt like I was starting to get the hang of capturing the wind for some serious speed. However, our speed on the cat was nothing compared to the speed of Chris’s JetSki. Holy crap. I’d never ridden one before, so this was a new experience for me. And of course I have to start with one that’s been modified for performance…

But was it ever fun! I can see how people eagerly throw their money into watercrafts and go-fast toys.

Anyway, after an afternoon of playing on the Rappahannock, we packed up again and headed to Irvington for dinner with Dad, Randy, and some of their friends. We had a good time there, too, but were exhausted from the day, so we crashed rather early.

July 4th, we got up and watched the “3 minute parade”, which took about 30 minutes, involved a seemingly unending line of classic cars (from ‘20’s Model A’s to a 1940 Cadillac to a 1965 Cobra to…), floats, kids on bikes, motorcycles, fire-trucks, and all manner of parade-worthy goodness. The participants were throwing candy, handing out free museum tickets, coupons, and it was a real hoot. I took about 40 pictures (mostly of the classic cars) and was really impressed at how well they came out.

Monday evening, we headed down to West Point for dinner with Chad and Shana at their new house. I’m so excited for them that they have a house. It’s a huge step in anyone’s life, and they’re really excited about it, too. Chad has already screened in a porch, and has some big plans for the place. Given his enthusiasm, I don’t doubt any of it will come to pass.

After dinner, we took Rte 30 to 360 to come home, and were entertained by the occasional fireworks rising over 360. Upon reaching Richmond, we got to watch the Grand Finale of some fireworks display over Rte 1, so we didn’t miss out on the local ‘splosions entirely.

What a good weekend. Time spent with friends and family; water-sports, driving and shooting; and my darling wife by my side the whole time. Life is great.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Return to Oz

I got in the car this morning determined not to listen to Scissor Sisters. I dropped the iPod in the cradle, and after just 2 bars of Filthy/Gorgeous I was hooked. Damn that album just plain rocks. It takes me back to my childhood, before I began exploring music on my own.

I remember many late nights (and days, and mornings, and any time, really) of my dad sitting at the drawing-table, working on some illustration and blasting his favorite music from the 70's. There was Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Seger, David Bowie, and all of the great mega-bands, and all of it was brought to our house by XL102, that bastion of classic rock that blew the doors off Richmond for decades prior to its devolution into "The X".

A lot of the music was just too weird for me to enjoy. I never derived any pleasure from Elton John, and though I loved their power-ballads, Queen just didn't do it for me. The BG's were there, too, freaking me out with that guy's falsetto.

But I listened to this music for years and years, and my first personal interest in music came in a maniacal devotion to Pink Floyd. Then Led Zeppelin, and finally at age 15 I started liking new music, and rarely looked back.

Some months ago, however, something changed. Amanda picked up the Scissor Sisters album on a whim, and I at first had no truck with it. I started having "No Tits on the Radio" playing in my head one day last month, and have been stuck on that album ever since.

It's like Elton John, Supertramp, Queen, and the BG's got together for one great joint-album. They cover every aspect of the great 70's bands, omitting nothing, and adding a modern quasi-techno flair. It's awesome, and I can easily picture myself laying on the floor with artist's markers by my dad's drawing table.

I just can't get enough of this wacky throw-back. Is it that I really like the music, or that I pine for my lost youth? I cannot deny the strong sense of childhood that this music gives me, nor can I properly describe it fully. I see myself in the passenger seat of the Porsche 930, and--only when listening to this album--remember my dad exactly as he looked then. The feeling of nostalgia comes at me like a wave, and it's a wave I really enjoy.

I think they put some weird mind-control in the tracks.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Bad Habit

Music: Scissor Sisters
Movies: Batman Begins (rocks!!!)
TV: None, baby, I'm free!

I think I'm forming a bad habit. I like to drive my car, and I like to drive it hard. Two weekends this month, I've been drawn in by temptation, and put my car through the wringer. Twice we've driven West--RCM members and I-- to tackle some of the wild mountain roads that Virginia has to offer.

The first time we (Will, Samantha, Tony, and I) did Rte 250 from Staunton to the WV border. Very exciting stuff, with video! Yesterday, Chris and I hit Rte 56 from Vesuvius to Tyro. This was not as mind-bogglingly intense as Rte 250, but perhaps a bit more interesting, as there were beautiful vistas and sections that did not require 100% of your concentration to maneuver.



The bits in yellow are what we drove, and, once again, I got video. I forgot to use the G-meter for the first half, but lowered it on the way back up the mountain. Unfortunately, unless I can figure out how to lighten an area on the tape, it won't show up.

So why is this such a bad habit? Well, there's Lumpy, for one. It's not tremendously responsible of me to go putting my life on the line every couple of weekends when Lumpy is coming. Also, there's my loving and wonderful wife, who does not need to be my somber widow.

But there's an actual technical issue that makes this habit really bad from a financial standpoint: the brakes. My brakes have a rotor that is bolted on to a rotor-hat, unlike the stock system, where it's one piece. These bolts lie on the same plane as the ball-joints for the control arms, and, when not moving, are about 4mm away from that ball-joint. However, when turning hard, that distance is chopped as the suspension works, and there's a rapid-fire ticka-ticka-ticka-ticka as the bolts hit the ball-joint. This means there's friction, which means there's heat. I've read about one MINI where the control arm broke, and the car plowed into a curb. That guy was lucky: if I break a control arm on a mountain switch-back, I'm going over the edge or plowing into the mountain.

Somehow that doesn't appeal to me.

There are three options: grind down the ball-joint 1 or 2 mm (which will stop the rubbing and heat-transfer, but will also degrade the ball-joint's structural integrity), get different brakes, or find after-marked control arms.

None of these options are cheap, but all are preferable to major mechanical failure and potential bodily injury.

Lumpy: 11 weeks, 1 day.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The whole dang world's freaking out!

Jeff and Evelyn are getting married! Holy crap. Nobody told me the sky was falling, and I completely missed it.

I never thought I'd see the day, but I understand there was a lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, a rock, and much happiness.

You see, this is exciting because I've never been to the Caribbean. I think they'll want to get married on St. John, as they've vacationed there regularly. Amanda and I would otherwise completely overlook the Tropics and head straight for Europe, so this might be our one chance to laze under palm trees.

If we can get someone to watch Lumpy. 10 weeks, 1 day.

---

Ice>Link Plus is fully wired, looking pretty, and working (somewhat) like a champ. Amanda really enjoys the simplicity of sticking the iPod into the cradle and PRESTO!! it starts playing music. No more fiddling with searching for songs, no more needing to adjust the volume.

However, after updating the firmware, I can't get into the config. menus. Something of an irritation, there, but I figured out a way to trick it into playing albums: I start the album, lock the iPod, and put it on the cradle. The Ice>Link Plus cannot over-ride the lock. Yippee!

Now: harnesses or exhaust? Hmm...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ice>Link, Weather, & Rallyes

Dad and I got together yesterday for what was supposed to be the simplest car-work in a long time: replace his rear sway-bar and install my Ice>Link. We got the car in the air, got the lug nuts off, and then proceeded to spend 20 minutes trying to beat the wheels off the car.

Dad has yellow powder-coated wheels to match his car. The powder-coating process added maybe 1 mil of material to the wheels, but it was enough to fuse those things in place. We tried a mallet, that didn't work. I tried pulling really hard; that didn't work. We put WD40 behind the wheels, left them to sit for about 10 minutes, came back, and kicked the crap out of the wheels. That worked.

Everything was cake from that point, except that it was just shy of 90 degrees. So I was a little sweaty. I made Dad put the horribly nasty grease in the new bushings, and we got the bright red sway-bar in place quickly. Rebuilding the suspension was a snap, but we found a major problem: there was a nail sticking out of one of his tires.

In a move that I still don't fully understand, Dad grabbed a set of pliers and yanked it out. Fsssssssssssssssssssssst. Getting it out turned out to be easier than putting it back in, but he got it in there.

Anyway, we realized that the yellow wheels should come off, at least long enough to get that tire patched. Fortunately, Dad had a set of identical silver wheels. Jacked up the front end, removed the lug nuts, and wham: same problem in the front -- the wheels just wouldn't budge. I broke the head off the mallet, tried kicking with all my might, and even (gently) tried prying against the strut with a breaker-bar. Egads.

So, to clear the head, I moved on to my Ice>Link. Dad got the battery disconnected, and I tore the dash panels apart quickly to extract the factory head unit. I was all proud of myself until I realized there was no way to connect the Ice>Link to the stereo. It has to be connected to the CD changer cables, which are routed to the trunk of the car. So that was Waste Of Time # 1.

I started fiddling with how to take the car's interior plastic panels apart, trying desperately not to take the whole car apart: Waste Of Time #2.

Turns out all of the interior panels, from the rear-most boot trim to the front foot-well, must be either removed or partially pulled out to route this stinking cable. I got it done, but I figure I spent about 1.5 hours of wasted time looking through the repair manual (which has wonderful mechanical illustrations, but NOTHING AT ALL on the actual routing of cables), tearing out the dash, and trying to be gentle.

It's all done, and it works very well, but it was a bitch. I'm charging for the next one.

But the weather! By the time I got home last night, it was in the mid-70's. What a change! We've been suffering under stiflingly hot upper 90's all week, and having the opportunity to motor around with the iPod playing and the windows down was just what the doctor ordered.

I just hope it stays nice for the rally. Oh, yeah, the rally...

So I come to find out that I might well have been cheating on the last rally. I've been using my car's on-board computer to get my average speed, and running in the "Stock" class. The SCCA rules are pretty specific about what equipment can be used, but then they get hazy on the area of pre-installed factory equipment. They only want you using the stock odometer in the stock position for Stock class, so I think I'm disqualified for that class, but there's an intermediate class called "Limited", which is restricted solely from using equipment that receives direct input from a distance-measuring device.

So here's my question: Does the OBC receive direct input from a distance-measuring device? It calculates average speed, and speed is the measure of distance over time. However, average speed is distance over time over time. So is it receiving direct input, or indirect input? If it's only taking the speedometer's reading and averaging it, then it's not direct input. If, however, it is constantly monitoring speed directly by wheel-rotation, then averaging it, then I don't even qualify for "Limited". That leaves me to run in the "Equipped" class, which just feels wrong. Of course, looking at the scores from last time, I'm guessing that's where I should be. I'd lose, that's for certain, but I don't want to cheat.

Ugh. I'm going to raise the protest against myself tomorrow, and see what the organizers have to say. I've mentioned my OBC to the coordinators in the past, and they saw no problem with it then.

9 weeks, 5 days.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Lumpy

9 weeks, 2 days...
January 15.

Holy crap.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Denied no longer!

Amanda and I finally got to see Episode III last wednesday, and it was awesome. 28 years of torment rewarded at last...

I was particularly impressed with George's ability to tie the story in perfectly with Ep.'s IV - VI, and the wonderful bits of clarification about the appearances of the Sith Lords.

Also wonderfully done was the lighting and choreography of the light-saber duels. Rather than pan back and give a wide-angle shot of the intricacies of saber-battle, he puts you right up in the fight, letting the light dazzle your eyes, and give the impression that dueling with light-sabers is much more challenging than it has ever seemed. How could they fight with all of that light dancing in front of their eyes? Awesome.

Yes, there were some annoying bits, but it is, after all, Lucas dialog. And, when did R2D2 learn to fight? Or, better yet: when did he forget how to fight? The pluckiest thing we see him do in Ep.'s IV - VI is to fight Yoda over the food-stick.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. I would probably have been happier not watching Anakin successfully navigate a starship that had no control surfaces and no back-half (ergo, no engines) through the Coruscant atmosphere and onto a landing platform without any significant injury, but it's Star Wars. What can you do?

Hopefully I'll have some absurdly high resolution television by the time it comes out on DVD, so that I can get ultra-geeky when watching the series.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Star Wars

Movies: Unleashed - surprisingly good story and acting, wicked fight scenes - a must see for guys!
Music: Chevelle: This Kind of Thinking... - Lots of angst. The guy has a goobery voice, though...
Books: I think I'm going to take another stab at War of the Worlds.

Oh, yeah, baby: it's on. The Force will be with me this afternoon, at long last.

Amanda and I tried to see Star Wars on Friday, but all evening showings were sold out. This is why I try to avoid the early rush of opening weekends. We were disappointed, but wound up buying things that we needed for the house. So we really didn't lose.

But today I will not be denied.

I realized that I never wrote about our vacation. Sheesh, I suck.

Amanda and I celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss on May 19, the same day that Episode III came out. We celebrated in style, too, re-creating our honeymoon in Asheville, NC.

We spent a day at Chimney Rock Park, a privately owned natural treasure outside Asheville, where "The Last of the Mohicans" was filmed. We walked our little butts off, and treated ourselves to a nice meal in Asheville that night. Tupelo Honey was the restaurant, and the food and drink were quite good.

On our anniversary, we went to the Biltmore. 5 years ago, we took a tour of the house, wandered the grounds, and had a ball. This year, we were concerned about my ability to walk for hours (due to my spinal stenosis), so we took a different approach. We signed up for a tour, but rather than walk the grounds for hours, we also signed up for a carriage ride.

The tour was a "Behind the Scenes" tour, wherein we learned wild details about life at the Biltmore. For instance, areas that were open to guests were painted in a deep burgundy. Areas that were for servants were painted a sickly green. All bathrooms had marble thresholds, so that guests would not have to wonder if they were at a bathroom or another guest's room. All of the bathrooms (at least: the ones near the guest rooms) had pneumatic closers, so that sleeping guests would not be disturbed by the usage of the bathroom doors. Keyholes were covered to prevent drafts. Neat stuff.

The tour culminated in a tour of the utility area of the house. We got to see the refrigeration room, where ammonia was piped in to chill a below-ground tank. We saw the furnace room, where 3 enormous (and I really mean enormous) furnaces ran all the time in the colder months. We saw the electrical panels that Thomas Edison himself came to help install. We learned about the electrical wiring, which was DC, and required 1/2" thick cables with 6" of insulation at the most remote areas of the house, and the water systems, which were fed from local streams and could provide 40 psi to the top floors of the house.

All in all, it was a ridiculous achievement in engineering that the house was ever completed.

Then there was the carriage ride. I had thought that Amanda had reserved a private carriage ride. I was under this impression until we got to the stables. It had started raining shortly after we were done with our BtS tour, and we decided to drive to the stables a little early. The folks who worked in that area told us that if it didn't stop raining, they would cancel our ride. I asked why, since the carriage was covered. They looked at me like I was a space-alien and explained that the carriage was not covered. At that point I realized the 2-person carriage was not for us. Anyway, apparently the rain scared off everybody else who had signed up for the ride (Carriage rides cost $70 / couple, and are non-refundable -- yikes!), so we got our private ride after all.

It was really neat. We rode around to the back-side of the house, far away on a distant hill. On the way, we passed 2 families of deer, wild turkeys, and beautiful vistas. Then, upon the hill, we had a completely unimpeded view of the mountain-side of the house. What a sight! I think I enjoyed this trip to the Biltmore at least as much as the first one.

Then we recreated our very special dinner on the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn. The view overlooks the valley, and Asheville itself. Amanda timed our dinner so that we would get to watch the Sun set. Mother Nature, however, decided to up the ante on us: since we had wild torrential rain on our wedding day, she sent us a thunderstorm that took a couple of hours to come and go. We watched the lightning roll in across the mountains and "oohed" and "aahed" with everyone else on the Terrace. We love a good thunderstorm, and it really brought back some wonderful memories of our wedding.

On Friday, we went to the spa and had the "Couple's Retreat", which consists of a 50 minute massage for both, then they draw an aromatic bath and leave the room for another 50 minutes. It's worth mentioning that they also leave you a good bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Wow.

We then spent the rest of the day enjoying the environs of the spa: they have (in both the men's and women's sections) a dry sauna, a steam-room (with eucalyptus-infused steam), a contrast pool that consists of a 104-degree pool and a 65-degree dipping pool (this felt FANTASTIC after coming out of the sauna and the steam room). They also have (in the general men/women area) a regular lap-pool, a mineral pool (no chlorine, but lots of good minerals), a therapeutic waterfall (still mystified by exactly made it therapeutic, other than the fact that it felt really good), and an outdoor deck area with a hot-tub, cafe service, and another view of the valley below.

Talk about spoiled. I really would have been happy to have stayed there into the evening.

We brought back some art that we picked up in Asheville, and generally had an absolute blast.

I can't wait to go back, only this time I want to take a day-trip 100 miles West and drive The Dragon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Music Baton

Chris has passed me the "music baton". Great. Now I actually have to think about that giant steaming pile of CD's that takes up one corner of my den.

Total size of music on my computer: Not entirely sure. It's too much for my iPod, but since tunes are being imported from 2 computers into one store, iTunes is not dynamic enough to update the size of that store. I'd guess there's about 24GB, total.

Last CD Purchased: 3 at once, all disappointing. NIN: With Teeth; Tool: Lateralus; don't even remember what the 3rd was. The last good CD I purchased was Beck: Guero.

Song playing right now: I can't listen to music at work. Nobody respects the earbuds. They just walk up and start talking until you give up and turn off the pod. F***ers. The last song I listened to was something off of Beck's album, though.

5 songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me: Too much pressure! I can't handle this sort of thing.

I explicitly try not to listen to the same CD twice in a row. I have too much music, and it all gets over-looked if I allow myself to get dragged into one band or one album.

Also, I've stopped learning the names of the songs. It was easy when I had 100 or 200 albums, but when we crossed 350, there was no point to trying. The best I can do now is to remember the band, try to remember the album, and then aurally place the order of the songs. This does not work well with Techno, which has been high on my preference list for some time.

But here's an effort:

Curve: Doppelgaenger - this song, now 14 years old, still chills me to the bone. Toni is a goddess.

Track 4 from The Club Presents: Perfecto - The perfect song for maniacal driving. This is the Riverside Dr. anthem. Paul Oakenfold had a hand in this, I believe.

Anything from Chris Isaak - Early in my relationship with Amanda, we discovered a mutual love for his music. She and I can put the whole collection on, and be happy for hours. Baja Sessions, however, has become synonymous with pleasant drives down Route 5 to Williamsburg.

That, unfortunately, is the very best I can do. Songs get stuck in my head, and I listen to the album. Rarely does one song get stuck in my head long enough to listen to the album repeatedly, and when it does, that virtually ensures that I will no longer like that song.

I feel so...so...meme-deficient. Sigh...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Vacation

Music: radio, so far today
Movies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (on deck)
Netflix: "Without a Paddle" and "The Office, Series 2" -- a weekend of mindless humor

It's on, baby! Woohoo!

Off to Asheville on Monday, but first: some wine with friends, all-important Costco run, house-cleaning, and various sundry tasks. Then, no drama until next Saturday.

I can't wait.

Kung Fu Hustle was pretty cool. Very odd mixture of traditional over-the-top kung fu movie, comedy, and CGI, all set in 1930's China.

Next up is Hitchhiker's, and I am really looking forward to finding some time to watch this one. It amazes me that I haven't seen it yet, and I do have a certain fear that by the time I've found time to see it, it will be gone. Such is almost always my luck. Almost. Yesterday was the last day to see Kung Fu Hustle, so we beat the curse this time.

I certainly hope everyone has a splendid F13 and a fabulous week. When next I find myself near a terminal, I should have gained 5 or 10 pounds. Asheville, here we come.

Vacation countdown: It's here, baby, it's here!!!
Anniversary / Star Wars countdown: 6 days

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Title? I prefer "His Royal Highness", but I'll take whatever

Music: Franz Ferdinand and some very strange Les Claypool stuff
Movies: Kung Fu Hustle tomorrow!
Netflix: Dawn of the Dead

6 days since my last post? That almost seems criminal.

Let's see: vacation starts Friday; Amanda's car has new tires, oil, and serpentine belt; my car goes in for serious work on Monday (CV-joints misbehaving, tranny sometimes refuses to engage 2nd gear, dent to bang out, paint sealant, blah).

Exciting times.

Amanda ran her Race for the Cure on Saturday. I'm really proud of her. It was a 5K race, and it was her first. Her total time was 28:39.5, but that wasn't the point. The point, from her perspective, was that she got out there and did something that she used to find torturous, and did it without stopping or falling down. Somehow, I think the "falling down" concern was actually bigger than the "stopping" concern. She's funny like that.

I finally got results for last month's rally. There had been an error with the official time, and it took several weeks to get it all sorted, but I officially won my class, came in 3rd over-all, and turned in a score of 205! That's just 2.05 minutes off for 100 miles of driving. On one leg, we got an 8. An 8! Unreal. And all without anything other than the car's on-board computer and a stopwatch.

I can't wait for June's night-time rally! Chris is on-board to do it again, as Jeff will be out of town.

Vacation countdown: 2 days
Anniversary / Starwars countdown: 8 days

Thursday, May 05, 2005

With Power Comes Responsibility

But what I didn't realize was that even inconsequentially small amounts of power come with disproportionately large amounts of responsibility. And that's just retarded.

I've come to realize that Darth Vader (http://darthside.blogspot.com) has a much better take on politics than I: if someone disagrees and is all goobery about it, you crush his trachea with your mind. I've tried it, but I can't make it work. No, I'm reduced to arguing points that can reach a relatively happy medium between what I really believe and what people want to hear.

In essence, I have to lie. And I believe I've already discussed my opinion on lying.

So here's a new part of my developing theory on my benevolent dictatorship: slaughter the whiners, or just export them to Canada (France will do, too). You see, too much time and energy are expended on trying to appease people. The reality is that people have no idea what they want; they must be told by others. This is why we fawn all over new cars every couple of years. It's not "the perfect car". It never is: it's a continuing evolution of our expectations and standards as dictated to us by those who are developing products. For a dictator to be successful, he must simply be a charismatic leader who is firm -- but not brutal -- with his subjects.

Another example of this would be my dictatorship's policy on healthcare: give the obese people of the land 18 months to show a significant weight-loss, or they get lined up against the wall. Sounds brutal, right? Not so! My compassion for their plight stays my hand for 18 months, provides programs to assist those who want to lose the weight, and ultimately saves billions and billions of public money that would otherwise go to the long-term care of fat people. Those who whine and insist that "fat is beautiful" will be lined up and, um, eliminated, thus ensuring that their perversion of the human form and absurd notions of what is right are not continued. It's a win-win scenario: the public saves money, saves lives, and reduces the PC overhead.

"That's horrible", you say? No, it's not: society has simply not formed your expectations in this manner. There are plenty of civilizations on our planet that would welcome such liberalism, in comparison to their extant governments. And the amusing thing is that children from oppressed nations are typically considered the best behaved and most attentive. Oppression gets results.

Progress gets whiners.

OK, I see people getting steamed about wholesale slaughter of the obese, so I'm willing to compromise: we'll send them to the labor camps. That'll fix 'em.

Moving on to debt. What's so wrong with debtors prisons? Consider: in our current society, any idiot can spend 3 times what he'll make in his lifetime, then say, "Oh, gee, I can't afford all of that; I think I'll declare personal bankruptcy and start anew." Um, no, thank you, please put your back against the wall. Personal bankruptcy is destroying two critical elements of society: a properly functioning economy, in which people are properly re-imbursed for goods and services, and personal responsibility, in which people feel guilt for screwing up royally.

In my dictatorship, if you spend your weight in gold and can't back it up with cash, you'll be put to work. Hard work. The work you do will be remunerated, in the form of funds paid to the courts, who will then ensure that those filing claims against your lazy a** will get their money. And your sentence will end when you're all paid up. I'll even get all warm and mushy and try to secure employment for all debtors coming out of prison. And debtors prison will not preclude any man or woman from holding office. After all, it's about learning from your mistakes.

So vote for me, and we'll restore some serious personal responsibility to this country. Who knows, we might even get some exciting Public Works projects tackled (a la Germany's Autobahn system). It's gonna be a good time, until I get assassinated (as any proper visionary leader should)...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Movies: Millions - Fabulous English movie about 2 kids who find a bundle
Music: Screaming Trees - Why do I keep coming back to this?
Books: None! Eeek!

It's May! This month marks 5 years of wedded bliss, which will be celebrated in style. We're recreating our honeymoon in Asheville, NC. This month I also have a fabulously beautiful picture of Vivienne (our youngest kitty) overlooking my desk.

I got Amanda an 18-month calendar last year, and I liked it so much I ordered myself a copy, too. It's all pictures of our cats (and her mom's cats, too), and it makes me smile.

It's quiet today... too quiet. No calls from Amanda, no e-mails from Mr. K. One call from my dad has been my total exposure to the outside world. Well, that and lunch at Arby's.

I'm done with Arby's. Their prices are astronomically high, their advertising sucks, the food makes me exceedingly drowsy, and they played Mike and the Mechanics while I was trying to eat. Ugh. I hated that crap band in 1987, and I hate it even more now. Arby's (at least the one across the street from work), you're dead to me.

Vacation countdown: 14 days.
Star Wars countdown: 17 days.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Inventory time...

Forget the crap in the side-bar!

Movies

Theater:

Just saw: Sin City - This one's going to take a while to digest. I liked it, but it was really long and just damned odd.
Next up: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - I'm so excited about this one that I'm reading the book for the 3rd time.

Netflix:

Just saw: Spanglish - I really connected with this movie, and was super impressed with Adam Sandler. Good to see that he could settle down long enough to make this kind of film
Next up: I honestly can't remember what we have, but "Dawn of the Dead" is coming today. Woohoo!

Music

Lots of good stuff has come out recently, and I've been digging the following:

Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Franz Ferdinand (hey, it's new to me)
Beck - Guero
Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze

Amanda bought the Scissor Sisters album, but I haven't heard much of it.

Books

Rereading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (3rd read, but I know: it's redundant...)

TV

Praising God that rerun season starts in just a few weeks! In the meantime:

Lost
ER
Desperate Housewives

Browsing

Dilbert - and various other linked comics
Slashdot - News for Nerds, Stuff that matters. IT's best compendium of news.
Fark - News for freaks, stuff that doesn't matter. Great compendium of "news of the strange".
Richmond Times Dispatch - Local news
The greatest blog ever - Darth Vader finally decided to document his thoughts.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

I've spent the past two days in a novel endeavor: detailing my car. I've never done this before, and have been a little nervous through the whole process. There's a lot that can go wrong, and the paint can be permanently damaged. But I've tackled it, and it's taken a total of about 6 or 7 hours so far.

I started by washing the car with Dawn dishwashing liquid. Twice. This supposedly removes any paint protectants and previous sealants and other nasty stuff that needs to be removed. Then I clay-barred the car, which involves rubbing very expensive bits of clay across soapy paint, and constantly kneading the clay to keep the dirt from scratching back into the paint. Of course, I did this process in waning sunlight, so I managed to get some fine scratches all over the side of the car.

That was day #1, and all told involved 3 washes and two large chunks of clay.

Day #2 began with another quick wash, this time with show car wash, just to get the previous day's pollen and dirt off the car. Then, on to the first coat of polish, which promises to hide swirl-marks and fine scratches. I got all of the material applied and moved on to washing Amanda's car while it dried.

It rained. So, crazy man that I am, I ran inside, grabbed a towel, and began wiping off the polish while also drying the car from the rain. For the next 20 minutes, every drop of water was dried as it hit the car. I didn't want to lose all of my work.

The car was absolutely gorgeous last night, and had not one drop of dew on it this morning. I was elated, and drove to work very cautiously, so as to avoid any un-necessary dirt.

So I got to work and parked, just in time to notice the man with the weed-eater coming straight toward me. I backed out of the space and drove around for a minute, so that he could mow that area without mucking up my car. Satisfied that he was finished, I drove back, parked, and left the car. Moments later I heard the leaf-blower start, and I looked back to see some ass-clown BLOWING GRASS CLIPPINGS STRAIGHT AT MY CAR. WTF? The grass clippings weren't going anywhere on their own! Why did they feel the compulsion to blow them around? Then, after he was done blowing shit at my car, he aimed the leaf-blower at my hood. For about 20 seconds he blew 200+mph wind at my car. Motherf***er! I've never wanted to choke someone so bad in my whole life.

The whole incident has pissed me off so royally that I can't enjoy anything about my morning.

I can't even focus on what a good time I had last night. !#$!@%$@#$RFRVG$!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Henry Rollins once described a song as "like getting hit in the chest with a Buick"

The whole blogging thing isn't really gelling for me. I find that I tend to create multiple incarnations of myself that I use when talking to different people. Some folks know about one aspect of my life while others know nothing of it. Am I protecting myself or my friends or just trying to appease everyone? It gets so damned tangled that eventually I have nothing to write about in my posts, lest someone stumble into something they shouldn't know.

So here it is, everything you probably didn't want to know:

I'm a staunch conservative. None of this compassionate conservatism crap, just plain conservatism. If the Constitution party would abandon its religious overtones, I'd sign up in a second.

I own a gun. Actually, I own several, but I only know of one that fires well, and it's a monstrous hand-gun. I believe very strongly in our second amendment rights, as I believe we'd still be saluting the English flag without them. I also believe that my house is my kingdom, and that I have an inherent right to defend it against marauders.

I don't believe in a minimum wage (c.f. above: "conservatism"). People drive wages. If you don't get paid enough, find something else to do. If you think there's nothing else to do, you clearly haven't been paying attention to the industrial revolution, which is still going strong. Invent something. Convince someone that you've invented something -- that worked well for the whole "dot-com" economy, and many of those people will never have to work again.

Here's a minimum wage math test: A company ships widgets. They do a steady business, and have allocated $100K for warehouse wages. For that money (assuming no other costs), they can hire 8(.36) minimum wage employees. That's 8 jobs that don't exist without this company. Now, let's assume that the "living wage" argument wins through Congress, and minimum wage rises from $5.75 to $8.00. Now, widget shipments have not risen, and the company still only has $100K to put toward warehouse wages. How many employees will lose their jobs? 2. The company can only employ 6(.01) employees at the new rate. That, in turn, hurts the shipping department's ability to meet demand, resulting in longer waits for shipments, dissatisfied customers, and eventually lost sales. When sales slide, so do profits, which means even more employees will lose their jobs.

So which is better? 8 people who make very little, or 6 people who make a little more? And whence comes the expectation that people *live* on minimum wage? I'm sure that some people do, but I would assume that most folks making minimum wage are entry-level workers (i.e., high-school students, first-jobbers, part-time positions, etc.), and that they aren't looking to stay in those positions throughout their careers. Furthermore, how many people fail to get raises over the years? Isn't minimum wage supposed to be a starting point? What does a high-school sophomore need with $16640 / year (that's the $8 "living wage")?

Back on track...

My mother is slightly insane. She's probably smoked her weight in pot, and I used to go on purchasing runs with her as a very young child. One of my earliest memories of my mother involved going to some dude's house where she bought drugs and there was a very large pistol on the table.

I don't trust anyone.

I am extremely selfish and jealous.

I am ridiculously lazy. I'll spend weeks working on a script to save myself 5 minutes of work per day. I will always put things off in the hopes that the business needs will change or that someone else will do the work.

My wife corrects all of my major flaws. When I'm around her, I become a giving and forgiving person. I want to work, work out, and be physically active with her. My love for Amanda is the most complete and satisfying experience of my whole life.

I detest those who cheat on their loved ones. If I find out someone I know is a cheater, I cannot respect any aspect of his / her life. Ever.

I abhor braggarts, although I have to work hard to keep from boasting. Maybe that's why I hate it.

I'm not a very positive person. I used to live by the simple philosophy that if you expect the worst, you'll never be disappointed. It's morose, but it works.

I'm a grammarian and a pedant.

I feel that I've wasted every educational opportunity that's ever been placed before me.

I fear life, but I have a great time living it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

I have now competed in two road rallies, and I'm very proud to say that I've won my class both times. Props to Chris Stanley for the stellar navigation, and for crisis management! Props to Chris Kimmelshue for his super diligent work helping me prep the car.

This road-rally stuff is fun. Man, o man, is it fun. 3+ hours of technical driving, 64 individual instructions, and brakes that never failed. Sweet. And we captured about an hour of the rally on video.

Now I can't wait for the June night-time rally, although the schedule for that one is from 6pm til midnight. Yikes!

---

Friday is Amanda's birthday! Eeek! Man, these things just sneak right up on you. You're going along just fine, with a birthday some nebulous number of months away, and then BAM! it's in 4 days. How the hell does that work?

Speaking of birthdays, today is my dad's 60th! Happy birthday, dad!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

No more panic

The brakes came Monday and were installed Tuesday, along with new springs. It was an absolute debacle, resulting in 1 broken part, several hours of lost time due to rain and missing parts, and two very very exhausted MINI tuners. But it's all on there, now, and going through the bed-in process, which consists of making several back-to-back hard stops from 60 - 0.

Hopefully, everything will be ready in time for the rally on Sunday.

What's more, I'm done for a while. Until we get back from our anniversary trip, the car is done. I'll probably take it to live at the dealership during our trip, so that they can work on the transmission and some ancillary issues, but there will be no more mods until June. Finito.

To date, almost the entire suspension has been replaced: lower control arms, front and rear sway bars, and springs. The only items left that I even could replace would be end-links, upper control arms, and bushings, but I don't want to do any of that (except the end-links). No, this car is set up to handle, now.

And that brings me to a great point in my life: I can spend more time with the woman who means everything to me. Last night, we enjoyed our first evening together in almost a week. It was fabulous. All we did was run, eat dinner, and watch movies, but it was the best time I've had in weeks. I never want to take my wife for granted.

Next Friday is her 30th birthday! The Woman's getting old. ;) We're gonna party for days (at least, the way 30-year-olds party: by going to tourist places and being generally low-key). We're hitting Monticello next Thursday, and doing a picnic on the lawn. Friday is completely up-in-the-air, but I imagine a wonderful meal is in order. Saturday will be Amanda's Mad Tea Party, and I'm excited about that. Lots of pots of tea, friends, and a compulsory game of musical chairs. Probably with champagne and hard liquor. All right!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

PANIC!!

My freakin' brakes haven't arrived yet. AAARRGGGHH!!!

OK, I feel better now.

Monday, April 04, 2005

So I'm sitting at home today, waiting for a dryer that isn't coming. I've already planned to do the exact same thing tomorrow. Godot would be so proud. Maybe I should hang myself...

We bought this kick-ass dryer at the Sears Appliance Outlet (read: scratch 'n dent center) on Thursday. It was next to impossible to get someone to help us, and when someone finally did, he promised a Monday delivery. Fortunately, he gave me the phone # of the delivery guy. When I called the delivery man this morning, he said he'd never heard of me, and that I wasn't on his list for today (or any day, for that matter), but that he could fit me in tomorrow. Great. I've already got today off for this, and now I have to go and suck down another vacation / personal day.

This, in turn, leads to its own quandary: if I take today and tomorrow as vacation days, I will get to keep whatever overtime I accrue throughout the month. As it is the beginning of the month, however, I don't know if I will accrue any at all. There is also the matter of Amanda's birthday (the big 30): she's taking off 2 days around her birthday. If I take today and tomorrow as personal days, then why not take the 2 days around her birthday as personal days? But that leaves me with 2 personal days until October 1.

Vacation days seem the better option, but I've already used 7.5 of 20, so with April's outages (currently estimated at 4 days), May's outages (1 week for an anniversary trip), and the potential for a week at camp during the summer, that would be a total of 21 vacation days taken for the year. Obviously, that's one-and-a-half too many.

Our company's policy makes it absurd to take vacation days and personal days in the same month, since one counts against you and the other counts toward you (in terms of accrued overtime). So I really have no idea what to do.

Monday, March 21, 2005

What have religious holidays become?

So I work with an interesting mix of people. One of them, who (thank God) is no longer my cube-mate, is deeply and annoyingly religious. But he's got funny ideas on holidays:

Halloween - strictly forbidden at his house. Says it promotes Satan, even though it was created by folks who were neither Christian nor Jewish.

Christmas - No Santa Claus (respectably appropriate for Christmas), but HE HAS A CHRISTMAS TREE! WTF? Do you have pagan iconography or not? You can't sit on the fence, here, people!

Easter - Very respectful of Easter. He doesn't let his kids do Easter Egg hunts or celebrate the bunny.

OK, so, let's compare that to some of the people of authority at our church:

Halloween - Evil people love Halloween. Burn, sinners! Burn!!!

Christmas - there was a Christmas tree at church this year. Utterly reprehensible.

Easter - There's already been an "Easter Party". Easter Egg hunts, fun and activities for the kids, and, oh yeah, some trivial thing about a Savior being crucified and resurrected. But, hey: how 'bout that Easter egg hunt?

So, a few years ago, I got really (REALLY) disgusted by the hypocrisy and wrote the missing book of the Bible that allows these fun-time Easter celebrations.

And now, I present to you, the Book of Seder...

---

And so, as the Seder feast approached, Jesus called unto his disciples and said, “I have received news which is my Father’s news, and that is to be given unto you. That you are to collect the eggs of hens throughout all the land, and bring them to the temple on Seder-eve. There the eggs will be emptied without breaking, and brightly colored so as to show the love of my Father.”

And so the disciples set out upon the land to collect the offerings of hens. And it was so, that they rejoined unto each other on Seder-eve at the temple, each with his measure of eggs. And Peter asked, “Lord, how are we to drain the eggs without breaking them?”

Jesus replied, “Does not the ewer empty with even the smallest hole? We shall prick tiny holes in each end, and blow with forceful breath upon one end, that the yolks shall flow forth. And we shall collect the yolks in great urns, so to bake treats for the children.”

And they began to drain the eggs, with Jesus draining many times his measure. But the disciples were discouraged, for their eggs broke. And they asked unto the Lord, “Lord, our eggs are breaking. Soon there will be no more eggs. How can we present broken eggs in the temple?”

Jesus considered this and replied, “Not all eggs need come from hens, though those that do not must be rich indeed. Peter, look in that urn, and bring forth what you find.” And Peter peered into the urn, and drew forth strange material, shiny and smooth. “Lord, what is this treasure you provide us?”

“Plastic.” And so they continued, filling the plastic eggs with small treasures, baked goods beyond measure and coins bearing Caesar’s image. The eggs of hens were brightly painted to capture the splendor of the Seder feast, and the plastic eggs were filled.

And on the morning of Seder, Simon went to fetch a hare for the noon-day feast. And Jesus said unto Simon, “Cook not the hare, for he represents the work of my Father on this day. Nay, praise the hare, and place an egg before him, that you have painted. And when you see a hare before Seder, say unto any who stand near, ‘Happy Easter’, for the Lord my Father has brought the beasts of the land upon the East winds, so to feed his children the Israelites.” And he asked of Luke, who had thus far sat quietly, “Luke, go to Mary’s house, and request from her that which she has been keeping for me.”

And Luke went to Mary’s house, and retrieved Jesus’ bunny-suit. Then Jesus did say, “Let us go to the mall, and pass out our eggs, but hiding several for the children to find. And afterward, let us dine together, as a family might.”

And so Simon went to fetch an ox, which was not protected by the word of God, and they feasted heartily. And afterward they ate chocolate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I don't like what I do, so it's gonna change

Yup. The wheels are in motion -- so to speak. A broad new horizon is stretched out before me, and along with it comes a new opportunity to learn. I like learning. I like challenges. I don't think I've had much of either since 2001.

And I've been very lucky, recently. The advent of RiverCityMinis has brought me into contact with folks who've helped me shake the rust off. I feel youthful again. I feel excited about things. I've been more interested in life in general, and have found a focus that I thought was lost. I want to pick up my guitar in the afternoons, take walks, talk about cars, and research research research.

Unfortunately, the down-side to this is always the same. I remember it from when I got heavily into my band in college, when I started getting serious about Microsoft testing, and when I was going rock-climbing: my relationship with Amanda takes a big hit. The end result is that our relationship is not damaged, but often stronger than before. But the process just takes so much out of me, and I really short-change her. It's part of why I decided not to do any more Microsoft testing: it just sucked me dry, and consumed 100% of my time from when I got home in the afternoon until bed-time.

I hate myself when I get stuck on something, because of this, but I really get into a learning groove, and find that I can do leaps and bounds of progress during these spells. AND, though it might not be readily apparent to her, I really do appreciate how wonderful Amanda is, especially when I get like this. Every thought of her just lifts me up and seems to re-double my ability to absorb new data.

I love my wife, and I hope she never ever feels under-appreciated. I just have to figure out how to pull myself away from new projects.

Wow, that rant took a turn...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Opus is back!

The Richmond Times Dispatch has done the most wonderful thing: they've revamped the comics page to bring back that wonderful water-fowl Opus. Ah, the memories. I'll miss Binkley, Milo, Steve, HodgePodge, Bill, and Portnoy, but at least he's back. I think Bill & Opus could have won the White House in '88.
---
So I got the new control arms installed on Saturday. Very pleased, but I imagine they'll need some tweeking, as they've got a lot of negative camber dialed in right now, and I want these tires to last the Summer.

On a (strangely) more exciting note, though: we got Chris's front sway bar installed in 90 minutes! That's less than half the time it took to do mine. I'm sure it had something to do with Chris being the one under the car with the air wrench, but the whole job felt really smooth and natural, almost like a pit crew - but without the stress. I labeled a piece of cardboard with all of the bolts that would need to be removed, then popped off the end-links and upper sub-frame bolts while Chris removed the other sub-frame bolts. Then, after he loosened one of the monster 122ft/lb bolts, we switched places and I got to break the others free. I was really curious to see if I could apply that much force while lying on my back. What a rush. It felt like it was only a few minutes later that we were putting the wheels back on and lowering the car. Slick, smooth, and relatively easy. I want to do more.

I'm getting really comfortable with the under-carriage of these cars. I could probably swing front and rear sway-bars, lower control arms, and maybe even springs on my own at this point. I've started to memorize the bolt locations, torque settings, and other bits that make the work easier. Now we have to do a couple of brake-sets and I'll be quite comfortable under the car.

I still don't know crap about the engine-bay, but there's plenty of time.
---
We didn't meet Owen this weekend. Very sad. We're getting a pit bull, and were supposed to go and meet him on Sunday, but the folks who are fostering him were out of town until Sunday morning, and we didn't feel like taking a 4-hour drive out to meet him, then turn right around and come home.

More about Owen: he's 1 year old, currently un-neutered (that's gonna change), and has a serious hip injury. VA Tech is going to fix his hip for free, although we will still pay all ancillary fees for his recovery. It's believed that he was a bait-dog for fighting dogs, due to some scratches on his sides. It's also believed that he was probably hit by a car, and then abandoned by his owners. The foster parents met him one day in their back yard, playing with their 2 year-old daughter. He's extremely sweet, super-cute, and needs to be trained.

I can't wait to meet him; I'm really excited!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

ahamos was a race car driver; he'd say "El Solo #1"!

I don't have a Bocephus sticker or a 442, but we did light 'em up, and it was fun.

Wow. Road rally-driving is some intense shit. 6 pages of instructions, 67 individually numbered instructions, ~75 miles of wild driving, and one navigator who managed to not barf in the car.

Sign me up to do it again! In fact, I already have signed up to do it again. The second rally of the season is April 17th, and this time it's in Richmond.

I don't think I've ever driven like we did on Saturday: slamming the accelerator, keeping a constant eye on the "Average Speed" function of the on-board computer, and then jabbing the brakes to maintain that average speed. We took some wild turns at speed, almost became air-borne at a railroad crossing, and drifted through a couple of corners. The stock brakes were shot by 2/3 through the race, and will have to be replaced before the next one.

I know we didn't come in dead-last. Richard and Doug both missed the first check-point, and the Suzuki Aerio (#12) did a U-turn when they encountered a mistake on the NRI's. We passed a Subaru WRX (#11) that missed a hard left turn, but they crept for a minute and probably simply bought time to make up for it.

Next time, we'll have a better idea of what math is required, and maybe we'll even have two stopwatches: one for keeping track of official rally time, and one for monitoring the time on each instruction.

We'll also keep a second copy of the official score-card so that we can tell how well we did. Right now, we have no idea who won or how we placed.

Update!

We won our class! 6th place over-all, and the winner was a MINI, too! Woohoo!!