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...

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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.
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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.
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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!!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Motorsport Madness

So tomorrow begins my exciting foray into the wild world of motorsports. I'm entering the "Beware the Rides of March" rally in Windsor, VA. I really have no idea what to expect, aside from a nearly guaranteed loss. This is not pessimism, it's realism.

Some of the entrants are seasoned veterans, and one of them is last year's points-leader for the ODR circuit. Two of the other entrants are also RiverCityMinis members (go RCM!!!), so I can at least root for friends.

Mr. Cronin will be my navigator. My rally-tables are all ready for him, and I'm totally psyched!

The car's as ready as she'll be: SSR's and Avons installed, both sway-bars installed (rear set to full-tight, front set to loose). The control arms aren't in yet, but that would require getting a full alignment, anyway. I'll wait on that until I get the springs. I might perform a software reset just to get some power back, but we'll see.

So I'm lucky #13 in the race! How about that? My first rally, and I get #13. Is it a curse? I didn't get 4,8,15,16,23,42. That's a boon. I was toying with fun ways of decorating my rally-clipboard, when it occurred to my cube-mate that the number looked rather like a pool-ball. I won a bunch of games today, so I'm thinking of 13 as an orange ball with stripes, so maybe that's good luck. Or maybe I just need to go home now.

Gotta go pack.

Rock.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

MINI Goodness

So the SSR's are all cleaned-up and on the car.  Not waxed, but at least the hideous red "SSR" stickers are gone.

The sway bars have both been replaced, but we'll see if I need to trade up to the 27mm rear bar.

The control arms are (supposedly) on the way.

Springs are next.

Endlinks?

The meet & greet was a blast last night (thanks to all who came out in the foul weather!).  I really enjoy talking to other enthusiasts, but it's really time to start focusing on having fun behind the wheel, then finishing up with a beer.  Where is RiverCityMinis going?  What are we doing?  We're getting some great mods done to our cars, but not really doing anything collectively with the cars.

Richard and Doug and I will put our MINI's to use this weekend in the "Beware the Rides of March" rally.  Dad and several others will participate in April's AutoCross school.  And there's always the occasional (micro-)group run down Riverside Dr.  But let's hit the wineries.  Let's all take Rte 5 to W'burg.  Let's have our own rally.  Let's figure out a way to get more local MINI's together for a group run to anywhere.  Nowhere.  Both, even.  Let's frickin' motor.