Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Little More About Monkey's First Christmas

Not all of Alastair's first Christmas was perfect.

Christmas Eve, we went to church. The choir had prepared a cantata, and I had agreed to take my grandmother with us. Amanda left home before me so that she could join the choir for one final rehearsal, and I took a slow, meandering path to my grandmother's house with Alastair. We picked her up and got to church on time, but Little Man wasn't happy at all. From the moment my grandmother got in the car and started talking, he started wailing.

He was good at church, sat mostly quietly and played with his toys. Afterward, Amanda took Alastair home and I took my grandmother home. Now, the plan was that I would drop off my grandmother and get home quickly. Plans were shattered when my grandmother ignored my efforts to get out of her house, and I got home just as Amanda was putting the boy to bed.

About an hour later, Amanda realized she'd forgotten to turn on his space heater. For some mysterious reason, even though his room is better insulated than any other in the house, his room gets very cold at night. Thus, we use a little space heater to keep the temp around 70.

I decided to sneak into his room and turn it on around 11:30. I forgot about the Kitty-Factor, though. Lucy snuck in with me and started crying at me. I managed to get to the heater and turn it on, and was half-way out of the room when I heard him stand up behind me and start babbling at me.

I froze. I stayed still for almost 10 minutes, hoping he would lie back down, hoping maybe he thought he was dreaming. No such luck. When I finally left the room at 11:40, he started wailing. He would scream and cry for a few minutes, get quiet, and start up again.

Now, we'd been through this once before for the same reason, and he cried for about 10 minutes and then went right back to sleep. This time, he kept it up for over an hour. We couldn't go to sleep because he couldn't go to sleep. We were afraid to go get him up because we thought he might start right back up again after we put him down.

Finally, at almost 1am, I relented. I got him up, found his diaper quite full, changed him, read him a book, and put him back down. He cried for all of about 10 seconds and was out like a light.

It was horrible, with both Amanda and me under the weather, but it did allow him to sleep a little longer on Christmas morning. And that means more sleep for mommy and daddy, and that's always a good thing.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Ho Ho!

It's been an exciting Christmas. Alastair got lots of great goodies today, including a dinosaur for his roll-a-round balls, Noah's Ark, a zebra rocking horse, and plenty of other little toys and doo-dads.

The fun continues for him tomorrow as we exchange gifts with my mom and grandmother, and then again on Wednesday with dad & Randy in the afternoon, and Susan and Shana, old college friends, in the evening.

The day was rounded out with a trip to the movies (our first time together in many months) to see Casino Royale. What an awesome flick! Great deviation from the Bond films of yesteryear, while keeping a nod to the kitsch. Great parkour scene to start the movie, too! Wasn't expecting that!

Anyway, have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be gay, and cuddle up with someone you love.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Clutch Repair, Round 2

The new clutch pipe arrived early last week, but right after it got cold, so I wasn't in a big hurry to climb under the car and freeze my butt off to install it. I waited a few days, built the necessary pieces on the work bench, and decided to take a stab at it on Saturday.

Saturday came, and with it, a bunch of conference calls. I was on the phone from about 10am until 11pm, off and on. That didn't leave a lot of room for me to get Mr. K. to come and help, so I took one of my brief lulls in the call to mount all the pieces, and then got Amanda to come press the clutch about 50 times to bleed the system.

All is now well with the Miata's clutch, and I get to bill for the time I spent fixing it! I even got to bill for driving the car Saturday night, when I had to come to work just to press a power button.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Clutch Repair: Round 1

A few days ago, the new clutch slave cylinder and braided stainless clutch line arrived. I asked Mr. Kimmelshue if he'd help me install them, and he said yes. I ran over to BAP Geon for some extremely over-priced ATE SuperBlue brake fluid, and got home yesterday with daylight left in the sky.

The project didn't seem too ambitious at first: remove the front passenger wheel, remove the slave cylinder, remove the soft line, and put in the new parts. No big deal.

Except that this car is 13 years old and spent its whole life in New Jersey. Yeah, it was a big deal. First we couldn't get access to any of the nuts for the clutch hard-lines, then we started to round them off where we could reach them.

I ran out for a 10mm flare wrench while Mr. K got the slave cylinder loose (plenty of space to reach it, but no room for a wrench). Eventually the hard line was so fouled that we decided to pull it and replace it, too. That meant the job would take several days of waiting for more parts, but there's a bonus: once I get the new hard line, I can assemble it, the stainless line, and the slave cylinder as one unit, install it, and fill it with fluid. Easy!

Baby Boys Don't Actually Bounce

They bounce right back, but they don't actually bounce.

This morning, Alastair decided to perform his first ever Ill-Conceived DareDevil Maneuver: lunging (and plunging) headlong off the bed.

Amanda felt awful, but there's no since crying too much about it: he'll be fine, and it happens to all parents. There comes that one moment when you know they're mobile, but you just don't realize how mobile until you turn your back for an instant.

She's keeping an eye on him for signs of concussion, but I doubt she'll see any. He does have a big ol' goose-egg knot on his head, though.

Poor little guy...

Monday, November 27, 2006


This weekend we took our change to the CoinStar machine. Ordinarily I don't believe in paying someone (or something) to count my money, but Amanda did some research and discovered that CoinStar is free if you use the money for an gift card.

Off we trundled with 4 milk jugs full of coins, and after feeding 515 quarters, 1026 dimes, and some number of nickels and pennies into the machine, we had our gift card!


Turkey Day was great. We got up bright and early, put Alastair in the car, and headed off to Greensboro, NC, for a tradition that dates back well before my time. This one meal is always my absolute favorite of the whole year, and Alastair and Amanda got to enjoy it with me!

Afterward, we went back to my grandmother's, where we stayed the night. Alastair did not appreciate being put to bed in his little tent, and he woke up and sat around for a while when we finally came to bed.

All in all, he did really well with family, but he got pretty cranky on the drive back home Friday. He's been a little sensitive all weekend, but that might have as much to do with teething as anything else. He has 5 now, and is trying to cut a 6th.

He's also unstoppable when he wants to get to something. Just laying in front of it is no longer a deterrent: he just climbs over me.

Anyway, that's all for now. Boy rocks, rocks, and work sucks. But that's life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alastair doesn't have time for Baby Steps

2 weeks ago, Alastair was fairly immobile. Sure, he could roll around and eventually get near where he wanted to be, but aside from some military-style elbow-crawling, he would pretty much stay where you put him.

About a week ago, he just got up and started crawling. No real catalyst or anything: apparently he just decided it was time to be mobile.

Then on Thursday, Amanda called and told me that Alastair had stood up in his crib and knocked the monitor into the floor. This was a first, but for the rest of the day, he stood up wherever he was. I lowered the crib when I got home, to keep him from pitching over the side, but he's undeterred. He's standing half the time we go in to get him up, and he's started motoring around on his feet inside the crib.

He'll take steps across the den floor (provided you're holding him), and took a nasty tumble when he stepped off the rug in his socks last night.

Finally, it seems he's getting interested in learning to speak. Amanda had him in her lap on Saturday, and Vivienne jumped up into my lap. He looked at her and shouted something that sounded for all the world like "kitty!". Later that night, his grandmommy was watching him, and she handed him his stuffed duck. He shouted "duh", or something very much like it. When I enter the room, he sometimes says "da da... dadadadadadada" (of course, he also sits around and mutters this when he's playing, so I'm probably reading too much into that one).

In short, the kids picking up skills like crazy, and treating them as if he'd been doing them for months already. I think he waits for Amanda to leave the room, then jumps up and runs around practicing all his advanced maneuvers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Broke Down, Busted, Brutal Week

I'm submitting a timesheet for 64.5 hours tomorrow. I don't often get overtime, and when I do, it's generally 3 or 4 hours in a week. A couple of times I've submitted 50 hour timesheets, but this week I worked over 1.5 weeks in 6 days.

My Life in Hell started Tuesday night, with a fun-filled evening of backing up 162GB of data, replacing one rack of old & busted servers with a new rack of shiny new servers, and moving an extremely heavy RAID system. I was at work until 1am, and when I tried to leave work, I learned that my car (the Miata) was busted, too. I couldn't engage any gear with the car running, and the car wouldn't start with a gear engaged. The problem? A leaky clutch slave cylinder. I had a coworker help push me out of my parking spot, then push my car to a running start, whereupon I jumped in and wrangled it into gear. I couldn't bring the car back to a complete stop without killing the engine, which would mean getting it back to a running start, so I had to run a red-light on my way home.

Fortunately, the Miata's transmission is very amenable to clutch-less shifting, so I got home quite safely (it was, after all, after 1am, so there was very little traffic). I remembered on Wednesday afternoon that I have access to the Mazda Motorsports Development Program, which gets me steep discounts on parts, so I ordered up a new slave cylinder and a braided stainless clutch line.

But the week was just warming up.

Wednesday afternoon began the joy of conference calls. We were migrating a set of systems from being hosted locally to a remote site, which called for testing in a staging enclave, removing the systems from our domain, dropping the remote systems in the production network, joining them to the domain, and then ensuring connectivity.

Only nobody ever bothered to analyze the infrastructure systems to see what hurdles we might encounter. As soon as our proxy servers were stood up in the production network, we lost them. Countless hours were spent on a "war line" with reps from our site, their site, and even some outside experts who tried to lend a hand.

I got home every night from Wednesday to Friday sometime between 5 and 6 pm, got on conference calls from 7 to 8:30, and then back on more calls around 9pm, which would, in turn, end at around 10 or 10:30. Friday I got to work early, still trying to troubleshoot our busted proxy servers, but finally with a plan.

It was 10pm Friday night before I finally got one of our load-balanced proxy servers working correctly, and much later before I got the other busted one taken off the network.

Then Saturday morning I got up and tried to get to the one remaining system to get configured and redeployed. It wasn't until several hours later that I finally get a tech on the phone and got him to reset the system before I could log onto it. 5 hours after that, the system was essentially hosted.

Throughout the week, I think I saw my son for a grand total of about 6 or 7 hours. Saturday was better, but I was on the phone while interacting with him, which is less than ideal.

I'm so pooped I think I'll be in bed by 9:30 tonight. But first, I have to get through my 7pm conference call. Fun.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Maymont Rocks!

Friday was a federal holiday, so I got to spend the day with Amanda and Alastair. We decided we were way overdue for a trip to Maymont, so after his morning nap, we packed boy and a lunch into the CR-V and headed off.

After a great lunch under a big shady tree (with Boy grabbing at every leaf), we headed over to the Nature Center, where the river otters live. Sadly, they weren't to be seen, but Alastair positively flipped out over the aquariums. He loved seeing the big fish right at eye-level. He loved watching the water, and the Sun reflecting through the water. He loved the turtles, and reached for them. He even loved the catfish, sturgeons, and eels. The owls weren't a big hit, but primarily because they didn't really move.

After the Nature Center, we trucked his butt back down the extremely steep hill and over past the aviary, along the little creek. At this point the Sun was bothering him, so we quickly trudged up to the fox pen. For the first time ever, we saw both foxes. They were relaxing and lounging around like the kitties, which made Beeboo get all giddy (he LOVES the kitties). After he'd watched the foxes and flirted with all the passers-by, we moved on to the deer.

One of the deer was right up at the fence, and we got within a couple of feet of him. Alastair was reaching like crazy, and started to get a bit silly. We then went on to see the bull, and there was another mommy there with her young son. She was feeding the bull grass, and that just delighted Alastair to no end. He was twisting and writhing and kicking like crazy.

THEN we went to see the goats and sheep. Two of the goats came over to check him out. Again: thrilled. Then on to the baby goats, the geese, the hens, bunnies, and pigs, and throughout it all you'd have thought the kid was in heaven. He was laughing and just such a joy to behold.

The whole experience barely lasted 2.5 hours, but he was beat. We'd no more than pulled out of the parking lot before he passed out, and he napped for almost 3 hours.

That was probably the most fun we've ever had as a family of 3.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hate Crime

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law:
a crime that violates the victim's civil rights and that is motivated by hostility to the victim's race, religion, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender

American Heritage Dictionary:
A crime motivated by prejudice against a social group

Yesterday, Virginia put it's first legislated hate crime on the books. Good job, Virginia.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Virginia needs all its citizens to vote NO

I feel like I could write for hours on this, but I'm so emotionally wrapped up about it that I'll probably go awry in the first couple paragraphs...

On Tuesday, Virginians vote on whether or not to amend our constitution to only recognize marriage as a legal union between 1 man and 1 woman. Same-sex marriages and "common law" marriages will be officially precluded if this amendment passes. Depending on one's interpretation of the amendment, anyone under 18, even if they petition for the right to marry, will be denied.

We're treading on dangerous ground here. Never before has Virginia placed constitutional restrictions on the rights of its citizens. The US has denied the vote to African Americans and women, but constitutional amendments explicitly later granted those rights. The US also banned alcohol, and that didn't work out too well, either.

That forces the question: what is a constitution? As far as I understand it, it's a framework for government and a list of basic rights never to be denied. You won't find any statements that begin "No person shall..." in a well-written constitution. It is supposed to declare how the government will be arranged, the proper method to redress grievances and prosecute offenders, and declare where the legislative bodies may not tread.

In a sense, we look to our constitution to guarantee our freedom.

I've heard from my cube-mate that we can always overturn the amendment, but that scares me even more. If we start kicking our constitution around every few years as a method of political grandstanding, what good is it? Soon we'd find new amendments making it easier to make even more new amendments, and most of our legislation would fall out of the purview of the courts.

Imagine a world where moral legislation is out of reach of the courts. That would allow the majority party to present unchallengable legislation to the voters, who, by and large, tend to vote yes to anything they don't understand.

Speaking of which, what business do we have legislating morality anyway? How is it that "conservatism" has come to be synonymous with moral law? My understanding is that a true conservative believes in minimal government. I suppose that makes the Libertarian party the party of choice for those who don't care what you do in your own home.

Back on target...

I've read various statistics over the years, but the general consensus is that non-heterosexuals (homo-, trans-, bi-, tri-, etc) comprise somewhere between 10% and 12% of the general population. That's similar to the overall percentage of African Americans in the US. What we're effectively doing is deciding on Tuesday if sexuality comprises a minority, and if that minority deserves the same treatment as other historical minorities.

Nobody would ever assay to deny African Americans the right to marry, and yet there are statistically almost as many homosexuals. But African Americans stood up for their rights, and they're easy to recognize. For all you know, the man or woman right next to you could be gay. But the fact that you can't tell makes that person an easy person to victimize. A victim without a face isn't a victim, right? This is the logic used by millions of people who steal copyrighted songs and movies every single day.

But now were trying to legislate against this faceless force. They're "just a bunch of gays". Many people believe they're out to get their children, or that somehow they undermine the fabric of our society. If that's true, then so do black people. Because they compose as much a part of our societal structure as any other minority group.

Last point, and I'll shut up: the "sanctity of marriage".

What exactly is that? Is there an assertion that marriage is a holy, unbreakable union ordained by God, the State, and man? I don't deny that my marriage is ordained by God, the State, and me, but while I'd like to think that mine is unbreakable, statistics say there's a 50% chance that I'm wrong.

Furthermore, how does God fit into the equation when you're looking at this from a legislative perspective? The US Constitution, in its un-sullied Bill of Rights, guarantees freedom of religion. If my religion does not include God, then that point is moot.

Ah, but what if my religion recognizes unions between 2 men? Constitutionally, I'm guaranteed the right to practice my religion uninhibited. That right supercedes the Virginia constitution through the 10th Amendment to the US constitution, which precludes states from reversing the rights and laws of the US Constitution.

Most would agree that the above scenario is pedantic and unlikely, but there are churches popping up explicitly for this purpose.

Without losing sight of the goal, the point is simple: this amendment does nothing good and a lot bad. It precludes common-law marriage, preventing long-term noncommitted lovers from having any legal right to make power-of-attorney arrangements for their loved ones (without explicit authorization). It doesn't actually preclude homosexual unions, since there's already a law against that, but it does take the issue away from the courts (our only constitutionally mandated system for redress of grievances). It attempts to deify heterosexual unions, which have a 1 to 2 failure rate. And last, but not least, it disenfranchises a huge minority.

What's next: separate bathrooms and drinking fountains for gay people? Mandatory bussing of homosexuals to all school districts? Come on folks! We're already mucking around in the constitution, what would you like? I say no more Cherry Garcia ice cream. That stuff always freaked me out.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da!

Alastair's favorite new thing is screaming Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da!

He screws up his face, sticks his tongue almost out to his lips, and just goes at it. It's the funniest thing I've ever seen.

This replaces last month's Buh buh buh buh buh..., often delivered with the same intensely twisted face (kind of looked like a bad guy from a cartoon, with one eye squinted).

Last night he gave out a couple of quick Da!-Da!'s, and it sounded for all the world like he was going to bust into "Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news, I gotta bad case of lovin' you". He didn't, so we did.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Family is Insane

My mother is crazy. I've known it for years, but it was solidified on my 13th birthday, when she told me that she divorced my father after he had an affair. I've read the divorce papers, and it was my father who sued for divorce, after she told him bluntly that she had had an affair.

Her purpose then was to undermine my relationship with my father, and to convince me to come live with her when I turned 18. Weird, weird, weird.

In the years since then (and really, since I was about 2 years old), my mother has been effectively a nomad. She's lived in countless places around the Richmond area, some as grandiose as a 19th century mansion, some as small as a miserable, leaky 2-room mother-in-law suite in somebody's back yard. Through all of her travels, my grandparents--particularly my grandfather--took care of her financially. She trains horses and people to ride horses, which doesn't pay the bills very well, especially when you're smoking most of your proceeds.

Mom likes to get high. When I graduated 5th grade, she took me out and taught me how to smoke a joint. Well, that ended my love affair with drugs. There's no mystery to it, so I have no interest in using.

Mom is also extremely greedy. Her whole mission is to get hold of my grandmother's dwindling estate. She believes that my grandmother should cede everything to her: the house, the car, all the contents of all her accounts, and even control over her investments. My grandmother does not trust this (nor should she), and believes that my mom would simply cast her out on the street after taking all her possessions. I'm not sure I disagree.

My grandmother is a different kind of crazy: she grew up with a thyroid problem and evidently had Scarlet Fever as a child. The thyroid problem turned her into a raging maniac, which made it difficult for my mom to feel loved. My grandmother has always been more critical of my mom because she had high expectations.

My grandmother is also the queen of guilt and reproach. 7 years ago, when I proposed to Amanda, I called her to share the good news. She answered the phone drunk, and said, "Well that's nice. Listen, it would be really nice if you could come over and rake my leaves." Kind of killed the mood, and made me less than thrilled about helping rake those leaves. She held a grudge for years. Years. I kid you not: I called her to express happiness, and not only did she piss on it, she wouldn't let it go.

We didn't speak for a very long time, and I really don't generally go out of my way to talk to her today. When we meet for lunch, she complains about absolutely everything: the restaurant's too cold, she doesn't want to sit in a booth, the music's too loud, there's a speck of dirt on the rim of her glass, and I tip too much (sometimes she'll actually pick the money back up off the table if I leave more than 15%). Heaven forbid she should actually ride in the car with me.

So that's the background to what happened this week. I don't know if it shows, but my mom and grandmother functionally hate each other.

Yesterday my mom called me in quite a state. In fact, she left a message for me at work and then called my cell phone. This is an event in itself, as I usually hear from her at Christmas and my birthday, but she was very agitated and needed to spill her guts.

She had called her mom on Sunday to ask her to lunch on the 17th, which would have been my grandfather's birthday (he died in 1998). My grandmother told her that she'd been extremely ill, and very concerned about her health. Mom asked why she hadn't called, and my grandmother replied that my mother had absolutely refused to take her to the doctor in the past, so she didn't see the point. In truth, my mother refused to drive my grandmother's car, saying that there was nothing keeping my grandmother from hoisting herself up into mom's Ford F350 pickup truck. They got into a screaming match with my mom shouting that she wouldn't be manipulated, that she'd been manipulated all her life, and my grandmother hung up on her.

So Mom wrote a letter and wanted to run it by me, but she also wanted me to find out if there was actually a medical emergency that we needed to tend to. The letter was pure drivel, and I told her not to mail it, that it would only cause more harm and further alienate them.

The medical condition, though, really did concern me. My grandmother is 8x years old, and my mom and I are her only living family. Nobody knew who had power of attorney, where her accounts were, or even how to get into her house. Of course, I couldn't just call my grandmother and ask these things: we talk about as often as I talk to my mom, so it would seem suspicious that she'd just had this fight with my mom, and now I'm calling.

So I got my dad to call. Strangely, he has a better relationship with her than either me or my mom, and he's impartial. He called and confirmed that there was indeed a medical condition, but that it was not emergent--yet.

That gave me an "in", and I called her. She's probably in pretty bad shape, but she won't let on. She, for the first time, is acknowledging her mortality, and needs guidance. Unfortunately, she can't trust my mom, and I'm not sure she'll trust me, either. But she's agreed to have me come over and start talking about options for her long-term care and financial arrangements.

I hate to think about it, but I'm probably going to have to cut my mom out of the picture entirely: I think I'm going to have to ask for power of attorney. I need to divest her of her assets before she goes into permanent care and before probate becomes an issue.

But both of them think they're investing big secrets in me, and each is playing me against the other. It's madness, and my only allies are my father and Amanda.

This sucks. And I'm busier than ever at work, and I'm also unhappier than ever at work. That's a triple dose of suck. That's teh suck. And Alastair's sick. Poor little guy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Do you know where your children are?

10:30. I'm stuck at work. 2nd night this week, and I know I'll have to work Saturday, too. Fun.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You don't have to go to the Fair to ride a roller-coaster

What a week.

It started last Tuesday, and there's no need rehashing what happened that day. It proceeded through Thursday, and went ruthlessly into Friday, when I was scrambling to help bring new systems on-line.

I got home on Friday with a lot of positive energy, though, and mowed the back yard, edged, bagged the clippings, vacuumed the upstairs, and helped Amanda pack our cars with yard-sale stuff. It was a pretty good night, and we had a nice evening.

Saturday was a bit hectic. She got up early for the yard sale, which was at her mom's house. We got Alastair up, got him ready, and she headed off. I followed, knowing that I'd be running out to a MINI drive immediately after helping set up for the yard sale.

We got to her mom's house late, I raced to empty the car and find places for things, and kissed her goodbye. I got to the MINI meeting place (Barnes & Noble @ Short Pump) right on time, and Christian, Tony, and I headed west.

Our destination was Route 56, which is wicked curvy between Vesuvius and Tyro. Click for a map. The problems were two-fold: 1. The weather was bad out there (rain, low temperatures: bad for our cars' setups) 2. I wasn't as excited about the drive as I had been.

It hadn't been too long before the drive that Amanda's family rescheduled their yard sale for the same day, and I had been hoping to help out with the sale. It wasn't tremendously fair that Amanda would need to look after the boy while dealing with hagglers.

So I was less than thrilled on the drive out, and made up for it by driving way too fast. We made it from Richmond to Afton in exactly 1 hour (down to the minute), and then hit slow-moving traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had forgotten that I'd have to go almost 30 miles on the Parkway before hitting Rte 56, so I was getting really tense.

Then, when we did turn on to 56, a very slow SUV was right in front of us. We suffered behind the guy for about a mile before pulling over for a potty break. For about the next 4 or 5 miles, we saw no traffic, and took some very wet turns at some very dangerous speeds. Several times I stopped to make sure Christian was still behind me (completely stock car--even tires--and no track experience), and a few times I had to slow way down because of gravel on the road. We turned around before getting to the bottom of the mountain, where speeds increase and turns get even sharper, and headed back. When I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, I lost my cool and drove as fast as I could to get home. I made the trip back from Afton in just under an hour and got to the yard sale just in time to help pack up.

Amanda and I took Alastair home, put him down for his nap, and got packing for our trip to Norfolk, VA, for my company's cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk (a 3-hour booze cruise).

We hit the road at about 4:30pm and made it to the parking garage in Norfolk at 6:43pm. After about an hour of standing around, we got on the ship and set off. It was a really good time. We had listened to some good music on the way down, were relaxed, we were drinking tasty drinks, and the food was good.

We enjoyed looking at the naval vessels (I more than Amanda) from the observation deck, and we spent a good amount of time hanging out with Lewis and his girlfriend Faith (and his friends Dave & John).

When it was over, we got back in the car and headed back to Williamsburg, where we had reservations right next door to the outlet mall (score!). We stayed up late, watched Dane Cook's comedy routine, and went to sleep around 2am.

The next morning, we had a wonderfully relaxing time laying around and being lazy. We wandered out, did some shopping (super cute outfit for Alastair's first Christmas), had lunch with Shana, did some more shopping, and then got gut-punched.

Leigh (Amanda's mom) called and said she'd gotten a cryptic message from the chaplain at MCV. No word on why he was calling, but she immediately assumed that we had been injured. Since we hadn't she tried to track down her mom, who just moved to Richmond a couple of weeks ago.

It turns out her mom Birchie had been in a serious car accident at around 11am, shortly after leaving Leigh's house. Birchie had put Alastair down for his nap around 10am, had some coffee, and headed out to drop some stuff off at GoodWill. On her return, she ran the red light at Parham & Broad (there's speculation that an aneurysm might have caused this: Birchie was a tremendously conscientious driver). She was broad-sided, her car spun several times, and wound up in the median.

We know she was conscious when she arrived at MCV, because Leigh's number is unlisted, and the chaplain wouldn't have had any way of getting the number without being told.

Of course, we were in Williamsburg when the details were just starting to come together, so Leigh couldn't go to her mother's side (she was watching Alastair at her house). We made a beeline back to Richmond, picked him up, and she raced down to the hospital.

For the next 3 hours, we got a stream of phone calls asking about her health, updating us on minor details, and everything seemed ok. There were reports of a broken hip, possible head trauma, and tests being performed.

Amanda's dad was driving in from Utah, too, so we were relaying information to him has we got it (Leigh's cell phone was off since she was in the hospital, so he couldn't get in touch with her).

Then around 9:30 we got a call that she was going to be removed from life support. Whoa, what? Removed from life support? None of the information we'd received up to that point even indicated she was really badly injured! I called my dad and asked him to come over and sit with Alastair so that we could go to the hospital.

We met Amanda's father at his house and took him down to the hospital. When we got there, everyone was milling around out front. Evidently the doctors weren't ready to extubate her: they wanted to run a test to see the extent of the brain damage before letting her go.

So we went home. All jacked up on coffee and adrenaline and nerves. Sleep came slowly and fitfully, and this morning Leigh called us to say that Birchie had passed away some time between 4 and 4:30 in the morning. She never stabilized enough for the test.

Funeral arrangements are being made now, and we'll be heading back to Grundy some time this week.

It's been a hell of a week. Please keep Amanda and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It wasn't just Tuesday

This week just won't quit. I think I'm going to classify it as The Worst Week Of My Adult Life.

The only good news to come out of this week is that I bought some really cool new music, and today, for the first time ever, I played a 2-turn game of pool: Lewis broke and got 5 balls in, then I ran the entire table. All 7 of my balls and the 8 ball.

But that comes against a backdrop of work, house, and automotive misery. So whoopdedoo.

The Mars Volta is weird. But I like it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yesterday and the Evil Wicked Horrible Rotten Very Bad Day

Yesterday wasn't much fun.

It began decently enough, with me running late, as usual. I realized quickly, though, that I had an 8:45 appointment, and that I wasn't going to get to work until 8:30. There was a bit of paperwork I needed to get taken care of before the appointment, along with running a process on my computer.

I got the paperwork done, but the process wound up taking almost an hour. Damn. So I canceled the appointment, only to realize it had actually been scheduled for 9:45. I could have made it with time to spare. Grrr...

But when I first got to work, my boss's first words to me were "What did you do to the servers last night?" Great. Good way to start the day. And, of course, she was flanked by one of her peers and her boss. So I'm immediately on the defensive, and of course I had personally done nothing. Come to find out, someone had moved one set of systems to production that had Test GPO's applied. So the production systems got brand new patches in the middle of the night and rebooted, rendering the environment unstable.

That took hours to unravel, and in the meantime, we had users accusing us of insulting them by not freely giving them enough space.

Finally, my boss came to me and told me that I'll be rebuilding systems on Saturday the 14th, not working on Monday the 9th, and that I had disappointed her by not volunteering to rebuild a server last night. I'd had enough, and I went home.

I got home, saw my boy for a while, and decided to go ahead and do my oil change. I was due for one, and with this weekend's drive to the mountains, I wanted to get it done. I got the car up in the air, drained the oil, changed the filter, put it back on the ground, put the new oil in, cleaned the air filter, and added WaterWetter to the coolant. I felt good. I'd accomplished more than I set out to do, and was in a much better mood than I'd been in.

Then I came back to work. On the way, I noticed that my back window was wet. There was no good explanation: I hadn't driven through water; nothing had dripped on the car; there was no rain. I got to work, thought no more of it for the next 3.5 hours, and then drove home. I lost traction getting on the highway, and didn't think that was right, since I hadn't bombed the turn too hard.

Then I ran the rear window wiper and left a huge smear instead of a clean spot. It was oil. I stopped at a service station and cleaned the window off, hoping that it was just some spilled oil that had gotten on the subframe while I was filling the car.

Oil continued to coat my rear window.

I got home, sat sulkily through some TV, and when I got up, my vision went starry for a minute. I felt horrible and went to bed feeling weird and depressed. I was sure I'd cross-threaded the oil-filter housing or somehow cracked the oil pan.

Yesterday sucked.

This morning I went out and pulled the oil-filter housing off. The gasket had been shredded when I put it in. I dug through the trash and found the old one, put it back in, used my remaining 1.5 qts of oil, and went to the car wash. No more leaks, but the back-side of the engine and the entire under-carriage are covered in oil, so my car stinks like burning oil.

I also beat a hasty path to Advance Auto and bought another 3 qts of oil (synthetic, so it ain't cheap). All in all I lost about 3 quarts of oil to that chopped gasket, further proving that multi-thousand-dollar devices are almost invariably taken down by $.05 parts.

All seems to be good now, and with the exception of some possible oil on the right rear tire, I'm ready for this weekend's mountain run!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nerd alert!

This whole California thing has been bugging the crap out of me, so I started doing some number crunching today.

I went to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics website and started looking for details into how much pollution comes from cars as opposed to other fossil-fuel burning means (agriculture, power plants, shipping, aviation, etc). They had some fascinating numbers for Carbon Monoxide and an array of other pollutants, but none that were easy to find for "greenhouse gases".

For instance, they show that in 2000, we (US or the world? I'm not sure) pumped 109 million short tons of CO into the atmosphere. Sounds like a horrible number, but while it's above the average for the preceding 10 years, it's below the average for the past 30. Of that 109M, 56.06M comes from transportation. The other 53.29M came from industrial processes. 56.06M is the lowest in the entire range of 30 years, and of that, 48.47M came from "on-road transportation".

Unfortunately, that number isn't further broken down, but the key here is that 86% of transportational CO emissions came from cars & trucks. That's just shy of 50% of the total CO released into the atmosphere for the whole year, and it, too, is the lowest in 30 years. It marks only the 2nd time we've dropped below 50M short tons of CO emissions from cars & trucks, and is 10M below the emissions level of 1990, when we commonly assume the era of eco-friendly vehicles to have started.

So the automotive industry has made some pretty big strides over the last 30 years, and they're getting better all the time.

But now let's analyze the greenhouse gas emissions of today. Wikipedia has a great entry on greenhouse gases, and it states that the number 1 greenhouse gas is water vapor, which is not affected by human activity, except on very small, local scales. Water vapor accounts for as much as 70% of all greenhouse gases (or as little as 35%, depending on the "expert"). Carbon Dioxide is a distant second, running anywhere from 9 to 26%, followed by methane (4 - 9%) and nitrous oxide (?%).

Since our two biggest contributions come in CO2 and methane, they're probably where we as humans can make the greatest impact into the phenomenon we've termed global warming.

CO2 levels have remained fairly consistent over the last 10K years: around 260 - 280ppm. Since industrialization, they've risen to approximately 365ppm: an increase of 31%. However, wikipedia shows a wonderful chart breaking down the sources of pollution by pollutant, and we see that transportation accounts for 19.2% of CO2.

Calculating our man-made contribution to this is fairly simple: multiply the increase (31%) by the contribution factors: 9 to 26%. We show a contribution-factor increase of CO2 somewhere between 1.65 and 4.77%. That's not much, and when we multiply that by the percentage which is attributed to transportation (19.2%), we get a range from 0.32 to 0.92%. All the transportation in the world accounts for less than 1% rise in atmospheric CO2. If we can even begin to assume the numbers for CO to have any relevance to CO2, then we can multiply that finding by 86%, revealing on-road transportation to have contributed anywhere from 0.28 to 0.79% of CO2 increases, and that's before you discount trucking.

The math is even easier for methane: the wikipedia entry shows absolutely no contribution from automobiles. None. So man has pumped that in through other means, principally agricultural.

So let's assume an absolute worst-case scenario: cars account for 0.92% of the increase in greenhouse gases that are supposedly raising the temperature of our world.

(And for the naysayers, the Wiki entry is a pro-global-warming page. They fully support the argument that man is destroying the environment with cars & trucks, but their numbers directly contradict the claim.)

California claims to have spent millions on this research. It took me a few minutes on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics website and a quick trip over to Wikipedia. Maybe Califoria residents should sue their legislators.

Here's another tidbit I just found. The BTS has another page on gas wasted due to congestion. In 2000, 1.188 billion gallons of gas were wasted due to congestion in Los Angeles, CA. The next closest metropolitan area was NY/NJ, at 658M. LA consistently shows over 1 billion gallons of gas wasted due to congestion for all but one year since 1990. By comparison, Richmond, VA wasted 11 million gallons.

1 billion gallons of gas. Per year. In one city. And they're suing the auto makers?

More to come. But in the meantime, consider that the man who brought this suit is running for Treasurer in California this November.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Take California

So California is suing the auto industry. They're going after Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan for "past and ongoing" contributions to global warming.

Allow me to rephrase that: California is going after broke companies for a phenomenon that hasn't been proven to exist. Along this line of logic, I've decided to sue my cube-mate for the possibility of aliens.

I think it's high time we cut our losses and force California to incorporate itself as a free-standing nation. Though they are the 8th largest economy in the world, they are a constant burden on our nation, our citizens, and the corporations that make our economy function.

California passed a law last year demanding that automakers cut emissions by 25%. From what I understand, it's a do-it-now kind of law. Automakers don't just have magic parts-bins with 25% emissions-cutters lying around, so improvements take time, research, and most importantly: money. Lots and lots of money.

Research isn't free; technology isn't free. But California wants immediate results, dammit. You can have it good, fast or cheap: pick any two. CA wants it good and fast, so that means the price of these new, efficient cars will be astronomical.

A ar that cost $15K last year could quickly become a $35K car next year. Typically, when the initial buy-in cost of a new technology is that prohibitive, the automaker will absorb some of that cost to help infiltrate the market and create a demand. Honda did this with the Insight. Each Insight cost Honda close to $70K to build, but they were sold for less than half that price. Honda knew that there was a market, but not a luxury-class market. They bit the bullet and absorbed a huge loss, spreading that loss across the rest of their product line.

But California says one model isn't enough, and again: they want it right now. With no means to absorb the costs of revamping entire product lines, the automakers tried to stall. There is no way people are going to pay the price for all this new crap just so one little piddly state can strong arm an industry.

So they're all getting sued.

First of all, why sue Honda? They're probably the greenest car company on the planet, and they've been working feverishly to make the best line of efficient cars for over 30 years, starting with the initial introduction of the Civic in 1972. I think the answer lies in the other green: Honda is tremendously successful as a company.

But why then sue Ford and GM? Is the point just to push them out of business? These two companies are so beleaguered that they even talked of merging earlier this year. GM has been in (and out of) talks with Nissan and other foreign investors, desperately trying to pump some capital into their dying veins. These companies are in deep trouble, and trying to pump them for "tens or hundreds of millions" will accomplish nothing more than placing tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans into the unemployment line.

The same can be said of the remaining 3: only the North American arms of these companies are in the CA scopes, so only American jobs stand to be affected.

Now to change the argument around just a bit: Why isn't California suing the shipping industry? Plenty of goods come in through California's shores, and sea-ships are horribly inefficient. What regulations keep their greenhouse gases down? There are more boats in the water than cars on shore, and hardly any restrictions on the output of their engines. California has one of the largest coastlines in this country, too. So why only car makers?

Not to mention power companies. Though heavily regulated, coal plants still put a lot more crap into the atmosphere than any car. Heck: probably more than any fleet of cars. But there's a secret here, and it's one that makes me think we need to expunge this canker from our great nation.

That secret is California's deplorable lack of resources, at least in relation to its power as an economic force. California constantly has water shortages, and "rolling blackouts" are a part of everyday life there. The other states of this nation sell California water and power every day, and we're thanked with car prices that are unnaturally elevated, cocky over-paid actors who don't pay taxes, and constant reports of illegal aliens mandating changes to our nation's education system.

Screw 'em. Force them out of the union and tax them for wine imports. Make them produce their own water and power, or sell it at a huge premium (or tax the companies that sell it to them with export tariffs). Take away their 49 electoral votes and make them fend for themselves. They can have their artificially inflated housing market, all the auto laws they want, and live peacefully on the West Coast, becoming a popular vacation destination.

That way, when they want to levy huge fines at companies doing business in California, those companies can simply exit the market and let the people decide what's really in their best interests.

The people of California can ride Segways to work, they can drink only the finest imported water, they can make solar sails to generate power, and we as a nation can point all illegal aliens to the left.

People live in fear of a world controlled by corporations: we ought to live in fear of local governments "acting in our best interests" and punishing us for having nice things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I feel like such a bone-head

I've put things in motion to make next Saturday (the 30th) miserable, or at least tedious.

I've been trying for a couple of months to organize a fun, relaxed drive to the mountains. I coordinated for the 26th of August, but then family interfered with that plan, so I had to reschedule. I put a poll out, and folks agreed that September 30 seemed like a great time to go canyon carving.

So we're going. It will be fun: we'll set out from Richmond around 9:30am, get to the twisties around 11, and then pick up some lunch in C'ville around 12:30. We should be back in Richmond some time between 2 and 2:30. Great, huh?

Except I just got a reminder that our company cruise is that evening, departing from Norfolk at 7pm.

That means leaving Richmond around 5pm. We'll probably drive back that night, too, since I forgot about it and failed to arrange for babysitting. So that puts me in the car for 9 hours on Saturday. Ugh.

I've already canceled the MINI drive once; I don't believe folks will tolerate another cancellation. I committed to the cruise several months ago, and for some stupid reason just didn't put it on my calendar. Now I find myself in an unworkable scenario, and I have to piss someone off. Fun.

Options include:
1. Me (and probably Amanda, too): go to both
2. RiverCityMINIs: cancel the drive
3. Eiden Systems Corp: cancel my spot on the cruise

Vote for your favorite today!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Really diggin' iTunes 7

I just discovered iTunes radio. Whoa. How is it that I work in this industry and just totally miss the greatest things that happen to it? Sheesh.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Must've had the high-test

'cause I'm feelin' a little crazy right now!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

PKD for Free!

Yesterday MINI Takes the States came through VA, on their long, winding trail from Monterey, CA. The plan was for hundreds and hundreds of MINIs to caravan across the nation, showing off the new JCW GP MINI Cooper S. I don't know how the crux of the plan worked out, but not too many made the trek to King's Dominion.

Evidently there was a choice of either playing at the amusement park all day (and, presumably, riding the new Italian Job turbocoaster, featuring the MINI) or taking Skyline Drive north to DC. I'm guessing a bunch of folks chose the latter, because there were only 63 cars that I'm aware of. That number was provided by a gentleman at the top of PKD's 1/3 scale Eiffel Tower, and did not include one that I had seen leave earlier.

Anyway, shock of shocks: we got in free! And, bigger shock: there was nobody at the park. At least two times we were able to walk right up and get on rides. No waiting, no nothin'. We were able to ride something like 8 different rides (including the new go-kart track) and eat lunch in 3 hours flat.

We rode the Italian Job turbocoaster twice, Volcano, Tomb Raider FireFall, the go-karts, the Rebel Yell, Hypersonic XLC, and went up the Eiffel Tower. I don't recommend the Tomb Raider ride. The G forces kind of messed me up, and when we went straight from there to the Italian Job, I nearly blacked out in the first turn. The world filled up with gray dots, and I had to fight very hard to keep my consciousness.

After that, I was done. We went to the new Starbucks (?!) inside King's Dominion, got a treat, and headed home. There were a bunch of MINIs coming out behind us, and we waved all friendly-like.

It was a great time, and the best part was that I didn't feel like I needed to stay all day to get my money's worth.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Fabulous Birthday Week, Thus Far

First, I'll say that updates every 8 days is pretty sad, so my apologies.

This week has been a blast. It started last Thursday at 1:45pm, when I left work to go pick up my new "old man" chair: a leather recliner. It's so comfortable and dreamy soft. I'm looking forward to spending hours reading in it, hopefully with Alastair in my lap.

Then dinner at Mom's Siam with Jamie Shewan that night. Alastair sat in the window in his clip-on chair and flirted with everyone.

Friday was fab: got to spend my first work-free workday at home since early February!

Saturday, Sunday: more of the same. Lounging with Amanda and Boy. I love my family. We had lunch with my mom and grandmother on Saturday. That was a hoot. Mom gave us a watermelon; we're a little scared (neither of us has ever dealt with carving a watermelon before).

Monday was a great birthday. We got up leisurely (Alastair let me sleep until after 8am), Amanda made me the tastiest waffles ever, and we drank lots of coffee. I opened my cards and presents and had a wonderful day with my family.

Dad and Randy took us to Maggiano's for dinner that night, and while Alastair was much noisier than usual, he was a little angel, charming all the people at the tables around us.

We left the restaurant just as a crazy storm was starting, and even though we pulled up to 3 feet away from the back door, Alastair and I were soaked by the time we got inside. Poor little guy.

Last night I got my friends together and went go-karting at G-Force. Fun, fun, fun. I'd been once before, so I had a slight advantage, but it was great to get Mr. K, the Cronins, and Mr. Harper out for a night of speed. We had so much fun, we did it twice. There was this one fat chick in the 2nd race who was ignoring the blue flag (the one that means "get over, slow-poke: faster traffic is behind you") and actually blocking me. She tried to cut me off twice after the hair-pin, and both times I had to bump her out of my path. Who got the blame? Me, of course. When we looked at lap times later, she was never even within 2 seconds of me, but thought we were having some serious NASCAR showdown.

Today I've felt a bit under the weather, but I'm hoping to be back in prime shape for Saturday, when hundreds (if not thousands) of MINI Coopers will descend on King's Dominion. MINI Takes The States is coming through with the JCW GP MINI Cooper S, and it's sure to be quite the spectacle. Alastair will be spending the day with his grandmother.

Not much else going on; I'm leveraging some bizarre contractual policies to get a week and a half of vacation while only using one vacation day. We're not allowed to earn overtime this month (August) because the contract has run out of hours. My company pays us a bonus for the overtime we've accrued in a month. If I get overtime, but then take a personal day, I lose 8 hours of accrued overtime for the month. So, we try not to take personal days in the same months when we earn overtime. Vacation days don't count against our overtime, so any days off are generally taken as vacation.

I came into August with 3 personal days left, and worked 12 hours of overtime last week by Wednesday. Since I can't keep it, I left early Thursday and didn't come back Friday. We get our birthday as a paid day off, and there were only 3 days left to August. 3 days of personal time got written off.

But this weekend is a 3-day weekend. Who would want to come back for one day before a 3-day weekend? So I took 8 of my remaining vacation hours and wound up with a very nice 10.5 day vacation. Tidy, no?

Bizarre company and contractual policies, but sometimes they work out for us.

Off to bed, now, where I'll read some Aubrey/Maturin for a while before drifting off to dreams of Amanda and Alastair (although I've had some crazy crack-whore dreams about monsters and cheetahs this week).

Dang: now it's Friday. So much for keeping the interval down to 8 days...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Very Different Autocross

This past weekend (August 20), I turned in runs that I'm more proud of than any runs I've ever done before, and I came in 3rd. While that might sound incongruous, given that I've won my class in the past, I'm running in a different class with a major handicap, and I finally figured out how to really keep the car locked to the ground.

My lines weren't perfect, but they were good enough to turn in clean runs without a lot of tire-squeal on really narrow race tires.

There's the rub: really narrow tires. I bought these tires when I was planning on staying in stock class for a season. Unfortunately, I got way ahead of myself in terms of the work I wanted to do this year, and now I'm crippled. My Kumho V710's were very sticky this weekend, but with a 195mm width, they were pathetic next to another competitor's 225's. He beat me by a full 2 seconds. Granted, he's probably a better driver, too, but I was working that car as hard as it would go.

Another fellow, on even wider tires, turned in a run 2 seconds faster than his. Now, I know exactly where I was losing time, and I think I could have tweaked another .7 seconds off my time, but 4 whole seconds? Damn.

I think it's time to see if someone would be interested in some "lightly used" 195/55R14 Kumho V710's on 11lb stock Miata wheels. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Silly Highway Sign

I was driving to work tonight on I-95 South, and I was going maybe 60 mph through downtown Richmond. I caught a sign way off to the left (far enough that you actually have to look around to see it) advertising safety through slow driving.

It was a catchy sign, and over half the sign looked like a giant speedometer, but most of the writing on the speedometer was small, so I had to concentrate to see that the needle was pointed at "Life".

When I looked back at the road, I realized I was merging on top of someone. Great freakin' sign. Thanks, VDOT, for making a sign about safety that's so distracting it almost killed me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lunch Date!

I had a great lunch date with my favorite 2 people today. Amanda and Alastair came to visit me at around 1pm, we trekked over to O'Charley's (VERY kid-friendly), and had a good time of it.

Afterward, we came back here to my work and took Alastair to visit his old day-care. The teachers went positively bananas over him. Teachers were pouring out of rooms to come and hold him; they told us how much they miss him; they loved on him; and he just ate it all up. Almost all of them recognized him long before he was anywhere near them, and Amanda got to see that I wasn't exaggerating at all when I'd told her how much they loved having him there.

We made one more quick stop by my desk, he got a few more "ooh's" and "aah's", and they went on their way, but my day was improved dramatically.

I love my wife and child. They rock.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Paint and Gas Fumes; What a Weekend!

Last weekend (7/29 & 30), Amanda and I decided we'd put off house projects for entirely too long. We whipped out the old color samples and decided to paint the god-awful paneling in the den. By Thursday, we still didn't have paint. Awesome.

Friday we got our paint, moved all the furniture out of the room (or into the center, for the huge stuff), and got ready for some paintin'. I also took the opportunity of some slightly lower temps to change my wheels & tires for the autocross, as well as fixing the stupid problems I inadvertently caused with my rollbar.

Saturday, Amanda's mom came and picked up the boy, and we got busy painting. We figured out very quickly that the seams in the panels were too deep to roll, so we spent almost half the day painting them with brushes. Needless to say, it put us behind schedule. By the time we'd picked up the boy and were ready to go to bed, we'd only rolled one coat of top-coat. Blah.

Sunday, I got up bright and early and went out to the autocross, where I learned that I'd evidently forgotten to torque one of my wheels. After my 2nd run (my fastest), a couple of guys came running after me telling me that I was about to lose a wheel. The lugs weren't even finger-tight.

I got that taken care of, finished my runs, enjoyed lunch with Amanda (who'd come out for the flea market happening in the same place), watched some racing with her dad, and went out for my work assignment. I think it was 95 degrees during my work assignment, and I was standing in the middle of the asphalt parking lot with no sunscreen on my face, neck, or legs. It was miserable. One guy lost a wheel (the axle snapped off at the drum brake) and another guy drifted through the whole course, but other than that it was just an hour standing in the sun on tarmac. FUN.

I went home, got my paintbrush, and went back to painting. We finished the rolling and topcoat on the walls that night, and yesterday I left work early to start on the trim. By midnight last night, there were 2 coats of paint on the trim, and although some of it will need a 3rd coat, I think we're going to load the furniture back into place today.

The room looks awesome. The paneling actually looks really good with paint on it: it's not just deep, shit-brown fake wood with grooves, but a nice, even taupe with the grooves acting as accentuation. Our art is really going to meld nicely with the palette.

Of course, we have to hurry getting everything hooked back up if we're going to catch the finale of Last Comic Standing.

I'm beat. No more painting for me for a while. Except for the kitchen ceiling. Crap.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Panty-waist Europeans

What the hell is going on in Europe these days? Everybody is suing Apple for compatibility issues over a freakin' MP3 player. Here's the gist:

Sweden, Denmark, France, and Norway are all suing Apple because songs downloaded from iTunes will only play on the iPod. The files are encoded in a lossless codec that is not readable by any other player or application.

This is like Sony's failed attempt to enter the market with their own proprietary format, except that Apple allows you to burn any song you download to CD. So, you can buy from iTunes, listen to the song on your computer, and burn a CD to listen to anywhere you go, but you can't listen to the song on your Creative Zen player.

But what makes this illegal? I mean, come on: Apple's been producing an operating system for the last 22 years that ONLY WORKS ON APPLE COMPUTERS!

And it's not like the iPod is the only player on the market. Nor, for that matter, is iTunes.

Monday, July 31, 2006

I feel poopy

Long weekend. Daggone.

Friday afternoon culminated with a Foley/Edwards family dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Hanover Co. I've never been to a Mexican restaurant that didn't take your order with 5 minutes, and yet this place took well over an hour, forgot my drink several times, and was poorly air-conditioned. The food was good, and the company better, but we didn't get home until almost 9pm, and Alastair was not amused at being kept up almost 2 hours past his bed-time.

Amazingly, he slept very well for being so sweaty and tired.

Saturday, we went to the Vegetarian Festival in Bryan Park. It was about 95-degrees the whole time we were there, and we spent about 90 minutes wandering around, eating falafel sandwiches, and sucking down virgin pina coladas. Once again, Alastair was terribly sweaty and not very entertained by the heat. He slept like a champ when we got back, and then we headed off to the Foley/Edwards cook-out.

Again we found ourselves outside in the heat, only this time it was for closer to 4 hours. We got him home about an hour after his bed-time, and again, amazingly, he conked right out. I love that boy.

Sunday, I got up and did a couple of hours worth of yard work, mowing, weeding, and spraying chemicals. I then came in, showered, ate, and headed off to a MINI tech/day cook-out. I spent another couple of hours there installing Christian's sway-bar, and then some additional time standing around talking about cars.

I tried to drink as much water as I could, but I've had a dehydration headache ever since I drank one beer on Friday night. Last night I developed a low-grade fever, which happens to me sometimes after too much time in the heat. I went to bed unable to get comfortable, and still have that headache this morning. Blah.

And because Grant didn't ask...

You've trophied twice in Novice, and run 4 times over-all in Novice. You're finished with Novice Class, sir! VMSC rules don't allow you to run in Novice after your second win. Time to step up and run in ES, or go crazy with the car and run in STS2 or CSP!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Because Grant asked...

I installed the Spec Miata suspension last week, with a ton of help from Mr. Chris Kimmelshue, so I'm competing in CSP now.

I did get the car aligned before hitting the track, and here's what I had 'em do:

Caster: ~ +5 degrees left & right
Camber: ~ -2 degrees at all 4 corners
Toe: 0 degrees at all 4 corners
Ride Height: ~ 5.25" (pinch-weld to ground) at all 4 corners

This will probably not be an ideal setup for autocross, but it stuck to the track like glue (except for a couple of times, but that was due to the tires).

The car has not been corner balanced, but that seems like a waste of money, since a lot of stuff still needs to be removed (and other stuff added).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm an idiot

So I ordered a "harness bar" for the Miata a couple of weeks ago. The next day, I contacted the manufacturer and asked that they cancel the order; instead, they rushed it right out. Great.

Yesterday, since Wife and Boy were out, I took a shot at installing it. The instructions indicated that I should remove 2 bolts from my roll-bar, remove the spacers beneath them, and replace them with the new harness bar and shorter spacers. Only the new spacers are way too short, and the bar sits so close to the built-in harness bar that it gains me nothing.

Now the kicker is that I had to pry those 2 spacers out, and one of them took an 18" breaker-bar and every bit of my physical strength to remove. And it ain't going back in without disassembling one side of the roll-bar. So, in an attempt to install something I knew I didn't need (and couldn't return), I've created an hour's worth of work that must be performed before I next try to drive the car.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Brreaayyyywywwwwwwooooooouuuuuggghhh.......... *pant* *pant* *pant*

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Numerology and Me; a Historical Review of the Number 22 in My Life

Amanda brought up an interesting point the other night: that I had registered for next weekend's autocross as number 22 for Alastair (his birthday being January 22). I hadn't even considered that, since 22 was my number in soccer for years. But it got me thinking...

22 - The first 2 digits of my SSN.
22 - The last 2 digits of my student ID in the Richmond Public Schools
22 - My rec' league soccer number
22 - My high school soccer number
22 - The day of my wife's birth in April 1975
22 - The day of my son's birth in January 2006
22 - Amanda and I were this age when we moved in together
22 - The number I've always chosen for any competitive event

Interesting. Probably irrelevant, but interesting nonetheless.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Interesting weekend. Interesting indeed.

Saturday afternoon, about 5pm, we packed the Miata (and I mean packed: there was NO extra trunk space), climbed in, and took a very noisy and bumpy drive to Alton, VA, on the NC border, just between South Boston and Danville.

We learned something about Google maps on the way: they've become useless. The visual portion of the map no longer prints, and you're left with text directions, portions of which were redundant, and portions of which were just plain wrong. We got lost shortly outside South Boston, where the roads on our Google map simply didn't exist. We got lucky and saw a car up ahead that looked fast, so we followed it. It turned out to be a Ferrari 575M, so we knew we were headed in the right direction.

We then had a devil of a time finding our room. We were told it was on the North Paddock, but the only buildings on the North Paddock are the press building, the Pagoda Restaurant, and the garages. We saw a hotel overlooking turns 6 & 7, so we drove over there, only to discover the room numbers did not correspond at all to what we had. So we drove back up to the paddock, whereupon we were told that our rooms were over the garages, directly overlooking the north straight. The only way you'd know the rooms were there is if somebody told you.

The room itself was nice: 2 queen-size murphy beds, a nice bathroom, a bar with a fridge and microwave, and a flat-screen wall-mounted TV. Nice, and quiet, too, so long as nobody was on the track.

We went to the party, hung out with the Kimmelshues, got soaked by the enormous deluge that came out of nowhere, and were informed that the weekend was a rather somber one: evidently one of the members passed away on Friday afternoon. He wasn't driving, he was getting ready for dinner when he had a massive heart attack. He was a long-standing member who came to almost every event, and his Challenge Ferrari was still parked in the paddock on Saturday. Creepy. Then we heard that a Dodge Viper SRT10 lost his brakes and went airborne before smacking a wall of dirt, requiring 2 tow trucks and an hour of red-flag conditions. Evidently a Porsche also blew a radiator hose at some point, spraying coolant onto the track.

So everybody was hoping that Sunday would be different. It wasn't.

I got up early and did some minor brake tweaking, which made a world of difference, and then got a ride in Chris's M3. Wow, that thing is fast (and nowhere near the top of its game, given the wetness of the track). After that, it was back to the room to finish packing, and then off to my first run.

Only I spent too much time packing, and missed the beginning of my run. I got out there about 5 minutes into the session. I was excited because I got right behind a group of 3 Porsches, but my excitement didn't last, because they were really being gentle on those cars (one of them was a GT3 Cup car; no reason to treat it gently). We were taking the climbing S'es at about 60, and the turn into Oak Tree was a bottle-neck of about 12 cars going less than 20mph. On the 2nd lap, there were caution flags for a blue convertible M3 that had left the track in the same place as the Viper, and then a Spec Miata went into the infield off the back straight. A couple laps later, a stock car's hood flipped over and smashed its windshield in the braking zone before turn 1, and we got black flagged.

The session was over, and I got about 4 slow laps out of it.

On my 2nd session, I had a passenger: Amanda rode with me. Nobody was being passive on this one; I had a Porsche occupying all 3 mirrors, and we were taking the climbing S'es at closer to 80 (still a bit slow, but much more entertaining than 60), and I really got to see what the pro-line does for Roller Coaster.

But I had a problem in my 2nd session. I bought driving shoes a couple of weeks ago, and I forgot to put them on for the first session. I scrambled to get them on in time for the second run, and almost immediately discovered that they weren't wide enough to heel-toe in the Miata. The Miata isn't really big enough to do a proper heel-toe, and I've only learned the technique where you use the side of the foot, not the heel. So I was having to brake, then blip, shift, and back on the brakes. It was bad, but not uncontrollable. I couldn't get away from the Porsche, but I wasn't exactly a slouch, either.

But my nerves were getting worse, and sections of the track that are difficult for me were compounded by the problem. One of those is Hog Pen. After taking the pro line through Roller Coaster, I come to the first pointer cone (left) at the very top of 2nd gear (about 59mph), shift, and roar up to about 80 before backing off, turning in to the left, braking hard, downshifting, and powering out onto the front straight. When done properly, I spend only about 2 seconds in 2nd gear entering Hog Pen, but I either missed the brake pedal or thought I would, so I came in hot, downshifted, and the back end stepped out. I tried to countersteer, but when we were looking straight at the wall (about 15 feet away), I put both feet in. Forward motion stopped about 5 or 6 feet from the wall, and we slid sideways to a stop on the clay.

I think I entered the turn at about 65, which is backed up by the video (it shows the shift-light and max-G lights on my G-Tech blinking like crazy), and the tires, though sticky, were starting to show signs of greasiness. We pitted, explained the situation, got a quick once-over, and went back out.

And there was no traffic to be seen anywhere. I flogged the crap out of that car for about 4 or 5 laps before the session was over, and it was intense. Without a car in front of you, it's tough to judge your speed and capabilities, but I think I was really getting a handle on the car during those last laps.

Unfortunately, the tires were packing it in, and in the 3rd session, right behind the pace car, I lost the line after a little wobble in the car told me we wouldn't complete Roller Coaster, and using a huge misjudgement as an opportunity for a straight-line braking zone, we came into the top of Hog Pen completely unstable, and the car stepped out again. I caught it this time, and Amanda expressed her displeasure. A couple of laps later, with only fumes in the gas tank, the tires finally failed, and we locked up the entire rear of the car and slid through the braking zone at turn 1, barely keeping the car on the track.

That was it; our day was over. I pitted, put a couple of gallons of gas in the car, packed up, and we came home.

So I had a great time, but I learned the limits of my car in its current configuration. While my tires are Max Performance Summer tires, they're not race tires, and they bit us. Watching the tape, I saw that I was way off the line several times in that 3rd session, and every time it was because the car was feeling unstable, like the tires just had no grip left. At one point I almost slid off the top of Roller Coaster, which is unconscionable. Amanda said I seemed tired, and I think she was right. But was I tired from fighting the car, or just tired from driving? Hmmmm...

It might be time to look for some "gently used" Toyo Proxes RA-1's.

I can't wait to go back.

Off the Wagon (written on Friday)

A few months ago, I stopped drinking coffee. Heck, I stopped liking it at all. I thought that maybe I'd never really liked the stuff, but that I had convinced myself otherwise in an effort to be more cosmopolitan.

I had really never liked coffee before my '97 tour of Europe. I always loved the smell, but the mixture of having experienced coffee breath on others (Joe Butler always drank a pot of nastiness and smoked about 3 cigarettes before coming to my desk and talking to me) and having tasted weak blends turned me off. In Paris, however, I figured that I'd do as the Parisians and try some espresso. I don't really remember if I actually liked it, but it didn't offend me, and I found that drinking 3 stiff beers and an espresso made me feel high (legally), and the feeling would last an hour or so.

I came back to the States and didn't think a thing of coffee until one night when Amanda and I went out for drinks at Avalon. She ordered a cup, and before she could get to it, I reached over and took a sip. She was flabbergasted, since I'd always made scornful faces and icky noises when she drank coffee.

Later, when we moved in together, I started having the occasional morning cup. Then occasionally became daily, and daily sometimes became twice a day. I started with black coffee, then began (over time) adding milk and sugar.

In 2000, I had a spell of about a month where I was drinking cream that had gone bad. I figured I had lost the taste for coffee, so I stopped drinking it for a while. The headaches were unbearable, so I went back to drinking it black. That worked until some time in 2005, when I decided that I needed to kick the caffeine addiction.

I switched to tea, since most teas have about 50% the caffeine level of coffee, and was set. The few times I did drink a cup of coffee, I found the taste revolting, as if I'd never actually liked it in the first place. I couldn't figure out how I'd become addicted to something so awful.

I never quite made it to breaking the caffeine habit, but I've stuck with my morning cup of tea for almost a year now. But recently, I've been drawn back to coffee, and now I've made things worse by having coffee almost every day, in addition to the tea. I get drowsy if I don't have my double-dose, and I'm loving the taste again.

There's just something about flavored coffees that just has me really happy right now, bladder be damned.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Indictment of Modern-Day Politics -or- I am not a Republican

I am a conservative.

What the hell does that mean, and why am I wasting time this morning on it?

It means that I, in general, believe that Government's (big G) role is to provide a framework of basic laws to protect the rights of man, while acting as a nation's aggregate defense against and diplomat to other nations.

I believe it is the responsibility of multiple governments to create the minimal amount of laws necessary to ensure that people live in relative peace, but are free to pursue their own goals, and that municipalities, like businesses, should be free to create whatever laws are mandated by their local constituencies. This, in turn, creates competition (for tax dollars), and gives the individual the right to choose the laws under which he / she shall live.

I believe that the People (big P) should elect their local representation, and their representation in the Congress of each level of government under which they live, but that the government itself should choose or appoint representatives with similar authority to represent the needs not seen by the common man. This was originally provided in the Constitution, but subsequent Amendments changed the way we put people into office.

I believe that the US Constitution is a perfect document. It is NOT a living document, subject to re-interpretation, editing, redacting, or writing off as "old-fashioned". The Constitution provided a very basic framework under which the federal government oversaw international relations and free trade between states. It acted solely as an arbiter, never as a moral authority, never as a benevolence association. And the federal government had very little say in the average person's day-to-day activities.

And yet that seems to be the "old-fashioned" idea. I've harped on it before, but our federal government seems to have more direct involvement with our lives than any of our local or state laws. Most people have no idea who their local councilmen are, little idea of who represents them at the state level, and yet a strangely overdeveloped notion of who their US senators are. We all know who the president is, along with probably at least half of his cabinet, but to what end?

You might have voted for all of these people, but when you get right down to it, the government level at which you can affect the most change is most likely alien to you. In days of yore, the taxpayer paid the municipality. The municipality was then responsible for remunerating the state, which, in turn, paid the federal government. The idea was simple: you wrote one check, and everyone got paid. If you had a beef with your local government, you withheld payment and got a bunch of other folks to do so, too. Your voice was heard, and you effected change.

Now, when you pay taxes, you have no clue what happens to your money. You pay federal taxes directly to the IRS, which then gives a big chunk of that money right back to the states in building and road programs. The money you give to the state goes to places unknown, but a large percentage of that pays your local taxes. Strange, but true. Consider the car tax: when it was first implemented, it was a way for localities to collect taxes. Then the state took control of your car tax, and paid something like 90% of the revenue back to the locality. Then the state decided to abolish the car tax (as a state tax), but continued paying 90% of the originally projected revenue back to the localities, with the plan to eventually phase that remuneration out. The localities complained, and rather than levying their own local car taxes, they got the state car tax re-instated. The funny thing is, you've always paid your car tax directly to the locality, never to the state. WTF?

Ok, back on target: government != moral authority. In general, I support the Republican party. Their beliefs do not always coincide with mine, but from the general perspective of minimal government, they're the best fit for me. And I've been a strong supporter of George Bush through his first 5 years of office, but I'm getting tired of him.

At first it was just little annoyances, like the gay marriage amendment. I have a lot of gay friends, and at first I thought I agreed with the notion that benefits would be very tricky to ensure if marriage were completely unrestricted. But then I heard that there are no federal laws that define marriage in any way (although a lot of federal laws depend on there being at least some basic definition of marriage), and I realized (completely unrelated) that there's no reason to deny people the opportunity to pledge love to each other.

So that started to piss me off. Why do we need this as a constitutional amendment? And why was he campaigning so hard for it to be a constitutional amendment? Remember: I believe the Constitution is a perfect document. And that brought us to flag burning, which, though annoying, is protected as a form of expression by the First Amendment. Attempting to deny this First Amendment right is a violation of the 9th Amendment.

And, intermingled in all of this, we get the stem cell debate. Why is this a debate? In principal, I agree that it's terrible to destroy life, but I'm not of the opinion that a government that allows abortions up to the 2nd trimester is in any position to moralize on EMBRYOs. Now, I'm not anti-abortion, but it's still a tough pill to swallow: "You can kill that fetus if you don't want it, but you can't dedicate an embryo to helping cure disease."

All of these are examples of George Bush reaching into our homes and dictating our behavior, and all for a few votes that he personally doesn't need. I think he's lost his compass. I liked him better when he was dealing with international issues, and allowing the country to take care of itself. People hated him for it, but I respected it. Why did he need to be personally involved in Katrina? It's not like some terrorist organization or foreign government caused the devastation, so why does the president need to be involved? It made no sense, but the public wanted to hang him for his aloof treatment of the hurricane.

I loved his response to China when our spy plane was captured in 2001. I was deeply impressed by our swift actions to remove the Taliban from power, and had no moral compunction with our invasion of Iraq. I think a strong-arm approach is sometimes necessary with Europe, and Russia is truly regressing. Our efforts to help with the Kursk, our awesome pull with Khadafi, and our pressure on both Iran and North Korea are to be lauded. But every time I hear him talk about something on American soil, I get angry.

But I can't place all the blame on George Bush, nor would I want to. I impeach us, as the citizens of this country, for imbuing the office of the President with supreme legislative power, for ignoring our responsibility to our local governments, for putting too much faith in our Senators (who, incidentally, were originally appointed by the states to represent state governments), instead of our congressmen, and for demanding a moralizing government.

We live in a welfare state, with social security, medicare, medicaid, and a bevy of other programs where we rely on the federal government to fund our ventures. We no longer need to fend for ourselves to be successful, but in exchange, we allow the NEA, the Department of Education, and countless other federal agencies to place restrictions on our daily lives, and our collective response to their quest for more power is to give it to them, robbing and marginalizing our local representation.

Our voices are no longer heard, and we have elected a king.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Beeboo rode a pony!

This was a good weekend. Amanda's last day of work was Friday, and her parents came over to put Boy to bed so that we could go and celebrate her liberation (incidentally, her blog-post on Friday was the best she's ever written). We celebrated with the Cronins and our friends Chris & Terry by having a nice dinner at Capital Ale House. We drank too much beer, ate way too many french fries, and came home to a wonderfully quiet house. A good time, all around.

Saturday was hot. Real hot. So what did we do? We took the boy to my mom's farm. Smart.

We got there at about 2:30pm, and Mom greeted us at the door looking quite different from the last time I'd seen her. She had cut her hair very very short (about an inch longer than mine, which is only 1/4"), was wearing shorts, knee-socks, slides, and a yellow sleeveless button-up shirt. It was very disconcerting, as she looked more like my grandmother than I'd ever seen before, but like a slightly crazy version of my grandmother. I was worried, but I kept my mouth shut.

We sat inside for a few minutes, looked at the fish in the aquarium, and then proceeded out into the heat.

First stop was the rooster. He came toward us and started calling out, which fascinated Alastair. He was craning around, trying to find the source of the sound, and when he saw the rooster ("Chicken Little"), he got really excited. Then we saw a baby farm-kitty, which failed to impress him, since he gets to stay inside all day in the A/C and see kitties.

So we went and looked at the horses that were gathered together in the run-in shed. As excited as he was about them, I think they were actually more interested in him. One poked its head over the fence and got really close to Beeboo. He breathed several times on Boy, and Alastair reached out and very gently petted the horse's nose. It was so adorable. He was just smiling and reaching and thought horses were the coolest things ever.

Mom wanted to introduce him to some of her more special horses & ponies, so we wandered into the sweltering barn. Boy met a few more horses before Mom pulled out Snowball, a mid-sized pony, for Boy to ride. We put him on Snowball's back, and he got to ride the pony from one end of the barn to the other. Amanda snapped a few pics, but I was too busy holding him and making sure my feet didn't get crushed to enjoy his experience. She and Mom said he just grinned and gushed the whole time, and he showed natural form for riding by grabbing firmly onto the pony's mane.

After his first ride, we went and met a baby colt, his mommy, and the stallion. The stallion was whinnying like crazy, which fascinated (but did not gratify) the boy. Then we wandered back to look at all the run-in horses, saw the rooster again, looked at some baby turkeys, and retired back into the comfort of the A/C.

It was a good time, and Alastair slept almost the entire rest of the day, but something about Mom's appearance just deeply unsettled me. There were huge cob-webs hanging from the ceiling, there was nothing on the walls except for holes where pictures had been, and the bathroom looked like it had been utterly ignored for the past several years, with disgusting discoloration in the toilet bowl, mold growing on the bottom of the broken toilet-seat, and NO SOAP at the sink.

Spartan ain't the word. I think depression might be.

But anyway, Alastair got his first experience with farm animals, and he got to see his grandmommy, too. It was a great time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Zinedine Zidane and the Cup that wasn't

Much has been made over the now-infamous head-butt in extra time of the World Cup finals, so I won't dwell on it. I'm just going to give it a good old-fashioned "WTF" and move on. France lost; Italy won. No single goal was scored by an opponent on Italy during regular play in the entire cup. That's impressive, even if I don't like them as a team.

I'm holding out for Germany in 2010.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Who doesn't love a parade?

Yesterday in Irvington, VA, Alastair saw his first parade. He was mesmerized. Or maybe it was the heat.

Our J4 weekend started out decently enough: Amanda and her mother went shopping on Saturday, leaving me alone to work on the rollbar in the Miata. I spent about 4 or 5 hours on it before they returned, and I got it mostly installed.

On Sunday, she took the boy to church so that I could mow the yard(s) and resume work on the rollbar. I got it finished Sunday night, and on Monday morning we took our sick little boy to the doctor. He's on his 3rd cold in the last 7 weeks (damned daycare), and we were given approval to administer decongestants (they work great!).

Later in the day, we got the car packed and headed down to Irvington. We took his new portable bed, which he loved, and spent a lovely evening with dad & Randy. Much time was spent in the back yard of the neighbor's house, enjoying beer, port and discourse.

The morning of July 4 gave every indication of they day's potential heat. It was oppressive at 8:30, and only got worse. Shana and Chad drove in from West Point, and we all headed out at 11am to watch the parade. Amanda spread a blanket for Alastair, and I tried desperately (and without success) to get documentation of the event. First my video camera's battery completely failed, and then my digital camera was taking up to a full second to actually take the pictures, so I got a lot of blurry pictures of the grass.

Anyway, Alastair had been leaning back against Amanda, but when the neat old cars started going by, he sat up straight and watched transfixed. The horses were particularly exciting for him, as were the fire trucks.

The parade was over by 11:30, and so was boy. We took him in for a nap, and he slept for 2 hours. He was beat. Then we took him out to the picnic, which was in the same neighbor's back yard. They had tents, lots of seating, tons of water (& beer), food, and a large pig in a smoker.

A lot of dad's friends came down from Richmond, and Amanda even got offered an appearance with Alastair in a commercial! We had a great time, watched part of the tragic Germany v. Italy game, hung out with Shana & Chad, and wore the boy out completely. Last night, he only cried for about 5 or 10 minutes before going to sleep.

It was a good weekend, with the exception of Germany's puzzling loss to Italy. Boo!

Friday, June 30, 2006

I've never been so stressed out in all my life

Germany beat Argentina 4:2 in PK's.

I hate when a game comes to that. Germany was definitely not playing their game today, and it hurt 'em in the first few minutes of the 2nd half, when Argentina put up the first goal.

The Germans looked lost for most of the game, the ball would fall between two players, and they would just look at it for a second before deciding what to do. It was weird and surreal, and I was very upset, certain that Germany wouldn't regain their footing.

Boy was I glad to be wrong, but I just don't like when a game comes down to a shoot-out. There's so little skill involved in PK's.

I'm glad that's over.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ferberizing, Stage III, and a brush with death

Last night was NOT tough. The little man is starting to get with the sleep program, although with the re-emergence of the pacifier. The first night took 2 hours, the second night took about an hour-and-a-half, and last night wasn't quite a full hour of crying. That's not to say the crying was any less intense, but it definitely took less time to get him to sleep.

During the heat of it, I went outside and stripped carpeting out of the Miata, to prep it for the rollbar installation. Nothing clears the head like good hard work in the outdoors, especially if it gets you away from a wailing baby.

I've been sending Amanda away every night this week, since she's more bothered by the crying (not angered: just bothered; she feels like she's neglecting him if she doesn't attend to him), and I'm hopeful that there won't be many more nights of sleeplessness for the little guy.

So my near brush with death...

Every morning I travel I-95 South through the city. There is one area where there are 2 exits and 2 entrances in a very short span, and this area is always congested. Usually, I fly by in the left lane, since that one's generally clear.

This morning, though, I was leisurely driving in the middle lane, when this guy just started merging on top of me. Unfortunately, because modern car-makers seem to believe that the horn is irrelevant, my horn buttons are so small that I couldn't find them in the panic, and I had to rely on a hearty shove of the brake pedal. Alastair's bottles, my lunch, and everything else that wasn't fastened down went shooting forward. By the time my thumbs found the horn button, the guy was fully in the lane.

I let him know what I thought of his maneuver, and he gave me a semi-apologetic wave before merging into the left lane. On top of a motorcycle.

This little stretch of highway bends to the right, and the cyclist was run off into the shoulder, where he hit the jersey-wall, bounced up in the air, hit the jersey wall again, bounced again, and regained his balance.

The merging madman swung back in front of me again, although I was expecting it this time. He gave another semi-apologetic wave, rubbed his head as if in disbelief of what he'd done, and vanished into the right lane.

I couldn't believe it: I'd just seen a motorcycle get airborne twice off a jersey wall, recover both times, and ride on as if nothing had happened. I caught up with the rider a little later and gave him a big thumbs-up for his composure. He gave me a nod and rode on, occasionally glancing at the side of his bike to make sure it was still intact.

The merging madman was an elderly fellow who was clearly not focused on driving his car.

Scary stuff. I was fully prepared to stop the car and start picking up pieces of motorcycle man, and was really disappointed that the cop I saw 1/4 miles ahead wasn't there to witness the mayhem. We might have had one less terrible driver off the road.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ferberizing, Stage I

Last night was tough. Amanda fed the boy at 7pm, making sure not to let him fall asleep on the breast. We sat and chatted for a while, and after he ate, I sat with him and read to him for about 15 minutes.

At 7:45, I put him down, kissed him, told him "good night", and walked out. He didn't even give me 15 seconds before the wailing began.

In an effort to be resolute, I went outside for 5 minutes, so that I wouldn't have to hear the crying (actually, I could hear it just fine, even through the new insulated windows).

Then, every 5 minutes I went in, rubbed his belly, soothed him for a moment, and left. After about 4 or 5 times, I increased the time to 10 minutes, then to 15.

The wails got progressively worse through the evening, and eventually his voice was sounding quite broken, but short periods of silence began to intermingle with the crying.

At about 9:15 I went in for the last time. He was screaming with his eyes closed, basically trying as hard as he could not to fall asleep, but it was a losing battle. I loved on him for about a minute, rubbing his belly and whispering "I love you", and then walked out. He cried a couple of times, each for about 30 seconds, but loud and hard enough that I thought Amanda might crack, and then he fell asleep.

So after night 1: Parents 1, Alastair 0. He's like Switzerland on penalty kicks.

Monday, June 26, 2006

5 Months Old and Manipulative

Alastair hit 5 months on Thursday, the same day that Amanda gave notice at work. She's going to stay home with him and raise him. I can't tell you how much that excites me. He needs to have mom in his life, and he needs a huge dose of her.

Her last day will be on Bastille Day. Vive la revolution!

But along with the milestone of his 5th monthday came his first foray into parental manipulation: crying for attention at night. We've evidently been putting him to bed wrong. He tends to fall asleep on the breast, or rocking in my arms. I've then been putting him to bed, generally without incident. On Friday, though, he decided to be difficult, and refused to go to sleep until he had been rocked repeatedly.

Saturday was more of the same, as was Sunday. So we pulled out the books and dug through for restlessness, and found what I'd suspected: he was only crying because he knows we'll come in to comfort him. Sneaky little devil.

Tonight we start Ferberizing him. This is the process whereby we change his bed-time routine to putting him down awake but drowsy, rub his tummy, and say "good night, I love you," and walk out. We then let him cry for 5 minutes before going in and rubbing his tummy again, but we do not, under any circumstances, pick him up (unless he's somehow broken his arm). Throughout the night, and indeed over the next few days, the intervals between rubs increases by a few minutes, until he just gets bored with trying to call us.

I can't wait. Hopefully we can break this by the weekend, when we're due to make our 2nd overnight trip to Irvington. I can't imagine importuning my dad with Alastair's "hold me" wails all night.


I'm rocking out to Fiona Apple right now. I'd forgotten how much I love her music. It's edgy but relaxing, and I love what she's able to do vocally. It was really cool to discover that Johnny Cash was a fan, too (she sings with him on his version of "Bridge over Troubled Waters").


The Miata is coming on nicely. I have street-able tires on it right now (the Falkens), which I think will also be my track tires in July.

The roll-bar arrived on Thursday, a full two weeks before I expected it. I think I'll try to install it in the driveway, rather than taking the car anywhere. The bar is very large, and transporting it and the car separately seems like a huge hassle. If the weather clears (3 days of on/off torrential downpours, causing traffic delays, transportation shutdowns, and random evacuations on the east coast), I'm going to start stripping the interior parts necessary for the install today.

My harness came with the bar, and seems to be missing some hardware. The eye-bolts didn't come with anything to which they could be attached. There should have been some backing-plates to mount under the floor-board, and they're not even referenced in the instructions, so I'm guessing people fabricate their own. Weird. Hopefully someone mass-produces plates that I can order (and that are inexpensive); I'm not excited about getting someone to weld nuts onto strips of metal locally.

I also ordered a mount to affix the video camera to the roll-bar, so now I can continue filming my runs on the autocross and at the track.


I really love Amanda. She's my inspiration. That's all, just thought I'd put that out there.