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.