Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't you have to be a writer to have Writer's Block?

Several times over the last few weeks I've sat down to post, and either the post rambles on to no point, or nothing appears on the screen. I've trashed a bunch of abortive efforts, like a brief treatise on David Purley, a Formula 1 driver from the 1970's who survived the worst wreck ever (170G's, stopping the car from108mph in just 20 inches - ouch) and heroically abandoned a race in 1973 to try to save a friend whose car had flipped and burned. He was unsuccessful - his friend died.

I've also been trying to put my thoughts together to recount the tales of what the adults did at the beach. So far I've come up with "we ate a lot of good food, drank a bunch of wine, and had a great time except for when things got tense on Saturday night at dinner". Not very compelling.

So I guess this post is just an amalgam of what's been on my mind lately.

Want more?

My cube-mate turns out to be evil. He came to work this morning with 4 dozen doughnuts. For the math-challenged, that's 48 doughnuts. And the smell...oh the smell. I've eaten one, so far, but I just found myself brewing more coffee so that I could enjoy at least one more.

Amanda's running a 5K tonight.

Alastair got to meet a bunch of policemen last night. We were walking in Carytown and he saw 2 police cars in front of 7-Eleven. He started doing his siren imitation and saying, "I see pee cah. Man diiie pee cah." So I took him into the store, interrupted the three officers' conversation (very politely) an told Alastair that they were the men who keep us safe (that really impressed the cops). He played shy, but he was clearly blown-away by the cool uniforms and their association with those neat cars.

Alastair has now taken to getting up and telling you what he did before he went to sleep. It's pretty cool, and since Amanda wasn't with us last night, she got to hear the story of our trek through Carytown from him this morning. He's getting so very vocal.

Homecoming is coming. No Amos-Halloween Fete this year as we'll be in the Burg.

I think that's all. More (rambling) later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

VA Beach 2007 - The Tale of Sir Sleeps-a-Little

The beach was a blast. I'll just go ahead and say that right off the bat. Alastair had a lot of fun, and really impressed the hell out of us.

Thursday afternoon, I got to put Mr. Screamy-Naptime-Pants down for his nap. Amanda scooted out for a bit, and I listened to him wail while I packed for the beach. He lasted for 20 minutes before surrendering, and slept for exactly 1 hour before waking up screaming again. At least he slept.

The drive down to the beach was uneventful. We stopped in W'burg for an early dinner (Cheese Shop goodness!), walked around for a bit, and then braved I-64E traffic, which turned out to be pretty easy.

When we got there, the first thing we did at the B&B was to close the blinds in the room. Even having never seen these blinds, Alastair immediately began freaking out about bedtime. We dealt with it, had a fun bath, and put him down. After a moment of screaming, he was out.

Until 5am.

We tried putting him in the bed with us for a while, which worked for about an hour, and then just relented and got up early (he played quietly on the floor for a short while, letting us rest just a bit longer). So began our "relaxing" stay at the Beach Spa Bed & Breakfast.

We had a grand ol' time at the beach, with lots of boats and airplanes being spotted and called out with regularity. There was a tractor smoothing down newly-delivered sand, and he's super-crazy about tractors right now, so that was the big obsession of the morning. To heck with all that water!

The B&B rented us a Radio Flyer wagon for our stay, a nice one with pneumatic tires and wooden rails to keep him from falling out. Dad and I sensed his boredom with sitting in the sand and took him up to see the pier. It was much farther than we'd thought, so we were walking for about an hour. Through the sand. Dragging a wagon with a 30lb baby inside. Ugh.

Then it was off to the showers to get the sand off, after which he told us "I shower. I clean!"

After another 1.000 hour long nap, Amanda and I decided to take Alastair up & down the main drag for a walk. We brought the wagon so that he could ride in style, but he had other ideas. About a mile from the B&B, he decided he wanted to pull the big heavy wagon. The little turkey dragged it behind him for about 4 or 5 blocks, handing it to us at intersections and proudly exclaiming to all passers-by, "I puh wag!" At one point we passed an older dude sitting on a step who proclaimed Alastair to be the world's strongest baby. Sweet!

When he wasn't pulling the wagon, he was gettin' down to the music playing from the street poles, which made a group of old ladies think he was waving to them. They waved back, and he gave the greatest "What are you looking at" stare back at them.

Dinner at the Raven unveiled the latest and greatest baby oddity, far exceeding his love of pickles: a love of lemons. He was being really good, eating his food, my food, everybody's food, and I decided to tease him by giving him a bite of lemon. He absolutely loved it and didn't quit until not only the juice was gone, but also the pulp. He then proceeded to eat 3 more slices of lemon out of everybody's tea glasses. He proudly repeated this trick the next night, so it wasn't just a fluke.

During his bath, he kept saying "I puh wag" to Amanda, while playing with his cups. Amanda said, "that's right, you pulled the wagon." Alastair fixed her straight in the eyes and slowly said, "I puh wah-tu." Priceless!

Friday night was super easy with bed-time, and though he wasn't exactly overjoyed on Saturday morning, we did at least get to sleep until about 6:45am. Not bad.

The real story was on the beach Saturday. He was really not too thrilled to just sit and play in the sand, and the tractor wasn't out, but it had made a big mound of sand about 300' from our chairs. We went and played on it for a while, with Dad snapping pictures of the little man scrambling up one side and sliding down the other on his hands & knees. We did this for about 20 minutes before heading back to Amanda & Randy. Shortly thereafter, he was missing his sand-pile, so he just started wandering back.

Thank God Amanda followed us, because the transcendent joy she got to witness was worth every moment of lost sleep and all the money spent. He climbed up and down, sometimes running down the steep slopes, sometimes face-planting, but always with the best attitude and never a tear. He'd proudly shout "I climb dirt!" over and over again, then chase me across the top of the pile. What joy!

This wore his ass out, and we got our first 2.25 hour nap in over a week. Yippee!

But, Saturday night was reserved for the first sleepless night we'd had since Christmas Eve 2006. I put him down at 8:30, and at 9 he started screaming. I went in and repeated the bedtime ritual, and he seemed fine.

At 1am, though, he woke up pissed off. We tried to calm him down and put him back in bed, but every time we put him down, he'd stand up and cry. So we put him in our bed, and he was fine for about 5 minutes. Then we had play-time until 2:45am, with him crawling over us, smashing his forehead into our eye-sockets (he got both of us with this charming trick), and riding mommy.

She put him back in his crib after I snapped at him, and she laid on the floor right beside him. Apparently that was all he needed: to be able to see us (I think he was homesick). So Amanda slept on the floor so that I would be able to drive us home.

We got through until about 6, and I slept until about 7.

He passed out shortly after leaving the beach, and slept about half way home.

Last night he was happy as a clam to go to bed, and didn't stir once in the night.

So Alastair learned new verbs this weekend: pull, push, pour (all of which sound like "puh"), shower, drive, and play. He also learned how to open the doors in our B&B's room, which was kind of a pain, since one opened to a very steep spiral staircase and the other opened to the bathroom ("I see daddy peepee" was not my favorite thing to hear). Last but not least, he learned how to tickle. Awesome.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beach Vacation 2007, Round 2. Fight!

Today we head off for our 2nd beach vacation of the year, this time to VA Beach. We're staying at the Beach Spa B&B with my dad and stepmother. As Amanda is commenting on her own blog, though, this comes with its own share of challenges, namely Alastair's new-found hatred of nap time.

We got the first glimmer of this new phase on Sunday, when upon returning from Maymont Park, he cried at me for a minute before I laid him down.

Since Sunday, he either utterly refuses to take a nap or sobs uncontrollably for about an hour before passing out. Great party trick! Great for other beach-going B&B occupants! Tell all your single friends (sorry, Jamie, it's just so catchy...)!

For the last couple of days, this activity has been expanded to crying again upon waking, and isn't restricted to nap time. Yesterday at 6:45am I went charging into his room when he started wailing. It only took about 15 seconds to calm him, though, so even though I was worried, I felt played. This morning he started at 6:01am, and though I lunged out of the bed, I stopped myself 2 steps later. My theory was that if I just keep running in, he's going to keep doing it, and maybe earlier and earlier. So I climbed back into bed, and at 6:02am he stopped and went back to sleep.

He did it again an hour later, but about 15 seconds into his fit, a big truck drove past, and he absolutely cannot resist the temptation to say "Big Truck!" over and over again. Since he can't cry and say "Big Truck!" at the same time, I took the opportunity of the break in screaming to go scoop him up. I'd rather he associate our entry with good moods than bad.

So that's the big challenge. Fortunately we have an escape route at the beach: Dad & Randy are staying in the room below us, so we can stay in the B&B but get out of the room if he gets Out Of Control.

But I'm excited. We're going to try to track down a jet-ski rental place, have some great food, relax in the sand, and try to get one last fling out of Summer. Heck, there might even be some go-kart racing and putt-putt involved.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I peepee pah-y!

Last night, for the first time, Alastair made a deposit in the toilet. All praise the angels on high!

At first he was a little confused, and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. But Amanda and I were beyond excited, so eventually he got just as excited as we were, and we asked him several times today what he'd done on the potty. By and large he got it right, with this little grin of accomplishment. It was great!

Go Little Man! You peepee on that potty.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Osama: The Metrosexual Terrorist

I've been struggling to find a good comparison shot, but there were great video grabs on TV this morning showing the new Osama video and the last one, from 2004. He's dyeing his beard.

It must be pretty hard to look all tough and bad-ass while decrying the zionist pig-dogs and combing in your Just For Men gel. In just 5 minutes, he can comb away the gray!

I bet he drinks through a straw, too. Fruity drinks with umbrellas.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

105/64, Pulse 57, 154.9lbs fully dressed

I'm officially comatose again. I just took my blood pressure, and I've come back down about 10 points on diastolic and systolic. Yippee!

It must be all that racin'. Or else it's that 30lb monkey I wrestle with every day... Honestly, I think time spent working on and racing the Miata has provided an extremely healthy outlet for my aggressions. I still bottle all of my emotions, but now I have a single point on which to focus them, and nobody has to get hurt or yelled at. As a result, I'm calmer during the day, and I think that's why my blood pressure has come back down from 117/71.

And before you write that off as being within the statistical margin of error, bear in mind that there's been a 11% drop, and even though the numbers were low to begin with, that's a significant change.

It probably also helps that we had a really nice weekend, complete with wrestling, tickling, driving around, playing at the park, ice cream, and plenty of good old fashioned baby shenanigans.

And Amanda made waffles yesterday. I like waffles.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Thank You, TrackDaze!

What an awesome event! I'm definitely doing this again.

Yesterday got off to a great start. The first run of the day had some impressive hardware on the track. In our group there was a Porsche 911 Turbo, a Ferrari 575, at least one M3, and a 2008 VW R32 that was being provided by VW for use during the day.

I found out about the Ferrari and the Porsche during the run, when they suddenly appeared in my mirrors right after Oak Tree. There's a 4000' straight from Oak Tree to Roller Coaster, and with my ~120HP to their ~400, they appeared and then were gone. But not for long...

I caught up to them entering Roller Coaster, which was really weird, but weirder still was what happened next. My instructor had me hold off just a little bit through Carousel, and then drop the hammer through Hog Pen. At the exit of Hog Pen, we were on the Ferrari's bumper, and he gave us the point-by to pass.

So there you go: my day started off by passing a Ferrari in a Miata.

My instructor signed me off for solo runs for the remainder of the day. The first one was fabulous. Without the extra ~175lbs, the car was much quicker, and I was able to surprise a bunch of folks. Braking was better, acceleration was better, transitions were better, everything. Yeah, there were some folks that passed me, but mostly very high horsepower cars.

The second one was not fabulous.

These will sound like standard racer excuses, but while individually they're excuses, collectively they create enough variables to be admissible:

1. I forgot to check tire pressure before going out. I expect the front left was 3psi high, while the others were at least 2psi high. That can make a big difference in cornering and braking.

2. The cool-shirt wasn't working correctly. I had dumped out some water to drop weight, but apparently enough that the pump was sucking dry. In hard left turns, I'd get icy cold goodness, but in straights and right turns, nothing. It's a right-hand track.

Anyway, I was aware of both issues by the first turn, but I didn't back off because I had already half-way decided to come home immediately following that session. I wanted to go out having fun! I nearly went out. Twice.

The first time was at South Bend, a turn that terrifies seasoned veterans. It's at the end of the climbing esses, is off-camber, downhill, and requires a tap of the brakes before entering. I'd chatted with some of the instructors during the day, and they thought 80mph was just a bit slow for entry, so I tried to bump it to 90. Not so good. The car skated out like it should have, but the back end began to over-rotate. Normally, correcting this will shoot you off the outside and into a tire wall, but instinct made me fight the spin. I overcorrected, overcorrected again, calmed down and made 2 or 3 more corrections, and found myself on my original line, only 10mph slower than I should have been, and pointed directly at the braking marker. Sweet!

A lap later, I came through South Bend perfectly but carried too much speed into the first apex of Oak Tree, dropping the left tires off, correcting, dropping the rear tires off, correcting again, and finding myself nearly perfectly aligned for the 2nd apex. I gave the corner workers a wave and kept on going, but 2 cars I'd been working very hard to keep behind me made up a lot of distance over those 2 laps.

After making two major mistakes in as many laps, I decided absolutely that the end of that session was going to be the end of my day.

To top things off, the TireTail failed on the way home. Entering Rte 58, I felt the weight of the car shift, looked back, and saw a wheel rolling across the road. I stopped, got the wheel, actually found the TireTail's linch-pin and backing plate, put it all back together, and continued on. I'd put the thing together incorrectly in the paddock, and I paid the price.

It was a long, slow drive home, but it gave me plenty of time for reflection, and there's no way that will have been my last time in a passing group. Holy smack.

I also got a ride with Mr. Kimmelshue in the E46 M3. That thing isn't like most cars. There aren't brakes, per se: they're more like anchors. Big anchors. He hits the brakes and the car just stops. There were several turns it felt like we simply couldn't make, but a tap of the middle pedal would pull the car down in an impossibly short span, and through the turn we'd go.

As for that ride in the Atom, it was just one mile, from the paddock to the Lodge, with Mr. Kimmelshue at the wheel, but you can do a lot in one mile in that car/thing. I'm definitely scratching it off my list of dream cars, though. My left ear hurt for about 2 hours from the supercharger whine (it's right next to your head), and it throws rocks at you in turns. Not to mention the bugs and face-ripping feeling of the wind. Maybe if I'd been better suited (driving suit) I would have liked it more, but it felt a bit unhinged. And God forbid you should find yourself behind it on track. It was by far the loudest thing I heard out there (during my sessions), and even 100 yards in front of me it made my teeth hurt.

Final thought on the Miata: I analyzed the Gtech and pyrometer data and found out why some cars on stock tires were able to stick with me: too much camber at all 4 corners. At least 1/4-degree needs to be dialed out. Outside temps were consistently 10-degrees cooler than middle and inside, which were generally equal. Braking suffered dramatically, with readings never exceeding 0.60G (0.2 worse than what we've seen at the autocross, even with race pads). Turning was pretty good, with max numbers in the 1.14G range, but acceleration was horrid, never exceeding 0.18G. Yuck. Granted, acceleration wasn't due to camber, but maybe I wouldn't have had to do so much of it if the suspension were set up properly...