Sunday, June 28, 2009


Today I began The Purge. I've had it in mind to take some of Amanda's favorite shirts, books, and oddments, and put them into her big steamer trunk. This plan had not yet been implemented because it meant two things:

1. I'd have to clear out the crawl-space to find the trunk.
2. I'd have to decide what to put back into the crawl-space. Or, read differently, what to throw away.

The third implied portion of that scenario is deciding what's important enough to go into the trunk, which bears heavily on items 1 and 2. So it's a suck/suck situation, but one that has to be started at some point.

Today was that point. I pulled out box upon box of her old things: baskets of old t-shirts that I'll probably discard because they were, after all, in storage; boxes of her writings; boxes of her schoolwork; boxes of randomia, and boxes full of magazines. And that was just one side of the crawl-space--turns out the trunk was on the other side. Grrr...

So anyway, I kept it together for the most part, but I did break down in tears when trying to preserve all of her actual creative writings. Amanda was deeply secretive about her creativity, and often either left her work unsigned, or signed it A.P. Liddell. It's pretty tough, though, to decide to keep something if it has no name on it. Was it for a class? Was it someone else's writing that she just printed out? For all the world I wish she could have left me better instructions on what to do with all of it.

But then I was left with the realization that her secret nature would truly have wanted it all destroyed. I can't do that. What I did do was to dispose of all her college works except for her Theatre 407 (Direction) materials. I didn't even open the high school boxes, but was able to clean out enough space from the college & work boxes to at least boil all that stuff down to one box.

So I've done something that seems unthinkable: I've boiled 17 years of education down to 2 boxes, neatly tucked away in the attic. It makes a lump rise in my throat just to write that. I mean, this was my wife. She represents 15 years of my life, and I've just put 17 of hers into 2 boxes that will probably never be seen again. How freakin' horrid!

But to have not done it would be equally unthinkable. I can't live in a house full of ghosts, and these things, absent the woman, have no real significance other than as space-fillers. And we is well outta space, lemme tell ya.

The emotional roller coaster left me unable to concentrate on the task of filling the steamer trunk. I did at least pull it out and take a quick glance through its contents. The good news is that it's less than 50% full, so deciding which of its contents to keep shouldn't be quite so daunting. But that will have to wait for another day. Maybe with some darvon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dear World: Seriously?!

So I pick a day to go off the airwaves, to pay respect and tribute to my wife, and this is how you repay me? Dead celebs, corporate intrigue, friends battling life's darker issues? Not cool. NOT COOL.

So yeah, everybody knows by now that Farrah Fawcett died. I think it's great that Ryan finally proposed to her, and that she died surrounded by love. That's terrible, but awesome at the same time. It made me sad for Amanda, too, that I wasn't at her side more during her final days.

But then came the news. You know, The News. Michael Jackson has died. Somehow, Farrah's death slipped completely off the radar in favor of a retarded man-child paederast's passing. I've seen people say his death strikes closer to home because Farrah was "before their time". Really? What has Michael Jackson contributed to the world since the early 80's? Child molestation charges, baby-dangling, hospital-masks, mosquito-net hats, and a pet chimp named Bubbles. Farrah wasn't before your time, she just wasn't crazy with a capital Q. Qrazy. (Here's a challenge for everyone: name 5 crimes that society abhors more than child-rape. Too hard? Ok, try naming just one.)

But yesterday wasn't done with me yet. No sir. No, I got pulled squarely into corporate intrigue yesterday, and it made me queasy. In fact I had to leave for a while and settle my brain. I had to assist in the firing of a VIP. Buh. I hate firings, and not just because I've been on both sides of the desk. I hate firings implicitly. A decade ago, I worked very hard to make a case against a coworker who was genuinely damaging business. When I succeeded, I didn't sleep well for several days. He was a jerk, but I'm just not cut out for HR stuff.

And then I read Boo's blog. Sweetie, I'm so sorry to read what you're going through. I'm sorry I haven't kept up with your life. Please feel free to call me; Amanda's friends are my friends.

And then I read Prisco's blog. And if I do make it out for Parissa's marathon, I'm going to find you and have a drink with you, sir. Congrats on the loss--cause you know that just finishing the race first doesn't mean you win, right? I can certainly relate to the hollowness of your victory, but do not lay down arms. Take a lesson from Parissa and use the energy that you created for this endeavor to push your fellow bibliophiles into new arenas. I think Pajiba has genuinely grown and benefitted from the experience.

I read everybody else's blogs, too, and my heart goes out to everyone. I love you all, my friends.

Edit/Update: Forgot to mention that I've found a word that rivals "facetiously" in pure awesomeness. "Abstemious", and yes, it does have an adverb form. Found this little gem while watching the surprisingly good 1984 movie "The Bounty", featuring Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, and Laurence Olivier.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

3 months

Tomorrow, June 25, will mark 3 months since Amanda's death. There's not a lot to say about it, so I'm going to take the day to say nothing. No blog, no facebook, no car fora, no random Pajiba comments.

Tomorrow will be my Internet moment of silence.

Why you should run far far away

1. I pathologically count:
a. stairs (Sunday night at Legend, upon realizing that I'd lost count of the stairs while going down, I almost had to go back up)
b. letters
c. syllables

2. I compulsively reorganize letters into BABBABAB | BABABBAB structure, where A represents vowels and B consonants. If there are not enough of a given letter type in a given phrase, I will insert random strings to make the arrangement (those strings are inherently variable, but once assigned, cannot be used to simultaneously express vowels and consonants).

3. I get unduly excited about exotic words.

4. I apparently have an aversion to odd numbers, particularly primes. I cannot leave the AC on 73, even though it is more comfortable than 72 or 74. I cannot leave the car stereo on 43, either, though it is just right. I look at those numbers and get all angsty.

5. I am fascinated that there's a relationship between cubes of numbers that can be roughly expressed as the sums of cubes, divided by 6 and subtracting 1, is equal to the base number.

6. I completely understand the scientific method, but my frenetic tendencies prevent me from ever successfully using it. Thus, what should take 30 seconds to fix usually takes me days, because half-way through implementing the fix I've come up with at least 5 other ways to go about it. Each of those ways, once conceived, must obviously be thoroughly explored.

7. I think "facetiously" is the best word in the English language. I'll let you figure out why.

8. Palindromes get me very excited. Numerical or alphabetical: it doesn't matter.

9. I see number strings as representations of completely unrelated things. E.g., 232, no matter where I see it, is the guitar fingering for D-major.

10. I remember numbers. All numbers. Especially numbers I've been forced to read out loud.

11. I have a binary clock.

12. Can't end on a prime number, even if it is palindromatic. Although I am giggling to myself that coincidence put my binary clock at #11.

Monday, June 22, 2009

We're fine are you?

Last week was bad. But looking back at it, it shouldn't have been. I got to listen to new music*, got my Alabamapink shirt (mine fits fine!), and played with my boy. I was blue.


Then the weekend came, and it was smacktacular. Alastair and I had cinnamon rolls and maple-link sausages for special breakfast. And it was awesome. He was super lovey in the afternoon, and didn't want me to go when I dropped him off at his grandparents' house. Such a sweetie.

Saturday night rocked its socks off. Maybe more on that later, but suffice it to say that there was much drinking, 3 bars, and a party. I didn't get to bed until almost 4am, and I was D*R*U*N*K (I metabolize alcohol very slowly, and generally if I drink to get drunk--which I didn't--it hits me like 3 bags of hammers right about the time I get home). Sunday morning, 4.5 hours later, I was H*U*N*G. Buh.

Sunday was the autocross. I think it was my 4th for the year, and I posted 7th place with a very poor performance. The guy who won, and by a very large margin, hosted the party we went to Saturday night (Did I say 'we'? Hmmm...). When we left the party, he was so hammered that he was trying to eat to soak up the alcohol. Though he, too, felt like boiled poo on Sunday, he still got out there and showed us how it's done. Damn, Brent: we're sorry to see you go.

Then I took my dad & Randy out to dinner--Father's Day and all, came home to watch the F1 race, and passed out.

I'm looking forward to picking up my boy this afternoon, and maybe getting out to the cul-de-sac for some Jr F1 racing. Jenson Button's got nothing on my boy.

*Rarely do I buy 4 albums and wind up liking more than 1 or 2 of them.

1. Lady Sovereign - Public Warning

This one's been in heavy rotation on the iPod. I'd heard "Love Me or Hate Me" and "Random" on mix CD's that Amanda received from the Pajibites. And Susan, too, I think. Anyway, freakin' hilarious. I love it. Perfect party vibe, and great for getting the spirits up when feeling blue. I don't think you can be unhappy when listening to this album. Unless you don't like it. Can't help you there.

2. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

I've given this a couple of listens, and while it's great up to track 8 "F*** You", it falls a little flat near the end. Still superb, and a great follow-up to Alright, Still. Somehow her emotion conveys perfectly into her music, and listening to this album is more like watching actors than listening to a singer. Weird, but I really like it. And "F*** You" is the greatest song ever.

3. Silversun Pickups - Swoon

This took a couple of listens, but is now probably the album I've listened to the most of any new music purchase since college. It's a little dark, extremely depressing, but also not depressing at all. It's that album you listen to when you're feeling blue, because it amplifies all your emotions.

At once evocative of both Smashing Pumpkins and Lush (with just the right amount of Curve tossed in for good measure), it perfectly combines my favorite musical influences of the mid 90's without being overly burdened by nostalgia. My first listen made me look up the members of the band, expecting to find the names James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, D'arcy, and maybe Miki Berenyi. Except they're all old now, and decidedly not cool.

This album is the first in several years to make me want to tune my guitar. I freakin' love it. Texture that doesn't fall into lock-step with vocals until it needs to, a wall of distortion and ambiance, and what can only (ONLY) be a Big Muff pedal. It can't be anything else. Oh God I'm going to have to listen to it right now.

4. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight

This one isn't resonating with me. I really liked their first album. It was different, had that FF beat that's so unmistakable, and just ripped. The second album fell flat, and though there are a few good songs on this latest album, it just feels like more rehashing. Though the techno breakdown near the end of the album gives me hope that they're going to start exploring some new areas in the future.

I think I just need to listen to it a couple more times, but so far it's only ok.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Genius level conversation:

Me: Real numbers desk, how can I help you?
Other Guy: Hi, yes. Um, what's 1/0?
Me: Um, undefined.
OG: Yes, but what is it?
Me: UNDEFINED. It's insolvable.
OG: Oh. But, um, if you could solve it, what would it be.
Me: Dude, no: it's undefined.
OG: What about 1/(1-1)?
Me: Seriously?
OG: All right, then, I have one other question. What is the square root of -1?
Me: Dude.

Emended for Daniel PickyPants.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 a frustrating mess

If Amanda were here, she would tell you that I'm generally an upbeat guy, but that every once in a while, I get lost in a gloomy funk. What makes my funks dangerous is that they spiral inward on themselves, rather like a maelstrom. When I get sucked in, I realize it, which makes me introspective, which makes me gloomier. Rinse, repeat. I can go days without speaking, only to emerge fresh, clean and happy a week or so later.

I've found that my periods of soul-crushing depression tend to follow closely behind my moments of greatest exultation. And, in the course of the subsequential introspection, I have discerned the reason (it's pretty obvious): the person with whom I'd most like to share my greatest triumphs is gone.

It started yesterday, but today everything hurts. I found myself standing in the corner of my office right after lunch. I felt simultaneously 3' tall and 10' tall, detached from reality, and wondering what to do, if anything. Coffee helped, but the music I chose to listen to on the way to get coffee only further amplified the pain, as it was music that we enjoyed together in the waning days of Amanda's good health.

There are a few memories from my 33 years that I try very hard not to allow into my conscious thoughts. They will put me into a 7 - 10 day cycle of depression that leaves me a hollow shell. But Amanda's illness and death do not constitute a simple single memory that I can put on a shelf in a carefully sealed mental box. They represent only the terminus of a 15 year bright-spot of my life.

So what to do? I certainly can't go home like this. But I can't not go home, either. I can put on a brave face for Alastair, but he's pretty clever and sees right through me. So maybe we'll cuddle up tonight and watch a movie.

Monday, June 15, 2009

MazdaDrivers June DE at VIR Grand East

Man oh man was this weekend fun. First off, special thanks to Archie and Diana Dann. Diana for lending me her husband for the weekend, and Archie for being pit-monkey and comrade-in-arms at the track.

This weekend was the best I've had thus far. I did have two offs, but I've cleaned up segments of the track that have bugged me thus far, and gained a ton of confidence in both myself and the car.

Saturday I started with the Novice group. I went out in the first session and was passed a few times as I tried to re-orient myself to driving at the limit. In the second session, we started to reel in the big boys, and in the 3rd and 4th sessions, we were maybe passed once while reeling in everything on track. I had a number of near disasters, but caught the car going around each time, wrestled it into submission, and kept the nose pointed in roughly the right direction. At one point we even took T6 in the Patriot Course completely sideways, but she tracked out perfectly and my instructor did a happy dance (I have it on film).

The second day we started in Novice, but my instructor went and had me bumped up to the Intermediate group. He felt I had a good grasp on taking the track at speed, and that the skill-level of the other cars made it dangerous for me to be held up by them. The first session in Intermediate, it became clear that we were reeling in cars there, too. A train of AWD cars passed me at one point, but that was it.

As the day wore on, I started putting a lot more pressure on the other cars in my group, setting them up for passes at Oak Tree, South Bend, and Bitch. We had just reeled in a 'Vette at Bitch, gotten the point, and were trying to pass when I had my first off of the event. The guy saw me round the turn, stuck his arm out the window, and didn't immediately lift. That meant we were drag racing for the next turn, which is a rise, a blind crest, and a steep off-camber downhill left turn. I had just cleared his front bumper before the braking zone, tried to swing out to track-right just to open up the turn a little bit, and when I steered into the left-hander, the back end came around. Into the grass we went, fortunately forward and not sideways.

Then in the last session I tried to compress my braking zone in Bitch, only to be rewarded with a lock-up and skid off into the grass. Again, no damage, but I have a nicely flat-spotted tire for the effort.

I changed absolutely nothing about the setup of the car, but made some big strides in cleaning up my line. Surprisingly, we found that the car rounds T1 faster if I turn in too early and with too much speed. The back end floats out, and careful application of 100% throttle tucks the nose down to the apex, allowing a 5mph boost at track-out. Score! We used the same principal at Left Hook, T11, Roller Coaster, and Hog Pen, each time gaining somewhere between 3 and 5mph at track-out. I'm confident that having used this approach on Full Course, I would have dropped at least 1.5 seconds.

Then we got exit speeds of 92mph at South Bend by doing a gentle brake followed immediately by full throttle before even turning. Yummy!

The real winner, though, in terms of dropping lap times, was the highly unstable slide-your-butt-around approach to T11 and Oak tree. Less braking, more steering, and the car is extremely upset going into the braking zone for Oak Tree. I'd wrestle the car down to the turn-in gator, turn the wheel and apply throttle, and the back end would step out again for Oak Tree. The resulting exit speed was 5 - 7mph higher, but my entire time through 11 & 12 was at least a full second, if not two seconds quicker. Wow. Cars that kept consistent distance on previous laps would suddenly be right in front of me. It's how we caught a few Vettes and Mustangs, and we even had enough speed to give 'em trouble on the drag race up the back straight!

Neither my instructor nor I had ever driven the Patriot Course elements of the track, and we were both learning and teaching each other throughout the event. I had a couple of times when the car was just about completely sideways, and while I did have both of my offs in that segment, I did feel by Sunday afternoon that I had a pretty good handle on how to get through there quickly:
  • T1 (Bitch): Track left, brake hard just before the 3 marker. Turn in @ 50% throttle, lift, turn in further, 100% throttle to scoot the rear out, and slide to the outside gator. Look for the roof of the building at the south paddock and drive straight for it.
  • T3: Track right, brake hard as soon as the track rises. Complete braking at the crest and turn hard to the left.
  • T4: Hug the gator just a hair too long, then throttle and turn back to the right.
  • T5: Ride over the gator and point to the center of the track.
  • T6: Brake, lift & turn, throttle. Kick out rear and slide to the outside gator. Point just to the right of the phone pole.
  • T7: Move across from track left just slightly and apply brakes just before the crest. Turn toward the left-hand gator. Rear will jump over the gator. Countersteer and 50% throttle. Rear will jump over next gator. Countersteer again and roll on throttle. 100% throttle and consistent steering input thru T8
  • T8: Aim for the back side of the gator.
  • T9: Back-side of gator, but shift to 4th when car settles.
  • T10: Back out of throttle to 90% Pray (with the right god behind you, you can stay at 100%, but be prepared for a very exciting drift through the next two turns).
  • T11 & T12: Constant radius arc. 100% throttle throughout.
  • T12A: Does not exist. Ride the gator and go straight through the black asphalt. Do not brake for Roller Coaster until you can see the outside gator. And even that might be too early.
Sadly my instructor stuffed his Porsche 944 / LS1 into the tirewall at track-out from Bitch, but it didn't do much damage.

Mazda Drivers Spring DE at VIR Grand East from Adrian Amos on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And now that the toddler news is out of the way

I had a pretty deep discussion last night about my feelings toward Amanda, moving on socially, and where I am emotionally right now. I got a little choked up a couple of times, but I'm starting to think that maybe I simply haven't allowed myself to be carried away by the emotions. I certainly did for the first week, but I've rationalized all my feelings into submission.

I miss Amanda every single day. There's a large picture of her on my desk at home, the same picture is also in our dining room. She watches me every night as I work/play on the computer, and occasionally I find myself muttering to "her".

But I don't experience anger, denial, shock, or bargaining. Those, I've decided, are tilting at windmills. Being angry isn't going to bring her back, and I can bargain with God all day long, but he's not going to turn an urn full of ashes back into my wife. Ain't gonna happen. And frankly, if it did, ew...

I'm never really alone, because I have Alastair. But loneliness & depression are the only real suffering I experience, and not even all that often. When he's with me, and we're having fun, that is where I am: in the moment with him. When he's not with me, like at his grandparents' house, then I'm left alone with a head full of demons.

I've chosen to replace or augment those demons with racing, tinkering, and partying. Is that fair? Certainly the tinkering gives me a quiet opportunity for reflection while keeping me physically occupied, and that's a combination that has worked very well for me. Racing is just pure distraction of the most joyful form, and partying usually means alcohol. And, uh, pretty ladies.

When I'm not doing one of those three things, though, I'm generally lost. It takes me almost an hour to get ready for bed, because that's a mundane task that forces me to wallow in my alone-ness. The same is true with house-work, which usually piles up to the point of being nigh insurmountable.

But back to the point: my grieving process feels like I'm doing it wrong. Not to me, mind you, but to the experience of being me, if that makes any sense. Everyone tells me I need therapy, but I don't feel like I need therapy. But the fact that I don't feel like I need it is making me question whether or not I do. Because everyone says I do. With me?

Just like everyone says to wait a year before making any big changes. But I've already bought a car and gotten rid of a lot of her clothes. That, to me, feels like the right thing to do. I didn't like her car; couldn't drive it without wandering all over the road, and certainly couldn't park it. Why should I keep something that makes me unhappy, even dissociated from memories of her? But that's "the wrong thing to do", which gives me pause: should I have done it?

And last, I'm ready to go out with people, have fun, and experience joy. I'm told this is wrong, that it's too soon. But it doesn't feel too soon. I had a year to come to grips with Amanda's disease. A year. A year to grieve before she died, to be angry with God, to bargain for my life instead of hers, and all that stuff that's normal. I completed that process, so shouldn't I get a pass to the next stage? I tested out of Grieving 101.

I never managed to finish reading even the first of the grief counseling books. At some point I realized that I was no longer experiencing what was written, and I felt guilty about continuing to read them. I felt like if I was going to read them, I needed to regress and continue to feel the acute pain that was mentioned on the pages. But who wants to do that? Pain is good for the soul, but so is joy.

I've joined a couple of groups on Facebook for young widows & widowers, and joined the petition to add "Widowed" as a relationship status, and what I've learned from just glancing through some of the discussions on those group pages is that each grief is experienced uniquely. There are people who have been widowed for years and still refuse to even consider dating, and there are people who were seriously romantically involved after only a couple of months. Those who went through disease seem to have moved on more quickly, and those who lost their spouses to accidents take a very long time. Not as a rule, but just in general.

So it feels weird to me that I'm ok. Because I'm not "supposed to be" ok. Either I'm breaking the unwritten rules, or I need counseling, or I'm just a big creep who doesn't miss his wife. Or maybe I just need to be ok because I'm 33, have a little boy who needs as much joy as he can find, and there's just too much to live for.

Either way, if you don't like my grieving process, try your own way. When the time comes, I promise to support you in any way that I can. But please try not to judge me until you've been where I am (and I hope you never ever come here). There are no rules for grieving, only nebulous suggestions.

F1 Toddler

And he loves it. 5mph is really surprisingly fast. I was also surprised at how easy it would be to really hot-rod this thing. Yeah, the turning radius is crap, but it's restricted only by a couple of plastic tabs that could be ground off, and there is actually a spot to mount a 2nd gearbox, which would take it from 4x1 to 4x2 drive. Might make it tougher to turn, but would really help it get up the driveway.

And there seems to be enough space to mount a 2nd battery. Score! 2 gearboxes and 2 batteries should be enough to propel this puppy to almost 9mph. When he's older, of course.

At that point we'll need to switch the front tires to pneumatic, add a little positive caster, and maybe add a mechanical brake. This could be fun.

After getting it all assembled, we went to Target to pick up some more little plastic orange cones. I will make an autocrosser out of this boy!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I'm such a fool

I just ordered this for Alastair:

Many of you have heard me rant on how ill-prepared our children are when they take the wheel of a car in the big mean world. I think our nanny-state child-safety laws prevent us from experiencing the world from a training perspective, and expect us to simply understand the physics of driving when we climb behind the wheel at 15 3/4 years old. That's retarded. I grew up in the front seat, learned how the car behaved in traffic, with the road, and what to expect when I shifted 3 feet over to the left.

Today's kids are kept in the back seat until they're 10 years old (and sometimes much older). So now Alastair will have a head-start. Even if he doesn't take to racing, performance driving, or anything else, he'll at least know what happens when he pushes the throttle & brake, how much steering input to provide for a tight turn vs. a broad sweeper, and some of the responsibility that comes with driving.

Of course I hope he falls absolutely in love with it and wants to be a champion racer. Now I just need to get him a helmet, fire-suit, gloves, boots, and baby-HANS device.