Friday, April 30, 2010

Panic! Panic! The Sky Is Falling!!

I've amended my APRIL FOOLS post to to clarify it for American audiences. The Japanese version was better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Race Season!

Hot damn, but that was an awesome way to start the season!

I just spent the weekend at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. There was racing, Time Trials, HPDE, and karting. There were TONS of Miatas, and I got to steal a bunch of really good ideas for my dashboard setup.

But the highlight of the weekend, at least for me, was the door-to-door action in the advanced HPDE group.

It's always a little scary in the first event of the year. Do I remember the track? Do I remember how my car handles at the limit? Do I, in fact, even remember what the limit is? Turns out: yes, yes, and mostly.

Summit Point Main is the only track I've ever run and never had proper instruction. I figured it out on my own and by watching other faster drivers. And I've gotten pretty consistent with 1:33 laps, occasionally churning out a 1:32. I know the car can do at least a 1:30, and looking at data I know now where I'm leaving time on the table.

But Sunday, man o man! I got hooked up with a couple of guys who were turning similar lap times, and we had a nice long chat about various ways around the course, agreeing that we'd look for each other in the 2nd session. Well, we found each other and ran together for about 15 minutes. And it was awesome! There was a Porsche 944 that's being prepped for 944 Cup, a seasoned Spec Miata (though in new hands), and my orange popsicle. We traded places, took turns side-by-side, ran nose-to-tail, and had an absolute blast. And I got it all on video.

A white Porsche Cayman S was following the action and got some good shots of one particularly dicey lap. Once I'd gotten by the other Spec Miata, he had a hard time keeping up and severely over-drove the car, eventually spinning off in Turn 10.

Now, I've run with guys before. I've found people with similar cars or similar talent and played with 'em for a few laps, including one great session at VIR last summer, but this was really the best fun I've had to date. Back then, I was running in Intermediate, which meant no passing in the corners. But now we can actually practice real racecraft, going 2 or even 3 wide white-knuckled through some really scary turns. And at this level, there's a trust between drivers that didn't exist before.

There's a guy I met last fall who was kind of overwhelmed in our group, spinning off once (or twice?) and having a hard time controlling his way-overpowered Porsche 997 GT2. But I made him pass me on the inside of a terrifying turn to show him that he could do it, and afterward I think he got a level of confidence that was sorely missing. If you don't trust yourself and the car, you're gonna go off or spend your whole day driving slow.

Hard to believe I have 9 more weekends to look forward to this year, and yesterday I picked up a new car that we're gonna build for Chump Car & LeMons, two series for <$500 race cars. And this weekend I'm heading down to North Carolina to pick up a 24' enclosed (and insulated) trailer. Time to start tailgating and stop paying for hotels!

2010 is gonna be the BEST track season ever.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Long and exciting. Yours?

How was your weekend?

Mine started Thursday night, care of Good Friday and curious holidays in the private sector.

Alastair and I went to bed Thursday night with excitement in the air: a trip to the zoo was planned for the morning, and Maymont Park in the afternoon!

Somehow, in all my life, I'd never actually been to a zoo. I'm unclear as to how this oversight might have occurred, but occur it did, so when we got there, I was more mesmerized than Alastair, who's now been at least 4 or 5 times. And of course, since he's been there a number of times, he knows where everything is. I felt like I was the kid for half the day!

We saw lions, tigers, bears (oh my...<--sorry, it's obligatory), emus giraffes, all manner of monkeys & apes, bats, and well, everything else you'd expect to see at a zoo. And we rode the sky-car over the rhinos, which, while exciting, were evidently nowhere near as exciting as their poop. I swear: Alastair talked about rhino poop for two solid days.

We also saw an Audi R8. That was my favorite.

Then, while he napped, I started tearing the Miata down in preparation for a timing belt & water pump swap. I figured if I disassembled it Friday afternoon, putting it back together on Saturday would be a snap. Which it was, until it wasn't.

After nap we met a friend and her two girls at Maymont, where mysteriously all the animals except the birds, bears, and fox were...missing. No idea where they were. Dad & Randy showed up to walk the park with us, and it was a delightful way to spend the afternoon. The kids entertained each other, the grown-ups got to talk, and then unfortunately one of the girls did an epic swan dive over her own foot. A bloody knee and 8 zillion tears (now with dramatic over-sell action!) later, we were all spent.

Saturday was even more awesomesauce for Alastair, who got to go to two Easter egg hunts. One at church (grr...) and one at his friend's house. While he was at the church one, and while he napped, I toiled away on the car, getting it almost back together.

We had a fantabulous time at his friend's house--truly, they're like peas in a pod, and it is so much fun to just watch them play.

After I dropped him off at Grammy's for the night, I went home, Daniel showed up to help with the Miata...and it wouldn't run. Dammit.

Teardown & rebuild: nothing.

Daniel wished me luck and went home (it was already pretty late), and at midnight I started another teardown, this time with the idea that I'd leave it torn down overnight and approach the timing issue in the morning with fresh eyes. Yeah, not so much.

When I got down to the belt, I had a revelation that I could abandon all the fancy marks I'd made on the belt if I could calculate TDC, which I fortunately could do because I happened to have a compression checker. Yay me!

At 2am, the car was buttoned up, and she roared to life (sorry neighbors!).

The next morning she threw the alternator belt. FML. At least that was a 5-minute fix.

P-Nut's Easter Party! Woohoo! Monument Ave Easter Parade! Jello shots! Champagne! RedBull & vodka! Ow my head!

Before Alastair came home, I happened upon a stranded motorist in my neighborhood. Her car had overheated, and she was about a mile away from home. But she was blocking traffic, and the cops were less than amused. So I went home, got my truck & trailer, and hauled her to her house.

Pizza with a boy for dinner, 834.2 loads of laundry, and one completely spent daddy.

It was a damn fine weekend, even with the extra 5 hours of work on the car. Now on to the remaining 5 hours worth of work, and next weekend's the circus!

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Book of Seder

Amanda really enjoyed my satirical efforts, and had wanted to repost this on her blog annually. So, never one to deny my wife...


And so, as the Seder feast approached, Jesus called unto his disciples and said, “I have received news which is my Father’s news, and that is to be given unto you. That you are to collect the eggs of hens throughout all the land, and bring them to the temple on Seder-eve. There the eggs will be emptied without breaking, and brightly colored so as to show the love of my Father.”

And so the disciples set out upon the land to collect the offerings of hens. And it was so, that they rejoined unto each other on Seder-eve at the temple, each with his measure of eggs. And Peter asked, “Lord, how are we to drain the eggs without breaking them?”

Jesus replied, “Does not the ewer empty with even the smallest hole? We shall prick tiny holes in each end, and blow with forceful breath upon one end, that the yolks shall flow forth. And we shall collect the yolks in great urns, so to bake treats for the children.”

And they began to drain the eggs, with Jesus draining many times his measure. But the disciples were discouraged, for their eggs broke. And they asked unto the Lord, “Lord, our eggs are breaking. Soon there will be no more eggs. How can we present broken eggs in the temple?”

Jesus considered this and replied, “Not all eggs need come from hens, though those that do not must be rich indeed. Peter, look in that urn, and bring forth what you find.” And Peter peered into the urn, and drew forth strange material, shiny and smooth. “Lord, what is this treasure you provide us?”

“Plastic.” And so they continued, filling the plastic eggs with small treasures, baked goods beyond measure and coins bearing Caesar’s image. The eggs of hens were brightly painted to capture the splendor of the Seder feast, and the plastic eggs were filled.

And on the morning of Seder, Simon went to fetch a hare for the noon-day feast. And Jesus said unto Simon, “Cook not the hare, for he represents the work of my Father on this day. Nay, praise the hare, and place an egg before him, that you have painted. And when you see a hare before Seder, say unto any who stand near, ‘Happy Easter’, for the Lord my Father has brought the beasts of the land upon the East winds, so to feed his children the Israelites.” And he asked of Luke, who had thus far sat quietly, “Luke, go to Mary’s house, and request from her that which she has been keeping for me.”

And Luke went to Mary’s house, and retrieved Jesus’ bunny-suit. Then Jesus did say, “Let us go to the mall, and pass out our eggs, but hiding several for the children to find. And afterward, let us dine together, as a family might.”

And so Simon went to fetch an ox, which was not protected by the word of God, and they feasted heartily. And afterward they ate chocolate.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Hard to share

Hey kids-kadoo, this was an April Fools post. Seriously, before you even look at the title or the content, look at the date. Or read the comments. Or the tags. It's your call, but if you can't do any of that, call -->ME<-- and ask.

There are a lot of really good things going on in my life right now. And with those really good things must come the occasional really hard decision.

A few months ago, shortly after qualifying for my 1A race license [this only exists in Gran Turismo 4, a PlayStation 2 game], I was approached by a Mazda factory rep. The guy had seen some of my in-car footage and at come out to watch me at two events (didn't know it at the time), and was interested in recruiting me do drive for the company. [seriously? Racers work their WHOLE CAREER for this kind of opportunity. I've been driving less than 5 years, and only done 12 events.]

Unfortunately everything had to be very quiet until all the contract details were worked out, but starting in June I will officially be a Mazda driver. With that, however, comes a series of multi-month training trips that will have me all over the globe for the next 3 years or so, competing in various international racing venues as I go. [this is all complete bullshit]

It's exciting, and it's really what I've always dreamed of doing.

But what about Alastair?

It's been no secret that we've had some exceptionally rough patches, even before Amanda died. The "Special School", some physical roughness that I can't seem to shake, and with less than 18 months to prepare, I've still not even budged on picking a school for him. To the backdrop of all this I need to add the potential of a custody battle [this part comes straight from the book The Art of Racing in the Rain--you should read it]--let's just say that our impasses haven't gone unnoticed.

So when I said before that 2010 was going to be his year, I meant it: he's going to get a better daddy. The last couple of months have been such hard work, and hopefully the good times we've had will be firmly cemented in his memory, but the fact is that I cannot provide the level of care and attention that he so desperately needs. And for that reason, shortly after his birthday I contacted an adoption agency. Tomorrow we meet the potential new family.

It's the hardest decision I've ever faced, but I have no doubt that it's the best choice for him. [ok, for real now. If you've read this far and are still clutching your pearls, I can't help you.]