Now, seriously, how come nobody told me?

Devil's Panties is the best web comic EVAR.


Turning water into wine

Okay, the other way around, actually. I turned some ale and porter into NC-style barbeque with cole slaw and potato salad, plus a quarter watermelon.

The booze you see is "leftovers" from the party I had Friday night, and actually exceeds the booze I bought to get the party started.

Today I attended a barbeque picnic and brought some of that booze with me, and was sent home with pulled pork and fixin's--not bad for an amateur.


What do you want for Xmas

How come nobody told me about Devil's Panties before? I can't stop reading this comic.

Behold: New suspension components in action

Okay, maybe not in real action, since the car isn't even running in the pictures, but you get the idea. From where I see it, having spent all this time and money to upgrade my car's suspension I have earned the right to terrorize my readers with glamour shots of the new shiny components.

Here you go: new Racing Beat anti-sway bar as seen from the engine bay.

Ahhh, all the yummy stuff: Ground Control coilovers over Koni adjustable shocks, the new sway bar, the Racing Beat end link, and even a corner of the oh-so-hard-to-install AWR sway bar mount bracket.


Want to have a better look at the mounting bracket? Here you go, sweetie.

Well, and while I'm here bragging anyway, here's the K&N Typhoon cold air intake plus the K&N cone filter and the stainless steel exhaust header.

Now if I'm not one happy girl, I don't know who is!


Major yum

So I got stood up for dinner. Not a big deal. Particularly because my dinner date and I were supposed to meet at a restaurant where my favourite chef makes sushi.

His name is Richard and he is a true artist at what he does. Whenever I eat at his sushi bar, I do not order from the menu, but rather let him drive--always with great results.

Tonight he spoiled me with a series of small appetizer-type dishes. I was so smitten with the food that I forgot to take pictures of the first two: the marinated tuna salad with watercress and fish roe, followed by a seared tuna and fried avocado skewer with light bleu cheese sauce. I had a glass of King Estate Pinot Gris with these two.

The third dish was more in a traditional Japanese style: a cucumber roll with fatty eel. I had a little unfiltered Dreamy Clouds sake with it.

The next dish was three pieces of seared nigiri sushi: squid, beef, and tuna. And yes, it is real leaf gold on the beef nigiri! My final drink was a California riesling. Pardon me for not remembering the name. It turned out pretty nice, and went well with both this appetizer and the last little dish I had.

This is the last small dish I had tonight: A piece of seared salmon with a spicy jalapeno-avocado-mint sauce (mayonnaise-based).

Every time I'd try a dish, I would think it was the best one yet, and the next one would turn out to be even better!

All in all, I spent well over two hours sitting at the sushi bar, watching Richard do his magic and enjoying my food and drink. I got to the restaurant tired and stressed, and the fact that I got stood up did not help. By the end of the night, I had a huge grin on my face and felt happy. That's how every evening should end!

Devil's Panties

So I've discovered a new brilliant web comic strip. Yeah, it's been around since 2001, but I just discovered it this weekend. So bear with me as I admire it.

The protagonists are well-defined and engaging, plus it is immensely fun to see how the author's drawing style evolves over time.

Seeing something like this makes me want to do a comic myself, but then I remember that I am a worthless sequential artist, so I go back to simply admiring the beauty of it all.

Observe and compare

Stock anti-sway (stabilizer) bar mount brackets I took off Bonnie car on Sunday. Don't look like much, do they? Well, they aren't really that much help, actually.

Now here is a pair of reinforced Anthony Woodford Racing sway bar mount brackets. Definitely much sturdier and stiffer. An absolute bitch to install, but I suspect well worth it. Will report on the effects after the first autocross.


Who'd'v thunk?

Who would have thought that the stuck nut was the least of my problems on the way to a new spiff sway bar set?

So eight hours and countless setbacks later the sway bar is installed, complete with the reinforced mounting brackets and the end-links.

But let me start from the start. I was actually planning to autocross on Sunday. However after the trouble with the upgrade I was frustrated with this whole car business and went out with a friend. I even kept the alcohol consumption down (2 drinks over 4 hours), but ended up staying out later than I planned. So by the time I got home it was already time for me to go to bed if I wanted to go to Danville the next morning, and I haven't even packed the tires and other gear into the car yet!

I checked the club forum and found out that the price to participate would be higher than I expected, because it was part of a 2-day divisional SCCA series event. Plus, we'd be required to plaster our cars with all the sponsors' stickers, even if we only wanted to participate in the Sunday part, which was also a Triad points autocross.

Additionally, the first car off was scheduled for 9 a.m. -- meaning that I would need to be at the site at 7 a.m. just to have the time to change tires and walk the course. I usually wake up at 6 a.m. for autocross, but with an almost two-hour drive making it to Danville with enough time before the first heat was not realistic.

So I posted on the forum that I won't be going. Note that it was already well after ten in the evening. Within ten minutes Charlie (him and his wife Mo drive a C-Stock 99 Miata prepped to the nines) has offered help installing the new parts. Now that I was not going to Danville anymore, I gratefully accepted.

So the next day I headed over to Durham full of hope.

Charlie's got a garage full of all sorts of tools and machines, including an industrial-grade grinder, which we ended up using!

We began by removing all the old parts. The stuck nut came off with an application of an air gun. I rejoiced.

Further parts started coming off, and within a few minutes we had the stock sway bar and end links removed from the car. The sway bar mounting brackets were a little bit different, as the bolts holding them to the frame inside the engine bay are covered by radiator brackets on both sides. On passenger side, there were openings in the radiator brackets to access the two bolts, though the fit was tight, but on the driver side, the bracket was solid.

We ended up removing both radiator fans and the cold air intake for easier access and soon the stock sway bar mount brackets were off. No wonder they are liable to bend and tear under stress from a more massive sway bar--they are made out of what appears to be 1.5 mm sheet metal with minimal profiling (will post a pic here later).

Now that the old parts were out, it was time to get the new ones in! Easier said then done. The new mount brackets would not fit. As in not at all. We ended up having to place a jack underneath each of them and loading them with a nice chunk of the car's weight to make them align properly on the frame.

At which point I could torque the bolts to specified 18 ft lb (248.86 kg cm), and then one of the old worn bolts decided that enough was enough and broke off. In the frame. Flush with the bolt hole.


So off we drove, in Charlie's car, to Autozone, then to a hardware store to buy a bolt extractor and eight new bolts to replace all the old ones lest they break at some other unanticipated point in time.

Back at the garage, we spent some time getting the bolt out, then when it finally came off, I removed all the bolts already in place and replaced them with the new ones. Eight total.

Now of course, one of the bolt holes on the frame (thank goodness the one accessible directly from the driver-side wheel well) was stripped! The bolt would go in, but instead of tightening it would spin. I tried a couple different bolts with the same effect, and decided to leave it like it is for the time being and to have the mechanic at my usual shop fix that during the week.

Next, time to put the radiator brackets back on, at which point it became apparent that they wanted to occupy the same physical space at the same time with the new sway bar brackets. Great.

Our solution to this problem was to relieve the radiator brackets to make them go around the sway bar brackets. "Relieve" is a euphemism mechanics use for whacking a part with a hammer. So Charlie got the biggest hammer he had and went to work. We were into the fifth or maybe even sixth hour of our ordeal at this point.

Once the radiator brackets were in the shape we needed (and out of the shape intended by Mazda engineering) we mounted them on the car and this was the point at which to thread the new sway bar and attach it, at first loosely, to the new mounting brackets.

If you think this was easy, you are wrong. The new reinforced mounting brackets are definitely not precision-made, so of course the bolt holes in the sway bar mounts supplied with the Racing Beat bar did not align with the holes in the brackets! We measured the bar mounts with the stock ones, and there was no difference. Meaning that the AWR sway bar mount brackets were the main culprit for all our installation trouble.

So back to the workbench we went to bend the sway bar mounts slightly wider.

As soon as our interaction with the mount brackets ended, everything else went like a dream. Interfaces between Racing Beat parts and Mazda stock parts were matching precisely and we finished the installation and put the splash guard and the wheels on quickly.

I still need to do the sway bar fine adjustment, but will probably do that at the next autocross or just before then.

Today, I just picked up the car from the shop where the stripped bolt hole was drilled out and tapped with a new thread. So at last, we're good to go!


Sway bar upgrade: A little setback

Unfortunately, the automotive deities were not very nice to me today--my friend and I could not install the new parts on the car, because we could not remove the existing parts! The nut holding the passenger-side sway bar end link to the suspension would not come off, and we ended up stripping it, so now I hope that my car's favourite mechanic can help me with that.

I actually still intend to do the installation myself, but want to enlist his help for a half-hour to just get that stupid nut off.


THSCC Points Event 6: Course map and results

Event results:

The two-day event (first the intermediate school and then the autocross) took a lot out of me, I am still recovering, and it's Wednesday!

I got to practice a lot during driving school, and I think I am getting smoother, at least that's what my friends watching from the bus were telling me. Judging from the results, I did not improve all that much yet, but I was not hitting as many cones as last time, so there's hope!

After the event was over, we each got two free fun runs and Graham let me drive his Corvette Z06 around the course once, and that was a blast! People working the course at the time said they could see my silly grin from where they were standing!

The car was not easy to control though, so I was pretty much slipping and sliding throughout the second half of the course. When I was done, two young guys stopped by to say how much they were impressed by my drifting skill--which I think was my lack of car control skill, but I took what I could get and thanked them profusely for their compliments :)


Pictures from last month's autocross: 19-07-2008

This picture was taken in the afternoon, when it was raining, as you can see on the raised top of the car.

Here are some more pictures from last month's event.


I hate trees, too

From AP: Bush to relax protected species rules.

Serves those species right! It's the survival of the fittest, man!

Oh yeah, "9/11" should be in there somewhere too.



Bonnie and I had a special day yesterday--we hit 166,666 miles (268,222.927 km), about 33,000 of them together.

As an anniversary present, I got Bonnie full insurance coverage. We only had the mandatory liability insurance until today.


The pecking order

From a chat about my earlier post today.

(02:43:53 PM) Casey: you should buy an oreck

(02:44:14 PM) lx5: i have roomba--my very own cleaning servant

(02:44:52 PM) Casey: oh, so that commercial is wrong but you keeping your own personal robot slave is just fine?

(02:45:04 PM) lx5: yepp

(02:45:10 PM) lx5: it's all about the pecking order

(02:45:11 PM) Casey: ook

(02:45:22 PM) Casey: pecking? there's pecking?

(02:45:42 PM) lx5: women clean for men, robots clean for women.... and there's pecking all over the place

(02:46:21 PM) Casey: so to be at the top of the pecking order you need a pecker

Smart men invent stuff to help women clean

Click the picture to see the full ad. Saw it in my gym's changing room on E! last night. Felt really empowered.

Where the hell is the prince to marry me away from this cube and into domestic servitude?

I ♥ Apple support

Okay, so there is a computer company out there who treats consumers like people. Wow.

After installing the latest security upgrade on my iBook G4 running OS X Tiger my file system got corrupted, so the machine would not boot.

I called Apple support, not really hoping for much since
a) the computer is 3+ years old and probably out of warranty;
b) it is not running the current operating system; and
c) I am not even the original owner!

I never was asked for any proof of purchase beyond the serial number of the computer while on the phone with support. After several attempts to resolve my problem over the phone failed, they made an appointment for me at the local Apple retail store.

There I fully expected to be turned around and sent on my merry way to rescue my own damn data, but no!--the guy at the "Genius Bar" diagnosed the problem fast and resolved it, so I could pick up my machine the next day with freshly-installed Tiger and all my data intact!

At no charge whatsoever.

I also have to say that I was not too scared for my data, mostly because before going to the Apple store I booted Fedora 8 off a live CD and was able to access my home directory from there. I did not have an external drive large enough to back up all of it beforehand, but at least I knew they would be able to if drastic measures like reformatting and repartitioning of the drive became necessary.

Last night I have installed some of the apps that weren't part of the standard OS package, and am pretty much a happy camper now.

Speed Racer

For reasons yet unknown to me, I have watched the Speed Racer movie. Here's what happened.

It was a dark and muggy North Carolina night. I was tired after a long drive, on my sofa, watching old TV episodes on hulu.com when I ran out of all the stuff I wanted to watch. So I went to have a look at their listing of all the TV shows they offer and out of curiosity (and because a friend I know has a Speed Racer t-shirt, which he wore to a traffic court appearance, no less) I clicked on "Speed Racer."

I watched two or three episodes and found them profoundly boring. Went to bed. And the next morning I googled the series title, again, for no clear reason and it showed that the movie was running in the discount theater close by the office. So I went. With another friend.

Actually, the movie was not bad at all. Well worth the $1.50. The colors, costumes, and set design were great. Surreal, but capturing the style of the animated series. The plot was about as deep as in the few episodes I have seen, but that is exactly what it should have been, so no disappointment there.

The race scenes were actually gripping, once you got to terms with the movie's interpretation of the laws of physics.

Man or Maniac posted a review I can agree with fully, so if you care about detailed critique of the movie, read it there.

As for me, I have always loved cineastic orgies of color and style over substance, so if you are like me, I think you'd like it too. Just make sure to see it on as big a screen as you have access to and have the sound on full blast.


More LeMons coverage: Jalopnik.com

The 24 Hours Of LeMons South 2008 Uber Gallery covers all participating cars from what I can tell and Dorifto Dogs are no exception. They even posted an on-board video shot from inside the Dieter car.

I used to doodle more

These are doodles I found going through my work notebooks of the past 4 years. Sadly, these five are pretty much all there were, not counting a couple of completely uninteresting scribblings. I need to concentrate on being less grown-up at work.

I will post more doodles as I draw.

07 December 2006

Some time in early August 2007

17 October 2007

Early February 2008


Just wanted to say here, I don't know about other people, but I think and listen better when I doodle. When I look at the drawings on the margins of my university seminar notes I actually remember many more details of that particular event than if I had to go by my notes alone.

Needless to say, my notes from those years are strewn with drawings. I hope it means I can remember the stuff I was studying at the time.

Notes from a meeting

Another exciting hour of my life.


The Dark Knight

Saw The Dark Knight with a friend last night.

At first six of us met at a bar for a few beers, and then the movie was brought up and four of us decided to go catch the 8:45pm show. On the way there two of my friends got lost and turned around and drove home, while what was left of the party (Robin and yours truly) actually went to see the film.

It was pretty good, but far from what I expected based on rave reviews the movie received, and also what some of my friends said about it.

Definitely liked the twist they put on the Joker character, but the whole movie was lacking all the mystic overtones of the previous ones, being 100% realistic if one discounted the Batman-technology. Basically, just a bunch of people blowing each other up.

However, don't take this as a criticism, the movie was very well made, with great effects, some nice dialog, and well-defined characters.

It does not pass the Bechdel test though, requiring that a movie have

  1. At least two named female characters,
  2. who have a conversation with each other
  3. about something other than a man.

But who would expect this sort of movie to pass it anyway?

Ready for sway bar upgrade

At last, I have all the parts needed to upgrade my front anti-sway bar:

  • The anti-sway bar itself;
  • end links;
  • and the reinforced mount brackets.

Unfortunately, I will not have the time to install all this racing goodness on the car this weekend, so I will have to run with the stock sway bar at the Danville event next week.

On a related note, after the intake manifold cleaning and the discovery and replacement of a cracked PCV hose it seems that the engine is no longer consuming any oil. Which effectively means at least $2000 (price of a used engine) less needed to keep the car competitive (and running, in general).