2008-03-29

Sin City

For a few days now, I have been reading Frank Miller's Sin City and enjoying it thoroughly. Particularly the first three books: The Hard Goodbye, A dame to Kill For, and The Big Fat Kill.

The art is so incredible at times, I could frame every page. I have to ration the books so I don't run out of them too soon. And I hate to say it, but the last book has been started last night, and probably won't last past tomorrow :)

2008-03-20

New horn road tested and approved

So today, I'm on a 45 mph street, doing something close to the speed limit, maybe 47, passing an intersection. I got green light. A Nissan sedan makes a right turn on red, pulling smack in front of me. I brake hard and lay on the horn.

I swear I could see the poor schmuck jump in his car. He pulled onto the shoulder and let me pass.

I turn to look as I pass him, and the look on his face is a mix of "Shit, that was close!" and "Damn, did that Miata make that noise?" I bet he will think twice before pulling in front of somebody like that again.

So I should say, the new horn passed the road test with flying colors.

Edited on April 12, 2008:
Sound samples: Miata Stock Horn | New Fiamm 125 dB Dual Horns (Part #72102 for high tone and Part #72112 for low)

2008-03-19

Close encounters continue: Today--Human greed and stupidity

Okay, so yesterday it seemed like the SUV driver and I have agreed that we should not involve our insurances, so that our rates don't go up. Today, I get a call from mine saying that the SUV driver has filed a claim against me, for a broken turn light.
Here is an as-close-to-scale as possible picture comparing the SUV's size (it was a Tahoe) with my Miata's size. My rear bumper went completely under hers, and her tow hook went right through it. Her front bumper has shattered my taillight.

How in the world my car could have impacted her turn light, which is above my bumper level and pretty much the rest of the rear of the car, is a mystery to me. Particularly in a 5 mph collision.

For educational purposes, here is also a diagram of the accident as perceived by me.

Haute Cuisine Russe (Pelmeni)

Feeling a mite nostalgic, aren't we?

Take 2/3 ground beef and 1/3 ground pork (with lots of fat), add some chopped onions, salt and black pepper. That's your filling. Mix it all well and let it sit while you're making the dough.

For the dough, take about 11 heaping tablespoons white flour, three eggs and salt to taste. Mix it all well and knead for a few minutes by hand before wrapping in cling-wrap and setting aside for a minimum of half-hour.

Cut the dough in small pieces and roll them out to about 3" circles, which you use to make the dumplings with the meat filling.

When you have enough (at least 20 per person, but more like 30 if you are a real Russian) you can drop them in boiling water which has been salted and added some bay leaves to. Cook until they're all floated to the top, stirring from time to time. After all dumplings have risen to the top, boil them for another 5 minutes or so and serve with either vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sour cream, soy sauce, or even ketchup--but you don't really want to use that.

2008-03-18

Two close encounters with law and order

Chapter 1.
I am on the way to lunch. See a parking spot. Stop. Show right turn signal. Put car in reverse. Start backing up. At this point, the car closest behind me (an SUV) was at a fairly safe distance. So I concentrate on the task at hand: getting my car between two others at the curb.

Honk! Crunch! My driver-side taillight is in shatters, bumper pierced by the SUV's tow hook.

I pull to the curb, come out of the car, and say: "I was parking!"

The answer: "I thought you were turning."

Right.

The reverse lights at the back of my car were lit for nothing.

We call the police, they show up, actually just one officer who promptly says that I was contributing to the accident.

Doesn't give me a ticket though. So I guess I was not contributing enough.

I order a new taillight at my magick Miata place and go back to work.

Chapter 2.
After work and gym I meet up with a friend in Chapel Hill for dinner, and on the way back, a mere mile from home, I get pulled over for speeding and -- of course -- for the busted taillight. I seriously was not watching my speed at this point, so I guess there's no arguing.

But I can explain the taillight. I even have the accident report still in my bag with me, and show it. I also say that I'd love for the crappy day not to get any crappier.

The cop checks my papers and returns them to me saying I get to walk this time, but only this time.

I thank him profusely and go home.

Damn! I must have filled my quota of traffic violations (and victimizations) for a full year!

2008-03-15

Lots of improvements (Bonnie's home spa)

I had a list of things I wanted to do on my car today, and accomplished most of them:
  • Replace wimpy stock horn with more powerful aftermarket horns;
  • replace cracked old leatherette shift boot with the new leather one;
  • attach shiny pretty aluminum "racing" pedal covers;
  • finally fix the aftermarket chrome fuel lid so it latches in.

Out of this list, I accomplished all but one item: the pedal covers. They turned out to be way too big for my Miata's pedals, so I'll have to see about returning them.

Now, here are the obligatory before and after shots:

Exhibit A. Old wimpy horn and old shift boot--you'll have to agree it was high time to upgrade both.

Exhibit B. New shift boot installed. Now what an improvement!

Exhibit C. That shiny thing peeking through the radiator cowl is the new horn. You have to take my word for it.

Exhibit D. New tires. Oh yeah, forgot to tell ya, Bonnie got new Kumho Ecsta AST shoes on Friday. It's hard to believe how quiet the ride has become.

So all in all, it was a successful Saturday morning.

2008-03-13

Agents beware

Today I began what I have been planning to do for about 16 months now: contacting illustration and other creative agencies to show them my work. I sent out about 20 messages today. Guess we'll just have to see how that goes.

Have also sent in a request to become part of Gawker Artists site last night.

I've got to admit it's getting better

The results were posted tonight, and it looks like gradually I am beginning to suck at autocross slightly less than before.

I was surprised to see that I was not the last--because I felt I could have performed better, and it did not help that after the first two runs, my times looked fairly bleak, as in "worst times on the sheet." By the time the event was finished, I thought I'm pretty much hopeless. Turns out, I did learn something and improved my results over the last season.

Don't want to brag too much, but this was the first time I came in before non-novice drivers.

Now of course, I can't wait till the next event. And the one after that. Actually, the May event promises to be more fun because it will be a two-day deal again, with the first day being Chicks-only Novice School, and the second the actual autocross.

There are two great things about this: one, the student-to-instructor ratio will be close to 1-to-1 at the chick school (as opposed to 2-to-1), so I will get more practice; and two, practicing immediately the day before the event will help me translate to practice whatever I learn.


Oh, yeah, and the cherry-on-top bonus will be the lack of hormone-plagued male youths suffering from all sorts of afflictions, most commonly the foot-in-mouth disease.

Example: I am all packed up and ready to leave on Sunday evening after the event, convinced that I have blown it worse than usual on the course, and this young guy comes by. Everybody is usually very friendly, helpful, and non-threatening at THSCC events, so I smile and say Hi when he greets me. Our exchange follows:

Guy (G): "So did you have fun today?"

Yours Truly (YT): "Yeah, I had a blast! Didn't do very well though."

G: "So what was your best time?"

YT: "Eighty point something, plus two."

G cries with exaggerated shock on his face: "You're kidding me! Even I got a better time!"

YT, turning away: "You don't need to exacerbate your remark with that facial expression."

Curtain.

So yeah, I think chicks-only school might be refreshing.

2008-03-09

Bonnie in Laurinburg

Bonnie in Laurinburg

Both car and driver survived the two-day event mostly unscathed, which can't be said about a whole bunch of cones we hit.

Here you see Bonnie sporting the numbers and the Fedora sponsorship on the second day. Click on the picture to see a few more from the set.

The first day was novice driving school, and it went by really fast. There were two courses and four heats, with novices working half the time and driving the other half. I think I got at least five runs in each heat I drove. Since they were not timing the novice runs, I don't know how I performed that day.

In the evening I joined some of the club members who were staying in the area for a dinner and a drink. We talked about cars of course, but I managed to insert a 5-minute speech on Fedora and Open Source before the dinner was over. Got to my hotel around ten.

That night was the beginning of daylight savings time, which I was completely oblivious to, so I got to the track with just enough time to switch back to my competition tires and get an idea of the track before the driver meeting.

I found Carl, my instructor from the day before and rode with him on his first two runs. Then it was time for me to get the car to the lineup. Carl agreed to ride with me, to give me some advice and also to analyze my performance after the run.

My first run was really slow, but I did not aim to be fast on that one, my goal was to get a good idea of the course. On the second run, I shaved off three seconds, which did not quite help, with plenty of time (to the tune of 18 seconds) separating me from the best drivers.

After a quick lunch, I reported to the bus, where they assigned me to my work station (4), which wasn't very busy, i.e. nobody was knocking over any cones. I think in the entire time I was there, I picked up four cones.

To make up for the uneventful spot on the course, I got to use the red flag for the first time in my autocrossing "career." A car drove over a cone and dragged it away, and before I could get a replacement and put it in the box, they let another car on the course. So I flagged them down before they had to improvise their way around me.

After that, there wasn't much excitement at all until the end of the shift.

In the fourth heat, I rode and drove with Rob, who was one of my informal novice instructors in the past two events. I was able to improve my time by another three seconds in the first run of the heat and got one second more in the second run.

All in all, I did not deliver my best performance today, being too cautious on the gas, not pushing my car (and myself) anywhere close to the limit. My biggest challenge were the sweepers--and there were two of them--where I could have floored it for the most part, but was hesitant to do it.

Next time, I promise to be more reckless.

2008-03-05

The unexpected importance of motor mounts

The latest repair behind us, Bonnie and I could not be happier. The old motor mount they took out was cracked all along the base, and with two new mounts, the car is quieter, the shifting is smoother (the shifter does not jerk anymore when the clutch is first engaged), and the vibration the exhaust header used to cause touching steering column and frame is gone too.

The repair bill was not all I was afraid it would be either, since Carl was able to change the mounts without pulling the engine. This means new tires for Bonnie in about 10 days.

Turbodude's black Miata

Black Miata

This guy Turbodude apparently has a black Miata and likes to take pictures of it quite a bit -- not surprisingly so. I wonder if it actually has a turbocharger under the hood.

Regardless, the pictures are great, and the subject is inspiring.