2008-05-30

Firefox 2008 Download Day

A new version of the best browser on earth is about to be released: Firefox 3.

Mozilla Foundation are trying to set a world record for most downloads in the first 24 hours, and you can help out. Pledge to download Firefox on the Download Day and see a map of pledges around the world right here.

I already pledged.

Thanks to Chris Blizzard for sharing this.

2008-05-29

I'm going to get rich! (Or at least get some gas money)

My sinister plan has worked! The drive out to the historic Brit car show paid for itself!

If you remember, I put the 260+ shots I took of the beautiful beautiful vintage cars up for sale on Lulu.com. So today, three of them were purchased!

The $7.20 won't really make me rich (did you really believe that?), but at least that would have paid for the gasoline I used going there and taking the scenic route back.

2008-05-28

Brand confusion

Which retailer do you think is this ad for?

Target?

Wrong!

Click on the picture to reveal the full ad.

2008-05-27

Armageddon, and we're live on site!

So last weekend was a long one, because of the Memorial Day here in the US, and a bunch of friends and I went to the beach for 3 days.

We pooled our money to rent a beach house, and got one just across the street from the ocean. It was a pretty little house, and the seven of us were quite comfy in there.

Honestly though, we hardly spent any time in the house, besides breakfast time and hanging out on the porch before heading to bed. Which is how it should be. I think.

First day was rainy until mid-afternoon, but then it all cleared up, and we had a nice long walk on the beach and into the town, to have some beers and wings. We ended up having dinner at the Oceanic restaurant across the street from our house. The wait was extremely long, due to the holiday high traffic and also some miscommunication while trying to make a reservation. But the food was worth it in the end.

Next day, I slept in until about eleven. Not sure when everybody else go up, but I fully expected them to go to the beach and just leave me a note on the breakfast table, but they hung around. I am not sure they were waiting for me or just hanging though.

Once at the beach, it was pretty awesome. Nice warm water I would estimate at 24 degrees Celsius. Sand. Sun. SPF 70 sunscreen.

But even the greatest beach gets pretty boring after a few hours. I had a book and an iPod, got into the ocean a couple times, played frisbee (poorly), and walked about three kilometers along the beach. Then I couldn't stand it anymore.

So I and another chick from our party (who also drives a Miata, confirming my belief that Miata drivers are more fun) escaped the beach at about 2:30 and headed to downtown Wilmington in my car. That turned out to be a great idea.

We discovered a second-hand boutique selling once-worn, tags-still-on clothes and shoes, where my friend bought a couple pairs of sunglasses and I snatched up a raw silk sarong. You might not know, but sarong/pareo is the best damn thing out there to wear in the summer: you can wear it in virtually unlimited variations and also use it as a shawl on a chilly summer night too!

We ate late lunch at Le Catalan cafe on the Riverwalk, and did some more shopping, did not buy anything though. Dinner at about eight at the Pilot House and then home.

Most folks went to bed early-ish (no wonder, if they got up at eight in the morning!), but my Miata partner-in-crime and I decided to go for a night walk at the beach to finish the day. It was pretty warm, but breezy, and the waves seemed much higher in the dark than during the day, even though I suspect they were not much different. We walked for a while and then climbed into a life guard booth to hide from the wind.

We talked, watched the waves and a few people taking night-time walks like we did. Some kids showed up with surfing gear but did not have the guts to actually swim out.

And then it happened: A fairly large red triangular shape showed up in the ocean. In the dark, we could not see how far it was, whether it was at the horizon, or closer, but it was looking eerie. And it was growing really fast, looking like it was heading for the shore.

Our dialog follows.

Yours Truly (YT): Hmm, it could be some sort of a planet rising...
Miata Chick (MC): What planet?
YT: What planets appear red?
MC: If it is a planet, we've got a problem here. Armageddon and we're live on site!
YT: Like in a movie!

Curtain.

Turned out to be the Moon.

2008-05-18

British Car Show in Wake Forest

Went to the historic British car show held by the MG club of North Carolina yesterday. Saw lots and lots of cars to drool over.

The Jags here are just one example. I ended up taking 270 pictures and 264 of them turned out to be presentable. The light was great--lots of sunshine, helping to many contrast-rich shots against a cloudless sky.

I took a page out of kestrelracing.com book and made the pictures available for purchase on lulu.com.

I thought that USD3.00 would be sufficient for now, to see if anyone finds the pictures worth any money.

Originally, I did not plan to take that many pictures at all, but once I got there and began walking the rows of cars, owners began asking me if I was the "official photographer," and as my luck would have it, I soon ran into one of the event organizers who promptly "appointed" me to be the event photographer! I took my new job seriously and tried to take a few shots of each car, so that the owners could find at least one angle that they liked.

I did not catch all the cars though, because for some reason cars kept arriving hours after the event opened, and I was tired and getting a nice tan by one p.m., so I let them be and went home.

A lady exhibiting an MGB explained to me what roads to take for a scenic route back to town, and I had a delightful top-down drive through winding country roads flanked by trees and mostly traffic-free.

2008-05-16

Yours truly featured on Gawker Artists

As a pleasant surprise, yesterday I got a notification by email which went like this:

You have a page on Gawker. It should be up by tomorrow and can be viewed at artists.gawker.com. Please contact artists@gawker.com if you're interested in exhibiting one of our rotating galleries on your site. [snip]

And behold, today my work was indeed live.

This means that my work will be showcased across all Gawker media, such as Jalopnik, Jezebel, Fleshbot, Defamer, Consumerist, etc, etc, etc

Yay.

Yes, we do have a first aid program. No, you can't read it.

Actually, the company I work for is not overly corporate, and I am glad it isn't. But today in the breakroom I have noticed something rather funny and could not pass up.

Behold: Our office first aid program, on what looks like 15+ pages. Pinned to the bulletin board in the breakroom for all to read. Only if it weren't under lock and key!

Happy Friday.

2008-05-15

Home and dry, or: Top-down driving in the rain

So the laws of physics still work, and I have dry hair and clothes to prove it :)

Was driving home today and thought, "Meh, I should make it home before it rains," and left the top down. Of course I didn't make it. It began raining about 10 minutes till home. Really pouring, actually.

I was lucky I did not hit a single red light while it was raining, and so the most of the rain I got was some fine water spray from the blow-back, which got a mite annoying at one point, when it got on the inside of the windshield and on the rear view mirror. That was relatively easily remedied by turning the air to "defrost" on full blast, preventing more water from getting on the windshield from the inside, as well as helping dry what was already there.

The rain mercifully paused when I got home, so I could put the top up and go inside before it resumed.

2008-05-14

Blog != hip

Somehow corporate folks got this idea that if they called something a "blog" it would immediately make it hip and cool and creative and collaborative.

Here's an excerpt from an email I recently received.

BLOG, BLOG. BLOG... all of your ideas before *May 23rd* while keeping in mind that ...[snip]

Need I say that in reality, we're not even being asked to blog per se, but rather to post comments to an existing internal corporate blog entry?

So far, four people were moved to "blog".

Homeland Security subcontracts to UPS? Don't think so.

Just read this on Consumerist UPS Won't Deliver Woman's Envelope Until She Shows Her Green Card. More and more, I feel like the good 'ol Cold War is back, and I'm on the non-free side of the iron curtain.

Proof that spiff cars can be ugly

2008-05-13

Fedora 9 is out

Fedora 9 is out.

Get it.

Now.

Iron Man (Downey Jr. lives)

Watched Iron Man with a friend last night.

Nice special effects, and all in all, a great movie to watch on a big screen.

Major suspension of disbelief is required to ignore some serious defiance of laws of nature. But nobody expects realism from a Marvel movie, at least I did not. And honestly, that palladium stuff must be awesome! Gotta get myself something made out of it. Something that glows in the dark.

Have to note that Robert Downey Jr. looks quite fine in the movie, and I was glad to see that. The last movie I saw with him was A Scanner Darkly, liked that one too, but it felt almost too ironic that he was playing a paranoid junkie in it.

About 15 minutes before the movie ended, the movie theater had a power surge (quote/unquote) and lost their sound. In all movies running at the time, but we did not know this of course. The sound disappeared just as that blonde lady was about to crash her SUV into the evil guy during the last battle, and for a few seconds that appeared like a cool effect, how the moment almost freezes and there is no sound. But then the sound did not return. Ever. We stayed and watched till the end, and I even found it kind of cool to be able to concentrate on the visuals without the thundering sound effects' distraction.

Dialog? You're kidding, right?

When on the way out, they gave us free tickets to make up for the loss of sound, so in the end it turned out to be quite a cool evening.

2008-05-09

I'm going to the FUDCon Boston 2008!

Great news (at least for me): I am going to the FUDCon Boston next month!

To the BarCamp part, actually, since I am not much of a coder.

Spoke with Max yesterday, and volunteered to help with logistics at the conference. So my plan is to show up bright and early and to help with the set-up, and also to "man" the reg table.

Then of course, the FUDPub.

Got a nice deal on flight+hotel package at Expedia, and will be staying smack in the Back Bay area, close to everything that matters, i.e. drink, food, and shopping.

Oh have I told yet that I have not really shopped clothes for real in over a year? Raleigh shopping scene is not exactly scintillating, and when I got to get out of town over the past few months, I hardly had time to shop so far, so this trip will be the first time I will have a chance to hit a few cool stores. I wonder if Mango has a branch in Boston? (BTW, their web site sucks, by any usability standards.)

Inner geek wants to note how astonished I was to see that my flight reservations from Expedia showed in my American Airlines account less than a minute after the booking was complete.

Neat.

2008-05-08

Economic stimulus... my a$$!

On Monday, I received a letter from the folks at the IRS saying my economic stimulus payment will be arriving soon. I did not read past the first paragraph, so I had no idea it'll be deposited into the same account they used to pay my tax return. So imagine my surprise when I looked into my savings account today to find that the economic stimulus payment was there.

Now, the good thing is that the money got to me--I was not sure if non-citizens qualified, right until the moment when I saw the money in the bank.

The less good thing is that I was planning to use this money to pay for a part of a (greatly unnecessary) valve job for my car, and expecting to receive a physical check, I planned to deposit it into a checking account and use it from there. Now that the money is in the savings account, I have a strong urge to just leave it there and save cash for the valve job over the next few salary pay periods.

Delayed gratification... Grrrr

2008-05-06

Rewarding myself

So to reward myself for finally making some progress at autocross, and also to avoid pain from wearing street shoes while driving all day (like at the chick school), I got myself some nice racing shoes. My first chance to try them out will be in about four weeks, in Sanford.

Suposedly, these shoes are all of these awesome things:

  • Formula One FIA approved Professional Grade racing footwear of 100% engineered construction
  • Patented CarbonX® flame-resistant lining outperforms all known standards on the NFPA 2112 Flame Resistant Garments testing protocol
  • Self-extinguishing split suede for comfort and flexibility in a mid-rise design
  • High-grip NBS vulcanized rubber outsole, optimized for tactile response on race pedals
  • Low-density advanced polymer EVA midsole for heel support and resilient shock absorption
  • CarbonX® batting and fire-retardant leather heel counter / inner sole for added protection

Well, I'm not sure I need all these features, but the shoes do feel comfy and the pretty rigid soles might help with the finer modulation of throttle--when I am finally skilled enough to need that.

2008-05-04

You get what you pay for

I have to say, the chick school paid off. Instead of being in the bottom three in PAX, now I got to be in the bottom eleven!

Okay, sarcasm by side, the last event, titled "You get what you pay for" felt different, and I was able to use some of the newly-learned skills.

Most importantly, this was the first autocross at which I went solo on a run! And actually, my solo run turned out to be my best time of the day, at 59.517 seconds, clean. Strangely enough, while on the course, I felt like I was hitting the cones left and right, and I was really surprised when Rob, who rode with me a couple times that day, came up to me at the finish and said that it was a clean run!

Here are the results:

The biggest discovery of the day was that I could stay floored throughout the first few elements, all the way until the second cone in the first slalom, helping me shave something like a full second off my time. Counter-intuitively, the car turned in much better while under constant acceleration in the first and second 90-degree turn. Particularly the second one, where I tended to lift before, upsetting the balance of the car, so it was pushing out, which was not helpful at all :)

The new Azenis made a lot of difference, too. Car handling was much more predictable and stable, so I did not spin or get the car out of control in any way.

It was also the first time that my Fedora signs generated conversation. A couple guys came up after the event and asked what that was all about. I was only too happy to tell :)

2008-05-03

A walk to Piggly Wiggly's

After the autocross school, I headed to the hotel, called Innkeeper, which was less than 10 minutes away from the Danville regional airport where the event was held. I left some of the things I removed from the car in the pit area at the site, things like the spare tire and the scissor-jack from the trunk, the floor-mats and trunk liners, etc., all covered neatly under a tarp, so I really did not have much left in the car at all. I checked in, dropped some of my things in the room and promptly locked myself out while fetching some more stuff from the car.

When packing for the event on Friday night I realized that I did not have any non-perishable food I could take with me for lunch on Sunday (chick school provided lunch), I was also pretty hungry, so I thought, I'd go check out the local supermarket scene. The lady at the front desk outfitted me with a new room key and said that there was a supermarket just one light intersection down the street. I figured, how far could the next light be and decided, I'd walk, particularly because I could not bear the thought of spending another minute behind the wheel.

So here I was, leisurely walking on a sidewalk along a busy road in Danville... It did not take a minute for the first car to honk. I did not pay much attention, could have been for any number of reasons. Then another honk came, followed by some sort of a catcall I am glad I could not hear clearly. Then another. The leisurely walk was turning less so as I was speeding up to minimize exposure.

As I was sprinting down the ramp to the supermarket, a mid-eighties Lincoln Town Car honked, and followed me into the parking lot. The window rolled down and I heard a "Hey yo!" which I ignored as good I could. First greeting was followed by "Hey, how ya doin'?" in a more insistent tone of voice. To which I turned, looked at the guy's reflection in the side-view mirror of his car, and said loudly and clearly "How much more do I have to ignore you?" and continued to walk.

He must have gotten the message because he rolled the window up and drove off.

Chicks rule (and kick ass at autoX)

The best autocross event I ever attended. Period.

Learned tons and had a good time. What else does a girl need?

I got to the site in Danville VA early, and if you remember, I did not need to change tires, because I did that on Wednesday night. It was a little unusual not to see a single man around, but otherwise everything seemed to go as always. Except much, much smoother.

First, the registration. Every student received a goodie bag from the sponsors, which contained some promotional items, but most importantly a tube of sunscreen and three sheets of paper:

  1. Course map, with the names of each element on it, and a detailed event schedule on the reverse;
  2. table pairing students with instructors based on the car we drove and our levels of experience, also showing which run group each of us was in;
  3. a quick guide to autocross, with helpful tips to some of the most important techniques

That alone has impressed me beyond any measure. Particularly in the light of my previous experience at Novice school two months ago where some folks were paired, and the rest of us had to stand there waiting till somebody offered to instruct us.

Next was the course walk. I got to walk twice, with different instructor each time. It was cool how the same course can look different depending on who you walk with. Everybody has a different take on seeing the course and plotting their line through it, and I think the trick is to find your own way to see and navigate the course.

I was in run group "A" and my morning instructor was Donna M., who drives a cool silver Corvette. For starters, I ran twice, driving times around 56 seconds, before switching with her to see how it's done right. Donna drove a 43-second run and I could tell she was not even trying hard, mostly concentrating on talking me through each element and what she was doing. That was impressive.

I later asked her if I could try her Vette and she said we'd have to see. So I had to show I could do better than that!

I lost count of how many runs I got in the morning, probably five or six. Then was time to switch with the group "B" who were working the course as our group was running. I got to man Station 1 near the left-hand sweeper, and by looking at how different drivers took it, I was able to figure out a way to get around it faster. The trick was to begin turning in much earlier than I was before, and to use the inertia of the car to push you out and around the cone as you roll on the gas.

At lunch, instructors were running some fun runs and Donna let me ride with her in her Vette. That was a pretty awesome ride. So we get back to the grid and I get out of the car to let Donna do the next fun run solo, and she asks if I want to switch seats! Of course I do! The first run, I was concentrating on not wrecking the car. I have never driven anything with that much horsepower before. The second run (yes, she let me go twice!) I beat my own best morning time in that beast! You can tell by the number of exclamation points I am using that it was pretty fucking awesome. What surprised me most was the handling. I expected something similar to a Mustang, that goes fast in a straight line, but can't do much beyond that, at least out-of-the-box. The Vette was nothing like that, and once I figured out its weight and size, it was about as nimble as a Miata. Terrific car.

So after lunch we had a second set of runs, and I was able to further improve my time. My afternoon instructor was Kendra, who drives an M3 convertible and used to drive a Miata. I asked her to do one run behind the wheel for me and learned a few useful tricks from her too. Because Miatae don't have much in the way of horsepower, you have to learn to carry as much speed through the course as possible, because you don't have the 400 horses to accelerate you if you break too hard. Kendra has helped me figure out how the longer arc is sometimes faster, because you can carry more speed this way and shave off a few tenths here and there. She also taught me to talk myself through the course, speaking each maneuver out loud as I go through them, basically going "Brake, brake, turn, gas, gas, gas, gas, brake!" all the time. It really helped me focus.

It was really helpful to have two different people with two different styles instruct, so that more of the new knowledge stuck. Donna helped me figure out the hard acceleration and the breaking part, while Kendra helped with the optimal line. Having driven Donna's Corvette on the course also helped me get more aggressive out there, going faster, braking harder, and turning in sharper, thinking "If I did not lose control in a faster, heavier Vette, I can surely control a Miata!" All in all, I have learned tons.

At the end of the day, we had a mini-autocross, going three runs each, solo. This was the moment of truth, because I have not been out on the course without an experienced rider before. I managed not only to reproduce my better time, but my last run was my fastest, at 41.5 seconds. To put it in context, instructors were running 36-38 seconds raw. So I was pretty happy with my result.

I stuck around for a bit to help pick up the course and set up for next day's autocross, and was planning to join the Tarheels folks for dinner, but they said it was going to take a while, so I went to my hotel instead.

2008-05-02

You're a Linux user/supporter: You just don't know it yet

A great article by Steve Lawson about how Linux is already everywhere.

I really liked the opening paragraph, how it put Linux usage in the area of everyday experience of your "non-tech person in the street":

Have you watched Shrek or Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone? Have you flown on Continental, Virgin America or Singapore Airlines? Do you drive a BMW, Fiat or Renault car? Are you serving in the United States Army? Have you ever bought anything online using Paypal? Have you ever stayed in a Sheraton hotel? Or travelled by train in Canada?

Read full article.

Autocross in Palestine

Catching up on a back issue of the Economist, I stumbled onto an article called "On a wheel and a prayer" that deals with autocross in Palestine. The online article does not have the photograph that first drew my attention to the story, but in the print edition you can see what I believe to be a mid-eighties BMW M5, in bright red, doing a 180. The writer does not call it "autocross" in the article, but rather "a time trial around an obstacle course made of traffic cones in one of the few places with a big enough expanse of flat concrete: a vast hangar that normally houses a traders' market and is empty only on Fridays[...]." Sounds pretty much like autocross to me!