2008-11-29

Two interesting posts on Sociological Images

Despite being one, I don't think it takes a feminist to shudder at the matter-of-factness with which consumer culture is influencing women of all ages to never accept their own bodies and to strive to comply with unachievable female beauty standards. You can't be young enough for indoctrination, as the piggy-bank pictured on the left shows. It is never too early to start thinking about that boob-job, girls.

At the same time, the society gets to decide what it is that female beauty is. When it encounters women who do not try to satisfy these rigorous standards, the reaction is frequently to disparage them for their failure to be aesthetically pleasing to the mainstream male eye.

You're gorgeous


Another car-centered music video

2008-11-27

So close, I could see the ArmorAll on its tires

About an hour ago, I came pretty damn close to losing the new yellow car. And it was neither my fault, nor was it dark, raining, or otherwise bad for driving.

In broad daylight I was heading north on Harrison Avenue, just like shown in the Google Maps screen shot. I had a green light, and had it for a while. I was going pretty much exactly the speed limit of 45 mph (72.42 kmh) in the right lane, ready to turn into the shopping center you can see in the picture. Some crossover SUV and a truck going in the opposite direction made a left turn in front of me, leaving another SUV in the left-turn lane.

I remember clearly how I was thinking as I was approaching the intersection: I'm reaching the point of no return, hope this dumb-ass does not do anything stupid. And at first it looked like it would not. I was pretty much the only car on the road at that point, and the SUV would be able to make its turn after I passed.

As is my habit from driving a near-invisible Miata, I was nevertheless going through escape scenarios in my head as I was moving into the intersection. What if some idiot runs a red light on the cross-street? What if the SUV won't wait to make the turn and runs into me? WAAAAAIT, it actually did decide to make that impossible turn and to fucking t-bone me!

I did some sort of emergency evasive maneuver, because there was no collision even though the stupid fuck in the SUV was skidding into my original path of travel as s/he locked the tires (I thought all cars had ABS now?). Our two cars' front bumpers came within maybe 2 ft distance, and as I was swerving to the right, the idiot's front end must have come as close as a foot away from my driver's door.

I remember one thought flashing up in my mind: Not my new yellow autocross car! Please not my new baby car!

At the point when I cleared the SUV, I was slowed down to probably half the original speed, good 3-4 meters to the right from where my car was initially pointed. I was mad and I honked and screamed something at the SUV which was quite contently puttering away.

I am still shaky from coming this close to a collision. And mad at the shit-head who did this to me. And relieved that nothing bad happened. Also impressed by my new car's handling. I don't think I got to brake into the ABS, but the abrupt swerve did not seem to upset the suspension one bit.

But heck, how on earth do you NOT see a bright yellow car coming straight at you?

What gives, GenderAnalyzer?


Okay, I am now officially confused about my gender. Or at least my writing style. Or whatever the hell GenderAnalyzer is supposed to guess.

To the left, you see the result I got on Tuesday evening. To the right, is the result from the very next day.

The only difference between the two was the Brnn tata brnn tat post, in which the entire copy beyond the title was two German words "Video gucken."

WTF?

2008-11-25

More AI phail

Trying to find out what is it that makes Gender Analyzer think certain writing styles are more (fe)male than others, I clicked through to the mother ship of the gizmo: uClassify. They have another similar text analysis tool called oFaust, designed to detect style (and presumably vocabulary) similarities between whatever copy you provide and the prose of famous writers.

My first experiment was to test the tool using the beginning of my previous post. My writing style results were quite flattering indeed, with a 33 percent similarity to the incomparable Mr Wilde.

I got one extra percentage point in similarity using the opening four paragraphs of I can haz speed plz.

Tests with other posts were mostly inconclusive, giving less than 20 percent similarities to a smattering of authors, but Frank Baum came up more than once. I can't claim I ever read a piece by him, so I am not sure I like the comparison. Not a single female writer came up. Whether this is due to under-representation of female writers in the tool's database or again to my oh-so-male writing style, I can't tell.

Just like the Gender Analyzer, there wasn't very much information as to how the results are arrived at, which bugs me, being a confessing geek and all.

2008-11-24

NASA Triplecross 1: 23 November 2008

So I went to the first event of the NASA Triplecross series, and I gotta tell you all, I am beginning to seriously love my new car.

Just one word: the slaloms. Dude, the slaloms are a blast to run in this baby. Give me more slaloms!

I never much liked slaloms in the past. They weren't my absolute hate element like the 180 turnarounds and sweepers, but they took a lot out of me to get just right. In the S2K, it seemed like I did not have to do much of anything at all. I mean, yes, I have learned something in the year I autocrossed, but this car just walks through the slaloms and lane changes. I would simply tap on the brake just a little to weight the front and sail through the slalom (even a decreasing one!) on steady throttle.

Cold pavement and tires are not very conducive to autocross, so I really had to watch it. I was a little bit too enthusiastic on the "skinny pedal on the right" a couple times again, and the rear end did not fail to oblige with a spin. Hit a few cones with the passenger side of the car in sweepers, which I chalk up to the 7 extra centimeters of width.

We had two heats, two hours each, in which time everyone got to run eight times. Then we had fun runs. I got four. Running often in the fun runs, I was getting a little heat in the tires and the last couple runs there was some grip there. Timing was already turned off during the fun runs, so I have no proof for this, but my feeling was that I must have shed another couple seconds off my best time of 68.591 seconds. Each new run, I was going faster and faster through the slaloms and offsets, and still not getting anywhere close to the limits of the car.

All in all of course, I did not do very well at all, but once again, I was not DFL, so given the new car and all, I am giving myself a little pat on the back and looking forward to the next event, whenever that may be.

For the truly curious among you, here are all yesterday's results:

Thank you! An open letter to Casey's mom

From: Humanity
To: Casey's mom
Subject: Thank you!
Body: Dear Casey's mom,
Thank you ever so much for forbidding Casey from wearing the tattered sneakers! I hope they have been properly disposed of as hazardous waste.
Humanity is forever indebted to you.
KTHXBYE

2008-11-22

Speaking of crash worthiness...

So while looking for data on crash worthiness of different cars, trying to find evidence that safety is (or is not) in direct relationship to vehicle size, I found this video. Unfortunately, it is much less detailed than the Tesla Roadster ones I linked to in the comments to my previous post, but gee, it's actually making me feel a little better about the new car.

2008-11-21

Ten things about cars I don't understand

In no particular order.
  1. Why acquiring large pets or children requires an "upgrade" to an SUV.
  2. What inching forward into an intersection on red light is supposed to effect.
  3. Why 9 times out of 10 the person who was impatiently inching forward while the light was red needs 30 seconds to start moving once the light turns green.
  4. What in the hell is a luxury truck?
  5. Who thinks that front-end bras make cars look stylish or cool.
  6. Why people hit their brakes approaching a perfectly green light.
  7. Why people ride their brakes downhill.
  8. Finally WHY people ride their brakes through a curve.
  9. Am I the only one being driven crazy (and half-deaf) by brake and belt squeaks on other cars?
  10. What's up with all the underinflated tires?

Who is writing my blog?

Some guy, according to Gender Analyzer.

Edit 22-Nov-08, 0:58: My rant about 10 things I don't understand about cars seems to have triggered some male words ("truck" or "hell"?) and made the Analyzer show 64% male... I wonder if a mentioning Blahniks will make a difference?

Edit 22-Nov-08, 1:03: Oh yes it did. Cost me a whole percentage point, too.

Another "last" event of the season. Maybe for real.

Turns out, there is one more event left in the season, and I am going to run in it, and if it cost me first-degree frostbite (No, don't click unless you really want to see gangrenous tissue).

Weather forecast for Sunday is sunny, with highs around 10C (49F). I have to remember to wear many many layers, because working the course for almost two hours will not be much fun in conditions like that.

But I wanted to try out the car after getting an alignment, so I have to do it. Plus, it really looks like the last car-related event I will be able to attend this year.

Well, and there is still some tread left in those Hankook RS-2 tires that came with the car. They're in poor shape, due to old age in part, and to lack of alignment, so I am planning to get new all-seasons for street use after this event. Before the first test-and-tune, I'll be getting some stickier performance tires and putting them on a second set of wheels I just bought online.

Think warmly of me on Sunday, willya?

Dodge Ram Challenge

Okay, am I the only person who finds the term "luxury truck" sounds oxymoronic, kinda like "gourmet laxative"?

The music died

In memoriam of free spirit

2008-11-20

Discovering Mae West

I love to watch movies. However I frequently have trouble enjoying the "classics" because of their tendency to reinforce patriarchal standards. Today I have discovered Mae West.

I have first seen her in a cameo role in "Myra Breckinridge" and was intrigued. It must be then that I added a few of her movies to my Netflix queue. Today I watched two, and in both I loved the women she portrayed: Strong, independent, and sex-positive.

I watched Night After Night and I'm No Angel today and have a serious crush. Naughty, witty, original, and completely un-self-consious, her characters were a true pleasure to follow.

Of course I had to read up on Wikipedia about her, and was ecstatic to find out she was more than just a great performer, but also a talented writer and director, as well as a gay and transgender rights advocate.

Wow.

I want to be her when I grow up.

In case there was any doubt... I am such a geek!


So Google Mail just rolled out themes. And the first one I tried was OF COURSE "Terminal."

LOL

2008-11-18

I can haz speeeeeed plz?

At the tender age of thirty-something I have come into possession of my very first gaming console: a used PlayStation2, that Greg, bless his heart, gave to me.

First thing I did was go to buy a game for it. And of course it had to be Gran Turismo 4.

Since I just bought a new car IRL, one that needs alignment and a front sway bar (stock, my ass), the original plan was to just get the game and play it using the standard PS2 controller. When at the store, my mind was rapidly changed.

So to give you a bit of background, I know a few people who happen to be great drivers who tell me that GT is so realistic you could practice with it for real-life competition. Cool, huh? To do that, you need a realistic controller, and there is one out there that is just perfect, made by Logitec, has a 900-degree force-feedback steering wheel, a shifter, and three floor pedals (clutch, brake, gas). It comes with a nice price tag though. To the tune of $250, depending on where you order it.

So I thought, no harm in looking at one here in the store before dumping serious bucks in it online. Riiiiiiight.

The store did not have any three-pedal racing wheel sets. But they had a two-pedal Logitec one, so I was looking at it, and the nice floor shop assistant asked me if I needed help. I should have said "No, thanks."

Instead, I let him convince me to get this one to try out, because I could return it if I did not like it.

Once home, I got all the cables plugged in and started playing.

Ended up being a straight 4 hours.

And I am still just getting my first in-game license!

I am having real problems with front-wheel drive cars, particularly the heavier, torquier (is this even a word?) ones.

Miata was a real pleasure to drive, and felt familiar, I drove a bunch of extra runs in it even after completing the minimum requirement.

S2K squared

Had the new yellow car aligned at Hubcap Heaven at lunch. I sat in the car to play the role of the "ballast" and held the brake pedal, while Jim did his magic. He said that the car must have never been aligned since factory, and the measurements confirm that :)

If you know nothing or little about cars and suspension, just look at the before and after values highlight color. Everything that's way out of alignment is red. If you enlarge the picture (click on it), the bracket values are shown in the upper corners of the colored rectangles. Even when within the "green" specifications, all values on the left should be mirrored by the values on the right. No wonder the car was hard to keep stable on Sunday.

Appears that the rear wheels were a bit finnicky to get aligned precisely, and Jim had to fiddle with them a bit to get them just so, but the result is a much more stable, controllable car. I wish there were an autocross to test the change in action, but even in regular street driving I can tell the difference.

2008-11-16

Praise $AutomotiveDeity: I'm not DFL

Yay!

First of all, man these guys at CCR-SCCA are quick!

Again: w00t! I am not DFL. In the bottom 10 percent, but not last.

Here are the CCR Continental AX #9 Results

Maybe I did not exactly rock today, but it does feel nice to know I did not place last.

Baby steps.

Too many sunrises on the road


Road Sunrise
Originally uploaded by R. Motti
I am decidedly not a morning person. So if someone told me two years ago that I would spend half my Sundays getting up at or before 6 in the morning, I'd laugh, then turn over and sleep some more.

And I would be wrong!

The year is almost over, and I have just returned home from what could be the last event of the season. All in all, I have run in 20 competitions this year, give or take a couple. I have seen as many sunrises this year alone as probably in the past five years together--and from the wrong side too!

Usually, I'd be seeing the sun rise over the city as I'd be taking a train or a bus back to my Berlin apartment after a night of partying. Rarely I'd be up at an ungodly hour to catch a cab to an airport to travel on business.

But never, never ever did I dream of seeing a sunrise because a hobby--or shall I say "passion"--would make me get up and get on the road while it's still dark.

I got used to seeing the sky get grey at first, with a little orange lacing the horizon in the rearview mirror, then the orange and yellow tones would spread and finally the sun would rise, sending long blue shadows hurrying ahead of my car.

When I began autocrossing, I started out in the bottom three percent of all entrants and slowly worked my way up to bottom 20, and finally bottom 60% last Sunday. It was not always easy, and not entirely linear, sometimes even frustrating to the point where I would question the sanity of my commitment to the sport. Then a breakthrough would come, and I'd be filled with hope and enthusiasm again.

I know I will continue to improve, and I know there will be more throwbacks, like today learning to control a new car, and I also know that there will be many many more sunrises on the road.

Bronc riding; or How to break 100 new horses at once

So just as I thought I was getting better at going fast, placing almost in the middle of the pack in my Miata last Sunday, my new car taught me some humility at the CCR-SCCA autocross in Charlotte today. It was like trying to ride a horse that has never been ridden before.

The hundred extra horses underhood made their presence known to me about five seconds into my first run: Shifting into second in a curve, accelerating, I was a little too "happy" on the gas and as soon as the clutch engaged, the rear end came around in a snap--wheee!

The second and third runs I managed not to spin the car, but was barely confident, lagging more than 15 seconds behind class leaders. On my fourth run, one of the best S2000 drivers I know--Mr. Jay--rode with me and gave me some pointers, helping me shave off another two seconds and bringing my time down to still lackluster 65.xxx.

I wish there were more runs in the event, so I could learn the car a little better and improve my times a little more.

Of course not all of the challenges are due to my lack of experience with the car. Some of the difficulty came from the fact that the car is not aligned for autocross. As a matter of fact, I think it is out of alignment altogether, as it was ever so slightly pulling to one side on the way to and from the event. Another great S2000 driver--Karl--has kindly shared his alignment specs, so in the next couple of days I'll be taking my new car to Hubcap Heaven.

Everybody who I spoke to who knows their S2Ks, says that a massive front sway bar upgrade is a must for taming the natural tendency to tail-happiness. That will be the project for the winter.

I have also been looking for a second set of wheels for the car, to mount autocross tires on. Not sure yet whether I will go for full-blown R-compounds or start out with less-forgiving performance street tires, so that I can learn to control the car faster. That of course will kill whatever nano-chance I have at getting a trophy, but judging on this season's results, it will be a while till I win one either way. Might as well not kid myself.

This could have been the last event of the year, but I have heard rumours of another one here in Raleigh next month, so maybe I will get to try out the new alignment without the upgraded sway bar. I would prefer it this way, so I can tell which adjustment to the setup does what.

If that December event does not materialize, I'll have to wait until February for the test-and-tune to try out the all-new setup.

2008-11-15

My little car harem

For the first time ever (until I sell my Miata) I have a mini-fleet of sports cars. Can you tell I am enjoying it?







2008-11-14

Here comes the sun...


Finally, after weeks of searching for the right car, I got it!

Meet my new autocross toy: a 2003 Honda S2000, in bright metallic yellow, which I got my hands on with mere 45.8 thousand miles on it.

A friend from Tarheels pointed me to Atlantic Auto Exchange who are a club sponsor, and they were able to find me a car in under 2 hours. I went to look at it and drove it to pre-purchase inspection yesterday and after it checked out okay, I signed the deal the same day.

This morning I had the check cut by my bank for the purchase and picked it up.

It drives, looks, sounds, and even smells great. Has good sticky autocross tires on it too.

I am now determined to make the event at Carowinds as long as I feel okay--had a cold since Monday and it's just letting off.

2008-11-12

Shudda hadda rollbar -- Tarheels non-points autocross 09 Dec 2008

Sunday was potentially the last event of the season for me. I am still undecided about going to a CRR autocross at Carowinds this Sunday. Have a cold, and have been staying home for three days now, so we'll have to see how I feel.

The Tarheels non-points event was one of the most fun if not THE most fun event I have been to so far. Firstly, I was able to run much better times than usual, and I think this is due to my getting over the strong emotional attachment to the car. Instead of being in bottom 20%, where I was all through the season, I drove a 53.0xx time and finished almost in the middle of the pack based on raw time--my proclaimed goal for this season.

I also got to try a bunch of really fun cars, all running R-compound tires: a CS Miata, an AS Solstice, and an AS S2000. The Miata (my first run) felt very close to mine, I am sure it is much better set up than mine, but I did not get a chance to really tell the difference in the one run I took in it.

The Solstice I took on my fourth run, and I honestly don't know what to say. It has a lot of oomph, but still feels a touch disconnected. And wide. It is all subjective, but I felt like it was too much of a car for me to handle at this point.

The S2K--a whole different beast. I took it out on my fifth run, and it felt like a meaner, stiffer Miata, eager to do whatever stupid thing you told it to. And that's how I like it :)

So I am now more confident that this car is the one I want for the next season.

It was a very good way to finish the autocross year, and even if I have to sit out the Carowinds event, I have a good feeling. I think my main goal next year should be to care less about the car, and concentrate on driving it harder. That should help me improve faster.

Plus, with a faster, A-stock car, I will be able to drive better times overall, so I have a lot to look forward to!

2008-11-05

Макарушка: A tribute to the first car in my life

Makar was a mid-1970s white VAZ 2101 Zhiguli (Lada), the first car I ever rode in: From the hospital where I was born to my grandparents' house. Makar had a 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder in-line OHC carbureted engine that generated a little over 58 horsepower at 5600 RPM. It had 4-speed transmission, disk brakes in the front and drums in the rear, and fairly meat-and-potatoes suspension: coil springs and A-arms in the front and solid axle in the rear. It was a rear-wheel drive. I have no recollection of power steering (or power brakes), but then again, I never drove the car.

VAZ 2101 was based off Fiat 124 and built in Togliatti. The logo vaguely reminded of the silhouette of Shelby Cobra logo, but of course I did not know this at the time. Years later I would naively wonder why someone put a VAZ badge on their perfectly Western Ford.

My grandfather bought the car before I was born, in 1975, I am guessing. I don't know at which point he gave the car its name, but when he did, he started a tradition.

He had a manual clutch control put in for his bad leg later on. Granddad kept Makar for almost 20 years, before passing the car on to my dad in the middle of the decay of the Soviet empire. In absence of steady employment, Makar served as gypsy cab driven by my dad, who likely put more miles on it in its final years than its entire previous life.

Just recently I found out that dad performed a ring job on this car in his garage--and was done in one day.

Makar's final journey was about 8000 km (5000 mi) long, carrying my parents and I from Kazakhstan to Germany.

Once in the civilized world, the car could not be sustained any longer, and its engine was turned off once and for all at some junkyard in Berlin.

Rest in pieces, dear Makar, and may your components be recycled and made into new parts for a graceful Alfa Romeo.

What kept me busy last week? Car shopping


In case any of you missed me--I was busy shopping for an S2000.

Yes, with a heavy heart I had to look straight in the face of the economics, and decided to move on. No more CSP Miata for yours truly.

However, plenty more autocross!

The S2000 of my dreams will have a bone-stock setup, be very likely a first-generation (AP1) car, and will provide me with 100 more ponies underhood, stiffer body/chassis, handling similar to a Miata, yet a slightly more favourable PAX (0.842 for A-Stock v. 0.856 for CSP).

So predictably, I am all excited about a new toy, as I am learning new things along the way: How to apply for a car loan (Bonnie car was paid for in cash); how to transfer license plates to a new car; what are the quirks of AP1 cars; how to tell stock Honda S2K components; etc.

I have test driven another car since the last post, but I decided to pass on that one, even though it was in good shape and reasonably priced. Mostly because I would like to take a little more time, plus I really did not like the color. The car came in "Suzuka Blue" which is a really light metallic blue most S2K were ordered in. The majority of the rest are either dark or light metallic grey. There is also the black color, but it makes the edges that define the car's body disappear, making it look a little like an overweight Miata :( Plus it's a bitch to keep clean.

So my remaining choices from the AP1 palette are red, white, and yellow. They are out there, but not as many as the less striking grey, blue, and black ones.

On a semi-unrelated note, there is an autocross this coming Sunday, which will most likely be the last one I take Bonnie car to. I hope to find a good home for the car. She's done well by me.

Sanity wins, for a change