2009-12-27

Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Just wondering when the luck will start turning for me.

I have been traveling to Virginia and North Carolina for a week now, and so far...

  • My flight to Virginia has been delayed and rerouted due to snowstorms, whole trip taking 26+ hours;
  • On the way, I caught a cold which still lingers, and which caused a laryngitis, with loss of voice.
  • Coming back from dinner in Durham, I hit a deer with my rental car.

Other than that, the trip has been great, and I managed to meet everyone I hoped to so far. Now if only the cold would let up a bit, it may end up an enjoyable experience after all!

2009-12-25

Dumbstruck

I caught a head cold bug on the plane, and have been having a case of laryngitis since Wednesday. Basically, my voice just disappeared, and the best I can do is "speak" in croaks and squeaks for a few seconds before dissolving into a cough. Thankfully, it's almost over, and I hope to have my voice back in a day or two, but in the meantime, my condition has given me a chance to study human communications without being involved too much in them.

One interesting thought I had is that I am basically speech-impaired, only that I am also totally unskilled in use of any of the aids that folks who can't easily speak employ to communicate with fellow humans.

I don't carry a note pad, and I can't type on the iPhone fast enough to have any meaningful exchange.

My most complex conversations in the past two days have all been in a chat, while people around me have to deal with one-sentence responses from me.

The most interesting part is that I can be present and observe social interactions while being a very passive participant myself. Something like this would not happen had I not lost my ability to speak.

So anyways, if you want to reach me over the next few days, I recommend a written medium. :)

Happy holidays, y'all!

2009-12-17

How I learned to stop worrying and love Mr asdf asdf

I find it vaguely offensive and fairly annoying that "customers" who come to download a free trial of our software, or free documentation, or free books, find it necessary to input abusive language in the registration form.

In that context "asdf asdf" and "test@test.com" become almost welcome bits of garbage.

The fact that the person would think that far ahead to know that someone like me will be looking through the leads and read their insults, makes me think they are more than a bit asocial.

Just for the record, the only "required" bits in the entire form are email and the name, and we always respect unsubscribe requests.

2009-12-15

One year of free music

One year ago, I have decided to only use free music for a "few months," which turned into a full year. In the course of this year, I found a number of great artists on Jamendo, as well as a few free downloads of more mainstream type music.

Recently I have renewed my emusic.com subscription, in part because they now have a much larger catalogue which includes M.I.A., Bob Dylan, and Cake, to name but a few whose songs were not available just a year ago.

Looking back on the year without paid subscription, I also realized that I have spent more money donating to artists on Jamendo, to my favourite internet radio station soma.fm, and to the Creative Commons than I would normally spend on the music.

Since we're all being encouraged to give money to some cause or another in celebration of a number of holidays around this time of the year, may I kindly suggest you give to the Creative Commons or an artist of your choice on Jamendo? 'Tis the season, yaknow.

Bullitt chase sequence mapped out

If you are reading my blog, chances are, you are into cars. Even if not, you might like the movie "Bullitt" which I finally caught up on watching last night.

New to the Bay area as I am, even I recognized that they were in San Francisco. But where?

Now here's someone who takes their Steve McQueen seriously. This dude has mapped out the entire chase sequence for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy.

2009-12-13

Finnjabi Bad Boy

Enjoy the vid and a few thoughts about "brownface" on Sociological Images.

I like the closing: "So who’s right? Us radical critics or the people we think we’re defending? Perhaps it’s worth thinking about."

2009-12-11

Ninja Assassin

While I am at it, might as well share what I thought about the Ninja Assassin movie.

I watched it last week, with my karate sensei, and we mostly went to look at the martial arts and weapons techniques, without much hope for a plot. And "Ninja" didn't disappoint. Lots of fight scenes, very cartoonish violence and blood, and very meagre story. Kinda like Kill Bill Vol 1, minus the plot.

Also, the movie, which to a great extent was supposed to be playing in Berlin, had a number of obvious, and easy to avoid blunders. They do get a kudos for having Interpol agents eat an authentic Berliner "Currywurst" on their lunch break. That's where it ends.

One would think that in the era of Internet getting your fake German billboards to look believable enough would be easy. You just google for them. However, the one outdoor ad that figures prominently in the movie (where the main character exits his apartment) has gibberish German on it that is not only misspelt, but doesn't make any sort of sense at all.

The scene in the apartment complex in Berlin, where the janitor says to a character that they had to go inside the apartment to fix the heating is so wrong I don't even know where to start. While it is normal in the US for the rental management to enter the rented property as they need to, in Germany, the renter needs to be present to let them in. Also, "heating" in Germany is usually done centrally, with radiators and hot water, and unless there's a leak in the radiator there is no need to "fix" anything in the actual unit.

Another obvious mistake was the scene on the highway, with road signs, markings, and guard rails looking nothing like Germany.

Question is, since there was no plot requirement to stage this in "Berlin" any more than in Mexico or some other more accessible country where this was apparently filmed, why not just admit it? Just say it's all playing wherever it is you're filming it!

I forget the other things that they got wrong, but there were a few more. These were the most egregious.

Anyways, if you plan to see the movie, don't expect a lot of anything besides cartoon blood and dismemberment.

Not-so-fantastic Mr. Fox

Watched Fantastic Mr Fox the other day, and the only reason I stayed till the end was that I didn't have to be anywhere else, and it was already too dark for another spirited mountain drive that day.

Maybe I am not the right audience for this, maybe I just don't get it, but it was slow-moving, the animation was not particularly interesting, and the dialog was lackluster at best.

However, it was the only movie that was running in the theaters nearby that I haven't already seen and was even remotely looking interesting.

2009-12-10

Rebounding from shock

Yesterday, I fell a willing victim to impulse shopping. A very happy victim, I must admit.

From my autocross friends in NC I found out about a sale on double-adjustable Koni shock absorbers, discounted so low that I found it impossible to pass on the opportunity.

I estimate that the stock shocks on my car have about another 10-20 thousand miles of life left in them. Granted, they are good shocks, but they aren't adjustable.

Now the plan goes like this:

  1. Konis arrive and get installed on the S2000.
  2. Stock shocks go into storage, alongside the stock front stabilizer bar.
  3. When it's time for the yeller-screamer and I to part ways, she gets all her stock parts back, and I sell the performance parts separately.
  4. Profit.
The "shocking" part of this is of course the unbudgeted-for purchase. However, this purchase would have become necessary eventually, and I was thinking of swapping the shocks out some time later next year anyway.

Now of course I can't wait for the parts to arrive, so I can admire them and begin screwing with the setup. Because the sooner that happens, the sooner I will stop going back and forth between child-like anticipation and feeling guilty about splurging on the shocks in the first place :)

2009-12-04

Support Creative Commons

This year, more than ever before, it is vital that we all support choice and sharing online. Truly, everyone benefits from a free and open internet, and we have only just begun to see how beneficial a culture of sharing can be.

Donate today and Greenplum will double your contribution. I have.

2009-12-02

The little brick that did, and other mobile device adventures

So my friend Jason and I went to the San Francisco International Auto Show yesterday night. Getting there was easy enough, traffic was playing nice for most of the way, and we found parking close by the convention center, and off we were to the show.

There will be a separate post about the actual show, while I would like to turn your attention, my gentle reader, to our adventures on the way back to the parking garage to retrieve the car.

When leaving the parking lot, I remembered a few landmarks and the name of the street from which the underground parking lot was accessible, and Jason saved the name of the parking service on his phone. We were within ten minutes or less of a walk from the Moscone center, which was visible from the main street, as soon as we turned out of the side street, called Jessie.

Finding the way back was a bit harder. For starters, we got out of Moscone on the side farthest from parking. I figured we could use some help, and punched "Jessie Street at Mision" as a destination into the Google Maps app. Ten minutes or so later we found ourselves at a corner that looked nothing like where we needed to be.

At which point Jason, who has the new Droid phone, comes to the rescue and--using voice commands, no less--has his phone search for "Tower Valet Parking." Droid obliges, and we discover that we must be about a block off. So we walk over there, turn into what seems to be another Jessie Street, and find ourselves in front of Tower Valet all right. Just that it's the wrong Tower Valet.

So I decide it is my turn to use a superpower to save the day and ask the parking attendant, showing him the parking stub, where the other Tower Valet is. He looks at the ticket, looking more puzzled than I feel comfortable with, and says, "There's a phone number. Call the number."

Dejected, I rejoined Jason in the street.

We circled the Jessie Streets and their corners with Mission a few more times, up and down between 7th and 4th, where the damn street, which seems to have devoured the parking garage, and our car with it, appeared to end.

My thoughts turned to the possibility of catching the last train to Mountain View, but Jason understandably didn't want to abandon his car in some alternate-reality parking lot.

Then, the flash of genius! We had the garage's address! On the parking stub!

Promptly, it got punched into the Droid and soon enough we were smelling the familiar aroma of the good old Tower Valet, made up of urine, car exhaust, and some strongly-perfumed cleaning agent, that failed to do anything about the urine, and only seemed to add a new pungent note to it.

Let me tally up: Between the two of us, and three GPS-enabled mobile devices, it took us 40 minutes to find the parking garage, whose address we've had all along.

Human intelligence win?

2009-11-21

Men who stare at goats

Watched "The men who stare at goats" on Friday. Pretty cool movie, in a vein similar to "Ocean's thirteen". Had a few good laughs, and walked out of the theater smiling.

The cast is stellar, with Clooney, Casey, McGregor, and Bridges deadpanning it all through the film. I am not sure the movie had any deeper meaning, but it provided for a nice way to spend a couple hours on an early Friday evening.

Together, at last!

After months and months of fruitless search for a perfect teapot, I have finally found one. At IKEA, no less.

The challenge was to find a contemporary-looking, minimalistically designed, preferably white teapot (so far, so good, but wait!..) with capacity for approx. two liters (or quarts if you are so inclined). That last requirement turned out to be the hardest to meet.

I had to walk away from otherwise perfect teapots, because they would hold mere two teacups' worth of tea.

When I make myself some tea, I like for it to last a while, so that I can enjoy a few chapters of a book or a whole movie (or at least one hour-long series episode) before I have to make more tea.

For the past five or so years I have been using a designer teapot I traded from my room-mate in Munich, but unfortunately it was not the best quality, and was continuously losing its glaze, eventually resulting in a shabby look.

Finding a replacement took me until today, and kids, am I happy to say, it is a worthy replacement indeed.

Let's raise our teacups to years of enjoyment!

2009-11-18

Which tastless star made Louboutin famous again?


This selection could have come straight out of a PayLess store. Seriously not digging these.

2009-11-15

Now my Roomba won't be lonely

Bought myself an early holiday present: the iRobot Scooba. I got it at Hammacher Schlemmer because they offer an unconditional lifetime warranty on all the merchandise they sell, and also priced the robot about ten percent cheaper than on the iRobot site, plus offered free shipping.

I went for the base model (Model 330) which has enough battery to clean 250 square feet (approx 23.5 sqm), and its tank holds enough cleaning solution to clean the same area. Higher-end models have more battery than cleaning solution, with Model 350 having enough battery for 500 sq ft, but only 250 sq ft worth of cleaning solution capacity, and Model 380 cleans "up to 850 sq ft" with one charge, but its tank will only cover half of this surface.

It looks like the Scooba does not have scheduling capacity, so I intend to start it a couple times a week before heading out to work, in order to avoid having to listen to the noise. Since I won't be there to supervise the cleaning and refill the tank, it seemed to me that this model was the best value for my situation. I will simply have the robot clean half my apartment in one go, and do the other half on another day.

It comes with a virtual wall, which will help me easily "wall off" the half which I don't want cleaned on any day.

2009-11-14

Honi soit qui mal y pense

What do you think when you see the warning shown below?

Okay, I usually find myself thinking evil more than average, but please, tell me which part of the following commercial has any of these:

  • Mild cartoon violence
  • Sexual themes
  • Use of tobacco

This doesn't mean that I find the commercial good. Lately, Microsoft has been trying hard to push the boundaries of cringe with its "launch party" ads and now this.

However, I just feel left out and confused when all I see is an innocent commercial, and no "sexual themes."

2009-11-09

UFO Club Autocross at Marina 2009-11-08

As it gets colder, and holidays cause many competitors to be out of town, autocross season is winding down. This Sunday's event was the only one I will get to run this month. There's another one in December, and then hopefully it'll pick up again early next year.

The course was a very fun one. After a usual painfully slow start, and a 90-degree left-hander, there was an extremely fast slalom. It was spaced so widely that I was able to accelerate through it with the foot firmly pressing the gas pedal into the mat. The 90-degree corner right after the slalom forced me to give up some speed towards the end, otherwise I would be topping out of the second gear there.

My best run ended up being a 53.3xx--not sure when the results get posted, but it seemed fast enough to get me into the middle of the pack, I figure.

Sunbeam Tiger Club autocross 2009-10-31

October 31st marks the day my car won an event for the first time, while piloted by Tris. On PAX, and possibly in raw time as well. I don't have the official results yet, but last I heard, he was about 0.1 second ahead of the competitor, who had a B-Modified car on slicks.

Anyways.

Great event.

I don't know where I ended up, probably in the middle, or hopefully in the upper third. No idea how to get my hands on the results though.

Tristan and I co-drove. We got four runs in the morning and five in the afternoon.

My rungroup rested while Tris's ran, so I got to catch a few rides with him. He worked during my runs, and so the only shots from the event that show my car were from his runs. We forgot to swap the numbers for his afternoon runs, so he's running my number "23" in the shots -- but the folks in timing thankfully figured it all out and recorded his times correctly.

On my fourth run in the afternoon I hit a cone and it got caught in my left wheel well. I knew it got stuck somewhere, but did not know where, and continued my run, only to get a red flag moments later, because there apparently weren't enough cones to replace the one I was dragging. I tried getting a rerun for that, but no dice.

Anyways, it was a fun event, and I got to run pretty good times.

As I learn the site (Santa Rosa Airport), I feel more and more confident on it, and am already looking forward to the next event there, which sadly will be in 2010.

Cars attack!

Yesterday I got attacked by cars (or rather women driving said cars) twice.

First was the PT Cruiser of Death on CA-17, which decided to change into the right lane as I was occupying it. I moved to the right edge of the lane and honked, but the blue monstrosity kept getting closer. I lay on the horn and put two wheels off onto the shoulder, trying to avoid contact, and the driver finally noticed me. She pulled back into her lane and made some apologetic gestures. I used some non-verbal cues to tell her what I thought about her and drove off.

I got home and went to get some food. Parked far away from everyone and walked to the store across the parking lot. I was happily minding my own business as I felt a firm nudge in my forearm and my thigh. I jumped aside and screamed as I realized that a minivan was backing out and into me. The driver got out and her first excuse was "I did not see you!"

"I know you did not see me!" I said. Okay, yelled. I got pretty rattled by this, and used some vocabulary that would have made Samuel L. Jackson proud. I did not get hurt, so decided not to call the police. Just yelled at the lady and walked off to get the food.

Got the food, drove home, and sat the rest of the day out to make sure no more crazy drivers got a chance to kill me.

Kinda ironic that I was at a race earlier that day and all the truly dangerous stuff involving cars happened to me after I was done racing.

2009-10-23

Golden Gate Lotus Club autoX 17 October 2009

Last weekend I attended an event hosted by a local Lotus club, and had a blast. The course, though a bit cone-heavy, was a right mix of fast and technical elements, and had a flow to it, so that after the first run I had a pretty good idea where it went.

Here are the raw results by class.

We had a ton of runs, and a wonderful catered lunch, with several dishes, dessert and fruit. All in all, a great way to spend a Saturday.

I was trying to squeeze a few tenths of a second out of my car, to break into 50.xxx, but missed it by less than 0.2 seconds on my last and fastest run.

Got to ride in a supercharged Lotus Elise driven in anger, and even though I expected spectacular performance, I was still very very impressed by handling and sheer willpower of this car to stick to the pavement.

Photo courtesy of Ovidiu. Click on it to see more.

2009-10-15

Consumer blues: A click that cost $128

Ten days ago, I messed up when paying my credit card bill online. I selected a wrong checking account from which to draft the funds in the drop-down menu. This morning, I woke up to discover that this misclick has just cost me $128 in an assortment of bank fees.

  • First, my bank dinged me for $30 to try and draft funds from an account that had none (this checking account has been lying dormant for a while).
  • Then, American express has dinged me for $38 for a returned payment.
  • Then, American Express system has tried drafting the funds from the zero-balance account for a second (-$30) and third (-$30) time. Kaching!

What really perplexes me is that it was two computer systems talking, and the operational cost to either financial institution to deny the payment and to cancel it might not even amount to a $0.01 per transaction.

The fees imposed on me for one small mistake are clearly designed to maximize the financial institutions' profits, not offset the costs caused by my mistake.

So this morning I set about talking my way out of these fees. I started with Amex.

The customer support agent (CSA) picked up almost immediately and asked "who he had the pleasure speaking with." I introduced myself, and without further ado explained what the problem was. I was able to state the exact amount of the transaction in question, so David did not ask me for any additional identification. (The phone system before him did some additional authentication stuff, so this was reasonably secure.)

After looking at my account and seeing that in the many years I have had it, it was in good standing, with never as much as a late payment, David has removed the $38 penalty from my account. I thanked him profusely and considered this to be a good start.

Next was my bank. Coastal Federal Credit Union, which was a much less polished customer experience. The agent sounded sleepy and grumpy and did not make any attempts to make me feel like I was welcome. I did not catch the agent's name, mostly due to the sloppy way she spoke. After hearing me out, she placed me on hold to look up the transaction in question, something that took a surprising amount of time, to the tune of 3-4 minutes.

When the Coastal CSA came back, she said she would remove the last two $30 fees (a total of $60), but would not be able to do anything about the first $30. Considering that I have been with this credit union for more than five years and this was my first slip with them in all this time, and also taking into account that I have just paid off their car loan, I hoped to be cut some slack. Apparently not.

2009-10-14

Gender profiling... There's no way to do it right

So I signed up for a "Corporate Perks" program through the benefits provided by my employer. They said if I signed up today, I may win a Kindle.

Anyways, I went in there, and here's how they present the "Everyday Savings" screen. Some categories are highlighted in bold type, and some aren't. Just so you know, the non-bolded categories also contain special offers. I even selected one of those to take the screenshot for ya, peeps. You see anything funny about what categories got highlighted?

  • Beauty & Fragrance
  • Flowers & Gifts
  • Food & Wine
  • Health & Wellness.

Notice a pattern there?

No?

The pattern I notice is that stereotypically female "interests" are highlighted for me. I tried finding different reasons to explain this selection, but could not. So this is my story and I am sticking to it.

Oh, and just to be clear: I don't care for being profiled. Be it by my gender, age, nationality, race, or profession. It's never fun.

2009-10-11

Shopping in SF


Went shopping with Carlota and Sue yesterday in San Francisco, and returned home with this amazing find! It's custom-made, and has been ordered by someone about a year and a half ago and never picked up. I got it for half-price, and it fits me, like it was made for my figure! That's pretty astonishing.

I had no idea how much my waist can compress, either.

Looking forward to a Halloween party or a costume fest to wear this to!

On a side note, I almost bought a Kawasaki Ninja, in a beautiful metallic blue with yellow stripes. Five or so years old, with less than a thousand miles on it. I'm still thinking about it, but it's hard to justify buying a second vehicle when my existing one only sees use on weekends.

2009-10-10

Smile! You're in public

I wasn't going to post about this clueless encounter originally, but changed my mind after posting a picture on FaceBook in which I dared to not smile, thus causing an outcry about how I looked "sad," "pissed," "upset," or "disappointed." All just because my face was at rest in this picture.

So what happened to me before the public outcry that I please put a pleasing facial expression on when observed, was that I was enjoying a nice seafood dinner and a drink in Halfmoon Bay. The bartender and I were bantering all the while, and when I was ready to pay, I was in a very good mood. I signed my check and was putting my wallet away as the guy sitting in a chair one over from me, who has so far not made any attempts at communication, demanded "Smile! It's Saturday night!"

I experienced a weird mix of emotions as a result.

  • The sentence seemed to indicate that the mood he was reading from my face was somehow unfitting for a Saturday night, yet I was perfectly happy after a great meal and a nice conversation with the barkeeper.
  • His remark also seemed fairly impolite in the context of our previous lack of communication.
  • Finally, I felt like he was intruding on me, demanding that I arrange my facial features in a certain way, regardless of how I was feeling. Assuming for a moment that his interpretation of my facial expression was correct, and I was unhappy for some reason, his demand for a smile seems callous.

I remembered reading about the phenomenon of strangers demanding smiles from women at some point in the past, so I googled it, and here's what I came up with.

This passage is found on Page 247 of Sex differences and similarities in communication by Kathryn Dindia and Daniel J. Canary.

So women are expected to smile more, and when they don't they are assumed to be grumpy. Nice. At least we now know why the guy at the bar took it upon him to heroically brighten my mood.

Now if we could only know what women themselves think about this! Oh wait! We can! They find it just as annoying as I did.

Surprised? Incredulous? Here's more, from Alas! blog. And another Alas! article.

You may be asking, why does what some may see as an innocent attempt to be friendly even merit all this research and thought. I could not put it into words better than Lucia in the second Alas article, so I would like to end my post with her quote:

"Of course, we all know why this issue is a feminist one: Some people don’t believe women have a right to boundaries. Women do."

2009-10-05

AAS-Autocross-2009-10-04

This morning - @lxmaier at the autocross event in Santa Clara. on TwitpicWent to AAS round 10 at Great America Park on Sunday. Results have not yet been posted, but I know that I did not run my best at this event. When they post, the results will be here: Best OA | Best Indexed

American Autocross Series caters to muscle cars and their courses tend to be wider, and less technical, consisting mostly of sweeping turns of varying radii. For some reason, I find it hard to remember where the course goes when it is a succession of turns with a few technical elements, and so yesterday I spent most of the time driving cone-to-cone, and being surprised by the turns, never setting up right for them.

Being lost on a course all the time contributed to frustration, and I pretty much blew my last run while trying to shave off another second from my fastest time. I left at least two seconds on the course, and I know the car was not the limiting factor in this one.

... with Thierry riding shotgun.  on Twitpic

I prefer SCCA-style technical "house of pain" courses, with tight slaloms, offsets, Chicago boxes and lane changes all over the place, and do much much better on courses like that. To a degree, it's a matter of taste, and I doubt I will ever fall in love with never-ending sweepers, but it's also something to work on. I have to learn to deal with courses of any type eventually if I want to post consistent results.

On a positive note, two of my friends came out to watch the event, and one of them, Thierry, rode with me on four out of five runs. I may have succeeded in getting them interested enough in the sport to give it a try.

It was a lot of fun (and helped me concentrate) to explain the techniques and the physics of driving to Thierry.

I hope to see him and Ludger at one of the upcoming autocrosses soon!

2009-09-25

AT&T, why do you want my SSN to let me use DSL?


Also, why do you make me spend 4 hours at home waiting for the technician to troubleshoot why my line is dead, and then force me to pay $120 for the said technician to physically flip the switch that's not even INSIDE my home, in order to enable the connection that was supposed to be working from the get-go?

Between you and I, AT&T, I don't really like you much anymore.

Not that I ever did.

2009-09-22

Saner bar, insane performance ;)

Course layout Day 1
Results Day 1


Last weekend I was at a two-day event organized jointly by two local clubs and my little S2k performed beautifully. This was the first autocross after the front anti-sway bar upgrade, and I was very pleased with how the car handled.

My little yeller Honda is now so eerily stable in transitions and responds to steering inputs so much sharper, I could not get enough of transitional elements.

There was one slalom on the second day, with 33 paces between cones, where I was flat, accelerating all the way to the rev limiter through it.

On the first run, I started with 32 psi square tire pressure, and noticed some tendency to push in fast corners. I was able to balance the car with running 2psi less in the front tires. I ran 30/32 f/r for the rest of the event.

Course layout Day 2
Results Day 2


I was also using a chest strap restraint for the first time, one that goes around the back of the seat and around the driver's ribcage. For starters, I went with a cheap version and bought an oversized utility belt that was long enough to fasten around the seat back and me.

The difference was amazing. Because my body was now being kept in the seat by both a lap belt and the chest strap, I found that I did not have to hang onto the steering wheel for stability and so could control my steering with more precision. I also did not have to brace myself against the dead pedal with the left foot, making for smoother shifting.

On both days, I was very satisfied with the times I ran. On the first day, I coned away my fastest run, a 53.677. On day two, my fastest time was a 48.009. My fastest run was in the morning, and in the afternoon the pavement was too hot and tires were giving up. I was losing 0.1 second each run, even after spraying them down with water.

All in all, this was a great weekend and I was able to ride during a few great runs and to learn a lot. The car gives me a new feeling of confidence with the new setup, and I can't wait to run it again at the next event.

2009-09-20

Chicks in stick cars

At autocross today I had a fun encounter of the clueless kind. It has been a while since one of those. I was already getting worried. Nah, I wasn't.

Anyways, I was watching the others run with my buddy Tristan, and there was a guy there also watching, and he chatted us up. So Tris was telling him how he ran and what line he picked through the course etc. when I said something about how I took the slalom, and this guy goes "Oh, you run too?" With such a surprise in his voice and on his face.

And I say "Why yes, I do. Even though I don't have a penis."

This is when he got all defensive.

I only thought "gotcha."

2009-09-18

True conversation with Mom

So I am talking with my mother one day, and happen to mention that I have recently fallen in love.

Mothers like to know things like that, so I told her about my newest crush: The Audi R8. I told her about the longitudinally-mounted V8 or V10 motor that sits behind the driver, the throaty exhaust note that gives me goosebumps, the beautiful design with those stylish side blades, and all the other things that get my heart rate up.

"Is it another two-seater?" my mother asked.

"Why yes, it is!"

"Can't you get a respectable car for once!" she exclaimed with some exasperation.

Sigh.

2009-09-14

Hmmm, I love me some P-cars for breakfast!

Something I forgot to mention in my previous post: How stable the car has become with the new anti-sway bar.

At the drift event I could not get the car to slide, even though I was doing tighter and tighter circles at higher and higher speeds and trailbraking and/or applying handbrake to unsettle the rear. It just won't get peeled off the pavement.

Which makes me look forward to the two-day shootout of the Porsche clubs in Santa Rosa this weekend, anticipating some serious improvement in my results.

Also, having attempted to unsettle the car so hard and failed, makes me feel much more confident driving it, pushing it to the limits.

Alright y'all, smack talk can begin!

2009-09-12

Too slow, not quite furious

Well, after weeks of anticipating learning some mad dorifto skillz, I ended up bailing from the afternoon half of the drift school today. Kinda anticlimactic.

My problem was that I have never learned how to properly drift, and actually learned the exact opposite while doing autocross. If you're sliding, you're losing time, no matter how spectacularly the tire smoke billows from your wheel wells. Ain't no style points in autocross.

So I hoped to learn a bit, but they did not have formal instructors, so I had to rely on whatever random people who looked like they knew a bit about drifting were telling me.

With my current setup, the car was not easily provoked into a slide, and even when it slid, I could not keep it drifting long enough. All the "instructors" kept saying that the most effective thing to do would be to clutch-kick. If you don't know what it is, suffice it to say, it will hurt your clutch and potentially the drive train.

Yeah, they may want to do that sort of thing in their Nissan beaters. Not in my s2k.

Anyways, when I got all my morning runs in, I packed up and went for a mountain drive. That was actually quite a bit more entertaining than drifting.

On the way out I stopped to chat with the organizers of the event, who are autocrossers themselves and did not do any drifting today, just put the event together and ran it. Yes, they also shagged the cones, and the drifters did not do any work. I was curious why it was this way, so I asked.

Turns out, this was done to specifically cater to the drifters (and wannabes, who were also present in abundance, acting all "fast and furious" like), so they have a venue to practice and don't have to do this at an autocross, where they'd destroy half the course and provide for a bunch of reruns and wait time while the course gets put back together again. If the club holds a couple of these drift events throughout the season, everybody is happy.

That of course explains why the "school" was mostly self-taught, since none of the organizers are actual drifters, and could not instruct.

So even though the event did not do it for me, I gotta say, neat idea.

2009-09-10

Maven: The most overused word on the interwebs

My job includes posting a weekly blog and tweet roundup about Maven, Nexus, m2eclipse, and other projects that our company contributes to. Not too bad on most fronts, but the TweetBeep on keyword "maven" is pushing my brain's elasticity to the limit. Consider this pearl:


twinswholaugh: Next time you go to throw away a toilet paper roll- think again!http://www.curbly.com/DIY-Maven/posts/7171-toilet-paper-roll-sculpture

Saturday, September 5th at 18:40:25


That on top of countless "fashion mavens," "food mavens," "closet mavens," "marketing mavens," "insurance mavens," "you-name-it mavens" that I also have to wade through to get to the useful mentions of Apache Maven.

2009-09-07

Scaggs Springs Road

Yesterday's scenic drive through the mountain roads to the coast and back. 120 miles in about two hours and a few minutes. Car, driver, and passenger all came home in one piece.

Got some great sandwiches at a little deli where it says "B" on the map, then ate the sandwiches at the lake Sonoma vista point ("C" on map), and drove on.

Really enjoyed the challenging road and the beautiful views that opened once I was on Highway 1. Folks around here are pretty good about pulling over and letting faster cars pass, so for most of the drive, I had the open road ahead of me.

2009-09-03

Confused by American Apparel

My loyal and brilliant readers will certainly help me out here. Why on fucking Earth do we need a female body to model male underwear?

Or is it the new trend I missed in female undies?

In general, I see a lot of confusion going on in this ad. If it is aimed at females (who statistically buy the majority of male underwear--for the men in their lives), then a nice male model for the male knickers would have been appreciated.

If it's aimed at males however, I am not sure what the hell it is trying to say to them.

HALP PLZ?

2009-08-28

Drooling over the R8


For some reason, today I am drooling over the R8 more than ever before.

2009-08-22

My night drive on Skyline

Seventy miles of awesomeness, interspersed with the sweet sound of a clunking stabilizer bar. Awwwwww.

Serberis on Jamendo

  
I really like Serberis and his dark beats. If you are into electronica, check him/her out. Serberis has albums in varying styles, and they make for a perfect driving soundtrack. Even if gratuitous drives just for the sake of staying in motion and experiencing lateral Gs are not your thing, you might like the tunes :)

For me, there is nothing more relaxing and meditative than watching the road unfold and steering the car into every turn, listening to the exhaust and the tires, and experiencing the road so immediately, as if the car was an extension of my own senses. When I listen to this album, that's how it makes me feel.

2009-08-20

2009-08-08: PCA Autocross at Santa Rosa

Alex Maier runs AS23 at PCA autocrossBetter late than never.

We had eight runs at this event, even though we lost one run in the afternoon due to an old Volvo puking its guts out all over the course in the third heat, so that the event was stopped for about 40 minutes to clean up the oil. No matter the number of runs, there's always that one last one you need to get the perfect run in. I was inching my way closer to 65 seconds, but never got past 67.338, and even that one, I coned away.

Good news, I am beginning to remember the site's topography fairly well, and all the uneven or slick spots don't surprise me anymore.

Got to appreciate taller gearing of the AP1 coming out of the small loop at the end of taxiway called the "jellybean" (5) and flooring it through the shallow S-curve to the go-kart section entry (7). The limiter would only cut in once before I had to lift.

Was pretty frustrated that I didn't get the turn into the go-kart section right a single time. Most times I braked too early and had to adjust steering and coast before finally turning in. Another time, I hit the large potholes in the surface under braking and that messed up the entry again. Half a second lost right there.

I am looking forward to the two-day shootout event next month, so I get to practice on this site again.

Results [MS Excel file].

The nerve! The nerve!

Reading a blog post about lightweight Firefox I came across this gem of a context marketing ad. Brazen. Guess desperate times demand desperate measures, Microsoft?

2009-08-05

All mixed up by martial arts

MMA pictureSo it looks like I have narrowed my selection down to two schools here in the area. But which one to choose?

School number one is focused on real-world self-defense application of karate techniques, has some cardio workouts and some yoga-based sessions, all to get you in shape. All classes are 60 minutes, and there is additional abs and strength training available after regular class is over. It has enough weeknights adult classes that I should be able to hit three a week and have the weekend free to autocross. I can walk there in 15 minutes. It is also $100 a month for unlimited classes with a year's commitment.

School number two is a mixed martial arts school. Also emphasizes self-defense, but has more of the styles that I like, like Muai Tai and kickboxing. There are only two dedicated adult weeknight classes a week, but the head instructor said they will open up two more slots next month. All classes are 45 minutes, short-ish for my taste. This school charges for belt exams, but it's small amounts between $20-40. All exams are on Saturdays, which could potentially cut into my autocross time. The school is more or less across the street from home. With the special they run now, it is $135 a month for up to three classes a week with a six-month commitment. Plus you get two free months, effectively making the price $85 a month.

So, my dear readers, help me decide!