2009-03-31

Farewell my Bonnie car

I feel like a traitor tonight, having come back from Happy Jap's where Rex has attested Bonnie's excellent health and I shook hands on a sale with a guy from Chapel Hill.

He seems to want to take good care of her, but my heart sinks each time I remember that I will no longer be there to make sure the first car I ever owned, and the one that got me into motorsports, will be okay.

Stepping back for a moment, parallels to me three years ago are amazing. The dude, just like me when I was buying the car, has only the learners driving permit, he's from outside the US, and it will be his first car. He genuinely seems to want to learn about cars and to take good care of Bonnie.

Who knows, maybe it's Bonnie's karma (car-ma?) to convert absolute n00bs into gearheads. She sure succeeded with me.

God I will miss this car.

Start'er up!

Went to Advance Auto yesterday after work and bought the cheapest battery they had for the yellow beast. Seems to work now. We'll see how long this one holds. Considering how hot it will get underhood in the summer, the battery won't last too long.

Too bad Honda did not choose to have the battery in the trunk of the S2000--batteries last for a long time in a Miata.

2009-03-30

What a weekend!

Three days of setting up and running autocross events is plenty. I was glad it was time to go back home at the end! No more porta-potty, Purell over grime, rain, wind, sun, and dust...But I digress.

The event went well, I think. There were not too many complaints, and the folks who run crucial stuff like timing and scoring knew what to do, so soon after the driver meeting the event was rolling almost without any help.

I ran in the first and third heats, and since my work assignment was done early in the day, being the registrar, I did not have to do another shift during the day.

The fun began when Graham, my co-driver (and tire warmer, heheh) went to start the car to get it to grid and the battery was dead! We jump-started it and kept it running through his two runs and mine, and as soon as we turned it off, it would not start again!

I left it at the bus, where I parked it, and while Graham went to shag cones, I went to see how things were going at the bus.

I arrived just in time for worker shift change, and there was nobody to relieve the announcer, so I jumped in.

Now, announcing the results I realized just how far back the car change has thrown me in my quest for the top 30 percent.

I have a lot to re-learn, and plenty more completely new stuff to figure out. Miata is clearly a pure momentum car, with little power, yet agile enough that it can be floored through most of any autocross course.

The S2000 is also quite agile, almost scaringly so, but also much more precise and powerful, making all the mistakes that Miata would gracefully forgive all the more noticeable.

On my first run I spun the car not once, but twice! Again proving that finding the right spot on the course for the upshift is crucial. I also DNFed this run, as well as the two last ones, making my only completed run the "fastest." It would have been less embarrassing, had I not hit seven cones before crossing the finish line.

Yes indeed, my own student from the day before beat me hands down. Oh well, I will just chalk it up to my being a great teacher and move on :)

2009-03-28

Novice school done! Ready for autocross!

Today was novice school. If you remember, I am co-chairing both today's school and tomorrow's autocross. And both days we were setting up in the pouring rain!

The school went great, I think. We had a good turnout, and managed to find an instructor for everybody, even though a few instructors dropped out and a couple extra students showed up.

I was instructing, too, trying to remember what helped me at the SoloPro school last Saturday.

Instructing was fun, and I think I was able to teach both my students something they can use in the future. The guy in the S2000 I was instructing got much faster and had a really good attitude about learning new things. He would try whatever I suggested, and see for himself whether it worked for him or not.

Throughout the day it was mostly dry. The day started foggy, then got clear, and towards the end of the day it started pouring again. We got soaking wet changing the course for tomorrow, the actual autocross.

So far we did not have any ego clashes or incidents, everybody's really trying to be nice and helpful.

Another perk is, that I got to test-drive the courses during setup yesterday and today (not at full speed, since that would not be fair to others), but it's fun anyway.

2009-03-27

Setting up for Novice School in Laurinburg

This is my first time co-chairing an event, and as my luck would have it, the weather is not quite balmy.

2009-03-22

Cone marks on my bumper

Sounds almost like a line from a song, doesn't it?

I took the intro class of the Solo Pro driving school series in Danville yesterday. Had 18 runs and two instructors, and have figured out for myself a few techniques that I hope will help me improve through the season.

The car had a number of close encounters with a bunch of cones, and got into a full four-wheel drift once, during my very first run.

Currently, the car is bone-stock, aligned to the same specs as the nationals-going S2000 of a fellow Tarheels member. In the past months I had a chance to get comfortable behind the wheel of the new car, accustomed to its size and weight, so even the first runs yesterday were less haphazard.

This being said, I found that the car was extremely loose. Coming out of a turnaround element towards a two-cone slalom just before the finish line, I shifted from first to second, tripped VTEC somehow, and got the car into a full drift, crossing the finish line completely sideways, in a cloud of dust and tire smoke.

Nothing quite as spectacular happened for the rest of the day, as I got more used to how easily the car oversteers, and also adjusted tire pressures twice, eventually ending up with a 40F/35R setup. That got the car to calm down a bit, but both my instructors said that something needed to be done about it being so tail-happy.

The "something" in question is as massive of a front sway bar as I can find, and I plan on buying one in a couple months. In the meantime, I will continue to play with tire pressures, alignment, and will try disconnecting the rear sway bar to see if this helps.

2009-03-16

By popular request: My DSL speeds



After the wiring on the side of the house was fixed and I actually got a connection like I was supposed to, the speed is exactly as promised by contract: 3 MBps.

Supposedly, since it's a dedicated line, the speed will not fluctuate with my neighbours' use, even if they all switched to DSL.

Gee, where did half this woman's back go?

Okay, I'm all for artistic freedom and stuff, but commercial art that borders on soft porn does not qualify. Where the hell did half of this woman's back go, and why on earth does her otherwise fairly anatomically correct body lack any indication of an ass? How come her rump is resembling a python, and most importantly, if she's so damn thin, how did she grow these boobs?

Anyway, saw this on some site and wanted to rant.

Okay, so I couldn't help it, or maybe I'm just bored--went and edited the picture. Still can't stand the cheap lolita pose she's cutting though. But that is a matter of taste. At least she doesn't look like her midsection is about to collapse any second anymore.

Looking at the two side by side I noticed that GIMP did not do a very good job preserving the quality of the image. I did not do any color correction, just drew the missing chunk of her back and buttocks, and removed the remnants of the advertising slogan from her left wrist.

2009-03-10

Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country

This and all other McSweeney's books are offered for $15 or under for the next three days. Hurry. McSweeney's is my favourite publisher, did I mention that?

2009-03-09

Heartbreakingly shiny: My racing queen

Warm weather is back, and with it, my hopes of finding a new loving home for the Miata.

Spent an hour or so this weekend cleaning and waxing it, using the spiff detailing products I bought for the Honda. I finished by applying the UV protectant to the dash, interior panels, and the top, with an astonishing result that all of these parts now are glossy-new, like they have just been replaced this week.

Inspired by the new shininess of the Miata, I took it to Lake Johnson for a little glamour photo shoot. Here are some of the results.

Here are all 11 pictures from the shoot.

ZOMG!!!11!!!ONE!!!11

I am finally online from home, using my very own DSL connection, which seems to be blindingly fast compared to the unsteady joys of Panera Bread free Wi-Fi mixed with stolen pleasures of sporadic unprotected neighbours' networks.

For starters, the service seems to be about as fast as what I got from TWC. Also of note, they promise that I can get free wireless access at any of AT&T hotspots using my home connection login. I did not check yet whether there are any hotspots in places I tend to go though.

Anyway, wanted to celebrate with a blog post. So there :)

Ear piercing, done with high-frequency sound

Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

I guess it will take a couple more years of engine roar to deafen me to the age-appropriate level. Or something like that.

2009-03-05

2009: DSL Odyssey goes on

Okay, that was beyond what a reasonable consumer would expect.

Yesterday, I came home to discover no box at my doorstep, a box that should have contained my DLS modem. So I called AT&T to find out what happened.

Turns out, AT&T did not process my order last Tuesday, when I called it in, and it only got entered this Monday, full 6 days later! On top of that, the order did not contain the DSL router. I was glad I called.

The customer service agent added the hardware to the order and confirmed that it will arrive on or before the day that my service will be activated--next Monday!

Grrrrr.

2009-03-04

A license to kill: Teen drivers twice as deadly to others as themselves

Not like I am very surprised about this, just wanted to note it here anyway. AAA study shows that teenagers driving are a menace to others twice as much as they are to themselves.

Via Autoblog

Support COSSFEST 2009

Wanted to alert you all to the fact that Calgary Open Source Systems Festival (COSSFEST) is looking for participants and sponsors.

From the event site:

COSSFEST is a two day event featuring multiple speaking tracks and workshops demonstrating the use of Open Source to lower costs, and increase the capabilities and competitiveness of your business. COSSFEST brings together thought leaders in the technology industry, technology professionals, businessmen, and computer enthusiasts to share the latest news and Open Source know-how.

COSSFEST 2009 will be held April 17th and 18th 2009 at the Coast Plaza Hotel in Calgary.

2009-03-03

Open source car design FTW!

Got to love this. This may not be the first open source car design project, but this one made it to the Geneva Motor Show. I really like the driver-configurable (O)LEDs and independent electric motors driving the wheels to maximize the interior. Also gotta say, the car looks pretty cool.

Via Autoblog.

2009-03-02

Don't park your Porsche on the street

Apparently, Alternative in Berlin are torching cars again. Couldn't wait till Mayday, when it has by now become an established tradition, and a subculture attraction to watch cars burn and the radical left beat up neo-Nazis.

Just a couple weeks ago, while there, I was thinking that Berlin would be quite nice to live in again, they have Spreewaldring around the corner, and some autocrosses running in the area.

Oh, and that shot I used from the Autoblog post, not a chance in hell it's been taken in Berlin this year. Trust me, I was there.

Also the name of the group taking responsibility that spells BMW auf Deutsch would be Bewegung für Militanten Widerstand, but that's just my guess, I was too lazy to google it.

Tax return time again

Just finished filling out the tax return online and am looking forward to getting some cash back. That mortgage interest is really helping with increasing the deduction.

So a few ideas I got for this money is to either dump it all into the car loan I took out on the Honda, or to pay off my credit card balance (like I said, it's not a lot). I could also just keep it in my rainy-day fund. In the economy like this, and impending doom everywhere, cash is any girl's best friend.

What are you guys doing with your return money?

Lawrence Lessig Q&A on Freakonomics blog

Check this out. Lessig has recently switched focus away from copyright and to fighting corruption, however this did not stop the Freakonomics blog readers from asking him about copyright issues.

Also, if you are interested in seeing the original Colbert interview referenced in the blog, here it is.

Kicking out the ladder

Just watched this Honda movie. And it seems that at this point in my life, that's what happened to me too. Life just turned around and kicked the ladder from under me.

Actually, this movie inspired me in a strange way too. It may be that I needed a good kick in the butt to keep moving.

Note: I have removed the embedded video because I could not make it stop from auto-playing on load. Simply follow the link to watch it.

2009-03-01

2009: DSL Odissey continues

I am writing this from a Panera Bread location close by my house. Why? Because of my gullibility.

What made me believe AT&T's claim that they can have me surfing away at 3.0 MBps in two business days?

My TWC account was disabled last Thursday, as requested. The AT&T DSL won't happen until Wednesday (if they deliver as they promised).

I was traveling from Friday till last night, so it's not as bad as it could have been, and this is the first instance where I have to go out of my way to get online. When the work week begins, I will also be in relatively good shape, having all the intartubes I can possibly want during the day, and playing GT at night.

Planes and automobiles, OR V6 >> jet engine

Yesterday I had a chance to stage my own version of the car v. jet plane race.

I was out of town for a little vacation, and the flight to my destination went pretty well: departed and arrived on time, and what else can you expect from an airline nowadays anyway?

The flight back turned out to be somewhat of an adventure.

I got to the airport early, only to discover that my evening flight was canceled, the later flight was full, and that I was scheduled to fly back to RDU the next morning.

Seeing that I was less than thrilled over the prospect of spending close to 18 hours at a cheap airport hotel, the dude at the customer service desk said that he could put me on a flight to Charlotte and I could drive home from there.

The way I drive, the drive to Charlotte is about 2 hours, so I enthusiastically agreed. On top of getting me on my way home, the customer service guy gave me a complimentary upgrade to business class, because that was the last open seat on the plane. The flight was leaving in about 40 minutes, and arrived in Charlotte still before dark.

In-flight I enjoyed the spacious seats, snacks, and a gin-and-tonic. Even had a little nap. The seats didn't recline far enough to get past the first nodding-off stage, so I would wake up each time from the feeling of my head dropping to my chest.

Once in Charlotte, I went to the first staffed car rental counter and the nice lady set me up with a car. I requested that she give me the a "standard" car, with real-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive if RWD is not an option. The smaller, the better. And no SUVs please if at all possible!

She nodded and handed me a contract for a one-way rental of a Chevy Trailblazer.

Wow. Speaking of exceeding customer expectations...

I took the shuttle to the rental parking lot, and asked the agents there to give me something else. From the shuttle taking me there I saw a Mustang, being close to the most interesting car they had on the lot. "I CAN HAZ STANG PLZ?"

The gentleman obliged, and a few minutes later, I was cruising down the highway in a red Mustang. It had a slushbox transmission of course, and no iPod interface, but it had a V6 engine and cruise control, and it was small enough that I knew where I was on the road, and that was just alright with me for the next two hours.

In the end, I arrived at the RDU airport just an hour later than my original canceled flight would have, before the later flight on the same day would have even taken off, and certainly before the next-day flight.

Not bad for a V6, huh?