Linuxoid, represent!


I mean, come on people, I thought there were more of you out there. Less than 4 percent combined Linux and Unix OS for the time period from 2010 May – 2011 February?

These are my blog stats, BTW.


That skinny pedal on the right...

The new racing season has started, and I have one event under my belt already. Time flies when you're having fun. Those long long three months between the seasons are now a thing of the past, but back in January it felt like forever until the first track day.

I got even worried that I'd forgotten how to drive in that time! Imagine this: I even had a variation on this recurring nightmare where I arrive at a track event, and can't find my car. Everyone has theirs, and even my buddy who's come with me has found a ride, but I don't have a car, and I watch them drive off without me.

Yeah, I had track withdrawal alright.

Come think of it, I haven't exactly wasted my time between seasons, either. I made some new friends, and joined their "racing stall" of cars that all get towed to the track together. We share a garage and luxurious work space, with hydraulic lifts, engine hoists, and power tools. Okay, the tools are not exactly shared, but I can borrow them, as long as I clean them and put them back. Also, the garage is now a mere hour's drive away (in good traffic), instead of three, when the car was at Thunderhill, so I am much more likely to actually work on my car and not have to pay for every little thing that needed to be done.

The group goes to all NASA events, so I don't need to worry about transporting my car there. Of course there are other clubs' events, and I will have to figure out a way to go to those.

And then suddenly it was time to pack for the weekend at Infineon, and I got all my gear together, and went over my checklist several times, and of course I forgot a few things, but that is all beside the point. I was at the track, and ultimately, that's all that mattered.

With the first milestone of becoming an instructor behind me, I can now concentrate on becoming a better driver and getting my rookie license. Learn from all the good drivers I can find, and drive, drive, drive.

Made an appointment for the race license physical for next Friday, hope to be able to get a check ride scheduled at the next event. So much excitement, whee!

The plan is to get the rookie license ASAP, so that I can run in races if I want to. However, I have made the commitment to instruct full weekends for the next four events. Since you can't race and instruct, I want to first get this instructing gig figured out, then start splitting my time between racing and instructing/Time Trialing. There's also hope that once I have instructed at enough NASA events, other clubs will allow me to instruct, which is an additional incentive to stick with instructing for a while.

You don't have to shout...

Got myself the instructor-student intercom. Should be quite helpful in getting the student to listen.

Last time, when I did not have it, I had to use hand signals and loud exclamations like "Go" and "Whoa" to get the message across. While it worked surprisingly well, the finer points had to be saved for the conversation in the paddock.

I got the Chatterbox central unit on Craigslist last week, and the headsets arrived from an online vendor today. Tested the whole set together, and it works. Now this only makes me want to go back to the track sooner, while I got another three weeks to wait.


2007 Marques de Caceres Rioja

From the top end of the cheap Trader Joe's collection, I give you the 2007 Marques de Caceres Rioja.

With the price tag of $14.99, it may not even qualify for the cheap category. And while it is quite decent indeed, robust, and very tannic, it lacks the rich finish of a truly great Rioja.

It will go well with lamb or duck, but I would not pour it to be enjoyed without a meal.

I will probably keep buying it from time to time, like I have to date, because I keep forgetting how thoroughly unremarkable this wine is. And the bottle looks real nifty. Here's hoping I will remember next time.


Klinker Brick Old Ghost Zinfandel

This is by no means a Trader Joe's cheap wine. It's not even sold at Trader Joe's. However, it is one of my recent discoveries, and I enjoy drinking it a lot, so I thought I would feature it here.

The Old Ghost hails from Lodi, about two hours north-east from where I live, where the Klinker Brick winery is located. They only make three wines, two zins and one syrah. Didn't get a chance to try the syrah yet, but both zinfandels are very very enjoyable.

I first discovered Klinker Brick Old Vine at a wine bar in Palo Alto back in 2009. I was hanging out with my friend the Urban Astronomer, and the bartender has suggested this wine when I asked for a big spicy red. What a great suggestion!

I have been enjoying the Old Vine for a year before I got a change to try the Old Ghost, which turned out to be another level of great altogether. I need to go get a couple more bottles next time I'm out buying wine.

Here's what it says about the wine on the web site:
The 2008 Old Ghost is a blend of two old vine zinfandel vineyards, 89 and 98 years old. Yields were lower in 2008 than the previous vintage and well under one ton per acre. The wine has exotic spices of cardamom and black pepper on the nose, infused with bright, black cherry fruit. On the palate, it is rich, round and full-bodied with flavors of brambleberry and chocolate covered cherries yielding to a long and lingering finish.


Epicuro Beneventano Aglianico

Another Epicuro wine, and what a difference! This one was much simpler, pretty much lacking any refinement or balance. Too sharp on the nose with plenty of tannin, without any lingering finish worth speaking of.

The label says:
This red wine shows intense blackberry and cherry notes harmoniously exalted by a light spicy background. Smooth and velvety with a firm backbone. Perfect at 18 degrees, with red meat, ham, and mature cheeses.

I would say, this wine will do good in a low-grade Italian corner restaurant, to wash down greasy pizza and bread sticks, but there's no place for it on my shelf. Too bad, really.


My first HPDE novice student

As of last Saturday, I am now an official NASA driving instructor. I took the instructor seminar at the last NASA event in 2010, and had my check ride at the first event of the 2011 season, at Infineon.

Check ride is another name for a road test, where the examiner gets in your car as a passenger and you demonstrate to them what you plan to do as an instructor. Sometimes it's the other way around, and the instructor plays the student in their own car, and you ride with them. Either way, you're supposed to instruct the "student" and point out all the important stuff like the flag stations, the turn-in and brake points, etc.

I was plenty nervous about it at first, because I thought that the check ride will take place in my own run group (Time Trials or HPDE4), both of which go at a pretty good clip. Turns out, the check ride happens in the run group that I'd be teaching in, HPDE1+2, so there was no need to worry about traffic passing me, or staying out of people's way going 7/10ths while pointing out stuff out on track.

The check ride went well, all instructors were very welcoming in congratulating me, and the very next day I was assigned a student. Eric, who did the check ride with me, said that they were always looking for Miata driving instructors, meaning someone small enough to fit into a student's Miata, so when I met the student at the end of the morning drivers' meeting, I expected him to have a Miata.

I had to swallow hard when we walked to his pit and saw that he drove a debadged Mitsubishi Evo. That car has at least 200 horsepower on my little Miata, and has four-wheel-drive. An entirely different beast. Plus, it is a known magnet for knuckleheads, and as I sat in the passenger seat I hoped that my student will not prove to be one.

We went over some formalities, his goals, and what I was going to teach that day (it's all in the standard script that all instructors get): Drive the line, brake in straight line, passing zones, flags, that sort of thing. Then I left him to get ready for the session and went on to run my own session.

That day, I ended up driving four stints and riding in four others. I was physically and mentally wrung out when the day was over, but also very happy with how the day went.

My student turned out to be very reasonable, and learned the line quickly.

One challenge that I had was, that I had not yet bought an instructor-student intercom, so I had to rely on yelling (not very effective) and hand signals (surprisingly effective) for communication.

First session was all under standing yellow, so we concentrated on following the line every single lap. We went a bit faster in the second session, and then I took him out in my car in an advanced run group. I did not go more than 8/10th with him in the car to ensure that I drove a clean and consistent line and did not make any mistakes, but that was enough to give him a feel for what is possible out there. So the next time he went out, the difference was huge. We got to pass a bunch of cars in his third session. Both of us were having a great time, and I loved to see him beginning to grasp what I was talking about when I said "don't lift in the esses" or "brake more than you think you have to for 11."

After this very encouraging experience, I decided to do a lead-and-follow with him in his last one. His eyes went huge when I said he'll go out alone and follow me. "Really?" So cool.

Before we went out, I told him that he should watch my line and try and turn in at all the right places and most importantly take it easy in his last session. We're all tired, so let's take it down a notch, shall we?


After two or so laps, we caught some really slow traffic, and coming out of the carrousel I had lost all my momentum. All the novices in their high-horsepower cars took off, and so did mine, leaving me in the dust. Heh.

Later, back in the pit, he said that he thought I was letting him by, because he saw just how much faster I could go there. :)

On his own, he had a couple good learning experiences of the scarier kind, but thankfully, no metal was damaged, and he went home in a car pretty much in the same shape it was in the morning. I signed him off for group 2 and we parted ways.

All in all, a good experience.


What's with the duck face?

I know it's not yet widely considered tasteless or sexist to accessorize your car with a semi-naked (or naked) woman, but that does not stop me from wincing every time I see that done. Particularly when women participate all too eagerly and duck face is involved.

So I am sitting in grid to do a lead-follow with my student and observe the following: A small group of people are wandering down the grid, and I can tell by their attire (shorts and short skirts paired with flip-flops) that they are neither grid officials nor drivers. They stop next to a Ferrari 450 Scuderia that's lined up next to me and the lady of the group (if I shall call her that) gets into a classic car calendar pose next to the car. Complete with the duck face. First alone, then with one of the dudes, while the other takes pictures with his phone.

All of this perplexes me to no end, beginning with the willingness of the woman to objectify herself and put herself and her body on the same level as a prized possession, such as the supercar she's posing next to.

Thankfully after snapping a few pictures, they moved on and shortly after we were let out on track and I forgot all about it, right up until now.


Epicuro Nero d'Avola

This I believe is the first true gem from the Trader Joe's cheap wine collection. Very smooth and well-balanced, a little mellow maybe, but spicy enough to keep me happy. This wine comes from Sicily, and there are more Epicuro varieties available. I have another bottle, an Aglianico, waiting on the shelf.

From the back label:
Made only from the Nero d'Avola grapes, this is a great wine with a beautiful rich bright garnet colour and full bouquet redolent of berries, cherries, and spices. The flavour is clear-cut, full-bodied, and elegant.

This wine will definitely be making a return appearance on my table.


The reading redhead

Black india ink and russet Higgins ink on paper, glossy magazine collage.

This picture is from January last year. I had just returned from my trip to the East coast and had some quiet time to draw.

As with most of my art, I start with a generic penciled sketch which gets erased once the drawing is inked. I used pictures from German magazine Neon to create the background, and to define the couch with in the negative space.

High quality giclée prints are available. 8x10" $30; 4x5" $17 - plus shipping. Other sizes can be priced upon request.


Looking for love? Did you try dating?

Now that's innovation!

I saw this ad on the intartubes (where else!), and was flabbergasted. This is a seriously novel approach to finding a partner: dating!

Hmmm. Wonder if it works.



This was a very decent cheap wine from Trader Joe's, hailing all the way from the Cape.

A bit too fruity for my taste, but very drinkable nonetheless. I'll put this one on the "if I have to" list.

I know, my life is tragic.


Sponsoredwhips.com is a scam: Follow-up

So the scammer has followed up, and tried to link back to more scammy content this morning. Twice.

Thankfully, Blogger spam detection has worked, because both comments have been moderated without my involvement before I even got up and found this notification in my in-box.

tom has left a new comment on your post "Sponsoredwhips.com is a scam":
So A company that writes proposals and has been around for 10+ years you are calling a scam? where is your proof??? You prolly are mad you cant afford their fee and you wanna bash them! unless you you have more "proof" than a bunch of forums were everyone can voice opinions good and bad let me know cuz i found these good reviews: [redacted. A list of links to PR and fake quotes and testimonials follows, as you can see in the screen shot above].

I checked out most of the links in the email and there were a few press announcements on low-caliber news services among them as well as several "testimonials" on car forums made by users who have also happened to join the forum on the date of their first and only post. You guessed right, the inaugural post would be the one about how great the company is.

When I click on the name "tom" in the moderation console I get this profile on Blogger:

And the blog link leads to more fake testimonials.

Now I want to spend some time on the content of the comment.

The opening flame bait is kinda cute: "You prolly are mad you cant afford their fee and you wanna bash them!" Real classy. And not effective at all in discrediting my report, because nowhere did I say that the price was too high, but rather the value prop was fishy.

The follow up to that is even more of a logical fallacy: "unless you you have more "proof" than a bunch of forums were everyone can voice opinions good and bad." Of course I understand, Tom that you are upset with people posting their opinions on forums where they are free to share their opinions, whether good or bad, but sadly, this is how the Internet works. If you scam people, they will post about it.

Kinda like in these here testimonials:

You want more of these Tommy? I can find you more. Google is helpful that way.

2008 Château de seguin

Another Trader Joe's cheap wine, however of a higher-brow variety. This one is from Château Lignan, in Bordeaux. I think it cost all of $9.99.

A very solid Bordeaux, which was both well-balanced and flavourful.

The little round sticker on the neck of the bottle says that this wine has won bronze at the agricultural trade show in France. I figure if the French judges liked it enough, I could not go wrong, and sure enough, I was rewarded.

This one will be making a return appearance on my table.