June 22


He was looking for easy targets. People who wouldn’t dream of fighting back.

This man was an example of how holding onto ancient superstitions can poison society in the modern age. He was raised to believe that being comfortable with his own sexuality was a disgrace and it tormented him to such a degree that he wanted to die.

Killing himself would have revealed that he was weak and he was afraid that everyone he loved, and whose approval he wanted most, would find out that he was gay. This would mean that not only was he weak, he would be a disgrace. He would rather be reviled as a villain by the entire world than accept his sexuality and face his family and the rest of society. So this was his way of going out in a blaze of glory.

Societies around the planet have always evolved at very different paces. I fear we have a long way to go before these types of issues are resolved.

On some level, I question whether people who hold to religious beliefs where an anthropomorphic deity watches over them every second of every day and judging their actions, should be permitted to participate freely in society without a tracking system and remote controlled shock collar.

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June 15


We’ve lost another friend.

Frank was such a gentle little soul.  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.  Always wanting either in or out, he flatly refused to use a kitty door.  We joked so many times about being his doorman or concierge.

A poem has been said in my head a thousand times…

The Cat

(Ogden Nash)

You get a wife, you get a house,
Eventually you get a mouse.
You get some words regarding mice,
You get a kitty in a trice.

By two a.m. or thereabouts,
The mouse is in, the cat is out.
It dawns upon you, in your cot,
The mouse is silent, the cat is not.

Instead of kitty, says your spouse,
You should have got another mouse.

We miss you Frank.  Say ‘Hi’ to Bernie for us both!

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April 2

It’s never too late for coffee.

I uploaded a video to YouTube of me driving the race car out of the paddock & onto the track.  Sharp-eyed viewers will take note of several mistakes being made right off the bat which culminate in my spinning sideways & leaving the track.  This resulted in a black flag & pit stop for safety inspection.  The HANS clip which came loose was fixed before I rolled back out of the paddock & the rest of the race was completed without incident.  See it here:

There are lots of video clips of the race available on Youtube from other driver perspectives if you just search for 24 Hours of LeMons Inde 2016.  You may even see our car #419 show up in a few of them.  Here’s a few good scenes by Jesse Cortez:

Last weekend Hal & I took the motor out of his 1997 MX5 and started the tear down.  The oil control rings were completely gone on all of the pistons and so we’re fairly sure we’ve located the root cause for the burning oil.  The cams are a bit worn & the HLAs weren’t spinning at all so there’s little divots in the tops of most of them.  Typically if you replace cams you replace the HLAs too, but he really wants to keep this car as close to factory as possible & finding “OEM” cams does not seem likely at this point.  This puts us in a bit of a pickle because if you have to grind the cams & replace the HLAs it will typically result in idle changes because the subtle difference in cam lobe angle, and will necessitate adjusting timing to compensate.  Every after market cam I can find changes the cam angle to some degree but the more severe the change, the more the ECM will have to compensate.  The OEM engine control module cannot be reprogrammed and so if the changes to cam angle & timing deviate too far from the limits of the factory programming, the ECM will have to be replaced with an after market module and a custom engine tune will need to be uploaded.  Some of the after market cams can’t even be used with the factory ECM at all.  Swapping that out & tuning a new one is an entirely different level of tinkering than we’re in the market for.

Monday April 4th I’m driving to San Diego in the morning for business meetings on Tuesday & Wednesday.  I’ll stay just a few miles from the office and come back home either Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.  Either way I’m working from home on Friday.  I’ll probably make a post from San Diego to critique the rental car and driving experience through the empty desert between here & L.A.  I’m taking the I40 to L.A. & then driving south to San Diego because the border patrol checkpoints on the I8 always delay and annoy me.  I plan to download an audio-book for the road from Librivox to listen to on the drive.  It’s such a brief trip that I likely won’t have time to see my friends Conquistador Marcos & Eve unless we can get together for dinner on Monday or Tuesday night.  We’ll see.

I guess the most interesting thing I can note in this post is that Hal & I pre-ordered a Tesla Model 3 on the 31st but probably won’t see it for at least three years.  I want a blue one.  :)  On my longest commutes & most circuitous travels around the metro area I drive maybe 100 miles, so for 90% of my driving an electric car with a 200 mile range will be plenty.  I know it’s a bit of a gamble to hand over $1000 now and wait three years for just the option to buy a new car, but I like the idea of an all electric vehicle and I’m very happy that an American company has taken the lead to develop something like this for the general masses.  When that battery plant is fully operational in Nevada, the Tesla will be the most “Made In America” car on the market.  I like the cut of your jib Mr. Musk.

The weather has been so beautiful in Mesa the last few days that we’ve gotten lots of work done around the property.  Pulling weeds and sweeping up, setting up a nice work area on the back patio so we can work on the cars under the shade and just generally enjoy being alive.  I worked my butt off earlier today so I had a nap and woke up just a little while ago.  I think I’ll go make some coffee and tinker with my robotics stuff.  Sure, I’ll probably be up all night now but it’s never too late for coffee.

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March 21

And now Spring is here.

I want to post some video of the race but I there is still so much to wrap up that I won’t have a chance to do it until later in the week.

We crossed the finish line at 3:30PM and had the car on the trailer and ready to roll out by 4:30 or so.  Since Hal & I stayed at a hotel and had kept most of our supplies within easy reach of our truck, we were the first of the team on the road.  I felt bad for not staying to fully pack up their campsite and convoying north together, but the packing was thankfully well in hand before we made our departure.

Life in Willcox Arizona moves at a slower pace, but everyone was friendly and we were able to relax and enjoy the small town life for just a few days.  It’s just about a 3 hour drive back home and even though the altitude difference is only about 2000 feet, I could feel the difference in temperature when we rolled down out of the hills and back into the mesa heat.  The drive is fairly uneventful, but I find the scenery absolutely beautiful.

March 20 marks the beginning of spring and by all indications thus far, 2016 in Phoenix metro is going to feel like living on the surface of Mars.  My face is fairly harshly sun burnt and I could feel the sting while I worked around the back yard today cleaning the truck and unpacking and re-organizing the tools.

IMG_1157Hal has been pulling the engine stats and checking over the brakes, fluids, plugs, wires, and various other components.  Since we have officially participated in a sanctioned competitive road racing event, we qualify for performance part discounts from Mazda Motorsports.  Of course we have much to do before it can go back to the track, but when she goes back out she will be sporting a new suspension kit and will behave like an entirely different animal.

So Spring is here and I am in love with Arizona and motorsports.

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March 7

Carrying on

At some point we have to accept life on its own terms and recognize that there doesn’t have to be a reason behind anything that we experience.

“And this, this is like my little window to the world, and every minute’s a different show. Now I may not understand it. I may not even necessarily agree with it. But I’ll tell you what, I accept it and just sort of glide along. You want to keep things on an even keel, I guess is what I’m saying. You want to go with the flow. The sea refuses no river. The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure while always arriving. It saves on introductions and goodbyes. The ride does not require an explanation – just occupants.”

  • boat car guy, “Waking Life” 2001

Hal & I have been soldering on with the race car work while struggling with the loss of our friend, but the work has been good for us and we’ve made enormous amounts of progress.  After Eric got the seat mounted & harnesses attached we discovered a problem with the roll cage which is going to require some retrofitting, but it is probably going to be salvageable in time for us to get the car to Wilcox.  That leaves tires, instrument cluster, and door handles to be done in a week and I think we’re going to be okay.

View post on imgur.com

I will always remember Susan as the woman who taught me how to make the perfect pizza crust in my very own kitchen.  So on a more positive note and a completely different subject at that….

For many years I’ve avoided cooking steaks because I’ve historically had no talent at it.  Every time I’ve tried to follow a recipe and cook a steak, the meal has ended in disappointment and some sort of delivery service.  But to be fair to myself it’s not as if I’ve had decent instruction yet still lack the skills or anything.  Nobody in my family ever taught me how to cook a steak.

Well, that’s no longer the case!  I’ve finally learned how to decently prepare and cook a piece of bovine carcass which doesn’t turn out resembling a piece of old boot leather.  All praise shall belong to his majesty Gordon Ramsay and this little video of his :

I do like my steaks a bit more done than he does so I left them in the pan about another two minutes.  They came out tasting absolutely superb, though  I will add just a bit more fresh pepper next time.  I do have to get my timing coordinated just a bit better so I can have everything ready at the same time but Hal & I were both quite happy with how it turned out.  Next time I’ll even take photos.

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April 29

For want of a new chariot

I’m agonizing over the purchase of a new vehicle.  My fifteen year old Impreza still runs very well but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and the transmission has been exhibiting signs of synchro-wear (gear clash) when shifting down to first or up into fifth.  I always have the option of pulling the transmission and having it rebuilt but, experience has taught me that once the case has to be cracked open the long term reliability of the unit will always be in question.  (Failure probability shifts from ‘distant and uncertain’ to ‘near and uncertain’ or ‘near and likely’.)

Faced with an unreliable horse or buggy, what would the traveler of yesteryear do?  For that matter, how did the Gladiators go about selecting their next chariot?  You think maybe they drew up a list of pros & cons, or needs, wants, and nice-to-haves before going off to interrogate the local chariot builders?  Perhaps I should read up on that.

My list of needs are pretty simple I think.  I need comfortable, reliable transportation with high-output air conditioning and a decent amount of power and torque for those rural passing lanes.  On this vehicle I prefer four doors, manual transmission, and either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.  I would also really like the price to be under $35,000 out the door.  Much to my dismay I’ve come to realize that manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive are pretty much impossible to get in this class and price range so I’m going to have to find a compromise.

The top contenders for my money are:

1. Subaru Legacy Premium
2. Mazda Six Touring
3. Honda Accord EX
4. Kia Optima SX

The bottom three are all front-wheel-drive and only Mazda gives me a manual transmission option.  It annoys me greatly that Honda won’t sell me an Accord EX with a manual transmission in blue paint.  It makes me far less likely to purchase a Honda.  I can forgive Subaru and Kia for this because a manual transmission is not even an option anywhere in the model lineup, and only Honda restricts my color choice based up on my transmission choice.  How about just letting me have whatever color I want?

My biggest concerns for both the Legacy and Six is lack of power.  Both of these cars have a ~2.5l engine and they’re both fairly heavy vehicles.  Summertime in Phoenix where the AC is running at full blast any time the engine is on can really sap the power from a small engine, particularly when climbing mountain roads.  In Arizona everywhere outside of the Phoenix metro area is mountain country, so I worry that any time I need to leave the valley I’m going to want for power.

When it comes to the Kia the issue is primarily around package selection.  The price starts out very reasonably in the $26K range but adding the Premium tech package (just to get heated seats), rockets the price to over $31K before adding any other options at all.  The Subaru costs thousands less even with the addition of Moonroof, Navigation, EyeSight, Blind Spot, Cross-traffic alert, floor mats, etc, and it comes with AWD as standard equipment.

I guess I’m really leaning toward the Legacy, but when I bought my Impreza 15 years ago I was able to get everything I wanted that I could afford to buy.  I’m not exactly sold on CVT technology in general and I’m unhappy that the Legacy sport model and GT/2.5l turbo options are discontinued for model year 2015.  The last thing I want now is three or four years of car payments for a vehicle I’m not 100% happy about.

Looks as if I’ll be sitting on this fence a while longer.

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April 22

Good shutdown & Camera delivery

Shutdown and upgrade activities went much better than I had expected.  The number of complications was low, and the migration scripts written by the UK team were very well done.  It did take a good portion of two days to get it done and there are a lot of users with old $PATH settings hard coded which need to be changed, but at least we’re on the back side of the upgrade and the mechanics of Grid Engine appear to be functioning within established parameters.

Yesterday I decided to do something about the lack of video cam on the PC so I went to Amazon to see what I could get.  I found a nice 1080p Logitech and when I placed my order, they said I could have it shipped/delivered same day for free.  Insert image of Skeptical African Child here.  I’ll be goddamned if that thing didn’t arrive at the front door by 6pm same day.  I didn’t see the delivery person and I was hoping that it came by drone.  ;)

There will be more work done on the north-west lot today.  A ton or two of Earth needs to be moved out before the concrete molds can be set so I left the sliding gate unlocked for quick & easy access with a bobcat.

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April 14

Where were you on Tuesday?

Not entirely sure I’m liking the Piwigo gallery software because I can’t easily figure out how to order the photos in the way I want them.  (I know there are a couple “inventive” ways to get it done, but note that I said *easily*.)  Piwigo has the benefit of being a lighter-weight application than Coppermine, but it’s not quite as smooth as Picasa.  I’ll have to keep experimenting to see which one suits my needs best in the end.

Ok, I’m a tard.  I did figure out how to sort the pictures the way I want them and it wasn’t difficult at all.  The most difficult part was RTFM’ing.  There’s actually an entire tab dedicated to this in the edit menu, I just didn’t realize I could drag & drop.  derp.

But anyway.

In case you’d forgotten, I’ll be working all weekend coming up and I’m none too thrilled about it.  There doesn’t appear to be any proper planning being done so that our various activities don’t walk all over one another, and that seems to be “how we roll” at my new employer.  I try to bring structure, but they thrive on chaos.  Here it is Tuesday and we’re still ironing out bugs with our upgrade/install processes, and to date very little testing has actually been done.  As bad as I think Saturday & Sunday are going to be, my Spidey sense is telling me that Monday will be worse.  We’ll get through it of course, in the most British way possible.  Stiff upper lip and all that.

I just hope my “I Dig Dinosaur Neil” t-shirt gets here before the festivities.  Maybe wearing it on Saturday will bring me good geek-luck.  :)


Category: Drips of consciousness, GeekStuff | Comments Off on Where were you on Tuesday?
April 13

Substitutions Not Permitted

The good new is in, and it’s not cancer.  Now just heal up already and stop making me grimace in pain.

And while we’re on the topic of grimacing,

I’m starting to think I should implement some sort of bookmark sync mechanism to augment my memory.  Having to remember some of the URLs that I use frequently, sometimes makes my brain hurt.  The main problem with centralized bookmarking is that I’ll end up with a mix of work-related and non-work-related bookmarks in the same place and I’m not entirely sure if there’s an easy way to switch forth & back with multiple accounts.

Another grimace inducing situation is that it seems as if Microsoft One Note (which I can’t say enough good things about), won’t sync with a home-grown file-sharing solution so I’m stuck with uploading everything to OneDrive.  This is probably because the NSA wants to be able to paw through everyone’s notebooks & they aren’t supposed to break into my personal systems without a court order.  It would be terribly inconvenient for them, you see.  So of course, that functionality is not available.

This reminds me of course that I never rebuilt the network after Hal went through all the trouble of RMA’ing the Asus.  I’m not entirely sure why, but it has something to do with the fact that I’m too lazy to set up DHCP/DNS again.

Salad & trout for dinner.  Mmm.  healthy.

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April 11

I Dig Dinosaur Neil

I’ve been updating the site & installing some useful applications to make my life a bit easier.  I wish it were easier to get dropbox installed on my hosted site, but apparently the VM I’m on is pretty stripped.  I set up a new image gallery at http://loux.org/gallery where I can post pictures of various people and things.

Surfing through iTunes Music store I found season 1 of “The Tick” live action series and bought it.  I laughed so hard I cried while Hal thought I’d lost my mind.  Then I found all three seasons of the animated series on Youtube and watched them all one-after-another.  I really hope they end up for sale on Amazon or iTunes so I can watch them any time I want.  Right after I watched S1E2, “The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil”, I went out to CafePress and bought a “I Dig Dinosaur Neil” t-shirt.  :)

The roof on the house got redone last week and the yard work is going to start Monday, where we finally get the excavation done, the ElDorado driveway, and the northwest lot paved in.  Maybe by autumn we’ll be able to get the rear driveway done.  Today we cut out the two little desert shrubs that were growing in front of the windows on the north side of the house.  I realized a bit ago that they weren’t intentionally planted in those places and were actually in a spot that was potentially detrimental to the property plumbing.  They needed to go so they’re gone now.

My friends Shay & Kellie’s little dog Gracey is going to come stay with us for a week later this month.  She’s such a fun little friend to have around, she makes me want my own little doggie.  Unfortunately, four cats are more than enough for this household.

Also, got a new Capresso coffee bean grinder last week.  (I’ll explain why in a later post)  The Capresso has an interesting sound when it runs and, is actually much quieter than my last grinder.  I’ve kept myself true to the “No more than two-pots-a-day” rule for the last few years so I try to make sure I get to enjoy every drop.

Category: Drips of consciousness, Happy Things, Home | Comments Off on I Dig Dinosaur Neil