March 30

Racing again.

We started prepping the car in December with an entirely new suspension setup and new rims with pretty aggressive tires. Most of the team worked on it at every opportunity, and today we got the alignment done. I’m leaving quite a bit out as I normally do; this hasn’t been an easy journey. I’m just happy to be this far along and on-target for a successful run.

Double Deuce nearing completion.
Double Deuce nearing completion.

This year we’re going to be competing in both LeMons and Chumpcar amateur series events in three states. Choosing which events to enter is always a problem, and scheduling work-time on the car is never easy when every member of the team is both working a full-time job and managing a household with family obligations. Our most experienced driver AJ had to bow out for the April race in Arizona, and Larry is going to miss the December event at Laguna Seca in California. Thankfully we found a paying stand-by for AJ’s slot in April, but for the other two events we have at least 1 seat open.

We’ll be doing our best to stay on the track and stay competitive for the two LeMons races coming up. Hopefully we have good weather and no mechanical issues. I’ll try to update with our status when I get to the paddock next week.

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July 5

Summer vacation 2016

Today is the first official day of my summer vacation for this year.  So far I’ve celebrated by buying & installing a new commercial grade soldering/re-work station in the “nerd room” originally designated as a dining area.

I do have a few projects to get finished in the next couple of weeks, but so far I’ve just been staying up all hours of the night and day playing video games.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed playing the Tomb Raider series until I started playing Underworld just yesterday.  What a blast from the past.  I even bought the original Laura Croft : Tom Raider movie to watch while I was playing.

Two weeks of #NOPANTS and #NOWORK are just what the Dr. ordered!

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March 19

This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.

I tore ass down the straight and hit upward of 85mph before having to brake down to 60 for a right hander in third gear, brought it back up to 70 through the chicane before hard on the brakes for the right handed spoon.  I had consistent lap times in the 1:30 range and we are currently at 40th out of 57 over all.

IMG_1154This is one of the best days of my life and one which I will never forget.  I am nearly exhausted after just three 30 minute stints, a total of 1.5 hours of driving out of eight hours of racing.  We have another 6 hours to race tomorrow.

The car is running flawlessly.  We haven’t had a single mechanical issue, and have only experienced the previously mentioned issues with our tires.  Lots of chunking from the center lugs, impressive amounts of tread scrubbing, and a greasy-floaty feel on hard cornering.  Because most of the high speed turns are right-handers, the front driver rubber is taking most of the punishment.  We have directional tires so we swapped the port side front with the starboard side rear and I took her back out for another 30 minutes without any real issues.

We have to work on our pit/driver swap times because we’re averaging about 18 minutes per.  This facility doesn’t have a proper hot pit lane, so we can’t actually do any of this on what you would normally call pit-lane.  We actually have to roll all the way back to the paddock at 10mph to swap drivers unless we’re refueling at the same time.  We’re only permitted to re-fuel on the hot pit lane and it’s a pretty short drive back to the paddock, but in-and-out it just isn’t.

Still we can do better, but we’re all just really jazzed to be here and are taking our time to make sure we have all the safety gear on properly, are strapped in good and tight with radio checked before we start rolling again.  I saw a lot of cars black flagged, spun out, off the track, broken down, and some sure to be marked DNF when it’s all said & done tomorrow afternoon.  I don’t care if we come in dead last as long as we’re still in this for the checkered flag tomorrow.

We have a laundry list of things to do for the next race and just about all of them are pretty spendy.  I haven’t done the math yet to know if I can do any of them before the Colorado race but I know I’m going to have to prioritize needs vs wants.  I don’t know if I should do better tires or just more tires.  Bigger rims and wider rubber?  Two sets?  Or three?  I could make up for handling changes due to wheel changes with a fully adjustable suspension but that’s a whole different cost structure.

Funny note for the day was when Lawrence gave his cell phone to Cope before going out on track.  Cope put the phone down someplace and promptly lost track of it.  For the next several hours between driver swaps and dozens upon dozens of laps various members of the team looked for the phone and came up empty handed.  After the checkered flag a bunch of the drivers went out on track walking around picking up debris and found the phone at the end of the back straight.

Apparently Cope had put the phone on the deck lid of the car while strapping Lawrence into the driver seat and left it there.  Nobody noticed as he drove out of the paddock and it stayed on the back of the car all the way down the straight.  I guess it flew off after he cut speed for the right-hand sweep at the end of the straight, and it’s just lucky that someone happened upon it after the race.  The screen is cracked a bit but it still works!  A great souvenir for our first day on the track.

Category: Cars & Transportation, Happy Things, Vehicles | Comments Off on This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.
March 18

We made it.

This far.

We had tech inspection this morning at 11AM and flew through with only one recommended change.  The kill-switch needed to be relocated so that it would be within reach of the driver while belted in with arm restraints intact.  This required moving the switch about 2 feet from its original position and fabricating an entirely new mount for it.

There was also a mandatory track/facility driver meeting today at 12:30pm to go over basic rules and directions and then the track was opened at 1pm for pre-race testing.

We elected to get the kill-switch modification out of the way before we took the out for testing so we didn’t really get to drive until about 2:30pm.  The team moved like greased lighting with Cope & Lawrence leading the charge to get the wiring modified while AJ fabricated a new mounting bracket.

The team insisted I be the first driver so I took her out for the first four laps, marking my first time on an unrestricted track in a modified vehicle in full safety kit.  I have to confess that I was not prepared for the rolling nature of the car under heavy cornering and the first couple of laps really rustled my jimmies.  I was absolutely the slowest vehicle on the track and was overtaken by at least ten different cars while trying to make my way around the first couple of times.

By the time I’d gotten through with lap three my heart was racing so much I had to bring it in and do a driver swap.  Chris was ready to go so I let him take over and drank some water to settle my nerves.  The car handled beautifully except for the tendency to lean dramatically in the turns.

The poor handling is caused by the nearly OEM suspension from 1996 on the car having covered more than 170,000 road miles with nothing more than shock replacement.  We did the shocks in prep for this event but didn’t touch the springs or sway bars which is something I regret now.  We sailed through tech and BS inspection without any question or investigation of our suspension.  I could have installed a VMAXX kit on here without issue and nobody would have suggested I was over cost limits.  Lesson learned.  For Colorado or Button Willow, we will have a fully modified suspension setup.

My next five laps went much better.  I was able to push her hard through the turns and take it just to where I was sure traction was going to break loose.  When she steps out, she remains very controllable and rolling off the throttle a little bit will bring her right back in line.  I definitely didn’t set any speed records but I certainly felt much better by the time I rolled her back to the paddock for another driver swap.

So the highlight of the day is that every driver got a turn of at least four laps on the track and we didn’t spin out, leave the pavement, get shunted off, or otherwise experience rapid unscheduled disassembly of the vehicle.

Tomorrow is the real thing.  There are not less than 55 teams participating in the event and we will have a very crowded track.  Instead of going for a target number of laps, we’re going to break it out into 30-45 minute stints depending upon driver fatigue and vehicle handling characteristics.

The first hour is all about survival and I’m slated to take the first 30 minute stint.  Wish me luck.  :)

Category: Cars & Transportation, Happy Things, Travels, Vehicles | Comments Off on We made it.
February 19

Winding up

We’ll be having another racing team work weekend to get the car ready to run.  The new clutch got here last night and Hal has already started disassembling the exhaust and power-plant frame so we can get the transmission out.  After work today I think I’m going to start on it.  The seat also arrived yesterday, it’s 2″ thinner than the first one and appears to fit appropriately.  We’re going to need AJ to weld up some sort of frame attachment for it and then get the steering column fastened to the dash bar.


The robotics projects are on hold for now because we have to get the car done and get through the race before I can really focus on the logistics of what I want to accomplish.  I’m also still waiting on deliveries of hardware and lots of this stuff has to come from China and Japan so it seemingly takes ages to arrive.  The race is March 18-20 in Wilcox Az, so after a physical recovery weekend I’m probably going to start on the automated mail delivery project (a.k.a. Project Pee-Wee-Herman), hoping to complete by end of April.


At least the work on the back yard resurfacing project is finally done!  I’ll have to upload some images into the gallery when I have time, and maybe do some before & after comparison shots.  There is a narrow side strip around the pavement which needs to be cleared out and filled in with some packed desert sand.  Our contractor is drawing up a plan to lower the sliding gate a little and motorize it so we can stop having to open and close it manually.  I’m so lazy I want my mail brought in automatically and my gates to open & close at the press of a button.  Life is good.  :)


I mounted the bedroom television to the wall last weekend and recovered a remarkable amount of free space in the room.  It feels so much more roomy that I’m sorry I hadn’t done it sooner.  At some point I’ll have to do the same thing in the living room, but I don’t want to make too many changes or Hal and the cats will forget which room is which.  :)   Eventually though, I’ll get this place into some sort of recognizable shape and style so it stops looking so much like a combination toy-store & frat-house.


The weather is so beautiful at this time of year that we’re leaving the doors & windows open day & night with the hvac shut off entirely.  I updated the front page of the main site with a photo that I took at sunset from the backyard a couple of weeks ago.  I’m not sure I remember it being this warm so early in the year since I’ve lived here, I wonder if that means the summer is going to be especially warm?  Time will tell, right?


Anyway, that’s pretty much it for this year so far.  I’ll get those photos & videos uploaded as soon as I can.  :)

Category: Cars & Transportation, Happy Things, Home | Comments Off on Winding up
December 23

Winding down

Working from home today because the office is virtually empty with nearly everyone out on holiday.  For some reason or other my employer issued Dell laptop doesn’t want to play nice with this external monitor via HDMI and, I really don’t like programming on a tiny screen so I’ve moved over to one of the Linux VMs in my home lab.  The “” program is coming along nicely but I do need to re-order some things because of my scatter-brained approach to program layout.  (Which is to say I haven’t done any program layout at all for this and just started from the hip with subroutine stubs.)

Anyway I needed some coffee and for whatever reason decided to update my blog on what’s been going on since April.  I don’t think anyone reads this thing so I just update a few times a year when the mood hits.  So here we go:

This year was the year of home improvements.  Hal & I had a new roof put on the house in May because of some leaks in the master bedroom had gotten worse.  He & I gave the old one a once-over and decided it wasn’t worth trying to patch it, so I got three estimates and went with the middle one.  So far we’ve seen no more leaks and it’s been a very wet autumn.

As mentioned in a post around April, we got the construction permit approved rapidly from the city of Mesa.  Finding a company to do the work was not a simple process, but we ended up getting the driveway approach ramp completed.  It could have been done better, but at least it’s done and functional.

Over the summer we had lots of concrete work done starting with widening the front walkway on each side so it’s now three times its original width.  This will make it much easier to get in and out of the front door, which has also incidentally been enclosed in a powder-coated steel entry gate.  We had concrete poured four inches thick at the north-west lot behind the block wall on El Dorado, and at the south-east lot we had several large sections filled in with concrete four inches thick in most places.  There is a special pad poured six inches thick and at 4000psi where I hope to have an auto lift installed sometime in 2016.

After the concrete was poured and before the front entry was enclosed, we had powder coated steel bars made and installed over every window.  The bedrooms all have emergency fire releases, and every door has been protected with high-security steel doors with double-deadbolt locks.  The house is much more secure than it was and we can now leave windows and doors wide open without fear of being burgled.  Not that I live in a crappy neighborhood or anything but thieves don’t target poor people and, nearly every time I’ve heard of someone being burgled the perpetrator entered the premises through an open door or window.  Not here.

In August my employer (~2300 employees worldwide), was acquired by a huge multinational conglomerate (~30,000 employees worldwide), and I’m back to being just “another cog in the wheel”.  Not that I’m complaining or anything because they backed a truckload of money up to my door and said, “We don’t want you to quit your job.”.  A few months later, they gave me even more money just because the original company had done very well.  Then a couple weeks after THAT, gave me a written promise of even more money which is to be paid out in chunks over the next 3 years as a “retention bonus”.  Couple that with the fact that I’m the only IT employee they have capable of doing this job within probably 350 miles, I have no direct supervision and only have to commute 3 miles to the office.  I, for one welcome our new overlords.  I’m not going anywhere unless they forcibly eject me.  :)

Early September the front block walkway was completed and work was begun to excavate the remaining uncovered section of the rear yard.  We’re going to have block paving stones laid in the rear between the approach ramp and the concrete pads so that the yard has a bit of style to it instead of being just an enormous impersonal concrete slab.  The stones are not all completed yet and at this point aren’t going to be done until early 2016, which suits me just fine because it’s been quite expensive to get all of this stuff done.

Another one of my favorite money pits, “HobbyTown USA” has closed up and Hal & I had to start looking for a new hobby store.  Lo and behold, there’s a great place called Action Hobby at Guadalupe & Rural who have been happy to take my money and provide much better prices, products, and advice.  :)  Hal and I upgraded the quad-copters with First Person View capability and have started getting into more professional level gear in general since meeting these fine folks.  We even have an AxialRacing 1/10th scale Yeti with a two-speed remote control transmission and have upgraded most of the receivers in every ground-based RC vehicle we own.

Several of my co-workers are also car nuts and we have made a pact to strip my 1996 MX5 to the bone and prep it to race in the 24 Hour of LeMons in Wilcox Arizona next March.  Stay tuned for updates from Trashpanda Racing. ;)

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April 30

With all due haste

Got an email yesterday afternoon that the building permit & right-of-way permit have been granted by City of Mesa.  They promised I’d have the permit within ten business days and jumpin’ Geronimo, it was approved and paid in just a little over 24 hours.   Now that’s what I call service!  I’m usually the loudest complainer when it comes to government bureaucracy but the process for this was actually rather painless.  Thanks very much, Mesa!

Category: Happy Things, Home | Comments Off on With all due haste
April 28

Ramping up

I submitted an application to the city of Mesa for permission to cut out a 16ft section of public sidewalk and replace it with a driveway approach ramp on the west side of the property. It should take about 10 days for approval or rejection but I would be very surprised if it were rejected. I think the worst that could happen is I would have to have it redesigned to provide a flat rolling surface for wheelchair passage but, I don’t think handicapped provisions are a requirement for this type of change. At any rate, photos will be added to the gallery as work progresses.

The 97 MX5 seems to have some fuel delivery issues so I ordered a new fuel pump, fuel pickup filter, and fuel line filter from Rock Auto late last week.  The parts arrived today.  If we had the rear driveway completed and the paving done we could get started on this work straight away, but as it stands we’re going to have to retrieve the 97 from storage on Del Rio and make room in the forward garage to do the work.

It’s going to be a glorious day when the work is complete.  We’ll be able to bring all motors to one location and have room to get greasy.  :)

Category: Happy Things, Home, Vehicles | Comments Off on Ramping up
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 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
August 1


The boss asked me to document some server automation processes related to lockdown/hardening for a response to a recent audit inquiry.  He was very pleasantly surprised when I told him, “Already done.  In fact, more than 2 years ago….but it’s twenty-five pages long.”   :)

A quick OneNote search turned up the document and all 25 pages were printed in under 10 minutes.

Of course, since the data in the document is 2 years old I’ll have to brush it up a bit and include some of the changes we’ve made recently, but I’m very happy with my ability to anticipate audit requirements so far in advance of their request.  :)

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