Thursday, February 26, 2009

And the stupidity continues.

In the face of a world-wide economic crisis as well as a war that "we will end", President Obama's staff is spending time trying to re-enact the assault weapons ban that Clinton signed into law and that the Bush administration got repealed. What's the best reason for it they can come up with? Because Mexican drug lords are able to buy "sophisticated" weapons in the US and get them over the border so easily.

Say what? You mean that border we've been trying to hard to close? The one we've spent millions of dollars on to build SOME fences? The one the Mexicans have NEVER cared to see closed? And then, on top of all that, the only actual weapons they mention being a big problem in Mexico are automatic weapons and grenades. NEITHER OF THOSE ARE LEGAL HERE, EITHER. Well, that's technically not true as automatic weapons are legal in VERY rare cases and are VERY difficult to obtain legally. Currently legal automatic weapons are not making it across the border in droves. Semi-automatic weapons? Probably. But there's a HUGE difference between the two.

And other than how it looks, there are few fundamental differences between many hunting rifles and the things being called "assault rifles." The differentiation is ridiculous. It boils down to how many bullets it holds and how it looks. Nevermind the power of it. The fact that it could kill someone from so far away they'd never hear the shot. Or several someones. And all it would do is put a production ban on them. The thousands that are out there will still be out there. They'll just be more expensive since the demand will be higher than supply.

So will criminals have a tougher time getting them? There's never been any correlation to "assault weapons" and crime of any significant nature. Nothing. Nothing about gun control equates to access for criminals. So why bother with it? It makes SOME people feel good. That's it. It does little more than violate our second amendment rights. I think Thomas Jefferson said it best: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steroids in baseball

Does anyone else find it just a bit odd that since the feds seized the "anonymous" data that MLB was collecting and made it public that everyone who has admitted taking steroids has also said they quit in 2003 right before the players union voted to ban them and start testing? It's no secret that their own testing is incredibly weak and there are rumors that people have been tipped off to imminent tests, so why the heck should we believe NOW that the deeds were only done when MLB had no rule against it? Sure, people are basically admitting to using controlled substances, which is illegal. But going after that criminally isn't all that likely. The key here is that they are trying to protect their precious "legacy" and records by only admitting to what was done when there was no MLB rule against it.

The whole thing is a farce. Congress should have only gotten involved several years ago enough to say "you guys investigate this, clean it up WELL, and give us a full report detailing EVERYTHING so that WE are sure you cleaned it up well. Then we want to see you keep it clean. Anything less and we WILL clean house." Period. End of story. If Congress can be as involved as they've been thus far, well, they could have done that, too. Bud Selig seems to think he's above all that, but he's not. I'm sick of seeing taxpayer dollars spent on this kind of thing, but I do think they needed a good housecleaning. We could have done it a lot cheaper. I can't stand Barry Bonds, but this witch hunt for perjury is a little nuts. If you can't prosecute one perjury case for a lot less money than this, don't bother. He's scum and he has to live with it whether it's a few months in a Federal prison or at home, and it's not going to change how anyone else does things no matter which one he ends up in.

These things sure don't take long!

Looks like the anti-gun lobby is starting to rally now that Obama is in power.  There's already a new bill that's been introduced, and this one is a whopper.  It's completely unconstitutional, and not just that, it's irrational.  When will the gun lobby learn that how many bullets a gun holds has almost zero relationship to violent crime?  *sigh*  See some commentary on the bill here.  

This is amazing stuff, and it's one step closer to a national ID card.  Biometric information?  Really???  That's right, this is a huge step in that direction.  Is the US really ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars (NOW?) on setting up controls like this?  Can someone please tell me what we would be getting for our money?  Other than a huge step towards a completely unhealthy level of government control?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The NBA

I remember when the basketball was enough.  I remember when there didn't have to be an additional "show."  Sure, the All-Star game was never about competition as much as it was about showing off the best of the best, but that was still all you needed.  Slam dunk contests didn't need phone booths and 12 foot special-built goals and custom shoes.  Okay, maybe they did need the custom shoes.  But you get the idea.  

This article likes to blame "this economy" for the necessity of the new "show".  But the truth is the NBA was already dying on the vine before "this economy" ever hit and fortunately for the NBA they can point to the economy now and use that as the excuse as to how to figure out how to reinvent themselves.  Lebron James is the next Michael Jordan, but he'll need some management somewhere to figure out how to build a championship team around him if he is to help rebuild the NBA like Jordan did.  I'm not sure they have any smart enough management left who can also figure out how to even get Lebron on their team let alone build enough compliments around him to get it done.  I wish them luck, but I'm not sure it's possible with current contracts in this economy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's 106 miles to Chicago...

...we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

Hit it.

The Tar Heel Sports Car Club used to have a night series about once a month at the RBC Center in Raleigh.  It was a low key series limited in participation and never thoroughly scored.  There were no trophies.  But it was a heck of a lot of fun.  This run isn't terribly great, but I submit that this is some of the most fun you can have at a max of 45MPH on a weeknight (well, and with your clothes on...I think mine were on, anyway!).

video

This was circa 2004 in a Toyota Spyder, fairly stock (though it somewhat obviously has a straight pipe and Supertrapp on it) and on street tires.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brett Favre "tainted" his legacy?

The talking heads are now asking silly questions in the wake of Brett Favre's retirement like "did he taint his legacy with his time with the Jets?"  Say what?  I don't think anyone looks at Michael Jordan's "legacy" in different thanks to his time with the Wizards.  As time passes people won't even remember the time with the Jets.  Why?  It wasn't memorable.  It wasn't horrible, nor was it Favre's fairly typical greatness.  Why?  He's old, and what he tried to do would have been difficult even if he weren't.  It's not easy to jump into a new system with new players and be great.  

Favre is a lock to go into the Hall of Fame.  He'll be remembered forever in Green Bay and elsewhere.  Taint his legacy?  Only if your definition of "legacy" has way too much "short term" or you expected him to work miracles with the Jets.  I mean it's the Jets, for crying out loud.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Allow self defense in schools!

I've always thought it was crazy that students are not allowed to legally carry firearms on campus, especially when so many people have to call campus home.  Now there's more of a movement in this area, and this website is there to help it. Good for those who created it, and hopefully we can spread the word further. 

It saddens me when members of the law enforcement community, like the NC State Public Safety Chief Tom Younce are against this with non-existent arguments.  You can see his argument and more on the topic here in Raleigh on WRAL.com.  This blog entry also says things quite eloquently and I agree 100%.  I can't find the source, but I heard that at the time of the Virginia Tech shootings that there were over 100 firearms checked at the front gate by the VT public safety department in accordance with their current policy on weapons on campus.

It should be noted that what people are asking for is actually NOT a free-for-all where guns are legal on campus.  They are actually asking for concealed carry ONLY be allowed.  In most states, including NC, you can not get a concealed carry permit without going through a class, background check, and being fingerprinted.  This is not the kind of thing criminals do, this is what law-abiding citizens do.  Criminals will bring guns on campus anyway and law-abiding citizens should be allowed to defend themselves in the United States of America. 

Holy battery eater!

I've been using Firefox for quite some time as my browser of choice.  It all started with Mozilla being the only decent browser for Linux, but I soon found that even on Windows machines I preferred the speed and features of Firefox over Internet Explorer.  So I've always just installed it by default on any machine I've had.

Recently, however, I've noticed it seemed to take a lot more CPU 
time on my Mac than perhaps it should.  While I had a few plugins on Firefox, it was nothing significant.  So I decided to switch back to Safari (the default Mac browser) and see what happened to my battery life.  I was getting just over two hours when disconnected from power while m
ostly surfing the web via Firefox.  With Safari I'm seeing around 6-8% CPU usage typically and am over three hours of battery life!  I guess it pays to try different things.  Hopefully Google gets Chromium released for the Mac soon so I can try that.

Politics Sucks.

So the politicians are working on an "economic stimulus package."  Great.  We need that.  But why does it have to include a huge pile of line items like $3M to upgrade the clubhouse at some public golf course in nowheresville, Nebraska?  Or worse, read this article about the health care changes it includes.  Nevermind whether you even agree or disagree with the changes, why is it even in the bill?  This is the kind of thing that really drives me crazy about the US political system.  No, it's not about me being mad at the democrats because both sides do it.  They're always squeezing unrelated things into bills that they'd never get passed on their own.  

But the changes in that article are scary, too.  Health care is complex enough already.  It's hard enough to get good care as it is.  And now we're going to trust the federal government with the details of it?  No thank you.  As for all the individual line items like the clubhouse?  Like the old joke goes, a few billion here and a few billion there and pretty soon you're talking real money.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Indy quicky

My fence fixes appear to be enough, at least so far. He made it through his first night in the kennel with Jasper and Sandi. He appears to really like the dog house as even during a warm day you'll find him in it (it has several light bulbs for heat). I think he really likes his blankets, which I had thrown in there. They seem to be arranged a little different than they were, though he hasn't pulled them out, which I find kind of cool.

He's still pretty rambunctious when you go in to see the dogs or feed them. Ash said he was jumping up and mouthing her arm (not biting, just being annoying with his mouth) while she was trying to feed them this morning. And I wen to see them tonight and he was a little on the obnoxious side trying to get attention. But he's young...he'll get it. At least he has a big place to run now along with a warm place to sleep at night! Seems happy. The other two seem a little perturbed still, but they'll warm up to him.

Why I envy coaches that get paid.

It's not about the money. Far from it. But at any level where you get paid to coach, you generally have closed practices. Which means no parents. At the volunteer level you're talking younger kids and the parents are going to hang around. Now, it's not that I'd do anything or even necessarily say anything different with the parents there than not. It's about the KIDS having their parents there. They can't help but yell at their kids when they think they're doing something wrong. The kids can't help but look to what their parents think after they do something.

I need their attention. I need it in a fairly undivided way because at least so far all the kids I've coached have been too young to multitask. I also feel like I'm a bit on two stages...one is for the kids, and the other the parents. Two sets of judges. Two sets of eyes on you. It's interesting.

Parents just want their kids to do well, and I respect that. I wouldn't be able to stay quiet on the sidelines very well, either. So it's human nature and we have to live with it. Especially since I'll never get paid to do this. I'm simply not worthy of that!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Indy Update

Well, things have been going fairly well. He recovered fine from his minor surgery and didn't chew the staples out or any of that highly annoying business. But we did find he had some minor worm issues when he went to get those staples out, so we had to keep him somewhat quarantined from the other dogs for a couple more weeks. So he's been living in the barn since then.

I put him in the kennel with the other dogs on Friday for a little while and that went well, but I decided not to leave him there since Ashley and I were going out for the evening and I worried that my parents might not be able to catch him if he got out. So I waited until yesterday when I put him in and he was fine for a couple hours. I took the boys to a basketball game and Ashley was at home only to find he had gotten out. It was about dark and I wouldn't be home until after dark, so she just put him back in his stall in the barn (which he didn't seem to mind very much at all). So today I found how he was getting out and it wasn't a hard fix (he's not a very big dog and there was a gap between the gate post and the garage he could climb up and squeeze through). I blocked that off and he's been out there a few hours. Here's hoping he stays in the kennel all night! He's only trying to get out because he wants attention from people...

He's getting along great with Jasper and Sandi. Sandi even plays with him some. He'll have to learn to eat when food is out there instead of trying to play, though, because the other two have hoovered his food so far. He'll get hungry enough to figure it out, though. But he's healthy, friendly, and doing great. Now to start working on more training...

Snow Driving!

Okay, I'm finally getting around to what I did last weekend. Yeah, took me a week. Sorry about that.

Anyway, as some of you know, I'm a member of the Palmetto Motorsports Club. This is the resident club at Carolina Motorsports Park, a race track less than an hour south of Charlotte, NC. The track is managed by a team made up of Brian Smith and Jochen Tartak. Brian is a long time professional race car driver in series like World Challenge, Grand Am, and Mustang Challenge. Both are highly experienced driving instructors, too. As a service for the club members, they decided to see if there was interest in a car control school in the snow. Brian used to work for Michelin doing tire testing and in doing so did a lot of winter testing at the Keweenaw Research Center in Houghton, MI. That's the upper peninsula of Michigan where this time of year it's cold and incredibly snowy!

Here's a bad video of some of what we did.

video

The weekend started by first flying into Houghton. They do have a public airport there with one gate, one ticket counter, and one rental car counter. There are two flights per day in and out via Minneapolis, and Northwest does fly direct to Minneapolis from RDU, which is nice. So while it's a pretty remote area, I could still fly there on one stop. I couldn't get home quickly in one stop (though it was possible), so I came via Minneapolis and Atlanta to get home in a reasonable time. The first flight out of Hougton on Monday and the last flight in on Friday are in a small jet. Everything else (including my flight in) is a small turboprop. And while they do obviously plow the runway, you're still landing on ice and snow! It's quite the different world than what I'm used to!

Brian then took me on a tour of the town and the test facility where we'd be driving. The town looks to be the home of Michigan Tech and not much else. It is a nice sized small town with some very good restaurants and very friendly people. We started the school early Saturday morning with some quick classroom stuff and then went out on to the big "snowpack" area, which is really just a nicely groomed large field of packed snow. We did some acceleration and braking exercises to just get used to getting cars moving and then bringing them back to a stop with almost zero grip. Then we added in some minor maneuvering. After lunch we then went to the really hard stuff, drifting. I now have a much larger respect for the sport of drifting. While most racers are fairly good at catching a "loose" car (oversteer, where the rear of the car steps out) and that sometimes involves sliding it on around, there' s a big difference between that and doing it on purpose and maintaining those large slip angles while keeping the car under control.

We practiced this using an "hourglass" configuration. You drift around one end of the hourglass and then you pendulum back in the middle and then drift around the other end. Rinse, repeat. Sounds easy, but it's really hard to get the hang of. You're really steering the entire thing using the throttle and not the steering wheel. I got kind of frustrated at the first stab at it, but I was getting pretty tired, too. We did it again the next morning and it went a LOT better for me, even though there was less grip. After that we hit the road course for some fun. We didn't use timers, but we did work a lot on both driving it tidy and fast as well as drifting around everywhere. The car on the snowbank is a picture of what can happen if you try to do things a little too fast.

That was something that happened to just about everyone, though. It didn't take much of a slip-up to do that, unfortunately. Brian said normally the snow is much softer and just sucks you in flat, but we were ramping up on it since it was a little firmer. But don't think it was "hard" in any way...we never did any significant damage to anything on the cars.

So what did we learn? Basically we just fine tuned our abilities to anticipate ill handling conditions and correct them quicker and more efficiently. That should lead to better rain racing as well as even better racing in the dry in some conditions. And it was a heck of a lot of fun. The amount of actual seat time was very high, and when you weren't driving you were riding with someone else who was, so you got to learn by observation, too. Great stuff. Many thanks to Brian and Jochen for all their hard work.

As an aside, on Saturday night we also went snowmobiling. I had never done that before, and it was a blast. We went 42 miles before supper on some really great trails through the woods, along roads, and over frozen lakes. Then we had a few drinks and a big meal and had to return the snowmobiles to the rental place. So on the way we went drag racing on the frozen canal by our hotel. Hmm, couple drinks and 85-90MPH speeds on a vehicle I had never experienced before that day. Not sure that was terribly smart, but it seemed to work out okay. On Sunday night we had a great meal in downtown Houghton while watching the Superbowl. Great times.

Weather? Ah, it was balmy. It was in the teens most of the time, snowing, and windy as heck! But it was all worth it, and I hope to do it again next year! In fact, I think Superbowl weekend might have been the perfect time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I can clean, too!

I didn't think to do a before shot, but Angie's blog made me decide to post what I worked on for like four hours today. Sure, she did hers in less than 15 minutes, but my problem was a lot bigger! So here is my office, all cleaned up and organized. There's more to it than what's pictured, but this is the bulk of it.

The entire desk surface was about six inches thick before today. And everything you see got moved and dusted under, including the window sills. It's a really happy day.

Part of it was more than cleaning...a big part was just polishing off a lot of to-dos that were piling up. The video tapes are all things that need to get digitized and turned into DVDs, and then they go away, too. Perhaps I'll make that someone else's project.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The big hooded sweatshirt and its place in the universe.

Could there be a more valuable piece of clothing than the big hooded sweatshirt? Hmm, probably. But it's still a staple in any wardrobe. As I sit here sick, I'm extremely happy I have one. It's huge, soft, and warm. It's just comforting. But it's also versatile. You can throw one on over just about anything and stay warm in pretty cold temps. Go with the old standard of heather-gray and you can't get it dirty, and if you do you just about can't stain it. And it goes with anything. The big pocket can keep your hands warm all while holding the biggest of smartphones or iPods. The big hood can keep your head warm, too.

I took mine with me to Houghton, MI, last weekend, where the temps were in the teens. I didn't take gear for it, but we decided to rent snowmobiles one evening. Now, they will rent you helmets and a riding suit, but my big hooded sweatshirt was the only thing that would give me some neck protection. I got a helmet a little oversized and simply put my hood on and then put the helmet over it. Worked great.

Oh, and if you're worried you might split the rear of your pants somehow[*], wear your hoodie (an annoying, if not catchy nickname for the hooded sweatshirt). If you split your pants you can just remove your hoodie (yeah, you probably should have a t-shirt or something under it) and tie it around your waist. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

[*] This statement about splitting pants is in no way based on reality. It did not happen at a large public venue, it did not happen to me, and I do not own an extra hoodie because I had to buy one to cover the hole in my pants that I didn't have.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pinewood Derby Wrap-Up

It wasn't an ideal event, but Kevin did end up being able to run and have fun. He knew going in that if he won he wouldn't be able to represent the troop at the next level thanks to the axle problem, but he still had fun and it turned it out that it didn't matter as he finished third. He got a medal and was really happy about it, so that's good. And now he wants to do an even better one next time, so that's also good. Perhaps we'll get an early start with a small wind tunnel to do some testing. grin