Monday, August 30, 2004

Cats: 1, Herbie: 0

So good friend and coworker, Jason, is moving away soon. This weekend he hosted his "come drink all my alcohol so I don't have to move it" party. Jason and his girlfriend Lilah have a couple of cats, which Kimberley is very allergic to, and I'm mildly allergic to.

Or so I thought.

I was so worried about how Kim would fare, I didn't really consider my own circumstances. She took her Allegra, I didn't take anything. We arrived, we drank, we talked, laughed, and watched USC vs. Virginia Tech football. I kept asking her how she was feeling.

About the 3rd quarter, I notice I'm having a lot of trouble breathing. Like the full on wheezing, labored inhaling type of breathing. Like full-on allergic reaction breathing. Yikes. We finish our cocktails and try to make a polite exit, but by the time I hit the street I know this isn't going to go away 5 minutes after I'm out the door like it usually does when I'm only around cats for a few minutes. (This exposure was quite a bit longer.)

Swing by the grocery on the way to dinner and get some Benadryl and briefly consider the "Avoid Alcoholic Beverages" warning, weighing the consequences of mixing diphenhadramine and 3 rum & cokes versus the growing respiratory distress I was in, I decided to go for the pill. If "alcohol may intensify drowsiness" is the worst consequence, I'll take it if it means I can breathe. (The 3 M.D.'s in my family are probably going apeshit reading this...) Dinner at Aesop's Tables is (medically) unenventful, and we make it home and retire to bed (after carefully depositing all the clothes we wore in the garage...). Had a little more trouble breathing in the middle of the night, but nothing terrible.

Woke up Sunday morning to the WORST feeling set of lungs since I had Bronchitis as a kid. Spent a good portion of the day knocking the crap out of my lungs and feeling exactly as you'd expect when you're not processing oxygen through your lungs as efficiently as normal, all the while trying to car-shop with Kimberley, who refuses to acknowledge the current state of her 3rd Volvo 240. (Kimberley and Car Shopping is at the very least a blog entry of its own, if not the subject of scholarly essays on "Inability to Spend Money, Even When Required"). Ugh.

Well, I've recovered, but I've learned my lesson. I now consider myself more than "mildly allergic" to cats, which is my only allergy I'm aware of to acknowledge at all...

So score that one: Cats: 1, Herbie: 0.


Monday, August 16, 2004

The 100 SciFi Books You Must Read.

Found this list on Fark this morning.

I was "relieved" to see that I've read like 25 of the "top 100 according to random guy". And several more are books I already own, sitting on the nightstand waiting for me to have time...

Glad to see some of my hard-SF favorites on the list, such as Joe Haldeman's excellent Forever War as well as the Cyberpunk's bible Neuromancer by William Gibson. Also refreshing to see a sense of humor in the list creator as Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my all time favorite works of humor, loosely SF as it may be.

However any list like this is bound to generate the requisite list of "Stuff I thought Should Have Been on the List", so here are my entries for overlooked great SF:

  • Oath of Fealty - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Steel Beach - John Varley
  • Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, & The Last Command - The Star Wars: "Thrawn Trilogy" - Timoth Zahn
  • The Hammer of God - Arthur C. Clarke
  • Everything by William Gibson that wasn't on the list, except possibly The Difference Engine, co-written with Bruce Sterling
  • The remainder of the "Increasingly Inacurrately Named Hitchhiker's Trilogy" (in 5 books) from Douglas Adams.

Just a few suggestions... Some are more of an investment. Others, like the Heinlein stuff, can be read in a solid day spent on the beach or out of the rain.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Elsie by Twilight

So I was going through my pictures directory, and came across a really great photo from the 2003 San Diego Miata Club "Twilight Run". Some kind member of the club ran ahead and took photos of the 80+ cars coming down the Sunrise Highway, timed to the sunset. The Twilight Run was our first club event, just 1 week after buying our Miata and joining the club.

After spending so much time working on the wheels for Elsie (the Miata) this weekend, this image was a nice reminder of what the work was about: Cool summer evenings with the top down and Kimberley in the passenger seat.

Thanks also to Jeanette Driver and Tom Wood for photos of us with "Elsie" during this year's 10th Anniversary Twilight Run too:

(Sixth from the left in the front row)

(Seventh from the rear, the blurry Laguna Blue colored dot...)

It was another beautiful run this year, cool and clear skys (ever so important in a convertable).
The really amusing part of this run every year is that invariably, some poor schmuck gets stuck trying to turn onto or across one of the roads we're on, and has to wait for all 70 or 80 of us to come streaming by before he can make his turn... Read More...

Revenge of the BBS's

OK, looks like the weekend of scrubbing nasty brake dust off the BBS wheels has taken its toll, I think I've got a "Repetetive Strain Injury" or something like it. While in bed last night my hands kept getting that tingly/numb feeling anytime I wasnt' lying on my back with my arms at my sides... Yuk.

Little bit of dull pain in my right wrist if I move it wrong too. I'm hoping it will go away now that I've stopped scrubbing wheels.

I've occasionally had a little bit of soreness in my left wrist after upsetting some pieces for the Fireplace Toolset I'm making in my Blacksmithing Class. Something about swinging the big hammer at an awkward angle is tough on my hammer wrist, but its not something I do very much so I'm not too worried about long term damage, and it seems to have gone away once I stopped.

At least I'm almost done with the toolset. The four-post stand is done, the handles for the poker, shovel, tongs, and broom are done. I've drawn the taper for the "business end" of the poker, and now that I'm done upsetting the middle of the tongs I can punch the holes for the pivot. Finishing the shovel will be the last really hard job, I think. I'm going to split the end of the bar so I can make little vine "tendrils" that wrap around the shovel pan, it should complete the leafy/vine look I've got going on the handles.

I really should get some pics of this, I imagine its basically impossible to get what I'm talking about here unless you're a blacksmith... Read More...

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Miata Wheels Saga

Well, I've reached a good news/bad news event with the Miata wheels saga.

Quick recap for the folks at home:

My 1994 Miata came from the previous owner with TSW Alpines installed, 15x7, 19.4lbs each. Ouch. Bad for the suspension, bad for accelleration.

So I notice that about 1/2 the time I go to the In-N-Out near our place that there's a ragged '92 Black & Tan Miata parked in the lot. And I do mean RAGGED. Dirty, tan top is sort of streaked with charcoal color, back window is GONE and the rear top bow is disconnected from the top with what looks like shower curtain rings hanging from it, probably from an earlier attempt to weatherproof the car with a shower curtain or something.

But it's got the OEM wheels on it... The '92 B&T was one of Mazda's earliest stabs a "Special Edition". Like the BRG and Yellow models, it got a little bit of special treatment. Most people seem to forget that it got the same forged BBS 14x6 wheels as the Red-interior '93 LE Edition... So while a '93 LE is usually owned by someone "in the know", those wheels usually go for like $600 a set. Why? Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, they weigh 8.9lbs...

Well, long-story-short, (too late), I left a note on the car, asking if the owner wanted to trade wheels with me. As I'd hoped, the owner is a broke-ass college student who wants the "bling" of bigger wheels. We meet, and after a little discussion we settle on a trade of my wheels, plus $80, plus I supply new lug nuts (since I need his, they're special to fit under the BBS center caps). So all told, I'm out $101.63 + my TSWs & Michelins that I probably would have been able to sell for MAYBE $200...

So there I am, looking at my Miata on jackstands, next to it a stack of the FILTHIEST Forged BBS wheels I've ever seen. To call them charcoal colored would imply a sort of gray color, when they were in fact, closer to the ACTUAL COLOR of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes. I'm betting this kid NEVER washed his wheels.

So I go to town. I start out with a hose, bucket of soapy water, wheel brush, and an aerosol can of TurtleWax brand biodegradeable foaming wheel cleaner. After a half hour of scrubbing, I realize that the wheel brush just isn't getting into the dozens of little spaces (see the wheels on a '93 LE here )Switch to a toothbrush... still not much progress after an hour. Still the first wheel...

OK, "We're gonna need bigger guns". Head to autozone and find a stiff bristled "mag wheel brush" that will fit into the spaces after a little hand forming of the loop. Also pickup a spray bottle of EagleOne foaming wheel cleaner, this stuff comes in seperate formulations for Mag, Steel, and Aluminum/Painted wheels. The directions on the back advise "Use in an area that will allow for some evaporation of runoff".

Oh yeah.

No biogegradeable stuff here, this is better living through chemistry. Add another $20 or so to the total expense.

So I start back on the FIRST wheel with this stuff. The brush actually works, as does the chemical, but it still requires 20 seconds or so of scrubbing per "hole" section. This doesn't include the time to go after some dried spots of road tar with a stiffer brush and WD-40 (which normally removes road tar like a MoFo, BTW). Takes over an hour or so to complete an entire wheel, including scrubbing the face and the back of the wheel (easy, and since I've invested this much time, why not). Also spent some time cleaning the center caps, which were easier but required a terry cloth around the fingertip to get into the crannies.

After all that, I figure I don't want to go through this again real soon, so I took a tip from the forum and applied a spray wax to the wheels and rubbed it in. Supposedly this will help keep the brake dust from sticking and make everything clean up easier later. I hope so.

Anyway, after two days of working till dark on these wheels (admittedly with lots of interruptions), I didn't get the Miata back on the ground and the wheels torqued up until this morning before heading to work. A quick trip to the air pumps, and I was on the road.

So the total after this little trade:
  • 1 Set TSW Alpines, 19.4 lbs each
  • 1 Set Michelin XGVABCDEFG? tires, 195/55-15, so-so quality, 50% tread
  • 1 Set new cheapo spline-drive lugnuts + tool, $21.63 from Goodwin Racing
  • $80 cash
  • $20-something for chemicals, brushes, and wax.
  • 8 hours of my life spent sitting in my driveway...


  • 1 Set BBS Forged Wheels, available only on '92 B&Ts and '93 LEs, 8.9lbs each (complete with centercaps, $65 each replacements from Mazda... ouch)
  • 1 Set BBS-compatible shorty lugnuts, ($7 EACH replacement from Mazda!)
  • 1 Set, completely SUCK-ASS tires:
  • 3 Goldstar-Korea tires, 185/60-14, 80% tread
  • 1 Pirelli something-or-other, 185/60-14, 50% tread

OK, so we finally got to the bad news. (this is getting rediculous.)

Yes, the good news is that you REALLY CAN feel when you drop TEN FRIGGEN POUNDS PER WHEEL. Unsprung weight benefits aside, the accelleration is more impressive now as well.

Unfortunately I'm having a hard time playing with the better response due to the COMPLETELY LAME tires this kid put on the wheels. My first instinct was to just get a new set of Toyo T1-S's before Kim got home, and I should have followed that, because now I'm driving around on quite possibly the worst tires ever made. On a basic 20mph corner coming into work they're HOWLING like I'm at turn 4 at Big Willow...

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of "Elsie the Frankenstein Miata". I bought an '01 Tan/Glass top on Ebay, and the same Broke-ass college student wants to buy my OEM top....


What the hell am I supposed to do again?

So people keep telling me I should write a blog. I guess because I've always got a random factoid or comment on just about everything. OK, that's fair, but who reads these things?

Turns out, I guess I do. It never occurred to me that a site I visit all the time, is actually a "blog". But most seem to consider it that.

OK, if everyone says so.

Well, welcome, at any rate. I've no idea what format this will take as things proceed, but I'm guessing that a good chunk of it will just be a replacement (or copy of) the lengthy emails I write to my friends on the various mundane adventures in my life...