Monday, September 26, 2005

The Foodie goes on a Diet...

So about two weeks ago, I started seeing a weight-management physician to help get me back on track with a self-guided weightloss plan I started about 18 months ago. I lost ~25lbs on my own, and then plateaued off, so I got some professional advice. Dr. Lee recommended 1800-2000 calories per day.

Naturally, as a food-nut, this is the sort of thing that hits me where I live, and my friends are all aware of my current plight, especially when they see me counting calories at a beer-tasting festival.

One such friend just sent me a link to this Slashfood Interview, about an all-pizza diet, and asked if I thought I could do it. My response was "Probably Not", but I did find a couple things in the interview that resonated, so I added that to my response to him, and it devolved into a menu just ripe for blogging:

Slashfood: Why do you think you lost weight on the diet? Was it because it forced you to be creative? Portions? Sullivan Street no-cheese Pomodoro?

VC: Pure portion control. I was just determined not to pig out. I went around hungry most of the time, actually... which is really strange for me. I'm a huge foodie and love love love to eat. I just had a good sense of appropriate portions and forced that on myself. I didn't want to lose $200 (the bet)...

Welcome to my life right now... Frequently hungry, and rigidly trying to control portions.

I'm saving a lot of money because I'm making my own sandwiches in the morning, mainly to enforce portion control. (Can't count on the work cafeteria, etc.) It has actually been pretty good because with weekly trips to the Farmer's market, they basically become gourmet sandwiches. "Splurging" on good ingredients and indulging in tasty condiments has helped quite a bit. Here's a typical week of lunches:

Monday: Southwest Turkey Sub, approx. 580 calories
6" of Bread & Cie Baguette, 2oz Peppered Turkey Breast (Deli Sliced), 2oz Swiss Cheese, 1/2cup Roasted Bell Pepper (bottled), 1 slice red onion, 1 tbsp Homemade Light Chipotle-Ranch Dressing (1 canned chipotle in ~1/2C Light Ranch Dressing, blended until smooth, leftover from a southwest style dinner salad Kim made...)

Tuesday: Ham & Cheese, Deutschland Style, approx. 600 calories
2 thin slices of Bread & Cie crusty loaf (Rosemary or Garlic/Goat, etc.), 2oz Black Forest Ham (Deli Sliced), 2oz Swiss Cheese, 1 leaf lettuce, 2 tbsp stoneground dijon mustard

Wednesday: Salami & Cheese, French Style, approx. 600 calories
6" of Bread & Cie Baguette, 2oz Dry Cotto Salami (I would have used Garlic Sausage if I could get it), 2oz Swiss Cheese, 1 leaf lettuce, 1/4 Heirloom tomato, 1 slice red onion, 1 tbsp brown mustard

Thursday: Ham & Cheese, French Style, approx 600 calories
6" of Bread & Cie Baguette, 2oz Black Forest Ham (Deli Sliced), 2oz Swiss Cheese, 1 leaf lettuce, 1 slice red onion, 1/4 Heirloom tomato, 1 tbsp Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vinegrette dressing

Friday: Mediterranian Turkey Sub, approx. 580 calories
Basically the same as the southwest sub, but substitute Vinegrette for the Chipotle Ranch, and add Heirloom tomato slices and a basil leaf or two...

Its been fun playing with a basic sandwich structure and varying just a couple of ingredients like dressings or the meat to see the different combos I can come up with. I've tried to take a few tips from Alton Brown's Good Eats "Sandwich Craft" episode as far as construction and wrapping to blend flavors and keep things together.

Having Swedish/German roots also means you always have 13 kinds of imported mustard in the house (I get this stuff in my Christmas stocking - Literally), and that helps. So far I haven't gotten bored. (2+ weeks into it)

Add these lunches to a 100 calorie prescription breakfast shake, and that leaves me a decent number of calories for afternoon snacks (also prescription) and/or a decent dinner. (1800 to 2000 calorie/day target, right now)

Dinners have gone well too. You figure out pretty quickly that herbs are basically free, and most veggies are nearly free. It also helps having to cook for a vegetarian, there's less temptation to stray too far into the more calorie-heavy meat dishes, etc.

My next weigh-in is in a couple of weeks. I'm optimistic. Read More...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wisdom from the Hovamal

The Hovamal, (or Hávamál) is a collection of Norse poems from around the ninth century. Also called "The Words of the High One", they are supposed to be a set of rules or advice, set down by Odin, covering everything from surviving one's enemies to the etiquitte of being a guest. It reads like a combination of advice from Sun Tzu's Art of War, Benjamin Franklin's Farmer's Almanac, and even a little Worst Case Scenario Handbook.

I've read excerpts from it in various books I've read on Norse Mythology and the Icelandic Sagas, but I've yet to find a single english translation which conveys both the time-neutral wisdom and the artistic turn-of-phrase I think the work merits.

In any case, it is hard to miss the teutonic sensabilities that must have been shaped by lives far harsher than any of us can imagine. I'll leave you with a few of my favorite passages, as translated by various authors:
To a false friend the footpath winds,
Though his house be on the Highway.
To a sure friend there is a shortcut,
Though he live a long way off.
A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he will need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.
Praise no day 'til evening;
no wife 'til on her pyre;
no sword 'til tested;
no maid 'til bedded;
no ice 'til crossed;
no ale 'til drunk.
More to come at some further point. For extra credit, there are a few references on the Web, although I don't think that any single one has the best overall set of translations, at least not as good as those I've got in some hardcopy books: Havamal with parallel Icelandic, Swedish, and English, The Ragweed Forge, and Woden's Harrow.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hack of the Day: Altoids iPod Armor Redux

Needed a break from reading specs at work today, decided to update my implementation of my Altoids-tin-turned-iPod-case.

Originally, I had trimmed a section of the original vacuum formed plastic Shuffle packaging to fit the Altoids tin. It had the Shuffle-shaped recess to hold the player and a bit of "flange" sticking out to keep this section from moving around too much. There were two major negatives of this implementation:
  1. The extra plastic that held things in place left very little room for the earbuds. Unless I was very careful about coiling the cord and put the buds in place just right, then the case wouldn't close reliably. This was dumb because there was plenty of wasted volume under this bit of plastic.
  2. Listening to the shuffle meant removing it from the tin and either clipping it to the lanyard (which I don't always wear because it also has my RFID work badge), or leaving the shuffle to bang around in my pocket or bag.
Inspired by Adam Whitlock's and ChriSamo's superior Altoids mods, I set about working out my own solution, which I think it simpler than either of these, but accomplishes much of the same function. Here are the steps for mine, hope you can follow along. (Once again, pics courtesy of my Motorola V600 cameraphone with a dirty lens, so excuse the picture quality.)

  1. First I needed to solve the problem of too-little room for the earbuds. I re-trimmed the fitted rectangular recess so that it was mostly just the space for the Shuffle, with a very short flange on the topside to space the Shuffle away from the edge of the tin just slightly. This made tons of room for the earbuds, but the fitted plastic is free to move around the tin which would be very inconvenient. Note that since I planned to be able to plug the earbuds in through the case, I trimmed the fitted-rectangle so that it was slightly off center, placing the jack as close to one edge of the tin as possible.
  2. Next, I scrounged a new piece of thin vacuum-formed plastic, with a flat section large enough to cover the bottom of the Altoids tin. I think mine was from an OEM hard drive blister pack or something similar. Laying this over the top of the tin, I marked the corners and trimmed it to fit snugly into the tin. You can still see the markings in the photo, which is helpful to see the shape, since its clear plastic on a light colored background. This will serve as a "baseplate" which will keep things from moving around inside the tin.
  3. I placed the new baseplate into the tin, and then the fitted rectangle on top of it. I used three small drops of superglue to attach them to each other, but not to the tin. (Its helpful to be able to remove this assembly from the tin, either to replace the tin if it gets damaged, or for convenient marking if you're proceeding with Step 4.)
  4. OK, that takes care of the earbud problem, now there is plenty of room for the buds, but the Shuffle-shaped plastic is held firmly in place inside the tin. If you don't care if you are able to listen to the Shuffle while it's in the tin, you can stop now. Otherwise, continue: I removed the plastic assembly from the tin, and inserted the Shuffle into the recess, then marked the location of the earbud jack with a fine-tipped marker.
  5. Remove the Shuffle and make a hole 3/16" to 1/4" in diameter in the plastic. Note that in order for the earbuds to plug all the way in, the hole needs to be as big as the wide portion of the plug, not just the 1/8" width of the tip-ring-sleeve portion. To make the hole, do whatever you feel is safe that will make a clean hole. Don't stab yourself in the hand trying to poke through with a knife. Easiest is to make a small hole and file it out, or heat a 1/4" piece of rod to red-hot and just melt a hole...
  6. After confirming that the hole is in the right place, and big enough for the jack, temporarily replace the plastic assembly in the tin and use it as a template for marking for a hole in the side of the tin. The easiest thing for me was to use a sharp scribe to just barely mark the center of the hole from the inside, then centerpunch and drill the hole from the outside,(after removing the plastic, of course). If you have a tapered reamer, I'd drill a small pilot hole and then ream the hole to size, for safety. If you're careful, you should be able to drill it to size, just be careful of the drill bit grabbing into the thin sheetmetal as you punch through the tin. Clean up the hole, if needed, and reinsert the plastic assembly for the final time. Voila', you can now store your iPod Shuffle and earbuds in armored security or have the option of listening to the Shuffle while its in the tin.
So there you have it. Once again, a hack that takes longer to document than it takes to perform. In the spirit of Adam Whitlock's cost breakdown, here's mine, which I think you'll find superior:
  • One Altoids tin - If you're like me, you've got 20 in a drawer somewhere (Free), if not: $2.00 or so...
  • The original vacuum-formed blister pack from your iPod Shuffle package. (Free). If you didn't keep this, you'll need to try one of the other mods listed above.
  • A flat piece of thin plastic large enough to fit the bottom of the Altoids tin. There might be a large enough piece from the original packaging for this purpose, I don't remember. Just about anything will work here... (Free)
  • 3 Drops of Superglue, borrowed from a tube at work. (Free, or ~$1 for more than you're ever need.)
NOTE: One thing I haven't done, but considered: You could cut out the back portion of the tin to allow access to the off/on/shuffle switch. For me, its not a big deal to flip the Shuffle out of the tin when I'm grabbing the earbuds anyways, so I wanted to keep the case as intact as possible to keep out the crud. Some folks, however, might want a little more access... Read More...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Automated Parking Garage

OK, here's one I haven't seen before. On our way to a meeting in Irvine,

some coworkers and I stopped at the Spectrum for lunch. Upon entering the parking garage, we saw this: (please excuse the image burn, the bright-ass display was too much for my wee camera phone). Here's the thing I found fascinating: The numbers would jump up and down pretty quickly, in a clearly non-human manner. In other words, this system is automated, with the number of spaces determined by computer. Others in the car were guessing sensors in the garage, but I'm betting its based on the feed from the various security camera domes I saw. The simplest thing would just be to have the computer try to "count" cars entering and leaving the various levels, in order to keep a running total of the cars. I imagine that trying to visually inspect each space (via machine vision) to determine if a car is actually parked there is unnesessarily complicated. There was too much math for me to get very far in the computer/machine vision classes I tried to take in school, but from what I know about it, this seems like an interesting and straightforward, if not altogether easy, piece of tech. A brief search for info from Daktronics (the name on the sign), reveals little about the source of the data, only the nature of the display system. Read More...

Friday, July 29, 2005

What's in your bag?

What's in your bag today?

I got reminded of the Flickr What's in your bag? tag project-thing today while reading Zen Pockets on my lunch break. It inspired me to check my current loadout, and see where I could make improvements.

So here it is, albeit without the fancy box-highlighted images from Flickr, more or less Left-to-Right and Top-to-Bottom:

  1. The Bag: My ancient Jansport bar-top messenger that I've had since my 2nd year of college. This thing has hauled everything from school books to hammers and raw steel. In fact, it looks like its sort of on its last legs. Its back in service because my daily collection of stuff was becoming too much for "on my person" carry, especially in the warmer summer months (shorts), and especially when I'm switching cars all the time. (I drive the Miata a lot more in the summer).
  2. Business cards, or at least last month's iteration thereof. We did a reorg again this month, need to check if everything is still correct...
  3. Loose change, for the odd parking meter or vending machine.
  4. Leatherman Squirt S4, my current favorite micro-multitool. I've got a whole mess of these things with various tools, this seems to be the current best mix. I carry it just about everywhere (except airports) because it sees almost daily use. It has a plunger quick-disconnect to:
  5. Keys #1: House, mailbox, office, etc. type keys. These go almost everywhere too, mostly because I like to be able to get into my house and stuff... :) Not to be confused with:
  6. Key(s) #2: The key(s) and whatever transmitters might be needed for whatever car I'm driving that day. Today its the Miata. These go in the other pocket when I'm bagless...
  7. Writing instruments: Usually some mix of fine and ultra-fine uniballs in black and blue, a 0.7mm mechanical pencil, and a new addition: a fine "sharpie". Added recently for marking silver coins prior to annealing for my stone setting class.
  8. Altoid's Tin turned iPod case: I trimmed the vacuum-formed plastic insert from the original Shuffle packaging to fit into a tin. It holds the player and earbuds in geek-chic luxury while protecting everything and keeping it clean.
  9. A stack of UCSD Evening parking permits. It was a major revelation when I figured out I could buy these things in bulk. For some reason it never occurred to me and I was buying them one-at-a-time for years.
  10. Standard Black "Comp Book", grid ruled. Mostly used for sketching pieces and planning work for my metalsmithing, but occasionally I take notes in it too.
  11. Letter-size accordion file. This holds the comp book and all the loose papers I seem to collect, like a list of local suppliers for my metalsmithing classes or a list of instructions from the Judge at jury duty. It also serves to add a little rigidity to my aging nylon bag, so the heavy stuff at the bottom doesn't make it sag when I don't have a book or my laptop with me...
  12. One 12" cable tie. Who knows, I must have thought I needed it.
  13. Semi-hard case for my Sunglasses, clipped to the bag's shoulder strap. Picked up a set of Maui Jim glasses on Oahu last month, its the first set of "nice" sunglasses I've owned in quite a while. We'll see how long they last.
  14. Motorola V600 Cameraphone (not shown) - I used to think cameraphones were silly, at least until I got one. I use it all the time now. Mostly I use the camera instead of taking notes. I'll photograph a price tag or store display to get a crucial model number or the physical dimensions of a piece of furniture. Also comes in handy for remembering the vintage of that great bottle of wine we had at dinner... I've always used my cellphone as a PIM, and that functionality keeps getting better, to the point that I just can't justify carrying a PDA. I just wouldn't use it. I've seen a Blackberry or two I could probably trade for my phone, but not many. The phone usually lives in the bag now, but I used it to photograph this whole mess, hence the less-than-ideal image quality. I didn't say it was a great camera.
  15. My Wallet of Doom (not shown) - This is the one thing I really need to work on. I've gone on several pocket diets, but I just can't seem to keep the weight off. My keyrings are now wonderfully spartan, but I haven't managed to shed all the club cards, discount cards, etc. that make a wallet so fat. Maybe I'll find a way to take a page from the Zen Pockets article and move some of that stuff off to a sub-wallet I can throw in my bag...

So, what's in your bag today? Next trick is to tackle Kim's bag, maybe we can shave 3 or 4 pounds out of it... Read More...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Why DO we work so hard?

So, I don't necessarily agree with everything Mark Morford has to say in his article Why Do you Work So Hard?, but it certainly mirrors some of the same thoughts I've been having lately (on and off for the past year or so).

Mainly, its the usual sort of post-adolescent "Is my life fulfilling?" kind of crap that I'm sure everyone goes through, but its hard to ignore. The temptations of caching out my artificially-inflated Southern California Real Estate Equity and carving out a low-impact, high-quality existance keep manifesting in my daydreams. Though I'd hardly consider myself an "artist", the idea of being able to spend some quality time doing something physically creative is really appealing right now. To build a home, to manufacture a lifestyle, instead of purchasing one, strikes a chord with me. How much more would my home mean to me if I had crafted it myself, rather than simply signed a promise to hand over the better portion of half the take from thirty year's labor in a cubicle?

The other advantage to this daydreamed lifestyle is the absence of people in it. Don't get me wrong, I'm as social as most folks, but at the same time, I don't love having neighbors, or commuting in traffic, or fighting crowds. I guess this would bother me less if I had quieter neighbors. Maybe I don't really need to trade in suburbia for absolute isolation, just someplace a little farther away from booming stereos and squealing tires at 2am...

I fantasize about living off the grid, or nearly so, in an Earthship somewhere. Not because I need to "buck the system" or stick it to "the man", but because living low-impact seems like the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm no hippie, nor a luddite, but it occurs to me that I should be able to build my own home on a quiet 10 acre plot, have highspeed internet, satellite TV, and a cold beer and still not have to suffer the hoards of my fellow man for the privelidge.

I supposed the real problem with Morford's article is that it leaves out a proper comparison of the alternatives. As romantic as a wholesale change in favor of an "alternate path" might be, it might be a bit extreme. Perhaps the best baby steps are the ones I've already taken: Try to find creative outlets I can exercise an hour at a time. Step away from my job as often as my responsibilities allow.

The other question is the real cost of such a change. While I might be willing to give up many conveniences and accomidations in exchange for a simpler, quieter life, I don't know if my wife would be willing to do the same. What I do know is that she is the one thing that I certainly wouldn't give up for anything. So unless she wants to go with me, I guess I'm staying put.

And I guess that's the answer. We work so hard because, in the balance, it means keeping the things we really can't give up. Not the paid healthcare, not the 3bed-2bath in suburbia, and not the BMW, but a Life with the ones we love. Read More...

Hack of the Day: 2 Hour "Custom" Wine Rack

After years of searching, Kimberley and I finally found DVD storage units we were excited about: a pair of Card-catalog-look DVD racks that fit nicely under the breakfast bar in our downstairs area. They fill two of the three "areas" under the bar. That was several months ago. Since then, we've been looking for a way to fill in the center area in a way that meets our storage needs and Kimberley's interior design requirements. We considered a custom bookshelf to hold our mountain of cookbooks, an ornamental wine rack to hold the "drinking" portion of our ever-growing wine collection, and just about any other cabinet, shelf, table, or whatever we came across in any home or furniture store that looked like it might fit the space. In the end, we didn't really find anything that knocked us out. It was especially difficult because we kept going back and forth between Wine Rack and Bookshelf for the space, we needed both. After a while, you start looking for "creative" solutions, and having metalworking skills in your bag of tricks gives you a lot of ways to solve problems. On a night when we were killing time before a movie, not even looking for furniture (which is almost always when we find it), we stumbled across a Pier1 piece that was a combo "Wine Rack/Baker's Rack, ornamental-ironwork shelf thing". Kimberley liked the piece and wondered aloud if there was anything I could do to make it fit our space. With the eyes of a hacker and a blacksmith, I sized it up as about 10 minutes of cutting... Oh yeah, I can make that fit. Here's what we eventually came up with: "The 2 Hour "Custom Winerack" As I figured, it was about 10 minutes of cutting, including the time to change my grinder over to a cutting wheel. The rest of the time was spent cleaning up the posts with the grinding wheel and repainting the piece. All told I really only spent about an hour and a half, so the "2 Hour" title is rounding-up! We're very happy with the look of the piece, as it fits the rest of the funky sort of warm eclectic thing we've got going on, and matches a couple other items of ironwork in the room.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Lucky Guy

So I know I have a fantastic spouse. I love her, and she makes me very happy. But every now and then you get a little extra reminder of just how lucky you are...

Had one of those moments recently, thought I should share:

The setting:
~6:50am on a Friday morning
Kimberley is getting ready for work and I'm sitting in bed trying to wake up; watching the Practice Round of the Formula 1 European Grand Prix on the TiVo. (Delayed several hours, time-zones and what-not)

While Kimberley moves from bedroom to bathroom and back, doing her morning routine, the commentators are laying out the "story lines" for the coming race:

Honda returns after a 2-race ban! Will Bridgestone sort out their tire problems? Can Kimi Raikkonen take his fourth straight pole?

And of course, the big one: The FIA and team owners have agreed to change the qualifying format:

Instead of determining the race order via the "current" system of aggregating times from a Saturday afternoon one-lap session and a Sunday morning one-lap session, they will now do only a single session on Saturday, and that time will determine race order.

At which point my darling bride sticks her head back into the bedroom and asks:

"Is that on race fuel, or light tanks?"

:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

That she was even LISTENING to the commentary was a pleasant fact. That she understood the significant difference 60 kilos or so of fuel can have on qualifying speed AND race strategy?!?!?!

Wow, I'm a lucky guy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

30 Second Hack - Play your iPod Shuffle while charging!

So every now and then I whip out some quick little hack to make my life (or someone else's life) easier. I rarely even take the time to document them, since usually the hack is so trivial as to make documentation insulting.

The last one was this little circuit for a bloke on Yes, I'm a lazy bastard, I didn't really draw the circuit so much as link to one someone else drew, and tell him what resistors to use. But the point is, I applied my hard-earned BSEE to the gripping problem that was this dude's garage door opener.

Well, here's another 30 second Hack. I'll literally spend 10x more time with this blog entry than I spent on the hack:

How to play tunes on your iPod Shuffle while charging the battery.

Problem: The iPod shuffle both charges its battery and does data exchange (iTunes and thumb-drive) via its built-in USB port. Normally this is great, except that for some inexplicable reason, any time the iPod has a data connection going, it disables the player functionality.

Why is this a problem? If you're sitting at a PC, why not just use the PC to play music? In my case, I work at any number of PCs, both in my office and in the lab. For various reasons (company policy, not the least of which), I don't have iTunes installed or any .mp3s loaded on any of these machines.

So my choices are to either play my iPod and run the battery down, despite being inches from a suitable charging port, or to charge the batteries in silence. Dumb.

Solution: I made a USB "Power Cord" which charges the battery but doesn't establish a data connection, so the iPod keeps-on-a-rockin'.

For background, consult the USB pinout standard, but you can just duplicate this in all is simple-gory details below.
You'll need the following:

Parts: Electrical Tape, 1 USB Extension Cable with suitable ends (probably Male 'A' and Female 'A')
-or- a regular A-B cable and one of those Female-B to Female-A adaptors (which is what I used because we have literally hundreds of these things lying around at work).

Tools: X-acto Knife, Cutters

Disclaimer: If you somehow manage to mess this up and fry your iPod or your PC's USB port, I accept no responsibility for this. Simply disabling the data lines should be safe, if you can accomplish that task without doing anything stupid.

  1. Using the X-acto knife, Slit about 1" of the USB cable's outer insulation, preferably near the iPod end, but it doesn't really matter.
  2. Your cable probably has a woven shield and/or a foil jacket around the actual wiring. Try to slit and part this to expose the 4 wires, while doing the minimum amount of damage here.
  3. Using the cutters, snip the Green and White wires (data lines). For neatness, I actually snipped out about a 1/4" of these wires just to make sure they wouldn't short to each other. I suppose the really anal types might work harder to ensure no shorting of the data lines to the shielding occurs. I didn't. Doesn't seem to matter.
  4. Tuck the wires back into the shield weave/foil.
  5. Wrap electrical tape around the slit.
  6. If you're like me, the electrical tape will be a sufficient indicator that this is now a USB POWER CABLE which will no longer serve any other purpose. Otherwise, you might want to label the cable somehow, so the next unsuspecting geek doesn't try to use it to sync his PDA or something...
  7. Plug in the cable to your PC or hub. Plug in the iPod to the cable. Confirm that the amber light on the battery indicator is lit (charging). Marvel at the amazing ability to charge the battery and listen to music at the same time.
Yep, that's it. Told you it was simple. Apple will probably make a "iPod Shuffle Computer Charging Cable" at some point and sell it for $29... Read More...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Echoes from an old hobby...

So I found this on Fark today:
Robot misses contest after being banned from plane

My opinion? The students were idiots. I started building/fighting Battlebots and similar robots in 1999 and have never had any trouble getting them onto airplanes, even in the post-9/11 world. We're not talking little firefighting boxes on wheels here, I'm talking nasty pointy battle robots built to shred stuff a lot tougher than airplane skin.

With a few basic precautions, the only problem I ever had with an airline was that my toolcase was over the max weight and had to pay an extra fee.

  • Empty any compressed-gas tanks (C02, etc.) and lock them open
  • Cover any sharp edges/points (its a Battlebot, after all)
  • Disconnect the batteries.
  • As an extra measure for making things easy for everyone involved, I packed batteries in a separate box next to the robot. (Some airlines require the batteries from electric wheelchairs to be stored in a special "Battery Box" for fears of gas accumulation, so I planned ahead in case I was asked to do the same)
  • Oh yeah, I showed up 2 hours before the flight in case there were any problems!

One other note, some competitors flying from overseas with machines in higher weightclasses went to the extra expense of crating and shipping their machines since they would have been over the usual luggage weight limits. The firefighting dorks in the article might consider that for next time too. Even shipping 400lbs from the UK to Las Vegas cost less than an extra airline ticket...

As I said... idiots.

Friday, March 18, 2005

SDMC Membership Fee Increase

OMG! People kill me.

Here's the background: The Miata club is having its (required) Annual meeting soon. This is where we elect officers and do all the other official club business that lets us keep our California non-profit status. Among the business on the table is a proposed increase in membership fees. The stated reasoning for the fees is increased cost of club operation, insurance, sending out newsletters to our 500+ members, etc.

After six years with no increase, the proposal is to raise the fee from $25 per family to $35 per family, per year. For reference, one of our club members stated that his local Porsche Club membership is $135/year and the BMW club is $75/year.

This group is pretty damn active, averaging like 2+ events a month, not to mention monthly meetings, etc., so for myself and Kimberley, its a no-brainer decision.

On the other hand, there's always gotta be one guy who needs to be a dissenter. This was posted to the club mailing list:

>Date: Thu Mar 17, 2005 5:05 pm
>Subject: Re: Increasing Dues?

>Not that it matters, since I'm sure it's going to happen. But I'd have to
>quit, if the dues got any more expensive. I can barely afford the $25.

I admit that some of our members are under tighter budgets than most people, but this sort of blows my mind. We're talking an increase of less than 3 cents a day. I started thinking: Give up 2 trips to Starbucks, and you're there. Pass on "Supersizing" your BigMac twice a month, and you're there.

Well, being the "natural born leader" that I am, I came up with an even better solution. Here's my response the club list. Enjoy:

>From: "Mike Herbst"
>Date: Fri Mar 18, 2005 11:13 am
>Subject: (NMC) Membership Fee Increase - (non)Run

I've come up with an idea to cover the potential increased membership
fees, assuming the measure passes at the Annual Meeting.

I propose to lead a (non)Run to help everyone in the club scrape
together the extra $10 to cover new membership fees:

The SDMC Membership Fee Increase (non)Run:

TIME/PLACE: Annual Meeting, Immediately after the Vote
WHERE: We will (not) be driving a scenic route through Julian and
Anza Borrego.
DISTANCE: Approximately 110 Miles (not) Driven.
WHY: On this (non)Run, we'll see (imagine) some of the most beautiful
areas of San Diego County while enjoying the comraderie of the SDMC.
Furthermore, by (not) driving this route we'll save approximately 4.2
gallons of regular unleaded fuel, which at today's prices should more
than make up for the $10 Membership Fee Increase. Members running
Higher Octane or with less efficient cars will of course save more
money. I heartily recommend these extra savings be used to purchase
regalia or be donated to the club.

I hope you'll all join me and Kimberley as we lead the (non)Run! It
should go by very quickly, as I drive very fast in my imagination.
(And apparently only in my imagination.)

See you at the Annual Meeting!


In all seriousness, I'll be voting "Yes" on the fee increase. The SDMC is a fantastic community and resource, and would be a "steal at twice the price", especially when compared to other (less active) clubs in the area. I'd like to think that I'll be able to remain a member (and keep paying whatever dues) even if I ever manage to wreck, sell, or otherwise lack, a Miata.

Mike "Herbie" Herbst

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