Monday, March 31, 2008


Final Zero

I was officially eliminated from our March Madness bracket yesterday. The only team I had left was Louisville who lost to UNC. I suck and cannot pick college basketball winners. I'm not too torn up about it. The cost of losing is an order of fries from Fernow St. Cafe, yes an Aramark food provider.

Subaru and I installed the stock struts back onto the front of Focus. Her other ones were shot and were making an awful noise. The noise mostly went away but now I think it was partly the front sway bar creaking also. There are no new suspension plans for Focus right now. I'm still saving up for our next car and to see where we end up and what kind of garage space we have next.

J and I ate at Red Robin yesterday. I love it when restaurants double up on ingredients and slap them on multiple menu items. Their chili made an appearance on our chili cheese nachos, which had 4 or 5 blackened nachos, as well as a chili burger and a cup of chili. It didn't work too well on the nachos which weren't cooked properly anyway. Brent, our server, did keep the water flowing and the "bottomless" steak fries coming. I ordered the Big Kahuna Burger or something like that, a teriyaki burger with pineapple and I added their mango mayonnaise to it also. Pretty damn good. Not necessarily $9 good, but with inflation and all that, the price was about right. J had their Southwestern pasta which she did not like. She tried to order their mac & cheese but was ordering from an old menu and they don't have it anymore. She was crestfallen to say the least. We will not be going back to Red Robin. This was the one in Greenville, SC on Woodruff Rd. if you're wondering where not to eat in Greenville.

Finally I brought in my notes from the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour! This was at Camelot Cinemas stop of the tour in Greenville, SC on Thursday, March 20th at 7 pm. We arrived early because we heard it was sold out and wanted a good seat. J and Sporty (her co-worker friend from work who drives a TDI Jetta very slowly, to conserve diesel of course) arrived before I did but they had my ticket, so I told J to meet me out front next to the motorcycle. There was a really pretty MV Augusta Brutale, not sure which one exactly. Those Italians make some gorgeous vehicles and this was no exception.

We go inside just as they're letting people in the theater and get a great seat right in the middle. Sporty noticed that the chairs were offset so that no one's head would be directly in front of you. Nice work Camelot Cinemas. J wants some water so I get $3.50 from her and bring back a 20 oz. bottle of water. Yikes. Then the show starts.

The tour opens with "Balance" by Paul Cotton. It focuses on 2 amateur skiers and shows how they grow and ultimately become professionals over the course of 2 years. They started with some nasty falls and montaged their way to pulling some sick tricks off some huge drops.

Next was "Inner Balance" by Brian Mackenzie. Here's an online review and synopsis. The emcee intros the film by telling us that there is no coasting on a unicycle and they have a brake which is operated under the seat, which is why alot of the unicyclists had the rodeo grip throughout the movie. Those guys pulled off some amazing tricks and jumps. One of my favorite parts was the guy riding the old timey bicycle like this
and it was neat to see where the unicycle came from and how changing the diameter of the wheel changed the gearing for the unicycle.

"20 Seconds of Joy" featuring Karina Hollekim, Norwegian BASE jumper and sponsored Red Bull athlete. This was the main feature as it clocked in at 60 minutes. It followed the career of Karina as she scoured the globe looking for her next jump. She teamed up with Jeb Corliss for alot of them and it was amazing hearing them talking about the realities that you have to deal with as BASE jumpers.
1) You will get hurt.
2) You will see people, probably your friends, die.
3) You will die.
If you can accept those handy dandy bite sized facts, then you are qualified to jump off of a Building, Antenna, Span, or Earth. Jeb said there are basically 3 ways that people get out of BASE jumping.
1) They get hurt and can't physically do it anymore.
2) They decide not to jump anymore.
3) They die.
And that's it. Those are the 3 ways out. Karina progressed from sky diving (you're supposed to have at least 250 sky dives before you BASE jump, she had 25 before her first time) to BASE jumping, to pulling flips off a jump, to a wingsuit, to a wingsuit and instead of flying away from the cliff, soaring right next to it and pulling away at the last minute. I won't give away the ending, in case you see it sometime, but it's awesome and awe-inspiring.

That's it for now. I'll be back later with the other 4 films.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008


We're boned.

Futurama is back on the air! Hooray! Of course they released the "new" episodes on DVD a few months ago but it was still nice seeing them on TV.

We watched "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith, a german shepherd, and lots of computer animation. There are some plot holes and unexplained phenomena like where did he find a pristine 2008 Shelby GT 500 Mustang and gas 3 years after most of humanity vanished? But other than that it was a good movie, very suspenseful with some scary moments. It really made me want to read the book. I'll pick it up after I'm through with my Mark Twain short story collection. I also realized that I don't have Bob Marley's "Love is my religion" song on my computer, which is a shame.

I was talking to a friend and he said someone stole all his Bob Marley CDs, which is wrong on so many levels. That's like a Gandhi supporter going on a "Eat All The Time" strike, a non-hunger strike, if you will.

Writing is slowly coming along. I need to get the papers I'm working on off the computer and into the hands of my advisor. It's too late for just talking about results and data; I need some tangible evidence that is good enough to publish. I have recruited J to help motivate me. It will work and maybe even bring us closer together.

I'll get the films from the Banff Film Festival up tomorrow. I left my notes at home. I will be climbing today after lab and maybe even do some cardio.

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Monday, March 24, 2008


It's a mad, mad March

With Clemson, Georgetown and Pittsburgh all losing over the weekend, my NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket is all messed up. Basically to win I need every higher ranked team (UNC, Memphis, UCLA) to lose as soon as possible. I'm fairly screwed. Luckily we only have an order of fries riding on it. I know better than to pay lots of money for a bracket pool because I'm terrible at it. I only watch college basketball in March so I'm out of my element.

I just saw that 4 US soldiers perished for their country over the weekend which officially brings the US soldier death toll to 4,000. I know they died for their country but why did our country ask them to die?

Baseball is starting up again. Meh.

I'm still amazed how well this country tolerates alcohol and its abuse.

A friend, J and I caught the Greenville leg of the Banff Mountain Film Festival tour last Thursday. It was pretty cool. I'll have a better recap tomorrow. I have work to do right now.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Happy Hangover Day!

It's hard for me to get into St. Paddy's Day spirit when I have to work all day and then do it again the next day, with drunken debauchery in between. I know of people who take St. Patrick's Day off so they can really enjoy it and I suppose that if you get drunk early enough and pass out early enough, it would be possible to get the hangover out of the way and still get some good refreshing sleep before work the next day. I signed Guiness' Proposition317 because I love Guiness and it would be cool to have a holiday explicitly dedicated to drinking. Yes there are others but they all fall under the guise of family or sporting events.

As I watched the post-race interviews after this weekend's first Formula 1 race, I realize how hypocritical I have been and I really need to work on my view of corporations. I can't hate all corporations. Corporations feed me, build houses, entertain me and put me to sleep at night. But what I can do is be more mindful of which corporations I choose to support. Especially if I get to realize my dream of being a paid rally driver, I will be the face for several corporations. The Australian Grand Prix winner, Lewis Hamilton, is the face of Vodafone, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Spanish bank Santander, Hugo Boss, Exxon freaking Mobil, Johnnie Walker, Bridgestone, Fed Ex and Aigo (which is an electronics company). That's alotta corporations. Here's Lewis with KISS:

See? So if I really want to compete on a local, national or international scale, I'm going to need some corporations on my side. The oil companies support all racing and all driving period, until we can make lots of cars that aren't dependent on oil. Even if I was on the inside of an oil company, I don't think I could change much all by myself.

We need corporations to be better role models. Stop giving your execs millions of dollars because they fucked over its employees the best and made the stock price go up a quarter of a point. Stop raping Mother Earth in the name of the almighty euro. You can rape her a little but you also have to help her recover otherwise there won't be anything left for your demon spawn to exploit.

I'm gonna start my bamboo farm. I'm pretty sure I can make some furniture out of it and then I need to figure out the best way to make building materials from bamboo.

Off to work and write!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


No more lefty birds!

I'm pretty sure I strained my middle finger of my left hand using our new rock rings. I know this because it hurts if you push on it and it happened last year on the middle finger of my right hand. I can still climb though. The wall will be closed next week due to Spring Break (woohoo) so hopefully it'll heal some then.

I saw a lovely Focus rally car for sale online. Here it is now! He's asking $9000 which is really reasonable considering my budget for building my Focus in a Rally Focus is at least $15,000 and everyone always says to buy your first rally car instead of building it yourself. Hopefully when I can afford to blow that much on a hobby, there will be a Focus with a cage and the works available and reasonably priced.

My racing is on hold for right now. My struts are blown and need to be changed. The March BMW event was canceled so now the closest autocross is the BMW event in October. Boo. What that means is I'll be traveling to Charlotte or Atlanta if I want to drive my Focus in anger around cones in a parking lot.

I think I got ditched for lunch so I'll be eating at my desk by myself. Don't feel sorry for me; I love hanging out with me.

Sick of flipping through the channels looking for non-NASCAR racing? Have no fear! Formula 1 starts this Friday in the Land Down Under! I read an article about Scott Speed (former Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 driver) who was forced out of F1 and then came to NASCAR, just to try something different. I'll have to get the whole quote out of Car&Driver but he did say that driving a stock car "is like driving a boat".

I hope my eventual and still theoretical son or daughter enjoy cars and racing and the outdoors. Honestly I'm hoping for a girl because I know J wants one and my mom would love a granddaughter after raising two rambunctious boys. It would be hard in some respects but easier in others. A fast guy is not that rare, but a fast girl? Those are in short supply. And I know J would love to have a pink racecar in the garage.

With energy prices currently going off the chart, I think J is coming around on motorcycle riding. We looked at the BMW dealer a few weekends ago and if we can find one that will fit her (and I get out of school and get a job and we have a garage and the weather is nice to ride) then we'll probably go ahead and pick one up so that I can commute on it and she can learn to ride. The only real problem is that they're small so drivers don't always see them and physics is not on our side if we have an accident.

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Monday, March 10, 2008



My nose is stopped up and my throat still hurts a bit. I'm drinking hot tea and orange juice to try and kick it old school. I also started adding some Tylenol cold and sinus, so hopefully I'll get over it soon.

J was VERY disappointed to hear that it was "Spring Forward" and not spring back on Sunday. She'll never get that hour back, until October of course.

We did some very minor home improvements. We moved the bookshelf off the wall and removed the paper backing making it unstable but it gives a very airy feel to it. We used a couple L brackets to affix it to the wall so we don't have the leaning tower of books anymore. I also finally put up my Christmas present rock rings. We only made it halfway through their little training regiment and J can't do a pull up yet. I'm starting to realize that it isn't that common for women to not be able to do a pull up, which brings up the question, how many guys can't do one pull up?

I'm presenting in group meeting today, so I'll be preparing for that. I also just realized this computer didn't update the clock automatically. Silly computer.


Friday, March 07, 2008


There's a grid?

At some point, it is my dream to go off the grid, or at least stop paying the electric company for power and maybe even get them to pay me for my excess energy. Solar panels, maybe a wind turbine, maybe even a hydrogen generator and then fuel my house and cars with hydrogen. I don't know. It's a large initial investment but after that, your bills are almost non-existent except for that damn phone bill.

Taking a page from the Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss opus, we're taking baby steps to be as close to 100% sustainable as possible. It starts with recycling at home, then recycling at work. At the very least that saves a large chunk of trash from making it to the landfills. We're renting, so household changes are mostly out but we did buy a washer and dryer that are both EnergyStar and use less water and heat than older washers and dryers. I wish the owners would install double paned windows and maybe save us some heating and cooling money but I don't see that happening before we move out. The hot water hose should probably be insulated and assuming I can figure out which one is the hot water pipe, it shouldn't be too big of a deal, or too expensive, to get some insulation from a hardware store.

The next step, baby of course, we're looking at taking is eco-friendly clothing. We watch "Big Ideas for a Small Planet" on the Sundance Channel. One episode revolved around the clothing industry since they put clothes on roughly 6 billion people. Seaweed fibers, corn fibers, bamboo fibers, all sustainable and all relatively straightforward to make, although I don't like the idea of using food to make clothes, let's leave corn on dinner plates and maybe give the rest to starving people here and abroad. I especially like the idea of bamboo. We have some bamboo in our backyard and it has really inspired me to come up with different ways to use it. So far I don't have many but others do.

I found a shoe company that uses old tires as the sole and sustainable materials for the upper section. Of course I didn't bookmark it so I'll have to find it again, but the NYTimes did mention the eco-clothing company Nau to me in an email. I haven't flipped through the website yet but the front page looks cool. I also want to mention Patagonia. They take old soda bottles, melt them down and then pull that into a fiber and make clothing out of it. It's their Capilene line and they actually will recycle your old Capilene into new clothes.

Don't try and save the planet in one go. Take a few baby steps and see how they feel. I bet you won't even notice, but I know Mother Nature will.


Thursday, March 06, 2008


Me no write so good

J is a big fan of taking classes. We haven't actually taken any classes but she always wants to take a cooking class or a photography class. She's a visual learner and feels she needs to see what's going on before she can grasp the idea and then do it for herself. Since I'm a fan of always learning, I'm on board with these ideas.

We both need to read more. The 7 habits of highly successful people is dry and it feels like an assignment and I haven't read more than 80 pages or so. I still feel successful just not highly successful. It isn't pleasure reading and we both need more of that. Maybe I'll go see what Cynical Chris is reading or has read and try a couple out.

Neither J nor I have littered in years. Actually on our hike last week, we picked up other people's trash. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone did that? There would only be grass and trees and birds outside instead of McDonald's cups, wrappers and cigarette butts. This is obviously excluding landfills but we try and recycle as much as we can to try and keep some of our trash out of those too. We do it for Mother Nature and for you. When you're hiking or biking or driving or walking along wouldn't you rather enjoy nature and its majesty instead of being distracted by that Bud Light can? Or maybe it's just me. Maybe other people can ignore the trash and keep going, but I really can't. I see it and it reminds me that certain people are disgusting and they should be made to live in the filth they toss outdoors.

J's mom was up here a couple weeks ago and we both jumped on her when she threw a cigarette butt on the ground in the parking lot of the airport. I told her my theory that ultimately it will be the trash that smokers leave that gets smoking banned most everywhere, especially outdoors. Can you imagine not smoking in a national park? Well it's coming. Mark my word. They already have smoke-free beaches in Cali and I'm sure only part of the argument was the second-hand smoke blowing into people's faces. Those poor children making their sand castles and digging up cigarette butts. Someone finally thought of the children!

I really need to let Camel know about my theory. I still occasionally smoke because it's fun and cool. Sure I get winded walking up stairs the next day, but that goes away once my lungs heal. I got an email from them asking for me to stand up against a proposed increase in cigarette taxes in South Carolina. I laughed and deleted it. We have some of the lowest cigarette prices in the country and smokers should probably pay a bit more for their habit. Maybe it'll even get a few people to quit?

Camel has been my brand since undergrad. Caveman smoked Camel Lights and they weren't bad and then I had a Camel Special Light and was blown away. Then they kept coming up with different flavors and cool tins and cool designs on their packs. All those coupled with my fond images of Joe Cool, the coolest smoking camel around, and I almost exclusively smoke Camels. I have a friend who works for the OTHER big brand of cigarette, you know, they sponsor a certain red F1 team. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro? Ring any bells? I'm actually impressed with them the most because they are a title sponsor of the team but can only have "Marlboro" on the race car for 3 out of 16 races. That's panache.

Which brings me to my original topic: getting high. Most people associate that term with mary jane but it fits for anything that gets your heart rate up and you enjoy and want to do again. There are ways to get high drug-free. Homer showed a couple when Moe wouldn't serve him. You can give blood or go up to an elevation where the air is thinner. I hear sky-diving, base jumping and most other extreme, sorry x-treme, sports are a great adrenaline rush. Don't like those ideas? Okay, then we'll move on to putting something into your body. Starbucks thinks caffeine is a great drug, in fact, why aren't you drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte right now?!?!?! Others enjoy highly processed sugary foods and drinks. Some try over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. There are quite a few. I'll let you search Erowid for those. Still too tame. Now we're getting into the good stuff. Stuff that you either need a doctor's prescription or have to be of legal age to get your hands on. Cigarettes (nicotine!) and alcohol (beer!), hooray! Doctor's can get you lots of other drugs but you usually have to be pretty banged up to get those, so we'll stick with the two that the federal government thinks are safe enough to be distributed pretty much everywhere. Cigarettes make you stink and your lungs forgive you only if you stop for a long time. Alcohol also makes you stink and your liver will forgive you only if you drink in moderation (1-2 a day, whatever pansy liver, I wanna get drunk!)

That's it. Everything else is "bad" and cigarettes and alcohol are "good". Thanks government for thinking of our safety and health and only allowing these two drugs to be bought and sold openly.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


RIP Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away at the age of 69. He co-created the game with Dave Arneson and inspired legions of geeks and not-so-much-geeks with his board game which lead to cartoon shows, video games and has now even inspired an entire genre of computer games. My first exposure to Dungeons and Dragons was with the Intellivision game "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons". You made your way through the dungeon and hoped you didn't run into the Minotaur too soon. Different books gave you different powers, like seeing through walls and another that allowed you to walk through walls. Then I watched the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon and really enjoyed seeing the characters almost make it out of the Dungeon, only to be whisked back into the world of monsters and magical spells. Wiki page with characters and others.

Fast forward about 20 years and the next time I ran across Gary Gygax was while watching Futurama and he made a guest appearance during the Anthology of Interest I episode where Fry asks the "What If" machine what if he had never been frozen and thawed in the future. Turns out he is supposed to and a team of nerds (the Vice Presidential Action Rangers) lead by Al Gore and the other team members are Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols and Gary Gygax.

Gary still hosted D&D games as most recent as January and loved hearing stories from people who grew up playing his game.

Thanks Gary and our thoughts go out to your wife and 6 grandkids.

Edit:I almost forgot to tell you why Gary's appearance on Futurama was so cool. When he first meets Fry, he says "It's a *rolls his dice* pleasure to meet you!" Always leaving it up to the die. Then after Fry successfully destroys all of existence, Fry and the VP Action Rangers are floating in nothingness, so Gary asks if anyone would like to play Dungeons and Dragons for the next quadrillion years. Then Al Gores says he's a Level 10 Vice President and Nichelle Nichols

, who played Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek says "Great an eternity with nerds. It's like the Santa Monica convention all over again." Ah, good times.



Monday, March 03, 2008


I made bureaucracy happen!

I was never really sure if we had a City of Clemson supplied trashcan. There were lots of cans out front of our place but none that had our number on it. So I gave the public works department a call and asked them to check it out. Did they ever. We came home to find all the trash cans with warnings stating that the cans must be removed from the curb by sundown of trash pick up day, but more importantly we have our own trashcan now! And no one can take it away from us! We'll see what happens if someone's can is still on the curbside next Wed. morning. They might just lose their trashcan privileges. Oh no! Sorry neighbor!

J and I went for a nice hike yesterday. We hiked along the Foothills Trail for about 3 miles or so, ate lunch next to the Chattooga River and then hiked back to Focus who was waiting patiently and couldn't wait to get back on the dirt road that led to the trailhead. She even got a little slideways on a couple turns where the road was wide and I could see if someone was coming. Gotta get my co-driver J used to sliding around a little bit. A little sideways is okay but crazy sideways looks cool but just isn't fast.

We had hoped to make it to Big Bend Falls but didn't hike far enough in. We did get to see Lick Log Falls which was tiny and pretty and a vaguely suggestive name, and we actually missed it the first time through but saw it on the way out. Photos will be up this week. Okay, I'm going to go see if Google Earth can help me figure out how far we hiked and how close we were to Big Bend. Next time we'll start a little closer to Big Bend Falls.

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