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|Tuesday, June 13th, 2006|
I woke up reeeeal early to take Katie and Tom to the airport, and they relinquished their car to me for safekeeping. Then I took a nap.
When I woke up, it was sunny and beautiful--and I had nothing to do all day. So I decided to give my car a thorough cleaning, which consisted of the following:
- Washing it with dish soap to get all the wax off
- Washing all the little nooks between the body and the doors
- Going over the entire body with a clay bar to clean grit out of the paint
- Washing with soap again to get the clay residue off
- Polishing the paint
- I like bulleted lists
- Washing the windows, plastic, and rubber while the wax hazed
- Buffing the wax
As simple as that!
I went to the doctor this morning for a baseline checkup. I like this doctor because he takes the time to talk about things in addition to just checking me out. He did all the normal thump listen breathe cough grope(!) checkup bits, but then we spent time talking about family history and lifestyle stuff. I mentioned the history of heart trouble in my grandparents, but he said I probably should be worried. There are three major causes of heart disease: smoking, cholesterol, and...something else I forgot. Blood pressure I think? Anyway, I didn't have and risk in any of the categories. He basically ticked off the top causes of health trouble in men and said that I was not at risk for any of them. The highest one on the list that applied to me was (wait for it) a car accident! He asked if my car had side-curtain airbags and stability control; I laughed a bit and explained that I specifically chose a car without
those features. He said I should make sure my next car has them. Yeah, I'll get right on that.
But it is nice to know that I'm not going to die of stuff. Also he said that my cholesterol/HDL ratio is 2.7, which is apparently very good. Furthermore, because of some reason I don't understand, that ratio doesn't really change because your liver regulates it. The upshot, according to the good doctor, is that I won't get fat. I'm not sure that makes sense, but I'll take it! With a side of fries!
|Going back a bit
We had a party for the Rice interns at our recruiter's house. She lives pretty close to me--so close in fact, that I was able to drive there, drop off a cooler, drive home, and walk back to the party within half an hour. I was there pretty early, so I told them that I was taking my car home because I didn't want to risk driving after a few beers, but really I was just concerned about leaving my car on the street. Ha ha! I am too neurotic in that regard.
Anyway, since this was a party for Rice Folks, we tried to Texas it up some. One guy brought brisket and I brought lots of Shiner, which is basically an import up here. At Sam's back in Austin, I could get a case for ~$18. At the QFC next door to me, a 6-pack is $6.99! On sale! I felt bad about spending so much until I realized that I was going to be reimbursed anyway.
The party was a fun time; there were large fireballs from the grill (buncha yankees ain't know 'bout no barbecue) and various talkings with the kids about what real life is like. I told some of them about buying a house here and what an unbridled joy that is. The full-timers that were there are good people, and since I actually will see them again, I spent most of my time getting to know them. It's cool that the recruiter lives so close to me, because we can hang out at all the cool local places. Also, apparently I'm on her kickball team now, too. Speaking of which, I hit two out of the three balls that were thrown at me during the last softball game! I also bought a glove. This is a weird and new thing.
Today was full of errands. I woke up early to make cookies
(stay tuned to find out why! That's foreshadowing) and headed over to the east side to meet some guy for lunch at a Japanese place. He posted a message to the MS Drivers mailing list about how he wanted to get a new sound system put in his S2000. Well, I know a thing or two about that! I showed him what I had done and he did a test listen with some of his CDs (System of a Down, rolleyes). He was pretty impressed with the whole thing and I offered to give him a hand with it if he decides to do the work himself. I figure I can save him 8-10 hours of work if I can stop him from making the same mistakes I did. I showed him the shop manual (but didn't lend it to him--it took forever to make the hard copy) and offered some general tips, so we'll see what he does.
After that I went shopping (wooo) at lots of places. I went to this Completely Insane Huge Busy mall in Bellevue because that's where The Container Store is; I have a coupon that will give me 15% off everything for the next six weeks. Since there's so little storage space in my house, I'm going to have to get lots of shelves, cabinet dividers, drawers, etc etc etc. It won't be cheap, but at least it will be cheaper
. I also got some wire cutters from Home Depot so I could trim the excess chain that I used to hang my potrack. I need to put up a picture of it; I will do so when Megan arrives with the camera. After all that, I did a couple hours of work (at work) and went to yet another
cookout with some Rice and UT people. I brought cookies which I traded for steak and beer; both were very excellent. As usual, everyone looooved the cookies because it's just the best cookie recipe ever. There were no leftovers (sad face).
I went out afterwards with a few other friends, and one of them noticed that all three of us were wearing different colors of Old Navy ringer tees. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the biggest fan of Old Navy, but man do those shirts look good. They fit, the colors are fun, and they're comfortable. I guess I'm not the only one who realized that.
Time for a meeting, so more later.
|Tuesday, June 6th, 2006|
|Things that have happened
I was in Austin! But most everyone already knows that. It was a singularly fantastic time, with some of the following highlights:
- I ate lots of food at good old Austin places
- I cooked for Mothers' day
- I scoped out some wedding venues with Megan
- I saw all the fun friends who I miss so dearly
- I saw Megan graduate
- I was able to attend Banana Day
We had the ship party for Vista Beta 2. The codename is "Longhorn" and the color theme is orange. Even though it's named after the resort instead of the animal, I couldn't help but draw parallels to the events I had attended the previous weekend. There was a band, but they weren't very good. Also some guy shaved his head and there was a beer bong. Keep in mind that this was during work.
Another autocross event in Bremerton. Several new people came out with us, and we traded rides appropriately. I didn't spin out this time (yay) and I was pretty happy with my time, but we were all put to shame by a driver in a new Solstice that got best time of day. He beat me by about ten seconds(!), but then again he's also a nationally competitive driver.
Towards the end of the day a Corvette took the last slalom a little too hot and went off the track. There was a row of pretty yellow bushes right in front of the woods; he went right through the bushes and disappeared. The general concensus was that he had hit the trees (which would have been awful) but luckily his car stopped in a ditch and was even able to drive out.
Enjoyed a fine night out with some goons at the Red Hook Brewery.
Enjoyed a fine night out with some MS folks at one of the local favorite Thai places. Afterwards played Burnout Revenge on an XBox 360, both of which were firsts for me.
Enjoyed a fine night out with Kendra and Isaac; Italian food and lots of wine. I'm glad that I'm starting to find some places around here to go...it took me years to build up a list of restaurants, bars, etc in Austin. As you probably know, I tend to stick with places I know, so it can be rather limiting when I only have been to a couple.
I attended Expedia's Test Drive day; a friend of mine who worked there until Friday organized it this year. It's basically a day when people on their car enthusiast list bring their various vehicles to work to show them off, talk about them, and give rides. We had my car, an Elise, a Boxster, an H2 (which everyone thoroughly ridiculed), two classic Camaros, an old Shelby Mustang, a new Mustang, a new 330i, and a TSX. I rode in a few and drove a few. Several people wanted rides in my car, and they all seemed to like it.
Today. Apparently I am on my group's softball team and we have a game today. I've never played softball. I don't know how
to play softball. This should be interesting.
|Date of the divvil
I really hope I get to write a check today! You know I'll mark that date in M/D/Y format, oh yeah.
|Wednesday, May 24th, 2006|
|This is what I do
This isn't the update I wanted to post first, but I just saw this article
and it's pretty exciting. Yesterday Bill Gates delivered the keynote at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC). His speech contained a demo and lots of positive information. The article on Anandtech
is also very positive, including such praise as "Microsoft...wants to be the platform of choice for virtualizing hardware...From the looks of it, Microsoft is well on its way with their in house virtualization support. They demonstrated the capability to hot add devices and even virtual memory to client operating systems with no down time required."
That's pretty amazing news. I'm really excited to be part of this project.
|Friday, May 12th, 2006|
|Bus Justice (Bustice)
If you've heard me complaining about traffic up here, you've probably heard me complaining about HOV lane abusers. They are awful people, not because they're breaking the law, but because they're basically giving the finger to all the other drivers on the road. They're like the people who pass a long line of cars on the shoulder and then cut in at the last minute. We hates them. In fact, my anger at them is so great that I was plagued with guilt when I was legally in the HOV lane this week (it stops being HOV at 7pm)--I didn't want everyone else to think I was a scummy abuser.
I do have a point. On the bus ride home yesterday, I was pulled from the middle of A Perfect Spy
by the bus driver honking furiously. I looked up to see him pointing repeatedly at the car in front of him; after a few moments of this he grinned and gave someone to the right of the bus a thumbs-up. As the bus proceeded, I saw a police officer on the shoulder with a line of cars--apparently he had been waving violators out of the HOV lane (the rightmost, on this highway) and was proceeding up the line giving them tickets. The bus driver had been gesticulating at the single-passenger SUV in front of us, trying to get the officer to notice them. In the end, he was successful and the officer gave the "pull over" sign to the SUV. Dejected and beaten, they succumbed and got in line with the rest of the offenders. Guess they won't be getting home quicker after all!
|Wednesday, May 10th, 2006|
|Microsoft's health plan is awesome
Apparently I hurt my back moving. This is odd, because the back pain started two days before my move. After having pretty bad pain in my lower back for about a week, I decided it was worth a trip to the doctor. After some poking and prodding, he determined that I probably strained (tore) a muscle in my back. They did a pee test to make sure I didn't damage my kidneys and told me I have a nice butt (medically speaking). Total cost: $0. He also referred me to a physical therapist; I have my first appointment tomorrow. Total cost: $0. Finally, he wants me to come in again after I get back from Austin for a general checkup and some baseline tests. Total cost: $0. I'm gonna start going to the doctor for everything! Stub my toe? See the doctor for free. Eat some food I didn't like? See the doctor for free. Get rained on? See the doctor for free.
But how did I get to this point? I mentioned something about moving up there. Yes, I completed my move last week and am fully integrated into the new place. Of course, right now "fully integrated" means I have a 2-foot high stack of flattened boxes in the living room, wires and speakers strewn all over the couch, and pantry foods covering the coffee table. Several kitchen tools and electrics are laying all over the kitchen counter, except for a small spot big enough for a cutting board. The office closet is packed full of musical equipment, and the bookshelf is stacked randomly with books, papers, and files. Not the cookbooks, though--they are in piles on the living room floor next to some disassembled Ikea furniture. I don't have room to assemble it, so I guess it will remain there for a while. The guest bathroom is stuffed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with boxed full of used packing material. My clothes are all wedged into my closet, which makes it impossible to find anything. My car is nestled among tools, boxes, trashcans, and an old refrigerator, with just enough room to open the door. So I'm pretty much moved in.
This weekend I also finished cleaning out the old apartment and turned in the keys. With all the trouble they've given me lately (most recently, two $75 bills for late fees that were the result of a "mistake"), I don't really expect to see my deposit again, but who knows. I'm happy enough just to be out of there. I hate apartments.
Anyway, I know, you want pictures of the new place. I'll get my camera back when I'm in Austin and put some up in a couple weeks.
|Monday, May 8th, 2006|
|Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006|
|The movers are here
And they're packing everything. It's kinda nice to sit here and play on the internet while they do all the work, but it does make me feel kinda guilty. Not guilty enough that I'd do it myself, though.
Tonight will be a very, very boring night because all I have is boxes, but then tomorrow morning they truck will come to move all my stuff to the new place. That will probably take most of the day (bleah), but at least I'll be DONE.
Well, DONE except for moving all my food, cleaning the apartment, moving the cleaning supplies, unpacking, rebuilding all my Ikea furniture, transferring my broadband...
I might just be finished by the time I leave for Austin.
|Sunday, April 30th, 2006|
|Sourdough, part 2
After the previous fiasco, I tried again to make a sourdough starter. I used the same process, except I fed the starter every other day. I still didn't see a huge amount of growth, so I added some store-bought yeast. Finally, I had a bubbly mess! I made two loaves bread with it yesterday; one is a sandwich loaf and the other is a boule. They came out okay, but there's only a hint of sour flavor. The texture is all wrong, too--it's very chewy and thick. I guess I need to let it rise more, which is kind of a surprise. I did a slow rise in the fridge till it doubled (about 6-8 hours), then a second countertop rise (2-3 hours) after I divided it in half. The second rise doubled the volume again. After I formed the loaf and the ball, I let them bench proof for about an hour to fill out the loaf pan. So after 9-11 total hours of rising, the bread was still too dense! I guess next time I'll do the first rise overnight, the second while I'm at work, and the third when I get home. That should give it plenty of time to develop.
Despite those setbacks, the bread is pretty good. I've eaten about half the boule in less than a day! I doubt these loaves will last as long as store-bought ones--I don't want to leave them out at room temperature, but if I put them in the fridge they get too wet. I guess the point of a breadbox is to control moisture? Maybe I should get one. If anyone has any advice on storing fresh bread, let me know.
In other cooking news, a coworker has set up a Cooking Light dinner club, which is basically a monthly potluck based on recipes in the magazine. We had our first meeting today, just to meet everyone and decide what we're going to do. The first dinner is, unluckily enough, the Saturday I'm in Austin for Megan's graduation. I will also be missing the NWRSCC autocross school and Audi's "Streets of Tomorrow" driving event. This graduation thing better be worth it! >:(
I'm moving into my house next week, so I guess that will be the big news in the future. And then I will be Crazy Busy getting settled in there.
|Sunday, April 23rd, 2006|
|I made a great dinner by accident
Some pasta thing
4oz angel hair pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken breast, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup red wine (or chicken broth)
1/2 jar store-bought pasta sauce (I used Barilla Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions)
lots of spinach, cut into 1/4" strips
parmesan cheese, grated or thinly sliced
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. You should time this step along with the next ones so the pasta does not have to sit for very long.
Heat the oil in a large skillet; add the chicken and garlic. Cook chicken until outisde is browned; add the celery and saute until chicken is cooked through. Deglaze pan with wine (or broth) and reduce heat to low. Once liquid has cooked off, add pasta, spinach, and pasta sauce; stir to combine. Top with parmesan. Cover pan and heat until cheese is melted. Makes like 4 servings.
I was trying to use up some ingredients I had left over, so I developed this recipe based on a skillet pasta I had at Johnny Carino's once. It turned out much better than I expected! The great thing about this recipe is that it is so flexible. Try any of these substitutions:
- Any meat (or no meat) instead of the chicken
- Onions or peppers instead of the celery
- Diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) instead of the pasta sauce
- Spaghetti, farfalle, penne, or almost anything instead of the angel hair
- Mozzerella instead of the parmesan
- Any leafy green (or nothing) instead of the spinach
- Make the recipe healthier by using more fresh vegetables and less sauce
I'm probably going to make stuff like this more often. It's really very easy. Yet another job for the cast-iron skillet--the best pan you can buy!
Busier weekend (awesome). I went on not one but two (2) driving events this weekend. There were some rumblings all week on the MS Drivers mailing list about a drive, but nobody was making a plan. So when someone on Automotive Insanity (the SA car forum) organized a run to Rainier and back, I said I'd go. Then when the MS guys got their act together, I asked if they could please go on Sunday because I was "busy" Saturday :)
It worked! I was debating whether or not I should go to both (gas is expensive) but I figured that I needed to put the miles on my car because I've been riding the bus so much. Really, I had to.
The drive on Saturday was a small affair; just two bikers from AI, me, and my friend Christian from MS. We didn't end up going to Rainier because it was still snowy up high, so instead we did a tour of some small towns east of Bellevue/Redmond. We started at Pike Place Market and stopped along the way at Giordano's Vintage Motors
to check out some awesome old cars. It was a lot of fun to ride with the motorcycles--they could take off much faster than us (one of the guys was essentially riding a race bike) but we easily caught them in the curves. You just can't get that much traction on two wheels!
Here's a picture of us with our respective vehicles:
(click for big)
L to R: Christian and his Z4, Dan'l (great name) with his RC51, me and my S2000, and Maciek with his SV650. Not pictured: the developments that will cover this area in a couple years.
You can see more pictures on Christian's site
The MS drive on Sunday was quite a bit larger. We had me, two Z4s, a SLK280, a Miata, a 325xi, an A4, and an '01 M5 that one of our guys just bought. That is pretty much my dream car, and the owner was a great driver. I had a hard time keeping up in some of the twistier parts, which is pretty amazing when you consider my car weighs over half a ton less than his. My friend Soumya rode along with me and reportedly had a blast. When asked if I was driving too fast, he was heard to say "I'm having the time of my life".
Here's a shot of us parked for lunch:
(click for big)
Not pictured: the A4 and the Miata.
And here is the route we took:
(click for big)
And again, check out Christian's pictures
The only downside is that my car is now very dirty, and there are about 300 more miles on it. It was definitely worth it, though. Riding the bus every day makes drives like these all the more special. But now I'm very tired (it's funny how driving can wear you out), so I will be turning in soon. But first, I have one more thing to post...
|Friday, April 21st, 2006|
Busy week (yay)
On Wednesday Kendra had a dinner party to celebrate her new paella bowl. This was a huge (20" maybe?) heavy wok-like pan that spanned two burners on her stove. As you can imagine, you really need a party to use this--there were 8 people there and we only finished about half. Of course, we also had a delicious lentil salad, carrots, and various appetizers to keep us full. Also, everyone was saving room for dessert, because I made
Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Coulis
adapted from Bon Appetit
1 pound froze blackberries, thawed
1 cup plus 2 tbls semi-dry white wine
6 tbls sugar
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp tawny port
1 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground espresso beans
1 cup sugar
6oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 stick salted butter
2 tbls blackberry coulis
To prepare coulis:
Place berries, wine, and 4 tbls sugar in blender, puree. Pour into saucepan, add cloves, bay leaves, and allspice. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 8 minutes.
Strain puree into bowl, pressing solids to release all juice. Discard solids. Whisk in port and sugar.
To prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350deg. Spray 9" springform pan with Baker's joy or cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper (not
wax paper). Stir chips and butter in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso. Cool 10 minutes.
Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer on high speed until thick. Fold in chocolate mixture with spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake until dry and cracked on top and tester comes out with some moist batter attached, about 42 minutes. Cool in pan 1 hour (center will fall). Use a spatula to press the edges down so the top is level. Cut around pan sides and remove them. Invert cake onto plate; remove pan bottom and parchment. Invert back onto serving plate and cool completely.
To prepare glaze:
Stir chocolate and butter in small saucepan over low heat until just melet. Whisk in coulis. Cool glaze 15 minutes. Pour onto top of cake; amooth with spatula and allow to drip down sides. Refrigerate uncovered until set, about 1 hour.
To serve, cut cake into wedges and spoon coulis alongside. Garnish with mint or fresh blackberries.
- You could use any berry instead of blackberries
- The original recipe uses chocolate chips for the glaze as well. I used Coverture chocolate because I had some and it tastes better.
- The original recipe calls for brandy instead of port. I only had port, and it's better anyway. For a non-alcoholic option, you could replace it (and the wine) with fruit juice, preferably from a berry.
- The leftover coulis can be used as a sauce for many desserts, such as vanilla ice cream.
- The original recipe was kosher (for Passover) and therefore used margarine instead of butter. I used butter because margarine sucks.
- I had no idea what "espresso powder" was so I went to the bulk coffee section of the grocery store and ground a small handful of espresso beans. It ended up being like 0.05 lbs including the bag, so I didn't pay much for it and it tasted fine.
This dessert was a fantastic hit! Everyone loved it; in fact one guy who can't eat sugar risked his life
to enjoy my dessert. That's just how awesome I am. I was really pleased with the way it turned out and I would definitely put it among the top desserts I've made. My main problem was presentation; the coulis ran everywhere and kinda made the cake soggy. Also I didn't garnish it at all, which left the plate somewhat monochromatic and dull. Still, the taste was everything I hoped for. The combination of blackberries, dark chocolate, and espresso was perfectly proportioned and provided complexity without too much sweetness. The coulis was much sweeter than the cake, so you could balance it whichever way you want by changing the proportions when serving.
|Tuesday, April 18th, 2006|
Finally, time to get this weekend finished.
In the morning, I tried to make some bread. I started a sourdough culture about a week earlier, but I was worried that it had not captured enough yeast. It wasn't as bubbly as I expected, but I didn't have any point of reference so I thought I'd try it anyway. I made a batch of dough as my books indicated. The first sign of trouble was when the dough had not developed after 30 minutes of kneading it in my stand mixer--I can't imagine how long it would have taken me if I had been kneading by hand. I figured that must be enough, and put it in the fridge to rise; I expected it to double in volume by the evening. Instead, it grew exactly 0% by the next day, which led me to believe that there was not actually any yeast in my starter.
I did a little more research and found out that I was supposed to be feeding the starter while it was sitting out that first week. Alton Brown somehow neglected to mention that part! I'm trying another culture now; if it doesn't live I'll probably just mail-order one.
After making my ill-fated bread, I drove over to the new house to check it out. Then I realized that there wasn't anything to do there, because it was empty. So I wandered around the area for a bit, but everything was closed because it was Easter. I forgot about that (but so did a lot of other people--I saw at least 10 cars drive into the mall parking lot, slow down when they saw it was empty, and drive back out).
For the actual Easter festivities, I went to Bothell to party with my realtors' families. I had mentioned on Friday that I had no plans, and they invited me to come along, which was supernice. There were several generations of both families there, and they were all very friendly and welcoming (although I did have to explain who I was to some of the older generation a couple times). There was much fooding and drinking and laughing until finally I went home. They did extend Megan and I an invitation to their cabin up near the border, which should be fun.
Okay that's all for this very busy weekend, thank you for your attention.
|Sunday, April 16th, 2006|
Not much happened today. I slept late (reeeeeal
late) and then got rid of some stuff. These two guys came to take away one couch, which I got for free and was therefore hardly motivated to sell. Later in the evening, a guy who had been interested in my TV came by to buy it. He showed up in a pack of 4 Vietnamese guys, all frosted tips and A&F shirts. They also didn't seem to have planned this, because they came in a minivan. I don't know how they planned to fit a 56" TV and 5 guys into a van, but whatever. They looked over the TV, agreed to buy it, and said they'd be back in an hour with a truck.
Two and a half hours later, they were back, but hardly more prepared. They had a pickup, but no straps or tarps (it was raining). Whatever, once I get their money I don't really care what happens to the TV. They managed to get it down the stairs (with a few close calls and onto the truck bed, but then they had no idea how to secure it. The driver wanted to lay it down on its screen
but I managed to convince him what a terrible, terrible idea that was. I gave them some rope, but the truck only had tie points in the back (what the heck?) so we had to push it against the tailgate and tie it in place. That seemed really unsafe, but like I said, whatever. I also had to give them a cardboard box to protect the screen.
Anyway, now I have no TV and one couch, great. Now I just have to lose the mower and the fridge.
I made some beef stir-fry for dinner. It wasn't very good so I won't give you the recipe.
This was the day of closing. I went to the house at lunch to meet Scott and Rayna (my realtors) and do the final walkthrough. That was pretty trivial; there were only a couple things to check and they had all been fixed. The seller was packing for her move, and we talked for a bit. I talked about her kitchen and she said she was glad it would go to someone who liked cooking. When she moved in, she got the builders to install some nicer stuff, so lucky me I guess. I got the key and headed back to work.
Around quittin' time I got the call from Rayna: the bank had funded and escrow said everything was good. The house was mine. Hooray! Coincidentally, there was a Windows-wide party that day, so Soumya I stopped in to get some free beers. Then I returned to "work" for an hour or so until dinner. It was Scott's birthday, and I was invited (by Kendra) even though I didn't actually know him. Everyone there was fun, so it was not a problem at all. We went to The Crab Pot, a little seafood shack on a fake lake in Bellevue. Scott had seen it from the road and decided he wanted to go there for his birthday. Their main entree was a big pot of seafood (oh now I get the name) which they just kind of dump on the table. Each person gets a butcher block, a mallet, a claw cracker, and a roll of paper towels. I've never had that much seafood, but I certainly plan to again. Our package (or whatever) had crab legs, mussels, potatoes, andouille, and shrimp. Lovely! But the best part was that they served beer in Proper German Liters, which are much bigger than I thought. Oh well, I wasn't drivin'.
Drivin' where, you ask? After dinner we headed about an hour north to the Tulalip casino in, well, Tulalip. I lost three dollars on the fake slot machines! I don't quite get them, several of us played them and basically we all just put in money and pushed a button until all the money was gone. How do people get addicted to this? It's like paying to play Diablo (yes, I got a laugh out of that line). Anyway, the birthday boy spent the whole night at the craps tables and got quite intoxicated. When we came back to him after wandering for a while, he was down to about half his money. I guess. The stacks of chips were smaller, that's all I know. Then something happened (I don't understand the game) in the last 5 minutes before we left and he ended up $200 up. Happy birthday!
Oddly enough, I saw Rayna and Scott there with Scott's brother and his fiancee. Rayna saw me and came over and said hi and gave me a hug, which seemed weird but then all became clear when the cocktail waitress cut her off. It was pretty cool when my party asked who that was and I said "oh, that's my realtor. Yeah, she gets drunk at casinos just like us".
I signed all the paperwork for my house the day before, to make closing easier. I spent about at the escrow office, writing my illegible signature (the notary was legally obliged to ask if the signature contained my full name) time after time on a giant stack of papers. And like that, I take on about a third of a million dollars in debt!
But this is not Wednesday. This is Thursday.
In the morning, I get the confirmation from the escrow foax, and double-check it against my records. Odd, it seems that the 0.25% discount I thought I had was not applied. I called my loan officer and asked about it; the deal was that if I auto-pay the mortgage out of a Wells Fargo Free Checking account, I get a quarter-point discount. Over the life of the loan, that would save me quite a bit. However, I never opened that checking account because my first payment isn't due for another month. I wasn't aware that I needed to open it before I signed the papers. Which I signed yesterday. Oops.
This is where my day starts to resemble Run Lola Run
except over the phone and on the bus.
I asked my loan guy if I could open an account, and he said he could connect me to the right people, but it takes about three days for a phone-initiated account to become active. He suggested I go to a branch. Great, there's a branch near the escrow office. I can just go open the account on the way to sign the new papers. Not so fast! These things need to happen in this order:
1) I have to open the account
2) I have to give the account number to the loan department
3) They will send the papers to the escrow office; only then can I sign them
I took the bus to work, so I didn't have my car. I did not have enough time to make two bus trips in between my meetings that day. What ever will I do?
I'll call the bank, first of all. The helpful account rep there understood exactly what I needed. He opened the account over the phone and gave me the number on the condition that I would stop in after work and sign all the necessary paperwork. I gave the number to the loan guy, and we were set.
When I got the call from the loan guy saying the paperwork was sent, it was time to actually go do my run. I took the bus to the escrow office; when I got there the papers were waiting and I re-did the illegible signature thing. Then I walked 12 blocks to the bank (it didn't look so far on the internet), where my account app was waiting. More signatures, a few ID checks, and I was done there. I walked outside to the bus stop on the corner just in time to catch the 233. Yes, that's the bus that goes straight home.
So many thanks to Justin at Wells Fargo Loans, Troy at the local branch, and Terry at EPOW for making a task that could have taken days flow smoothly. Helpful people are awesome.
|Monday, April 10th, 2006|
|I finally made it to an autocross event
And of course, it was the first one this year that saw rain. The story unfolds:
As you may know, I've missed all the events since I moved up here because of various conflicts. Yesterday was the first event I could actually make it to, so I tried to round up some people from the MS Drivers mailing list to make the trip out to Bremerton. Normally I wouldn't bother to organize anything, but Bremerton is on the Olympic peninsula, which means we have to drive around Puget Sound to get there. So even though Bremerton is only about 30 miles from Redmond, the drive is about 80. The last third of it ain't no 65-mph interstate, either. Luckily, we were in the afternoon group; I figured that we could leave at 9.15, have lunch, and get there in time for 12.00 registration. Later that day, I would find out how wrong I was...</DanBrown>
Two other guys had told me they were interested, so I arranged a meeting at Microsoft before we headed out. To my delight, nine people showed up! Only five were going to drive, but it was still a great turnout. Our cars were as follows:
Mercedes SLK 280
BMW Z4 3.0i
Ford Festiva (awesome)
Plus a new 3-series and an Accord that were only coming to watch. Once everyone had a map, we headed out and managed to stay together the whole way. We finally got to the restaurant that the Z4 driver had picked out, only to find that they were closed. I walked around to another entrance and saw a couple guys moving things around on dollies, so I asked if they were opening soon. The guy replied, "Yeah! Next month!" He wasn't making fun; I guess next month is
soon if you've been putting together a new business. It was probably for the best, because registration ended a little over an hour later (we didn't make good time) and if we'd eaten there we would have been late. We proceeded to Bremerton Motorsports Park anyway, and resolved to get some snacks from a gas station.
But we didn't need to! When we arrived, we found a pavilion set up where some guys were selling various grilled foods. And they weren't even over-charging! I got a nice big hamburger for $4, which doesn't seem too bad because I was very hungry (breakfast was a hurried slice of bread while I loaded the car). We all got ourselves registered and prepared for the first heat. The SLK and I were driving first; the rest would be working the course.
Here's where things got bad. It had been raining all morning (thankfully it stopped for us) so the course was somewhat wet. But of course, it wasn't evenly
wet--it was patchy (for those of you not familiar with the physics of motorsport, transitions between surfaces with different traction are very hard to anticipate, so a patchy track is even worse than a wet one). Now, I have always held back in my car when it rains because of all the warnings I've gotten. My small-wheelbase car is prone to snap oversteer (if you don't know what that is, don't worry--you'll find out soon, just like I did). So I'm ready to make my first run; the SLK driver is my passenger. It's his first time, so I was going to (oh, the hubris!) show him how it's done. I showed him something. I had kept the car in 1st gear through the first few turns and a sweeper, but I was hitting the rev limiter and decided to shift. Unfortunately, several things happened at once:
- I came out of a sweeper, so I was still turning
- I transitioned from relatively dry pavement to wet
- I shifted into 2nd and dropped the clutch
I felt the rear wheels start to hop, which is fine, that's happened to me before, just feather the gas with the steering wheel straight and I'll be okay but wait the wheel isn't
straight because I'm coming out of a turn and now I'm facing backwards how odd and the car is going completely sideways I should countersteer OH TOO LATE BRAKE AND CLUTCH TO THE FLOOR
I came to a stop in the grass off to the side of the tarmac. No harm done, just get back on course and finish my run when the corner worker waves me on. Once I get back to grid, it occurs to me that I just made a very, very stupid mistake during the first run of my first event with a new club. No one is going to believe me when I say I've done this before. After a minute or so, one of the club officers comes over and tells me (very jovially) that today is my lucky day! I laughed and told him I didn't see how. He said they actually have a rule that if you go off track, you're disqualified for the rest of the day BUT, since they forgot to announce that rule at the drivers' meeting, it wouldn't apply to me. I apologized for my mistake, but luckily he said it was fine. With my car, on a wet track, it's not entirely unexpected, and there was no damage done to any people or property. I continued my runs a much more cautious man, and ended up with 61.5XX seconds (and zero cones) as my best time.
After we all had four runs, I went out to the field to work the second heat. There were some cool cars that drove by. Two Corvettes and a Civic were disqualified for getting off the track. Not much else happened.
After the second heat, they announced that we were done early, so they would let people do up to four more runs for $1 each. That is a very
good deal, considering the first four runs cost me $25 (total). The track was also dry by now, so I figured I might be able to get closer to my goal time of 60 seconds. As soon as I started my first run, things felt better. I could push the car much harder and get the kind of response I expected. I was still running street pressures (I didn't air up my tires because of the wet course), but I still managed to easily top my best time on my first run. I think I got a low 61. The second and third runs inched slowly higher, but I made a couple minor mistakes in one and hit a cone in the other. For my fourth run, I just wanted to break 60. It was within reach. The run felt great, and I knew it was my fastest as I finished. I rolled past the timing display, expecting to see a high 59, which would make me very happy.
I had beaten my best time from the first heat by two and a half seconds
(if you've never raced before, believe me, that's a lot). Of course, these fun runs don't count for anything, and aren't even recorded. But still, I
knew what I had done. Pushing that car out on a dry course made up for months
of driving in the rain on congested city streets. I'm back!
Check out my shiny new helmet!
|Monday, April 3rd, 2006|
|I have become jaded
In the issue of Bon Appetit
that arrived today, there is an ad for a contest sponsored by the diy Network. "You could win a $350,000 home built just for you! With a kitchen by Bon Appetit!", it proclaims proudly. Is it sad that my first reaction to that was laughter? Around here, $350,000 doesn't pack quite the punch they expected. It's like a contest that says, "Win this amazing
$12,000 new car!"
|Possibly the worst thing I've ever seen
Preface: this is going to be a very rude update. I'm making fun of someone, and I'm not even sorry. But it's really
The button for my garage door opener was broken, so I asked the apartment office to have someone fix it. When I got back home, I found their standard "we fixed something" form. The bold portions below are the text of the form, and the regular parts are the comments of the guy who fixed it:Dear Resident,
SO EVERITING IS OK.We entered your apartment today and completed your service request in the following manner:
OK. THI GARAGE.
BUTTOM OPENER IS AllSO A LIGHT
Controler. WIch. Means the wehen you
leve the Butom press. THE LIGH Will Stay ON
IF you Just press. the butom ones the light will GO OFF.bla bla bla more options that aren't checked
ANy CUESTION Please
Call ME @ 425 --- ----
My NAME IS ----
DAY [there is a smiley face drawn such that the bowl of the 'y' is its mouth]
First, the obvious: this is hilarious. Second, what on earth is he trying to tell me? I still can't figure out how this switch is supposed to work. Its behavior doesn't match any of my many parsings of this cryptic note.