September, 2003

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Manual

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

I’ve been considering a new car, even been to a couple dealerships to have a look at the latest models and pick up some brochures… but—until now—one thing has been preventing from actually taking a test drive: all the cars I’m interested in are equipped with manual transmissions, and I don’t how to drive a stick shift. Actually, “don’t know” is not exactly the right term, as an on intellectual level I understand fairly well how a manual transmission works, and what I need to do with it. However, when my friend Drew tried to teach me a few years back, the results of a couple hours of whiplash-inducing clutch-popping and stalling seemed rather hopeless. I’ve always believed that with enough practice I could actually be able to do it—and well—but practice is somewhat hard to come by, as car rental places now exclusively carry automatic-transmission cars.

I was relating this little problem at dinner and my friend Nick, on a whim, offered to teach me again. It was with some trepidation that I accepted, not just because of my previous experience, but also because I knew that this time, I would be learning at the wheel of Nick’s car, a very high-performance Subaru Impreza WRX STi with all-wheel drive and packing some 300 horsepower under the hood. In a way it was a good platform for me to learn on, being very similar to my current car of choice, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8.

I started out okay but then hit a rough spot attempting to exit the parking garage; as I was stopped waiting for the garage gate to open another car pulled up behind me, and worrying about stalling and holding it up was stressful enough that my concentration was shot and I stalled the car three times before finally being able to get going again.

After that, things went more smoothly and after doing many loops around the neighbouring (empty) parking lot, I started to get the hang of things. Finally I took the car out onto the street and did a couple loops around the block to get a small taste of the car’s capabilities. All in all, I’d say this was a much more positive experience than the last, and while I still need lots of practice before I can confidently say that I’m fully able, at least now I’m confident that the ability is within my reach.

Victor Lum, autocross racer

Tuesday, September 16th, 2003

[photo of me posed with my Eclipse]

Attended and participated in my autocross Solo II event Sunday, driving my Eclipse GT. Autocross is a driving event/competition where you drive a tightly-winding, flat, road-cone-delimited course—aiming to do it in the least time possible and knocking over the least number of cones possible. It’s a fun kind of motorsport because virtually any kind of car—rolling-prone SUVs notwithstanding—can be driven. Obviously some cars are better-suited than others, but otherwise autocross is a test of driving skills, more than car performance.

As I was in a hurry filling out the registration form, the organizers had a hard time reading my scrawled name, and it was listed on the roster sheet as “Victor Lum”. The name “Victor” is somewhat ironic, given my rather mixed results:

  • First run: due to arriving late, I didn’t have a chance to walk the course and so drove into it with no foreknowledge. I went into the first turn far too fast and slid right off the course. After doing so, I idled for about 20 seconds, unsure what to do, until I was told to get back on the course and finish my run. The timer kept running—because I re-entered the course at the same point I exited it—and so instead of a DNF (Did Not Finish), I “achieved” the day’s worst time: a bit over 104 seconds. Any fears I’d had of screwing up were thus dispelled—if you fear the worst, and the worst happens, then there’s nothing left to fear.

  • Second run: things were going smoothly but about halfway through, I received a red-flag signal—meaning “all stop”—and had to abort the run. Apparently the guy running ahead of me had knocked out the timing sensor at the finish line. So I got to re-do the run.

  • Third run: my first complete clean run. Lots of sliding around and I went too fast into a turn or two, requiring handbrake turns to keep from sliding out and losing much momentum in the process. Still, a more reasonable time result: 67.229 seconds.

  • Fourth run: a bit less sliding around, and my best run of the day: 64.304 seconds. (In contrast, the best runs of any class were in the low 50s, with a couple runs below 50.)

  • Fifth run: essentially a repeat of the third run: 66.466 seconds. A fast learner, I was not.

Had my friend and autocross veteran Jason not been working the course (drivers are expected to take their turns helping out on the course, righting pylons, giving signals, helping out at the trailer, etc.) while I was doing my runs, I would probably have done better for his coaching. Ah well, live and learn…

The only competition I had in mind was against my friend and co-worker Nick, who was driving his Mini Cooper S. He prevailed, beating my best time by around eight hundredths of a second. On a better note, I was able to handily beat a friend of Jason’s who was driving a monstrous 440-horsepower ’67 Corvette.

Censorship, or something like it

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

The poem I submitted to Poetry.com has become “temporarily unavailable”. Lame-o.

Anyway if you’re curious, you can always consult my local copy.

Poetry, or something like it

Saturday, September 6th, 2003

Someone I’ve been chatting with online has gotten me thinking about poetry, and so over the past couple days I’ve been freshening up my old poetry documents—reformatting them into new Word documents and so forth. (Most were written over ten years ago so were stored in file formats I could barely read, so the update was sorely needed.) It’s easy to look back and think what I messed-up teen I was, though actually I suppose no more so than most.

Anyway all this (and reading my friend’s poems) made me a bit poetically-minded and as I was standing in line at the grocery store, something started forming in my mind. When I got home it only took me a few minutes to jot down this quick little ditty, entitled “Reflections from a Supermarket Checkout”, which I promptly submitted to Poetry.com.

Curiously enough, the website has a 20-line limit on poems. I guess if I suddenly become hyper-poetic and compose an Iliad-like masterpiece, it won’t be gracing the pages of Poetry.com.

Help me live forever!

Thursday, September 4th, 2003

Heh. This invention, which appears to be two rings equipped with neodymium magnets, purports to allow its user to achieve immortality simply by wearing the two rings each night. Click on the banner ad below; 80 unique “click-throughs” and I get a free set!

[New Invention Allows Humans To Live Forever]

Oh, if only it was that simple… This Alex Chiu guy certainly has some “interesting” (emphasize the quotes) ideas.