January, 2009

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Showing off

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

A couple weeks ago the San Francisco Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SFR-SCCA) put my Spec Miata race car on display at the Silicon Valley International Auto Show in San Jose.

smsviasThe first challenge was getting the car there. The San Jose convention center where the show was held was only a couple miles from my shop where the car is stored, but the car hasn’t been registered for road use in over a year. A couple days before the move I went to the DMV to try to get a temporary moving permit, but unbeknownst to me starting this year the rules for issuing these have tightened, and I wasn’t able to get a permit. That wasn’t a big deal, as towing the car was always an option, but spending 30-45 minutes for loading/unloading, not to mention driving an unwieldy tow rig around downtown SJ, seemed a bit silly for moving an otherwise road-worthy car a couple miles.

Once at the convention center, getting the car inside was interesting, involving taking a shortcut driving over the sidewalk to get into the parking garage without driving the car on public streets, and then through a set of double doors onto the main floor. Regrettably our display was on the first floor so I didn’t have the chance to drive the car in and out of the freight elevator.

Contrary to what television shows would have you believe, driving a car indoors isn’t very much fun. Or rather, driving a race car with a solid-hub puck clutch at walking pace indoors isn’t very much fun. The race car clutch doesn’t like to be eased in—trying to do so would stall the engine—so I had to “launch” the car as gently as I could into first gear, then immediately clutch in and let it coast at a walking pace for a short distance, and repeat; not unlike driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but just a bit slower.

Logistics aside, having the car on display was a fun time. I set up a looping playback of race videos from last season which, as moving video always does, turned a few heads and caught some attention. Whenever I could I would let people—kids mostly but also a few folks interested in getting into racing themselves—get into the car and have their photos taken. I enjoyed talking to the general public about the SCCA’s motorsports activities and also about my particular experiences; it was nice to have a fresh set of ears to hear my stories.

As an upshot, in preparation for the show I cleaned the car thoroughly inside and out, and kept the outside clean and shiny with generous amounts of detailing spray. The car is probably cleaner than it’s ever been.

History is for the early birds

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

In my relatively short time here on Earth there have been a few events that may in the long run punctuate the history of our civilization… but I’ll be darned if I was actually able to witness any of them, by live broadcast if not in person.

Case and point: The Challenger accident occurred while I was in class, and as I was in Canada we weren’t tuned in to the event as apparently many American schools were. The September 11 attacks had all taken place by the time I woke up.

The bulk of western civilization, it seems, lies in a span of time zones that seemingly increases the probability of noteworthy events happening while I, here in Pacific Time, am in bed asleep. As a matter of practice, one of the first things I do after waking up in the morning is checking the news on the BBC, CBC and CNN web sites, as a quick check that the world hasn’t changed in some drastic way in the previous few hours.

Of course there are plenty of other events that have occurred while I was fully aware, but they tend not to be singular moments. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami may have been (to a degree) a pinpoint in time, but its far-reaching effects took some time to become known. The fall of the Berlin Wall may be considered an “event” but it didn’t occur all at once, certainly not in the literal sense.

Only time will really tell how “monumental” tomorrow’s inauguration will be… But at least this time I might wake up on time to see it, if my alarm clock doesn’t fail me.

Shout it to the world

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

With our parents fully informed I’m finally able to lift the news embargo: Janice and I got engaged on Thanksgiving Day this past November.

Happy New Year everybody.