Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Happy winter solstice, everyone. The days start getting longer today.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

4 American Vehicles Worth Owning

I've never been a fan of American cars. Since I've been following the automobile industry---in other words, since not long after I started walking---American cars have been plagued with quality, reliability, performance, value and styling inferior, on average, to their European and especially Japanese competitors. There have always been exceptions, however, and the domestics' future is looking bright, at least for GM and Ford. Chrysler's only hope is to cling to life for the two years or so it will take for the merger with Fiat to pay off. So, in order to cheer up the Big Three faithful, I present four American cars I'd consider buying, if I were in shopping in the appropriate classes.

The 'Vette has long been a standout based on the performance-per-dollar metric, and the sixth-generation C6 continues that trend. It's very primitive in some ways---the pushrod engine with 2 valves per cylinder, most obviously---but very advanced in others. Even the base 'Vette offers pavement-wrinkling torque, exceptional handling, beautiful styling, and respectable fuel economy.

I'd go with the Z06 model unless I had cash to burn, in which case the ZR1 would be the only way to go. Even Jeremy Clarkson says you should buy a ZR1 over the Audi R8 V10, because it's a worse car.

Ford Europe has long offered cars that were superior to the Fords we've gotten in the US, at least from the enthusiast's perspective. The Euro Fiesta and Euro Focus were prime examples of this pattern. The aforementioned Mr Clarkson found the UK-market Fiesta to be the perfect vehicle for...certain activities.

Ford has recently decided to bring some of these European products to this side of the Atlantic, and the 2011 Fiesta, scheduled to arrive in the summer, is the first of those. The front fascia was only slightly uglified on the trip across the pond, and the suspension, though re-tuned, is alleged not to be as noodly as previous American products from the Blue Oval. One recent review indicated that the Euro version of the Focus is a better driver's car than the class-leading and fun-to-drive Honda Fit, though not quite as clever with its use of space. Let's hope the US Fiesta live up to that comparison.

I'd choose the 5-door hatchback, of course, though I'm hoping a Focus ST with about 160 BHP is in the pipeline. Actually, this is the Fiesta I really want. Failing that, I'll take this one.

(By the way, the Fiesta shares a platform with the Mazda2, which is coming Stateside in the summer. Cross your fingers that the Mazdaspeed2 is waiting in the wings.)

The CTS is certainly the standout in Caddy's line-up. The sedan has offered luxury, performance, and space comparable to BMW's 5-series, but at 3-series prices. The high-zoot CTS-V, powered by a detuned version of the supercharged LS-series V8 in the Corvette ZR1, even set the fastest time for a production sedan around the Nurburgring. James May certainly enjoyed his time with the CTS-V , even after bemoaning how it rode like a sports sedan, rather than a "proper," floaty Cadillac.

But wait; there's more. More CTS variants, that is. Caddy just began offering a "sport wagon" version, and a coupe configuration will be on sale in a few months. There is expected to be a -V coupe before the end of the year, but I wouldn't hold out hope for a -V wagon. The coupe is gorgeous, although I suspect rearward visibility will be poor.

Sign me up for the CTS-V coupe.

I had to think for a while to come up with a Chrysler vehicle worth owning. Then I remembered the Wrangler. The original Jeep certainly doesn't make a good road vehicle, but it's ideal for four-wheelin'. In my opinon, the entire Jeep line-up should be trimmed down to the Wrangler---in regular and Unlimited (four-door) forms---and a production version of the Wrangler JT pickup concept. I might even include the Grand Cherokee, assuming it had been refocused from soft-roading to off-roading.

Since the JT isn't for sale, I'd take the base 2-door Wrangler; it has everything you need to hit the trail and nothing you don't, all for 22 grand.

Honorable Mention

This list should not be interpreted as an exhaustive listing of all the worthwhile domestic cars. For example, Chevrolet's Malibu and forthcoming Cruze are reported to be quite good vehicles, and Ford's Fusion, especially the hybrid, may be the best car in it' class. And, speaking of the Blue Oval, the F-150 SVT Raptor certainly offers a unique set of features in stock form.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Epitaph Two. No, Seriously.

It seems that the series finale of Dollhouse is to be called "Epitaph Two: The Return." It will feature Felicia Day and be written (in part) by the duo who penned "Epitaph One." Based on all that information, I can only assume it will show us the same post-imprinting-apocalypse we glimpsed in Season One's finale. My considered opinion on this news is as follows: squee.

In other D'house news, the show returns from its sweeps-induced hiatus this Friday. Two---count 'em---episodes will be broadcast. Be sure to watch them. There will be a quiz.

Bowling Ball

This perfectly cromulent phrase is actually a metaphor, though not one of the Darmok variety. It comes, unsurprisingly, from an episode of The Simpsons. I've used it so consistently, that Alison has adopted it as well.
bowling ball, noun phrase. A gift intended more for the enjoyment of the giver than the recipient.
Example: I often worry that a gift I've choose for Alison will turn be a bowling ball, since I'm so interested in or excited about it, but not one has turned out to be.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

That's not a wheel. THAT'S a wheel.

When I bought Emma, my 1995 Miata, she came with numerous performance parts. Since my plan was---and is---to make her my dedicated track/autocross/time-trial* car, this collection of parts was the primary reason I bought this particular '94-'95 Mx-5**.

One of these parts was a very nice Momo Team steering wheel. Unfortunately, at 300 mm in diameter, this wheel is laughably small. When Alison drove the car, she said she felt like she was driving a Cozy Coupe, but with enormously higher steering effort.*** the previous owner was a taller guy, and I think he needed the extra clearance for his knees and thighs, especially when sliding into the race buckets. Aside from the required steering force and the sheer silliness, there was another drawback to this size wheel. I was unable to see my oil-pressure gauge (sic) or the tops of my tachometer and speedometer. Observe:

I needed a new wheel, clearly. But what size? After poking around on,, and the Chesapeake Area Roadsters forum, I settled on 350 mm and ordered a Momo Mod 78 in that size from an online retailer for a price well below MSRP. As you can see, gauge visibility was dramatically improved:

Steering effort was reduced, as well. It's now a little heavy at anything under about 5 mph, but at any faster speed, it's just about perfect. As a result, the car feels much lighter and more nimble, even though the vehicle itself is unchanged. This wheel comes with a suede cover, which I thought would give me extra grip. I was correct about that, but suede has another benefit: it just feels very nice.

The Mod 78 has an "anatomic" grip, which appears to mean that the rim is deeper than it is wide. It's fine when my hands are at 9 and 3 o'clock, which is where they spend 90% of their time, but at other positions, it's simply uncomfortable. If I had to make the purchase over again, I might go with the Mod 69, which is the non-anatomic version of the wheel.

Here's one more photo for you. It's a pic of the stock wheel (about 370 mm), the new Momo Mod 78, and the old Momo Team. The difference in diameter is readily apparent, but what you can't see is the weight difference. The two aftermarket parts have similar mass (about 7.5 pounds), but the stock wheel is probably around 15 pounds, due mostly to the airbag.

* Someday.
** I was looking specifically for a 1994 or 1995 Miata, for reasons I'll explain later.
*** Emma was built with power steering, but the steering rack has been depowered. This modification results in much more precise steering feel, but at the cost of higher required force, especially since the power rack has a quicker ratio than the manual rack that was available on the NA Miatas.

A Few of My Favorites

Alison, Newton, Mia. These are a few of my favorite things.

PR: Joshie

It's been months since I posted a CrossFit personal record on the blog. While I've had a few since then---I just never made the time to post them---I feel like my workouts have been subpar for quite some time. Thus, I'm quite please to report that I recorded a PR for Joshie on Sunday: 37:58. That's not a spectacular time, but it's an improvement of about 30 seconds. So, yay me, I guess.

Girlin' it Up in the Garage

Tonight, I performed some maintenance---manly, according to conventional gender roles---on my track car---double manly---while wearing Alison's slippers---girlie. I can't decide if my transvestite auto maintenance* should count as masculine, feminine, or simply strange.

* The floor in our garage has been quite cold lately, so I needed footwear. Alison's slippers** were conveniently placed, and I only planned to be out there for a few minutes.

** These are the slippers that Newton seems think combine all that's good about socks with all that's good about leather. Mmm.

One of These Things

I've recently been listening to a few songs repeatedly, and I thought I should share them with you, gentle reader.
  • Melanie C, "Beautiful Intentions." Even though I've learned Mel C's identity and background since I last mentioned her, I still enjoy several of her songs. Really.
  • Luka Bloom, "The Acoustic Motorbike." This is my favorite song about cycling.
  • Snow Patrol, "Open Your Eyes." I discovered this song watching a video compilation of Spec Miata footage, and I used the Shazam app to find it.
  • Alexi Murdoch, "Breathe." I found this one while watching an episode of Stargate Universe. Again, Shazam to the rescue.
  • Anna Nalick, "Breathe (2 AM)." I discovered this piece while searching for the other "Breathe" in this list. It's funny how things work out sometimes.
  • American Hi-Fi, "The Art of Losing." I stumbled onto this track while wacthing a video compilation of World Rally Championship jumps. More Shazam-ing ensued.
  • Muse, "Uprising." Yes, I admit it: this song is very popular on the radio right now. Plus, it is---or was recently---being used to promote ABC's remake of V.
  • Tapping the Vein, "Complicate It." This is a recently released song from a band I've been listening to for a while.
Sharp-eared readers will note that only one of these songs is about a woman planning a murder. The rest of the songs are at least a bit outside my strike zone, as Nick calls it. I think I'm growing as a person.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


The Fifth Annual Very Team Grondul Thanksgiving was a great success, despite some hiccups. Thanks to Lisa, Ken, Nick, Amy, and Not-Yet-Named Fetus for making it so.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Chase-Wrestle

Another valuable lesson we learned from our pup:
Fetch-tug is a pretty good game, but chase-wrestle is the best.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

This is an adaptation of a recipe that Shuaib recommended we cook at the first Team Grondul Thanksgiving. If you follow the link you'll see that the original called for butter and heavy cream...fine for a Thanksgiving treat, but not so great for everyday. I swapped the butter for olive oil and the cream for lite coconut milk to health it it's a healthy fall treat! Yay!


  • 4.5 Tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • About 2 lb. butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock (you could certainly use vegetable stock instead to make it vegetarian)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cups lite coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the squash and stock, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Add the apples and nutmeg and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Using a food processor or a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the coconut milk, and season with salt and pepper. Warm gently as needed.

Newton's Day vs. Michael's Day

Newton's Day

Today was the BEST day ever! I thought it was going to be just another everybody-leaves-day 'cause my girl-hooman woke up when the beeping happened and didn't stay in bed to cuddle AT ALL. That means it's a everybody-leaves-day. She put on her leaving fur and then drove off in her sick-box. Then my guy-hooman did the same thing...except he didn't drive off! He came back inside and changed into his staying at home fur and then he took me outside! I got to hang out in the front yard all day. I got to lay in the sunny grass and pee on the tree and some neighbors came over to play with me! Then my girl-hooman came home earlier than usual. It was the best day ever! I'm so tired now that I need a nap.

Michael's Day

I thought today was going to be just another workday, but boy was I wrong! I got dressed and went out to drive to work, but I couldn't shift gears. My clutch wasn't working. I went back inside and did a little research on the internet and realized that I had one of the necessary parts to fix the problem. Unfortunately, I didn't have the other part I needed, so Alison offered to go pick it up at lunchtime and work from home for the afternoon. So, I set to work in the driveway and took Newton out with me since he enjoys being outside. At least the weather was decent. I was hoping I could get the job done in time to go to work for a few hours, but I finished up at took me all day! I think I fixed the problem, but it still doesn't seem quite right so I might have to do some more adjusting. *sigh* What a crappy day. I'm so tired now that I need a nap.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No-Beef Stew

I recently had a craving for beef stew but Michael doesn't eat beef. Hmm...conunrum. Then I was shopping at Whole Foods and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but bison stew meat...on sale! So, I searched for a good beef stew recipe that sounded like what my mom used to make when I was little. I found this recipe for Irish Beef Stew. Based on Michael's no-beef preferences and some of the reviewers' comments left at the Epicurious site, I came up with this (awesome, if I do say so myself) recipe.

  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 3 Tblsp flour plus salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 - 2 lbs. bison stew meat cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 large garlic cloves minced
  • 5 tsp vegetable Better than Bouillon
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 Tblsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tblsp sugar
  • 1 Tblsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs red potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped baby carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tblsp cornstarch

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, dredge the bison meat in the flour/salt/pepper mixture. Sauté meat until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add Better than Bouillon, water, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to bison stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and bison are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Whisk cornstarch in cold water and then stir into stew to thicken.


The dog they call...Jayne!

Pretty cunnin' dontcha think?

No, it's not a pon-"cho"

Hey everyone! I have a bit of a knitting saga to share if you're interested...

So, last March or so I ordered this yarn (in the "ginger" color) with the intention of knitting this sweater. Awesome, right? I received my yarn and began kniting. However, then we bought a house and moved and began rebuilding said house. And, as you might imagine, knitting rather fell by the wayside. Now fast forward to mid-August when I decided that I might as well continue doing my hobbies while renovating the house since it was, apparently, going to take forever. I took up the sweater where I left off and merrily continued knitting. Around this time, I also started attending a Thursday night knitting group. It turns out you pick up so many things at a knitting group! Like, did you know that you can actually try on your sweater while you're still knitting it? I had no idea! You take it off the needles and put your active stitches on a long piece of yarn instead. Then it's not constrained by the needles and you can put it on like you will be able to when it's done. Well, I thought this was genious and tried on my sweater which, remember, is basically 4 inches from being complete. You've probably figured out by now that all was not well. The bottom of the sweater fit great! Like a glove! The top part fit like I was supposed to put football pads on under it. Seriously, had it not been attached to the bottom part, I could have passed the top part of the sweater all the way over my body from head to feet without touching myself with was like a knit hula hoop. There was really no way to fix it and I SWORE I had followed the pattern correctly so, angrily, I ripped it all out and re-balled up the yarn.

Thus began my quest for something else to do with my pretty cotton yarn. Of course, by now it is October so knitting with cotton is maybe not the best idea. October is wool time. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to use this yarn for SOMETHING. So I found this pattern. Pretty! Also, the fact that it is a pon-chette (not a pon-cho, goodness no, how uncouth!) made me laugh every time I got to say it. So, I began knitting. I was putting the trauma of the football-player-shoulder sweater behind me. The healing had begun.

Until...a week after I began knitting the pon-chette I got an email from the company from which I bought the pattern.
We have become aware of some errors in our Empress Pullover pattern, item
50642. Since the errors were scattered throughout the pattern, we are sending
you a link to a brand new, corrected version of the pattern.

Ya think?! URGH. So, anyway, I finished my pon-chette and it turned out awesome!

So now I have to decide if I want to bother with the dumb sweater again. Maybe next spring....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

D'house End is Nigh

Just days after launching the official website of the Rossum Corporation as a attempt at viral marketing, Fox has announced that they will not be renewing Dollhouse. This move comes as no surprise.

The good news is that the network still plans to air the remaining episodes of Season 2 during December and January. Ep 13 of this season will serve as the series finale. My hope is that, since Episode 11 is being filmed now, Whedon and company will have time to write plenty of closure into the final ep. I also can't help wondering if the finale will take place during the time period of Epitaph One," in which case it really should be called "Epitaph Two."

There's one more nugget of good news for the Whedonites in the audience: Joss apparently already has his next project nearly lined up, since he expects to announce it before Dollhouse's run ends. And don't forget about Cabin in the Woods.

I agree with many that Dollhouse is not Whedon's most entertaining series, but I do think it may be the most challenging and thought-provoking fiction of TV.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dollhouse Taking a Break, then Back with a Vengence

There's been a lot of scheduling news about Dollhouse lately:
  • Joss Whedon's thought-provoking and deliciously creepy but ratings-challenged series will be off the air for the entirety of November's sweeps period. That means tonight's episode examining Sierra's backstory is the last you'll see for a month.
  • By contrast, when the show returns in December, beginning with Summer Glau's first show, we'll be presented with two eps each Friday. At that rate, we'll be up to episode 10 by the end of the year, leaving only 3 eps of the 13-show order for 2010.

This news is clearly worrisome for anyone hoping the show will be renewed for a third season, or even that all of the second season will air. If Fox benches the series for a whole month, I wouldn't be surprised if they never put it back on air, despite their earlier claim that they will broadcast the entire season. And, even if Double-Duty December does happen, that scheduling makes it seem like the network is trying to burn through the eps it's already purchased in order to make room for new properties in the coming year. Sigh.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009: Disney

Here are some Disney-related photos from Dragon*Con:

Dragon*Con 2009: Cartoons

These shots are of costumes and props from assorted cartoons and stop-motion animations:

Dragon*Con 2009: Battlestar

Photos from Battlestar Galactica:

Although this shot includes 3 different franchises, it does show off Alison's Starbuck costume. Please note the tattoo and the dog tags, which I made for her.

This is a close-up of the tattoo. It's certainly not perfect, but it looks enough like the original to make it clear that this is Starbuck's arm you are looking at.

Generic Battlestar folk, as seen in the parade.

An old-school Cylon.

Check out all those Roslins!

This photo is self-captioned.

Dragon*Con 2009: Alien vs Predator

More photos, this time, from the Aliens and Predator franchises:

Dragon*Con 2009: 300

I'm finally getting around to posting some of the photos from Dragon*Con 2009. I've decided to divide them up by subject, and I'll post the subjects alphanumerically. So, that means we'll start with 300. Here you go:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cabin now Further in the Woods, in 2 Ways

Joss Whedon's upcoming horror flick, Cabin in the Woods, has been pushed back almost a year. It will now premiere January 14, 2011. The studio, MGM, says they are postponing the film because early response to it has been strong, and they want to convert it to 3D. The second half of that sentence makes me feel uneasy. Has there ever been a 3D horror movie that was actually good, rather than kitschy?

All 13, and Maybe Some Closure

In the wake of poor live ratings but comparatively strong DVR numbers for Dollhouse, Fox Broadcasting Company has announced that it will air all 13 episodes ordered for Season 2 of the erasable-minds series. Fox says they will make a decision about ordering the "back 9" for the season or a third season after the 13 air. By the time the last of those 13 is broadcast, production will have been shut down, and re-starting for fewer than 10 shows seems unlikely, so I wouldn't hold out hope of seeing eps 14-22 of S2; at this point, I feel lucky that we'll get to see the remaining 10 of the current order. But I am hoping fervently that the ratings pick up enough so that S3 is ordered. I could certainly be happy with this series lasting, say, 5 seasons, with each being 13 episodes. So, Dollhouse viewers and Rossum employees, spread the word.

By the way, the next 3 eps, which begin airing October 23, are alleged to be very good. In the next episode, we find out how Sierra came to the 'house, and Summer Glau guest stars in the following 2.

And Your Mamma, Too

SFX has just posted an amusing list of science-fiction's greatest insults. Check it out and see how many you recognize.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Telltale Womb

Today, NPR aired a fascinating story concerning what a few small towns in New England reveal about the problems with the American medical system. I encourage you to listen to it.

They Just Wanna, They Just Wanna

Today, after buying some gasoline, I went into the associated minute-mart or whatever to acquire some ade. While choosing my unnaturally colored beverage, I realized I knew the words to the over-produced, bubble-gum pop song being played over the store's sound system. But who was responsible for this un-asked-for cover? I whipped out my iPhone and set Shazam to work on that very question. In a moment I learned, to my horror, that Mylie Cyrus has recorded a version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Oh the girlanity!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Michael's First Law of TV

Michael's first law of television:
A TV series can support at most one happy couple. More than that, and show degrades into schmaltz.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rex Underestimated?

Perhaps I should have asked more for my CRX. The ads have been up* for 24 hours and I've already gotten considerable interest and arranged for one prospective buyer to see the car this weekend.

* On the CRX Community forum, the local Miata club's forum, and my workplace's intranet.

Longtime readers know that the official title of this blog changed from Industrial-Strength Science to Team Grondul to better reflect its content. The blog's web address, however, has remain its original It appears that I can change the address to to match the title, but that would result in broken links for you, our readers. So, I'm soliciting opinions on whether this "rationalization" of our blog's web address is a good idea.

Google Moble: Local Search

Google Mobile's new Local Search looks extremely useful to those of us with smartphones. Check it out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I find Vork to be the most amusing member of The Knights of Good. How about you?


James May is my favorite presenter on Top Gear. Who's yours?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Return to the Dollhouse

The second season of Dollhouse, "television's next big science fiction epic," premiers tonight on Fox. I encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Right Tool

Life is too short to use the wrong tool for the job.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009: Post 2

No, this post is not the one where I finally put up our Dragon*Con photos. Instead, I thought I'd point out an amusing shot of Felicia Day that was taken at the con. Sadly we didn't see this live, but I'm quite sure that we missed it by less than 5 minutes; I believe this photo was taken immediately after the Guild panel, and "Vork"---along with doppelgangers for all the Knights of Good---was sitting right behind us.

Dragon*Con 2009: Post 1

I know: I'm a bad, bad man* for not posting the 250 or so photos we took at Dragon*Con this year. I plan to get around to it, really. In the meantime, I thought our readers would enjoy seeing some details of the creation of one of the more impressive costumes we saw at the con: Bioshock's Big Daddy.

* And not in a Leroy Brown kind of way.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Horribleness of the Emmy Awards

In other Dr. Horrible news, everyone's favorite supervillain musical internet series had a good year at the Emmys. Not only did it win the new award for short-format, live-action program last Saturday, but last night's Emmy broadcast was "interrupted" when the good doctor hacked into the network to deliver an amusing diatribe on the end of television.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sing Along with Dr Horrible Again

Joss Whedon has just announced that a sequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog is in the works. It's not clear yet whether this installment of the good doctor's story will follow the low-budget model of the original or if external backers will supply more money. Either way, I'm excited about this news. You?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome, Emma

As most of you know or can guess, I bought a car---another Miata---during our trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con. (I'll post the oft-requested photos from the con shortly.) Actually, for logistical reasons, I sent the money to my father and had him make the exchange for me a few hours before our near-midnight arrival in the ATL. (Thanks, Dad.) Interestingly, I never actually laid eyes on the car until after the purchase. I asked a lot of questions of the seller, who seemed very honest about the vehicle's merits and demerits, but it was my former roomate/overlord, Masta, who made the long-distance purchase possible. He gave the car a thorough going-over and test-drive. Since he's a mechanical engineer, a car guy, and a former Miata owner, he was just about the perfect person to inspect the car for me. (Thanks, Masta.) I'd also like to acknowledge JD, from my local Miata club, who also attended Dragon*Con and offered to haul back all the bulky extra bits in his truck. (Thanks, JD.) (Come to think of it, all three of the guys who helped me with the purchase are Georgia Tech graduates. Interesting.)

The "new" car is a 1995 MX-5. Thus, it's a first-gen (NA) Miata with a 1.8-l engine. I've chosen to name her Emma, because the Miata's alphanumeric designation is pronounced "Em Eks Five." The color is called Laguna Blue Metallic, and, as you can see, it's quite attractive. Laguna Blue was only offered in '94 and '95, so it's considered fairly desirable. I didn't buy this car for the color, however.

You see, my plan is to make Emma a dedicated motorsports and fun car, leaving Mia to be my daily driver. By design, no great transformation is required to turn this vehicle into a track rat and toy car; the previous owner---whom I found via using her for exactly those purposes, and he outfitted her with a number of performance modifications. That is why I bought this particular Miata. The car came with all of the following:
  • Stock seats plus Cobra Suzuka S race seats.
  • Stock seatbelts plus 5-point harnesses.
  • Stock 14x6" wheels with Falken Azeni tires (205/50-14, I think) plus 15x7.5 6UL wheels with Nitto NT01 tires (225/45-15).
  • Stock steering wheel plus a tiny, 280-mm Momo race wheel.
  • Bilstien PSS9 adjustable dampers and springs.
  • Racing beat front anti-roll bar.
  • Hard Dog Hard Core Double Diagonal roll bar.
  • R Speed intake, Jackson exhaust manifold, and Flyin' Miata exhaust.
  • Deleted soft top.
  • OEM hard top, in Laguna Blue.
  • R-Package-style front chin spoiler and rear lip spoiler.
  • Tow hooks.
  • Other assorted goodies.
All-in-all, I think I got quite a lot for my money.

I do have a few things I want to do to the car to get her even more track-ready and to make me more comfortable, but once I get her registered and titled in Maryland, there's nothing stopping me from hitting the track.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Retractable Headlights

...are very distracting.

Our Truck

I mentioned before that Rex, my 1991 Honda CRX, is our "truck;" we use it to carry large items from Home Despot and other stores. Here's some photographic evidence of our abuse of the poor little car:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Throwin' Frag!

There's recently been some chatter on the interwebs about the possible theatrical adaptation of the Gears of War game franchise. Alison and I, being fans of the game, can't help casting the characters in this hypothetical film in our heads. So here's what we've come up with:
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Marcus Fenix. Johnson has the right look, certainly. Plus, Marcus is quite terse---once, in flight school, he was laconic---so Johnson's questionable acting talent wouldn't hold him back.
  • Adam Baldwin as Dominic Santiago. With Baldwin's experience as Jayne Cobb, he clearly can carry off both the action and the comedy requisite of the character.
  • Michael Clark Duncan as Augustus Cole. He's both huge and enormous. Add a little 'tude, and that's everything you need to play the "Cole Train."
  • Alan Tudyk as Damon Baird. He's blond, hilarious, and has experience in POW/hostage acting.
  • R. Lee Ermey as Victor Hoffman. Seriously, whom else could you cast?

So, what do you think of this list? Do you have any suggestions for Anya, Kim, Tai, or other more minor characters? Whom would you cast in Gears of War: The Motion Picture?

Let's Play Dollhouse

It looks like* several interesting alumni of Whedonverse shows and Battlestar Galactica will appear on Dollhouse in Season 2:
  • Jamie Bamber, Lee "Apollo" Adama form Battlestar.
  • Michael Hogan, Saul Tigh from Battlestar.
  • Alexis Denisof, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from Buffy and Angel.
  • Summer Glau, River Tam from Firefly and Serenity.**
In addition, Amy Acker and Alan Tudyk will be reprising their roles on the show.

I'm quite excited about this development.

* There are minor spoilers on the linked-to page.
** Once the Sarah Conner Chronicals was cancelled,*** you had to know it was just a matter of time before this happened.
*** Say that three times quickly!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Germantown Dog Whisperer

We took Newton to our local dog park for the first time today since we moved to this area. He had an ok time...I got the impression that it wasn't as well-run as the one that used to be near us, so we probably won't go as much as we used to in Columbia.

The truly annoying part, however, was that there was this woman there who was just...a loudmouth. You know the type. Holding court by the benches, telling everyone what an awesome "dog trainer" she is. People like this really put me on edge. My first thought is always, "If you're so awesome at xxx, why do you have to tell everyone so loudly?" Anyway, she has a fist full of dog treats at the park (which was's never a good idea to introduce food into a large group of dogs that you don't know) that she's giving out to all the dogs. She's asking each of them to sit before she gives them a treat. Some woman's dog didn't know sit, so this "dog trainer" said she would teach him. The owner jokingly says, "Well if you can teach him, I'd pay you!" *sigh*

So the "dog trainer" takes this little min pin on a leash about 4 feet from where all the other dogs are playing and proceeds to try to lure him into a sit with a treat which is a perfectly valid way to teach "sit". However, it doesn't work, of course; it was like watching someone try to teach a 3rd grader fractions in the middle of a carnival. The dog was far more interested in all the activity around him than in the "trainer" or her food. So the "dog trainer" starts forcing his back end into a sit (bad can actually hurt some dogs this way). When he pops up and spins away from her, clearly thinking, "What the heck, lady! I was just here at the park having a nice time and now you're manhandling me!", she jerks hard on his leash and yells "NO!" at him. At this point, I am so annoyed at her that I almost said something, but decided it wasn't my business, so I bit my tongue. I guess she decided this dog wasn't going to listen to her so she decides to alpha roll him (pin him to the ground with his belly up). This is a very submissive position for a dog and some dogs won't tolerate a stranger doing that to them, particularly in a situation with other dogs around. She just met him 3 minutes ago and SHE IS AT THE DOG PARK...this is a good way to get bitten, frankly. She then proceeds to arrogantly inform the small crowd of dog owners that she had to do this to a Rottweiller once. Awesome. Finally, she lets the dog up and forces his back end into a sit at which point she informs the owner/small crowd that "He got it that time!" and hands the leash back to the owner. Got what?? That maybe if he just let you do whatever (because I guarantee you the dog was STILL totally in the dark about what she actually wanted him to do) that you would leave him alone and go away? She then tells us that you just have to watch Cesar Milan's show if you want to know how to do that because that's how she learned. I almost died.

Pretty much immediately after that, the owner and her dog left. I followed them to the gate which was out of earshot of the "dog trainer" who was STILL holding court. I suggested that if she really wanted to do some stuff with her dog she should pick up the book the trainers I talk with online wrote. I told her it was game and fun-based training and that I thought it was much more about building a relationship with your dog than Cesar Milan's method which had always struck me as sort of confrontational (I could have said some other, more negative stuff about Cesar Milan, but I figured that wouldn't be productive). She thanked me and seemed genuinely interested...asked where she could pick it up. I got the impression that she had been a bit uncomfortable with the way the other woman was handling her dog, but she wasn't really sure how to stop it without being rude.

As a side note, when she was giving out treats, Newton ran up and jumped up on her a little bit. She said "sit" and he did....and she didn't do anything. So he downed. And she still didn't do anything, so he jumped up again. At which point, she admonished him for jumping. (where's that emoticon for smacking yourself in the forehead when you need it!) I think he repeated his routine about 3 more times and then gave up without ever getting a treat. Yeah, she was the next dog whipserer, for sure. *rolling eyes*

Anyway, I just had to vent. Every time I think about it I just get annoyed all over again!

Friday, August 21, 2009

It Must be Bunnies!

I've had the songs from "Once More with Feeling" stuck in my head for the last several days. Someone please help me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Singnificantly Less Contrast Than Usual

I've previously posted photographs illustrating the contrast between Mia and the much larger vehicles next to which she is occasionally parked. When I arrived at work today, I found much less contrast than is usually the case:

That's a 2005 Mazdaspeed Miata. Mechanically, the main difference between these cars---aside from the aftermarket parts that I've installed---are the somewhat heavier wheels on the '05. This car is clearly the Lava Orange color, which makes it very unusual; only about 500 of them were made.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bring on Ms. Squito

It appears that the former SciFi Channel (now known as SyFy), whose made-for-TV movies have supplied plenty of fodder for my "Who Ordered That?" tag, realizes just how ludicrous these films are.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three Years Ago

Three years ago today, I somehow persuaded this beautiful and brilliant woman to marry me:

Do you think she'll agree to be married some more tomorrow?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

PR: Fight Gone Bad

Last night I recorded a score of 266. Yay me.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I don't think I've ever posted a clothing-related "Who ordered that?" post, but now I have a reason to do so: handerpants.

Thanks, Pandora!

I was introduced to this song today via Pandora, and I have listened to it all afternoon. I really like it! I need to look into what else Vienna Teng sings. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Enjoy the Contrast, Yet Again

Usually Alison and I take Rex on our many, many trips to Home Despot. Sure, the CRX is the smallest of our 3 cars by most measures,* but it also has the most usable internal volume. Besides, since Rex is old and beaten, we aren't too worried about minor cosmetic abuse he might incur.

Recently, I stopped at the Despot on the way to work, which meant that I was driving Mia. This is the sight that awaited me when I exited the store:

I suppose I should expect that kind of contrast when I drive my wee little sports car on a weekday to the hardware store favored by contractors. What I didn't suspect, was my parking situation when I arrived at my workplace:

Have I mentioned that I work at a laboratory, not a construction site?

* Length, width, and mass, but probably not height.

PR: Vest Fest

Tonight I set a new personal record for a workout of the day that I made up, then fine-tuned, recently. I call this workout the "Vest Fest."
For minimum time, perform 5 rounds of the following while wearing a 30-pound weight vest:
12 squats.
12 back extensions.
12 sit-ups.
12 push-ups.
12 get-ups.*
12 pull-ups.
My first version of this workout featured 10 reps of each exercise, but I found that didn't fatigue the muscles sufficiently, so I cranked up the volume by 20%. It seems reasonably difficult now. What may not be obvious from the list of exercises is that this workout challenges the core muscles more than any others.

For the record, my latest time is 18 minutes, 32 seconds, just 16 seconds faster than my previous best.

* To perform a get-up, start from a standing position, lie down into a supine position. Then, get up into a standing position. This exercise is surprisingly tiring when performed with 30 pounds of steel strapped to your upper torso.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PR: Filthy Fifty

Tonight, I set a new PR on the workout unofficially known as the Filthy Fifty. In fact, my new time of 27:32 is almost 2 minutes shorter than my previous best. I think I can attribute my improved score to, among other factors, the slightly lower ceiling in the Grondulbarn's basement gym. Nonetheless, I'm still please with today's result, since the Fifty is one of the more gruesome recurring workouts in the CrossFit pantheon.

WoW. Just WoW.

World of Warcraft is headed to the big screen, and the adaption will be directed by Sam Raimi. Gaming geeks everywhere will be thrilled by the news, I'm sure. I just hope Guild mistress Felicia Day can wrangle herself a role.

Voltron is Dead. Long Live Voltron.

It seems that the rights to make a live-action adaptation of Voltron have expired, leaving that project dead. Unfortunately, like a zombie, Voltron: The Motion Picture is rising from its own grave; another batch of ambitious-but-unoriginal producers is planning a big-screen adventure staring the compound robot. What makes these guys different? They plan to focus on the "human spirit" of which Voltron is the "personification." Yes, because a story about a robot made of other robots will certainly be a character-driven drama exploring what it means to be human and documenting the triumph of mankind's spirit.

Say it with me: Who ordered that?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pity the Navigator

Pity the poor rally navigator. First, you get saddled with the ambiguous title of co-driver. Then, your driver gets most of the recognition and money, even though his job would be impossible without you.* And finally, if you are Timo Rautainen, you have to cope with projectiles striking you in unexpected an uncomfortable locations. Pay attention to the gesture at the very end of this video for a graphic illustration of the injuries and ignominies that a co-driver can suffer.

* But seriously, if you want to see an amazing display of 4-wheel drifts, jumps, and handbrake turns, check out any rally highlight video.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whedonverse Alumni

Wondering what your favorite Whedonverse actors have been up to lately? Well too bad, because that's not the subject of this post. Instead, this post is about what a couple of them did some years before they me Whedon.

First up is this video for George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You, from 1988.* The boy in the video is played by Alexis Dennisof, everyone's favorite rogue demon hunter. I found this video indirectly, because Dennisof's wife and co-actor, Alyson Hannigan, tweeted it, presumably to lightly tease the man. Please note the hairstyles and fashion in this video.

Second, and last, is this 1992 advertisement for the Nerf Slingshot. The spokeskid in the ad is Seth Green. His hair is priceless, I must say.*** The girls' outfits are equally timeless.


* Interestingly, Harrison's performance was a cover. The song was originally written in 1962.**

** "Wierd Al" Yankovic created a parody of Harrison's version called "This Song's Just Six Words Long."

*** It's no worse than a 'do he's sported more recently, when he couldn't claim fashion impairment due to pubescent flood of hormones.

Hodgman: Is Obama the Kwisatz Haderach?

Last Friday, at the Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner, both President Barack Obama and author, comedian, actor, and personal computer John Hodgman addressed the audience. In Hodgman's address, he spoke of his hope that Obama would be the nerd President that many geeks have been dreaming of, and he quizzed the President on his geek credentials. This speech is must-see viewing for nerds everywhere.

CR-Z: Return of the CRX

Honda has officially announced that the CR-Z concept car will be turned into a production model. Additionally ally, a hybrid version of the Fit will be produced. Good news. Now let's hope these two hybrids make it to the United States.

By the way, it's unclear how many seats the CR-Z will have if and when reaches the States. The CR-Z concept has rear seats, but that may mean less than you think. The CRX had tiny rear seats in Japan and Europe, but, due to stricter safety regulations,* they we removed from the North American version of the car.

* I'm only guessing that this is the reason.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Based on this interview, it sounds like Tim Minear's reboot of Alien Nation won't be just a rehash of the original show. Minear seems to have something interest to add.

Friday, July 10, 2009