Putnam Park – Driving Like I’m Crazy!

A few coworkers of mine told me a long time ago I should try driving at this course.  Then Carlton did it a few mBoxster out of Putnam turn 10onths ago, and he insisted I go- he said that I would love it.  I do love road rallies, so I gave it a shot.It’s a driver education course, with track time and class time.  I had one of the lamest cars on the track- many people had their 100-150 thousand dollar cars flailing around the track.  There were a couple of non-Porsches: Corvettes and the like, plus a Mini Cooper, and some Mitsubishi guy. I was paired with a female instructor, Christine.  In a class of 50 people, I was one of three girls, and I think Christine was the only female instructor.  I started feeling like I had to prove something about what a good driver I was.  I shouldn’t have worried- the guys were almost all really, really nice. 

My first time on the track, Christine was driving.  Her Boxster has racing harnesses, lots of upgrades including a 3.4L 911 engine.  She was FLYING around the track, showing me how a little Boxster handles so well in the corners, how to feel the turns, et cetera.  On lap 5, she saw a little smoke coming from her car and said “I think I’ll pit.” At that moment, the coolant system dumped coolant on the track and we went into a spin.  My helmet hit the convertible top.  I think we spun two or three times.  She handled the spin really well and was back in control despite the slippery coolant.  She never lost her cool, nor control of the vehicle’s spin.  It made me realize I could do it!Nicole getting into Boxster Maybe not as fast or as well, but her cool capability was really impressive and calming.

I climbed into my car with her.  We had earpieces to communicate, and she led me through the whole course.  By my last lap, I was starting to learn what my car could do- and what I could do with it.  But the whole time I was driving, it felt more like controlled wrecking: like any moment the car was going to slip.  By the end of the 30 minutes, my left wrist was killing me- from gripping the wheel like I was on a 40-foot cliff. Our next classroom session focused on smooth driving and understanding where to apex on a turn.  The event is not a race- it’s driver education- so it’s like golf: focus on personal goals.  I told Christine that I was feeling panicky about going out again.  Her positive attitude and willingness to listen really helped me.  I worked on making the turns smooth, the braking gradual, and the throttle- NEVER pull my foot off of the throttle fast!  That’s what keeps the wheels sticking to the track.  There were a few turns where I attacked them just right and I could feel the car responding the way it should. I was really starting to have fun driving, then the rain hit.  Christine worked me through one lap of rain driving, but it was still quite nerve-wracking…even at 20-40 mph.  I’m glad she had me do it.  I learned some of how I needed to drive in the rain. I worked myself into a migraine and had to miss the last day of driving.  Christine was an amazing instructor and I can’t wait to go driving again and learn more!

This is a corny little animation of the difficult turn 10.  I took the turn a little shallow- too scared of hitting the only concrete wall on the track!!  For time reference, watch the Corvette guy closing his hood.

Animated turn 10

So tired.

Bella_KNH.jpgWhat is my deal?  Why does life seem so hard when it is so, so easy?

For everyone's amoosement, here is a picture someone took of me in a wax museum.  Several people were mugging with the figures, so I decided to try.  I was touring the place alone, so a stranger took this photo.  It's hard to be silly with a total stranger saying "which button do I push?"

I need to clean my house.  Please don't even mention my aquariums.  I am overwhelmed.  Yes, that's right: I have a wonderful home, Carlton, my whole family, a job that pays me well, and more than I ever dreamed of having.  Whine, whine.

I need a challenge.  I need new things, new experiences, and new people to challenge my perspectives.  I want to sleep well, to drink great wine, and to be less judgemental.  I am tired.

A Rose by Any Other Meme

I saw this meme on someone’s blog and thought I would, well, meme it:


A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
1) Nanny
2) Beverage Flavoring technician
3) Pharmaceutical Chemist
4) Director of Quality Assurance (my favorite job, but not my favorite company)

B) Four movies I would watch over and over
1) The Lord of the Rings
2) Batman Begins
3) The Princess Bride
4) Serenity
(I know they’re almost all recent action movies.  Ask me this again in two months. Or, look at my collection or Netflix queue to the right.)

C) Four places I have lived
1) Columbus Indiana
2) Bloomington Indiana
3) Memphis Tennessee
4) Charleston South Carolina

D) Four of my favorite TV shows
1) Firefly
2) Gilmore Girls
3) CSI Las Vegas (though it’s losing its shine)
4) Rome

E) Four places I have Vacationed
1) France- all over
2) England, Ireland, Scotland
3) Hawaii
4) Isle of Palms South Carolina

F) Websites I visit daily
1) Google
2) my own (is that selfish?)
3) Lordoz.blogspot.com
4) garf.org

G) Four of my favorite foods
1) Sushi- especially spicy tuna rolls and poke
2) Rare filet mignon
3) Really good Mexican food- like my sister makes
4) Is beer a food?

H) Four places I would rather be right now
1) Charleston South Carolina
2) The Mediterranean coast of France
3) With my husband
4) Scuba diving

I) Four people I think will respond
1) Oz

Uh… I think he’s the only person who reads my blog…..

Four Brothers directed by John Singleton

fourbrothers1.JPGIMDb link

I need to start blogging more.  I can barely remember this movie though I saw it only a month or two ago.

What I can remember is a gritty (wow that word is overused), funny story about four men brought together by a foster home.  It has an Unforgiven  feel to it: each brother tries to deny his past.  In the end, the past helps define each one.

The acting is absolutely superb.  Mark Wahlberg had proved his range in Rock Star, but he works the screen very well here also.  Tyrese Gibson delivers a funny but poignant performance.

*editor’s note: sorry about all the clichés!*

The movie’s setting is in a poor neighborhood.  I grew up with the good fortune of not living in a place where I might be shot on any given day.  Seeing a neighborhood like that- even a fictional one- makes me not only realize my good fortune, but also makes me feel that I need to do more for kids like that.

There are several gun fights that feel very real.  My compliments to the director.

[rate 3.5]


Rabbit and Cat

Check out these two… on the left is Baja (Mr. Kitty) and on the right is Silo (Nibs).  One would never think that a cat and a rabbit could be such good friends, but they are always together.  One of these days I’ll have my camera ready and I’ll take a picture of the two of them sitting at the dining room table in chairs across from each other.  It looks like they are having tea.

We also have another cat, Mini, named because he looked like a smaller version of our cat.  He was a stray that we found outside.  We fed him outside because he was skin and bones, gave him flea medicine, and tried to keep him alive outdoors.  Then one night, my husband said, “well, I better go feed the cats.”  Cats?  I looked at him and saw the sheepish grin.  He’d brought the cat indoors!  We fought over taking him to a shelter.  My effort to give up the cat was halfhearted at best.  After a few vet visits, his parasites were cleared, but he has FIV, so adopting him to another home is a tough sell.  I really dislike having him because we have to keep the cats segregated- Mr. Kitty could contract FIV if Mini bites him.  The chances are low, but it’s too much of a risk.

So I’ve been kicked out of my art room by a cat.  I just bought him a $200 litterbox so that maybe the room will be fresher (I cannot stand cat litter).  I’m also building a back room on the house so that maybe he’ll be able to be with people more- it seems like jail to lock him in one room most of the time.

I’m blathering now, aren’t I?  Well, aren’t blogs for boring topics anyway??  Hmph.

Origins 2006

What would possess a seemingly rational girl to spend a long weekend in one hotel room with three gamer geeks?  Love of games.  Get your mind out of the gutter!!!

My brother and Mike arrived on Thursday, like a good gamer should; Oz and I couldn't spare a square of vacation so joined the crew Friday night.  I had to go to work insanely early- so early that I almost

beat the Evil Day Star out of bed- so we could leave in time to make it to a Firefly LARP on Friday.  What's a LARP, you say?  Well, congratulations: society considers you normal.  For the rest of us, Live-Action Role Playing is the ultimate in nerdliness.  Instead of sitting at a table to game, we trot out our poor acting skills- and sometimes our costumes- and play our games in person.  I have only been in one other LARP and I hated it.  But I love Firefly, I'm up for a challenge, and hey, what else am I gonna do at the Con?

I was not sorry.  We had so much fun Friday night that agreed to return Saturday.  Good thing, because as you can see from this picture on the right *editor's note: photo removed*, my brother was in a Mood after not doing Our Origins Crew.well in the Magic tournament.  We headed to the streets of Columbus, Ohio in search of hopped beverages.  Being lazy gamers, we chose the place closest to our hotel- Barley's . There we shared a brew and Mike and my brother regaled their wins and losses in Magic.  Apparently the folks for whom they metagamed did not show.  WoTC had almost zero presence at Origins, so many teams opted to unveil their new decks at GenCon instead.  Barley's had very good beers , but poor service for a place only half full.  They also had a menu of 20 homebrews, to which our server hastily pointed and said these seven were the only ones on tap.  She walked away and we couldn't remember which ones they had!  When her shift ended, she was replaced by a guy who forgot they had a brown ale, so they need a better system for knowing what's in stock.  The tin ceiling made it awfully loud also.

Exhausted, we piled into our hotel room to sleep.  Mike valiantly offered to sleep on the floorComfy Kitchen Floor!, leaving Oz the couch and my brother the other half of the king bed.

We started the next day Elevensies and a quick shopping tour of the main floor.  I've never been to Origins, so I didn't know what it would be like.  It seemed like the vendors were very similar to GenCon, but where Origins would have one custom corset vendor, GenCon would have five.  I didn't see anything to distinguish the Origins floor from GenCon.  Being smaller, Origins should IMHO do something to personalize and/or specialize to attract a certain segment.  We made mental shopping lists for Sunday and headed to our D&D game.

Cheeese...and Some BeersWe bought our way in with generics and I was worried that we would dilute the game too much.  However, our GM Daniel kept eleven players engaged in a very interesting module.  I have not played D&D for 15 years or so, but Daniel was good at explaining.  We had a good mix of personalities in the mix and lots of quick wit.  The gnome bard was hilarious- my character miserably failed a movement roll, then did well on silent movement.  She instantly began singing a "Silent and Flailing" ode- to the tune of Pink's "God is a DJ!" It was a great mix of fun, polite players fighting battles and solving puzzles.

We had dinner at some random bar.  I would love to review it for you, but it left no impression on me so I can't remember the name or what I had to eat!!  We spent the meal talking about games and preparing for Part II of our Firefly LARP.

The great thing about the LARP style is that the FF format means we formed a ship crew and worked together.  The GM, Karen, had a pretty good gaming system and I was really impressed by her ability to smile so much through the frenetic pace of the scenarios piling up.  Our crew were so innovative in gathering information that we ended up doing very well.  We fed the info to our captain- Oz- and he made great decisions.  My brother wins the acting award, not only for how he played his character's stats, but his Firefly 'verse speech patterns and clever comebacks.  We knew we were on track when GM Karen radioed for some ship stats and said to her crew- "you know, the Thing with the People- in the DESERT…the MEGAPLOT!"  We did very well and our crew was not injured.  After a major revelation, she asked what we would do next.  Oz said, "we'll see you at GenCON!" and we "flew" into the black.  The developers are planning to have a MUSH for us between now and GenCon.  I can't believe I'm about to say this: I enjoyed the LARP so much I'll do it again!

We decided to celebrate our clever gaming with martinis at MoJoe's, a bar my brother had found.  The drinks were delicious and the outdoor seating was great for people-watching.  Indoors was a modern-ish bar with the requisite Techno Mood music that every martini bar must have.  I would recommend it, but the restroom was the dirtiest one I've seen in a long time (please recall that I've been on a nine hour plane ride recently). Paper towels overflowing, half empty soda bottle on the floor, trash… very unpleasant.  The kind that makes one wonder is staying to wash one's hands will make them cleaner or dirtier.  So back to a fun topic- our conversation.  The four of us had a drink or two and enjoyed the evening.  The conversation was fantastic.  All four of us are vastly different people with different backgrounds so the conversation was heated on occasion.  But deipnosophy is my passion, so the wide variety of topics was incredibly enjoyable.  We all had something different and interesting to contribute.

Sunday morning, Mike and my brother left early to return to their spouses/kids after three long days of gaming with only a few hours of sleep.  Oz and I did our shopping.  Even for the non-gamer, the wares are really interesting.  I love all of the funny T-shirts and clever logos.  This picture reminds me of a fellow gamer…you know who you are, you button-pusher…Weaselll

As much as I dislike being a walking billboard, this shirt Philosophy was so poignant that I almost bought it.  I do feel like God delivered the message to each culture uniquely and that we have more in common than we think.  At the very least, we all need to learn to respect each other more.  Ahem, pardon me as I stable my high horse :p

There was some live-action fighting from Edhellen Armoury , The same people who were doing it last year at GenCon.  Sadly, this year, the pros were not fighting, it was gamer y gamer, and the fights were not as good.  I don't know why they opted out.  Liability?  Strain?  I remember the guy who does the most fighting (King Arthur dude) was dripping with sweat last year, and some of the gamers did some bad illegal hits.  Anyway, it's fun to watch the combat.

Fighters in CostumeI would be remiss to pretend that the only interesting thing Edhellen is the fine boffer swords and larp props.  One of the young men who works there has the bluest eyes I've ever seen.  I get Barbara Mandrell-style togue-tiedand embarrassed around him and won't look at him.  Oz uses this for his amusement and points the guy out to me.  Here is the e-vile picture Oz took of the two Armory guys in costume.  The guy on the left is the one who belongs in a King Arthur movie; Blue Eyes is on the right.  Enough said.

Oz and I both bought a few things we'd scoped on Saturday, but found ourselves saying "I'll find that on the internet" or "it's cheaper at GenCon" or "I'll wait until GenCon."  In fact, I've mentioned GenCon in every paragraph of this post.  Here's how I see Origins: First, it's only 38 days apart from GenCon.  Second, it's smaller.  Third, it offered nothing to me I can't have at GenCon (and more of it too).  The small size made it no more personal and no more unique.  I love games, but I can't afford the time nor the money to invest in two Cons so similar.  I was appreciative of what Origins was, but there was not enough to keep me going there every year.  See Oz's blog entry for his take on all of this.

I arrived home tired, happy, and happy to see Carlton.  I am so very lucky to have a spouse who lets me do all of this with my brother and our other nerdy friends.  The amazing part to me is that it's not something he understands.  All he knows is how happy it makes me, and he listens patiently to my stories of winning a saving roll like I'm regaling my latest gold game to a non-golfer.

Why am I awake at two in the morning?  Because I am too stoked about playing FF at GenCon!  See you there!!!!!!!