Friday, November 29, 2013

And these are the cars of our life-Chrissy's list

Mike and I always talk about our dream cars.  It became more of a topic because of all the money in Florida made most obvious by that $250k+ car in a Sarasota parking lot. 

So, I'm bored since we're in the car and I'm not the driver (DUH!!).  So, I figured I would list my dream cars and allow for Mike to post the cars I may have missed or that we cannot agree on.  

The cars are in no particular order because that considers brain cells I do not wish to expend.  And quite frankly, if any one of these were to come into my possession I'm certainly not to decline if provided in the wrong order or even got the color wrong.  Also, it doesn't include cars that we own because obviously that's a dream fulfilled.

Keep in mind that I will most likely start to use the same adjectives because those few words basically explain why its on the list.

1. E46 BMW M3:  this is undoubtedly the best M3 of all time.  Power, agility and class are just a few of its attributes.  If I had my way, it would be totally blacked out.  I'd accept it as a convertible but would rather have the sun roof because the convertible I want [back] is on this list too.
2. 2008 E88 BMW 135i Cabriolet:  I want the one we custom-built back.  I want to put our country stickers back on it (yes, I still have those).  I want to drive it on the tracks.  One day, when there is available coin, I will run a Craig's list ad and it will be mine again.
3.  Lamborghini Adventador:  It's a gorgeous, fast and powerful beast of a performance car.  And why not? This is the dream list after all.  This car I want in red.
4. Volkswagen Phaeton: With its W-12 and awesome appearance, this all wheel drive dub, this is THE Volkswagen super car.  I would also accept the V10 TDI version of this car.  This beast needs to be completely blacked out.
5. Volkswagen Passat Wagen: This is what wet my pallet for the wagens.  Any engine will do.  I think I would like this in gunmetal.
6. Audi R8: Another speedy, fun car.  And its just hot!  I'll take this in black too.
7. Saturn Sky/Opel GT: This American sports car (yes, it was manufactured in Delaware, not in Germany by Opel) was the last hoorah for the Saturn brand, even if it was underpowered.  It had gorgeous lines and had potential to rank with other American supercars (after you stick a turbo or a bigger, better tuned engine in it).  This car will be silver also.
8. 2000-whatever Pontiac GTO: There is one at work that I see when I work normal-people hours.  It sounds beautiful with its throaty exhaust note.  It was the last super car from Pontiac even if it was imported from the GM Australian brand, Holden.  I will take the one at work because it is blacked out.
9. New SS: It's only sold for police patrol cars but it's also a very awesome reincarnation of a classic.  And it's rear wheel drive.  Not white is the color of choice.
10. Corvette: I'm excited for the new one due out next year.  Fast, powerful and the ultimate of American driving machines.  I like it in orange.
11. BMW 2002: This is not a BMW built in the year 2002.  2002 is the model.  I took an interest in this '60s bimmer because it's a BMW enthusiast car.  It's a treat to see one because this car is few and far between in numbers, unless you're in NJ.  It was powerful for its time.  I think the only color it comes in is orange.
12. Cadillac CTS-V:  I like this in the wagon but will gladly take it in the coupe.  Actually, can't say that I would mind having both in black. 
13. Ferrari California: Italian super car and I want it for the same reasons as the first Italian on the list.  And it would also be in red.
14. Tesla S: It's the cool and more powerful electric vehicle that looks good too.  Not too sure about my preferred color on this car.
15. Jaguar xJ: Not too much of a Jag person but this happened.  It's sleek and fast Jaguar done good with this one.  Black is the color for this. (Because the animal is black)
16. Porsche Carerra 4s: Another fast German.  It was always a treat to see this on the tracks over there.  I think black is appropriate for this too.
17. Nissan GTR: Again an awesome super car but this time from the far east.  Silver to compliment the carbon fiber details.

I think that is all of them.  I hopefully will be driving after the dinner pit stop so Mike can provide his take on the list.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Shut it down....shut them all down"

My degree is in computer science from a (at least at the time) top-20 school in the nation for that discipline.  I went into government service knowing that, while I would never achieve the salary I could on the outside, it would at least be countered by job stability.  These last couple of years have been a trying time.  Government employees have been made out to be overpaid devils with pay freezes and furloughs, but at least there were always last minute deals that came through to keep things chugging.   It has gradually been chipping away at that feeling of stability though, and today is the last straw in that arena.  I made a promise that if a shutdown actually occurred, I would prep my resume and at least start looking around for other opportunities.  It is now time to put my money where my mouth is, so this evening I will start writing that up.

I love the job I am doing right now, and I have a great group of coworkers, but at this point, I feel I must at least look around to see what other opportunities exist rather than just chugging along as a pawn of Congress.  Will I leave?  I say the odds are still low at this point (I guess I am a masochist), but I need to know what is out there, and I am not alone in this feeling.

The government keeps harping on how we need to hire and retain the best and brightest, but really it is headed down a path of only keeping those happy to suck down a paycheck while taking up space, and those with impostor syndrome.   I place the blame for this shutdown squarely on the Republican party, my party, because they wouldn't even pass a continuing resolution without throwing poison pills in there.  I have little hope of what will happen when it comes time for the debt ceiling debate in just a couple of weeks.

I am going to take a co-workers advice and once my resume is together, I will attach it along with a letter explaining my displeasure to my representative in the house, Andy Harris.  I will also be sending a link to those post to him via Twitter.  Congress needs to know that their actions have consequences that affect their constituents and their own ability to get re-elected. There actions also greatly impact our ability as a nation to hire and retain strong talent which will only lead to further erosion of the view of our nations ability to serve its citizens as our quality of employees would decline.

I guess this was weighing on my mind enough while I slept that I work up in the middle of the night to find out if a shutdown was happening and then motivated me to write this blog post.  So, thanks Congress for making me sleep deprived.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 1 of our 4-day break

So frigging frustrated right now.  This will be a rather lengthy post so be prepared.  There will be a lot of capitalizations to hopefully express just the extent of said frustration.

Mike made a RESERVATION with U-Haul online.  There, they request the make and model of the vehicle you're using to tow said trailer.  They also request the details of the car that is being put on the trailer.  So of course he did exactly that:  2002 Ford F-150, extended cab 8-cylinder gas engine, 8,000lb towing capacity.  Then he needed to advise what the truck, with the trailer attached, would be hauling which is a 2007 5-cylinder, 2-door Volkswagen Rabbit.  With all of these details,  U-haul approved the reservation and said we'd see an email with pick up location in 2-3 business days.

On Friday, everything was in order to retrieve the trailer on Sunday.  Okay!  All the details are settled... Sweet.  In just about 48-hours we'd be in transit to Alton, VA!

Saturday after work, we knew what needed to be accomplished so that when we woke up we would be mostly ready to go!  The truck needed an oil change and we needed to load all of the crap that was making the trip with us: full set of wheels and brakes for the Rabbit (because racecar), camping gear, helmets per track protocol, camping chairs and a canopy to put over the makeshift "residence" for our weekend.

Around 9pm we were done!  Exhausted from being up for the last 19 hours, we went to bed.  The only details remaining were packing a weekend bag, gathering medications, packing the cooler, and of course sleep!

Mike woke me up around 9am.  I was still pretty groggy so I sorta took my time, eating breakfast, catching up on some DVR shows and packing the backpack.

By about 10 we were on the road and around 11 we were at the U-haul location.  This is where the frustration/aggravation/whatever-other-synonym-you-would-like-to-use began.

While Mike was doing whatever it is you do when renting the trailer, I fueled up.  After that I sat waiting for about 20 minutes, so I decided to go in and see what was going on.  When I went in, Mike explained to me that the worker pulled up the reservation and said that the trailer we RESERVED would not worked with the vehicles we had.  The guy was more than helpful and even tried putting in an older Rabbit (which were considerably lighter) with an F-250 or F-350 and that still didn't work.  Eventually, he made the car being transported a Geo Metro being towed by our truck and it finally worked.  So around noon we were ready to load the car.

So the trouble with the Rabbit is that because it is lowered, it is a little more difficult to make it go up ramps.  The one helpful thing (at least at that time) we forgot was some wood to put under the wheels.  So over to the hardware store we went. 

With wood, car, and truck in place we could finally get this loaded up.  The first tito me the Rabbit made it on the trailer, we discovered that the trailer didn't attach to the hitch properly so the front of it went da couple of feet off the ground.  So back off the trailer it went.  When that was all figured out, we literally ran into another issue: the lip the front wheels had to get over.  So back to the hardware store to get more wood to put in front of the tires.  At this point I didn't know whether to laugh or cry so I did both.  My hunger also didn't help with the confused emotions.  But finally the car was on the trailer and secured.  This was around 1. 

Finally on the road we started our way out 50 to 95 south.  After a couple of hours, we stopped to top up the truck, get ice for the cooler and use the restrooms.  So while Mike was filling up, he noticed that the brake connector from the truck to the trailer were no longer connected.  As he tried to put them back together he saw that apparently there was too much slack so it had been dragging on the ground and got damaged.  That meant we needed to find a auto parts store. 

In Dale City, he put on a new 4-pin connector.  When he finished that, we were then able to get back on the road. Finally, things were good.  Except my cell phone was not charging so I wound up having to hold the USB in place for the last 2 hours of the trip.  So basically, I've been righting this blog post intermintently over the last 6 hours.

Finally we got to VIR around 9pm.  We started with pulling the car off of the trailer which actually resulted in damage to the front splitter.  But the car was unloaded so I suppose that counts for something.  Next was getting our accommodations set up.

Thakfully, it's not raining like it was the last time we camped so while it was dark, we got the tent up pretty quickly.  Once that was all done I went about getting the mattress blown up.  Well to add to the frustration, the batteries were on their last leg.  So right now we're laying on the ground with a little bit of padding beneath us since the batteries gave up before it was fully done.

So  that pretty much sums up our day.  I really hope tomorrow will be better.  Right now, I need to get to sleep.  I'm so exhausted.  Good night!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My affinity for car work

Two different people have asked me fairly recently how I learned how to perform car maintenance and repairs.  One of those two people who asked was my father, so that tells you it wasn't him I learned from.  My step-dad was handy with tools, but mostly for wood-working (he used to make wooden toys to sell at craft fairs when I was a kid).  I had access to tools, but no one to show me what I was doing, so I was on my own.

First, a bit of background.  From early on, I liked to tinker and take things apart.  I used to take apart GI Joes and swap body parts just for grins.  In fact, I took apart many of my toys.  In Middle School, I decided to take apart the computer I had at the time and built my own in high school, so obviously I was always fascinated with how things work and taking them apart.

I started small.  I picked up a Haynes Manual for my 86 Cutlass Supreme Coupe and started with the simple stuff.  Oil changes, and changing the fuel filter.  That is about all the repair I did on that car.  Then I was off in College and got my truck, but that meant I didn't really have anywhere to do car work, except occasionally over Matt's house. I stepped up to doing brake pads next, differential fluid and spark plugs.  At this point, it was a combination of Haynes manuals and the internet, but still heavier on the former.  It wasn't until we lived in Germany and I had regular access to a lift that I started to get more serious and was seriously bitten by the mod bug on the Jetta and the 325i.  Now I was at the point where I relied mostly on write-ups I found on the internet.  I even dove into adding OEM parts that were only available in Europe which required some wiring to the computer and reprogramming.

Waiting for the start

There are still some things that I take it into the shop for because I lack the tools or confidence to do it, but as of last year I am to the point where I am comfortable swapping out brake calipers, bleeding the brakes, and just this week, I changed one of my axles myself.  No lift at home, but 4 jack stands and a much smaller version of me makes it a lot easier now too.  Still not comfortable enough to do a timing belt job on the TDIs though, so I have a ways to go before I am self-sufficient car repairs wise, but I do save a fair amount of money both doing my own maintenance and doing my own pre-track inspections.

rotors need to be resurfaced because racecar

So, I guess that basically covers it.  If you have any other car related questions, feel free to ask.

Part of what spawned this was on Saturday during Dub Deliverance, after my first session, I immediately jacked up the car and started looking in the front-left wheel area.  I knew SOMETHING was off, just wasn't sure what at first.  Turned out to be a failed CV boot.  My friend who was with me said he didn't think there would ever be anything he would experience in a car that would make him immediately jack up the car and look at the front drive-train.  Of course, much more is at stake on the track then on the street in terms of speeds and forces on the car, so hence my desire to immediately investigate after the session.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I have now driven my car on an actual NASCAR track

This weekend, I attended the first day of the NASA (no, not that one) HPDE event at Pocono raceway.  I registered for HPDE 2 (which is intermediate) because I only had one prior track day with NASA (my other experience was through other programs or just the track days in Germany).  Chrissy and I drove up Friday night and camped on the grounds for the night.  It rained all night, which was a bit annoying, and then in the morning it was foggy, rainy and overcast.  It was so foggy that we couldn't start the event :(  It didn't look good all the way up through about lunch time when the fog suddenly started to burn off, and burn off quickly.  This meant that we had to cram a full days worth of events into half of a day though.  This is where things got crazy.

They had two different track configurations running in parallel.  The North course, which uses turns 1 and 2 of the tri-oval and a road coarse section through the infield on the north end (duh).  And then there was also the brand new South/East course combination in the other end of the infield.  The North course was 2.5 miles, the South/East course was about 2 miles.

NASA muddled with the schedule and my group ended up being third to get onto the South/East course that day (after the Hyper-Drive and Instructor Groups).  That course was windy, off-camber at times, and fun as hell (especially in the Rabbit).  Because of the screwed up schedule, while we were supposed to have an instructor for our first session, we were given the permission to go out without an instructor if we were comfortable (I was).
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

After we finished that session, we had to meet with our group coordinator/instructor, Steve Van Blarcom, who has what must be the sickest M3 in the states.
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

Our reprieve from the track was short because 10 minutes later, we were on the North Course running clockwise.  My first lap I joined the line following Steve to see the line through the infield section, and then was off.  I was hitting about 112 mph before braking to turn into the infield.  I was hitting close to the same between turns 2 and 1, but I was slowing to around 90-95 entering turn 1.  Because my car is short on horsepower, I wasn't able to build much speed at the top end going down the straight, hence the small differential between Turn 1 and infield turn-in.
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

Upon getting off the North Course, I found out that we were already supposed to be on the South/East course again because the North course was behind schedule (since for the second weekend in a row, a white lotus crashed during one of the sessions.  I booked it over there, and did my next session.  After that one we had a brief reprieve.  During that reprieve I talked to our group-leader to see if I could get a check-ride to move up to HPDE 3 during one of the last two runs of the day.  I REALLY wanted to get moved up so that I could run the full tri-oval course with groups 3, 4 and instructors at the end of the day.
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

Steve didn't make it out during our next to last run, so I was a little nervous about making sure I got the check ride, but my bigger issue was with another driver on the track.  His car was MUCH more powerful than my little Rabbit, but i was kicking his ass up and down the skill areas of the course.  A train was forming behind me (while I followed him) so I would point one of them by on the back stretch, and he would point that person by on the front stretch, and this repeated for 3-4 laps.  That was very frustrating, but we talked after the session and everything worked out.  (you will see it once I upload that session).

The last session of the day, Steve made it out on the track with us (and blew the doors off of all of us) but he saw enough to give me my checkoff and get me my HPDE 3 wrist band.  With that all squared away, I was supposed to have about 30 minutes of downtime before running the full oval, but then they announced it was happening immediately so I had to go hop in the car and go.  Unfortunately, this meant I didn't have time to change the battery in the Go-Pro so as I am sitting on pit-lane about to pull out on the track, hit record, and it died about 30 seconds later. :(
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

During that last run, I found out what the practical top-speed of my car is: 120 mph.  The car just didn't have anymore pull in it after that.  Braking into Turn 1 and Turn 2 at that speed is an awesome feeling, but the fact that the car just couldn't accelerate much the last half of the straights just showed that the car needs MORE POWER!  All-in-all, it was AWESOME.  I moved up to HPDE 3 with NASA, I was able to run THREE different track configurations at Pocono, and I was able to drive on a super-speedway.
Pocono Raceway HPDE NASA July 13, 2013

I want to give a big thanks to NASA, Pocono Raceway, the NASA staff, volunteers, flaggers and our group instructor Steve for an incredible weekend.  Photos from the weekend are posted on Flickr and videos from the weekend will be gradually uploaded to my YouTube account.  Enjoy my photos and videos from other track days at well.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"I feel the need..."

"Hello everyone, I am glad to see you all here today.  We have a new person joining us today.  Why don't you introduce yourself"

"Hi, my name is Mike, and I am addicted to speed"

"Thank you Mike. It takes a lot of courage to admin you have a drug prob.."

"I never said I had a drug problem.  I am addicted to driving fast."

"You need to leave now"
I have a problem.  Well, it is really more of a hobby, but it is an expensive, time consuming hobby.  You may have gathered from my blog that I am a bit of a car nut (and I will be writing another post about my "car problem" another time) and that I like to go to the track and drive.  Well, last year was my first 3 trips to the track stateside, and this year, well, I am going to be spending a lot of time driving around in large, jagged circles.

TrackDaze NJMP 6-23-2013

So far this year, I have done a TrackDaze event at New Jersey Motorsports Park, and a Seat Time event at Summit Point Motorsports Park.  I have a TrackDaze event next weekend at Summit Point, a NASA event at Pocono the following weekend, and a Summit Point FATT event on the 27th.

And that just covers July.  To make the Rabbit handle the track better,  have updated the front brakes to R32 brakes with Racing pads and slotted rotors, the rear brakes to GTI brakes and I put in high performance brake fluid and stainless steel braided brake lines.  I will be changing out the rear sway bay are sway bar end links in the near future, and I removed the back seats and the spare tire surround from the car for weight reduction.

Because race car

The car has spent a fair amount of time the past few weeks up on jack stands as I prepared the car for the track season, and then performed the pre-trackday inspections before heading off to the track, which I have to do later today for next weekend.  It has also spent a fair amount of time at the gas pump too.  After July, there are three at least more track days I want to do this year:  one I am booked for in September at Summit point, a TrackDaze event in August at VIR (which would be my birthday present), and a NASA event at Watkins Glenn International in September.

Steel Braided Brake lines on the front too

The last one of those will be hardest to work out (I want to do the full weekend but Chrissy's work schedule may not allow it) but those are my plans for the year.  I might also look into the NASA fall finale at Summit Point as well, as I hope to continue to move up the ranks in NASA HPDE to possibly be an instructor in the future (because instructors get free - as in beer - track time!).  Shorter term, I may pursue becoming an instructor for Summit Point FATT, and I will think about that more after I see how I handle my lines next weekend.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Prepping Klopfer for Another Year at the Track

I have been suffering from track withdraw since my last track event of last year, and this recovering from surgery crap has made me miss a few this year already, but I am almost all healed up and I am registered for 3 track events already starting in June, so I need to finish getting Klopfer ready to hit the tarmac.

First, a recap of what I have already done to the car performance wise.  Unitronic Stage 2+ chip tune, APR Carbonio intake, AWE Tuning exhaust, JOM Coilovers, and R32 front calipers with slotted ECS Tuning rotors.  Just this week I had to swap out the engine speed sensor since it had gone bad and was causing misfires.  NGP Racing has the car right now to check on a vibration (which was mostly fixed when I swapped out the damaged tire last week) and to raise the front end to eliminate the forward rake and give the front suspension a bit more play.

Things I have planned for the coming weeks include GTI rear brakes, stainless steel brake lines, racing brake pads on the front of the car, racing DOT4 brake fluid and an oil change.  I missed out on getting some GTI sway bars cheap, but eventually the sway bars will need to be swapped out.  I am also going to start investigating having a roll-bar with harness bar put in the car.  And, if we won the lotto last night (haven't checked the ticket) I will be putting a C2 Motorsports Turbo on the car....but that is highly unlikely.

All that said, I am considering giving Klopfer a name change.  Given all of the performance enhancements, and the fact that I am still pointing out that it is a Rabbit (and not an R32) I think this might be appropriate.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What if Science Could Prove that Gods Didn't Exist

For starters, I am writing this blog post at 3 AM after waking up at 1:30 and not being able to go back to sleep.  It may not be as coherent as it is in my head, and I couldn't think of way to accurate capture all of my thoughts.  I also think that if I really dove into all of my thoughts on this subject, I would be writing for a very long time and no one would read that novel.  With that said, enjoy this thought experiment.

Imagine that tomorrow, the world awoke to the headline "Scientists Prove There is No Such Thing as 'God.'"    What would happen?  Well, atheist might throw one hell of a party, but in reality, would anything change?  And to be clear, I am not just talking about God with a capital-G here, I mean any deity that is praised the world over, from Allah to Zeus and everything in between.

For starters, you would have those who didn't get the news due to censorship or lack of connection to the outside world.  For them, nothing would change at first.  Of those that do get the news, here are some of the ways people may react.

  1. Label the scientists who made the discovery as heretics and continue believing their religion.  They may also promote that schools "teach the controversy"
  2. Denial - IT NEVER HAPPENED!
  3. React violently to such an affront to their religion of choice and attack either those scientists directly or science in general
  4. Accept the science but remain connected to their religion out of tradition, comfort, or kinship
  5. Have a crisis of faith and not know what to believe.
  6. Just not give a shit
  7. Go absolutely crazy because "Nothing we do in this life matters anymore because there isn't a God and no afterlife" - Come on, you know some would react that way
  8. Consider it a test of their faith and dig into their beliefs even longer - "The dinosaur bones were put there to test our belief"
Much like science proved the Earth was round, and revolved around the Sun, it would take some time for this type of discovery to gain wide-spread acceptance among those who were believers.  I mean, we still have people who don't believe in evolution, or vaccinations. Even atheist might be a bit skeptical at first because having scientist make such a discovery, and then have someone find a flaw in their work, would only drive people to religion more.  

As the acceptance grew, religion-based regimes may begin to topple, which then may lead to serious power struggle conflicts in the middle east that erupt into all out war as the number of people who still believe in a higher power begins to fall but they cling bitterly to those beliefs because they were the source of their power and control.  The lack of afterlife consequences for their actions might be enough of a factor to push some people over the edge from controlled to chaotic. Those who are still devout believers might also start to react more violently to their religion being stripped away from them.  

So, in reality, I think we would be just as fucked then as we are now.  We would still have those who believe in religion, although their numbers would be smaller.  We would still have those that react violently to anything that is against those beliefs.  There would be tons of money thrown into research by religious organizations trying to overturn the scientists' findings.  The only hope would be that we could weather the shitstorm of the initial discovery and eventually come to accept the findings as facts, although it would take generations to do so, and there still would be holdouts.  

So, what would you do if you saw that headline plastered on every major news outlet tomorrow? I, for one, would probably call out of work that day because I would want to stay away from the crazy and watch it all unfold from the comfort of my living room.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Progress So Far

I said I would post a photo of my progression post-plastic surgery.  Well, I have put it up, but I am going to make you click a link to make sure you absolutely want to see me without a shirt on.  You can see the photo here.  I still have swelling as can be seen in the photo, but the difference is still huge.  That last photo was from last Wednesday actually, but not much has changed this week.  I still have a big hole in my side that is going to take forever to heal up, my legs are still swollen (thighs, not calves).  It will be a while before I can go back to wearing normal pants due to that wound on my side, and I am still wearing the compression dressing every day (although giving my body a break from that for now).  I will probably not take another photo for a week or two from now (tomorrow being 4 weeks from my date of surgery exactly). Anyway, that is where I'm at right now.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I am...

Difficult, stubborn, opinionated, a trouble maker, an advocate for change, a malcontent, someone of integrity, rash, calculating, and many other things depending on who you ask.  Today was another one of those frustrating days, more so than my promotion feedback.  Compounding on the activities of today are the fact that I am still recovering from surgery, in pain, (trying to) sleep on the couch because it hurts to much to lie down, have swelling and two surgical drains, and the strongest pain med I can take is Tylenol.  Monday I took an action on principle. Tuesday, I got raked across the coals for it.

I don't agree with the actions that many of the people took in response to the incident, but specifically, it was the response that I undid because I could point to a reason that was not allowed per our rules.  This started a long argument over the fact that TPTB had made that decision and I should have consulted with them first, even though they had made no communication to us about that decision, not consulted with the team before making it, and violated our terms of use in the process.  There are still things that should be addressed there, but the action I took was actually to try and fan out some of the flames rather than feed the conspiracy theory fires.  Management did not agree.  Since I was literally in a corner, and had two people attacking me for my actions, I became very agitated which drove my blood pressure through the roof, and got me to the point of tears, shaking, and an unsteady voice, because their comments amounted to attacks on my integrity from my point of view.  I explained myself as best I could and also informed them I was moving on.  The later part was not entirely a rash decision, I had been contemplating it for some time, and had actually given myself a deadline of the end of this week to make a decision, this incident just tipped the scales in one direction.

Ironically, this all happened just days after I found out that I was put forward to the next level for promotion (yeah, that is not happening now) and got a cash award.  But I am just a lose cannon with no integrity apparently, so, explain that.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Random Blog Post is Random

For some reason, taking Percocet just before I went to sleep meant I would only be asleep for 2 hours and now I am fairly wide awake, so I figured I would capture a few things in a single blog post.  First up, sequestration.

A few days before I left work for my surgery, I drew a skull and cross bones on the dry-erase board and wrote "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter, Sequestration Looms Large" around it.  While I still don't know if I will experience any ill effect (such as furlough days) I have received word that several people I know and work with will be gone from my office very soon as a direct result of sequestration.  Well, now I feel like an asshole for writing that one the board (although we knew it was a possibility).  I actually have zero idea how this makes me feel about staying in that office versus transferring to another one.  I definitely need to get back    in the office to find out more information before I can make a decision, as well as not be on Percocet when I decide.  I continue to be very torn between the desire to see my project succeed versus my comfort working in the organization.  Who knows, maybe the decision to move to another project will be made for me before I even have a chance to come back.

This extends into what was going to be another blog post of it's own that I was going to title "Annual Performance Reviews or How I Learned to Hate Myself by Using Buzzwords." About 2 months ago I had to turn in my performance self-appraisal.  This is the horrible several page document where I have to write "Hey, look at me, I'm awesome!  Promote Me!" 5,000 times.  That is very hard for me to do and I end up asking for input from several people.  Since I turned that in, I am still sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear if management agrees with the document or if I am not good enough again this year.  If they promote me, then I guess that means I was a good enough word-smith this year, because it honestly isn't about what I did because my management doesn't know/understand.  It will be about how well I wrote about what I did.

I will also add in my "Tragedy and Gun Control Part II" thoughts to this blog post.  First off, I was wrong. I predicted that there wouldn't be any changes to gun control laws after Sandy Hook.  Well, I was wrong.  Several states have started passing legislation about magazine/clip size, "assault" weapons, and gun registration and background check requirements. Some of these I think should have been done a long time ago (such as mentally ill people not being able to purchase firearms) but at the same time, what constitutes "mentally ill"?  If someone takes a low dosage of medication for anxiety or slight depression does that mean they can't own a gun now?  If that is the case, lots of people won't seek help for their minor issues so they can continue to purchase firearms, and maybe that minor issue will grow into something worse down the road.  The information about what the guidelines are for that have to be very clear, as mental illness already has a stigma associated with it where people don't want to seek help, don't give them another reason to turn away from help.  Regardless, overall, I support initiatives like that and the closing of loopholes for gun-show sales.  I would even support a requirement of a safety class and shooting lesson for the purchase of your first weapon, but it would have to remain affordable.

The magazine size and assault weapons bans, I am more on the fence about those.  I can support them overall as I described in my previous post, but I just don't see them having much effect in reality.  In fact, there has actually been a run on those guns and clips/magazines. From this CBS article from December:
"I normally sell about 15-20 [AR-15s] a month. I've sold about 30 in the last three days," said Rick Friedman, who owns RTSP in Randolph, N.J.
...
Brownells, the world's largest firearms supplier, says it recently sold more than three-and-a-half years worth of AR-15 magazines in three days.
So, take from that what you will.  Like I said in my previous post, you don't need an AR-15 to hunt a deer, I have no problem with them being banned, just don't see it helping that much.

I think that is enough random stuff crammed into one blog post.  I should try and get back to sleep.

Pain, Drains, and Surgical Staples

I had my one week surgery follow-up yesterday at the surgeon's office.  He was very happy with the rate of my healing and able to remove two of my four JP drains (the ones attached to my chest).  I also asked if he could remove the staples from my one side because they kept rubbing against the bandages and causing pain.  They had only used the staples because that side was a little tight and even with the staples it had pulled away a bit but he said it was ok to remove them.  He also said the only thing at this point that determines when I return to work is when I can get off of the Percocet so that I can drive.  Since Chrissy can't drive right now, her mom had come down to take us to the Dr so we treated her to lunch at G&M before coming back to the house.

Then, last night around 7:30, I decided to try a dose of Tylenol rather than Percocet to curb my pain (that was the Dr's suggestion, alternate Percocet and Tylenol).  Well, that did not work, I was in awful pain.  Part of that might have been because where the staples had been apparently pulled apart a bit more so that was a large source of the pain.  Once I could take Percocet again last night (around 11:30/12:00) I did and was pretty good after that.  This morning, I am holding off as long as I can before my next dose (I am at about 5 -5 1/2 hours now) and if I can make it to 7 hours or so that will be a good step on the way to getting off of Percocet.  I am still REALLY sore, but I don't want to take regular Tylenol again because that will prevent me from taking Percocet if it gets bad again.  I haven't been moving much yet this morning so that might be why the pain is tolerable right now.

Will I make it back to work on Monday?  I don't know.  I do know that if I do, it will be in sweatpants because of where the scars are and my drains.  It wouldn't be possible to wear jeans right now because the waste-band would sit right on the drain locations and the surgical scars.  Even sweatpants & the compression dressing are bad enough against them right now.  Time will tell, but I am getting better every day.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Better Than I Hoped for, Worse Than I Expected

It has been almost a week since my surgery, and the results have both been amazing and depressing at the same time.  Except for a bit of swelling, my "man-boobs" are gone.  The surgeon was able to cut a total of over 35 lbs off of me between my abdomen and chest.  I am much less than what I used to be, but at the same time, I am not.

Fluid retention and swelling mean that I weigh only about 10 lbs less than before the surgery.  My thighs are swollen to twice their size.  My stomach is awkwardly sticking out (only above the scar) like I have an intestinal parasite (Think Starvin' Marvin on South Park).  Because of the swelling, it is hard to gauge how "even" everything will be once the swelling goes down, but right now my stomach is lopsided (right side sticks out a bit more).  Two of my four JP drains aren't draining much fluid and their locations make them somewhat uncomfortable (under my arms).

The pain is tolerable enough on only 1 pain killer (can two but haven't needed to) but when I sleep past their effective time (about 4 hours) I wake up very uncomfortable and it takes a while for the pain to subside again.  That is why I am writing this post now, because I woke up about 2 hours past-due for a painkiller and am feeling it right now.  I can get up and move around ok (with some pain) but I won't be able to drive until I am off the painkillers and I drift in and out of it some days due to them.  There is a chance I will start to doze off while finishing this blog post if I don't do it fast enough.

To add to all that, there was some "excitement" while I was in the hospital.  When they switched me from the pain pump to oral pain medication, a migraine was triggered.  And I don't mean a "ow my head hurts" type of  migraine either, I experienced full aura.   I had vision difficulty, and numbness/tingling on one side of my body (right) including numbness in my mouth.  So, yeah, that triggered a stroke scare in the hospital staff (rightfully so) so during the time when I am not supposed to lie down flat, and not bend strangely, I had to maneuver myself onto the tables of both a CT and MRI machine and lie flat.  That was.....painful.  Fortunately, the CT and MRI both came back clean, but that was not a fun time.

I snapped a morning-of "before" photo in the hotel room Monday morning, and I will eventually post that along with an after shot (in all my pasty-white shirtless glory), but the swelling could take 3-4 months to fully go away.  I will make sure to put those pictures behind a link so I don't subject anyone to my blubber unless they really want to see the photos.  I may also take an intermediate after photo in the next  day or so to show the swelling, but that requires me to do that when we are changing the dressings which in and of itself is an ordeal.

Speaking of the dressings, I now know how a sausage feels.  I have to wear a compression dressing around my abdomen and an ace bandaged wrapped around my chest.  This is to help keep swelling down, and promote the expulsion of fluid through my JP drains.  That is not exactly comfortable, especially where the compression dressing crosses paths with the JP drain entry points.  Back when I played little league baseball, I wore compression shorts, and I actually was very comfortable in those.  This is different though, because the compression dressing is directly on top of very long scars that are still healing.

Speaking of very long scars, the tummy-tuck scar actually wraps around onto my back on both sides.  I can only imagine how much "fun" that must have been during the surgery.  The scars extend probably one-two inches onto my back on each side.  Also, my five-six hour surgery ran SEVERAL HOURS long because of how much I was bleeding and how many tiny blood vessels the Dr kept having to tie off.  Fortunately, while I came very close to needing one, no transfusion was required.

Only time will tell if I am truly satisfied with the results, and I will never look like a model or anything, but I can say it is very odd looking at myself in the mirror now without there being the giant skin fold in my stomach or my man boobs.  The difference, even with the swelling, is already amazing, and I look forward to seeing the final result.  On that note, my percocet is kicking in and I am starting to get loopy, so I will close out this blog post by saying that "I don't always drive on painkillers, but when I do, it is on XBox and is hella fun"

Monday, March 11, 2013

There is no emoticon for what I am feeling now

Quick recap for those who haven't been following along. I once weighed 595lbs. I am now about 300 after gastric bypass and today I have surgery to remove excess skin from my stomach and chest.

I am just a few hours from surgery and I have already been awake for a few hours. So many thoughts are racing through my mind. I am anxious, nervous, excited, scared, optimistic, worried, tired, energized, hungry, thirsty, hyper, subdued.  I am a walking contradiction, much like Starburst...lol.

I took a before photo, but I won't scar you all with that photo...yet. I need to remember to ask for a photo of what they remove if possible. I know I won't suddenly have a six pack or anything. In fact I will still probably have a good bit of a gut, but it should be a significant improvement. My only remaining major problem area after today should be my thighs.

My next blog post will be somewhere the other side of surgery but I may tweet some more this AM.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

T-6 Days, and things got complicated

Less than a week from now, I will be getting ready to head to St. Agnes hospital for surgery to remove excess skin from my abdomen and chest.  For a couple of reasons, I have almost had to cancel my surgery.  First, I developed a new ulcer.  I am now on medication to coat my stomach and sooth the ulcer and after talking to my bariatric surgeon, he didn't see any reason to postpone the surgery.  Then, yesterday morning, since I was leaving the house later than usual to get my blood work done pre-op, I was still home to witness Chrissy having her third ever seizure.  For anyone who hasn't witnessed a tonic-clonic (formerly termed grand-mal) seizure, it is very disturbing.  The emotionally hardest part for the witness is the time immediately after the seizure ends because of the condition of the person who experienced it.

My immediate plan was to cancel my surgery as Chrissy is now forbidden from driving for 3 months.  Fortunately, my Mom is coming up the day before surgery and will be able to drive us to/from the hospital.  Once I am home, I won't really be going anywhere anyway, so as long as we have everything we need in the house, we will be set until I can drive again.  The only exception might be the post-op follow up with the surgeon, but if I can't drive at that point, I have already made alternative arrangements.

Now the problem becomes leave.  I had enough leave to cover the anticipated two weeks off from work, but then I developed a cold and worked a short day Thursday last week and was off Friday.  Then yesterday I was planning on making up some of those hours (after going in late due to getting my blood work done) but obviously a wrench was thrown into that plan.  So, now I need to go to work "late" today (around 8), AND try to make up some hours.  Going to be a long (short) week. (4 day week now, but will be working long days).  Oh, and Chrissy has 13 hour shifts Thurs, Fri & Saturday and can't drive.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not Sleeping That Great

This week has been a bad week for me sleep wise.   Sunday night I didn't get much sleep for obvious reasons.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights I haven't been sleeping through the night or waking up REALLY early.  On the waking up really early front, at least that means I can cook myself an egg substitute & cheese omelet (like I just ate).  I think it it is combination of excitement and nervousness about my surgery that I will be having in just over a month.  So many questions are racing through my mind.  How much skin will be taken off?  How much weight will I lose during the procedure.  How screwed up am I going to look once it is all done?  For that last one, when the plastic surgeon says things like "We will try to save the belly button" and "It is possible you could lose your nipples" (which are pointless on a guy but a nippleless man, possibly without a belly button, would look pretty strange).  The reason for those last two caveats is just how much excess skin I have and where they need to cut it out from.  There are also the normal concerns about surgery, plus the excitement of getting some of my excess skin taken away.

So, hopefully this won't continue all the way until the 11th.  Otherwise it is going to be a looooong month.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Going Under the Knife in March

I am headed in for another surgery, but this one I am looking forward to.  Insurance approval came through for my skin removal surgery for my abdomen and chest.  For those of you who haven't been reading along at home, I had gastric bypass about 19 months ago and have lost a total of about 300 lbs since my peak weight.  Due to this, I feel like Rocky the Flying Squirrel with all of my excess skin right now.  Come March 11th, that will change, at least some.

For my mid-section, they will be removing a belt of skin.  If you want a disgusting photo of what that looks like, look here.  I am going to end up scarred across my midsection from that, but since I am Grade 3-Grade 4 case, it will be worth it.  On my chest, it will be the equivalent of a breast reduction to get rid of my "man boobs."  I don't know exactly how much skin will be taken off exactly, nor how much it will weigh, but I look forward to the results.  I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit nervous.  It is surgery, and significant at that.  But for my quality of life, it is necessary.  So, now I count down the the 11th of March.  Wish me luck!

PS - I also just got back from the gym.  An hour on the treadmill + some time in the weight room.  Followed that up with some breakfast for dinner (a nice cheese omelette) and some DVRed TV.  Happy days.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Socially Inept Yet Social

Turns out there are actually 4 or 5 blog posts I need to write.  Here goes another.  If I get multiple written tonight I will pre-date the other's for publishing later.

I have always been somewhat socially awkward and introverted.  It can take some time for me warm up to people but once I do I can be social.  If I am at a party with people I don't know where I can't easily fit myself into the conversation, I will drift to the fringes and sit off on my own.  Lately, I have been more social though.  Almost too social.  Actually, in the last 6 months I have been more socially active than I probably was the previous 6 years.  It has actually been nice.  I have met a lot of people that I have only known virtually for a couple of years.

A couple things have made this possible.  Mostly due to more energy and more self confidence from having lost as much weight as I did.  While I certainly hadn't been completely missing out on life, I hadn't been living it as fully as I have been lately.  It has certainly be nice.  I hope to continue enjoying life this way!

Amusing Quotes from Work

On twitter, I mentioned that there were some blog posts I needed to write.  This will be the first of those.

"Why are they being so stupid" - Coworker 1, about customers IIRC

"Utilize is like use with a top hat and a monocle" - Me
We just finished going through our self-appraisal performance review documentation that contributes to if we receive promotions.  People throw a ton of manager speak and buzzwords into them because you need to if you want a chance of promotion.  'Utilize' is one that is often thrown in that doesn't really add anything though.

"[Coworker 2], your build is failing harder than Lindsey Lohan at a sobriety checkpoint" - Coworker 3
Some automated application builds were failing over and over and over again.

"You can't argue with crazy" - Coworker 4 regarding their spouse.  Enough said.

These are just the gems that managed to make it on our dry-erase boards at work.  There have been plenty more.  I will also give a shout out to or office mascot, Humphrey the Dog.  Coworker 1 accidentally set him off in the middle of the office around lunch time.  There was much scrambling to muffle the sound.  We also have a Tribble in the office that makes noise when touched/moved.  We have toyed with the idea of strapping Humphrey to the Tribble and then setting him off.  Obviously, we wouldn't be able to do that with other people in the office.

Other blog posts I need to write:
Tragedy and Gun Control Part II
Annual Performance Reviews or How I Learned to Hate Myself by Using Buzzwords (working title)


Sunday, January 13, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

I recently had a conversation with someone about what I post here and how that might affect my ability to get different jobs in the future.  Part of that conversation revolved around a generational difference, and partially personality difference.  Do I realize a potential employer could read my blog and make decisions about me based on that?  Yes.  Am I concerned about that? No.

Most of the comments I receive, either publicly or privately about my blog posts retaining to work and life are positive.  Despite my never ending bout with impostor syndrome, there are many people who value the work I can accomplish and the insight I can provide to solve problems.  Those people often share my views regarding what is "broken" in the workplace in general, and some have even tried to recruit me for other positions DESPITE my blog postings.  Why?  They are of the opinion that most of the problems I encounter are fixable and they would rather have the use of my abilities then have another person walk away to find another job.

There are also many posts I consider writing that never make it here and probably never will.  Through self-discovery, I think I have discovered the origins of my impostor syndrome, but blogging about that might make me seem spiteful to a portion of the (small) audience that reads this blog.  Part of me really wants to share those details so other's don't make the same mistakes, but at the very least I cannot due so here at this time.  If I do ever share that story with the world, it will be through another venue such as an anonymous contribution blog.

So where do I draw the line?  Why do I blog at all?

I blog because it is therapeutic for me.  It lets me get out my thoughts and is a lot cheaper than therapy, lol. By writing it in a public venue rather than keeping a personal journal offline, it also allows me to make connections to both people I know, and don't know, on a deeper level.  It may even help someone else who is going through a rough time if they stumble across my blog and see that I have gone through similar troubles in the past.  The drawing of the line is what is difficult.

I generally try not to call out specific people, just actions and ideas.  While specific people may have triggered the blog post to occur, I am generally addressing the concept and not the person because through observation I believe many people in that same position would take similar action due to the norms of society.  The "Stormed Out of My Performance Review" and "Modern Amish" blog posts were inspired by the actions of a particular person, but both blog posts can at least partially apply to many people I have worked with or for in the past.  My "Facebook, Land of the Free, Home of the Stupid" blog post was about the specific posting of one individual on Facebook, but also addressed why posts such as that are problematic as a whole both in the global view of American's and the fact it provides propaganda material to extremists.

There are times when writing a blog post really only can be related to the actions or words of a single person.  This is what is preventing me from writing my "Origins of my Impostor Syndrome" blog post.  At the heart of it, I think it is rooted in the actions of one person and there isn't any way to abstract those actions so that the identity of the person isn't known.  Many, MANY times, I have come very close to writing blog posts about those actions, but in this venue, attributable to me, I think it would cause more difficulty than any positive result of getting it out of my system.

As a closing thought I will leave you with this.  My blog is just but a glimpse into who I am.  Those who are able to get to know me in person know this.  You are free to make whatever decisions you wish about me from these posts, because  I know I have made similar decisions about people who post items that I perceive to be completely insane or ignorant. If you do end up meeting me in person, just remember that you don't know me.  You only know a portion of me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Where's the Gas Door Part II

When I made my original post, I had no idea how deep of a rabbit hole I was going down.  I have seen arguments from the economy of fuel pump availability to it being easier for American's to get next to the pump if it is on the driver's side.  I decided to go to the source for at least one manufacturer, and I sent the following tweet to VW:
@VW excluding the built by Chrysler Routon, is there a reason all VWs have the gas door on passenger side?
Well, VW was kind enough to get back to me with their response:
@crutchmc The main reason is that if you run out of gas and have to refill on the side of the road, you are not standing in traffic.
Another +Volkswagen USA enthusiast on twitter (@HumbleMechanicagreed with one of my thoughts in my original blog post:
@crutchmc @vw and no worries about opening your door into the gas pump if you pull up too close :) #vwlove
So, while this doesn't explain the reasoning for all car manufacturers, at least one has a reason to choose which side it does, which is a good one. I may explore the reasons for other manufacturers in the future. I also like the background image on VW's twitter feed, so here is a nice screen shot.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where's The Gas Door?

Ever wonder why your gas door is on the side of the car it is on?  I have.  Why?  Because I think about all sorts of random shit and I love cars, that's why.  I am going to write down my own thoughts and observations and then go do some research to prove/disprove my ideas in a later blog post.  I am only going to address "cars" in detail in this post, not trucks/suvs/crossovers.  I have noticed it is more common then not that those types of vehicles, especially the full size variety, are more likely to have the tank on the drivers-side.

Domestic Market Passenger's Side:

All 5 European cars I have owned have had the gas door on the "domestic market" passenger-side.  That appears to be the case across the board too. BMW, VW/Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo are on the driver's right, and Mini is on the driver's left (since it is "British").  The same appears to be true for Japanese car brands.  Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura place their tanks on the driver's left.  Ford tends to adhere to this train of thought as well on it's "world" models but the Crown Vic/Town Car/Grand Marque were on the opposite side.  (I think that is so the older and professional drivers that drive them don't have to walk around the car to fill up).

I have a couple theories on this, but the most likely is so that when you pull into a gas station, you stay to the same side of the lanes of pumps that you would while driving on the road.  It has the added benefit of allowing you to pull closer to the pump and not worry about banging your door into the pump when you get out to fuel up.

Copy Cats:

Hyundai and Kia aimed for their near-by neighbors from Japan as a target for success.  They have developed loftier goals now (Aiming for Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus) but seem to still follow the Japanese brands on gas tank door location opting for the Driver's left even though Korea is a Left-Hand-Drive nation.

Cluster Fuck:

GM is a cluster fuck.  Some on one side, some on the other.  It isn't even a clean break between the imported from overseas models vs built in North America.  I think GM did it to cater to the fat lazy American's so we wouldn't have to walk around the car to fill up.  Just a guess.  As for the ones on the passenger-side, they might be more world-car type models geared to be sold outside the US.

I don't have any idea about Dodge because I don't pay enough attention.

So, in a future blog post, I will look into how wrong I was at least about the convention of which side the gas door is on.