Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Eve Update

You would probably expect this to be about Christmas seein' as it is on Christmas Eve. But not really. Just thought I'd touch on a few topics. I've been stepping up my use of Facebook and Twitter, so some of the update stuff has been redirected. That's what really got me to deciding to come here. Feel like I've been neglecting my own site. So where to start.

Probably the first thing would be to mention some software update news. Yesterday I downloaded and installed Thunderbird 3.0 on both my work desktop and my home laptop (Win partition). So still need to do the work laptop, and my Linux distros here at the house. TB 3.0 has a very different interface (but they apparently give you the ability to retain the old one). I'm still getting used to it. The initial shock of the change was a little disconcerting, but I'm starting to warm to it (especially now that I've got the Lightning and Google provider beta add-ons installed).

And on the Mozilla front, my Firefox got updated to 3.5.7 at home yesterday as I get the beta distributions when they come out. Out a small handful of technical changes to fix bugs there.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I really need to get back to updating my/this blog on a more regular basis. Lots of MINI events and photos to catch up on. Soccer stuff. House stuff.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homecoming at Graham Friends Church

Tomorrow is homecoming at my church. Big meal afterward, so I guess I will definitely get to eat good tomorrow.  I'm not sure whether this will be the second or third homecoming at GFC for me.  The years all run together.


This past week I ate at the Mellow Mushroom in Durham on Thursday night for the THMMC Tranquil Triangle Thursdays.  Pretty good restaurant.  Got a calzone and a Greek salad.  Can certainly tell it is a chain though.  Speaking of chains, one that I really despise even though I find myself eating there quite a bit is Subway.  I would much rather have a Jersey Mike's any day of the week.  The problem I have with Subway is how everything is so measured out.  On a footlong - four slices of meat, four slices of cheese, four slices of tomato, etc.  This past week on the 2 Guys Named Chris show I heard Dave (this was all best of stuff) make a comment in disbelief about Subways being around back in the 80's.  Indeed they were.  Back then there was a Subway on Hillsborough Street at the corner of the NCSU campus.  Only a short walk from Sullivan Dorm, so a favorite place to get subs.  Back then they still cut the meat themselves and actually built a real sub (like Jersey Mike's does now).  That was when Subway was good.  Alas, change.

Meanwhile, looks like we have stumbled upon our next great adventure for the MINI club.  Or at least a long weekend of motoring.  Will be doing some research into a route nicknamed "The Snake" which is basically Hwy 421 from Boone heading northwest.  Until then, I have to get ready for my Howl at the Moon Run.  Question is, will I be able to get my new GPS before then?  And this coming weekend I get my head shaved for a St. Baldrick's event as part of the THMMC team.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A mid-August Update

So, haven't posted here lately. Summer doldrums perhaps. Things just seem to be kind of plodding along. Although work has been a little bit interesting. As mentioned last month, HUD came in and conducted a review of the agency. Needless to say, problems and areas for improvements were identified. That was preceded by an IRS audit and our annual independent audit. Between all the constant reviews and audits and the ensuing corrective action plans, it is very difficult to get any momentum going to actually make improvements or changes that would actually be beneficial. I guess that's government for ya'.

This past weekend I finally got some new tires for the MINI. Went with some Yokohama S.drives. They've gotten really good reviews and several members of the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club have them. They are a summer tires, but supposedly will do ok in our winters here (which I suppose are mild relatively speaking). Still trying to get the feel for having non-runflats. Everyone swears they are better than the runflats that come standard on a MINI Cooper S.  Mine came with Goodyear Excellence RFs.  I managed to squeeze 38.5k miles out of them.  I thought they were pretty good tires.  Until I hit about the 30k mark, wet traction was excellent, but it fell off quite a bit after that.

Got the tires at the new Discount Tire that opened here in Burlington.  Managed to catch a special through them to get a $100 rebate on a set of four.  Once the local shop did some more discounting, I ended up getting the tires for $68 each.  Of course, by time you add all the services and stuff, it ended up at $115 per tire.  I was perhaps a sucker, but I did buy the replacement certificates so I can get a free replacement if something happens to one of the tires.  Now I suppose I need to find a good slime kit and compressor to keep in the MINI, especially if I go on a long motor.

The worst part was on the way home when my check engine light came on.  Swung by Advance Auto and had them read the code for me.  Came up as "Coolant Sensor Temp Low".  Didn't find much on-line about that, but looks like it is either a bad sensor or it really is low, apparently caused by the thermostat getting stuck in the open position.  This will cause the engine to run cool, which in turn will cause the ECU to try to run the fuel mixture rich.  Not sure whether it is really doing that.  Haven't detected a drop off in gas mileage yet.  I'm wondering whether it threw the code one time and will clear itself out after a few more starts?  In any case, I've scheduled the MINI to visit Flow MINI this Thursday to have it checked out.  While I'm there, I guess I'll go ahead and pick up all the consumables to perform the next scheduled maintenance service on my own.  Sadly, I am out of my "free" maintenance period.

On the motoring front, I did manage to get hooked up with the THMMC Sunday Sliders group about three weeks ago.  Tends to be a smaller, more informal group than some of the more organized runs.  We only had seven the Sunday I went for a run up to Apple Orchard Gap.  It was an extremely fun run and on the final leg back, I managed to get up to the front and was able to run with some of the big dogs in the club.

With the pending move to a new house scheduled for the last weekend in August and soccer matches and football games scheduled for most weekends, looks like my motoring opportunities are going to become quite limited for a while.  I do hope to make it to a St. Baldrick's event on September 19th with our MINI club.  Supposedly the Corvette club is planning to take us on.  Then after that I may finally get to go motoring on October 3rd for the Howl at the Moon Run I am leading.  Hopefully I'll have my new GPS by then - trying to navigate at night could be a challenge.  Don't want to lead my MINI followers through another U-turn maneuver.

Finally, the time draws nearer for me to start leading a Sunday School class at my church (Graham Friends Church).  Pastor Mark gave me a copy of If You Want To Walk On Water, You Have To Get Out Of The Boat to review.  We are thinking of doing a study series based on the book.  I hope to start reading it later this evening.

Speaking of reading, I took some time to read some non-fiction and gave Dan Brown's Digital Fortress a go.  It was average.  Very similar to the James Rollins books that I read.  I've also read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and thought it was pretty good.  Didn't really see what all the hullabaloo was about.  After reading The Da Vinci Code I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  I thought that was a very enjoyable read.  Really wish she would write something else.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can you believe?

I haven't posted anything in over a month? Never finished my updates about my MINI adventure up to Maine and back?

I suppose I need to get on that. But things have been a little busy. And they don't look to be letting up soon. We have made a deal to buy a new house and the closing is scheduled for the end of August. We'll then have two days to move. And in the meantime, we have to finish up some odd jobs around our now "old" house while it stays on the market.

At work, projects are really piling up, especially after HUD came in and conducted a "comprehensive management review". Some issues to be addressed in my part of the "shop" and I need to figure out some creative ways to raise the level of performance of some key employees. And this has triggered some new demands from our Board that promise to pile on even more stuff to do. I suppose it is all good in that it keeps the job interesting. I just need a few more hours in the day (but I refuse to upset my work/life balance, especially with kids that are the age mine are).

Finally, after missing a bunch of church while out of town, I'm getting back into the swing of things there. It looks like I will be the leader for my Sunday School class come fall. I'm certainly not well-qualified for that, but I suppose someone has to step up. Maybe in the process I'll find my Aaron. Now I need to find a curriculum to lead the class in.

So that is the 30-second commercial for what is going on. Hopefully I can get back to some more thoughtful writing soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

THMMC BRP Tour 2009 Day 0 and Day 1

Not a long post, but just wanted to quickly update progress on my MINI journey.  I am currently on a "tour" that is really made up of several events that segue into each other in a unique manner.  It has started with the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club's (THMMC) Blue Ridge Parkway Tour 2009.  At the conclusion of this, I'll be hooking up with The Great Ice Cream Run 2 run by a member of the NEMINI club.  At the conclusion of that, we normally would have done the Bar Harbor Invasion, an event that in the past has been conducted by the PhillyMINI club.  Even though they are not doing it this year, I am still staying a couple days in Bar Harbor and will try to carry on some of the traditions they have established.  Finally, I head over to Minis On Top, a national MINI event at Mt. Washington that is put on by a group of individuals dedicated just to that.  Judging by the show of hands, it looks like there may only be 3 of us that are making it the entire way through these tours.

I'll also mention that it is my understanding that this is going to be the final run for the MINIs Motoring Against Cancer banner.  This is a banner created by THMMC that has been passed around to different MINI clubs and MINI events to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research.  We will run it up to Mt. Washington, then back home to NC for it to be retired.  Our club will then take up a new call for charity.  As an aside, that is one of the great things about our MINI club - all the charitable efforts we engage in.  For instance, today I wore my pink ball cap for breast cancer awareness (and the funds I used to get it were donated to the Kay Yow WBCA Cancer Fund).

Back to the event at hand.  On Thursday several of us caravan'ed down to Cherokee where we were staying Thursday night.  Our dinner was at the Brushy Mountain Smokehouse, a BBQ joint that was also set up as a buffet.  That was kind of different.  They also had ice cream which several of our group tried.

Friday morning we got an early start, with a group picture at the start of the parkway's south end at 8:00 a.m.  We visited Waterrock Knob, the highest point on the parkway, Devil's Courthouse, the Folk Art Center in the Asheville area, Craggy Gardens, Mt. Mitchell, Linville Falls, and the Rough Ridge Trail (which we are donating to this year - I'm sure someone has a picture of our name on the donor sign).  We ended the day with a run down Shulls Mill Rd. into Banner Elk and then dinner in Beech Mountain at the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria.

Pretty awesome seeing the line of Minis coming down the Parkway.  One downside though is that I'm doing it on my own this year (no wife), so it is a bit lonely.  I've also been frustrated with my homemade camera mount and camera equipment.  Almost to the point that it is intruding on my enjoyment.  Had to spent some time with The Bible tonight to help me focus on enjoying God's creation and not letting little things bother me.  I'm seriously considering not even trying to get any pictures or video from in-car on Saturday and try instead to just relax and enjoy the ride.

So I've setup a gallery for all the from all the tours I'm doing and I've uploaded the first couple days (day 0 and day 1).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Hanging Rock Retreat

On Friday, June 12th and Saturday, June 13th I did something quite a bit different.  Went and attended a "retreat" for some men from my church and other guests that was put on by my Pastor.  The retreat consisted of a camping trip up to Hanging Rock State Park.  It is a little scary I suppose to think about it, but it has been a few *decades* since I last went camping.  As a little kid was the last time, though I do have some fond memories of attending a Boy Scout jamboree one summer.  I think it must have been down around Fayetteville as there were some military vehicles around and we found all kinds of "brass" in the field where we were camping (keep in mind that to us kids, brass was very interesting; not so much after target practice and you have to police it all up).  I don't count all the times I camped out in front of Reynolds Coliseum to get tickets to basketball games while I was attending NCSU.  Although probably as cold as it was a few times it should count as "camping".

Luckily, Pastor Mark and some of the other guys were all prepared with the equipment needed for a successful camping trip.  I get the feeling they must have been before.  (Aside in my head:
"You think?")  So all I had to do was bring some drinks, a sleeping bag, some bug spray, and clothes.  I ended up using a sleeping bag my son got for Christmas as part of a tent set he received.  As I discovered, the sleeping bag was about paper thin.  Just enough to keep me warm from the cool night air, but absolutely no padding to help combat the hardness of the tent pad I was sleeping on.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

MINI WUF hits 30

30,000 miles that is.  Took my MINI in for a regular service on May 22nd and on the way there hit the 30,000 mile mark.  Based on the service intervals, looks like my "free" services are done.

30,000 miles on MINI WUF

The service itself didn't seem to really consist of anything other than checking fluid levels and a visual check of the car.  So about the only good thing that came out of the visit was getting my rear latch replaced as it had been giving me some trouble.

I'm now getting ready for my MINI multi-tour journey in a couple weeks.  Hopefully I won't have any trouble out of my tires as they are down to only about 4/32's of tread left.  I'd like to get the trip completed, then put some new rubber on.

In between now and then, I'm supposed to be going on an overnight camping trip/retreat with some men from my church.  The time since I last went camping can be measured in decades, so this ought to be interesting.  In getting ready for that, I've been reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

THMMC Covered Bridge Run

The Pisgah Covered Bridge invaded by Minis

After making it one year attending Mini events, I figured it was time to step up and take on some rally master duties.  Actually, I suppose this was decided quite a while ago, but the timing worked out well.  And I did help a small group get from Mt. Mitchell to the Asheville hotel during last year's Blue Ridge Parkway Tour.  This event will (I hope) help me as I think I may be leading some during the Not A Bar Harbor Invasion Invasion.

The event was the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club Covered Bridge Run held on April 18th.  The idea started with a posting by Twister asking whether anyone wanted to help organize a covered bridge run and a link to a page full of covered bridge locations in NC.  Using that I did a bunch of Google mapping and research to eventually figure out that the bridges on the list were mainly grouped down west of Asheville, a smaller group in the Boone area, and some in the central part of the state.  I decided to concentrate on the central part of the state for this first attempt since I could spend some time scouting out the bridges.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Record? 302

Last summer I wrote about my server at home making it 283 days without a reboot. At the time, I only had to take it down to get some work on our air conditioner done, which required cutting power to the house.
Well, a power issue did me in again. Last weekend some bad storms rolled in to the area. Almost immediately our power went out. It was kind of interesting as it blinked on and off several times. Then, looking at some lights, I could tell a little juice was getting through as the bulbs were burning dimly.
At that point I decided to go ahead and proceed with taking the server and other computers down. Interestingly, my desktop PC was running fine on the UPS. But for some reason, the server had entered a restart loop (which means it had crashed - not sure how that happened with the UPS). Before I could get that sorted out, the UPS ran out of battery power.
So the power was out for about 10 hours. Next morning I rebooted the server and the clock is running once again.
The good news is my ol' server made it 302 days without a reboot or any problems.  I can live with that.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

THMMC Bullfrog Run

Gathering point.

Back at the beginning of April, the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club held the Second Annual Bullfrog Run.  The Bullfrog Run was created in honor of one of the early members of the THMMC who went by the screen name Bullfrog.  By all accounts, he was one of those individuals that you find who is always helping people and that help make things grow through their enthusiasm for life.  Anyway, I understand he passed away some time prior to my getting a Mini or joining the THMMC.

The route itself follows Hwy. 66 up and around the Hanging Rock State Park area, kind of northwest of Winston-Salem.  There are some excellent roads in that area and the route was a favorite of Bullfrog to lead a run on.  As you'll note later (if you read far enough), I didn't really get aggressive this year.  But I remember from last year that it is one of the more technical roads I've been on in my Mini, with a good number of switchbacks, s-curves, etc.  So, I'm going to go ahead and give it 4 out of 5 howls.  May have to re-run it sometime on my own and see if it might be worthy of a 4.5.

Bullfrog Run

The run also marked a milestone for me.  In 2008, the First Annual Bullfrog Run was the first Mini event I attended with the THMMC (or anyone else for that matter).  I had the Mini for about a month and a half at that point.  So, it marked my one year anniversary of actually motoring with the THMMC.

Monday, April 20, 2009

NC Outlawing Many License Plate Frames

So I ran across this story in our paper the other day about a bill(HB67) that is winding its way through the NC General Assembly.  It would change the law about the display of registration plates (aka license plates) to mandate that a license plate frame cannot cover the month or year stickers.  No problem there.  But it also mandates that the state name cannot be covered.

This would be a problem for my Mini as my frame covers the state name.


Except for the mods I made to paint it to match my Mini, this is the "standard" frame that came with the Mini when I purchased it from Flow Mini.

Over the past couple days I've been watching other vehicles to see what they have.  Just eyeballing things, looks to me like about 40-50% of vehicles have license plate brackets.  Of those, probably around 90% are like mine in that they cover the state name.  And I'd probably say that well over half of them are like mine in that they were provided by the dealer where the vehicle was purchased from.

I don't know how many vehicles are registered in NC - I'll rough guess around 4 million.  If I'm right on that and my eyeball survey is consistent throughout the state, that would make about 1.5 million license plate brackets illegal.

And I'm not sure, I suppose the market would respond ok, but when I was looking for license plate brackets before doing my mod, I don't recall there being many options available that didn't cover the state name.

The bill has been passed by the House and sent over to the Senate where it has been assigned to the Committee on Transportation (bill history).

Friday, April 10, 2009

RIP Arneson

So I ran across this article tonight with the sad news that Dave Arneson has passed away.  Arneson was one of the co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons.  This comes just over a year after Gary Gygax, another of the co-creators passed away.  I wrote about Gygax and briefly touched on the D&D experience of my youth back then.

I hope Dave is resting in peace now and to him also, thanks for the great times.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hardest I've Laughed In A While

So, from one of my mailing lists I got this link to the Conficker War Room on the web site.  It must be some sign of my geekiness that I am quite literally about about to ROFL.  I especially liked the need for a deadlier graphic.  Anyway, I wanted to preserve this gem and let any stray geek wandering by know about it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Stripes for the MINI

Readers may recall that last fall I had an incident in the Mini when I ran into a deer close by my house.  That resulted in my bonnet (hood) being replaced along with a few trim pieces and one of my headlights.  The work was finally done in late November.  That meant it would be February before the paint was properly "cured".  So - no wax for the bonnet, no Hydro, and no stripes installation.  So, the Mini had to suffer through the winter with a plain (chili) red bonnet.

Back in February we had a nice warm weekend and I was able to put some Epic wax down on the bonnet and surrounding panels and the bumper.  I did discover during that process that there was some paint overspray on the bumper from when the bonnet was repainted.  I'm hoping it will come off whenever I can invest in a good random orbiter polisher.  Fortunately, the red matches, so you can only tell by touch or getting at the right angle.

So I had been trying to decide what to do about stripes.  The first issue was that I want to add some boot stripes.  After playing around with The GIMP some, I had created some previews of different styles and decided I want to try a double pinstripe format.  The original stripes had black pinstripes along the edges, but I wanted to get the Mini to all red and white wherever possible (black being a necessary evil to the NCSU red and white colors).

I'd been looking at some stripes on the Aesthetic Creations web site, but the pinstripes were kind of big (1/4 inch).  My wife described them as "boy racerish" and I tend to agree.  The other problem was that the stripes themselves, both bonnet and boot, would run well over $100 and I'd probably be looking at new Cooper S badging on the boot as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

THMMC - A Different Kind of Motor

Minis gathering for the start

Wow, I'm only about six days behind on posts. Lucky for me this will probably be a short one. In my last post I wrote about the trip my wife and I took to DC last week (as in March 17th through the 20th). We got back from that late Friday night and were pretty tired.

Nevertheless, we managed to get up early Saturday morning and load back up in the Mini to head to a THMMC event, the MINI March Madness Road Rally in Raleigh. This would be a different kind of event for me as it would be my first ever gimmick rally or scavenger hunt. The rally was put on by Domino Ireland. From looking at past history of the THMMC, they did another rally in December 2007 (iirc) which was just prior to me getting my Mini.

After the drive to Raleigh, we gathered at Cameron Village with about 25 or so other Minis. Amazingly, we had members coming from as far away as Virginia and I think a contingent from the Charlotte area.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Backroad Trip to DC

Mini in front of Washington Monument
Last week I had to go to Washington, DC, for some job training.  Travelling is not a big part of my job and it is usually always related to training.  DC is not somewhere I go outside of my job.  I think the last time I was there was a trip with my wife early in our marriage.  So, we decided to take this opportunity and go up there together.  A sort of mini-vacation.  And by taking the Mini, it would also be a Mini vacation.

I decided to use Google Maps to plot out a route up there that would not use the Interstates.  This added about an hour to the length of the drive.  But it had the benefit of letting me find some twisty backroads to enjoy, avoiding the frustration of Interstate traffic, and the opportunity to find a Roadside America attraction.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DC lunchbreak

So I'm in DC for some training. The seminar location is on Pennsylvania Avenue a block or two from the White House (which I cannot see). When I step outside I see the first photo below. In the distance, you can see the Capitol. Wish I could edit the iPhone photos (have to look for an app for that). Or had my good camera.

Anyway, met my wife for lunch. We met at the corner of 14th and Constitution where I got a pick of the Washington Monument.

And this post gave me an opportunity to try out the WordPress iPhone app. Which is quite limiting.

Look for an upcoming post about the drive up here. Had to let the valet park the Mini. Yikes!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Walking with The Lord?

So a while back I posted an entry about some of my attempts to start getting into the Bible some more and trying to bring a little more discipline into my life.  That effort went well for a while.  Not only was I getting up every Wednesday to do a weekly devotional, I had gotten into a pretty good rhythm of ending the day about 10:00 p.m. by retiring to my office and studying my A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.  All was going well for about a month and half when Winter Break and the holidays hit and I got totally off schedule.  Kind of interesting that it would happen as most "experts" will tell you that once you do something for 30 days or so, it becomes ingrained as a habit.

So January rolled around, and then February rolled around, and I still have not managed to get back into those two.  Reading the Prayer Guide has become even more challenging as our Sunday School class has abandoned (which seems like such a strong word, but I'll let it go for now) that and opted instead to work on our chronological reading of the Bible.  I suppose that is one good thing to come of this - I've been doing that reading every day.  Thus far we've covered Genesis, Job, and Exodus, and we are working through Leviticus.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another new toy - I suppose I say "Welcome" to iPhone

OK, I'm too lazy to bother going back and finding the different posts - suffice it to say that, while Apple is an "enemy" of Microsoft, which makes Apple a friend of mine, I'm not entirely enthused with them as well.  As I mentioned in one of this month's reverse posts, I would have liked to get a MacBook.  Part of that though is to have the ability to triple-boot into OS X, Linux, and Windows.  So now I just dual-boot, mostly into Linux with the occassional boot into Windows Vista.  OS X just misses out on my getting to play around with it (and play is all I would do as Linux is my "real" OS for getting anything real done).

Likewise, I've never been impressed with my wife's iPod (and yes, I did get it for her as a present).  I have much prefered my mp3 players because of their ability to play both ogg and mp3 files.  They also did not require iTunes to be loaded just to get music on them.  The DRM infested iTunes files my wife would buy were always a source of annoyance as well and when her desktop died, they were lost to that.

Despite all the things to not like about Apple products, I still decided to consider an iPhone for a smartphone purchase.  But I should back up a bit.  Almost three years ago we switched our cell phone service to Verizon.  Two factors went into that - coverage where we live and the discount my wife could get through a workplace affinity program.  Even at that, coverage here at the house has always been spotty and weak.

I'd been looking into smartphones for probably a year now since we had reached a point where we could upgrade with significant discounts.  Alas, Verizon's web site did not work with Firefox (much less Firefox on Linux) so, trying to get anything done was always a challenge and probably contributed to my not having done anything sooner.  Nevertheless, I had about decided to get a Blackberry Curve at some point when I had the money (and could afford to slap a data plan on the account as well).  Interestingly enough, the price reached a low point last fall and had been going back up.  And here I've been reading the country is in a recession.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Remember Kay Yow

I'm sure anyone reading this is now aware that legendary NCSU Wolfpack women's basketball coach Kay Yow passed away last Saturday after a 20+ year battle against breast cancer.  The coverage has been extensive - of both her extraordinary career as a basketball coach as well as her even more extraordinary life and the influence she had on so many people.  So I won't try to rehash any of that as others have done a much better job of it than I ever could.

I have been very moved on many different levels by this.  I still remember the battle that Jim Valvano fought against cancer.  At the time, I even managed to attend the funeral of Jimmy V to pay my respects.  Just recently I paused once again to watch his infamous speech on ESPN during the ESPYs.  As moving as that was, his last address to a crowd at Reynolds Coliseum, which I was present for, may have been even more powerful (maybe because I was there, live, for it).  So this is another legendary member of the Wolfpack Nation to move on as a result of cancer.

I've also been moved because my father died from cancer a few years ago.  In his case, it was esophageal cancer.  He was diagnosed with it in the spring, underwent chemo and radiation, then surgery, only to have it re-emerge several months later.  That was one of the biggest blows as it has like a 90% mortality rate in the first year and we thought he had it beat.  Alas, the cancer succeeded in claiming him within a year's time.  Far too soon.

Finally, I'm moved because I have two daughters who are quite the athletes.  They have been playing soccer for several years already and have now started taking up basketball.  No matter what path they take in life, one thing I can be thankful for is that people like Kay Yow helped to open doors and blaze trails for women to pursue their dreams no matter what they may be.

On Friday, Jan. 30th they will be holding the public funeral for Kay Yow.  Unfortunately, I don't own a pink shirt to wear tomorrow.  But I have made some badges for my Mini to sport tomorrow.  So remember Kay Yow and all the others in the world who may be battling cancer.  And maybe you can even help financially by visiting Pink Ribbon or or some other charity that could use your support.

When Life Kicks Badge

Kay Yow WBCA Badge

Pink Ribbon Badge

Monday, January 26, 2009

THMMC - 2009's First Motor

Hmmm, Mini likes to use the term "motoring" in a bunch of their advertising.  Part of their branding efforts.  But for the title of this post, if I wanted to substitute "drive" with something else, as in "THMMC - 2009's First Drive", is "Motor" the proper form?  I don't really know.  I suppose other words that would work include "event" or "tour".  Anyway, I'll leave it as Motor even though it doesn't sound right.  Maybe I can start a new trend in the Mini-verse.

Meanwhile, this post is quite late in getting made.  If you read my last post about the death of my Compaq laptop, you have some idea why that is.  Back on January 10th, the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club made their first run of the new year - a run up to Stone Mountain and then on to Sparta for some lunch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

RIP Compaq - welcome to the house Acer

Should have been blogging about this all along so it wouldn't be so long.  But then, I suppose that would have been kind of hard to do.  Why?  Couple weeks ago my laptop computer died.  I'm not real sure what happened to it or how it happened.  I give it a small probability that some problem with the Mepis energy management caused it to overheat and cooked something on the motherboard.  I had noticed a boot problem earlier in the day that it occurred, but the laptop recovered on its own.  That evening though, it froze up and then would not boot.  I cannot even get to the BIOS settings.  Tried both hard drives, no luck.

Fortunately, my wife let me go out this past weekend and buy a new laptop.  In the meantime, I had been borrowing hers or using my desktop (which meant being banished to the office).  I really was ready to go for a MacBook and look at trying to triple boot it into OSX, some Linux, and Win XP.  But we had to go cheap, so the $999 MacBook became a non-option.  We spent Saturday night looking for something at Office Depot, Best Buy, and Office Max.  Office Depot had three different options - back to them in a minute.  Office Max really did not have anything at all.  Best Buy had a couple that I was interested in.  One was a Dell that must have been a returned unit or something as it had a handwritten price card indicating it had been written down from $565 to $515.  It was pretty nice.  The other option was a nice Compaq that was on sale for $449.  It would have been a really good computer.  Alas, Best Buy was out of stock.  They indicated the closest units were at the Cary store.  But they couldn't have them send one over.  And they couldn't order us one to pick up at a later time.  They were trying really hard to not sell us a laptop.  We decided to go back to Office Depot.

Back at Office Depot, I had settled on a nice Acer that was on sale for $449.  But, they too were out of stock of the unit (as well as the other two we had identified as possible options).  They indicated they would sell the floor model to me, but they would not give me a discount.  They reasoned that it was the last day of the sale and they only extend discounts on floor models early in the week.  ????  I can only guess they really wanted to keep that floor model and sell it later at full price.  Must not be much of a recession going on for them if they aren't willing to work with a buyer in hand.

I was so frustrated at that point, we decided to just not do anything.  Instead, we headed off to the theater to see Gran Torino.  Excellent film (better than Nights in Rodanthe that I had to see with my wife a couple weeks earlier), but we had to come back for the late show due to the crowd at the theater.  I've never seen it like that.  Apparently the big draws were Notorious and My Bloody Valentine 3-D, although it was a packed house for Gran Torino as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Posting in reverse - some winter driving

Sigh. I have quite a queue of posts to complete. Who knows if I'll get to all of them. Anyway, in reverse order, starting with the most recent, thought I'd mention that today we had some snow. I had to drive in to work, which involves a slightly more than 30 mile drive to Durham. Our neighborhood and the first "major" road were ok if snow-covered. Little spinning making the turn out of the neighborhood.

Main Street in Graham was in pretty good condition. However, I had to make a stop at my bank this morning and when I did, I had to turn onto a side street (which interestingly enough, leads to our local DOT branch - you'd think they'd have it salted/sanded). As I pulled over into the center turn lane to make a left into the bank entrance, the Mini just took off sliding down the road. Luckily there was no one coming in the opposite direction so I was able to recover, go down the road, and turn around. Ever notice how few people know how to do that - go down the road and turn around when they miss or are about to miss a turn? Instead they try some wacked move or stop and hold up everyone else for their problem? Digression! Digression!! I was a little worried in the parking lot of the bank as there was a lot of spinning going on there too.

Anyway, I finally made it to the Interstate. I thought that would be good to go. Surely DOT would have put out the brine mix, sanded, salted, whatever, to keep the Interstate safe, right? Nope. Had to be some of the worst winter driving conditions I've ever seen. Not sure why, but the slushy mix that had developed was extremely slippery. Saw several accidents. One included a guy who had been tailgating me back in Graham and once we were on the four lane, started zipping through traffic. He had backed it into the center concrete median and was stopped with his vehicle (Chevy Venture?) blocking the far left lane. Guess he couldn't move it as he was missing a rear wheel. Yeah, it is hard to not get some pleasure out of someone else's misfortune, though he obviously had it coming.

I finally made it into Durham and got into work. The ride home was much better, but I still saw some folks having traction problems as I got close to home. So here is a pic from the Durham Expressway as I was heading in.

Update: Below is a pic of the Mini after a few days of driving in the salty, sandy, briney soup that our roads became. Such is the life of a daily driver. I finally went by a car wash at 10:30 on Thursday night in 32 degree weather to clean the Mini. Hope the wax is holding up. (Note - this update being done via an iPhone app for Wordpress blogs.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

MINI WUF Gets First Check Up

It seemed like it would never happen, but the Computer Based Service system on Mr. Mini Wuf finally counted down to the point where I could get my first service.  Amazingly, the computer calculated this to occur at about 20,200 miles.  I tripped that on the drive up to Flow Mini for the service.

Making the appointment was a matter of filling out an on-line form at the Flow Mini web site.  They responded the same day to let me know they could schedule me at the requested time.  That time was last Friday, January 2, 2009.  I pushed it into January so I was able to also get my State inspection completed.  Yay - no more window sticker.

Friday, January 02, 2009

NC Scenic Byways - Colonial Heritage Byway

I think I've mentioned it here before, but one of my "projects" that I am currently working on for the Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club (THMMC) is a covered bridge run.  The other big project being the Blue Ridge Parkway Tour 2009 (and I suppose as an extension to that, help with some related events like The Great Ice Cream Run 2, Bar Harbor Invasion, and Minis On Top). And in the background, I continue to toy with an idea to run a "gimmick rally" for the club.

Work on the covered bridge run has been plodding along and has been a little frustrating.  I'm sure Twister, THMMC founder, who proposed the original idea for a covered bridge run was hoping we could drive to a small handful of covered bridges and actually drive our Minis on them.  That would appear to be a pretty big challenge as there aren't really any public covered bridges in NC anymore.  At least, not historic ones.

The gimmick rally work has been a little bit slow as well, but perhaps a bit more fruitful, at least in the early research stage.  For both of these events, I have discovered some resources on-line.  One of them is the Visit NC website where I was able to find a bunch of information about historical sites and places to visit that could prove to be destinations for the rally.  The other site has been one that provides information about Scenic Byways in North Carolina (and other states if you are so inclined).

I drove portions of several a few weeks ago while scouting out the Pisgah Covered Bridge.  More on those in a later post.  On New Year's Day, my wife and I decided we could squeeze a little motoring in between some errands and other stuff we had planned.  So, we decided to give the Colonial Heritage Scenic Byway a try.  The Google route is shown below:

View Larger Map

We drove it from the west end to the east end.  It just worked out that way, but it looks like the State recommends that way as well.  The route starts off Hwy 29 on the north east side of Greensboro at Hwy 150 in Monticello.  Though I don't recall seeing the town or community named Monticello.  Following the route took us through some very nice country with some rolling farmland.  Notable were a few horse farms that we passed by.  The route worked its way up to Yanceyville.  I don't recall more than a couple good twists in the road, but being all two lane country roads kept it interesting.

In Yanceyville you pick up Hwy. 62 toward Milton.  As you approach Milton you get some good twists in the road.  Some Mini enthusiasts may recognize Milton as also being the location of Virginia International Raceway.  I also travelled this portion of 62 on the way to Waynesboro last year for the BRP Tour 2008.  At Milton, you take a right and head down Semora, where you take another right onto Hwy. 119.  The roads are a little more interesting through here and my wife reported seeing a huge wild turkey off in the woods as we travelled down 119.

From 119 you have to make a turn onto Stephenton Road.  This caught me by surprise, but I managed to get it woah'ed up enough to make the turn.  It helped being out in the middle of the country where there is no other traffic.  Stephenton Road started to get us onto some more "back road" type asphalt, which also raised the twisty factor considerably.  At the end of that, you turn back onto Hwy 158 (which was the road that led into Yanceyville and you are not far from Yanceyville at this point having made close a loop) which was still a little twistier here than earlier in the route.

From there, you hook up on Hwy 86 heading south into Hillsborough.  This was probably the worst part of the route.  Very straight, big road.  According to the NC guide on scenic byways, there are a couple examples of old country stores along this section.  I'll have to look harder next time.  Just before hitting Hillsborough, you take a left onto Governer Burke Road, then do a little loop into downtown Hillsborough.  Where among other things, you can see the old Orange County Courthouse.  Cross the Eno River, and then hang a right on Hwy 70 (the business route).  You follow this into Durham where you hang a right onto Hwy 751 for a short drive through Duke Forest to the end of the byway.


One event of noteworthiness during this particular drive was hitting 20,000 miles in my Mini.  This happened on the twisties of Hwy 62 as we neared Milton.  A nice appropriate place for that to happen.  According to Google, the drive should have taken three hours, but I did it in about an hour and fifty minutes.  Not sure what the disparity was - I wasn't really driving that fast.

That gave us a little extra time, so my wife wanted to head down to Fearrington Village.  Problem was, she didn't know exactly where it was.  And thanks to AT&T, I still do not have an iPhone that I could use to GPS it.  So we asked for directions in a couple places.  Below is where we ended up driving:

View Larger Map

Later we figured that we just missed it.

So, that is a scenic byway I can check off the list as having been completed. It was nice in the middle of winter to be able to get out for some motoring. Still debating whether I'll propose it as a drive to the THMMC. I know there are many members who are really looking for the twisties and this probably would not be the most appealing drive for them. But it is an opportunity to get on some back roads and see the NC countryside. And not much traffic to have to contend with. So maybe I'll do a series of these drives. If I had the money and time, I could probably do one a month in different parts of the state. That might help get some more club members involved in drives if they new they didn't have to travel so far and could do something closer to their home.