Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall, spring, no... fall; whatever... SOME season... in AZ

When the temperature starts cooling off here in Arizona, we don't go running off to the closest pumpkin patch; we don't start mulling cider; we don't start covering plant beds and bringing in the outdoor furniture.
What we do, is take the furniture out. We shake out the cushions. We put up the umbrellas. We make lemonade. And we visit the nursery.

Yesterday, I took all the pots and emptied them out onto a tarp. We added some compost and fertilizer. Today, we bought new pots for the front door, and about 50 little plants to add into the containers. The outside is ready for some quality time.
Here are some photos.



front door:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

for those who are interested

here's what last week looked like:
Monday - worked in my office until 8pm to prepare two scopes
Tuesday - flew to Fort Worth, drove to airport in Dallas, drove to Arlington office, chaired a project kickoff meeting until 9pm
Wednesday - continued the meeting, did a presentation for the client, flew home, got a call on my drive had to divert to coffee shop to work for 2 hours
Thursday - worked in my office until 7pm fixing things that should have been done right the first time - last week!
Friday - drove to Flagstaff to attend the kickoff meeting for a book where Greg and I have been asked to contribute chapters related to our thesis research, got home at 8pm
I am SO glad I have NO plans this weekend!
next week looks like this:
Monday - in office again; I hope I can get home at a decent hour!
Tuesday - fly back to TX
Wednesday - attend the client's kickoff meeting
Thursday - continuation of Wednesday meeting; fly to Reno to meet up with Greg
Friday - drive from Reno to Susanville, CA
Saturday - watch Greg run a marathon, drive back to Reno
Sunday - home!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Ultimate Driving Experience

so here's the last event:
The project manager on one of my jobs decided that we needed a team building event. So he organized a driving experience at BeaveRun, a full-service automotive facility.
The day started with one of the local team members hosting a skeet-shooting morning. No, I didn’t take a turn… shooting a shotgun just doesn’t appeal to me.
After lunch, we headed over to BeaveRun. Our first event was go-kart races. We got a couple turns round the track for people to get used to the cars. It was an outdoor track with some elevation changes. After getting comfortable, they did a time run, and then used the results to put us into teams of 3 for an endurance race. The race rules had everyone taking at least one turn on the track, but the order, or amount of time was up to the teams. Of course, the teams with very strong drivers had them take most of the runs. The all boys team came first, and the all girls team came last – kind of predictable since the ladies were the least likely to take chances on the track.
Go-karts are exhausting. It takes a lot of maintained strength to keep them turned, to steer out of one turn into another. It occurred to me after a while, that it would be better to save some energy for the other TWO events of the day.

After the endurance run, we headed over to an autoX course. The instructors took groups through the course in the Mazda 6s, which weeded out a lot of the faint-of-heart. We got a couple practice runs, and then each person got two timed runs. Your times were added together for placing in the results, so you had to have two consistent runs. I messed up on the first one taking a late turn too fast and mushed a couple cones – adding 2 seconds to my finish time. I was the second fastest woman, but a couple seconds behind the leading man.
It took a while for me to get used to the Mazda. Its steering was really sloppy and it didn’t feel responsive – compared to my car. The MC of our event also has an ’05 MCS, and I made a comment to him about how much the Mazda sucked, and he was rolling on the floor laughing.

If we weren’t exhausted enough, we headed over to a full race track. We didn’t do a race event here, we took turns driving a Chevy Caprice (read: BOAT) around the course. The track was a fast one, so the turns were not to technical. They had cones at each turn apex on the side of the track you needed to hit, so it was like a connect-the-dots driving from cone to cone. The track that I drove for the performance driving classes in Vegas was more interesting with some tighter turns, and that was a more fun driving course. Since we were driving Caprice’s, probably didn’t matter too much.
While we were ding the autoX, the project manager (who has been driving at BeaveRun for a year) had been taking some laps on the track in a Formula One car. He races a Porsche that he has race prep’ed with track tires, racing seats, and harnesses. While we were taking turns with the Caprice, he was taking people on rides in the Porsche. After all the crap that we’d been driving that day, it was really nice to be in a car that actually responded. It stopped without shaking, it turned when he moved the wheel, and it accelerated on command. I think the fastest we got was around 120mph.
The photos of that day aren’t the greatest… here’s one of me in a 6:

And there’s the Porsche on the left:

Monday, September 24, 2007


Black Hawk "Down"

One of my projects is in a remote part of Arizona, there are no access roads or routes to get close to the project area. Our client organized for us to get a ride with the AZ National Guard in a black hawk helicopter.

Here we are getting ready to board.

Here's my view on the inside.

We flew from Phoenix to Tucson to pick up more passengers, and then we took off to the border. We flew across the project area a couple times, and then the pilot headed north all of a sudden.
On the headset, we heard:
"is that a flicker? yes, it is. Oh man! not a flicker" and the next thing we knew they were looking for a place to land. Once we were down, I asked them what had happened. Their transmission fluid has a magnet that attracts loose metal bits, and if they are attached, it makes "flicker" in the indicator light. Their procedure is to shut down the engine - which is what they did... so basically, we did an emergency landing with only one engine.

Separate post showing me talking to the "Crew Chief," who is also an engineer, about what was going on.

They sent another helicopter to get us. Here it is landing:




We flew to Nogales and had lunch, and then around the border some more, and then home.

I would have to summarize the majority of this experience as "boring". Stuck in a seat with a 4-point harness; can't move, can't look out too much; too loud to talk to anyone; SUPER uncomfortable seats.

Stop by tomorrow to learn all about the Driving


Sunday, September 23, 2007

recap - Sunday to Sunday

I'm gonna recap my exciting week in three posts; you know, to milk it as much as I can since I haven't had this much postworthy excitement in one week for a while...

- Last Sunday, I did the Solo II autocross for the first time
- On Tuesday, I took a black hawk helicopter from Phoenix to Tucson to the border and back with some fairly eventful happenings in the middle
- On Friday, I went to Pittsburgh for a full day of driving mania as part of a teambuilding event.

First off, AutoX:

It was a LONG day starting at 6am for walking the course, driver's meeting, novice meeting, and Tech. It was HOT. I took the wheel at 1pm... which means I was heat fried before I'd even started. I had an instructor with me for all 4 runs, which I think helps me to push myself more than I would if I were alone. My time improved each lap...
starting with: 55.648, to 48.461, to 45.774 (with 2 cones = 49.774), and finally 45.103 (with one cone = 47.103).

The best of the stock MINIs was doing the course in 40.443, so by my last lap, I wasn't too far off; which I think is pretty good for my very first time.

Here's the course:

...and here are some pics of me on the course

next up: "Black Hawk Down"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Week...

... is crazy. I have some truly exciting events going on; but they are keeping me very busy, so I don't have time to download the photos and post. Also, some of them have been threatening to cancel, and thanks to Murphy's Law, I am going to stop talking about specifics until I have completely enjoyed my week.

This is your notice to check back on the weekend (Sunday) when I can give you the full low-down.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Yesterday, I got stuck on a different route home, and the traffic was horrific. It was one of those moments when you felt like you were not moving, and would never move. I thought of Blackbird's great documentary posts, and thought I'd give it a try.

starting time 5:41

a minute later, still haven't moved, this is the view

took a photo out of the side window to show progress.

at 5:43 we moved forward. All the way to the light!

and here's my sideview:

the guy on my right saw me taking photos, and started motioning to me to photograph him. I rolled down my window, and we had a little exchange about traffic. The sun was at the wrong angle, here he is:

the light turned green, but all these people thought they would run their orange/red to make the left, so it was a good long while before I actually got through the light. Of course, I took a picture of them.

Isn't that illegal to block an intersection?

Finally, I get through all the mahem to my favorite part of my daily commute: The Metered Ramp. This traffic control feature may be a good idea, but for the driver of a stick... it SUCKS!

I got on the highway shortly after 5:47. All of this took place in less than a mile. And my documentation shows that it was only 6 minutes, clearly demonstrating that my patience is worse than the traffic!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Delivery Dyslexia

Sometimes, I think it would be fun to receive a present at work and I give my online orders my work address for delivery.
When the item arrives in our office, it is delivered to the front desk, where the receptionist signs for it, and puts it on top of all the other boxes from deliveries.
This is the same procedure all the office orders go through - computers, office supplies, paper, everything.
They sit at the front desk until the receptionist notifies the recipient to come and get it.
She's pretty slow with these notifications.
You'd think she would want to get rid of all those boxes lying around in the welcome area of our company.
When I am expecting a present at work, I sometimes go to the delivery service website to find that it has already been delivered.
Its quite shocking to have that page open up and the status say "Delivered".
So, what I'm saying, is that I have to go to a website for an outside delivery service to learn that I have a package at the front desk.
A package that is sitting in front of someone who gets paid by my company to make sure that things (phone calls, reports, plans) get sent to the right person.
Come to think of it, a vendor called me this morning to tell me they sent me a fax... this machine is right next to said receptionist.
I wish there was a website I could check to learn about those deliveries!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Year 2 in Black Rock City

you're only a virgin once. That's for sure. And virgin year is very special. The difference between year 1 and 2 is monumental.

The nature of Black Rock City is that its always different. So if you were hoping to go to that cafe on the corner, or hop from bar to bar on that street, it won't be like that this year. Your home will be in a different place, and the people around you will be different.

One thing that really made a difference was the absence of Marty's friend Julia. I didn't realize it last year, but she was really the motivator, the instigator, the organizer, and the creator of home base. Instead of being a small intimate camp of friends, this year we were part of a subdivision of other people who know each other. It was interesting to see these other visitors and how they created their experience, but I missed the intimacy of "home".

Another huge affect on Year 2 - white-out dust storms 2 days in a row. Getting caught in the first one meant that I didn't really want to get stuck in the second. But sitting inside for 4 hours in the prime exploring part of the day, was a damper... a buzz kill.

One more big difference. Last year, the night clubs were spread out - at 2:00, 9:00, 6:00 and on the playa... so you could pop here, pop there, and try everything out before committing. This year, it was either 2:00 or 9:00 and going between the two took some time.

As always, time was irrelevant, plans were impossible to remember, experiences were as they came, other residents were giving. This is the magic of Black Rock City.

Every year there are lessons learned, and every year there is a list of what to do next time. Its like a constantly evolving learning experience. An experience experience.

see you on the playa.