February 6th, 2014:
The Adventure Continues

I started my new job 3 months ago and it’s been everything I wanted (and needed). We’ve been building a new application from the ground up with no integrated legacy dependencies with the latest Javascript frameworks. Node.js and Angular.js are absolutely wonderful to work with… which only makes me regret taking so much time off of dedicated coding even more. I feel like I’m about 2 years behind where I should have been if I stayed more hands-on with code, even if it was just at home. Pro tip from Uncle D: if you love to code, don’t stop… even if it’s not your job any more.

Glorious PC Gaming Master Race

Glorious PC Gaming Master Race

Frankly, I’ve found myself with more free time that I’ve had for about 5 years. Working from home allows me to take care of a few chores a couple of days per week during lunch. Even when I work until 7:00 or 8:00 at night, I just walk out of my office and I’m home! With the extra free time and no home improvement projects underway, I’ve needed to keep myself busy. After finally cleaning out that extra room that was used for storage during the last 2 years, I really wanted to get started on my race car prep… but with single (or negative) digit temps, working in an non-insulated, non-heated metal pole barn isn’t exactly smart. So, I’ve found that playing online PC games with my friends is a great way to stay in touch. We don’t see each other as much since I started working from home. Brad has hosted his famous Atomic JanLAN which got a few of the Peasants to experience the glory of gaming above 30 frames per second at resolutions above 720p.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed playing Battlefield 4 late into the night, despite the unforgivable amount of bugs still present in the game 4 months after launch. To keep my hands busy when not on a keyboard, I’ve made some significant upgrades to my PC, including a new case, additional graphics card for SLI, water cooling, and new keyboard and mouse (thanks to Gina for the Christmas presents).

Outside of the house, a few friends and I have been visiting the Howell Gun Club during public range times to deal with our cabin fever by putting holes in targets. We’ve all done well despite our lack of practice. I really haven’t fired a pistol in 20 years, but a new S&W M&P .40 sure makes it easy to get back in the groove. We’re considering membership since the folks at the club are so welcoming and helpful. They’re full of great advice and always have a smile to welcome you.

Once we’re thawed out, I fully expect the repairs due to the record winter to consume my time. On top of that, I still haven’t pulled the engine from my race car and replaced the transmission. For now, I’ll keep cleaning the house and gaming at night… hoping for some sunshine and double digit temperatures to free us from our frozen prison!

- Duane

September 7th, 2010:
Racing, Theater Progress, and Detroit…

We’ve been exceptionally busy this summer. Somehow, we’ve managed to mix weddings, racing, home improvements into our already hectic work schedules to make updating my blog (or even posting to Twitter) a luxury. My race season has ended with 4 events in the bag (plus a practice session). I learned a lot about my new race car as well as myself. With some maintenance on the car and a little more seat time, I’m hoping to have an exciting season next year.

In other racing news, Glenn (my father-in-law) had a spectacular “racing incident” last weekend at Mid-Ohio. Another driver spun just ahead of him in a blind uphill corner. Without enough time to avoid the collision, Glenn hit the side of the other car between 60 and 80 mph, casing significant damage to his car, but no injuries (apart from a little soreness). We were very relieved to see him climb out of his car once the corner workers had gotten the remaining cars on track under control.

Christian (my brother) and his drywall crew finished the walls in our basement a few months ago. Since then, we’ve put a coat of paint on the walls (to make it easier to paint after the trim is installed), finished the remaining electrical wiring, routed and installed speaker connections, consulted with Eric at AVIO, tested the speaker locations (awesome) and built our 2nd-row riser. We’re on-track to have our theater finished by the end of the year!

Our company moved to downtown Detroit about 3 weeks ago, doubling my daily drive time. The good news is, that’s my only complaint. Detroit is great… and that’s coming from somebody that gave up on the D when the currently imprisoned mayor was re-elected. I went to school here and grew up on the edges of the city, so it’s nice to re-connect with my hometown. There’s hundreds of restaurants to visit at lunch, traffic in the city itself isn’t bad (compared to Chicago, NYC, etc.), and our new building is simply awesome. Our founder, Dan Gilbert, is trying to get more innovators and entrepreneurs downtown. If that happens, it’s only going to get better down here.

- Duane

June 2nd, 2010:
First Race in Spec Racer Ford at Grattan

I’ve never raced a Spec Racer Ford (SRF) before, I’ve never competed in an SCCA National Race, and I’ve never been racing for 4 days straight before. I figured, “What the hell… why not combine them?!” Really though, it sounded like an opportunity for a lot of track time surrounded (or at least behind) a bunch of great drivers. Day 1 was practice: 4, 20-minute sessions. My first impressions of the SRF vs. my (sort of) Improved Touring-A (ITA) Neon were: it turns better, it stops better, it goes better. The SRF is more predictable, but I’m not comfortable with the limits of the car yet. The only thing that will fix that is seat time.

Day 1 of the “Cheap Points Double National” event at Grattan Raceway was an open practice hosted by the track. I got 4 sessions in on a set of generously donated, well-used tires from my father-in-law, Glenn. The course has been compared to a rollercoaster for good reason. The elevation changes and cambered corners are even more enigmatic when approaching them from 16 inches lower than usual. It’s a fun course, but difficult to learn. My times improved throughout the day, but I still have a lot to improve upon.

Day 2 was the first official day of the event. The national event schedule was a little different than the regional routine I was used to. Instead of a qualifying session and race on each day, everything was spread out between 3 days. Additionally, the races were longer: 23 laps instead of the 15-or-so that you get for regional races. First up: practice qualifying. My times were unspectacular, but I focused on getting to know my car. Ambient temps were already approaching 80 degrees and driving the SRF is a workout: manual steering, manual brakes and a whole lot more g-forces than I’m used to. The car feels directly tied to the course… un-buffered.

That afternoon, I got my first experience with brand new Goodyear tires during qualifying. The car was completely different. The limits were extended and it became even more predictable. It was able to hold off-camber turns much more confidently and I was more comfortable exiting corners, aiming the car and flooring the gas pedal. My times continued to improve, qualifying within a couple seconds of a more experience driver and ahead of another driver. After the session, Glenn, Gina and I inspected the steering rack and decided there was a little too much lash in the wheel movement so they helped me replace my steering rack with one of Glenn’s spares. The cockpit of the car is cramped, especially for somebody with my frame: 6′ 2″, 260 lbs. Moving the shifter further outboard helped a bit, but I continued to have trouble toe-heeling the pedals. Moving the gas pedal back a bit helped some, but I made sure to offset it further after I got home. Grattan always has a great dinner at the end of the race day. Though we got to the food a little late, what was left was still pretty tasty.

Day 3, Sunday. My first national race and I was nervous, but not as much as I would have thought. The temperature was peaking in the mid-80s and another driver gave Glenn and I zip-lock bags to fill with ice and place on our chests inside of our suits… and it worked very well. I had a great start and was moving along well during my laps. However, I was trying too hard to stay out of the more experienced drivers instead of staying on the racing line when they approached. Doing this allowed the driver behind me to catch up to me 3/4 through the race and pass me briefly. After I made a clean re-pass, he cut to the inside of a tight, technical corner. Instead of tracking out and recovering on the exit of the turn, he locked up his brakes, turned his wheels hard to the right… and spun out right in front of me. I t-boned his car at low speed… low enough to do no damage to his car, but crush my radiator and front fiberglass. My first race was over. I limped my car back to pit lane, carefully avoiding the racing line in case I was spilling fluid. Glenn and Gina helped me replace the radiator with Glenn’s spare and tape up the fiberglass. Repairs went smoothly and I was back in action for qualifying later that afternoon… though due to a scheduling mix-up I went out on my practice tires… oops…

The final day of the event promised changing weather: lightning, thunder, rain and… surprisingly… sunlight and a dry track in time for our race! Though a few rain drops fell before the end of our race, it was called early because of lightning strikes nearby. My times were o.k., but I was more focused on following the advice of some of the other drivers I spoke to that morning: slow down and figure out the car and track, then gradually speed up. I was spending so much time during the weekend trying to go fast, that I wasn’t thinking about how I was going to get there. While on track, I mentally broke it down into 3 sections and worked on smoothing out the corners in each one. This approach yielded my best times of the weekend as well as a better understanding of how the corners worked together in each section.

I had a great time. It was a lot of work, but just as much fun. We’ll return to Grattan in August. I’ll have a little more experience with the SRF by then and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m able to do next time.

- Duane

November 3rd, 2009:
New Race Car. Continuing workout. Home remodeling.

Gina and I bought a Spec Racer Ford on Sunday. It’s chassis #051 and was originally a Renault-powered car. Mechanically, it’s a sound car. We’ll be updating the front lower control arms, belts, and 5th gear before next season as well as doing a little frame painting and cleanup (the fiberglass is in great shape, though). I’m excited to start racing with a more competitive car and to see if my driving skill is strong enough to keep me running with the pack, finally.[Pics Here]

Gina and I are in week 2 of phase 2 of the P90X plan. We’ve had to skip a day of workouts last week and this week due to illness and schedule, but have otherwise stayed true to the diet and exercise plan. Phase 2 is more intense and the workouts seem even longer, but we’ve both noticed feeling better since beginning the workout. The end of this week marks the 1/2 way point.

We’ve been trying to complete our home updates, but our race season, Gina’s work travels, and our workout plan have severely limited the amount of time we can spend on our projects. Christian’s new company (Degen Development) is keeping him pretty busy, but we’re trying to book him before the end of the year. On the list are crown moldings for the den fireplace, new basement doorwall, and continued work on our basement finishing/theater.

- Duane

October 25th, 2009:
Media center “upgraded” to Windows 7. Race car plans.

Over the weekend I “upgraded” my media center/server to Windows 7. As noted in a previous post, I’m using an ATI Digital Tuner for TV recording. However, it still uses very heavy DRM to lock down recorded content. As a result, everything I’ve recorded with the digital tuner is unavailable for playback form Windows 7 and my extenders because I chose a clean install instead of an upgrade. When are Microsoft and the cable companies going to realize that this is exactly why people are using non-proprietary system and downloading TV shows from Bittorrent? Very frustrating. In any event, only a few episodes were still unwatched since the installation of my digital tuner, so not much will have to be replaced with the methods previously mentioned.

I’ve been thinking about my options relative to my current race car. It’s never been built up beyond my initial prep for Spec Neon apart from a header minor top end cleanup before my first season of 100% ITA. The engine is tired, I have no limited slip diff, I need a real suspension setup, and bigger diameter/wider tires and wheels. The cost of everything combined is close to the cost of a complete, competitive race car. Though I considered staying in ITA, it’s a class where you have to keep up with the Jones’. I don’t have the funds to keep tweaking my car. My other option was to switch to a spec class, such as Spec Miata. But, that has become a very expensive class over the years. I’ve decided to switch to Spec Racer Ford and race alongside my father-in-law. I’m working on getting a new car now and will have more updates soon.

- Duane