Archive for the 'Nonclassified Nonsense' Category

Quart of milk

25 June 2022 at 11:06 am
by Jonah

“You gotta get that quart of milk, man!”

Everyone was packing up at the end of the Bill Miller Tribute Race at High Plains, and Nick was trying to talk Berck into coming to the SVRA race at Indy a month later. He said Lori was thinking about going, using Nick’s two-car trailer and her tow vehicle, and that Berck should come too, since Elliott Barron had promised to let us us have our own class for the faster RMVR Vees, or what the folks, who run using Monoposto rules, call “FV1” cars. “The three of us could be on the podium! At Indy!” All we needed were four cars.

So a month later we were on the 16 and a half hour drive (including stopping at the airport for leaded fuel). Elliott Barron had rented out some track-side garages for us to pit in (you can fit a lot of Formula Vees in one garage!). We got everything situated and then went to our Airbnb that Berck had managed to find, which was only a 12 minute walk to the track gate. Lori’s husband flew in from Colorado and her sister had driven in from Ohio. We all walked the couple of blocks to a restaurant on Main Street Speedway, where Lori told our waitress, “I’m racing at Indy!” and then went to the nearby ice cream shop, where she also told the staff, “I’m racing at Indy!” I told the story of how Berck had missed the podium at COTA last year, driving back to the Vee pits way out in the parking lot, since he had learned from racing with RMVR that in vintage racing there was nothing to win except the respect of your fellow drivers. On the other hand, it turns out SVRA awards medals, hats, bottles of Champagne, and bags of race car-shaped Mission tortilla chips. And at Indy, milk bottles.

Friday was practice, so Elliott Barron led the slow Vees out in his super shiny Pegasus, his son E.O. took the faster Vees, and his other son Hunter took the fastest cars. At home Berck had been practicing the course on iRacing, but unfortunately, it was a different configuration than the one being used this weekend.

Nick and Berck ready to go on track

I met Lori as she returned from practice and offered to help her push her car back into the garage, but she was too busy excitedly describing the course to me. Second practice was in the afternoon. My favorite part of the day was watching the pre-war Indy cars do parade laps.

We ended the day at a brewery/pizza restaurant on Main Street, where Lori told our waitress, “I’m racing at Indy tomorrow!”

Saturday morning was qualifying. Berck had to fix his brakes afterward, only to discover he had a busted brake line. Fortunately, the Barrons had a spare, and he replaced it without too much difficulty, especially with me to help him bleed the brakes.

Afterward we went over to the museum, where it is explained that the 1933 winner of the Indy 500 sipped on a quart of buttermilk that his mother had sent with him so he could rehydrate after racing. Buttermilk is not offered as a choice for current Indy 500 winners; you have to choose among whole, 2%, or skim, though some drivers request chocolate milk but do not get it. Seeing the evolution of race cars, from basically wagons, that had replaced a horse with a motor, to the carbon fiber engineering marvels of today, was definitely worth admission. Lori told the ladies at the ticket counter that she was racing today, and they said they’d look for her out the museum window.

Nick qualified in P2 in his limey green Bandersnatch, behind the much faster Formula Continental that didn’t have anyone else to race with, and Berck in P3. The two of them decided to give the Continental plenty of room to get out in front of them at the start for the afternoon race.

Berck’s Zink and Nick’s Bandersnatch

There was a scary moment where I watched Simon, one of the CVAR drivers, fly off the track and into a tire barrier, which triggered a safety car. The marshals were unable to reconstruct the tire barrier in time, and the race finished behind the safety car. The Barrons swept the podium for the FV class. The workers on pit lane told Nick that there wasn’t a podium for FV1 and directed him to the paddock, but he drove into the winner’s circle anyway; Berck followed him. Lori, who had managed to finish ahead of the only other car in the “FV1” class had gone back to the garages. I asked some spectators in the grandstands where the podium was and then hurried over to the other side of the Pagoda. Nick saw me and told me to go get Lori, “Quickly!”

I hurried all the way back to the garages. “Lori!” I shouted, “We’ve got to get you to the podium! Hurry!” I found an empty golf cart with a key in it (I have the Barrons’ permission to drive any of their golf carts). Lori’s husband Jeff sat shotgun and figured out how to put the cart into reverse for me. Lori had disappeared; I think she was telling everyone she’d made the podium. “Lori!” I screamed, “Get your butt in this golf cart!” Once we had loaded her up along with the rest of her entourage, I drove as fast as I could through all of the spectators looking at all the cool cars.

Lori helped get people out of the way by shouting, “I’m going to the podium! I just raced at Indy!”

I got as close as I could on the wrong side of the Pagoda and told her to run to the other side while I parked the golf cart. Nick got his wish of standing at the top of the podium draped in the Indy wreath. Lori stood in the 3rd place spot wiping away tears.

Nick, Lori, and Berck

Berck was quite disappointed that they were all presented empty milk bottles. “Where’s my quart of Indy milk?” At least the Champaign bottles were full. They also got Summit Racing gift certificates (Berck used his to buy spare brake line).

Then it was over to the suite Elliott had rented for us, where we drank Miller Lite and watched live F1 qualifying at Montreal, though that finished in time for us step outside to watch the pre-war cars drive around the track again.

We caught up with Simon who was sore but otherwise OK after his crash, though it would take the Barrons all night to fix his car in time for the Sunday morning race.

The last Formula Vee race was Sunday morning.

Gridded up for the last race

Hunter Barron had a brake failure and went straight off the track. Nick managed to get in front of Elliott in the Pegasus, which was heavily smoking the last lap. Berck finished 2nd and Lori 3rd again in the “FV1” class, and E.O. got 2nd behind Elliott. Lori managed to get herself and her car to the podium without help and wiped away tears again.

1, 2, and 3, all RMVR drivers

Elliott put Nick, who was grinning ear to ear, in a headlock with the two of them wrapped inside the Indy laurel wreath atop the number 1 pedestal.

Nick and Elliott

Nick invited Tip up to the podium, the man who originally built the Bandersnatch in the ’60s and had come out from Florida to watch it race.

I gave Elliott a hug and thanked him for his hospitality. Then it was time to load the car back onto the trailer and everything else into the truck, including the two empty milk bottles and one full bottle of champagne and get a head start on the 16 plus hour drive back home.

Nick and Tip, the builder of the Bandersnatch, along with a full bottle of Champagne, and an empty milk bottle

Racing School

26 April 2022 at 6:25 am
by Jonah

I first got involved in RMRV at driving school three years ago in the slow group of the Performance class.  The next year I passed the Competition class in my husband Berck’s Formula Vee.  Last year I worked the black flag corner.  But this was my first RMVR driving school as an instructor, and I requested to be assigned someone who had never been on a track. I got an 18 year old with her 2007 Rabbit on all-season tires that had a cylinder issue and a transmission that really didn’t want to go into third gear. But it was a manual, so I told her she’d definitely have fun. I just hoped Tech wouldn’t be bothered that her belly pan was attached with Gorilla tape, but I think they were distracted by the lack of a tow hook and the presence of hubcaps. For the first slow session, I showed her the line for a couple of laps, then we swapped seats and went back out on the track.

She drove the line perfectly.

Before the next session, I told her she could grid up wherever she wanted. If she got to the grid first, she could be in front. If she wanted to be in the back of the pack, she could wait at the rear until everyone else gridded up. “I think I’ll wait in the back. My car isn’t that fast.” We waited for a Porche, a Lotus, a few turbo GTI’s, and bunch of Miatas to get in line ahead of us. Then we had to poke around behind everyone else. I showed her how to go through the pit lane to get some space behind a pack of bunched up cars in order to actually get some fast track time.

At the next session she suggested we get to the grid early. “I think I want to go first.”

She did everything I told her to as soon as I spoke. She hit every apex. She hopped beautifully on the curbing through the S-turns. And most importantly, she trusted me when I said she didn’t have to lift off the gas and hit the brake until she was half-way down the short-chute coming off the banking into the first turn of the infield. She lapped car after car. She kept pushing and improving her performance. On the banking, I asked if she was driving flat out. “Yes,” she sighed, “This is just as fast as this car goes.”

By the end of the day, I was running out of instructions to give her. Berck rotated the Rabbit’s tires for her, since the front all-seasons were getting chewed up. That night we walked the cold track… well, the infield… beers in hand (plus an extra in my pocket) for me, Berck, our friend Andrew, who we had promised a fun weekend, and Andrew’s instructor Willis, another Vee driver. (I’d had to search the coolers for a soda for my student.) I warned her that the apex and track-out cones would be gone the next day. “Cones?” she said, and I realized she simply instinctively knew the track.

She said goodnight and headed to her hotel room. She had planned to camp, but the gale-force winds on Friday had blown away her tent. Nights at the track are my favorite, where the Vee guys sit around and drink beer and tell stories about racing. I made them all laugh by claiming to be the reason Bill Miller finally doffed his racing shoes. His final race, the octogenarian hadn’t finished last; I had, driving Sterling’s Rabbit. I asked Jack if he’d swap students with me for a session in the morning. Jack has lots of experience driving Rabbits on track and gave me some great instruction right before the race where I crossed the finish line right behind Bill Miller. Jack agreed, if I didn’t mind riding in a $200,000 Ferrari. Mind?

I was actually able to give the Ferrari driver some good instruction, I think, though Jack said it was the same things he kept telling his student. I asked Jack about my student. He grinned, “She’s fast!” He said he told her to smooth out her turn in at corner 5 and to give the car a bit of a chance to settle between the carousel and the S-turns.

For the next session, I told my student that, because she was aware of other drivers, giving good point-bys, and passing safely, I thought she was ready to drive alone. Willis told the same thing to Andrew, who was driving our blue track Miata, and Willis and I went up to the roof of the classroom, where we could see the whole track. My student made sure to get to the grid first so no one would slow her down. Andrew caught up to her pretty quickly, and she would give him a point-by each time she hit a straight, but he didn’t quite have enough power to pass her. Willis was beside himself with excitement. This was also his first time instructing. “They are by far the fastest of the group, hands down, those two, for sure! Look at them flying through that turn!”

We ran back downstairs after the session and joined our students. Andrew was laughing and hugging Willis and me after his first time out solo. My student was dutifully checking her tire pressures. I asked her if the car was faster without anyone in it. “Well, of course.”

I asked Berck to take my student out during the lunch break in the Miata. She came back with a big grin on her face. “That was so much fun!” 

A corner worker on break from the black flag station at corner 5 came over and asked, “Who is driving this car?” pointing at the Rabbit. “You are so fast!” 

Berck rode with Andrew during a session, and came back laughing that Andrew couldn’t pass my student, even in a better track car. “You’re pretty fast!” he told her.

For the last session of the weekend, I asked my student what she wanted to do. Was there anything she wanted to work on? Did she want to drive alone or have anyone come with her? “I mean,” she shrugged, “You could come with me…?” Of course, we got to the grid early and started in front. This was a combined session with the faster cars (like the Ferrari), so I warned her there would be lots of cars passing us this session. I asked her if, during the classroom session we just left, she had noticed the way the car in the video had been taking turn 5. “Actually, I kinda fell asleep.”

So we worked on smoothness and tracking out more if the tires started complaining. Next we went up to the roof to watch the drivers from the competition school engage in their first race against the instructors. “Well,” she said as the checkered flag was thrown for the production car race, “I think I’m going to head out.” I still had to write in her logbook, so while she banged her hubcaps back into place, I explained to her what track camber and driving 7/10ths were so I could mark them completed. I wrote that she should work on smoothness, because smooth is fast, which is what Jack keeps telling me. Then I asked her if she’d had fun. She smiled, “Yeah.”

Then I had to run over to the Miata to put the top up because Andrew had left it down and it had started raining and I really didn’t want to drive back home up the pass in a snowstorm with a wet seat. (For the trip home, we had to swap the wheels for snow tires that Berck had the foresight to bring in the back of the truck.) I waved at my student as she drove past, wondering if I had actually taught her anything, and she enthusiastically waved back.

I hope I see her at the next race.


5 April 2022 at 9:23 pm
by Jonah

Berck had just started up an episode of Mad About You, sitting down on the couch with his plate, when he tried to shout something through a full mouth and over Paul Reiser. He was unsuccessful. He jumped up with his plate and backed away from the couch and attempted communicating again. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. He pointed to where he had been sitting. “My what?” I demanded, as Berck, now standing in the hallway, put another forkful of food into his mouth. He gesticulated with his fork even more forcefully at the couch and the remote, which was now out of his reach. I still couldn’t hear what he was saying over the TV volume. “Your department!” he managed to get out between bites. “What?” “There!” “What’s there!?”

Berck swallowed.


Now that I knew what I was looking for, I saw it, hanging from a silk from the ceiling, right where Berck’s plate had just been, its impossibly shiny black skin, save for a golden hourglass, wrapping a fat abdomen near to bursting with poison. It was casually letting itself down. I knew I had seconds before it hit the floor and then headed in who knows what direction.

I grabbed a map off my desk and turned to capture the beast. By now it has alighted on the table in front of the couch, next to the remote. Spiders are my department because I have a strict no-kill policy with spiders. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and spiders capture and eat mosquitoes and flies and Miller moths. But dealing with this particular spider was going to have to take extra care because she was a black widow (did you know black widows can have yellow hour glasses or even two unconnected triangles?)

I carefully held one end of the folded map and edged the other end toward the widow. She tentatively stepped from the table onto the map. When a majority of her eight legs had made their way onto the map, I pulled the map away and started heading for the door. Perhaps she would find a place to hide outside in the near 0° temperature before she froze to death.

I had just rounded the couch toward the door, when the spider was suddenly yanked by an unseen force off of the folded map. She didn’t fall, and she didn’t jump. Simply, one moment she was on the paper I was holding and the next she wasn’t.

Now it was time to panic.

I ran upstairs. I tore off my flannel shirt. Then I glanced at the cuffs of my trousers and decided they had to go too. I grabbed the vacuum out of the broom closet and headed back downstairs in my undies.

“Where did it go?” asked Berck.

“I don’t know.”

“Is it on you?”

This was a non-zero possibility. I ripped off my T-shirt, socks, and panties. I examined my now naked skin, finally convinced I was spider-free. Then I took the vacuum’s plug and ducked around Berck, who was still eating in the hallway and also unhelpfully standing between me and the nearest available outlet. Then I removed the wand from the base and, without bothering with any attachments, turned the machine on.

Now brandishing my very loud weapon, entering battle as naked as a Pict, I approached my foe. The opportunity for amnesty was over. It was kill or take a trip to the emergency room. My scorched-earth plan was to vacuum every inch of the couch and work my way outwards, throughout the whole room, if necessary. Vacuuming, it turns out, is also my department.

But then I spotted her, right where I had previously found her, this time heading up her strand, apparently deciding to nope out of the area and head back to the ceiling. I struck hard and fast, lunging forward, stopping the tip of the vacuum’s stalk right next to her. Then, just as she had disappeared in a flash off of my map, she vanished into the bowels of the vacuum cleaner.

Our vacuum is one of those bag-less types with a canister you can empty into the trash. I imagined her patent-leather body exploring the maze of hoses and compartments inside the vacuum. I switched the machine off, opened the door, and walked outside, still wearing nothing, into the below-freezing weather.

In the morning, confident that an arachnid could not move in single digit temperatures, I opened the vacuum cleaner and emptied the canister into a trash bag. I didn’t see any spider parts, but I didn’t dig through the debris looking for any either. The trash bag was tied up air-tight and taken to the street for the garbage collector coming that day.

The vacuum cleaner is still standing outside on the porch, and now it’s snowing. But the vacuum can never come back inside.


In the cloud, finally.

20 February 2022 at 12:48 pm
by Berck

It had gotten silly that now that I work for a cloud network services company that the blog was sitting on my home DSL. I’m probably going to cancel the DSL and rely solely on Starlink for home internet. Starlink does not come with a public-facing IPV4 address, and its IPV6 implementation only appears to work for 10 minutes at a time. This means that even though I have Starlink, the blog is still being served by the same 768kbit/s DSL uplink that it’s been on for the last decade. A decade ago, your own internet was slow enough you only sort of noticed, but it’s gotten silly.

So, now the blog (and the N45HX blog) are hosted on AWS’s Lightsail behind Cloudflare’s free service. It should be noticeably better.

Maybe I’ll even start posting here more often.

The gallery has not yet been migrated. I’m going to try, even though gallery3 is mostly abandonware at this point, so keeping it chugging along continues to prove to be work.

Booster update

15 February 2022 at 5:57 pm
by Jonah

The husband is also a trial participant in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial, and he got his booster after I got mine. The night he said, “I don’t feel good.”

The next day he woke up and declared his whole body hurt. “Even my toes hurt!” His head was pounding. “I think,” he decided, “that my body has had a good enough reaction to this,” and took some Aleve. He spent the whole day horizontal except for the three work meetings that he dragged himself to his computer to attend. He wrapped himself in a blanket in front of the wood pellet stove and while his teeth chattered.

The next morning he was feeling a little better, and by the time we left home to drive to Denver for a concert, he felt pretty much back to normal.

We saw Samia, and it was a great concert!

Samia with opener Charlie Hickey

This is the third concert we’ve been to in the last few months. At each one, the venue has required proof of vaccination to get in the door. At the one in November, the person checking the husband’s card scrutinized it carefully; did she notice that it said “Vaccine Trial Participant”? The first two concerts, I got a notification on my Colorado Exposure app later saying I had been potentially exposed to someone who had tested positive. This time the husband did. It’s interesting that only one of us has gotten the notification. Was it in the bathrooms?