Wednesday, 24th of May, 2006
The only other thing about this trip worth mentioning is the test drive of the 2006 Chevy Impala as our rental car. While the 211 hp 3.5L V6 is fairly reasonable at hauling 3500 pounds worth of Chevrolet around when you're the only one in the car, the performance of the car on the onramps quickly falls into the pathetic range when you've got 3 people in the car. That's probably why they have other engine options available for those who care.
One thing I didn't care for was the turn signal lever - pushing it slightly in any other car and you can hold down the blinker and it returns to no turn signal as soon as you let go. Do it in the Impala and it blinks for 2 more times after you let go. I suppose it's there for people who are doing a lange change and can just tap a blinker. I found for the entire time I'm driving 3 blinks is totally not enough to do a lane change, unless you're putting the blinker on halfway through the lane change (tsk tsk), or doing an uncomfortably fast lane change.
Saturday, 20th of May, 2006
Once the rain started it became a real challenge, and it became almost dangerous to be on the track with amateur drivers. The rain makes it hard to successfully dodge other drivers without spinning out. Haley got hit so many times that one of the control arms completely broke off after a person t-boned her. That pretty much ended the day for go-karting.
While wandering around the St. Louis Mills mall I came across a store, "Music Outlet" and there was an electric violin sitting out on the window display. Now I promised myself I would play and consider buying the next electric violin I came across, so I had to go back later and give it a try. I stringed it up and discovered that by waiting a few years to buy an electric violin I had done myself a great favour. They now have violins that sound better than electric violins 10 times the price just a couple years ago. You can always count on things made in China to do that - I still can't find anything on the "Antoni" brand that this violin associates with. And of course the amplified sound quality of the instrument far exceeds what I'd get with a very expensive pickup on my acoustic violin. Not having to play into a microphone means I can crank the volume way up safely. I'm sure the unusually large amount of satisfaction this violin brings me is dependent on me already being used to playing amplified in these other ways. Also, from what I remember, this violin weighs less than every other electric violin I've picked up, and the weight really is the first thing I notice when I pick up an electric violin since it's a sharp difference.
This is as complete an outfit as it gets as far as an electric violin goes - comes with the case, bow, audio cable, collapsible shoulder rest, and even a cable. The bow is complete junk - the difference between playing on that bow in the store and my own bow was a world of a difference. Mine is still in its plastic wrapping. The strings are also obviously cheap to keep costs down - though on an electric violin any deficiencies in the strings quality can be made up with tone adjustment. That tail piece has got to go eventually too - the fine tuners built into it are of the useless variety.
An obvious characteristic of an electric violin is that it does not depend on the sound box to produce sound. But here are some effects of this fact that has brought me so much happiness and is worth mentioning:
Of course now that we're on the topic of Stradivari I looked it up out of curiosity. Apparently there are currently 5 Stradivarius violins that have been known to be stolen in the last decade and are still unaccounted for. Someone madly in love with the violin went out and stole it (or had someone steal it for them) and probably has it hidden in their house somewhere and is playing it all the time and enjoying themselves, but knows they do not dare play it out in public lest someone find out - and has the self control to do so. And of course there is no way they can sell it without getting caught, especially with the $100,000 awards that are being offered for its recovery, so it must be for their own enjoyment. Talk about a good example of how someone can go absolutely nuts over a material thing. Course, I've gone pretty nuts over this electric violin, so I can't talk. This story is somehow more satisfying to think about than the possibility that it got destroyed somehow.
Apparently there is a surviving example of a Stradivarius Harp too. Other than the 5 stolen violins, pretty much every other surviving Strad is accounted for - you can look them all up at Cozio.com.
Anyway, back in the reality of the Music Outlet store where I got my new violin I couldn't resist picking up a Mandolin also. That's the other instrument I told myself I'd try and consider buying the next time I got my hands on one. So this store scored two out of two today for me.
Thursday, 18th of May, 2006
Friday, 12th of May, 2006
I work on it for a while, getting some good clean runs - good racing line, no bump penalties, no spins, no off-road excursions. But at the end I discovered I still consistently needed to find five seconds to shave off of my time. I had no idea where I was going to find five seconds.
This is apparently one of the harder events in Gran Turismo, and I decided to try going online for some tips for a change. That is where I discover that the Ford GT is a very balanced car, so balanced that you can exercise ridiculous trail-braking. Seriously on most turns it really is nailing the brakes a split second before you turn, because slamming on the brakes lifts a lot of weight off of the rear of the car and helps rotate it. I found I was able to get around some turns with at least 10 mph more speed at the apex than when I did it the normal way (finish braking, then turn).
Once I discovered that, I was doing a lot better - usually only a minute behind the leader at the end of the race - and this was always because I made a mistake somewhere in the race. It took me a lot of tries to do this without making a mistake.
So I don't know if it was the perfection that this mission demanded, or how much fun it is to trail-brake, but I can't remember the last time I've had more fun playing Gran Turismo. Took me about 2 hours to finally get in a run that was clean - my most common mistake was hitting other cars. In fact the run that I finally was successful in I still bumped the Camaro - but not enough to deserve the 5-second penalty that they slap you with.
Driving a Ford GT in real life must be one of the most exhilarating things in the world. I can begin to imagine barreling towards turn 1 and applying the brakes that late like that and then trail-braking your way around it.
Tuesday, 9th of May, 2006
Saturday, 6th of May, 2006
Tuesday, 2nd of May, 2006
Frau Lund: So what other foreign holidays are celebrated on the first of May?
Student: Cinco de Mayo!
Frau Lund: *facepalm*
Obviously we never learned to count past five in Spanish...