Exploring Thursdays

Don't worry, this is not a blog post about the historical significance of Thursdays but more about how Beth and I are trying to get out and discover new things once a week.

In my first four months in America I lived based on the NFL schedule. Sunday, Monday and Thursday if there was a game on then I would be in front of a TV either in the Blomberg basement or a local bar. Now, with the NFL season all but over other things have to take up my time. 

This term Beth has no classes on Thursdays, she also declared at Christmas that as a present she wanted experiences instead of stuff. I also had the feeling that perhaps I had spent a little too much time down in the basement reading business books and working on little web projects. We therefore decided to head on out into the world and visit a museum or factory or interesting thing of cultural significance on Thursdays.

So far, we have had a great time going to three nearby places. First we went to the Coors brewery in nearby Golden. We also walked around the historic town the same day (Golden is tiny). Next we went to the Argo gold mine in Idaho Springs, taking in my favourite Colorado restaurant, which serves buffalo, at the same time. Then yesterday we a tour of the Hammonds Candy factory in north Denver. The machines in action in that factory were pretty impressive and we learned how candy canes and lollipops are made. Unfortunately they also had a shop where we may have spent a little too much. 

It is great because we are actually getting out of the house and experiencing things that we otherwise wouldn't. We have the next few weeks planned already as well with a tour of the Denver Mint, Coors Field (the baseball stadium) and Sports Authority @ Mile High (home of the Broncos) coming up. 

The rest of my week is filling up nicely as well. Monday is reserved for website work at the moment, Tuesday and Friday I work and then go to the gym and Wednesday I spend the morning volunteering with Denver Seminary's IT department. We have also successfully continued pasta Monday's in Denver and tend to get around eight people along each week. All is going well.

F1 Driver Rankings – End 2012

So another season of F1 has passed. This was my 15th, it also marked the first year, however, that I did not watch a race the whole way through. As a kind of protest against the Bahrain Grand Prix I suffered through the fairly poor BBC highlight show instead of watching the race live. Bit of a crap protest as I still watched… but I didn't enjoy it.

Anyway, it was another title for king Vettel, Red Bull once again supplied him with a car with which to take the title. The difference between Red Bull and the rest definitely came down this year and they started the season with the second or third best car out there. Alonso's achievement was far greater though, in the first race of 2012 the Ferrari car was the eighth fastest out there. By season's end it was still only third and yet Alonso took the fight to Vettel, losing out by just three points in a tense final race. Consistency was Alonso's game and he drove a near perfect season in a middling car.

So to my end of year rankings:

1. Fernando Alonso /
2. Sebastien Vettel +1
3. Lewis Hamilton -1
4. Jenson Button +5
5. Nico Hulkenberg +5
6. Kimi Raikkonen +7
7. Felipe Massa +12
8. Sergio Perez -2
9. Mark Webber -1
10. Nico Rosberg -6
11. Kamui Kobayashi +1
12. Paul Di Resta -1
13. Michael Schumacher +1
14. Bruno Senna +9
15. Timo Glock +1
16. Heikki Kovaleinen -9
17. Vitaly Petrov +4
18. Daniel Ricciardo -1
19. Charles Pic +1
20. Romain Grosjean -15
21. Pastor Maldonado -6
22. Pedro De La Rosa =
23. Jean-Eric Vergne -5
24. Jerome D'Ambrosio RE
25. Narain Kathikeyan -1

To me Alonso was clearly the best driver all season long. Hamilton drove better than last season and was largely let down by the team with reliability problems and issues with pitstops throughout the season. He drove fast but not necessarily intelligently and as it stands Vettel and Alonso are better drivers than he is. Grosjean and Maldonado both slip as each was involved in too many incidents, Maldonado because he is malicious and Grosjean because he is careless.

My big hope for the offseason is that both Kobayashi and Kovaleinen are picked up by teams for 2013, both deserve their drives and make F1 a little bit better. I am also pleased to see that Massa is back to where he needs to be in terms of pace finally, it appeared that the new Ferrari deal he received lightened his load and allowed him to concentrate on the driving again.

Great weekend

Last weekend was pretty special, with lots of fun things and two additions to the family.

As the penultimate Grand Prix of 2012 was in Texas I was able to watch both morning practice and qualifying on Saturday morning while talking to my parents who are in New Zealand. Then after lunch Beth and I drove north-west to Dinosaur Ridge which is located in the foot hills outside Denver.

In the 1900’s they found a lot of dinosaur tracks and bones in them thar hills. The walk was pretty good, it started with a pretty dull steep elevation increase but eventually led to dirt tracks that went along the top of the hill. These were great but made a little worse by the number of cyclists using the narrow trail and dog walkers. From the top we had a great view of Denver, and of Bandimere Speedway, a drag strip a mile away. More enticingly I could make out their kart track and was able to work out the layout.

Dinosaur Ridge

On the way back down the ridge it was decided that we would go down to the track, see what their prices were and then see if there were spaces. So once we made it back down the boring long road (obviously now downhill) we drove the short distance to the track and found out that they had one more session for the day and it had spaces. Due to the falling temperatures Beth decided she would not partake but gave me the all clear. (it was $35 for 10 laps which is rather pricey at £2.10 a lap compared to the max of £1.50 a lap we pay in the UK).

I suited up with everyone else for a ten lap session. I got chatting with a guy named Sam who had also been karting before. They let people leave the pits in pairs about five seconds apart and I was in the fourth group. By the end of the third lap I had overtaken everyone else but it turned out that Sam was around my pace, as although I had passed him he was on my tail. The two of us were clearly faster than everyone else. The karts were single engined so were slower than I was used to and so there were only two spots where I even had to slow around the kilometer long circuit.

Bandimere Speedway

We pushed on getting quicker and quicker, eventually I caught some backmarkers at a bad spot and Sam was able to sneak past me. I followed him home over the remaining two laps. Afterwards we chatted, he was able to take one of the corners I slowed for flat and I managed to take a tight chicane that he slowed for flat. His line would give a bigger advantage as it led to a long straight so I assumed that I probably lost on the fastest lap count. We eventually received our times (11 drivers):

Jonathan – 58.072
Sam – 58.080
Third – 61.029
Fourth – 63.199
Last – 84.691

I beat him by eight thousandths of a second, I guess we were fairly equally matched. We resolved to meet up and go again sometime and swapped numbers, hopefully that will happen. Couple of other comments, it’s a fast and exciting track, I got black flagged on my third lap according to the timesheet, I never saw a black flag and have no idea what I supposedly did, must be a phantom call? Beth also said the guys owning the track came out and commented on how fast the two of us were going.

Karting at Bandimere

Beth and I headed home via the biggest liquor store I’ve ever seen and soon after getting home we went out again and bought two adorable dwarf hamsters for $7 each. We named them Mika Hakkinen and Kamui Kobayashi (names Beth’s idea). We played with them in the evening.

Dwarf Hamsters

On Sunday I went to church with Beth and then watched the first five laps of the Grand Prix before meeting Ethan and heading to the Broncos vs Chargers game. As a Philip Rivers hater and Broncos lover it was a great game for three quarters. Unfortunately we eventually gave him two touchdowns in the fourth to make him look less crap but it was enjoyable and yet another home win. We headed back to the Blomberg’s via Papa Murphy’s, a pizza place where they make it and you cook it (making it cheaper than ordering). We got a double decker five meat pizza that totaled 4800 calories, we were eager to eat it but it took thirty minutes to bake. Eventually we tried some and it was fantastic, neither of us was able to get much past a quarter each though. Sarah came over and watched the second half of the Steelers vs Raiders game with us and then Beth showed up with Leslie Ward our university friend. We all ate in the basement and watched the football.

Chargers @ Broncos

When that was over I introduced the natives to Formula One and we watched the first 24 laps of the race before Sarah and Ethan headed home. We finished it then next day and it was great to watch Lewis win. A fantastic weekend. It set up what was to be a great thanksgiving week but more on that later.

More pictures in the gallery.