Friday, October 31, 2014

2015 NASA Rally Sport Schedule

Well, this looks like what we have so far. There are rumors that there may be another event or more (?) added to the schedule that don't appear in this video but this is what exists so far and are the longer running, reliable events. It also doesn't include Hyperfest which is a typical event that is very short in nature but a good time and a points (though at a reduced rate) event for the Atlantic Rally Cup) race. Nice to see Rally Idaho and Magnum Opus back again in '14. Hopefully I'll be racing at a number of these!

New Movie Trailer: Ex Machina

Saw this today and had to add it here. This is the first film to be directed by Alex Garland. Garland has worked with one of my favorite directors in producing screenplays (Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Sunshine) as well as the novel The Beach which was turned into the DiCaprio film of the same name and the screenplay for Never Let Me Go.  With that excellent track record of smart, independent writing and production I am very excited to see what he can do in both writing and filming on a combined basis.

This work was produced in England and thus is a bit distanced from the influence of typical Hollywood BS.  We have a computer programmer who gets the opportunity to take part in a weekend long Turing test being set up by his multi-billionaire tech company founder/boss.  The subject of this Turing test is a very attractive (?), female (?), AI.  As is usual, it is up to sci-fi to bring us a look at the repercussions of our rapid advances and so it is the case here.  As a Mr. Elon Musk has said in the past week "With artificial intelligence we're summoning the demon. You know those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and ... he's sure he can control the demon? Doesn't work out."

This film should at the very least be a brief look into some of the existential and practical questions that arise when we play god in creating devices that can think for themselves and at some point, out think their creators.  There's a reason God create Man to be a fragile, fallible creature, may we be so wise.
e should be very careful about artificial intelligence... [it is perhaps] our biggest existential threat.  With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.

In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like yeah he's sure he can control the demon.  Didn't work out. - See more at:
We should be very careful about artificial intelligence... [it is perhaps] our biggest existential threat.  With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.

In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like yeah he's sure he can control the demon.  Didn't work out. - See more at:
We should be very careful about artificial intelligence... [it is perhaps] our biggest existential threat.  With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.

In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like yeah he's sure he can control the demon.  Didn't work out. - See more at:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prepping for 2015...

I am continuing to repair/replace/upgrade items for my Rally Truck.  The other day I noted that I had replaced and upgraded my caution triangles as one had broken somewhere along the way and I wanted the weight savings.

Now I'm getting a number of spare hood pins.  I can't count the number of times we took the hood on and off during the course of driving to, from and racing in, Mexico some five months ago though it was probably a couple dozen times in all.  Somewhere along the way I lost a pair of hood pins and so in replacing them and grabbing a couple spares off of Amazon I have checked yet another item off my list of things to do before the first race of '15.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nom, Nom, Nom...Time For More Burgers...

Given my poor little Rally Truck's lack of power and looking ahead to 2015 I am continuing to look at ways to reduce weight, simplify my setup and improve performance.  Well, here was a simple item to start with--the damn safety triangles.

If you look around at rally teams I think you will find that most use the most common triangles as shown here.  These have a weighted base filled with sand.  While they are nice and stable and visible they are heavy at more than 3 1/2 pounds a piece.  As you are required to carry three of these, this adds up to more than 10 1/2 pounds.  Since I had broken one and needed a replacement before next season I've been looking for a better alternative and I finally found it.

Do a Google search for "lightweight caution triangle" and you'll find lots of listings--most not really lightweight or sold by a specialized European company (due to the fact that European countries require motorists to carry such triangles in their vehicles) or versions that are ridiculously expensive for what they are.  Today however I came across the perfect replacement.  100% plastic, snap together, stable, wide based triangles almost the same height/size of the triangles I am replacing and weighing in at whopping 5.4 oz per triangle.  So all together these will come in at less than a single pound and save me more than 10 pounds in the rally truck.  Every bit counts and dropping 10 pounds here allows me to carry a more appropriate offroad jack without increasing the weight my truck is carrying--improving performance and capability.  Oh, and the cost?  A whopping $5 each vs. $13+ for each of the older, heavier style triangles...

I guess I could also just keep the old, tiny vehicle jack and continue to "bulk up" via cheeseburgers too...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Snowmobile to Reno

Well this wasn't your typical offroad racing effort.

Vegas to Reno is the longest offroad racing in the United States at close to 600 miles in length over some of the rockiest, siltiest, driest, roughest terrain our country has to offer.  Therefore it may not be the easiest race to attempt with a radically new idea.  This didn't put off Trevor Erickson however.

Trevor has been running snowmobiles converted to operate in the dirt for years now as evidenced by this article on back in 2009.  He has run sleds across bodies of water, in the dunes and across rocky terrain in the past (as evidenced in the second video below) so varied terrain is something he is experienced with.  I'm sure he's made many changes to the sled since then but this is the first major offroad desert race that he has entered that I know of.  The sled looks to have no problem with speed hitting a peak of 108 here while you can hear Erickson let off the gas in numerous turns making it appear as if its ability to turn and turning radius may be its limitation.

Snowmobiles are no stranger to big jumps and moguls so bumps and ruts may not be a huge difference for this machine though I would imagine the sharp rocks, dust and heat are not in the typical design specs.  His prior sleds are known to run additional radiators in the rear of the vehicle and use Yamaha YFZ 450 quad hubs and wheels for its front end. The sled used for the V2R effort is a Polaris Rush with an Aerocharger turbocharged engine.  Given your off the shelf Rush starts at only 436 pounds, they should be able to get up and move as fast as any 600cc bike.

I would also assume that it has extensive skidplating underneath as snowmobiles aren't known for their ground clearance.  They do possess a fair amount of travel though--The Polaris Rush lists its rear travel at 14 inches while the front travel of a standard Rush is at 9 inches and this snowmobile is far from stock.  Stock shocks cross over into the world of dirt with dampers all around provided by Walker Evans who is a big snowmobile fan himself. 

Still, Erickson made it more than 100 miles of the '14 V2R event before a cracked fuel tank put them out.  The story rumored so far is that the team tried to fill the crack with soap with heavy duty tape across it.  It will be interesting to see if the Erickson's return to desert racing in the future. Unfortunately I haven't found any sort of Trevor Erickson or Erickson Brothers website so if you want to find out more, you'll have to track Mr. Erickson down through your usual social media outlets.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bobby Robins First Fight as a Boston Bruin

Well that didn't take long...the Bruins replacement for the beloved Shawn Thorton didn't take long to get in the swing of things.  As a lower cost and younger (barely) hockey "enforcer" Robins did exactly what you would want him to do after Flyer Zac Rinaldo had earlier gotten a roughing penalty and had taken a run at just returning from injury (and Bruin's lynchpin) Dennis Seidenberg.  The fight itself was mostly a draw and no real blood was spilled...but it sets an appropriate tone and shows that though Thornton is now deservedly on an increased and two year contract with the Panthers that the Bruins haven't lost their tough side.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Though this novel has a couple sequels I don't think I'll read any of them--and not because I didn't like it.  Far from it in fact.  I enjoyed it so much so that I don't want to ruin my impression of it by moving on to lesser works in the same series.  Truthfully, I can't imagine The Forever War not standing on its own.  Its a perfectly crafted work that is a universe unto itself, needing nothing additional.

Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam vet where he served as a combat engineer after earning his BS in physics and astronomy.  He teaches at MIT to this day.  The Forever War is in some large parts a result of his time in Vietnam and his reflections on it.

Firmly within the Military Sci-Fi genre, The Forever War revolves around a physics student who is recruited into a war he doesn't understand against an enemy he doesn't know.  Upon his initial return to the "world" from fighting this enemy, society has changed so much that he no longer recognizes or feels comfortable with it.  You can see why the work has been rightfully been called analogous to Haldeman's Vietnam experiences.

Over the course of centuries of objective time, the soldier is promoted through the ranks of the UNEF (United Nations Exploratory Force) and remains largely the same individual while humankind goes through massive changes due to the effects of time dilation caused by his travel at relativistic speeds.  How society changes and how the main character views and reacts to these changes takes up a great deal of the work.  It is this examination of sexual mores, government, science, politics, etc. that is the  core here.  The military battles such as they are with the alien Taurans are just the device by which Haldeman turns the microscope on ourselves.

Haldeman's writing is not filled with long sequences of dialogue or endlessly detailed descriptions of equipment or science...this is not "hard" science fiction, nor is it going to make Shakespeare quake.  It doesn't need to.  It contains enough detail surrounding the battlesuits its soldiers wear and the lethality of simply trying to exist in space that it will please most military scifi enthusiasts but it is the ideas that The Forever War contains about what state humankind currently finds itself in, where it may go and how we treat each other that are of real value.  On these The Forever War stands rightfully as a "classic" of sci-fi from the last 40 years.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Today's Edition of Things Going Badly for Syrian Tankers...

And this one goes REAL bad...

can't identify the anti-tank weapon used here but its safe to say that its likely one the the US manufactured (Raytheon) BGM-71 TOW that have been flooding into "rebel" hands.  On the other end of the wire is the Syrian tank which goes up like no other tank I've seen in this conflict.  Most take these hits and just erupt in black smoke with the individuals inside likely all turned to hamburger but the exterior remaining roughly intact.

Not so here.  This one goes up like it was rigged to blow with several truckloads of high explosive material.  Only thing I can think of is that this TOW got a lucky hit and took out the tank's armament magazine blowing it all sky high and more or less turning many tons of steel into razerblade material...

All Nissan Dealerships to Receive Diesel Training in Preparation for 2016 Titan

There's an item I hadn't thought of.

With the upcoming introduction of the 2016 Nissan Titan at the January 2015 Detroit Auto Show, many Nissan dealerships will find themselves in a position where their techs may never have worked on a diesel engine before, or at the very least, are unfamiliar with the Cummins diesel platform.

In order to assist their franchises in getting their staff up to date, Nissan is going to be taking technicians from each dealership offsite to do training specifically on the Cummins engine specifically and diesel engines in general.  Hopefully the platform is buttoned up enough that their coming skills are not of much use in the near future but it does stand as another example of just how committed Nissan has to be to this new product.  If the diesel Titan fails it will be a sunk cost of billions of dollars, one which would hamper Nissan from doing anything truly innovative in the near term.

Nissan sending its techs to diesel school...