Monday, October 31, 2011

All Four Wheels Off The Ground!!

So at International Rally New York I bumped into a photographer who had also been shooting at Black River Stages the month before when I raced there.

Color me shocked when he said he had a shot of me and my truck with all four wheels off the ground.

Seriously I was dumbfounded.  I never felt the truck leave the ground and I would have sworn that I had kept the rubber in contact with the dirt the entire time.  I had thought that the suspension might have unloaded a bit a time or two but had no idea the truck was actually airborne at any point having described the ride as being "pillow like".  Now I'm REALLY happy with the way the suspension handled things!  OK, so its not like this photo shows me pulling any major stunt or anything, but still...getting that 4000 pound brick airborne with only 155 hp is a least a small accomplishment!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Video of Most of the Mortimer Schiff Short Stage...

This one shows a relatively uneventful stage of racing.  No deer, no offs, no spins...just lots of 2nd and 3rd gear for 7 minutes...

NISMO Stuff Frontier Video of Off...

This was one of my numerous driving errors on the day.  Co-driver called the corner correctly and I took the corner too tightly and then over-corrected ending with the passenger's front wheel in a swampy ditch from which my 2WD truck could not extract itself.  A quick tug by the vehicle behind us and we were out and back on our way but had lost about 5 minutes with this error.  Lots of room for improvement remain on my early learning curve...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Video from IRNY...

Well, the first video that I've seen that includes the NISMO Stuff Frontier...Only a couple seconds of it but its a start.  We have lots of video both internal and external that will be posted in the next few days as we ran three cameras during much of the event.  For now though this is a start on what others captured...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2nd Place At International Rally New York!!

My goal in fielding the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier was always just to have fun.  I never thought I'd actually do well.

Turns out, due to a fantastic debut by my co-driver Mike Beliveau and the epic durability of the Nissan Frontier, I actually can claim a top finish in one of the most car breaking rallies in recent history.

By the time the International Rally New York was over, only five of the original 17 vehicles that started the event finished both days.  On day one nine of the 17 entries DNF'd while day two saw only seven out of the eleven cars that started the day (some that DNF'd on the first day were able to be repaired and return for action on Day 2 under Super Rally regulations) at the finish.  In the end, out of the 17 entries, only five vehicles completed both days and ran every stage mile.  The NISMO Stuff Frontier was one of those five.

The truck experienced no downtime whatsoever.  Unlike at the Black River Stages rally about a month ago that we undertook, we did not even cut a tire this time.  With zero mechanical difficulties, no punctures and virtually nothing to do but wipe down headlights, check tire pressures, adjust lugnuts and examine for any hanging parts or dripping fluids, my co-driver and I had a relatively stress free weekend of racing.

That isn't to say it was easy.  It wasn't.  The stages were rockier than they were at Black River Stages and narrower for longer distances while turns linked one after another after another making it a bit squirrely for a vehicle as large as this truck.  By far the most difficult situation encountered during the race was a narrow, hairpin, asphalt, downhill turn on one stage that we ran twice.  The turning radius of the truck was just too large and each time the truck could not make the turn and ended up in a bad spot where the rear tires could get no grip to pull the truck back up the hill and the front of the truck overhung a substantial dropoff.  Some careful maneuvering, a good deal of throttle and a lot of time and a complete 405 degree turn around was required each time to continue.

Ah, but I wouldn't trade the truck for anything.  While other cars were breaking axles, bending wheels, snapping shock shafts, overheating, blowing turbos and more, the NISMO Stuff Frontier calmly went about her business and did not suffer the indignity of a wrench all weekend.  Finishing 5th out of the 17 entries for the entire weekend and finishing 2nd amongst any of the 2WD vehicles was an incredible experience and one that I honestly don't know how long it will be before I see again.

I'd like to thank Mike Beliveau for codriving the event with me and keeping me on the straight and narrow, Dube's Custom Street Machines , BTF Fabrication, Nissan Motorsports, Fiberwerx, PCI Race Radios, General Tire, PRG Products, HMS Motorsports, Braid Wheels, Go Fast Energy Drink, and Gamer Soda.

Lastly I want to thank all the NY Rally organizers who put on an event that ran so smooth with some great roads and terrain while keeping it all low key, unstressful and most of all--fun.  I will definitely be back again in the future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LOORRS Ratings from 10/15: Here We Go Again...

I had thought that the slightly later start for this weekend's LOORRS broadcast might result in a slightly higher TV viewership rating as this extra hour would give West Coast viewers an extra hour to attend church or get back from the Viper Room in time to watch the show.

This weekend's ratings show no such increase.

The 0.3 rating for the broadcast is identical to that seen for nearly all 2011 broadcasts with no real fluctuation or other trend.

The 0.3 rating equates to 0.3% of the 115.9 million TV households in the US that were watching this program.  This means roughly 348,000 households in the US were tuned in to this broadcast.  Using my typical 1.1 actual viewers of the program per "household" should estimate total viewership of the 10/15 LOORRS program at about 383,000 people.

College Football Countdown" 10/15 ABC 3:00-3:30pm 1.1
College Football: (regional) 10/15 ABC 3:30-7:00pm 4.1
"NASCAR Countdown" 10/15 ABC 7:00-7:30pm 2.6
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Bank of America 500 (Charlotte) 10/15 ABC 7:30-11:00pm 3.0
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing (taped) 10/15 CBS 2:00-3:00pm 0.3
"College Football Today" 10/15 CBS 3:00-3:30pm 0.6
College Football: LSU-Tennessee 10/15 CBS 3:30-7:00pm 2.8
ALCS: Rangers-Tigers: Game Six 10/15 Fox 8:00-11:30pm 5.0
World Gymnastics Championships: (taped) 10/15 NBC 1:00-3:00pm 1.0
"Dew Tour Countdown" 10/15 NBC 3:00-3:30pm 0.6
Dew Tour Championships 10/15 NBC 3:30-5:00pm 0.5
Horse Racing: The Queen Elizabeth II (Keeneland) 10/15 NBC 5:00-6:00pm 0.7
"IndyCar Countdown" 10/16 ABC 3:00-3:30pm 0.3
Izod IndyCar Series World Championships (Las Vegas) 10/16 ABC 3:30-6:30pm 1.5
"The NFL Today" 10/16 CBS 12:00-1:00pm 2.3
"NFL on CBS": (single) 10/16 CBS 1:00-4:05pm 9.9
PBR: Cooper Tires Invitational (taped) 10/16 CBS 4:30-5:30pm 1.2
Fox NFL Sunday" 10/16 Fox 12:00-1:00pm 3.4
"NFL on Fox": (regional) 10/16 Fox 1:00-4:15pm 12.4
"NFL on Fox": Cowboys-Patriots (88%) 10/16 Fox 4:15-7:30pm 19.1
"The OT" 10/16 Fox 7:30-8:00pm 9.1
World Gymnastics Championships: (taped) 10/16 NBC 2:00-4:00pm 0.8
"Dew Tour Countdown" 10/16 NBC 4:00-4:30pm 0.5
Dew Tour Championships 10/16 NBC 4:30-6:00pm 0.5
"Football Night in America" 10/16 NBC 7:30-8:15pm 5.0
"Sunday Night Football": Vikings-Bears 10/16 NBC 8:30-11:30pm 11.2

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The House of Morgan

Its been a while since I posted any book review and this tome is the reason why.

At 720 pages in length The House of Morgan is near encyclopedic in its detail of the history of the Morgan family of companies (JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, etc.) and their familial founders.

In truth its much more than that.  It is also a history of American and in part, world, banking for the last 150 years as the Morgan companies had their hand in every major financial event during these times.

The breadth and influence of what now call JP Morgan is astounding and unknown to me until reading this account.  From Churchill, to FDR to Teddy Rosevelt, to Lindbergh to Mussolini, to Hitler...these are just a very partial list of world icons that JP Morgan (or its direct relations) had close connections to and influence over.

Bombings, assassination attempts, congressional hearings and more are all events that occur to the direct principals of JP Morgan with its signature building in NYC (23 Wall St. which was sold for $100MM in recent years) still bearing the pockmarks of an early 20th century bombing to this day.

Yes, the book is long.  No I won't read it again other than as a reference.  But oh, what a reference.  Going into the cause and effects of the Great Depression, Glass-Steagall, investment banking, merchant banking, monopolies, leveraged buyouts, and hosts of other financial events and terms, reading this book is like an advanced course economic history and a primer on economics itself.  If you want to be able to speak coherently on modern banking, where it came from and where its going, you could do a lot worse than starting here.

Most striking in the books later stages is the moronic repetitiveness and blissful ignorance that can be conferred upon current views of the financial world and Wall Street.  Quotations from the past seem eerily similar to those being cried today as if they were new or revolutionary.

In recent years there are many who have decried the bailout of various financial firms and nationalization (or near to it) of banks and other companies as if this were something new.  Lets go back to the early '80s when the Reagan administration stepped in and nationalized Continental Illinois Bank and Trust in order to avert a massive collapse of the financial system (Continental was larger than all the banks that failed during the Great Depression combined).  The author of this book, Ron Chernow, states "Washington was now saying that some banks were too big to fail".  Sound familiar?

Later we review the 1980's financial boom (prior to the 1988 crash) and are reminded "As in the Jazz Age, much of the era's financial prestidigitation seemed premised on an unspoken assumption of perpetual prosperity, an end to cyclical economic fluctuations and a curious faith in the Federal Reserve Board's ability to avert disaster".  Remind anyone of the idiocy seen in the Dot Com boom?  Or the more government created housing boom?  People constantly deluding themselves into thinking that things can go on and on forever...right before they don't...

We have the public's reaction shortly after the 1988 crash (a formative event in my youth and something I remember quite clearly discussing at length in my TAG class at the time).  Quoting from The House of Morgan, "after the crash, Main Street again prayed that Wall Street had learned its lesson and gloated over its misery...a Newsweek cover asked, "IS THE PARTY OVER?", which is a near carbon copy of what we saw after the 2008 collapse and Dot Com bust.

And lastly we have the dissection of moronic politicians who aimed to shape the world of finance via legislation.  Whether it be Glass-Steagall or other lesser known acts of government, the resulting financial landscape is shown to be the near opposite of regulation intentions.  Power becomes more rather than less concentrated, banks and other financial institutions move toward riskier and riskier opportunities rather than becoming more conservative.  Systematic failures seem to grow in scope rather than shrink.

In the end, this book, completed some 20 years or so ago at the tail end of the 1980's is as valid today as ever.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Film Review: Badlands

Another Terrence Malick film, another great work.

Badlands is one of only five films directed by Terrence Malick and was released in 1973.

Finding common themes with his later works such as The Thin Red Line, The New World, and The Tree of Life we again get the slow pacing, voiceovers, and beautiful shots of nature that appear again and again in his films.

In Badlands we get what can rightfully be claimed as one of the progenitors of "youth gone wild" crime films such as later works like True Romance or Natural Born Killers.  True Romance even went as far as to "borrow" the Carl Orff piece, Gassenenhauer, as its thematic music.

Malick treats the young criminals portrayed here by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek with appropriate candor. Unlike Oliver Stone with Natural Born Killers or other recent films and society in general, there is no room here for trying to explain why these two are psychopaths or what the influences are behind their actions.  Instead, they are allowed to be what they are without excuse or pretense.

In Sheen's character, Kit, you have a true psychotic without feeling or remorse who can't tell right from wrong while believing the world revolves around (and is out to get) only him.  Spacek's character Holly, is a dumb, ignorant, starry eyed little girl without a backbone or moral compass.  They're perfect for one another.

Death is handed out in rapid succession by Kit once the film begins moving along as the couple act as a force of nature upon their world and while not as violent as earlier works such as Bonnie and Clyde or The Wild Bunch, there is a more honest portrayal of murder here than in anything to be found today.

If the youth of today think they've cornered the market on being disaffected, bored, and without purpose, maybe they should go back 40 years and see this film.  They're merely retreading issues older than their parents--only their parents and grandparents didn't make excuses or cover it up with whining.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

BBR: Brief Beer Review...

A relatively new "bodega" had opened up in my little town and I had yet to visit it until last night.

Offering unique beer, wine, cigars and some small amounts of food, I was really there for the beer.

I picked up upon recommendation of the store owner this English beer by the Wells company (family?)

At 5.2% alcohol and coming by the pint this beer is meant for just for a single dosage.  Which isn't to say it isn't good.  It is.  In fact its very good.

Pouring the beer into a proper glass one is immediately struck by the banana bread smell of it.  This is the most heavenly smelling beer I've ever come across.  I was shocked at how strong and pleasant its aroma was.  It literally had my mouth watering for some warm banana bread.

With an aroma that strong I was a bit worried that the beer would be too fruity flavored and ruin the drinkability of it.  I had no need to be.  While the banana bread flavor strikes the tongue immediately upon imbibing, it doesn't stay and is washed away by a true, clean, slightly hoppy taste with a spicy finish.

In truth the finish is a bit too close to that of one of my most detested beers--Duvel--but not even in the ballpark in terms of the strength of that taste and is thus acceptable.  In the end I was full and satisfied after one pint having enjoyed every bit of it.  If you're looking for a delicious, unique beer to expand your tastebuds, the Wells Banana Bread Beer should be on your list.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quick!! Quick!! A Line For The iPhone 4S Or A Bunch Of Occupy Wall Streeters?!?!

Take a quick glance!!

Now guess which picture is from a line this morning for people wanting to get the new Apple iPhone 4S in NYC and which is just a bunch of ninny "Occupy Wall Streeters"!!

Tough to guess huh?!?!

What I'd like to know is how many Occupy Wall Streeters were in the lines for the new iPhone 4S this morning, forking over their mommy and daddy's hard earned cake for such a product of the industrial establishment and manufactured by poor one fingered Chinese prisoners.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hella Map Light...

Just a small addition to the NISMO Stuff racing Frontier.

During the Black River Stages race my codriver was forced to use a headlamp to read her stage notes/map.  A white light headlamp that would bounce around as her head bounced around.

So to cure these little issues I installed a Hella map light with a red lens.

With it hardwired (little 12v draw required) in, its one less thing to think about and have to make sure we have in our hands or on our head.  Its adjustable nature allows it to be positioned exactly where the codriver will need it and when not needed it snaps neatly into place and out of the way on the ceiling.

The red lens keeps its light from ruining my night vision--even more crucial given I don't have any auxiliary lighting to this point and depend upon the stock headlights for night driving.

Just one little lesson learned from my first race and now corrected.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And This Is Why Real People Think Hollywood People Are Dinks...

So here we have Mr. James Cameron.

Director of Aliens, Terminator, Avatar, The Abyss and a host of other films.

He is trying, here, to connect with some South American natives in order to get some ideas for his aliens in the movie Avatar.

So he's wearing blue jeans, white sneakers, his shirt tucked in, war paint, a goofy had, a bandanna and a long sleeve shirt.  In what we can safely assume to be intense, humid, tropical heat.  Now who is the real alien in this picture?

If only the "natives" had speared Mr. Cameron and set him up on a nice rotating spit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My New Favorite Desert Racing Vehicle...

If there aren't any Nissans running in the American or Mexican deserts then I'll still tip my hat to those trying something different.

And this is different...

A BMW V-8 under the fiberglass this 4500 pound monster will be making its desert debut later this year at the Baja 1000.

Driven and conceived by former WRC driver Armin Schwartz the chassis of the vehicle was done at Jimco here in the US but is actually being shown at its non-race debut in Leipzig, Germany in the next few weeks.

More details, specs and photos here: RDC Feature Vehicle...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not Done Yet!!

And here I was thinking my 2011 stage rally racing season would be a single event in which I began gaining experience and working out any changes that needed to be made.

Not so.

NISMO Stuff Racing has officially entered and will contest the International Rally New York coming up on the weekend of 10/22 and 10/23 in Narrowsburg, NY (out on the PA state line).  I just couldn't stay away until next spring!

This event will be co-driven by Michael Beliveau and will again be some 100 miles in length and contain some night time stage racing.  Occurring on a Saturday and Sunday it will be more compressed in schedule but will also require less time away from work.

From looking at videos of the stages it looks to be a smoother race with no imposing jumps to speak of (that I saw in the minutes of video I reviewed) but it looks to be much dustier.

Some changes to the race truck include an extra impact wrench, a lighter vehicle jack, load range E (vs. C) tires on the front, a map light for the co-pilot and a host of other smaller items to make the effort more efficient in its efforts.

Again I will be partnering up with Anthony Burden and his VW Jetta effort to share some costs and workers.  If anyone plans on going and wants to help out as part of our crew, please let me know.  If you're just going to the race, make sure to stop by and say hello!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TV Review: American Horror Story


That was my response to this supposed new and wonderful TV show that debuted last night on F/X.

From the "creators" of the show Glee and Nip/Tuck this was supposed to be "new" and "innovative" and a reimagining of what a good horror show could be.  The fact that it was being done on cable and not network TV would let the creators push the boundaries...

Ummm...not so much....

Instead what we get is a mish mash of retread horror themes from various sources around the media world.  I literally felt I was dropped right in the middle of Lost season 3 or 4 when the show just began throwing every piece of crap possible against a wall to see if it would stick with no really rhyme or reason to any of it.  Same scenario here except it started in minute #1.

All the horror cliches are here and in no particular order include but are not limited to: A haunted house, a creepy basement, a creepy attic, creepy neighbors, psychotic former owners of said house, murders in said house, weird unexplained hallucinations, weird unexplained dreams, weird unexplained sleepwalking, a cheating husband, a sex deprived husband, a chilly wife, a psychotic teen, a monster in the basement, bullies at school, a questionable pregnancy, weird pictures behind wallpaper, characters that may or may not be dead, a retarded person who has deep insights, a creepy guy who follows a character around...and on...and on........and on.....

All of these and more are thrown into a blender, given some good production value and puked upon the screen in an attempt to make dumb viewers sit back and say "Wow...isn't this wonderful".  It isn't.  It's boring.  It's not scary.  It's not revolting.  It's not funny.  It's not really much of anything except for a waste of time and some 1/2 way decent actors.  Connie Briton is the stand out here and is the only likeable character of the bunch--though her stupidity reduces that likeability in rapid fashion.

Which is what this show comes down to.  Stupid repetition.  We've seen all this before.  We've seen it done better.  Mashing it all up and throwing it on the screen at one time doesn't make it new, it just makes it tedious.

War of the Worlds Videogame Concept Art...

Just thought this was some cool artwork.

I've seen the screenshots for the game itself and it looks pretty poor as far as video games go---side scroller, jump around and avoid the aliens, blah, blah, blah.  The move from ink and paper to pixels just doesn't work.

I just wish the game was as cool looking as this concept art for the game.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hungarian champions for 2011 are known

This year’s Hungarian national championship is over, nine different drivers have celebrated the title in its 20 year existence. After exciting and balanced season Károly Fazekas, navigated by Albert Horn have become the most recent ones.
After cancelling the last planned race, Hungarian season consisted of six races. The season starter has been new race Aqua-Palace Kupa in a city of Hajdúszoboszló. The reigning champion Balázs Szalay has been close to win, hadn’t he got stuck in mud. He has left the first place to Fazekas, Erik Korda has finished second. Zsolt Murczin’s season has ended prematurely under dramatic circumstances; he had crashed heavily and destroyed his newly built car.

III. Rábaköz Kupa has been the second round of championship. Szalay and Fazekas have switched their positions, Korda has got second place once again. András Lukács has finished fifth on his second start with a brand new Impala Corvette. At the end of the first half the Hungarian championship has moved abroad. After Slovakia and Romania it has been Poland’s turn now with Baja Carpathia. Szalay has been fastest of Hungarians, just 10 second ahead of Fazekas. Korda has hit the tree and ripped off the wheel, thus ending prematurely, Lukács has been third.

The fourth race has taken place in spa city of Gyula. The disagreement between Olivér Solyóm, organizer of popular Prohun 500, and promoter Navigátor Sportmedia has ended up in a creation of Gyula Castle Cup. Szalay has won third race in a row, Fazekas has finished third, ha had lost to incredibly driving Korda. Domestic pilot Fernec Vörös has been close to podium result but ended up in a ditch just few hundred meters before the finish of the last special stage.

FIA World Cup has come to Hungary for the first time with VIII. HunGarian Baja. Hungarian pilots have been put to the test with other Europeans, the best on home soil was Fazekas. He has profited from Szalay’s mistake and this would be the decisive moment of the season. The title holder has finished eighth and lost his provisional overall lead. Third placed Pál Lónyai has achieved his best season’s result, second has been, as usually, Korda.

The Hungarian season has ended one race earlier than planned, with brand new Retro Rádió Nagykálló Kupa. Fazekas hasn’t taken any chances and won the prologue by one second margin on Szalay. The latter named has been in a lead on Saturday, but only for a while. Flat tire has delayed him which resulted in 2:38 min. loss at the end of the day. On Sunday Fazekas has been under enormous pressure of Szalay. In the last fierce attack Szalay has won all four special stages but still was 48 seconds short on overall win. The third place has gone to Lukács, Korda has finished fourth.

Final standings of 2012 Hungarian CCR championship:
1. Károly Fazekas / Alebrt Horn        BMW X5        178 points
2. Balázs Szalay / László Bunkoczi    Opel Antara RR        166,5 points
3. Erik Korda / György Tóth        Nissan Navara        127,5 points
4. Imre Varga / Imre Hujber        Nissan King Car    96 points
5. Pál Lónyai / Zoltán Garamvölgyi    Nissan Pickup        67,5 points
8. Zoltán Apáthy / Gábor Erős        Nissan Navara        21 points

Hungarian title holders up to date:
István Gál: 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 (8 titles)
Miklós Benyó: 1992, 1998, 2002 (3 titles)
György Selmeczi: 1995, 1996 (2 titles)
Sándor Kis: 2006, 2007 (2 titles)
János Balázs: 1993
László Palik: 2008
Miroslav Zapletal: 2009
Balázs Szalay: 2010
Károly Fazekas: 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Film Review: Bridesmaids

My wife originally saw this in the theater with one of her girlfriends and I was jealous at the time as it was getting really good reviews as a comedy from a female perspective.

Typically what are dubbed "raunchy" comedies are from the male perspective with lots of breasts, drinking and bathroom humor. Bridesmaids isn't much different. Except if comes across as fresh due to its lampooning of typical female foibles.

Which is why I think this film is less about female "empowerment" or a film from a feminist point of view as many commenters have written. In "male" POV raunchy comedies, the males are the ones viewed as dumb, ignorant, crude and indecent. Bridesmaids merely moves those descriptors onto women. This isn't exactly "I am woman, hear me roar".

Which isn't to say that the film isn't a huge laugh. It is.

Watching women skewer each other, participate in usually male dominated bathroom humor, and reverse typical sexual roles is great fun. Bridesmaids is well written, though typically conservative as all comedies must be as you know things will turn out just fine and best friends will remain best friends and we'll all learn a conservative message by the end.

That's just fine by me. I was just glad my wife was willing to watch it again so that I could spend the evening laughing at the faults of women instead of the faults of men. It was a very fun break from recent films such as The Hangover and other recent successful comedies.

One last note here. The casting was particularly well done and thought out in that it filled all the female roles with only mildly attractive to completely unattractive actresses. The temptation for female comedies might be to put attractive women in these roles in a hope to bring male viewers to the table along with female ticket buyers. This would not work however.

Watching some unattractive female have to crap her pants in the middle of the street due to a bad meal can be humorous to watch if done right (as it is here). Viewing Jennifer Anniston or other attractive female do the same creates obstacles to humor on the following two counts--1) Men won't be interested or will have their humor decreased as they are more likely to put such an individual on a pedestal of the glorified female ideal and 2) Female viewers won't be able to identify with her as no matter what the situation, the average female will not be able to place herself in the aforementioned Jennifer Anniston's shoes and thus not find the humor in a situation that they could picture themselves in.

Bridesmaids is likely to be the most memorable comedy of 2011 by a long shot.