Monday, December 31, 2012

NJMP Rallycross Video...

This is just a short video summarizing the last event of the NJMP Rallycross series in 2012.  After Rally America dropped out of backing the event a number of the competitors joined together to keep the events going and this is the result.  Hopefully this series will be back in 2013 with continued support from the the grassroots rally community.  The video looks great and is well put together.  Well done by all....

NJMP 2012 Fan Appreciation Day from JOHNNYPICTURES on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Film Review: Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My father grabbed this film for me as a recent Christmas present, likely as a result of my prior stating that I enjoyed Casablanca and that we both often enjoy similar films.  While I feel that Casablanca may be the more "fun" better known film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre may be the deeper and more intense film.

Bogart does not here play the good guy and instead plays a character that in retrospect was a scumbag from the very beginning.  What at first comes off as harmless begging for money from better off ex-pats in Mexico later reveals itself to be evidence of a lack of work ethic, selfishness and greed.

And this gets at the heart of the film as its three main characters in Fred Dobbs, Bob Curtin and Howard represent various shades of human character as brought to the light by the discovery of gold in the desolate mountains of our southern neighbor.

Other than for a moment near the beginning of the film where Bogart uses his begged funds to get himself a shave vs. some food, his Fred C. Dobbs character is as dirty and bedraggled as any of the "banditos" they are to meet later in the film, serving to further underline the character's closer relation to the criminal element than to any in the more civilized world.

What greed and materialism does to the average man and their relationships with other average men is at the heart of the film.  Betraying your partners, the killing of men who have stumbled upon your findings, all is fair game as Dobbs devolves further and further from that which one would think of as a civilised man.

Treasure is a film that demands multiple viewings as there is a great deal here to delve into--including the fairly long introduction of the film where Dobbs and Curtin spend time in the city of Tampico trying to make a Peso and come into contact with Howard.  Their interaction with the rich, successful ex-Pats and the hustling Barton MacLane is particularly insightful.

This a great, not just "good" film.  I enjoyed nearly every moment. Oh, and as an added bonus, you get to see exactly where the "We don't need no stinking badges" saying comes from.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Bumper Coming to a Nissan Frontier Near You...

well, closer to me than you actually...but you get the drift.

Brandon over at BTF Fabrication has the frame horns done at the moment and is finishing up the rest of the bumper currently.  It should ship within a couple weeks.

The 32" LED lightbar I showed a couple weeks ago will be mounted on the top of this bumper, as will two HIDs, ensuring optimum lighting and providing a bit of protection to my radiator/underside that I have previously lacked.  The front of my NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier is completely bare at the moment--no skid, no lower bumper cover, nothing...just the bare steel bumper...

As always, Brandon's work is top notch and beautiful to behold.  In the end, the bumper should look quite similar (though not exact) to the one seen on Gil Green's Frontier seen below except with a lasercut BTF logo in the front skid.

Film Review: Miller's Crossing

The Coen brothers have produced a number of extremely memorable films (Fargo, True Grit, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, etc.) and now I've seen three of them (No Country for Old Men, True Grit and Miller's Crossing).

Miller's Crossing may be my favorite of these as this prohibition era gangster tale is an incredibly well done piece with great acting and a fantastic story.

Gabriel Byrne plays Tom who serves as the right hand man for his Irish crimeboss, Leo, portrayed by Albert Finney.  Complications ensue when Tom begins a relationship with Verna who has already latched on to Leo while the fast rising Italian organization lead by Casper (the always slightly nutty Jon Polito) begins competing with the Irish and looking to eliminate the Jewish bookie Bernie (a career defining performance by John Turturro), who happens to be the gay brother of Verna.  Got that??

The story is complicated but well thought out and contains no obvious holes and demands a viewer's attention in order to keep up.

Fortunately the competition and language between the Irish, Jews and Italians is brilliantly crafted by the Coens.  Violence is a typical Coen highlight and it is no exception here.  The blood flows, faces are smashed and brains are blown out but its not gratuitous (at least not to me), its just a typical a gangster film in that regard.

Watching Tom manipulate all those around him with his brain rather than his gun is great fun though one is left thinking that the only honorable person in the film was Casper who stubbornly sticks to his "ethics" throughout, leading to his eventual death.

Miller's Crossing didn't leave me cold the way Goodfellas always has and I enjoyed this one much more.  In the long run I thing Miller's Crossing will be viewed more favorably and Goodfellas, less so--particularly in regards to the acting as Goodfellas seems overwrought at times and cliche at others.

I wouldn't put this up there with my favorite movies of all time but its eminently watchable and contains numerous famous sequences and sections of dialogue.  "What's the rumpus?" anyone?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Great Story on

This is a great little article on and nearly everything that a good vehicle related article should be.  Its not the common, hum-drum review of a Toyota Camry.  Its a bit off kilter.  A bit different in its choice of vehicle and use.

It has breakdowns and adventure, humor and comradarie.  In a short little piece it lifts the spirit out of the cubicle and into the desert.  I couldn't recommend it higher.  Might be the best 5 minutes of reading I've done today.

400 Miles on a Minibike...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

At the Mountains of Madness--Antarctic Drilling High Point

A number of international teams have been drilling in the Antarctic recently, among them British, US and Russian teams.  While the British team is evidently done for the year the US and Russians are pressing ahead with their efforts to drill into and sample the several mile deep under the ice lakes.

These are bodies of freshwater that have been shut off from light and the rest of the world for hundreds of thousands or millions of years.  What microbial and other life exists under the ice is a wonder.

It also brings back all sorts of great sci-fi novels of the early 20th century and the fears they contained around the unknown present at that time in Antarctica.  The article linked below goes into specifics of the drilling as well as some of the aforementioned novels.  It also details some fears of the Antarctic that I had not thought of.  I had wondered what if there is a microbe under the ice that the human body is not prepared for and which could cause a catastrophe but I had not thought of the hypothesis that the ice might actually be capping huge amounts of methane gas generated by all the sub-ice microbes that have been feeding, living and dying for millions of years and what the release of that gas could do.

It'll be interesting, and likely a lot less exciting, to see what the explorers find and even more fun to speculate what might be trapped under the ice--out there.

Wired Article--Antarctic Drilling...

Nissan Navara as Service Vehicle for Rainforest Challenge

 Building upon its reputation in Australia and elsewhere in the Pacific, Nissan promoted the Navara (Frontier) in Malaysia recently with it acting as the official service vehicle for the annual Rainforest Challenge event.

These Navara's come equipped with a snorkel, ARB bull bar, WARN winch, OME shocks, IPF lights and Eaton Diff Locks amongst other goodies.

The event itself was won by (actually all three top positions were taken by) a Suzuki Jimny which, though not sold here in the US is still a fantastic little offroader and available in numerous markets throughout the world.

Rainforest Challenge...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Awesome Nissan Lego Dakar Truck...

This is just awesome.  This Nissan truck model is incredibly detailed with shocks and engine components, working doors, working hood, spare tires, removable body, roll cage, etc.

I have no idea how much time was put into this but it had to be an extensive project.  The author put up a website posting as well as numerous photos and videos of the vehicle as well.  Wonderful creation here.

Lego Nissan Navara Dakar truck...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hot Wheels Citroen C4 Rally

I'm not a big Hot Wheels collector or anything, I just can't help but take a peek at the Hot Wheels (Matchbox cars generally suck, aren't named according to their model and offer a much smaller selection) section of the toy store whenever I visit.

About one time in 10 I come across a car model I'm interested in--an old Datsun, a sweet GT-R, a Ken Block rally car, etc.

This past week I came across this Citroen C4 Rally car.  The cool teal color is different than most Hot Wheels and really caught my eye.  Add in the hood louvers, the roof mounted air scoops and orange tinted windows and you have a sharp little car--even if it is based on a French manufacturer's product.

A $1 Xmas gift for myself!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

NHL Lockout = Fiscal Cliff

I got to thinking today about the impasse in both the NHL and our federal government and how similar they are.

Both are at the "drop dead" point of negotiations.  If the NHL owners and players cannot come to an agreement in the next two weeks or so, the entire NHL season will be cancelled, the players will go without pay, the owners won't have any games in their arenas and ancillary businesses like bars, restaurants and souvenir shops will be severely impacted.  If the White House/Senate cannot come to an agreement with the House of Representatives within the next week then taxes are going up on everyone in the US beginning 1/1/13 and government spending will be slashed--both having significant impacts on the US economy, likely plunging the country back into a recession if it goes on for very long.

In both cases, the opposing sides aren't event talking to one another.  The NHL owners broke off all talks after the players union made a counter proposal to what the owners had said was a take it or leave it offer a couple weeks ago and no progress has been made since.  Supposedly they are going to be back in contact after 12/26.  The White House and John Boehner haven't really been in contact and exchanging ideas for about a week now, ever since Boehner's Plan B proposal fell through.  The Congress has all gone home for the holidays and the President is off in Hawaii.  No serious talks are forecast for the next week.

In both these cases it is likely that one side or the other (if not both) doesn't want there to be a successful resolution.  The owners at a minimum in a significant portion, don't want the NHL negotiations to work (or at least be a real "negotiation" with compromise on both sides).  I've seen the internal numbers.  The weak teams (Columbus, Tampa Bay, etc.) are BETTER OFF when there is no hockey.  They lose far more money when the teams actually play than if their arenas just sit there unused by the team.  The owners of the stronger franchises want to break the back of the union and reduce their costs further--with ownership like the Jacobs' in Boston not caring if the team plays or not as they are almost a rounding error on their financial statements.  There is little to no impact to their well being when the Bruins don't play.  In Washington the White House and Senate are dying to raise taxes and increase spending on the backs of EVERYONE as that's the only way to move their Socialist agenda forward given the debt we are already in.  If the entire country is bankrupt, Socialism looks pretty good!!  The Republicans in the House meanwhile are significantly beholden to their "no tax" pledge and they only way they can get around that pledge and compromise in some fashion is if the tax rates GO UP FIRST.  Going over the cliff will raise rates automatically and then those same Republicans can say they voted for tax CUTS, despite the resulting rates still being higher than what they had been on 12/31.

These are all cynical arguments I realize but they're about spot on.  In the end I seen the NHL season being cancelled outright and the US going over the fiscal cliff with a slipshod, short term resolution being put through sometime around the end of January.  Enjoy your holidays!!

SpaceX Grasshopper Test Video

SpaceX continues its march forward.

While its commercial flights servicing both governmentall and private business demands via its standard launch systems it is also working hard on its Grasshopper program which will eventually (hopefully) result in a completely vertical take off and landing program designed to return the launch vehicle to its launch site autonomously upon completion of its mission.

SpaceX has been ramping this program up bit by bit with short test flights.  This most recent test took the Grasshopper up to 12 stories and then returned to its platform.  Its funny to watch as at any moment I expect the rocket to turn sideways and explode as was often the case with many Nazi and Soviet (and a few US) launch attempts when they were first starting out.  It almost seems unnatural for a rocket to not either shoot skyward or else end in disaster.  Watching it land on its gear so softly and without a fuss is an odd thing.

The ability to return to its launch facility in this manner is designed to cut costs and increase the speed at which launches can occur--a necessary step for sending large amounts of equipment, supplies and people to Mars.
SpaceX Launches Grasshopper Rocket 12 Stories High...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Datsun 510 Racecar For Sale

I'm always perusing Craigslist for classic Datsun vehicles despite the horrific death I would suffer at the hands of my wife should I ever choose to purchase such a project.

This doesn't keep me from dreaming however and this recently available vehicle (currently listed on Craigslist in Vermont) is one such car that has my mind wandering off into the clouds.

Though this is advertised as a "barn find" I don't think you could classify this as a "find" given the owner knew it was there all along and just hadn't touched it in year and the cage certainly needs updating to make it truly race worthy.

That being said, the car looks like it is in great condition compared to most 510s found these days and could translate into a wonderful hillclimb or tarmac rally car in short order.  $8000 is a bit steep for a car needing a fair amount of work but if the buy could be talked down to about $5K, it would be a great pickup for someone.  It already has a host of upgrades including a fuel cell, upgraded brakes, a fire system, performance engine changes, etc...unfortunately not me...sniff...sniff...

Datsun 510 Up for Sale in Vermont...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Nissan Only Sportscar Series and Japan Auto Salon...

Two fairly noteable announcments from Nissan today.  The first and more interesting is the announcement of a 370Z only series.  Dubbed the "Nissan 370Z Nismo Z-Challenge Spec" indicates that it will also be a spec series with cars likely all being produced by Nissan in house and sold to the race teams.  At $165K a pop for the 370Z racecar shown by Nissan in '12 it won't be cheap and I don't think it will be in the US either given the photos of the car given as an example are right hand drive.  Additionally, Nissan already has the NASA 350Z series here in the US so adding a 370Z spec series really wouldn't make much sense.

Where more details and an example of the 370Z racecar will be found centers around the second piece of Nissan news.  The 2013 Tokyo Auto Salon will see Nissan bring out a handful of custom vehicles for display.  This years Nissan provided vehicles will include 10 vehicles to include the Deltawing racer making its Japanese debut, a Leaf with a NISMO performance package, the Motul Autech GT-R racecar, a GT-R GT3 race car and the aforementioned 370Z spec series racecar.

Catch it if your in Japan and we'll see where this 370Z series ends up.

Nissan Announces 370Z only series...
2013 Tokyo Auto Salon lineup...

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the Dirt...

2012 saw Nissan continuing to ramp up its support of short course off-road racing in America.

Nissan expanded its corporate sponsorship to a number of efforts in both the TORC (The Off Road Championship) and LOORRS (Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series) series of events. While still the rarest of manufacturers seen in either series (typically dominated by your usual Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota) Nissan chooses well when selecting those to whom it will lend support, and the results prove it.

In the 2012 TORC series (mostly mid-west located events), Nissan lent its support to long time driver Chad Hord and relative new comer Brad Lovell. Hord has won numerous events with his long time sponsor Boss Snowplow and had a prior history running under the Nissan banner. Hord’s 2012 season was nothing if not consistent as he took his big Pro 2 (full size, V8, 2WD) Nissan Titan to a third place finish in the overall standings for ’12. Of the 14 races this year, Hord would grab five 2nd place finishes and two thirds, only finishing lower than fifth, three times.

Brad Lovell does not have nearly the history in short course racing that Hord possesses, being more known for his rock crawling efforts. That did not stop his relatively new operation from reaching for the golden ring this year, and grab it he did. Lovell has quickly learned the rough and tumble style necessary to drive these large and fast trucks through jumps and tabletops weekend after weekend. Between Lovell’s skills and the incredible reliability of his Pro Light (mid-size, V8, 2WD) Frontier, he would win the fourth and fifth races of the season while finishing as the runner up in three others. Similar to Hord, Lovell would constantly appear at the top of the leaderboard, never finishing lower than sixth in any race. Brad and his Frontier locked up the season Pro Light championship on the last weekend of racing in ’12 exclaiming “This is a testament to a lot of hard work from our crew. I can't believe it. Awesome”

Over in the 2012 LOORS series the big story was Carl Renezeder, who has had a longstanding relationship with Nissan, was driving a V8 Titan in both the Pro 2 and Pro 4 (full size, 4WD) classes. At the beginning of the 15 race season Renezeder stood only a handful of race wins away from the amazing total of 100 short course wins in his career. His season started off slow with little to show for his efforts but really turned the corner during the final eight rounds of racing in both classes. With two wins and a third in the final eight races of the Pro 2 season and three wins and a second in the last nine races of the Pro 4 season, Renezeder showed that his Nissan was a force to be reckoned with. He would finish third in season points in Pro 4 and sixth in Pro 2—and yes, he did crest the 100 win marker, finishing with a total of 104 short course wins when the season was over.

Also involved in Nissan’s GT Academy driver training program, Renezeder has taken off for England during ’12 to England in order to assist racing contestants on their off-road driving techniques. Says Nissan’s Senior Manager of Motorsports Marketing and Operations in North America, Ron Stukenberg, “Working with Carl is a sponsor’s dream…Carl is articulate, knows the sponsor’s product and believes in it.”

Finally we have a Nissan backed racer who split time between both the LOORRS and TORC series bouncing back and forth across the country. In truth Casey Currie has been at home in the Pro Lite division of both series for a while now, likely racing more short course events over the past four years than nearly anyone else, having Nissan vehicles beneath him for the majority of that time. Currie ran the full 15 event LOORRS schedule taking two wins, four seconds and three thirds, finishing just off the season podium in fourth overall.

Over in the TORC series Currie did not run a full season but in running half of the 14 races he garnered three wins, one second and one third. To say he was a dominant force in when running in that series is a substantial understatement.

With both the Titan and the Frontier being a bit long in the tooth (OK, more than a bit) and complete redesigns likely to be introduced for 2014 Nissan is likely to continue ramping up its support of these efforts so that 2013 may bring even more impressive results.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Film Review: The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey

As we rarely get out to see movies, my wife and I usually reserve it for relatively special films that we particularly want to see in the theater and either not wait for or not experience at home.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one such film.  Some eleven years since The Fellowship of the Ring came out The Hobbit continues Jackson's connection to Tolkein's works.

Much of the look and creation of the film will seem familiar to those who have seen the prior Lord of the Rings works.  The world created by Jackson looks and feels the same in the Hobbit as it did in the earlier works.

The big change here and unfortunately, what much of this review will focus on, is the addition of a couple technological "wonders" that are supposed to improve the viewing experience.  When those first works cam out 3D movies had last been seen in the 50s and 60s and films were only shown in what was considered the industry standard 24 frames per second.

The Hobbit is being shown in a bothersome array of versions from the simple 2D, 24 fps up to the full 3D, 48 fps while throwing IMAX versions into the mix as well.  With Peter Jackson stating that his personal vision of the film was the 3D 48 fps version (Jackson is the first director to film in 48 fps and the Hobbit is the first film to be shown in this format) this was the version I wanted to see.  Much has been made in the press leading up to the release of the film in this format as early screenings of the film did not receive the greatest of reviews because of it and more ink has been used to deal with the quirks of this format than to the actual content of the film itself.

I'll start off with my views on the content of the film and move on to the technical stuff second.

The film itself at near three hours in length does feel a tad bloated.  Lots of long takes and dialogue take up significant chunks of time.  Jackson has also added a lot of content here that is not included in the book itself.  Some of it good, some of it not so much.

Overall however, its certainly not a bad way to spend three hours.  The characters are well done, Ian McKellan returning as Gandalf is excellent and Richard Armitage as Thorin is fantastic.  While all the other dwarfs are goofy and oddballs--closer to the seven dwarfs of Snow White than grim, hammer wielding miners, Thorin carries a darkness and weight that carries this first film.  Martin Freeman is adequate as Bilbo but I'm not blown away by him.  Andy Serkais as Gollum is even better now as computer graphics have advanced another generation and the other enemies of the film are even more grotesque that before.

The battle scenes should seem familiar to viewers with lots of bloodless hacking and slashing and lots of improbable jumping and rolling.  I do wish it was a tad more realistic but, what can you do...its a fantasy epic.

So if the story was good, the action was good, the characters were good and it hewed fairly close to the line created by the prior fine films it must be a pretty darn good film then right??  Well, yes and no.
I will watch the next two editions of the Hobbit film series (coming in '13 and '14) back in regular old 2D and 24 fps and here's why...

I've always hated 3D and this film doesn't change that opinion for me.  This is the best 3D you will see and it still sucks.  My initial complaint is in the coloring of the film.  The 3D glasses here, as in other 3D films change the color of the movie.  They have a darkening effect as well as a grey-blue tinting effect.  White's are no longer white...they are a steel blue-grey version of white.  This tinting affects all images and scenes, there is no escaping it.  Secondly, the 3D effect is not one that impresses me.  It's never truly a 3D image.  It merely moves cardboard cut out versions of various people and objects into the foreground or background.  This isn't improving upon the 2D image, its distorting it and ripping it apart for the sake of an effect and a "its cool" factor.

Lastly you have the 48 fps issue.  Creating a film with double the images of a regular one does assist greatly with the 3D images making them clearer and more distinct than ever before...but there's an issue with that.  The images can be so clean and clear that you lose the ability to "believe" in the film and instead end up viewing a bunch of men running around in prosthetic noses and wigs.  When you can see that the actors are wearing makeup, that the hair is fake and the weapons not made of heavy, weathered steel it is hard to become lost in a story about an imaginary realm of wizards and dragons.

The second issue with the 48 fps feature is the way in which it makes the characters APPEAR to be moving too quickly.  I did get a tad used to it after a while but right to the end it would appear to me as if some moments of the film had been sped up to about 1.5 times normal speed.  It is a very jarring effect and one that has had people leaving theaters to ask management if there was something wrong with the projectors.

So all this said, why would Jackson choose to release the film in this manner?  Ego.  Back when Jackson was creating the LOTR series he was a relative unknown filmmaker looking to get his big break and accolades.  Now his films have grossed over a billion dollars, he's won Oscars and been lauded as a visionary.  Jackson has always been one to push the technological limits and this is no exceptions.

Jackson got his hands on a couple new toys in the form of 3D film and 48 fps filming and he thought it would be the next greatest thing.  In fact, even in the face of mounting criticism he has continued to claim that the 3D 48 fps version is the superior one and the one he wants everyone to see.  The fact that its not superior in any way shape or form and actually detracts from the moviegoing experience (I've yet to hear ANYONE claim that they think this version is worth the effort, expense or hype) only goes to show how blinded one can be in viewing their own creation.

I would recommend seeing The Hobbit to nearly anyone.  But I'd only recommend seeing it in the old plain Jane, 2D, 24 FPS.  Sometimes more is not more and newer is not better...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coming Soon to the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier...

Tis the offseason...and in the offseason, what do we do?  We look to make our race vehicles better.  Not just faster, but better. This addition to the race vehicle definitely falls into that category.  While not making the vehicle faster it will VASTLY increase the speed and safety at which the truck will be able to travel at night.

Until now, for the first full year of racing, I have relied solely upon the Frontier's stock headlights for illumination.  While the standard headlights are more than sufficient for highway and normal driving, they don't have nearly the distance and definition I would like for racing.  Instead of being able to gauge the road and terrain hundreds and hundreds of yards in advance as I can during the day, night time closes that distance down to say 50 yards, maybe less given the conditions.  When trying to go flat out on a road sometimes barely as wide as your vehicle, this is a major issue.

The 32" LED bar seen here will be mounted on the truck in the near future.  I won't give away how it will be mounted but that will be forthcoming soon.  Throwing out over 11,000 lumens this lightbar should provide plenty of light for me to navigate the forests at speed.  LED lights do have a reputation for being great at near and intermediate distance illumination but slightly lacking in their ability to light up objects at a distance.  Therefore the lightbar won't be the only additional lights.  Two eight inch HIDs will also be joining this lightbar to make sure I have all areas covered.

The light here is from who has a working relationship with my favorite fabricators over at BTF Fabrication.  Hit 'em both up for great stuff at great prices.  Look for some more BTF work here in the near future.

McCartney and Nirvana (?) Have Still Got It...

Fortunately as a fan of both the Beatles and Nirvana, last night's performance at the 12/12/12 concert at Madison Square Garden was not signalling the end of the world for me.

Yes, you will hear whining from Beatles fans about McCartney playing with the remnants of a band they never accepted and never understood (let alone appreciated) due to their 40 year age removal and cultural differences (though lets face it, the Beatles were revolutionary but no one would put them at the top of the instrumental skill pyramid, so please spare me the "talent" argument) and you will hear bitching from Nirvana fans asking why they are playing with this old, womanly looking (Paul, stop with the plastic surgery....age gracefully like Clapton and Waters) singer of a band who has never played a lick of feedback in his life.

But what came out of this perhaps odd joining of trans generational touchstones was an excellent, truly hard rocking, bluesy and original piece.  Beforehand many were wondering if we'd be hearing McCartney belting out "Rape Me" or "Territorial Pissings"

The track that McCartney joined Dave Grohl (on drums) Kris Novoselic (on bass) and Pat Smear (on guitar) for (providing his own guitar work as well as vocals) was Cut Me Some Slack.  Grohl's hammering drums are as brutal as ever and haven't suffered a lick during his time fronting the Foo Fighters (who often contain Pat Smear on guitar).  McCartney rages and howls through the number in a way that should make clear that you can be heavy well into your 70s with no need to continually regurgitate the same soft pablum that you believe your audience will want to hear (see Neil Young).  The song will be the first released off of Grohl's Sound City documentary film soundtrack (though I'm unclear on whether the soundtrack version will be with McCartney doing vocals or Grohl).  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dark Chocolate Snickers

Rite Aid was having a "Buy Two Get One Free" sale on its stock of Snickers bars the other day so along with my favorite Almond Snickers bars I grabbed a free Dark Snickers bar to try in hopes that it would be just as yummy as the Almond or regular versions.

Close, but not quite.  I found that the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate not to be the best mix for the caramel, peanuts and such.  It wasn't bad but it did not hold the creamy-ness that the milk chocolate versions do.  I'd give it a 4 out of 10.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Syrian Rebels and Their Homemade Tank...

Well, "tank" may be a bit over stated.  Perhaps "heavily armored car"??

This rusty behemouth controls its machine gun with a Playstation controller and looks about ready to take on a local Boy Scout troop and that's about it.  But hey, give them credit...the Syrian rebels are rolling up the Syrian "army" like your Persian rug.

WIRED article on Syrian rebel "tank"...

New "Easier Said Then Done" Trailer

This Easier Said Than Done trailer came out today.  This started as a personal project by Matt Johnston, turned into a Kickstarter project that raised over $60K to complete and is now in its final stages.

Reportedly it will be coming out in Q1 '13 and as an "investor" in the project (OK, I gave like $100 to the effort) I will get a DVD of it upon its release.  I really couldn't be more excited.  The photography looks spectacular.  For under $100K this looks as good as ANY professional production I've seen.  Even if I do have to put up with seeing Ken Block and his uber-dork Monster Energy racing outfit and his flat bill, sideways hat.  Its painful but for something this good I'm willing to put up with it.

Why I Won't Buy a Chrylser/Dodge/Jeep/Fiat, etc.

reason number one.  Any company this beholden to the unions is not a company I want to support.  Perhaps its short sighted by me but so be it.  A company who willingly hires drunks and dope-heads to build complex machinery and does not have the stones to tell the unions to pound sand when it comes to rehiring such individuals is not a company of which I want to knowingly buy its products when other offerings are out there.

I deal with this crap every day in hearing tales of my wife's place of business where she is hamstrung in implementing any sort of disciplinary action against employees who continually put their coworkers and patients in danger by their actions and that's enough for me to harbor a deep seeded and first person perspective hatred for what unions have become.  Unions were once created to protect the worker against mistreatment by an employer.  Now they serve the exclusive needs of morons and malcontents.  A saying frequently used regarding teachers can be quickly modified to fit the vast majority of union supporters (of which not all union members are part of).  "Those who can--do.  Those who can't--join a union"

Now if we could only get all states to be "Right to Work" states we might get somewhere.  Good on Michigan, where these morons are gainfully (is that the right word for these people?) employed, for becoming just such a state recently.  Hopefully it moves Chrysler and all the auto companies in the right direction for once.

Chrysler has to rehire idiots...because of union idiots...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Todd Shelton and a B210 in Baja...

This is a very limited post as unfortunately there isn't much to go on.  Just a quick Facebook post by the website Off Road Action, which is a vintage offroad site based in Canada.  Evidently the driver/owner of this vehicle is/was one Todd Shelton which, unfortunately, is too common of a name to track down on Google and doesn't come back with anything connected to Baja or Datsuns.  He supposedly raced this vehicle in the B1K in the early '80s.

This B210 looks pretty cool all jacked up and ready to go.  I'll try and track down some more info on it if I can.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Forge Motorsport Juke Intercooler

As more and more aftermarket products come out for the Juke they become more technical and specialized beyond extra plastic body molding or a new air filter/intake.

This new intercooler by Forge Motorsport in the UK is one such example.  While the new part will bolt up in the same location it provides substantially more cooling capability than the stock version and can assist in horsepower production and overall engine cooling.  At 499 GBP its not cheap...but then again, horsepower usually isn't.

Forge also makes an upgraded blow off valve and recirculation valve for the Juke as well.  All can be seen at the link below.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Road & Track and John Buffum

Road & Track has from what I have read lately, been trying to get back into the REAL car magazine business.  Rather than the same article written in the same style with the same anecdotes going over and over and over whatever the new vehicle of the month their sponsors pay them to talk about, they've actually begun using their brain and begun writing STORIES that include cars and information about them.

One such example is linked here as R&T discusses both a new Audi and the greatest rally driver ever to come out of the US.  A local (to me) boy, John Buffum still resides in Vermont and still runs a rally effort (Mitsubishi based).  Glad to see him getting some always deserved publicity.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Film Review: We Bought a Zoo

Well, this was supposed to be our family movie night selection to watch with one of our children.  Unfortunately as sometimes happens, their misbehavior got in the way and it was early to bed with no family movie night.

This didn't stop my wife and I from watching this movie though and we both enjoyed it.

Yes its fairly cliche--The father is left to take care of his two kids by the death of his wife, he's having trouble connecting with his teenage son, the younger daughter is a sweet ball of precocious energy, there is a cute blond who works at the zoo he buys for him to fall in love with, etc., etc.

What makes it enjoyable is Damon's work which is never too schmaltzy and just touching enough to make you feel bad for him without going over the top.

Cameron Crowe's work is also very good with excellent choices in music and solid direction.  He could have easily fallen into the husband falls into bed with new woman storyline but never does.  In fact their relationship remains decidedly non physical throughout.

Based on a true story that occurred in England this story is an excellent family film appropriate for all ages and should entertain virtually anyone.  It won't blow you away, make you cry or get your heart racing, but it is good, clean fun and sometimes we need that too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Neil Young and Crazy Horse 11/26/12 at Boston Garden

Not getting out to nearly as many concerts as I used to going to Neil Young & Crazy Horse last night was a pleasant diversion.

Neil Young was evidently on my buddy's bucket list and he asked me to go to the show some six months ago when tickets went on sale.  I told him I would accompany him but mentioned that selling tickets that far in advance for a performer who has never looked that healthy to begin with, let alone now at age 67 was taking a leap of faith.

Nevertheless, Neil made it to the show last night and so did we.  Stopping in Fanueil Hall for dinner at Hillstone (formerly Houston's) for some eats and early drinks.  Burgers for both of us (a real one for me and a veggie burger for my friend) and a Whale's Tale pale ale for him and a vodka tonic for me.  Bartender is confused for a bit thinking her increased traffic was due to the Neil DIAMOND concert...

Informing her that we would not be caught dead at a Neil Diamond concert she may have been a tad bit confused as I don't believe she knew who Neil Young was and likely only knew Neil Diamond from "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway...the younger generation...there you go...

Anywho, a couple burgers (VERY yummy by the way) and a couple drinks and we were off to the Garden a five minute walk away.

The lighting on the Garden itself was turned a tie dye color for the supposed 60's loving crowd.  Certainly this was the first concert I've been to in a LOONG time where I was actually younger than the median age of the attendees.  Lots of aging men with no hair on top and long hair in the back on one hand and well to do ex-hippies coming into the city from their million dollar homes in Weston or Wellesley.  The women weren't prizes either as hippies don't generally age well.

Which is precisely what we had for an opening act in Patti Smith.  When I told my friend that she had been married to John Mcenroe at one time he didn't believe me and said that he would not have stooped to marry such a hag.  I'm blaming in on copious amounts of '70s and '80s cocaine.  Regardless, I do wish I had brought a tennis racket to the concert and yelled out "You CANNOT BE SERIOUS?!?!" but decided that even hippies have their tipping point.  I did get a chuckle out of her rantings to the crowd "People can change the fucking world!!!" and "The earth is screaming out for help!!"  My good gracious...

[edit to add] come to find out that Patti Smith is a different individual from Patty Smyth!!  It is Smyth with a "y" that is married to John Mcenroe (both are relatively accomplished singer/songwriters making this all ver confusing) and is actually attractive vs. Smith with an "i" who is a virtual disgrace to the softer sex. This doesn't make the tennis jokes any less funny nor her wailing any less painful...

Neil came on (thank god) after about 45 minutes of caterwauling by Patti and proceeded to put on a hell of a show.  For a 67 year old, Neil rocks and rocks hard.  The music is loud and hard only occasionally interspersed with acoustic stuff like "The Needle and the Damage Done" to keep the hippies in line.  In truth I love songs like "Needle" but I don't think Neil's heart is in playing such stuff anymore and when performed feels flat and lifeless when it should be heart rendingly painful.  The setlist was as follows:

1.Love and Only Love

3.Born in Ontario
4.Walk Like a Giant
5.The Needle and the Damage Done
6.Twisted Road
7.Singer Without a Song
8.Ramada Inn
9.Cinnamon Girl
10.Fuckin' Up
11.Mr. Soul
12.Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

13.Farmer John

at over two hours these songs sometimes became extend riffing and feedback with my personal favorite on the night "Walk Like a Giant" extending well past the 15 minute mark.  The smell of cannabis wafted throughout the Garden this evening though not to near the extent I would have expected and the general admission crowd on the floor was as well behaved as any group of aging Boomers can be expected to be.  We spent about 50% of the time on our feet, similar to the behavior around us and no one gave us a hard time about it.

Young's influence on many of my favorite bands (Pearl Jam in particular) cannot be overstated.  He has crossed back and forth between many genres over the years but given he has nothing left to prove and can play whatever and in whatever style he wants, it is cool to see he doesn't pander to those who want him to play CSN&Y stuff over and over and that the loud, electric guitar heavy works of his past remain his favorites.  Neil wasn't on my bucket list of performers to see before last night (as he was on my ticketmate's) but I'm damn glad I saw this icon before he to leaves us to the garbage that most frequently fills our ears these days.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Infiniti/Red Bull Take Third F1 Title in Three Years

In what was the final race of the 2013 F1 season, Sebastian Vettel overcame the weather, his crew and a first lap accident that dropped him back to last place.  Over the course of the 71 lap race Vettel would work his way up to 6th place where he would finish, grabbing just enough championship points to fend off the challenge of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Vettel has become the youngest three time F1 champion in history and brings Infiniti/Red Bull its third consecutive driver's and constructor's championship.

With F1 continuing to expand within the US with the US Grand Prix in Austin this year and an additional event in New Jersey coming in 2014 as well as a broadcasting deal with NBC and NBC Sports Channel F1 is poised to become a relevant sport in the US as it currently is around the rest of the world.  Infiniti could do well to maintain its support of the clear #1 team in the series for both exposure here and in emerging markets.

Only time will tell if F1 will become something worth covering on ESPN or in your local paper or if it will return (as it has in the past) to a third or fourth tier status like soccer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poor Nissan Vehicles From Sandy...

So as a Nissan related competitor I am in a bit of contact with the corporate folks.

Of course I am always looking for an in as to obtaining benefits for myself and my team.  So I asked if, due to the flooding from Sandy, that Nissan might have a severely discounted Titan or NV2500 or Pathfinder available.

With over 1000 Nissans to be written off as total losses at NJ ports I figured at least one might be appropriate for towing my race truck and maybe Nissan corporate/Nissan Motorsports might be able to help me obtain one for a significantly discounted price.

After all, Nissan at one point had a policy in place to give used vehicles to competitors for only $1 if they were designated for track use only.

Unfortunately two items came in the way of Nissan benefiting me in this manner.

For one Nissan has ended its practice of selling vehicles it has tested or used for various things (advertisements, etc.) to motorsports competitors for $1. Evidently a number of individuals somehow took advantage of this and did not treat the program with respect (interpret that as you will).  Lawyers of course got involved and determined that Nissan was generating too much liability and recommended Nissan terminated it.  Of course they did.  Strike #1

Strike #2 came with the obvious declaration  that all vehicles lost to the storm were insured against loss and are now all property of the insurance companies and not Nissan.  What the insurance companies decide to do with them is anyone's guess but I'm betting they all go to the crusher/vehicle recycler given the conservative nature of insurance companies.  Regardless, Nissan has no say in what is done to them or who they go to.

So it is that I looked into if Nissan might be able to part with some of its flooded vehicles for the benefit of its motorsports participants.  We'll keep working...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Veteran's Day Hike With Jake...

It's been a long time since I've gone on a real hike unfortunately.  Life in general has taken precedence as have other hobbies and interests.  Now that my son Jake is seven years old he is strong enough to go on some decent hikes himself.  So with the day off on Veteran's Day for myself and no school for Jake I figured it was time for his first real hike and my return to the woods.

Our choice for the hike was one I had done with my wife many years back on a very rainy weekend.  I remembered it as a short by very interesting hike with ladders, scrambling and boulder caves.  This day there would be no rain and the terrain was extremely fun for both myself and my seven year old.

The Mt. Morgan-Mt. Percival loop hike is some 5.5 miles in length and some 1,200+ feet in elevation gain so its requires a solid effort to complete though not too much for Jake or myself to handle in quick fashion on these short late fall days.  .The tops of both mountains are not tree free but still provide fantastic views to the south overlooking both Squam Lake and the northern edges of Lake Winnepasauke

 We started at about 9:30 AM and including our lunch break at the top of Mt. Morgan, finished a bit under five hours later at 2:15.  Jake was ecstatic about the hike, thoroughly enjoying every minute and wants to go on more and similar (with scrambling, caves, ladders, etc.) in the future.  We'll see how long it is before his legs start outpacing mine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Halloween Hooptiefest 2012

Broadening my motosports horizons I joined the Dennis Motorsports group for the 2012 edition of the 24 Hours of Lemons Halloween Hooptiefest at New Hampshire Motorspeedway a couple weekends back.  Taking what must be a vehicle "purchased" for $500 or less and making it raceworthy via safety equipment it was our job to race it for 14 1/2 hours over two days (no lights at the track prevents nighttime racing).

The race and experience as a whole was extremely enjoyable.  Racing head to head against over a hundred other beaters was quite the thrill, as was contesting a race wholly on asphalt and on a National level track like NHMS.

After getting in about a half hour of practice on Friday we were off to the races on Saturday morning.  Kind of.

The Dodge Neon began having power issues right away and running extremely hot during its first session on the track.  Before coming off the track the Neon was running as high as 2nd in the race.  This was not to be however.  The Neon was quickly diagnosed with a probable head gasket issue and it was determined an engine swap was needed.

The Dennis clan is nothing if not resourceful and got to work on the engine swap right away.  I stood back and assisted where I could with my limited mechanical aptitude (mostly handing things over, finding tools, etc.) and four hours later the Neon was back on the track.  I got about 45 minutes of racing in at the end of the day and didn't embarrass myself or wreck the car.

The second day didn't go so smoothly for me and that's where I would quibble with the management of the Lemons series.  Agreed it is supposed to be some kind of amusing, sophomoric type of motorsport but it takes itself serious enough to hand out $500 in winnings at the end (in nickels) and rakes in some $100,000 in entry fees per event.  Given the aforementioned the decisions of the series' officials should be more well thought out.

On Saturday I was black-flagged for two separate incidents.  The first was supposed "speeding" in the paddock.  With no speedometer in the car I can't say how much I exceeded the 10 mph limit but it wasn't much and when I was brought in for it I was told that they didn't know how fast I was going and when I said my guess was 20 mph, the response was that I wasn't going that fast but that they didn't know how fast I was going.  What????  You're just guessing??

Secondly, I was blackflagged for "hitting another car" in a sharp right hand turn.  I explained that I had the inside position on the car and was under braking when the outside car cut across my nose when I tapped him and we both continued on.  Now at best this situation was a 50/50 racing event with both drivers to blame for various infractions but I was called in just because it was reported that I had hit someone and anyone on the inside position is automatically found at fault per the official I spoke to.  Great...

This is to say nothing of the poor corner workers, inconsistent yellow flags and black flags for passing under said inconsistent yellows.  At worst the officials should have assessed a drive through penalty for "passing under yellow" as it was often near impossible to discern the exact moment a yellow would come out and immediately stop passing the 100+ cars on the track.

None of this is to say I didn't enjoy myself.  I did.  I just hate the interference of "officials", especially when their opinions are enforced without true thought or reason.  Which is one reason I like Rally and desert racing.  Their results are more purely driven off of the performance of your vehicle and driving, and not external factors and decisions.
The weekend results for the Dennis Motorsports Neon??  We finished 78th out of 117 entries completing 255 1.6 mile laps on the NHMS roadcourse.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Rally Cat Some Two Months Later...

So I had been thinking of posting this update of late and a question regarding the Rally Cat (called Zoey now) and her condition.  Well, she (yes, I misdiagnosed she as a he originally, shows what I get for being married for 10 years!!) is doing quite well, below is a picture of her today along with one of when I found her.

She had ringworm, a broken left leg and a host of other problems when she was rescued at Black River Stages 2012.  She is now very happy and healthy.  Weighing 1.8 pounds initially she is now about 3 1/2 pounds and growing rapidly.  Her limp from the broken leg is virtually gone and she leaps and runs with no problems.  She is your typical kitten showing no ill effects from the first few weeks of life.  Thanks again go to Matt and others who helped take care of her while I was busy putting my truck in a swamp.  She couldn't have been rescued without you guys.

Nissans in Baja Portalegre 2012

Just a couple Nissan's from this past month's Baja Portalegre 2012 (Portugal Baja).  A Nissan didn't win the event (a highly modified Hummer H3 did, picture here as well) but a Navara (Frontier) did finish 8th and a Pathfinder finished 9th out of 33 entries, of which only 14 finished.
Baja Portalegre...

Video of Cassie Currie LOORRS Crash...

This video is from the recent LOORRS event during the final race of the year in which the Pro Lites faced off against the buggies.  If this collision took place on the ground it would have been inconsequential but in the air it quickly goes bad in a hurry...Both drivers walked away unharmed...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Another Video From NEFR 2012...

Just a video from this summer that I came across today that shows the NISMO Stuff Racing, Nissan Frontier in action, on its way to a podium spot for 2WD vehicles...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Best Buy Sucks...

OK, this may not be a new opinion but I figured I'd offer my take on it anyway.

When I first encountered a Best Buy some 10+ years ago the place was cool.  They had all the latest video games, latest CDs, movies, TVs stereo equipment, computers, etc.  The store was shiny and new and the people who shopped there were a lot like me.  Young, relatively affluent and up to date on consumer electronics.

As I went into a Best Buy last week to return a SATA cable that an employee sold me for an IDE drive I sat in the line for returns and looked around and realized how much things had changed in those 10+ years. 

CDs and Movies are now purchased primarily in digital format so those individuals who come to shop at Best Buy for those items are typically those who are way behind the curve.  Washers, dryers and the like??  The only people who shop for those at Best Buy are people who are allergic to the smell of wood at Home Depot.  The rest?  Well, you could swap the individuals shopping at Best Buy for those down at the local DMV, Post Office, Unemployment line, or Welfare window for this crowd.

Truly I felt dirty and disgusted by the time I left.  And the "help" (?) at the store?  It wasn't any better.  The "Geek Squad" looked like a bunch of nose picking rejects who got booted from the high school chess team and the rest (if they could speak English) were there more as furniture than anything else, certainly not bringing anything to the table.

So there it is.  A primary reason why Best Buy will likely be declaring bankruptcy in 2013 or at the least, closing like 30% of its stores in more "restructuring" similar to Circuit City.  Best Buy has become the domain the lowest class of US society.  Those that do nothing, create nothing and present no value to society other than to create the next generation of government dependants.  Not exactly a winning business formula.

Me?  I did my research on Google as to what cable I needed and bought it at the lowest possible price from an online retailer.  And I'm much happier (and less depressed about the state of the country) for it...

Book Review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

A loooong term project by its author, himself a decorated Marine (Navy Cross, Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals), Rhodes scholar and Yale student, Karl Marlantes took some 35 years to write this novel.

Ostensibly a work of fiction it is clearly autobiographic in nature with the author likely changing names to protect the profoundly stupid and not caring to make actual places, locations and dates match reality.  As a work of fiction it is more profound than any non-fiction retelling of events could be.

A very circular work in that events, locations and characters that appear in one section are bound to return in another, under variously different circumstances, Matterhorn is a powerful portrayal of the stupidity and horrors of war--and not any war, but Vietnam in particular.  Others, far more experienced than I, have claimed directly that this novel could not be written about Afghanistan or Iraq today, that yes, the military still does profoundly stupid things and for profoundly stupid reasons but the disregard for individual soldier's well being that was present 40 years ago simply doesn't exist today for the most part.

The bloodshed here is unaltered and the randomness of death is carried throughout.  This is not a novel where you know the hero will survive, every page is filled with the roll of the dice that is survival for anyone partaking in such enterprises.

Matterhorn expresses many of the issues of its time including racial divides and class divisions but shows that at the heart of it all, these divisions melt away when life and death are the only things to be gained and lost on a given day.

At 600 pages, Matterhorn is no quick read but its well worth it and will have you searching Google and other sources to find out if anecdotes Marlantes uses as plot devices, are true (such as: Did US soldiers really get killed and eaten by tigers in Vietnam?  Answer: yup).

It is a book that belongs on your shelf.