Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Juke-R On Ice...

The crazy amalgamation of parts that is the Juke-R can now be yours for some several hundred thousand dollars as Nissan is producing a very limited run of the vehicle.  But don't think that it won't get you back and forth to the grocery store on a given winter's day.  Nissan recently took one of its LeMans drivers (Lucas Ordonez) to Norway to do a little ice testing with the 400+ hp monster...

Great Weekend Results for Nissan in TORC

TORC is the more Central/Eastern US located short course racing organization in the US and holds the rights to the most famous track in the sport running multiple events at "Crandon" in Wisconsin.

For the third and fourth rounds of racing in the 2012 TORC season however the racing took place at the Red Bud, Michigan motocross facility.  Tighter and hillier than other venues, it makes for some epic racing.

Nissans would do very well here this past weekend (May 26 and 27th).

In the Pro2 division the Boss Snowplow Nissan Titan of Chad Hord claimed second place on both Saturday and Sunday.  Hord has finished 2nd in three out of the four TORC races so far this year (his other finish being a 4th place) and is now sitting first in points on the year about a third of the way through.

In the ProLight division it was the Nissan Frontier of Brad Lovell grabbing a solid 5th place on Saturday but far more impressively grabbing his first short course racing victory on Sunday, pushing him into third place in points on the year.

Its nice to see Nissan having success upon their return to short course racing in a more substantial way after a couple of years off.  Well done to all.

TORC Series Homepage...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Come Up and Get Me

This autobiography of Col. Joe Kittinger will go in amongst the books of my other heroes.

My heroes or people I look up to or aspire without hope to be are not athletes or politicians, comedians or actors or Internet age icons.  My heroes are those who live without fear (or at least is able to suppress whatever innate fears they have) in order to gobble up life at its best.  Ernest Hemingway, John Fitch, Sebastian Junger, and Major Robert Crisp amongst others fit this bill.

Add another one to this list.

Take a look at a short list of Mr. Kittenger's accomplishments in no particular order:
Highest parachute jump ever, from 102,800 ft.
First man to exceed the sound barrier without air or space vehicle (714 mph during freefall)
First person to solo across the Atlantic in a helium balloon
Silver Star
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Shot down a North Vietnamese MIG

11 months as a POW after seeing his F4 shot down in Vietnam during which he was tortured extensively
Volunteered for three tours in Vietnam
Flew 483 combat missions
Truly Barnstormed across the country
Hunted alligators in Florida and Cape Buffalo in Africa
Flew 93 separate aircraft accruing over 16,800 flying hours
Was a prolific test pilot
Assisted in the design and implementation of safety systems for the space program and Air Force

This is only a partial list and doesn't include many of his civilian accomplishments nor many of his military adventures/actions.

Come Up and Get Me is a fantastic account of Mr. Kittinger's life.  Written with candor and humility Mr. Kittinger doesn't pull punches in dealing with his superiors in and outside of the military.  It goes into depth regarding many of the programs he was involved with and reveals numerous items of note regarding the early space program, including the fact that officials were informed of the danger of a pressurized oxygen environment before the tragedy that occurred with Apollo I pre-launch test.

The book is well worth your time if you are looking for the antithesis of modern America and hope for what lies deep within the best of us.

Monday, May 28, 2012

LOORRS TV Ratings From 5/13

The best of the worst?

That may be a fair way to describe the ratings from two weekends ago now.

The 0.4 rating is right smack in the middle of typical LOORRS ratings which over the past year and a half have fluctuated between 0.3 and 0.6.  The 5-6 PM timeslot should have helped given it puts it more in the viewing period of West Coast audiences while its NCAA Winter Highlight Show and PBR event provided little of a lead in audience.

At the least, the LOORRS show exceeded the NCAA show as well as equaling the rating of two other events shown on network TV that weekend.

With 510,000 actual people estimated to have watched the taped event on TV, the eyeballs are there, just not in the numbers or consistent growth we'd all like to see.

"ESPN Sports Saturday" 5/12 ABC 4:00-6:00pm 0.6

"Global Golf Adventure" 5/12 NBC 1:00-1:30pm 0.4

"Golf Central Live" 5/12 NBC 1:30-2:00pm 0.6

PGA Tour: The Players: Third Round 5/12 NBC 5:00-7:00pm 2.5

MLB: (regional) 5/12 Fox 1:00-4:00pm 1.7

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Bojangles Southern 500 (Darlington) 5/12 Fox7:15-11:00pm 3.5

Clippers-Grizzlies: Game Seven 5/13 ABC 1:00-3:30pm 3.8

Pacers-Heat: Game One 5/13 ABC 3:30-6:00pm 5.2

NCAA Championships Winter Highlight Show 5/13 CBS 3:00-4:00pm 0.3

PBR: Boise Invitational 5/13 CBS 4:00-5:00pm 0.4

Lucas Oil Off-Road Pro2 & Pro4 (taped) 5/13 CBS 5:00-6:00pm 0.4

"Golf Central Live" 5/13 NBC 1:30-2:00pm 0.7

PGA Tour: The Players: Final Round 5/13 NBC 2:00-7:00pm 3.4

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Film Review: Rosemary's Baby

Having seemingly run out of modern films of interest to watch, we've turned frequently to older productions.  Rosemary's Baby is one such film.

With no blood or gore it still results in an excellent thriller/horror film.  Mia Farrow's performance is the key here as she plays the devil impregnated Rosemary with gusto.

The other characters are far weaker and are over the top to the point of near-parody but given the intense focus on Farrow's character it is not a huge distraction.

There are numerous levels of interesting analysis that you can take with this film including the skewering of vain actors and Hollywood in general to the obvious critique of organized religion.

Perhaps the most interesting analysis can surround the director of the film itself.

The film contains a scene in which a drugged and semi-conscious Rosemary is raped/impregnated by her demon possessed husband or the devil himself directly (not quite clear).  Slightly less than a decade later Roman Polanski would be convicted of drugging and raping (in multiple fashions) a 13 year old girl after "photographing" her topless for a magazine.  Given how "10 year old boyish" Farrow's character is made to look in this film and Polanski long and continued penchant for extremely underage girls, the film is ripe for a look at his disturbing mental state.

Ignoring Polanski's disease however, Rosemary's Baby is still a highly effective film and well worth watching by any fan of horror or dark films.  The methods, themes and techniques used here have been repeated in the decades since its production and its influence on films to follow is substantial.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A First in North America?

OK...I believe the newly minted Body Armor Nissan Frontier will soon be sporting what I believe will be the only set of Braid wheels on such a vehicle in North America.  I've only seen these wheels on Dakar and other offroad endurance racing vehicles in other parts of the globe.

They have been custom made (various offsets and bolt patterns are available) and imported from Spain via Paul Eddleston at Team Illuminata Motorsports. They combine a light weight and insanely strong build to be one of the top racing wheels in the world. More regularly seen in top flight Rally events, Braid wheels have been seen on six continents but uncommonly here and never to my knowledge on a Nissan Frontier (Navara??  Maybe...but not a Frontier).

I'll be putting them on the Body Armor racer in the next week and lowering the unsprung weight at each wheel by a couple pounds and improving the performance, durability and style of the truck at the same time.  Can't wait!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I heard about this book on one of my local sports radio programs and respected the speaker enough to pick it up.

I'm glad I did as while there is nothing earth shattering here, the book certainly slams home certain realities about how people become successful.

The most interesting portions of the book to me surrounded the reasons behind the overwhelming number of professional hockey players who are born in the first quarter of their given birth year and the factors behind why South Korean airlines had one of the worst records of catastrophic accidents in the world despite world class training and equipment.

Gladwell succeeds in pointing out that behind every story of triumph (and failure) are may more factors that are generally credited.  In fact, most stories of success are overtly simplistic to the point of inaccuracy.

Critiques of the book focus on Gladwell acting as a Psych/Soc 101 student using amateur levels of analysis to describe exceedingly complex issues.  Meant for the masses, this is Gladwell's strength in my opinion.  He makes it easy to understand that the way people and issues are often portrayed in the media or even academia are greatly flawed.  Bill Gates was not ONLY a brilliant software developer and canny businessman but also lucky to have access to certain resources and education that other, likely equally smart individuals, didn't.  Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, etc. were not only great entrepreneurs and hard nosed negotiators but were born at the right time in American history to take advantage of their surroundings.

Another critique of the book is that it focuses too much on Americans.  This critique misses a major point of the book.  In fact I'd question whether anyone making such a critique has even read the book.  Outliers presents the fact that any list of the wealthiest individuals in history will be dominated by Americans.  This is as it should be as the U.S. is by far and away the most wealthy nation in the history of the world.  Now you can call it luck to be born American and especially to be born an American in the early to mid 1800s.  But any book focusing on exceptionally successful businessmen or exceptionally rich individuals in general that did NOT focus primarily upon individuals from the US would be deficient by omission.

A quick read and most importantly a mind opening one, Outliers is a valuable lesson to all readers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Best Thing About Being an Off-Road Racer in NH...

OK, there aren't all that many great things about being an offroad racer in NH.  Yup we have some varied terrain but the spaces are too small and too much of the land is broken up into a hundred thousand small private lots.  And any of the big land owners are too scared by the Greens throughout the Northeast to even be the tiniest bit accommodating to those of us who enjoy motorized recreation of virtually any kind.

But there is one cool feature of New Hampshire.  The Team O'Neil Rally School is located here.

If you play your cards right, don't act like a jackass, make the right connections, act respectful and are serious about your craft, you might just come to know some of the employees of the O'Neil school.  Beyond that you might have even more luck and get to test your vehicle at the O'Neil facility under the tutelage of O'Neil's lead instructor and pick up some key tips to making you a better driver/racer.

And if you get SUPER lucky you might become good acquaintances with such instructors and they might divulge information on some of the luminaries who have come through the school and what they thought of them as drivers.

I was recently lucky enough (sorry for the crummy cell phone pics) to fall into all of these categories and will be returning for an official class in the near future.  In the mean time I'll be practicing my trail braking and putting the information I garnered in my day at the O'Neil Rally School to use.

With the following list of drivers having been there in the recent past, its clear O'Neil's is the premier offroad car control center in the country: Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Dave Mirra, Brian Deegan, Bryce Menzies, Rick Johnson, Luke Johnson, Antoine L'Estage, Mark Jenkins, Mike Jenkins, Andy McMillan and the McMillan clan, Dai Yoshihara, Navy Seals (Seal Team Six??  Sorry, but if I told you I'd have to kill you...) and many more.

I could tell a few inside stories but that might just get me in trouble...though I will say that young Mr. Menzies made a big impression while at O'Neil's and was viewed as one of the best students they've had.

If anyone ever wants a personal escort to the O'Neil school or other local information on the area during your visit here, let me know, I'm always glad to help out in what way I can.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Last of a Quickly Dieing Breed...

My goodness am I getting old.

When I first moved to the Boston area in the early '90s, the radio was alive and well and filled with superb stations.  WBCN, WAAF, WFNX, and a host of others were available for your listening pleasure.  Each had its own niche to fill and filled it well.  This allowed one to smoothly move from one station to the next when a song came on that didn't meet your particular taste and immediately find something worth listening to in the next moment.

This has all gone away now.  BCN burned itself out on Grunge and then was sold to do Sports Talk, AAF always had a bit of a harder and sometimes hairband bent but is now all butt rock, all the time.  The "oldies" rock stations can still OK to listen to but they are just retreading old stuff over and over--tiresome.  92.9 WBOS dispensed with DJs long ago and just plays an endless loop of 90s music that has been played almost as much as the "classic" rock stations.

WFNX was the last bastion of good, new, interesting rock/pop music in Boston...hell, all of Northern New England (and no, I don't count rinky dink college stations with only enough wattage to broadcast over their campus).

All of that ended today.  FNX has fired 17 of their 21 staff members and sold the station to Clear Channel.  Clear Channel is not going to leave things as is and will in short order turn the station over to a talk format, likely bringing in one of its AM stations to broadcast on FM or change it to a Country or Spanish talk station.

I can understand FNX's ownership wanting to sell the station as its relatively low ratings did not generate the advertising return sufficient to keep it afloat though this is likely the result of poor marketing and development rather than a lack of on air broadcasting talent.  Publishing free weekly papers and distributing them around New England (financed largely by the "personal ads" purchased by hookers and pimps, as this is what the "alternative" newspaper the Phoenix--the now former owner of FNX--does, is quire different than selling advertising for radio broadcasts).  The final wind down should occur within about a month and I'll have to reprogram my car radio again...

Any suggestions??  And no, I'm not paying for satellite radio...

WNFX fires staff and changing formats...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Frontier Eating a BMW...

or so it was described by the individual who brought this video to my attention. I had always hoped that this moment of the Sandblast 2012 Rally had made film and I'd get to see it but it took till now for me to find it.  This corner had some especially deep sand as you can tell by the other vehicles bogging down in trying to negotiate this turn.  The Frontier and its 2WD had little issues in making it and was able to stay nip and tuck with the BMW just in front of me for the remainder of the stage this was filmed on.

Around the 9:45 mark of the video comes the BMW followed closely by the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier.  You can get a good idea of the deep sand and overall conditions of this race from this video as well.  I only wish I could have passed the BMW in front of the camera...I was trying...just couldn't quite get there...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nissan 200SX--Its BACK!!

(also known as the 240sx here in the U.S.) Not exactly in the form it left but return it will.

A favorite of sportscar enthusiasts of all types (drifting, rally, time attack, hillclimb, etc.) the model went away some years ago (in 2002) from all markets.

With Nissan looking to release new vehicle about once every six weeks through 2016, the 200SX has come back into favor as a small sportscar with the potential to be a Miata or BRZ fighter.

Supposedly the new 200SX will be built upon the new Daimler-Benz mid-size platform that Daimler is developing for Infiniti and Nissan (it will also be the underpinnings for the next Z and Infiniti G amongst others).  The 200SX drivetrain may also be purely electric or a hybird of some sorts.  Regardless, its good to see Nissan coming to the table with a small, light, sporty offering in the near future...

Nissan to produce Next Gen 200SX...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nissan Dominates LMP2 at 6 Hours of Spa

As much as Audi dominates the LMP1 class at LeMans and across the globe in endurance racing, Nissan is coming to dominate the next tier down--LMP2.

With their open cockpits the drivers are more exposed to the elements and their top speeds are a tad slower.  Still, a well crafted, well sorted LMP2 car can outrun a poorly run LMP1 effort and at speeds approaching 200 km/hour, LMP2 cars are no slouches either.

After a slightly disappointing start to the World Endurance Championship at Sebring earlier this year where one Nissan powered LMP2 car finished on the podium (the Lucas Perez, Oreca 03 bodied #49), teams turned to the track at Spa-Francorchamps for improved results and improve they did.

Nissan powered LMP2 cars took all three podium spots in their class and positions 8, 9 and 10 overall out of the 41 entries.  A Zytek bodied Nissan (car #38, piloted by Simon Dolan, et al) was the winner in LMP2 with Oreca 03 bodied cars in second (car #25, piloted by John Martin, et al) and third (car #48, piloted by Jody Firth, et al).

Next up in the WEC series is the crown jewel, the 24 Hours of Lemans.  This race will also see the competitive debut of the Nissan Deltawing project.  Should be fantastic!

WEC Race at Spa-Francorchamps...

All cars pictured here are Nissan powered.

These Capsules Are People!!

Likely going by the wayside in the news media is this lovely story out of South Korea.

I seriously don't know whether to laugh, cry or throw up my breakfast.

Evidently the consumption of human flesh is a cure-all in some Asian cultures.  Fine.  Even if I don't agree with the medicine, I can at least understand the concept.  Plus, if I was ever starving, I can't say I wouldn't eat human flesh if it was presented to me.

To me that's not the disturbing part.  The disturbing part of how the capsules of dried, powdered human flesh that were confiscated after their being smuggled from China into South Korea for distribution to those who hold such beliefs is in their production.

Read the article.

Smuggled capsules of human flesh confiscated in S. Korea

It states that babies and/or fetuses were chopped up, left out to dry and then ground up into a powder.  So try to imagine that.  We're already dealing with backwards, pseudo stone age beliefs that result in people thinking that swallowing a pill of dried flesh helps cure them of various diseases.  Couple that with the fact that where this occurs is also likely in some backwater town of rural China and you come up with a most horrific scene.

Somewhere out there, there is a village, or villages in China, where babies (still born? unwanted female babies? abandoned babies?) and fetuses (abortions?, miscarriages?) are being collected, chopped up by hand axe and left out to dry.  Can you see it?  Some dusty, dirty town with wooden, sticklike drying racks stacked with small baby parts.  Arms and legs left out in the sun, wrinkling and bronzed.

After a few weeks, some elderly, female villagers come by and pick up the parts that have dried out sufficiently, placing them in a wicker basket loaded to the brink of overflowing.  They are then taken back to some other nearly falling down building where the women of the village break out their 100+ year old mortar and pestle to grind down the baby bones and flesh until it makes a fine, brown, powder.

The powder gets collected in a big plastic, Tupperware like bin and once a month a rattletrap truck, a relic of the cold war, stops by to pick up the bin and take it to some dark and dingy back alley in one of a thousand overcrowded Chinese cities.  It is here that some enterprising man has devised a system to fill some small capsules, likely manufactured at a local Chinese medical supply company, with this powder, turning a nearly free resource that is in abundant supply, into something worth literally, its weight in gold to his more affluent cousins across the border in South Korea.

Just beyond epic here...only in our modern world.  So the next time you visit China, take a peak at what is drying out in the backyard garden.  It might just be your waitresses grandchild.

Monday, May 7, 2012

50th Anniversary Nissan Patrol

Still based off of the previous platform and not the new one that underpins the new Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Patrol elsewhere in the world, Australia continues to see a more rugged looking (and gas guzzling) Nissan Patrol on its shores.

In this case Nissan is releasing a special 50th Anniversary edition of the venerable Patrol in the Land Down Under.  50th Anniversary of what you may ask?

The 50th anniversary of the first crossing of Australia's Simpson Desert by 4WD vehicle of course!

Some 60 years ago Dr. Reg Sprigg (an Australian geologist, discoverer of some of the oldest fossils on the planet amongst other works) made the pioneering trip from Andado Station to Birdsville in 1962 with his wife Griselda and their two children, Doug (then seven) and Margaret (10).

This beautiful vehicle celebrates that trip and the history of the Simpson Desert.

50th Anniversary Nissan Patrol available in Australia...

Candy Red Nissan Juke by Senner

Just another Juke by another tuner.  This one I have to say is really crummy.  They lowered it, retuned the ECU and painted a lot of it red.  Wow...congrats...This is why people hate car people...
Senner Juke...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brief Trip to NYC...

This was from last weekend.  Beautiful weather and great company with my brothers in law.  NYC is a great place to visit but I still wouldn't want to stay there...nor New Jersey.  The taxes and other expenses are insane.  $10K a year in property taxes on an 1/5 of an acre of land, $2K a year on car insurance for a single small, don't know how people do it.

That being said, the museums and attractions (such as the Museum of Natural History that we visited) are truly world class, the city is as clean as a city of 10 million can be expected to in this day and age and it is ridiculously safe.  Yup, Times Square seems like a large, open air version of your local mall at times but...I'm still glad I live close enough to NYC that I can visit it from time to time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

MIA For a Few Days...

So I've been gone and haven't posted in about 10 days...that is my longest break in years I believe.  Reasons?  Well a three day trip to NYC followed by an absolutely awful stomach bug that left me feeling like I go run over by a truck for more than three days followed by trying to make up for time missed at work all conspired to leave me blog post-less.

Never fear however...I will try and pick up the pace going forward...