Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Opting Out...

This is one of the more interesting thought exercises I've seen in a bit and its not some flight of fancy impossibility.  The libertarian streak running through much of the tech industry is a strong one and they're about as fed up with the way things are run as the rest of us.  They, however, create and control the tools by which they can exit from current governmental and societal constraints as well as free the rest of society from having to put up with the trash that is our current ruling class bureaucrats.

As the presenter points out, we are on the verge of the irrelevancy of many governmental functions including currency control and various regulation centered agencies.  The whole idea of "opting out" as is noted, is one that, we, as Americans, have always been fond of so perhaps its no surprise that we look to be the ones pushing this possibility forward.  While it seems like there is no where at this point to "opt out" to (no "New World" to escape to for religious freedom, no new Switzerland to transfer our monies too), technology is opening new methods by which we can pressure those in power to make changes.

If the powers that be wish to keep their best and brightest, they HAVE to change (see the flight of the intelligentsia from Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, etc.)  Perhaps the revolution won't be so bloody...perhaps the pressure exerted by those that can, that do, that make, that create can change our current course.  You could definitely do worse than a bunch of MIT/Stanford alums leading you forward...

The video is worth watching in its entirety and giving serious thought to, whether it comes to pass or not.

Nissan GT-R at SEMA 2013

And another!  This LB Performance/EGarage GT-R is coming to SEMA along with a sister Ferrari.  Now none of these SEMA Nissans really interest me all that much...I've seen a gazillion GT-Rs and silly wheels on a Quest or sidesteps on a Pathfinder just don't get me excited.

This GT-R does look pretty cool though with racing slicks, wide fenders and a lowered stance.  I also like the grey paint choice.  It looks like a purpose driven race vehicle and not something done just for show.

LB Performance GT-R...

Oh, Look, Speak of the Devil!

A real full Nissan being brought to SEMA this year!

Yes, that is a Nissan Quest....

Kitted out by Fatlace, the "A Van Called Quest" (a play on the name of the rap group A Tribe Called Quest for those of you over 45 and under 30) the project showcases a number of companies including GReddy.

The item of biggest note here is that Fatlace imported a number of El Grand body parts from Japan to give the van its distinctive look.  The El Grand is Japan's version of the Quest and possesses quite a different fascia that what we get here in the States.

Fatlace SEMA projects...

Nissans at SEMA 2013??

Anyone??  Anyone??

I've got very little so far.  With the GT-R craze having been going on for a few years and no new major sporty or offroad oriented models in the immediate past you might see a few Nissan Jukes but I don't think much beyond that and the aforementioned GT-Rs.

Next year might be big for Nissan at SEMA with the potential for the new Titan, new GT-R, new BR-Z competitor and other models introduced in '14.

There is however, hold your breath, some new running board products for the 2013+ Nissan Pathfinder!  Evidently ATS is showing off some of this product at the upcoming, annual, glitz-fest that is SEMA.

ATS Running Boards for 2013 and Up Pathfinder...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who's Coming to Commandeer a Boat in Portland, Maine With Me??

This is so William Gibson-esque its not even funny.

One of the world's largest, most technically proficient and futuristic corporations has a hand in mysterious floating barges popping up in harbors around the country.  On these barges are stacks of cargo containers holding who knows what.  Building and shepherding these barges around is by all accounts some small shell corporation with no history while the billionaire founder of said company drives his giant yacht up to said barges in order to do who knows what!!

Its like straight from a near-future sci-fi novel.  Maybe these are going to be Google Glass stores (but I don't think that's likely at all from the design and layout of these creations--too utilitarian at this point and besides...Google is already opening a retail store in NYC which fits in much better for the sale of hard goods than some floating apparatus.

There is little benefit for a very slow, moveable, retail store.  Why would you MOVE your store from NYC to say Baltimore anyway?  Wouldn't you be better off (from a sales perspective) having a stable location people know they can go to in order to buy your product?  No, a moveable data center removed from land and very possibly--the legal constraints surrounding being tied to a landmass (how about hosting a Bitcoin exchange or Pirate's Bay or Silk Road from an international waters, self sufficient, satellite linked datacenter?) makes a lot more sense.

Some one needs to get up to Portland and track the workers that are going to and coming from this ship and find out what is going on...now THAT would be some good journalism work!!  Much like finding out what was/is occurring at Groom Lake by tracking who was flying into and out of the satellite airport that catered to its workers, the same methods could be used here.  So who's up for renting a little motorboat for a few days in Portland and following around the comings and goings of these mysterious Google barges?!!?

Google Barges Popping Up Across Country....

Openbay Brings Online Marketplace Competition to Auto Repair...

Once again at the intersection of work and play...

Here we have a really cool idea.  Simple and similar to other online competitive marketplaces Openbay brings the power of scale and reach to the consumer in a simple, quick, online format.

If you were a person in need of a car repair you previously would either have to call around to different places and ask what their prices were for various services, too which you likely would receive a "we can't tell unless we look at it" response, be ignored outright or spend lots of time on hold or talking with Joe-Bob who is unauthorized to speak in regards to pricing.

Openbay, currently operating in the Boston area and expanding rapidly, eliminates numerous consumer pain points and may even drive the cost of auto repair down while driving service levels up.  Chances are if you physically brought your car to any garage/repair shop and had someone look at your vehicle, you didn't take the vehicle away to have it serviced somewhere else after they told yo what might be needed.  These physical transactions are "sticky".  This puts a large degree of pricing power in the hands of the facility rather than the consumer.

With Openbay, the consumer's power returns.  The consumer enters their info and what they need to have done/looked at by a facility and facilities compete for the right to perform the service.  The consumer views the "bids" placed by the facilities and decides based on cost, location, etc. as to which one to use, schedules the service and makes their payment all via this platform.  Heck, you can even find someone offering onsite repairs if you wish.

So what do the facilities get?  They get to view a much larger selection of work available in their area than just waiting for a random phone call or physical visit--and, if they perform their work well, can drive sales over a larger geographic area.  Have a small shop that does good work?  You don't need a giant advertising budget or big franchise fees to compete with the corporate conglomerates of the auto repair world.  You have technicians who are great at one thing but not at another??  You can specialize in various repairs by picking and choosing what jobs you want coming in the door.  Of course Openbay takes a cut (10% in this case) but....if the idea takes off...consumers could be the real winners here.

The company is backed by Google Ventures alumni and a host of other private equity/VC firms.

Openbay Homepage...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Viva Quebec!!

Well we're here and checked into our very posh hotel--seriously...way beyond our normal digs...romantic even!!

OK.  Onto the important stuff.  Border crossing was super easy.  Wish I could say the same about Quebec City traffic.  We arrived in Clermont at about seven and got registered and tech'd without issue.  We did avert one disaster when my box o tools and supplies fell out of the back of my truck on a local highway without my noticing.  Twenty minutes later we realized it was missing and we began to retrace our steps.  When we had backtracked to the beginning, there was a wonderfully kind Canadian who had gathered all the tools and suplies that had been scattered across the road and returned the bin to Rally headquarters.  Amazing rally karma...must be doing something right.

Tomorrow starts early...recce begins at 6 AM.  We'll be out and trying not to freeze as it was snowing here today.  Look for more updates to come...

Miss Lyndonville Diner...

Stopped on Lyndonville VT for lunch...everything going well so far.  

Just heard that Bilstein has a smartphone adjustable suspension (shock?).  How does that work?

Anywho...codriver David is having some deep fried french toast and a fish sandwich for me at this well known diner and we are back on the road.

On the road...

Right on time.  All packed and a quick stop at Home Depot for a new fire extinguisher to replace the empty one we used on another vehicle at Lax Aux Sables.

Then the most painful part of any trip...the first gas fillup!  Though at  3.23 a gallon its the cheapest its been all year !

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rallye Charlevoix 2013--Updates Start Now

So this is it...the last big race of 2013.  Back to Quebec we go, some 7 1/2 hours driving time away, well Northeast of  Quebec City.

Rallye Charlevoix has a cool intro stage with a purpose built jump before the race heads out to the real roads.  The crowds should be great, the weather cold but absent of precip.

As what looks like the only 2WD team to have driven every mile of every stage in '13 NISMO Stuff Racing sits tied for third in the standings.  Starting 2nd to last in the 40 entrant field we aren't expected to be fast but I think we might surprise some folks and most importantly we plan on being there at the end, letting the chips fall where they may.

We'll hopefully be providing updates throughout the weekend now that I have a phone capable of doing so.  Please feel free to return and follow along.  And if you need any tactical gear or particularly any body armor please check out www.bodyarmoroutlet.com and give 'em a "like" on Facebook!

SpaceX's Grasshopper--Retired...

Likely to show up in a SpaceX museum that I can imagine will be breaking ground soon the Grasshopper Vertical Take Off and Land rocket has been officially retired by SpaceX.

After successfully reaching a height of 2,440 feet on its sixth test flight and also performing an earlier "divert" maneuver where the rocket moved horizontally away from its launching pad and then return to its exact starting location, the Grasshopper will now become a Wikipedia footnote and static display somewhere.

In truth SpaceX has already begun moving on to the next steps in its process by reigniting the engines of its most recent full rocket launch just before its disintegration upon re-entry and is now moving to test its new methane powered "Raptor" rocket engine in Stennis, Mississippi and launch additional upgraded Falcon rockets to both the ISS and for satellite placement.

Continuing to move forward on all these projects brings Musk's desire for a rapidly repeatable, heavy lift capable and economic lift capacity closer to reality.

Grasshopper Is Retired...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3D Vinyl Wraps...

Well, that took longer that I would have expected...

Taking vinyl wraps to the next level, 3D versions are now available.  OK, so it doesn't look like the various aspects of the wrap are flying at you or anything but it is a way to give depth of field to the look.

With vinyl wraps getting better, cheaper and quicker all the time, how long before auto companies merely produce cars with a "plain" coating that is super rust resistant and then offer you one of thousands of custom wraps from the factory?  Then the dealerships could make money off these customers every few years when they want to refresh their wrap or change its look.  Would be a boon for used car dealers as well as they could "rewrap" a car to give it a fresh look for sale to a new owner rather than spend hundreds if not thousands on "reconditioning" trade ins.  Hmmm....

3D Wraps Now A Thing...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Caselli, a Porsche and a Cummins All Meet In the Desert...

With exactly 75 days to go before the start of the '14 Dakar rally major teams are getting in their last competitive events and testing before packing up their vehicles for the trip to South America.  The 2013 Rally du Maroc (Rally Morocco) saw at least three of these top teams show up for a run through the dunes, sand and rock that should reflect similar conditions to the more "desert" oriented stages of the Dakar.

KTM was present with their top riders--Marc Coma, Chaleco Lopez and American Kurt Caselli.  Caselli would suffer an early 20 minute penalty for missing a waypoint but would battle back to finish in 7th overall.  Without the penalty, Caselli would have finished 6th overall, some 44 minutes back.  The top 6 spots alternated Honda-KTM with Honda coming out on top and looking strong for Dakar.  Additional note here is that while there was only one American in the field, there was also an Australian, two Venezuelans, one Mexican (Carlos Gracida-Garza who finished 20th on a Honda), two Chileans, one South African, one Bolivian and one Brit.  Good to see a wide spread of entrants from across the globe.

Also showing up was a very cool Porsche from the Italian driver/codriving pair of Agostino Rizzardi and Loris Calubini.  They appear to have only made it through Stage 3 of 6.  Agostino has piloted a number of Porsches in various stage rally events around Europe and was using an 4WD Porsche 911 for Rally Morocco.  Great to see one of these back out in the African sand again.

Lastly we have the SMG buggie (a French builder headed by Philippe Gache) that is backed by Cummins of France which finished 2nd overall.  Piloted by Patrick Sireyjol with Francois Beguin as codriver, the Cummins France team finished nine minutes off the top step though this is a tad misleading as the event winner incurred 38 minutes of penalties.  Dropping all penalties the Cummins team would have finished some 44 minutes adrift and still in second place overall.  The Cummins vehicle prevented a clean sweep of the podium by the Rally-Raid dominant X-Raid Minis who finished first, third and fourth lead by top flight Dakar entrant Orlando Terranova.

Oh!!  and the top Nissan in the event?  It was the #342 of Michele Cinotto and Fulvio Zini who finished in 20th of 56 finishers with Nissan putting six finishing vehicles in the event behind only Toyota who saw 17 finishers carry their brand.
Rally Morocco Homepage..


Monday, October 21, 2013

Nissan Patrol-R?

Well, you have the GT-R and the Juke-R....so why not take the biggest, heaviest Nissan and dump a high revving turbo engine in IT?  Well, cause it would end up like the Nissan Patrol in this video.  I think my ears are still bleeding from the sound of the engine at full song and I can't imagine that the poor mill is going to be long for this world given the length of time it sounds like its being held at the rev limiter.

The vehicle in question is a 90's Nissan Patrol, not sold in the US.  The engine is a swap from a mid-90's GT-R (skyline), a RB25DET (yup, 6 cylinder, 2.5L, twin turbo pushing well over 4000 pounds of straight axle SUV) making some 280 hp and it looks like little torque.  As silly as the vehicle sounds I sure do wish I had this power in my rally truck!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BodyArmorOutlet.com Item of the Moment

I'll call it the "Item of the Moment" as I'm not sure how frequently I'll be doing this--hopefully a couple times a month!

Stopping by the BodyArmorOutlet.com retail shop  in Windham, NH I was informed 1) that they have been doing so well that they are expanding to a second shop and facility down the road in Salem, NH and 2) that their body armor sales have been growing rapidly as more and more people come to understand just how many people can benefit from their use.

One such example comes from a familiar circumstance at your local gun range.  There you are, working on your pistol skills, taking the proper precautions and keeping both yourself and your fellow range users safe.  In a down moment you turn to grab some supplies or even just exit the range.  And there he is...the local jackass.  More interested in showing off to his "girlfriend" or his "bros" his gun control skills are less than exemplary and you end up having a weapon pointed directly at you--even if its just for a moment.  A bullet resistant vest can not only provide an additional level of safety for you, but it could generate a conversation amongst yourself and others that assists in improving everyone's attention to detail and proper gun handling practices.

What we have here is an example of one such a vest. The Diamondback UTOC Tactical Carrier is modeled here.  The size being worn is a small and the individual wearing it is 4' 8" and about 90 pounds.  The UTOC (Universal Tactical Outer Carrier) is designed to carry bulky gear while maintaining a casual appearance.  Padded shoulder straps, adjustable cummerbund, strategically located mesh inserts for cooling, optional gear pouches and a number of plate pockets provide not only added comfort but additional storage when needed.

The UTOC is Level IIIA certified meaning it should stop up to rounds from most .357 or .44 handguns.  Additional protection can be gained via plating to be located within the external sleeves.

BodyArmourOutlet.com is currently running a special on a number of Diamondback Tactical carriers.  You can get more details and pricing here:  http://www.bodyarmoroutlet.com/diamondback-tactical-specials.html

Friday, October 18, 2013

2015 Nissan Titan Diesel Mule Video from 10/15/13

Looks like the good folks over at Nissan are out testing their diesel again.  As the video points out it is being refueled at the diesel pump and its towing a nice trailer which looks set up to carry very specific weights to be added as they run the engine and vehicle through its paces under various loads.

It also looks to be a 2WD version as I don't think I can spot any 4WD hubs in the front.  The nice, deep, early season snows out West look to have imposed some unexpected cold weather testing on the mule as well.  The body looks similar to that of the static shots we've seen with a boxier shaped, bulkier front end.  With this being the only part of the vehicle that is camouflaged we can assume that there are a number of design aspects that Nissan wants to keep under wraps for now while the rest of the vehicle looks sourced from the current Titan.

These 2015 Nissan Titan spy shots and videos are sure to continue and grow in frequency as time moves towards its formal introduction and we'll try and keep up with them here...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taking Slot Cars To The AI World...

With AI here being Artificial Intelligence.  I doubt that the researchers over at MIT and in this case Carnegie Mellon are thinking too much about kids toys when they sit down for their work...but...as is nearly always the case...the most advanced tech ends up trickling down to our kids and our toys in a fashion more rapid that we tend to think.

So it is here, where a couple of really smart guys over at Carnegie Mellon have received millions of dollars in startup, venture capital funding to develop what amounts to a kid's game.  Anki is the name of the firm (anki.com) and you can go to their website to check out the company and its products or you can go here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/16/ankis-self-driving-toy-race-cars-will-launch-on-oct-23rd-we-go-hands-on/ to see the TechCrunch article and video on their first product.

Basically what we have is a modern, updated version of slot cars.  A pre-designed track is printed on vinyl and contained within that vinyl is code that only the associated Anki cars can see.  This code and the AI contained within the car keeps the car "on the track" as it were, preventing it from running "off the track" and chasing the cat down the hallway.  Think of it almost like an invisible dog fence for electronic toy cars.

Controlled by an iOS device (for now only iOS devices, sorry Android users) you can steer the car back and forth, accelerate, brake, etc. and also do other more video game like things such as firing infrared "bullets" at competitors, slow competitors down with infrared "tractor beams", etc.  As you move along and get better and more experience, more options and abilities of the car become available and become permanent, non-transferable additions to THAT car...so you can end up with cars with quite different capabilities.

Another point of note is that the basic kit comes with two cars.  One for you and one AI controlled car making it so that you don't need to have a buddy over to play.  The AI is evidently quite good and quite capable of beating you.

Future developments that are quite easy to forecast--things like new race track designs/layouts, different car "models" and software/AI upgrades--all available for purchase of course.  To me this looks like a cool little mashup of real world slotcar racing and AI infused gaming.  Is it a "driving" game??  Probly not.  Is it just a kids trinket?  Definitely not.  Is it cool?  Hell yes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Square Cash is a PayPal Killer...

Its rare when my work life and my personal life intersect.  This is one of those rare instances.

If you are a motorsport enthusiast and need to send or receive funds for any reason in an amount up to $2500 a week then you NEED this app/system to save yourself and whoever it is you are transacting with, valuable "transaction" costs.

Square, the San Fran based entity headed by Jack Dorsey (one of the founders of Twitter) and developer of that little, white, plastic, square device you plug into your smartphone to accept swiped payments, has released a new product that I can't really see as being anything but a PayPal killer.

The fact that it might kill Square itself is part of the story as well.

What it is:  Square Cash is an app for your mobile phone (do a search in the App store of your choice) or a method by your email, wherever that happens to be located (your desktop at work, home, library, someone else's phone, etc., you don't need to go to any site initially as when you send your first transaction the system will send you all the links that you need though if you want to check it out before you send your first transaction you can go here: https://square.com/cash) that allows you to transfer funds between bank accounts via debit cards.  Since nearly everyone has a debit card backed by either Visa or Mastercard, the transactions take place over these networks but are connected to the end user's bank/checking/savings accounts (depending upon what accounts you have your debit card linked to).  There is NO fee to either the sender or the receiver, no interest charged as funds come direct from (we'll simplify here) your checking account, minimal delay in funding and the process itself couldn't be more simple.  Enter the email address of the person you are sending the money to, in the "CC:" line you type "cash@square.com" and in the subject line type the amount you want to send--$1.84 (for instance).  If you want to type a note to the person go ahead but its not required.  Click send.  Done.  That's it.

Well, almost.  At your first and ONLY your first time using this service you will get an email bounced back by Square with a link to their site where you plug in your debit card #.  There, now that's it.  After doing this once you'll never do it again and moving forward to send cash all you have to do is type three things--the email address of who you're sending the $ to, cash@square.com, and the amount.  Click send.  That's it.

Its so amazingly simple I was stunned.  No accounts, no passwords, no logins, no charges, nothing.

It works in this method for amounts up to $250 a week.  If you want to send more than $250 a week there is still no cost but you need to provide a bit more information (to help prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and such) like your DOB, full name and last 4 of your SSN.  Doing this allows you to send up to $2500 a week to other people.

I just used it today to pay a friend back for concert tickets he is giving me tonight.  No worrying about withdrawing cash or sending a check and he got the money confirmation instantly.

So why on earth would ANYONE use Paypal again?  No one with a brain and needing to transact in an amount of $2500 or less would.  Given that Paypal likely makes its bones on the aggregation of large numbers of money skimmed off smaller transactions vs. larger amounts from larger payments, Square Cash appears to be a PayPal killer.  Square has the backing of enough major players and as a private company (currently) doesn't feel the need to monetize everything to the nth degree like PayPal and its public Ebay owners do.  Does Square hope that the adoption of Square Cash leads more people to become regular Square merchants paying for payment processing on a larger scale for their small businesses?  Do they hope to bring people into the Square ecosystem and drive the adoption of the Square POS systems?  I don't really know but I think Dorsey has something else in mind.  These two prior suggestions don't seem to make much sense--most of Square's small merchants could likely just switch over to asking clients to pay by Square Cash and avoid transaction fees all together and the use of POS systems for larger scale businesses isn't linked heavily enough to people like you and me trying to pay someone back for lunch or a movie to drive those sales.

There's something else at work here and I'm not seeing what it is.  Square has a lot of backing and can operate without charging for this product for a long time--but they are still having to pay their processing partner each and every time someone sends cash to someone else.  The more people adopt this product the WORSE financially it is for Square as its a cash out ONLY product...there is NOTHING coming back in right now.  Now maybe they can generate more VC investment interest if they can claim "50 million individuals have adopted the Square Cash money transfer method" as this would certainly be a big user base for you to claim.  There is some discussion evidently of opening the service up to international money transfer transactions and charging a fee for those services--but that opens up a whole other kettle of worms to deal with...one Square hasn't branched into with its primary, payment transaction business line so this is a relatively distant, risky and lower volume opportunity than P2P transfers here in the US (and likely Canada in the near future).  I don't know how Square will make a buck off this product but I do know one thing...

Goodbye Paypal...its been nice to know you...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2015 Nissan Titan To Get Cheap (?) Commercial Version

One of the (many?) things missing from the current and first generation of the Nissan Titan was a stripped "commercial" version.  Engine options were limited to only a single V8 and decontented models were non-existent.  For this reason the Titan was almost never shopped as a vehicle for your local plumber/carpenter/tradesman of any kind.

Nissan recently began trying to target that market with its series of NV model vans that cater to these customers and that are based upon the Titan's underpinnings.  Still a stripped down, basic, full size truck was lacking.

Not so for the '15 Titan which will apparently get both a "premium" version with the new V8 diesel but a stripper version (with a V6?  Or perhaps the current V8 with a mid grade version with an improved petrol V8?).  Given the quality construction and overall durability of the Titan, a very basis version of the 2nd Generation Titan could be shopped right alongside your basic F150s and Silverados and Rams--and hopefully drive some conquest sales of the fully packaged versions.

Fleet Trim Titan to be offered...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tesla Introduces (kinda) its Model X

This was at the grand opening of Tesla's home town Palo Alto store this weekend.  In addition to showing off their new digs, Tesla brought out a real life version of its Model X CUV.

To reach the market in '14 and sell for approximately the same amount as the current Tesla Model S.  Some cool things to note are the touch screens located ON the steering wheel as well as the "falcon" (for some reason they aren't calling them "gull wing") doors and the inclusion of sideview mirrors that were thought to be eliminated with rear facing cameras.  Evidently the Feds haven't signed off on this idea and so a version closer to production is now including them.

The CUV is based on the Model S chassis but will not include the rear jump seats that the Model S does and instead increases the roofline and flips the rearmost seats around supposedly creating a true seven adult seating vehicle.  The photos make the seating look pretty tight so it will be interesting how that is reviewed when the vehicle is available for review.  We'll see a lot more of the Model X in the coming months but its nice to see Tesla's second production model coming to fruition.

Nissan Takes Out Kangaroo at Bathurst 1000

The poor kangaroo is about the only thing Nissan vehicles took out this weekend at the classic V8 Supercars event held in Australia.  The return of Nissan to the series has not been nearly as successful as original hopes had been with both two car teams struggling to break into the top ten, let alone podium or winning positions.

So as the season winds down and the V8 Supercars attacked their most famous track for 1000 kilometers and 161 laps, its only fitting that their season will be best known for an incident that occured early in the race and had no impact on the eventual outcome.

Twenty laps into the event the #7 Altima of David Russell hit a track hopping kangaroo.  The impact occured at 160 kph.  The driver had zero chance of avoiding the hit according to reports and no video has been released of the impact.  The kangaroo reportedly survived the impact and hopped away.  An image of the results can be seen here as well as video of a kangaroo on the track during the race...just no video of the accident itself.

This is not the first time this has happened at the Bathurst 1000 as back in 2004 a near identical incident took place in nearly the same spot.  Drivers were told before the event that fences surrounding the track had been raised and culling efforts in the local area had taken place to help prevent such impacts.  Guess that needs a bit more work...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Now There's Something You Don't See Every Day

A 6x6 1978 Datsun Pickup.

Yup...6x6.  Leave it to some "genius" in California to convert an aged mini pickup into a lifted, 6WD monster machine powered with a Buick Grand National V6.  Maybe at some point this seemed like a good idea...maybe.

If you'd like to purchase such a machine you can go to the link below.

Datsun 6x6 Pickup...

Nissan Juke Nismo RS to Debut at LA Auto Show

Coming in late November through early December is the 2013 LA Auto Show where Nissan will debut at least two new NISMO vehicles.

The only one confirmed at this time is the Juke NISMO RS.  This now makes four distinct models of the Juke that are available.  You have your regular Juke (in all its associated trim levels), the Juke NISMO, the Juke-R and now the Juke NISMO RS.

The standard Juke, Juke NISMO and Juke NISMO RS are those that are or will be found at your local dealership while the Juke-R is the highly limited production, half a million dollar Frankenstein project that sees the transplant of a GT-R driveline into the standard chassis.  The normal Juke comes with 188hp while the NISMO version saw a bump to 197hp along with a host of suspension and body tweaks to make it stand out.

The NISMO RS to be introduced in LA will take its performance to another level beyond that of the "plain"  NISMO but not anywhere near that of the Juke-R.  Though details are scant, an increase in power to significantly beyond 200hp (in theory to match that of the Mazdaspeed 3 which puts out some 263hp) along with an upgraded cooling system, suspension and aero designs are all likely.  In my dreams they would kit it out like a true stage rally car but I'm betting they still focus on the street handling nature of the platform.  At the very least they hopefully offer a manual transmission to be paired with the AWD version as in the NISMO (non-RS) model the manual transmission is only available with the FWD model leaving anyone wanting AWD relegated to letting a computer row the gates.

Unconfirmed by Nissan is what the second NISMO model will be at the LA Auto Show.  Some say a NISMO GT-R...I say it is a Nissan Versa hatchback with the NISMO label since they already offer a Nissan Pulsar (Versa here in the States) SSS elsewhere in the world and doing some minor tweaks to that version would easily give NISMO another model to its "performance" lineup.  This version would contain the same 1.6L turbo engine seen in the Juke, leading to all sorts of high hp possibilities for the small hatchback.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book Review: Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate

I decided to do this review and include both of these novels as they finish up the Expanse Trilogy that I began with the earlier review of Leviathan Wakes a bit over a month back.

While S.A. Corey's initial novel in this series was very entertaining and a complete work in its own right, the follow ups are less baked.  Leviathan Wakes saw the death of its strongest character, detective Miller, and the rest of the series suffers for it.

Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate centers on Jim Holden and the other crewmembers of his ship.  Holden is too "good" to be a main character...he is given no flaws other than his "goodness" and "honesty"...not real great flaws to generate action within a novel.

Additional problems arise in the story itself.  While Leviathan Wakes largely focused on a traditional "missing person" hunt and alternated between two characters, the next two novels either repeat that same premise (the missing person) or wander off into an underdeveloped premise without anything remotely close to a satisfactory resolution while adding a bunch of weaker characters to the mix.

Both novels lose the impressive world building nature of Leviathan Wakes and no longer feel fresh while the invasion of the solar system by an alien weapon system dispatched billions of years ago, falls almost to the wayside in both works and the story focuses on almost solely the human to human intrigue--which is a large part of the unresolved nature of the entire series.  Everything that Leviathan Wakes builds towards is left hanging in the next two novels with little learned and nothing gained.

I wish I could recommend these two novels and the series as a whole.  The series isn't a total loss as there are certainly ideas and themes here that are valuable--particularly the "world" building contained within the initial novel.  The descriptions of how humanity moved out into the solar system and the conflicts and machinations that occur with that move are extremely well done.  If possible, the series might have been better hewing even closer to a more traditional military/whodunit style of works.  The authors don't do a great job with their big driver of the series--the alien "protomolecule" and thus...it ultimately isn't worth it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

40 Year Old Datsun 240Z Takes 2WD Win at Prescott Rally 2013

40 year old rally cars are rare.  40 year old rally cars that can still win are even more rare.

That didn't prevent Brian Scott and his codriver Michel Hoche-Mong from bringing out a 240Z with Pikes Peak experience in addition to Stage Rally history and taking home the 2WD win at the 26th running of the Prescott Rally in Arizona.

Finishing in 3rd overall out of 20 entries the red and black Z showed that RWD can still be competitive with modern vehicles when piloted well--particularly in the dry terrain of the West.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the Porsche 911 handled by Jason Lightner and Brian Johnson who finished 12th overall after numerous issues and grabbed 2nd place in NASA's 2WD National Championship.

Prescott Rally Homepage...

Monday, October 7, 2013

New 2015 Nissan Titan Spy Shot and Engine Info...

Not really that interesting in terms of the spy shot--just a shot of the Titan mule with its enlarged nose roaming around what looks like an airport for disabled airplanes (that DC-3 in the background doesn't have any propellers/engines).  Though maybe they are testing out the towing capacity of the vehicle by pulling large airplanes around!

That said, Cummins released the info on the commercial version of the V8 Diesel that will be going into the 2015 Titan.  The commercial version will see use from school buses to ambulances to work vans, etc.  Which is why you may see a Nissan NV commercial van with this same diesel engine in it at some point.  Also speculated is that the next Titan will have a coil sprung rear and carry many of the design and technical developments seen in Infiniti's QX56/Nissan Patrol.  We'll see.

We do know that the commercial version will put out between 200 and 275 HP producing 560 ft. lb. of torque.  The version going into the Titan will produce at least 300 HP so we'll see some tweaking on the torque ratings too.  The Titan will also possess ceramic glow plugs ensuring a 2 second startup in temps down to -25F.

New Nissan Cummins Titan and engine...

Film Review: Gravity

As I always state...its rare when I get to go out and see a film in the theater these days.  Typically its only for a film I "have" to see in the theater or its a kids film that I'm just along for the ride for.

In the case of Gravity I actually got to combine the two instances.  Though PG-13 rated I chose to bring my 8 year old son with me.  In truth there is nothing contained within Gravity that is any worse than anything something like The Goonies which was rated PG and contained just about as many swears plus a number of cocaine and sex comments.  I find the change in how movies are rated and perceived very odd--we've become MORE conservative in that area than we used to be...

Regardless, if you are considering bringing your child to Gravity you may go right ahead without fear of being embarrassed by language or visuals.

I attended the film with both my 8 year old son and my 71 year old father.  To say that all three of us greatly enjoyed the film is a feat not accomplished many other places in movies.  Gravity is all that its reviews have said it is.  Visually stunning (we saw it in regular old 2D), emotional, meaningful, technically accurate, thrilling--everything.  I do put it as the best film of '13 that I've seen thus far.

I've been watching Alfonso Cuaron for a while now starting a while back with the wonderful Y Tu Mama Tambien, which in combination with Amores Peros launched the career of Gael Garcia Bernal and then the brilliant Children of Men with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore.  Gravity takes a very different tack in that it essentially has only three characters--George Clooney as astronaut Matt Kowalski, Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone and "Space" itself as the antagonist.

Bullock, in a tightly cropped haircut is excellent, evoking the androgynous nature of Sigourney Weaver in Alien until, like Weaver's Ripley, she removes her spacesuit and exhibits her very feminine body.  Ryan Stone is a damaged character and through the course of the film she is transformed from one who is literally being towed along by Kowalski due to her own failings/inexperience to one where she is "reborn" from water (of course) a completely new being.  The message of film is one quite familiar to those who have watched movies over the past 30 years or so (as I assume you have seen Shawshank Redemption).  Though not stated directly to the viewer as it was in that film the phrase "get busy living or get busy dying" is driven home.

Note that I haven't mentioned much about the technical aspects of the film including the realistic zero G reactions of the characters, their environment (Cuaron has removed, gasp!!, sound from exterior space shots as there is no sound in space!), and equipment.  It really is wonderful viewing.  The ships interiors and exteriors are beautiful and detailed in a way only a director at the top of his game could capture.  Its the story, characters (including the relentless and uncaring Space itself) and emotive quality of the film that is the value here as without it, the movie could have all the whiz-bang technology it wants and still be found lacking.  Its rare when I actually recommend a film but this is one I would ask a reader to go see but I would make an exception here.  Its damn good and worth every penny, whatever format you see it in.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Can Someone Loan Me $9,000 Interest Free Over A Really Long Time??

 Cause that's what it would take for my wife not to kill me if I brought this home...but it doesn't make it any less tempting.

Not that this truck is ready for Baja or anything but it certainly would make a nice and clean platform on which to base a vehicle for a NORRA race.  Add a cage, tech it with a Rally organization and go racing.  Likely would need some strengthening to its suspension and some other "toughening" but it would also make a nice classic vehicle just to drive around for fun and look old school cool...

Would love to find a 1969 Datsun pickup and restore it to look like one of the original Datsun pickups that won in Baja in those days...but this might be as close as you can get right now.  Those Jim Conners trucks were great for a long time in desert racing in the late 70's to mid 80's.  Wonder how someone in MI came to so lovingly recreate one?

Datsun Desert Racing Replica...