Monday, April 29, 2013

Northern Water Snake in Windham, NH

Actually two of them.  The first one, which is the one seen in these pictures, was found on the road in front of my house.  At first I thought it was dead but when I tried to pick it up with a rake it started snapping at me and moving.  Eventually I got it on the rake and removed it to the woods to die (some of its intestines were hanging out) I turned around to find my 7 year old yelling that he had found another one.  This one was most definitely alive and just basking in the sun near my little "pond".  Getting near it, it rapidly reared up and then slid down the rocks into the pond, swimming very well and entering some cave under the rocks in the water.

Both were quite aggressive when disturbed raising their heads up off the ground a few inches and snapping rapidly at whatever was bothering it (in this case a plastic rake).

I didn't know what kind of snake it was at first (obviously not a rattler) but definitely the largest snake I'd ever seen in the "wilds" of NH as they were each about 3 feet long and quite thick.  Looking them up after the fact it appears they are generally common throughout NH though this is the first I've seen of one (or two!)

The frogs, crayfish and small fish we have in our stream are likely their favorite meals while the big snapping turtles we see every year likely love to feed on these snakes.  Ahh...the circle of life...

Virgin Galactic Breaks the Sound Barrier...

Developments are coming fast and furious in the private space industry right now.  Recently we had SpaceX and its Grasshopper test sessions and its second successful resupply/return to the ISS and Orbital's successful test launch of its Antares rocket.

Today its Virgin Galactic.  Virgin's efforts are decidedly the most consumer-centric of the bunch at the current time with its endeavors targeted toward getting well heeled customers into space for a brief period of time.  Virgin's design is based off of the Ansari X Prize winning design that some decade ago by Scaled Composites took private flight into space for the first time.

Utilizing a solid rubber fuel mixed (some engineer needs to explain to me how you control a solid propellant fuel burn--by throttling up and down the amount of oxidizer you "shoot" into the mixture/burn?) with nitrous oxide for its propellant the Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two broke the sound barrier during the first firing of its rocket in flight earlier today.  Ignited for only 16 seconds the ship reached Mach 1.2 and reached a height of 55,000 feet after being dropped by the White Knight transport at 47,000 feet.  Testing is expected to continue ramping up in the remainder of the year with a test to its intended suborbital height in excess of 328,000 feet (near triple the height of the Red Bull Stratos jump late last year) likely to occur before the 2014.

Reportedly over 500 people have already gotten themselves on board at a cost of $200,000 a pop for the rides on the ship when it becomes fully operational equating to some $100MM in revenue which is a good deal of money...but given Sir Richard Branson is a billionaire, really isn't that much for the effort...I have a feeling bigger and bolder plans are in store...

"Official" Rallye Sanair Video Part 1

At least I believe that is what this is titled in French.  Though the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier makes only a single appearance (near the very end) its a nice tight shot of it with its full lights on--and we're not being passed nor do we look to be crawling along!

Also included in the video are a nice spinout by our fellow NH Ralliest, Vittorio Barres in the red Audi and a nice blown corner and wall smack by a Civic.  I definatly love gravel events and real roads better but this gives you a good idea of how head to head this event can get.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stadium Super Trucks Initial 4/14 Ratings

Given the new TV relationship with NBC and being its initial broadcast, its very interesting to take a look at Robby Gordon's ratings for the Stadium Super Trucks race two weekends ago.  These are the FINAL ratings for these broadcasts and not the "overnight" ratings which are a bit less precise.  I believe these ratings would also include those individuals who may have DVR'd the broadcast and watched it within a day or two of the original broadcast.  I also don't have to use my usual estimate of # of viewers as it is provided for us--though I don't know how it is calculated...

Stadium Super Trucks garnered a 0.4 rating which is right in line with what we have seen over the past few years for LOORRS or TORC broadcasts on CBS and other major networks.  Also in line with the recent TORC/LOORRS broadcasts is the number of viewers which stood at 596,000 for this first Stadium Super Trucks show.  Of note is that this figure is more than DOUBLE what F1 races are seeing for viewership on the NBC Sports network on a COMBINED basis (both live early in the morning and on its rebroadcast later in the day).  So if I was Robby's marketing team, THAT is an item I would be heavily focusing on.  Full ratings from the weekend are below.


The Masters: Final Round 4/14 CBS 2:00-7:00pm 9.4 14,700
The Masters: Third Round 4/13 CBS 3:00-7:00pm 5.8 8,500
NRA 500 (Texas) 4/13 Fox 7:49-11:20pm 3.8 6,269
NBA: Bulls-Heat 4/14 ABC 1:00-3:45pm 2.1 3,009
MLB: (regional) 4/13 Fox 4:00-7:00pm 1.8 2,500
"Masters Playoffs" 4/13 CBS 2:00-3:00pm 1.1 n/a
"Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta" 4/14 CBS 1:00-2:00pm 1.0 n/a
"NBA Countdown" 4/14 ABC 12:30-1:00pm 0.9 1,243
Liga MX: Leon-Club America 4/13 Telem. 9:00-11:04pm 0.5 975
Horse Racing: Blue Grass Stakes 4/13 NBC 4:30-6:00pm 0.7 935
NHL: Blackhawks-Blues 4/14 NBC 12:30-3:00pm 0.7 933
AMA Supercross 4/14 CBS 12:00-1:00pm 0.7 n/a
Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular 4/14 NBC 4:00-6:00pm 0.6 914
Liga MX: CD Guadalajara-Atlante 4/14 Telem. 5:55-8:00pm 0.4 726
"ESPN Sports Saturday" 4/13 ABC 4:00-6:00pm 0.5 611
Speed Golf World Championships 4/13 CBS 1:00-2:00pm 0.5 n/a
Stadium Super Trucks 4/14 NBC 3:00-4:00pm 0.4 596
Heads-Up Poker Championship 4/13 NBC 2:30-4:30pm 0.5 571

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rallye Sanair Video...

Unfortunately its not from us but it is from a fellow competitor, in a Civic no less!!

The NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier appears twice in the video, once at the beginning and once at the end.  And we are only getting passed in the beginning portion. You can also see that we turn on our directional to nicely point out where we would like the Civic to pass.

Also of note is that the Civic gets stuck during an off on the track and is rescued by the sweep--So there WAS some dirt/mud at play during this event!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Latest SpaceX Grasshopper Flight...

I've been following along for some time, SpaceX's progress with their vertical takeoff and landing rocket program dubbed "Grasshopper".  I own stock in SpaceX's primary publicly traded competitor, Orbital, but this is another big step in the right direction for SpaceX and will end up offering something no one else in the world can do.

As it stands now SpaceX is the sole delivery agent for NASA to the ISS.  Orbital launched its own rocket this past weekend in a near end stage test and should have its own rocket ready to deliver cargo to the ISS by year end.  Even after this SpaceX's system will be the only one able to bring stuff BACK from the ISS as Orbital's system burns up upon reentry.  With Grasshopper SpaceX takes things one step further.  Grasshopper will be able to eliminate recovery costs by landing on its own or similar landing pad and make the entire system reusable vs. just the cargo pod.

Video here of last week's Grasshopper test in which the rocket now ascends to 250 meters and lands perfectly on its pad. They seem to be quadrupling the height of each test and I would expect the next one to reach 1000 meters.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Photos From This Weekend...

These are all from Pole Position Magazine in Quebec.  Its a French language motorsport magazine covering all sorts of motorsports and they had a photographer out at Rally Sanair this weekend and took a lot of good shots of the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier.  Really got a lot of notice and exposure this weekend!

Got Body Roll??: Part 2

With the temperature diving, the warmth of the Tim Horton's coffee and donuts in our bellies didn't last long.  Fortunately the NISMO Stuff Frontier requires very little maintenance or prep work on an event to event basis.  She more or less, rolls off the trailer ready to go, not requiring wheel/tire swaps or lots of electronic finagling to get her where we want her for an event.

After registration and tech inspection we were ready for some warm up laps.  The Rallye Sanair allows one to get some pre-event driving in before even recce in order to help teams get their vehicles dialed in.  Not having run the truck at speed since its swampy demise at Black River Stages last year I was a tad nervous belting in with David--would everything work correctly?  would there be any noticeable engine misses or unforeseen changes due to the crash and all the yanking and tugging the truck suffered?

First worry out of the way was when we plugged in our intercom and could communicate with one another via our headsets.  I had been worried that maybe the water had gotten into the intercom/wiring and shorted something out but the PCI Race Radio setup appeared to be in perfect working condition.  Out on the track for our warmup laps the truck ran fine--which is not to say that it ran fast but it ran no differently than it every had.  Engine seemed find all the way up to the rev limiter, shifting was clean, brakes held, steering was true.  The track at this time had only a handful of other vehicles on it and required little vision or forethought as to the traffic surrounding us, giving no indication of what the later racing would be like.

The driver's meeting was all in French so neither David nor I really had any idea of what was being said and for all we knew they were making fun of the silly Americans and their slow, waddling, dinosaur of a truck.  The organizers very nicely provided a recap of the driver's meeting to the handful of non-French speakers after the French portion wrapped up and we were good to go--nothing unusual, just that during the race we should use our signal lights to indicate on which side we would like a closing vehicle to pass on and that even though the race took place on a closed track we were still required to put out triangles and such as if this were a "typical" stage rally.

Starting 25th of 28 (of the 29 vehicles entered one blew an engine during warmup) vehicles on the day put us near the tail end which was good as it would mean fewer vehicles entering and exiting and racing on the track during our time, leaving us with less to worry about.  The stages themselves were laid out over the various portions of the facility including a tri-oval track and its infield, a dragstrip with chicanes, access roads, pit lanes, etc. making for quite a number of different configurations with each stage some 10+ kms in length and some 120 kms on the day.

The day would unfold without drama for the NISMO Stuff Frontier and its crew.  As has been typical, we had minimal service to perform during the day's three service periods.  At the first service we increased our tire pressure significantly as we had underestimated the degree to which the sidewalls would slough over upon cornering.  Though not nimble by any means this improvement did lead to more confidence behind the wheel.  Which is really what ended up being the most beneficial aspect of the day.  Not only did I regain the confidence in the vehicle that was lost at the last event but the lack of need for true "stage notes" allowed my codriver to impart his driving knowledge upon me during the course of the day.  A far better driver himself than I am, David Dennis was able to provide feedback in terms of when to shift for better vehicle control and proper corner entry points for example.  Additionally I felt our communication skills improved as we were operating with our heads on a swivel all day with the truck taking on the role of a Gloster Gladiator while our competition flew by in FW 190s.
Though the track had few elevation changes it did present a number of other challenges.  Foremost amongst these was the narrowness of the chicanes.  Even after the course workers widened them a tad after viewing the truck attempting to get through them they were still only marginally wider that the truck and its mirrors.  Additionally during two stages there was a "gap" through a cement wall that had to be negotiated that was itself not much wider than the truck.  This caused a severe slowing of the vehicle to prevent massive damage or to navigate the chicane which, if hit, would result in a 30 second penalty.  The frequent 90+ degree turns didn't help speed much either (as evidenced by the pictures here) with swift changes in direction not advisable.  Lastly, the truck itself is not exactly a high horsepower machine.  While its lack of power keeps all its innards nicely encased within their metal housings, it does not make for brisk acceleration.

All that being said we finished 25th of 29 entries on the day.  We were the last of the vehicles that did not DNF to finish the event.  Which is perfectly OK by me.  I take a lot of positives away from the event including the fact that David and I had a great deal of fun, got to go to a different country and culture, hang out and meet some great people, run in a new and different series, brought the truck home in one piece, got lots of seat time and built upon what rally skills I possess.  Not bad for a couple days effort.

Since we plan on running the entire Rallye Quebec series, we'll be seeing these cars again in the near future and on terrain much more suited to the truck.  We won't be fastest in those events either but it will be a more level playing field for sure and should help us close the points gap between ourselves and the frontrunners in the Jon Nichols Cup class.  We'll see...

Thanks for this event of course go out to David Dennis (my codriver) for his help, advice and directions all throughout the weekend, to BTF Fabrication for the incredibly durable suspension design which has never had a moment's failure in the ten significant events the truck has been run at (8 stage rallies, 2 hillclimbs), to for their support as team sponsor and for providing items such as a handy emergency knife ready to cut my harness or punch out the window should I dunk the truck in a pond again and to Nissan itself for crafting this durable and versitle machine which has NEVER suffered a mechanical issue or breakdown during any event, no matter what has been thrown at it.

I hope that some pictures and video exist out there that show the truck with OTHER vehicles as I was certainly not alone out there!!  And still pictures would be best as in those you won't be able to tell who is passing who!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Got Body Roll??

Why, yes, yes I do thank you...

This may have been the most appropriate question of the weekend...though you could throw "got squishy tires?" or "got a squishy suspension?" or "why on earth don't you have an anti-roll bar?" to the list as well.

As is evidenced by these pictures at Rallye Sanair 2013 (the first round of the Quebec Rally Championship) the NISMO Stuff Racing truck was perhaps not the most nimble of competitors at the event. be honest...a water buffalo is more nimble on a tarmac event like this than the wallowing monstrosity that is the NISMO Stuff Frontier.  A HMMV might be more inappropriate for this type of tarmac rally--but only just barely.

Leaving Friday under wonderful conditions--in the 70s, first real shorts and tshirt weather of the year--the weekend appeared off to a good start.  We (myself and my intrepid codriver, David Dennis) left EXACTLY on time (amazing how infrequently that happens in motorsports) had zero traffic and a very smooth ride some 4+ hours to the North to a town about 30 minutes Southeast of Montreal.  The border crossing was backed up a tad as the border patrol was stopping and talking to everyone crossing due to the ongoing situation in Boston.  Nevertheless, we crossed in a matter of moments into Canada and began converting kilometers to miles in our heads.

At the Hotel Bienvenue (which I have now renamed Hotel Au Revoir--as in...I'm happy to say goodbye!!) I was snookered into upgrading to the "suite" room for $30 more a night than I had intended when the neither French, nor English speaking woman behind the counter made it seem to me that the "suite" room was the only one available when in fact I don't think there were more than three other rooms taken during the whole weekend...Ahhhh, the enjoyment of travel!!

Forgoing the 30 minute ride into Montreal and an evening of strippers and Ste. Catherine St., we ran over to La Cage Aux Sports some ten minutes away, your typical Quebec sports bar for some typical sports bar food and beers.  We were only the 4th English speaking guests our waiter had ever served and his English was not much better than my French, but hey, burgers are burgers and beer is pretty much beer wherever you go so we all got on fine.  The whole town we were staying in smells permanently of in...roll down your windows and you think you are swimming in the batter bowl of your mom's just baked fudge brownies on a cool fall day.  Its heavenly--until it seems they burn all the residue from their ovens and the town smells like your mom got too wrapped up in watching "Day of Our Lives" and left them in far too long...

Anywho...early to bed, early to rise makes a rally team healthy, wealthy and wise (OK these three things do NOT describe any rally teams I've made friends with!!) and we were at the Sanair track early the next morning for our 7AM inspection which was completed in short order with about 1/2 the event staff speaking English and willing to translate for those who did not.  No issues with the truck were found and it was passed quickly and moved back to its pit stall.  One nice thing the Quebec Rally series does is provide yellow with red lettering 2x2 stickers to affix to your vehicle pointing to where your fire extinguishers and first aid kit are located.  For this event the staff also installed a transponder in the truck in order to facilitate the tracking of your various laps.  As David and I went and parked our race vehicle it garnered a ton of attention from the 200 some spectators who had showed up from the surrounding communities to take in the event--Oh, and did I mention that the lovely 70 degree temps of the day before had now dropped to the low 40s's and the wind had come up to a "brisk" 20-30 mph blow?

end part one...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nissan GT-R vs. Hawker Hunter Jet...

These "comparos" have gotten kind old.  You can find lots of "car vs. jet" videos but I figure I'd add this new one in here.

The video is in Swiss (German?  I don't really know) but the GT-R is a great car and the setting is unique--not on a flat Texas runway for instance.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Film Review: Moneyball

I had decent sized hopes for this film.  Aaron Sorkin screenplay?  Check.  Michael Lewis source material?  Check.  Sports?  Check.  Brad Pitt?  Check.  Up for numerous awards?  Check.

And it met none of those same hopes.

The film looks good but that's about it.  Plot devices go no where and die (ex wife, kid, sabremetrics, big market vs. small market, etc.).  Brad Pitt's acting is a flat line--little humor, little anger, little emotion.  The story never delves into the heart of the Michael Lewis material which is the use of non-traditional statistical modeling to find "value" in overlooked baseball players.

The film is WAAAY overly long dragging out and including things that have no relevance to the story itself.  A more bloated film would be hard to find.  And I think that is what I come to at the end of the day here.  This was a film meant to be Brad Pitt Oscar bait and pump up that aspect of the film.  Get the guys in the door with the idea of a sports film and get the women in the door with the idea of a Brad Pitt film.  It fails on both accounts (at least from my perspective).

There was nothing here of great excitement and at 133 minutes it seemed extremely long.  There isn't anything really awful here, everything is professional and nothing jumps out at one as being stupid or badly done, its just not worth the time to go through as there is little of value to be derived from its viewing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2nd Round of Australian Rally Championship--and its Nissans!

The 2013 Quit Forest Rally was this past weekend and once again a number of new and classic Nissans/Datsuns attended.  In fact the only three classic class vehicles to show were all Datsuns.  Jack Monkhouse performed well in his Silvia finishing 6th but unfortunately Will Orders and his Silvia didn't finish either day one or two and received no points.  There was also a cool 370Z of Nicholas Box competing which ended up in a ton of photos (some of which are below).  The photos I've seen so far are just of the top class so none of 180B, 1200 Coupe or 180SX that appeared in some of the other classes...Hopefully I can track some down and get them up...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Elysium Trailer

I'm a big fan of Neill Blomkamp and his work in creating District 9 which I think is a really great film.  The mix of action, sci-fi and allegory/cultural criticism draws many a comparison with many of the greats in dystopian and sci-fi works, be they on paper or celluloid.

Blomkamp seems to have no interest at the current time from leaving the genre and returns later this year with Elysium, staring Matt Damon.  I am hoping for another quality film but I do have my qualms about what I've seen so far.  First off, the exoskeleton that Damon wears in the trailer and throughout much of the film seems too "Iron-Man"ish to me...we've seen men get turned into superheros before via mechanical apparatuses in recent films and this one is going to have to bring a lot of new things to the table to make it fresh.  This also follows closely the storyline from District 9 in that it places the protagonist in the position of unwillingly taking on body modifications that present both positives and negatives in terms of being able to accomplish his desires.  In District 9 it was the protagonists slow morphing of his body into an alien, gaining strength and the ability to use alien devices along the way making him more and more powerful.  Here it is a more mechanical body modification but the path and results that these modifications take the main character along seems a tad similar.

A second issue I can see arising is in the political bent of this film.  While District 9 has been often seen as an allegory for aparthied and race relations in South Africa, Elysium is already generating buzz around its potential to be seen as a comparison between the US and Mexico and the illegal alien problem surrouding that.  In this instance, Matt Damon and those humans left on the burnt out wreck of a planet that is Earth in the film are supposed to be representatives of Mexico and those living on the space station Elysium that is sterile, rich and can cure you of all diseases are supposed to represent the United States.  With Elysium keeping those on Earth out of their utopian space station by force if necessary the comparisons to the US/Mexico relationship are already being drawn.  While I welcome social commentary in film, if the film takes this left wing view it would be sad as the premise is flawed from the start as the US doesn't prevent anyone from legally coming or entering the country--but I can already see Rolling Stone, Time and the USA Today lining up behind calling this a brilliant comparison.  Its not...its an easy retread of a formula that worked for South Africa but is not comparable to the situation in the US.  I hope Blomkamp has resorted to this...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Its About Time! BTF Prerunner Bumper, LED Light Bar and Window Net...

Whew...I was beginning to think these would never get done...

But done (mostly) they are. Bumper came in about two weeks ago, window net about a month ago and the light bar just today.

I still have to wire up the lightbar but its installation, as well as that of the BTF Prerunner bumper couldn't have been simpler.  A few bolts and done...simple as pie.

The bumper is beefy without being overkill and will provide a great place to mount lights while protecting the radiator and other delicate components in the front of the truck.  It also hugs the body lines of the truck perfectly and required no adjustments to the fitment of any of the body of the truck.  There are two additional tabs on the bottom side of the hoop that goes over the LED bar which will see two nice HID lights attached in the near future as well giving me a mix of some of the best of both worlds.

The lightbar I won't have more to report back on until it is wired and I can see what a difference to nighttime driving it will make.

The window net was the most difficult to install given it required some welding of the mounting tabs, but it was still straightforward.  I have a few items remaining before my first rally of the year coming up in two weeks but none are earthshattering.  Hope you like the look and setup.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two Nissan Powered Jimco Buggies Take 1st and 2nd At Hyden 450

The first round of the '13 Australian Off Road Championship (AORC) was the Hyden 450 that ran on the last weekend of March.

Winning the event??  An Jimco chassis buggie running a Nissan twin turbo VQ35 driven by Shannon Rentsch.

Second place?  Another Jimco buggie pushed by another twin turbo VQ35 and this time driven by Matt Hanson.

Six place was also VQ35 powered, though this time in a GET Performance buggie.  At some point we'll start to see more of these Nissan powered buggies in the desert and short course races over here in the States but I guess for now we'll be satisfied with shipping the Aussies a lot of championship winning platforms like the Jimcos and the Geiser Trophy Truck that took the win in the Extreme 2WD class.

Impul Aftermarket Kitted Nissan Versa Note

The Japanese aftermarket company that only produces aftermarket products for Nissans has released a number of items for the Nissan Note which is known as the Nissan Versa Note here in the US.

Available will be upgraded shocks and springs, brakes, stainless steel exhaust, full body aero kit, spoiler and more.

I might skip on the faux chrome vents but the functional items??  Not bad for what might be a nice little hot hatch if they release an SSS or NISMO version.

The End of a Syrian Tank...

Well that's the end of a perfectly good T-72 or T55 or T62...I really can't tell which it is given the quality of the video and the similar look of the long cannon and rounded top of the Russian built tanks.  Supposedly Syria started out with some 5000 of these types of tanks.  The one here seems to be confident in ts ability to withstand small arms fire and not moving around much as it would if it were facing a more heavily armoured opponent.  Around the 1:10 mark you can see a man with a LAW on his shoulder and why that wasn't used is unknown already had and missed?  Ineffective?) is unknown. Also of interest is that the rebels in this video seem unworried about receiving small arms fire or encountering Syrian army members on foot.  Classic guerrilla territory with the Syrian army afraid to send in unmounted forces and thinking they can take/hold ground with armor only.

This is a recent video from the conflict in Syria which reportedly resulted in 6000 deaths in the month of March alone and is now seeing the Government supported militia groups being sent off to Iran for anti-guerrilla training.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Couple Photos from the Twizel 250

The Twizel 250 race down on the South Island of New Zealand they are racing some unique vehicles and a number of Nissans.  I'm trying to track down some results or at least some entry lists but haven't come up with any as of yet.  For now?  Enjoy these three quick photos.

Cougars on a Fence...

Just a great picture here.  Two juvenile mountain lions trapped on a fence by a coyote.  In fact there were a lot more coyotes in the area keeping the cougars on the fence.  A full grown cougar would not be very threatened by a couple of coyotes but two this small probably looked like a couple of large house cat snacks for the pack.

The good news is that these Wyoming mountain lions escaped and were found to be in fine condition the day following this picture.  Link to story below.

Cougars escapte coyotes...