Monday, December 30, 2013

Foreign Cars Now Available For Import...

Now that they have turned 25 years old (well, in a matter of 48 hours or so), these car models from 1989 can now be brought stateside--legally!

My favorite is of course the Nissan Skyline but also of note is that we now gain another year of Land Rover Defenders available for import!  Still want one in canary yellow as my dream offroader to tool around town in....

The others on this list do not exactly fill me with desire, though maybe they do for you.  If so, get out your shekels and off to your local government entity or licensed importer to bring them your way...

Cars Now Legal For Import!

Book Review: The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Picking up this book from a recommendation on the "War on the Rocks" website was an excellent choice. I had head Maugham's name before but never read any of his works. I now will likely read a number more.

The Razor's Edge straddles the periods of the worlds of English literature between say Hemingway and Fitzgerald and that of say Kerouac and Ginsberg. Here, published in 1944, some 13 years prior to the printing of On the Road we have a book covering the search for individual enlightenment involving Eastern philosophies attained via a visit to India by the protagonist. Additionally we have frank discussions of sex, homosexuality, drug and alcohol addictions, religion, social castes, rampant materialism and the choice to "drop out" of societal norms. To say that Maugham was ahead of his time is an understatement.

Leaning back on themes more prevelant in Hemingway and Fitzgerald however, The Razor's Edge concerns a WWI aviator who is traumitized sufficently by his experiences that he comes home to reject all the comforts afforded him as a well to do member of Chicago society. He wants nothing of the cushy investment job offered to him, nor anything of the beautiful but material/society driven woman he had been betrothed to. Instead he wants to "loaf" meaning to search out a greater meaning in life that than offered by modern American society.

Maugham's style is clear, direct and conversational. There are few minced words or sublteties and the book is eminently readable. The structure to the novel is also excellent as Maugham places himself within the story as an observer coming into and out of the lives of the protagonists over the course of many years. The reader observes the rise, fall and self destruction of all involved and no one escapes with their "self" intact.

The weakest part of the work comes when the lead character--Larry Darrell, sits with Maugham and explains just what it is he has found upon his long stay in India. Larry's recounting of his time spent with a guru and learning to find his highest self through meditation and other Hindu practices comes off as a college freshman's dabblings in alternative religions and neither powerful nor explanatory in any satisfying manner. Western culture's coming interest in all things Eastern is forecast quite nicely here.

Outside of this one chapter however the book is quite powerful and riveting. The characters are real in that, to use a cliche, you feel as if you could almost reach out and touch them--likely because we all know people in our lives quite similar to them. If you can get through this work without a twinge of sadness for the tragedies and intellectual searchings befalling those who exist only on the printed page herein, you have a harder heart than I. I always view books that can stir my emotions and my thoughts in the best of regards--and that's what The Razor's Edge has done for me.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why I Will Continue to Visit Jalopnik But...

seek to point out the hypocrisy and sleaze that exists as the ownership/editors of the Gawker media group within the Jalopnik and iO9 communities.  Sorry but I can't stand it anymore...I REALLY like Jalopnik and iO9 and their auto/sci-fi related content but I can't support the Gawker media group any longer...

I've often turned my nose up at the moronic and race/sex/economic baiting posts presented on their sister sites like Jezebel and Valleywag and often blanched at the nutjob left wing posts in some of the iO9 content but I didn't know the depths to which the owners/editors hypocrisy went...This article spells out a number of insane levels of scumbaggery they step to...We'll see if any of my future comments are posted on their sites--I doubt they will as calling out hypocrisy is almost never allowed...For all the crap that Gawker site Deadspin gives a site like Bleacher Report for being merely a search engine aggregating machine looking for clicks, at least Bleacher Report is open to virtually anyone with a computer to post and thus virtually agenda-less besides its search of the highest click through rates whereas Gawker has an inbred hypocrisy and political agenda pushed by one of the more disgusting human beings around.  Lets see how much we can irritate AJ Daulerio and Nick Denton shall we?

Look Who’s Gawking: Inside Nick Denton’s phony, hypocritical class war against tech workers (via Pando Daily)
By Paul Carr On December 26, 2013 “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” – Warren Buffett “Hypocrisy is the only modern sin.” – Nick Denton Last Friday morning…

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Skullcandy Nissan Returning in '14 to the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge

The black clad Skullcandy Nissan Altima's will be returning to the race circuit in 2014 after a solid effort in '13.  Its two car team finished 11th and 20th overall for the year out of 39 teams with one race win and a number of top ten finishes within the ST class.  It also looks like they have added a 370Z to their racing stable and will compete in the next rung up, GS class, in the IMSA CTSCC, having shown a fully race ready Z at SEMA '13 a couple months back.

The factory based series often runs on the same weekend as the high end TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (formerly the Rolex series).  The 2014 season will be 12 races long, up from 10 in '13 with the first event coming on 1/24/14 at Daytona prior to the 24 Hours of Daytona TUDOR event.

Skullcandy Nissan 2014 Plans...

2014 Tokyo Auto Salon--Nissan Models

 The Tokyo Auto Salon takes place the weekend of 1/10/14 and is Japan's answer to SEMA, showcasing not only concept and tricked out versions of vehicles from the major manufacturers but those from aftermarket companies as well.

Nissan is a regular attendee and '14 will be no exception.  As is typical the models being presented range from the hardcore race ready to the merely whimsical.  Japan has a love for what we probably would deem to be "silly" vehicles (Hello Kitty adorned kei cars for instance) sure keeps things interesting.

Two GT-R models will be present including the GT-R Nismo GT500 racer that competes in Japan's Super GT Series and a GT-R Nismo with a special option package tuned for the Nurburgring.

The Deltawing derived ZEOD RC that is due to enter LeMans will be present as will the X-trail X-tremer concept (the future Xterra here in the States??  Perhaps).

Less hardcore are the Aero Style Leaf, Nissan March NISMO S and a gold and pink accented Dayz Roox Highway Star (a Mitsubishi co-produced product) amongst others.  So, if this isn't anything revolutionary at least it gives us something to look at direct from Nissan.  Hopefully there will be some other non-factory related showings as well.

Book Review: The First War of Physics--The Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939-1949

Been a bit since I've posted anything--holiday season and all so we'll start off slow.

The above titled book by Jim Baggot is no lightweight coming in at nearly 600 pages. Baggot has generally kept the scope of his writing to Physics related topics such as the Higgs Boson, Quantum Theory and other modern topics.  TFWOP reaches back some 70+ years to cover the creation of the first atomic and hydrogen bombs.

The scientists that take part in this story read like a laundry list of Nobel Prize winners including Einstein, Fermi, Bohr, Teller, Heisenberg, Feynman, Oppenheimer, etc., etc. and the book covers them all in one respect or another.  If you are looking for an in depth examination of the Manhattan Project or of the Russian intelligence program that stole many of the US developed "secrets" or of the military history behind the use of these weapons, or a detailed scientific treatise on the physics behind the bombs--that's not what this work is.

What Baggot achieves here is a broad overview of the worldwide effort towards the development and use of atomic weapons during this period.  You get the Germans who were off to an early start but fell behind for numerous (and readily debatable) reasons, you get the Russians playing catch-up with the Americans via their communist sympathizers in the States and England, you get England who had a well developed program but without the necessary resources and you get the US who is the beneficiary of massive industrial scale, and a combination of its own scientists and the flight of brilliant European theoreticians due to Hitler's policies.

In essence you get a primer on all four of the major atomic efforts at this time and a look at why each one succeeded or failed and their influence, either direct or indirect on one another.  There is enough here to satisfy the "spy enthusiast" involving secret missions of sabotage and assassination as well as the amateur physics buff with "lensing" discussions, stories behind the discovery of the various elements and their isotopes and the trial and error development of how to achieve a supercritical mass.

I feel vastly more knowledgeable about the events that went on to largely shape our modern world over the following half century or more than I was before reading this book.  Most impressive to me is that all of the work attributed to these scientists was done wholly without the benefit of modern computing power.  All theories, formulas, calculations, experiments, monitoring, and measurements were done with what we would view as archaic devices and methods, doing things by hand that we would task to an electronic device today.  That they were able to develop these devices in such an environment is astonishing--and this book should leave the reader with the appropriate sense of awe over just what the force of the human mind can accomplish.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Body Armor Outlet Item of the Moment

This is another fantastic product available for immediate pickup at the Body Armor Outlet retail store in Salem, NH.

The 5.11 Tactical 1/4 Zip Job shirt is more of a sweatshirt than a "shirt" as its 11.6 ounce weight 82/18 cotton/poly blend is thick, warm, soft and stain/fade resistant.

What is not immediately visible in looking at this item online are the numerous, well placed pockets and options built into it.

In each shoulder and just slightly visible photo below are the microphone clip pockets present in each shoulder.  There is a pen pocket built into the sleeve of the left arm.  There is also a large, lower chest "breakthrough" pocket in the front with velcro closures--a vertical pouch of sorts to safely hold your gear.  Lastly, there are of course side seam handwarmer pockets and secure cuffs and hem.

The shirt comes in all your normal sizes plus has "tall" options as well and available colors are navy blue, black and a light grey.  Perfect for cooler weather or as an warm layer under a waterproof shell the 5.11 Job Shirt could be your new best friend for any "shoulder" season.

Movie Review: True Romance

A relative failure at the box office, my two viewings of this film come some 20 years apart having first seen it on VHS back in my college days and then again this past weekend.  True Romance was the public's second chance to encounter Quentin Tarantino and though he didn't direct the film (that was done by Tony Scott of Top Gun and brother of Ridley Scott fame) his fingerprints are all over it and it remains memorable for its violence, dialogue and fantastic cast.

The actors involved make up a long and well known list--Christian Slater (in his best role?), Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Samuel Jackson, Chris Penn, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, and Tom Sizemore.  Looking back its fairly amazing that all these players got together in a single film and some in quite limited roles.  Despite the lack of screentime for some of these established actors, most are VERY memorable--Gary Oldman's scarred drug dealer Drexel comes to mind as does Pitt's portrayal of the stoner roommate Floyd.

The dialogue is as sharp and witty as any Tarantino film with the "Sicilian conversation" standing out and not likely to ever get green lit for film ever again as it is so far outside the realm of political correctness I'm surprised Jesse Jackson isn't still protesting to this day.

Tony Scott always was a great action director and this is no exception here.  Slater's bloody fight with Drexel is a whirlwind of blood and glass while the final Mexican standoff shootout is a cacophony of gunshots and crashing furniture.

Tony Scott and Tarantino would team up again a few years later to produce the also excellent Crimson Tide (with another stellar cast) and made a great combination for glossy, popular, smart action films.

True Romance saw many compare it to a "modern day Bonnie & Clyde".  While it doesn't have the overall impact on cinema that this older film did, it does serve as the peak of performance for Slater (who really looks every bit "young Nicholson" he was supposed to be) and the early work of one of films best dialogue artists.  Tarantino was doing Chuck Klosterman before Klosterman globbed onto it and turned it into a snarkfest.

There are worse ways to relive the '90s than watching this film and given that Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today...well, listen to some grunge and revel in the violence with a heart of gold that is this film.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baja Portalegre 2013...

This Rally Raid event took place a couple months back.  In reality for such a small country Portugal certainly has its fair share of big time offroad events including the WRC Portugal event and this, long form Rally Raid contest.

This was the 27th year of the Baja Portalegre, making it one of the longest held Raid events in the world and as it is held annually in early November, serves as the final warmup for numerous teams heading to the Dakar--including the Mini team in recent years, Colin McRae in his first every Rally Raid (in a Nissan pickup) and the dominant VW Toureg team featuring Carlos Sainz and American Mark Miller.

For reference out there, the base entry fee for the event was 2,000 Euros and the Special Stage mileage was 418kms.

At the end of the day it was the Mitsubishi Racing Lancer of Miguel Barbosa (a local Portugal driver) taking the win with an average of 71 kmph.  The top flight effort and Dakar Mini driver of Krzyszstof Holocwzyc finished second and the Overdrive Toyota HiLux of Reinoldo Varelo of Brazil finished third.

The top finishing Nissan was the Polish team of Marek Dabrowski with his Navara who ended up in seventh.  Other Nissan entries finished 10th, 15th, 21st, 25th, and 27th among the 34 finishers and approximately 42 entrants.

Oh and the BMW shown was  of two 325s in the event with the other one taking the class win for "cars" showing there's no excuse for rally cars not to do these more WRC style Rally Raids...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nissan Navara/Frontier Build For Dakar 2015


No, we're not in '14 yet but builds for Dakar '15 are already underway.  One of these happens to be a Nissan being built in South Africa for Johan van Staden.  This Dakar spec vehicle it is being built by Stuart Thompson Graeme Thornton and Achim Bergman, also of South Africa who built the recent BMW X3 which took the last win of the South Africa Off Road Championship in '13.

I'll let those who are more technically inclined and knowledgeable than I to pick apart just what the particular parts of this vehicle are in terms of shock placement, suspension geometry, etc. What I can tell you is that the little grey box in the rear of the cab is an air conditioning unit sourced from Glyn Hall at Hallspeed of S.A. (the former Nissan Motorsports manager and now overseer of the Toyota team heading to Dakar), the engine in the Frontier/Navara is a V8 (VK56?) and that the fuel cell is 480 liters--almost 127 gallons!!   Are those shocks Reigers??  I believe I spy a sequential gear shifter--a Sadev??  Are the rear links beefy enough?

I am unsure of what the rear diff is though the previous Navaras built for Dakar and RallyRaid events have replaced the standard diff with that from a Nissan Patrol and they may have done the same here.  The have also gone from a rear leaf spring on the stock Navara/Frontier with a coilover setup (4 link?) and widened the front track (though not by a ton and those arms look a little wimpy for my tastes) and they have sourced some fiberglass parts that I haven't seen available anywhere as well.

Please chime in with what you see here in terms of the design and parts used.  I'm interested in what people with more knowledge of these builds than I think about it.  I've reached out to try and get more details of the build and will try to update this if I get more info.

Cool Photo From Germany...

No, I won't use the "N" word here (rhymes with Yahtzee) as that just brings up all sorts of ugly feelings and makes people think that one is promoting a certain political or sociological agenda.

I just have a fascination with aircraft, militaria and technology in general and thought this was a cool photo.

You have here a Messerschmidt BF-109 undergoing wind tunnel testing.  It always amazes me how advanced some things were some 80 years ago, yet so undeveloped at the same time.  Nowadays this would all be done in a computer or at the very least, in a computerized windtunnel.  With this photo?  Maybe they used high speed (film) cameras and pieces of yarn to try and get an idea of the flow of air over a vehicle.  Lots of slide-rulers and pencil and paper were expended that's for sure.

I also enjoy seeing photos like these as in my minds eye, historical vehicles just kind of appear on the scene and I don't think about all the infrastructure, time, testing and calculation that went into their development.  Seeing one such famous airplane in its build/testing phase just seems kinda cool--as does the scale of the huge windtunnel vs. the airplane itself and the little engineers below.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Martin Walter and 20+ Year Old Nissan Take Tall Pines Rally Win

This was cool to see.

Last weekend at the Rally of the Tall Pines out in Ontario, Martin Walter and his codriver Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff were able to traverse the tricky conditions that straddled fall/winter with snow and ice on some roads and dirt/gravel on others to take a win in their 2WD class.  Finishing 7th overall out of 30+ competitors the Nissan 240SX bested numerous newer vehicles showing just how good a driver Martin is.  Martin and his Nissan are some of most active rally efforts around and don't keep their efforts restrained to the dirt having competed at Targa Newfoundland in prior years.

Congrats to the team!

Rally of the Tall Pines website...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Body Armor Outlet Product Of The Moment!

Body Armour has a fantastic selection of gear available online but they've recently moved to a new facility in Salem, NH and expanded their in store offerings as well.

The new store has at least twice the floor space of the Windham building and is better located and more visible.  With the new space, Body Armor Outlet has some items that don't appear on their website--such as this tshirt from 5.11 Tactical.  This tshirt and others available at the BAO retail store are not present on 5.11's website either so stopping by the new store and checking things out would be a great idea.

The medium grey tshirt here is 100% cotton and printed in the USA.  I'm 6'2" and about 210 (at the moment) and an XL fit very nicely, one of the best fitting tshirts I've had in a long time actually.  The rifle toating
 dwarf (gnome?) is present on the front of the shirt in the middle of the chest while the 5.11 logo is nicely low key on the back.  A really cool looking tshirt for only $16 in tax free NH.  Give BAO a call or stop by the new facility and check out the rest of their gear.

As a reminder--if you work for a police, fire or other department requiring tactical gear, give BAO a call for your entire unit's needs as they specialize in outfitting entire towns and cities throughout the Northeast and around the country with the equipment they need.

Body Armor Outlet WebStore...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Early Adopters Buy Teslas....

Or at least it seems that way!

In addition to the newly minted Twitter millionaires in San Francisco likely running out to buy themselves a new Model S we now have another group of nouveau-riche that are picking up Teslas.

Yes, those lucky enough to have bought in on the BitCoin craze early enough are now turning their fortune around and spending their wealth on various things you would expect rich people to spend their money on...

First it was a trip to outer space via Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic who now accepts BitCoin for reservations (and smartly immediately cashes out of said BitCoins) and now there is the first (?) auto dealership that is accepting BitCoins as payment for their vehicles.

Newport Lamborghini of Costa Mesa, CA announced today that they had accepted payment in full via BitCoin for a Tesla Model S Performance.  Additionally they announced that accepting BitCoin is now part of their normal business process.  So if any of you have any BitCoins made via shipping arms to Chechen rebels you can now use it to pick yourself up what is THE status symbol of the early 2010's.

Tesla S Purchased with BitCoin...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Great Vintage Vehicle Rally In Australia...

Vintage offroad racing has been on the upswing here in North America with the popularity of the NORRA series of events in Baja Mexico but its popularity hasn't moved over into the world of stage rally.  While there are a handful of vintage racers still out there--Greg Healey's '78 280Z, the Huebbe's VW Bug and Jason Lightner's '76 Porsche to name a few, gathering enough of them in one particular place at one particular time to make a legit event would be unheard of.

A bit of that has to do just with the popularity of the sport here in the States...there just aren't enough fans to have built enough vehicles over the years to create a stable of raceable vintage vehicles.

Australia is different however.

Prime example?  The Alpine Rally 2013 that just took place.  The event saw 99 "classic" vehicle entries (when was the last time a stage rally drew 99 entries here in the States let alone 99 vintage vehicles?) to cover up to 256 competitive kilometers for a cost of $795.  For an additional point of interest the organizers estimated that to handle the road closures over this event they would need 150 road closure officials and an additional 50 control officials.  Compare that to the cost and number of workers we in the US would use for our events.

The collection of vehicles at this event was especially cool.  Far from a collection blue Subarus and red and white Evos we have tons of RWD action of all sorts and a couple drivers we even know over here in North America (Will Orders and Alister McRae).  Enjoy some of the better photos courtesy of Peter and Luke Whitten.

Oh and the results??  Jeffrey David took the win in a Porsche 911, Alister McRae finished 2nd in a Group 4 Ford Escort and third was Wayne Hoye in a Datsun 260Z.

Alpine Rally Website...