Friday, January 31, 2014

IDx Video and Audio!

Certainly does NOT sound like a three or four cylinder under there....nor does it sound like a turbo either...but what do I know??

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The IDx Lives!

The recently introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show Nissan IDx Freeflow and NISMO were evidently not just pretty shells.  After being brought over to the Detroit Auto Show they are now on a tour of Southern California.  This whole process is far beyond what you see with normal concept cars and Nissan has then taken things even further...

They delivered the concept cars to the Motor Trend folks and allowed them to be driven...OK, so it was only around a parking lot but still...This is something you never see with concept vehicles.  Nissan is bringing the cars around to a number of locations and events in the area continuing to gauge public interest.  It appears more and more likely that these are going the Juke route and will be put into production in the near future.

Motor Trend drives the IDx...

Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

My goodness...

I have yet to consume any Ayn Rand but I would imagine that Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has got to go up there with Rand in terms of solid Libertarian manifestos.

"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do."


"I beg of you — do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

These are just two of the numerous quotes from the novel that truly resonate with me and I would think with many of the libertarians and Silicon Valley inhabitants among us.

The novel itself is, in theory, science fiction, as it takes place primarily on the Moon and in the future (such as it was imagined when Heinlein wrote the work in the mid '60s).  Heinlein, like a proper great sci-fi author has a wonderfully imagined world of a penal colony on the Moon where the Earth sends many of its undesirables (not just pure criminals) to work as a compulsory labor force producing food for the starving masses back on the homeworld.  You have underground "warrens" where people live, a shortage of women driving all sorts of varied family structures, a mish mash of racial and religious backgrounds, a "self aware" computer, rock throwing rail guns, a global Lunar Authority, etc.  The novel is a futurist's thesis writ large.

Which isn't to say that this world is perfect--the participants are still tied to physical lines of communication--land lines for goodness sake!  But Heinlein can be forgiven for smaller items like this.  His overall call to arms for a rational anarchist revolution is an idea that grows with value each day.  A society with no laws or rules besides ones own morals may be a libertarian fantasy but that's not to say its not something to strive for.

While the main character of the novel is Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis who speaks to the reader in a Russian like patois it is Professor Bernardo de la Paz who gives the novel its motion and inspiration.  la Paz is the theoretician and rational anarchist behind the Moon's revolution against Earth and it is he who drives the ideas Heinlein is directing to the reader. While I'm certainly not one to subscribe to all the ideas herein (and as this is a novel made to both entertain and to challenge it is NOT a political diatribe) the book does present a persuasive argument for revolution against authoritarian regimes as well as the subversive methods by which one might begin such an enterprise.  As with the best sci-fi novels, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is both an excellent critique of our modern world and an entertaining supposition on where we might be heading.  Well worth the read, it should really get your hamster spinning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Film Review: Life of Pi

Its always worrisome to come into viewing a film after having read a book that it is based upon.  Life of Pi is not a book one needs to be concerned about being disappointed with.

About as "true" to is source material as any novel derived film I have seen, Life of Pi is beautiful, thought provoking and moving.  Director Ang Lee knows his pacing and story setup, spending sufficient time going into the titular character's Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Rationalist upbringing.  Other directors might have even just cut this background and focused on the more "exciting" portion of the story--the shipwreck and subsequent drifting aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.  That would have completely changed the point of the novel and cheapened the work entirely.

The film itself is beautifully shot and colored--likely one of the crispest, cleanest and vivid films in existence.  I did not view it in 3D nor would I want to.  The computer imagery--of which the film is chock full with much of the ocean scenery and creatures existing only with the memory of a computer and yet as lifelike and any I've seen.  The animals have more emotion and depth than most human actors.

The Life of Pi novel is still worth reading and if I had a choice of only consuming one or the other, I would still take the written word over the flickering screen as it allows the mind to dig into the questions author Yann Martel poses to the reader about God and existence whereas the film leaves the questioning for only after you have finished the work.  Regardless the film is worth watching as you don't find many films this deep that are so beautiful and so much fun.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Do I Now Need to Wear Skinny Jeans?

After a while of hemming and hawing about the purchase and asking for the recommendations of a number of friends/relatives I bit the bullet yesterday and purchased myself a turntable.  Not a record player--oh, no you uncouth heathen...a TURNTABLE.  And no, not like a turntable to be used for scratching and DJing...a turntable for listening to vinyl.  Yes, vinyl, not records...

I say this all tongue in cheek of course as I am now fully on board with this accoutrement of aspiring hipsterdom.  I purchased the Orbit Audio Basic turntable for a number of reasons, foremost being its low cost yet extremely high ratings and reputation amongst the vinyl/audiophile community.  Additionally, it is extremely upgradable as well so that if this becomes a solid hobby of mine I can continue to improve it soundcasting capabilities with replacements to its platter, arm, needle, etc.  Unfortunately because Orbit is such a small, hands on company assembling these joy-to-the-ear devices in Boston, it will be at least a month wait before mine is delivered...

Still, I can right away start wandering in my hipster-shabby clothing to the local fleamarket, Goodwill or garage sale and come back holding some obscure, supercool vinyl that has now been saved from the rubbish heap...My black skinny jeans and giant plastic glasses are on order...

Orbit Basic Turntable...

Four Nissans in Today's IMSA CTSCC at Daytona...

Good to see Nissan fielding a solid number of cars at this year's opening event at Daytona.  With the race occurring early this afternoon the 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season gets underway.

There appear to be two, two car teams for this year.  In the top end GS class we have the Doran Racing/Tim Bell Racing 370Z effort while in the ST (street tuner) class we have the Skullcandy Nissan Altima team which has added a second car for the '14 season.

Qualifying for today's event took place on Thursday and saw some solid results for the Nissans.

In GS the Tim Bell driven #28 370Z qualified 11th of 26 while Brad Jaeger put the #14 Z in the 15th position.  Given they only had two or three laps of qualifying, I'm not sure how much this says.  Additionally, every other car in the GS class is a V8 (except for a lone Subaru STi) the Zs will have their work cut out for them keeping up on the oval stretches of the Daytona circuit which is likely the track that least suits them of any on the schedule.

Down in the ST class, the Skullcandy team put its #33 Altima into the 4th position (of 35) off the line behind the hands of Bryan Heitkotter, the 2011 Nissan Playstation Academy winner and by now well diversified driver.  The #34 Altima of Johnny Canavas didn't fare quite so well but qualified 25th.  The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 at 6PM Eastern if you get that channel...tune in and look for some fast (hopefully!) Nissans.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bowler's Land Rover Defender Challenge

God I love me some Land Rover Defender...

If there is a vehicle I would LOVE to have in my stable it would be the Defender...Like a Jeep Wrangler--but way cooler.  And in bright yellow please!

So how awesome is it that Bowler (the company making all sort of Dakar spec Land Rover based race vehicles) has created its own offroad racing series with "inexpensive" Defenders?  Some $83K will get you the race vehicle all kitted out for racing and it sounds like another $22K gets you your entry fee into all seven 2014 events (a bit over $3K a race....not bad at all considering it comes with full catering in the pits, full service by the Bowler team and can then compete alongside the Bowler works team in international competition).

For your money you get to rip around the English countryside in rally-raid style events designed to prep any aspiring racer for events like the Dakar or Africa Eco-Challenge or any of the dozens of Rally-Raid events taking place throughout Europe and Africa.  A simple vehicle amply ready to be beat upon and withstand beginner mistakes the Defender makes a great platform for some rough and tough racing.  Supposedly almost all slots in the '14 series are spoken for and represent a great way to get into the high end of the sport for the inexperienced.

Plus maybe in a year or two they'll start selling some of the "gently loved" race-spec Defenders...A short article by the Top Gear folks is found below on this series...

Top Gear on the Bowler Challenge...
Bowler Defender Challenge...

2014 Nissan Rogue Offroad Review...

Not that you would want to use your new Rogue as an offroader but, its nice to know it won't fall apart immediately upon leaving the pavement.

The video calls the Rogue one of the most improved vehicles of 2014 and I would tend to agree--particularly in terms of its looks.  The little 4-Cyl engine seems a bit over-purposed in this ever growing vehicle but from the sounds of things all the little electronic dongles and doo-hickies make the Rogue a great small family car.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Next Nissan Frontier to be a Diesel?? Or a Hybrid??

Sure sounds like it according to Fred Diaz who is head of US sales.  All powertrains are under consideration and given that Nissan has moved to put a diesel in the 2016 Titan would it surprise anyone if a smaller diesel ended up in the next generation Frontier?

Unchanged in terms of basic body design and powertrain options since its introduction as a 2005 model, the Nissan Frontier saw one of its best years of sales in 2013 with over 60,000 units sold in the US.  Worldwide the Navara is also a successful model but one that comes with a turbo diesel engine not available here.  Though the Truck Trend article mentions that they test drove just such a model at the Nissan 360 event in California in 2013, I wouldn't anticipate that this exact engine would end up in a US version of the next Frontier.  This engine has been in use for these past near 10 years and any updated Frontier would likely receive an updated and more efficient engine as well.  The suggestion of a small Cummins diesel is an exciting proposition

The more interesting possibility is that of a hybrid option.  Nissan likes to be seen as an innovative company on the cutting edge of automotive options--the first mini-pickup in the US, first truck with a crew cab option, first mass market all electric with the Leaf, etc.  So it wouldn't shock me to see Nissan be the first to offer a hybrid small pickup or perhaps a hybrid turbo diesel?  Or perhaps the "First Manufacturer to offer a Cummins diesel in a Mid-Size truck"??

In any case, the next Frontier is likely to stay "about" the same size as it is today given it will still need to differentiate itself from the new Titan though, as with the current version, the two models will see a number of identical parts--axles, hubs, frame, etc. to curb costs.  With the Titan rounding into its final form before its introduction to the world in less than a year, the next Frontier is definitely entering the design phase as we speak.

Nissan Frontier--Diesel? Hybrid? Cummins?

Form Over Function...

This one is for my Canadian peeps!

Since we here in the States won't be getting the Micra this won't apply here--though the belief behind it will.

Prolific Nissan tuner company Impul has released its body kit for the Micra at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon...and boy is it a doosie.

Putting a whole host of non-functional wings, body cladding, side skirts, LEDs and other knicknacks, the Impul kit transforms your run of the mill Micra into something this side of a bad dream.  There are no engine or suspension improvements found here....just lots of plastic to make your car heavier and more Matchbox-esque.  Still...all these body modification might make your Micra into a serviceable driveway plow if you lowered the thing by a few inches and put some studded tires on it...

Impul releases Micra bodykit...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nissan Navaras Coming to Dakar 2015....

Coming to the 2015 Dakar will be a handful of new South African built Nissan Navaras possessing a V8 engine.  These trucks are still in a bit of a development/testing phase as they have only run a handful of races in SA in '13 but they are now coming of the jigs on a regular basis and being sold across the world.  We'll see how they compare to the Toyota HiLux run by Giniel de Villiers during the South African offroad season as Thomas Rundle (who finished the Dakar this year in his borrowed HiLux) will be running the V8 Navara all season long.  If you would like to purchase one, learn more about them or perhaps race one in South Africa you can contact Terence Marsh at:

Some info provided by Terence here:

We have built 4 of these to date with the 5th one currently on the jig which is for a German customer and is scheduled for delivery in February 2014 (update--already delivered in late December/early January). The 6th chassis which is currently at laser cutting is for an Australian customer and is scheduled for delivery in July 2014.

The base model race unit which is built to FIA and Dakar specification sells for $295,000 US dollars.

·       This unit includes the mounting points for the on-board jack system but excludes the system itself – it uses the same system as the Toyotas.

·       The unit comes with 8 Reiger dampers which are then available in 3 different variances/options.

·       The price listed above excludes the air-conditioning system which is an optional extra.  Fiberglass body is produced in house.

These cars have been purposely built with Dakar in mind and we will have at least two at the 2015 Dakar and 3 or 4 race cars at the 2016 Dakar. Three of our race cars have successfully been tested in our local championship this year and have covered in excess of 8,000 km of rugged and tough terrain with ease. We have worked closely with our Partners at Reiger suspension to get the optimal performance and handling out of the race car and can comfortably say we have achieved this. We have introduced several performance upgrades for the engine package through the year and are now comfortable that are perfromance is up there with the best in the world – the Infiniti FX50 engine has proved to be exceptionally strong and more importantly very reliable!

Please feel free to visit our website at to get some more insights and photos of the race cars as well as have a ‘virtual view’ of the race car within our video section.

Should any of the guys on your side require any further information or assistance regarding the above they can feel free to contact me on my email address or my mobile number which is listed below.

We are also happy to accommodate international drivers who would like to come out to South Africa and compete in one of our National events – we basically provide a ‘arrive and drive’ package for these customers which includes all the necessary testing together with one of our Championship events in a V6 powered Nissan Navara (ex Dakar car).

Technical specs:

Engine: Nissan VK50VE (from the Infiniti FX50)
Engine Capacity: 5.0L V8
Power Output: 390hp @ 6500rpm and 500nm @ 4400rpm
Gearbox: Sadev 6 speed sequential
Suspension: Double wishbone front and live rear axle
Shock Absorbers: Reiger
Engine Management System: Motec M800
Competition weight: 1975kg
Fuel Capacity: 480L
Wheels: 16 x 7 Evo Corse
Tyres: BF Goodrich


Monday, January 20, 2014

Highest Finishing Nissan in Dakar 2014

Well this wasn't really Nissan's finest hour in Dakar history.  They've put multiple vehicles in the top ten and five even in years past.  Their Dakar efforts are currently non-existing on a factory basis and are getting more limited by the year.

This year the highest "true" Nissan finisher (as in, among those vehicles with a Nissan body and Nissan engine) was Denis Berezovskiy of Kazakhstan in the #413 Nissan Patrol.  Fielded by Tecnosport SPA the effort had a stage best finish of 30th place during the 10th stage and finished the event in 37th place among the 62 finishers.  Given that the DNF rate was over 50%, just finishing is a HUGE accomplishment.

Unfortunately there isn't much more information on this effort other than Mr. Berezovskiy's Facebook page which can be found here:  Denis Berezovskiy's Facebook page

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Film Review: Lincoln

Taken a while to get to this one, mostly because it left me so indifferent as to its viewing.

Nominated for numerous awards upon its release back in '12, Lincoln was frequently cited as one of Spielberg's best works in a long time.  I suppose when compared to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this is a correct sentiment.  That said, I found it to be wildly overrated.

Daniel Day Lewis's portrayal of Lincoln is good (eerily resembling the president) but waffles between overwrought and enraged and not much in between.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln was satisfactory but her mere existence in the film is superfluous and feels more like a tip of the cap to affirmative action than as a necessary part of the story.

The story itself, revolving around the successful efforts by Lincoln and his supporters to get the 13th Amendment passed by Congress unfortunately does not lend itself to a thrilling film.  What we get are numerous set piece, interior scenes, darkly lit with people expressing their opinion in long fairly unexciting soliloquies.  Yes, the result of all this talking is an extremely important part of American, it doesn't make for great film making material.  Two and a half hours of static shot after static shot of people talking and talking and talking is WAY too much.

In truth, this would have been much more effective as a stage play and cut by about an hour.  Some films can be entertaining...exciting even with just dialogue---Twelve Angry Men for instance.  Lincoln isn't one of these and will not be long remembered.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Film Review: This is 40

Figured this film might be good for me given I'm turning 40 this year myself.

This is 40 is a Judd Apatow written, produced and directed film.  So you know a bit of what you are going to get when you go into it.  Like Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, etc. you get the pot jokes, dysfunctional personal lives, rapid fire dialogue, lots of profanities, lots of humorous sexual situations and scatological humor.

When written and done well by Apatow, his films are really funny in an "I'm embarrassed for the character sort of way" and can provide a great deal of sly commentary on modern American life.  When not done as well it becomes self indulgent and stupid, creating scenes and situations that don't connect and merely appear to be a number of semi-humourous sketches put together without much thought.

Its the second of these scenarios that This is 40 fulfills.  Paul Rudd and Apatow's wife Leslie Mann play the lead couple who are both turning forty years old and are dealing with two daughters and disasters of relationships with their parents.  We get all the typical middle age cliche issues.  Boring sex lives, wondering what would have happened if they hadn't ended up together, kids who don't appreciate what they have...and then we get all the new jokes that are already cliches for our current age--jokes about iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc. and the difference between today's electronic entertainment and the "playing with sticks" we used to do.  There really isn't anything new here.  The jokes have been updated to modern versions but they don't bring up anything new.  What is new is the constant whining and moaning the 40 year olds do.

God, if This is 40, is representative of what I will feel upon entering my 40s--shoot me now.  The characters are giant balls of miserable...about their life, their spouses, their kids, their family.  Hell, I know that this is set up this way in order to try to come to a conservative and happy resolution at the end (as all comedies are inherently conservative) but still...There is little here to make you happy about your future existence...and if a comedy can't make you happy...then it fails...

Maybe This is 40 is 40 for some people....but it sure as hell ain't for me...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Last Nissan to Race in SCORE...

Or if not, no one has been able to list a newer one for me...

This was the old Viking Offroad Nissan Frontier that ran in a handful of SCORE events about 6 years ago.  It was sold about two years ago to an individual in Australia who changed the graphics and such and now races it in various Australia offroad races.

THIS Is Your New Nissan Maxima...

Revealed at this week's Detroit Auto Show the Nissan Sport Sedan "concept" is a concept in name only.  Well placed sources have revealed that the production version of this vehicle has already been revealed to dealers and is projected to go on sale in 2015 as a '16 model.  Much like Nissan did with the Juke, the production version is a slightly toned down version of the concept.  Things like the angular exhaust ports seen with the concept will be turned to more typical circular exits and some of the angles and bulges will be softened.  The carbon fiber accents will be gone, the 21" wheels will be reduced, and the all glass roof will become a large sunroof, etc., etc.

What won't change is the "V" shaped grille which is spreading across Nissan's lines, nor the floating roof or the boomerang lights or overall low profile.  The engine, which in the concept is Nissan's standard V6 making some 300 hp also will remain, as will the CVT and paddle shifters connected to a FWD layout.

The '16 Maxima will LOOK revolutionary but given the carryover of engine, FWD and CVT will be more evolutionary.  The LOOK of the 4-Door-Sportscar might be there but this still seems likely to come up short in comparison to similarly priced BMWs, Audis, etc.--though "technically" the Maxima is not in that luxury segment.  It will be a nice car for sure in terms of build quality and an increase in performance over your standard Altima/Camry/Accord...but it would needs to change more than its clothing in order to be a true sports sedan.

Nissan Sports Sedan Concept Given Green Light...

The Next Nissan Maxima....

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2016 Nissan Titan Debut Confirmed For 2015 Detroit Auto Show...

One year folks...

That's what you have to wait for to get a complete look at the next generation Nissan Titan with its Cummins diesel engine.

Announced on 1/14/14 by EVP Andy Palmer at this years Detroit Auto Show was the following "On this stage, you’ll see our next-generation fullsize pickup next year,"  adding "You have to come from left field with something unexpected and different."

Good news that this is being finalized.  Bad news that it is a full year away.  With Ford introducing their "aluminum" F150 and Dodge making big strides with their truck, Nissan is really going to have to put something spectacular together in addition to making it EXTREMELY competitive on price in order to get it noticed.  I would expect Nissan to begin releasing teaser shots of it late this year as they have done with most new vehicles of late.  The 2016 Nissan Titan should go on sale in Q2 or Q3 of 2015.

Andy Palmer gives date on introduction of 2016 Nissan Titan...

Squid Vs. Owlfish....

Poor, poor Owlfish...

This was filmed by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.  This squid has gotten itself a meal which is always entertaining.  The squid uses its beak to cut a circular path around the base of the fish's head severing its spine.  It also wraps its tentacles around the fish's gills to suffocate it and drags it down to depths where the fish is not built to operate.

Cephalopod 1 -- Vertebrate 0

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doran Racing to Field Two 370Zs in 2014 CTSCC

After running a single car effort the past couple years in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, Doran Racing is moving to a two car effort this year.

Performing well at the Daytona Speedway "Roar Before the 24" testing session recently the two GS class 370Zs finished well inside the top half of the field and were the fastest cars present on the "road course" section of Daytona which should be similar to the tracks they will be running all year long vs. the oval portion where the larger engined vehicles excelled.

The 2014 racing season is about to begin with the first race in the series coming up just before the 24 Hours of Daytona and Nissan should be present in numerous locations, I'll try and follow along!

Doran Racing website...
Doran Racing announces two car effort...

TV Show Review: Helix

I wanted to like this show...I REALLY did.  I gave it three episodes but now I have to let it go.

The premise is right up my alley.  A kind of sci-fi show revolving around a secret biological facility in Greenland that has been working on various scary viruses and one gets "loose" within the facility's population, drawing in a team from the CDC to look into the matter.

You have the clean background of the arctic vs. the black goop that the virus turns the infected body into.  You have the mysterious corporation that is trying to control the virus for its own purposes. And you have all of this on the SyFy channel where you hope the program can be a bit edgy, dark and odd...

Unfortunately I should have known better from the network that has made its bones recently off of broadcasting WWE wrestling and movies like Sharknado.

Sure, there are a few qualities about the show I like-- Hiroyuki Sanada as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake is quite good as the lead corporate scientist in charge of the facility.  I first saw him in Danny Boyle's Sunshine and he is quite good in his role.  And there are some of the special effects--particularly the body ones where human bodies have been liquified or an infected individual spreads the virus to another by disgorging the black goop in mouth to mouth contact with its target.

Unfortunately SyFy meager budget, poor casting and weak directing kills the show for me.  Some of the props (Hello high school science lab face shields??  What are you doing here??) and special effects are EXTREMELY cheap, giving the show a decidedly D-movie feel to it at times.

The casting is also extremely weak...likely driven out of budgetary reasons.  Billy Campbell is barely acceptable as the head CDC scientist and primary character in the show but the supporting cast (outside of Sanada) is BRUTAL.  Beyond bad.  Like so bad I want to turn my eyes from the screen bad.  There is nothing believable or remotely realistic about the acting by most of the cast--made all the worse by terrible wardrobe choices as well.  The head of security for the base is a chubby male in his late twenties who looks about as ready to secure a facility as I do to join the Navy Seals.  And this is just one of the numerous poor casting and wardrobe choices for the characters.  The choices seem almost childlike in their stupidity--like someone was making a joke of a scifi program--virtually every single one is a disaster of one proportion or another.

Lastly the directing--its like someone threw a catalog of good scifi movies at the directors and said--here!  Make a TV show like this!  In the first three episodes we have direct ripoffs of the scene from Alien where Tom Skeritt searches for the titular monster through the metal airshafts as well as a scene from The Thing where Wilfred Brimley wields an ax against his comrades.  Each scene is so blatantly ripped off its like you are watching a Simpsons parody of the real thing.

This is all truly a shame as SyFy but a lot of marketing and focus on this series as a seeming attempt to get back to real programming.  It unfortunately fails on far too many levels for me to spend any more time with it.