Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 11:56
I couldn't help but notice the fascinating contrast in these two automotive headlines this morning. One is about a car maker that is selling stylish, economical and reliable cars faster than they can build them. The other is about a company that received a USD$50BN taxpayer bailout, has helpful government bureaucrats telling it how to operate, and is partly owned by its union.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:59

86400 Seconds of SPEEEED

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 16:42

This year I attended the Rolex 24 race in Daytona Jan 29/30. Without a doubt, the Rolex 24 is something every motorsports fan should experience at least once. First of all, the event is a phenomenal entertainment value - the basic all-access pass for the weekend is only $85 and included a practice day and a Continental Tire Challenge race day. Although you can purchase various "VIP" group packages for meals and other events, the basic pass allows access to all seating areas and garages during the race and pit/grid walks before the race. It's an incredible level of access to the teams and cars and many excellent viewing points. With 24 hours of racing there's plenty of time to see the race from all locations.

In order to really absorb the flavour of the race and because I'm cheap, instead of a hotel, I camped out in the infield camping area of the track, the main feature of which is a 36-hr Gong Show performed by professional tailgaters. It turns out that a marginally muffled Mazda RX-8 zoom-zooming by at ~200mph only 50m from your tent is not as sleep-disruptive as you'd think once you are tired enough.

He Said, I said.
The track is huge and the crowds are small. I've watched lots of races from Daytona on TV and you just don't get the proper sense of the scale of the place on TV. The road course track is 3.56 miles long and with access to all seating areas plus all of the infield track area, it would be impossible to not find a great place to watch from - in fact, given the length of the race, you have time to check out ALL the best view points and you never have to fight anyone for space or seating.

I also had passes for the Grassroots Motorsports Experience which included a couple dinners, coffee and donuts each morning, access to the GRM tent and some GRM-specific pitwalk access, etc. They had a full schedule of GRM-hosted events throughout the event. Well worthwhile.

The access to paddock and garages is wide open. As you can see from some of my photos, fans can simply walk into any of the garages and be as nosy as the crews will tolerate. The hot pits are technically "off limits" but you can walk behind them about 10 feet back behind a fence and get a pretty good view. I say technically, because the security to the hot pits is kinda lax and (I learned too late) some of the teams that are out of the race early pack up and fans can discreetly move into their vacated pit area to watch the race up close.

The camping was a bit of an adventure. I roughed it in a simple tent in the infield campground. Most of the other campers were true pros. Our next door neighbor John was something of an amateur chef and brought along his full-size propane meat smoker and cooked up a feast each day, which he happily shared. Yum. Chicken, Beef, Sausages, Bacon. John's dad used to race a Lotus 19 back in the day...

Some of the multi-group camp setups were elaborate. "Beer Town" had a full kitchen w/ 3 or 4 BBQ's, a large flatscreen tv and a foosball table. One family with a campsite backing onto the track erected a kids play fort/slide/gym thingy. Adults w/ beer and lawn chairs on the top deck and kids running around the rest. Another group had 3 of the tents like we use for timing set up and strung up with rope lighting all around and underneath they had laid down snap-together plastic B&W checkered flooring. They had a kitchen and a bar with stools, two flatscreens, a sound system, a bar table and barstools and of course a disco ball. Another group had a 30+ ft high construction scaffold set up in the back of a pickup and they somehow got a large sofa up on the top of it. They would have had a great view of the chicane/busstop on the superstretch and most all of Nascar turns 3&4 and the front stretch.

Our camp, by contrast, consisted of a small tent, two folding chairs from Wal-mart, a cheap styro cooler that was destroyed by falling on it (twice!), and a rented Toyota Camry. The entire campground was a big party for most of the night with race coverage and music etc., everywhere. Not that you could hear much of it, the cars were loud and I had earplugs in all weekend.

 As this was the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, part of the celebrations for the weekend included a few parade laps by winning cars of the previous 49 races, and an open-house showing of the cars over the weekend. Definitely a lot of drool-worthy hardware to gawk at up close and a real thrill to see and hear most of them on the track. 

Another friend attending the race let me know about a really cool service - for $20 ea, I rented a scanner radio with headset for the weekend. The scanners picked up all the chatter from the drivers and crews as well as had feeds for the TV broadcasts & commentary. Plus they doubled as hearing protection. Listening in to all the team comms was a really fun addition to the experience. We'd often hear about issues w/ the cars exactly as they were reported and diagnosed by the teams and well before the official commentators had anything to say about it. It's also interesting to get a perspective of the human side of things as the drivers, crew and officials make mistakes, get confused, etc. Excellent value for $20.

All in all, a fantastic experience that I'd definitely like to do again.The best way to describe the Rolex 24 is that it's not so much going to a race as it is completely immersing yourself in motorsport culture for an entire long weekend. Most definitely a must-do bucket list event for any gearhead.

Check out the rest of my photos from the weekend on my Picasa album.

The Big Bouncy Bits

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 22:43
Here's a playlist of Mazda promo vids that provide the clearest explanation I've seen of what Mazda's "Skyactiv" technology really is and why they developed it. Now let's hope they put it into some interesting new cars. They seem to be hinting at something with this image in the video which is definitely not a car in their current lineup. A new 6 coupe, maybe?

Bonus: you can never go wrong with an ad that features a Bo Diddley soundtrack and some cool old cars.

Rescuing LinkedIn from the Terrible Twitter Trash

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 18:00

I like LinkedIn. I know it’s a bit of a red-headed stepchild of social networks, but that’s probably just because they have a legitimate business model that actually makes money. That kind of thing just isn't sexy (unless you're a shareholder). It's also a genuinely useful tool for building and maintaining work-related relationships, for recruiting and for finding interesting work. I like the fact that I can separate all those work and career related relationships, updates and news within a single tool, and that it's not cluttered with personal trivia. It’s the only social network that has actually produced meaningful work connections for me that have resulted in real contracts and work opportunities.

As with most other social networks, my preferred means of following updates from LinkedIn is via Google Reader, by adding the update stream as an RSS subscription in Reader. I’m usually always logged in to Gmail/GApps, so it’s convenient to catch up on aggregated updates in just a few seconds without having to log in to multiple sites.

One aspect about the LinkedIn status feed that I do find annoying is all the “ is now connected to ” updates. For a new LinkedIn user, they can be a helpful way to build up your network, but once you have a couple hundred connections or so, they aren’t all that useful. All the people that are potential candidates for a LinkedIn connection (my criteria: I’ve met you and I have some idea of what you do and how that relates to what I do) are already in your network and the “now connected” updates are just noise in the feed.

The other and much larger annoyance with the status feed is a consequence of LinkedIn providing a tool to allow people to automatically import reams of meaningless crap important life-event updates from their Twitter streams. By my reckoning, this has resulted in a general ratio of interesting work-related updates to stupid coffee/lunch/bedtime updates of approximately one per ninety billion. Not an impressive signal to noise ratio. That change made the LinkedIn RSS feed even more frustrating, to the point that I was about to drop it from Reader altogether.

It would have been really smart if LinkedIn provided some controls for the content in your RSS feed that allowed you to choose what kind of announcements and updates you want to get and maybe they will, but for now the only option is to "drink from the firehose". I have two suggestions to address this. 

1) First, to you people who have linked up your twitter feed to LinkedIn updates: Just bloody STOP it already! Think of the children, save the whales, think globally, act locally, stick it to the man, stand up for the 99%, and just STOP that shit; you’re annoying the hell out of people. Instead, consider simply adding your twitter name to your LinkedIn profile and then your connections who are interested in the minutia of your non-work life can follow you there.

2) Second, for those of us who have LinkedIn connections that won’t comply with 1) above, I have a solution. I have created a Yahoo Pipe that will let you create a custom RSS feed from your LinkedIn RSS status feed that will filter out all “… is now connected …” messages as well as anything imported into your LinkedIn stream from twitter. You can find this tool here:

To use it, you’ll need to get the link to your own LinkedIn RSS feed. Since your network of connections are unique to you, so is the url for your RSS feed. To get that link, go to this page and copy the url from the "Copy the RSS link" text field.

Now go to the page for the LinkedIn junk filter pipe and Enter that address into the input field and select “Run Pipe”. 

After the pipe runs, you’ll see a filtered list of the latest items in your feed and have the option to consume your new customized feed in a variety of ways. This is another RSS feed that is unique to you. Use the Google button to add it directly to Reader or you can choose "Get as "RSS" to add your filtered-feed url to another RSS reader.

Now you can sit back and enjoy a nice stream of crap-free updates from your professional network. Wah-freaking-hoo. 

Volkswagen wants your dog to DIE.

Friday, February 10, 2012 at 12:38
Dogs are, in large part, unpredictable. They are not machines and they often behave in non-deterministic ways.  Even well-behaved dogs sometimes chew things you wish they wouldn't, they bark at inopportune times, they lick themselves inappropriately or when you have guests over, they hump the furniture (or the guests). Such is life with dogs.  As a result, dog people tend to be easy-going, flexible folks who have learned to accept a certain amount of chaos in life and to remain adaptable and open to unpredictability. However, one thing that is quite predictable when it comes to dogs is this:

Dogs who chase cars DIE.

Aside from randomly attacking small children or jumping up on the bed when you’re having sex, car-chasing is the one dog behaviour that should never-ever be tolerated. (Perhaps. It depends on the child. Or the sex, maybe you’re into that kind of thing. I’m not judging. Live and let live, etc.).

Now we have Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (VAG) creating a car that, according to the marketing wags responsible for producing the following video, is specifically engineered to entice dogs to train up on their car-chasing skills in order to chase the car down the street. And therefore DIE, possibly in a fire. Why, exactly, these sadistic, dog-hating VAGwags and VAGineers want your dog to DIE isn’t clear. One can only assume they have deep-seated canine resentment issues that they have been unable to work out via other forms of therapy. Regardless, the message of the ad is clear. VW wants your dog to DIE.

Just to be sure, I watched the ad twice. No other conclusion is possible. 

Dear Chrysler

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