27 October 2005

Racing Wheels?

Velox VX6-R

or Gram Lights 57C

24 October 2005

Blood transfusion

I think I need a blood transfusion. I've been trying to shake the desire to get back into racing but it isn't working. I thought I could replace it with cycling or rock climbing but I just don't think its going to work.

Watching Initial D this weekend didn't help any either. I suppose I feel like it is one thing, perhaps the only thing, at which I am really any good. Karting was good to me, but my dad and I never explored the full range of possibilities and stopped doing it too soon. Seeing as how I was always funded by my dad, it wasn't really up to me what would be done about getting a new chassis or fresh race motor for national competition. When I did start working we were winding things down and I had started auto-crossing the RX-7, when I should have concentrated more on the karting. It had, unfortunately, gotten a little old at the time.

I'm thinking again now about getting back into racing, but I'm not sure at what degree. I'd like to race wheel to wheel and karting would be the biggest bang for the buck, but I'm not so sure I want to go that route again. Seeing as how I would like to explore other hobbies, such as rock climbing, I'm trying to avoid getting too caught up in racing again as it will eat all of my time and money, just as it did last year. My other option is to auto-cross the Nissan, and this can be done for as much or as little money as I might choose.

I could run in a stock class with R-compound tires and very little suspension modification, which might be the ideal solution. I had been considering a slew of suspenion modifications to bring the car up to snuff, but if I do that I'll be racing on street tires and the traction available will be quite a bit less inviting than what I can get from a set of race tires. Add to that the fact that I'll be blowing through street tires like there's no tomorrow, and the suck factor is compounded.

I've got plenty of time to think about this, change my mind and change it again. My primary reason for returning to racing is that I am truly happy when I'm doing it. I really enjoy the competition, the feeling of accomplishment I get from making the car perform and it always makes me feel at peace. Sounds nuts, but I'm more relaxed during a fast lap than I am at any other time. Complete focus, I suppose... So, how can I walk away from what I truly enjoy?

21 October 2005

Initial D - 4th Stage

The Fourth Stage (not pictured) of Initial D has been playing in Japan this year and has finally come available on DVD in the USA. The DVDs are set-up as a boxed set (episode 1-14), as usual, but apparently the creators decided to add some episodes to the saga after the box set was released so there are now 18 episodes available.

For those unfamiliar, Initial D is the story of Takumi Fujiwara, a kid from Japan who delivers Tofu at 4 A.M. for his father's shop in the town of Akina. The town sits at the top of a huge mountain that is also used by street racers for drifting competitions and races from top to bottom. Since Takumi has been delivering tofu since he was 15, he has lots of practice driving on the mountain and typically tries to get home as early as possible so he can go back to bed before classes start!

As luck would have it, he's the fastest driver on Akina's mountain road without even knowing it, and eventually begins racing drivers from other prefectures as his knowledge and desire to compete gets stronger. His car is an outdated Toyota AE-86, but his skill is such that he can beat faster drivers, and his father has been secretly adjusting the car to help him go faster.

Needless to say this is a true car guy's TV show. One of the characters is goofy at times but others really take the time to talk about the technical side of racing and what makes things tick when you are driving on the edge. They delve into the mechanics of racing and high performance driving and it really makes things fun to watch... for car guys.

Character development is interesting as we see Tak's progression from apathetic contestant to committed racer as he competes against more and more drivers from different prefectures, and branches out to race at other team's home mountains.

Now in it's fourth stage, or fourth year, the Initial D storyline has progressed. Currently, Takuma and the Takaheshi brothers are competing against drivers from across Japan in what is called "Project D". The brothers are former founding members of the Redsuns team, one of the most dominant teams in Japan. At any rate, its all good fun to read since the shows are only sub-titled in English and do not sport any crappy dubbing.

20 October 2005


This video is of the 2006 F1 spec Cosworth V8 hitting 20,000 RPM on a dyno! Music to the ears for race fans... Should be an interesting season with the switch from 3.0L V10 to 2.4L V8 power for all teams concerned. I'm also curious the mystery 11th team that could be on the grid with Honda power and funding from Bernie Eccelstone...

Is there really anything I can say about this photo? This guy is obviously quite adept with, uhm, home modifications... I like the spit & suncshine tail light set-up. I'm also thinking that, given the size of that generator and the window unit, this thing must be COLD.

18 October 2005


So, I'm reading this book called Eragon. It has been awarded many dubious honors that range from Best Seller within New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, as well as some Publisher's Guild award and some other stuff. With all this praise, one should expect to find a wonderously well written story and a novel that captivates the reader.

However, I'm finding this work to be nothing more than a combination of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and other various fantasy works already in publication.

Remember when your English teacher would rap yaour knuckles and yell at you for "saying it" instead of "showing it"? I've nearly finished this novel and can honestly say that Mr. Paolini would be dying of blood loss if his teacher had anything more than a flimsy rubber ruler.

Plot holes. There are more plot holes in this book than I can count on both hands. Truly, there are so many instances in this book when I cannot help but wonder how in the bloody hell I went from Point A to Point B. The main character can communicate with his dragon and other animals telepathically. That's cool, really. I'm cool with the telepathy thing. What I'm not cool with is him leanring how to do it and have perfectly natural conversations within 5 minutes of discovering he has this "ability". I don't know, maybe its silly to harp on such things but its almost as if the author didn't feel like squandering time with adversity.

Too many cliched characters. Too many familiar plot points. Too many plot holes.

And yet, I still enjoy reading it. Oh sure I fall asleep every time I read it, but I'm going to finish it and may end up reading book #2 (Eldest) as well.


Damn... this Spice Girl grew up.

13 October 2005


Day- Tuesday
Time- 8:43 PM
Who- Anonymous

*Ring, Ring*
Me: Hello!
Her: "You've got a typo in your blog."
Me: I do? (laughing a bit)
Her: Yeah, and uh... you need to fix it.

So, apparently, I have a rather anal reader. From now on I'll be much more careful, I promse.

Damp Spirits

My sister shot this using a webcam near Times Square. I like how the street is blurred and the rain drops are focused, creating a skewed image of what is going on outside... just looks cool.

Dust to Glory

Last night I watched Dust to Glory a film by Dana Brown. Dana is Bruce Brown's son, who was responsible for Endless Summer back in the 60's. The film is a documentary about the SCORE International Tecate Baja 1000, run every November on the Baja peninsula just south of California. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, the crew manages to capture some incredible footage from this 1000 mile, 32+ hour race. The event, and the film, feature motorcycles, ATVs, buggies and trucks racing across the open desert.

There's a lot more to this movie than you might think, though. Instead of being about the race, it is more about the people who make the race such an incredible journey. From privateers racing stock pre-1980 VW Beetles to the $1 million+ Trophy Truck class, the stories are about survival, patience, perseverence and dumb luck. The film is beautifully shot and captures the grandeur of the topagraphy. The fans, the residents of baja, the families of teams that compete...

Even a non-race fan could enjoy this film and appreciate the dedication and passion of everyone involved in this annual event.

12 October 2005

A real pain in the...


This stupid thing is starting to hurt but only because the swelling has gone down and the splint is digging into the sides of my ankle. It's a real bitch, to say the least, and it does not tickle.

I'm having trouble sleeping, having trouble sitting still at work and having trouble deciding how to correct the issue. I might take this thing off of it tonight and try to move the padding so it isn't digging in so bad.

My toes are getting raw as well from being swollen and mashed together for a few weeks. Folks, this just isn't a lot of fun. Oh well, comes with the territy and, as I now enjoy saying... Its just one of those things.

A City in Ruins, Hundreds Dead

Having found strong economic ties to other suspected organizations the Bush Administration ordered a lethal strike this morning, aimed at silencing the teachings of a long-fabled organization.

Once thought to be a dangerous and manipulative religious cult bent on tearing into the minds of children, this small society was transformed and shed the onus to be elevated to cult status within pop culture. The sad news this morning that they were under attack by the Bush Administration has caught most citizens completely unaware.

Between bursts of tears and a runny nose, "It's so sad," said Kelsey Worthington, age 12, of Stonebridge, MA, "They were only three apples high!"

Other citizens agreed, like Jared Carter of Peoria, IL who angrily stated, "Even Azreal wouldn't do this, who would do this?"

The scene is a bloody one. Bodies of the dead and wounded lay strewn as bombs continue to whistle into this purported terrorist training camp delivering an unceasing amount of death and carnage to a civilization once known for it's Harmony with nature and a generally [i]Smurfy[/i] attitude.

11 October 2005

L4yer Cake

Damn, this was a cool movie. Read shit about it here because I'm too lazy to retype it. Basically, if you enjoyed Snatch & Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, you will thoroughly enjoy this movie. So, go rent it and you can thank me later.

10 October 2005

F1 vs MotoGP

After this weekend's Formula 1 Japanese GP at Suzuka I find myself enjoying Formula 1 again. I really stepped away from the series this year because of all the political wrangling going on with the teams, the FIA, Max Mosely and Bernie Eccelstone. Too much BS for one series to endure, I thought. They took away tire changes, introduced strict engine rules and did things that I thought were contrary to the soul of Formula 1.

Prior to the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Rolans Ratezenberger at the Italian GP in 1994, Formula 1 had enjoyed a heyday and real spark to the series. Following that tragic weekend, after so many knee jerk changes to the regulations and the design of the cars, the series bagan to fade slightly. It had a resurgence but still, something was missing. I am hoping that we can return to those days of yore with hard fought battles on the track and less dominance by a single team.

Formula 1 is a war of technical dominance. While driving prowess is important, it is difficult to tell who the best driver is as technical short-falls from team to team can hamper even the best performance. Of course, a truly great driver can drive around such things and make even the most troubled car a competitive option. It also makes the truly inspired drives and drivers stand-out when they push the limits and have the car dancing on the limits of adhesion. Unfortunately, the sporting regulations have become muddled and we are now facing so many deterants to spirited racing that Formula 1 is still only a shell of it's former glory.

This season, however, has shown marked improvement with the competitiveness of teams other than the Ferrari juggernaut. Renault, McLaren, Red Bull, Toyota and Sauber all had great years and showed that they can be competitive, if only in spikes. Honda suffered badly from the get-go, but they've battled back and had a reasonable year despite all the hardships.

A series that is currently enjoying a heyday is MotoGP, the top-flight motorcycle racing series in the world. Despite being dominated by Honda's RC211V and Valentino Rossi on both the Honda and now the Yamaha M1, the series continues to be quite exciting. Each race weekend is frought with battles throughout the field and the regulations are still open enough such that technical skill is required of the teams, but rider skill is quite a bit more obvious and attributable when the team sees either success or failure.

Add to this the sheer elegance of seeing a rider pilot a 240 bhp race bike around the careening expanse of GP circuit, and you get a renewed sense of what it means to live on a knife-edge. The brilliance exhibited by riders is uncanny as they are able to slide a bike sideways upon corner entry at speed well in excess of 215 mph. Granted, the consequences for mistakes in GP racing can be harsh, just ask Gary McCoy or Shane Byrne, but the ability of riders to reach that limit despite these risks is so inspiring, it defies definition.

There are quite a variety of teams capable of winning each round of the championship and the recent improvement in performace from Ducati is a welcome sight to break-up the Honda / Yamaha train at the front of the grid. Kawasaki has also shown a few whisps of brilliance but seeing as how they are completely out-budgeted by the other manufacturers, it is no surprise to see them struggle.

What I fear now is an F1 type of change in the regulations of MotoGP, or the introduction of so much technical wizardry that the rider is removed from the equation. Formula 1 suffered a glut of technology in the mid-90s and it made a mockery of several championship winners including Damon Hill and Jacque Villenueve... I'd hate to see the same thing happen in MotoGP, as this could spell death for the gravity defying slide-ways corner entries, tire smoking wheelies and amazing mid-corner line changes we see exhibited by the current crop of bikes and riders.

Having raced both four- and two-wheeled vehicles for 15 years, I can appreciate the technical skill required of the teams and drivers/riders in both series, but this is still no contest. Given my choice, I'll opt for MotoGP over F1 in regard to excitement per dollar as a spectator.

MotoGP has a certain draw that does not merely touch the adventurous side of your soul, it reaches in and grips it, lap after lap, until you feel a trickle of sweat on your back and the sting of tense muscles as the checquered flag falls. For me, you can feel the elation as a team and rider rejoice their victory, or resolutely declare to avenge a loss. Take a look, you might be surprised.

Amazon Drought

There's a lack of water in the Amazon and something tells me it has more to do with deforestation and senseless clear-cutting than anything else. It's sick, to me, for them to systematically destroyed such a lush area. I don't understand how they can be this short-sighted in regard to something that existed for millenia, and should have lasted for centuries beyond ourselves. Instead, we're completely destroying it in the name of paper and housing.

07 October 2005

Metal, and why I like it.

Metal relaxes me. I know, most people don't believe or understand that, but it's true. Metal calms my nerves, relieves my stress and returns me to a state of normalcy. In fact, if I do not listen to metal for several days I can feel the tension building and I become very edgy. On the same token I can also find solice in trance/electronica. The sense of relaxation is somewhat different, but it does help me tone down.

Metal is Raw. I'm not talking about that sissy shit you hear on the radio, either. Bands like Linkin' Park, Disturbed, Staind and Slipknot are not (to me anyway) metal. Metal has nothing to do with singing about being depressed, or singing about being angry because you were dumped by your girlfriend, nor does it have to do with singing about satan or being anti-Christian. Nu-metal bands, as they are called, combine elements of hip-hop and rap with droning, boring chords and a desire to do nothing more than whine about how evil and bad they are, or how anti-establishment and against the man they are... when in fact they are nothing more than marketing machines taking advantage of people with nowhere to direct their prepubescent angst. The music is trite, simple and lacks technical talent. It copies the sound of previous bands and looks only to emulate the success of a band that has already made it into the pantheon of truly talented metal bands.

"While most nu metal bands still release albums, sales are now significantly lower. Also, seeing the start of the metalcore and hardcore boom of the early 2000's, some nu-metal bands had abandoned their original sound to lean more towards that musical direction; Chimaira and 36 Crazyfists being prime examples." -Wikipedia

Metal is Pure Emotion. A majority of what I consider good metal comes from Europe, Sweden and Finland in particular. The music employs complex drum beats (Soulfly, Opeth, Dark Tranquility), solo guitar efforts that require talent like double picking (Shadows Fall, Children of Bodom, Singery) and lyrics that are charged with a message, typically with political themes (In Flames, Arch Enemy, Tool). Obviously, there are exceptions, but the best metal also entails a vocalist's ability to actually sing. Gone is the day when simply yelling into the mic passed as vocals. Most bands feature vocals which may run the gammut from growler to clean operatic themes (Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish).

We now find ourselves with a dilemma in determining the good from the bad. A band like Fear Factory established a grindcore sound for their bands some years ago, and has not strayed much from that sound through the years. Their music is harsh, the guitars laced with reverb and the vocals done mostly as a bark... they were the first, and they do it the best. Other bands may copy this sound and attempt to play like Fear Factory, but they cannot compete with what truly is one of the best of it's genre. Obviously, to what we enjoy listening is ultimately up to the individual, but I often find that most people do not have a clear understanding of what encompasses metal.

Another good exmaple of mimic bands started with a wonderful group called Nightwish. Nightwish is a melodic metal band who's female vocalist has a haunting and beautiful voice, combined with songwriting that rivals all comers. Their sound is shared by Lacuna Coil, an Italian band, and then stolen and popularized in the United States by Evanescence.

One of my favorite metal bands, considered Melodic Death Metal, is Opeth. Opeth combines acoustic guitar, complex drum beats and incredible vocals with grinding guitar, deep bass and a growler voice that seems to eminate directly from the pit of hell. For my ears, it is the most complex and intriguing sound to permiate my home speaker system... If Pink Floyd had written metal, this is what it would have sounded like, if that says anything to you.

Another surprising band is Dimmu Borgir. Dimmu is a northern European Black Metal band that relishes in using blood curdling vocals, clean operatic vocals and mixing it with inspired organ, string and full orchestra pieces that could easily be heard while attending a symphony! The creativity of the best metal bands helps them transcend the typical style of the genre and become something more.

For many of the same reasons I enjoy metal, I also enjoy Big Band Jazz, Classical and Electronica. As my friend Eric likes to say, "If Carl Orff, Brahms and Mozart were alive today, they'd be writing metal."

And no, I do not dress in black, wear eye make-up, worship satan or talk about being depressed all the time. I listen to metal because it is real, because it is pure and because it is written by artists who write music not to sell albums, but to please only themselves.

Dark Ages

Dark Ages is the latest album from the Brazilian metal band, Soulfly.

It is their fifth installment and perhaps their most brutal iteration of a unique sound which encompasses tribal drum beats, ethnic instruments like the sitar and politically charged, intelligent music that annihilates the typical sniveling & whining of pop-metal and nu-metal bands.

I've listened to the album only twice now, and both times while catching up on some reading, so I need to get in a good session with the lyrics and really get into the album. This isn't to say the album serves only as background music, it was simply not given my full attention.

First impression? Brutal. Max has put together a great album that reminds me of the early Sepultura album, Arise. The work is clean, but it is less technical than previous albums and opts more for a bludgeoning style of metal like Fear Factory.

05 October 2005

Random bits.

Like the people who see me on crutches and say, "Gee, maybe you should take up knitting!" or the people who ask me, "Gosh, when are you going to learn?"

Learn what? Learn to sit on my ass watching TV all day? Learn to watch other people live life and do fun shit but be too scared to live it myself? Learn to fear even the most minor bodily injury? No thanks. That's a lesson I do not wish to learn. Having stopped riding the motorcycle I do have some regrets about not being on the bike. I thorough enjoyed commuting to work on the SV and really enjoyed just beong out on the thing. Even at sane speeds on the street it was a lot of fun, but it is still hard to imagein riding on the road and not wanting to go back to the track to do more track days and racing.

Financially, I do not need to be racing or doing track events. Emotionally, well... last year was a bummer. Too many hits to the confidence and the ego in too short a period of time. This year has been far more productive and prosperous. The rides from Houston to Austin and Dallas to Ardmore both went very well. Got started in climbing and thoroughly enjoy learning all those new skills. Racing in some criterium, doing more group rides and meeting new friends through cycling... 2005 has been quite nice. The broken leg is a set back, but it reminds me I'm still quite vulnerable and need to tend to all the friendships and keep my network strong.

It's all good, and soon enough I'll be ready to rock.

No surgery, not yet.

Went to see Dr. Royer yesterday and they took about six x-rays. Upon inspection I was informed that surgery should not be necessary, but we'd know more in ten days. Apparently, I have broken the bottom of my fibula and the back of my tibia. These bones form your lower leg as well as your ankle and having everything in the right place can be critical.

With all the swelling in my leg it could be that my joint is being held together by the excess fluid. So, we'll wait 10 days and take more x-rays... only this time I need to put weight on my foot. If my ankle does not shift, if the bones do not give and if everything is as it should be I'll be good to go and on my way to a healthy recovery.

If, however, my ankle bends or flexes as it should not and I have movement in the bones... we'll need to go in with a plate and screws. I'd much prefer to avoid surgery, though I had already resigned myself to it before getting to his office. With luck, everything will stay were it should.

The plate would, if installed, e about 4 inches long and incorporate screws into the good bone as well as screws in the broken bit. The plate would support the bone so that it will grow back together properly and allow me to have normal movement, agility and strength in my ankle. As it stands, climbing and cycling are still very much a part of my future.

04 October 2005

More Broken Bones

Thursday night I broke my leg. It's the little bone in the bottom or your leg, I think they call that a fibula. Whatever its called, its broken and it doesn't look like it wants to play games. There's a long crack (about 2-3 inches) and some extra bits and pieces as far as I can see in the xrays, but I'm no doctor. It does not hurt. Nope, I know that sounds odd but the thing is just sort of there.

Lee and I met with Danielle to ride the LB Houston trail. Lap one was fun, lap two was going great. Danielle flatted right off the start and left, but Lee and I kept going. I picked up the pace on the tacky surface and was really hauling ass through the woods when I got to The Dips section and something went wrong. I don't know how I crashed, I just did. Hit the ground with my shoulder tucked and my head down, but the impact was from the side and must have landed on a rise of dirt because I heard the bone go *pop* and there was no pain. I knew it was bad, I just didn't think it was broken.

Lee got there and we messed around with debating whether it was an ankle break or ankle sprain. I could still roll my ankle and flex it up and down, but in doing so there were also more popping noises from my leg. I tried putting some weight on it but that didn't work, and we needed to get me out of the woods somehow. So, I threw a leg over Lee's bike (his seat is lower than mine) and used my left leg (the good one) to push myself down the trail and out of the woods.

Back at his truck we played around and tried to determine the extent of the damage. I did the usual "this side is normal, this side... isn't" routine and could feel a variety of what I can only term as separations within my leg. It wasn't pleasant so we loaded the bikes and Lee followed me to the ER.

After a short wait I was in to get xrays and soon enough the ER doc was chuckling at my bedside.
"Looks like you did a real job on this one."
"From this angle we can see a hair line fracture running down here..."
Oh, that's not soo bad...
"But from this angle we can see that there are more pieces in there than there should be..."
"And finally, from this angle... we can see that this portion might also be chipped..."
So, what now? Does this heal on its own?
"Nah, looks like they'll need to go in surgically."

Its like 2004 all over again folks. I thought I was done breaking bones for awhile when I stopped racing motorcycles, but now here I am snapping things on the mountain bike. Such is life.

What bothers me more though, and this is a rant, by the way, is the attitude people take toward me about it.
"So, gonna take up chess now?" or "Hey, we'll just call you crutch" or "Why won't you learn?"

You know what? Fuck off. Seriously, just keep your pussy comments to yourself. I'm living life the way I want to live it. Sure, I could do without the injuries but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself and I would not change that for anything. Motorcycle racing was a blast, but any time you get thrown off something and bounce across pavement at 100+ MPH, you have to expect a few things to go wrong. And, given the corner I crash in the first time around, I got away pretty damn lucky. I went into it too quickly (racing, that is) and that is what bit me. Most of the people I was racing had been on motorcycles and dirt bikes since they could walk. They'd ridden for 20+ years and had skill hones from years of riding and racing. Me?

I was on the track having learned to ride a motorcycle on 6 months previous. I took to racing on two wheels after doing quite well on four, and pretty much just ran with it. I wasn't Mr. Superfast, but I was certainly quicker than a majority of the folks I was racing and I picked up massive amounts of speed in a very short time. Then, it all went a bit wrong. Shit happens. Still, I came back and raced again and very nearly came into 2005 guns blazing... but Oak Hill really set me back financially and emotionally for a number of reasons, and I backed out. I still regret it, and I'm sure I always will. I want to race, and I want to race bad... but I can't. I need to move on and find other things to keep me happy and satisfy my desire to completely crush my opponents into dust.

At any rate, the cycling thing has been great so I'm not going to give it up. This was a freak accident and likely caused by my own desire to go a bit faster than I should have been... but I felt good that day and I was flying down the trail when it happened. Oh well. I broke a bone, damn. Life goes on.

12 weeks from now I'll be climbing at Stoneworks.