Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reservoir Tip

This story has come up in a couple of conversations recently, so I thought I would just post it. Actually, I had mixed up my stories, so after checking out the facts on the internet, I can clarify it into two short stories.
This is a Jerry Entin photo snagged from the internet.

In the 1970's, when Michigan International Speedway was new, they had an interesting road course that went out of the oval on the back straight. Although we watched our first race, a Can-Am, from the grandstands, for the Formula 5000 race in 1973, we went out on the back of the road course. The race was huge fun with Jody Scheckter wining in his Trojan T101. Scheckter had been given the nickname "Sideways Scheckter" and his driving style proved his nickname as he power slide his car through the corners on the back of M.I.S. Car control is a thing of beauty.

The Scheckter car is call a Trojan, but has nothing to do with the condom company, unlike the Keke story below.

Somehow I got that mixed up with the story of Keke Rosberg in Formula Atlantic. I saw him race in Canada, I think at the Canadian Grand Prix around 1978 with Atlantic as a support race. Keke would eventually end up as 1982 F1 champion, but in his early days, he spent a year in the US racing the Excita Condoms, Chevron formula Atlantic car.
These days, some of my younger friends would worry about driving a pink car and whether people would think that was a little gay. But tell me, would you rather be a young, aggressive Finn named Keke or nicknamed "Kinky", drive a pink race car, and be sponsored by a condom manufacturer or be Mark Martin driving a stock car racer sponsored by Viagra?
As I said earlier, car control can be a beautiful thing, especially when paired with aggression.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Empty Head

I suspect that men are different from women. Duh! Why don't you just state the totally obvious. Actually, I'm thinking about how men and women think. I recently saw a PBS special that claimed women are constantly thinking, even when at rest, and men's brains are typically quiet when at rest. Actually, what the PBS guy said was that a man's brain at rest was typically empty, waiting for stimulation.

At the time, I thought, "Wow, that doesn't sound like me. I'm thinking about stuff all the time." And actually, it feels true. At least part of the guy species are always thinking about a project, a plan, something interesting to learn, or a fantasy.

Now I will admit that what I'm thinking about doesn't have much to do with my emotions or how I feel about stuff, so maybe my thoughts wouldn't register on the PBS science guy's scans. But these thoughts, these plans and projects, keep me busy and interested all the time. I look forward to thinking about them like looking forward to reading a good book. I might be having a nice conversation with you, but in the back of my mind, the ongoing story is just sitting there waiting like I've pushed the pause button and it will start up again the first time there is a spare moment.

This on-going commentary in my head has been a nearly constant companion for all of my life. Those rare moments when its not available seem strange and disconnected. Actually, I'm going through one of those blank periods in the last few weeks. In part, I'm writing about this in hopes that the act of writing about it will get me off center, bust me out of my writer's block in that small commentary inside my brain.

There is nothing special going on in my life. Nothing unusual. I'm plenty busy at work, doing interesting work. I have a new co-worker that I'm getting to know and its even a little unusual because its a women engineer (a married mom, naturally). My work is actually quite satisfying in terms of good results and satisfying decisions. Just otherwise blank.

So to you women, the next time you are talking to a man, just be aware that he may have an empty head after all. That condition may be temporary or permanent. And to you guys, here is wishing you the next project, plan, or fantasy to keep that inside story going.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Primitive Man and the Electric Motorcycle

In this case, the primitive man is me.

A few weeks ago, John and I were standing in the spectator gallery at the Mid-Ohio race course while a group of the TTXGP Electric race motorcycles were doing laps. They looked fast, but it was weird because there was no sound. In fact, there was an internal combustion engine warming up in the paddock which made lovely noise but didn't match the action on the track. I had the impression watching one show on the TV and hearing another show on the radio.

Its easy to see that electric powered vehicles represent the future but why is it that I feel like I'm missing something important, the sound?

By the way, the funny looking fairing that covers the front wheel on two of these bikes is called a "Dustbin" fairing. It was used on MotoGP bikes in the 50's and is very aerodynamic. Of course, it was outlawed along the way. One of these bikes is a 50's era Norton that has been converted to electric with a modern dustbin fairing added.

By the way, thanks to Schultz Engineering and Craig Vetter for the pictures of the bikes at Mid-Ohio which I found on the web.

This video was forwarded by Darius and it represents a celebration of internal combustion sounds. Why does this sound so good to me? I think every sports car and every motorcycle should sound this good. I even like the sound and motion of old steam engines. My guess is that men evolved hunting powerful beasts which made loud growls and powerful movements that challenged our ancestors in the hunt. I'm certain they had great respect for these powerful beasts and the opportunity to control such power in the form of a machine, somehow demands that the machine express its power in sound.

So how are us primitive male types going to deal with this new, quiet electric era? Ken Davis reminded me that we can always program our stereo to make the noise inside the car. Push a button and your electric car sounds like a Ferrari when you accelerate. Maybe we will even put some speakers on the electric motorcycle with the sound coming out of the fake exhaust pipe or little speakers in the helmet making powerful sounds. Man sure is a silly species.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Motors and Cycles

Its been taking me twice as long after my vacation, just to catch up with stuff from my vacation. One of the vacation adventures was a short trip to the AMA Vintage Bike Days at Mid-Ohio. There was lots to see and I won't cover all of it, but this is one small, interesting corner of the show.

I don't know a lot about the Ariel Square Four other than it was a high end British motorcycle with 4 cylinders arranged vertically in a square. Two crankshaft were geared together in the center to combine the output of what is essentially a pair of vertical twins. They were built from the late 20's through the late 50's in several different incarnations.

These are "4 pipe" engines from the mid-50's and I think they are a beautiful piece of metal sculpture.

This Ariel has a full "sedan car" sidecar. Looks appropriately British to my eye.

The advantage of video is sound. Now my little camera doesn't do a great job, but I thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture the sound of this rare engine.