Monday, May 28, 2012

Getting Back to an Old Hobby - Part 1 (Background)

Music has been a part of my life for a long time. For those just tuning in, let's recap what all I've been listening to. Early on my exposure was whatever my dad would put on after dinner with which to relax, probably with a beer or glass of wine. Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis all stand out in my recollection. 

Through school I played a variety of instruments. First I started off with some Alto and Tenor Sax (which my dad had played - the latter being a mint condition Selmer Mark VI from the mid 50's or 60's if I recall correctly. Legit.) Later on I focused on Bb Trumpet in some concert and jazz bands. Did pretty damn well too if I say so myself. Toward the end of middle school and beginning of high school I had on a pretty typical array of stuff - The Deftones, Sevendust, Korn, Static X, Staind, Powerman 5000, Black Sabbath, Godsmack, that kinda thing. Pretty fucking narrow in scope. Thankfully as I got into guitar, my teacher in Red Bank picked up on what little Sabbath, Hendrix, and Clapton I mentioned and opened my tastes up a bit. I got into some Pat Martino, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Wes Montgomery and such. Also had the opportunity to see Les Paul play in NYC before he passed away. 

That's when I got into music writing and recording, and that's the shit I really want to get back into. At the time I was using some version of Cool Edit (now bought out and has become Adobe Audition) and Hammerhead (now available as a touch app I see) and a pretty hack mic setup in my room with a single guitar and Marshall 2x12 solid state combo amp. I'll have to see if I can dig up some recorded bits of stuff from then. Admittedly, it was mostly pretty weak. 

With my new house, I'm dedicating a room to all things audio related:

It's a work in progress. There's a power amp on the way for that rack space to power the reference speakers, and I need to get my mom to ship out the rest of my old guitars and effects out here and get them set up. I also sprung for a legit copy of Pro Tools, which was actually relatively affordable when included with the I/O box there. For sampling and sequencing I stepped up to an Akai MPC1000. I'll have a guitar amp set up, but for most recording I might just go direct through the Line 6 POD there on the far left. Now that I think about it, maybe it would be worth getting the POD plug-in for Pro Tools. I think that would allow me to record a guitar track "dry" and dick around with settings, effects, etc downstream. 

As an aside, it was only when I was at the end of high school and got into college that I started listening to a lot more of my current music selection. That includes a selection of electronica - Hybrid, BT, Moby, Deadmau5, Zero 7, Daft Punk, Exodus Quartet - mostly on account of Greg introducing me to all of it. Moreover though, tons of hip hop. I love the sound of a lot of the music and production out of the NY area in the early 90's - A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, Camp Lo, and anything produced by Pete Rock or DJ Premier. Most recently I'm really enjoying the sounds coming out of the Raleigh area with 9th Wonder, Little Brother and others on Jamla Records... and some west coast sounds as well. People Under the Stairs comes to mind.

Still haven't gotten into the whole country scene.

"Racing" - Purist vs Spectacle

Head's a bit foggy this morning but hopefully some jet black coffee and jams will clear that up. On the latter, not sure what I'm in the mood for. We'll stick with a good go to for easing into the day. Later on this Memorial Day will feature a healthy dose of the Beastie Boys.

But I digress...

Most of this will be in the context of F1, though it is equally applicable to NASCAR or Indy Car. After spending yesterday watching the biggest day of the year for racing (GP Monaco, Indy 500, Charlotte Coke 600) ... I was most disappointed with the F1 race. It was quite boring, aside from some interesting action with rain drops toward the end. In general I haven't followed much F1 in recent years because it just hasn't been entertaining.

Before we get into why, let's get some ideas of what makes for a good race or season...

  • Competitive - have a field where there are more than a few potential winners every weekend. I.e. not a year of complete and utter Ferrari or Red Bull domination (as we've seen in F1 in various years)
  • Accessible - sponsors and teams come and go, so to continue and grow the sport it has to be at least somewhat attractive to a new team or supplier - i.e. not prohibitively expensive
  • Earnest - a victory should come down to which driver or team has won the race, rather than who hasn't lost it. An old football quote goes something to the effect of, "more games are lost than won." More on that in a bit.
On the note of competition and parity, this is something that has been sorely missing in F1 for years. At best, a couple teams would have a shot at the title and leave everyone else without a chance in hell. At worst, one team would run away with it from the first race and the season would become entirely predictable. To a point this goes hand in hand with accessibility, or lack thereof. If you had hundreds of millions of dollars to burn every year, you would probably have a chance of winning races (Toyota a notable exception!). Otherwise, the smaller teams - forget it? 

While we want some parity we also do not want a spec series. That is very much against the "identity" of F1. Personally I would be very much for a tight, regulated budget cap and a much more open rule book. Low budget cap makes things more accessible to smaller or newer entries. Open rule book emphasizes creativity and diversity. If you want to encourage innovation - allow people to innovate!! Hell, give the teams a fixed amount of fuel for practice, qualifying, and the race (not unlike tire allocation in NASCAR) and then let them go nuts. Unlimited displacement as far as I'm concerned, as well as cylinder configuration. However you want to burn the fuel is up to you. Make KERS unlimited too. Seems silly to put in a regenerative system under the guise of road relevance and then severely limit it.

As for earnest wins - enough of these tires that go to shit after the first lap. At Monaco by lap 7 there were radio transmissions telling tires to conserve tires. That's shit - it isn't racing at all. I think we see similar things in F1 and NASCAR here. In the latter, once tires go off badly everyone settles in for similar lap times. Very hard to make a pass if you have no confidence of tires or stability under you. In the extreme case of Atlanta a few years back, even fresh tires were terrible and it was a defensive battle of trying not to wreck rather than actually being able to get after people.  If I'm a driver or engineer I want my tires to be consistent and predictable so I can tune the car and get after the competition. If the tires are so delicate that one failed pass means they're garbage and you can do no more passing... what good is that? Right now the tires make it a crap shoot. Tires with massive fall off are in my opinion no better than deciding races by mechanical failures or whose engine blows up. 

Of course there's also the issue of being able to close on someone. To some degree I think parity helps that. Each major series (Cup, Indy, F1) at least have something good to this effect. In Cup, using full course cautions rather than local gets the field closed up and makes for additional opportunities. At the Indy 500 there was a big slip stream effect and lead to a number of position changes. In F1, while at first I wasn't a fan of DRS as I saw it as a crutch for lack of good racing - it does get the job done and gives you some "push button slip streaming."

But that's my opinion. When I watch a race I want to see - you guessed it - drivers racing each other. Not an effectively random outcome. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The State of American Politics... absolutely fucking pathetic. Worst yet, it's at all levels from the common man to the executive branch.

What was Lincoln's speech back in the day? Something about a house divided upon itself cannot stand? At least slavery was something worth fighting against. Today, the "us versus them" mentality of Democrat vs Republican is just sad. It's one of few things that genuinely depresses me - that so many people love to jump on the bandwagon of one "team" or another and get an adrenaline rush any time they bash Fox News or Barack Obama or whatever the hell. Beyond that, it's one thing for idiots in their teens and twenties to harp on this stuff - but for the President himself to follow this suit is just sad.

If you as an American truly, sincerely believe that either the Democrats of Republicans are inherently any more / less intelligent or reasonable than "your team" ... I am hereby judging you as a fucking moron. Don't bother trying to explain. You have been judged. Zip it, I don't want to hear it.

The fact that the past few elections have been relatively close, to me speaks to the point that we have mediocre candidates and it's always a "lesser of two evils" rather than someone who is legitimately good and an easy choice. Nobody knows shit about their local and state elections - and so jerkoffs make their way into the House and Senate. From this pool of jerkoffs come some presidential candidates - some distilled jerkoffs who are either well funded or smart enough to take advantage of people. 

Elections are all geared toward taking advantage of the naive, in my opinion. Campaign ads with a strong focus on slandering or demeaning the opponent? You've run out of anything good to say about yourself so all you can do is play depressing music and black and white scenes about how the "other guy" is the End of America? Fuck off with that, asshole. A campaign harping on "hope" and "change" ? I could give a flying fuck. People through the ages have come to power by tugging at such easy emotional strings, particularly during times of depression or unrest (Hitler being a good example). How about you show me a plan forward? More taxes or less... how about we first focus on auditing large government entities as they stand to make them accountable for however many billions in wasted taxpayer dollars. 

Worst of all is the branding. Republican. Democrat. Which am I? Who knows. Admittedly there are a number of other parties out there... none of which realistically have a shot in hell of winning anything for a variety of reasons. Maybe I'll post a video on that at some point. 

I like to call myself socially liberal and financially conservative. Legalize marijuana? Sure - within restrictions like we have for alcohol (e.g. not driving under the influence). Abortions? Sure. Gay marriage? Sure. It's not my place to decide how other people live their lives so long as they aren't destructive to the rest of the community. But I am not for a huge government - moreover one that is financially inefficient and irresponsible. Where does that put me and who do I vote for? Who knows.

What's the point of this rambling? How about this - stop being assholes, people. I've been guilty of it enough myself before. We, as a country, shouldn't be so focused on "beating the other team" as much as we should be focused on finding some common ground and improving things.

Professional Objectivity in Motorsports

Full disclosure - I currently work for a NASCAR team, and previously worked for a motorsport and OEM supplier. All opinions stated herein are my own and not necessarily shared by my employers or sponsors - past or present.

Admittedly my exposure to the working world of Formula 1 is quite limited. From what I gather however there is an immense pool of engineers / people who try to join the sport at the entry level, which makes it very competitive and with some base salaries I'd describe as adequate at best. Hell, I think I applied to (or emailed) just about every team on the grid when I graduated college [university for you accustomed to European nomenclature. Euroclature?] and was pretty happy just to get a rejection letter. Little did I know at that time that I didn't know shit about shit and was of little value to a racing team competing at a high level.

I'll pose this as a question to those living and working closer to the Prime Meridian than I - how many of those working in F1 are rabid fans of the sport? More to the point - if they are, is that a healthy thing? 

In my opinion you have to have a pretty good buffer of professional objectivity in this business. I'd say most of the people I've worked with have been in a few different organizations over their careers. Sponsors come and go, as do opportunities, and people move around. Drivers move from team to team. To me it would be almost embarrassing to have an all-out favorite driver or car or team. What happens if you get a job on a team in direct competition with them? Or if they're in your organization and leave? 

On the other hand I think you need to have some amount of emotional investment in your team to compete at a high level. When push comes to shove it helps to have something that will drive you to work the nights and weekends without any extra pay to try to win the next race. Striking a balance is key. 

To some degree I'd go so far as to liken being a motorsport engineer to being an NFL athlete. 

Let's give it a few minutes for the laughs to subside. Certainly nothing to do with being able to throw a deep fade to Victor Cruz for a touchdown - but a common theme in any NFL interview regarding contracts and shuffling around in teams is that "it's a business." That it most certainly is. So to all those looking to get your feet wet in racing, perhaps it's best to market yourself as a professional asset rather than a fan.

Let's Get It Started

I immediately regret the title of this first post as it is entirely too synonymous with That Terrible Song by the Black Eyed Peas. I suppose in and of itself, "That Terrible Song by the Black Eyed Peas" doesn't exactly make for a short list, but in this case you get the idea. Ironically enough it does remind me of Freshman year of college - which was a bit hit or miss in it's own right. Anyway...

So, I've had a blog on vehicle dynamics and racecar design. That went well. I started a blog on food, but that was a bit of a fizzle. Fine, a massive fizzle. But why keep all that shit separate? Given that my stream of consciousness is about as random as can be, why not carry that over here and mix it all up?

Speaking of mixing it up, it's a rare occasion that I find a remix of an old song that I really like - but here we have an exception. Check it:

Now that we have some good jams going, let's commence with the content.