Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The ILLEGAL Cannonball Run

Do you remember the cheesy "Cannonball Run" movie from 1981 that starred Burt Reynolds? It portrayed a bunch of comical misfits who auto race each other across the breadth of the U.S from coast to coast. In reality, there is an outlaw Cannonball run that originated over thirty years ago - conceived by car magazine writer and auto racer, Brock Yates, and fellow Car and Driver editor, Steve Smith, in 1971. In modern terms, the idea is to speed cross the States from New York City to Los Angeles at an average speed of more than ninety miles an hour while escaping speed traps, troopers, and avoiding vehicular homicide. It wouldn't surprise motor enthusiasts to know there has been an ongoing, illegal, highly risky, and nefarious pursuit by a few racing car speed freaks/tech geeks to break the purported original Cannonball record of 32 hours and 7 minutes. The "record time" was recently surpassed in 2006 by Alex Roy, a wealthy heir, and devious, self-promoting speed junkie from New York with a time of 31 hours and 4 minutes. This successful venture by Roy exacted both a personal (his girl friend left) and financial toll, and required considerable planning along with high tech gadgetry - his BMW ride was tricked out with every conceivable radar/laser detector/jammer, police scanners, a CB radio, and GPS units etc., and he used aerial spotters in planes to boot. In fact, it may have demonstrated more technical mastery than driving skill. Who can't drive 100 miles per hour?

This whole, fascinating escapade is well documented in the November, 2007 issue of Wired magazine, but there seems to be a cult-like attraction to, and admiration of the whole enterprise embedded in the article.

The story is riveting, and there is a vicarious thrill reading the details of their record breaking run - but it still strikes a disturbing chord.

The Wired journalist came across as a fan boy in his prose - expounding on the impressive technical expertise, and daring of these clever criminals. And criminals they are. There are numerous bereaved families who have lost loved ones because of reckless street racing by impulsive, car crazed youths. The mayhem on highways continues daily, and now we have a disillusioned, money is no object, rich speed junkie, breaking a record that flaunted numerous laws, and likely endangered more than a few lives. All of that brain power put into a criminal enterprise. What a waste - just so you can become a cult hero.

I don't blame Wired for publishing the story. It's a compelling one with more than a little technical cunning, but all of that macho excitement generated by the chasing of a dubious auto record overshadows the significant death toll on our highways from speeding and other dangerous maneuvers.

That same GPS technology that helped Roy blast across the country should be used to track speeding objects on the ground, with the info relayed to local authorities who then might intercept these maniacs, because as surely as the sun rises every morning the next Cannonball run is being planned. Mr. Roy, you must be a bright fellow - you inherited significant wealth - you have some technical talents. Why not use them for a higher calling instead of acting out your infantile fantasies?

Of course this kind of moralistic quipping will fall on deaf ears in this car crazy, Nascar fuelled world. Your crew will be too busy dealing with the documentary(ies), fan mail, commercials and movie deals pouring in to worry about any backlash. Has BMW offered to sponsor your next attempt?

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tiger Roars Again

Tiger Woods is the best athlete so far in the Twenty First Century. As everyone in the golf world knows he won his thirteenth major golf championship today after dominating the field through 72 holes of the PGA tournament. His combination of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual focus along with immense innate talent give him a unique stature in the world of sports and golf - the most difficult, pressure packed sport to master ever devised. His late father Earl seemed to have precognition of this talent, and his future accomplishments soon after Tiger was born. Even if you know little of golf you must take the time to watch this phenom in his prime as he closes in on the supreme golf record of Jack Nicklaus who holds the most professional major victories (eighteen) of any golfer. My prediction is that Tiger will surpass Jack's record by the year 2011 or by Tiger's Thirty fifth birthday. After that this prodigal ambassador of sport with his multicultural background, and native intelligence could look towards becoming a dominating political figure - maybe President of the United Nations? Let there be no doubt - Tiger is above all a humanitarian, something his father Earl taught him well. He is a reluctant hero, but that is his mantle nonetheless. We will watch in awe as you shoot for the stars Tiger. Go get em.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Golf Season: Part III

Here is one of the best mental golf tips you will ever hear:

Once you have visualized the shot you want to hit and finished a practise swing that feels like that shot, then immediately go ahead and pull the trigger. You will likely be pleased with the result. For this to work though, you have to completely trust your pre-shot preparation and visualization, and then maintain a smooth tempo and rhythm through the shot. The key word here is trust - because that is what will help you maintain that smooth tempo and rhythm during the shot. Do not focus on any specific mechanical actions or thoughts, since that will likely create a disjointed, inhibited swing motion and subsequent poor shot.

The natural corollary to the above statement is to have a positive, confident approach. Have the self discipline to exclude negative thoughts from your golf shot preparation and execution. These concepts are more valuable to your improvement as a golfer than hitting a thousand balls at the range.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Ultimate Shave

This will be the final word on shaving methods from Seasons Under The Sun. After all, there are more important health and hygiene issues out there. I had no intention of writing another shaving article, but sometimes a coincidental little event in life can cause a significant shift in our opinion. In this case it was the free Gillette Fusion razor that arrived in my mail box out of the blue a few weeks ago. This may be a brilliant marketing ploy by Gillette - if you like the razor you will keep buying the blades, and in this case they have made a revolutionary razor. Lest you accuse me of resorting to shameless corporate plugs, or of being a shill for Gillette, let me assure you that I have no affiliation with any product manufacturers. I will only recommend products that I use, and only those that have proven value to me.

The Gillette Fusion is simply a great razor. It has five tightly spaced, separate blades on one side, and another trimming blade on the other. It's also available in a power model with a micro-chip that regulates the voltage and blade action. Other high-tech features include a low battery indicator light and a safety switch that shuts the razor down after eight minutes of continuous operation.

I received only a few very minor inconspicuous nicks using this razor - from the very first shave with sharp blades, and through many subsequent shaves. It also works great using only a small amount of shaving cream for lubrication, and the shave is very close to the skin. My faith in razor shaving has been restored, so thumbs up to the new Gillette Fusion Razor!

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Wine and Country

What's an excellent way to expand appreciation for your favorite varietal wines? Try sampling them from across different regions, geographies, countries and continents. By doing so, you will discover a world of subtle complexity in drinking varietals, since they derive some unique characteristics based on their geographic locale. Various Shiraz wines from across the globe fit this bill nicely. For example Shiraz wines from Australia and California tend to exhibit more potent fruit flavors as compared to those from the Northern Rhone. There are many other different tasting qualities based on climate and geography that all fall under the Shiraz(also known as Syrah) dominion.

The Reserve 2004 from Banrock Station is an Australian Shiraz we recently enjoyed, and their own description of Banrock Shiraz sums it up nicely:

"Vibrant purple with deep red hues, this wine epitomises the depth of colour and flavour Australian Shiraz's are renowned for. Aromas of black currant, cherry and spicy oak precede a soft and supple palate. Fresh fruit characters of cherry and red berry fruits are balanced by licorice and tantalising chocolate flavours. Hints of cinnamon, vanilla and oak add complexity to this exceptional wine."

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Shaving Update

This should be a final installment about the vagaries of trying to obtain a quick and easy trauma free shave. In a prior post entitled "Razor Blade Rules" I expressed some skepticism regarding razor blade technology and discussed some methods to reduce nicks while shaving with a blade. It then occurred to me that shaving cream might be a culprit as well, and I had some success shaving without it while keeping my face and the razor blade completely wet. This method was described in "Why Use Shaving Cream?". Although shaving without cream did work fairly well, I began to experience some skin irritation around the neck region, and this prompted me to try other shaving methods yet again. I've finally settled on a combination technique using an old electric shaver to remove most of the facial hair, followed by a razor blade shave with a dollop of shaving cream. Removing most of the hair with an electric razor is quick and allows for an easy, fast and close finishing shave with the blade. Of course this means a humble retraction of my prior stance against the use of shaving cream, but the compromise is using only a small amount to aid lubrication. I'm still convinced that using too much shaving cream can increase the risk of nicking your skin during a shave. Happy shaving everyone!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Online Poker in Limbo

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act recently passed by Congress has been an exercise in hypocrisy - all under the murky guise of protecting American citizens and their values. Somehow U.S. financial institutions will be required to block all transactions that might be connected to online gambling. Credit card companies have already done this by virtue of a built-in code that easily identifies such transactions. In the case of other transactions such as electronic checks this will likely prove to be a logistical nightmare. In a country already rife with widespread legal and illegal gambling including Las Vegas - the greatest mecca to gaming and vice ever created by man, you might think that online gambling would be considered as just one of many frivolous ways to risk money. This doesn't mean that unregulated, off shore Internet gaming doesn't raise serious concerns and questions, but most of those issues could be dealt with in other ways. Instead of criminalizing a form of entertainment that millions of U.S. folks participate in, and for better or worse one that's not going away, why not come to terms with the situation in a realistic, practical fashion. The U.S. gaming market is huge with billions of dollars going to Internet gaming sites. It's likely that many of these sites would be willing to cut some deals with the Department of Justice and other federal authorities in order to maintain "legal" access to U.S. patrons. For example, these sites could kick back 5-10% of their revenues to the government as a form of taxation for being allowed to offer their wares within U.S. borders, and still make tremendous profits. Rather than arresting executives of e-wallet companies (see Neteller news) the government could tax these third party transaction companies as well. In a regulated environment many aspects of Internet gaming could be scrutinized and monitored - such as the integrity of the gaming sites and their owners, preventing under age gambling, mandatory spending limits by customers, audits of financial transactions and prevention of money laundering. Personally, I think the spread of electronic gaming is wrong in many ways, but Pandora's box was opened long ago, and trying to hide behind ill conceived laws will only complicate the situation. The Department of Justice must have more important enforcement issues and investigations to spend tax payers money on. Since poker is perceived to have a significant skill component, it's likely that poker players will be the most resistant to legal attempts at restricting access to gaming sites. They have already joined to form a significant lobby group called the Poker Players Alliance that is actively lobbying the government to legalize online poker. In view of recent developments, it would seem that high profile online poker players are now at risk for potential arrest by the DOJ, by being nabbed for illegal online transactions, and possibly tax evasion unless they have been scrupulous in their win/loss records of playing. Of course, those who enjoy betting on horse races can rejoice, since there is a specific exemption in the act that allows legal Internet betting on horse races within the U.S. - as stated before, an exercise in hypocrisy.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Golf Season: Part II

Alright then, after doing some soul searching and weighing the pros and cons, you've made the decision to dedicate yourself to another season of golf. In fact, you've decided to try and play better golf as well. Congratulations! So what's next? Do you pull out the clubs and start whacking ball after ball at the driving range, or pour through golf instruction books and magazines looking for swing patches and quick fixes? Most golfers including myself have enacted similar scenarios early in the golf season, and discovered that such approaches ultimately don't work. They often create false expectations about improved performance that simply fall flat when trying to bring it to the course. We need to start out with broad "strokes", so to speak. Unless you are physically fit and active throughout the year you should spend a few weeks getting in shape for golf. Physical fitness will definitely increase your chances of playing better golf - no guarantees, but strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina all contribute to improved performance. Your routine should include core training (working your extremities and body parts while keeping your torso centered or in place to strenghten the muscles that stabilize the body), some cardio work, stretching, and strength training. If possible, you should maintain a workout schedule throughout the golf season. Next time we'll discuss incorporating mental preparation techniques for starting the golf year, but your physical fitness regime will form a basis for an enhanced golf mind as well.

Go to New Golf Season: Part III

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Golf Season: Part I

For those of us who live in more northern climes the golf season will soon be here. Before you dust off the clubs this spring why not do an honest appraisal of your expectations for the new season? Do you really enjoy playing the game while spending significant time and money on it every year, or has it become another social routine, or misplaced passion that leaves you feeling drained and empty too frequently? In other words, don't play golf out of habit or obligation, or the expectations of friends. You should play golf because you truly love being out there whacking an indifferent little white ball around an unforgiving course. For some it may be the competitive challenge or a desire to improve, for others it may be the camaraderie and health benefits, and for many it may be a combination of qualities, or even intangible benefits that create a desire to play golf. Golf has become a trendy sport much glamorized by television and phenoms like Tiger Woods - all of this buzz can excite you to play golf when it really doesn't speak to the real you! We shouldn't try and manufacture the desire to golf as there are many things in life that are far cheaper, less time consuming, and every bit as enjoyable as a round of golf.

In the five hours (excluding travel time) spent during a golf round you could:

  • Spend some quality time with your kids or spouse
  • Visit or contact an ailing or otherwise neglected friend or family member
  • Volunteer for some community work
  • Plan your next vacation
  • Complete unfinished business or chores around the house
  • Update your web site
  • Engage in a myriad of other neglected activities unique to your situation and lifestyle

    Have you addressed the motivation, priority, and lifestyle issues related to playing golf? Having done that, are you still determined to get out on the links? If the answer is yes, then you have accomplished Step One for the new season without even swinging a club. Go to New Golf Season: Part II

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  • Wednesday, February 28, 2007

    The Art of Espresso

    At times it's an unexpected, creative surprise that can make you smile during the course of a trying day. An extra bit of thoughtful artistry to help shake off the doldrums, and awaken a world of possibilities. You might venture into a local coffee shop and order your favorite espresso drink, and there it is - a little bit of magic on the surface of your brew crafted delicately with the frothed milk. At the New Shelton wet/dry site you can find wonderful photos of this espresso art - a swan, a lion, and a butterfly among other images. After consuming the artful brew you just might exit the java joint with an extra spring in your step and a lighter heart.

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    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Paris Morning

    "Paris Morning"

    Original Art by Heather Keenan

    "An artist has no home in Europe save in Paris" - Friedrich Nietzsche

    "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast" - Ernest Hemingway

    "To err is human. To loaf is Parisian" - Victor Hugo

    The City of Light Eiffel Tower The Louvre Arc de Triomphe Notre Dame Cathedral Grand Palais

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    Day After Gifts

    I committed a major faux pas on Valentine's Day this year by arriving home after work without any gifts or a card for my wife. She had prepared a sumptuous dinner including wine, and presented me with a gift and card. Despite my offering of lame excuses I knew she felt slighted by my lack of consideration and selfishness this year. This added salt to the wounds, because she is usually very understanding about the occasional missed gifting on Valentine's Day. We managed to get through the dinner with our emotions in check, and I made a silent vow to never forget important marriage dates again.

    The next day I decided to make some amends by purchasing a nice flower arrangement, and beautiful card at a local greenhouse. There were no line ups, a good selection of valentine themed arrangements, and everything was half price! The clerk was even glad to see me as business was slow. It was absolutely painless, and it caused me to think - what if my wife and our immediate family agreed to start purchasing all gifts for various occasions a day or so after the event? The time and money saved would be fantastic. This could even work for Christmas. Have your normal Christmas celebrations and festivities, then everyone could go on a shopping spree for gifts a few days later - missing line ups and getting some great deals. Buying online gifts would also be cheaper and more hassle free (don't believe the myth perpetrated by retailers about vanishing inventory as the big holidays approach). We would all have a knowing smirk watching the herds of sheep like shoppers scrambling to buy gifts on time while anticipating our own low stress post event purchases. For now I'll start by getting my wife to agree that February the 15th will be our Valentine's Day regardless of tradition. Wish me luck.

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    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    The Illusionist

    The Illusionist is a cinematic spectacle. It's a great mix of romance, suspense, and mystery with a rich visual texture set in early twentieth century Vienna. Edward Norton is superb as the mysterious Eisenheim, an enigmatic purveyor of the "dark arts" who seems to have taken the skill of magic beyond mere tricks into the realm of the supernatural, spiritual, and mystical worlds. He is backed by a talented cast that includes Paul Giamatti as Chief inspector Uhl, hired by the corrupt and jealous Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) to discover the secrets of Eisenheim's illusions. Jessica Biel is more than credible as the beautiful Sophia - caught in a triangle of amorous intrigue between her childhood friend Eisenheim, and the calculating, evil Leopold. There are enough plot twists to provide intrigue, but they only serve to enhance the grand crescendo of events leading to the final scenes. The early childhood scenes border on being overly sentimental, but do not detract at all from the screenplay. It would be fascinating to discover if any of the more elaborate illusions depicted in the movie could actually be done - then or now. For my taste, one of the best movies of the decade.

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    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Personal Aircraft On The Way

    Will it be another toy for the super rich, or the coolest way to commute? The Skywalker VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) personal aircraft coming soon from the folks at Mirror Image Aerospace could be the next elite way to fly for a mere $200,000 or so. This compact, two person, helicopter style craft will fly at 95 MPH using premium grade pump gasoline, have a gross weight of less than 900 pounds, and have a range of 250 miles with a ceiling height of 8,000 feet. Among other safety features, it will sport a ballistic BRS designed emergency parachute to deploy in 4 seconds, so the aircraft can land in an upright position while the occupants stay inside the craft. No need for a runway - it will fit in a standard sized garage. It will require a pilot's license, and as a Kit-built VTOL the anticipated assembly time will be approximately 300 hours. No mention yet of optional accessories, customized kits, or color choices, but you'll be the envy of every luxury car owner in your city as you cruise over the gridlock. It will also give new meaning to the phrase Fill 'Er Up!

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    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Sick Day

    Between dislike of corporations, resenting our jobs, and general laziness creeping into our work ethics you'd think there would be advice out there on how to miss work. Of course there is! From the category of lame advice check out this WikiHow page titled How to Call in Sick When You Just Need a Day Off. If you need this advice - your employer would likely be better off without your services - you are probably an imbecile at work - you should get a new job - or worse yet, you are a chronic, habitual liar. Does this sound harsh? Not when you consider the huge economic costs when people avoid work for frivolous reasons, and the disrespect for those at your job who have to pick up the slack. Even when somebody has a legitimate illness they should be honest with themselves about their ability to work. You shouldn't spread a contagion around the office, but is having the common cold really a good reason to phone in sick? Perhaps it depends on your occupation. On the other hand, if you are an arms/drug dealer, or your job harms others in some way, then by all means find every reason under the sun to call in sick.

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    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Skeptical Inquiry Filter

    We live in societies bombarded by information, and this data is received through multiple technology channels and media devices. The growth of this info storm is exponential, derivative, and mutative, so how can we filter out the true facts of any subject or event? All of this is compounded by biased, and sponsored media reports on diverse topics. The Question Technology Blog authored by Kevin Arthur in San Francisco puts a skeptical lens on many claims in the technological arena. His articles could appeal to Luddites, or those with an anti-technology bent as well, but they also promote critical thinking and inquiry, so the reader will be challenged to dig for the real facts themselves. Competing ideas on a technology or science presented in the media may be heavily biased by paid sponsorship, or special interest groups.

    For example, in a recent post by Kevin Arthur entitled The Deception Behind "Sense About Science" he challenges the industry connections behind the so called non-profit group Sense About Science, and the legitimacy of their bashing celebrities who supposedly promote bad science or make controversial claims. A good illustration of possible truth distortion on both sides of an issue by those who may have ulterior motives, whether they be celebrities or a "non-profit" organization.

    I heartily recommend a visit to the Question Technology Blog for a dose of healthy skepticism on many science and technology related subjects.

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    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Who Needs Shaving Cream?

    After making bold statements about not using shaving cream any more in the previous post, it was time to update those legions of razor shavers on this ongoing experiment. As mentioned previously in Why Use Shaving Cream? my shaves without cream were quite successful and essentially nick free. This was done with a used (?dull) blade in conjunction with keeping my face and the blade wet. I finally worked up the courage to slap a new blade into my MACH3 Turbo razor, and try a creamless shave. It was fantastic! There was no razor burn, although I did inflict a few slight, almost imperceptible nicks with the new blade. The apparent irony here is that I was inflicting far more nicks on my face when I used shaving cream. Obviously this experience might be different for other faces. However, my theory is that a wet, but creamless face offers better resistance, and makes for better razor contact on the skin. In other words you don't slide the blade quickly across a layer of cream and suddenly nick an uneven spot on the skin. I suspect that this will work with many different brands of razors even though I happened to use a broken (battery power not working) MACH3 Turbo razor that does have a lubricating strip. This is not a plug for any razor brand or model such as the MACH3, but it just happened to be the type used for my series of no cream shaves. If you want to save a few bucks, and possibly get a better razor shave, then get rid of the cream.

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    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Why Use Shaving Cream?

    You don't need shaving cream to get a close, nick free, blade shave, so why do men spend millions of dollars on it? Jeffrey Tucker describes shaving cream sales as a Racket. Is it basically a glorified soap? I have now completed a few no cream razor shaves making sure to keep my face and the blade wet with warm water. I DIDN'T SUFFER ONE RAZOR CUT DURING THOSE SHAVES and they were just as close. Now the blade I used was somewhat dull, but I was suffering recurrent cuts previously using the same blade with cream. In a piece entitled Razor Blade Blues I pondered the poor performance of hi-tech razor blades, but now I question the cream more than the blades! One absolute in blade shaving is to decrease the tensile strength of hair by keeping it wet, but what role does cream lubrication play? Supposedly the cream "softens and prepares" the skin (easier to nick?), prevents razor burn (wet face and razor should stop that), and skin irritation. I suspect it may actually cause skin irritation especially after the skin is nicked, and some may be allergic to it. I may experiment with a few different brands and types of razor blades, and the jury is out on using brand new blades with water only, otherwise shaving cream is history for me.

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