Archive for August, 2008

Taken for granite

August 27, 2008

Ah, the grandeur of Yosemite. Out here a man could forget about his car payments. And that game show host who haunts his dreams. Eight of us endured Friday night traffic and great hardship to achieve new heights in achieving height. Enter Half Dome.  

Half Dome above, left. (Photo by Nadine Takvorian)

Up at 5:30 Saturday morning and a five hour hike to the foot of the 45 degree, 300 meter incline on a beautiful, clear day. Posts every 15 feet secure wood planks and suspend two cables for your scaling pleasure.. unfortunately were not enough to fend-off the Jimmy Stewart/ Vertigo spinning thing. While everyone else on the planet (newborns, seniors, the secure, the insecure. a variety of small, limping mammals with tiny twig-crutches) queued-up for glory, I enjoyed the low-pulse recreation of eating lunch and pushing pen. 

The first-take: from the lower plateau, most people would stop and survey the humanity before progressing/ retreating. There were instances of folks freaking out mid-way up causing bottlenecks and heated calls of encouragement from the impatient behind them. Water bottles of all fashions fell from great heights on a regular basis; a dislodged boulder from the top making a brief appearance before reaching light speed and evaporating into parts and dust. That’s entertainment!

Rejoined by my fellow hikers we began the descent back to the valley floor around 4pm. Inhaled two pizzas, showered and collapsed by 9:30 only to be roused momentarily by some guy in the parking lot shouting at a bear.

Baard for life

August 19, 2008

Colleague and low-grade nemesis, Dave Chow, used the Detroit-bound five hour flight from The San Diego Comic-con to iterate on the many states of facial hair I currently share face with. Of the eighteen bristling exploits I find the cover-all and or cape scenario most ingenious. Laugh it up Chow!! 

Pinewood Seasons 80, 81 and 82

August 16, 2008

1953. Manhattan Beach, California. Don Murphy organized the first Pinewood Derby on record; for his son who was too young to compete in the bigger league Soap-box Derby. A spring tradition was born as tracks sprung up through-out the nation’s gymnasiums and kids and their folks carved, painted and prayed their cars would beat the pants off that other kid and his dad who refused to help organize the last camp-out when it rained and somebody forgot the ground covers for the tents. 


Our factory racer from 1980. Super-low, longest hood in its class.. driver over the rear axle. For all of the advanced styling and engineering of my first Pinewood contender it failed to place in speed.. OR design; Losing to some kid who epoxied a wrench to the basic block of wood (“Mr. Good Wrench”) and destroyed the field with his painfully simplistic scheme.

Replete with Wyoming license plate and, both, Porsche AND Ferrari insignia; A first-ever joint effort between the two super-powers.

Classic lines.

So sure were we the car was five ounces- we sealed and painted the weights into the body making for a slippery aero-undercarriage; A queue taken from a 1959 Citroen DS 19.


Back to contest the title in 1981 with a less-nonsense, cab-rearward sedan (a tail-dragger! see below) My second attempt that spring would bag a trophy for Best Design. Lessons learned from the previous season would pay off in craft and finish- not necessarily in technical upgrades. 

Simple forms complemented with a clean graphics package; Porsche the solo sponsor this go-round.

Part-lines removed, sanding the wheels smooth for minimal friction contact patch with the track.

Undercarriage aerodynamics abandoned for race-day access to additional weight stowage. Note spot of glue just forward of weight stowage: I don’t know what that is. It’s probably (for whatever reason) why the car wasn’t fast. Also note the hour-glass plan view. Many a day spent with a rasp and fifty grit eating away at that block.

Best Design.


1982: The year it’d all come together. A super-slippery shape paired with the cleaned-up undercarriage/ integrated five-ounce weight; a form so advanced it would predate The Mercedes CLS class by almost 30 years. 

Signature-worthy, the hour-glass plan view carried over from the last season. A large diameter weight placed behind the rear axle; no tests were done to explain why.

1st in Design, 2nd in Speed.

Three Seasons and I’m out! I had bigger and better things to do than placate gravity.. Blade Runner and Tron had just released: It was to be a fine summer.