Spending a Health Day at ..

This past week, I took a single day off from work and home, and traveled (by invitation) to Berkeley, California.

There, I entered the studio garage of the Patrick Ottis Company.

If you Google “Patrick Ottis Company,” you will receive over a quarter-million hits. Information from Yelp, FerrariChat, the BBC, and Car and Driver; which said, in April of 2012:

If it is true that there are no more than a dozen people in the U.S. capable of constructing a superlative vintage Ferrari V-12 engine, then Patrick Ottis is, in most experts’ views, among the very best. In addition to overseeing his Berkeley, California, shop, Ottis can be found judging at the annual Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, serving on the International Advisory Council for the Preservation of the Ferrari Automobile, and globe-hopping in search of parts for his restoration projects for collectors as far off as London and Bahrain. 1

I met Patrick, and his son, Tazio on June 1st of this year, in a buffet line. We were attending the 9th Annual Party on the Patio, at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, in Midland, Texas. The event is reserved for “Pit Crew” enthusiasts of the Chaparral marque, and its innovative creator, Jim Hall.

I noted that they had been on my flight from Las Vegas the morning before, and found that they originated out of Oakland, and came from Berkeley. This makes us nearly neighbors, and we exchanged stories about what brought us to the “Party.” As the line split and the serving began, I asked if they had seating arrangements and they allowed as how they did. In the banquet hall, I went to find a seat in the middle or back of the room, and discovered them at the front, seated with the Halls, amongst the dignitaries in attendance.

The next morning we met again at the airport and spent some waiting time exchanging information about .. well, mainly about why they were in Midland. This all culminated a couple of weeks later with an invitation from Patrick to visit his shop in Berkeley, and meet a particular 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder - Thunder Hill Raceway - 15 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder – Thunder Hill Raceway – 15 July 2019

Patrick was on the phone as I walked into the unmarked building, housing two work areas filled with Ferraris, and Ferrari engines. This is not an unusual posture for Patrick, as his day is filled with tracking down materials, discussing current and future work with customers, and sharing information with those who might not have time to fit into the schedule at the Patrick Ottis Company.

His son, racer and athlete, Tazio Ottis was on hand to show me around the shop.

They rebuild on order, about twelve V12 Ferrari engines per year, and I count as many multi-shelved work trollies containing all the bits and pieces, lined up, waiting their renewal. In addition they do repair or restoration of customer vehicles.

The primary reason for my trip however, sits back-right in the entry area of the shop.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder – #0510M

This particular Ferrari, #0510M was purchased by Texas millionaire and racing enthusiast, Allen Guiberson, in 1955. Its racing pedigree makes it unique.

Driven by Carroll Shelby and Phil Hill, it came second overall in the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring race. Both these gentlemen drivers scored several victories each in the car; Phil Hill for owner Guiberson in 1955, and Shelby in 1956; the car then owned by Dick and Jim Hall.

In October of 1955, Jim Hall drove the 750 Monza to his first competitive win as a driver.

The 750 Monza was sent to the Ferrari factory in Modena, Italy by the Halls in June of 1956 to be overhauled and updated to the then new, FIA Index C Regulations. The car was returned in May of 1957, with a passenger seat, a left-hand door, a full width windscreen, and a new Ferrari red paint job.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M -  June 1957 - photo by Pete Vanlaw
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M – June 1957 – photo by Pete Vanlaw

It spent the remainder of its competitive career being driven by Jim Hall at venues in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. Its last recorded finish was a win at Mansfield, LA, in March of 1958.

In its 17 recorded races, it finished first, eight (8) times, for a win percentage of 47.05%

750 Monza #0510M also finished second, four (4) times in those 17 races. Finishing 1st or 2nd, 70.58% percent of the time it was campaigned, in the hands of Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, and Jim Hall.

In the mid-90s, in preparation for exhibits at the Monterey Historical Automobile Races, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and the Peterson Museum, #0510M was returned to its original white and blue paint configuration.

Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby w/ #0510M - Monterey 1997
Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby w/ #0510M – Monterey 1997

After acquisition by Patrick Ottis from Jim Hall at Sotheby’s Pebble Beach Auction in 2016, the 750 Monza was completely disassembled, and restored to its 1955 state.

The 750 Monza is a four-cylinder sports racer. Powered by a Lampredi 2 3.0L 4-cylinder design with dual overhead cams.3 4 The body was designed by Dino Ferrari,5 presaging the droop-nose look of the 250 GTO; but it was Scaglietti’s6 interpretation of the 750 Monza, with its faired-in headrest that draws your eye.7

1955 Ferrari, Scaglietti 750 Monza Spyder #0510M - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari, Scaglietti 750 Monza Spyder #0510M – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

The passenger seat, though not original, is retained in deference to comfort for those who are granted ‘a ride.’

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M Interior - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M Interior – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M controls - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M controls – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

Front end damage (the result of transport from Fort Worth to Galveston in July 1957) had flattened the curvature of the 750 Monza nose, and eliminated the grille mounted driving lights.

1955 Ferrari Monza Spyder #0150M - RM Sotheby's - 2016
1955 Ferrari Monza Spyder #0150M – RM Sotheby’s – 2016

The original contours are restored, and the driving lights returned to the grille by Ottis.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M front - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M front – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

The Lampredi 3.0L inline 4-cylinder is returned to competitive condition.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M Lampredi 3.0L 4cyl - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M Lampredi 3.0L 4cyl – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

A DeDion rear suspension, with a transverse leaf spring assembly ..

955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M DeDion Suspension - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M DeDion Suspension – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

.. supports the solid rear axle, and the ZF five-speed transaxle.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M 5-Spd Transaxle - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M 5-Spd Transaxle – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

The frame is constructed from elliptical-cross section, steel tubing.

1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M frame - Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA - 16 July 2019
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder #0510M frame – Patrick Ottis, Berkeley, CA – 16 July 2019

The day before my visit to Patrick Ottis Company, the Otti trailered #0510M to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California, for a shakedown. Tazio shared the video with me, chronicling the first recorded track outing for the 750 Monza since 1958.

Tazio Ottis @ Thunderhill Raceway Park - #0510M Ferrari 750 Monza
Tazio Ottis @ Thunderhill Raceway Park – #0510M Ferrari 750 Monza

All in preparation for a mid-August competitive run at the Monterey Motorsport Reunion, and a next day presentation at the 69th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Team Ottis @ Thunderhill Raceway Park - Tazio and Patrick Ottis - 15 July 2019
Team Ottis @ Thunderhill Raceway Park – Tazio and Patrick Ottis – 15 July 2019

Thanks to Patrick, Tazio and all the guys at POC — Bob Chaney – 20 July 2019

  1. Car and Driver, April 19, 2012, Ancient Grease: Zen & Ferrari V12 Maintenance, by Peter Manso: https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a15120581/ancient-grease-zen-ferrari-v12-maintenance-feature/
  2. Aurelio Lampredi designed a number of racing engines for Ferrari. He designed a number of different Inline-4, Inline-6, and V12 engines through the 1950s, and it was these that would power the company’s string of world championships that decade. (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_Lampredi_engine)
  3. Lampredi designed an Inline-4 engine for Formula Two use. This was later adopted for Formula One and sports car racing cars through the 1950s. The original 2.0 L engine of 1951 would prove to be the longest-lived, continuing through 1957 in various cars. All Lampredi inline-4 engines used dry sump lubrication. (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_Lampredi_engine)
  4. For the 1954 (750) the bore of the Lampredi I4 was nudged up to 103 mm (4.1 in) for the 3.0 L (2999.62 cc) unit used in the 750 Monza. Engine was a development of a Type 555 I4. Dual Weber 58DCOA/3 carburettorss pushed out 260 PS (191 kW; 256 hp) (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_Lampredi_engine)
  5. Ferrari: https://auto.ferrari.com/en_US/sports-cars-models/past-models/750-monza/
  6. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrozzeria_Scaglietti
  7. Wikipedia Information source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FerrariMonza#750Monza
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Back in the Day

In my second swing at a college education, way back in 1972, I found myself at College Station, Texas; a sophomore in Journalism at Texas A&M.

During the Fall Semester that year, I determined that I wanted to work. I determined I want to work at a commercial radio station, as an on air announcer; a disc jockey.

I had some previous (unpaid) airtime at KMIL-AM in Cameron, TX, while in high school. While I was at Texas Tech, I held airshafts as the campus station, KTXT-FM, and performed as a human automation (spinning C&W) for pay at KSEL-FM.

On my day of decision in College Station, I went tower hopping and walked into the offices of WTAW-AM/FM. I asked to see the Program Manager, and was handed off to Curt Something. Without and air check, he sat me down in a production studio, handed me a couple of 45’s and a commercial cartridge, and said show me what you can do.

I studied the studio control board for a minute, stuck the cartridge in a cart machine, cued up both records (one toward the end, one at the beginning). Spun turntable one up, back talked the song ending, and hit the commercial. Came out with the time and top-of-the-head forecast, while turntable two spun up. I hit the intro break on the money, and Curt said, “Come with me.”

He introduced me to the folks there at the time, got me the forms to fill out to receive a paycheck, and stuck me in the FM studio with “assistant Program Director” to learn the board and the play clock.

My first shift was the next day, six to midnight on WTAW, 91.9 FM.

Within a week, Curt was gone. The new Program Director came onboard during the next couple of weeks; Shannon. And by the time I was on the payroll a month, I was working both sides of the dial, WTAW-FM (Rock & Roll) and WTAW-AM (Country). The only announcer working scheduled shifts on both stations then, through when I graduated from TAMU in December of 1974. At one point (Spring 1974) I was waking up the AM side at 6AM and putting the FM side asleep at Midnight. I also manned the first Midnight to 6AM shift on “Super92” as WTAW-FM expanded to 24 hours (I had absolutely no idea what I was doing).

I met and worked with a lot of good people during this period of 30 months, including Don Davis, Scott DeLucia, Bob Steele, several others whose names escape me right now, and Ben D. Downs.

In my radio career, I met two young men whose voice boxes were touched by God. Michael Deardorf at KSEL, and Ben Downs at WTAW. Both of these gentlemen are still involved in radio today. Michael hosts a syndicated program in the Panhandle. Ben is the Vice President and General Manager of Bryan Broadcasting.

Bryan Broadcasting is the current home to eleven (11) radio stations (including WTAW-AM), seven (7) Print Publications. They provide custom advertising services, several genres of music, talk, news and sports. They are pioneers in streaming and web delivery of content. WTAW is the flagship station for Texas A&M sports.

Much of this growth has occurred with the insight and guidance of Ben Downs.

Over the last 45+ years in Brazos County and the surrounding area, a lot of nice things have been said about Ben. There have been awards, accolades, and honors. His voice, thoughtfulness , and humor have not gone unappreciated. In the last several weeks, he has been on the ballot for induction into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. Over this past weekend his election became official.

Bryan Broadcasting’s Ben Downs Is Elected To The Texas Radio Hall Of Fame

In my less than ten (10) years in radio, I cannot tell you if my Grandparents, or my Parents ever heard me on the air. I can tell you the one person I know who listened to my work; Ben Downs. During my tenure at WTAW, he appeared every other day or so with a critique, a compliment, or an outright laugh regarding something I just threw together on air. I suspect that the worst move I ever made in my radio career, was leaving the Brazos Valley for work in another state.

Since those days, we’ve crossed paths two, maybe .. no, two times. Once in person in the early 80’s and again in the late 90’s through email.

Although from Arkansas, I have always been appreciative of Ben’s sense of humor, and sincerely wish I could have been the recipient of more of it since our days at WTAW.

I sent Ben a short email note of congratulations regarding his nomination, and election to the Hall of Fame. His response was appreciative and to the point:

“At least they didn’t award it posthumously.”

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driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Fast Track Hobbies – 7/19/2015

When we gather to race at Fast Track Hobbies in Rocklin Ca., we often have our largest turnouts of the year. This month, we didn’t set any records but we had 11-12 racers per class this time around. Our traveling crew consisted of Russ Toy, Gary Hooks, Dick Seely, John Wilbur, Jim Fowler, Randy Keil, Richard Matthews, Bob Chaney, and Justin Colvin. Several of these guys are also FTH locals. We also had Greg (Fester) Bishoff and Cliff Gaither and track owner Dwight Adamson. Cathy Wilbur contributed her time as race director and we had a very efficient race day today.

The local racers do a very good job of helping Dwight keep the tracks up and this time out, the tracks were in very good condition. We raced Can Am and Anglewinder Coupes on the familiar Purple Angel track and we ran F-1 on the new (to most of us) Kingleman. We usually have pretty clean races here at FTH but this time, things were pretty rough. There were a lot of crashes and a fair bit of carnage in each race with the Kingleman being the worst. Starting the day, we knew that Justin was going to be hard to beat. He is among the very best racers in Nor Cal anyway and here on his home tracks, he is close to unstoppable.

I was very busy all day and thus, I don’t feel like this report is as complete as I’d like it to be. I apologize in advance for missing a few pictures and not getting in as many details as I wish I could.

We started with the Can Am race and while there were a number of fast cars, this was looking like a Justin and Jim duel from the start. Early on we were trading off with 35 and 36 lap heats with Justin holding a one or two lap edge. Gary Hooks was running consistently well but a little off the lead pace while Randy and Richard were also good and not letting Gary get away. Bob Chaney was running a new car and it was fast, but he was struggling a little bit with it and he eventually broke something. Greg Bishoff was also fast but he had an issue that I missed and he ended up down the order.

Fowler CanAm Chassis - July 2015I commissioned a new Fowler RTR, and took delivery for this race.  It is a 2/10 longer version of the loaner I ran at Modesto in June. Fast, smooth and precise. I put supply break-in time on the motor, ran 20 laps Saturday morning, and put it away in the box. I did not take it back out until race time; it went straight to tech (not the track), so no one knew how the car performed except me and Fowler.  At race time, I was the third man in on RED ..and had a typical first heat on RED.  Everything seemed a bit slippery, I was nervous about traffic collecting in the lane (although on the Angel, this is more problematical on BLACK), and as it turns out, I should have practiced with the car more to get control of the opening jitters.  The car is very good. Only 29 laps ticked off on RED; this is known as the hole you dig for yourself.  The leaders are laying down 34 to 35 laps per heat, and in the next three heats, I am within one or two of that pace. Heat five, on BLACK is a disaster, although still 30+ laps.  There is a lot of blockage in the first turn complex.  BLACK is blind through part of that section, and now vision is clogged with people moving back and forth to service de-slots.  My lack of track time effects my response to this activity, and I find myself in several heavy crashes.  The scenario continues in the next heat (on YELLOW), and the car is taking a beating.  Two heats left, procures a clean run on ORANGE until about 30 seconds left when I was collected hard in the first complex again, and the chassis broke a solder joint.  Confused and putting myself under more pressure than I should have, it required almost a minute into my last heat (on WHITE) before I was able to return to the track.  I managed good clean laps for the remaining couple of minutes, ending with a 30 lap per heat total; 240 laps for the race.  There was one more heat to finish out the rotation, during which I got to watch that total fall through the field to eighth.  I had a really good time driving this race, although my race management action was not up to par.  Should have done better on RED (always important), and stopped more than one out of ten times during the first complex carnage — Bob

As the race progressed, Justin was holding a small lead but it still could have gone either way. Then, we both started experiencing some irregular power from our motors. We were both spraying out the motors between heats but they would both pick up fast for a few laps, then drop off or start surging. In the last couple of heats, Justin was able to hold his pace, but I wasn’t and I dropped way off the pace as my car slowed and I also tried to overdrive in compensation and thus deslotted a lot. Justin pulled away to a comfortable win with me in second. Gary was a solid third but just ahead of Randy and Richard.


CanAm Podium

2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Gary Hooks


NorCal Retro CanAm Podium - FTH - 07/19/2015

L-R: 2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Gary Hooks

Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Gary Hooks (Hooks chassis)

Next up, we ran our Pro Slot “Big Dog” powered anglewinder coupes. These cars are rocket fast and have less downforce than the Can Am cars so they can be a handful for some racers. Justin and Gary both had new cars for this race and Cliff had an excellent loaner so along with Russ and Jim, there were a lot of fast runners on the grid. Right at the start, I experienced a poor first heat and Justin was soon holding a two lap lead. For the next several heats, we both ran strongly and I managed to come back to even and get slightly ahead at one point.

There was a lot of attrition in this race and several racers dropped in and out fixing their cars. Gary experienced enough issues with his new car that he dropped out fairly early. Cliff got dinged in a big wreck and pulled off his loaner car to keep from getting further damage. Russ had chosen to run a “China Dog” arm in a JK Hawk setup and while he was a little underpowered compared to some cars, he was able to drive it well and he stayed out of the worst of the carnage. Randy and Richard were both consistent and stayed together all race. Meanwhile Greg was off the pace for speed but was consistent and he stayed ahead of Bob who was fast but inconsistent.

Running the Russ Toy design I inherited from Gus Kelley, for the third time (with a gear change for this race).  I practiced minimally and thought I had the car/controller dialed in. Second man in on RED, and the car just does not feel the same.  I am struggling with turn one, straight off five or six straight times (with track calls because we were a marshal short, and no one comes off in that turn), then a minute or so of smooth running, and four more race stoppages as I cannot get through turn one;  28 laps in RED, at least seven fellow racers concerned with pace I am setting for them.  Heat two starts out the same way, then settles out to the end; 30 laps.  In heat three, I still cannot get through the first turn, then I dial in a little brake, and it seems better; 31 laps.  The grumbling is audible, as I tell my fellow competitors not to worry “I only have five more heats to go.”  On PURPLE for heat four, and only one off at the first corner, 32 laps completed.  I have mitigated the problem, and the final four heats are all clean, with 33 laps in each heat; I finish seventh — Bob

As we wound down the race, and after a brief stint in the lead, I dropped a couple of laps back with a poor 34 lap heat while Justin executed a stellar 37. I got it together near the end with two good heats finishing my last run just a few feet shy of a 37 lap heat of my own. Despite this, when Justin came back from his sit-outs, he only needed a 35 to win. He pulled out an easy 36, pulling out the win by two. Russ ran a drama free race and pulled in for third just ahead of Randy.


ProCoup Podium

2nd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Russ Toy


L-R: 3rd / Jim Fowler, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Russ Toy


L-R: 3rd / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 2nd / Russ Toy (Toy chassis)

Our last race of the day was on the new Kingleman track. This is a fairly flat track but it’s fast, so it is hard to keep from running over other cars. There is also a pillar that creates some blind spots for all the racers and so this was one of the roughest races we’ve had in some time. While everyone had fun, cars were flying every which way for much of the afternoon. I had a bearing start to fail right before the race and while I tried to fix it, there really wasn’t time and I spent much of this race running back to my pit to try and keep the gears from going south. Unfortunately, I missed a fair bit of the action so I can only relate what little I remember.

..I am apparently a budding KingleMiester.  The Stuebe chassis was stable, the motor came in with the 8/26 gearing, I worked at keeping smooth, and it was great fun.  Good runs through the entire set.  I tend to judge my race progress by how often I’m getting passed, and in this race there were only two cars passing me on a consistent basis. I was overtaking and passing everyone else, trading deslots on an equal or better footing with my competitors.  I look forward to racing again on this track — Bob

Gary Hooks had a new F-1 car that was really good and he stayed out of most of the messes to run second. Cliffy is a very smooth racer and he also ran well for a solid third place finish but this race was really a Justin show. Even though his car was dinged up, he ran fast to the end for an easy win and a hat trick for the day.


Formula Podium

2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Clifford Gaither


L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Cliff Gaither


L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Jersey John chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Cliff Gaither (Fowler chassis)

This was a solid day of racing and thanks go out to Dwight for hosting us, to the local racers that made sure that the tracks were clean and fast, and to Cathy Wilbur for her cheerful help in race directing while John raced. Next time here, we will be running Stock Cars on the Kingleman, and Can Am and F-1 on the Purple Angel.

— Jim Fowler 07/21/2015

source: http://slotblog.net/topic/61657-norcal-race-report-719-fast-track-hobbies/
additional photos by Michael Colvin

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driving by wire ..the six word memoir

Similar to the shortest story written by Hemingway, the six word memoir distills the essence of the subject more concisely than even the wasteful common tweet.

The only rule is that there can only be six (6) words, but those six words must allow the reader to create a greater story that is personally meaningful, either as insight to the narrative, or as an interpretation based on the reader’s own experience and imagination.

Not intended as definition, the six words become inspiration.

Hemingway’s famous story?

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

As a memoir, mine might be..

Honest, even when he knew better.

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driving by wire ..the neighborhood seems to have gone upscale

Just when you thought you had a handle on the lay of the land so to speak.. this notice appears in the neighborhood social blog today:

I just got a 2015 Wraith delivered and was looking for a certified mechanic in the area. Rolls Royce of Los Gatos said that they will reimburse me for most services as long as the mechanic or repair shop is certified through Rolls Royce. I really don’t have the time to drive to Los Gatos for oil changes or regular checkups – I would be willing to pay out of pocket for a really good mechanic with Rolls Royce experience. A Google search for local mechanics has not been fruitful – any recommendations?

— Allibaba Sheikh-BadDaddy (name changed for general purposes), living in WestPark

I actually think I've seen one of these tooling around the neighborhood :0o

I actually think I’ve seen one of these tooling around the neighborhood :0o

 Is he talking about my WestPark?  wow .. just sayin’ .. a little further research shows the Sheikh is an Applied Nuclear & Particle Physicist, working for the NBC tone (that’s code folks) ..this is all starting to sound like something right out of the ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ..I could not make this stuff up

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driving by wire.. where I work

great place to work

Where I work ..an inordinate amount of time (in my opinion) is spent in discussion of “corporate culture”

Generating numerical improvement on a nationally recognized rating scale, has become as important as delivery of product and services, to our customers.  Employee compensation is tied to how “we” respond to the questionaire. Management is constantly trying to define the factors, the actual actions that can be implemented to increase “the number”

This search includes an actual inhouse poll, which asks the question, “If these were offered regardless of everything else, would you say this is a great place to work?”  “These” are a list of extra benefits that might be offered to everyone, in the hope that favorable poll responses will result.

hmmm ..for me, these are not the factors that make (or break) the company as a “great place to work” .. but, as long as we are mandated to chase a number, someone will ask, “What can we do?”

Where you work is not about the benefits.  Beyond subsistence, it is not even about the money.  Where you work is about, the satisfaction you receive ..it’s about the feel of the wood beneath your palm.  Were you empowered to do the best you could?  Did you feel like you were making a gift for someone you love?  And it’s about the people.  Are you accepted?  Do you have a place in the group beyond the process?  Does common experience, help you laugh together?

Give me two weeks off with six weeks pay, and something meaningful to accomplish the other 50 weeks ..just sayin’

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driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Rohnert Park – 5/17/2015

SCR FrankSarkela

SCR Owner, Frank Sarkela, promoting his salsa

Our race meet for this month turned out to one of our more successful races here in some time. We had an even dozen racers for each of the three classes that we raced, and dramatic finishes and last heat heroics in each race with three different winners. As usual, Frank Sarkela had the tracks in great shape for our race. There were no bite issues (except maybe too much for some guys) and there were no braid repairs all day. As usual, Frank provided expert commentary for the races and Russ handled most of the race entry work while I did tech and helped some guys with last minute thrashing.

Our turnout for this day was Russ Toy, Gary Hooks, Herman James, Ted Essy, Rich Matthews, Randy Keil, Hizzhoner Bob Chaney, Justin Colvin and Jim Fowler among the regulars. We had semi regular Rich Clark, Big Jeff Garrison, and veteran Mark Manion all from the SCR roster.

This was a full “switchup” race in which we ran each class on the opposite track from normal. Thus, we ran F-1 on the King instead of the usual flat track and Can Am and Stock Cars on the Flat track instead of the more normal King.

SCR CanAm Main

Starting out on the King with F-1s, it was clear there were a lot of fairly equal cars in the race. I had a bit of a speed edge early on and held the lead after heat #1 with 32 laps. However, Justin and Gary were right on the money as well and Herman was close while Big Jeff Garrison was learning a loaner car. For the next few heats, I held the lead pretty easily, but I couldn’t really pull away by much. Meanwhile, Russ was only a tenth off the pace of the lead pack and Ted Essy was running well but was down a bit on speed. As we passed through the middle of the race, everybody was running very clean and you really had to push it to gain any ground. I was slowly creeping away in the lead but it was staying very close as Herman got into the podium mix by edging past Gary while Justin was holding firm. Jeff got the handle and was soon running as fast as anyone. Just before I went to my sitouts, I did some poor driving while managing some traffic issues and dropped a couple of laps. Herman had edged into a tie with me and Justin was within a lap. Gary had dropped back just a little and being two laps back put him out of reach in this crowd.

Coming back from my sitouts, Herman and I were in a flat footed tie with Justin back by a lap. For the next two heats I worked up a half lap lead and at the start of the last heat, Herman and I were just that far apart and on adjacent lanes. Justin was one more back and he had a lap and distance on Gary. I managed to get to Herman’s back bumper to put him a lap down but didn’t try the pass so I just sat there knowing that he couldn’t run me down. We dodged and diced a little near the end but I had a lap clear and held that to the finish. Justin held off Gary for third and Big Jeff ran a very fast fifth place and was only five laps off at the end. Without really counting, this was probably the fifth or sixth time that Herman and I have had same lap finishes in the last year or so. Justin was solid in third two laps back from me with Gary fourth and Big Jeff was as fast as anyone in the second half but had to settle for fifth.

The 12 car field:



SCR Formula Podium

L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Jim Fowler, 3rd / Justin Colvin



L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Jim Fowler, 3rd / Justin Colvin


Tech note: In comparing notes at the end of the race, Herman and I discovered that we had taken very different approaches to setting up our cars for this race. Herman ran a 105 gr car with natural tires and a 10-28 gearing. I ran a 93 gr. car with Wonder rubber and a 9-29. Both cars ran great but I had a bit of an edge in the donut and could gain 1-2 feet every lap. We both figured that good handling and the lower gearing helped me win the race even though main straightaway speed was about the same.


Bottom UP!

L-R: 2nd / Herman James (Samson chassis), 1sst / Jim Fowler (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis)


We switched to the Testa Rossa flat track for the next two races and Can Am was first up. For this race, we expected the usual suspects to be in the lead but it was really just a two car race from the start. Justin and Gary both had it together but Herman, myself and Ted Essy all struggled. Herman had issues in the esses, Ted, who has won on flat tracks, looked like he just had too much bite, and I just couldn’t get my car right. Russ Toy always threatens to podium on this track and Rich Clark was running right with Russ and Ted all race. With the distance differential on the this track, the faster, inner lanes like black and purple are much faster than the outer lanes of red and white. Gary and Justin were putting down 32-33 lap heats on the inner lanes and 30 laps on the outer lanes and they steadily checked out. Herman was off the pace of the lead pair but he was able to steadily pull out from me. Russ, Ted and Rich were in a close pack all race long. With about three heats remaining, I tried a fix on my ill-handling car and suddenly, it was the best car on the track by quite a fair bit. In fact, I was able to turn the fastest laps of the race on the slowish blue lane. It was too late to do anything with it though, and all I did was close up on Herman a little.

This was really all about Justin and Gary. Gary had held a lead in lap average throughout most of the race. However, the lap distance differential between lanes can be deceiving and as Justin ran his later heats, he was going toward the better lanes. As Justin went through his last few heats, he steadily gained in lap average over Gary who was sitting out. For the last heat of the race, Gary came back on the track after his sitouts with a lap plus distance lead over Justin. Gary however, was on the slow, red lane while Justin was on the much faster yellow lane. Justin unlapped himself pretty quickly and then started to eat away at the lead. Gary ran really well and didn’t give it up but with maybe 30 seconds to go, Justin had him in sight. In the last few seconds, it looked like Gary might hold Justin off but then, he had to blip momentarily for a deslot in front of him and Justin zipped past. When the power went off, Justin had pulled it out by maybe ten-fifteen feet. Herman was a distant third and I was an even more distant fourth while Russ, Ted and Rich raced to a close finish in that order.



SCR CanAm Podium - 5/17/2015

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Herman James



L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Herman James


Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Fowler chassis), 1st / Justin Colvin (Fowler chassis), 3rd / Herman James (Samson chassis)

Our last race of this day was for the 4.5” stock cars on the flat track. These big, lumbering beasts are almost a full second slower than the zippy CanAms so driving and race management are key. There were a lot of good cars in this race but mine got ridered into a wall blast early on so I was out of the hunt. Herman, Gary, Justin and Russ all had roughly equal speed but it was looking like Ted was just a little quicker than the rest. Mark Manion had his most competitive showing of the day as he diced with Rich Clark and Randy Keil in the mid pack. As the race went along, Justin deslotted a few too many times and Russ crept past him, but the lead pack of Gary, Ted and Herman were clearly the class of the field.

At the end of the race, I was sitting out so I got to watch an exciting and unpredictable finish. With three heats to go, Gary was slightly in front of Ted with Herman about a lap back. With two remaining, Ted took advantage of a faster lane and he took the lead with Gary and Herman very close. In the last heat, Herman moved to a faster lane while Ted and Gary were on slower ones. In that last heat, Herman drove perfectly and he pulled away easily. Meanwhile, Gary and Ted struggled a bit on their lanes and they managed to hand second place back and forth a few times. Ted had the faster car but Gary is a really steady racer too and he pulled closer and closer. Herman had checked out by then and in the last minute, it looked like Ted would hold onto second. As they wound down the last lap, Ted held second with Gary a few feet back. Ted crossed the counter a foot or so ahead but as power went off, Gary flew past and coasted in about two feet ahead for second place with Ted in third. Russ drove steadily for fourth and Justin maybe overdrove his car a bit and settled for fifth. Mark, Rich and Randy all drove well and finished in that order with one lap between each.




Awesome paint and detail on Justin’s car done by Earl McCutcheon of So Cal



L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks, 1st / Herman James, 3rd / Ted Essy


Bottoms UP!

L-R: 2nd / Gary Hooks (Fowler chassis), 1st / Herman James (Correja chassis), 3rd / Ted Essy (Fowler chassis)

This was one of our better meets at SCR with the three lap finish in stock car being the widest spread of any of our races. If a couple of other regulars had made it, this would have made a record day for entries here. It was really cool to have everybody race all three classes today and the same lap finishes were really nice to see. Thanks go out to Frank for welcoming us and also for his long-time dedication to the slot racing hobby.

Big Jeff Garrison seems committed to Retro now and he showed that with the right car, he will run with the lead pack. Justin Colvin is at this point, possibly the best racer in NorCal and when he shows up for Retro, he is automatically in the hunt. Rich Clark is doing this the right way and building all his own stuff and he is progressing well. Ted Essy is a pro from way back and has shown that he can build his own cars and win at any venue. Randy Keil. Richard Matthews and Bob Chaney all made the trip from Sacto for this race. They all embrace Retro for what it is. This is a really fun racing experience for all concerned.

SCR Photobomb

— Jim Fowler

source: http://slotblog.net/topic/60114-norcal-race-report-517-slot-car-raceway/
addition photos by Michael Colvin


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driving by wire.. the neighborhood

Most of the time, “There is more going on than meets the eye.” And how it relates to, “Who are these people?”

Our neighborhood dwells firmly in the current century. Internet connectivity, and social networking is ongoing, including buy-in from the neighbors, to the usage of a neighborhood oriented social website, Nextdoor.

The posts found for my neighborhood range from for sale items, to advice needed on what plumber to call (although most certainly, if you are waiting on a neighbor to respond on a social media site regarding a plumber, it may be too late.) The posts often reflect a certain helplessness, a naïveté.

Loneliness is rife among the denizens of this part of my town. Where do you shop for groceries? Where can I find a good cup of coffee. Open pleas for recognition, connection, companionship.

Desperation, paranoia, indignation, and (from time-to-time), humor in the extreme. Like this.. not long ago in the late afternoon: “Please keep your black and white cat at home!!! This is the second time it has come into our backyard and attacked our Simese cat and has torn her fur out again. Our cat is scared to go in her own backyard. This will be the last time this cat does it. We control our pets please do the same.”

Later, that same date: “This black and white cat was back again tonight in our backyard. Our poor cat was so scared. This cat is big it has more white on him or her. Please keep your cat at home.”

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driving by wire.. the honest truth

logo-v5Often when we suffer, we believe we suffer alone. That no one else in the entire breadth of humanity experiences what we experience. That we are so unique, is a fallacy. The methods we employ to address our “problems” have been used throughout history, and will be practiced, right or wrong, far into the future.

Tough talk about a truth that may take a lifetime to realize, or may never be learned.

Engendered by many factors in my life, I have the ‘honesty’ problem.

I volunteer information about myself continually. The truth about everything, as I see it. More than the average person wants to know about himself, much less about someone else. I mean, let’s talk poops..

TMI, Too Much Information

And did you know, that I am not the only one that does this. There are untold numbers of people who find it difficult to lie. And to lie, includes withholding any part of the story. “The devil is in the details,” is never more true, than when one of us, is giving you the answer to that innocent question, “How are you doing?”

Recently, one of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, broadcast an interview by Ira Glass with Michael Leviton. Michael is an artist (writer, musician, photographer) living in New York.  He grew up in an environment of extreme honesty, adopted it as his own lifestyle, and relates his efforts to overcome his open honesty.

From that program Need To Know Basis, in Act One, Michael talks about his life of  Full Disclosure.

Michael LevitonMichael created an actual written list of things not to talk about.

  1. Don’t have to give an opinion.
  2. Don’t things out loud.
  3. Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s helpful.
  4. Choose not to answer a question.
  5. Don’t fully explain.
  6. Make it quick.
  7. Say you’ll tell them later.
  8. End the conversation first.
  9. Don’t try to impress. Stop explicitly describing myself in any way, positive or negative.
  10. If you don’t recognize someone or I don’t remember their name, just pretend you do.
  11. Don’t tell anyone about your problems.
  12. Listen to how others feel instead of telling them how you feel.
  13. Pretend more and people please.
  14. Remember to make others feel like you find them smart and cool.
  15. Act like you agree.
  16. Don’t talk about: ideological commentary, unnecessary brutal truths, triggering questions, unwanted inquiries.
  17. Avoid asking people what they mean when they use certain words.
  18. Don’t take anything at face value.
  19. Don’t investigate things people say.

Remember that the minds of others are chaos. There’s lots of stuff going on that leads to why people say what they say and you can’t know what those things are. Their minds are chaos of feelings, that they’re human beings.
– Michael Leviton

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driving by wire ..conservation of ROI

For those few who are not familiar with the acronym, ROI means, Return On Investment.

When a person (or group of persons) starts a business enterprise, whether it be a lemonade stand, or a future Fortune 500 manufacturing giant, ROI is what the effort is about.

Oh, you can have your Mission Statements, your Corporate Ethics, Culture, and Philanthropic Goals; but without ROI, without a sustainable positive ROI, none of your Best Intentions will be realized.  The old “bottom line” is sacrosanct.

In the age of Publicly Held corporations, the business has become answerable to a wide-set of entities, most of who, do not care about Mission Statements, etc.  The dividends, interest, executive bonuses, all become fodder for ‘due diligence’ by the financial department. Your business can find itself in court, and you can find yourself on the street for not fulfilling the desires of the shareholders.

In this litigious world we have created, dispersal of the “bottom line” is a large bone to chew on.

When I was lad, a young man, I asked my father why new car prices went up with each successive year model.  Rather than explain inflation, and how the economy worked (and often doesn’t work), he explained to me that if he paid $2500 for a brand new 1966 Chevrolet Impala, that he would be very upset if the NEW 1967 Chevrolet Impala could be driven home for $2400.  Now, there is a certain truth to this, but as with most economic conundrums, there is more to it than that.

Your basic company relies on capital to hire people, and purchase the infrastructure needed to produce whatever it intends to receive an ROI upon.

And then what all this preamble has led up to, happens..

The fuel shortage.  Domestic oil production was curtailed because crude was widely available from other sources for less.  When those sources placed controls on the number of barrels they were willing to sell to the United States, fuel prices increased (basic economics, supply and demand).

This situation, coupled with a desire by the populace to not have to breath so many exhaust fumes on an hourly basis, prompted, first California, then some other states and municipalities, and  finally the Federal Government, to call for not only a decrease in emissions, but an increase in the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) rate by those entities producing the machines consuming the fuel produced from the crude.

Using less fuel alone, should equal a decrease in overall emissions (but of course that turned out to not be that simple either).

Gas_Consump_per_Cap_2012Now, 40 years later, we have relatively clean air in most places.  A preponderance of hybrid fueled, and part or full-time electric vehicles, has resulted in fuel consumption per capita peaking in 1990, and dropping precipitously since.

The price of fuel has fluctuated through the years based on every factor the producers could think of, always trending upward.  The factor I like the best is the one which says that reduced consumption has limited ROI to the extent that the price per unit must be raised to maintain corporate production infrastructure.

Without increasing prices, there are only two ways to maintain, or (more often the case) increase profits: sell more (and that trend is counter to the prevailing consumption environment), or reduce expenses.

Executive bonuses are not cut.  Shareholder dividends keep increasing.  Manpower levels are reduced, high earners are offered buy-outs and replaced by less experienced, less productive, lower salaried and wage earners.  And infrastructure maintenance is the last victim.  Without a stable or growing infrastructure, business (..say it together, ROI) is threatened.

The price goes up.

The government is not excluded from this logic. Decreased fuel sales, meant less tax money available to siphon off ..er, to repair, improve and expand the infrastructure it (we) provides so that the machines which use the fuel, have an operational arena (the roads must roll).

Taxes increase, prices go up.

Only business segment where this happens? No..

The electrical delivery grid in our country is in a constant state of repair (or non-repair), and power producing systems are heavily regulated (particulates, radiation, water rationing) In recent decades, the power companies have encouraged the public to conserve (use less electricity), and pioneer alternative production methods, like solar power, for their own usage (and to feed the grid).

Aside from being extremely expensive (short, medium and long term negative ROI for the owner).. well, I bought a house that has solar cells.  At the current grid rate they reduce my bill about $50 per month (a bit more in the summer, a lot less in the winter).

For the privilege of supplying my excess production to the grid (or not buying that $50 worth from the grid), I am charged a “Renewable Energy Surcharge” (on total consumption).

I am also assessed a “Hydroelectric Adjustment” due to the current “drought” conditions being experienced here in California. “Some” of the power consumed is produced hydroelectrically.  Our power company is paying a premium for the power they buy from other sources, to replace the hydropower (historically less expensive) they are unable to buy now (the adjustment is based on total consumption).

In addition, our overall rate has increased due to infrastructure concerns, created by a reduced ROI due to overall customer conservation.  And we have tiered consumption pricing to encourage even more conservation.

..don’t get me started on power companies.

Is this the last straw?  Apparently not.

The current “four-year drought” being experienced here in California, has resulted in repeated calls for water conservation.  The City asked for a city average, 20 percent (20%) reduction in water consumption in 2014.

Fresh off the presses:

The City provides water, wastewater (sewer) and solid waste (refuse) service to more than 40,000 customers.  The City Charter requires each of the City’s utilities to be financially self-sufficient…

An increase in the rates is necessary in order to recover sufficient revenues to operate and maintain the City’s water and wastewater systems. Specifically the proposed rate increases are needed to fund increasing operational costs such as inflation, maintenance, technology, rehabilitation, labor, energy, fuel, chemicals, regulatory compliance, and reserves.

No mention of the 14% citywide reduction in water consumption in 2014.

In addition to the “Temporary Drought Surcharge” that appears on the bill:

The City Council will consider proposed changes to the Water Shortage Rates.  The revised strategy is intended to delay increased costs to customers in the event of a water shortage.  The strategy includes building the Rate Stabilization Fund for water operations to the extent that it would be used to offset the financial deficit created by reduced water sales due to customer water conservation.


“..to offset the financial deficit created by reduced water sales due to customer water conservation.”

My Economics classes  concentrated on Supply and Demand.  I don’t recall any discussion of ROI.  Shouldn’t there be some conservative response by the suppliers ..oh, I forgot that there was also no consideration of ‘how much is enough.’

This news just in:  California Governor Jerry Brown has mandated a 25 percent (25%) reduction in water consumption, statewide for 2015.  More ROI adjustments are on the way..

“Houston, we have a problem.”  I hope things are going well in your “neck of the woods”

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driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Fast Track Hobbies – 3/22/2015

Retro race #3 at Fast Track Hobbies by Russ Toy

Our latest retro competition was held at Fast Track Hobbies in Rocklin, CA, just north of Sacramento. Most of the racers were the local guys and a few out-of-towners; missing in action was our fearless leader, Jim Fowler, who is still tending his business and his health. This left Russ Toy at large and in charge of the day-to-day operation with the help of the local crew. We had a smaller-than-usual turnout this time, but we still had a great day of racing.

The first race of the day was the Can-Am class on the Purple Angel; this is a one of a kind track design that is fast and technical in one package. Practice on this particular track is necessary to keep up with the fast guys, lap times are in the low 5-second range. We had 13 racers in this field, including local racer, Justin Colvin and international superstar, Herman James. As fast as these cars are, the start wasn’t too bad with not too many crashes. As the race progress, the competition was becoming more fierce. Herman and Justin were in their own zip code, leaving third place up for grabs between Richard Matthews, Greg Bishoff, Rob Watkins, Randy Keil and Murphy.

032215 CanAm laps

032215 CamAm podium

CanAm Podium L-R: 2nd / Justin Colvin, 1st / Herman James, 3rd / Greg Bishoff

032215 CanAm cars

L-R: 2nd / Justin Colvin, 1st / Herman James, 3rd / Gref Bishoff

Next up was the 4-1/2” NASCAR, these cars are a kick to drive especially on the purple Angel. We had 10 drivers signed up for this event, including Greg Bishoff, who claims he has never driven one before. Even though, these cars use the Mini-Brute motors, they can be a handful to drive. Some of the drivers forgot to dial back their controllers, due to the difference in speed. Some of the crashes were pretty spectacular with these boats on wheels. What fun!

At the start of the race, Justin forgot to tighten his crown gear and Herman took advantage of his misfortune. He was down by five laps when he rejoined the race. Rob Watkins was in hot pursuit with Randy Keil and Richard Matthews in tow. First timer Greg B. was crying “how do you keep these frickin’ things on the track?” Did I mention these cars are only 3” wide, wheel to wheel. Meanwhile, Justin was quickly making up ground and driving the wheels off his car.

But when the clock ran out, the victor was…

032215 Stock laps

032215 Stock podium

Stock Podium L-R: 2nd / Justin Colvin, Ist / Herman James, 3rd / Rob Watkins

032215 Stock cars

L-R: 2nd / Justin Colvin, Ist / Herman James, 3rd / Rob Watkins

Greg B. said he’ll be back, so I guess he liked running these behemoths. The Hermanator was on his way to making the hat trick. Can anybody, somebody stop his pursuit of world domination?

After a small break, our final race of the day was the ever popular F1/Indy class, featuring brass and wire in-drive chassis and Slick 7 Mini-Brute motors. We prefer this motors for this class, because it’s easier to drive and makes the competition that much closer. We had 11 cars in this field and the race was switched over to the flat, flat road course. A MTT to be precise with a really short finger; lap times are in the low 5-seconds.

Driving these open-wheel cars are a bit of a challenge and passing is done at your own risk. As usual, Herman and Justin were the lead cars with the other local talents trying to claim their spot on the podium. I must say, the driving was a bit more cathodic and some of the crashes were spectacular. A couple of cars flew off the track and onto the floor, even with these slower motors. Meanwhile, Cliff Gaither, Greg Ruzich, Randy Keil and Greg Bishoff were all making their bid to the podium.

But at the end of this race, the checkered flag goes to…032215 Formula laps

032215 Formula podium

Formula Podium L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Greg Ruzich

032215 Formula cars

L-R: 2nd / Herman James, 1st / Justin Colvin, 3rd / Greg Ruzich

So comes the end of another great day of retro racing (no hat trick for you, Herman!). Our thanks to Dwight Adamson and his staff at Fast Track Hobbies. If you’re ever in the area, you should definitely stop by to check out all three tracks and their well stocked inventory. Our next race will be Sunday, April 19th at Eddie’s Slot Car World in Vallejo, CA. Can-Am and 1/24 Retro-Pro on the Blue King, F1/Indy on the Motherlode, the baddest flat track you’ll ever race on. It should be a blast. See you there.

source: http://slotblog.net/topic/58703-norcal-race-3-report-322-fth-rocklin-ca/

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driving by wire.. words to ponder

I paraphrase..

Reality does not exist,
until the data is analyzed

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driving by wire ..NorCal Retro @ Motown – 2/22/2015

Retro race #2 at MoTown Raceway by Russ Toy

Another month and another retro race, this time at MoTown Raceway in sunny downtown Modesto (even though we had an early morning shower). Ted and I walked in the door and were greeted by a score of hardcore retro racers with their boxes open and ready for the today’s event. Missing in action was our fearless leader, Jim Fowler, who’s still fighting a case of pneumonia and trying to manage his ski store in Truckee. He may miss next month at Rocklin as well, so we hope things will get better soon.

Meanwhile, the track was driving the cars themselves without touching the controllers on the Hillclimb. This made the cars a little harder to drive, as the brakes suffered during the race. Gene said he would look into this problem and have it fixed by the next time we come around. The first race of the day was the Can-Am class and we had a solid 14 entries. Kathy Wilbur was kind enough to take on the duties of race director for the entire day and we should all thank her, next time you see her in person. The start of the race was okay, but soon cars were crossing other people’s lanes and causing some spectacular wreaks. As expected, the local guys were your early leaders with Ted Essy and Herman James in the hunt. Everybody else was struggling to keep up and avoid colliding with the faster guys. Rocky and Chris were battling for the lead with Dave C. and John M. in their own battle.

022215 CanAm laps

the totals

L-R: 2nd / Rocky Rommel, 1st / Chris Dray, 3rd / Ted Essy

L-R: 2nd / Rocky Rommel, 1st / Chris Dray, 3rd / Ted Essy

022215 CanAm cars

L-R: 2nd / Rocky Rommel, 1st / Chris Dray, 3rd / Ted Essy


Next up was the 1/24 Retro-Pro class on the Hillclimb; these cars feature brass and wire anglewinder chassis with the small, but powerful Pro/Slot Big Dog motors. These represent the pinnacle of slot racing from the late 60’s. We had 10 entrees with Sarah Palin and John McCain as guest drivers. The pace was a bit faster with these cars, but the carnage wasn’t as bad (I think). The weird thing was the brakes came back after the second heat, so that changes everybody’s
strategy. Once again, the local guys Dave C. and John M. were leading the way with Ted and Herman in tow. But halfway through the race, the brakes went away again, so the game plan changed once more.

After the power went off, the victor was..

After the power went off, the victor was..

022215 ProC podium

L-R: 2nd / John Moehrle, 1st / Ted Essy, 3rd / Dave C

022215 ProC cars

L-R: 2nd / John Moehrle, 1st / Ted Essy, 3rd / Dave C

The last race was the F1/Indy race on the ever-challenging Corkscrew and we had 10 racers; we almost had 13 entrees, but it was getting late for some people. It was only 3:30 in the afternoon and Tracy had an idea, why not run 5-minute heats?
Hmmm. Interesting. Could we? Should we?? Sounds crazy. Why not! Let’s do it!! At the drop of the flag, everybody was driving their usual pace, fast and furious, but with the narrow lane spacing, passing other cars was a crap shot. As the race progressed, fatigue was beginning to set in and drivers were making errors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many F1 cars doing cartwheels across the track before. Ted, Tracy and Herman were turning in some impressive lap totals with Rocky (with a rent-a-toy) and John M. in pursuit. With one heat to go, Ted had finished his race, leaving Tracy in contention to take the win. Unfortunately, the last heat was not without incidents and was probably the longest five minutes ever.

After the dust settled ..Holy Crap! What a race

After the dust settled ..Holy Crap! What a finish!

The Podium

L-R: 2nd / Tracy Chin, 1st / Ted Essy, 3rd / Herman James.

the wheels

L-R: 2nd / Tracy Chin, 1st / Ted Essy, 3rd / Herman James.

An interesting experiment. Would we do again? Only time will tell, but we might want to think about it. Our thanks to Gene and Jen for letting us play with our toy cars. Our next race will be at Fast Track Hobbies in Rocklin on Sunday, March 22nd. We’ll be racing Can-Am and 4-1/2” Nascar on the Purple Angel and F1/Indy on the MTT road course.  See ya’ there.

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driving by wire.. one man’s profession of faith

The man attributed with the invention of the first electrical battery, Alessandro Volta, lived in an age of religious fervor (18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827), much like now.


In defense of his failure to fulfill the religious expectations of others, he issued this profession of faith..

“I do not understand how anyone can doubt the sincerity and constancy of my attachment to the religion which I profess, the Roman, Catholic and Apostolic religion in which I was born and brought up, and of which I have always made confession, externally and internally. I have, indeed, and only too often, failed in the performance of those good works which are the mark of a Catholic Christian, and I have been guilty of many sins: but through the special mercy of God I have never, as far as I know, wavered in my faith… In this faith I recognize a pure gift of God, a supernatural grace; but I have not neglected those human means which confirm belief, and overthrow the doubts which at times arise. I studied attentively the grounds and basis of religion, the works of apologists and assailants, the reasons for and against, and I can say that the result of such study is to clothe religion with such a degree of probability, even for the merely natural reason, that every spirit unperverted by sin and passion, every naturally noble spirit must love and accept it. May this confession which has been asked from me and which I willingly give, written and subscribed by my own hand, with authority to show it to whomsoever you will, for I am not ashamed of the Gospel, may it produce some good fruit!”

I have, indeed, and only too often, failed in the performance of those good works which are the mark of a Catholic Christian, and I have been guilty of many sins: but through the special mercy of God I have never, as far as I know, wavered in my faith.

..I am not certain that any of us, regardless of our brand of faith, can ascribe to a better result.

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driving by wire ..leaving on a jet plane

As it turns out, getting to El Paso (apparently from anywhere) is not as easy as one might imagine..

SouthWest AirlinesOkay, it was Superbowl Sunday ..and as luck would have it, the humidity in Phoenix (an essential lynch pin in travel plans from the West Coast to El Paso) was 100%, but it was not raining; this equals very dense fog, and planes were not leaving or arriving at the Phoenix Skyport.

My initial wait was in Sacramento.  The early morning flight was delayed; my 7:45 flight was delayed, and then canceled. Upon cancellation, we were issued boarding passes for the early morning flight that was still sitting at the terminal. We loaded up, and shortly thereafter were pushed away from the gate.  We taxied to the runway and got in line.  After a half hour, we swung around and headed back to the terminal gate, where we were allowed to deplane while waiting the opportunity to re-board and get out of town.

After another 45 minutes, we were gathered together and told that anyone with a Phoenix connection to blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, and El Paso, should remove their bags from the overhead and underneath the seat, and get off the plane.  The airline agent at gate 20 was available to assist us in rescheduling our flight, probably for tomorrow.

I contacted my son-in-law in El Paso to advise him of the delay.  He immediately told me that there were two (2) later flights out of Phoenix (to El Paso), and I should ask if I can get on one of those.  I did, and they scheduled me for a 3:45 connection, arriving in Phoenix on the flight I had just been removed from; boarding passes were reissued.  I returned to the delayed early morning flight, and took a window seat.

40 minutes later, we were back in line on the tarmac; this time, half empty, we took to the sky.  The six (6) folks aboard with Superbowl tickets, cheered.

The flight to Phoenix was unremarkable.  We landed, greeted by a terminal full of people who had not been able to leave that morning because no planes had been able to arrive ..much less leave.  I found a chair, and waited out the 90 minutes or so that remained for my connection to El Paso.

I arrived in El Paso about five (5:00) in the afternoon.  My checked luggage did not arrive.  It seems that in Sacramento while we were being told about all the connecting flights we would miss in Phoenix, and told to disembark etc, they were pulling our bags off the plane.  Somehow, my bag got routed to Little Rock (AR), but the airline would have it in El Paso at 11:00 the next morning.

At 11:30 Monday morning, I was contacted and they told me that my bag would not arrive until 1:50 in the afternoon.  As we (myself, daughter and son-in-law) needed to go to lunch, we decided to go to the airport area, eat, and then retrieve the bag.  After lunch, we were told that the bag was further delayed for three (3) hours, and that they would be pleased to personally deliver it to my daughter’s apartment.  At 5:30, the airline phone call confirmed the arrival of the bag, and that they would deliver it sometime after nine (9:00) in the evening, possibly as late as midnight.

We returned to the airport and picked up my luggage.

Now this might be the end of the story, but it is not…

On Thursday, my sister’s flight from Seattle, was canceled.  They re-routed her through Oakland ..then San Diego.  A quick stop in Phoenix, and arrival in El Paso, five (5) hours later than planned, at eight (8:00) in the evening.

Also, on Thursday, my wife’s flight from Sacramento, was delayed for four (4) hours in Phoenix ..but her luggage did arrive with her, on the same plane.

..I could not make this up

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Martha Dixon Chaney / 27 Jul 1926 – 02 Feb 2015

10379783_10154939194140524_1762873788218996411_oMartha Dixon Chaney (’74), 88, passed away February 2, 2015, in El Paso, TX.

Born in Oak Park, IL on July 27, 1926, Martha married Billy Jack “BJ” Chaney on June 7, 1947.

She graduated from Texas A&M University in 1974, with a Master’s Degree in Education. She was a special needs teacher for many years, in Texas. She was a member of the Rockdale Eastern Star, the Sons of Norway, and the Episcopal Church. She loved to travel.

She spent her life providing food, funds and friendship to the marginalized and disenfranchised members of our society, believing that there were always those with greater need than her own.

After 50 years of marriage, Martha was preceded in death by her husband BJ Chaney. Also by her brother, John Robert “Jack” Nicholas II and her sister, Jeanne McKee.

She is survived by her son, Robert Jackson “Bob” Chaney (’74) and his wife Yelena Y Wright; and by her daughter, Debra Jeanne Chaney. Also two granddaughters, Amanda Leigh Huff and Terri Gwyne Urien, and six great-grandchildren, Kaden and Kolten Urien, Izabel, Alexander, Isaac and Amelia Huff.

A Celebration Gathering of family and friends was held Saturday, February 7th at Perches Funeral Home in El Paso, TX

The family requests gifts be made to Texas A&M University, or St Thomas Episcopal Church (Rockdale, TX).

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driving by wire ..all about the Benjamins

Preparing to go to El Paso, to be with my Mother, has its own unique preparation check list..

As I do not have any requestable Paid Time Off (PTO) accrued here at work, I am compelled to fall back upon a Leave Of Absence (LOA) request.  This is ‘required’ because the second day you are absent from your desk without permission ..official permission.. you no longer have a job, period.

California, being the progressive entity that it is, has the Family Leave Act (FMLA), which compels corporations to provide its employees the ability to take Unpaid leave for family related situations (births, parental care), without threat to their positions in the company.

..thus I have applied, and been approved for Family Leave related LOA

In addition, my employer provides Paid, Bereavement Time Off

Bereavement time provides you paid time for the hours/day(s) necessary to arrange for and/ or attend funeral services of a family member.  And there are a lot of caveats, including:

If you are on a Leave of Absence, not regularly scheduled to work, or off work under another time off program, Bereavement Time Off is unavailable for you to use.

This would mean, that if Mother should pass away before I return to work from my LOA (to be with her), I will not be eligible for Bereavement (paid) time off.

.. I could not make this stuff up



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driving by wire ..Martha Dixon Chaney

Since my father’s death in 1997, my mother has exerted a style of ‘independence’ which has often been detrimental to her, in my opinion.


Most of the situations she created are very old news now ..sour grapes, which can still be tasted occasionally.  They color my current feelings for her.  Emotionally, she is my Mother.  I love her.  I feel a responsibility for her.

Several years ago, as I was contemplating relocation from Washington to California, it was apparent that despite her desire to retain her ‘living’ independence, suffering some memory loss, and undiagnosed dementia, she was at that point where she needed daily assistance.

She would not accept myself, or Debra, as her ‘caretakers.’

After a period of time, and discussion however, she did acknowledge that ‘perhaps’ she needed some help, and agree that she ‘trusted’ my son-in-law, Jim Huff, and would allow him to become her financial, and living guardian.  Within a few months, that relationship was formalized, and shortly after I moved to California, she followed, taking up residence in an assisted care facility in Reedley, CA.

She never liked it there.  And each time her physical health took a dip, her dislike of the situation became more pronounced ..and within the last year she has experienced several ‘falls’

..at Christmas time (2014), Jim and family relocated to El Paso, TX

Mother, asserting her ‘independence,’ determined the program and went with them, being placed in an assisting living facility in El Paso.

Here the story takes a bad turn; during the past couple of weeks she has had another fall, and become ill, precipitating two trips to the ER.  The immediate result of this is a marked change in her behavior.  She has become withdrawn, non-communicative, and confusing when she does speak.  She is not eating, and resisting oral fluids.

She has a DNR

Her doctor told us today that as a result of latest fall, she is experiencing a “failure to thrive.”  He believes that she has days or weeks left, not months.

She will be receiving Hospice support at the assisted living facility.

I will leave for El Paso soon..

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driving by wire.. Bill D. Spillers

Bill SpillersThe news this morning came without warning. The phone was answered in an adjoining cubicle. Quiet words were exchanged. A hurried follow-up call is overheard, detailing the worst. Then the news is delivered first-hand.

The nicest person you could ever hope to know, a co-worker, mentor ..and my friend.. Bill Spillers succumbed to a heart attack, at home, yesterday.

The news was not “unexpected”

Bill’s health over the past several years has not been the best. He has suffered oxygenation problems, spending several weeks at one point, in a coma. He was aware of his own mortality. He chose to live each day being happy with his life, his family, his work, and his unflagging dedication to making others aware of their own worth.

This news is “shocking”

His absence creates a space in the lives of everyone he knew and loved.

Bill’s Memorial Service will be Saturday, Jan 10, 2015, from 10a to 12noon @ 1275 Green Valley Rd, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Bill Spillers

My Father passed away on Sunday January 4th 2015.  He was  good man,  good Son, and a good Father.  He always helped support others. He donated to charities regularly, and assisted any family members in needed. We are trying to raise money for his Final Services and for assistance for My Mother.  They Celebrated their 28th Anniversary on December 31st 2014.  In lieu of flowers please donate to this fund:  The Bill D. Spillers Memorial Fund — Andrew Spillers

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 660 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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