Archive for August, 2012
Last August, 5,527 souls stumbled onto this site; most searching for Pattaya Pussy and being disappointed. This August, the total currently stands at 23,518, which is a ridiculous figure for something so inconsequential.
The Art in Paradise post is substantially responsible again, and I have taken advantage of its popularity by inserting an extra line in the post: “For more information, it is important that you watch this video right till the end, thank you.” “This video” is linked to the documentary about cancer in Fallujah, referred to in another post and I feel worthy of as wide an airing as possible. Not exactly Wikileaks, but makes me feel better.
Another contributor to the high visitor count has been an avalanche of interest in my Olympus lens review. I should complain about someone shamelessly providing links to this site in the DPReview forums; but as that someone was me I’ll stay quiet about it.
Surely Spike, it is time to monetise your visitor count by slapping “Ads by Google” in every spare space, between posts, even between sentences within posts? An exclusive arrangement with Thai Sweety Girl dotcom, offering honest, truthful girls looking for someone to love, no I never worked in a bar and I don’t have that many tattoos? How about a forum, where people who have lived here for twenty years can bitch about how terrible it is living in Thailand, whilst making no obvious effort to sod off where they came from?
Nah, can’t be arsed. Still, if we hit 30,000 I may have to consider the establishment of private video chat rooms. “Fifteen minutes alone with a pussy in a box – Only $25. No refunds.”
By way of introduction, those who have not already done so are invited to partake of part one of the saga, in which our hero builds an assortment of cars and tries to race them. After which:
Having had a reasonably successful year campaigning a road car, I was ready to step up to the world of real racing cars, but what type to buy? Having previously driven a Lotus 7, and a Lotus 7 rip-off, it seemed logical to move into Clubmans. Started in 1965, and still active today, Clubmans initially catered for people who wanted to convert their Lotus 7 into a racing car, or those who were mad and skilled enough to build their own machine.
The rules were simple enough. Front engine, rear wheeled drive, and the beast had to be wide enough to theoretically hold two people, although the passenger area was typically covered in and full of tubing. Most popular, and most expensive, were the cars from Mallock, this example is a Mk 18 from the mid-1970s, still running in classic events:
My funds didn’t run to a Mallock, instead I found a seven year old Phantom, built in a garage by a man called Chris Greville Smith, and if that isn’t a name for a twisted engineering genius, I don’t know what is. I hired a van and drove from Aberdeen into deepest England to pick up the chassis, and to another, equally deep, part of England to pick up a racing engine and gearbox. Mr. Greville Smith kindly sent me some notes on the car, which turned out to be four pages of hand written engineering complexity, very little of which I understood. Still, I put the engine into the car and stood back to admire my investment.
It was not very impressive. Yes, there was also a bonnet of sorts, and a nose cone which could best be described as “floppy”; but it was all a little scruffy. Still, it was almost the end of the season and I had to give it a try, so I entered it for a local event where it failed to even make the track. The problem was oil pressure, or lack of it.
A road car has a sump under the engine where oil sloshes about until it is picked up and re-injected into the engine. The G forces in a racing car make this impossible, the oil pickup would be sucking air as the oil was pushed against the side of the engine during cornering and braking. So instead there is something called a dry sump, in which the oil is sucked out of the engine block, through a tank, cooler and pump and then back into the engine. This involves a lot of piping which my small brain had obviously failed to get to grips with.
Nothing daunted (OK, slightly daunted), I took the whole mess home and started again. First job was to strip everything back to the chassis. This involved drilling out several hundred rivets which held the aluminium panels to the spaceframe. This took me many hours, although not as many as it took me to rivet everything back together again afterwards. Then I sanded down the chassis and hid the rust by painting it with rust inhibitor.
Then I hid the rust inhibitor by painting everything black.
Then all I had to do was tidy and re-paint the body panels, affix them with a zillion rivets, insert the engine, install the electrics and figure out which oil pipe went where. And the end result was:
The final step was to acquire some new slick tyres. The tyres of choice for hillclimbing were Avon Formula 3 qualifying tyres. They heated up quickly, which is what you needed, provided masses amounts of grip, which is what you needed, and were worn through to the canvas after very few miles of usage, which is what Avon needed. Credit card in tatters, my racing car was finally complete, time to go and race it.
I have to admit, you do feel a little special being a racing driver, even on a part-time, very amateur basis. The fire-proof overalls proclaim that you actually drive one of these things, and you can strut around the paddock looking cool. If you are ugly, like me, you can wear a fire-proof balaclava, so you can impress the girls with your status without putting them off with your looks. Worst case, always wear your helmet.
But I had never drive a real racing car before, and all the feelings of being cool evaporated when I clambered into what was known as the cockpit, but I began to consider might better be named “the tomb”.
Right in front of me were a pair of Weber carburettors, perfectly situated to spit petrol and flames back into my face. To my right was a pipe routing hot water from the radiator at the back of the car to the engine; just one split… The radiator itself was right behind my neck, just waiting to soak me with boiling water in the event of a rear impact. And then there was the flywheel.
The design of these cars meant that the gearbox sat right next to my left leg. Between the engine and the gearbox was the flywheel, not normally a concern. But racing flywheels have been machined down so they are lighter and are less of a drag on the engine; and they have a tendency to shatter at 8,000 rpm with the bits flying outwards at whatever speeds 8,000 rpm can generate. And of course, to save further weight, my car had a thin magnesium flywheel housing which would do little to hinder the shards of the flywheel as they severed my legs above the knee. Not that I would notice, because I would be too busy dealing with my eyebrows being on fire from the carburettors and my neck and back being scalded by radiator water. Happy thoughts, and I hadn’t even started the engine yet.
Still, once I started the engine, all these worries evaporated, to be replaced by new ones. What’s that fucking noise?! And the vibration, sufficient to initiate orgasm if I was in the mood, which I definitely wasn’t. And the smell, of oil and fuel, and probably a desperate little fart of panic from yours truly as he realised that racing cars are nothing like road cars. Find a gear, hope it is first, and then gingerly let out the racing clutch; which is designed to handle the power, whilst in return being either completely disengaged or completely engaged, all within the space of a millimetre movement of the clutch pedal. Naturally, I stalled it. Naturally, I stalled it a second time. I was glad my face was hidden by my helmet; even though there were no girls around.
Finally, me and the car staggered to the start line. Moment of truth.
I can still remember the first few seconds. Loads of revs and the rear wheels spun a little before the car rocketed off the line. More power than I had ever had before, in a car weighing half the weight of anything I had owned before; experienced from a supine position enveloped in a violent mix of noise, vibration and aroma. I recall the overall feeling being one of “fuck me”, followed closely by the feeling of “get me out of here”.
But I was committed now, and soon second gear followed first, third followed second and suddenly I was at the first corner. And it was clearly too late, I was going far too fast and I was far too close; this was going to be a massive accident. I was almost certainly going to die.
Pointlessly, as a last futile gesture, I stood on the brakes. The car stopped. I don’t mean it slowed down, it actually stopped. Racing brakes and huge tyres just stopped the flying death machine, about fifty metres before the entrance to the corner. I am sure I saw the marshals laughing. I looked down into the bowels of the machine and pretended I had experienced a technical problem; whereas the only problem I had to deal with was in my head.
The rest of the run was equally rubbish, but allowed me to discover that the Formula 3 tyres gave the car impossible amounts of grip so you could go faster and faster through the corners; until the point that the tyres lost interest and gave you no grip at all and spat you off the side of the track. This was going to be fun.
And it was. After a few events I began to get to grips with the enormous performance difference. I was in a class where there were serious men with serious money, people who had this year’s chassis and an engine that had many more horsepower than my rather tired old unit. But it was fun trying to beat my previous best times, and I picked up a couple of class position trophies, and even won an event outright with the much coveted “fastest time of the day” when nobody else turned up. Trips were made south of the border to Harewood House, and the classic Shelsley Walsh, where everyone wore a bow tie and spoke like they were in an episode of Downton Abbey (the upstairs bit), apart from me. But it was Doune in Scotland that was always my favourite; dangerous but immensely satisfying (see the first part of the story for a video of a run up Doune).
And so, after a season with the car, it was fitting that my last event was to be at Doune. My company had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to move to Holland, and someone had agreed to buy the Phantom. All I had to do was not wreck it in this final outing.
No problem, it was just Doune, the most demanding and car-destroying track on the calendar, and the weather was playing along by raining hard.
Along with the car had come a set of spare wheels which looked like they were at least ten years old, fitted with a set of grooved wet tyres which looked to be a similar vintage to the wheels. The rubber was cracked and degraded, all the better to soak up the puddles I reckoned. I had no idea what pressure to run them at; but as they seemed to visibly deflate as soon as they were pumped up, it was probably best not to worry about such details.
My opposition was the usual collection of rich boys but most of them had turned out to be pretty good guys, always ready to chat and help Spike, comfortable in the knowledge that nothing they told me would make me any more competitive. But one was particularly arrogant, and was being extra-obnoxious this particular weekend by telling everyone how his model girlfriend with endless legs had just bought him a new engine, for a sum of money that would have purchased my car, engine and trailer, with money left over for a weekend for two in Barbados, which was coincidentally just what the two of them had returned from (so he told us, loudly). Git.
The morning practice runs did not go well, especially when one of our racing class found a way to launch his car off the track such that it fell down the hill through a forest. Most concerning, especially as we had not realised before that there was a forest conveniently located nearby that you could visit in a flying racing car. His car hit a tree backwards at a point twenty feet off the ground, and totally destroyed the car; something the very lucky driver was telling us in the paddock afterwards until the adrenaline wore off and he was taken away in an ambulance to spend the next week in traction.
I hadn’t hit anything, but I hadn’t enjoyed my practice much either. There were wheel wrenching puddles, visibility was appalling, and the rain was coming straight off the tyres onto my crotch, sufficient to initiate orgasm if I was in the mood, which I definitely wasn’t.
At the end of the practice I was closer than usual to the pack (the rain meant that it was harder for them to get their huge power advantage onto the road), but I was still slower, and fancy boy with the model girlfriend was out in front; a fact he was happy to share with everyone over the lunch break. Git.
In the afternoon you get two attempts, the fastest of which counts in the final results, and I screwed up my first one with a missed gear and a subsequent slide, fortunately without hitting anything. And so it all came down to the last run of the day, and my last ever drive in a racing car before handing it over, hopefully still in one piece. I gave it my best shot, and then climbed out of the car with the usual adrenaline shakes and an unusual mixture of sadness and relief. Spike the racing driver was no more.
Just the prize-giving to attend, which everyone did, even if you had won nothing.
What’s that you say? You want to give me this?:
Twenty eight years ago, and I remember it as if it were yesterday; especially the look on the leggy girlfriend’s face which said “I am sufficient to initiate orgasm if I was in the mood, which I definitely am not”.
You can keep your F1 World Championship; there is nothing better than winning in the rain at Doune against faster cars. Good times.
As a clear indicator of our pointless lives, neighbour Nik and I pass each other objects on a regular basis with the detailed instruction “have a go at this then”. The object in question is invariably a complete bastard to photograph.
It all started, as many things do, with a wine glass. How do you photograph a wine glass without capturing unwanted reflections? The answer, courtesy of a book called Light, Science and Magic, turned out to be very complicated.
From there it has been downhill, and anything remotely reflective has been passed between us with thinly disguised sneers, indicating a certainty that this latest offering will defeat all attempts to avoid unwanted reflections.
A couple of days ago I received this from Nik:
A very fine and chunky amethyst geode, stuffed full of crystals just waiting to reflect light back into the camera lens. You can see some doing it in the photo above, and a closer attempt has the same problem:
There is probably a way round this involving metres of blue tube and the construction of a massive tent; but I couldn’t be arsed. So instead of shining light onto the crystals, I tried shining it through them. First I set the light so it came in through the open side of the geode. That had the unexpected result of turning the previously white interior into a rather pleasing green, courtesy of the light coming through the outer shell.
Then I tried shining the light directly through the base of the geode. Again surprisingly, the crystals lost their typical purple amethyst colouration:
I rather liked that; so I took the image and ran it through Topaz Adjust until I found a suitable preset, and this was the result:
Quite pleasing to my eye (click to enlarge), and no reflections. I win. Tomorrow I will return the geode and give Nik an icosahedron made of polished glass. Have a go at that then….
Almost seven weeks since I made my pledge to attend the windsurfing club at least three times a week, and I am pleased to say that I have fulfilled the conditions every week, apart from this one where I have only been twice so far. But it was agreed (by me) that four hours walking round Chinatown qualifies as an alternative to a visit to the club, but I might go sailing tomorrow anyway, just to ensure that the presiding committtee (my conscience) can’t raise any objections.
It hasn’t always been easy. There have been afternoons when there has been no wind and it has either been stinking hot or raining; and the last thing I have felt like doing is driving all the way to the club and then paddling a SUP for an hour down to the marina and back, in waters that are currently containing more than their share of jellyfish. But I have found myself doing it, because of the pledge I made.
Yesterday was the day I realised I had made something of a breakthrough, helped in no small part by this:
It’s called a Serenity and while it is classed as a windsurfer, it is actually a very small personal yacht. It’s longer and narrower than a normal windsurfer….
… and it has a yacht shaped hull and a sodding big fin:
I bought mine about mine about five years ago and they have long since gone out of production, but it is a very special piece of kit. In light winds you stick on a big sail and it just takes off like nothing else on the water. You stand on the deck, admiring the gorgeous wood finish, as the board (boat?) slices through the water at a ridiculously high speed given the state of the wind; just an amazing feeling.
But it can also be a bitch. Swell throws it off course, it is always changing its mind as to where it thinks it should go next; and it is quite happy to throw you into the water with very little provocation. As a result, even in light winds, sailing a Serenity take constant involvement and a fair degree of energy.
Which is why I was surprised to realise that I sailed it for over an hour yesterday without a break, and only stopped because the wind died. And once I had finished, I still felt fresh enough to carry, wash and stow all my gear without needing a sit-down, a huge change from seven weeks ago.
Mind you, once I got home and the adrenaline had worn off, I felt completely exhausted; but it was a good type of exhaustion, the type where you feel good and all your body is humming, rather than the type where you feel like you are going to vomit and then die; or the even worse type where you actually do.
And today I felt fine and was out again on the Serenity, and a smaller board when the wind picked up. And I wasn’t thinking about getting through half an hour of torture, but just going out and enjoying sailing, like I used to before frozen shoulders and a rampant thyroid screwed me up.
Happy days. Thank you Craig for making supporting noises, and thank you Serenity for being you. I feel like a windsurfer again, which at my age is something to be grateful for.
Some more shots from my walk through Chinatown in Bangkok. All taken with the Olympus 75mm lens, which is great for capturing people; but maybe less good for capturing a sense of place; although hopefully some of these do both.
The latest beauty treatment on the streets involves caking on some powder and then rubbing it off with thread. There were several women in a line offering this service:
The powder and thread route to beauty
You often see Thais with these inhalers, perks them up a bit and prevents dizziness. Sleeping with one up your nose is not good for you, but at least he knows where to find the cap when he wakes up!:
To Bangkok, where I am to attend a meeting of our condo committee. It could be a very pleasant affair, if it were not for one member who is a complete arsehole. He attempts to get his way by shouting abuse at everyone, and the other Thais on the committee, who are all ladies, are too shocked and humiliated to face up to him; leaving the farangs to argue the case.
All very tiring, and this state of affairs has been going on for months. This week I decided I had better things to do with my life and walked out of the meeting.
Feeling generally pissed off, I went for a walk into Chinatown. Stood near the main train station studying a map, and a tuk-tuk stopped next to me. Just what I needed, someone else to annoy me and an attempt to rip me off. Surprisingly, no. He offered to show me directions to my destination; then explained it was his day off and he just liked to take his tuk-tuk for little drives; but not too far because the engine became too hot. He was very smartly dressed and admitted to being a bit of a playboy. He was certainly a bit of a chatty chap and it was hard to get away, although we eventually parted with firm handshakes, by which time I had forgotten the directions he had given me.
Turned out to be a good thing, because I ended up walking down small sois in an area which appeared to be dedicated to the storage and distribution of metal bars. Work spilled onto the pavement and I had to walk round all manner of industry to make any progress.
Was hailed by a couple of the local business owners who wanted to say “hello, where you come from, how long you stay?” I devised a standard answer of “England, three days”; because “England, thirteen years” would provoke the totally reasonable response of “why you no speak Thai”, which would rather put a dampener on the convivial time I was having.
One guy was very keen to show me his stock of aluminium, stainless steel and brass; and indeed I was most impressed. He then pointed to a storage shelf and suggested I might light to take a photo of it, so I did.
I then pointed the camera at him and said I should also take his photo, which he was less keen on, but allowed me.
Leaving my new best friend behind, I headed off in the general direction of where I thought I needed to go, and arrived at the car spares area, with piles of parts on every corner.
At one outlet, it was hard to differentiate between what was a spare part and what was part of the shop:
Next to a stack of lorry axles, I bumped into a bemused Japanese couple studying their map. We introduced ourselves, stared at our respective maps, and agree we were all lost. Cheered by this news, the phones came out and I was photographed with both of them before we headed off in opposite directions, both thinking we were heading to the same place. Never saw them again.
Faith restored in the general pleasantness of the human race, I spent a couple more hours generally lost in the fascinating streets of Chinatown. There are more photos; but they will come another time.
Photos: Panasonic GX1 with Olympus 75mm and Panasonic Summilux 25mm
There are now thirty two lenses available for the micro four thirds system, with more on the way in time for Photokina next month. Plus there are hundreds of other lenses that you can use in conjunction with an adapter. That’s a lot of lenses, enough for anyone to create a collection that matches their needs, wallet and camera bag volume. Contrary to she who must be obeyed’s assertions, I don’t own the full set, and deciding which lenses to choose for my collection has been an interesting process (for me). More >
We all worry about our children. At least, I know I did.
As The Son lay in his cot, talking bollocks and filling his nappy, my first concern was “hope his mother arrives soon to change it”; but then I thought about him growing up. Would he become an accountant with a mortgage and responsibilities and a heart bursting with civic pride, or would he end up on the floor of a Bolivian brothel surrounded by crack whores whilst being sought by police in five countries. As he grew up, I must admit I sometimes wondered which of those two outcomes I would prefer for myself, let alone him; but in the end all we can hope for our kids is that they remain healthy and find a sort of happiness in this fucked up version of reality we are condemned to dwell within for an approximate number of years.
In the absence of any strong evidence to the contrary, I hope the The Son has achieved that, and last week I sought to add to his level of happiness by sharing this with him:
It’s a video for some “music” by a Korean pop artist named PSY. Unlike most male Korean pop stars, he is not handsome and so sells himself via humour. The hit count on the video indicates he is rather successful with this strategy. There were 37 million hits when I first caught it a couple of days ago, now it is over 40 million. Watch it, the music may be an acquired taste; but the dancing will make you at least smile.
Of course, The Son had already seen it (he is always ahead of me on the social curve). As an aside he mentioned “The dances he does are surprisingly hard to emulate, too.” Naturally I was shocked. I imagined my son, chained to a computer, advancing the barriers of the gaming industry, and not cavorting around his living room going “woop, woop”. Next he is going to really let me down by telling me he has decided to be an accountant.
Still, there is a bright side. I am on a constant mission to embarrass and annoy she who must be obeyed in public; don’t ask me why, ask The Son’s lady, she will tell you it seems to be in the genes. Yesterday we were in a crowded restaurant and I struck an appropriate pose and shouted out “Gangnam Style!!!” Went down like a lead balloon with added ballast, must do it again soon.
Finally, although it is easy to forget, we should remember that our children are sometimes human too. I am sure my son worries about me from time to time. Am I sat in my chair drooling at the sunset like all good pensioners do; or did I spend twenty minutes in front of a mirror this morning with my hands on my hips trying to emulate that dance at the very end of the video?
Next time he visits….