29th September 2010

Race fans honor the memory of Chris Kent at KSP

Chase Jupe was the Modified feature winner.

By Don Cook
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Kennedale Speedway Park (Kennedale)
Sept. 18 (Saturday)

Chase Jupe, #303, was the IMCA Modified feature winner Saturday night at Kennedale Speedway Park. Keith White, #1, the 2010 points champion, had to settle for 10th place. Jay Bransom, #29, Brandon Stewart, #2, Darryl Campbell, #83, and Scooter Bates, #12, were your top five.

The Chris Kent family.

A special thanks to everyone who helped raise money for the Chris Kent family, a race car driver who lost his life a couple of weeks ago.

Curtis Young was the SportMod feature winner. 

In the IMCA Southern SportMods A-Main, Richland Hills, Curtis Young, #98, took the checkered flag. Jay Bransom, #29, Kirk Williams, #11, Brad Shirley, #00, and Terry Schroeder, #27, rounded out the top five.

Jason Howell was the RaceSaver Sprints feature winner. 

In the RaceSaver Sprints A-main, Jason Howell, #44, was your winner. Ryan Beechler, #6, Raven Culp, #3, Charlie McDonald, and James Reed, #92, were your top five. Brian Fielder, #69, was your 2010 points champion.

Eric Winnett was your Crate Model feature winner.

Your 2010 points champion and the Crate Models A-Main winner, Eric Winnett, #21. Michael Mason, #22, Ronnie Davis, #31, Rowdy Holbert, #44, and Cody Harper, #123, were your top five.

Duain Pritchett was the IStock feature winner.

Combine’s Duain Pritchett, #22d, not only won the IMCA IStock A-Main, but captured the 2010 points championship also. Marty Hicks, #2, Shane Kicast, Damon Hammond, #116, and Rodney Franklin, #8, were the top five.

Calvin Williams was the Street Stock feature winner.

All the way from Crandall, TX, Calvin Williams, #11, was your Street Stock A-Main winner. Casey Fielding, #19, Chris Clark, #47x, Ron Palmer, #2x, and Michael Sterling, #17, were your top five. Jimmy Parker, #21, was your 2010 points champion.

Jeremy Carter was your Hobby Stock feature winner.

Your 2010 points champion, Jeremy Carter, #25, was also the IMCA Hobby Stock A-Main winner. Brandon Taylor, #5, Kevin Rutherford, #9, Jeff Kinnaird, #07, and Jackie Dooley, #185, rounded out the top five.

Bryce Pritchett was the Jr. Mini feature winner.

Your 2010 points champion and the winner of the Jr. Minis A-Main was Bryce Pritchett, #21. Jarrett Roberts, #6, Dovovan Hosch, #136, Austin Theiss, #7, and Travis Bailey, #5, were your top five.

After the smoke cleared in the Trailer Race, the In God We Trust entry, #1, was declared the winner.

To view a video of the Trailer Race, click on the video below:

A special thanks to Slider Racing for helping raise money for the Chris Kent family. For more information on Slider Racing and to purchase products, go to: www.sliderracing.com

For OFFICIAL results and more information, go to: www.raceksp.com

To view some photos of the race cars, click on the slideshow below:

To view a video of some racing highlights, click on the video below:

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29th September 2010

News & Rants: MotherProof.com Reviews the 2011 Mercedes-Benz R350

If you like a lot of luxury in your family cars, MotherProof.com’s Chief Mama Kristin Varela has the car for you. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a crossover that pampers the driver with a quiet ride, just-right responsive acceleration and more. That’s good because these qualities helped her overlook the six-seater’s quirks in the interior. Find out what Kristin liked and didn’t like in her full review.

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29th September 2010

California: Cop Accused of Faking DUI Reports

Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) can cost a motorist thousands of dollars in court fines, insurance costs and attorneys’ fees. At least 79 accused drivers were notified last Friday that the police officer that charged them with drunk driving had likely falsified at least one piece of evidence. Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully threw out the cases after an investigation into the conduct of Sacramento Police Officer Brandon Mullock, 24.

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29th September 2010

Stakes raised in China-Japan spat

China and Japan are apparently having a little spat with each other over maritime territorial rights. I think we’ve heard that kind of thing in the news before. Usually it proves a storm in a teacup, the countries concerned sometimes playing out a ritual that is as much for domestic consumption as it is about, say, legitimate fishing or territorial rights.

But the Chinese have just raised the stakes in the latest dispute by stopping exports of ‘rare earth elements’ to Japan. That could have implications for certain products made in Japan where they are needed in industrial manufacturing, including hybrid cars.

Yes, it will probably all blow over soon, but the dispute may well have got Toyota’s attention. The diplomatic problem is bigger now that the stakes in the dispute have been raised: how can it be resolved so that no-one has obviously lost face?

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28th September 2010

Manufacturing Troubles Remain a Drag on Recovery, Trade & Jobs

via The Seattle Times

by Jon Talton

Top of the News: The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index seems consistent with recovery, coming in at 53.6 for November; any number above 50 signifies expansion in the sector. Unfortunately, the reading sagged from 55.7 the month before, tripping up what economists had hoped would be a steady climb out of recession.

A deeper look shows that the index provides no relief for the biggest immediate problem facing Americans, unemployment. Only six of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in employment. Only 11.7 million Americans worked manufacturing as of October. That compares with 17.3 million in October 1999.

Not only do manufacturing jobs pay better than their counterparts in service industries, they tend to add real value to economic activity (as opposed to selling mortgage swindles). They are also twined with our trade issues. Even fewer manufacturing jobs are now in industries that export, a key part of our huge manufacturing trade deficit.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon was happening even before the Great Recession. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that manufacturing employment between 1965 and 2000 never dipped below 16.5 million. This even as manufacturing shrank as a share of the economy (take out Boeing and it would be much smaller). This changed as imports surged after China joined the WTO and other Asian factory centers upped their game. By 2004, the number was lower than any time since 1950.

“It is often claimed that declines in manufacturing employment stem entirely from productivity growth,” according to EPI economist L. Josh Bivens. “However, rapid productivity growth is the norm, not the exception, in manufacturing. What is new about the manufacturing job crisis of the last four years is the sharp downturn in the ratio of domestic production to demand.”

Indeed, American steelmakers are shrinking yet again.

The Back Story: The official unemployment rate including discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work is 17.5 percent. But Shadow Government Statistics, a provocative and reliable site, argues even this underestimates the problem. Try…22 percent.

Complete Article

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28th September 2010

The “Strakermobile” from UFO

In my recent post on Cars Of The Future, circa 1970, I alluded to (and linked to a photo of) the car that appeared prominently in the British TV series UFO–and a couple of the commenters also mentioned it. The UFO car is an interesting story in itself, and it seems like a natural follow-up to my piece on cars that looked like UFOs.

For those of you who aren’t old enough to have been there, UFO was a 26-episode series made in 1970, the first live-action TV series produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who’d previously given the world the fanciful “Supermarionation” puppet shows Supercar, Fireball XL-5, and Thunderbirds. Set in the distant future year of 1980, UFO was the story of a top secret international agency with the wonderfully British name “Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation”–SHADO, for short–and its struggle to protect us from hostile aliens. SHADO had two missions: keep the aliens off the Earth, and, to prevent mass panic and social disorder, keep the people of Earth from finding out about the aliens.

Here’s the title sequence, which should give you a feel for what it was like. The car appears at 0:09 or so.

Intended for grownups, UFO was much darker in tone than the Andersons’ kid-friendly puppet shows. The basic premise was rather bleak–the aliens were out to enslave humanity for use as involuntary organ donors, and SHADO really couldn’t defeat them, only hold them off. The episodes tended to have downer endings and the main characters were generally unhappy people, discouraged by the futility of their job and haunted by their personal demons–none worse so than SHADO’s head man, Commander Ed Straker (Ed Bishop).

That description makes it sound better than it really was. UFO seemed very impressive if you were a ten-year old SF nerd starved for something more than Star Trek and Lost In Space reruns you had memorized because you’d already seen them twenty times each. If you take off the rose-colored glasses, UFO still has its moments, some of them good, others more on the order of “so bad it’s good.”

UFO is science fiction, in the sense that much of the “science” in the show is pretty fictional. The aliens come to Earth in giant, spinning, silver gumdrops and wear dorky red spacesuits–not exactly the stuff of nightmares. The 2001-ish spaceships and space scenes in general are well-executed, but the very plausible and realistic Moonbase is implausibly crewed by eye-candy moon-babes with purple hair. A submarine that launches a fighter plane from underwater is a cool concept, but in practice it looks like a cheap special effect. The character-development subplots are often more melodramatic than dramatic, and the actors play everything so grim and serious that the only one who seems to be having any fun is SID the talking radar satellite. Oh, and for an organization whose very existence is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret, SHADO has a very curious practice of painting its name in large letters on all its equipment.

Well, this is “Car Lust,” so we should talk about the cars. The car most prominently featured in UFO is the brown coupe which Commander Straker uses as his daily driver. That’s the one you see in the video, and in the picture at right. It was identified in contemporary PR materials as being turbine powered, and a tubine sound effect was dubbed in for the engine noise. As portrayed in the series, it also has power-operated gullwing doors and a built-in mobile phone.

There is a second car also seen in the show that uses the same body shell, but has a different grille and headlight arrangement. It’s painted a girlish pastel lilac (!) and driven by different characters in different episodes, most commonly by Straker’s assistant Colonel Paul Foster (Michael Billingham).

Fans sometimes call the brown one “UFO-1,” but if you bought the Dinky Toys version, the box just called it “Ed Straker’s Car.”  The cars are never identified in the show as being any particular make or model. Given the identical body shells, they would appear to be badge-engineered corporate siblings built on a common platform. Maybe Straker’s car was an Austin and Foster’s was its Rover counterpart, or vice versa, or maybe they’re both the same make and model, but from different model years.

The cars were built in 1968 as props for the Anderson-produced feature film Doppelgänger, which is better known under its alternate title, Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun. Three futuristic cars were built by putting a custom aluminum body on the running gear of a Ford Zodiac. They had a full interior, including an elaborate instrument panel made mostly from Rover components.

The bodywork was designed by Derek Meddings, the visual effects director on Doppelgänger, and constructed with the help of some German automotive stylists and race driver Alan Mann. The styling was more curvy than the usual Car Of The Future look, but still quite futuristic. After the filming of Doppelgänger finished, two of the three cars were repainted for use in UFO.

Those who worked on the production say that the cars were hard to drive. They were built as props, not as transportation, and the interior had been designed to look pretty on camera without regard for functionality. The pedals were so far from the non-adjuatable driver’s seat that only a very tall person could reach them. The doors were unpowered, and not even counterbalanced, making them hard to open. To give the illusion of powered doors, a prop man would stand to the side, just out of view, and open them manually, and then the sound effects people would dub in an appropriate mechanical noise to complete the effect.

These weren’t the only automobiles seen in the series. Two blue six-wheeled miniature minivans, called “SHADO Jeeps,” had recurring roles. Here we see them next to Straker’s coupe in the SHADO employee parking lot:

Other vehicles used in the series to “fill out” scenes in streets and parking lots were “present day” (that is, 1969-70) cars; ordinary vehicles that might plausibly still be on the road ten years later, or sports cars that could pass for something from the future if you only saw them briefly or in the background. In one episode, a woman abducted by the aliens and turned into a sleeper agent drove a Porsche 914; in another, Commander Straker’s 10-year old son was run over by a speeding Ferrari 275GTB. Note also the “raygun gothic’63 Corvette barely visible behind the left-hand truck in the photo above.

After production finished on UFO, the gullwing cars passed through several different owners, and have been variously restored, neglected, and fixed up again several times. One owner even went so far as to make the “Fostermobile” street legal and use it as his daily driver! As best I can tell, both are still intact, but presently in need of restoration, and neither is on public display.

They almost became production vehicles, though. A startup venture called “Explorer Motor Company” was formed to sell a fiberglass reproduction of the “Strakermobile” called the “Quest.” The project got to the point of making fiberglass molds from one of the UFO originals, but then Explorer ran out of money. No Quest was ever built, not even a prototype. A pity, that.

–Cookie the Dog’s Owner

All the pictures used came from the very comprehensive UFO Series Home Page created by Marc Martin.

One of the things that Langner discovered is that when Stuxnet finally identifies its target, it makes changes to a piece of Siemens code called Organizational Block 35. This Siemens component monitors critical factory operations — things that need a response within 100 milliseconds. By messing with Operational Block 35, Stuxnet could easily cause a refinery’s centrifuge to malfunction, but it could be used to hit other targets too, Byres said. “The only thing I can say is that it is something designed to go bang,” he said.

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