Friday, June 25, 2004

Intermittent NASCAR Qualifying Blogging

So, I'm slightly intoxicated, and watching road course NASCAR qualifying from Sonoma, CA(via Tivo, so it ain't live). I enjoy this for the pure spectacle of seeing established (and skilled) oval racers trying to turn right as well as left...

So far, they have claimed that Jeff Gordon was in fifth place the entire way round the track. But at the finish line, he was in first...

Oops. Brian Vickers spun right after he took the green flag..

Hmm. Kevin Harvick boasts about his charity work and slams another driver for being insufficiently charitable.

Rusty Wallace takes provisional 2nd -- at NASCAR road courses, age definitely beats youth. Why isn't the same true in F1? (OK, I have an opinion on that, but Wallace is in his late 40s, and Panis, the oldest current F1 driver is in his mid-30's...)

Mark Martin -- late 40's again -- just took provisional third. I like road courses in NASCAR, because it really seems to require more than the sheer courage requried in putting the accelerator to the firewall. Right now, the leaderboard is Gordon (middish), Wallace (oldish), and Martin (oldish). Meanwhile the young guys are kicking up dirt and going rather slowly...

Robby Gordon just overbraked, or something, and buggered up his lap royally. Currently 13/18 or so...

Kurt Busch takes 3rd. Puts Rousch 3,4,5 on provisonal grid, which is pretty impressive, really...

In a sad sign of my increasing age, I am looking at cars and coming up with the wrong driver. I feel like my parents, pointing at movies and saying "Isn't that whatisname? Doesn't he look young?"

Darrell Waltip (announcer) thinks Michael Waltrip (driver) should do well, based on his experience driving moonshine in Kentucky, or something. Oops, Michael just started spewing smoke, and won't finish the lap. Oh well...

Jimmy Johnson has just done a beautiful job of demonstrating why if mess up the first of the "esses" you ain't going to be on pole, or even in the first 15 rows...

Kenseth just put another Roush car in the top 10

Ryan Newman just demonstrated quite impressively that if you foul up turn 10, you just can't fix the damage in turn 11...

When the Fox tracker is working it is a really cool little toy. It shows you not only where the current car is losing or gaining time, but where the leader lost time as well. I bet that the race bosses love that...

And just in time, everyone is finshed. Results linked in the next paragraph. But Roush looks good, sort of a surprising result since Roush is known for power, and this is defintely a handling track -- that whole turning right thing just messes up the cars...

final results are at

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh

I've not blogged much about Pittsburgh's ongoing financial woes for a while because, well, I just don't understand them at all. A few months ago I thought I was getting a handle on them, but then everything seemed to go pear-shaped. At some point there seemed to be at least four, and possibly as many as sixty-one different groups proposing city budgets. At a minimum, the mayor had one, the city council either had one or just didn't like the mayor's, the Act 47 team had one, and there seemed to be one other group that had standing to create a plan. At least they were referred to by a different name.

Now it looks like the Act 47 plan is close to being adopted, although after adoption by the city it still has to be approved by the legislature. One of the key features of the plan is that the Occupational Privilege Tax will be raised from $10 to $145 a year. This is a good thing for the city, and kind of ironic. A great deal of this crisis arose because the suburban county leaders didn't want to let the city raise the OPT to $52/year.

I Am Shocked, Shocked

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, in a head-to-head matchup Kerry is leading Bush 49% to 43% -- well above the 3.5% margin of error in the sample.

But if you add Nader into the mix, the results become Kerry 44%, Bush 43%, Nader 7%. Despite this, I'm sure I heard on NPR last night that Nader claims he draws equally from both parties. These and similar results seem to suggest he is completely delusional.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Beta mail

Mike over at Coffee Corner is trying out a Gmail account. So am I (the e-mail link in the sidebar actually points there now, just for the hell of it). He seems to think that it is going up and down like a yo-yo. I find that I am more concerned about how long e-mail is taking to get through. So far of three messages I have sent to myself (two short test messages, and one copy to myself of an e-mail I want to keep) two have taken well over half an hour to get delivered and show up in my inbox. I guess that they will have to resolve some throughput issues before they open it up to all and sundry.

New York Times on F1

The US Grand Prix in Indianapolis is this weekend (lots of coverage on Speed, starting tomorrow, Yeah!) In advance of this, the US press is starting to take note, including this rather interesting look at technology in F1 from the New York Times (free registration required, of course).

Monday, June 14, 2004

Mid-Season Update

I've not felt much urge to blog about Formula One over the first half of the season. Perhaps it is a reasult of Michael Schumacher's winning seven of eight races so far, and almost having locked up the championship for himself and Ferrari already. The new rules were meant to try and reduce the chances of such a runaway result, but the astonishing way in which Ferrari have gelled as a team is making a mockery of all of the attempts by the FIA to put the brakes on.

It also seems depressing that both the four-(and-a-half!)-year-old and the two-year-old have turned into Schumacher fans. It is at moments like this that I wonder how I have failed as a parent. The challenge of pretending to be happy at another Ferrari victory is stretching my acting ability to the limit!

NASCAR are still racing a lot. The effects of their rule change to tighten up the championship won't be felt for a couple of months yet, but it already looks like Earnhardt Jr and Johnson won't be happy with the result. In the meantime, the confusion that NASCAR are generating with their latest poorly-thought-out rules change doesn't bode well for the end of the season.

CART. I dunno what's going on. I've tried to watch a couple of races, but the SpikeTV coverage is so awful I've pretty much given up. I was going to try and make the race at Mid-Ohio this year in person, but they apparently decided not to have a race there this year. The other close race is Cleveland, but airport races are rather flat and interesting. Also, a night-time race is really not very child-friendly, and I got the strong impression that Mid-Ohio would have been an extremely good venue for entertaining children. Oh, and I guess the IRL has a race season too, this year. Open wheel racing in the US really needs to sort itself out soon, or it is just going to follow the NHL into oblivion.

The Undiscovered Country

Belated congratulations to Chuck and Tiffany, on the arrival of Olivia Rose. Best wishes to all three of them as they get to know each other.

Not Quite Getting It

My bank, like many nowadays, offers its customers the opportunity to perform certain basic functions online -- checking balances and recent activity, transferring money between accounts, etc.

Ever since we opened the account, they have committed a basic security flaw by using our social security number as the authenticator for these services (combined with our ATM card PIN). Now this isn't really a good thing, but I've got used to it.

Today I logged on and was invited to select a new User ID & password combination. Ah-ha, thought I to myself, this seems to be a step forward in security. Unfortunately, despite exhortations to Enter a user ID that is easy to remember the first requirement is that the ID be numeric, 8 to 20 digits. Despite a mathematical background, there is a limited selection of 8-20 digit numbers that I have committed to memory. I only keep pi & e to about 6 places in memory. Assuming that other basic ids like 01234567 have been taken, that pretty much leaves me needing to use either my SSN or my telephone number as an ID. Unfortunately, if I use the telephone number then it is easy to figure out (being published and all) and I have blocked other users of this number (like Valerie, or in time our sons) from using it for their own access. Thus they will be more likely to use their SSNs and we are back in the same boat.

I had an alphanumeric account name on the PDP-11 that I learned FORTRAN on back in 1979. Why in the 21st century is a commercial organization inisting on a numeric access code? (I haven't got far enough yet to find out if the password is also numeric, but I'm betting that it is...)