Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father’s Day Thoughts

Before I begin I’d like to regress to a story that actually relates to Mother’s Day.  This is an excerpt from the article that was run on the June 18, 2009 edition of the Contra Costa Times:

Earlier this year, Alfred Rava and the Oakland Athletics came to a preliminary settlement concerning a three-year-old class-action suit over a Mother's Day weekend giveaway of free plaid reversible bucket hats. Rava accused the A's of sex discrimination after he did not receive a hat during a promotion at a game May 8, 2004.

Bob Rose, a spokesman for the A's, said the organization will no longer offer male- or female-only giveaways, in part due to the suit. As an example, Rose cited this year's Mother's Day giveaway. On May 10, the A's gave away tote bags to the first 10,000 fans.

With all due respect to my gay friends what kind of so-called man pulls a faggy move like suing someone over not receiving a free trinket on Mother’s Day?  Mother’s Day, for Christ’s sake!  I think even my gay friends would agree that was a faggy thing to do. 

Mr. Alfred Rava, on behalf of all fans of all sports, you are no longer allowed in any venue, indoor or outdoor, that hosts any sporting event of any kind.  I hope your kids (I assume you have kids since you claim to be a mother) are ashamed.  I hope you were heckled, harassed, and teased.

In the words of Don Corleone to his godson Johnny, “You can act like a man!”

I had just one quick, funny story to share.  Bryan and I took Dad and Betty to Skates in Berkeley for Father’s Day brunch.  As we were leaving a man at an adjacent table asked Bryan, “Is that Senator Mike Honda?”, referring to Dad.  (And he’s a congressman, not a senator, by the way)  When we all got outside Bryan told Dad about it to which Dad replied, “It’s an easy mistake to make.  After all, we all look alike don’t we?”

I wish I’d quit forgetting that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pedal to the Metal

A few days ago an acquaintance of mine in North Carolina dodged a bullet, figuratively speaking.  His 20-year old son was the passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that was attempting to round a curve at 120 mph and wound up smashing into a tree.  He broke one of his vertebrae, his collarbone, and an arm, but escaped any permanent damage.

It’s hardly surprising that in North Carolina, the heart of NASCAR country, you’ve got large proportion of the population that have been bitten by the speed bug.  Racing is simply part of the culture.  Unfortunately, a by-product of the need for speed is speeding under unsafe conditions.  That’s what makes me so grateful that the Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey holds events like the ones they had yesterday.

Auto racing isn’t all about NASCAR and the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona.  Those are the high profile things that everyone knows.  There’s racing at a grass roots level that exists as well, and in some ways they’re even more fun to attend because the drivers are ordinary everyday people that don’t race for that fame or the glamour or the money.  They’re there for the love of the sport. 

This club event featured mostly Mazda Miatas but there was a sprinkling of Honda S2000s, some BMWs, and a few others makes, including an Acura NSX, a Panoz, a Lotus, and assorted others.  Bryan was there with his Miata to get in a few laps of his own.

If you’re unfamiliar with the track at the Laguna Seca raceway you should know that it’s world famous, one of the best race tracks in the US with one of the most famous turns in the world, a downhill left-right-left chicane simply known as “The Corkscrew”.  When I had a Playstation 2, I had a game called “Gran Turismo”, a racing simulation that features Laguna Seca one of the tracks.  It’s a pretty accurate recreation, and I must have run hundred of laps in the game.  But I tell you, I was a passenger during one of Bryan’s sessions, and no matter how accurately a video game simulates the track there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can simulate the true experience of actually being in a car, hitting 120 mph at the end of the start/finish straightaway, feeling the negative G-forces under heavy braking as you slow to enter the double-apex Andretti hairpin, feeling those same G’s pulling you sideways as you round the hairpin, and being pushed back in your set as you start heading toward turn 3 at full throttle.  And taking my first on-track trip through The Corkscrew was a rollercoaster thrill. 

The day almost ended disasterously after Bryan’s first session.  He said he felt his brakes start to go after only a lap or two forcing him to go slower than he wanted to until the end of the session.  Luckily, Bryan was able to find someone with an extra set of performance brake pads and the day was salvaged with Bryan only having to miss one session.Bryan turn 3

Bryan rounding turn 3

The one session I got to ride with Bryan was a lot of fun.  It was my first time in a car being driven under racing conditions.  I now have a greater appreciation of the physical pounding professional drivers take being pulled around by all those G-forces along with the heat under the helmet and the mental wear of having to have your wits about you at every moment.

I attended the drivers’ meeting beforehand and also now have a greater appreciation of the amount of work involved in keeping everyone safe.  In fact, at the end of my first lap with Bryan spun exiting the final turn.  He was signaled to go to pit road.  Bryan later said he was fully expecting to get yelled at but the pit worker just wanted to check if everything was okay.

An element of the racing environment provided were the presence of the flag men and corner workers.  I have to express how much I admire these guys.  Nearly all volunteers, these guys are like guardian angels watching every car as they enter the corners making sure is driving safely, watching for signs of erratic driver behavior or car malfunction all day long in the hot sun with no shade.  Many thanks to all these guys.

I was very impressed with the sense of community there.  Everyone we encountered were friendly.  We exchanged advice and ideas, looked over each others’ cars and gave setup opinions.  Overall, it was a positive experience worth doing again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

June 4 Rants-Real Men and Compelling TV

I’m watching President Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN.  His words are compelling.  While I will never blindly follow anyone, President Obama included, I must say I am in total agreement with his position of conciliation between the US and the middle east.  Apparently, he didn’t use the word “terrorism” at any point.  This is reminiscent of his inaugural speech where he said that America would extend a hand if they would “unclench [their] fist”.  I still have tremendous confidence that the president will ultimately remembered by history not as “the first Black president”, but as “the great uniter”. 

Before AC360, I was watching the crew of the Steve Irwin being interviewed by Larry King.  The Steve Irwin is featured in the popular Animal Planet series Whale Wars.  They fight Japanese whaling vessels.  God bless these people.  We still don’t comprehend what intelligence these majestic creatures may possess.  We do know that they have larger brains than our which suggests that may be as smart as humans, maybe smarter.  I have no reservations in saying it is absolutely wrong to kill sentient beings for profit.  When that sentience is in question the right thing to do is err on the side of caution and give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve found three shows on the History Channel I cannot stop watching.  The first is Ice Road Truckers.  These guys carry extremely heavy loads in their big rigs across the iced over arctic seas of winter.  Talk about insanity, I watched one episode where this 25 year old kid carried this 95 ton oversized load to its destination.  He had to fight keeping the load from tipping over, not going too fast yet going fast enough to have the momentum to make it up the hills, not to mention the weather and the delicacy of the ice road.  This was an amazing feat of precision driving.  You’ve gotta have balls of steel to do a job like this.  There is no doubt in my mine guys like these are real men.

Ax Men is another great History Channel program.  We follow the stories of loggers in the Pacific Northwest.   I never had an appreciation of the difficult jobs these guys have.  Aside from the obvious physical rigors I never realized how mentally sharp you’ve got to be.  If those guys dislodge the wrong log they could start an avalanche or have a long branch snap up and hit them in the face.  It is not a job for the timid.

Finally, I’m completely hooked on Warriors.  This program profiles the elite soldiers of different civilizations throughout time.  I’ve learned how truly tough King Leonidas’ Spartans were, the US Army’s Alamo Soldiers that rescued American POWs from Japanese prisoner camps in the Philippines that were the pre-cursors to today’s Special Forces, and the forces commanded by Hawaii’s Kamehameha, the man that would eventually conquer all of the Hawaiian islands and become Hawaii’s first king.  The thing that impressed me most were the warriors of Shaka of the Zulus.  Not only were the brutally fast and smart but when they came home from a battle the first thing their warriors would do is visit a shaman that would cure their souls.  You see, when they first enter the village they came home as killers.  The shaman would make them right again.  I think that’s a brilliant idea that could help any soldier.  Too bad this is seemingly a unique concept.