US Air Guitar in Boulder

A few years ago I watched a documentary called “Air Guitar Nation.” It followed the progress of a few air guitarists who were traveling the nation and hoping to win the national title in Air Guitar. Yes, it sounds ridiculous…and it is. But it is also hilarious and I decided at that point that I would go to one of these Air Guitar shows to see what it was all about.

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One day I saw that it was coming to town. I wasn’t in a hurry and when I went to get tickets I was surprised to find that…it was sold out! WHAT?! How could air guitar be sold out? That is crazy! I have seen very good, reputable bands who have not been sold out!

This year I saw it early, I got tickets WELL in advance and…well it wasn’t even remotely sold out. It was however amazing and I suggest that everyone checks out a show once.

I met my friend Beth to go to the show and we were waiting out front for another friend, Teresa, when a man came out of the Fox theater. He was an obvious participant and his name was Brock McRock. We started chatting with him and I had to ask the question: “So how do you get signed up for something like this? I am pretty sure Beth here is going to compete next year.” His response was that she could sign up right now! “do you want to sign up right now?”

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Her answer a bit hesitant at first but then confident: “eh….YES!”

After signing up and having no songs prepared she was given “the final countdown.” Of course, nobody REALLY knows the song, so she was lost! She needed to know something about the song, anything really…fortunately I had it on my iPhone. So she prepared, she listened to the song, altered her wardrobe slightly and was on stage in probably 15 minutes!

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The show began with Bjorn to Rock coming out on stage and showing what Air Guitar is all about.

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The rock was flowing and competitors were coming out on stage one after the next. Beth did well, but surprisingly, she wasn’t familar with the song so not well enough to move on to the next round. The winner of the night was Thundergland. Yes…that is right, it isn’t a typo…He was awesome!

The rest of the show I shot short video clips and just edited them together…so check it out:

From Locost to Lemon

How nice it would be to have all the time in the world to be able to pursue all of the projects and attend all the events that I would like to do! Well, I headed out to check out some friends who were in the midst of their own projects. I’d say these are inspirational experiences really because I would very much like to pursue some of these possibilities in the future.

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Locosts

John Grimberg has been telling be about this car he wants to build, this has been an ongoing conversation actually. He brings this up periodically and then convinces himself that he is perfectly satisfied with his track ready Miata. It turns out that there was a meeting of Lotus Sevens at a friend of John’s house. The meeting was during the day and I had to work, but I was able to get over to see the final cars before they left.

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John’s friend Skip owns the blue Caterham. His has a Miata motor and is running around 300hp at the wheels. That doesn’t sound like a lot, however you have to keep in mind that these cars weigh no more than about 1400lbs. That is pretty much half the weight of a current sports car. So this car needs much less power to be able to accelerate like a current sports car! Skip’s car is capable of about 0-60 in 3.5-3.7 seconds and 0-100 in only 7 seconds! It is brutally fast at only 300hp! He took me for a spin to see what it was like.

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Now, I feel like I should explain a bit. Lotus introduced the seven in 1957 and designed it by their company philosophy of performance through weight savings. When they stopped producing the car in 1972 a company called Caterham licensed the design and has produced them ever since. Kits have been developed and there seem to be a lot of different variations on the design at this point. There are now blueprints available that allow home builders to create their own car. When people do this they need to modify the design to accommodate their engine and transmission, however the design is pretty all inclusive so it makes this a reasonable vehicle to build if you decide that you want to build a car. These home built cars are referred to as Locost’s (said Low-cost) and there is quite a following including a build forum as well as books and variants.

So after checking this thing out all I could think is “I could do that!” So I have been talking to John and reading other peoples build logs and trying to figure out how I could justify this to myself. How do you justify spending a year to build your own car!? We will see, I now have a lot of ideas and I would love to build one, but I need to make sure I sort out the budget and the plan first so I don’t end up with a pile of steel in my garage that isn’t able to go anywhere!

Lemons
Today I stopped the Ghetto Motorsports complex. Jeff, Ian, Alan and Kirk were there and they were working on their 1980 Mazda. They bought the car for $100 and have been racing it in LeMons races. These races are a play off the 24 hours of Le mans. The goal of the racing is to race a car that is purchased for less than $500. Safety equipment can be added but you have to be ready to either have your car destroyed by vote or purchased for $500 at the end of the race. Often these cars have themes and the racing is filled with repairs and contact. This car has gone through several motors and trackside repairs are typically pretty involved when they happen. This is racing that is affordable and it is racing that is open to anyone who has a place to hide a crappy beater car from their neighbors when they aren’t racing it. Turns out these guys have that. They are racing this weekend down in Pueblo with 5 drivers and two 7 hour races. To be honest it is pretty impressive to think that this car can run for 7 hours straight!

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So now of course I think to myself, “well, I have $100 dollars…maybe I should consider something like this!” Of course, time is the problem on this one. Just like everything all these events are on the weekend and of course…guess who works on the weekends currently… Hopefully I can figure something out, because that looks like a lot of fun.

Photo contest aka: taking photos the old school way.

Whenever I get a new toy it rejuvenates my excitement for that activity. So recently when I got my new camera I decided that I should participate in some of these little photo contests that I stumble upon. I participate in a few automotive forums. I am sure that doesn’t come as a surprise if you have read my posts! One of them holds a monthly Photo contest, it is pretty low key and seemed like a nice motivator to get out and take some photos. So the March contest was posted and I began putting together ideas.

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The March contests title is “2 Miles.” The goal is to take a photograph within 2 miles of your house using any camera, but no additional photo editing. So no photoshop and no touching up! This is a bit of an interesting twist for me. I shoot primarily in RAW, which is also known as Digital Negative. This mode generally requires you to make the color adjustments in post. So now I have delved into the world of in camera color adjustments, sharpness adjustments. In addition the contest requires you to include in your photo your mode of transportation.

I guess I should explain why I use RAW. In my mind when you are shooting photos, there are times when something happens that is unexpected. When you are shooting film those times always look better in B&W when you were shooing color and they always would have looked better in color when you are shooting B&W. So RAW give you an unmolested color profile that you can turn into the color that Velvia film provided or you can desaturate it to the perfect B&W and you never have to compromise. In addition to that you get a lot more information, the files are uncompressed so you have a lot to work with. To give you an example the JPG files from my new camera average around 6 megabytes and the RAW files average 21 megabites! That is a huge difference in the amount of information that they provide!

There is one primary difference between shooting RAW and shooting a specific color profile. It is the way you approach the shot. You definitely need to visualize things a bit differently when you are only shooting in black and white you need to think about things that way. Or if you are shooting a very saturated color profile you need to think about things that will take advantage of that.

I realized as I left my house and began to look for some shots that I had not simply gone out looking for things to take photographs of in YEARS. I am often someplace looking for something specific to take a photo of. Now the world was my oyster, I could just go and shoot anything! I realized immediately that the surrounding area from my house isn’t terribly interesting. But I pushed on, I had some thoughts about what I could do…then I came across a simple bent piece of metal. It was an old fencepost and it just looked interesting. So I began tinkering with some shots and I began setting up more. I decided on B&W and aligned my shoes in the shot to show the direction that I was traveling at the time. Then CLICK! I got the shot that I liked. It is a simple shot but it seemed to work. I could definitely stand to do this over during a better time of day, but this is the shot, feel free to click on it to see a larger version. Hope you enjoy it!

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Old News/Projects

I realized the by starting this blog fairly late I didn’t get to show some of my biggest projects. So here are a few projects that I have done over the years that I think are pretty cool.

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IZ7Q7861Table Project
A long time ago…or maybe not so long ago, but it seems that way. I started going back to school again and the first project that I started with was a coffee table. Actually, my feet are resting on it as I type this entry! The goal of the table was to make something that I thought was pretty cool, professional looking quality and utilized processes that I had never done before. Machining, welding, powdercoating and specing parts with a company were all part of it and the experience led to more and more projects in the future.

I was fortunate to have a good friend of mine named John Grimberg. John was nice enough to take me under his wing. he taught me a lot about machining aluminum and it really helped move the project along. The table utilizes a welded steel base with a baltic birch top. Above that floats a 1/2″ piece of glass that sits on 6 risers that are all made of 3 sections. Everything was hand made and the glass is the only part I didn’t actually cut. I was the only person in my class to have a finished project and I can assure you that it was a lot of work to get done, but it is one of my favorite pieces of furniture!
Table Riser detail
Sideview of the risers
Table overview

Red Bull Soap Box 2008: Team Save Ferris

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One day I set out an email to my friends. Hey guys, who wants to compete in the Red Bull Flugtag event? Well turns out that they all wanted to! However we changed our tune when we realized that Red Bull was having a soapbox race in our town! So we sat down and we came up with a new plan. Red Bull Soapbox in Denver. We sat down one evening around a table at Matt Fishers house and came up with the plan. Team Save Ferris. We would construct our version of the Ferrari 250GT from Ferris Buellers day off. We spent a LOT of time on this vehicle. I mean days turned to nights nights turned to weeks and weeks turned into a 1st place finish! We were incredibly excited about our winning finish, but I have to tell you, sharing how we built it is almost more exciting! So cruise on over to teamsaveferris.com and check out all the info on how we built this thing. We did a very extensive writeup.

Red Bull Soapbox 2009: Team Speed Racer

After a successful race the year before we had to try again! How do you follow up not only a very cool looking car but a very successful trick that surprised all of our fans as well as the judges? Well we decided to focus on the car. Lets make the coolest car that has ever been created! We decided the Mach 5 from Speed Racer was the best way to go. We also decided that we were going to take this to the next level. This time we planned on making a female mold and doing this “the right way.” Again, I don’t feel the need to tell you all about it since we did a very extensive writeup so check out www.goteamspeedracer.com for more info on this build.

Both the Ferrari and the Mach 5 are being displayed in the Forney Museum in Denver. If you have a chance stop on by to check them out!

The Day Job isn’t Typically all that Glamourous

Yes, there are times when the day job is nice and there are times when it is just work. The days that are the best are the days when you are given some indication that what you are doing is appreciated. Well today that came in spades!

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Part of my day job is to make the catalog for Excel Sports. We have an 84 page catalog that we put out 6 times a year. With all the other things I do there it sometimes gets a bit hectic to get this all done, but we manage. We have a designer that works with me as well and together we create a nice and informative catalog. There have been some controversies and doubts in the past with the catalog that include the departure of my previous designer, but after a compliment like today I would say that all that is solidly put behind us.

Ok, so I am sure that with this build up you’d like to know what this compliment is….well here is a link, check it out!

WV Cycling Blog

If you haven’t seen the catalog before, we just started doing an eCatalog, you can check that out here:
Excel Sports eCatalog

Baphomet Cycles

If you have ever been out and about in the cycling world of Boulder Colorado you may have heard the myth of a man who goes by the name of Bama. You may also know of Bama from the Surly Bikes ads that show a man in a santa suit jumping through a flaming hoop. Or you may have seen him riding a fixed gear in work boots up flagstaff. No matter how you have heard of him, he is a real person. Yes, I can assure you that he exists and yes…all those stories are true.

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I met Bama years ago when I walked into his house with a friend of mine to find him welding on the linoleum floor. He had just finished cleaning his bike in the kitchen and the entire place was covered with dirt and his rational was “well I covered the floor in dirt, so it is protected from the sparks!” Keep in mind this is on the second story of an apartment complex. I can surely come up with a story for every time that I have hung out with Bama, but today’s story is his new clothing business.

Bama is a guy who will do things, things that someone in passing may say “aww, that sounds like a good idea.” Bama will write that idea down and make it happen. This is the first time that I am aware of one of those ideas turning into a product to sell however.

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So Bama has found that many commuters, messengers, delivery folks and fixie riders find themselves inventing their own clothing to wear. “Nobody just makes the stuff that people ride in without charging a lot for it!” So Bama decided that someone should make these pieces and they should sell them for inexpensive so people who are using their bike for work will have something affordable to be able to ride in:
http://baphometcycles.com/

Today we headed out with some new products in hand (Mostly modified prototypes) We headed out and with our sole model (that’s right, the man, the myth, the legend) Bama and we shot photos for his website.

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Bama did a great job, he was fun to work with and we just took some casual shots to get the ball rolling. I am sure you will see some of these on his site in the near future, but for now, you’ll have to see them on my blog!

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Installing a Hitch on the Mini

Matt Fisher stopped by the other day. He just got a new (to him) Mini Cooper S. This is quite a change for him since he is used to rolling around in a Mini-VAN that has more room to store everything than you could actually need! So part of his deal with himself about getting a mini is that he knew he would need to have a nice solid bike race for it. Hitch mount was preferred. If you are familiar with the Cooper S, then you know the tailpipes are in the center of the car which makes a hitch a bit tough to put on there. Well Matt did a bit of looking and found a nice hitch that fits behind the bumper and utilizes a factory cutout. It is nice, it is clean and it is completely undetectable unless you remove the cover.

I know this seems mundane, and most of these projects are a bit more interesting, but here’s the thing… I obviously have a need to take either photos or video of everything.. This time…Timelapse. The video is great and I particularly like the fact that the first half of the video there is very little going on until you see us read some directions…

Georgetown Ice Racing: Season Wrapup

I have known about Ice racing in Georgetown for years but this year was the first that I have participated. I was fortunate to have a good friend, Jon Coln, that was motivating to the point of letting me borrow his wheels/tires to go play on the ice. So lets give a bit of an idea of what Georgetown Ice racing is all about.

The Ice racing at Georgetown is organized through a group called Our Gang Ice Racing. They are a group of Jeep guys/gals primarily that have been racing up there for many years. This is a close knit group of families that all race together. Mothers, daughters, fathers and sons all have turns behind the wheel. Everyone has responsibilities besides their races as well. There are people who set up the track, others who manage registration, some who run the races and others who help keep everything organized. Overall it is a fun group who just want to go out and play with some big kid toys. I have been going to the meetings as well and this is a really fun group of people. I thought I’d feel like an outsider, but they were incredibly welcoming and pretty much excited that I was willing to go to their meetings.

When Jon and I went out there the first time we were met with a bit of disbelief. The suby with the studs was a big hit with the locals. We would pull up in line and the officials would mention that “everyones asking about the ‘subaru with the roof rack on it.'” Every time we stopped the car people would come and check out the studs and ask us where we got them. The next time we headed up both of us had studs and they got a bit pickier about the legality of them by their rules. The studs that Jon had were a little outside of the rules which indicated that in a 7-1/8 inch circle you may have 20 studs or less. Jon’s wheels had 30 studs in a 7-1/8 circle. It seems that at first they were willing to let him race anyway since the tires were only 5 inches wide and all the comp Jeeps have tires that are 12 inches wide. In addition they figured the Comp jeeps are lighter with more horsepower and purpose build braking helps them get around corners faster. Unfortunately one of the other drivers questioned the tires and based on the count he had to switch out. This put him and I on Continental Contact Ice racing tires. These tires have 17mm studs (rather than 20mm studs) and have them at a density of approximately 15 studs in a 7-1/8 inch circle. We are going to propose an amendment to the rule at the preseason meeting however that asks for a count of the number of studs contacting the ice rather than the number within a set circle. (the comp Jeeps have, at my count, 36+ studs on the ground at any given time)

Ok enough of the technical talk. Lets get to the fun stuff!

Friday I went up to the lake for their Practice day aka a fun day. The practice days are just a free for all. You can race anyone and you can run as many laps as you can bring yourself to run. My co-worker Stephen came out. He had raced once before and has gotten the bug as well. This time Dave Kern came up to join us. Dave is an actual professional driver and a very impressive one as well. In addition to those two guys Matt from BikeRadar came up to join us as well. Matt was doing a review on a set of Dugast studded tubular tires and this was a fun way to compare them. We arrived up on the lake and switched out tires. I had a chance to go ride along with Stephen in his pristine 325ix. This thing is so nice inside and out and it is nearly 25 years old! After racing in the bimmer we took my car out for a spin. the studs just tear into the ice and it is quite an eye opener when you experience it for the first time.

Eventually Jon got out on the ice as well and we had a chance to race, then Dave arrived as well. Dave didn’t have a car to drive so I let him drive mine around. He was great with tips and pointers every time I drove. and when he drove it was fun just to watch the lightning fast movements that he was doing to constantly control every aspect of the car. We battled with my ABS and hoped to turn it off, but unfortunately had trouble getting that to happen.

Throughout the day I was playing with my new GoPro HD camera. This is also a fun toy…for me at least. But I had a good time finding angles that would look good on camera. I put together a little video from that footage as well.

I put a quick vid up of Dave driving as well, this one you can hear the engine just screaming!

At the end of the day I had logged over 9.5 miles of driving at full throttle on the ice. This is in 1/4 mile increments since each track is probably 1/4 to 1/3rd of a mile. We maxed out at 35.1 miles an hour as well, which I would say is pretty impressive considering how small the courses are and how tight they are as well.

We even had a couple fans. While I was in the pit I talked to a couple people who pulled off the highway to come check it out and were drawn to the fast subies on the studs!

This was the last weekend for racing this year. There is actually plenty of Ice up there, but this was the championship weekend so the next race will be on New Years day…I CAN’T WAIT!

I’ve been workin’ on the railroad…

I have at least been working on a train. In 2008 my soapbox team “Team Save Ferris” installed our first soapbox car in the Forney Museum of Transportation. Since then we put in our second car the Mach 5. Well, the Forney is a pretty cool place so some of us have done a little bit of volunteer work. I have to say that I haven’t done a whole lot there, but I got the bug the other day and headed down to the Forney to see what I could help them out with.

When I walked into the museum I talked to the Volunteer director and he went through a list of projects and asked me what I’d like to work on. Well, I figured I would work on whatever was most important to him so I left it up to him. Turns out I ended up working on a 104 year old train car. This train car is pretty beat up. The whole thing is wood (with the exception of the chassis and wheels) and all the wood is definitely in rough shape. If I had all the time and money in the world I’d say that pulling all the wood off, planing it and re installing only the good stuff would be the best plan, but for now they are replacing just the really bad parts. So I was provided with wood, a handheld jigsaw, some sandpaper, a hammer and a cordless drill. The initial project was to replace the outer boards around an oval shaped window.

I was able to replace the boards and get the shape pretty close on the window without butchering it to bad with the limited tools that were available. but I am going to go back and finish it up with a bit more sanding and some primer and paint.

I will take some better photographs when I get a little farther on the project. For now the iPhone pix will have to do!

I’ve got a new camera!

Well, it has been a long time coming but I sold my 1d MK II and bought a 5d MK II! Here is a bit of a background for you.

Jonathan

I held out for a long time when it came to converting to digital. I made a point of waiting until the cameras that were available would provide the appropriate quality, but also would provide high speed autofocus, frames per second and a decent crop factor. I made a pact with myself that I would get a digital camera as soon as 8fps was available and as soon as that was available in a quality body. Turns out Canon came out with the 1d MK II and I just happened to tear my ACL at the same time. Well, under the influence of pain killers and boredom from recovery I clicked the buy button and a week or so later I had a new camera! The incredible thing is the price. That camera was $4595! I can’t believe I clicked that button!

That camera took me through a huge number of adventures. Nearly every published photo I have was shot on that camera! I think we can say that it paid for itself, possibly a few times over. When I finally sold it it had nearly 50,000 photographs and never once gave me a problem.

Unfortunately it isn’t like the days of film where the primary reason to upgrade was simply because you want a new camera. Nowadays a camera goes out of date fairly quickly and it was time to upgrade. My old camera shot 8 megapixel photos and my point and shoot camera shoots 12.1 megapixel photos! So I bought a 5d MK II. I haven’t been shooting a outside of product shots at work, and we have a camera at work, so it is a bit tough to justify this purchase. But I also can’t bring myself to not have a nice SLR. So how do I justify it? Well, I sold my old camera, it paid for half of the new one and my tax return, well that pays for the other half. The camera is also multipurpose. Not only does it shoot 21.1 megapixel photos, but it also shoots full HD videos with interchangeable lenses! This opens some doors for me! Now, if I want do do a bit of video work, well I have options!

So I’ve had the camera for about a week and it has already begun to inspire me to shoot photos. I took it to Georgetown to go ice racing. I only had a few chances to take a couple shots, but it was a good start. Then yesterday I helped out a friend with some photos. We started out in the studio and I just helped him set up everything for his own photos. Then I took him out of the studio and we shot his custom motorcycle out in the real world. I’m looking forward to more opportunities but here are two shots for you to check out initially.

Motorcycle

Jonathan