Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

October 5, 2008

NASCAR Gets It Right, and Wrong

Was that race at Talladega something else or what?

I’ve always maintained that the restrictor plate races are some of the best races around, and today’s race was no exception.

Generally the talk of “the big one” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Carl Edwards’ bonehead move tore up a lot of cars; he was right to be sorry during his interview. They talk about the “big one” as if it’s a foregone conclusion, and therefore they drive that way. Edwards had been a back marker all day, and when he did decide to get up front, his mind wasn’t right.

While NASCAR’s yellow-line rule may or may not be a good idea, at least they enforced it (finally) today. Tony Stewart was passed on the last lap by Regan Smith when Smith went below the yellow line. NASCAR gave Smith a post-race penalty of going to the tail end of the lead lap. One has to wonder if NASCAR would have done the same if the roles had been reversed, with Stewart making the last lap pass under the yellow line…

What seems odd to me though is that NASCAR seemingly violated its policy of “whoever crosses the finish line first is the winner”. Had Smith been on the outside of Stewart and won, but then had been found to have an illegal part, he’d still be listed as the “winner” but have points taken away. Smith got a 76 point penalty for his illegal pass, and probably lost close to $100,000. So now NASCAR has established a precedent for changing the winner of the race because the apparent winner violated a rule. Whether they’ll continue to do that remains to be seen (somehow I doubt it).

One thing that NASCAR needs to change is this stupid “chase” system. No other professional sport that I know of allows the championship to be affected by teams that aren’t in the playoffs. I think it’s a crime that Kyle Busch is 11th in the points now. At least under the old system he’d be in 3rd, only 82 points out. Under this chase format, he’s in 11th, 331 points out, and pretty much out of contention to win the championship. I thought the reason behind the chase format was to reward the drivers who won races during the season. The driver with the most races won is now the one getting the shaft.

At the very least, NASCAR should award points separately for the chase drivers. That is, award 1-12th place points for those in the chase, and don’t include non-chase drivers. While that’s not a perfect solution, it would at least mitigate the effect of the non-chase drivers.

You can bet your sweet bippy that if Dale Earnhardt, Sr. were still alive, and went from 1st place in the championship one week to 12th place the next week, NASCAR would have made some changes; the fan outcry would have been huge. Actually, I think that if this had been any other driver than Kyle Busch, there might have been a fan outcry (say if it was Junior or Gordon).

The chase concept is interesting, but there are still too many problems with it that NASCAR needs to address.

August 11, 2008

Weekend Sports Thoughts

Still find myself watching the Olympics, a whole lot more than I’d intended. But I also watched some racing too. Here are some thoughts on what I watched over the weekend:

  • NASCAR Trucks: They were at “Nashville” Superspeedway Saturday night. Funny how “Nashville” Superspeedway isn’t even in the same county as Nashville. Anyway, Johnny Benson seems to finally found his niche in NASCAR as he goes for a championship in the truck series. His win Saturday night was his third in a row, and he gave an otherwise dull race an exciting finish.
  • NASCAR Cup Series: I watched some of the Cup race at Watkins Glen. Personally, I think Watkins Glen is too dangerous now, since they had a “big one”, so I recommend they take it off the circuit. Actually, that’s a sarcastic remark there. Seems that every time they go to a plate race, everyone talks about how dangerous it is because of the “big one”. They had a “big one” at the Glen, and they’ve had “big ones” at Bristol and other tracks, so if a “big one” is the only criteria needed to remove a track from the series, then there are several tracks that need to be removed.
  • Olympics swimming: Maybe the Chinese are using a counterfeit iPod to play the national anthems, or at least the American National Anthem. Either that, or they seriously showed a lack of respect to the US when they played the Anthem for Michael Phelps’ Gold Medal ceremony. It started wrong, and then they ended it short.
  • Olympics gymnastics: I watched the Chinese Women’s Dwarf Gymnastic team. At least, they appear to be dwarfs, if their ages are correct. Otherwise, they’re putting up 12 year olds in their women’s gymnastic program, and since that’s not permitted.
  • NBC Commentators: Would someone tell NBC’s gymnastics and diving commentators what country they’re from? Seems that the USA competitors in those two sports couldn’t do anything right (according to the commentators) and the Chinese competitors could do no wrong. I don’t necessarily expect them to be cheerleaders, but come on. But if they’re going to cheer the Chinese, then they should cheer the Americans as well.
  • NBC Commentators, Part 2: The gymnastic commentators were the worst; they could have taken a minute or two to explain the new scoring, instead of just assuming we all knew about it already. There are apparently new scoring procedures in a few sports, and they should make sure to explain them.
  • NBC Commentators, Part 3: NBC just needs to go ahead and replace their swimming commentators. They completely blew it Sunday night. On one of the women’s finals, they pretty much discounted everyone except the Italian swimmer. She finished fourth. Then in the men’s 4×100 relay, they pronounced the French as the winners before the race. They finished second, behind the Americans.
  • Speaking of the French: Bite me.
  • New Countries: I’ve already commented about Taiwan’s being called “Chinese Taipei” and not being allowed to fly their own flag. But apparently a new country called “Korea”, even though North Korea and South Korea marched into the opening ceremonies separately.
  • Boxing Scoring: Even with the “open” scoring in boxing, they still “miss” punches that should score. Not sure what they need to do, but the potential for funny business seems to be as high as ever.
  • NBC Olympic Logo: Wonder how much Marlboro paid NBC Olympic logo? Yeah, I know, they don’t see “Marlboro” but the similarities are amazing.
July 27, 2008

The Brickyard 25

I almost forgot about the race at Indy on Sunday. When I tuned into it, they were about 30 or so laps in and the commentators were talking about “competition” caution. Since I missed the pre-race show, I figured that it must’ve rained and washed all the rubber off the track, and NASCAR was throwing the caution to let the teams check tire wear.

Wow, was I wrong.

What happened Sunday was unacceptable. If I’d paid money to go see that race, I’d be demanding a refund (and by the way, who in their right mind would actually pay to go to a race track where, if you’ve got a good spot, you can only see 25% of the action?).

It was interesting to see how the commentators, drivers, owners, NASCAR and even Goodyear fell all over themselves not to blame the tire or Goodyear. So I’ll do it: Goodyear brought a lousy tire. I thought it was especially ironic when they’d talk about the tire situation, and then go to a shot from the blimp and part of the pitch was about the quality of Goodyear tires.

This is one reason I’m not as big a race fan now as I used to be. It just doesn’t matter much anymore.

May 25, 2008

Memorial Weekend Racing

Between NASCAR and Indy Racing, there are quite a few races over Memorial Day weekend. I spent most of Sunday in front of the TV.

BACK HOME AGAIN: Almost missed the start of the Indianapolis 500 race for some reason. As it turns out, I did miss most of the pre-race show. I got to see the National Anthem, Taps, and Jim Nabors sing. I have to wonder what the drivers think when they hear Taps played right before they get ready to risk their lives.

WOMEN DRIVERS: Because of the way the Indy 500 qualifying is structured, I really didn’t know who’d made the field. So I was surprised to see there were three women who did make the field. It’s a shame all three ended up not finishing the race.

THE 500: The actual race was a little on the boring side. The track turned out to be pretty much a one-groove track, so there wasn’t much passing. The first two hours were pretty frustrating. Here I am trying to watch it in High Def, and the local ABC affiliate is having trouble with their High Def signal. The audio kept dropping out, there was major pixelation, and the video would just stop. I had to watch most of the first two hours on the regular channel. They finally got it working.

THE 600: I wish Fox wouldn’t list the start time of the race so early. What they do is actually tell you the start time of their pre-race show. I don’t really watch that stuff. Just tell me when the green flag is supposed to start (thanks to Jayski, I knew when to tune in).

A TALE OF TWO RACES: The 600 is so long that it’s really more like two races. Cars that work great in the daylight seem to go away at night, and vice versa. Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte were nowhere to be found during the daylight, but when the night fell, they started moving to the front.

FOX’S SURROUND SOUND: i don’t know who the audio engineer is on Fox’s broadcasts, but he needs to get a better setup. When I put my receiver in Dolby Surround Sound mode, all I can hear are the cars, with the announcers way in the background. I had to go to basic sterio to even hear what the announceers were saying. It’s not my setup, since I don’t have that problem with other shows.

ANTHEM CRITIQUES: The National Anthem is not a song you’re supposed to “make your own”. It should be sung the same way by everyone. Unfortunately, the folks who sung it before both races didn’t seem to know that. While the version sung by Daryl Worley before the 600 was ok, the one sung before the 500 seemed like a completely different tune. Please singers, don’t improvise the melody.

THE PETTY EFFECT: There’s a problem in NASCAR with drivers continuing to drive way past the point when they should have retired. Richard Petty did this back through the 80’s and the early 90’s. Then, my favorite driver, Darrell Waltrip did it through the late 90’s. Now Richard’s son Kyle is doing it. Kyle hasn’t really been competitive for a long time. Kyle’s flirting with a TV career; perhaps it’s time he stayed in the booth.

GANASSI: I guess it’s pretty obvious where Chip Ganassi’s major effort is going, and it’s not NASCAR. His NASCAR teams seem to be lacking speed or maybe the resources needed to get them to the front. Sterling Marlin’s substituting for Dario Franchitti should have been a good opportunity to get his career back on track. But he’s had bad runs in both outings. And after Juan Montoya’s complaints about having three different crew chiefs in almost as many races, you have to wonder what’s going on at Ganassi’s team.

SPEAK ENGLISH: NASCAR’S misguided “diversity” project took another turn during the broadcast. They acatually ran a commercail for NASCAR in Spanish! Can you believe it?

DOVER: I’ll be avoiding the Dover races next week. That’s always been a boring track, ever since they converted it to concrete. You’d think they’d have figured that out by now.

May 19, 2008

The Obligatory Resume Page

I’ve added a resume page if you happen to be in the market for a computer guy. As of June 30, my position will be eliminated.

Getting RIFfed isn’t fun.

Click here or above on the Resume link to check it out, and if you know of anything available, please let me know.

May 1, 2008

NASCAR Richmond Thoughts

Just a few random racing thoughts heading into the weekend races at Richmond.

MORE PLATES PLEASE: How about those races from Talladega? Both the NASCAR Cup race and the NASCAR Series races were pretty exciting. We should have more restrictor plate racing.

LESS ESPN PLEASE: In a move that shows why ESPN should never have been given any more NASCAR races, they’re not even broadcasting the NASCAR Series event on Friday night on one of their two main (or three if you count ABC) channels. In a move reminiscent of when they preempted racing to show the football draft, they’ve moved the Friday night Richmond telecast to something called “ESPN Classic”. To lessen the impact, SPEED will be picking up the slack by simulcasting it. I do get both channels, but not in hi-def, which is what I watch all racing in now. Again, ESPN shows their complete disrespect for the racing fan.

SMOKIN’ TIRES: Tony Stewart and Matt Yokum are providing the tires for Morgan Shepherd this weekend. Shepherd had a great run at Talladega last Saturday, and Stewart and Yokum have decided to help him out this week. Good job guys!

POKER RUN: Bobby Hamilton, Jr., himself coming off a great Talladega finish (3rd), will be hosting a poker run on May 10. The proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. Should be a good ride through the back roads of Robertson County.

SHOW NASCAR WHO’S BOSS: NASCAR again is running a NASCAR Cup race on Saturday night, in direct competition against the local short tracks. In a time when local tracks are threatened with being shut down, I don’t understand why NASCAR continues to do this. They’re putting the local tracks at risk.

Here’s what I propose: don’t watch the Richmond race Saturday night. Tape it, Tivo it, DVR it, or otherwise record it and watch it Sunday. Then go to your local bull ring and watch some great racing. I’m lucky; I live in Nashville where we have the track at the Fairgrounds (its existence too is threatened) that’s spawned so many great drivers like Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, Bobby Hamilton, Casey Atwood, Jeff Green, and Jeremy Mayfield.

So, show NASCAR you support local racing. Don’t watch the Cup race live Saturday night; pack your local track.

STERLING SUPPORTS LOCAL RACING: Speaking of Sterling Marlin and local racing, Marlin has committed to running several races at Music City Motorplex. May 10th, June 14th, July 18th, August 8th, August 30th and October 11th are the dates Marlin announced he would run. He’s back with Coors Light as a sponsor, both on his car and as sponsor of the events. Looks like he won’t get to run the May 10th race though. He’s announced that he’ll be replacing Dario Franchitti in the #40 car at Darlington.

During the public meetings last January to kick off the study by the consultant the Tennessee State Fair Board hired to figure out what to do with the track, Sterling was the only big name driver to show up.  I’m glad to see he still remembers where he came from.

DUELING NETWORKS: And finally, seems that both MRN and PRN want to broadcast the New Hampshire races. MRN says they’ve got a contract, and PRN says it’s not valid. I don’t listen to races much on the radio anymore, but the difference between MRN and PRN is like night and day. Here’s hoping MRN prevails.

April 30, 2008

Cruising Thoughts

We docked back in Miami on Easter Sunday after a 9 night cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. The ship visited five islands in the Southern Caribbean and had a total of three sea days. This was our third cruise, our first (and probably last) on a Norwegian ship.

When we booked the cruise through Sam’s Club Travel, we received two coupon booklets with $300 in free stuff. Also, we joined the Casinos at Sea club, and we received a coupon book with free stuff for the Casino.

Turns out, my definition of “free” and Norwegian’s definition of “free” seem to differ. In my world, when you tell me you’re going to give me something for free, all I have to do is walk up to you and get it. In the cruise ship world, free means that you have to buy one thing at full price, then you get something else for “free”. For example, to get $10 in slot play for free, you have to buy $10. Or to get a free t-shirt, you have to book a shore excursion.

As I mentioned above, this will probably be our only cruise with Norwegian. We’ve cruised on Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and even though the Jewel is not quite 3 years old, it doesn’t have the on-board activities that the other ships do. Nine nights ended up being too long, at least on this ship.

I took the opportunity to play in three poker tournaments while on board. Poker tournaments on a ship are NOT like those in Las Vegas. First off, they only have one real poker table, so if there’s more than 9 in the tournament, they have to use black jack, pai gau, and other table games’ tables, which can hold at most 7 players. And they’re not in the business of holding 4 or 5 hour tournaments; they want the tournament over in 2 or so hours.

To do that, they start you with 2000 chips and start the blinds at 100/200. You can start the tournament with 4000 chips if you want to “rebuy” at the beginning. After the end of the third level (first two levels are 30 minutes, then the levels are 15 minutes), you can “add on” 5000 chips. Of course, these rebuys and addons cost you money.

Of the money you pay to play in the tournament, only 75% goes into the prize pool, and they only pay the top three. They only paid out the top three, and the best I finished was 17th. I could have continued to rebuy after rebuy, but I didn’t want to waste the money.

The next time we cruise, it’ll probably be with a couple of friends and will probably be on Royal Caribbean. Their ships just seem to have more things to do on board. We’ll more than likely only take a five-night cruise, with one or two days at sea.

If you’re planning on cruising, one thing to keep in mind is that while the fare covers your basic room and board, there are other charges you’ll encounter. I paid almost $65 for a card that would let me get soft drinks with unlimited refills. At $1.75 per can, I probably broke even. I was expecting Norwegian to have free lemonade like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but they didn’t. Since I don’t drink coffee, tea or milk, I opted for the soft drink card.

You’ll also have to pay for shore excursions. These can range anywhere from $35 up to several hundred dollars (they had a golf outing for over $600). If you want to see the islands, this is your best bet. The tour companies are not the fly-by-night ones you’ll get if you just go ashore and take a “tour” bus.

One thing that irks me is the gratuities. They added a $10 per person per night gratuity to our bill. That was almost $200 on the grand total. Most of that goes to the cabin crew who keep your room clean. I’d rather just pay the extra money up front as part of the fare and not be bothered with it. At least we didn’t have to go through the agony of putting money into little envelopes at the end of the cruise.

Overall, the cruise experience was a good one. I highly recommend taking a cruise.

March 24, 2008

Flight of Fancy

I’m sitting here in the gate area of the Fort Lauderdale airport, waiting for a flight back to Nashville (via Atlanta). We returned yesterday from a 9 night cruise (which I’ll post about later). It only took about 5 or 10 minutes to get through the security check point, which was better than when we left Nashville a 11 days ago.

On the cruise ship, they had stations and crew members just about everywhere you looked dispensing hand sanitizer. I guess that’s to help prevent any illnesses. Sitting here in the airport, there’s a lady sitting to my right hacking her head off with a bad sounding cough. It strikes me that since it’s no longer practical to bring your own hand sanitizer to the airport, they should have those same stations here that the cruise ship has. At least that way you’d be able to sanitize your hands after going through security and whatever.

The flight we’re on is overbooked. In the next gate they’re asking for volunteers to take a later flight in exchange for a travel voucher. If we were taking a non-stop flight, that might be an option for us, but we’re connecting in Atlanta and that’s not an option for us. Now there’s a flight that’s overweight due to a large number of bags that have been checked, and they’re calling for one or two folks from that flight to take a later one in exchange for $400 in “Delta Dollars”.  Sorry, but if you want to inconvenience me that way, it’s gonna take cash, not credit towards a future flight.

We’ve been here at the gate now for an hour; our flight is scheduled to leave in another hour. It should start boarding in about 30 minutes. I’m surprised at how busy the airport is this early (7 am EDT). The Nashville Airport was busy early too.

The big bottleneck is, of course, going through security. For the 10 or so gates that were accessed through the checkpoing we went through, there were about 5 or 6 x-ray machines. The bottleneck getting off the ship was going through customs; for the 2500 passengers getting off the ship, customs had 5 customs agents.  The phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” comes to mind.

Enough rambling; the laptop battery’s getting low and I need to secure it before boarding. Later this week I’ll be posting my thoughts on the cruise and traveling in Florida.

March 10, 2008

NASCAR: Who Made Out Better?

After last season, Hendrick unceremoniously got rid of Kyle Busch and put Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in that spot. Gibbs got rid of JJ Yeley, who went to Hall of Fame Racing. DEI replaces Earnhardt with Mark Martin (and gets Regan Smith too) by buying the team Martin was with.

So, who got the best deal?

Let’s see… Hendrick, now instead of having two top drivers, has three they have to outfit. Of those three, only Earnhardt is in the top ten in points. Gordon and Johnson are just barely inside the top 15.

DEI has Martin Truex in 11th place. Martin is in 18th after Atlanta. He’s not running a full season, but you’d expect him to do better than 1 top 10 in 4 races. Smith is still at the back of the pack, and Menard is in the middle of the pack.

Hall of Fame Racing won’t have to worry about any racing halls of fame. They got rid of, who was it, Tony Raines? for Yeley. Raines finished in the top 30 last year; Yeley’s 25th so far. These guys need to step up if they’re going to run with the big dogs.

Who does that leave? Oh yeah, Joe Gibbs. Not only did they get Kyle Busch in the off season, they switched to Toyota to boot. What better way to have a successful team than to let others knock the rough edges off a new manufacturer and a driver? By far they’ve gotten the best deal of this year. Busch is winning everything he’s entered in, and when he’s not winning, he’s dominating until mechanical failures put him out of the race. Tony Stewart is sitting pretty in the 8th spot.

So, early in the 2008 season, I’d have to say that Gibbs is the big winner, and DEI and Hendrick are the big losers so far.

Speaking of big winners, I keep hearing that Toyota’s win Sunday in Atlanta was the “first time a foreign manufacturer has won a Cup race since Al Keller won in a Jaguar on June 13, 1954.” Maybe it’s me, but when Mercedes Benz bought out Crysler a few years ago, to me that made Dodge a foreign manufacturer. Seems to me that some of their wins while under Mercedes ownership ought to be counted as wins by a foreign manufacturer.

Bristol is next week. Watch for more wrecks and carnage at Bristol than ever happen at a restrictor plate track. But watch for everyone (fans, competitors, team owners) tell you how “great” Bristol is. Fact is, the cars are too fast for Bristol. Maybe the new car will slow down things a little; if they were running 20 seconds a lap, that might make the race watchable. I know I won’t be watching it; I’ll be in the Caribbean somewhere on a boat.

February 22, 2008

NASCAR: 2008 Daytona 500

I thought the 2008 Daytona 500 was one of the better Daytona races I’ve seen in a while. Even the Nationwide race was pretty good.

I think NASCAR has a good combination with the COT and the plate at Daytona, and I hope they don’t mess with it before Talladega. Cars could actually pass one another for a change; some were even able to pass without drafting help. The number of passes on the track for the lead really made the race exciting to watch.

I have to question NASCAR’s issuance of penalties for cars that are going through inspection for the first time. Robby Gordon’s penalty seems pretty harsh. NASCAR caught the nose and they fixed it; they didn’t race with it. Same is true for the #30 truck in the Craftsman Series; they corrected the problem before qualifying.

Maybe NASCAR’s rationale is that they might miss one of these infractions and the car will end up qualifying or racing with the infraction. If that’s the case, that’s when you slap a 100 point penalty and suspend crew chiefs and drivers. But if they don’t even qualify with the problem, then why penalize them later?

California Speedway has sold the naming rights to the track. I’ll be glad to start calling it by the sponsor’s name just as soon as my check arrives.

NASCAR is going to let the GOGH (go or go home) drivers qualify together at California. It’s a start. What I don’t understand is why they use points from last year. I mean, there are cars that finished in the top 10 or 15 in the Daytona 500 that don’t have one of those 35 provisionals. Imagine the scenario where the Daytona 500 was won by a new team, one that didn’t have any owners points from the previous year. That team could conceivably miss the next race if they had a bad qualifying run. Is that what NASCAR wants? Since the Daytona 500 has such a screwed up way to get into the race, just let the starting field be determined by who races their way in. Then in the second race of the year, go by the top 35 points in the current season. If not that, then at least go by the last 36 races, which would mean that the previous season’s Daytona 500 would not be counted, and instead count the current season’s 500 when calculating the 35 provisionals.

I was surprised (but I shouldn’t have been) at how late the Daytona 500 started. There’s absolutely no reason for the 500 to end in the dark.

NASCAR’s doing another Saturday night race, this time with the Nationwide Series. At least it’s before the local racing season starts.