Saturday, April 14, 2012

Home Openers

What a thing I watched this afternoon. Home Opener for the San Francisco Giants, on an amazingly warm and sunny day considering the wild night of weather that proceeded it!

Thursday's cold front out-performed it's forecast...the NWS even issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning! Here in the Inland Valley we were treated to a good 45 minutes of lightning and thunder with torrents of hard rain.

Everything tall around the Bay took lightning strikes, even a United Airlines jumbo jet departing SFO was struck and had to return to the airport for a checkup. The London-bound passengers were good interviews on the evening news...they were as wide-eyed as you'd expect, after a flight they'll never forget!

Golden Gate

Bay Bridge
The tail end of the system spawned a tornado in Yuba City that did some damage Friday.

So you can imagine the warm fuzzy feelings the ball game caused me after our wild night, and the past couple of wild games the Giants played on the road.

Giants' homegrown ace, Matt Cain started the home opener. He was on his game as the sports scribes say. Cain had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning, when the pitcher...the pitcher! hit a grounder to left for a single. Cain calmly pitched the complete game, and tallied 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K in 106 pitches (73 Strikes)

The Giants' offense continued their streak of scoring 4+ Runs per game to 7 games in 7 games played. (Last season they scored 4+ just 39.5% of the time) Today's score 5-0 Giants...all in all, a filling, satisfying game that mercifully was very relaxing...'bout time, whew!

The last time a pitcher threw a 1-hitter in his own Home Opener was in 1918!

Like I said, I definitely had the warm and fuzzies after the game. I hung out on Twitter for a while as all the StatGuys chimed in on Cain's performance and all the Opening Day Records...Then I was reminded of a couple of other Home Openers...The Sacramento River Cats, Triple-A Affiliate of the Oakland A's lost to the Reno Aces. Giants' Triple-A farm club, the Fresno Grizzlies won their home opener 6-1 over the Tacoma Rainiers.Before lunchtime I saw a funny tweet from @ABarryEnright54 Aces right hand pitcher: "Slippery, snowy bus ride to SacTown today. Everyone give us a little prayer to get there safety on this "

The Reno Aces spoiled the Cats' opener 2-0, making it two in a row.

The River Cats' parent team the Oakland Athletics spoiled the Seattle Mariners Home Opener, so there's that...

The Athletics moved to Oakand when I was 16 years old, and already a Giants Fan. The A's play in the American League, which means the Designated Hitter Rule applies. I'm an Old School baseball fan, and think the DH shortchanges the game of too much of it's strategy.

When the pitchers bat, there's more of a chess game played by the managers...

You know, like baseball was meant to be played...

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Politics

I'll keep it short's been a busy week and I'm too tired to stay up for the Craig Ferguson Show...and it couldn't be from the Giants victory in Denver this afternoon, or the Formula One Practice 1 I streamed after dinner...or the exciting extra innings victory by the Reno Aces, who tied it in the 9th with two outs, to come back in the 13th (after the Salt Lake City Bees loaded the bases with no outs in the 12th!) to end their five game losing streak.

There was some drama in the Giants/Rockies game...closer Brian Wilson turned his ankle with two outs in the ninth, and the bases loaded. He visibly lost some heat on his fastball and cutter, walked in a run before throwing 32 pitches total, and rang up the Rockies 4-2 for his first save of the 2012 season.

The just ended P2 from Shanghai, China was dry, unlike P1. No major drama, but cool temps kept the grip scarce, and the speeds down.

The big drama came from a closed door meeting. "F1's commercial rights holder held a meeting with team principals in the Shanghai paddock to talk about the Bahrain situation - with the FIA having confirmed earlier in the day that the race will be going ahead."

So F1 will race in's a guaranteed payday for the teams. This can't end well.

I found out it's not just the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for this weekend. The FIA is bringing GP2 to Bahrain next weekend too!

I hope they know what they're doing...Formula One is the epitome of "The 1%", and the gloss will be off the jewel should the worst happen.

Not one but two thumbs in the eye? I don't get it...

Good night...

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Nope, not American National Politics. My Mother raised us right...We just don't talk about Religion or Politics in Polite Society.

Sadly, politics has raised it's ugly head in the Formula One Universe again.

Again it's not what you'd think...this isn't about the teams demanding a ruling against Merecedes' trick blown front wing from the Technical Director...this one's a genuine, World Stage, Human Rights deal.

Round Four of the 2012 Formula One calendar is the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on April 22nd. Last season, Bahrain was to be the first race of the season. Political unrest of the "Arab Spring" variety forced the cancellation of the event.

This year the civil unrest continues, and a month ago, Formula One looked poised to return to Bahrain.

In the last week or so, new accounts of second thoughts have become the norm:
 Formula One Becomes Part of Bahrain Power Struggle

Damon Hill, a former F1 Champion and son of two time F1 Champ, Graham Hill was an early dissenter this season:
F1: Bahrain Skeptics Speaking Out

The tide is rising against the Bahrain GP:
F1: Team Boss Expresses Bahrain Concerns

F1 Supremo no longer insists the Bahrain GP will go off as expected:
F1: Ecclestone Says Bahrain Decision Up to Teams

F1: Bahrain Hits Back at Criticism

Nothing stays simple for very long when it comes to F1 politics:
F1: Bahrain Used Quotes From Confidential Report, Says Lotus

F1: FOTA Says FIA, Not Teams Must Make Bahrain Call

Bernie Ecclestone, please pay attention!
Nice graffiti, bad time to race in Bahrain.
I find it telling that none of the above links are to the Official F1 Website...well, that's because there's nary a word of the Bahrain dust-up there!

As you can see, it really is a mess. The majority Shiite are chafing under the rule of the Sunni Monarchy. What began as a move for human rights has now taken on the flavor of an Overthrow Movement. While less bloody than Syria to date, this uprising will surely get worse before conditions improve and reforms begin.

These "Arab Spring" uprisings have all worsened before settling down to a simmer. I fear the Arab Spring will be a decade or more before morphing into Arab Summer.

Formula One would be well advised to pass on Bahrain until these issues are resolved.

SpeedTV F1 announcer Bob Varsha sums it all up perfectly:
Varsha: A Rocky Road Ahead for F1?

On the slightly brighter side, Practice for April 15th's Chinese Grand Prix begins Thursday 4/12 at 7PM PDT here, with P2 airing on SpeedTV at 11PM PDT

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Old Wounds

The National Transportation Safety Board held a press conference in Reno, NV Tuesday to make seven safety recommendations for the Reno Air Races.

Though the investigation of the fatal September 2011 Galloping Ghost accident is ongoing, the NTSB did provide some details of their line of inquiry, a timeline of the accident and some photo and video evidence.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman Reno Gazette-Journal Photo
I watched the presser LIVE on the internet. The Reno paper has the story, and linked to the live stream.

The language in the Gazette-Journal's story was a little less than precise, so I'll add my two cents:

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said:
“Our investigation revealed that this pilot in this airplane had never flown at this speed on this course,” . “We are issuing a safety recommendation to ensure that pilots and their modified airplanes are put through their paces prior to race day.”

On the second page of the RGJ's web story Reno Air Racing Association CEO Mike Houghton said he questioned the NTSB’s statement that Leeward had never flown his aircraft at top speed on that course. He said Leeward likely went faster during the qualifying rounds, when the course was wide open.

The gap here between the NTSB's statement and the rebuttal is a little too wide to dispel misconceptions in my opinion. Every casual reader who didn't click thru to page two takes it as fact that Jimmy Leeward had "never flown this airplane had never flown at this speed on this course." Intentional or not, this is inexcusable spin (sorry, no pun intended)

"After the hearing, Howard Plagens, the lead NTSB investigator, detailed the sequence of events that led to the crash, which took about 6 seconds from the start of the problems."

"The Galloping Ghost was banking left at about a 70-percent around the last pylon when it suddenly banked about 90 percent, he said. The maximum G-force likely hit about 1.5 seconds after “the upset,” he said. The aircraft then rolled right and over, he said, and that’s when the elevator trim tab fell off the tail."

"That description does not fit with speculation made by many aviation experts, who said they believed the plane went out of control after the trim tab fell off."

"Plagens said it was clear from photos and video that the trim tab’s failure occurred well after the plane went out of control. NTSB investigators are still trying to determine what caused the initial “upset,” he said."

Again this is very un-precise language here. I'll break it down with my notes.

"The Galloping Ghost was banking left at about a 70-percent around the last pylon when it suddenly banked about 90 percent, he said."

The sudden banking is "the upset", and precipitated the radical pull-up that caused the G-forces to hit maximum 1.5 seconds later. The Chair said there was telemetry from the Ghost, and that the on-board accelerometer recorded the spike in G-load, but was only capable of recording 9G, and this event went past that scale.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said the NTSB is working on the peak G readings.

The photos and videos showed the failure of the elevator trim tab caused the upset. I surmise it was a failure of the control linkage at speed that allowed the trim tab to loose it's purchase on the airflow over the elevator causing the severe pull-up that caused Leeward to black out. Photos shown by the NTSB show Jimmy slumped forward and to the right in the cockpit as the Ghost was rolling to the right over the top into the fatal dive.

It was near the top that the failed elevator trim tab departed the aircraft. Though the videos don't have the resolution necessary to show it, the trim tab, from "the upset", now unattached to it's control rod, was free to flutter at high speed until it broke up and departed the aircraft.

The NTSB displayed photos of the trim tab at each stage of the failure process, from normal before "the upset", deflecting at the beginning of the pull-up, and leaving the aircraft at the top of the roll. The photos are telling.

The rest of the recommendations are sound, common sense ideas.

The NTSB recommends increasing the distance between the flight line and spectators be increased from 500ft to 1000ft. Their map of the Stead Field flight line and the grandstands showed September's distance to be 815ft, and 750ft to the pits. Very doable for September's Air Races.

G-force training for Unlimited Class pilots, and perhaps mandated G-suits for Unlimited pilots are a step in the right direction. I'm sure G-suit systems are very expensive, and probably fairly heavy. Jet aircraft carry these G-suit systems with their plumbing and compressors.

Aircraft inspections and record keeping upgrades are in order as well.

You can watch the video of today's press conference in Flash here. And in WMV here.

I don't see any of the seven recommendations as game changers. I'm confident that RARA will comply and the Reno National Championship Air Races will continue. The only potential stumbling block I see might be the insurance premiums for the event.

Though I wasn't present in Stead that awful day last September, I can't wait to see and hear the Unlimiteds again, if only to begin to erase those grisly memories.

Godspeed Jimmy Leeward, I hope the Reno Air Races will continue as just a part of your legacy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

L'enfer du Nord

Paris-Roubaix, The Hell of the North, L'enfer du Nord, Queen of the Classics, The Classic Classic, runs for the 110th time today. Watch it LIVE on TV at 6AM Pacific  on NBC SportsNet (Ex-VERSUS) If you only watch one bicycle race this season, this is hands down the one to watch. Those who fancy sleeping in over watching World Class bicycle racers flail through northern France, can watch the three hour wrap-up on NBC SportsNet at 4PM PDT

The first section of pavé at the Carrefour de l'Arbre
Miles of Roman Empire Era cobblestone roads await cycling's biggest stars. I saw a Tweet Saturday morning saying the start was foggy and 4°C cold, 39°F. Bright side? The fog should keep the dust down on the pavé sections. These men earn their big paychecks!

I did a weirdly satisfying thing Friday evening...I took the temperature of some flower beds in the Ancestral Diggin's 70°F at six inches deep! Oh man, did I get excited...that's tomato-friendly soil temperature people!

Saturday morning about 11AM I probed the garden with the soil thermometer again...sigh only 50°F. I'm too far behind the calendar to start my heirloom tomatoes from seed now. Friday morning was pretty cold, but we're in for a little warming. I'm hoping another two-three weeks will warm the soil enough to go hog wild.

I'm going to deploy some "Wall-O-Water" little greenhouse things and plastic mulch to try and hurry things up a little. These work great in Truckee, doing the same duty only in late May.

Baseball Update:
My Giants lost again Saturday. Another disastrous first inning for Giants pitching...the Giants threatened to come back in the end but fell short.

After winning their first two games, the Reno Aces fell to Colorado Springs Saturday night, 5-2. This is why there's 162  regular season games in the Majors, and 144 in the Minors...

@GirlsLoveGiants remind us that four of the last five World Series Champs started their triumphal seasons with two opening losses...the one that didn't was Your 2010 San Francisco Giants.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here...the Giants and Aces will make the post-season...

Happy Easter everyone!