30 Sep 2015

So it's not just me.

I am struggling to read a book currently.I don't have reading difficulties-I love reading books.I have reading difficulties with e-books.This is my fourth attempt at reading an e-book.I managed the first three but did not enjoy the experience. I am not absorbing the books.I struggled on because I thought that it was me and that with greater familiarity I would start to accept the e-reading experience.It has not turned out to be so.
Yesterday the SMH carried a story that Norwegian researchers had found that readers of digital texts had a much lower retention of the content than readers of printed books.This has major implications for students studying for exams.
So I am not alone in not retaining what I am reading in an e-book and I was not surprised to read in the NYT last week that sales of e-book reading devices are tanking and that sales of e-books have fallen 15% in the first 5 months of 2015 after rising exponentially for 7 years.
It seems that printed book sales are staging a significant comeback along with bookshops.Indeed in the US the number of bookshops actually increased significantly last year after years of decline.The American Booksellers Association counted 1712 members with 2227 locations in 2015 up from 1410 members in 1660 locations five years ago.
It is not just older readers who are turning back to printed books.According to the NYT story young digital natives bought up on digital devices are turning to printed books as well.
The NYT story was a business story so they put the switch back to paper books-aka as real books-down to the fact that e-books are often not much cheaper than their printed versions.I don't believe that this is the reason.After all they are invairably cheaper so why would people switch from buying the cheapest even if the e-books are not as cheap as expected? No, I am sure that the enjoyment/content retention factor is the key driver here.Another factor is that you can pass on a real book.You can give it to a friend/family member or give it to the Salvos.Or put it on your bookshelf.Bookshelves contribute to a homely feel in a home.A real book has a second or even a third life.A good book can be a friend.An e-book is a folder on a device.
I still like reading newspapers online.I have no problems there but I don't enjoy reading my favourite magazines online.And after I have struggled through this last e-book I will be deleting the Kindle app from my iPad.
Paper manufacturers around the world can start recommissioning those mothballed plants.We're back.

28 Sep 2015

Bloodhound-is it a car or is it a plane?

The Bloodhound Project-creating a vehicle to take the Land Speed Record supersonic and to go over 1000mph (1600 kmh).
In the past LSR contenders have in the main been created by men with a personal obsession.That was certainly true of Donald Campbell who by all accounts was not someone many people could warm to.That approach would not work today.Today a LSR project could easily be seen as self indulgent and not PC.The Bloodhound Project has taken a different and inclusive approach.You can read about it at BLOODHOUND
The Bloodhound vehicle has just been shown to the public for the first time.Mike Evans,author of the MACFILOS blog,accepted what he thought was an exclusive invitation to the unveiling in London over the weekend.As it happened it was not so exclusive but despite the crowds he came away with some good photos taken with the new "wunderkamera"-the Leica Q which he somehow managed to get his hands on before a very long waiting list formed.

26 Sep 2015

Surfer girl

Another run of wet and windy weather here in the last few days.The leaden skies and rough,cold seas did not deter the surfers at Avoca Beach yesterday.
I went out mid afternoon with a camera before cabin fever set in.I took the Sony a7 fitted with the 150mm Zeiss Sonnar from my Hasselblad using an adapter.
The Zeiss lens on the full frame Sony is the equivalent of a 225mm lens.
The photo is a big crop from the full frame and yet you can see the surfer's earring and a ring on her finger when magnified.
I tried this combination last year for surf photos and the results were disappointing but I managed to get the hang of it at the Bathurst 12 Hour race back in January -see BATHURST 12 HOURS .
For this shot I put the camera on continuous shooting mode and fired away as the surfer went through the focus zone.Bit like shooting ducks with a shotgun-one of the pellets hit the mark.Just the one.

24 Sep 2015

Pure Driving Pleasure

The all time world's best driver's cars were 911s made by Porsche between 1963 and 1973.After 1973 the 911 started to get paunchy until today it is obese.The pick of the crop of the early cars were the LWB versions made between 1969 and 1973.I count myself very fortunate to own a 1971 car. There are three levels of 911s made between 1969 and 1973-the base model,the T, then the E and the supercar the S.
Now the last models of the S the 2.4 version are the absolute pick of the crop but even the base T is a superb driver's car .
Mine is a T with some engine mods - done long ago probably an E camshaft and some other tweeks. It has Weber carbs and a 5 speed 901 gearbox.It is only a 2.2 litre but it just loves to rev and the noise is something else.The engine drives just the wheels and the fan/alternator -there is no aircon compressor and no power steering pump.There isn't that much power but what there is goes to the wheels.
I have lightened the car by removing the radio and aerial and fitting lighter seats and a few other tweeks.It weighs only 1013 kg with the full sized spare wheel,jack,tools and a quarter of tank of fuel.
The car has standard narrow Fuchs wheels and 195/70 tyres all round.Lowering the ride height and fitting wide wheels and wide low profile tyres degrades the ride,handling and particularly the poise of an early 911.I believe in keeping the car as it left the factory.The good Dr Porsche knew best.
Driving it is physical.There is little insulation.There is plenty of NVH-noise,vibration and harshness. Hooray. There is no power steering,no brake booster -of course no ABS or traction control-and the clutch is cable operated.
Competent Porsche drivers just love the early cars. Driving them quickly needs skill. Incompetent drivers bag them.

Last week in company with Craig Duthie in his 911S I had a superb long high speed drive on magnificent roads. We covered a lot of ground in glorious weather.In some places the roads were very rough-I dented the fuel tank bottoming out at high speed on a very bad hump caused by trucks breaking up the road.
We travelled north of Morpeth in NSW.Craig has found an Australian Nurburgring. It is long,fast,it dives up and down and there is very little traffic. The panoramas in all directions are wonderful. Pure Driving Pleasure. Now if the local council could just resurface it.

Some photos from our drive.Only a few.The driving was that good. Why waste time taking photos when we could be driving.

21 Sep 2015

Concours 2015

The venue for the Porsche Club NSW Concours held yesterday moved a few kilometres this year to the centre of Sydney Olympic Park.In my opinion the new venue was a great success  - I never liked the empty wastelands of the Newington Armoury and I am sure the nearby correctional centre exuded bad karma.
Having the general public access the concours was good for the atmosphere.Not quite Pebble Beach but a big improvement.
The new concours class structure and particularly the outlaw class bought out interesting cars we had not seen at the Concours before.
The weather could have been better but rain held off,just,through to lunchtime.
Organising Committee and helpers take a bow.You did a great job.Thanks.

My personal take on the concours in 35 photos.

19 Sep 2015

Strange Days Indeed

A new look for the blog and now a first for the blog. Political comment.
Always dangerous for a blog as it brings out the trolls.Write anything nasty about the American National Rifle Association and your blog will definitely be bombarded.So no NRA comments here.Much as I am tempted.
But it has been a strange week for politics in three English speaking countries so please readers from elsewhere indulge me.
Firstly in the UK the opposition Labour Party selected a new leader-Jeremy Corbyn.An extreme left winger.
About 20 years ago a Japanese soldier came out of the jungle in the Phillippines.He had not heard about the end of the second world war and had been hiding waiting to ambush the next patrol of allied soldiers who came along.True story.
Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of that sad Japanese soldier.It's almost as if he has been hiding in the basement of a building in East Berlin for the past 30 years and has just come out still enthusiastic about Lenin.In fact it's the film "Goodbye Lenin" all over again.
To counterbalance the loony left in the UK the US has the loony right in the shape of the truly appalling Donald Trump.Now Trump worries me as I fear that he is going to do US society real harm if he is not derailed soon.He is beyond rational explanation.He is just vile.
And here in Australia we have had our own local drama with the deposing of the sitting Prime Minister,Tony Abbott, by his own party and his replacement with what we all hope is a moderate centralist,Malcolm Turnbull.
Now there has been a pretty rapid turnover of sitting Prime Ministers here in Australia in recent years and outside observers are justified in asking how this could happen.Quite simple.We've had a run of duds. And the biggest dud,by far,has been Tony Abbott.
Now unless you are an Australian it is impossible to appreciate the depth of feeling people have had towards Tony Abbott over the past two years.Let me summarise it by saying he was toxic. I HATED him and so did many others- the public opinion polls were below rock bottom. He came to power two years ago after being leader of the opposition -he opposed everything-and he was a total disaster as PM. He is on the extreme right of Australian politics and he has done enormous damage to Australian society and Australia's reputation in the world in the last two years. But his deposing whilst inevitable may not be the end of it as he still has a significant following in his own party and that great American and Australian's greatest export,Rupert Murdoch,will be using all his considerable media muscle to get the appalling Abbott and his coterie of very right wing old white men back into power.
But don't take my word on Tony Abbott as gospel read today's editorial from the local The Saturday Paper. Even if you are not interested in Australian politics it is a classic piece of editorial writing. Enjoy. I certainly did.

17 Sep 2015

Cats and carburettors

Cats and carbies.Who'd think that they have much in common. Well they do - if you are talking Weber carburettors. Webers were the carburettor of choice for the world's high performance car brands before fuel injection came along and made them history.
Webers are wonderful devices.They provide instant response and when you open the throttle they make a wonderful sound. But they have an achilles heel.A characteristic they share with cats.
Now as every cat owner knows cats are unpredictable.One minute your favourite cat is lying peacefully purring on the chair beside you.Then without any warning and without any obvious trigger the cat will get up, put its tail in the air and walk off completely ignoring you.
Webers do the same thing.Last week my 2.2 911 Porsche had a full service and the Webers were cleaned and tuned and in particular the idle jets were cleaned. The car is running beautifully. I have just been on a drive up into NSW in company with friend,Craig.
At the start of the drive I had to drive up the motorway to near Newcastle to meet Craig.This meant driving in morning rush hour traffic to join the motorway and negotiating a number of big heavily trafficked roundabouts. Not ideal conditions for a 44 year old car but it could cope. It was running well as it crawled in the traffic and idling quite normally when stationary.At the biggest and most hectic roundabout it was my turn to dive into the very fast moving traffic.No place for hesitation.I was ready to go when the engine just died. It had lost idle. No reason. No warning. I cranked the engine and it fired second try. I waited again for a 911 sized gap.The engine idled away without a problem.
Over the course of the next two days I did 620 km and whilst most of it was fast open road driving on every occasion where the engine had to idle it did so perfectly.
However the idle incident was not the first time it has happened and I know it will not be the last.It is apparently something Webers just do.They have random unpredictability.Just like cats

The Webers of my 911 sitting atop the engine as it idles away quite normally after the long hard drive back this afternoon.There's not a break in the earth wire from the coil.It just turns at 90º away from the camera.
Zoe , the one eyed Himalayan, just thinking about being unpredictable.

15 Sep 2015

Old times/new times

Not a vintage photo.Not a film photo.Taken from the roof of the pits at Sydney Motorsport Park at the Shannons Classic Festival last month. Digital photo "aged" in Silver EFX.
The older I get the more I appreciate vintage American cars. Not enough to actually want to own one but I am certainly beginning to understand why some people are so keen on them.
Last week I saw a handsome but very corroded 2 door American coupe which I could not identify-probably from the 1950s-on the back of a flat bed truck.It looked as if it had come from the docks.Probably someone's restoration project.I hope that they paid for it before the Aussie dollar plunged against the US dollar.Suddenly buying from the US has become very expensive. Oh for the days not so long ago when the A$ was above parity with the US$. I should have spent more whilst on my US trips in those days.