Realization of an Anachronism: Raised Floor – Requiescat in Pace

This morning I noted, via Rich Miller’s twitter stream a new article counter-proclaiming the death of Raised Floor in datacenters. It boggles my mind how people still cling to this outdated, outmoded, and clearly obsolescent technology. I’ve ranted about this before two and a half years ago. Nothing has changed in those two and a half years other than raised floor being that much more obsolete.

Put your racks on slabs guys. It’s liberating.

Car Photo of the Day: The Bugatti in the Living Room

The Bugatti in the Living Room.

Inspired by the Bugatti Cententaire post on Phillipe Picavet’s blog today, especially the well-loved and smothered-in-patina pre-war Grand Prix Bug, I present the (in)famous “Bugatti in the Living Room” from Marrowstone Island, Washington. We visited the home of a noted car collector on Marrowstone as part of the 2008 Classic Motorcar Rally and he indeed does have a Bugatti parked in his living room. To say the least the man fits the term “eccentric” quite well. His home is literally built around his collection which includes many notable Jaguars and some amazing pre-war machinery.

Like the Bug that Phillipe presented, this one also can never be called “over-restored”. But unlike the car in Belgium, it does not get used as Ettore intended.

Car Photo of the Day: Red on Red

Red is one of those love/hate colors on cars. Often the red is applied much like lipstick on a pig, earning the epithet “Resale Red”.

Of course red is also the traditional color of Italian race cars, so it is (all too) often associated with exotica such as Ferrari. Proven here by the Testarossa in the background. I would much rather see Ferraris in other colors, and in fact the prettiest ones I have ever seen have always been something other than red. Of course the fact that despite a vast spectrum available, the vast majority of Ferraris ARE red makes choosing a beauty standing out among the sea of rosso corsa pretty easy.

If you’ll pardon the pun, my primary objection to red on cars is that the color is actually quite flat and rarely has any depth or subtlety. Compare two cars, one painted red, and the other say in a metallic maroon or silver, and the car will likely look SO much better in the latter colors. It is because of the primary color nature of flatness (shared with whites, non-glossy blacks, yellows, and blues) that makes for both the appeal, and the dislike of red on cars. To each his own I guess.

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

When my boys were very young a near nightly ritual was for me to read to them. This occurred either on the living room couch, or at their bedside. We started with “kid books” such as Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (Christopher’s first non-parental related word was “fish”) and culminated with reading long literary classics such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings over a period of months. One book I read between those, when Chris was maybe three or four was Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez. One particular quote, spoken by the character “Badger” from that story has stuck in my head since that reading almost two decades ago:

The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves. One day you will be a good storytellers. Never forget these obligations.

There is so much truth to that bit of wisdom, since as human beings most of what we truly learn comes from what we hear, read, and are taught from others. For example, we take for granted the Thomas Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence, and bonding of hydrogen and oxygen to make water, but how many of us have directly observed those facts? The ability to learn from secondary sources is in many ways what separates us from other species.

It is ironic then, that this particular story is told entirely from the perspective of a dog.

I’ve been aware of this book for a while, as it is has been endlessly pimped by the guys over at Cold Track Days, I just never bothered to pick it up as my reading tastes these days trend away from fiction. Sue on the other hand reads nothing but fiction, as her work-enforced reading is all facts, and all tragedy (she’s an attorney who works in cases where parental rights are being terminated.) She likes to read fiction and tears through books twice as fast as I do. I was surprised to find this one in her pile of completed books that she was returning to the friend she borrowed them from. I snagged it for myself and set aside the others I was reading to dive into it.

Well this is indeed a story to be given away when needed as Badger instructed Crow and Weasel. Filled with pathos, every character in the novel learns valuable lessons from life, and we learn right along with them. What I found refreshing was the specifically, and completely male perspective of the story, be it by man, or dog. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the read so much more than Sue did.

But then, she doesn’t like to drive either.

It is an excellent, and well-told story, and plays out in a wonderful cinematic fashion, strictly however from the point of view of a mutt named Enzo. I’ve heard that it it being considered for a movie, but I can’t see how a visual re-telling will work from the canine perspective. We’ll see I guess. Certainly a challenge for a filmmaker!

The tale takes place right in my former hometown of Seattle, (in the mid 80s, until I met Sue and moved to Ballard I shared a house with two other guys in Mt. Baker near the old 1-90 Bridge) and so many of the places and names were as familiar and comfortable as an old pair of slippers. Leschi, the CD, Capitol Hill, downtown & Mercer Island. A wonderful scene takes place at Pacific Raceways in Kent, and is described by the narrating dog in such a perfect way to capture the essence of being at that track as a spectator. The contours and curves of the track described only as one hears it by exhaust note… very well done.

So if you’re a guy in need of a story more than food to stay alive, you might find this as enjoyable as I did. Give it a read (before Hollywood screws it up.)

Car Photo of the Day: Unmistakable Silhouette

While many cars, both before and after, appear to be similarly shaped, none have ever matched the wonderful proportions of the Jaguar XK 120. These cars are rolling art.

Originally produced as a one-off concept car to serve as the platform for the newly developed XK engine in the late 1940s. The XK 120 was ordered by so many people on-the-spot upon being revealed at various motor shows in Europe and the USA that Jaguar started building them right away. First by hand, with war-surplus alloy bodies and partially wooden frames, then eventually a full-blown production line was set up for steel cars.

Its origin as a styling exercise becomes immediately apparent when anyone over the height of 5’8″ tries to drive one. The ergonomics are horrific, with seat, wheel, and pedals arranged for maximum discomfort. Jaguar addressed these issues in 1954 with the XK 140.

You can read my review of an XK 120 here.

Crisis? What Crisis!?

The stuttering of the furnace, well pump, and digital clock woke me up around 5 am this morning. Power flickered a few more times, then ceased into a near-total darkness. The sudden stillness within our house brought the outside sounds to the fore. Wind. I could not hear the wind so much as the straining and rustle of the fir and cedar trees outside. I climbed out of bed and grabbed the one of the flashlights we keep handy for just such an occasion. The dogs eyed me with optimism initially, but sank their heads back down to the floor as I passed by heading towards the front door. I stepped outside into the chill wind and light rain to survey the area; looking to see how wide this outage might be. The entire area was dark; no street or houselights on between us and the mountains to the east. Looking back over the house to the west showed a comforting glow of the town of Arlington four miles away, reflecting off the low heavy clouds. Even brighter glows emanated to the south and southwest (Marysville & Everett respectively.) From this data my evolved mammalian brain ascertained the outage was very local, and confined to between Arlington and the mountains of the Boulder River Wilderness. This meant that it was likely to be very brief, unlike previous extended outages that covered the region. Such is life living in the Cascade Foothills. I climbed back in bed and told Sue that power was out. In our home this means no showers, so we just stayed in bed past our usual waking time. Nick, without his alarm stayed asleep in his room.

After a bit I wandered out to the kitchen, and Sue fed the dogs. I stood at the window and admired the darkness. At this latitude the sun rises late (around 8 AM) and low this time of year, and never flies very high above the southern horizon. Clouds obscure it most of the time anyway. The only light visible at all was that glowing reflection of other towns on the underside of the overcast. That odd light and swaying conifers gave the atmosphere a very odd look. Very dark. Very mysterious. My mind wandered back to time without electricity when the world was lit only by fire, and how, absent that far away glow, absolutely DARK it would be right here, right now.

Every little thing I wanted to do, take a shower, make breakfast, read the newspaper the normal routine of a normal morning… all dependent upon electricity. Instead I grabbed a handful of nuts and a glass of water from a pitcher, and stared out the window in thought.

I thought about perspective and how we, as highly evolved humans, fail to recognize reality. Despite our opposable thumbs and big brains, we tend to overreact like frightened chimps to things which are quite harmless. Among the headlines I could make out of the murky twilight cast on the kitchen table was yet another mention of the “Economic Crisis” we supposedly find ourselves in. “Bullshit” I thought. This is anything but a true crisis. In a crisis we’d be eating the dogs and burning our furniture to keep warm. Things we take for granted, such as electricity and the availability of the pistachios I’m eating right now would be unimaginable and exotic luxuries. Our society has grown so damn secure and comfortable that we now have to manufacture problems.
We create artificial controversies (which are in reality side-shows) for television pundits to endlessly rehash.
We imagine catastrophes (which are in reality minor stumbles) for political parties to use to point fingers of blame at one another.
We conjure up legions of plotting enemies (when they are in reality numbered in the dozens) that frighten us into discarding our most cherished values.

This is NOT an “economic crisis” at all. Nor is it the failure, and especially not the “end” of Capitalism. What we find ourselves in right now is the inevitable mild down cycle, which naturally occurs as part of a healthy market. Market cycles go up, and they go down, performing corrections when things in any particular sector get out of… the invisible hand, as it were. Down cycles always cause human beings to panic, thinking that things are somehow really bad. Well, I’ve got news for you folks, this kind of thing happens all the time, over and over again throughout history, though the history books only focus on one of them. In reality we’ve been in this down cycle for almost ten years. Corrections have jumped from sector to sector, and recovery very slow, but overall if you look back at 2000—2009 the economy has been flat as Kansas compared to the crazy days of 1990—1999. So can we drop the hyperbole and focus on reality: Things right now are not that bad, and in fact they are pretty damn good. I’d wager that it the larger scheme of things, it is the best time ever to be alive. Sure, I’d love it if my stock portfolio were partying like it was 1999, but on the upside we’re not burning useless banknotes for warmth or eating our pets. In the latter cases you can be forgiven for calling it a crisis, but the word is not justifiable to use for today’s situation. Other terms off the table: “meltdown”, “free-fall” and “disaster.” Why? Because none of them are actually happening. Unless you live in Haiti of course.

If anything console yourself with this oddly comforting fact: We live at the only time in all of human history where things are so good, and living is so easy, that even poor people are fat.

So next time somebody on TV or radio utters the “C” word, turn it off.
Next time the phrase “Economic Crisis” comes up in conversation, reply with the question “Have you eaten your pets?”
Next time you think things are really tough, flip your home’s main breaker and sit in the dark for a while.

Sense of perspective will return.