Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying. It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though! But after a couple of months of being back in England […]
Archive for July, 2009
A small follow-up from my report on the Omega drags last Sunday. Have managed to get my hands on some video footage of a few of the races that took place, mainly involving my buddy’s GT-R and a few with my Evo. Not too much else to say so let’s roll the film! Enjoy and let me know what you think.
I’m always on the lookout online for something a little different, and today I found it in the form of a girl from the West Country, called Rebecca Mayes. Originally featured on the Game People website, she has most recently been picked up by the Escapist Magazine. Her niche is combining her musical talent with the creative world offered to her by the video game industry. And she does it with a certain charm that I think is going to get her a lot of fans online. The charm may be, in part, due to her admission that “The way I look at computer games is nothing like an ordinary gamer would look at them. My ‘reviews’ are naive, ridiculous observations that only someone totally inexperienced could make”. Am sure her charm also has to do with her voice, which reminds me a little of Emiliana Torrini
Above you can see her first song through the Escapist and revolves around EA’s latest installment in the hugely popular The Sims series of games. Let me know what you think.
Solar eclipse has just passed the Ryukyu islands and it was a pretty good event. The students were let out of classes for 30 minutes so they could damage their eyesight permanently at will, and some of the teachers had made viewing devices or bought the special glasses. Me, being the cheapskate, opted for 2 pieces of cardboard in front of one another, the first one having a tiny hole in, to make a pinhole camera to see it through.
By 1040 the air had got noticeably cooler although it was still pretty light outside. In fact, that was one of the surprising things during the whole eclipse – despite having over 90% coverage, it was still obviously daylight outside. Kind of makes you think maybe you don’t need that much sun!
Students soon came out to join the teachers which cued cries of “suuuugoooiiiiiii!!!” (“Wow” in Japanese), especially when some dark cloud passed overhead and allowed everyone to see it. As 1055 approached you noticed the birds quieten down as if they were ready for the end of the day and dusk approaching. My cardboard viewing contraption was providing possibly the smallest image of the eclipse that anyone has witnessed, but I could see something at least.
At 1055 something pretty cool happened that, as an eclipse virgin, I didn’t know about. A complete rainbow around the sun (about 6″ away) appeared in quite vivid colours. Not sure what caused it but it’s something I might research a little later on this afternoon. More cries of joy and screams were heard from students and then the sun & moon continued on their merry way and things began to get brighter again.
I have also managed to take a completely abysmal shot of the eclipse with my camera phone! The only thing worth noting on it is the rainbow that you can make out around the sun, but I include it for completion.
So that’s it for the 2009 eclipse. Head on back in 2132 when I’ll be covering the next one that’s this big!
Man, that was a hot day! I’ve been to a few drag events where I’ve come home with sunburn but after this one I just felt completely dehydrated (despite drinking over 4l of water) and worn out. Temperatures of 33C or more and 90% humidity at a minimum with almost no shelter meant that in order to survive you just had to embrace the fact that you were going to be wet and uncomfortably from sweating for the majority of the day. Once you’d come to terms with that fact you would be a lot happier.
I headed up to the drags with a car that felt pretty strong, although one that was a little down on power since the rebuild according to my power figures. That is probably due to a more conservative tune being applied in the form of a degree less timing and a little less boost (now only spiking to about 1.72 bar as opposed to 1.82, although still holding at 1.65bar). Was hoping for a solid performance and just praying that nothing would blow up and I’d be able to drive home under my own power! I was also looking forward to setting up my 3-step launch control. This was a new bit of code that had been added to my ECU by Andy at geekmapped.com and it is kind of a crude traction control system. The idea is to have a stationary launch control rpm limit (e.g. 5,000rpm), and then 2 other launch control rpm limits at low speeds (e.g. 5,500rpm @ 20kph, 6,000rpm @ 29kph), which would slightly limit your acceleration speed off the line in the vital fractions of a second so you are not breaking traction and just spinning wheels on the line. This was particularly important for me as I’m one of the relative few people up there who is racing on street tyres (Potenza RE-01) and not drag radials or slicks.
So I got up there and got things set up while I waited for the drivers meeting. Was surprised to find there were only two foreigners racing, myself included. The other guy is a decent guy known as “the fastest gaijin in Okinawa”! He’s got a 850-900whp GTR and with his new slicks and launch control ALS system was looking for a solid performance in B-class (5.5-6.0s to go 150m). I was in the much more lowly D-class (6.5-7.0s).
Free practice didn’t pass without claiming the first casualty of the day. A Verossa with a huge Turbonetics turbo on decided to do the whole run with his right wheels spinning while the left ones were sticking. Have no idea what happened there but it wasn’t good and that was the end of his day. Although to be fair it was a car prepared by Ram Garage, who don’t really have the best reputation for building solid cars. They did have by far the loudest car there though: a naturally aspirated 1st generation RX-7. The thing was pretty but damn was it loud! As he was cruising down to the starting line he was putting his hands together and doing an apologetic bow in his car while everyone was trying to plug their ears!
A second casualty was narrowly averted when a red Hachi Roku’s bonnet flipped up on the first practice run of the day. They were lucky the bonnet was carbon fibre or that could have smashed the windscreen. As it happened there was no damage at all and it could continue running through the rest of the day. That Hachi Roku was by far the best looking car out there at the drags this time, although it was surprisingly slow for a car that had been completely gutted out for racing.
Timed practice then followed and I was consistent, but not setting the world on fire. Best thing in these runs were my reaction times, 0.100s, 0.043s and a very impressive 0.005s. While the latter could be deemed as a great reaction time, it is also dangerously close to a red light. Things were feeling great though, even though I was a little off the pace (7.0s for the 150m including my reaction time was about 0.2s off my best), but I wasn’t up there to break records this time.
When qualifying came around I was in a pretty decent mood, despite the heat. Unfortunately, my luck didn’t hold through the qualifying runs. We had 3 qualifying passes and on 2 of them I went a fraction too early and red-lighted. I think there were a couple of reasons that my reaction times were so low in practice and then were causing me to red-light. Firstly, the temperature was hot as hell on the track and plenty of rubber had been laid down at the start so maybe I was making better traction than before. In addition, the launch control and motor mounts were helping me to stay planted on the line and not wheelspin as I was before, making me a bit zippier from the start. But two out of three qualifying runs red-lighted was not great. I was hoping it got them out of my system but I had to be careful in the afternoon.
So my car had made it through the morning session and while everyone tried to keep cool during the lunch break. I went out to take a few photos of the cars but didn’t have so much energy to be fair so apologies if the shots are not up to their usual standards. But after some photos and more taking on of liquids it was time for the tournament proper. This would be a knockout, first-past-the-post affair, so getting to the 150m mark before the other car and without getting a red light was what it was all about. I went up to the board and was surprised to see that despite my not so great 7.1s showing in qualifying, there were only 2 cars in the class quicker than me! Possibly the heat had helped traction but just taken the edge off everyone’s speeds. Whatever had caused it, this class was now wide open and I had a bye in the first round due to my time.
So I took the first run nice and steady, making sure I didn’t go too early. My 2nd run was against the green RX-7, and next to that thing I could hardly hear my engine at all! Was a little distracting but I got staged first and waited on the line for him to roll up. As the lights went green I dropped the clutch and got ahead right at the launch. I was expecting him to pull some ground back on me through 2nd and into 3rd gear but I kept a decent lead on him and I think I won by a car or two’s length. Probably made a few people happy up there as they were no longer in danger of hearing loss! It also got me one race closer to a final. One thing I was noticing now though was that I was very wary of the starting lights and not wanting to red light. While this morning I was dropping the clutch as the 3rd amber light lit up, now I was leaving it a split second longer, doubling my reaction times and more to 0.243s.
My 2nd run was almost a carbon copy of the first, with me getting a decent start off the line and then keeping the lead as I went through the finish line. The other non-Japanese guy was doing pretty well too, getting through to the semi-final as I had just done. He was making little tweaks with each pass and looking stronger all the time. We were also talking between runs about how we both like to get staged at the lights before the other guy so we’re not rushing to do everything once we’re in position. And yes, there is a surprising amount to watch and think about doing drag racing – it’s not just plant your foot and go for it. But I was in the semi-final and whatever happened I would have two more races to go. I went down to the start line to take a look at the tournament table and just as I did a car that was running in my class started to dump coolant all over the ground at the line, but then proceeded to do a full run (perhaps not noticing the huge leak). And the leak was pretty substantial – it required a bunch of people with towels and such to get the track dry. It looked like it had blown a radiator or a hose had come off for it to have dropped that much coolant in such a small time, and was probably close to overheating (if it hadn’t done).
But that wasn’t my concern at the moment as I had a semi-final to compete in. Got to the line and staged first, going through my gears to make sure all the synchros were lined up and ready. As the lights ticked down my thought process went something along these lines: “Lights ticking down… floor the gas… third amber light so drop the clutch… great launch and I’m ahead as I fly up 1st gear… grab the clutch and shift into 2nd… shift into 2nd… where the (insert expletive of your choice here) is 2nd???… ah, there it is… damn” And that was the end of my hopes of a final. I just couldn’t find 2nd gear for a split second and then had too much distance to catch up. I was making a lot of ground on the guy but just not enough. Meanwhile, the other foreigner was having similar luck, having forced to stage second at the lights and not having the best of starts. But at least we both had the chance of a podium finish.
In other races, the highlights were provided mainly by a green S15, which not once but twice tried to go into the mountain at the end of the strip! The first time it had all wheels locked up and was sideways trying to slow down (coming pretty close to flipping to). And then the very next run he did he had all 4 tyres locked up as he was trying to brake before heading off the tarmac. This second time he actually had to reverse out of the grass just before the mountain to get back to the pit area. Reaction from the crowd at his antics was pretty mixed. Initially people were willing him to pull out of it and avoid a collision, but then when he did there was a definite air of disappointment that there was no contact.
And so it came to my 3rd place race, and a chance to get another podium finish and trophy. Headed down to the start line and waited while the racers in the class below me finished their final. As I was going to pull onto the strip itself the guy in charge of the track looked at me and crossed him arms in front of him in a “do not pass” manner. Wound the window down and asked him what the matter was as I’d made the 3rd place final. Was then told that the car that had blown the radiator was the one I was supposed to be racing but couldn’t be repaired and had to retire. Therefore I had won 3rd place by default. Have to confess I was pretty disappointed as I was really up for that final race, and I don’t like to be just given a prize because the other guy couldn’t race. Another guy summed it up pretty well though. He told me that my car had held up to a day of racing whereas this other guy’s hadn’t, so my car and the build I had done on the engine deserved the award. When put that way, it does give me a pretty nice feeling that I had done a pretty decent job on rebuilding my car’s engine.
So that was third place for me and only my 2nd podium finish. Not a bad result at all considering I was expecting to be nowhere near the trophies at the start of the tournament. Unfortunately, the other foreigner missed out on 3rd place by 0.03s. The other car got the jump on him at the lights and he was making up ground quickly, but the finish line came 10m too soon. He did come up with the highly impressive figures of doing a 0-100mph in 5.2 seconds though. So the awards were handed out and everyone wearily packed their gear back into their cars and prepared to fight the traffic in Nago on the way home.
Whether I’ll be here in September to report on the next drag tournament I can’t yet say for sure as I’m still waiting on jobs, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to report on further drags in Okinawa in the future. To see the full gallery of the drags, click here.
While the countdown is well and truly on for the solar eclipse next Wednesday, I have another big date before then. Tomorrow marks the first drag race tournament at Nago circuit I’ll be competing in since my engine blew up back in April. It’s been a long time coming and the rebuild took a while, but I’m ready for it and raring to go.
The car’s in good condition, although it could really do with a bit of fine tuning. I am hoping to put in a solid performance though and as long as the car can come back home under its own power then I’ll be relatively happy! I’ve been increasing the power steadily on the car but am still staying a little more conservative than last time just for safety’s sake. I sincerely doubt I’ll be aiming for a podium finish as I did at the end of last year but anything is possible I suppose. We have a long weekend here in Japan this weekend (Monday is Marine Day) so I will try to give a full report including pictures on Sunday evening or Monday morning.
Until then I hope the Three Diamond Gods are smiling down on me, and that my enginework doesn’t come undone!
In the NBA they have March Madness, but it definitely appears to be a case of summer silliness here in Okinawa, with foreign teachers seemingly trying to rival Marines as foreign scapegoats. Incidentally, the Marines have very surprisingly been out of the news in recent weeks, which is odd as any stepping out of line or drunk & disorderly behaviour gets pounced on. Maybe they’re just working on something big! As long as there’s not a repeat of Lockdown ’08 then I think everyone will be happy!
But back on topic. Was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to post the red pill thumbnail next to a story for a while, but alas it wasn’t to be. Was told by a colleague today that they’d heard yet another JET Programme participant, American Martin S (should note American is not his first name, although that would be impressively Patriotic if it was), has been fired in Okinawa, in addition to the two girls involved in the previous “mind candy” incident (for which public prosecutors dropped a case most widely thought to be on the condition that a job termination was on the cards and so they would most likely be leaving the country anyway). From what’s been said it was related to this initial incident and has been reported on Okinawan TV today.
At the same time, a letter has been sent through from CLAIR (the organization administering the JET Programme) reminding ALTs of their duty and responsibility while they are in Japan. My reaction to this is probably best summed up by the picture you see to the left. There really isn’t much to say beyond what has been said before. Hopefully this will be the last incident we hear about for some time here in Okinawa. It has been relatively quiet down here for about 4 years and then the past 12 months have just been a little crazy.
I know this will probably only appeal to the car junkies out there, but maybe someone can learn from it so I’ll post it up. Am going to start reporting on the trials and tribulations of tuning my 1992 Mitsubishi Evo and the 4G63 engine inside, and what goes on with the moneypit I like to call my mode of transportation. In brief, I am using The Ostrich chip emulator connected to my stock ECU for tuning purposes, alongside the Tunerpro software. To log the data collected while tuning I am using the Pocketlogger software. And I get my chip code from the excellent and knowledgeable people at geekmapped.com. Prior to my engine blowing up I was running at about 1.65 bar of boost, giving me 1/4 mile times of 11.68s, which is pretty good, all things considered. That should give you an idea of my starting point
I only managed to do a couple of logs this weekend, but they were successful, and despite being a little down on power due to not doing any actual tuning during the session, I was getting almost zero knock (just 2 knock counts for 0.1s at around 6500rpm). Might just throw in a bit more fuel there to sort that out. I was hitting about 1.65 bar of boost and I think holding about 1.6bar right up to redline.
Note that this was with a degree of timing taken out of my current map (which you can also see below, so you know what I’m starting with) at the top end, to be a bit more conservative pre-tuning. Note that the fuel map below does look a little strange, but that’s mainly as I’m using methanol injection (a 75% methanol:water mix) which starts to come in at 1bar. Once I’ve got the fuel load mapping sorted out I can make sure that’s all working as it should. Have to say that even though my overall power figures were a little down as noted on my Rev/Speed Meter (391ps) it felt quick and there is still some boost and timing left to be put back in there. You can tell my power is a little down too, looking at my injector duty cycle.
Am also including a CSV file for Excel of my full run, for completion’s sake. As to whether the car is performing well, we’ll find out this coming Sunday as after work I managed to put my name down as a late entrant for the drag tournament. I think as long as my car is able to drive home under its own power at the end of the day I’ll be pretty happy. Anything more than that will be a bonus!
Seven days to go now until the longest solar eclipse that will take place this century, and I’m not too far from the ideal spot to view it. This event was just brought back to my attention today by much excitement in the staffroom when a long cardboard box was proudly placed onto the table just behind me. My first thought was that it was the first periscope the school had made so that teachers can catch students smoking even when stood behind a corner. But there seemed far too much excitement for that. Soon dawned on me with other small variants of this bigger design that I was mistaken.
A little research on this eclipse brought me to the Nasa July 22nd solar eclipse website at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2009/TSE2009.html. Lots of good information although I have to say the “Detailed Maps of the Path of Totality” does sound a little final! Sounds like we’re reparing for the sun not to reappear again once it’s gone behind the moon. While the Okinawan mainland is going to be just south of the area experiencing a total solar eclipse, we should still get a good 85-90% of it according to the maps. This is providing that it’s not cloudy, which could rain on everyone’s eclipse parade (pun intended).
I’ll be making some sort of sun viewing device using a complex system of mirrors and pulleys (or more realistically, a couple of pieces of cardboard with a hole in the middle). Will also give a report next Tuesday once the eclipse has passed over, hopefully with a few pictures and comments from other people too.
After another absence, I got back into the water on Sunday for a couple of great dives under almost perfect conditions. The dive site was Maeda Misaki, the dive buddy was my usual one, and the sun was shining brightly. There were a few clouds around Okinawa and it had rained hard during the night, but the sun was out the entire time I was at the Yomitan dive site.
Had to get a couple of tanks from Ark Dive as soon as they opened which means I only got to a half-full Maeda carpark at 7:45am. My dive buddy was just getting out from his first dive of the day, and reported good visibility and little if any waves. There was some corrent going right-to-left as you look out (southwards) and there had been similar all week at other dive sites on the western coast. So my buddy had a bit of a surface interval as I geared up.
My buddy was showing off his new shiny dive gear which, I have to say, was pretty impressive. A Halcyon backplate/wing setup, combined with a Scubapro and Apeks (I think) regulator setup is very high quality, and I imagine not the cheapest setup in the world. Ah well, if my car wasn’t such a moneypit then I would probably able to get a similar one too! Although saying that, I’m still more than happy with my AP Valves wing and Tusa regulator setup. The reg setup is 5 years old but still breathes great and hasn’t given me a single problem so far (touch wood).
So we got into the water which was a very comfortable 29C at the surface and swam out to the descent point. On descent I noticed a preying mantis shrimp, which you certainly don’t see too much of as they usually scurry away when they see divers coming along. This one hung around for a little while though and was nice to see.
It headed off out of sight and so I continued descending to around 30m as we swam across to the “2nd reef” at Maeda. It’s a swim straight out and then when you get there you’re greeted by some nice looking coral and some really big anemones. It was around this 2nd reef that not one but two eagle rays crossed our path. Seeing rays is pretty rare diving in Okinawa, and apart from the two mantas that almost swam into me on a late afternoon dive at Maeda a couple of years ago, this was the first time I had seen them while diving. We also saw a sizeable, dark coloured eel sticking out as we swam along.
So all in all an excellent first dive, and we surfaced and took on some fluids while the nitrogen levels in our bodies subsided. Felt pretty good to be out and about in the sunshine, especially as the previous night’s rain was just taking the edge off the heat.
The 2nd dive was almost as good as the first, although not as deep as the 33m we hit on our first dive. Highlights included seeing an octopus and another eel in the shallow waters. Two 50-minute dives and we were still out of the water and heading to Starbucks for a post-dive caffeine fix by 11:15. Not so many better mornings than that!
Election fever is starting to grip Japan with a bunch of recent local and gubernatorial elections. The general election is no more than a couple of months away but nobody still knows the exact date as Prime Minister Taro Aso is holding off, maybe hoping for more hostile moves or rhetoric by DPRK to give him ammunition for him and his party. Just editing my post as I type though as one news report has just dropped into my inbox saying the lower house could be dissolved by Tuesday, according to rumours coming out of the Diet. This could mean an election as soon as August 8th. I was just thinking that what everyone really needs now is 3 weeks of even louder campaign buses and people in white gloves waving at me from every intersection, as well as getting asked by numerous students if I know “Japan erection” (those “l” and “r” sounds are killers). On the odd occasions I feel hospitable to wave back (usually when there is a decent song playing in my car drowning out the megaphones) there is frequently ecstasy that someone is responding to their waving, and then confusion as to why the foreigner is waving. Got to do something to get through the day.
But I have digressed, as this report was supposed to be about big political news from Tokyo, where the LDP has achieved its worst result in history in the Tokyo assembly. Out of 127 seats, the LDP won only 38, with the power moving to the DPJ who have won 54 seats. New Komeito (can someone fill me in on who they actually are?) won 23 seats. That represents a loss of 14 seats for the LDP and a gain of 20 for the DPJ, and acts as a further blow to Aso. Can’t really be shedding too many tears at the loss for Aso and Nobuteru Ishihara, leader of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter and son of Tokyo governor & noted anti-foreigner Shintaro Ishihara.
The big question is whether or not this result will be matched in the big general election, whenever it is. And I suppose you have to ask whether the DPJ, if brought to power, will deliver the stimulus that Japan desperately needs to get it moving forward again, both economically and socially. Or will it be more of the same policies but just under a different name? Only time will tell.
EDIT: NHK is reporting that a general election has been called for August 30th. The clock is ticking…