Friday, November 25, 2005

My First Rambling Manifesto

Well, Thanksgiving was nice. I did all the cooking. Lisa, for all her various wonders, cannot cook, but I'm more than willing to overlook that little fault.
You know what makes enormous Thanksgiving dinners for two very easy? A six-burner range. Mine is a Bosch. Very, very nice. And yeah, the six burners were all running at once, with the oven going. And the plate-warmer under the oven, too, because I like putting my hot food on hot plates and in hot bowls and serving dishes. My feast included:
-turkey, big motherfucker
-steamed carrots, string beans, and corn that cooked with butter
-Lisa's mashed potatos (I hate them, she loves them, I cook them anyway)
-cheese and broccoli casserole (again, for her alone, her mom does that dish and she loves it, so I devised her recipe and then made it better)
-my godlike stuffing
-homemade cranberry sauce
-gravy (also purely for her, I don't care for it)
-thirteen-inch apple pie
-big goddamn chocolate cake
-homemade ice cream
I was busy cutting and slicing and dicing and such for two hours the day before, followed up by eight hours of cooking on the big day. We're gonna have leftovers for weeks. She kept telling me it was perfectly alright if I just wanted to make reservations someplace, seeing as how I cook every other night (save when we just go "fuck it" and go out to eat or get some Chinese), too, but to hell with that.
My legs are back to bothering me. Mostly it's the cold. I'm down to using my damn cane every time I go out, and sometimes around the house. I hate using the damn thing...it's not that I'm ashamed of it. Hell, I practically got my legs ripped off, and here I am walking around and running when it's warm. And I can still drive better than half you pussies (joking about the "pussies" part, but I can). So if I need a cane to help me out when it's fucking ten degrees and windy, I'm gonna use it. It's not an old man cane, it's just a straight shaft of dark wood with an ivory ball at the top. No hook part. Semi-stylish. I've got another very low-key one for when the ivory is gonna look stupid.
No, what pisses me off about having to use it is that, even though I can walk and run and drive and swim just fine, here I am gimping around with a damn cane. Like a fucking cripple that never could get that whole physical therapy thing down. Shit, I spent how many months screaming at the top of my lungs lifting a damn five-pound weight on my leg? And now it looks like I was too big a pussy to go through with it.
For the record, it's the left one that gives me problems. Both ache, but the left one really fucking hurts. Here's a picture of the right one when they were done putting it back together (kinda). The skin and meat has been moved back into place and buttoned up (literally). The left one is so bad I damn near dry-heaved when I saw it.

Woo-whee! You can really see the pain. Frankly, this one would be really way too bad to show if the knee guys hadn't yet finished up. See, my kneecap on that side was...well, it had taken functionality-inhibiting damage, as the pit records may say about something like a broken shock. In this picture, they've pretty much gotten the knee as "fixed" as they're gonna get it for now. They actually had removed the joint itself, or rather, scraped out the splinters that were left of it. Then they went in and replaced it with a funny little mix of Kevlar, Teflon, and carbon-fiber that's both experimental and is supposed to last forever, no replacements.

Holy shit! My car had the same stuff in it!

That big rip up the side of my leg was caused by the shinbone coming out. It broke off at both ends and went right out. Man, when I finally realized what had happened (when I was in the car still), that shit hurt! The one on the left was a little less gruesome immediately. The pics I have of it in the OR are just horrible, but it takes a few seconds to realize exactly what's wrong. It didn't seem so bad in the car, but there was a lot more really major damage there. The fractures on the right one were all pretty much clean (save for the knee, but modern science is just wonderful). The left was just the worst kinds of breaks imaginable.

My back is kinda fucked-up, too, but that's really no big deal. Just have to remember how to pick stuff up right and I'm fine.

But for now I'm just kind've gimping around a little more than the usual. They were right about the knee replacement (nice...experimental surgery performed with literally no consent!). It doesn't bother me a bit, and actually works a little better than my natural one, which is slightly fucked-up. Story of my body..slightly fucked-up.

Back to school again tomorrow. Actually, at about 12:15, I have to be in class. And here it is, 2 AM, and I'm on this goddamn thing. Not looking forward to it. Mostly because I'm a year older than everyone else, which makes me look stupid (at a peak score of 1400 on the SATs, and once a perfect-800 on verbal, I am most certainly not). Also because of the endless snickering about me limping around. I elected not to make my past occupation widely known. I'd rather not attract the attention. Oh, sure, it leaked out. I told a girl to stop by my place of employment during my lunch hour and I'd help her with her damn history paper (I am a God of History and Political Science and she is actually a really nice girl who helped me when I dropped a book once). And, of course, I was too stupid to realize that perhaps, if I wanted to keep my background quiet, I should perhaps take down all the pictures and the giant fucking poster.

So she found out and it didn't occur to me to ask her to shut up because she never said anything about it until she stopped by again a week later, and by then, she'd already told like six people. And, of course, Lisa caught some chick making a passing gimp-reference to me in the bathroom, so everyone in the bathroom at the time found out. And my Creative Writing teacher found out because I told him and expected him to be bright enough to realize that I would appreciate discretion, especially after I said, "I'd really appreciate some confidentiality about this." But he's some California fruitcake who believes we should be proud of everything anbd share everything abour ourselves or some such bullshit, so it got out. So now that entire class knows.

All in all, though, I think it's been kept to about sixty people in a college of several thousand, and a social network of perhaps 200 (counting the people who are merely classmates I recognize by face and face alone). 100 in classes and 100 people I know.

The 350Z street-tuned racecar is coming along very well. It's been fully stripped, and the engine is out so we can play with it a little more easily. The current line we're being told is that the two requirements are street-legality and GT500-series rules. That means 500hp, 500lb-ft of torque, and all the associated JGTC-GT500 rules. All the other teams are scrambling to find out what GT500 rules are (a few don't even know about the 500/500 power limits and that should be very funny when the time comes). Luckily, I was racing in the GT500 class, so I know the entire sixty-page book front-to-back.

In other news, I've solidified my place in that little Europa tour, driving the Aston Martin DB9 coupe. It should be fun. I've also got another guy probing me to see if I want to be in next year's Gumball Rally across Europe. For those of you who don't know, the Gumball Rally is a tarmac rally across all of Europe on public roads which haven't been closed. Theoretically, it's illegal. The event organizers discourage everyone from calling it a "race", and even though someone finishes first, the "winner's" name isn't published anyone. it's sort of just for kicks and giggles between these little companies that sort of just exist to race and build racecars and have lots of fun.

Crash Response

I was taking a little trip down memory lane today. Flipping through all my racing stuff and--more importantly--going through all the stuff relating to the crash, the first time I'd ever taken a look at any of it. For example, I knew they were considering amputating my legs, but I didn't know just how close they were to doing it.

But anyways, I thought I'd give a fairly in-depth and experienced account of exactly what the emergency response to a crash with very severe injuries is. Because it's really amazing, and those guys are the reason I'm alive. Hats off to them, they're amazing. I'm going to go through an incident roughly similar to my own.

1. One-car crash occurs, severe injuries, life-threatening.
Our hypothetical crash occurs in one of the track's more remote areas, far away from the main spectator areas, and also far away from the medical area. Let's call it a high-speed impact with a wall in a full-on racecar, with rollcage and all that jazz. The driver is fully strapped in, and he's wearing a Head And Neck System (HANS). HANS saves lives. It uses bungee cord-like straps to secure the driver's head to a brace on his shoulders, or the rollacage itself. The straps are connected to his helmet. Without the HANS, the head is unsecured. With the torso strapped in tight, the head rotates in a full arc forward in a crash, exerting tremendous g-forces on his head and neck, which wither snap his neck or cause a deadly fracture at the base of the skull, where the spine is attached. HANS keeps the head from spinning and transfers the load to the middle of the skull, which can take it.
However, the crash is so severe that the crumple zones on the car are overwhelmed. After the front crumple zone, the next thing to absorb the impact is the driver's feet and legs. In our example, his legs would be severely broken, the injury being equivalent to jumping off a seven-story building and landing on one's feet. Also, his internal organs would bounce around the inside of his chest. The spleen is ruptured, the lungs are partially collapsed, and the kidneys take a beating. And even with the HANS, he's likely to suffer a severe concussion.
The immediate problem is the legs. Bones are broken and flesh is mangled, and all that is likely to tear open the femoral arteries, which are about the diameter of a quarter. This leads to enormous blood loss and can kill quickly. Even if it doesn't, it'll give him brain damage. The concussion could potentially kill, and the damage to the chest organs can kill, in addition to internal bleeding that goes along with both injuries. But the main problem is the legs, with those big arteries pouring blood. Bythe time he gets to the on-site medical area, he could easily have already lost 70% of his blood supply.
For reference, g-forces have also caused his eyes, ears, and nose to begin bleeding, but that's no big deal, really.

2. Track rescue workers arrive.
These guys get there fast. Even before the crash has, technically, occurred, they're rolling. They're never more than two minutes away. They ride out in four-wheel drive pickups that let them cut across the grass and dirt easily, and they come prepared to fight fires, cut and bend the car to remove the driver, provide whatever first aid is immediately necessary, and then move him to the medical area where the heavy-hitters reside.
In our crash, let's say the car has crushed in to the point where the driver is pinned, and that it's caught fire.
Even in two minutes, the fire won't spread far. Not even the paint will burn on most of these cars. Fuel is contained in a fire-proof cell. The only things on the car that even can burn are: the straps securing the driver, various hoses and belts in the engine compartment (even some of those are flame-proof), brake and transmission fluids, and the tires. Even the fuel lines are fire-proof, but if heated up enough, they will explode or burst.
The first thing they do is fight the fire. Goal one is to fight it away from the driver. He's wearing a Nomex body suit that's flame-retardent and heat-resistant, and the exterior suit functions much the same, and he's coated from head to toe in a flame-retardent, heat-resistant gel underneath all that. Even his hair is covered in it. But it's all only resistant. He can't hold out forever. The next goal is to extinguish the fire completely, but that's second to the next thing they do.
Next, they cut the car apart to remove the driver using very powerful electric saws. They may also bend it, if it's too tough to cut, but cutting is much quicker. These guys can do that in twenty seconds or so no matter how bad the thing has deformed. In our case, they have to cut away the roll cage and a few body panels, and this takes them fifteen seconds.
Third, they do the first aid stuff. The driver is first checked for spinal cord injuries before they move him, and then he's immediately secured to a backboard. The nature of the apparent injuries is called in to the track doctors and the local trauma center. In our case, an attempt is made to staunch the loss of blood from the legs, and IVs are set to try and pour fluid into him.
About a minute and a half after they get to the car, the driver is in the back of a truck screaming towards the medical area.

3. At the medical area.
There's really not much to do here, but goddamn, it's done right. Already present are a very fine collection of full doctors. There's usually at least one neurosurgeon present. In our case, a further examination is made, and any new information is passed along to the trauma center. Two doctors dig into each leg at the same time, finding and clamping off the femoral arteries. The driver's medical file has already been pulled out and faxed to the trauma center, along with his baseline vitals and other basic information (like blood type and such).

4. Exiting.
No matter how close that trauma center is, the trip is made by a helicopter that was waiting at the track before any cars ever got there and started spinning its rotors as soon as the crash happened. At the hospital, the operating room is standing by, with doctors in scrubs, literally poised over the table waiting to go and knowing exactly what has to be done. A few of the track doctors get on the helo with the driver. The rest stay behind in case there's another crash.

5. Lift-off.
Exactly seven minutes after the impact, the driver is in the air.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Come on...

And now, as a twin to my last post, it's the Jack Award you don't want your car to get. It's the Wastes of Metal Award, given to cars that are, you guessed it, collassal wastes of metal.

Chevrolet Cobalt...Only a little better than the Cavalier it replaced, the fact that they bothered to make a supercharged SS version is just hilarious.

Ford Fiesta "We Will Rock You" Special Edition...What the hell? It's a Ford Fiesta sold in Europe to commemorate the rock group Queen. Look, they were a good band! They gave us "Bohemian Rhapsody"! Don't insult them by naming a Fiesta after them! And by the way, all its got is a different interior and rims. Nowhere on the car does it mention anything about Queen.

Scion xA and xB...They shoulda called them BoxA and BoxB. Possibly uglier than the Aztek. And with the crappy suspensions Toyota threw on them, combined with the wimpy 86-hp (claimed, and that number will go down further when the new, more-accurate SAE measurement standards are apoted) and you have a car with not a single redeemable quality.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo...The Monte Carlo was a great car. You could get one with a Northstar V8 and own people. Now you have a shitty, underpowered waste of metal that handles like a brick and has such long gears a stock Ford Focus can beat the hell out of it.

Ford Thunderbird...Oh my God! It just...sucks so badly! Awful handling, no power. Styling is acceptable for some, but....goddamn, it sucks!

Buick Lacrosse...They insulted everything I stand for with this car and the way they marketed it. It's not sporty. It's not agile. It's a goddamn cheap Buick. Frankly, I'm not going to buy a car that Tiger Woods endorses. Golf is the slowest goddamn game in the world. Follow me?

Chevrolet SSR...This amazing hybrid car-truck combines the handling and speed of a pickup with the off-road capability and hauling capacity of a small car! Wait, isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Yeah, but unfortunately, Chevy got a little confused when they built this horrid creature. It should have been aborted.

Dodge Neon SRT-4...Okay. So it does give you an assload of power. But any time you try and use that power, the crappy suspension, chassis, and drivetrain comebine to make sure you just spin your tires. The chassis and frame might as well have been made out of Play-Doh. Nice try, but frankly, you also hear "nice try" at the Special Olympics, which is where the designers of this thing belong. But, in their defense, they were stuck using the Neon chassis, so they were kinda working against, you know, reality.

Honda Element...Make it stop. Please, make it stop. Designed to appeal to my generation, it ended up being a toy for old farts. However, in some ways, I have to salute the Element. It took one for the team and kept old farts out of cars that don't suck, leaving them available for young people who can properly enjoy a sports car.

Hummer, all models...For the love of fuck, get the hell out of my goddamn way! I'm trying to move, and you're spending sixteen seconds just getting that pile of shit up to 60.

Hyundai, all models...Hyundai should be required by law to print a disclaimer on all their cars: "WARNING: Before purchasing, ask yourself this...has your life really gotten this awful?"

Kia, Suzuki...See Hyundai.

Mitsubishi Eclipse...This car makes the list because of that obnoxious "all cars bow down" commercial they did. Now, every day, I have to beat the shit out of some fuck and his new Eclipse with my EVO VIII MR. Guess what, shithead...I've got four hundred ponies to play around with, a hundred more than stock, and my car doesn't have a fat ass like yours.

Nissan Altima...This actually isn't a bad car, but anytime anyone floors it in one in winter on the highway, a giant cloud of water and foul-smelling exhaust shoots out and fucks up my nice new wash and wax. And you know what? I still run them down and embarass them.

Pontiac GTO...All I can say is, they smeared the name of a perfectly respectable vintage muscle car.

All Saabs...Driven by yuppy, democratic, pussy assholes who want to regulate the speed limit by doing fucking sixty in the left lane. Fuckers. If I were a lesser driver in a lesser car, they might slow me up. Instead, by the time they realize that I've dodged into the center lane, they're wondering why my car is still getting farther away even though they're flooring it to catch up.

All Saturns, the ION Redline in particular...Now the fuckers are smearing my name! Goddammit! The 1896 Daimler Motor Carriage had better handling, and that fucker was steered by a tiller.

Subaru B9 Tribeca...Holy hell! What crack pipe were they smoking?

Subaru Baja, Forester, Legacy, and Outback...I am sorry. Your car is not sporty. It has no all-weather capability not found on any other basic car. If you wanted sporty with all-weather capability, you should have gotten a WRX or WRX Wagon, preferably in STi trim.

All Hybrid-Electrics with the Exception of the Awesome Honda Accord Hybrid, Which Is Faster Than the Regular One...Guys...your gas mileage is only like 30mpg most of the time. Get a goddamn VW Golf TDI! And more importantly, get the fuck out of the left lane. These goddamn things don't even belong on the highway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dave's Best Damn Cars Picks

I'm doing this as a public service. I have taste in automobiles, the rest of the world doesn't. Want proof? I hear somebody bought a Pontiac Aztek. Oh, and Scion is selling thousands of xA's and xB's, along with ubercrappy tC's. And California dumbasses are buying up Insights and Priuses by the boatload. Every day on my way to work and/or school, I have to dodge the fat, slow moving asses of Hummer H2s and now H3s, with their goddamn 4mpg and 12-second 0-60 times. For fuck's sake, my car can do the 1/4-mile and then some in 12 seconds.

Believe me, if all car choices were left up to me, things would not suck as bad as they do now.

So here's what I'm going to do...I'm gonna invent little useful categories for cars and announce a winner, and maybe some runners-up if they really deserve to get mentioned. But if the 1st-place car just owns them, I'm not even gonna bother mentioning the others.


Econobox

Winner...Ford Focus...There's really very little competition on this one. In terms of price, performance, and comfort, this one is tough to beat. For my money, I like the 2003 Focus ZX5 five-door hatch with the 2.3L 16-valve DOHC ZETEC engine. It just rocks.

Runner-up...Mazda3...A little more expensive, a few random extras. It's based on the same chassis and drivetrain as the Focus, so there's no surprise. If you watch Pimp My Ride, you'll like the Mazda3 a little better. If you actually know something about cars, you'll like the Focus.


Affordable Sports Car (must cost less than $30k and actually interest me)

Winner...Ford Mustang GT...it squeaks in just under the $30k mark. Handling is acceptable, and the power is ridiculous (300-hp or thereabouts; I'm not talking about claimed hp, but what you can actually expect). Styling is either love-it or hate-it. Frankly, when I'm paying only $100 for every 1-hp, I don't care what it looks like.

Runners-Up (and quite a few, not in any particular order)

Nissan 350Z...also just barely makes it. Slower than the GT, a little more agile, a little smaller, only has a V6, but makes about the same power.

Mazda MX-5 (Miata)...simply unbeatable in terms of handling for the dollar. They're big enough now that ordinary people can fit in them. The only problem is that they're hard to live with. You really want more space for day-to-day stuff. They're quicker than they were before, but the 350Z will just own them in a straight line.

Mitsubishi EVO VIII RS...a stripped-down EVO. No big rear deck spoiler, no A/C, no CD (although a stereo and A/C are available if you spring for the $1k "Urban Jungle" package), but you get two differentials and a center helical differential, and that means performance out the wazoo.

Acura RSX Type-S...it brought the K20 engine to the US. That's all I have to say. Agile, quick, only $23k. Downside? It could use a double-wishbone suspension at both ends, and I hate FWD under all conditions.

Mazda RX8...could use a touch more power, but "RX" means "kickass handling".

Volvo S40 T5...This is probably 2nd place. A little heavy, but as a sports car serving as a daily driver, it's unrivaled.


Rich Boy Toy, 2nd Car, Must Cost Less Than $60k

Winner...Lotus Elise...coming in at $45k, the Lotus Elise offers insane handling, audacious styling, and a little speed. Best part? Great gas mileage. Low weight and the same engine that powers the Toyota Camry. Plus, it's at the very bottom of the price spectrum. With the money you save buying this little baby, you can get a $4000 kit from ForceFed that gives you 426hp off of a stock 145hp and increases grip to 1.1g from a stock 1.01g. Gas mileage will stop being so awesome, but who cares? You'll have the same power-to-weight ratio as a McLaren, with better handling, and you won't have to spend a million dollars. Downsides? Aside from the one-year waiting list (I shit you not), "It's really itsy-bitsy" as Lisa would say.

Runner-up...The new C6 Corvette. Pretty agile, pretty powerful, fairly stylish. The only downside is that you look like a bunch of other people driving it. You're never gonna get that with the Elise, which is a unique, individual car.

Expensive But Sorta Within Reach...$100,000-$200,000

I'm not going to do a first place, because each car is amazing in its own way.

Ford GT...Simply put, this vehicle is a racecar sold to the general public. And at around $160,000, it better be. A little cramped, but the performance is outstanding and you're always going to look like a true badass.

BMW M5...It's an M5. That's all you really have to say.

Aston Martin DB9...Style. Speed. Power. Control. The ability to carry around four of your friends and their luggage and still beat the shit out of anything on the road. And the ability to do all of that in the snow, in absolute comfort. The capability to do the shifting yourself or let the car do it for you and not sacrifice performance.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Very Bad Things

Ooh, got a look at the 350Z we're going to use for our little endeavor. Gorgeous car...white now, but the eventual plan is to paint it black. I'm spinning a wrench working on it, just for fun. We got it two days ago, and it's already stripped: No exhaust, engine is out, no suspension, transmission is out stock bumpers and side skirts are off.

We're going with a small, high-efficiency (and thus, no-lag) turbocharger to bring power up to 420hp to start. Edelbrock headers, and custom intake and exhaust manifolds, along with a race cam, piggyback ECU, 4-pound flywheel, and triple-plate clutch will round things out nicely. Other than the camshaft, all the other internals will remain stock to maintain reliability. NISMO (NISsan MOtorsports, Nissan's in-house race and tuning department) is sending us a really trick suspension, better than even the one that comes on the R-Tune package (which lists for $45k, plus labor, counting car). Tateyabashi Cockpit is getting tapped for the cleanest, best-proportioned 350Z bodykit on the market. Carbon Fiber Creations is fabbing us up a rear trunk lid and GT-style wing combo that weighs only 14 pounds, along with a hood that only weighs 5. O-Z is sending us one of their ultralight rim sets. Tires will be BFGoodrich T/A gForce KDs. Brakes will be 13" up front, 11.5" rear, from StopTech. Cross-drilled, slotted rotors.

All told, she'll probably make 500-hp or so, maybe 450-lb-ft of torque on the super-octane race gas. In other words, the same power as the GT500 car I was driving professionally. The only difference is that she'll weigh twice as much, won't be anywhere near as aerodynamic, and won't be able to pull 2.5g turns.

Anyways, I gotta go to sleep. Lisa is demanding I hold her.