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Baphoporsche

Because no weekend is complete without satanic hoonage.

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Mark Webber

Mark Webber retired from racing today. His last race, in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1, placing 3rd and getting on the steps.

I love Le Mans Prototypes, I love the circuits, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Nürburgring, Fuji, Le Mans, and I love watching Mark race. It’s not going to be the same next year.

Reading: Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA

Yes, I was reading during, before, and after  all that museuming. My last year’s reading was missing some of that oomph of previous years, which was pretty bloody obvious when I compared 2014 with 2015. October to October actually, so not one of these tired End of Year list bollocks; purely arbitrary end point. I was missing Science. Yup, needs a capital. Also missing other stuff, but definitely slim on the science.

Amy Shira Teitel is one of my favourite bloggers, science or otherwise. Science-wise, she’s one of the best (I read enough to make that kind of subjective statement) and in all things space and astronomy she’s—I’m a pretty big fan and I’m not going all hyperbole when I say she and Emily Lakdawalla at planetary.org, you don’t get better writing on science than these two. Ok, also Sabine Hossenfelder. Three different writers on astro stuff, writing in three different disciplines, Titel on the history of space flight, Lakdawalla on planetary science, Hossenfelder on astrophysics, all of them blogging regularly and all of them I will absolutely read and read first.

So, in need of reading science, and how convenient, Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA, exactly the kind of combination of history, engineering, 20th century Euro-American-Soviet politics, Germany at the start of it all in a story that would kick the knees off of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (new, old, doesn’t matter) and any other spy/action/Cold War film you can think of. Gripping drama and tension, cars going off cliffs, subterfuge, double-crossing, race against time to beat the Soviets to the prize, testing the limits of human endurance while using miles and pounds (seriously, America, really?). Also slave labour, concentration camps, Nazis, and all the nasty stuff that got pushed under the carpet to get to “One small step for a man.”

This is Titel’s first book, an entirely different thing to a series of thousand-word posts, where much of the heavy research and writing she’d previously done on her blog Vintage Space. There’s a lot of crossover between the two, the book going into more detail on the entire history of pre-NASA United States space programmes; her blog covering specific subjects within that as well as broadly the history of going fast enough to throw yourself off the planet. It’s also—or obviously—aimed at a general, science-interested audience, which has quite a bit to do with why I like what she writes. Her serious research abilities and love of the subject means she’s quite capable of writing extremely dense and academic histories, yet she makes it accessible to a reader who might not know anything about spaceflight, without dumbing the topic down. Excellent first book. If the next ten are as good as this, I will have eleven of her books on my shelves.

Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA
Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA

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The Louvre Itself (Bits of it)

Unlike most previous museum blogging, I’m not going to attempt all nine hours in a single hit. I have no coherent plan of how I’m going to organise the hundreds of photos of art works, but probably a bit at a time over the coming weeks. Firstly then, the Louvre itself. A very, very small amount of it. I could easily have spent a few hours just photographing the museum itself, ceilings, rooms, halls, voids and courtyards. The upper floors are sparse, stripped architecture, like parts of the Pergamon in Berlin—especially with the vast interior stair salle. It’s only on the first floor, really in the Sully wing with Napoleon III’s apartments that things go all stupendously Baroque and Neoclassical. (Which is why I have to come back to Paris: to finish seeing the Louvre, to visit Pompidou and to visit Versailles.) The architecture turns again in the Denon wing, and again in the stumps and remains of the mediæval fortress which I ran through just as everyone was getting kicked out, empty of people after the rush hour of the Italian collection.

Louvre — Room 76 Ceiling, Denon Wing
Louvre — Room 76 Ceiling, Denon Wing
Louvre — Napoleon III's Dining Room
Louvre — Napoleon III’s Dining Room
Louvre — Napoleon III's Drawing Room
Louvre — Napoleon III’s Drawing Room
Louvre — Galerie d'Apollon Ceiling
Louvre — Galerie d’Apollon Ceiling
Louvre — Galerie d'Apollon
Louvre — Galerie d’Apollon
Louvre — Salle B, Denon Wing
Louvre — Salle B, Denon Wing
Louvre — Mediæval Fortress, Philip II Augustus 1190-1202
Louvre — Mediæval Fortress, Philip II Augustus 1190-1202

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Bike Lights!

I had to buy a new bike light today. Germany has some strange ‘regulations’ about what constitutes a bike light, things like brightness, flashing, whether a bike must have dynamo-powered lights or can have clip-on, all of that is in the Regeln. The Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung to be precise. (Or StVZO if you wanna get all Abkürzung on it.)

This year, flashing lights are out. Because safety. WTF, Frances? I know! I had an argument with bored Polizei over this—it was a Friday night, they obviously had nothing better to do than pull over cyclists and engage in some haranguing. There’s probably a word for that like Ordnungspredigen. Oh wait! It’s German! You can make new words like that! “Of course flashing lights are safer,” I gegengepredigt in my scheiße Ausländersdeutsch, “People see flashing light as visual movement, which obviously is easier to identiy against a background of light noise–” “Nein! A proper German light must not flash because it is difficult to tell the distance of a flashing light—” “As opposed to just running your Auto up the arse of the StVZO-approved 5 lumens light which no one can see?” “Regeln sind Regeln.”

I had to buy a new light because my old one died, and the StVZO-approved front light frankly scares the shit out of me. 15 lumens vanishes when you’re in traffic and surrounded by cars’ front lights. I could really see drivers not noticing me until I was up their arses, and while I manage to throw myself over handlebars with some regularity (the price of badly excecuted technical riding skills), I prefer my suffering to be self-inflicted. So, off to the bike shop. It was a difficult choice between 300 or 600 lumens—which made me laugh with the insanity of it. Why stop there? It goes up to to 1500 lm!

Then I got home and xkcd had this:

Due to a typo, I initially found a forum for serious Fleshlight enthusiasts, and it turns out their highest-end models are ALSO capable of setting trees on fire. They're impossible to use without severe burns, but some of them swear it's worth it.
xkcd — Flashlights

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Post-Weekend Hoonage

There is only one guaranteed fix for weekend blahs: hoonage! Looking through all my hundreds of car photos (excluding gifs here: they’re either drifting, burnouts, rally, or LMP1), I think it’s safe to say Frances likes Subaru WRX, Ford GT40, LMP1, rally, and burnouts. And chicks in or doing any of the above.

When I was in Brussels, I went to Autoworld. They had a white Ford GT40 Mk II from Alan Mann Racing. It’s a beast. I’d seen photos, heard it spoken of in awe, but to see it there all metal and gently stinking of fried brakepads, fuel and oil, I got how intimidating and impressive it is. I love this yellow one, especially how it’s slammed. Surprising for me also, cos mostly I dislike American cars. But this was built to win Le Mans, and owes as much to the Europe of that as to the US of auto design.

Above that is the GT40s descendant, the 2016 GT. I mean, faaark, no? Flying fucking buttresses! Pretty sure I’ve blogged this before; definitely Tweeted. Still don’t really like US cars, but come on, this is magnificent. And to hear it braking hard and downchanging, it’s a glorious, frightening work of art.

I’ll likely never afford either, unless I have a spare mid-6 figure or low-7 figure slab of cash. Could afford a WRX STI though! My favourite hoonable car, preferably in metallic blue with gold rims. Nah, actually that’s the only acceptable colours for a WRX. It’s got one of the dirtiest engine sounds around, thanks to the turbo flat-4 boxer. Fond memories of biking up Chapel St in Melbourne on a Friday night with that as the soundtrack. And it’s a fucking legend of a rally car. No poncy suburban pseudo-hoon here. It goes around corners sideways! For a road car, with those rims, the bonnet scoop, the bonkers massive rear spoiler, and the price, Frances, yes, even for you, hoonage is attainable.

Could also be a Volvo. Their equivalent of the STI is Polestar, which has an insanely gorgeous shade of powder blue. Volvo stationwagons are also hoonable. No? Don’t believe me? Volvo raced them in the Aussie Super Touring Championship in the ’90s. Not winning, but the 850 sedan did (and had one of the best ad campaigns—made me want to buy one, something about “The Car to Free Your Soul.”) The fully murdered black S60 Polestar TC1. Look at those fucking insane wheel arches. I’m always joyously delighted Sweden of all places is a country of petrolheads.

Anyway! Burnouts! Lots of countries do them, only Australia does them right. It’s kinda like swearing, not especially eloquent but they make up for it with prodigious consistency. It’s the only country that has replaced the spaces between words with “fuckin’” (also used for capitalisation at the start of sentences, punctuation, as well as actual swearing), and they do burnouts with the same single-minded dedication. Are the wheels on fire? Probably ’Straya. Helps heaps having Commodores and Falcons. It’s like Ford in the ’60s asked Australia, “What are you looking for in a car for such a Lucky Country as ours?” And collectively Australia responded, “Fuckkin’ hooning an’ fuckkin’ burnouts ya fuckkin’ cunt!”

Back in Germany. I’ve seen fleeting examples of Germanic hoonage, mostly in Wedding or the outer suburbs/nearby small towns (of course, god, what else are you supposed to do?) but nothing as concerted as say, Chapel St on a Friday night, though Ku’damm or Friedrichstr are perfect for blockies. Instead we go off to the Nürburgring. I love LMP1 (and quite a few of its Prototype class ancestors), and when Porsche got back in the game—with Mark Webber! I was all, yup, time to sit up all night for the ’ring 24h. (Yeah, I am certainly giving Porsche the side-eye at the moment, being part of VW and all the bollocks of their emissions cheating.) The 919 looks like an alien spacecraft, and sounds all kinds of mad insane alien spacecraft. (As much as I’m not an Audi fan, I gotta admit their LMP1 downshifting could probably give me orgasms, so yeah, even better than the 919). Also at Nürburgring is the simply beautiful Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C, not quite a GTE, not quite an LMP, sublime to watch racing.

Aaaand, from a documentary on women racing in Palestine, Speed Sisters. Mad hard hoons, them.

Ford 2016 GT
Ford 2016 GT
Ford 1965 GT40 Mk I
Ford 1965 GT40 Mk I
Holden 1971 HQ 383
Holden 1971 HQ 383
Porsche 919 LMP1 2015 Le Mans
Porsche 919 LMP1 2015 Le Mans
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C 2015 Nürburgring
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C 2015 Nürburgring
Speed Sisters Palestine
Speed Sisters Palestine
Subaru WRX STI Rally USA 2015
Subaru WRX STI Rally USA 2015
Subaru WRX STI 2015
Subaru WRX STI 2015
Volvo S60 Polestar TC1
Volvo S60 Polestar TC1