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Sun, Jul. 26th, 2009, 02:23 am
Massa's accident had me scared

Felipe Massa's accident in the second qualifying session for today's Hungarian Grand Prix looked bad from the outset. It's never good to see a car buried in a tyre wall, even worse when the driver isn't looking around and talking to the marshals. I feared the worst.

James Allen has a rather gruesome picture of Felipe in his helmet, his left eye shut with blood over it. As with Henry Surtees, a driver's head is always the most vulnerable point. Even with all the safety improvements F1 has had over the past 15 years, Senna's accident would still probably have killed him - he was apparently hit by a tyre (causing a skull fracture), and two suspension pieces hit him, including one which went through the visor. Any one of those three could have killed him. Now, granted, there are wheel tethers now, but as Surtees's death proved, F1 wheel tethers (F2 uses 2005 F1-spec tethers) are not always good enough.

Now, undoubtedly both Surtees's and Massa's accidents are flukes - a tyre coming off is fairly rare, and Ross Brawn had apparently never seen a suspension piece fall out like Barrichello's - but coming within a week of each other, it suddenly shows that motorsport is still very dangerous for the drivers. Maybe it's not as dangerous as it used to be - F1 has now had 14 seasons with no fatalities, hopefully this will be the 15th, and horrific accidents like Kubica's in Canada or Kovalainen's in Spain show how well the cars are built - but it's still dangerous. Massa was hit by an object weighing less than a kilogram, but he was travelling at probably 140mph. At that speed, anything coming towards you is dangerous.

I don't know if anything can be done to stop this sort of accident in future. Possibly improved helmet design might help protect the driver, but short of making the cockpit fully enclosed, I can't see any way of actually preventing debris from hitting a driver. There are a lot of open wheel races each week, and of all of them, F1 has probably the highest safety standards. With that many drivers and that many races, this sort of thing is bound to happen, but if it had been anything but F1, it probably would have gone by with barely a notice.

As it is, it's a reminder. We can improve safety in many ways, but we should never allow ourselves to be deluded that motorsport is totally safe.

Tue, Jul. 21st, 2009, 07:47 pm
Questionable Content

I was reading today's Questionable Content comic, which was a guest strip by Danielle Corsetto. It left me with one question... what exactly is a "Cock-of-the-World"?

Mon, Jul. 20th, 2009, 12:20 pm
RIP Henry Surtees

Yesterday, F2 racer Henry Surtees died at the wheel of his F2 car at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent.

I won't describe the accident here - those wishing to find out can go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/8158445.stm, which is about the best article I've read on it.

I'm worried by this. As far as I know, this is the first driver fatality in top-line motorsport for quite a while, possibly since Senna's death in 1994. That death, the death of a legend, spurred a massive safety upgrade in motorsport. That just makes me wonder what went wrong here. I only watched one F2 race - I found it boring so went back to Superleague Formula - but what I'd like to know is "could this have happened in an F1 car?" Are the F2 cars inherently unsafe, just not up to full F1 standards, or is this something that no one could have stopped? In today's modern age of safety-consciousness, no one is meant to die in an accident, no matter what their profession. But I worry that this tragic death will be the cause for the government to try and ban motorsport. In that respect it's just as well Henry was the son of an F1 world champion, so there's no tearful family doggedly pursuing justice for what they believe killed their child.

But today is not the day for that. Today is to celebrate the life of a young man who lost his life doing what he loved. I remember seeing Surtees in the Formula Renault UK championship, and I looked forward to him graduating to F1 - I wanted to see a Surtees, a Mansell, a Rosberg, a Piquet, a Senna, a Hill and a Clark in F1.

May he rest according to his beliefs - so the afterlife had better have an F1-standard motorracing circuit.

Mon, Jul. 6th, 2009, 02:13 pm
Ecclestone and Hitler

So, Bernie Ecclestone is being pilloried for saying that Hitler did some good things. Well, it's been a while since I've seen reductio at Hitlerum in the published press, so it's a change of pace. The thing is that he's right. Hitler did do some good things. Sure, they don't make up for the bad things, but some things were good. If I remember correctly he introduced Volkswagen and the autobahn. No one does only bad things, and no one does only good things. I'm sure the more sanctimonious people can think of a time when they did something wrong. Sure, not on the scale of genocide, but no one is a total angel or a total demon.

Tue, Jun. 23rd, 2009, 09:28 pm
Two thoughts on watching Transformers

1) OK, yes, Megan Fox is pretty hot, but she's not #2 in the world hot like FHM believe. More on that story later.
2) Isn't it kind of... weird to be making out with your girlfriend on the bonnet of a massive yellow death robot?

Sat, May. 23rd, 2009, 03:31 am
A list of things I didn't like about the new Star Trek film

1) What's with all this industrial complex stuff for the engineering levels?
2) Jennifer Morrison is too hot to only be on screen in a wheelchair and giving birth. Give her a bikini or something.
3) The USS Kelvin had 800 people? The Enterprise-D barely had that many.
4) Nero's ship looked ridiculous. Who would build a ship with so many pointy bits? It's a waste of space.
5) The shuttlecraft interior.
6) Why do we have to see Kirk driving a car? Why do cars even exist in 2180? And really, driving it over a cliff? Come on...
7) A "Cardassian Sunset" in the 22nd century? The Cardassians didn't come into contact with the Federation until at least 2300.
8) You can become captain four years out of the Academy? That seems a bit quick...
9) Klingons do not have warbirds. Romulans have Warbirds, Klingons have Birds of Prey, but the ships in question were I believe D7 class battlecruisers.
10) Starfleet really didn't have any ships to defend Vulcan with? The entire fleet was on manoeuveurs? Except for the flagship and a few others, which are to be crewed by cadets? WHAT? Where did their crew go?
11) Why would Pike make Kirk Spock's first officer? Wasn't there someone more qualified? You know, maybe someone who had actually graduated and done some time on a starship before?
12) Why does a machine that is firing a huge energy beam at the surface need to vent flames? And why would it do that UPWARDS? You know, where someone might be standing.
13) Fencing is NOT hand-to-hand combat.
14) Surely a structure that can transfer a huge energy beam, and survive fast entry into a planet's atmosphere, can survive hits from two disruptor rifles.
15) What the fuck was with the spinny bits on Spock's ship?
16) Amanda Grayson dies... that was unnecessary.
17) Why was a human on the Vulcan high council anyway?
18) Why did said high council not have their own means of evacuation?
19) I thought all Orion women were meant to be really sexy...
20) Uhura in her pants. In fact, that entire scene.
21) Vulcan is destroyed. Vulcan is DESTROYED. WHAT?
22) Vulcan had 6 billion inhabitants? The place is a ruddy desert world with radioactive wastelands.
23) They really allowed Spock to MAROON Kirk?
24) That second monster. And Kirk running from it. He looked like a numpty.
25) And he just happens to stumble upon Spock's cave.
26) Why could Spock see Vulcan as a disc in the sky, I thought he was in a different star system. If not, why wasn't he sucked into the black hole?
27) Romulus's sun went nova? You think maybe they'd have noticed a few... oh... MILLION years beforehand? These things don't happen overnight.
28) Old Spock.
29) Sulu.
30) Chekov.
31) Sulu's swordsmanship - the guy's a champion fencer, so why's he losing to some random Romulan mine worker?
32) Needs more Klingon.
33) Oh look, they found Scotty. What a surprise.
34) Scotty killed Porthos?
35) That gremliny thing that followed Scotty around.
36) Oh look, Earth's in peril. I haven't seen that before... oh wait, yes I have. As a side query, why do the Borg care so much about humans?
37) The viewscreen is an actual WINDOW? And why is the bridge on the bottom of the saucer anyway?
38) Scotty has never been on the Enterprise and suddenly he becomes chief engineer? And where are all the other people in engineering anyway?
39) Why would you have a needlessly meandering pipe like that? And why have a big blender at the end?
40) There's a black hole at the core of Vulcan... shouldn't the planet collapse into it pretty much at the same time, rather than as if it was only sucking in one direction?
41) Transporting onto a ship at warp? Scotty worked out how? No way. Scotty was not a theorist or an innovator, he was a fixer. Ditto transporting between planets/star systems, though admittedly the Dominion and Borg appeared to be able to do things like that.
42) Sarek.
43) Who designed that Romulan ship? Why would you design a ship with bottomless pits and platforms without any rails suspended in mid-air?
44) Kissing on the transporter platform. Really Spock...
45) They made Kirk a captain. HE HADN'T EVEN FINISHED STARFLEET ACADEMY.

So yeah... I saw the new Star Trek film. To sum up, JJ Abrams, get your hands off Star Trek and go back to confusing everyone with Lost. If you do not, I shall hunt you down and destroy everything you hold dear, just as you have managed to do to all the Trek-lovers out there. A decent film, but a terrible Trek film. 1.5 stars.

Sat, May. 23rd, 2009, 03:27 am
A list of things I liked about the new Star Trek film

1) The design of the USS Kelvin.
2) Jennifer Morrison.
3) The shuttlecraft exterior.
4) The Kobayashi Maru again. Nice touch.
5) The design of the Vulcan and Earth cities.
6) Starfleet Academy.
7) The manoeuveuring scene above Vulcan was good.
8) Zachary Quinto.
9) Orbital skydiving to the rescue - nice idea.
10) Spock/Uhura.
11) Pike.
12) They did not destroy the Golden Gate. That's quite amazing.
13) Amanda Grayson.
14) That black uniform - very stylish.

Wed, Apr. 15th, 2009, 03:13 am
Maybe London's not as bad as I thought

Two weeks ago I had a job interview up in London. I don't like London. I've felt that way for a long time, and I'm not entirely sure why. I guess I've never been much of a city fan, and I didn't like how the traffic in London, when we went to visit my dad's family, was as bad at its best as Bristol is at its worst. Another possible answer is the time I hurt my foot on a miniature railway somewhere in London. Point is, London was not somewhere I really wanted to go. Still, I didn't have much choice.

I got on the 0828 Taunton to Cardiff service at Nailsea - it was the train that's been going around recently. Three old Intercity carriages hauled by 67016 and 67017. I'd seen them before, at Parson Street and Weston-super-Mare. I got off at Temple Meads, and saw a nice trio - Cross-Country 221141, First Great Western 158763 and South West Trains 159014 - one train from each company that goes to Temple Meads. I wandered around for a while - I would be travelling to Paddington on a train hauled by 43148 and 43189. I saw 158769 leaving, and then 43148/43189 and 150278/153XXX arrived more or less simultaneously. I saw 153370, and then we were off. I saw 150279 and 150238 on the way, as well as a load of trains at Reading, but spent most of the trip reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I managed to read all seven books within nine days). We arrived a few minutes early, and I had a while before I needed to get on the tube for the next stage of my journey, so I took a wander around Paddington. I saw a load of the Heathrow Express Class 332s (36% of the fleet by my reckoning), and took that requisite for any real visit to Paddington - four trains side-by-side. I saw 43041, 43122, 43143, 43148, 43150, 43168, 332005, 332007, 332013 and an unidentified class 332, then headed onto the underground.

I planned to take the circle line from Paddington to Moorgate, but ended up getting off at Edgware Road to look at a huge bundle of brightly-coloured cables. While I was there I even managed to get a photo of a completely empty underground train. I continued on, stopping at Farringdom, then finally got off at Moorgate, where a guy told me you weren't allowed to take photos on the underground, and a girl asked me whether I was a press photographer.

Moorgate was where I changed - I headed down a spiral staircase, and found myself on what looked like another tube platform, but incongruously had a mainline train on it - 313057, my train. This was the terminus of the "Northern City Line" - there was meant to be a station another 300 yards further on, but it was realised that a train at that station wouldn't have actually left Moorgate fully, and the project was abandoned. After a while we set off, through a tunnel of several stations, before finally emerging into the light near Drayton Park. Beyond that was Finsbury Park, where I saw the minaret of the infamous Finsbury Park Mosque. Unfortunately I couldn't get a decent photo of it. Soon after we passed the Hornsey TMD (317038, 317341, 317342, 365515, 365521, 365530), and then at Alexandra Palace I saw an Intercity 225, which I admit was somewhat exciting as they don't come down my way due to a lack of electrification.

Beyond that the journey was fairly uneventful - I got off at Enfield Chase, ate lunch, and had my interview. I didn't get the job, but I did do an aptitude test that was older than me, and answered a "thinly veiled network packet analogy" involving the slaves of Greek philosophers. I spent a while wandering around Enfield Old Park, then went back to the station, running in just as a train arrived, and just getting on it (313062/313063). I saw plenty of trains on the way back - plenty of twin 313s heading the other way, a bevy of 365s, and 82219 at Bounds Green TMD. By the time we got back onto the Northern City Line again (rather than East Coast Main Line) I had the carriage to myself and took the opportunity to get out of my suit - so that's "been on a train in just my underwear" chalked off the bucket list. I got back to Paddington via a Metropolitan Line train to Baker Street and then a jam-packed Circle Line train. Amazingly I got a seat, but I was right at the end of the train and thus the doors didn't open at every station. Nevertheless, at one station I could see a sign helpfully saying "alight here" - I assume there was meant to be a "do not" at the front of it.

I got back to Paddington, but couldn't actually get on another train as my ticket was off-peak only. I wandered around for a while, but got bored fairly quick, and got on the train back home as soon as I could. I finished my book just before Temple Meads, then had a bit of a panic trying to change trains as all the information boards were down. Still, I got back to Nailsea after what was a decent day. Maybe London's not as bad as I thought.

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