27 August, 2010

Conage Happens

This past weekend, the GGCBMWCCA held their second Test-and-Tune/Autocross double-header. For Saturday's Test-and-Tune, they set up a number of courses — an out-and-back slalom, a skidpad, a figure-8, and a small autocross track — for people to iteratively improve their car setups.

Shaikh, Founder and CEO of Fat Cat Motorsports, writes down some tire temperature measurements.

"I'll just be over here if you need me…"

Sunday morning, the Autocross drivers assembled at 9:00 for the drivers' meeting. 9:00 was apparently a bit early for some folks.

Lounging was the order of the day. The sun was beating down through the cloudless sky, and many of the participants tried to find or make shade while they weren't driving or working.

A team from Los Altos High School brought some American muscle. The driver gave it the ol' college try, but the weight of this car made it difficult to both go quickly and turn. It looked like an oceanliner in the slalom.

That didn't keep them from having fun, though. The Los Altos team included a number of students and a teacher. During a pause in the action, the "Topless" BMW started playing some tunes and the teacher danced along.

And that was that. More Test-and-Tune photos can be found here, and more Autocross photos are here.

24 August, 2010

PAW: Textbook

French pole vaulter Aurelien Chastagner demonstrates textbook pole vault technique as he takes off during a practice held at Los Gatos High School this past Sunday.

21 August, 2010

PAW: Hey, Honey

A few months back, during a trip to Philadelphia, I ended up walking around the Reading Terminal Market with a camera. This was one photo I got.

16 August, 2010

Stanford Jazz Workshop: Nothin' But Love

From June 25th through August 7th, Stanford played host to the Stanford Jazz Workshop, a musical meeting of the minds dedicated to jazz education and appreciation. The Workshop consists of the Jazz Festival (a series of over 20 performances) as well as a number of teaching programs.

That I ended up at Stanford for an evening of jazz was in itself one of a multitude of coincidences that night. I had been planning to go for a while, but didn't actually take action until a coworker sold me his ticket. And thank goodness, because it was a fantastic night.

One of the main things that struck me was the atmosphere. It seemed like everyone was a friend, either a friend from long ago, or one simply waiting to be met. The greetings weren't handshakes, they were hugs.

The evening started with a concert: trumpeter Nicholas Payton, performing with the Taylor Eigsti Trio. For a few minutes every song or two, Payton would leave the stage and the trio of Eigsti on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums would play alone. On returning to the stage, Payton would stand back in the shadows for a bit before he returned to center stage.

Here, Payton waits with a pensive look during one of those breaks. One can only imagine what was going through his mind at the time.

Through a further sequence of coincidences, and with much thanks to Jimmy, I ended up at the Stanford CoHo after the concert's conclusion. The CoHo Jam Sessions offered a venue for growing musicians to play with Jazz Workshop faculty as well as with other experienced musicians.

Around midnight, Taylor Eigsti, Harish Raghavan (bass), and an unidentified drummer hopped on stage to play a short set. Oddly enough, Eigsti was one of the main reasons I ended up buying my coworker's ticket. Back in January, I was witness to a fantastic concert of Gershwin pieces that Eigsti played with Raghavan, Eric Harland (drummer during the Nicholas Payton performance), and the Peninsula Symphony. That Eigsti was included on the bill for that night made the decision to attend a no-brainer.

On multiple occasions I was floored by how much energy the performers poured into their solos. Above, a saxophonist blows with everything he's got.

The CoHo stage area was a cozy, if somewhat quirky place. And among the last musicians to take the stage were this trio, with Zaccai Curtis on piano in the green jacket. As it happens, Zaccai's brother is Luques Curtis, a bassist who I happened to recognize. Luques had played a lot with MIT graduate and saxophonist Louis Fouché back when I was still at MIT.

Hailing from New Orleans, Fouché was deeply affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and became a major organizer of benefit efforts at MIT. I shot both Luques and Louis on a number of occasions, both before and after the hurricane; for instance, they performed during the "Pulse" culture show, which I shot for the 22 Feb 2005 issue of The Tech (see page 6).

I guess it's a small world after all.

04 August, 2010

Like an old friend by the ocean: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

A few weeks ago, some coworkers and I took a trip down to Santa Cruz. While there, we took a stroll along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an amusement park founded in 1907. Even walking through, it was a completely unique experience, different than any other amusement park that I've been. One factor was the openness: instead of paying for entry, you purchase tokens and use them for individual rides. Another was the location: sandwiched right between a beach on the Pacific and the roadway.

As we walked, I spotted things I had seen many times, as well as some which were new to me. The above is a merry-go-round with a twist. The long arm on the right dispenses rings, which the outside riders can try to grab and throw in the clown's mouth. It's an interesting way to perk up a ride that older riders might find boring otherwise.

The section of the Boardwalk we visited had some of the feel of a traveling fair, although the overhead architecture (as seen in the photo) tempered that sentiment somewhat. Even so, a lot of the rides, stands, and random fixtures looked like they were designed to be mobile.

For instance, the structures to manage lines for the rides were generally attached to their respective rides, rather than affixed to the ground. Most of the structures had wheels, in some cases obscured by a skirt. On the whole, it felt as if the whole enterprise (sans the roller-coasters) could pack up and leave at a moment's notice. But maybe that's just the reality of having a park right next to the ocean.

Near one end of the Boardwalk is Marini's, a candy shop which specializes in salt water taffy. Given the volume of taffy they produced, most of their production workflow was mechanized. A pair of synchronized spinning arms pulled the taffy, and a different machine would take long strands of the final product (from the left, in the mirror), cut pieces to size, wrap the individual pieces in wax paper, and deposit the wrapped candies into a bin.

It seemed that the machine was malfunctioning, because when we walked past, a couple Marini's employees were looking at the machine and tinkering with it. A few of my coworkers bought some candy, though, and by the time we left it was back in action, spitting out candies with what seemed like the speed and precision of a sewing machine.

As the daylight continued to wane, we walked along the beach back to the main entrance. As we left the beach, I looked at the sky out over the ocean and the moon had risen above some whispy, barely-purply-red clouds. It struck me that this is what's so unique about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

It's not the tallest, or boldest, or prettiest theme park, but the location is fantastic. You're in nature in a way that seems at first inconsistent with the whole concept of a theme park. Because it's open and close to home (for those in Santa Cruz), you feel like it could be a place you'd grow up with and get to know, more like an arcade or a library than a typical park. It feels like it's not the new and exciting, but the old and familiar that makes this place what it is.