Wednesday, October 13, 2010

24 Hours of LeMons Comes to Chicago

Several months ago, Team Resignation began working on an entrant into the Chicago event of the 24 Hours of LeMons racing series. With lots of trial and error (mostly error), we have eventually reached a point where we think the car might possibly be considered actually thinking about being ready to race in the inaugural Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500. As the race is named after a bastion of all that is true with politics, we decided to theme our car after the true master of political manuevering (read: stumbling), Richard Milhous Nixon.

And so we let you--dear friend/relative/political cohort and/or lackey--know that spectators are welcome to endure the torture of an endurance race for $500 cars. The event takes place on October 23 and 24. Please see below for a brief rundown:

Who? Team Resignation--Alan, Eric, Kiko, Johnny, and Dave. Also there will be 100 or so additional cars/teams running around the track that day. You are also welcome to attend and spectate

What? Ah, such a question. The 24 Hours of LeMons is a race for cars that have been purchased and fixed/modified for less than $500. In our case, the car is the #74 1991 Ford Escort that has had its engine, transmission, wiring, and suspension all replaced from those parts on a 1999 Ford Escort ZX2. Richard Nixon may or may not be riding along with the driver. Other entrants may include cars such as a 1984 Honda Civic with an inflatable Godzilla on its roof or a Toyota MR2 that very closely resembles a go-kart.

Where? This will take place at Autobahn Country Club, which is a road-style race track in Joliet, IL. We will be racing the North Course while rich people drive their M5s and Ferraris on the South course that day. I think we'll have more fun. The track's address:

3795 South Patterson Rd.
Joliet, IL 60436

When? As previously stated, the race is October 23 and 24. This is not a true 24-hour race; it is instead two 7.5 hour sessions. Saturday's session runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday's session runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We would generally recommend coming on Saturday when the car is more likely to be functioning. If we, for some reason, are not running on Sunday, we will be at the track hanging out and would love to see you. So come either or both days!

Why? There aren't a whole lot of places where you can see a homemade Oscar Mayer Wienermobile or Santa's sleigh driving around a race track at top speed.

Some more information that might be helpful:

- The cost to get in is $20 for one day or $30 for both days. For this money, you have access to the paddock area, where you can see real teams saying real curse words while they put out real fires in their real race cars' engine bay. You also have access to the spectator area, and you can probably come-and-go as you please if you get a wristband at the gate. You do have to sign a waiver saying that getting injured by flying tires and/or flaming pieces of octopus that had been previously attached to a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix are not the fault of the track or race organizers. No biggie, really.

- The race goes on regardless of weather, unless it's rain heavy enough to be deemed entirely unsafe. This means that we'll drive through moderately heavy rain and cold weather. It is October, so you should be prepared for the weather if you come.

- Here are some Web sites that may be helpful:
- Blago 500 Web page:
- Autobahn Country Club:
- Team Resignation's blog:
- Team Resignation's Facebook page:!/pages/Woodstock-IL/Team-Resignation/152704761425395

If you're interested, you just have questions, or you think we're clinically insane, please contact us and let us know.

Take care and please help us,

Eric, Alan, Kiko, Johnny, and Dave
Team Resignation
"A Fresh Approach to Disgrace"

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Geography of Fiction

Recently, my fiancee Jenny purchased two seasons of Roseanne, the sassy 90s TV program. I'll admit that I watched once-upon-a-time but didn't really recall much about it. I'm sure you've all seen it, but if you havn't, go back and watch it again. It accurately portrays life in the barren, semi-rural Illinois town of Lanford1.

And, being the nerd I am, this is where I run into questions of fictitious geography. Now, I understand creative interpretation, and I also understand that Lanford is an amalgam of similar, real-life Midwestern communities. But the nerd in me won't let the concept go that Lanford is supposed to be a pseudonym for a real place. Being that I'm possibly from the area where the Connors reside(d), I thought I'd take a crack at it.

What we know about Lanford2:

A) Dan Connor played football, which typically is only played at larger high schools. As such, it should be safe to assume that the city in question has at least 5000 residents3.

B) Dan Connor is seen to read [fictional] newspapers with titles referring to DeKalb County and Sycamore.

C) The town is approximately 90 minutes from Rockford.

D) The town is approximately 1 hour from Elgin

E) The town is approximately 5 hours to Iowa, although this is never clarified which part of IA, so this is kind of a moot point. If they mean the Quad Cities, then none of their travel times makes sense (which is pretty apparent anyway).

F) The town is approximately 2 hours from Chicago4.

Here are my list of possible cities; the reasons for and against each will be displayed below:

1) Canton, IL
2) Ottawa, IL
3) Sandwich, IL
4) Woodstock, IL or Huntley, IL
5) Elburn, IL
6) Sycamore, IL

1) This is drawn from a direct reference when the area is given as "Fulton County," where Canton is the biggest city5. However, a quick Google maps search will tell you that Rockford and Chicago are each 3+ hours from anywhere in Fulton County.

2) Ottawa fits pretty nicely into some parts of the travel time. It is roughly 90 minutes to both Rockford and Chicago, although it's nearly 2 hours to Elgin from there.

3) Sandwich again fits nicely into the travel times picture, like Ottawa. It's 70 minutes to Elgin and 90 minutes to Rockford, although only about 80-90 minutes to Chicago. Most of Sandwich is in DeKalb County.

4) Woodstock/Huntley are about 90 minutes to Chicago, an hour to Rockford and 45 minutes to Elgin. The times are a little short, so Woodstock may be a little too far north?

5) Elburn may be a little close to the suburbs, as it's only 40 minutes to Elgin and 70 minutes to Chicago. It's also 75 minutes to Rockford. Elburn is near but not in DeKalb County. Also, it is a small city, but several nearby towns form Kaneland High School, which sports a football team.

6) Sycamore runs a little on the short side, too, with 90 minutes to Chicago, 45 to Elgin, and an hour to Rockford. It is, however, related to the aforementioned newspaper and is the county seat of DeKalb County.

So there you have it. Keep in mind that the travel times don't really seem to balance anywhere that makes sense. Any place that's 2 hours from Chicago, 1 hour from Elgin, and 90 minutes from Rockford is most certainly not in DeKalb County and probably doesn't really exist at all.

Dear readers, I ask for your input. What city is Lanford, Illinois, supposed to be? (Comment below with your answer)

1 Lanford is commonly referred to as "the suburbs" in Web-related materials, which is pretty odd. I guess it depends on your definition of suburb.

2 While I'm familiar with some tenants of Roseanne, I got some help from this forum topic, which I consider inconclusive, on a Blues Brothers message board, of all places.

3 There are exceptions to this of course. Kirkland High School is very small yet has a football team. Also, Earlville High School in rural Illinois once had a football program.

4 Another episode claims that Lanford is halfway between Rockford and Chicago, which is actually pretty close to Elgin. So that doesn't make a damn bit of sense.

5 This comes from a radio report claiming a tornado is ravaging the county or something.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm back...kind of...

Hey, I'm still alive and will be posting here again soon. Sorry for the delays.

In the meantime, watch this.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Air Hockey Adventure, Day 2

We began Saturday by making a run to a nearby Target for some snacks for what we figured to be a very long day1. We also nabbed a quick breakfast, eating as much fruit as we could.

Phil Arnold delivered a rousing, if a little overly dramatic, speech about the "razor's edge" and how it felt to be teetering between victory and defeat.

We warmed up and checked the big tournament bracket periodically for the seedings. As Brian and I were unranked, we were subject to essentially random ranking. I drew the #75 seed out of 102 people. My first match would come against Lorene Shoukry, who was ranked in the low 50s.
To say that I blew this match is a total understatement. Lorene's straights were accurate, and she used them frequently, but my defense should have been better. I also failed to execute shots that I should have easily made and complicated my offense to the point where I was entirely ineffective. As a result, Lorene beat me in 7 games, 4-3. It was a tough loss, but it taught me about how [not] to handle big games and showed me what mistakes I made.

It took a while, but I eventually received my pairing in the loser's bracket: Sarah Weissman. Sarah is the daughter of 10-time world champion Tim Weissman. While only 8 [I think?], she possesses the basic understanding of the game and can snap a nice right-wall over shot. In fact, probably 80 percent of the goals she scored on me were this exact shot. When she eventually develops a cut shot and grows a bit taller, she will be a tough player to beat. As it was, I defeated her 4-0.

As afternoon rolled on, I looked up my bracket and noticed that my next match would be a tough one, as I would play the loser of the Andrew Flanagan and Niki Flanagan match. For those not keeping track, these two are married and are both very good. Niki played well, but Andrew beat her in a match that could really have gone either way. Andrew won by a set count of 4-2, so I drew Niki Flanagan.

My match with Niki turned out to be everything I'd hoped to do in Houston. While she defeated me 7-3 in the first game, I had found a weakness in her defense and had keyed in on her main offensive tools. As such, I returned the favor with a 7-3 victory in the second game. She had become visibly (and audibly) agitated, as Dan sat nearby cheering me on2. Games 3 and 4 found me executing a variety of shots and forcing Niki to use different attacks against me. We split these games both by a 7-6 tally. The match could easily have slid one way or the other. Niki took the crucial fifth game 7-4, but I made her work for the sixth game, a game she eeked out 7-6 to take the set 4-2. Niki looked relieved after the match, and I let her know that I had just played the best air hockey of my life. With three 7-6 games, I had chances to make that a 4-2 set win for myself3.

The elimination sent me to the spinoff bracket, where I would play for the amateur title, with the highest possible rank being 49th in the field of 100.

My first spinoff match was against 11-year-old phenom Colin Cummings4. Colin is an incredible talent, and watching him play is truly a treat. He shows incredible skill and poise at the table, and his only real weakness at this time is his height, which I can tell frustrates him. With that in mind, he shows the instincts of being an excellent puck catcher and interference player (a la Davis Lee Huynh). Whenever he gets taller, I expect Colin to be consistently in the top tier of air hockey players. While I beat him in three games (matches in the spinoffs were best of 5), I let Colin know that he's incredibly close to playing in the Expert bracket.

I can't recall exactly what time it was, but I had been playing for hours upon hours. I can't remember the bracket exactly either, but I beat Jacob Weissman and Avery Yebernesky. I don't remember set counts, but I think Jacob was 3-0. Avery, a tough young lefty with a terrific left-wall under, had me down two games to one, but I pulled games four and five out of my ass somehow to take the set 3-2.

In the winner's bracket, I faced Chris Green. Chris plays a super fast game with a charge defense, meaning that his game is to intimidate his opponent and make them adjust their game to his. It took me a couple games to adjust, but in those, Chris and I split those first two games. After the second game, my legs and arm felt weighed down, and my back ached like it hadn't ached in years. I had played six sets at this point, and I just couldn't physically sustain it. Chris' game wore me down, and he easily dispatched of me in the subsequent two games. However, I had already played into the top 3 of the spinoff bracket, meaning I would leave Houston with two trophies.

In the spinoff losers' bracket, I faced off against Avery for the second time, he gave me a good workout, but I triumphed 3-1, despite my tiredness. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and noticed that the tournament had stretched out past midnight. The main draw, which was playing down to the final 16 players, was packing it in for the night, but I had to face Chris Green again and defeat him twice if I was going to win my spinoff.

Within the first minute or so of the match, I had taken notice that Chris had slowed his offense down5. But my tired mind and my desperation for a win under pressure led me to play a game I was not used to. I typically play a slow, patient game where I try to control the pace of the match and force my opponent to adjust to my game. However, in this match, I sped up my game while Chris slowed his down, and I lost control of the match. While I had two shots working against Chris, I couldn't seem to make either one of them go into the goal. As a result, Chris walked all over me in three sets to take home the Amateur title, while I finished runner-up, 50th in the field of 102.

Our spinoff had concluded around 12:45 a.m. Exhausted and sore, I grabbed a beer and talked air hockey with Mike Keller and some of the other players who had come down from Dallas for the tournement.

Dan, Brian, and I left SRO finally at 1:30 a.m., dissecting our successes and failures. I fell asleep within seconds of lying down, and my dreams turned to diamond drifts and cross straights.

My tournament was over.

1 This turned into a judicious decision, as none of us had time to eat a proper meal throughout the day.
2 Air hockey is generally not regarded as a spectator sport. It's considered in poor taste to cheer while the puck is in play, and cheering even after points occurs seldom. The atmosphere isn't unlike tennis or golf, but I think that it could be a more popular spectator sport. Just sayin'.
3 I didn't really kick myself around for not finishing the match better. Dan says he was convinced I was going to win it. Had I played better in my first match, I would likely have gotten a better draw in the losers' bracket and may have been able to face Niki in the Expert spinoffs instead. Oh well, live and learn.
4 Colin won the 10-12 division of the World Youth Championship the weekend before. I also heard from various other sources that he plays competitive chess, which explains his focus and ability to recognize defensive and offensive patterns. From the brief time I was around him, he seems like a pretty special kid. His younger brother Conor won the 9 and under division also and is a pretty bright kid himself.
5 Chris later told me he felt I'd stopped his fast volley offense well, and he'd had to adjust his game to it. I failed to adjust my game to match it, though, and it cost me a spot in the rankings and a second first-place trophy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Air Hockey Adventure, Day 1

Well, I've returned from Houston in one piece. I can even use my arm a little, which is nice.

Last Friday, Brian Quezada, Dan Meyer (my brother-in-law), and I headed to Houston to compete in the Air Hockey World Championships at SRO Sports Bar. I woke early and was unable to fall back asleep, preoccupied with the unknown. I'd be flying on a new airline to a new city, where I'd play in my first tournament in a sport I've only been playing for a year. My brother Joe was kind enough to drive me to O'Hare, where I quickly found Brian and Dan at our gate. We had a light breakfast and boarded our Continental 737-9001 to Houston. The flight was nice, the plane was newish and clean, and the service was the best I've had in my handful of flights.

We arrived in Houston on time and nabbed a wicked sweet Toyota Camry rental, even though I lobbied for the same-rental-class AWD Ford Fusion2, which would have made for acceptable off-road fodder for avoiding toll booths. Thanks to the magic of GPS, we found our hotel, the sports bar, and a Whattaburger within minutes of taking charge of the Camry. Unfortunately, our room wasn't ready yet, so we snagged some Whattattattattattataburger3, then returned to check in quickly. As registration for the doubles tournament was nearing its end, we shoved off to find SRO and warm up.

Thankfully, the bar was air conditioned at arctic levels, as the Houston air lingers thick like a gravy in July. We cooled off from the ridiculous outside heat index and took stock of our competition. As Brian and I were both officially unranked coming into the competition, we entered as a duo for the Amateur Doubles rather than the Power Doubles, which features most of the top-tier players. We quickly realized that we were two of the older competitors in the event, with the average age probably hovering somewhere in the low teens. But the kids there are good; Brian warmed up against one 11-year-old who score on him repeatedly with the same shot. Shortly before competition began, we were prompted for a team name; we stumbled around for a bit until we decided that we were Kobra Kai.

After we were good and warmed up, the competition started. I'll spare you the details, since you can read them over at Brian's blog, but we narrowly averted disaster in our first doubles match, then won a couple more matches to put ourselves in the finals. In the finals, we played Hakim Muhammad, who had traveled to Texas from Singapore to play, and Caleb Jaquette, whose mother, Nikki Flanagan4, I would face the next day. More on that later...

Hakim and Caleb, playing as The Big Boys, had played us in the winners bracket before defeating the brothers' duo of Colin and Conor Cummings, two 11- and 9-year-old phenoms who will eventually be in the top 5% of the game if they continue to play. In our second matchup we quickly took the requisite three games to win the Amateur Doubles title! w00t! Watch it below:

2010.07.16 - Kobra Kai v. Big Boys - Amateur Doubles Finals - Game 1 from Daniel Meyer on Vimeo.

2010.07.16 - Kobra Kai v. Big Boys - Amateur Doubles Finals - Game 2 from Daniel Meyer on Vimeo.

2010.07.16 - Kobra Kai v. Big Boys - Amateur Doubles Finals - Game 3 from Daniel Meyer on Vimeo.

After our win, we settled in to watch the Power Doubles play out. Dan's team had lost out earlier, so we watched as Ehab Shoukry and Davis Lee Huynh beat Danny Hynes and Anthony Marino to become the Power Doubles Champions.

After a short ride back to the hotel, we crashed for the night, resting our already-sore shoulders.

Day one was a good day.

1 Being an airplane dork, I feel compelled to tell you that this is the largest variant of the 737. In fact it was this exact airplane, which was built in 2001.
2 Disclaimer: Offroading in an AWD Ford Fusion is as advisable as when Hunter Thompson [allegedly] ran a 1960s Cadillac with 85 psi in the tires in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' Sure, it might be fun [OK, probably not with the offroading Fusion], but you'll have hell to pay when the great car scorekeeper posts your tally.
3 Sorry, I got on a typing role there. Maybe it was all the speed I took...
4 Niki Flanagan is the top ranked and rated woman in air hockey by a long shot. She's also married to Andrew Flanagan, who finished in the 20 in the singles competition on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

But it doesn't say I'm talented like him...

I pasted my original LeMons post into this handy thing, and it spit out that:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I suppose it's the footnotes, since Wallace uses them with great usefulness. For me, footnotes are a great way to distract1 readers from the fact that I have no writing ability (Not so with Wallace, though. Good writer, very difficult to read).

1 If you followed this footnote without completing the sentence, then I am winning.

Dead hipster garage sales are amazing

I can't really tell if this is supposed to be ironic or not. I guess I'm not hipster enough to get it.

I'm glad to see hipsters inexplicably have night vision goggles. I suppose that might be so they can see other hipsters approaching in the dark to make sure they look ironic when the approaching hipsters get nearby so they make a flippant acknowledgement of the approaching hipsters' vintage T-shirt or nut-strangling jeans.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A recap of sorts

Hmm...remember when I promised to update my blog frequently? Yeah, I've been failing. So I'll give you a summer summary.

Updates on the Escort can now be found at our build page. An update on our theme will be following shortly there, as well as a re-posting of all Alan's and my previous posts on our personal blogs. Clearly, we will be going by the Team Resignation moniker from now on.

In other car news, I traded in my venerable 1997 Saturn wagon1 a few months ago. He was a trusty friend that did all that was asked of him without complaint. I entrusted the car dealership to make sure he went to a nice farm with plenty of 93 octane, long straight roads, and other Saturns to play with.

In replacement, I purchased a snazzy little 2004 Ford Focus ZX3, a daft 2-door hatchback. It's efficient, spacious, and reliable. I've put it through its paces and found it adequate for my purposes. It's not quick, but it handles well and it's surprisingly comfortable. It also has the same engine type that our Escort racer will have. So I guess that's something.

Gratuitous sexy pose with the new ride:
Yes, it's so exciting that my eyes are closed. Really, my options were this or a Yugo2. But I couldn't find anybody selling the requisite second Yugo (for parts) that you should purchase when buying one.

Somewhere in the last month or so, I had a birthday. It was nearly ruined by work-mandated fun at a large outdoor amusement park on a triple-digit day, but I escaped in time to have it saved by a steak dinner, a White Sox win, and Toy Story 33.

Finally, I have two trips planned for the next month. This upcoming weekend, I will be competing in the Air Hockey World Championships in Houston. I fly out on Friday, arriving in time to compete in the Amateur Doubles tournament with my sometimes nemesis4, Brian Quezada. The following day, I'll compete in the Singles tournament, which lasts through Sunday if I play well enough. I'll return home Monday evening, hopefully with some hardware and without heat stroke.

In early August, Jenny and I will be spending a week at the cottage in Sister Lakes, Michigan, where her family used to vacation. It will be a quiet week, with some fishing and lots of lounging. A few friends may come up here and there throughout the week for some fishing and possibly to catch a Chump Car race at Gingerman Raceway in nearby South Haven.

Anyway, check back next week for an update on how I fared at the air hockey tournament. With a little luck, I think I might be able to coax a few wins here and there and maybe even put up a fight for the Amateur singles trophy.

Or maybe I'll just sweat off 30 pounds in the hellish Houston heat.

1 I probably should have sold it to a LeMons team for overhaul and such. With nearly a 180,000 on the clock, the engine was still strong. It may have been the only strong part left, though.
2 There was a Yugo ad that says "Everybody needs a Yugo sometime." This is like saying everybody needs a car that literally falls to pieces within 10,000 miles of its assembly.
3 Thanks, Jenny!
4 Brian isn't really a bad nemesis; he's just close to my skill level and probably a little better, actually. When we play against each other, it usually goes down to the last point of the last game. It's epic sporting contest at its best, much like Rojo Johnson's professional baseball debut.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh, Wikipedia, you seldom fail to disappoint

The World Cup in South Africa has spurred my interest to learn a little about the continent-that-white-people-forgot. While at work today, I read some interesting stuff on Wikipedia about Nigeria before opening the Cameroon page.

In a paragraph about Cameroon's liberation from British rule, I came across this nugget of wisdom1:

"In British Cameroons, the question was whether to miss avery fucks! me up reunify with French Cameroun or join Nigeria." [My italics.]

Of course, the real tragedy here is that this contributor split an infinitive. And that fucks! me up.2

1: If you'd like to find it, go here. The paragraph in question is just above the photo of Ahmadou Ahidjo arriving in Washington.
2 It's not surprising that this happens, I suppose. But it is funny when you find it. After all, people have a hard time handling responsibility.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Here's a Random Picture I Took 2

Here a couple of giraffes doin' hard time.
I took this picture at Brookfield Zoo. Because I knew a zookeeper, I was able to hand feed the giraffes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Escort Service: Driving the Train

Some readers may notice I haven't posted in quite some time. Those same readers may also feel that I have slacked or perhaps been lazy. But I assure you, since April 27, I have been on the go. You see my country recently came calling, asking for a super-smart, super-sexy spy to serve this country on super-secret subversive missions. While I can't divulge much, I will say that delivering healthy portions of assonance to consonant-rich, vowel-hungry cities in the Balkan States was the EASY part of my mission1.

Between forays to Sarajevo, Zagreb, and other, more linguistically challenged cities in the region, my racing partner Alan and I decided that our stubborn ol' Ford Escort needed a new heart.

Last last weekend2, we finally embarked on our two-day quest to drop the drivetrain from Alan's brother's wrecked ZX2 into our 1991 Escort LX, thereby creating a Ford Escort ZLX2.3

It was to be a simple task: just pull some crap off the ZX2 engine, remove the motor mounts, lift it out using a borrowed hoist, tear down the transmission, rebuild the transmission, replace the valve cover on the engine, remove the wiring harnesses from the ZX2, disconnect the LX engine from everything, dismount it, lift the LX engine and transmission out of the car, drop the ZX2 drivetrain into the LX engine bay, replace the wiring in the LX with that of the ZX2, depower the LX power steering, reroute the serpentine belt, hook up the rest of the hoses and whatnot to the engine, and then test drive it to mind-numbing speeds.

What could possibly go wrong?

Plucking the engine from the ZX2 went smoothly enough. After that, things sucked. As we disconnected hoses from the ZX2 engine, we began to notice that the car's impact had damaged or broken a significant amount of parts. This included (but is likely not limited to): the valve cover, thermostat housing, oil pan, alternator mounting bracket, dipstick, and some other crap that I can't at the moment remember. We had a replacement valve cover, which I replaced first thing Sunday morning. We put some JB weld on the oil pan leaks and on the alternator mounting bracket. The bracket didn't set strongly enough, but the alternator will still mount without the third bolt, which is where the bracket snapped. The oil pan leaks sealed perfectly and the JB weld looks extra sloppy, as a real LeMon should4.

On Sunday, we went to the junkyard to pick up some random replacement parts, including the thermostat housing and dipstick. Again, we figured in a 50% success rate, as the dipstick worked and the thermostat housing didn't. The housing was from a different year, one where Ford had inexplicably changed the design. Screw you, Gerald Ford! And your Motor Company.

Hmm...where was I? Oh yeah. The important thing: we rebuilt the transmission, as the ZX2's third gear had been failing before the rest of the car's demise. As someone who had never seen the inside of a transmission case, I was amazed at how absolutely pristine it was. It looked as though it had been sealed5. Anyway, we adequately tore down the transmission and swapped shifting forks with a beefier pair of them.

However, whilst tearing the mother down, we noticed that the shift rod was completely bent. This was a 3/4" solid steel shaft6 that had been knocked at least 5 degrees from straight by the impact. Ouch. We discovered this late on Saturday, and a feeling of utter stomach illness overcame us. We quickly ran down our options, in order of preference:

1) Find someone with a machine shop to bend the shaft back straight.
2) Tear down the LX transmission and hope that the shift rods are the same diameter, length, and machined with the same notches.
3) Mate the ZX2 engine to the LX transmission.
4) Send the car off with a hero's welcome.

We started off Sunday morning with a light breakfast, while Alan called machine shops in the area. We knew full-well that nobody would be running a machine shop on a Sunday, but we had little to lose. Fifteen minutes after a round of answering machines7, Alan's phone rang from an unknown number. It turned out to be a guy who rented part of a machine shop from an older gentleman in Ridgefield, Illinois. He said he'd be able to help us out if we could be at the shop around 3 in the afternoon.

We spent the most of the day at the aforementioned junkyard and replacing the aforementioned valve cover. With little else to do after 2, we headed over the machine shop a little early. We got out of the car to look around a bit, and we were greeted by the shop's owner. We told him what we were there for, and he said he'd help us out since he didn't have much to do. The shop didn't appear to be used very much, and the H-frame press he wanted to use actually didn't have any parallels anymore. So he sorted around through some scrap piles and came up with two pieces of scrap steel onto which he'd put the shaft. After donning a pair of coke-bottle bifocals, he undertook to press the shaft until it looked straighter. He took it off the press, squinted at it for a bit, then plopped it back on the press. He did this twice before he held it up to the light and said he thought it looked alright. We liked the way it looked, and we handed him a little cash for his troubles.

It was about this time that the machinist we'd set the appointment with showed up. He seemed a little disappointed that the older fellow had already fixed our problem, but he got out his instruments anyway to see how good it was. His instruments indicated that the shaft was .003" from being perfectly straight. In other words, this amazing old man8 eyeballed this press to what was essentially perfection. See below (photos courtesy of Alan):



Despite this success, we were unable to reassemble the transmission correctly. With defeat looming, we decided to just pack up and call it a weekend.

Over the course of the next week Alan's dad tinkered with the transmission and figured out where we'd made our mistake. Yesterday, Alan and I set out to swap fuel pumps and pull the ZX2 wiring harnesses. That was difficult and sucked, so we instead just reassembled the transmission and sealed the case. We decided that was a perfectly good stopping place, so we called it a day.

To recap: Our engine/transmission swap is essentially (about 30%) done.

Read Alan's account of it here and here.

Muchas gracias to Alan's friends Brad and Rob, who showed up to help out last last Saturday.

1 I did have a fun time; I found a nice opskrbljivanje. I was sorry to have to rename Skopska Crna Gora as Mount Vowels Are Our Friends. The natives caught on quick, though I may have to teach the Macedonians about acronyms next. A recent voting ballot revealed not only blood stains, but also that those fools have a political party called the VMRO-DPMNE. This is an acronym for "Forget the bad times, friends, for we are done firing rockets into Serbia, provided of course they stop deserving it." Their chief objective, I gathered, was finding vowels to put into their acronym to make it pronouncable.
2 Some languages demonstrate superlatives and such by the repetition of the word. Most of you are familiar with this, as in this example: "Michael Bay is a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really shitty filmmaker." In my example above, I am simply saying "two weekends ago." So why not say that, you ask? Because it's my damn blog, and I wanted to put in a linguistics-related footnote. That's why.
3 We may borrow some consonants from the VMRO-DPMNE1 to throw in there as well.
4 Having the oil pan off at least allowed us to clean it, too. I think that's like polishing turds or something. I don't really know what that means, but I heard it once and "turd" is a funny word. "Turd, turd, turd, turd is the word..."
5 You know...because it had. This is an example of me mocking my own writing. I could very easily just edit it so it didn't exist, but then you wouldn't have anything entertaining to read.
6 Please contain your shaft (jokes).
7 Is it weird that I still say "answering machine" even though nobody actually has an answering machine anymore. Do you have an answering machine?
8 It's worth noting that this fellow seemed genuinely interested in us after he found out we were building a race car. After fixing the shift rod, he talked at length about building old race cars and modifying hot rods. He also swore like a sailor and entertained the holy hell out of Alan and me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Here's a Random Picture I Took 1

Behold! An easy blog post from a lazy poster. For this one, I basically look through my pictures on the ol' hard drive and chuck one up for you peoples to see. This is one I took at NIU of Faraday Hall:

Monday, April 26, 2010

American Irony - Pt. 3

Here are just a couple more pics of the LeMons race at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven.

Four-cylinder engines are a popular choice. In order, they are: #0 Toyota Celica, #61 Honda CR-X , #71 Dodge Neon, #138 Toyota MR2, #42 Honda Civic, #7 Mazda Miata (partially obscured), #35 Dodge Neon, and the #112 Dodge Neon. This was in the middle of the #61/#71's epic 10-lap (estimated) duel. The #35 Neon finished sixth while running a pretty quiet and unassuming race. This is our strategy for our race in October, because Ford Escorts ain't fast.

#2 Topless Asset Racing Toyota MR2. This car demonstrated that LeMons is seldom about looks. The butchered nature of this car led Alan and I to believe we were looking at a mutilated and tragic Triumph or something "exotic" along those lines. But it was one of three MR2s in the field; this one finished second-highest among them with 354 laps, good for 19th place overall.

#95 C.A.R.T. Chicago Area Racing Team BMW E30. Here's a view of this E30's lap just before the checkered flag. The smell was delicious, just like a melting engine should smell. I believe this car died on its victory lap. It missed a Top 10 finish by two laps with 379, just behind the VolOwned Ecto1 wagon.

#46 Wisconsin Crap Racers Nissan Maxima. Well, this car lived up to its team name. Decked out in a Days Asunder livery, this car limped around the track all Sunday. With about an hour left, it came around turn 1 smoking like a bandit (or something) and rolled to a stop on the grass inside of turn 2. It was toast.

#323 Spec Junk Racing Mazda MX-3. I'm including this for my friend Todd, who loved his MX-3. This noble little guy finished in fifth place by running a solid, (mostly) mistake-free race. It racked up 391 laps and was quick in the corners. The tire affixed to the roof is one of the 24 Hours of LeMons' penalties.

I could post pictures and pontificate about this all day, but you get the point. If you can't get enough, follow the links:

Pictures of all the LeMons competitors at American Irony
My racing partner Alan's write-up of LeMons with pictures
Video of #138 MR2 getting a penalty welded to its roof
Video of a fast lap in the #56 Dodge Neon from Skid Marks Racing
Time lapse of BS inspections
Jalopnik coverage of Heroic Fix competitors

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American Irony - Pt. 2

Here's where I include some of the cars that didn't win anything, except a place in my heart. And then some pics of some of the winners, because they were awesome1.

#86 - VolvOwned Volvo Wagon. Clearly, this is a take on the Ghostbuster's Ecto1. This was one of Jenny's favorites, and it was incredibly slow. It's best lap time came in a shade under two minutes. But who cares? This theme kicked ass, and the car ran consistently enough to garner a tenth-place finish with 381 laps. During Friday Tech/BS inspection, the team dressed as the Ghostbusters. Enjoy a gratuitous shot of Ecto1 and the Snoopy van entering Turn 11:

#7 Pink Ladies Mazda Miata. I'm including this one for Alan, who is a Miata guy. This team was 3 or 4 women and 1 man driving a smooth Miata that was pretty quick and sounded good. It was also plastered with pictures of women cut out from glamour magazines. It's hard to tell from this picture, but pink racing stripes featured glitter. This little go-getter finished 37th with 232 laps completed.

#38 Team Sucker Punch Chevy Camaro. As you can tell, this is a pretty good theme for a Camaro. It's not hard to imagine a mulleted stud blasting "Runnin' With the Devil" while flying through a residential zone at 110 in this baby. And the team knew that. When we left Saturday, the team's pit board sat next to the car in their paddock area. It read "Wanted: New Tranny." The next day, they were up and running having apparently fetched either a transexual or a new transmission from nearby Grand Rapids. Either way, the car ran for a bit on Sunday. We talked briefly to a couple of the fellas on the team, and they are apparently going to be at Autobahn in October, where Alan and I will make our LeMons debut. The #38 Camaro finished 39th with 176 laps. You can watch some of it here.

#64 Team Lebowski Dodge Neon. This is a natural theme for anyone to pick. Who wouldn't love this theme? They also get a million points for keeping Donny affixed to the car's rear wing for the duration of the race. Unfortunately, they lose 750,000 of those points for not racing a rusted-out Gran Torino with CCR blasting from the stereo. We did discover that Neons run well at LeMons and are a popular option; we saw at least four of them, and the #2 and #6 finishers were both Neons. This Neon finished 22nd with 344 laps completed.

#97 Breaking Dawn Toyota MR2. This mid-engine car was pretty quick and tore through the corners. And it finished dead last. Why?, you may ask. It turns out that the race judges awarded them 500 BS laps during tech inspection for overspending. On an engine. Apparently, the team had grenaded their engine in a previous race. In their quest for a replacement, they happened upon a totaled 2010 Toyota Camry. A few hundred dollars and several custom fabrications later, this car was powered by an engine with fewer than 10,000 miles on it. The engine wasn't even really broken in yet. In reality, the car ran 337 laps, which would have garnered a finish in the middle of the field, around 25th or so.

#411 Speed Fixx Chevy S10. I include this not because it's one of my favorite. In fact, the LeMons forums seem to indicate that this was actually a relatively unpopular car. But when Alan and I first walked through the pits, this truck was having some serious brake cooling issues. As in, their rear drums were on fire. Their solution for the front brakes was to create some last minute ducting Sunday morning, with some helpful signage:

#710 Team S-Audi Audi (Model I don't know or care to look up). This team nailed their theme about as well as anyone else could. For those who've never been 10 and had a calculator, "710" is "OIL" upside-down2. The car was also adorned with badges from every oil company and adorned with the finest gold paint Ace Hardware's spray cans has to offer. The team also dressed up for tech inspection and bribed the judges properly. The car itself had a pretty bouncy suspension. So much so, in fact, that it became a three-wheeler in Turn 11:
The #710 car finished 30th with 324 laps.

#308 Corsa Nostra Alfa Romeo (Model unknown/too lazy to look). This was hands-down my favorite car of the weekend. Alan and I decided that we needed this car or at least its engine, which produces the sound of the earth splitting open and releasing eagle-sized bees that will sting your children, carry them off to the nest, cover them in honey, and then drop them off in Montana bear country just for chuckles. Then they'll descend upon you and make fun of your stupid haircut. In other words, this car sounds like evil. And awesomeness. As it accelerated hard between turns 2 and 3, all other cars seemed to get silent because of the noise's intensity. Then it downshifted. And it maybe got Alan's hormones excited and maybe it found the Brown Note3 for me. And the car ran fast. Real fast. It clocked the third-fastest lap of the weekend (1:47.324), though it finished a disappointing 15th.

Hmm...that's a long post. I guess I'll throw some more photos/descriptions up tomorrow night after I'm done with work.

1 A track map might be handy. We watched most of the race from the short straight between turns 1 and 2. We also started Saturday watching from Turn 11 right by the pit entrance, and we started Saturday watching from the midfield spectator area, which offered an excellent view of the entire track.
2 Get out scientific calculator and type in "7108008." Then hold it upside-down. hehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehe
3 Actually, the car's engine noise wasn't of low enough frequency to cause that. I just have "control" issues.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

American Irony - A Beautiful Thing Pt. 1

Last weekend, my co-conspirator Alan and myself, with Jenny along, headed to Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, to witness American Irony, one of the many races in the 24 Hours of LeMons series. We left shaking our heads in awe and extremely excited to be entering the Rod Blagojevich Never Say Die 500 in October. Rather than give you a long, boring, text-heavy rant, I'll give you pictures of the award winners. And I may post more pictures in multiple parts.

Winner on Laps: #61 Clueless Racing CR-X. This car was fast; I think it must have had an engine swap or some kind of tuning, because it booked. In addition to running 417 laps, it also ripped out the top time for the weekend with a 1:46.547 lap.

Index of Effluency1: #87 Chicken and Waffles VW Quantum Syncro Wagon. This make/model was apparently THE lemon of its time with a mushy, die-y all-wheel drive system. The team had previously run Fieros at LeMons races, but they ran a slow, steady race at Gingerman with this sweet wagon, racking up 384 laps for a 9th Place finish.

Winner, Class 1 (THE GOOD) and I Got Screwed Award: #71 Latch-Key Kids Plymouth Neon. You wouldn't know it looking at this car, but this was a monster on the track, racking up 415 Laps. It actually held the lead for a good part of Sunday, but the #61 CRX had a 22-gallon fuel tank installed, which allowed it to fend off the Neon. For a solid 7 or 8 laps, this Neon duked it out with CRX, trading leads every time they came around to where we were sitting at Turn 1. Alan and I were rooting for this pugnacious little Neon and were glad to see it walk away with hardware.

Winner, Class 2 (THE BAD) and Least Horrible Yank Tank: #777 Joe Dirt Mullet Rockers Sponsored by Aquanet Chevy Caprice. This was as fast as anything else on the straights, and its V8 sounded like American muscle with the exhaust pipes blowing out the side. There was no mistaking the growl of this monster on the track. This car finished fourth overall with 394 laps.

Winner, Class 3 (THE UGLY) and Grassroots Motorsports Most from the Least Award: #187 The Tools Merkur XR4Ti. This car ran a smooth race, was fast, and hit every corner just about perfectly, clocking 394 laps for a third-place finish. It also ran the second-fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:46.998 trip around the circuit. If you don't know about Merkurs, they were a failure. A big one. And that's why LeMons loves them.

Organizer's Choice: Morrow's Auto #3 Snoopy Van and #111 Woodstock Grand Prix. These cars, from the same team, epitomize what LeMons is all about. In addition to an amazing and well-executed theme, these cars are ridiculous. The Grand Prix rumbled like an earthquake (when it was on the track), but the Snoopy Van is the real deal. After running it in a previous race with the same appearance, the team decided to make it a MID-ENGINE, TWIN-TURBO. That's right, this iss a racing van. Unfortunately, the driver's side turbo apparently caught on fire during the race, but it didn't keep the van off the track.

Most Heroic Fix: #200 Double Jeopardy Pontiac Fiero. When we walked through the pits on Saturday, we saw this pit crew feverishly working on what appeared to be the engine. We didn't know what the problem was, but it really looked like they were tearing the entire engine apart. As it turns out, they were tearing the entire engine apart. By the time they returned to the track on Sunday, smoke poured out of the back of this car while it limped around the outside of the track like it was VW Bus at a Grateful Dead show in 1970. The story later came out that the crew had simply removed all of the non-functioning parts from the cylinders, leaving exactly 1 cylinder that worked. Needless to say, it was not a fast car with only a few CCs of engine, but it was a gutsy one. For the exclamation point, the team fastened the busted pistons onto the hood of their rolling wreck.

Judges' Choise: #9 Midwest Engine Destroyers 1988 Pontiac Fiero. The judges liked this because the team had somehow wedged a 3.8L V62 into the engine compartment of a Fiero. It didn't fit all that well, judging from some of the pictures I've seen, but it had them running in the top 10 for a while, even though it eventually finished 33rd in the field with 274 laps.

Epic Repair Failure3: #132 Police Brutality Ford Thunderbird. Sure this car looks nice and shiny, but a close inspection of the finish reveals that it's just bright red paint over rust. Lots and lots of rust. And the whitewalls are also painted. The team who brought this beast didn't even know if it really ran before driving from Maryland. And it really didn't. The Police Brutality squad ran it for a while on Saturday before the transmission asploded. These guys put in countless hours of work overnight Saturday and into Sunday. When we arrived just before the "Gentleman, try to start your engines" call, the car appeared above. Yep, that's the transmission on the ground next to it. We walked past it a couple more times later, and it was still on jack stands. Jenny later noticed the team pushing the car up pit road. I later found out the car was just welded into drive, basically, and that the team needed to push-start it. But that they did, and with the Team Captain behind the wheel, it pulled out of the pits to the loudest cheers all weekend with less than an hour of race time remaining:

As the Chief Perpetrator Lamm later noted, 15 laps or so would have cinched up the Heroic Fix award. Five laps into its return, I thought I noticed a trace of smoke behind the car as it entered Turn 2. By the time it was clearing Turn 3, it had started to billow smoke. Before it even sniffed Turn 4, flames had made the Thunderturd a Firebird:

So it goes at LeMons. The car was definitely the crowd favorite, and the Police Brutality team is apparently going to show up at their next race with a BMW V12 shoehorned into an old Cadillac.

**Edit: On the LeMons board, the Police Brutality team captain noted that the car was only a few laps short of the Index of Effluency trophy, rather than the Heroic Fix. I apologize for this misquote. Additionally, he said the Bimmer V12 will likely go into this Thunderbid.**

Suffice to say, I am excited.

(Look for more photos/narration in later posts).

1 The Index of Effluency, basically, is an award that is handed out to the car that does the most with the least. This is somehow different from the Most from the Least award, but really it's a no-brainer that a serious crapcan wagon gets this one. As defined by the Greek God Wikipedeus, the Index of Effluency is "presented to a car considered unlikely to finish the race at all, let alone finish with a respectable number of laps completed." Well said, Gentleman Philosopher Wikipedeus.
2 This would be the same V6 found in common GM vehicles like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick LeSabre, or, you know, this Fiero.
3 This award was actually made up over the course of the weekend by the #142 Adopted by Jets Saab. Their car spent a similar amount of time in the pits, as apparently they were the sufferers of Murphy's Law for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taking on the Twin Cities - Saturday

Steve and I woke up relatively late on Saturday and headed to an exotic breakfast eatery, which was unfortunately packed to the gills. As was just about everywhere else. Apparently, normal people travel out-of-town on Easter weekend to see families. We traveled away from our respective families. Nothing personal, it was just nice to spend a holiday away from the extended family.

Since we had the hot tickets in town to see the Twins vs. Cardinals game, we decided to try our luck with breakfast somewhere closer to the ballpark. The new ballpark is near the Warehouse District, so we found a parking lot there that charged $8 for 24 hours and decided that we liked that deal. After parking, we discovered we were parked directly between a place known as the Gay Nineties club and an "adult novelties" store, which was itself next to a bar that advertised "live girls." So naturally, we had found the one shady block in the least shady city in the country.

From the lot, we walked a block or so before we ducked into the Loon Cafe, a bar/cafe on the corner. It was a pretty typical sportsbar-type place, except the "sports" shows on the local stations seemed only interested in fishing and/or snowmobiles. Go figure. I had some "medium" chili, as the place advertised its chili as "Award Winning" or something. I was skeptical, but after a bite, it was clearly award-winning. And face-melting. Steve polished off his burger, and we headed for the stadium.

We entered Target Field in the right-field corner (Gate 34), which features a pavilion just outside the gate with a bronze statue of Harmon Killebrew, a comedically oversized bronze baseball glove, beer vendors who rip you off (you can't take it past the gate), and a big shimmering reflective thing, the purpose of which I could not figure out. Because our seats were in the far corner of the third-base line, we had to walk around the park. The concourses were filled with people, but they seemed sufficiently wide. There also is a stop on the city's light-rail system about 35 feet from the stadium gates. All in all, it's a convenient park to get to: parking is cheap, it's basically part of the downtown, and you can get to it via the Skyway or the city's mass-transit system.

We found our seats after a huge clustering around the escalators to the upper deck, and the view was, well, spectacular to say the least. Beyond the ballpark, downtown's skyscrapers loom. And Minneapolis has a beautiful skyline. Oh, and airplanes fly over sometime. So that was neat for Steve and me. The game was fine, but you can read about that other places. The experience was neat; the ballpark is modern, pretty convenient, and the sightlines are excellent. The concourses aren't as wide as, say, Miller Park, but they seem to accommodate the crowd well enough. Concessions were expensive; I paid $7.50 for a "Premium" Bud Light Wheat and another $5.25 or $5.50 for a hot dog. But all-in-all, it's a pretty terrific ballpark.

After the game, Steve and I wandered around the downtown, admiring the skyscrapers, the deliberate planning the city had done, and the massive old armory that sits across the street from the Star-Tribune's offices. We then meandered through the Skyway back to our sleezy parking spot.

We headed back to the hotel to recharge and figure out our plans for the rest of the evening. Like most of America, we quickly became engrossed in the Butler v. Michigan State saga and found ourselves sitting through the entire game. Our original plans had been narrowed down to seeing Cymbals Eat Guitars at the Turf Club in St. Paul or seeing a metal show at the Triple Rock Social Club. So we headed out for dinner, weighing those options. Steve took us to Pizza Luce Uptown, where we enjoyed a delicious pizza and I enjoyed a malty mess of a local brew in a tall can whose name I cannot recall.

As we were both worn out from a long day in the sun, we decided to not catch a show and instead to drive around a bit. After a bit, I got in contact with my friend Todd's brother, Pat, who went to law school at the University of Minnesota. He offered many excellent suggestions, but we ended up going to the bar side of the Triple Rock, which does not have metal shows. We hung out for a bit BSing about baseball statistics, as geeks like us do, and I put away a couple of dirt cheap Schlitz drafts. After a little while there, I looked to my right and swore I saw the bass player from one of my favorite bands, Houston. But then I realized that a lot of people in the Twin Cities looked like him: long goatee, camouflage, blond hair, and work boots. Anyway, the Triple Rock is a pretty snazzy rock bar, where the jukebox rang out tunes from Roger Miller and the Ramones. Consecutively.

We called it a night afterward, and Steve played me some Aziz Ansari, a good comedian who is apparently on a sitcom or something, before I fell aslumber.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Taking on the Twin Cities - Friday

The Twin Cities sure are nice. You betcha.

I spent last weekend in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on trip planned out by my friend Steve a couple months ago. It went off pretty much without a hitch, and did I have a good time? You're darn tootin'.

OK, enough of that. People don't really talk like that. At least, no one did that I ran across.

My trip started off, as many trips do, at O'Hare International Airport. I showed up a bit early, so I spent a while watching departures (and a few arrivals) on runway 28. After boarding and a long taxi from terminal two to the end of Rwy 28, we took off to the west. I got a nice view of the cargo area, where a bunch of FedEx three-holers sat on the pad, and of the newly demolished neighborhood on Irving Park Rd. in Bensenville1. After a fairly uneventful flight, we descended through the clouds to a predictable view: lakes all over the place (Minnesota has a few lakes or something). We circled the city to the north and came down through the drizzle, passing over a neat-looking dam and downtown Minneapolis to my left, including Target Field. Landing was uneventful, though loud2 on MSP's RWY 12L. I hung out in the observation deck watching departures and arrivals until Steve's flight finally found a gate3.

We hopped into our rental car and then checked into our hotel in Bloomington and hung out for a bit until the Miles Kurosky show loomed. Around 7, we headed for the venue's neighborhood, the ominously named West Bank. It was an interesting place. The venue sits in the shadow of a number highrises that appear to have been transplanted from Mogadishu4. We ate dinner at the Acadia Cafe, a hip cafe kittycorner from the 400 Club. As the West Campus of the Univerity of Minnesota is a half-block away, the cafe was full of young, hip-looking kids. After dinner, we took a stroll around UM's campus. It looks like most college campuses, I suppose, except it overlooks the Mississippi River.

We headed into the bar around the scheduled start time, puzzled by the large number of regulars and a guest list that appeared to contain at least 578 people5. We noticed an unattended birthday cake in the corner of the room and briefly considered taking handfuls of cake and stuffing it into our maws. But we didn't. Instead, I bought a tall PBR and took in the first band on the bill.

As it turns out, this band's sole purpose was to play at the aforementioned birthday. The four-piece group played distinctly kindalonghairedjamband garbage, and it just happened that the singer/leadguitarwanker's sister was having the birthday. Unfortunately, the rest of the audience then had to suffer through 45 minutes of guitar solos and the whitest version of James Brown's "Sex Machine" (Ugh) Steve or I had ever heard6. After the band finished and the majority of the birthday party was sauced enough to leave, the d-bag factor dropped considerably.

Band two was a mediocre band with a human resources problem. Five people in a band should allow something interesting to happen, except the five pieces were drum, bass, guitar/singer, keyboards/synths, and cello. And the guitar and keys played the same thing the whole set. And the bass and cello played the same thing. So there was essentially no point to having a keyboard/synth or a cello. But the music was catchy (kitschy?) indie pop, played loosely and masturbatorily: the band allowed a photographer to crawl all over the stage taking "action" photos of them while a smoke machine pumped out choking white smog. Meh. After the set, I photobombed the cello player, who was taking a picture with her girls. I giggled.

Steve and I quickly tired of standing, but there no seats to be found. So we parked ourselves in front of the stage for Pancho San. Two of the three band members toured as parts of Beulah; they also would later play as part of Miles' band. Pancho San's live show defines power trio. They played tightly, loudly, and awesomely. The music was an amalgamation of Duane Eddy, DooWop, Noise Rock, and Elephant 6 goodness played by guys who look like people you've met somewhere sometime7. I enjoyed their live show; their album is arranged much differently, even though the songs were the same. I'm not sure if that makes the album better or worse8.

Miles Kurosky came on next, supported by Pancho San's guitarist and bassist, as well as a keyboard/synth player, a new drummer, and a trumpet player they'd met just before the show. The band was surpisingly loud and raucous at times, contrasted starkly by slower, more pensive moments. Kurosky's lyrics can astound with wit and painful honesty. Most of the music came from his newly released solo album, but he sprinkled in favorites from Beulah, including epic versions of "Emma Blowgun's Last Stand" and "Landslide Baby." The music was great and so was the performance, but what really sold me on the show was Kurosky's banter and his genuine interest in his fans. At times, he polled the audience for what states comprise the Midwest9. At another point, he noticed a fan shooting video of the show. Rather than berate the fan for bootlegging the show, he introduced the song for those on the Internet to see. For an encore, Miles asked for the house lights to be put on so he could see the audience. He then performed a medley of Beulah he songs he professed to barely remember, but the audience embraced Kurosky's apparent lack of memory by singing in unison to bipolar lyrics like "Everybody drowns sad and lonely" ("Gene Autry") and "Smile, please smile; I just want you happy" ("You're Only King Once.") It was indeed a very intimate finale, and one that was clearly meant to be personal for his fans. After letting the last note ring out, he stepped off the stage and literally shook every single audience member's hand and thanked them for coming. He then proceeded to hang out by the stage after the show and BS with anyone and everyone there.

Overall, it was one of the more enjoyable performances I've ever seen, and it was almost certainly the most personal. Steve and I headed back to the the hotel and crashed, our legs tired from standing through two crappy bands to see two good ones.

1 The O'Hare plan is overlayed on a current aerial view of the airport here. Also planned is a terminal on the west side of the airport, directly west of the current terminal. Using sets of parallel runways is generally safer and more efficient anyway, but the airlines at O'Hare don't really want the runways and they definitely don't want the new terminal.
2 I was flying on one of the DC-9-50s that Delta inherited in their merger with Northwest, who had inherited this one from their merger with Republic. It was this exact one, built in 1979, except it now features Delta's paint scheme.
3 Steve arrived on a DC-9 from St. Louis, though his scheduled gate was still occupied when he showed up. So his plane sat on the ground for a while until a gate opened up. Interesting fact: Steve's DC-9 was the plane made directly before mine, if the registration numbers correspond to when they were built.
4 This is particularly apt, because the neighborhood is actually a mixture of immigrants (primarily from Eastern Africa), college kids, and the working class. It's actually very nice, even if it looks a bit dicey.
5 Had we known, we would totally have pretended to know that one person who was having that one thing that required all those people on that one list.
6 I'd have paid good money, though, to see James Brown berate and whoop on the stupid skinny stoner suckers playing his funkiest number. Sacrilege.
7 This is actually a picture of Maps and Atlases, a band from Chicago. But that photo is the first thing that showed up when I googled "Indie Band." Interesting Fact: My old band recorded with the bassist (second from left).
8 I'm terrible at reviewing music.
9 General consensus from the MPLS crowd was that the Midwest includes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Steve and I said we considered Missouri part of the Midwest, and I said Ohio is part of the Midwest. I would probably throw Iowa into the mix, too. So, what say you?