Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lossa Engineering Cafe Racers

Lossa CL350 Cafe Racer
Lossa Engineering of Long Beach, California builds a lot of clean and sweet cafe racers on vintage platforms, like the Honda CL350 pictured here. Owner Jay LaRossa and his crew also build some bobbers and do restorations.

LaRossa grew up in a family where both father's and mother's sides owned SoCal motorcycle dealerships. He started his professional life in the four-wheeled world, building hot rods and SEMA showcars, then relatively recently switched to bikes and opened Lossa Engineering.

Jay LaRossa says the SR500 cafe racer pictured here is "by far the best bike I have turned-out."
Lossa SR500 Cafe Racer
Check out the gallery of completed bikes, and keep up to date on Lossa builds and doings at the Lossa blog. Check out the online store for Lossa designed and manufactured custom parts.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Death By Audio" Guitar Effects Pedals

Death By Audio "Robot" Pedal
I was googling around the web for guitar stompbox stuff and found Death By Audio. Sound effects way over the top, with names like "Total Sonic Annihilation"... for a sound example, here's one at Killer Rock and Roll.

Some reported remarks from performance venue owners:

"I've only had to wear earplugs twice in my life, and both of them were tonight." 

"I am going to kill you..."

Death By Audio claims some big name bands as customers... Arcade Fire, Cambria, Nine Inch Nails...

Could be a good source of pedals for dubstep...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Aurora Shooting and the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill

My Brother Ron is both a personal telling of the grief, turmoil and frustrations that families with a mentally ill member experience, and a legal and social history of the turmoil and even violence that communities suffer when those who should be institutionalized are allowed to roam the streets. It was published just days before the shooting in Aurora, CO.

This book is written by my old friend, Clayton Cramer. It tells the heart-breaking story of his older brother Ron, who is schizophrenic. Ron has been in and out of mental health care facilities for many years. When he's out, he's usually on the streets where he is a danger to himself and others.

In the Sixties, this nation launched a dangerous social experiment: the mass deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. Thousands of seriously deranged people were dumped out into the streets of our cities, especially in California (Clayton's family's home state). At the same time, many state legislatures passed laws that made it virtually impossible to institutionalize those with serious mental illness against their will.

In some respects, this experiment was motivated by budgetary concerns, a desire to cut costs. There was also a reaction against past abuses of the system in which perfectly sane people were involuntarily committed for nefarious reasons. The public was also increasingly repulsed by stories of the horrific treatment of the insane in our institutions; many of the psychiatric establishment's "treatments" would be called torture or mutilation in any other context; insulin shock therapy, hydroshock therapy, forced lobotomies, etc. Ken Kesey's best-selling novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, later filmed with Jack Nicholson in the lead role, told the horrifying story of a vital non-conformist who was forcibly lobotomized and reduced to a zombie-like state.

On the other hand, there was an ideological motivation in a time of great cultural changes; I remember talk back in the Sixties about how the mentally ill weren't really "crazy," they just saw the world in a different light, and who are we, the self-designated "normal," to say their perspectives aren't valid? Perhaps these people we call crazy actually have something to teach the rest of us about truth and the nature of reality. (I believe it can be justly said that the Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing was a popularizer of this view. I remember my freshman psychology professor scornfully summarizing Laing's ideas in the phrase, "We're all crazy now, and ain't that great!")

In the wake of the Aurora horror, this is a very timely book.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review of New "Roadside Picnic" Translation at io9

I posted here on New Year's Day about the legendary Soviet-era sci-fi novel, Roadside Picnic. It's an eerie, unsettling, and haunting work. I first read it in the Eighties when a friend turned me on to it, and to this day I can still say I've never read anything quite like it. To those who are about to read it for the first time, I say, "Abandon all preconceptions, ye who enter here."

This new post is occasioned by the publication of a new translation that I just found reviewed at the popular io9 sci-fi site. The forward is written by Ursula K. LeGuin, who was one of the first to review it on this side of the Iron Curtain many years ago.

Roadside Picnic was written behind the Iron Curtain in the Cold War era by two Russian brothers, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. The new thing for me in this review was some discussion of the struggles they had in getting the story past Soviet censors:

Russian authorities had no problem with the ideology of the book, which can be interpreted as anti-capitalist and depicts Western life as a horror show. Instead, they were angered by the idea that kids might be harmed by reading a book that was so dark, full of violence, drinking, crime, and cursing. They gave the brothers a list of hundreds of scenes and phrases that had to be changed before the book would be published... 

One of the brothers later commented that ideological censorship was less troubling than the censors' attempts to render all literature banal and reassuring. Fortunately the original, uncensored story survived their efforts.

An older English translation is available here on the Web.

The developers of the popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games were inspired by Roadside Picnic. Andrei Tarkovsky adapted the novel to film titled Stalker in 1979, reviewed here in the Guardian newspaper in 2009.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kaffee Maschine Moto Guzzi Cafe Racer

Kaffee Maschine Guzzi Cafe Racer
My son-in-law just brought to my attention this clean and elegant Moto Guzzi cafer racer from Hamburg, Germany based builder Axel Budde of Kaffee Maschine.

Budde specializes in cafe racers built with Moto Guzzi's classic V2 engine and stock frame. Check out the gallery of beautiful machines here.

If you're here because you love cafe racers, check out Cafe Racer magazine at your local Barnes & Noble bookstore, or follow a link below to Amazon. (Clicking on an Amazon link here and buying does cost you anything extra.)


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wind Turbine Produces 1,500 Liters of Water a Day from the Atmosphere

WMS1000 Turbine Cross Section Drawing
"Give us wind, we give you water."

That's the slogan of  Eole Water, the French company that has developed a wind turbine able to condense up to 1,500 liters of clean water a day right out of thin air. The WMS1000 system is self-contained: the water condenser unit is powered by an internal wind-driven generator. In addition to water, it produces 30kW of electricity.  

A prototype in Dubai is currently producing 62 liters of water an hour. The highest output is obtained in humid environments, such as coastal areas. 

The system is designed to be highly reliable in harsh environments, with a service life of twenty years. The hydraulic mast on which it is mounted is easily raised and lowered for maintenance operations, so there is no need for heavy lifting equipment. Individual system installations will cost between $660,000 to $790,000. Deployments of the WMS1000 will begin later this year.

There is a desperate, crying need  in many places around the world  for economical, reliable technologies that will give people access to clean water: It is estimated that 1.1Billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, and that as many as 2Million die each year from diseases contracted from contaminated water. Ironically, the earth's atmosphere is a huge reservoir of water vapor. What we've lacked is a means of tapping into it... Eole Water may have solved the problem, though the jury is still out, and perhaps it will be several years before we will know if the WMS1000 is at least one viable answer to the clean water crisis.

Note: The minimum average human requirement for drinking water is estimated at three liters per day. So, a system providing 1,500 liters a day could meet the drinking water needs of up to 500 people. Additional water is needed for various sanitation purposes, of course, so the total human need for water is more on the order of fifty liters per day.

Peter Diamandis and Steve Kotler have some interesting information on this subject in their new book, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think.

Changes at Harley-Davidson

2012 Sportster 48
Fox Business news published a piece last month about the changes that Harley CEO Keith Wandell has brought to the Motor Company since he took the reins in May of 2009, just months after the world economy imploded. Under his leadership, Harley sold off MV Agusta, killed the Buell brand, closed dealerships, and layed-off a lot of people. The company even considered moving production out of Wisconsin, a move that was headed-off when the employees union agreed to renegotiate contracts, resulting in reduction of the number of full-time unionized employees to about 700 people.

Harley's stock is up about 20% from its lowest point this year. Sales in the last quarter, ended in June, are up 26%, though Wandell says that some of that gain may be due to this year's unusually warm weather, which gave us an early start to the riding season.

You can watch a CNBC taped interview with him here in which he takes about the past year and what lies ahead for the Motor Company.

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