Thoughts on Tony Stewart Incident and Track Safety

I’ve talked to a few folks about this since it happened, read lots of posts on it and started to form my own opinion. Here’s a recap of what happened, as factual and non-presumptuous as possible:

  1. Tony Stewart raced in an amateur Sprint Car dirt track race in the evening Saturday August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, NY. He was set to race a NASCAR race the next day at Watkins Glen, about 50 miles away.
  2. There was an on-track incident between the cars driven by Tony Stewart and 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. As a result Kevin Ward Jr. spun and crashed with his car apparently non-operable on the track. Yellow flags come out, which means caution, no overtaking.
  3. Kevin Ward Jr. gets out of his car with cars still on track, apparently in an attempt to confront Tony Stewart the next time he comes around.
  4. Many cars drive by Kevin Ward Jr. and when Tony Stewart comes around, Kevin is hit by Tony’s car and injured seriously enough to die shortly thereafter.

This is an extremely sad circumstance. I feel extremely sorry for the Ward family’s loss, particularly since they were in the stands to see it. I have personally not watched a video of the incident, because I don’t feel the need to watch someone die. I’ve read enough to still make some statements about this as an avid racing fan, an attendee of racing schools and a sometimes-driver at amateur races and track days. Continue reading

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California Compliance Center is a SCAM

It took me a second to figure this one out, but it’s quite the scam. In short, if you register an LLC (and maybe other corporation types) in California, a company called “California Compliance Center” sends you an official-looking letter and bill for a supposed Certificate of Good Standing. Check out their seal as exhibit A:

CCC Logo

The seal looks like it could be from a state government agency, right? Well, it most definitely is not. I wish I hadn’t shredded the letter and return envelope to first snap a photo, but they basically send you a bill which says that this is something you need to do. The bill amount is $49.95, though the amount due is $0. I’m no lawyer, but my guess is that’s probably how they keep it legal. They’re not telling you there’s an amount due, just a bill for what it costs.

I get so mad at these bottom-feeders who try to prey on unsuspecting new business owners by scanning the recent business registrations (it’s public record) and then sending them these official-looking letters. I’m pretty alert to this stuff and a quick Google search told me it’s a scam, but I’m sure lots of people forked over 50 bucks to get a worthless piece of paper from these jerks. This “certification” certifies nothing other than the fact that you got taken for a ride. It simply amazes me that people can live with themselves and run these types of businesses for seemingly good profit.

If you do need a certificate of good standing for a California corporation, you get this via the Secretary of State (SOS) website at this link: http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/be/information-requests.htm. Apparently these types of misleading business solicitations are pretty common, so common that it’s the first entry into an FAQ on the SOS website. If you do get ensnared by one of these scams, you can complain via this page: http://www.oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.

I have some choice words for these guys that I’ve thus far restrained myself from typing.

Ok, I can’t any longer.

Fucking Assholes.

Sorry.

What kind of technical co-founder do I need?

I was just asked this question by a budding entrepreneur and thought it might make sense to more cohesively collect my thoughts. Unfortunately it’s a vague question, almost a poorly stated one, because I could be super cynical and respond “it depends on what you’re building” (I wasn’t told) and “any dev you can get your hands on if you’re in the Bay Area!”

Jerk responses aside, here is how I framed the problem: 1) you need to figure out what type of product you’re building and 2) you and the dev need to understand how he/she progresses through the org when it hopefully starts to scale. The below are not hard and fast rules – it’s a general guide to try to frame the selection process. Continue reading

I Started a Magazine

No, not a physical one, but one you can read online for Level X Motorsports. It’s a combination of fun videos of/about cars along with more mundane topics like how to choose the right rod end for you’re building, the benefits of individual throttle bodies or just parts lists for putting ITBs on a Miata engine.

Here is a screenshot of the magazine at mag.levelxms.com:Level X Motorsports Magazine

The car runs!

The engine fired for the first time yesterday… whoohoo!

Unfortunately, while it runs very well, it also is good at spitting coolant out the exhaust, which is less than good. Big sad face.

The likely issue is that the engine overheated in the car it came from and damaged the head gaskets which will cause coolant to leak into the cylinders. This unfortunately means pulling the engine and taking the heads off. On a GT3 motor, only the heads are cooled, so hopefully I don’t need to tare it apart further than that, but I plan to do any sensible maintenance that I can while the motor is apart.

Although this is a big setback, I’m still pretty happy that I was able to get it running. All the wiring and setup was very complex and time consuming, so I’m pretty proud to have been able to accomplish it with zero prior experience. Now it’s on to the next learning-by-doing: rebuilding a GT3 motor.

Anyone wanna learn how to rebuild a Porsche GT3/Turbo engine with me?

 

Coolant leak Coolant leak closeup

The Importance of Structured Data in eCommerce

What may be obvious to a human reader can sometimes be really hard for a computer to understand. You and I can go to a retailer’s website, look at a product and it’s completely obvious to us what the name of the product is, what it looks like, what it costs, read a description, etc. The content could be aligned in a completely weird way, pictures could be in a random location, but we would immediately understand what is what.

This is much harder for computers. In simplistic terms, computers are much more discrete in how they process a web page. For the most part, they look at the HTML code of a web page rather than the visual representation that we look at in a browser. Of course there are systems which try to comprehend the graphical representation like we do, but to do this and to “make sense” of a page is non-trivial for a computer.  Moreover, they may be programmed to understand one retailer’s format really well – maybe a handful of retailers – but the problem devolves when you try to generalize past that to all retailers. Right now, we do not have the algorithms available for a computer system to do mass-scale retrieval and digesting of web content in a visual way like humans do.

So then how do you tell a search engine like Google or Bing what’s actually on your site? Traditionally, things like keywords, meta tags, inbound links, etc. have been important to tell a search engine what’s on a site. Google still uses some meta tags. They’re still important, but many of the tags were easy to game, particularly the keywords tag, and so they’re not really used anymore. The net result was bad search results for users.  Continue reading

Introducing Level X Motorsports

Level X MotorsportsEver wanted a great buying experience AND vendor-direct pricing for you motorsports or aftermarket parts? Look no further than Level X Motorsports.

We pride ourselves in making that weird part with the left-handed, metric, coarse thread in beryllium with a carbon fiber finish easy to find. Ok, we may not quite have beryllium parts yet, but to see what I mean in terms of quickly finding the parts you’re looking for, just check out how easy it is to search for Poly Bushings or Rod Ends.

If you’re a maker of such parts and would like an easy way to sell them online, we can get you set up on the site, completely free of any upfront charges, monthly fees or anything else to list products. Check out these great hosted storefronts for companies like Enthuzacar, a maker of high-end Miata exhaust systems, and RAMLIFTpro, a provider of hydraulic axle lift kits to prevent bumpers and splitters from curb and speed bump damage. You can learn more about the marketplace here: http://www.levelxms.com/marketplace/.