What I learnt from Forza Motorsports 6

Pretty much the saving grace of the XBoxOne is Forza Motorsports 6 (ok, the latest Doom is pretty cool too.)  I splurged for my birthday, and bought the 6th version of this, and I was not disappointed.

VW Corrado from ForzaI began playing back on my old Xbox360, with Forza 2, and was hooked. The cars, the tracks, the physics were what made the game. Each major release upping the ante, making it more realistic, and thus more enjoyable. Ah, the modded VW Corrado I had in Forza 3, a joy.

Of course, it isn’t perfect, even when I bought a steering wheel it was a bit arcade like (and when I moves from Tucson, I sold that at a Garage sale). It is an Arcade game, but it still has enough realism to make it fun.

The 6th version brings the best rendering of the cars. Tracks that are both gorgeous and accurate. It adds weather and even night racing (the Nordschliffe at Nurburgring at night is haunting), and tacing in the rain makes all tracks challenging.

Things I have learnt:

  • Audi’s with their 4 wheel drive make navigating the courses enjoyable. As expected, the all wheel drivetrain gives a benefit in handling, all else being equal.
  • A race spec Honda S2000 is a monster, and hard to control. While in street trim it is a pleasure to drive, it is not for the faint of heart in race trim, getting squirrelly easy.
  • Hypercars are fun. I have (I won it in a spin) a Bugatti Veryon, and hooboy that is a fun car to drive. One day, I must buy (in Forza) a Koenigsegg, or Pagani. A Ferrari seems so mundane next to one of those hand built beauties.
  • The ‘Drivatars‘ (avatars of other racers that provide AI to the competitors) are fun. You see some really bad driving. Then you realize that you drive just as bad. I am sure that the drivatar based on my driving is as much of an asshole as I am racing directly.
  • While the simulation and physics are good, you still are given a lot of latitude to screw up and recover. Things that in real life would be race ending or even life threatening. Nothing like diving under a pack of cars in a tight apex turn and using them as bumpers to get around the corner (and pick up a bunch of places).
  • I should have bought the Porsche add-on package. It seemed expensive at $20, but as I see their catalog when buying cars for races, I am wistful. Sigh.
  • American heavy metal muscle cars are shitty to drive fast on the track. GT500 or Shelby Mustangs are just awful at going around corners.
  • I think I would really like to drive a WTCC Honda Civic. About $300K but it is an amazing piece of kit on the track.

Summary

Ok, I guess I shouldn’t be so harsh on the Xbox One. But the truth is I do mostly play Forza 6 on it. I am also able to play some of my old Xbox 360 games (the Namco Arcade Classics are fun on it too).

Photo Chaos – Taming the Beast

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As a long time photography hobbyist, I am in an unenviable position. My collection of images is, how should I put this, a chaotic mess.

If I was a professional, I would have long ago adopted a workflow, with a definite process for handling images, sorting, grading, and culling that would have some consistency across the decades. Alas, I am a duffer, and just keep adding without any rhyme or reason for processing. Hence my current hand wringing.

Sure, for big vacations, I do some “workflow-like” things, but in general I import, fix blemishes, and occasionally process in Photoshop to share.

I wrote about my trials and tribulations here highlighting how the Apple iPhoto app at first was great, but became overwhelmed, and then my attempts to improve beyond that.

Of course, at that time I was considering/playing with Adobe’s Lightroom. Alas, as a hobbyist without a workflow discipline, I was flailing. Sure, it had great tools, and capabilities, but like with Aperture, I was barely using the capabilities. It felt “heavy”.

I have come to the realization that I am not a ‘Pro’ and I am not ever going to be as disciplined as a pro. I need to find a solution that works for my situation.

Thus I fell back into the Apple Photos paradigm. Here I am a year later, and in misery. As I have used Photos, while they got rid of the concept of “Photostream” they replaced it with this undergirding of “Moments” that you have captured. Thus when I exported my pictures of the last year to break free of this jail, I had about 300 folders of “moments”. Some tagged by date, some by GPS location (from my iPhone).

Now it is time for a clean break. Fortunately, I have discovered a pretty simple, “lite” tool, and even better, it is bundled with Photoshop (and free as in beer) tool called Adobe Bridge.

Instead of being a database driven tool, like Lightroom, it really is a browser and tool to categorize your images (and other files too besides images). It can import, it can bulk rename, it can alter IPTC tags, and the meta-data associated with your files. It handles RAW files, and can even do some “developing” when importing.

It works on the file structure in your computer or storage device, and it is pretty snappy to boot.

A shout out to my longtime friend Inge Fernau who recommended it. I had seen it, and ignored it, jumping straight to the heavier solutions (Lightroom, Aperture), or using the bundled solution (iPhoto, Photos).

My current state is that I have all my images in a directory structure, mirrored on a couple of HD’s (for backup), and am cleaning up a lot of cruft. Alas, iPhoto/Aperture/Photos have some hinky ways of managing albums that change and lead to a large number of duplicate image files.

I will keep Photos, primarily since I take a lot of pictures with my iPhone (the best camera is the one you have with you, and I always have my iPhone). But I will clear out the old images and reduce the amount of storage in the iCloud, probably falling back to the free tier – Yay, one less paid cloud storage service!

(Image at the top – Mont Blanc from the Telepheriqué in Chamonix – a three shot panorama, stitched in Photostitcher, and processed with Topaz Labs B&W Effects filter)

Hated Things: Whole Foods Market

As we were running out of the probiotic that we use for our greyhound (Jarodophilus brand) I needed to procure some more. When we lived in Arizona, there were several purveyors that I could go to that had it on the shelf.

Not so since we moved to California. The only market that seems to have it consistently is Whole Foods.

Groan. I cringe every time I have to venture a foot into that place. Perhaps it is the pretentiousness, the “we are better” atmosphere? Or perhaps it is the emphasis on organic produce and how much better it is (except it isn’t, and in fact the “approved” pesticides that they use are pretty awful. Or it is the row after row of homeopathy and naturopathy woo that they peddle to the new age fools that shop there.

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Exterior Detailing – The Products

arty_stewie

The last installment of the Detailing Files focused on getting the exterior paint ready to be polished, by a very thorough washing using Dawn instead of a milder automotive specific detergent.

Now that you have a clean paint surface, mostly wax free (as is evidenced by there being virtually no beading of the water in the final rinse), you can begin the restoration of the finish.

This is typically a four step process (or five if you need to use a medium cut compound).

  1. Clay bar the surface – using detailing clay to remove embedded contaminants from the paint.
  2. Cutting Compound – Assuming that you have some fine surface scratches or marring to remove, a fine (or medium in really bad cases, followed by a fine) will get the surface ready for polishing
  3. Polishing Compound – this removes buffing marks and “swirls” in the finish to leave a smooth, clear surface
  4. Waxing or Sealant – A high quality carnuba wax coat, or a polymer sealant to provide protection to your finish.

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The exterior detail – washing

Geoff's S2000

Before you can begin a proper detailing of a car exterior, you must start with a good wash, and I don’t mean just run it through the wash at the local gas station, or even a “better” wash at a dedicated car wash franchise.

The Two Bucket Wash

The gold standard is something known in the detail world as a two bucket wash. This is pretty important, as it is crucial to clean without just rubbing the dirt particles into your paint and finish.

grit guardA two bucket wash is pretty simple, although, when I started, I heard the phrase, but it didn’t click at first. You need two buckets (I use standard 5 gallon buckets I bought at Home Depot), two “grit guards“, and washing detergent. Also, while you can use a soft terry cloth towel to lather and suds your car, I recommend a washing mitt or pad.

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