….between posts.  I think that’s a win?

Anywho, I’ve been keeping busy.  A second kiddo means I have less time than ever, but I still need to have my creative outlets.  Recently I’ve taken to social media-ing, broadening my horizons.

Instagram hosts pictures of cars that I’ve taken:

#ferrari #modena360 #challengestradale #scuderia #supercars #sportscars #racecars #scuderiaferrari #360modena

A post shared by Chris – (@ragingpandabear) on

The devil is in the details. #bmw #m4 #f82 #sportscar #eurocar #tunercars #mcar #bmwmotorsport

A post shared by Chris – (@ragingpandabear) on

 

I’ve tried to continue writing as well. This time I partnered up with my friend Dan and we’ve started a website called Unique Drops. I’ve always loved digging into niche and subgenres, so we’ve taken the approach of trying to cover the societal impacts that games have, and tell some individual’s stories within the community and industry.

 

 

It’s certainly a part time thing, but I hope to keep sharpening skills (that I may or may not have, admittedly) and it’s fun at the very least.

 

Exotics at Redmond Town Center

If you live in or are visiting the Seattle area, Redmond Town Center is the place you want to visit on Saturday mornings.

Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Mustang, Camaro, Porsche. Any Number of M cars, S cars; loud, fast and cool cars. Classic muscle, super cars and modern hyper cars all make their way over.

It’s actually one of the best atmospheres I’ve been around when it comes to car people. Most are quite inviting and would love to strike up a conversation about their customized ZR-1, their favorite model of Citroen or the home made aluminum porsche-esque roaster they showed up in with a Oldsmobile 4 cylinder 2.3 Quad 4 attached to a porsche transaxle (highlight of the day for me).

I put together this short video with some of the nicer shots I took – music props to my cousin Mark.

I wasn’t kidding about the project stuff!  In addition to the Dad duties bestowed on me, I’ve tried to scratch the creative itch I was getting doing video work, and here we are.

The story starts with a few friends of mine have endeavored over the last few years with their podcast Infinite Lives.

A few months back, Dan and I discussed the potential for a project involving some studio work to compliment and help expand the media footprint for the group – and here we are with “Meet the Games.”

The format is intended to be something akin to “At the Movies” with Siskel and Ebert.  The intent isn’t to review games in full, rather it’s a brief impression the guys get from a week or two of playing and a suggestion of who may or may not like the game and if they think it’s worth a purchase.

Here is the result:

The plan is to make this a regular thing, but also add in some other concepts.

The “studio” is a spare bedroom in my house with a set I put together to block a window.  Acoustics aren’t ideal, but we do what we can.

I’ve upgraded my D3100 to a D5200 – the camera is noticeably faster and the tilt screen is a huge plus.  I haven’t had a chance to test out how much better the sensor is at preventing the wobblies when you move around, but it’s nice to know it’s supposed to be better.

In order to try and be faux-pro, I’ve invested heavily into a cheap Amazon CFL light kit (2800 watts in 3 lightboxes with stands).  I must say I’m pretty satisfied with it.  I’ve used it for this project as well as a DIY photo booth I setup for a birthday party and while it doesn’t travel easily, it does travel.  I’m still trying to figure out the best setup for our studio lighting, but it’s always a work in progress.

Audio is still something we’re trying to figure out – Ep01 used 2 Audio-Technica ATR3350 into a Zoom H4 that’s routed into the camera.  Ep02 used an ebay special $14 shotgun mic into the H4 that’s again routed into the camera.  I’m not satisfied with either one, but I’ll continue on and see what other options I have or if I could just use my tools better.  I’ve tried cutting down on echo by hanging a comforter behind me, I’m not really sure if it was helpful or not, but I’ll keep trying things.

Anywho, it’s a fun project that I’m happy to be a part of.  I love video games, I enjoy the creativity that video work provides from set design, lighting, framing, recording and editing, and it’s always fun to work with and help your friends out.  Here’s to hoping the internet keeps watching and reading this stuff.

So my latest endeavor (or hobby depending on how your look at my serial hobby trail) is videography.  Working with an older Nikon D3100 (I already had a good number of lenses due to my D70 photography work) I put together this short film that I submitted to the Jalopnik Film Festival.  I wasn’t picked to feature in the show, but it was a fun project that I hope to continue working on.

My cousin helped me out with some filming and put together the music, I did a bit of the filming and editing.

Dang. November 2012 was my last post.

So a couple things have changed since then – all for the better, but lots and lots of changes.

I had just gotten married July 2012, and to that point, it was the biggest change to my life since I graduated high school – so 8 years or so of relatively stable arrangements. Moving apartments here and there, but really no massive changes other than the scenery.

And to say getting married was much of a change is being pretty generous. I had been with my wife (then girlfriend/fiancee) for 10 years (I’m a slow mover), so the “change” was more in the nature of paperwork and procedure rather than actually being life-altering.

With that said, these last 24 months have been nothing but a string of massive life changes.

I got a new job.
I tried to go back to college.
I bought a house.
I renovated said house over a 6 month period (unskilled labor mostly, skilled labor made it look good).
I had a kid.

Yeah, like the cherry on a sundae of changes, we topped it all off with a little human.

So with all that, it’s not quite a coincidence that the blog has been slightly neglected over the last 20 months or so.

So why now Chris? Why come back to write things on the net?

I had originally created this little slice of the interwebs for myself with the aim of helping me improve my writing – whether mission accomplished or not is debatable. Within those 8 stable years, I had tried and failed more than a few times to forge a creative streak in myself that would allow me to sustain a living wage without living like an artist.

That is to say, my girlfriend (now wife) wouldn’t put up with me not carrying my weight and not be a contributing member of society (mostly in the monetary sense).

I’ve tried blogging pro-am (meaning it didn’t go anywhere and I never got paid), I designed and printed tshirts (which I gave away after I decided I didn’t want to deal with taxes and stuff at that point), I’ve tried some photography (who hasn’t?).

All of those exercises were actually fun for me, but really didn’t end up going anywhere at the time. Still, the ability to enjoy myself creating is what really drove those interests and in that sense, it was a success.

After the last 20 months or so, I’ve had the opportunity to try a few other things that I didn’t get a chance to document and I think this might be a good place to do that. There are a few other things I’m taking a shot at; I’m trying out videography, exploring woodworking and furniture design, event planning, and potentially creating a business leveraging my passion for automobiles and helping those who aren’t quite as vehicularly inclined.

It’s more of the same really – give it a go and see where the chips land – but I’m pretty happy to have experienced it all and hope I can find a way to reincorporate that into my writings here.

So, cheers. To life, moving forward, and the unknown. To the continued exploration of the human condition, as narrated by a man who uses the pen name of a enraged monochromatic bear.

Some experiences in life are just a small bit of luck. For me, that luck comes in the form of my wife who thus far has provided me with two separate racing experiences in my life that I cannot forget. My first one was last year when I was able to take a rally racing course in Snoqualmie Washington, and the latest one was my opportunity to autocross a Ferrari, my marquee of choice in the automotive world.

There is a company based primarily out of the east coast supplying the well to do with luxury amenities such as chartered planes, exotic cars, yachts and luxury rental properties.

The company is called Imagine Lifestyles and another aspect of their business is to travel the country allowing us normal people to autocross an exotic Italian supercar from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. In this case, they made their way to western Washington and my wife bought me 3 laps on the autocross course.

The F430 or the Gallardo are your options, but they do have a backup car in the form of a 599 that they weren’t allowing people to drive that day.

I was lucky enough (and schemed to) get my ride in the Ferrari F430 Scuderia, which happens to be the street racecar with carbon fiber interior, increased downforce and power, carbon brakes and other small touches making it a true racecar for the street and the ideal ride for my short time in the supercar.

Below is the blow by blow from us showing up, to me getting into the car, getting out and ending with my dumb grin that didn’t go away for hours.











Because of my good luck and an even better fiancée, I was afforded the opportunity to try my hand in the world of rally racing.

It was an early morning as I was to be in snoqualmie at 8 am to start my class. When I arrived, I was greeted by some of the rally worlds most iconic 4 wheeled stars.

20120306-144832.jpg

20120306-144845.jpg

20120306-144823.jpg

Here we have Colin McRae’s early 2000s ford focus, a classic ford escort, and Richard Burns gc8 impreza.

After we had all checked in and signed away our potential well being and lives, we were brought into a class room to be instructed on what exactly we were to learn today. A quick power point presentation and white board drawing trying to help me comprehend weight shifting, oversteer/understeer and braking points and I was confused enough for me to pretend to understand what they said and convince them that I should try to race around in one of their rally cars.

Our chariots would be the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. A light rally prep with a roll cage, 5 point harnesses and an expensive rally suspension setup. The engines are stout enough making 305 horsepower. And they come in this dashing shade of orange.

Step 1 was the skid pad. We were told to drive around in a circle, hit the gas a little, then let off. The rear of the car would slide out. Then add a little speed, feel the rear slide out again but this time hit the brakes with your left foot. It causes the rear of the car to slide a little faster which helps rotate the car in tighter corners.
20120306-144832.jpg

Learning the left foot breaking stuff would come in handy later on when we were unleashed upon the slalom course. There was a succession of cones in a straight line and we were to steer around them practicing our turning using the technique we learned on the skid pad. Accelerate, lift, turn in and feel the rear of the car slide out. When the car was pointing in the right direction, give it a little gas to accelerate towards the next cone. Rinse and repeat. It was actually a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Soon we were told to add a little more speed and use the left foot breaking technique to get the car to rotate a little faster.

20120520-225726.jpg

After a while I got pretty comfortable and started to try to add speed more and more. It was really fun getting the back of the car to slide out and squeeze on the gas toward the next cone, but I can’t say (neither can my instructor) that I was really good at it. My favorite part of this exercise came after a few laps. They let us use the exit of the course as a tight 90 degree corner. We were told to come in with a little extra speed towards the corner, hit the brakes to slow and then rotate the car in and apply the brake again to rotate the car hard. After a few tries I felt like I was getting it.

20120520-225742.jpg

Of course the wet weather didn’t help much for keeping the cars clean, but the real issue became when parts of the course would get too soggy and the cars would bog into the wet ground and start to create ruts. It would have been nicer to have a more consistent course, but I’ll take what I can get to have this much fun.

20120520-225801.jpg
When they say smile, do it fast, otherwise you get half of a smile in.

The last part of the day was on a small course that let us practice the skills we learned. The course had a few tight hairpins and the back “straight” which was really a long sweeping corner that got you near the top of second.

Sliding a car around at speed……..is exactly as fun as it sounds.

I seriously recommend this to anyone who has the means to do it. Even if you’ve never driven a car in anger, the staff can eek out just enough skill from you to make sure you have fun.

I am seriously considering taking the 2 day course if I can somehow find the money, it’s just too much fun and I want to do it again.