Saturday, September 27, 2008

PLN - RIP




Paul Newman passed away today after a long but private battle with lung cancer. Tributes will certainly come pouring forth honoring him for his acting career and his philanthropic work through his Newman's Own brand and his Hole-In-the-Wall camps. I want to honor Paul for his other overriding passion - racing.

Paul Newman did not start racing until he was 47 years old. His interest in racing was spurred by his role in the 1969 movie "Winning". Paul participated in his first race in 1972, and immediately showed an aptitude for the sport. Yes, he could afford the best equipment, but he also had an undeniable talent for road racing. Newman participated in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs 14 times, winning in 1975, 1979, 1985, 1986. He last participated in the SCCA National Championships in 2002 at age 77. Newman co-founded Newman-Haas Racing in the Champ Car Indycar Series in 1983 with his partner Carl Haas, and over the years employed such legendary drivers as Mario and Michael Andretti and Nigel Mansell.

Throughout SCCA Newman was not viewed as a celebrity, but as just another racer. He was often referred to simply as PLN, which were the three intials that he placed above the drivers side window of his race cars, where drivers typically put their names. He continued to race well into his golden years, competing in the 2005 Daytona 24 hr Endurance Race at age 80. He won his class in the 1995 Daytona 24 hr race at age 70.

Paul Newman was a tremendous embassador for amateur sports car racing in the U.S. His high profile, long-term involvement, and success in both amateur and pro racing helped helped shine a spotlight on a niche sport. He will be greatly missed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Auspicious Occasion


Rex Rowan at Power's Park Overlooking Newnan's Lake, 2002?

When I moved to Gainesville, Florida in August 1992, I considered myself a birder. And I was a birder, by most standard definitions of the word, but I was a rank amateur compared to the folks that comprised the birding community in Gainesville. For most of my first two years in Gainesville I birded alone, though occasionally I went on one of the many field trips sponsored by Alachua Audubon. My birding was somewhat limited due to the fact that I did not have a car, electing to make my daily commutes to the UF campus via bicycle. I did my first Gainesville Christmas Bird Count in December 1994. It was there that I first met Rex Rowan. Rex's name was familiar to me from the visitor's sighting log kept at the LaChua Trail trailhead, and I knew he was a birder of some standing in the local community. Rex introduced himself, and casually said that we should go birding sometime. I agreed, but was too embarrassed to say that I didn't have a car, and I certainly didn't want to impose on Rex or anyone else to have to provide transportation for me. As a result, it was another 8 months before I encountered Rex again. In August of 1995 a few fellow entomology students and I engaged Rex's services to walk La Chua trail with us to show us the flocks of Mississippi kites which congregate there prior to migration. That was officially the start of my tenure as a member of the Gainesville birding community. Within weeks of that hike, I met Mike Manetz, and Rex and Mike spent the next four years hauling me around north Florida looking at birds. More importantly they became valued friends. Even though I haven't lived there in over 10 years, I still consider myself a member of the Gainesville birding community. And aside from birding, I have Rex to blame for introducing me to the Harry Potter books, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the TV world of Joss Whedon.

All of this is just background for saying HAPPY 52nd BIRTHDAY to Rex. Hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uncle Greg says...

My sister Marge and her husband Mark welcomed Grady Charles Caughlan to the fold yesterday morning at 9:30 am MST. Little Grady came in at 6 lbs, 15 oz, 20 inches long. Welcome Little G-Chuck (his rapper name)!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weeds

I'm using my Netflix to catch up on TV shows that I haven't had the chance to see. I've just finished watching the first 6 episodes of season 1 of the Showtime series "Weeds", and I am definitely hooked. If you're not familiar, the premise is a widowed suburban soccer mom with two kids starts dealing pot in her upper-middle class gated community as a way to make ends meet. Smart, funny, and 44 year old Mary Louise Parker is the sexiest woman on TV. I highly recommend!

The trailer for the Season 1 DVDs. Warning - the audio is NSFW.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor Day Racing

Labor Day weekend is always the big event of the year in our SCCA Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series. Three days of racing, as well as our annual charity drive for a worthy local program. This year we raised funds for the local Jefferson County (WV) reading program. Through a variety of activities, including two nights of auctions that included such goodies as a week for two in the Grand Caymens, we were able to raise $22,000. In one of the other fund raising activities, I discovered I'm not very good at driving a golf cart blindfolded, especially after a few beers. But a lot of fun was had by all.

Definitely a long tiring weekend for us workers, though. By the end of the weekend my feet hurt from standing for 10 hours a day, and my knees were making very annoying popping noises. Monday was a weird day, with 3 ambulance calls and a life-flight, and not one of them related to on-track racing action! One was for a worker who injured his arm, didn't realize how badly he had injured it and ended up going into shock. One was for a child who fell about 8 feet out of a viewing tower onto the pavement below, and ended up being med-evaced by helicopter (though word has it he is fine and at home), and one was for a flagger who fell and broke her arm.

Our videographer for the Washington, D.C. Region puts together some entertaining videos every year for our annual year-end banquet. Below is one such video highlighting some of the racing action from last year. Special thanks to Daniela Anderson for all her hard work filming and editing the videos.

video
Video by Daniela Anderson