Friday, May 30, 2014

Brief hiatus...

I will continue tweeting, so check the right column of this blog. By the end of next week, I will have covered the entire length of the North American continent by bus. My checklist for this Alaska trip:

  • seeing the midnight sun
  • touching the Arctic Ocean
  • not getting bitten by mosquitos or bears
  • eating whale blubber (very unlikely)
More photos of the Dalton Highway, taken last week, here.

Sergio Romo Mercedes ad

Poaching Accord and Camry buyers in the Bay Area.

Spelling bee geek

This totally reminds me of my high school days. I was captain of an academic team. The contest was sponsored by Cathay Pacific and the winning team got a free trip on the first non-stop flight between LAX and Hong Kong. We lost by one question-- What is the primary religion of X Southeast Asian country? (I forget the country, but it sure as hell wasn't Buddhism.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

War dogs of Afghanistan

While reading the latest issue of National Geographic, I came across this neat photo. As Automobile magazine folds, I wonder, will National Geographic magazines last forever?

Cocaine seizures map

Imagine what would happen if China had a drug problem.

Harry of Alaska

I found the notes from my 2007 bus/van trip to Alaska. This is Harry, whom I rode with from the Tok to Fairbanks leg.

Harry is a Native American in his early 60s. He was born in Fort Yukon, one of 13 children. When he was five years old, he fell off a tree and shattered his entire left side. He was sedated with methadone at a hospital for eleven months. Back then, there was no medical knowledge about withdrawals so the medical staff just released him from the hospital. He had blackouts and other horrible symptoms for three years after that.

At age 17, he left home because of his step-father. He became an electrician and joined the Teamsters. He was a workaholic. 

Harry served in Vietnam. He first claimed that he served a few tours, but then admitted that he only served seven months and was discharged with PTSD. He has not worked regularly since. His union paid over $3 million in benefits.

He has two daughters and three grandchildren. His mom lives in North Pole, Alaska, a suburb of Fairbanks. He has a sibling in New York.

Harry wears a cap that has an Intel logo, except it says "Jesus Inside". He looks like a swarthier version of Senator Daniel Inouye. When I noticed the cap, he started talking about miracles, God, etc. He mentioned these subjects in the course of pleasant conversation, and not in a pushy way.

He lives alone on a 160 acre plot between Beaver and Birch Creek. Harry supports himself by trapping. He shares with me a salmon jerky he made. It's tough but good. A bush pilot flies him to civilization for $600 per trip. The longest he has ever been alone is 91 days. Being alone too long, not surprisingly, makes one go crazy. Like Howard Hughes, Harry explains, your image of your self is magnified. Before he gets too lonely or just before he comes back to civilization, he plugs in his satellite dish and watches TV.

He is frustrated with how the VA hospital and doctors have treated him. In fact, he's on his way to the VA hospital now for a regular check-up. The VA pays for his transportation, i.e. the bush pilot and this van company, to take him to and from the hospital.

Harry would give up his annual oil revenue check (which every Alaska resident is entitled to) if he could have the pre-oil discovery Alaska back.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Macan

On the way home today, I passed by the local Porsche dealership and caught a glimpse of the new Macan. This review is pretty positive. I think it will sell well. It looks like only the S and Turbo are available here in America.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Whale explosion video

By popular demand.

The top Republican candidate for governor in California

The Republican Party in California is not doing well. Traditional, rational, fiscal conservatives are being crowded out by reactionary, xenophobic Tea Party-types. This Donnelly guy is going to end up running against Governor Jerry Brown in November. It's both amusing and scary.

America's cultural contribution to the world

You're welcome.

Donetsk Airport siege video

Donetsk is one of those cities you had never heard of, until there's a battle there. Who had heard of Fallujah, Homs, or Misrata before the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Libya?

The bad news about Donetsk: You know it's bad when the Ukrainians have to bring in fighter jets.
The good news: The airport's food kiosk is still open!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Drive safely, everyone

A CHP officer was making a routine traffic stop when a 22 year old in a Montero Sport slammed into the back of the Crown Victoria. Investigators say that she never applied her brakes. It happened at 8 a.m. and she claims that she was up all night at a nearby Indian casino. The cop is still in the hospital with two broken legs.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Liberty Mutual Human ad

*If I have complained about this before, I apologize.*

In the U.S., every other TV ad is a car insurance commercial. Since 2012, Liberty Mutual has been playing this ad repeatedly. I have probably seen it over 1,000 times. It has completely ruined a perfectly good song.

Poland's Jaruzelski in North Korea

Decadent capitalist cars alert!

Obituary here.

Sino-Soviet/Russo leaders over the years

This shot of Xi and Putin toasting after the $400 billion natural gas deal prompted me to do a bit of Google Image searching.

2014 F1 podiums so far

Another great race for Mercedes. I was counting down the laps the entire time, hoping Rosberg didn't make a mistake. Hamilton is certainly quicker, so Rosberg has to play it cooler for the rest of the season.







Thursday, May 22, 2014

6 challenges of Longitude Prize

The original prize was established in 1714. It sought a simple and practical method of determining longitude at sea. The amount of the prize was based on how accurate the solution was.

A British charity is renewing the prize. The public (UK only) gets to choose what the challenge should be. The candidates/challenges are:

  • Flight - How can we fly without damaging the environment?
  • Food - How can we ensure everyone has nutritious sustainable food?
  • Antibiotics - How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?
  • Paralysis - How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?
  • Water - How can we ensure everyone has access to safe and clean water?
  • Dementia - How can we help people with dementia live independently for longer?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Python upchucks kangaroo

I found this while looking for videos of exploding whales.

The hazards of my bus trips

Alaska: Black, grizzly, and polar bears. Mosquitos. 18-wheelers. Lack of medical facilities (up to 500 miles away).

Yukon and British Columbia: Ice.

USA: Felons.

Mexico: Sinaloa cartel, diarrhea, crooked cops.

Central America: Gang members, crooked cops, diarrhea, disease.

Peru: Cliffs.

Chile: Dehydration, altitude sickness, bored/fatigued drivers.

Argentina: Bored/fatigued drivers, wind.

Los Angeles tourism ad

Alan brought up an interesting point about the lack of diversity in San Diego tourism ads. The Los Angeles tourism ads are similar. Apparently, the most "ethnic" experience in LA is bumping into Mario "Slater" Lopez.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chinese deep water port in Cameroon

This weekend, Boko Haram crossed into Cameroon and kidnapped 10 Chinese workers building a bridge. China has massive infrastructure projects all over Sub-Saharan Africa. China funds the projects and expects payments in natural resources. To doubly reap the benefits, the labor and materials for the projects are Chinese as well.

In Cameroon, China is building a deep water port to siphon resources from all of West and Central Africa. It stands to gain oil, minerals, and timber at cut rate prices.

Could Godzilla exist in real life?

Travel destination slogans

Here in the Bay Area, travel ads are on TV constantly. I've seen ads for San Diego, Oregon, Alberta, Los Angeles, and even the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Here's a brief piece on branding, in the context of travel destinations.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Laotian Antonov An-74 crash

What a strange looking plane. More info here.

Laos is never in the news. But this crash ended the streak. Some very important people died in the crash, including:

  • Douangchay Phichit: deputy prime minister/defense minister/Politburo member
  • Thongbane Sengaphone: chief of public security
Whether this was an unfortunate accident or sabotage is unknown. It will be interesting to see how the government deals with the power vacuum.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Meanwhile, in Turkey...

Turkish PM's aide, kicking mining disaster protestor:

CNET's review of Dodge Durango

Just for the record, the one I have this week has the V6.

Also, what's the museum/showroom in the background? It's somewhere in Marin.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014 Dodge Durango

You're going to think I'm nuts. But other than the finicky transmission and high center of gravity, this SUV drives just like the Phaeton.

Some stats:
Length: 201.2" for the Durango; 203.7" for the Phaeton
Curb Weight: 4,756 pounds for the Durango; 5,194 pounds for the Phaeton

Mercedes F1 megaphone exhaust photo

This is just dumb.

If it works (no performance impairment, and it's loud), and every team agrees to use it, then we'll see these horns on the grid. Almost as bad as BMW's exhaust speakers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1980s GTI lifestyle gear

Stephan is looking through boxes of childhood memories and found this brochure.

Sultan of Brunei's Bentley B2 and B3

I would love to fly to Italy and go through this guy's boxes of photos and listen to his stories. But what a PITA it must have been to work for the Sultan.

Toad the Wet Sprocket on tour

Just found out the band reunited and will be on tour and playing locally at a small venue this week. Very tempted. Early 1990s nostalgia FTW!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sultan of Brunei's automotive engineer's museum of horrors

I came upon these short clips by accident. The stories are incredible. Enjoy!

Project Azorian

Whoever recommended the Radiolab podcast, THANK YOU!

In one episode, we learn the term "We can neither confirm nor deny" came from Project Azorian.

In 1968, the Soviets lost a submarine 3,000 miles northwest of Hawaii. The US wanted to retrieve it from the ocean floor for intelligence purposes. Not only did the sub contain codes, but nuclear weapons as well. The US contacted Howard Hughes and asked his company to pretend to be interested in mining for manganese on the ocean floor. They used that as a cover to secretly recover the sub. "We can neither confirm nor deny" was first used during this project when journalists asked about the project's existence.

The full story is here.

Pontiac Trans Am WS6

A neighbor kid's friend has a non-WS6 Trans Am. The Pontiac is intriguing, but I've never liked its looks. Though it's essentially identical to the Camaro, the Pontiac just looks so narrow and long. And all that body cladding! The shots of the interior in the video below remind me of all the abysmal Grand Prixs I was forced to rent on vacations and business trips.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hollande and Royal...

...during happier times.

Casey Kasem was Shaggy?!

Kasem is very ill and his kids and wife are already fighting over his estate.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I listened to a Fresh Air podcast on Godzilla and came to the realization that I have never seen an entire Godzilla movie. I was shocked to learn that Japan made 28 movies and that there is even a North Korean version.

So yesterday, I started with the original. Well, the Americanized original. It appears that the American version adapted the Japanese version by adding Raymond Burr to the original movie.

I then skipped to the 1969 version, which was just awful.

The North Korean version is interesting. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean director to make this movie. It's a story about taking revenge on brutal capitalists. Where can I find this movie?

Does anyone have any recommendations for any other versions worth watching?

Rosberg and Heidfeld, seconds behind a win

As some of you know, I am/was a huge Heidfeld fan because he had so many podiums but never a win. Picking Rosberg as my new favorite driver when he moved to Mercedes is becoming a sound decision, especially this season. In the last four races, he's come in second all four times. Today, he finished barely half a second behind Lewis. Here is a breakdown of how close Heidfeld and Rosberg came to winning a race.

2005 Monaco: 13.877 second behind Kimi
2005 Europe: 16.567 behind Alonso
2007 Canada: 4.343 behind Lewis
2008 Australia: 5.478 behind Lewis
2008 Canada: 16.495 behind Kubica
2008 GB: 1:08.577 behind Lewis
2008 Belgium: 9.383 behind Massa
2009 Malaysia: 22.722 behind Button

Rosberg in 2014
Malaysia: 17.313 seconds behind Lewis
Bahrain: 1.085 behind Lewis
China: 18.686 behind Lewis
Spain: 0.600 behind Lewis

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dodge Shadow convertible

I saw one of these yesterday, driven by a crazy old bearded man.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Tour and photos of new BART train cars

There was an "open house" today so I checked out an example of what we locals will be riding in two years.

The new cars are fabricated in Canada and assembled in New York.

This is definitely an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, design.

TV Monitors!

The bright colors cheer up the interior. The new seats are easier to clean and "fluids" don't seep into the fabric, like they do with the current seats.

There is more sound insulation in the walls and the doors seal better, thus further deadening ambient noise.

"Please be gentle."

Helicopter-truck drone


...reminds me of this:

Oakland politics, in a picture

Yesterday, I stopped by Oakland Police Department headquarters for its annual memorial ceremony for the 50+ officers killed in the line of duty. I was surprised to learn that the first fatality took place all the way back in 1867.

After watching four seasons of The Wire, I am hyper aware of the intersection between Big City Police and the Mayor's Office.

The City of Oakland and its police department are beyond dysfunctional. Mayor Jean Quan (second row, in white and red) is viewed by many as incompetent and has no friends in the police department. At the ceremony, she was relegated to the second row.

Right in front of the mayor is the current Interim Police Chief. I think "Interim", "Acting", and "Co-Whatever" are the most useless titles ever. He seems competent, but has zero charisma/gravitas. He is probably not going to be made the permanent chief. He became chief when his two predecessors both quit within the same week(!).

Up front, in the middle, in purple, is the District Attorney. She doesn't have extraordinary clout, but she has credibility and staying power, which are both in short supply in this group. She gave the longest speech, and all she talked about was the need to hire more officers.

In the second row are a handful of city council members, who are all coincidentally running for mayor.

Oakland Toyota gay ad

Eventually, the issue will be so mainstream and accepted, it will be a non-issue.

Warning: To prevent rage stroke, DO NOT read some of the YouTube comments responding to this video.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Jim "Prezbo" True-Frost

Just finished Season 4 of The Wire, in which the main character is cop-turned-teacher Roland Pryzbylewski. I'll still always associate him as Campbell Scott's sidekick in Singles (1992).

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bay Area people, I need your help!

I am compiling a comprehensive list of what every local police department is replacing their Ford Crown Victorias with. Here is a link. Or, just comment on this blog. Please let me know what your local municipalities are using. Thanks!

Brazilian kids learn English by Skyping Chicago seniors

What a fantastically simple idea.

Hey Augie

Ad here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Monday, May 05, 2014

Boko Haram admits to kidnapping schoolgirls

If anyone deserves a kick in the nuts (or worse), it's these asshats. W. T. F.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Paramilitaries from both sides of the Ukraine conflict

Ripituc made a good point. This is reminiscent of the beginning of the wars in Yugoslavia. This brief video is worth watching.

Joe Biden in a PMY Corvette

Carspotting (Paris edition)

Here are a few photos from Stephan. Interesting to see a Quattroporte advertising beds.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Gucci ad with Lamborghini 350GT and James Franco

Toyota Soarer Aerocabin video

On Bring A Trailer, there is a great write-up about a rare Aerocabin sold in, of all places, Richmond, Virginia.

Here is my Soarer story, which I may have told snippets of already. 

I knew these brothers, Bobby and Eddie. They were about ten years older than me. Family friends. In fact, their mother owned the restaurant next door to my family's restaurant in Yokohama's Chinatown. They both attended the American school.

In the mid-80s, they moved to Southern California to attend college. I remember visiting them. Eddie shipped his white Toyota Soarer (non-Aerocabin) here. His brother Bobby had a no-doubt gray-market Alpina E21. I think Bobby also had a non-running Indian motorcycle that he was trying to bring back to life.

Fast forward 20 years later, and I was at a Korean BBQ joint in Oakland. I saw a white Soarer, just like Eddie's. I'm sure there are probably more than a few Soarers in California, but I've always wondered if that used to belong to Eddie.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Could this be it?

I like the description, even though it's an auto. Email to owner has already been sent.

"Great condition. Meticulously maintained:

- One owner since new. All maintenance records available.
- Old school maintenance schedule.
- Only synthetic oil used.
- Timing belt and water pump were replaced at 60K miles.
- Newer Michelin Defender (10K miles).
- New Die Hard Gold battery."

Great Senna-Merc 190E 2.3-16V Cosworth piece

1. Rchen: How did you like yours?
2. H/t to Ed.

Climate change collateral damage: Florida jail explosion

I understand that you can't attribute any specific weather event to climate change. In addition, the cause of the jail explosion is still unknown. But let's just imagine this scenario: Climate change causes unprecedented rain. In Pensacola, five inches (12.7 cm) of rain fell in 45 minutes. The local jail is flooded, causing a natural gas leak and explosion, killing 2 (another 3 are missing) and injuring 155.