Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ushuaia to Alaska In A Renault 12 Break

Carlos and Samanta are a couple of 30 something Argentinians with a grand plan. They are driving their 1981 Renault 12 station wagon from Ushuaia to Alaska. I don't know how they're gonna do it, but I will definitely follow their journey. If anything, it will give me a chance to brush up on my Spanish.


Volkswagen Group Keys

The Volkswagen Group operates a lot of car companies. Always looking toward the bottom line, the cars from the various makes share many components together. A recent article in Automobile magazine quoted the head of Bentley (a VW subsidiary) as saying that Bentley will never be on the cutting edge of technology, but will jump aboard as soon as someone else perfects a new technology. He even speculated that a turbocharged Audi (another VW sub) engine may one day power a Bentley.

The key is a good example of component sharing. Here is the key you get with a VW. On one side, you have lock, trunk, and unlock. The round button in the corner unlatches the spring-loaded key.

Here is a Skoda key:
A SEAT key:

The other side of the same SEAT key:

An Audi key:

A key to a Lamborghini:

A Bentley key:
Even a Bugatti key looks similar:


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bond Villains (2): Rosa Klebb

Misogyny in James Bond films has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere. But what about misogyny and homophobia? Bond fans quickly assume that Messrs. Wint and Kidd were the first gay Bond villains. In fact, it was Rosa Klebb.

First, the evidence of Rosa's sapphic tendencies. She had short, parted hair. She wore very unflattering and drab clothing. When Red Grant's trainer touched her elbow, she flinched and shot a look of disapproval at him. When she met Tatiana, she ordered her to take off her jacket and to turn around. She touched Tatiana's knee. She brushed her hand against Tatiana's shoulder, neck,.... Well, you get the picture.

By portraying Klebb as a villain, the movie demeans lesbians, feminists, and strong-minded women. The 1963 film lumps all of them into one frumpy and shrill category. The link is made expressly with Klebb's name. In Russian, khleb i rozy means "bread and roses", a slogan for the international labor movement with a strong feminist bent.

And just what is wrong with strong women like Klebb? Well, they have a mind of their own (she defected from Soviet counterintelligence), she is serious (she is not a ditz), she is unattractive aesthetically, and worst of all, she is sexless (at least in the sense that 007 could never successfully seduce her.)

It is interesting that at the end of the movie, it is Tatiana, another woman, who kills Klebb. Tatiana, as a slave in our patriarchal society, re-affirms her allegiance to that very system by eliminating a figure capable of disrupting, if not toppling, that system. Tatiana killed women's rights.

Bond villain ranking:
1. Dr. No (Dr. No)
2. Rosa Klebb (From Russian With Love)


Kung Fu Express In San Jose

Update (5/3/09): I take back everything I said below.

Thanks to Chowhound, I found this great Taiwanese place in San Jose. This Chinese blog has a nice little write up along with pictures. Here's the run-down.

First, it's impossible to find. My navigation system was actually smoking, trying to give me directions to this place. It's in the same shopping center along Saratoga as Carl's Jr./Green Burrito and Walgreen's. The place actually faces Payne and is next to a Japanese place, an Ethiopian place, and a place that sells filtered water(?!).

As a side note, it is closed on weekdays between 3 to 5 p.m. My waiter said this is because it is so slow then and they want to cut down on overhead.

The food is authentic and cheap. I ordered pai gu fang (pork chop rice). The pork chop was pretty big but was not the finest quality meat. But the seasoning and preparation were excellent. It was oddly served on a fish shaped plate (with fins) with some of the best steamed rice I've had in years, half a lou dang (soy egg), pickled vegetables (pao tsai), and garnished with a couple slices of bright yellow pickled radish. Oh, and there was a sprinkling of rou song (meat floss) too.

Knowing that I won't be here again for a while, I also got an oyster omelet. I learned today that the dish was invented in the 1600s. When the Taiwanese rebeled against their Dutch colonizers, the Dutch locked down the towns and hoarded all the food. The locals only had oysters and potato meal and came up with the original oyster omelet. (The sauce and eggs came later.) Kung Fu's version was nice. The oysters were fresh. The overall consistency was a perfect balance of gooey and firm. The sauce was not too rich, which is how I like it.

I needed to wash down everything with some gong wan soup. But I was almost full. So the waiter served me the soup in a smaller bowl than normal. It had four perfect gong wans in a mild broth. All in all, a great meal.

This place is under new management. Some of the reviews on Yelp are, in my opinion, unfair. These people are slowly but surely going to make this a great place for authentic Taiwanese fare. Let's support them.

Partial wall menu


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

USF1 Driver Candidates

At yesterday's press conference, Peter Windsor, who is one-half of the USF1 leadership, listed a number of possible American drivers for the team in 2010. Here they are, in the order in which Windsor listed them.

The young upstarts (read: not quite ready for prime time):
1. Alexander Rossi: Born in 1991. Formula BMW America and World winner, 2008.
2. Conor Daly: Age 17. Derek Daly's son.
3. Josef Newgarden: Born in 1990. About equal in skill to Daly.
4. Gabby Chaves: This kid looks like he's 14. Parents are from Colombia. Another JP Montoya in the making? Let's hope not.

These kids, even if they have the talent, need at least another two to four years before they are ready for Formula One. USF1 can take them under its wings like McLaren did with Hamilton, but they will not be ready to drive in 2010.

The maybes:
5. Jonathan Summerton: Moderately successful in A1 racing for Team USA. He would finish behind a Super Aguri car, if it still existed.
6. Scott Speed: The only thing he's got going is that he has relatively recent F1 experience. And that is the ONLY thing. Still, it may be enough to get a shot at a seat.
7. Kyle Busch: A young and talented NASCAR driver. I know nothing about NASCAR so I can't comment on his skills or chances of success in F1.
8. Danica Patrick: As a race fan and a feminist, I can't take her seriously when 80% of the pictures out there of her have her in a bikini or a towel. She'll get plenty of attention if she's hired, but not because she's talented at driving. As a publicity stunt, hiring her would only mean the loss of all credibility for USF1.
9. Marco Andretti: (Actually, it was Bob Varsha who mentioned Marco while interviewing Mario at the press conference, so I don't think Marco technically belongs on this list.)
10. Graham Rahal: Windsor mentioned his name much later in the press conference. I think this kid has a shot.

Apparently, Windsor will be holding interviews at a Charlotte area Starbucks. So get your camera phones ready, North Carolinians!

Update: It looks like the team may go for F1 experience after all. Top on the list is Alex Wurz. Less likely is Jacques Villeneuve.

Bond Villains (1): Dr. No

This crazed villain is a complete mystery to us. Few outsiders have stepped foot in his domain. Even fewer have come out alive to tell about it. He is an anomaly even among his fellow "Orientals". The East, and especially China, should be allied with him. Yet it has rejected him. Because of his outward, exotic appearance, the West has likewise rejected him. He has nuclear ambitions and is interested in weakening America's long range missile capabilities. He desperately wants to fit in, but is only accepted by a loose confederation of fellow tyrants and pariahs.

Was that a description of Dr. Julius No or Kim Jong-Il?

We in the West have been afraid and distrustful of "Orientals", the Other, since time immemorial (see the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan). Dr. No, played brilliantly in a stereotypical late 50s/early 60s Hollywood manner (see Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's) by Joseph Wiseman, fits the fear-inducing role perfectly.

I am by no means defending No and Kim. They are bad men. But because we do not understand the cultures and families in which they were raised, we automatically pigeon hole them one-dimensionally, without more. They are complex people with unique emotions, temperaments, experiences, and hang-ups, just like the rest of us. No's motives and personality have much to do with being raised in China by a German missionary father and a Chinese mother. He was never accepted by the East and rejected by the West. For Kim, he did not rise to power through ruthless cunning and charisma. He was handed the throne on a silver platter by his father, the even Dearer Leader.

Under Bush, we saw Chavez, Castro, Ahmadinejad, and Kim as equally maniacal, insane, and non-sensical. They became caricatures. But they could not be more different from each other. If we are to make this world a safer place, we must deal with these people. But before we talk to them, we must understand them.

Bond villian ranking:
1. Dr. No


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Great Day Today

Despite a stressful day today, three greats things happened.

1. I had drinks with my friend M, after a 15 year gap. M and I were comrades back in college when we protested against American imperialism in Central America. We've both mellowed a lot since then and voting for Obama has been, unfortunately, the most liberal thing we've done in years.

2. The United States F1 team is official. The press conference today in Charlotte was informative and exciting. I will write more about it soon.
3. Andy Richter is reunited with Conan. I am so happy for them. The Tonight Show will definitely be a part of my Tivo's season pass now.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evo II

Tonight's Top Gear on BBC America was one of the best episodes in recent memory. Having Mika Hakkinen teach James "Captain Slow" May about car control was quite entertaining. Mika takes May out on the gravel in a friend's Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evo I.

For months now, I've wanted to post a piece about the Evo II, which in my opinion is the best looking Mercedes of the 1980s. But for one reason or another, I never did. Well, here it is. I'm not going to write a description of the car or its history. I'm just going to show you a couple of pictures and let you soak in the awesome.


IZH 412

A while back, I told you about Salom, the Tajik cab driver on Yours truly, along with about a dozen other people, each lent him $25 so that he could fix up his IZh 412.

It seems that James May of Top Gear recently, and coincidentally, reviewed the exact same car.

For you fellow Soviet bloc car nuts, I suggest the following books, which I will get around to reading sooner rather than later-- Cars for Comrades and Cars of the Soviet Union.


Carspotting (12): Porsche Carrera

Another example of the classic Porsche for the Gen Xer who came of age in the 80s. The whale tail is just gorgeous. And look at those Fuchs rims with the black paddles and silver outlines! I'm in love.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Best Bond Villains

It's gonna be a while before the next Bond film comes out, so I'm going to start a series on the Bond Villains. The first review will be on Dr. Julius No. Stay tuned.

Plus, I'm going to try to find a Bond-Austin Powers link in each movie as I go through them.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

What Is Spam Made Out of And How Is It Made?

I just read Spam: A Biography. There is no question that I am a big fan of it. I thought I'd summarize the factory process for making Spam from the book, which is very interesting.

As a part of the research, I tried to find a video of a Spam factory tour. Instead, I found this video put out by PETA of a pig farm in Iowa that supplies pork to Hormel (Spam). It is the saddest and most disgusting thing I have ever seen, and I stopped watching it halfway. This is some sick stuff. You've been warned.

And one more thing, Hormel acknowledged that this pig farm is one of its suppliers. I'm an omnivore and am certainly not preachy, but what has our society become?

Warning: Real sick and inhumane treatment of poor pigs. Very disturbing.


Citroen SM Shooting Brake

Correction: Yesterday, I said that a diecast model of a Citroen SM Shooting Brake was based on a fictitious car. I was wrong. Here is the real McCoy.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Amazing Citroen SM Diecasts

The good people (person?) at have an incredible collection of exotic and one-off 1/18 scale cars. This is its Citroen SM collection.

Citroen SM Tissier carrying a Citroen DS Chapron convertible

Tissier carrying a fellow SM

Citroen SM Espace

A fictitious Citroen SM shooting brake

Citroen SM Cabriolet

All they are missing are the Citroen SM pick-up and tow trucks.


Maserati Biturbo, the Dogleg Shift Pattern, And the Manual Choke

I've always been fascinated by the Maserati Biturbo. Here is a great review of it by John Davis at Motorweek.

The two most interesting points from the video-- the shift pattern and the manual choke. The dogleg pattern looks like this:It is usually found in race cars because first is rarely used, except for starting and pit lane use. Other notable road cars with this pattern include the Porsche 928, 924 Turbo, 914, the early 911, Lamborghini Miura, and a few Euro-spec performance BMWs and Mercedes.


2009 Porsche Carrera S LED DRLs

A guy in a 2009 Porsche Carrera S was tailgating me this afternoon on the freeway. I got to take a good close look at it from all angles as it passed me doing 90 to 95. I think it looks better than the last generation 911. The only odd things were the thin, vertical LED daytime running lights below the iconic oval headlamps. They look out of place and really grab your attention. But then again, that's the whole point of DRLs, right?


Carspotting (11): 1965ish Ford Mustang Convertible

This convertible is a green that is so dark,I first thought it was black. It's pretty shiny, but up close, there were some ripples in the rear fascia. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful example of a true American icon. One doesn't see many of these on the road anymore. In a time when everyone (including yours truly) has been writing about the death of the American car, it's good to see an example of a great American car, albeit one that is more than four decades old.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hikawa Maru, Yamashita Park, Yokohama

Since we're on a Japan kick, here is the Hikawa Maru, which has been berthed in Yokohama's Yamashita Park since 1961. Seeing it as a child, I thought it must have been the biggest ship in the world.The ocean liner was launched in 1929. Charlie Chaplin was its most famous passenger. A number of Jews used it in 1941 to flee the Nazis. During WWII, it was used by the Japanese Imperial Navy as a hospital ship. From 1945 to 1947, the U.S. used it to repatriate American G.I.s. It was then returned to the Japanese and used for carrying cargo and passengers.


Yakult Delivery

For decades throughout East Asia, little tiny bottles of Yakult have been delivered to people's doorsteps by push cart, bicycle, and moped. As a child, I got my daily dose of probiotic milk-like product this way. Here are a couple beautiful shots from flickr, both taken in Japan.


McDonald's Japan

After watching these commercials, I can't believe that there isn't an obesity epidemic in Japan. I guess it's all about eating in moderation.

Egg Double Mac Burger: two hamburger patties, one egg, one slice of fat bacon

Mega Teriyaki Burger: two hamburger patties, teriyaki sauce, cheese, mayo

Croquette Burger: 'nuf said

Mega Mac Burger: four hamburger patties

Cheese Cutler Burger: deep fried pork cutlet with a layer of cheese inside


Citroens In My Bathroom

I picked these postcards up at a tourist-infested shop in Montmartre. I framed them and I look at them while sitting in my "office".

Citroen H Van

Citroen DS 19


Carspotting (10): Porsche 911SC

I saw this pristine 911SC parked after a heavy downpour. It looks fairly stock, except the front bumper/spoiler may be aftermarket. This is a classic Porsche in the minds of most Gen Xers born in the late 60s to mid 70s.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nick Heidfeld, 2009 World Champion

You heard it here first, folks. Herr Heidfeld will win the driver's championship this year.


My Favorite Beers

After consuming hundreds of different beers from every continent save Antarctica, here are my favorites:

1. Best canned beer: Tecate. It's light but not watery like domestics and very refreshing on a hot summer day and even a rainy winter night (like tonight).

2. Most underrated: Miller High Life. The bottle says it's the champagne of beers. It's no joke. It is both smooth and bold and quite a bargain.

3. Best beer unavailable on the West Coast: Yuengling Lager. I don't know if it's just nostalgia, but I crave this whenever I think of my days on the East Coast.

4. Best overall beer: Anchor Steam. It's like no other beer out there. And it's delicious.