Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Here is a diecast of Chris's CX. Hope to see his real CX in 2015!

Thanks everyone for reading and for your support.

Madonna's Take A Bow

Madonna's body of work is quite impressive. I've heard this song dozens of times but only saw the video for the first time yesterday. She rides in an interesting taxi cab, which Ripituc identified as the SEAT 1500.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Matt Farah gets a 900,000 mile Lexus LS400

Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire is kind of like Sons of Anarchy or Homeland. I know it's a show worth watching, but I just can't commit the time to do it.

I was listening to the latest Hooniverse podcast and heard Farah's story of a high mileage 1996 LS400 that he bought in Tampa, Florida. He just drove it back to California without a major problem (his cruise control failed somewhere in Arizona). His goal is to shoot a documentary about it reaching a million miles. It would take him forever to drive the last 100,000 miles, so he is letting his friends take long-distance road trips with it.

Here is the introductory write-up. I had no idea the LS's engine was certified by the FAA.

Below is a random Farah video, shooting an S600 Guard with a pistol.

Tesla Model D photos

These are from my friend, who picked it up just before Christmas. Other than the aggressive-looking rims/brakes, it looks like the regular Model S. To quote my friend-- "It's crazy fast."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Disappearing car door

H/t to rchen.

2 observations:
1. This would not pass any side impact tests.
2. Scarves, skirts, and other loose clothing might get caught in the rolling door and choke or otherwise injure the occupant.

Fundamentalist Mormons

I'm reading a book about fundamentalist Mormons. It's written by Jon Krakauer, who is better know for Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. It's about small polygamist communities throughout the American West. There's also a bit of background on the mainstream Mormon religion and its history.

As an atheist, I have the same feeling about all religions (I'm okay with them, as everyone is free to believe whatever they want), so long as their adherents are not batshit insane. These fundamentalists believe that mainline Mormons sold the religion out by forsaking polygamy when Utah joined the United States. The book is not only about polygamy. It's about the physical, sexual, and child abuse perpetrated by the male fundamentalists on their plural wives and children. Many of the women they end up marrying are under 18 and are often their first cousins, nieces, or step-daughters. It's gross.

Colorado City, Arizona, is one such fundamentalist community. They are left alone because of their remoteness. It is in the northwest corner of the state of Arizona and it is completely cut off from the rest of the state by the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lamborghini Diablo Jay Leno video

I'm back! After a week of in-laws, great food, and strong drinks in Florida, it took us over a day to fly back to California. We were supposed to fly from Fort Myers to Midway Chicago and then to Oakland. But due to air traffic control issues throughout Florida, we were going to miss our connection in Chicago. It took three Southwest agents to figure out an alternative: Fort Myers to Midway to Las Vegas. Then, the following day, Las Vegas to Oakland. Fortunately, my mom lives in Vegas so we got a bonus family holiday trip out of it.

Driving to the Las Vegas airport early this morning, I spotted a gun metal gray Diablo. I have never been a fan of Diablos. I thought they were too ostentatious and crude. But for the first time, this morning, I came to appreciate the car a lot more.

P.S. If you are ever in the Naples area, I highly recommend the Turtle Club for the view and Lee Be Fish for the fresh seafood.
P.P.S. I read this fascinating article about disgraced Congressman Mark Foley. Since resigning, he has come out of the closet, disclosed that he was abused as a child by a horrible priest, and opened a consignment store with his two Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dancing dog video

We interrupt this holiday hiatus to bring you this very important dog video.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas

I'll be taking a break, so posts will be sporadic. Happy Holidays!

P.S.: My friend's Tesla Model D will not be ready for pickup today. Delays at the factory. Life is tough, I know.

Farewell to Stephen Colbert

After nine years, The Colbert Report is over. The number of nerd celebrities (Kissinger, Terry Gross, George Lucas, etc.) in the final sing-along is amazing.

Plus, Colbert's 2006 roast of Bush is one for the ages.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cars of Germany and Zurich

These photos are from slirt. His thoughts on the cars of the various cities he visited are at the bottom of this post.

European readers: Although these cars may be mundane to you, they fascinate us Americans.

Citroen C4 Cactus:

Ford StreetKa:

Ford Focus:

VW Golf Cabrio:

Alfa Romeo 156 wagon:

Honda Civic(!):

1 of 350 Volvo limos built for East German government:

Audi A2:

Merc CLS wagon:

  • Zurich: nice car stock, good mix of all euros, many high end, with asia represented in the mix; saw 1 or 2 Teslas (only ones) and a VW e-Up!, a RR Wraith coupe & a Bentley GTC, a variety of Maseratis & Alfas, and one new C7 Corvette. despite this (and freezing temps), saw bicyclists & bike infrastructure, too.
  • Hamburg: much more modest car stock overall, most variety of VWs in traffic of all the cities, more asians/east.euros too; had a Touran taxi, saw two T1 Kombis. i rented the Skoda Citigo and went 2+hrs north on the Autobahn, the 1.0-litre 3-cyl keeping up with 100-120kph traffic, and hitting 160kph (~100mph) without any drama; very base car, but a fine little rental.
  • Berlin: most mixed international (German, asians, Frenchies, Fiat, eastern euros, SEATs, a few American); only Type 1 aircooled Bug (~'67); lots of smart Car2Go (car share) incl. e-smarts; also many cyclists.
  • Stuttgart: serious Car City: was told by hosts very few bikes & we saw NONE; most cars MBenz & BMWs, only a few Porsches, with a healthy Audi presence too; more Italians on the road again, esp Alfa Romeos; not many SUVs, a few, tho. Saw 3 b&w camo'ed prototypes on the road, 2 SUVs & one large sedan, but wasn't fast enough for pics.

Monday, December 15, 2014

993 Ruf Turbo R

This car has been on my mind today.

Model D on Friday

My friend is picking up his P85D on Friday at the factory. I'm tagging along and hopefully I'll get some time behind the wheel. 691 silent horsepower!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My grandfather's bio

The man wore a coat and tie all the time, even in the tropical weather of Taiwan. This was taken in our backyard. 25 years later, you would be able to see Taipei 101 in the background. Having daydreamed of one day visiting the Empire State Building, Little Me would never have imagined that one of the tallest buildings in the world would be so close to my childhood home.

Born in 1900, my grandfather was a voracious reader and devoted himself to fighting feudalism. In February 1925, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (one of the first 1,000 members; there are 82.6 million today). He was one of the leaders of the May 30th Movement (which was anti-imperialist and pro-labor).

In 1926, he formed and became the principal of a high school. He also set up a number of elementary schools in his local county. At the same time, he was organizing the Communist Party at the grassroots level. He led the fight to change the education system, replacing the chairman of the education board with a number of council members. He established a teachers union, increased funding for elementary schools, and upped faculty compensation. (He spanked me just once. I was practicing writing Chinese words and purposely wrote them as small as possible. He was not amused.)

He did something to anger the Communist Party (I wonder what he did). Branded as "proud, arrogant, arbitrary" and "taking matters into his own hands", he was expelled from the Party in April 1927 (wouldn't it be cool if he was the first member to be kicked out?). He immediately joined the Kuomingtang and served in that party's leadership.

During the Anti-Japanese War (1937-45), he served as commissioner of Shijiazhuang (in 1947, it had a population of 190,000; it had 10.1 million inhabitants in 2010). After World War II, he became governor of Hebei Province (!).

He was elected to the National Assembly and attended its first session and constitution drafting conference in Nanjing on March 29, 1948 (I have a long, scrolling, panoramic photo of him and a bunch of other men in suits taken on April 4, 1948). On April 19, the National Assembly elected Chiang Kai-Shek the President of the Republic of China.

When the KMT lost Mainland China, my grandfather fled to Taiwan, where he continued to serve on the National Assembly. From Taiwan, he and his fellow members continued to represent their respective districts in Mainland China until such time as when there could be new elections in China (an impossibility, and quite delusional). He also served as Deputy Transportation Minister in Taiwan.

In May 1969, he proposed the building of Qiufengjia Memorial Park in Taichung, Taiwan, to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting Japan.

In October 1982, he finished writing a book about his hometown. He passed away on December 29, 1982. The book was a record of the town's history, its geographic features, industrial and commercial development, as wells as its people's ancient and contemporary manners and customs. In the book, he documented looting, burning, and killing by the Japanese army and the Chinese people's rise to combat them. This is a rare document of the Anti-Japanese War period.

(When I lived with my grandfather from around 1977 to 1982, I remember him working on this book in his study. I did not realize that he finished his book just two months before he passed away. I do remember that a month or two before his death, he started coughing, suddenly became very ill, and was diagnosed with lung cancer. It's almost as if as soon as he finished that book, he was finally at peace and was ready to go. By the way, he had been a chain smoker since he was 15. He only smoked State Express 555s.)

American Honda collection

More here. I would really like to visit this and the Toyota collection in Torrance.

Porsche Museum photos

H/t to @slirt, who visited the museum last week. These are my favorite oddball cars.

356 B 2000 GS Carrera GT "Dreikantschaber":



1996 Porsche 993 police car:

Street-legal 911 GT1:

Swabian ravioli with potato salad and roasted onions (8.20 euros):




928 cabriolet:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thompson Twins

I heard this song on the radio last weekend on the way back from Thunderhill. It's refreshing that they haven't sold out because, to date, I have not heard any of their songs as a jingle for dish soap.

Friday, December 12, 2014

100 years of Greyhound

To celebrate, Greyhound is showing its old buses around the country. They will be in the Bay Area tomorrow and I'm going to try to check them out.

Proud Prius owner

I saw this at the Office Max parking lot today.

I also feel like venting that Office Max's selection of medium binder clips is woefully inadequate.

1976 BMW motorcycle assembly video

H/t Peter.

Norwegian Mercedes biodiesel rap video

Norwegian ladies are big boned.

H/t rchen

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The World's Fastest Cars (9): Buick GNX

I must admit that when I first saw this in my book 25 years ago, I was flabbergasted. How could something that looked so much like my mom's Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme be so quick?

Only 500 of these were built, and only in 1987. It was the last rear-wheel drive Regal ever built, so Buick wanted to go with a bang. Mind you, the original Grand National, which was what the GNX was based on, was already faster than the Testarossa and 288 GTO.

Here is how they compared:
GN: 0-60 in 4.9 secs, 1/4 mile in 15.7 secs at 97.3 mph
GNX: 0-60 in 3.9 secs, 1/4 mile in 13.4 secs at 105 mph

The book talks about how ASC and McLaren (of Michigan) were involved in the car's development, but it's not clear how they made the GNX more powerful than the Grand National.

Here is an old Car & Driver clip on the GNX:

The World's Fastest Cars (8): BMW M6

The big point in the write-up is the difference in output between American and European variants. I remember as a kid, reading Car & Driver, miffed by the fact that European models of the same car were faster and had more horsepower. The M6, which was known as the M635CSi in Europe, had 286 hp over there and "just" 256 hp here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The World's Fastest Cars (7): BMW M5

The thing I noticed most about the write-up about the M5 in my book is how many times it mentioned "West Germany" and "West German". 

The other thing: Despite weighing 800 pounds more than the E30 M3, on the Nurburgring, the M5 cornered just as fast.

Here is the M5 car chase from Ronin, for your viewing pleasure.

C6 Z06 Corvette

I'm not a big Corvette fan and I have no idea what the different variations are. Today, I had lunch with a colleague. For the longest time, he had an E30 convertible that he loved. He even had the engine rebuilt at 185,000 miles. Alas, it was simply falling apart so he sold it to his mechanic. It is now living a happy life in sunny San Diego.

This is a good story. He had a client who was cash-poor but car-rich. So the client paid my friend with this C6 Z06. Needless to say, he loves it.

Here is Tiff's take:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Translation of my grandfather's bio completed

I am going to do a more in-depth write-up this weekend, but here are some highlights:

  • He joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1924, making him somewhere between the 421st to 899th member.
  • He got booted by the Party in 1927 for being "proud, arrogant, arbitrary, and took matters into his own hands." There has to be a good story here.
  • He was the last KMT governor of Hebei Province before the Communist takeover.
  • He was a member of the first National Assembly in Nanjing in 1948 and elected Chiang Kai-Shek president.
  • Once he fled to Taiwan, he continued to serve in the National Assembly and was Deputy Transportation Minister.
I find it funny that when I lived with him, we got around almost exclusively by bus. Very proletarian.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Gleaming the Cube

I finally watched this 1989 Christian Slater flick. I was told that the school scenes were shot at my alma mater, Woodbridge High. I can now confirm that it's true. It's very cheesy and 80s. I would recommend it only if you were into skateboarding as a kid.

The World's Fastest Cars (6): BMW M3

This car has been written about ad nauseum, so I'll just post this Motorweek review. I do want to note that the oil temp gauge replaces the mileage gauge in the non-M3 cars.

Rchen: Anything to add? Driving impressions? Useless trivia?

Friday, December 05, 2014

The World's Fastest Cars (5): BMW 750iL

I've told this story a million times, but I'll tell it again. It's the late 1980s, maybe 1990, and I'm spending the summer with my father in Japan. This summer, his underworld friend offered him a job as a nightclub manager in the beach resort town of Atami. Because I can't speak Japanese, but I still wanted to earn money for my first car, my dad got me a job at a bento delivery joint. I worked in a HOT kitchen with around half a dozen sweet old ladies. It was an assembly line, and we put various entrees and sides neatly into bento lunch boxes, which were then delivered by moped all over the town. The problem was, I was an American teenager with no dexterity. The boxes I prepared were always messy and I suspect the owner got a lot of complaints from customers. Nevertheless, I got paid generously for a summer's work.

Anyway, back to the BMW. The nightclub owner had two brand new cars, a black on black BMW 750iL and a black on black Fairlady Twin Turbo. He let his girlfriend drive the Nissan. I remember him taking my dad and me out onto the street where the big Bimmer was parked. He sat us inside and showed us every feature it was equipped with. Even at a standstill, the car felt like a friggin' tank. For a brief moment, I wanted to be a nightclub owner. I also wanted to date his hot girlfriend.

From my book:

  • $70,000 MSRP, $1,850 gas guzzlers tax;
  • BMW offered the V12 because it got word that Mercedes was also going to offer a V12;
  • it has a better power-to-weight ratio than the M3 and the M5, but not the M6. 
So Edvin, how's that E32 project of yours?

The World's Fastest Cars (4): Bentley Turbo R

To this day, I would still like to actually own one of these. According to my book:

  • 5,270 pounds (my '05 Phaeton weighed 5,194 pounds),
  • 328 hp at 3800 RPM, 487 lb-ft of torque at 2400 RPM (335 hp at 6500 RPM, 317 lb-ft at 3500 RPM for the Phaeton),
  • wheelbase of 120.5" (118.1" for the Phaeton),
  • one Garrett T04-type turbocharger,
  • there was no room in the engine bay for an intercooler, and
  • the "R" stands for Roadholding!

Vertical side vents

Range Rover: Right.
Jaguar: Makes sense.

Chevy Captiva: What the heck? I saw one kitted with these vents today on the road.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

RIP Eric Garner

F'in' booshit. No indictment.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The World's Fastest Cars (3): Aston Martin V8 Zagato

Back when these came out, I thought they looked kind of fugly. But now, it is bordering on a work of art. So muscular, and it looks sort of like a Japanese car.

Aston Martin was in real financial trouble and this car saved the company. They promised just 50 of these would be made and quickly received 50 $27,000 deposits, based solely on some pencil drawings. 

The Zagato was equipped with a 5.3 liter V8 capable of producing 430 horsepower, which was significantly more than the already powerful regular AM V8. Plus, because the Z was 350 pounds lighter and more slippery through the air, it could achieve a 300 km/hour top speed. Note the hood bulge for the four Weber carbs. No, it wasn't fuel injected.

The Zagato sold new for $150,000 in 1986, and by 1989, had appreciated to $500,000!

Aston pissed off Zagato coupe owners when it announced that it would sell 25 Zagato convertibles. The drop tops only had 305 horses but retailed for $220,000.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

No luck finding my grandfather at the library

Over Thanksgiving vacation, I sent a book request to the Northern Regional Library Facility. It's a huge complex in Richmond that holds 6 million "infrequently used" books for the UC and CSU systems. I thought I'd hear back from them in a couple of weeks. I got an email on Monday morning that the book was ready for me to look at. I had a couple of hours between appointments so I zoomed over to the library and parked next to a white Saab wagon.

As soon as I entered the lobby, the guy behind the counter knew who I was and handed me the book. Now that's service!

Here is the book I wanted to look at. Alas, my grandfather's name was nowhere to be found. It's got about 40 pages of names and an index with everyone's telephone and telegraph(!) numbers.

The last time this book was checked out was in 2005.

Pardee Lowe was a Chinese-American who survived the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.


Page 1.

My grandfather shared the same last name of Yu as Yu Yu-jen. However, I could not find my grandfather's name or his alias (which I didn't discover until last week) anywhere in the book.