Thursday, March 31, 2016

Samurais in Egypt in 1863


Short explanation here.

Floor cleaner next to juice in Walmart


UAZ clown car

Count the kids! H/t to rchen.

Mitsubishi car ad featuring a Zero

Probably not used in the U.S., China, the Koreas, etc. Via Ramon.


Answers about Belgium


Thanks, Ed! I understand that all the questions are complicated and would take much longer to answer. But your answers are very insightful.

1. Do Belgian citizens have confidence in law enforcement and domestic intelligence agencies when it comes to preventing further acts of terrorism?

I honestly do not know to what extent we have confidence in those services nowadays. The Dutroux scandal (pedophile and murderer) highlighted lots of issues with law enforcement and resulted in a complete re-organisation of police/gendarmerie forces, but that was 20 years ago.

2. Does the dysfunctional and divided government bear any responsibility for the recent bombings?

The government is accused of having ignored some alerts, nothing is clear so far. As in Paris in Nov. 2015, I do not think anybody could have imagined the size of the attack. Possibly the recent governments could be blamed for not having better prevented youngsters from radicalising and travelling to Syria/Iraq.

3. Why do the Flemish and Walloons dislike each other? Is it purely cultural? Economic? Something else?

How many hours do you have? Some people consider that the border between the latin world and the germanic one cross Belgium thus making Belgium a two-nation country. All along the short history of Belgium, there been tensions between the governing elite and the working class population, a shift in economic power ... so no easy answer. However, but the community issues are above all risen by politicians from both sides (yes, even political parties are community based), people are more preoccupied by having a job, a home, ... like everywhere else in the world

4. Will Belgium break up into two sovereign countries? When?

Who knows? Catalonia and Scotland may set an example.

5. Do Belgian companies and its military currently have any presence in its former African colonies?

Belgian companies operate worldwide and/or have international ownership. I do not reckon they have a privileged position in Congo, especially that they hit rough seas during the Zaire time. Concerning the military, Belgium mostly takes part in UN and EU missions, in general in support and training roles as the trauma of the Belgian blue helmets killed in Kigali in 1994 is still very present.

6. How integrated are Muslims in Belgium? Do they face significant discrimination? If so, in what ways?

Unfortunately, as in a lot of western European countries, Muslim people feel that they are not well integrated. In spite of the existing anti-discrimination legislation, it is a well known fact that people with arabic sounding names will find it more difficult to get a job, to rent a house ... of course that creates resentment for Muslim people born and bred in Belgium. To some extent it can be compared with the situation of the black population in the USA.

It is definitely not complete and only reflects my opinion, but I hope that helps. As mentioned, the tensions between Flemings and Francophones (technically Walloons are only one part of the French-speaking population) have existed since the birth of the country and could take days to explain. 

Concerning discrimination, I do not think the Belgian situation is very different from France, The Netherlands, ... and with the rise of ISIL and terror attacks in Europe I am afraid racism will also rise.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Questions for Belgians


1. Do Belgian citizens have confidence in law enforcement and domestic intelligence agencies when it comes to preventing further acts of terrorism?

2. Does the dysfunctional and divided government bear any responsibility for the recent bombings?

3. Why do the Flemish and Walloons dislike each other? Is it purely cultural? Economic? Something else?

4. Will Belgium break up into two sovereign countries? When?

5. Do Belgian companies and its military currently have any presence in its former African colonies?

6. How integrated are Muslims in Belgium? Do they face significant discrimination? If so, in what ways?

Thank you.

Finn, Rey, and BB-8

This is my friend's former student, his wife, and their daughter. More adorable photos here.


Ford Taurus Hearse in Chile

A photo posted by @riveranotario on

Monday, March 28, 2016

7 guys I've lent money to

Since 2008, I have been using the microlending site Kiva to lend $25 at a time to entrepreneurs from around the world. After the recipient has repaid in full, I lend the $25 to the next person. I've been burned just once, when the Tajik currency took a tumble. Here are the people I've helped (and their cars):

Salom from Tajikistan

Fayez from Lebanon

Carlos from Bolivia

Faxraddin from Azerbaijan

Wilson from Kenya

Otar from Georgia

Lutfullo from Tajikistan. I took a loss in 2015 when the currency plummeted.

Tirso from Philippines. He has paid 58% of the loan back so far.

Man leaves 30,000 cars behind to church

Someone we know is going to be doing a legit write-up about this. There are concerns...

Jay Leno and the Mercedes C111


This car is so fascinating, I've written about it six times before.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Chinese media documenting fall of Palmyra

Nigeria's first lady mechanic

A glimpse into another world. This strong woman trains down-and-out women auto mechanics. She's fighting tradition and stigma. She's even flying up to Boko Haram country to teach women how to drive!

On a less serious note, I wonder how many of the cars are exported by the Nigerian diaspora out of the Port of Houston. Her shop even has an Acura ZDX!

Putin Country by Anne Garrels

Last week, longtime NPR correspondent Anne Garrels was on Fresh Air to talk about her new book, Putin Country. Since 1993, Garrels has returned to the industrial city of Chelyabinsk every year to see how it and its people have fared since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Here is the Fresh Air interview. Below is a retrospective of Garrels career. There are lots of cool vintage photos of the Soviet Union and Soviet cars. Sadly, Garrels and her husband are both battling cancer.


And coincidentally, Chelyabinsk was where that huge daytime meteor was spotted a few years ago.

Lotus M100 Elan hardtop

Rchen spotted this in Japan. Apparently, it's an aftermarket product.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Eating the Globe: Update


The series is going well and I am discovering local restaurants I would have never known otherwise.

I have tried 27 restaurants thus far:
Africa: Ethiopia, South Africa
Asia: Afghanistan, Burma, China, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Europe: Bosnia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden
North America: Mexico, USA
South America: Brazil, Chile

I estimate that I can probably find another 20 to 30 countries in the Bay Area. At some point, I will have to make the decision of going to an ethnic market and buying packaged foods from countries that don't have real life restaurants locally. And after I have exhausted that idea, I will have to make the decision of just downloading a recipe and making the exotic meal at home.

But for now, these are on my To Do list.




Laotian (should eat there during the day, potential safety issue) http://www.yelp.com/biz/vientian-cafĂ©-oakland-2




Somali http://www.yelp.com/biz/jubba-restaurant-san-jose

Portuguese http://www.yelp.com/biz/grubstake-san-francisco

Argentinean http://www.yelp.com/biz/tanguito-san-francisco 

Roger Ebert documentary

If you are a film lover or a fan of Siskel & Ebert, you will cherish this movie.


Apparently, Ebert and Siskel despised each other in the beginning. They came from very different backgrounds. Ebert's father was an electrician and Ebert attended the public school University of Illinois. He went on to be the first movie critic to win a Pulitzer. Siskel was a Jewish kid who became an orphan at age 10. He attended Yale and hung out with Hugh Hefner quite a bit. These outtakes are hilarious, especially when they start ragging on Protestants.


Finally, a classic. Howard Stern interviewing Siskel & Ebert around 1990. I found it endearing when Siskel admonished Ebert not to disclose Ebert's girlfriend's age. Real brothers.

Hawai'i votes today

Today, Democrats in Hawai'i, Alaska, and Washington vote. 

Tulsi Gabbard has a unique background. She is a Congresswoman from Hawai'i and was recently a high up within the Democratic National Committee. But after seeing the leadership, including DNC Chair (and 2008 Hillary campaign co-chair) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, unfairly treat Bernie, Gabbard resigned from the DNC to endorse Bernie. Gabbard is part Samoan, part Caucasian, and a practicing Hindu. She was a medic during the Iraq War. 

Bernie has a decent chance of winning all three states today.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Eating the Globe: South Africa


This is a bunny chow. It's a dish invented by the Indians of Durban, South Africa. It's a hollowed out loaf of bread that is filled with spicy beef curry. I didn't realize the curry was already spicy. I poured the hot sauce on top and ended up sweating for an hour after the meal. This came with a lot of meat and is worth the $9.50 price tag.

The name "bunny chow" came from the Indian caste of Bania.


Countries tried so far:
Africa: Ethiopia, South Africa
Asia: Afghanistan, Burma, China, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Europe: Bosnia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden
North America: Mexico, USA
South America: Brazil, Chile

Reagan, Gorby, ZIL in Iceland, 1986


Nissan Skyline evolution


Birdie Sanders

Also, #FeelTheBird.


Young Dmitry Medvedev


Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP Garry Shandling

Shandling was one of my favorite comedians of all time. He was the perfect combination of smart and awkward. Died of a massive heart attach today at age 66.

Growing up, I loved watching It's Garry Shandling's Show.

Plus, he responded to my tweet just five months ago!

Duct tape on the moon


During the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, one of the lunar rover's fenders broke and lunar dust became a problem. The astronauts used duct tape, clamps, and maps to fix the problem.

Eating the Globe: Afghanistan


This Afghan joint in Hayward has tons of great reviews, but my lamb kabob was barely above average. The meat was pretty good quality, but was overcooked. The rice was dry. The dressing on the salad was bland. The potato and chickpea vinaigrette salad was weird. The hot dipping sauce was okay. 

I may give the place another try. Maybe the chef just had a bad day.

Countries tried so far:
Africa: Ethiopia
Asia: Afghanistan, Burma, China, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Europe: Bosnia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden
North America: Mexico, USA
South America: Brazil, Chile

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Paging Ed in Belgium (and other Belgians)

If you are willing to answer some questions we have about the state of Belgium this week, please email me at milhousevanh at gmail. Thank you.


Obama dancing Tango in Argentina

Boy, we really lucked out with Obama.

Utah's beautiful National Parks

While watching coverage of the Utah caucuses last night, I saw this strategically placed ad. Sanders, by the way, beat Clinton in Utah 79 to 20.

David Letterman in retirement

What a difference. I think bald men should be proud of their baldness.



Look at that tiny Honda

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roush Ford Focus

I took this picture today because of the car's unusual rear spoiler. Then I noticed the Roush badge. I had no idea these existed. This is the only info I could find online.


Saturn V fuel consumption in elephants

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Obama in Cuba

H/t to rchen.


Patriot Games Porsche

They don't make movies like this anymore.

Modern day Chinese concubine

This is not new, especially in the Chinese culture. But a frank interview with one is.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rwanda to generate 1/3 of energy via methane from lake

This is crazy. The volcanic rock beneath Lake Kivu in Rwanda emits carbon dioxide. A lot of it. Bacteria in turn converts the CO2 into methane. The lake contains 256 cubic kilometers of CO2 and 65 cubic kilometers of methane.

Rwanda is going to suck the methane out of the lake and convert it into 100 megawatts of energy. That's equal to half of the country's current generating capacity. Wow.


Female Ukrainian pilot on trial in Russia for murder


This 33 year old woman was the only female soldier in Ukraine's peacekeeping contingent in Iraq. When she returned from Iraq, she became an Mi-24 helicopter and Su-24 jet pilot. In 2014, she was captured by pro-Russian separatists and transported to Russia, accused of giving artillery coordinates which caused the deaths of two Russian journalists at a checkpoint. These two videos are worth checking out. The first one is a bit of her manifesto. The second is of her giving the finger to the court. Read more about her here.


Argentinean coast guard sinks Chinese fishing trawler


Off the coast of Puerto Madryn, this Chinese boat was illegally fishing in Argentina's territorial waters. The coast guard gave chase and the Chinese boat tried to ram the coast guard ship. The coast guard opened fire and sunk the boat. The entire crew was saved by the coast guard and a second Chinese fishing boat.

These Mantilla-class ships have a helicopter pad and a 40mm gun.


Here's a 40mm gun in action. Is it capable of sinking that boat?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Saab is for sale!

I bought it with around 38,000 miles last summer for around $9,300. When I got the $5,000 repair estimate from three different mechanics, I sold it to the third mechanic for $2,500. Now it's for sale for $11,900. I hope the place makes money out of it, but 1) the Carfax will show that it has had five owners and 2) what if the electrical gremlin emerges again?

I love that they kept the Bernie sticker.

P.S. The car is worth $8,000 on KBB in Excellent Condition.


Mars rover tire track


BMW sales numbers, by model

This is a great graphic from The Economist. My thoughts:

  • Other than the X5, I just don't understand the other Xs, except maybe the X3. But apparently, they're selling a lot of them.
  • I am such a nostalgist. I just want BMW to sell 3-, 5-, and 7-Series. And a few 6s and 8s.
  • What are the "Other models"? The Z3 and Z4?
  • I wonder if BMW "made money" with the Rover purchase, taking into account the value of the Mini brand now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A very eventful road trip to Southern California

Please allow me to get a little bit personal.

This bolt through my tire wasn't even close to being the most eventful part of our trip.


The plan was simple. A 7 1/2 hour drive down to Palm Desert to stay with some friends over the weekend. Then a little food exploration in LA on Monday, followed by brunch with my 91 year old step-dad on Tuesday morning in Laguna Beach. Simple.

As you may know, the Bay Area has been hit by El Nino. Nearly an inch of rain was falling every day. We went to drop off Cooper at his dogsitter. It was raining hard and about two blocks away from his house, I thought I hit a big pothole. My wife immediately suspected that I had blown a tire.

I checked the tire in front of the dogsitter's house and it looked fine. As we drove away, it made a thumping sound. I let go of the steering wheel and it was still going straight, so I just thought the sound was due to the wet road and the fact that the rear compartment was filled with luggage (and thus muffled the rear tire noise).

Wrong. When we got onto a busy street less than a quarter of a mile from the dogsitter, the tire pressure light went on and my left rear tire was flat. I pulled over on the tight shoulder. It was raining hard, traffic was heavy, and everyone was speeding to work at 50+ miles per hour. Dangerous.

Worse, the TSX wagon does not come with a spare tire. It only comes with a can of goo spray and an electric air pump. I later learned that 35% of new cars do not come with spare tires in order to raise fuel efficiency. What bullshit. So we called Acura for a free tow to the local dealer.

This was the sixth tow I've used in the last 12 months. The Volvo was towed twice after the crash. The Saab three times to various mechanics. And now, the Acura.

We were supposed to get out of town at 7:30am. But because of the heavy rain, we had to wait 2 1/2 hours for the tow truck to arrive. It was stressful as I was afraid we were going to get rear ended.

At the dealership, the tow truck driver gave me a souvenir. The bolt that punctured my tire was huge. According to Bozi, it belonged to a GM.


Another 2 1/2 hours in the Acura waiting room for a $250 marked up tire. This trip is getting expensive. This Michelin display was cool though.


After a spicy Chinese lunch, we left more than five hours behind schedule. And because we left so late, we hit LA rush hour traffic. That, plus flooding everywhere, meant we didn't get to Palm Desert until after 10pm. We were so exhausted.


We spent a perfect weekend with our friends and their young kids. It was in a gated resort that had everything-- pools, playgrounds, food, drinks, etc. We got to enjoy the sun and I discovered the blended margarita.


The friends are dentists and they told us about this real life Play-Doh dentistry set.


I'll take this moment to review the Acura. I can't believe I lived this long without realizing the benefits of satellite radio, GPS, and a rear facing camera. I have yet to figure out the bluetooth.

The car handles well and the ride is a bit rough on broken asphalt. Though the car has tons more gadgets than my old TSX sedan, it feels cheaper. I never got to reset the trip odometer so I don't have a sense of the kind of mileage I'm getting. My biggest gripe is the powertrain. The wagon only came with the normally aspirated four cylinder and a five-speed auto. It needs two more cylinders or a turbocharger. It really struggles to stay at 80mph on the freeway, which is kind of shameful. Reliability aside, the Saab's engine and automatic gearbox were far superior.


Eventually, liberal guilt set in. I was having fun in this little safe cocoon while working people outside struggled to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children. It really gnawed at me.




We said our good-byes on Monday and headed to the Los Angeles Farmers Market for some mole at Loteria Grill. I don't think I ever had mole before. It reminded me of satay sauce in a way. The meal was definitely worth the drive.


Then, it went downhill. It took almost 2 1/2 hours to drive 45 miles from Los Angeles to Orange County because of horrific traffic. My wife had sun poisoning and suffered from headache and nausea. As soon as we got to our hotel room, she started barfing. Our dinner plans went out the window.

This morning, I woke up to a view of these trees out the hotel window. These were all over Irvine, where I grew up. The trees gave me a flashback of when I was in high school, when I would look out the window during class and daydream.


We went to my step-dad's house to pick him up. He didn't know we were coming. It was supposed to be a surprise. I hadn't seen him in a year and my wife for a couple of years. When I knocked on the front door, there was no answer. I walked to the backdoor and when I knocked, I heard a groan. Fortunately, the door was unlocked. I found my step-dad semi-conscious. He couldn't move, was incoherent, and was pale as a ghost and sweating profusely. We called the paramedics and he was rushed to the hospital.

He eventually came to. Doctors surmised that he had a sharp drop in blood pressure. At one point, I thought I was going to lose him. When he became lucid, we said what we needed to say to each other. He was released from the hospital and last I heard, he was complaining about tonight's election results.

I don't typically share personal stuff on this blog. I'm sharing this today because I want you to get in touch with that elderly loved one and let them know how much you care before you lose the opportunity.


Eating the Globe: Hungary


Over the weekend, we drove down to Palm Desert for a mini-break. We went out to Chef George's, a Hungarian/European joint that's popular with retirees. The owner-chef was a big deal in the old school California restaurant scene and influenced the Velvet Turtle chain of upscale restaurants.

I ordered the paprika chicken. With the plate, it easily weighed five pounds. It's basically a box of pasta, chicken, and a buttery/creamy paprika sauce that was more sweet than spicy. And a dollop of sour cream on top. It was quite tasty, but it was enough to feed five adults. I barely made a dent in it and couldn't really talk for the second half of the meal. It was devastating.

The restaurant was a step back in time. I highly recommend it.

Countries tried so far:
Africa: Ethiopia
Asia: Burma, China, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Europe: Bosnia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden
North America: Mexico, USA
South America: Brazil, Chile

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On vacation

Will tweet. Maybe an occasional blog post.


Bernie is back

With the Michigan win, there is more strength and confidence in Bernie's voice. Big states in the Rust Belt are coming up. Here are two that are airing.

This is aimed at Chicagoans.

Is the voiceover done by the black BBQ guy from House of Cards?

Happy 100th, BMW

I'm a little late to the game. But here is the only photo I can find of my 2001 330i. It's parked in front of the Soledad Mission. I went to all 21 missions in three days. And yes, that is a fake German plate behind my California plate.


Size of states won by Bernie and Hillary


On Tuesday, Bernie finally won a big state-- Michigan. It is the 10th largest state in the country. Polls had him behind by 21 points. It was incredible.

I've listed the states won by each candidate and their ranking in population size. At the end, I've averaged the population ranks.

Hillary
Iowa (30th)
Nevada (35)
South Carolina (23)
Alabama (24)
Arkansas (33)
Georgia (8)
Massachusetts (15)
Tennessee (17)
Texas (2)
Virginia (12)
Louisiana (25)
Mississippi (32)
Average of 12 States (21.3)

Bernie
New Hampshire (41st)
Colorado (22)
Minnesota (21)
Oklahoma (28)
Vermont (49)
Kansas (34)
Nebraska (37)
Maine (42)
Michigan (10)
Average of 9 States (31.6)