Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bought two more Hot Wheels

A new NSX and an Elmiraj!

Local police cars, vans, and motorcycles

A couple of weekends ago, all the local police agencies got together to show off their vehicles. For those of you outside the United States, this gives you a pretty good look at the typical police cars we see everyday. For reference, in the States, we have four levels of government. From top to bottom, we have federal, state, county, and city.

First up, we have a vehicle that's not even affiliated with law enforcement. But it was my favorite at the gathering. It's an old Ford Red Cross van.

My town has less than a dozen police cars. They are Chargers and Explorers (and a few Crown Victorias are still left). We have no motorcycles.

Our town is named after Joaquin Moraga. Moraga's grandfather built the San Francisco Presidio and founded the city of San Jose.

The town next to us has a larger vehicle fleet. They also have motorcycles and rumors are, an undercover Camry.

The county sheriff's office brought a number of vehicles. Our county is called Contra Costa because we are on the other side of the bay from San Francisco. Here is a search and rescue truck.

Hazmat truck.

Here is a Lenco BearCat(?). There is an outcry about the militarization of the civilian police force. I understand the concerns but on the other hand, the bad guys have some pretty heavy duty weapons.

Bay Watch!

Back to the SWAT van.

Local ambulance. We used to have smaller van-based ambulances. But because Americans are getting more porcine, they are being replaced with heavy-duty ambulances using heavy-duty gurneys.

BART is our area rail service.

These firefighters had to respond to a call while we were at the show.

This is probably driven by office staff, supervisors, or inspectors. Note Cooper to the left.

In the distance, motorcycle units were playing polo with a big ball.

This command center was pretty neat.

This room in the back is for the hostage negotiator.

In the hallway of the command center.

This is in the front and houses the officer-in-charge and the dispatcher.

California Highway Patrol motorcycle.

Citation books.

We still have quite a few Crown Victorias left, but the CHP has a lot of Explorers and some Chargers in our area.

This car is E85 compatible. The only reason this country has E85 (an ethanol fuel blend derived from corn) is because politically, the first presidential primary state is Iowa and Iowa grows a lot of corn.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monterey Car Week

I might go on Saturday, but rchen is already there. Follow his Instagram feed here.

A post shared by Rich Chen (@rchen) on

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Driving a BYD from Shanghai to Rotterdam

This series is both educational and fun. Two Dutchmen working in Shanghai (one in marketing, one in urban planning) quit their jobs and got BYD and other Chinese companies to sponsor their road trip home. Everything they used on the trip-- cameras, sunglasses, tents, clothing-- were Chinese-made. They obviously couldn't speak ill of Chinese products, but the products spoke for themselves. Watch the entire series here. My favorite episodes are as follows:


Xinjiang to Kazakhstan:





More Iran:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 highlights (thus far)

January, tried Nicaraguan food:

February, babymoon in Laguna Beach:

March, got an i3:

April, baby boy:

May, checked out a Lexus Land Cruiser:

June, Radwood car show:

July, found out the fate of those autonomous 1990s Buicks:

August, baby touched Pacific for the first time in Mendocino:

All the land in the solar system

Maserati Ghlibli hearse

H/t to Edvin!

Weird Soviet Estonian ad

I made that "Estonian" chicken dish again, and saw this on Twitter.

Landing in Nauru

Population 10,000. You can see the entire country from the plane.

What a week in America

We went on vacation on Wednesday, thinking we were going to get nuked. We returned from our vacation, only to be greeted by Nazis.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Potential North Korean nuke targets in San Francisco/Silicon Valley

I am super paranoid right now. Thankfully, their missile will probably just hit the Pacific Ocean. And even if it hits its intended target, the Hiroshima-sized bomb only has a blast radius of one mile (1.6 km).

From most likely to least likely targets:

  • San Francisco Financial District: Maximum scare factor.
  • San Francisco SoMa District: Where many tech startups and biotech firms are located.
  • Golden Gate Bridge: American icon.
  • Mountain View: Google HQ.
  • Palo Alto: Spiritual heart of Silicon Valley.
  • Lawrence Livermore Berkeley Laboratory/UC Berkeley campus: Two birds, one stone.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Federal nuclear and science lab.
  • Downtown San Jose: Most populous city in the Bay Area, but nobody knows that.

SR-71 trivia from a former pilot

So many nuggets of fascinating information.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Belt and Road: Chinese propaganda rap song

OMG. So bad.

My Darien Gap maps

I got sucked into a Darien Gap wormhole again last night. Panama technically doesn't have an army anymore. It has SENAFRONT, a police force that guards its borders. Well, SENAFRONT has a twitter account and it's just a bunch of PR photos of soldiers playing with children and feeding the locals. Then, I saw this:

What's the significance of this tweet? The Pan-American Highway ends in Yaviza. Boca de Cupe is five miles SOUTH of Yaviza. There is a way for cars to get there!

Just before I set out for Yaviza in 2013, I went to the national geography institute in Panama City to find maps of the Darien. I found two. They, along with ten other maps, make up the entire country of Panama. Because crossing the Darien is forbidden, I stowed the maps in my backpack's hidden compartment so that SENAFRONT soldiers at various checkpoints wouldn't find them. I was that careful/paranoid.

Here is the first map.

This is a close-up of the bottom of the first map. You can see the road ends at Yaviza. Boca de Cupe is at the bottom right. When I was in Yaviza, the only way to get there was by Yamaha-powered dugout canoe.

So 11 is the first map. 12 is the second map.

Here is the second map. There is virtually no civilization. Reviewing these maps has made me realize I need to get detailed maps of the Colombian side of the Darien Gap. I wonder if those are available in Bogota or Medellin.

And here is a great video of Yaviza. I spent two days and one night there. I'll do a running commentary of the video below. It was so hot and humid there, I was miserable. I nearly passed out in my "hotel's" shared toilet. Both general stores in town were owned by recent Chinese immigrants, and one of the shopkeepers tried to sell me a rare bird.

0:41 The only activity along the waterfront all day consisted of guys unloading those green bananas.

2:55 This is the area where the buses hung out. The van I took was a Hiace.

3:31 The "entrance" to the town has two or three bars. And it's just a bunch of people being loud and drinking cheap beer. There were a lot of people. I did my best to stay away from the crowd. It looked like trouble. It was a rough place. And I stood out like a sore thumb.

3:56 I am 80% positive I stayed in the yellow building. It was operated by La Profesora.

4:13 It's a small town, population-wise and size-wise, but there's always a ton of people walking around. I could never figure out where they were going.

4:31 Bird!

10:05 The town's population is half Indian, half descendants of escaped slaves.

12:44 Behind the basketball court was the SENAFRONT base. I had to check in there when I arrived.

13:24 As I walked through town, I saw a family watching Joan and Melissa Rivers's reality show on satellite.

13:44 A BMW!

14:02 Noriega was rumored to have lived in Yaviza as a child.

14:40 Maybe everyone is just people watching. There's nothing else to do, there are certainly many characters, and it's too hot to stay indoors.

President of Turkmenistan shoots like Arnold Schwarzenegger

H/t Tarlan.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

1999 Car & Driver sports sedan comparo article

I vividly remember reading this article 18 years ago, like it was yesterday.

The rankings:
4. C43 Mercedes
3. Saab Viggen
2. M3
1. S4

1999 AMG versus 2017 AMG

I spotted these two recently. Polar opposites.

1999 C43. Aluminum SOHC 4.3-liter 24-valve V8. 302 hp. 0-60 in 6.1 seconds. MSRP of $80,213 in 2017 dollars.

2017 GLE63S Coupe. 5.5 liter V8 biturbo. 577 hp. 0-60 in 4.1 seconds. MSRP of $111,860.