Sunday, August 31, 2008

10 Days, 10 Formula One Sponsors (Day 2)

This is harder than I thought. Today, I set out to take care of McLaren. First, I thought I'd just test drive a Mercedes, maybe the new C300, and check McLaren off the list. But then I realized that in order to get a test drive, the salesman will probably want my contact info or business card. As I have no intention of actually buying a Merc, I do not want an eager salesman calling me once a week, ad infinitum. I also did not want to waste a private seller's time by test driving a used Merc.

Since Mobil 1 also sponsors the McLaren team, I thought I'd fill up my tank at the closest ExxonMobil station. A quick search on the net confirmed my fear-- the closest station is almost an hour away in the Wine Country.

I then drove by the local auto parts store, hoping to buy a quart of Mobil motor oil to top off my car. It was closed. This is going to be much harder than I thought.

So I took the easy way out, for today, and will use the Intel (BMW Sauber sponsor) chip in my laptop as the product of the day. I'm not a computer person so I really can't rate the chip.

Let's just hope the rest of the week gets easier.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

10 Days, 10 Formula One Sponsors (Day 1)

In preparation for today's Cal season opener against Michigan State, I went to Trader Joe's to get some beer. I was surprised to see Kingfisher lager there so I bought a six pack. During the game, I came up with the idea of using the products/services which sponsor each of the ten F1 teams over the next ten consecutive days. I think I've got the first five or six days set. So for today, Day One, I had a Kingfisher beer, sponsor of Force India. As far as quality goes, I give it an 8 out of 10. Stay tuned....


Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Palin for Veep!

Too bad Michael was not born in America. He would be a much better vice presidential candidate than the other, less famous Palin. Michael has much more foreign policy experience, has accomplished more in his career, and has that "celebrity" quality we Yanks seem to appreciate.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Desperately Seeking Weber Performer Hybrid Grill

After a few days of research, I decided to purchase the Weber Performer charcoal-propane grill. It produces the charcoal flavor but has the convenience of a gas grill. I went to the local Sears tonight and they did not have it in stock. I just went online and it's out of stock. It must be one popular grill. So on this long weekend, I can either go to other people's BBQs or I can drive around hardware stores and find my Weber Performer.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Taiwan Street Food Extravaganza

While doing some research on my next trip to Taiwan, I came across Colin Wan's blog. Recently, Colin traveled up and down Taiwan (and Green Island) and tried out nearly every food stall along the way. The photography was great and the descriptions were insightful. Here is a quick glance at what he saw and ate:

Glutinous rice sausage

Wild boar sausage


Tea egg and pork bits over rice

Lu rou rice

Deep Fried Goodness:

Deep fried crabs and shrimp

Deep fried flying fish

Deep fried cuttlefish

Deep fried sea grass

The Sublime:

Stinky tofu

Oyster omelet-- my favorite

Quail eggs on a stick

Preserved tuna

Assorted pig and chicken innards, boiled

Asparagus juice

Beer flavored green tea


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Massa Will Not Finish Spa

At the Hungaroring, Massa's Ferrari went kaput just before he was about to win the race. His engine was on the second race.

Today, at Valencia, Kimi's Ferrari went kablamo on its second race.

Massa's engine will be on its second race at Spa on September 7. I think the same reliability problem will plague the Brazilian. If Hamilton wins the driver's championship this year, it will be because of Massa's many DNFs.

Quick Nick did not finish with any points today. That's bad.

The bridge gap did not cause any crashes. That's good.


Shocking Report: Paul Theroux Has An Ego

Robert Macfarlane rips Paul Theroux and his latest book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, a new one in today's NYT book review. Theroux in his latest book retraces his 1973-74 lap around Eurasia, mostly by train, which he documented in The Great Railway Bazaar.

There's no question that Theroux is a curmudgeon with an overinflated ego. But that's what makes his travel tales and observations so entertaining. Macfarlane criticizes Theroux's lack of intellectual curiosity and vigor, but Theroux is not writing a post-doc paper for a foreign policy think tank. It is, in the end, just travel lit.

Macfarlane does make a Seinfeld-ian observation in his comparison between BO and writing style:

"Certain writers have a style that can be best likened to body odor: irresistible to some, obnoxious to many and apparently imperceptible to the writer himself. Theroux’s lack of self-awareness, his failure to observe the basic hygiene of modesty, is compelling in its way. How can anyone be this narcissistic, you wonder in disbelief, in appalled fascination."

Despite the review, and perhaps because of the review, I look even more forward to reading Theroux's latest work. I intend to approach it slightly differently. I will read one chapter of Bazaar, followed by the corresponding chapter in Ghost Train, then back to Bazaar, etc. I think this will best illustrate, in my mind's eye, the changes in the countries Theroux visited over the last 30 years, and the changes in Theroux himself.

As a side note, I came across Ghost Train at the local book store yesterday for the list price of $28. It is available on Amazon for $18. Unless you have a lot of disposable income and are committed to supporting local businesses, I don't see why any sane person would pay full price. I, for one, am getting mine on Amazon with the free shipping option.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ferrari 4 Seaters, Part 4: 365 GT4 2+2

The 365 GT4 2+2 and its progenies, the 400, 400i, and 412, are quite possibly the most controversial and hated Ferraris of all time. They also happen to be my favorite Ferraris (after the F40 and the 288 GTO).

Where to begin? The pop up headlights? The low hood line? The sedan-like looks? Or the first automatic transmission in a Ferrari? They make the 365GT 2+2 unique, that's for sure.

The 4.4 liter V12 was capable of 155 miles per hour and a 0 to 60 time of 6.4 seconds. The six carbs were mounted on the outside of the cylinder banks, thus making the low hood line possible. Unfortunately, it was not a commercial success. In four years, only about 500 were sold.

My write-up about the 365 GT4 2+2's successors, the 400/400i/412, can be found here.


Ferrari 4 Seaters, Part 3: 365 GT 2+2

At the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, the 365 GT 2+2 debuted. It was much longer and heavier than its predecessor. But it still looked sleek and quick.

The large front and rear overhangs immediately catch the eye. Koni designed a hydraulic self-leveling system for the rear suspension. Because it weighed in at almost two tons, power steering was added to the 365 GT 2+2.

Performance was respectable. It finished the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds. It had a top speed of 152 mph and it did 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. About 800 of these models were sold between late 1967 and early 1971.


Friday, August 22, 2008

F1 Valencia Bridge Gap Will Cause Punctures

I must admit that for a venue in an industrial town, the Valencia Street Circuit is rather charming, and dare I say, beautiful. I was especially taken aback by the cool-looking bridge between Turns 9 and 10.

Then, I learned that this is a swivel bridge. When large ships have to pass through, the bridge separates in two. Hence, there is a one-inch gap between the halves.

Although this is rather innocuous for road cars traveling at sane speeds, it can seriously (IMHO) damage the suspension of an F1 car traveling at over 200 km/hr. Or puncture a tire. Or seriously mess with the car's balance.

Thankfully, there were no bridge-related incidents during Friday's two practice sessions. However, I believe that it is only a matter of time before someone's tire blows out as a result of that damn gap. Let's just hope no one gets hurt.

And another thing. Quick Nick was not particularly quick on Friday. He lags behind teammate Robert Kubica-- by a lot. He needs to make some drastic changes to the set-up of his BMW if he wants to have a shot of finishing ahead of the Pole. Come on, Heidfeld, you can do it!


Nazi, Star Wars, & Chilean Helmets

I just watched a powerful and sobering account of Pinochet's brutal regime on POV's The Judge and the General. In the documentary, I noticed for the first time how much the Chilean army's helmet looked like the Nazi stahlhelm.

Nazi stahlhelm

Chilean army helmet

The other eerie connection is with Star Wars. George Lucas modeled Darth Vader's helmet and the Imperial Stormtroopers' helmets on the stahlhelm. Vader's other signature fashion statement is the long, flowing cape. Check this out:

Vader reviewing the troops

Pinochet leading the troops down the red carpet


Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Travel Wish List

Except for my quick road trip across the country, I have not yet taken a proper vacation this year. I don't think I'll get a chance to go anywhere this year, but I hope to do one or more of the following trips fairly soon.

1. Turbo (Colombia) to Ushuaia (Argentina) by bus via Chile's Atacama
2. San Diego to Panama's Darien Gap by bus
3. Germany's Nurburgring via BMW M5 Ring Taxi
4. Northern Italy: Museums and factories of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati
5. Monaco Grand Prix
6. Mongolia by horse
7. Trans-Siberian Railroad from Vladivostok to Irkutsk
8. Magadan to Yakutsk via Kolyma Highway
9. Mayan pyramids
10. Alaska's Dalton Highway, from the Arctic Circle to Prudhoe Bay


Dakar 2009: Chile & Argentina

Due to those evil Al Qaeda thugs, the Dakar Rally has been moved to South America. Come January, cars, trucks, and motorbikes will traverse the Pampas, Patagonia, the Lakes Region, and the Atacama Desert at speed. Below are a course map and two stunning promo videos.


To the North Pole In A Nuclear Powered Icebreaker

In Tim Cahill's Pass the Butterworms, the author talks about a trip he took to the North Pole in the Yamal, a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. Completed in 1992, the Arktika class ship was meant to keep the northern seas open for Soviet ships. Instead, it carries well to do travelers willing to shell out $21,000 to $28,000 for a chance to reach the North Pole in style.

Two nuclear reactors on board carrying 245 uranium rods produce 75,000 horsepower. That's enough power to supply electricity to 18,750 homes. The reactors are water cooled and have to be cooled with really cold water. It can never go to the Antarctic because it has to cross the equator, where the water is just too warm for the reactors.

The coolest feature has to be the Kamov Ka-32C coaxial (two rotors rotating in opposite directions) rotored helicopter used for ferrying passengers and recon missions.

Below is a cool short film of a trip aboard the Yamal. The videographer has a unique sense in his selection of music and traveling companions.