Friday, October 31, 2008

VW Beetle In Antarctica

In 1962-63, two distinct groups of people had their interests intersect. The Australian Antarctic station in Mawson needed an inexpensive and durable vehicle to transport things and people around the base. At the same time, Volkswagen wanted to promote its Beetle to Arctic markets. So VW Australia donated a red Beetle to the station. The 1962.5 Beetle was red in order to make it really stick out in the snow. Find out more about this experiment here.


Rahm Emanuel Rumored to Be Obama's Chief of Staff

The rumor today is that Rahm Emanuel may be Obama's White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is a great organizer and was instrumental in helping the Dems win Congress back in 2006. It's early yet, but I predict that Obama will ask Republican Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense and he will appoint Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court. I think there will be a place for Mike Huckabee as well. I am no Nostradamus, as I also predicted that Honda would win the F1 Constructor's title.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quantum of Solace Movie Review

Alas, I will be waist deep in my trek through Meso-America when the latest installment of the James Bond series premieres in America. However, here is a sneak peek from The Sun. Apparently, it is more violent than ever. And, there is no Q. Sad, that.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1941 Spam Ad

Life with father is lots more fun since we found Spam. Really?!


1992 Saab 9000 Griffin Edition

While I was waiting at a red light today, there was an old beat up Saab 9000 ahead of me. The rear seats were piled high with empty plastic grocery bags and the fabric on the thick C-pillars looked like it had been chewed up by a pit bull. But what fascinated me the most was the discrete badge just below the passenger side taillight:

What was it? It was a special edition model of the Saab 9000 CD Turbo sedan. In America, only 400 were imported in 1992. Each car had a sequential model number badge on the dash.

According to a New York Times car review, this was Saab's flagship. There were no options. Everything was included. It was the most spacious imported luxury sedan available. Its 2.3 liter turbo 4 was fast. But the price of $42,000 (over $62,000 in today's dollars) was a bit steep. What did it come with? A gold card that could be used at dealer shops to receive free scheduled maintenance for three years, driver's side airbag, seat belt pretensioners, ABS brakes, traction control, a cellular phone that can be removed from the center console, a CD changer in the trunk and a CD head unit in the cockpit, separate AC for the rear passengers, heated and power mirrors, headlight washers and wipers, one-touch driver's power window, trip computer, and a warning for black ice when the outside temperature reaches a certain threshold.

It did not come with cup holders.

Judging by the condition of the Saab I saw today, my guess is that none of the features I just listed work on the car right now.


Conan O'Brien's Ford Taurus SHO

Late night TV host Conan O'Brien owned a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO. The running joke is that it's a Ford and therefore a piece of crap. Ha ha. But car enthusiasts will note that the comedian knew what he was doing when he bought it. It was a true sleeper. The 3 liter V6 made by Yamaha made the SHO a seriously fun car to drive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Maui Nui, the Super Island

The Auau Channel which cuts between Maui and Lanai is my favorite body of water in the world. Mark Twain once said that humpback whales were so numerous in the channel, you could literally walk from one island to the other on the backs of these whales and not get your feet wet. Hyperbole aside, there was once a time, hundreds of thousands of years ago, when one could walk from one island to the other.

1.2 million years ago, Maui Nui, or Greater Maui, was a super island. It contained Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and the area between these islands, which are now covered with water. The weight of the volcanic islands pushes down on the crust. They sink at a rate of 3mm per year.

There is a great article about Maui Nui here.


Yellow Maui Pineapple Trucks

Whether you're driving to Haleakala or Kapalua, you'll inevitably see the ubiquitous, lumbering yellow pineapple trucks belonging to Maui Pineapple Company.


Spoiler Evolution: What Happened to Porsche's Whale Tail?

This morning, I went to the local drug store to buy a magnifying glass for my brand new, super-duper birthday present-- The Times Atlas of the World. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw an exquisite Porsche 996 Carrera S. This led me to contemplate (read: obsess) all day about the evolution of the Porsche 911 rear spoiler.

A quick internet search revealed that coincidentally, Motor Trend asked the same question recently. And, it provided the photographs below for comparison's sake.

The 930 with the original whale tail.

A later 930 model. Notice the black lip is much thicker and the bottom part of the spoiler is more integrated into the engine compartment lid.

Although this 964's spoiler appears smaller, computer aided design means this spoiler provides more down force and better cooling for the engine.

The 993 Turbo's spoiler is evolving and appears to be morphing into an integral part of the rear bodywork. But not quite yet.

The 996's spoiler is almost completely tucked into the bodywork.

The current 997 spoiler is about 25% larger than the 996's but is more aerodynamic and provides more down force.

What is certain is that Porsche engineers will forever tinker with the spoiler design. Though the newer spoilers are a lot more effective aerodynamically and at cooling, they will never match the beauty and grace of the classic whale tail.


International Visitors: How Would You Vote?

Now that you know how Homer Simpson would vote, click here to cast your vote. McCain or Obama?


Homer Votes for Obama

One more week before election day. Let's hope all the machines work properly.


Monday, October 27, 2008

GAZ 24 Adverts

The GAZ 24 has always had a special place in my heart. The first one I remember seeing was a black police version belonging to the Tajikistan Highway Patrol in Spies Like Us.

Here are some color ads of the remarkable little sedan for the Western European market.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paul Theroux's Politics

I'm about to finish Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux's latest travel book. As usual, his unique insight into The Other makes for captivating reading. Here is a brief clip on his political views and the 2008 election season.


California Missions Tour: Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel)

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
Founded June 3, 1770 (2nd mission)

The Carmel mission is, without a doubt, the most aesthetically pleasing of the Alta California missions. The amount of resources spent on restoring and maintaining this complex is obvious. A couple of busloads of children were visiting the mission when I arrived. The interior was jam packed with people and soured my experience.

Father Junipero Serra is buried here. The picture above is a reenactment of his death scene. Morbid.


California Missions Tour: Mission San Juan Bautista (San Juan Bautista)

San Juan Bautista
Founded June 24, 1797 (15th mission)

The drive from Santa Cruz to San Juan Bautista was fantastic. I took the Pacific Coast Highway down to Watsonville, then crossed Highway 101 via 129 and 156. The route was filled with farmland, interspersed with rolling hills. Because I started so early, I arrived before the museum opened. The mission sits on top of a fair amount of land and is located smack dab in the middle of town. San Juan Bautista has the feel of a small, tourist-free town in Hawaii. The pace is very slow. Even when I had a stop sign, local motorists who had the right-of-way waved me through.

The mission faces several colonial-styled buildings, giving the whole place an old-timey feel. As I left, I almost ran over an errant rooster crossing the road, just like on Kauai.


California Missions Tour: Mission Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz
Founded August 28, 1791 (12th mission)

Early on the morning of Day Two, I set off for Santa Cruz. The drive down Highway 17, against the flow of traffic, was terrific. It was a cool, overcast day. The mission is set in a residential neighborhood with a school next door. I did not go inside because mass was taking place. The Catholics go to church a lot!


Mercedes-Benz Evolution








Obama In Denver

Last week, we saw Obama in front of 100,000 in St. Louis. Here he is this weekend in Denver in front of 100,000. Just a year ago, it was highly unlikely that Colorado would vote for a Democrat as President. Now, anything is possible.


Iceland Tourism Officially Sanctioned By NYT

On Friday, I espoused the benefits of going to Iceland in these hard economic times. It seems that the New York Times is of the same belief. Here is its article on the front of its Sunday Travel section.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

California Missions Tour: Mission San Jose (Fremont)

San Jose
Founded June 11, 1797 (14th mission)

Contrary to popular belief, Mission San Jose is not in the city of San Jose. Rather, it is in nearby Fremont. It took me a while to get there because of the rush hour traffic on the surface streets. This will have to be my last mission for Day One. It was rather mundane and not at all exciting. It has the obligatory museum, gift shop, and a cemetery as well.


California Missions Tour: Mission San Francisco de Asis (San Francisco)

San Francisco de Asis
Founded June 29, 1776 (6th mission)

It's about noon on Day One and I've arrived at my third mission. Suddenly, I realized the origin of the names of Church Street, Dolores Street, and the Mission District in San Francisco. It should be noted that the little white building on the left is the original mission, not the grander basilica on the right. I was also surprised at the densely packed cemetery in the back.


Baechtold's Best: Afghan Roads

We've seen the Afghan taxi series. Here is the Afghan road series from the book Baechtold's Best: Afghanistan.