Monday, August 31, 2009

Fantasy Football Is for Losers Like You And Me

This amusing piece hits a little too close to home. Way too close.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

1980s Transformers Box Art

Transformers fans, get ready for a trip down memory lane. Botch's Transformers Box Art Archive has virtually every old school Transformer in its archive. Here is my first Transformer toy, Autobot Mirage.

Here are the instructions for transforming it.

Here is Mirage's tech spec clipped from the back of the box. The only thing missing is the red plastic decoder!

Erwin Wurm's Telekinetically Bent VW Bus

It only goes in circles.

Mazda RX7 FB Convertible

While strolling the streets of San Francisco yesterday, I was shocked to see a shiny red first generation Mazda RX7 SA/FB convertible stopped at the light. Its top was down and I had the urge to approach the driver to ask him more about his car. Before I had a chance, the light had turned green and he was gone. I didn't even have time to give him a thumbs up.

Mazda never produced convertible versions of the first RX7. The few examples I was able to find on the net were all custom jobs with different approaches in terms of how to lop off the roof and how to hide the soft top. The one I saw had very clean lines. The pictures in this post are of another example from British Columbia.

Bond Villains (4): Emilio Largo

  • He is #2.
  • He belongs to a powerful and secretive organization.
  • He overshadows his boss so much, we think HE is actually in charge.
  • He is willing to do anything, ANYTHING, to achieve his goals.
  • He has personally conducted enhanced interrogation techniques to extract information about his enemy.
  • He is an angry man.
  • He is all business; he even wears his coat jacket over his scuba wetsuit.
  • He likes sharks.
Are we talking about SPECTRE's #2 Emilio Largo, or Dick Cheney?

Bond villain ranking:
1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
3. Dr. Julius No (Dr. No)
4. Rosa Klebb (From Russian With Love)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oyster Omelets: O-Ah-Jian Versus Hangtown Fry from Tadich Grill

Before I start the comparison, a few thoughts and updates.
1. How can Tadich Grill, a San Francisco institution, not have Anchor Steam?
2. The recent fire was confined to the roof.  No biggie.  A little fume got in the dining area.  If they really wanted to, the restaurant could have opened for dinner on the same day as the morning fire.
3. When Tony Bourdain stopped by recently to tape his show No Reservations, the highlight was supposed to be Tadich Grill's cioppino.  Instead, Tony looked at the menu and said: Let's go with the Hangtown Fry.

Now, to the review.  O-ah-jian, a Taiwanese oyster omelet, is one of my favorite dishes.  When those rascally Dutchmen were trying to put down an insurrection in Taiwan centuries ago, they imposed a blockade.  The only ingredients available to the locals were eggs, starch, and oysters.  The rest is history.

Given the recent fire at Tadich, I decided to go back (after a decade-long hiatus) and try the Hangtown Fry.  The genesis of this platter also arose from hardship.  It's named after a town in California's Gold Country.  A man struck it rich and wanted the most expensive entree available.  It consisted of eggs (which were expensive because they were hard to transport), oysters (from the Pacific Ocean), and bacon (from the East Coast).  This was definitely not a dish for the Eat Local fans.

The Hangtown Fry at Tadich Grill, my first non-Taiwanese oyster omelet ever, was superb.  It consisted of a fluffy three egg omelet with whole strips of bacon and medium to large deep fried oysters inside.  It came with a side of roasted halved potatoes (not fries like the picture), and a useless leaf of lettuce and two slices of tomatoes.  

I think I like this more than o-ah-jian.  There are no extras like the gooey texture from the potato starch, no messy savory sauce, and no vegetables in the oyster.  The Hangtown Fry just has my two favorite ingredients: eggs and oysters.

The question is, is it worth $20.50?  I'm still debating that.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Go Visit Fort Ross...Now

A long time ago, I took a class about the different cultural elements that make up California. The most interesting topic was Fort Ross. It is an old Russian fort north of San Francisco, next to the Pacific Coast Highway.

It was founded at a time when the British, Russians, Americans, and Spanish all wanted the swath of land that is the Pacific Northwest. In order to legitimize their claim, the Russians moved a bunch of Russians and Aleutians down the California coast. They supported themselves by hunting seals with kayaks.

Because the California economy is imploding right now, there is no money to keep most of its state parks open. Under a litmus test that defies the spirit and goal of public lands, it has been decreed that any state park that does not turn a profit will be shut down. Because Fort Ross state park does not bring in enough cash, it will probably be closed after Labor Day.

So I encourage you to visit Fort Ross. It's fun and interesting, especially if you are a history buff. The drive up Highway 1 is fantastic. And who knows, if enough people visit it, maybe the state will change its mind about closing it.

Carspotting (20): Lincoln Town Car 6 Door by Miller-Meteor

I saw this car, in of all places, the parking garage next to the John Steinbeck museum in Salinas.  I'm not a fan of Town Cars and I certainly don't like stretched limos, but this 6-door conversion is tastefully done and quite functional.

Trivia: Miller-Meteor created the ambulance that is Ecto 1.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top Gear's James May In A U2 Airplane Near Space

Here is my favorite television presenter in a U2 spy plane.  It is beautiful and awe-inspiring.  Plus, as a bonus, it's got a Pontiac GTO chase car.

Best of France And Italy: November 1

Update: 2009 car show photos here.

This is a blog mostly about cars. Weird and rare French and Italian cars in particular. I found this show by accident a couple of weeks ago while surfing the net. It will take place this November 1 (Sunday) down in Van Nuys. I'm so there.

F1 Timing App

I can't wait to try this app this weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Douchey Is Your School?

Click here for GQ's America's 25 douchiest colleges.

I'm surprised Stanfurd didn't make the list.

I Hate the New BMW Diesel Ads

  • I like European diesels.
  • I love BMWs.
  • I want America to adopt clean diesel technology.
  • I do not appreciate BMW hijacking my New York Times reading experience.
  • I detest "comedian" Brian Unger's smug, I-just-read-the-latest-Michael-Pollan-tome-on-food-so-I'm-better-than-you-and-that's-why-you-should-listen-to-me-and-buy-this-white-diesel-BMW-behind-me, attitude.
  • I hate the new BMW diesel ads.


As a kid in the mid-80s, I enjoyed hanging out at the local BMW dealership while the family E30 was being serviced. That's because there was a white M1 permanently on display there. Here is a piece that tells you everything you wanted to know about the BMW M1.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tony Bourdain Rides In A Jaguar XJ6 In Chile

I offer the following clip from a recent episode of No Reservations to cleanse our collective palates after subjecting you to a post about Jon Gosselin's new Porsche Cayenne.

Filmmaker Jorge Sotomayor takes Bourdain for a drive from Santiago to Vina del Mar in his pristine Jaguar XJ6. The car is the protagonist from 3:00 to 5:13. Enjoy.

Jon Gosselin's Porsche Cayenne S

Jon Gosselin is quickly becoming the douchebag we all love to hate. The rational, mature side of us tells us that we should not pay any attention to this guy. But alas, whether we like it or not, he attracts attention. A lot of it. This site has scored nearly 10,000 hits solely from gawkers who want to see his Nissan Nismo 350Z, his BMW E46 M3, and Kate's new Toyota Land Cruiser.

Well, word has it that two weeks ago, Jon bought his pseudo-girlfriend Hailey Glassman a "$70,000 Porsche SUV". This is in all likelihood a Cayenne S with about $10,000 worth of options.

Rumor has it that Jon is unhappy with his M3. My prediction is that he is going to get some kind of AMG Mercedes soon. Stay tuned.

Update 1: Here is Jon's Mercedes SUV, and it's not an AMG version.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tadich Grill On Fire

After watching Anthony Bourdain do San Francisco (and Oakland) recently on his show No Reservations, the nostalgia bug bit me and I was raring to go to Tadich Grill for a Hangman's Special for lunch last Saturday. Things came up and I didn't get to go. Now, I learn that it's en fuego. I hope the damage was minor and that it will re-open soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jarno Trulli, Philosopher-King

This may be the most brilliant and touching quote from any athlete.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli, on Ferrari's Luca Badoer's abysmal performance today in Valencia:

“We are in the business and we all know how hard it is. People from the outside would probably expect more, but it is impossible honestly. I think he has to enjoy what he is doing and try to do his best step-by-step, because miracles do not happen like this. If miracles happen then we should save them for much more important things.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

KFC Commercial With Weird Asians

KFC is on a roll. This week, it's the double down sandwich, which is a bacon sandwich in which pieces of fried chicken are used as buns. A few weeks ago, it was an odd, borderline racist ad for their grilled chicken, in which all of the actors are normal, except the two Asian guys. They are an amalgam of Long Duk Dong, Safeway sushi chefs, and MXC's Vic Romano/Kenny Blankenship.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kasper's Hot Dogs Oakland

A month ago, I visited and ranked all of the Casper's with a "C" Hot Dog restaurants in the East Bay. My plan was to compare them with the Kasper's with a "K" Hot Dog place on MacArthur in Oakland.

Today, I went to Kasper's for lunch. The place is in a so-so neighborhood. There was plenty of parking on the premises. I was stunned by the line of people literally out the door. An older lady was in charge of preparing the orders, one customer at a time. A younger lady had the easier job of putting the orders in a bag or on a tray, drawing the drinks, and taking the customers' cash.

In line, I noticed a nice history of Kasper's tacked up on the wall. I asked for a copy but they ran out.

I ordered the regular Kasper's dog and a beef tamale. The dog and the bun were steamed, just like Casper's. I couldn't swear to it, but I think the Kasper's dog is a few centimeters longer than the Casper's dog. It's got the snap, but it's not as loud. It tastes a little different too. All in all, I slightly prefer the Casper's dog, but I think it's purely up to the eater's own palate preferences.

I also got the tamale. I had a choice of beef or chicken. They put gravy and raw onions and tomatoes on top. The tamale is bigger than Casper's, but definitely doesn't taste as good.

Next stop-- the closed original Kasper's on Telegraph and Shattuck (they intersect!).

Cafe Gratitude: I Am Creeped Out

If you haven't been to Cafe Gratitude, you haven't been properly creeped out. My hippy-dippy friend M and I went there about a year ago and even he thought the servers (and general restaurant environment) was loopy. Now, an article in the East Bay Express reveals that employees and managers have been strongly encouraged to attend cult-like self-help seminars. Or be fired.

I'll order my $15 half-cooked kale macrobiotic bowl of mush somewhere else, thank you very much.

It reminds me of Sunshine Carpet Cleaners on Seinfeld. Shudder.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

60 Minutes Piece On Lamborghini Countach

Don Hewitt, the man behind 60 Minutes, died today. Here is the best piece of hard hitting journalism to date-- a 1985 segment on the Countach. Morley Safer looked old even back then.

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cooking With Dog: Yakitori

I wonder if I can pick up a yakitori burner in Japantown.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mazda Roadpacer: Worst Idea Ever

Rotary engines have a polarizing effect. You either love them or hate them. When stuffed into a Holden land barge weighing close to 2 tons, the verdict was unanimous.

Holden Premiers were shipped to Mazda in Japan, sans engine, from 1975 to 1977.

Someone thought that it would be a good idea to stick a 13B Wankel engine into the 3,500 pound car.

The 1.3 liter rotary engine could only muster a feeble 101 lb-ft of torque. The car was molasses slow and got 9 miles to the gallon.

The car was aimed at Japanese government ministers and captains of industry. A Zoom-Zoom version of the Toyota Century or Nissan President, if you will. It included such futuristic gadgets as a chime that sounded when the car exceeded 90 clicks per hour and a dictation machine. With an MSRP of $10,000, only about 800 were sold. The rest were crushed.

Future Concours d'Lemons winner

Photo credit: Lu-Gu

Lamborghini Marzal by Bertone

Cliffs Notes version of an article in the July 1967 issue of Road & Track:

Lamborghini is known for scissor-doors, not gullwing doors. The exception to the rule is the one-off Marzal (with a downward accent over the second "a").

The Bertone designed 2+2 was powered by a 2 liter inline 6, which was essentially half of a 4 liter V-12. The little engine was good for 175 hp at 6800 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4600 revs.

The large gullwing doors make entry into the 43.3" high car relatively easy. The bottom of the glass doors is a mere 15 inches from the ground. I wonder how it feels to be a passenger looking down at the asphalt at 100 mph?

Because the windows do not open, there is air conditioning. Small windwings up front allow some natural air to come in. Good for claustrophobes.

Weighing in at over 2,600 pounds, the top speed was only 118 mph. The controversial hexagonal motif is ever-present, from the interior... the rear louvres.

Up front, 11 cubic feet of luggage space is available over the 21 gallon tank. Six headlights sit over a rubber bumper which is in turn attached to semi-collapsible supports.

Looks like a Saab Sonnett up front

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Arrested Development Model Home Orinda Gateway Wilder

Separated at birth?

Arrested Development model home

Lonely building at Orinda Gateway/Wilder development (just east of Caldecott Tunnel)

Concours d'Lemons: Nice First Attempt, But Disappointing

The show was fun and I'm sure to return next year, but it needs a lot of work. The biggest disappointment was the small number of cars displayed. There were almost more interesting cars in the spectator parking lot (including a red Alfetta sedan) than in the show itself. There were probably less than 75 cars on display. My favorites were: a talking Plymouth Sapporo, a 1958 Toyopet Crown, and a Citroen DS that was rear ended.

Here is some constructive criticism:
1. Marketing: I understand that this is the show's first year and that momentum and word-of-mouth advertising are important. But the small number of cars displayed is, again, disappointing. The Lemons website made it sound like there would be a lot more cars. With 39 different award categories, each entrant had about a 33 1/3 to 50% chance of winning.

2. Timing: a) Having it on the same weekend as a 24 Hours of Lemons race is unfortunate. The key demographic group that would go to the Concours event are all down in Buttonwillow. b) Having it on the same weekend as the Monterey shows is also a bad idea. People who are already in Monterey for the car shows are not going to go out of their way to Salinas on Saturday when they have closer events to attend. As for participants, it means spending an entire day sitting by your car in Salinas while you miss Laguna Seca, a number of auctions, and other car shows.

3. Location: a) With every hotel within a 50 mile radius of Monterey-Salinas tripling their normal room rate this week, it's hard for non-locals to make it out to Salinas. b) No offense to John Steinbeck and the denizens of Salinas, but it is an armpit. The only two restaurants worth lunching at are Gino's (closed for lunch on Saturdays) and Hullabaloo (permanently closed a few days before the Concours due to recession).

The admission price ($20) is fair and I suspect the organizers broke even on the event. I would definitely go again, but the venue and date (along with marketing) have to be seriously re-considered.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Off to Monterey

I hope to see the following cars this weekend:
  • Ford Pinto Pangra
  • GAZ 14
  • Citroen XM

Stop Hammertime Stop Sign Oakland

Intersection of John and Howe in Piedmont district of Oakland.

Credit: Lisa K

Scary Movie Characters

This scared me as a kid (V)

This scared me as an adult (rabbit in Donnie Darko)

This scared me today (Timecrimes)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Watch Ads in Car Magazines

While perusing an Israeli car magazine, the number of ads for watches surprised me. Then I looked at a couple of other mags and found more ads for watches. Is there a connection between watch and car ownership? What does my Casio say about me?

Auto-Car (Israel) Recent issue (I can't read Hebrew so I don't know the month)
Porsche Design
TW Steel

Road & Track (U.S.) September 2009

Top Gear (U.K.) August 2009
Stauer (used watches)
Pole Position Winners Watch (endorsed by David Coulthard)
Second Time Round (used watches)

Local Logos

Whenever I travel, I can't help but notice logos of regional products/companies.

Utz potato chips truck in DC

Polar Air Cargo plane in Fairbanks, Alaska

Rusty Love's Bakery trucks on Molokai

Bimbo bakery trucks in Mexico