Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beijing 60th Parade: Hu Jintao's New/Old Hongqi CA770

The 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China is finally here. I've been anticipating the parade for months now. The screaming jets, APVs with whitewall tires, the Dongfeng trucks performing acrobatics. They are all happening right now.

For weeks, the buzz has been that Hu Jintao would be riding in that monstrosity called the Hongqi HQD concept. Thankfully, someone nixed that idea. It appears that he is in a brand new, retro Hongqi CA770. I must admit it's quite elegant in a quaint and nostalgic kind of way. It even matches Hu's black Mao jacket.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

UC Pres. Mark Yudof Is A Jackass: The Cemetery Comment to the New York Times

The University of California system is on the brink of failing. This once shining beacon for the State of California is now a flickering, incandescent light bulb. It will take a great leader and sacrifices on everyone's part to turn this ship around. Mark Yudof is definitely not the person for the job.

He did not make any friends with his answers in today's New York Times Sunday magazine. Here is my take on his interview.

New York Times: As president of the University of California, the most prestigious of the state-university systems, you have proposed that in-state tuition be jacked up to more than $10,000, from $7,788. Are you pricing education beyond the reach of most students?
Mark Yudof: In 2009, U.C. adopted the Blue and Gold Program, guaranteeing that no student with a family income below $60,000 would pay any fees, and this guarantee will continue in 2010. That’s the short answer.
Me: The whole point of a public institution, and especially the U.C., is that it is affordable and accessible to everyone. In 2000, in-state undergrad tuition was $3,429. And it wasn't more than a couple grand in the early to mid-1990s. As for families who earn $60,001, I feel for them. I really hope the amount of tuition due is on a graduated scale or else it will be really hard on families making $60,000 to $85,000.

NYT: U.C. is facing a budget shortfall of at least $753 million, largely because of cuts in state financing. Do you blame Governor Schwarzenegger for your troubles?
MY: I do not. This is a long-term secular trend across the entire country. Higher education is being squeezed out. It’s systemic. We have an aging population nationally. We have a lot of concern, as we should, with health care.
Me: This is the only sensible answer in the entire interview.

NYT: And education?
MY: The shine is off of it. It’s really a question of being crowded out by other priorities.
Me: This is where the interview starts going downhill. And it's only the third question. Realism is good, but you're also supposed to be a cheerleader, Yudof.

NYT: Already professors on all 10 U.C. campuses are taking required “furloughs,” to use a buzzword.
MY: Let me tell you why we used it. The faculty said “furlough” sounds more temporary than “salary cut,” and being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening. I listen to them.
Me: Insensitive jackass comment number one. You're comparing the U.C. to a cemetery? You're comparing its talented and hard-working faculty, staff, and students to corpses?! As a lawyer by training, Yudof is supposed to choose his words carefully. This shows extremely poor judgment.

Zombies protesting on Sproul

NYT: The word “furlough,” I recently read, comes from the Dutch word “verlof,” which means permission, as in soldiers’ getting permission to take a few days off. How has it come to be a euphemism for salary cuts?
MY: Look, I’m from West Philadelphia. My dad was an electrician. We didn’t look up stuff like this. It wasn’t part of what we did. When I was growing up we didn’t debate the finer points of what the word “furlough” meant.
Me: It is impossible to recover from that "cemetery" comment with a story about how you came from a modest working class background. In fact, Yudof's treatment of his employees and his restrictive policies which hurt kids from working class backgrounds are antithetical to his own background.

NYT: How did you get into education?
MY: I don’t know. It’s all an accident. I thought I’d go work for a law firm.
Me: You could have at least fibbed a story about how you felt education was important and blah, blah, blah. Your response offends both people in education and people who work at law firms.

NYT: Some people feel you could close the U.C. budget gap by cutting administrative salaries, including your own.
MY: The stories of my compensation are greatly exaggerated.
Me: I'm sort of sympathetic to this issue. During hard economic times, CEOs and heads of large institutions have to defend their salaries/packages. There's no getting around it.

NYT: When you began your job last year, your annual compensation was reportedly $828,000.
MY: It actually was $600,000 until I cut my pay by $60,000. So my salary is $540,000, but it gets amplified because people say, “You have a pension plan.”
Me: This is not going to make anyone feel better.

NYT: What about your housing allowance? How much is the rent on your home in Oakland?
MY: It’s about $10,000 a month.
Me: I'm sure 90% of the readers out there are thinking: There are $10,000 a month homes for rent in Oakland?

NYT: Does U.C. pay for that on top of your salary?
MY: Yes, and the reason they do that is because they have a president’s house, it needed $8 million of repairs and I decided that was not the way to go. Why the heck would I ever authorize $8 million for a house I didn’t want to live in anyhow?
Me: I spent a long day at Blake House in Kensington once. It's a large and moderately beautiful house. But $8 to $10 million in renovations? That is absurd.


NYT: What do you think of the idea that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, $400,000?
MY: Will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?
Me: Congratulations, you've made yourself look greedy, out-of-touch, and incompetent. Plus, you're not funny.

My final thought: Look for Yudof to resign within the next month. Alumni and corporate donations, already low because of the economy (and because alums just don't donate to U.C. for a myriad of reasons), will decrease even more.

Renault's Romain Grosjean Versus Ponyo's Fujimoto

Separated at birth?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

James Dean Ad: What If He Was Still Alive Today?

Nice examples of Porsche 917s and Dean's 550 Spyder.

Carlos Menem's Ferrari 348 TB

President Menem of Argentina was a rally driver in his youth. He was instrumental in bringing Formula One back to Argentina in the 1990s. Here he is with his Ferrari 348TB, given to him by the head of Ducati. Apparently, it was to thank Menem for showing up at the World Cup matches in Italy, so that he won't "forget Italy". When asked to give it up due to ethical rules, Menem declared that it was "Mine, mine, mine!"

Chilean Presidential 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 XL

This Ford Galaxie convertible has had quite a history, and continues to make history.

It all started in 1970. The frugal, democratically elected, and Socialist president, Salvador Allende, needed a nice car for Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Chile. So he picked out a used, four-year old convertible.

It was used at parades and ceremonies welcoming VIPs, including comrade Fidel Castro.

This act, obviously, pissed off the Americans and reactionaries within Chile. Pinochet took over in a bloody coup and changed everything-- economic policy, democratic ideals, etc. But the general did not change the official presidential ride.

Pinochet right after he came into power

Pinochet in the later years

Even after Pinochet gave up power, his democratically elected successors all kept the Galaxie. Although a Peugeot is current President Bachelet's official daily ride, the old Galaxie is still brought out for special occasions.

Friday, September 25, 2009

USF1 Livery

According to Speed's Bob Varsha, USF1's livery is supposedly going to be an homage to Dan Gurney's 1967 AAR Eagle. It was the only American-built car ever to win an F1 race with an American driver.

Explosion In Beijing Ahead of China's 60th Anniversary Celebrations

Beijing is on lock down as the Chinese government gets ready to celebrate the country's 60th birthday. There was an explosion in town today. A restaurant was leveled by what was apparently an innocent gas leak. The name of the restaurant? Xinjiang Kashgar Delicacy City. What an unfortunate coincidence.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Does A Thermador Swamp Cooler Work?

My calendar today has a picture of an old VW Bug with a big cylinder hanging out of its passenger side window. I knew it was for ventilation but didn't really know how it worked. So I did a little research.

It's a Thermador Swamp Cooler. The unit is attached to the window. Inside is a blanket with a string attached. The string runs into the passenger compartment. The tube is almost half filled with cold water. As one drives, air goes into the tube, through the wet blanket, and into the car as cold air. The string is used to rotate the blanket and dampen it.

Ford Pronounces 2010 Taurus SHO "Show"

For whatever lame-ass reason, Ford is calling the new Super High Output Taurus the "show" rather than "S-H-O".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ari Vatanen's Pikes Peak Hill Climb Movie "Climb Dance"

Former rally driver Ari Vatanen is likely to replace Max Mosley as the next president of the FIA. This is Vatanen in a 600hp 4WD, 4WS, mid-engined Peugeot 405 T16. Two of these were made. Vatanen won the climb in 1988 in one. The other one went on to win the Paris-Dakar rally three years in a row (1988-90).

Minichamps Top Gear Power Lap Collection 1/43

My favorite diecast manufacturer, Minichamps, has teamed up with my favorite car show, Top Gear, to produce this 1/43 series with a mini Stig. Just 2,009 pieces will be made for each model. It's never too early to get your Xmas shopping done.

The six cars to be released are, in order of lap time:

1. Porsche Carrera GT, 1:19.8

2. Mercedes McLaren SLR, 1:20.9
3. Ford GT, 1:21.9

4. Porsche GT3 RS, 1:22.3

5. Aston Martin DBS, 1:23.9
6. Lamborghini Gallardo, 1:25.8

Comprehensive Top Gear Power Lap times

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Team Van Versus VW Transporter Van Video (Fifth Gear)

Say what you will about the GMC, but I'd take that over Face's Corvette any day.

Taxis From Around the World (Part 14)

194. Marshall Islands (Hyundai)

195. Comoros (Renault)

196. Nauru (Tuk-tuk) (I know, this is not a real car. But give me a break. This is the last country and I could not for the life of me find a picture of a regular taxi cab in this tiny nation.)

Final tally:
Buick: 1
Chevy: 3
BYD: 1
Dacia: 1
Daewoo: 1
Fiat: 4
Ford: 3
Hindustan: 1
Honda: 4
Hyundai: 5
Isuzu: 1
IZH: 2
Lada: 6
London cab: 2
Mazda: 1
Mercedes: 34
Mitsubishi: 1
Nissan: 12
Opel: 2
Paykan: 1
Peugeot: 15
Proton: 1
Renault: 7
Seat: 1
Skoda: 2
Subaru: 1
Suzuki: 2
Toyota: 59
Tuk-tuk: 1
Volga: 7
VW: 11
Volvo: 2
ZAZ: 1

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Chinese Civil War And Global Warming

When the Chinese civil war ended after World War II, the Communists set up the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan and re-established the Republic of China (ROC) there. For much of the Cold War, the world recognized the government in Taiwan as the "true" China. But after Nixon's visit to China, the pendulum swung the other way and most of the world abandoned Taiwan.

Now, just 23 countries recognize Taiwan. They are mostly small, poor nations in Central America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean. Taiwan and China fight for these countries' recognition with generous foreign aid.

A new issue has come up for the small Pacific nations-- global warming. Most of their landmass is little more than a few feet above sea level. With rising sea levels, they are losing land, potable water, and arable soil.

Now, these Pacific island nations have formed AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States). Their principal aim is to get the developed world, plus China and India, to curb greenhouse emissions so that their homes do not get obliterated by the sea. Coincidentally, 12* of the 23 countries which recognize Taiwan are also AOSIS members.

If China wants to gain some major brownie points with these 12 countries, it should vow to do more to cut greenhouse gases. Winning over these countries is probably low on China's geopolitical and geo-economic priorities, but it is a nice little side effect of leading the world in curbing carbon emissions.

*The 12 AOSIS members which recognize Taiwan are Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu.

In Memoriam

Exactly six months ago, four Oakland police officers lost their lives. Let's honor them by doing one thing-- big or small-- this week to help our community.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ford Ignores Tiananmen Sanctions of 1990

China is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary with a huge parade in Beijing. Among the millions of dollars in military and security hardware on display will be armored Ford vans.

After the Tiananmen Massacre, the U.S. passed the Tiananmen Sanctions, which prohibits the export of "any crime control or detection instruments or equipment" to China. So how the hell did Ford get away with selling these vans to China?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

2009 Orinda Car Show

These are my favorite cars from today's show.

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione: This is the first one I've seen in real life. It is as beautiful as the pictures I've seen.

Lotus Esprit Turbo: Wedge, squared.

Lotus Europa John Player Special: Party up front, business in the back.

Old Bentley

Friday, September 18, 2009

Citroen CX Spare Tire Next to Engine

I was browsing through craigslist and came upon this Citroen CX for sale. I never noticed that the spare tire and jack are in the engine compartment. I know the French are eccentric with their car design, but this just does not make sense. Removing the tire may knock out/off something in the engine. The high engine temperature cannot be good for the tire. If the jack is not securely fastened, it can get knocked loose and create havoc with all those moving parts. Oy vey.

Police Cars From Around the World (Part 4)

49. Finland (Ford)

50. Ecuador (Chevrolet)

51. Czech Republic (Skoda)

52. Cyprus (Opel)

53. Croatia (Ford)

54. China (VW)

55. Bulgaria (Land Rover)

56. Brunei (Toyota)

57. Bolivia (Toyota)

58. Belgium (Peugeot)

59. Barbados (Suzuki)

60. Bangladesh (Isuzu)

61. Bahrain (Dodge)

62. Bahamas (Subaru)

63. Austria (VW)

64. Argentina (Fiat)

65. Andorra (Seat)

66. Algeria (Tata)

67. Albania (Mitsubishi)

68. Afghanistan (Ford)


BMW: 3
Chevrolet: 4
Dodge: 1
Fiat: 1
Ford: 7
Holden: 2
Hyundai: 2
Isuzu: 1
Lada: 5
Land Rover: 2
Mercedes: 1
Mitsubishi: 1
Nissan: 5
Opel: 1
Peugeot: 1
PolarSun: 1
Renault: 2
Seat: 1
Skoda: 2
Subaru: 2
Suzuki: 1
Renault: 1
Tata: 1
Toyota: 10
UAZ: 2
VW: 5
Volvo: 3