Sunday, January 31, 2010

My 2010 F1 Team: Renault

Okay, guys, don't let me down.

Kazakh Ilyushin Il-76 Transporting Weapons From North Korea to Iran

Today, Thai authorities announced that the Il-76 transport plane carrying 35 tons of North Korean weapons that they grounded last year was headed for Iran. The secret delivery route went something like this: Azerbaijan to United Arab Emirates to Bangkok to North Korea (pick up weapons) to Bangkok to Sri Lanka to United Arab Emirates to Ukraine to Iran (drop off weapons) to Montenegro. Wow! That's a lot of frequent flyer miles. U.S. intelligence tipped off the Thais just before the plane landed in Bangkok the second time.

What is truly amazing is the plane itself, the Il-76. This cargo plane was the American C-17's nemesis. It's capable of carrying 40 tons of hardware 5,000 km in less than six hours and land in short and rough runways.

Approximately 860 of these were made in Uzbekistan for military and civilian use.

Most of the troops and freight the Soviets brought into Afghanistan were carried in Il-76s. The video below says it all. They were terrifying. And what about those parachuting APCs with retro-rockets?!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cheetos Art Conan O'Brien

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Lamborghini Countach

It's Always Sunny's Xmas special features a yellow Countach that Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) buys for himself. The special is funnier than last season's episodes and is much raunchier.

Anatomy of the Start (Formula One Film from 1985ish)

This short film captures the morning of race day. Amazing footage. I approve of everything, except the short shorts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Uzbek Cotton PSA

Spoiler alert: There's a scary ending.

For more info, click here.

Tajikistan Voting PSA

I'm intrigued by the background music, and the protagonist's suit/tie combo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Verdict On the Qvale Mangusta: Fugly, Italian

Last week's post about the Qvale Mangusta prompted me to conduct a survey of people who are not into cars. I showed them pictures of the Qvale. Question 1: What is it? Question 2: What do you think about it? I asked three people. Here are their responses:

What is it? An Alfa Romeo. A Maserati. A Ferrari. Well, at least they all thought it was Italian.
What do you think about it? I don't like the grill. It's really ugly. It's fugly and reminds me of a mole.

Update 1: This ain't Florida, but I'm counting a late ballot. This straggler thinks the car is a BMW or Porsche and thinks it's cute!

Here is an old Motorweek review of the Mangusta. Sorry about the quality. Skip to 3:20 to see the cool top.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hoping for Ho-Pin (Tung)

I'm closer to picking a new favorite driver and team. And the reason is oh-so-arbitrary. Word has it that Renault, which no longer has ING as a sponsor, is re-introducing their old school yellow and black livery. That is enough for me to lean towards them.

Now as to the driver, I have forgiven Kubica for taking away Heidfeld's only real chance of winning a race. For now, the Pole is my provisional favorite driver. But if Ho-Pin Tung gets the 2nd seat, the Chinese-Dutchman will become my favorite. Though the media thinks he is more likely to be offered the test/reserve driver spot, his ability to reach the Chinese market may mean more advertising backers-- that would certainly help the cash-strapped team.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saab Hair Clip

Makes a great Valentine's Day gift.

Russo Steele Auction Weather Damage Gallery

By now, you've already heard about the damage done to the cars at the Russo Steele auction in Arizona. Here are some more horrific photos, courtesy of Fred. There's already talk of a class action lawsuit against Mother Nature. Tip courtesy Stipistop.

Economists F.A. Hayek v. John Maynard Keynes Rap Song Video

This is for all you econ majors out there. Brought to you by a producer from Spike TV.

Fear the Boom And Bust:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1956 Cadillac Maharani: The Kitchen Sink Cadillac for Homer Simpson

Fridge. Check.
Hot plate. Check.
Toaster. Check.
Sink. Check.

Article here.

Brad Pitt And Angelina Jolie's Car Is A VW Phaeton?!

While 2 million other blogs this coming week will talk about how Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may be splitting, this blog will ask the boldest and most relevant question for weird car fanatics (I meant fans of weird cars, not weird fans who like cars)-- Do they own a VW Phaeton? Of course, this may just be a photo of the family walking down a parking lot. But could it be that they just got out of that black Phaeton with privacy-ensuring tinted windows? Enquiring minds want to know. I want to know.

Update 1: Yes, it's true, according to random posts on the net. How did I miss this when I was researching the Phaeton?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's On My Reading List

I read books in spurts. Sometimes it takes me two days to read a book. Other times, it takes me a month. You may have noticed that I keep a running tally of recent books I've read on the column to your right.

Here are books that I plan to read. Incidentally, I usually get my recommendations from the Sunday New York Times book review, The Economist book review, and Fresh Air interviews.

On my nightstand right now waiting to be read:
  • Sven Hedin's Silk Road (Epic 10,000 mile journey in the 1930s)
  • Ted Conover's Coyotes (How illegal migrants cross into America)
  • Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down (Novel set in WWII Europe)
Books in my Amazon queue:

Central Asia
  • Out of Steppe: The Lost Peoples of Central Asia
  • Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang
  • Kashgar: Oasis City on China's Silk Road
  • Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China (Biography of Rebiya Kadeer, Uyghur leader)
  • Adventure on the Old Silk Road: From Venice to the Yellow Sea
  • Afghanistan: A Companion and Guide
  • The Great Gamble: The Soviet War In Afghanistan
  • Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
  • The Dutch Seaborne Empire: 1600-1800
  • The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia
  • The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold
  • The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe
  • Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile
  • The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today
  • The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food-- Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal
Social Science
  • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture
  • Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex
  • Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
  • Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities
  • Revolution!: South America and the Rise of the New Left
  • Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
  • American on Purpose: The Improbably Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot (Craig Ferguson's memoir)

Retromobile 2010 Mazda RX-7 With Rotary Wheels Rims

Retromobile 2010 is here! Aside from a Citroen SM prototype with a Maserati V8 (which I can't find any details on), there's this 1st gen RX-7. I've never seen these nifty rotary-engine inspired rims before. They're lovely.

Photos source.

Qvale Mangusta On KTVU 10 O'Clock News

I never see anything exciting on the news, until last night. There was a piece about a huge pothole on Highway 92 that caused many flat tires. Video footage showed a bunch of cars on the shoulder, having their tires changed. One of them was a black Qvale Mangusta!

I wonder if the camera person knew what s/he was filming.

Heidfeld Confirmed As Mercedes Test Reserve Driver


Schumacher's return has officially derailed Heidfeld's career. It has been reported today that Heidfeld has accepted the test/reserve driver's spot at Mercedes GP. He will race this season only if Nico or Michael can't for some reason. As one poster predicted in another F1 forum, Heidfeld will be dropping banana peels in front of Schumacher at every turn.

I still have not settled on a favorite driver this season. Maybe I will just root AGAINST Schumacher instead. Let's hope he finishes no better than 4th in every race. I dislike this guy for ruining Heidi more than I dislike Leno for ruining Conan. That's saying a lot.

If Heidfeld's racing career is indeed over, here are his records:
  • Most points without a win (219). I think this will be a hard record to beat. Amongst the current drivers, Nico has 70 points and Timo has 37. Nico will almost certainly win at least once this season. Timo may never win, but will never rack up 219 points in his career.
  • Most podium finishes without a win (12, tied with Stefan Johansson). This is the most painful for Heidfeld and his fans. I mean, you finish on the podium a dozen times, and not once are you on top? That is devastating for your psyche.
  • Most consecutive classified finishes (90% of winner's distance) (41): This, in my opinion, is akin to Cal Ripken's Ironman-esque record streak. Unbreakable.
  • Most consecutive race finishes (33).
  • Most finishes in a season (18, tied with Tiago Monteiro).
Why was Nick my favorite driver? He is not pompous. He is above average, but not the best. He is consistent and has a cool head. I rooted for him to get out of Q1 and Q2 during qualifying. I rooted for him to beat Kubica, finish on the podium, or win his first race ever. Alas, he never won a race.

You will be missed Nick. I really hope you return, in a competitive car. You deserve it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How to Choose A Favorite F1 Driver

Please indulge me.

It seems less and less likely that Nick Heidfeld is going to race in 2010. I am now burdened with the sad task of picking a new favorite driver. Right now, I'm thinking Adrian Sutil of Force India or Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber. But what I will do right now is a process of elimination.* I don't know what the result will be. Of course, my criteria are subjective and non-sensical.

I start with 21 confirmed drivers.

1. It would be too easy to just root for a past champion. So Hamilton, Button, Alonso, and Schumacher would be out. (17 drivers left.)

2. I can't pick Kubica because he took away Heidfeld's only real chance of winning a race in Montreal in 2008. (16 left.)

3. No rookie drivers. (13 left.)

4. No old guys that are about to retire either, which means Jarno, Reubens, and de la Rosa are eliminated. (10 left.)

5. I refuse to root for the Yankees, and Ferrari. Ergo, tchau to Massa. (9 left-- Rosberg, Vettel, Webber, Sutil, Liuzzi, Buemi, Kovaleinen, Timo Glock, Kamui.)

6. I am an equal opportunity fan. Since Heidi was German, my next favorite driver has to be a non-German. (5 left-- Webber, Liuzzi, Buemi, Kovaleinen, Kamui.) I like where this is going.

7. No scrubs. (4 left-- Webber, Liuzzi, Kovaleinen, Kamui.)

8. No rookie teams. (3 left-- Webber, Liuzzi, Kamui.)

9. No square jawed Australians. (2 left-- Liuzzi and Kamui.)

10. Must have a decent shot of getting out of Q1. (1 left-- Kamui.)

Let's see how well this works out. I'm really not happy with the "winner". Gosh, I hope Renault hires Heidfeld.

*If this experiment works, it can be used for NASCAR as well.

Picture source.

Nyck DeVries, the Next Lewis Hamilton?

McLaren just signed 14 year old Nyck DeVries of the Netherlands to their young driver development program. Will he become the 2020 world champion? Here is a brief blurb about young Nyck, along with quotes from Nyck that could only be written by a controlling/overbearing father-manager.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Volvo White Zinfandel

In high school, if I wasn't driving around in my car, then I was most likely riding in my friend E's yellow Volvo 240 wagon. It was the slowest, and safest, car I've ever had the pleasure of riding in.

But the best part of the car has to be what it came with. It came with a free bottle of wine! E was kind enough to go down to his vast wine cellar this evening and dig this puppy up. That's got to command a pretty penny on ebay.

In exchange for the time and effort E took to take and send me these pictures, I promised him a future post about how Moon Bloodgood (of Terminator Salvation fame) became the most famous passenger in his BMW E28. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 Census PSA Ad Starring Ed Begley (Christopher Guest Production)

If you watched the Golden Globes last night, you saw the weird census PSA made by Christopher Guest and his friends. Ed Begley, Jr. stars as Payton Schlewitt, an obnoxious, clueless visionary of a director. I like the creativity but question whether this is a good way to spend part of the $340 million publicity campaign for the census. Seriously, don't you think the people who enjoy Waiting for Guffman and Best In Show are the people most likely to meticulously and religiously fill out census forms?

Anyways, the Schlewitt campaign is supposed to comprise of five parts over the coming months. Here is Part One. Again, Stiffler's mom steals the show.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Michael Schumacher Drinking And Driving PSA (With Bacardi And Maserati)

Will Chile Turn Right?

Over the last decade or so, virtually every Latin American country has democratically elected left wing presidents. It's not just extremists like Venezuela's Chavez or Bolivia's Evo Morales. "Liberals" of varying shades control the entire Southern Cone and much of Central America. It sometimes feels like Colombia is the pariah now, much like Cuba was during the Cold War.

Despite Bachelet's popularity (this pediatrician was once a political prisoner during Pinochet's reign), center-left candidate Eduardo Frei may not win the runoff election today against billionaire Sebastian Pinera. The last poll shows the tycoon in the lead, 51-49. If he wins, let's hope he does better at ruling than the other two billionaires-turned-leaders: Thailand's Thaksin Shinawatra and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.

Here is a piece by Al Jazeera English's Lucia Newman. Remember her reporting from Cuba and other parts of Latin America for CNN? AJE has poached some extraordinarily talented, experienced, and respected journos.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What Does China Censor Online?

Censored words and websites.

Old American Cars In Cuba Movie: Yank Tanks

I just watched a 70 minute documentary called Yank Tanks. It features the creative mechanics who keep old American jalopies running in Cuba. With no spare parts, everything is hand made. A man kneads asbestos like dough with his HANDS and bakes it to make brake pads. Common household glass is heated and placed on top of a metal mold to make windshields. A chain link fence is disassembled so it can be used as a welding rod. Holy crap. MacGyver would fit right in.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tatra 603 Rally Car Vintage Photo

Check this out. No, not the two Eastern Bloc lads horseplaying. That's a Tatra 603 in a 1960s Polish rally!

Carspotting (27): RHD Nissan Skyline R33

I got lost today on my way to an appointment. I saw a strange car with a GTR badge on the grill. It looked to me like a modified 240SX/Silvia. I did a double take.

After my appointment, I went back to check out the car. Sure enough, it's a RHD Skyline R33.

Judging by the cobwebs, this car has not moved in a while.

Steering wheel is on the right side. Honest!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Donate Money, Not Stuff, to Haiti

Well meaning people are doing a disservice to the people of Haiti by donating goods, which are difficult to distribute, and ultimately have to be destroyed before reaching their intended recipients.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haiti's Papa Doc Duvalier's Mercedes Pullman

Haitian Presidential Palace before the earthquake...

...and after.

Haiti had so much promise. Its slaves gained their freedom, and the country's independence, after defeating France. But it all went downhill from there. How did Haiti end up being the poorest and most miserable country in the hemisphere?

In 1825, France demanded 150 million francs (the equivalent of billions of 2010 U.S. dollars) as compensation for the slaves it lost. The French navy blockaded Haiti to make sure the onerous ransom was paid. The country was never given a chance to stand up on its own two feet.

Americans, Germans, the Brits, even Syrians, had their hand in destabilizing the country. But the main culprits are Haiti's own-- Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier (1957 to 1971) and his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (1971 to 1986). They ruled the country with an iron grip with the help of thugs known as the Tonton Macoutes. After Baby Doc was deposed, the power vacuum resulted in coup after coup after coup.

As his country starved and lived in constant fear, Papa Doc rode in what else, but a Mercedes Pullman. Rumor has it that it was a gift from Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

1954 AMG 300SL Gullwing Resto-Mod: Sacrilege?

Over the last decade or so, AMG restored and modified eight 300SL Gullwings. Most went to the Sultan of Brunei. One just sold at auction for $785,000.

So what's new?
  • a 380 horsepower, 6 liter M119 V8.
  • four speed auto transmission.
  • four wheel independent and adjustable suspension.
  • front brakes from C36, rear brakes from E class.
  • power steering.
  • AMG wheels with low profile tires.
  • Recaro seats with 3-point seatbelts.
  • iPod connectivity.
I prefer unmolested, Concours level restorations. But I can't fault someone who wants a little more power and better brakes and suspension components. But those rims and low profile tires ruined it for me. I say: sacrilege.

More details here.

Facebook Brings Gitmo Guard And Ex-Prisoners Together

Two Brits end up in Gitmo.

American soldier guards them.

Two Brits are released.

American soldier feels guilt.

Soldier and Brits become friends on Facebook and meet.

Video of reunion here.