Sunday, February 28, 2010

King Tut museum exhibit rip-off

King Tut* exhibit at the DeYoung Museum.

*Exhibit does not include King Tut's death mask, which is on every ad plastered all over the city, print ads, and the internet; the mummy itself, his inner sarcophagus, or his outer sarcophagus.

Best Hilo Tsunami Video Footage

Not overly dramatic, but this high quality video says it all.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

1986 Porsche 928S for sale

My daily driver is getting long in the tooth. I sense a catastrophic meltdown at any moment. So I've been given the green light by my better half to get a new car.

So far, I've found a 1998 Alfa Romeo Spyder, a "limited edition" 450SEL, and this.

The most amazing thing about this well cared for example is that it's a one-owner car and comes with a phone book worth of records. That is worth at least a couple of grand in peace of mind. I'm not too crazy about the color or the automatic transmission, but it looks like a good deal for anyone who has lusted for one of these since watching Weird Science.

I have always preferred the older 928s with the smaller, more discreet tail lamps. The period correct blue and gold California plates are rare too.

Bad Idea Jeans: Honda Crossroad

A Land Rover Discovery I rebadged as a Honda, sold in Japan and New Zealand.

1972 Pontiac propaganda film: Protectionist Xenophobes Unite!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Basque restaurants in Carson City and Reno

I stayed in a small Mono County town overnight. I wake up and it's 9 degrees outside. I drive two hours north to Carson City so that I can eat a proper breakfast.

Much of Idaho and Nevada is Basque country. Many men from France and Spain were brought here as sheepherders.

Villa Basque Cafe, Carson City

I had heard a lot of great things about this place. The restaurant is in an unassuming strip mall about a mile from downtown Carson City. As I approach the door, it looks closed. I enter the overflow annex. The large room is unoccupied, dark, and filled with empty tables and chair. I walk across the room and enter another set of doors. That is when I arrive at the restaurant proper.

The place is known for their homemade chorizos. There are reminders everywhere-- painted on the walls, in the large refrigerators for all to see, dangling from the ceiling. I order a chorizo with eggs ($9.50). It came with corn tortillas, beans, and rice. I also get jalapenos for an extra 50 cents.

The coffee was sour, kind of like the crap we drank in the 80s in those small white styrofoam cups. The chorizo was dry and gamey. The whole thing was overcooked and sloppily prepared. I am disappointed. It didn't help that I could overhear the conversation from the table behind me. The guy, a very religious chap, was lecturing his mail order bride about the value of money and the sin of wasting food. Oh, brother.

Louis' Basque Corner, Reno

The restaurant serves its meals family style on large tables. The introvert in me shudders. So when I walk in, I instinctively ask if I can eat at the bar. Of course I can.

The guys sitting next me and the bartender immediately ask in a friendly manner what I'm up to. They impulsively start ordering for me. I start with a picon punch (see the video below). They get me roast leg of lamb ($11.95), but instead of a side of Basque beans, they order tripe so that I can have a taste of another entree. The conversation flows. It was awesome.

The only thing of note about the meal itself was that the lamb was really heavy on the garlic. Though the food is definitely above average, people come here out of tradition and camaraderie. It is a really fun place. I even got to meet the French Basque owner, Louis.

They have a vulgar saying about the picon punch. Something about how having two is just right and three is too many. I think I may have had four. Woops.

2010 F1 AMG SLS Safety Car

Here it is, the 2010 safety car. As Dolphin Hater astutely asked last November when the SLS was announced, if the car is a gullwing, how are they going to affix the light bar? Well, I guess they just bolted it aft of the doors.

I just downloaded the F1 timing app last night. I signed up for an F1 "office pool". Now, I am shopping for a proper TV. Bring it on.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best Motoring Convertible Battle

The weirdest lineup you'll ever see. Hint: Don't root for the Cappuccino.

2nd Generation Camaro And Firebird Trans Am CHP Police Cars In The Junkman Movie

I rarely mention Jalopnik because I assume all of you are regular visitors to that site. Today's post about the epic Camarobird collection may be the most Jalop post of them all. I looked into second generation Camaro police cars and I found this movie called The Junkman. Why have I never heard of this movie? It looks awesome.

Help Me Identify This Alfa Romeo(?)

Is that orange thing in the foreground an Alfa? What is it? I found this on a Brazilian blog. F1O?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ban On Eating Dog And Cat Meat In China

No more hot dogs in China. :(

Boron Vacation Part 3: Rio Tinto Borax Labor Dispute Lock Out

The signs were everywhere, literally. As I walked into Domingo's, I saw the sign. As I checked in at the Boron Motel, I saw the sign. But what was going on?

As I paid my check at Domingo's, I saw a couple walking out with union shirts and placards. I stopped and asked them. He was a teacher and she belonged to the SEIU. The contract between Rio Tinto, the multi-national mining conglomerate and the local union laborers (around 500 of them) expired. Talks have failed. The company locked the workers out and brought in scabs. The town has been tense and depressed ever since. 500 men and women have not worked for two weeks.

I decide to investigate. The next morning, I go to the borax mine. As I approach the entrance, I am welcomed by a 35 foot inflatable rat, four police cars, and dozens of picketing workers. Most of the miners belong to the ILWU, longshoremen, so quite a few burly men from Long Beach/San Pedro are standing in solidarity with them. Afraid that they may mistakenly believe that I am a narc, I leave my camera and notebook in the car.

I talk to the men. They are frustrated. With each contract, they lose more and more. Health care has been slowly cut. Retirement contributions have been slashed. Seniority has become irrelevant. Not even a 40 hour work week is guaranteed anymore. They are scared. And pissed. The mine is literally becoming like Wal-Mart. Two of the guys I met are third generation miners from town. Their grandfathers were lured to Boron, in the middle of nowhere, with the promise of an honest job at a decent wage and a safe, thriving, town for their families. Their American Dream is no more.

But then we have Rio Tinto's perspective. I asked my investment banker friend who is deep down inside a hard core liberal. He said that Rio Tinto is no more evil than any other corporation. In this global capitalist economy, the drive ever downwards in wages and working conditions is inevitable. Rio Tinto has to do it to stay competitive and to satiate its investors. It has little choice. It would be irresponsible if it didn't do what it is doing.

So what's the solution? I'm not sure. Nothing is black and white. I do feel pretty badly for those men without jobs, and their families at home.

Boron Vacation Part 2: The Town of Boron And the Twenty Mule Team

After my meal at Domingo's, I promptly check into the Boron Motel and fall asleep. The motel, not surprisingly, is run by an Indian family.

Twenty Mule Team Road in Boron, looking east

Twenty Mule Team Road in Boron, looking west

There is a high concentration of borax in the Mojave Desert. In the late 1800s, mule trains lugged borax from Death Valley to civilization. Someone experimented with different combinations and concluded that a twenty mule team was the optimum number of mules to pull two wagons of borax and 1,200 gallons of water 165 miles through the scorching desert. There are two 50-plus mile stretches with no water. Temperatures sometimes topped 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Each team pulled a total of 36 tons 17 miles a day. Between 1883 and 1889, the mule teams hauled 20 million tons of borax without a single breakdown. Hence the "twenty mule team" and the road in Boron named after it.

In the 1920s, a doctor picked the current location of the town of Boron to build a sanitarium for patients with respiratory ailments. While digging for a well, he struck borax. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, Boron is the site of the largest open mining pit in California. Half of the world's borax is dug up from this pit, which is just a few miles from town. Most of its residents are affiliated with the white substance in one way or another.

If the town looks familiar, it's because the movie Erin Brakovich was filmed here. Most of the residents are descendants of 1930s Okies, so even though this is California, everyone has an unfamiliar accent.

The next time you're at a grocery store, check the laundry detergent aisle. You'll be surprised to find boxes and boxes of Twenty Mule Team Borax.

Boron Vacation Part 1: Domingo's Mexican & Seafood Restaurant

For those of you driving from the Bay Area to Las Vegas (or LA to Mammoth), Domingo's in Boron off of Highways 58/395 is a perfect place to stop along the way for a quick bite to eat.

I arrive in Boron late at night. I wonder if I'm lost. The town has one main drag-- Twenty Mule Team Road. It is deserted. It is a virtual ghost town. It is the epitome of sketchy. I don't see any moving cars in either direction. Desolation.

As I inch closer to the "center" of town, I see lights coming from a building and a bunch of cars parked in front of it. Life! I've arrived at Domingo's.

The little town of Boron is twenty minutes from Edwards Air Force Base. The base is used not only as a landing site for the space shuttle, but has been the site of thousands of test flights. Generals, pilots, and astronauts all dine at Domingo's. The walls of the restaurant are filled with air and space memorabilia. Autographs from the likes of Chuck Yeager and a portrait of astronauts in orange spacesuits and sombreros entertain the customers. Astronauts often call in their orders to Domingo's just before they land back on earth.

For a weeknight in the middle of nowhere, I'm surprised that this place is almost packed. Everyone is having a good time. It's like an Applebee's commercial, but with sincerity and good food.

I plop down in a booth. The party of three in the booth next to me are downing huge margaritas and a platter of $1 oysters. My waiter approaches me matter-of-factly and shakes my hand as if we are about to conduct a business transaction. That's never happened to me before.

I ask my man for a recommendation and he ordered chicken enchiladas suizas for me. Perfect. The soup comes out first. It's topped with a huge mound of white and yellow cheese. There's too much. None of the cheese has melted into the lukewarm soup. The ingredients-- potatoes, carrots, and celery, are so-so. It's a bit watery. Soup is not their forte.

But then comes the entree. Two enchiladas with rice and beans. Ingredients-wise, it's exactly what you get at chains like Chevy's, but this is so much better. The chicken was amazing. They taste like fresh, backyard grown chickens. Maybe a bit long in the tooth, shaggy looking, and not too plump. It's definitely not one of those genetic mutants with a chem lab full of juice that you get from Tyson or some other industrial farm.

I have only had chicken this good twice. Once was when my friend took me to his Central Valley home. His mother was a migrant worker without a large food budget. The only food she could offer me was a small scoop of rice with a few thin shreds of chicken on top. The other experience was at a long-distance bus stop somewhere near Villahermosa, Mexico. There was a buffet spread for the bus passengers and there was rice and pathetic looking chicken. They were so full of flavor.

As I scarf down my meal, a man in a shirt and skinny tie approach me and shake my hand. It's the jefe, Domingo himself. He is by far the most successful small business owner in town. He is repeatedly the town's honorary mayor for raising the most money for charity. He is a good man. He too asks me how I'm enjoying my meal. I reply.

I won't say this is the best Mexican meal I've ever had, but it's pretty darn good. Remember, if you're ever on Highway 58 (or Highway 395 near Kramer's Junction for that matter), stop by Domingo's. I guarantee it's the only Mexican restaurant in the world that is decorated with pictures of experimental jets and spacecraft.

Photo source.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soviet Concorde SST: Tu-144

The Concorde and the Tu-144 are displayed together in Germany's
Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim.

In my post about the XB-70, an anonymous commenter mentioned the Soviet Concorde, the Tu-144. You can find all the info about that plane here.

But what I found really fascinating about this plane, the people who designed and built it, and Soviet propaganda can all be seen in this promo.

1986 Soviet USSR Land Transport Video

It's got trains, trams, ambulances, fire trucks, everything.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bay Area California Littlefield Tank Museum

I went on a tour of the late Jacques Littlefield's tank collection at his Portola Valley ranch just south of San Francisco. You can set up a visit by contacting his foundation. The waiting list is about two months long. The tour is only held on weekends. There is a $20 donation/entrance charge.

The tour was in depth, fascinating, and took about three hours. There are over 200 tanks and other combat vehicles in four large warehouses. The highlight of the trip for me was not one, but two SCUD missiles sitting on top trucks!

Here is the parking lot as you enter. It's insane.

This is the oldest tank in the collection, an American M1917 Six Ton. It is a copy of a French model. None of these American tanks saw any action in World War I. The turret is manually operated, i.e. the gunner used his shoulder to swivel it.

These bullet holes were supposedly created as a part of armor testing before the tank came off the assembly line.
Obligatory Sherman tank. Surprised to learn that they were virtually useless against the German tanks.

In Soviet Russia, Red Star gets you!

"For Stalin" (T-34).


These ridges supposedly acted as an anti-magnet to repel magnetic mines (not sure).

Czech please.


East German.

These flimsy flaps somehow stopped incoming projectiles. Sorry, I listened to three hours of info without a notebook so I don't remember everything.

This Israeli M48A4 tank is interesting. It fought in two wars. In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, someone fired an RPG at the rear of the tank on the Sinai Peninsula. The little hole it caused can be seen below.

That hole is in the bottom left hand corner of this photo, which gives you some perspective. Well, the RPG entered the tank through that hole it created and seriously f'ed up the transmission and engine and disabled the tank. Amazing what a well-aimed RPG can do.

BMW R75 bike with sidecar in the front, first of two SCUD missiles in the background.

VW Kubelwagen Type 82.

I like the African palm tree insignia, sans swastika. Very Indiana Jones.

We're getting closer to the SCUD missile.

Bam! That's an SS-1c SCUD B missile. I heart the Eastern Bloc transporter with yellow foglights.

This is a late 1960s Soviet long-track radar vehicle.

Inside of the radar vehicle.

First aid instructions in Czech(?).

Here is an older SS-1b SCUD A missile.

Infrared "light" popular in the 60s and 70s.

Weird insignia.


Palm tree without the swastika.