Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Xinjiang Uyghur riot one year anniversary

Next Monday, July 5, is the one year anniversary of the riots in Xinjiang.  What will happen?  I'll bet nothing.

Here is a shot from Kashgar this week.  The PLA truck sez "The happiness of the ethnic people is our desire."  Oo-kay.


Young Kamui Kobayashi in Ferrari powered BMW


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oscar Grant Johannes Mehserle BART shooting graffiti at Lake Merritt

While dining at a quaint Chinese restaurant in a sleepy suburb yesterday, I heard the table next to me discuss the potential for rioting in Oakland if the BART shooting trial goes a certain way.

This morning, I found this.  A bunch of sick messages were spray painted around Lake Merritt in Oakland.  I lived there for six years (one message was painted literally across the street from my old place).  Watching this almost made me cry with anger and sadness.  Everyone needs to calm down and direct their energies and emotions into something positive and productive.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Leonid Brezhnev's Nissan President

The former Soviet leader was a true car aficionado.  He even owned a Citroen SM ($1 to anyone who can send me a link to a picture of him with the SM).  Here is his 1973 Nissan.  It was the second one made.  The first went to the Japanese PM.  Brezhnev even gave Nixon and Kissinger a ride in it in Moscow once.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Minute Stories of Famous Explorers by Jerome S. Kates (1934)

I really dig library book sales.  All paperbacks are 50 cents and hardcovers are a dollar.  I found this gem this weekend.  It's a 1934 book that describes the exploits of 73 explorers, some more famous than others.  The format is right up my alley.  On the left side, you have a hand drawn map with the explorer's route(s).  Accompanying each map are three illustrations showing his hardships.  On the right side is a brief blurb about the man and his accomplishment.  Here is a sampling:

The cover.  The book is in pretty decent shape, save the missing spine.

The paper stock is thick and sturdy.  I can't tell if this is a children's book or not.

The list of explorers.

Part 2 of the list.

This page is on the left side and shows Lief Ericsson's journey and travails.

This is the right side and describes his accomplishment.

Here is a more obscure explorer.  Salmon Andree tried to fly over the North Pole with a balloon.  He was not successful.

Andree's fateful trip.

The opera, a Chilean ghost town, and a South American land speed record by bus

I spent four plus hours in the nosebleed section of the San Francisco Opera yesterday watching Faust's Sell Your Soul to the Devil.  Inevitably, after waking up halfway through Act I, I began daydreaming.

With the Gold Rush, San Francisco became a rich and vibrant city.  Eventually, a grand opera house was constructed with donations from the local railroad, mining, and shipping barons.

In California, gold was king.  In Chile, it's copper and nitrates.  There is a former nitrate boom town called Humberstone.  It's a ghost town now and I want to visit it.  I especially want to see its abandoned theater, which may very well have hosted many long, convoluted operas.

Humberstone theater

Later this year, I am going to set a record.  Notice I did not say "break" a record, as I don't think anyone has ever tried setting such a record.  The thing about setting a record is that you can take as long as you want, as you'll be the first to set it.

The record will be to travel from Arica, Chile along the border with Peru down to Ushuaia, Argentina by bus.  The legs should take this long:
Arica to Santiago: 30 hours
Santiago to Puerto Montt: 12 hours
Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas: 30 hours
Punta Arena to Ushuaia: 12 hours
Total time on bus: 84

I hope to do this in less than a week.  I will be making a few quick side trips, one being to Humberstone near Iquique.

Interview with San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Henry K. Lee (author of Presumed Dead)

You may not know him by name, but anyone who has lived in the Bay Area in the 1990s or 2000s has read Henry K. Lee's work.  He is the crime reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.  If you look at the next article about that senseless shooting or that article about that other senseless shooting, the byline is likely to have Henry's name.

I remember Henry from his days at Berkeley in the early 90s.  He was the crime reporter for the campus paper, The Daily Californian.  For a school paper, there was certainly no shortage of crime stories.  A deranged woman named Rosebud broke into our Chancellor's residence with a machete and she was shot to death.  A mini riot followed thereafter.  And who can forget the Naked Guy?

A young Henry, a young Naked Guy (RIP), and a younger UCPD cop

After college, Henry moved up to the Big Leagues and joined the Chronicle.  He was knee deep in the Hans Reiser murder case.  A brilliant but deranged computer scientist killed his Russian doctor wife because he thought she was a bad influence on their children.  It was a sad and compelling story.  Henry has written a book about it.  He took some time away from his police scanner to answer my questions about his life as a crime reporter, Oakland, and pizza.

Tell us how you decided that you wanted to be a journalist.

I guess the seed had been planted early on. As kids, my best friend and I chased cop cars on our BMX bikes. We wanted to see what was going on, and afterward we would tell people what happened. When I was maybe 10 or so, I made a newsletter with construction paper and masking tape and posted it on a light pole near my house.  It featured an article about which dogs on the street belonged to which neighbors. When I got to UC Berkeley, I channeled what I had done as a kid by becoming a police reporter for the Daily Californian student newspaper, chasing cops on my bike! It felt natural being a journalist.

Did people at the Daily Cal see working there as a stepping stone to a career in journalism?  What are your contemporaries at the Daily Cal doing now?

Many reporters cut their teeth at the Daily Cal. Student journalists there are able to secure internships at large metro dailies, television networks and other media. Berkeley and the Bay Area as a whole is a very dynamic place, full of news and controversy and never a dull moment. It's great to see today's Daily Cal staff carrying on a proud tradition of journalistic excellence.

You write multiple crime stories a day for the San Francisco Chronicle.  Logistically, how do you do it?  Do you have sources at every Bay Area courthouse, DAs office, and police agency?  

People joke that I don't sleep, which might be partially true. I can write stories from the office, from home, in a car on a laptop, and because of our Web site,, we post things around the clock. Crime reporters never work bankers' hours. As a result, I have carefully cultivated many sources over the years throughout the Bay Area.

What are the causes of violent crime in cities like Oakland?

   I believe the easy accessibilty of weapons, the proliferation of gangs, lack of family support, troubled family dynamics and peer pressure might be contributing factors to what we've been seeing in Oakland.

Are there any programs in place now-- foot/bike patrols, Neighborhood Law Corps, after-school programs, etc.-- that are successful in reducing crime or improving Oakland’s quality of life?

 My wife began her law career in the Neighborhood Law Corps and I personally saw that she was able to do a lot of good in Oakland. While we tend of focus on the homicide rate in Oakland and try to extrapolate from that number all sorts of things, Oakland is far different now than from the place that I reported on almost two decades ago.  Programs like Youth Uprising, community policing efforts, and other outreach programs are making a difference, but change can be slow. I am heartened that such organizations are taking steps to address the violence. If one at-risk youth can be steered away from a life of crime, then that is a step in the right direction.

For the haters who badmouth Oakland, what do you say to them?  What are the virtues and positives of Oakland?

 Oakland is a vibrant, diverse city of distinct neighborhoods. This city shouldn't be painted with a broad brush. Oakland is known for its culture, commerce, intellectual curiosity, arts and entertainment, sports teams and its picturesque neighborhoods. I am proud to say that I live and work in Oakland, where the sense of community and civic pride is strong. Our neighbors brought us cookies when we moved in, and we get together as a group several times a year for special occasions. 

Do you ever get depressed covering these senseless and gruesome crime stories?  How do you decompress?

I try to keep my emotions in a box, but it can be difficult when you witness tragedy and mourning day after day. It can be especially challenging writing about the deaths of people you know personally, such as one of the four police Oakland police officers shot dead in March 2009. When I am not reporting gloom and doom, I am actually pretty light-hearted.  Maybe because I have seen so much tragedy, I am able to value all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

What traits-- psychological, upbringing, etc.-- separate law abiding citizens from felons and murderers?

I still believe that most people want to just live their lives and not bother anyone.  Then, there are a select few who cause trouble and become the subject of my stories.  Sometimes people lack the support they need to make good decisions, or they just never got a shot. 

Tell us about your book Presumed Dead: A True Life Murder Mystery.  It’s a true crime story about a brilliant computer scientist who killed his Russian wife in the Oakland Hills.  What sets this book apart from other true crime novels?

This was a so-called "no body" case, in which the victim's body, Nina Reiser, wasn't found at the time her husband, Hans, was arrested in her slaying. Her whereabouts remained a mystery even during the trial, in which the defendant believed he was smarter than anyone else, including the prosecutor, the judge and his own defense attorney. In my 18 years of crime reporting, I haven't seen such a character acting so unusual while being pursued and surveilled by police and while on the stand. In most cases, you don't hear a peep from the defendant, and the victim's body has already been found. That was not the case here.

What’s in your future, career-wise?  Did you enjoy the book writing process?  Will you be going into other genres?

I love being a crime reporter and can't imagine doing anything else.  Adapting to the longer novel format was an enjoyable challenge and I hope that I will have the opportunity to do it again.
Fat Slice or Blondie’s?  

Whichever has the shorter line.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sauber BMW Ferrari Pedro de la Rosa Paella Valencia

What's up with Pedro and food?  First, he snagged Burger King Spain's sponsorship.  Now, this.

Via Sweet F1.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Every Mercosur member (plus Chile) are in the FIFA World Cup Round of 16

Am I the only person to notice this fascinating geopolitical coincidence?  Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile all made it.  It's abundantly clear that I have no knowledge of soccer.  As such, I will henceforth root for Paraguay as it is the most obscure country of the bunch.

Mercosur (plus Chile), aka the Southern Cone

Hamburger Helper Nascar ad commercial

This was my specialty in my early 20s.

Carspotting (44): 1960s Cadillac Sedan de Ville

I don't know how the owner was able to parallel park this beast.

F1 Lotus T12 and T127 photo picture

Lotus is celebrating their 500th race this weekend in Valencia.  They brought out the first Lotus F1 car for a photo shoot.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1985 Renault Alliance convertible ad commercial promo

Watching this ad will definitely make your day.  Or at least elicit a "WTF?!".

You've got:

  • Cheesy 80s music, check,
  • Flashdance choreography, check,
  • French mimes, check,
  • breakdancers, check,
  • Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club look-a-like, check, 
  • Old West ghost town, check.

5 door Renault Le Car for sale

There is a 5 door Le Car for sale near here for $2,800.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures.  If I can get it for less than half the asking price, I'm tempted to buy it and show it at this year's Concours de LeMons.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's twitter page

Medvedev visited Silicon Valley today and opened a twitter account.  Here is one of his first tweets, a picture of the view from his hotel window.  I'm going to guess he's probably in the Presidential Suite at the Fairmont.

Transformers that don't transform

I was at the drug store last night and saw these Transformers for sale.

So it says on the front: "See back for 'robot'" and "Product does not convert".

Here is the back of the package.

The toys do not transform into robots.  Rather, the robot is etched onto the bottom of the car.  Dumb.

The other two Varyags: The Russo-Japanese ship and the Chinese casino

The Russian navy's guided missile cruiser Varyag is docked in San Francisco and open to visitors tomorrow.  The history of its two predecessors are full of intrigue and had A LOT of unexpected owners.

Varyag I.  Varyag means Viking, BTW.

  • The cruiser was built in and launched out of Philadelphia in 1899.
  • Commissioned into Imperial Russian Navy in 1901.
  • In battle against Japan in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, the crew sank it on purpose off of Incheon, Korea.
  • The Imperial Japanese Navy salvaged it and it served as the light cruiser Soya.
  • During World War I, Japan and Russia were allies so the ship was returned to Russia at Vladivostok in 1916 and renamed the Varyag.
  • Sent to Great Britain for overhaul so that it could be used in Russia's Arctic squadron.
  • Because of October Revolution in 1917, the British seized it.
  • Sold to Germany for scrap in 1920.
  • While en route to Germany, it sunk off of a Scottish village.
Varyag II.  
  • The aircraft carrier project began in the Soviet Union in 1985.
  • After the breakup of the USSR, the unfinished ship was transferred to Ukrainian ownership in 1992.
  • With no engines, rudders, or electronics, it was put up for auction in 1998.
  • A dummy corporation in Macau snatched it up under the false pretense that it was going to be turned into a casino.  
  • In 2002, it reached Dalian, China, where it is being converted into a Chinese aircraft carrier.
Here are some cool Varyag II photos from here.

Under construction in the Ukraine.

Being towed near Turkey.

Dalian shipyard in China.

2008 photo.

Full-scale training mock-up in Wuhan.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vernadsky Research Station in Antarctica: Southernmost bar in the world

I'm renewing my quest to travel down to the tip of South America.  I assumed the southernmost bar would be in Ushuaia in Argentina or Puerto Williams in Chile.  I was wrong.  Apparently, it's at a Ukrainian research station in Antarctica, at about 65 degrees south.

The Vernadsky station used to belong to the UK and was called Faraday.  As the UK consolidated its stations, it sold the station to the Ukraine for one pound, on condition that the Ukraine continued research there.  The hole in the ozone layer was discovered there, you know.

The Foxes took these photos and shared their experience.

Bay outside station.

Arrive via Zodiac.

Typical office.

Bow made out of skis.

Vodka made of glacier water.  Pineapple on plate.

Free drink in exchange for bra.

Lafayette Motorama 2010 pictures

The first annual Motorama is here.  It leans heavily towards domestic cars and there were quite a few pre-war cars, including an iconic beige Cord.  These are my favorites:

What is this?  It was parked in a long line of American iron.

Isabella coupe.  Still does not ring a bell.

Borgward?!  Say that quickly three times.

It's a Borgward Isabella.  A German car.  I had to Google it while standing in front of it.  I have no idea what the yellow tape is for.

Superleggera.  Is it gonna be a Lamborghini 350GT, or an Aston?

It's a DB6.  That's a Ferrari Daytona next to it.

Outrageous Buick jet plane hood ornament.

Nash Metropolitan.  Now I know there are at least two in the neighborhood.

This is easily the most beautiful car at the show.  It's a Jaguar XK120 FHC (fixed head coupe).

Could it be too shiny?