Monday, January 31, 2011

Mubarak's getaway car

There's a good chance that Tuesday will be the day Mubarak quits and flees the country.  So what will be his ride to the airport?  His official car, I believe, is a BMW 7 series.  However, no one has taken a picture of him with his car in Egypt in over a decade.  (Talk about paranoid.)  Hopefully, he's having one of the following cars detailed as we speak in preparation for tomorrow.  Here is a retrospective:

Here is Veep Mubarak with Sadat in a Cadillac.  This was taken on the day of Sadat's assassination (1981):

Here is American ally Hosni in an American Jeep (1987).  That guy in khaki is just expressing his love and appreciation for the dear leader:

Mubarak is seen here riding in his Merc Pullman Landaulet with his Saudi counterpart (1989):

Conservative W126 (1993):

Drab, but still awesome, W140 (1999):

Mercedes C63 AMG exhaust sound

I followed a C63 today.  I'm not a huge fan of modern Mercedes cars, but the C63's exhaust may be the coolest out there.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Putin's ZAZ 968

Look at the genuine smile on his face.  The 968 was Putin's first car.

Tajikistan cedes over 1,100 sq. km of land to China

Kulma/Qolma Pass, China-Tajik border, elev. 4,362 meters.  Source.

Since the days of Czarist Russia, the border between China and what is now Tajikistan has been in dispute.  Finally, this month, an agreement has been consummated.  I can't find a map or a detailed description of the new border, but I assume it is the southern half of the border between the two nations.  This is a very thinly populated region (on both sides of the bordrer) in the Pamir Mountain range.

What do the two parties gain from the settlement (both explicitly and implicitly)?

For China:

  • Final resolution of all land disputes with the former Soviet Union.
  • Increased credibility in front of the world stage that China can peacefully resolve disputes.
  • Favorable access to minerals, railroad right-of-ways, arable land, and hydroelectric power.
  • Better control of border to fight Uyghur separatists and influx of heroin from Afghanistan.

For Tajikistan:

  • Peace of mind.
  • Goodwill with its largest trading partner and investor.
  • Loans and a flood of cheap Chinese goods, including motor vehicles.
A postscript: As a part of the border agreement, Tajikistan is allowing thousands of Chinese farmers to use 2,000 hectares of Tajik land to grow rice for export to China.  Wow, talk about unequal bargaining power.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mubarak with Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama

To paraphrase FDR-- He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.

South: Buenos Aires-- cars, Chinatown, cemetery, 2 theaters

Day 19:

Our stay in Buenos Aires began with a walk to the upscale Palermo District for some window shopping.  While one of us shopped, the other one took pictures of cars.  Can you guess who did what?

I had no idea what this was.

Apparently, it's a Chevy.  And it's right hand drive(!).

This old Honda Accord hatchback was in tip-top shape.

I saw this poor thing outside a couple of classic car repair shops that were next door to each other.

These two were in the two shops getting restored.

For lunch, we went to Chinatown.  It's not huge, but there appeared to be at least a few authentic restaurants.  We dined at Ciudad Exquisita, which may not have been the most authentic, but was definitely popular.

The first thing you notice is that every table has ordered a large fried rice and packaged bread sticks.  We ordered some boiled dumplings (same as potstickers, except they're not fried).  They were a bit too damp but still tasted very good.  I got a pork chop rice, a popular Taiwanese-style lunch dish.  There wasn't much meat but the steamed rice and tea egg that came with it were very tasty.  We also ordered an eggplant dish.  The eggplant tasted very meaty and we suspected that we liked it too much because it had MSG in it.  All in all, it was a great meal.  It's definitely better than the Chinese food I had in Chile and Peru.

Next stop was the cemetery.  Rows and rows of crypts made the place look like a small city.  It was very touristy and everyone had to take a picture of Eva Peron's resting site.

After the macabre tourist trap, we moved on to El Ateneo.  It used to be a grand theater and it has been converted into a book store.  The stage is a cafe and customers use the balconies to read the inventory.  It's a fantastic idea.

I'll take this opportunity to say that Latin Americans need to take a course from us North Americans on how to operate a retail store.  The book store was easily many times bigger than a Borders or Barnes & Noble, yet it only had two cash registers.  Each line of customers must have been 40 deep.  We were going to buy five books but gave up because of the lines.  How the heck do they expect to make a profit with these business practices?!

One last comment.  I went to a number of book stores and it seems like a large proportion of the inventory was devoted to intellectual or leftist topics-- the kind of books that were popular in Berkeley or Cambridge in the 60s and 70s.

We ended the day at a movie theater.  It was hot all day and we were looking forward to the air conditioning.  In fact, a lady came up to us in the lobby and asked us if we were in the theater because we were hot.  We replied yes.  She then asked if she could ask us more questions.  That's when I saw her microphone and her friend, the TV news cameraman.  We suddenly became embarrassed with our Spanish and declined.  That was funny.

The movie was an HD rebroadcast of a London ballet production.  Apparently, one of the dancers was Argentine.  The program is akin to the The Met's Live in HD series in the States.  It is my habit at these shows to sleep through 1 1/2 acts.  For this ballet, I slept through 1 1/2 acts.  I don't think I missed much because when I woke up, they were still dancing.

BTCC Porsche Panamera safety car

The Panamera is a controversial car.  But I'll bet you anything that even if you are not a big fan of it, in 25 years, you'll look at this picture and say-- Now that's interesting.

By the way, Speed is showing touring car races all morning today.


Carspotting: Jeep Forward Control

I rarely post nighttime pictures, but this truck is just too weird to ignore.  I must share!  This Jeep has Civil Defense livery, which I have never seen or heard of before.  Plus, it has the E diamond exempt plate, which has not adorned state owned vehicles since the 1980s.  All around, this is an odd duck.

Friday, January 28, 2011

RIP x 25 years: Challenger space shuttle crew

Video of Cairo Egypt bridge battle with riot police

FYI: Al Jazeera English's Youtube channel uploads fresh footage with running commentary regularly.

Also, Al Jazeera English's live stream here.

Octogenarian autocrats who dye their hair

Who are these dudes kidding?



(Dis)honorable mention-- Gaddafi, who is still in his 60s:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cars with three exhausts

I saw a real life Ferrari 458 Italia today.  The headlights are really cool.  They look like pop up lights that pop up sideways, i.e. with hinges that are parallel with the length of the car, like fish gills.

It also has three exhausts, which is unusual.  Other than the Lexus LF-A and the Ferrari F40, are there any other cars with three pipes?

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1990 Ford Taurus SHO

I'm toying with the idea of buying a sub-$1,500 beater and entering it in this year's Concours d'LeMons.  I saw a gorgeous first generation SHO on the freeway tonight and it has inspired me.  Perhaps I need to find a cheap example of one of these Yamaha-engined beasts.  With 220 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, it had as much power as my E46 330i (which was made more than a decade later).  That's pretty incredible.

Pop's Jag

Reading this short story is guaranteed to bring back fond memories of your folks' car when you were a kid.

Carspotting: Mercury Comet

I know nothing about the Comet.  I can tell that it is small for a 1960s American car.  Other than the tattered seats, this example is in almost perfect shape.

South: El Calafate to Buenos Aires

Day 18:

The plan had been to spend the day horseback riding at an estancia (ranch) near El Calafate, but I'm just too exhausted to do anything.  Our flight out to BA is at 8 p.m. but we headed out to the airport in the morning, hoping we'd be able to catch an earlier flight.  We had no luck and ended up spending the entire day at the airport cafeteria.

Here are my observations during my long airport stay:

  • I am sick of empanadas, ham and cheese sandwiches, and milanesas (breaded meat filets).
  • Argentinean men do not lack confidence.  If an attractive woman sits nearby, they will literally move their chairs to get a better view of her, and proceed to ogle her-- until she finishes her meal and leaves.
  • A group of guys had been riding their BMW bikes in Patagonia.  They loaded up their bikes onto a truck out in the parking lot and they are all heading back to BA.

There's our plane.  We will land in BA at around midnight, after dropping off and picking up some people in Trelew, a Welsh settlement.

We arrive in Argentina's capital at 2 a.m.  We are exhausted and the queue for the cabs is comparable to a Soviet-era bread line.  Everyone is smoking, even the cab drivers.  It's hot.  It's fantastic.  It's like Paris, but newer and with wider streets.

We buzz through the city to our hotel.  There are pedestrians still out and about.  We pass by an Alfa dealership.  There is prosperity.  There is order.  It's hard to imagine that a couple from rural Santa Cruz province in Patagonia ended up being presidents in this cosmopolitan city.

The cab drivers are aggressive but courteous.  Before the light turns green, they're already gone.  

At a red light, two guys in four cylinder hatches rev their engines, in anticipation of a race.  Our cab driver takes off seconds before the other two, even though our light is still red.  

I think I'm going to like this city.