Sunday, September 29, 2013

Current UN peacekeeping missions

Kofi Annan's book, so far, is not that interesting. There are nuggets of cool factoids here and there. For example, from 1945 until 1988, the UN only had a dozen peacekeeping missions.

Today, there are 15 missions. They are:

  • Western Sahara, since 1991. The "country" is essentially controlled by Morocco.
  • Mali, since 2013.
  • Haiti, since Aristide's ouster in 2004. 96 peacekeepers died in the 2010 earthquake. Nepalese peacekeepers caused the cholera outbreak after the quake.
  • DR Congo, since 2010.
  • Afghanistan, since 2002.
  • Darfur, since 2007.
  • Golan Heights, since 1974.
  • Cyprus, since 1964(!).
  • Lebanon, since 1978.
  • Abyei (border region between Sudan and South Sudan), since 2011.
  • Kosovo, since 1999.
  • Liberia, since 2003.
  • South Sudan, since 2011.
  • India and Pakistan, maintains order in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Ivory Coast, since 2004.
  • "Middle East", since 1948.
Apparently, it's a tradition/custom, rather than a rule/law, that prevents soldiers from the five permanent members of the Security Council from serving as UN peacekeepers.

More info here.

Chevy Spark review

I'm going to be sort-of out of town for most of next week and I reserved a Spark rental. I like the looks on the outside. It seems decent on the inside, for a sub-compact.

Unimog factory

Saturday, September 28, 2013

5 random UN Security Council resolutions

Whenever someone rattles off random Security Council resolutions, I wonder, do people know all of them by heart? What are these resolutions? How many are there?

Well, to date, there are 2,116 resolutions. I'm going to look at five of them, randomly.

303: In 1971, tensions were rising between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir. Problems were also bubbling in East Pakistan (which would later become Bangladesh). The Security Council couldn't agree on a solution, so the issue was referred to the General Assembly.

It's kind of mind blowing that at this point, the Republic of China (Taiwan) still had a permanent seat on the Security Council. That's an enormous amount of power for such a small and weak nation.

At that point, the non-permanent voting members were Argentina, Burundi, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Poland, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Syria. All voted in favor of referring the issue to the GA, with France, Poland, USSR, and the UK abstaining.

1700: Passed 15-0 in 2006. This appears to be a routine resolution extending the UN's mandate in Iraq for another 12 months.

360: 1974. This resolution recorded the Security Council's disapproval (ooh, scary) of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Belarus, USSR, and Iraq voted against. First, I had no idea that individual Soviet republics were member states. Apparently, Belarus and Ukraine became "independent" UN members in 1945. Lucky dogs.

I know next to nothing about Cyprus. If Turkey and Greece were both NATO countries, why did the Soviets side with Turkey?

1411: This is a fairly technical and boring resolution. In 2002, the Security Council clarified judges on the Int'l Criminal Tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia who had dual citizenships. *Yawn*

439: 1978. The Security Council declared the South African-imposed election in Namibia/South West Africa as null and void. Ten voted for (China, USSR, Bolivia, Gabon, India, Kuwait, Mauritania, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Venezuela) and five abstained (Canada, France, West Germany, the UK, the U.S.).

And for the record, the current non-permanent members are Azerbaijan, Argentina, Australia, Guatemala, South Korea, Morocco, Pakistan, Luxembourg, Rwanda, and Togo.

Make and model?

I'll bet Sanchez or Viva knows.

This is a United Nations World Food Program convoy. I'm reading Kofi Annan's memoir and am going to be posting a lot of UN stuff. So get ready.


I have a daily routine for looking for the V50 T5. I first check eBay, then Craigslist, then Buggybank. While scrolling through BuggyBank's inventory, this 535i popped up. It's both a classic and a modern design. And at $3,950, it's practically disposable.

Rouhani's car and tweets

Khodahafez means good-bye/God be with you.

This is the sort of news day this blog lives for.

First, Obama had a brief phone conversation with the Iranian leader, the first between the two countries' leaders since 1979. Upon returning to Iran, Rouhani got in his Nissan Patrol(!) and was promptly greeted by supporters of reform (cheers) and haters of America (jeers). The haters even threw shoes and eggs at Rouhani's car. His bodyguards had to use umbrellas to deflect the eggs.

The other fun news to come out of this is that Rouhani (or his aide) actually tweeted the conversation with Obama. However, they were promptly deleted. But nothing ever gets truly deleted online, right?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Massa versus his teammates, the stats

F1O: What are "Duelo em Classificacoes" versus "Duelo em Corridas"? Qualifying versus race finish?

Via Flavio Gomes.

Al Qaeda world map

This is from February, so it's probably a bit out of date, as everything is in flux.

From the Washington Post.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And in shipping news...

You guys will get a kick out of these stories.

1. First commercial ship to try the Northwest Passage (due to melting Arctic ice) will be carrying coal.

2. That big ship that Maersk built? Too big.

3. And finally, from Edvin, a harrowing tale of righting a tipped over ship carrying thousands of Mazdas.

Honda Insight review

I'm going to use Zipcar again today and I reserved a Honda Insight. I assumed they're not nearly as popular as the Prius because it's ugly. But apparently, it's not so great under the hood either.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Maserati Spyder by OPAC

Italian coachbuilder OPAC made this prototype that was supposed to replace the Biturbo Spyder. It came with a V8 from the Shamal and an electric soft top. Two were built. This one here may be the lone survivor.

More pictures here.

Checking out an S500 coupe

I have absolutely no desire to buy this basket case, but the key is in the car. I might as well take a look.

Chrysler TC by Maserati

I'm reading a hilarious book about 1980s Maseratis. It's obviously written by a diehard fan, but it is brutally honest. The first chapter is about what a dick jerk Alejandro de Tomaso was. The next few chapters identify every single thing wrong with the BiTurbo, from design to manufacturing to marketing. It appears that the first version was introduced with no testing whatsoever, and that subsequent versions tried to improve on the original.

The last chapter I read before going to sleep was about the Chrysler TC by Maserati. I learned that:

  • The logo for the car is called a PentaTrident.
  • Chrysler insisted that when the words Chrysler and Maserati were placed near each other, the font size for Maserati had to be 80% of Chrysler's font size.
  • The 1987 Monaco GP featured two TC safety cars.
I can't find a picture of the safety cars so I reached out to the TC Owners Club this morning, which happens to be headquartered one town over from me!

Friday, September 20, 2013

2014 Cadillac CTS review

I met Mike Schlee at the Corolla event. I was not very familiar with AutoGuide before, but am really impressed with his car reviews.

The new CTS's front end is pretty bold, in a good way. Cadillac is almost there, but interior fit and finish appear to still be a challenge for the company.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Make An F1 Car, Part 1

This is going to be an interesting series. Adrian Newey still draws by hand!

Barrow, Alaska

I will be there next summer, hopefully. It is the northernmost American "city". It's interesting how 20% of America's oil comes from nearby Prudhoe Bay, and the locals in Barrow are being affected by climate change in a dramatic way. Fairly soon, there will be a true Northwest Passage as the Arctic Ocean's ice melts and opens up new shipping lanes between China and Europe.

BMW dealership inventory breakdown

Remember when BMW sold just the 3-, 5-, and 7-Series? And maybe the 6-Series briefly, and a few Ms? Now, the carmaker seems to sell an infinite number of configurations. This led me to ask, how does a typical dealership stock all of these different cars? Is it even possible?

I am using Weatherford BMW in Berkeley as an example. It is a good sized dealership with large turnover. The categories I have listed are based on BMW USA's official website. Weatherford has 132 new (2013 and 2014) cars in its current inventory:

1-Series Coupe: 10
1-Series Convertible: 0
1-Series ActiveE: 0
3-Series Sedan: 47
3-Series ActiveHybrid: 0
3-Series Wagon: 3
3-Series Gran Turismo: 4
3-Series Coupe: 2
3-Series Convertible: 4
4-Series Coupe: 0
5-Series Sedan: 18
5-Series ActiveHybrid: 1
5-Series Gran Turismo: 1
6-Series Coupe: 0
6-Series Gran Coupe: 4
6-Series Convertible: 0
7-Series Sedan: 2
7-Series ActiveHybrid: 0
X1: 6
X3: 12
X5: 11
X6: 2
Z4 Roadster: 0
M3 Convertible: 0
M5 Sedan: 0
M6 Coupe: 1
M6 Gran Coupe: 0
M6 Convertible: 1
X5 M: 1
X6 M: 0

The only thing that is not surprising is that 3- and 5-Series sedans are very popular. What I am shocked about is that there are no Z4s on the lot and only three Ms (an M6 coupe, an M6 convertible, and an X5 M). Plus, what the heck are 1-Series 3- and 5-doors?! This hyper-fragmented inventory is just bonkers!!!

Maybe I'll look at the inventories of the other local BMW dealers this weekend.

Edit: I took out the 1-Series 3- and 5-doors as well as the M3 coupe and the 5-Series wagon, which are not available here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

German used car auctions

Interesting way of photographing dents.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wilson's 14 Points

I just listened to a fascinating and insightful piece on Woodrow Wilson. One of the things I learned is that Wilson suffered a number of mini-strokes during his time in office and that may explain some of his bizarre behavior, such as insisting on re-arranging the furniture in a room while working on the Treaty of Versailles.

Wilson made a speech about the Fourteen Points to explain what he wanted to see once World War I ended. They are, for the most part, relevant today, a century later.

1. No more secret treaties.
2. Freedom of navigation of the seas.
3. Removal of all economic barriers.
4. Arms reduction.
5. Adjustment of colonial claims, taking into account the interests of the locals.
6. Get out of Russia and help her.
7. Get out of Belgium.
8. Get out of France.
9. Clarify Italian border.
10. Autonomy for Austria-Hungary.
11. Get out of Romania, Serbia, Montenegro.
12. Ottoman Empire should just be Turkey.
13. An independent Poland.
14. League of Nations should be formed.

Massa to Lotus?

Monday, September 16, 2013

COTA Heidfeld WEC poster

Alfa v. Volvo wagons

The search yesterday was a dud. The local Volvo dealership had two 2010 V50s. Both had automatics and the non-turbo engines. Plus, because they were Certified Pre-Owned cars (late model used cars with extended warranties), they were priced thousands more than similar cars sold by private parties.

Peugeot RCZ

Last night's episode of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown was quite controversial. Because Israel. Bourdain visited Jerusalem and ate at the homes of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and residents of Gaza. He rode shotgun in this beautiful RCZ, a car I had never seen before, which was driven by a female Palestinian "racer".

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Alonso v. Kimi

I'm just going to assume Vettel will win the championship next year, as Alonso and Kimi will probably be splitting Ferrari's points. I'm just excited to see them race in identical cars.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Motorweek tests the Volvo V50

I am kicking the search up a notch this weekend. There are no cars with the specs I want locally, but I think I will test drive one or two anyway, just to make sure I like the general feel of the car. I have my eye on these.

1 and 2. There are two normally aspirated, front wheel drive (I assume) 2010s at Lawrence Volvo.

3. Then there is this normally aspirated, FWD 2007 model at Weatherford BMW.

I also stumbled upon a Volvo enthusiast site called Swedespeed, which has a classified section.

And finally, we have a Motorweek review of the car. We like to make fun of the show, but it is really predictable and gives you all the information a prospective shopper needs.

Two compact Lexus hybrids

These two cars have been around for a few years now and still have me scratching my head. They are aimed at people who like the Toyota Prius, but want something a little more fancy. But my take is that upper middle class people who like the Toyota Prius would just stick with the Prius. Why pay thousands more when their message is-- "I want an environmentally friendly car with a plebian badge."?

First up, we have the HS250h, which is sort of a mix of the Prius and Camry Hybrid. Its exterior screams "generic three box compact sedan". No wonder Lexus stopped selling this here last year.

Then we have the CT200h. It certainly looks better than the HS and is more versatile, as it is a hatchback. I have been seeing more and more of these on the road, and my interest led me to research it more for this post. But I was flabbergasted when I learned that this sporty Lexus has about the same horsepower as the Prius-- 134. I really thought that it would have at least 200. This might be acceptable in East Asia and Western Europe, but not here.

Ecurie Ecosse / Team Scotland

Via Flavio Gomes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mexican riot truck

"That's not a riot truck. This, is a riot truck."

Mexican riot police responding to teachers on strike.

Transmission manufacturers

Call me ignorant, but I had always assumed that car manufacturers built their own transmissions in-house. Sure, there are Getrag and ZF, but those sold in small numbers and only supplied higher end vehicles. I was wrong.

I was doing my daily search for a used Volvo V50 when I came upon a Craigslist ad for an automatic transmission that is compatible with the V50. The Aisin AW55-50SN is used in a surprising and diverse number of cars, including:
2006-- Pontiac Torrent (GM code M09 (FWD), M45 (AWD))
2004-- Chevrolet Equinox (GM code M09 (FWD), M45 (AWD))
2004 Saturn Ion (GM code M43)
2003--2005(?) Volvo XC90 2.5T engine only
2002--2008 Lancia Thesis
2002--2008 Opel Vectra C and Opel Signum
2002--2003 Saturn Vue V6
2003-2007 Saab 9-3 (GM code M09)
2004-2006 Nissan Maxima, Nissan Quest, Nissan Altima under Nissan part number RE5F22A, built by Aisin
2001-2007 Renault Laguna V6 and 2.2dci (code SU1)
2001-2005(?) Volvo S60
2004 Volvo S80 (2.5T)
2006-- Volvo C30
2006 Volvo S40
2006 Volvo V50 (T5)
2000 Volvo V70
2007-2008 Suzuki XL7

I had no idea. In fact, Aisin, a Japanese company, used to just supply RWD trannies for Toyota. Now, it supplies transmissions to 55 car manufacturers around the world.

In the car search front, cars are popping up on my search. This one on eBay is pretty much what I want. It has low miles (relatively), the turbocharged engine, a manual, and is front-wheel drive. Unfortunately, it is in Florida. No offense to F1Outsider, but used cars in Florida have a bad reputation of unclean titles. Many salvaged vehicles, often due to flooding, end up in Florida with clean titles. The seller of this Volvo seems legit, as it only sells Volvos (and a lot of them). 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

General Electric DeLorean Michael J. Fox Back to the Future ad

Hamster steers a Volvo truck

Putin's op-ed in the New York Times

This is a great and quick read. I especially liked how he ended it.

"My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The fight for a Christian town in Syria

From the BBC:

Never Forget 9/11 (And Bad Taste)

What is wrong with people?

Pope Francis's new ride is a 20+ year old Renault 4

He is the coolest pope ever.

In his native Argentina, Francis had a Renault 4. When he became pope, he admonished his underlings for their lavish lifestyles and limousines. So an Italian priest recently offered Francis this 190,000-mile example, and he accepted it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Subaru Outback sedan

Have any of you seen a sedan IRL in the U.S.?

Honda Elite pop up headlight

Congrats to rchen, who just acquired one!

Massa out, Kimi in

What a day. The silly season is over already.

This is the most heart wrenching moment in Massa's career. Dad thought son had won the championship, only to find out moments later that he didn't.

Monday, September 09, 2013

WTCC race in Sonoma

For the second year, WTCC came to America. Specifically, nearby Sonoma Raceway (formerly Infineon).

The crowd was at least three times bigger than last year's. We had to park on the far end of the venue and take a shuttle bus to the track. Last year, we parked just a few hundred meters from the track. These CTS-V safety/pace cars greeted us.

This year, there are just two manufacturer-backed teams-- Honda and Lada. It's obvious that Honda's budget was significant.

Last year, we had unfettered access to the garages and pits. This year, there was a lot more security and we had to actually pay (how dare they!) for the access.

I gravitated toward the Lada garage. As far as I can tell, it's Russian with a Greek affiliation. I asked the guys if I could buy a Lada Sport jersey. Nyet.

I think this is the engine of a SEAT Leon.

FIA scrutineering bay. A handful of cars were penalized and sent to the back of the grid because their seats were moved too far back (by millimeters).

Here is the view from the Lada during the start of the first race. As you can see, the haze was pretty bad from the Rim Fire (discussed below).

Audi has a facility at the track and this WEC racer was on display. It's inside what looks like a huge diecast toy box.

The main reason the crowd was much bigger is because they had a stance/VIP show in the lower parking lot. I saw for the first time those Japanese cars with massive camber. There were a few relatively stock-looking classic Japanese rides though.

An R/C drifting track.

Tom Chilton, F1's Max Chilton's brother, won the first race in this Aon Chevy yesterday. WTCC has two races (13 laps per race here in Sonoma). The first race's line-up is based on qualifying times. In the second race, the drivers who qualified in the top ten start in reverse order.

In the two races, Lada's best result was 13th.

There was also a 911 GT3 Cup support race, along with a Yokohama drift demonstration.

This was the neatest car in the lot. On the way home, I saw an all-white G-wagen (including the wheels). I really want to drive one now.

The air quality was already bad because of the Rim Fire in Yosemite. It is California's third biggest fire in recorded history (covering almost 400 square miles). Then, this nearby fire erupted and burned down dry grass and a wooden palette warehouse.

Then, on the way home, we spotted this fire on Mt. Diablo. It is the geographic icon of Contra Costa County, where I live. It is currently still out of control. That we are in the middle of a heat wave is not helping.