Friday, March 31, 2017

The Human League Human

I heard this on the radio this morning.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Edition 507 Wagon

A tale of three unusual Bay Area restaurant chains

My quest to Eat the Globe has slowed down quite a bit recently. However, I found a United Arab Emirates-based fast food chain in Fremont called Just Falafel.

Fremont has almost a quarter of a million residents. It's between Oakland and San Jose. It has a large Afghan, Indian, and Chinese population. 18% of the city are Indians, another 18% are Chinese, and I can't find figures for Afghans because they count themselves as Asians and whites in the census.

In any event, I was in Fremont this week and decided to go to the falafel place for dinner. My meeting went long and by the time I got to the strip mall where the falafel place was located, it had closed already. Who closes at 8 pm?!

I then looked around and found Eden Silk Road next door. I had heard about this place. It's a Uighur chain restaurant run by a Xinjiang-based company. I've always wanted to eat there. On the windows, there is a long, hand-drawn map of the Silk Road, with places like Hami, Kashgar, Turpan, and Tashkent marked. Guess what? It also closes at 8.

I then walked some more and found a place called Inchin Bamboo Garden. It looked like a nice Chinese restaurant from the outside. I walked in and it looked just like a PF Chang's. But all of the servers and all of the customers were Indian. It's an upscale chain of Indian-style Chinese restaurants. I had the chili chicken with Kingfisher beer. It was really spicy and didn't taste "Chinese" at all. It's definitely worth checking out.

Chinese riot in Paris over deadly police shooting

Chinese military in Xinjiang practices in mock Bin Laden compound


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Two weeks with the i3

I have barely put 200 miles on the car so far but I am extremely satisfied with it. I'm glad I paid more for the sunroof, leather, and big navigation screen. I have not driven it too far so I have not used the Range Extender yet. This video encapsulates perfectly why I like it so much.

I just got my license plate so now I can add it to my Fastrak (electronic toll tag) account and hopefully get a carpool lane sticker.

Renault 4

I'm not certain if I have ever seen a single one in the U.S.

H/t Ramon. This is a great summary of the popular car.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Complimentary 1985 Oldsmobile tape

A telescope in a 747

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Interview with a car nut in Israel

Thanks, Max!

1. Is there much of a car culture in Israel?

Israel is a country with a fairly poorly developed car culture because car ownership on a massive scale is really only something that began with the spike in economic growth in the mid to late 90s.  Since then, a culture of company cars being a common perk and very high import tariffs have made it difficult for people to use their cars to express themselves.  In addition, because private car ownership was so uncommon for most of the country’s development, as well as the tiny size of the country as a whole, public transit in Israel is very well-developed and makes it easy for many to get by without driving much.

2. What brands/models are popular over there?

Currently popular brands are Hyundai, Mazda, Subaru, Suzuki, and Renault. There are a great many more popular makes in Israel, but buying patterns trend towards superminis and compacts.  Historically, Mazda and Subaru were far and away the most popular brands because they decided that they could target the Israeli market despite the Arab boycott on companies that did business with the Jewish state.  Also, American market models have historically been viewed as prestigious if not luxurious.  You can see a greater array of USDM models in Israel than most European car markets because of this.

3. How much do new cars cost over there? Is there a high tariff?

I don’t know the specific tariff formula, but for most private buyers the tariff is more or less 100%.  There are exceptions for some pickup truck models and certain “green” vehicles but I don’t know the specifics.

4. Are any cars currently manufactured/assembled there?

Right now there are no private car models manufactured in Israel, but the Tomcar ATV is made in Israel and AIL, or Automotive Industries Limited, builds a version of the Jeep J8 for the IDF.  They actually pioneered the four door Wrangler in the early ‘90s.  In the past, a factory in Haifa built a number of Kaiser and Studebaker models in addition to the Hino Contessa.  After that, a series of Israeli companies built fiberglass cars with British underpinnings under the names Susita and Carmel but both projects eventually failed.

5. Is there a stigma to owning a German car?

The stigma has more or less subsided, but earlier in the history of the state most officials were driven in American cars or Volvos rather than the quintessential German luxury sedans.

6. What do executives and high ranking government officials ride in?

As of now, ministers receive Audi A6s and the Prime Minister is driven in a set of armored A8L W12s.  Lower members of parliament get either Volvos or Skodas, I think.

7. How easy is it to drive between Israel and the West Bank/Gaza with Israeli/Palestinian plates?

It is fairly easy for Israeli citizens (with yellow license plates) to drive into the West Bank, but mostly only to Jewish settlements.  Palestinians with white and green license plates are unable to leave the West Bank with their vehicles for the most part, and access to Gaza is more or less forbidden to all Israelis.

8. How easy is it to drive to other neighboring countries with Israeli plates?

You can take a car out of Israel to Egypt and Jordan, but there is actually a scheme where you replace your Israeli plates with local ones for the time you spend there.  Very rarely you can see a car with Jordanian plates in Israel.  Still, foreign plates are an extremely rare sight in Israel.  Every once in a while you might see a truck with Turkish plates that was brought on a RoRo ship to Haifa and is bound for either Jordan or the agricultural parts of the country, but nothing much besides that.  Interestingly, though, many Israeli used cars find their way to markets in the Gulf via Jordan.

9. Anything about cars in Israel that would surprise Americans?

The mixture of European and American models might surprise Americans.  In addition to that? The only other surprise might be the well-developed bumper sticker culture in Israel.

10. Why do you love cars?

Cars tell you a great deal about a culture, an economy, a people.  The way people drive is as much a cultural indicator as the way someone talks, walks, or writes.

A post shared by Max Finkel (@2fast2finkel) on

Edd China leaving Wheeler Dealers

What a shame. Profits before quality content. What do you all think?

2005 Sesame Street episode featuring Donald Grump

Rob Corddry Daily Show 2004 Boston

I'm reading about the history of the Daily Show. Correspondent Corddry got to go to his hometown for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Those were his actual college friends. He told them to go to the bar at 2pm and start drinking as the show was paying for the booze. They started shooting at 5pm. The show paid for the broken bar stools.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Volvo Australian road train

These Volvo Truck videos on YouTube are beautiful. I had always assumed the Outback was dry. Never realized it was humid.

Tiff N races a Koenigsegg with a Volvo truck

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Merkel's reaction to Trump

BMW i3 parking assist

I have not tried many of the features in the i3 yet, including the $1,000 Parking Assistance package. (I haven't even run down the battery enough to activate the Range Extender either.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

BMW i3 overview video

I wonder if the car's body is costly to repair. My insurance premium just doubled!

Aleppo car collector, a year ago and today

H/t Ramon.

A year ago:


Some more footage:

Sphinx being excavated, 1860s

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I got a BMW i3

The search is over. The car is pretty sweet. It's got pretty much every option available. 20" wheels. Moonroof. Leather. Tech package. Parking Assist package. I'll report more later, because I have a crib to research and buy!

Protonic blue.

Dark oak wood and Dalbergia brown leather.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Two unexpectedly great meals

Usually, if I want to try a new place to eat, I at least look at its Yelp reviews first. But yesterday, I didn't.

I grabbed lunch with a friend, and he suggested Chai Thai Noodles in Oakland. He knows all the great places, so I assumed I'll just get a delicious yellow curry chicken, or something generic like that. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

This photo is from Yelp. Friend and I both ordered this, pork leg stew over rice. The meat was tender and had pieces of fat to add to the flavor. We washed the meal down with Lao beer.

Then, dinner. The work day ended up being much longer than anticipated and I was miles from home. A freeway shooting clogged the entire Bay Area road network. I was trapped. I texted a friend for nearby recommendations. She suggested Booniepepper Islander Grill. I was too hungry and tired to look it up online. I walked up to the register, asked what they recommended, and got this chicken kelaguen. It was only after I paid for my order at the counter that I asked, what cuisine is this? Guam/Chamorro!

This meal differed from other Pacific Islander cuisine in three ways. First, there were vegetables(!). In this case, roasted carrots and red bell peppers. Second, the portion size was much smaller. Which is a good thing. And finally, the flavors were complex. The kelaguen was unlike anything I've ever had before, both in terms of taste and texture. Principally, it's chicken with lemon juice and peppers. But it's much more than that. If you ever get an opportunity to try it, DO!

US F/A-18 fighter pilot lands on aircraft carrier in conditions of no visibility

Nobody lives here

A map of census blocks with zero population.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Australian aboriginal bush mechanics

Hilarious! Via Flavio Gomes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Egyptian women drivers

I can't even imagine the bullshit these women have to go through every day.

Tuk-tuk driver.
Taxi driver.
Minibus driver.
Truck driver.

Working at the Waffle House

The co-founder of Waffle House recently passed away. A few thoughts:

  • This is a Southern institution. There is one along the way between the Naples, Florida, airport (RSW) and my in-laws' condo on Marco Island. My wife's family ate there when she was a kid as a treat during their road trips. I can't wait to introduce it to our boy!
  • Who is this Barry Tanaka?! He must have an interesting story to tell.
  • This host "working" at Waffle House reminds me of my tenure at Arby's (an American fast food chain). More often than not, Latinos and African-Americans are working hard, away from the cash register, doing the grunt work of cooking and cleaning. In the meantime, whites (and sometimes Asians) are up front, not working as hard, manning the cash registers.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Unionizing Nissan plant in Mississippi

Bernie was in Mississippi last weekend to help unionize the mostly African-American workers at the Nissan truck plant. The plant builds the following:

Nissan Altima
Nissan TITAN

Nissan NV Cargo
Nissan NV Passenger
Nissan Frontier King Cab 
Nissan Frontier Crew Cab 
Nissan Murano

European Jewish population, 1933 versus 2017

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Moto taxi racing in Peruvian cocaine valley

The title says it all. Beautifully shot, wonderful story. Enjoy!

Eating the Globe: North Korea

This is a dish from northern Korea that was served at a "South Korean" restaurant. Wikipedia summed up naengmyeon perfectly:

"Naengmyeon is served in a large stainless-steel bowl with a tangy iced broth, julienned cucumbers, slices of Korean pear, thin, wide strips of lightly pickled radish, and either a boiled egg or slices of cold boiled beef or both. Spicy mustard sauce (or mustard oil) and vinegar are often added before consumption. Traditionally, the long noodles would be eaten without cutting, as they symbolized longevity of life and good health, but servers at restaurants usually ask if the noodles should be cut prior to eating, and use scissors to cut the noodles."

Countries tried so far:
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa
Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Yemen
Europe: Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden
North America: Belize, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Trinidad & Tobago, USA
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela
Oceania: Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga

States without a river for any part of their border

H/t Peter.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Appraisal of old Rolex

I don't know anything about watches. Is this a coveted watch?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


My opinion of Trump is obvious. It's very, very hard to like the guy. But this spoof video, shot a year before his election victory, shows a human side of Trump.

Glass zebra fish

Watch from 1:43 to 5:08.