Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New garage in Oakland

The gentrification of Oakland continues. This is just around the corner from where Hanzel's used to be.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Emperor Xi

Xi Jinping is about to be freed from term limits. Here is a propaganda video put out by the Chinese government. I can't find one with English subtitles.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Meanwhile, in Syria

Warning: Graphic images.

Go watch the new Queer Eye!

I really enjoyed the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy series (2003-07). Not only was it groundbreaking to have an all-gay cast, I picked up a lot of grooming and cooking tips.

Netflix has a new Queer Eye series out. This is much more intense emotionally. I've watched five episodes so far and cried during three of them. A lot of it has to do with our inner demons and self-esteem. And each episode ends with hope and happiness.

The last audio cassette factory

I do miss listening to tapes.

Eating at a 7-Eleven in Taiwan

H/t to C!

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Unabomber's cabin

At an FBI storage facility on a Sacramento-area air force base.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

McLaren in Singapore

My friend found a great deal flying all over Southeast Asia via AirAsia. I think she's going to visit Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia. She was in the financial district of Singapore and sent me this shot.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Zero G flight, aka the Vomit Comet

A colleague excitedly told me this morning that he is riding the Vomit Comet when it comes to the Bay Area. $5,000 for the opportunity to puke your guts out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Life on Pitcairn Island

It's such a strange and remote place. I want to visit.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mr Wizard on Nickelodeon

I was looking up rock tumblers and found an old clip of Mr. Wizard. He had a science show for kids in the 1980s and I watched it religiously. I'm sure all the children on the show are now world renowned scientists.

Daydreaming about travel

These trips will likely never happen, but that's what I thought about visiting Niihau and the Pan-American Highway. So who knows.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This may be the best movie I've seen in years. I was reluctant to watch it because of the subject matter, but I am glad I did.

Warning: Strong language.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Police clear Florida classroom after mass shooting

That kid shaking like a leaf. That we as a society allow this to continue to happen is beyond shameful.

How overnight shipping works

Via Ripituc.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Abflex

One of you readers went to college with me. He probably remembers this contraption that I bought to counter the effects of beer consumption.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Soviet propaganda posters

I went to an exhibit today and these are my favorites.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Thursday, February 08, 2018

BBC crosses the Darien Gap

It seems relatively straightforward. Three days by boat. A full day of extreme hiking. Two more days on the river.

This video is in Spanish, but is pretty self-explanatory.

Here is the article.

Bruce and Kareem

Final: Day 8: Bogota

Today is the last full day of my trip. I'm going to see Bogota.

I tell the hotel doorman that I want to see the Gold Museum downtown. He calls a white Renault Duster taxi cab for me. The driver is a woman (rare) and is wearing a smart suit and driving gloves.

Bogota is a large, sprawling city of eight million. It's very clean and I only saw two instances of graffiti. The first graffiti said "SMOKE WEED".

The Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) was much lauded, but I was not particularly impressed. I'm pretty sure 99.9% of the pre-Columbian gold was melted down and shipped off to the Netherlands to pay off Spain's war debts.

The long caterpillar buses outside, though, were impressive.

The Santa Clara church was fairly magnificent and a colossal waste of resources. All the tourists were French.

I then walked over to the central plaza.

Government crowd control barriers with Transparency emblazoned on them.

The other instance of graffiti I saw was political. This guy was not a fan of the current president.

I felt bad for this old timer with the faded red vest. He was selling photographs for five dollars. I thought he had a Polaroid. Nope. He had me stand next to the Simon Bolivar statue. He took a photo with a Canon digital camera. He then connected it to a Canon Selphy printer (inside a custom made wooden box) and printed out the photo for me. I was amazed and shook his soft hand.

I have ajiaco for lunch. It's chicken soup with cream and giant capers. There's also a corncob inside the soup. The corn was meaty and bitter. This is supposed to be the best example of ajiaco in town. It was bland.

The highlight of the day was the National Police Museum. This painting was in the lobby.

A saddle for female cops. They are supposed to ride sideways, so as to not mar their "youth".

Every portable walkie-talkie used by the Colombian police.

Every type of tear gas used by the Colombian police.

Every firearm ever used by the Colombian police. This museum is incredibly comprehensive.

The tile on which Pablo Escobar died. The dark stain is his dried blood.

I finished the day with a meal at WOK, a popular pan-Asian Bogota chain. The Thai basil chicken was easily the best meal I had in Colombia. I enjoyed the Chilean chardonnay as well.

Well, that's it. Thank you all for following along with me over all these years. I have plenty of notes and have started doing background research and hope to write a book detailing my journeys. It is my intent to weave the trips with all the major events of my life. I hope to give the audience a unique perspective on my travels, from a Chinese-American immigrant who majored in Latin American Studies.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Final: Day 7: Medellin to Turbo

I wake up at 3:15 a.m., take a shower, check out of the hotel, and take a cab to the Medellin North bus station. My bus leaves at 5. There is a young mother with four kids. The two middle kids are too old to ride for free. The bus driver chews her out for cheating the system and insists on her paying. She feigns ignorance and pays. After the driver leaves, she gives me a No Big Deal shrug.

All of the passengers on this bus are Colombian. We all paid and were entered into the computer ticketing system.

But 20 minutes out of the station, still in darkness, our bus stops at a random intersection. Five South Asian men hop onboard. They each have backpacks and look scared. They walk to the back of the bus. They don't make eye contact with the bus driver or his helper. They look healthy and are all fairly tall. Definitely from middle class backgrounds.

I suspect that they are migrants headed to the U.S. It is easy for migrants from Nepal, Pakistan, and Africa to fly to Ecuador without a visa, bus up to Turbo, and cross the Darien Gap by foot.

For some reason, this is my favorite shot from my trip. Sunrise.

I really wanted to talk to the men, but I was afraid to. I didn't want to get them in trouble. I didn't want to be presumptuous. I considered giving them my unopened package of Fig Newtons. I was dying to know more about them. I passed by them several times to use the bus restroom, but I stayed silent, like a coward.

During one of the rest stops, I surreptitiously snuck a photo of them. They are gathered around the cashier. I wonder where they are right now, or if they are still alive. I immediately deleted this photo, because I didn't want the Colombian military to find these photos on my phone at the upcoming checkpoints.

The eight hour journey was pleasant. We first traversed mountains and jungles. Shoeless Indian women wearing face paint got on the bus.

Once the terrain flattened, we saw rampant deforestation.

And then, the Banana Axis. Miles and miles of plantains (big) and bananos (small; what we call bananas).

And a couple of torched buildings from the recent protests against new toll booths. We only passed by one military checkpoint, and the soldiers there just waved us through. This is in contrast with the Panamanian side of the Darien Gap, where we had to get out of our bus and be searched every few kilometers by SENAFRONT soldiers.

I am dropped off in the middle of Turbo. Whereas Medellin was 50 degrees when I left this morning, Turbo is 90 degrees with 90% humidity at 1 p.m. I need to get to the end of the Pan-American Highway, which I unilaterally designated as the entrance to the Turbo airport (which has a dirt runway). How do I get there?

As the bus driver hands me my bag, I ask about taxis. He tells me Turbo only has motorcycle taxis. Shit. I am not getting on a motorcycle, especially without a helmet.

I stand on the sidewalk, frustrated. As the bus pulls away, I see across the street a yellow taxi. How lucky. I wave and yell at the cab driver. I throw my bags in the back seat and sit in the front. I can barely understand the cabbie's accent. Half the consonants are silent and the other half are heavy and emphasized. We immediately have a heated discussion. I only know he is not angry at me because he also lightly pinches my left thigh at certain points of the conversation.

We are fighting because I am not allowed near the airport. I certainly cannot take photos there to document the end of my trip. Fifteen years ago, the Colombian military took over the Turbo airport. It became a base of operations to fight the guerillas. I plead with the cabbie to at least go there and try. He yells at me some more.

We approach some orange barricades. We park and walk past young soldiers who have no idea why this chino wants to take photos. We end up in the officer-in-charge's office, past the orange barriers.* It's a bare concrete room with openings in the walls, but no windows. His desk and chair are the only furniture. About a dozen young recruits surround us, gawking. I plead with him to allow me to take a photo of myself next to the orange barriers, which I designated as the end of the Pan-American Highway. He is also perplexed by the request. But the rules are the rules. And with so many of his underlings listening in, he wasn't going to allow strange outsiders to get their way. Dejected, but happy that I tried my best, we walked past the orange barriers and the cabbie took the photo below.

I finished the Pan-American Highway. 14,741 miles. Eleven years.

*This reminds me of my interactions with an officer on the other side of the Darien Gap. I arrived in Yaviza and had to let the military know of my presence. I went to the base to check in. The officer-in-charge was sitting on a dais, above my head. I told him the hotel that I wanted to stay at in town. No, he said, for it has a cockfighting ring.

With the photo taken, I was ready to go to the Apartado airport to fly to Bogota. My driver moved to Turbo when he was ten from Medellin. He is proud of Turbo and insists on me taking a photo of the giant concrete crab sculpture at the beach. I refuse. In retrospect, I think that made him sad. He showed me his house, where he lives with his wife and three boys. It is a relatively nice place facing the sea.

We drive through towns and banana fields to get to the airport. He is very proud of his Medellin-assembled Renault Clio.

This is that toll booth I had passed in the bus. You can make out a dozen police officers at the booth, poring over the debris. The local authorities agreed to not collect tolls indefinitely.

Here is the cabbie, dropping me off at the airport. He was my last driver.

The airport was spooky. There are about a dozen flights a day. There is one cop/soldier for every three passengers at the airport. Security is tight.

ATR-42 to Bogota!

We land in Bogota, and it's almost freezing. The cab ride to my hotel was unexceptional, except the driver asked me if Chinese people ate rats.

I splurged and got a room at the Four Seasons. I'm celebrating. I've never stayed at a place this fancy before. When I walked into the lobby, the staff knew my name and greeted me. The whole place spelled like a lavender-infused spa.

Tomorrow, I explore Bogota.