Thursday, July 29, 2021

Tirana, Albania's pyramid

Two cool cars I spotted over the weekend

Hi. Remember me? Things are good on the home front, just super busy. I have not posted in a while. These are the cool cars I saw last weekend.

1. Lotus Evora GT.

C bought a Lotus! I got to drive it slowly around some residential streets. Better yet, I got to catch up with C. The last time I saw him was in April 2020, when I met him at a donut shop to buy him some toilet paper.

2. Chevy Volt rebadged (and re-skinned) as a Vauxhall Ampera. I spotted this at the local playground. Look what this mad man did to make a LHD Volt look like its British brother!

Here is what a Volt looks like here in America:

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Remembering Bourdain

I am still not over his passing. But with the new documentary out, I decided to finish watching his final season of Parts Unknown 1) to prepare myself emotionally for the movie and 2) to see what he was like in the months before his death. I'm up to the Indonesia episode (episode 3) and I must say you can see that he had already checked out. And in this episode, he talked about how he would die in a jungle, alone, and that he didn't care what they did to his body.

Yesterday, my son was at the bookstore and saw this book. I read it in an hour. It was a quick read. It's full of photographs of Bourdain at various exotic locales along with heartfelt messages left by fans, both famous and not.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"M3" wagon

This is a clever build and a beautifully made video.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Indian food at American truck stops

We are going on a Route 66 road trip. More and more Sikhs are becoming truck drivers, so this development is not surprising. But it's still surprising.

Ainu museum in Japan

The Ainu are an indigenous people in northern Japan. A new museum has opened, to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. It looks nice, but critics say there is no mention of the Ainu's plight or their treatment by the dominant Japanese population.

I met a couple of Ainu in California in the 1990s, when they came to support the Sinkyone people of the Lost Coast. Up until then, I had no idea they existed.

Median age by state


The most popular languages learned on Duolingo


Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Taliban making huge advances


Octopussy movie review

Terrible title, great movie!

Dave's review: Octopussy is one of the most creative Bond films. Maud Adams is stunning as the infamous title character and she and Moore have great chemistry. The story is first rate and unpredictable, starting with the stealing of a faberge egg, to Octopussy and her band of lady thieves, to a rogue Soviet plot to destabilize Europe. One of the most common critiques of the film is that the train sequence is too long, but after rewatching it it is a satisfying set piece with genuine intrigue. At the climax of it, you feel Bond is in real danger, something that can't be said a lot during the Moore era. India is also handsomely featured and the score is top notch. 

Dave's grade: A

TT's review: Octopussy was such a fun and cheeky movie. I had totally forgotten about the Tarzan yell. Too bad the title was so *groan*. I think my favorite part of the movie was the sidekick Vijay. I had no idea he was a professional tennis player. Does Felix Leiter count as a sidekick? Did Bond have any other sidekicks? The movie certainly didn't have much meaning or depth, but it was overall very entertaining.

TT's grade: A-

TT's reaction: I didn't think the train sequence was too long either. I also really enjoyed the fight on top of the airplane.

Dave's reaction: Vijay was great. Why can't more Bond sidekicks actually survive the day? 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021

A year of heaven and hell, in review

As you may know, my wife was diagnosed with cancer in April 2020. To say life has been challenging is an understatement. She did chemotherapy last summer, had the cancer surgically removed last fall, and underwent radiation therapy over the winter. On top of that, we put our old dog Cooper to sleep in April 2021.

I have a new perspective on life and appreciate every moment we spend with our kids. I've picked the highlights from each month to share with you.

And the best news is that my wife is cancer free.

June 2021: I visited Alpine County, the 58th and final California county.

July 2020: Our daughter's first birthday.

August 2020: We took a trip to touristy Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. There was not a single tourist in sight. We had a great time and had fish and chips. (We forgot to pack a jacket for our son. It is very cold in San Francisco in the summer.)

September 2020: This photo was taken at the lowest point of the pandemic for me, which meant things could only look up. My wife was battling cancer. Because she was immunocompromised, we could not send our kids to daycare. I had not had a haircut since January (the photo was taken as I was about to step into a hair salon). Trump may get re-elected in two months. Plus, the worst wildfires in California history were raging (the photo was taken at 11 a.m.).

October 2020: I made an airport fire truck for the boy.

November 2020: I had a meal from a local Ivory Coast(!) restaurant.

December 2020: Christmas with the family and Cooper.

January 2021: I got a surprise gift from my best Chilean internet friend Ramon.

February 2021: We took a trip to Mendocino. It was to be Cooper's last.

March 2021: I got my first Moderna shot at a county-organized mass vaccination event. While there, I found a great Korean restaurant for lunch.

April 2021: This was a fantastic month. First, we cooked a fantastic lamb meal for Easter.

Then we rented a fire truck for the boy's fourth birthday.

Finally, I visited the Lost Coast.

May 2021: While taking the kids to a nearby state park, we came across this gathering of radio controlled truck aficionados. So random!

June 2021: We just took a trip to Calistoga and Mendocino. We spotted this Chevelle outside a seafood grill.

31 year old Stalin Baku prison photos


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

For Your Eyes Only movie review

A Moore classic: For Your Eyes Only.

Dave's review: For Your Eyes Only is one of the most thrilling Bond films. After several entries with too much tongue in cheek humor, Eyes returns 007 back to the world of espionage. The film has several memorable set lives, including a fun little car chase jaunt through the villages of Spain, a daring ski sequence in Italy, and a nail biting scene where Bond and Melina Havilock are bound together and thrown into the water as shark fodder. The climbing sequence near the end is exhilarating too. Speaking of Havilock, Carole Bouquet is easily one of the best Bond women of all. She has a fierce spirit and her story of avenging her parents' death is compelling. Moore is at his best, more serious than perhaps ever. Finally even the soundtrack is top notch, one of John Barry's best. This is a film very conducive to repeat viewing. 

TT's review: This is definitely my favorite Moore Bond film and possibly my favorite Bond film of all time. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it was the first Bond movie I saw as a child. This movie has everything-- the perfect Bond woman, the exciting (and cheeky) 2CV car chase, beautiful locales. The only thing that didn't make sense was Bibi. What a weirdo.

(Disclaimer: I cheated and watched Casino Royale. Wow. That movie is light years better than everything else that preceded it.)

Dave's response: I almost forgot about Bibi. So funny. "Get your clothes on and I' you an ice cream." 

TT's response: I concur with everything. It's a really fun movie. And Havilock is 100 emoji.

Dave's grade: A

TT's grade: A+

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Storyteller Overland

We are on vacation and I spotted this. Holy cow, it's expensive.


Topography of Africa


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

I went viral

Over Memorial Day weekend, a tweet of mine went viral. It's so random. I've been on Twitter since 2012 and nothing was this big. The now second biggest tweet was about a Czech pastry made by a Filipino baker in Houston. It gained traction because conservative pollster Frank Luntz retweeted it. It had around 100,000 views.

This tweet got going early when former Jalopnik writer Mike Ballaban retweeted it. Then, a bunch of his fellow blue checkmarked media cohorts retweeted it. And then, it really took off. It was particularly popular with young trans people and immigrants from all over the Caribbean. It settled at around 3.2 million views. At some point, when I was looking at the stats in real time, there would be 600 views every few seconds. It was a lot of fun, almost like a video game.

China's population tree over the years

China will allow families to have three children. Is it too late?

Saturday, June 05, 2021

What do Europeans feel most attached to?


Eating the Globe: Suriname

I have been on a huge Suriname kick recently. I bought a travel guide and am daydreaming about a trip there.

I made peanut soup (pindasoep) today. It's just chicken thighs, peanut butter, celery, allspice, mace, and sage. 

Countries tried so far:

Africa: Algeria, Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen
Europe: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Vatican City
North America: Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, USA
South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
Oceania: Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tiffany Pham Lexus ad

I first saw the print ad in The Economist this weekend. Pham is the CEO of a recruitment company. Can you imagine in the late 1980s, when conservative Toyota came out with Lexus, it featuring a woman of Vietnamese descent in an ad for its flagship sedan?

Old Friday Mosque in Maldives


More info here.

Quechua music video

Press CC for Spanish subtitles.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Moonraker movie review

Roger Moore's fourth Bond film (with three more to go).

Dave's review: Moonraker is campy but it's still a good film. Piggybacking off the popularity of Star Wars the producers decide to send 007 into space, The pre credits sequence is thrilling, with Bond being flung out of an airplane without a parachute. Jaws is back but this time he's a lot less menacing. That is one of the biggest disappointments of the film, along with the boring villain Hugo Drax. Holly Goodhead is gorgeous but a bit bland as well. Still Moonraker offers good old fashioned Bond thrills; it just doesn't live up to its predecessor, the superior The Spy Who Loved Me. 

TT's review: Years ago, when I ranked all of the pre-Craig Bond movies, I ranked Moonraker dead last. It was so ridiculous and over the top, I hated it. But now, with a fresh look, it's not so bad. It's bad, but not that bad.

What I liked the most about the movie is the set design. They really did a great job. Hugo Drax was a decent villain. Jaws and his girlfriend were sweet but weird. Roger Moore was already old, and he had three more(!) movies to make. What I noticed this time was his lackluster physique. He had thin wrists and arms. Very different from the ripped Daniel Craig. I'm not sure Moore was able to do a single pull up in the 1970s.

But ultimately, the space laser battle was just too hokey.

Dave's response: Interesting observation about Moore. I didn't really notice until For Your Eyes Only where you start to wonder, can this guy really win a fight? 

TT's response: Jaws was plain weird in this movie. I wonder what my least Bond film will ultimately be.

Dave's grade: B-

TT's grade: C

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Spy Who Loved Me movie review

Roger Moore's third movie:

Dave's review: The Spy Who Loved Me is everything a Bond film should be. It's easily the best of the Moore films. It's the film that inspired Christopher Nolan to make Tenet. It's the film that introduced Jaws, one of the most memorable Bond henchmen ever. Barbara Bach is stunning as Triple X. The storyline where 007 killed her lover infuses the movie with an extra degree of intrigue. Atlantis is a sight to behold and the use of Mozart's "Elvira Madigan" when it rises from the sea is music to my ears. The theme song "Nobody Does It Better" is also pitch perfect, as well as the use of the most locales for any Bond film. The scenes in Egypt in particular are enchanting. Finally, how bout that pre credits sequence when 007 skis off a mountain?! Still to this date one of the greatest stunts in cinematic history. This is a movie to be savored. 

TT's review: I need to watch For Your Eyes Only again to refresh my memory, because I'm fairly certain The Spy Who Loved Me is my favorite Moore Bond film. Sure, it's formulaic. It has the ski chase scene, the car chase scene, and the underwater chase scene. But they are all fantastic! Everything is just perfection. I particularly enjoyed the telephone van in the Sahara desert. And don't get me started on the iconic Lotus submarine. To top it off, up to that point, this must have been the least sexist and least racist Bond film. My only tiny complaint is that Stromburg was more grandfatherly than evil.

Dave's response: I thought Stromberg was fairly sinister, otherwise looks like we are in agreement that this is one of the best installments in the series. 

TT's response: We are in agreement!

Dave's grade: A+

TT's grade: A+

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Lost Coast: Day Two (and Day Three)

Getting a meal at the Lost Coast is a dicey proposition. Yesterday evening, the innskeeper told me that the only place open for dinner was the brewery but because they were short staffed, I had to be patient. The food was great, but I think I waited for almost an hour for my meal. This morning, I saw an ad in the local paper. The brewery was desperate to hire staff.

The little coffee shop downstairs from the inn was supposed to be open at 7am. My plan was to grab something to go for my hike. But when I went down there, it was closed. The owners left to celebrate their anniversary. This was inconvenient as the start of the hike was two hours away and high tide was at 1pm. There was a section of the hike that was impassable then.

I passed the time while driving by listening to a local FM station. First up was a radical LGBTQ news program. They spent a lot of time on a Mexican and Namibian gay couple who were not able to adopt their twin girls in South Africa. Then, the radio station played a community meeting from the night before where a national forest representative took questions from the public about how the federal government was going to take care of all the damage caused by last year's horrific fires. The audience was pissed.

The trailhead at Mattole River Beach.

The plan was to walk 3.2 miles south to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse and back. There was barely anyone there. It was beautiful. Walking on the sand was difficult.

My footprints.

I took a break here and ate an orange.

You can barely make out the abandoned lighthouse in the distance.

I had to cross a few streams. I just got progressive lenses and all these rocks made my vision blurry,

Thankfully, the last half-mile to the lighthouse had a solid dirt path. After slogging through the sand, I felt like I was on a moving walkway.

Just below the lighthouse was a seal rookery. Oh, I forgot. While walking to the lighthouse, I saw up close four or five vultures feasting on a cute seal. Its head was intact and its eyes were open. It did not look like it was in pain. But the rest of its body was in the process of being picked clean. Nature.

The walk back was tough due to strong northerly winds. This is why they recommend that one-way hikers go from north to south. With about an eight of a mile left, I had a cramp in my quad.

I celebrated with an incredibly juicy and cheap ($7.55) jalapeno double bacon cheese burger with onion rings at No Brand Burger Stand in Ferndale.

Back in Shelter Cove, I decided to check out a couple of movies. The internet was too slow for streaming.

After 15 minutes, the In the Line of Fire tape broke. So I watched Clerks. It was still pretty funny.

The next morning, I drove back home. I listened to a pro-agriculture radio station. Its audience was mad at a recent California law that banned poor treatment of pigs and other livestock.

I stopped in Garberville and ATE INSIDE at Eel River Cafe. I went in because there was only one other guy eating inside (and I just had my second Moderna shot). It was hard getting used to eating inside.