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Most recent entry: 2014-11-23 00:00:00 -- Generated on 2014-11-24 11:34:12 by Rig3 0.4-440




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2014/11/23 Late Season Day with CFRA at Sears Point/Infineon/Sonoma Raceway
π 2014-11-23 00:00 in Cars
I went to join a few (ex-)coworkers/buddies at Sears thanks to being accepted as a guest by CFRA and being able to grab their last spot for sunday.

I don't know Sears Point well, I tend to avoid it in my own cars since I think it's a somewhat dangerous track compared to the other options around here, but I went once in my miata, once in my F430 (apparently only got down to a 2:04 which is lame), ran 2 session in my 12C (1:56 which was better).

While I did drive formula 3 cars there, the experience is so different that it doesn't really transfer that much to regular cars (I was running 1:43 with that car and the instructor did 1:38).

Anyway, I was super rusty on driving Sears, so after a couple of sessions, Shane nicely agreed to ride with me and give me some tips. He quickly identified what I needed to fix, and I got down to a best lap of 1:58 with him to 1:55 in sessions 4 and 5 (there were also fewer people on the track, so I got cleaner laps there).

For personal notes, here are my laps:
Session 3: 2:00, 2:01, 1:59, 1:57, 1:59, 1:58, 1:59, 1:58, 1:59, 2:00
Session 4: 2:00, 1:58, 1:58, 1:59, 2:01, 1:56, 1:58, 1:55, 2:02, 2:00, 2:02, 2:00
Session 5: 1:59, 2:00, 1:56, 1:57, 2:02, 2:03, 2:02, 1:57, 1:57, 1:55, 1:55, 1:56

CFRA is a great group, they have X on the back of cars that don't want to be passed without a pointby, that way you don't have to guess and no one gets mad :) but generally both in the A/B group and the Race group (I ran in both), drivers were courteous and aware of cars around them. I also got to point a few of them by with track cars and great drivers that were hauling ass :)

Good time was had, I definitely improved during that day, so it was perfect :)

My best 2 laps are below (1:55 back to back):

And here are some pictures:





less weight, more speed :)
less weight, more speed :)

for all your automotive needs, mancave autowerks :)
for all your automotive needs, mancave autowerks :)

thanks Shane!
thanks Shane!


my car's bigger brother :)
my car's bigger brother :)

I love the blue inside, very nice match
I love the blue inside, very nice match

Unfortunately even on a dry day, there was some carnage, including a GTR that lost a wheel on track :(



reflecting on a good day's work
reflecting on a good day's work

A big thanks to Oleg for inspiring me to come that day, it was well worth it.

2014/11/15 USS Hornet Flashlight Tour
π 2014-11-15 00:00 in Flying
Daniel came with us to the USS Hornet for a flashlight tour (parts of the aircraft carrier not open to the general public). It was quite nice to be able to see the underbelly of the ship, the steam engines, and special rooms like the dentist room, or hairdresser:



plane arresting cables
plane arresting cables


catapult
catapult



we got down in the bowels of the ship
we got down in the bowels of the ship










burners were diesel is injected via nozzles and burnt to create steam pressure
burners were diesel is injected via nozzles and burnt to create steam pressure


Random other parts of the underground city:

dentist office
dentist office


bakery
bakery

hairdresser
hairdresser

laundry
laundry

huge washers and dryers
huge washers and dryers



CIC (command and control center):






crypto room
crypto room





Deck:









I'll also have to learn more about knots :)


Thanks a bunch to Daniel for driving us there and back when neither Jennifer or I were much up to it that day (lack of sleep, and cold).

See more images for USS Hornet Flashlight Tour
2014/11/10 Taiwan Day 17: Finish Taiwan with Wulai and Sanxia
π 2014-11-10 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

We didn't head out very early on our last day since Jennifer took some time to spend with her uncle to share stories, memories, and pictures:


Eventually we arrived at Wulai which isn't exactly a top attraction but a nearby-ish nature area with some attractions that Jennifer had heard about. It must have been a really nice place when it was first built, but it looked a bit sad and badly maintained when we arrived (out of season). Still, we managed to have a little fun there with what was left :)











We found some amusement like archery which Jennifer never had done, and me only once some 30 years ago:

she didn't quite know how bows worked :)
she didn't quite know how bows worked :)

better
better

I did reasonably well with my wild pig
I did reasonably well with my wild pig

Jennifer's pig survived happily, but the nearby deer had a scare :)
Jennifer's pig survived happily, but the nearby deer had a scare :)

OMG, that's a lot of koi fish, they looked hungy :)
OMG, that's a lot of koi fish, they looked hungy :)



We then did part of their badly maintained, slippery obstacle course (due to moss):





We then stopped by a place Jennifer used to go to play during her childhoold:



Last, we went to Sanxia, another interesting town with a nice old shopping street and temples, but lots of things were closed by the time we arrived (18:00):













And this was the end of our trip, time to go back to the airport for our night flight to SFO.

2014/11/09 Taiwan Day 16: Jiufen and Jinguashi
π 2014-11-09 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

After our night in Keelung, we went to check a fort that used to be there to defend the city from invadors like the French (that didn't really work out, the French did get in there):


getting our car back from the elevator to head out
getting our car back from the elevator to head out


map from the french
map from the french

there isn't much left of the fort, a few stones and cannons
there isn't much left of the fort, a few stones and cannons


From there, we had a few nice views:


nice temple
nice temple


We then drove to Juifen, an old mining town with a well known shopping street:



by the time we got there, the weather had turned to fantastic :)
by the time we got there, the weather had turned to fantastic :)

thankfully the shopping street was covered
thankfully the shopping street was covered

After doing the shopping street in Jiufen, we went to check out a small gold mining museum where a nice lady gave us a private tour in English explaining how mining was done there (different from the US due to different kinds of rock and Aure):


Jennifer, training to be a miner :)
Jennifer, training to be a miner :)

You need a bigger nail :)
You need a bigger nail :)

The guide showed us carbide lamps they used as lights in the tunnels. You put calcium carbide in them (a solid), mixed it with water. The reaction gave off acetylene gas which in turn comes out the lamp and you set on fire to create light.



Our guide then showed us how the ore was processed and finally turned into gold by hand. It's quite an involved process from grinding with a wheel, and multiple levels of separation, using weight, than mercury, evaporating the mercury, then silver, removing the silver with nitric acid, and finally getting gold in the end.





traces of gold on top of the sand, due to gravity
traces of gold on top of the sand, due to gravity

the mercury/gold mix is heated up and the mercury condensed back in water to be reused
the mercury/gold mix is heated up and the mercury condensed back in water to be reused

copper
copper

silver
silver


From there, we went to nearby Jioufen which had a Gold Ecological Park showing more about mining. By the time we got there, it was pouring rain:





the tunnel was very wet and growing all kinds of fungus
the tunnel was very wet and growing all kinds of fungus






7 million dollars' worth of gold
7 million dollars' worth of gold



The town had a Japanese Shinto gate from the colonial period. There are few left over. We hiked up to check it out, or what was left of the temple:





at least the view from up there wasn't bad since the rain had subsided
at least the view from up there wasn't bad since the rain had subsided

From there, we went to check out big statue we could see from a distance:








With that over, I drove in 90mn of bad traffic (rain + sunday night) to get to Jennifer's uncle's house as early as possible so that we could go out for dinner:



2014/11/08 Taiwan Day 15: Yangmingshan and Yeliu
π 2014-11-08 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

We started by enjoying breakfast in our room, our hotel was a bit like a Japanese ryokan, we headed out for a guided tour of Chiang Kai Shek's private residence in the mountains.












Map of the area in French for when the French wanted to take over
Map of the area in French for when the French wanted to take over


We then drove around the Yangmingshan area some more, but outside of some volcanic activity that was interesting, but the rest was unremarkable and crowded because of the weekend visitors from Taipei:






Next, we went to the east coast towards Yeliu to see the geopark filled with Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations due to erosion:










After seeing the rock formations, we quickly checked out a nearby temple, as well as some restaurants on the street and noticed one of them had big manta shrimps (bigger than we had ever seen), and since we had never eaten one, we stopped there for dinner:








I then finished the drive to Keelung where our hotel was. Traffic is interesting there, and parking non existent, but Jennifer found a hotel with parking which ended up being an elevator for cars in which I had to carefully manoeuvre because it was not automated. We then went out to see the local night market, which was a total madhouse:








2014/11/07 Taiwan Day 14: Tamsui and Yangmingshan
π 2014-11-07 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

We started with Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui to learn the history of all the countries that had been been to Taiwan through this area, built forts, and ran it until 1980 when it was finally given back to Taiwan:







a canadian imigrant who built schools and spread knowledge
a canadian imigrant who built schools and spread knowledge


Our last temple was hidden in the middle of a shopping street:







Once done with Tamsui, and almost 1H in a rental car branch to sign the paperwork to get our car (that was sad, and they had 2 people helping us), we drove towards Yangmingshan, a volcanic Mountain with fumerols, and hot springs (yellowstone like, but in the mountain):


I'm not sure I'd bring my bride at this rotten egg stinky place :)
I'm not sure I'd bring my bride at this rotten egg stinky place :)


We then reached the Chung-Shan building, featured on the $100 Taiwanese bill. We arrived too late for the last tour due to a timing screwup, but they were nice enough to let us in and gave us a private volunteer guide who gave us aa full tour.
The building was built as a assembly headquarters back when Chiang Kai-Shek and was used by the state for various official meetings and banquets until 2005. It is now open to the public for visits:









To finish the day, we hiked up a trail to get a view of Taipei in the distance and got a bonus sunset:








The hotel we stayed at private onsens in each room, so we enjoyed a hot bath in volcanic water before a very good dinner there:



2014/11/06 Taiwan Day 13: Beitou and Tamsui near Taipei
π 2014-11-06 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

That morning, we took the train to Xinebeitou, a nearby semi volcanic town with hot springs. When the Japanese invaded taiwan, they built onsens then (public baths using hot springs water), which are now enjoyed by the Taiwanese too.


police scooters, cute :)
police scooters, cute :)




how to use an onsen
how to use an onsen


After the onsen museum, we went through one of the many onsens there, and we got a foot bath there:








big ants moving a spider
big ants moving a spider

people could also get a free foot bath in the river
people could also get a free foot bath in the river

Once done with Beitou, we went back to Tamsui where we were staying. Tamsui is a port that belonged to several countries over the years due to old treaties and was only given back to Taiwan in 1980. As a result, there are several forts from the wars over time (Spanish, Dutch, French, Japanese) as well as foreign influence.





After we were done with the local sights, we went to the harbour to see a very nice reverse sunset:








After that, I was able to find a yummy restaurant which probably wasn't Taiwanese, but had yummy food which I enjoyed without being worried :)



We finished our evening by walking down the main street and checking out a nice temple there:





We then went back to our room for the evening.

2014/11/05 Taiwan Day 12: Kinmen Island and Taipei
π 2014-11-05 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

We started our last day in Kinmen Island by visiting a family shop that made lots of knifes out of the artillery shells the chinese shot at them:


and after 50 years, they still have much supply of material
and after 50 years, they still have much supply of material


this is how they do it
this is how they do it


They gave us a demo of how they do their knifes:





this piece of shell metal is turned into a crude knife first, and then into a nice one
this piece of shell metal is turned into a crude knife first, and then into a nice one



Obviously my opinion of the repressive dictatorship of china (which calls itself a people's republic) is well known, but seeing who much damage they did to their own civilians who happened to live on those islands just because of how much they wanted to prevent a real democratic china (now Taiwan) from existing, sure didn't improve my opinion of China. The displays I saw claimed China launched about 1 million shells on those 2 islands to destroy and kill as much as they could, until the US started getting more involved and they eventually stopped.

Next, we went to the military cemetary, which was also the start of a hike to the top of the island which houses a very nice temple (thankfully it was high enough not to have been damaged by the war):


















That island also had a big tunnel built in sheer rock to allow resupply ships to arrive under cover of falling shells and be unloaded inside the cave package before being sent back:





resupply barges looked like this
resupply barges looked like this

We also went to see more villages:








On our way back to the airport, we saw a temple only accessible via a path you can walk at low tide, and a park with aviation pieces:






And this was it for KinMen Island. We took a plane to fly back to Taipei. We went directly to Taipei 101 and to visit the Google Office there, from which we took a few pictures:








After Google, we had dim sums at the famous Xiao Long Bao in Taipei 101, and its marketplace:

thankfully we got in before the line got crazy long
thankfully we got in before the line got crazy long





2014/11/04 Taiwan Day 11: Kinmen Island
π 2014-11-04 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

This day, we spent all our time visiting Kinmen Island. We first went hunting for breakfast:


noodles
noodles


We started with a local village that was facing towards China, so they had underground tunnels to get around without being killed by shells.



old phone switch
old phone switch


the tunnel wasn't lost on all
the tunnel wasn't lost on all




We continued around the island:

bunker view
bunker view


the lovely chinese come there with huge boats to illegally take all the sand
the lovely chinese come there with huge boats to illegally take all the sand

more long underground tunnels to avoid artillery
more long underground tunnels to avoid artillery

We then went to checkout another traditional village built by a single family:





Next was a big underground complex with huge tunnels and artillery to fire back at the Chinese. The park rangers did a mock up firing presentation for us, quite entertaining :)








This museum did a good job explaining what the battles over these insignificant islands were all about, as in the end, they were just another front of the cold war. The US while not fighting directly gave a lot of help to Taiwan with equipment to stop the spread of communism. In turn, the Taiwanese fought bravely against a superior attacker. The worst part is that MAo Zedong apparently started these attacks against the ROC (Taiwan) to distract its own people trying to create a revolution. Sigh...


to allow safer resupply, they built many tunnels and used amphibious vehicles to hide in the rocks to unload supplies
to allow safer resupply, they built many tunnels and used amphibious vehicles to hide in the rocks to unload supplies

this is what the Chinese did to anything reachable above ground
this is what the Chinese did to anything reachable above ground

they had huge loudspeakers to disuade the chinese from further attacks against mostly their own
they had huge loudspeakers to disuade the chinese from further attacks against mostly their own

the chinese shot so many shells at the ROC that the locals started making knifes with the metal
the chinese shot so many shells at the ROC that the locals started making knifes with the metal





Turns out the Chinese even tried to debark on the island like Normandie, except did it badly and encountered Taiwanese tanks (from the US) and defense weaponry that allowed the Taiwanese to stop the attack (battle of Guningtou). This is why the Chinese then just started shooting shells at them by the hundreds of thousands instead of trying to invade the island again. Turns out neither worked:


the people and building casulaties were heavy though
the people and building casulaties were heavy though


We also saw some nice parks and birds during the day:










By sunset time, we went to a beach to enjoy the view:


sunset over tanks, romantic :)
sunset over tanks, romantic :)

China in the background
China in the background


And finished the day by doing a night tour of downtown:






See more images for Taiwan Day 11: Kinmen Island
2014/11/03 Taiwan Day 10: Lieyu and Kinmen Islands
π 2014-11-03 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

We left Jennifer's family in PinTung and flew to Kinmen Island, which is literally a stone's throw across China's coast. Somehow the republic of China (aka Taiwan) managed when they retreated from mainland China to keep this island and keep it ever since. They actually had multiple battles with China 60 years ago over this small island, but I guess China didn't try too hard and gave up on it in the end as it not being worth the trouble. On the flipside, Taiwan spent a lot of effort keeping bunkers, cannons and other armament on the island to defend against possible Chinese invasions.

Basically my understanding is that the nationalists who created the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) unfortunately lost battles in mainland china, had to retreat and eventually ended up in those two Islands and Taiwan. China actually went tried to take over the islands and after failing just bombarded them with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells, but thankfully Taiwan got enough external help to defend themselves and hold their position (through much personal bravery and sacrifice)


fat airlines :)
fat airlines :)

1h flight to Kinmen
1h flight to Kinmen


Lieyu is the small island on the left
Lieyu is the small island on the left

this is how close the 2 islands are from China
this is how close the 2 islands are from China

We got our rental car and drove directly to the Ferry to get to Lieyu. There, we rented an electric scooter that was kind of fun, and gave us about 25km of travel for two before its battery started getting somewhat low. We drove around the small island and visited some old bunkers that had been fixed up a bit to allow for visits



our electric scooter looked like this
our electric scooter looked like this

We drove around the island, went to see some bunkers, nature, and temples:


millet
millet


you could swim to China if you really wanted
you could swim to China if you really wanted





the chocolate bird as Jennifer calls it :) (michoko)
the chocolate bird as Jennifer calls it :) (michoko)





looks just like Gi Joe :)
looks just like Gi Joe :)












We finished by visiting a tunnel that goes from one corner of the island to the other to reposition boats and troops:



this tunnel didn't look like it was fun to drill mostly by hand
this tunnel didn't look like it was fun to drill mostly by hand

By 17:00, we were done with Lieyu Island and went back to its grandsister Island, Kinmen and saw a few sights before ending the day:


they collected shells thrown at them by the Chinese
they collected shells thrown at them by the Chinese






We barely managed to get dinner that night since most restaurants were closed by 19:30 already.

2014/11/02 Taiwan Day 09: PingTung and Kenting
π 2014-11-02 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

Jennifer had grand plans for what we'd be doing on this day, but her cold turned for the worse, a likely bacterial infection (I was almost over mine by then), and she was just exhausting with a fast fading voice. At the same time, her family obviously not getting to see her more than once every 10 years or so, wanted to spend time with her, and chat.
They ended up offering to drive us to the Aquarium down south we had planned to go to, and we visited that.





the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane
the aquarium used to have a whale shark, but released it because their tank was too small and it was deemed inhumane


mud skippers are awesome
mud skippers are awesome










After the aquarium, Jennifer was just queasy with the anti coughing medication she got, and needed the right food we she wasn't able to find in the aquarium. While we could have gone to some of the other points she marked for that day, like the Kenting national park and southmost point of Taiwan, we just went for an early dinner, which seemed to be more what she needed ;)






By then, we were running a bit late for sunset, but we drove to a high up temple and got the tail end of it:






2014/11/01 Taiwan Day 08: Tainan and Anping
π 2014-11-01 00:00 in Taiwan2014, Trips

Tainan used to be the capital of Taiwan a long time ago, so it has lots of old temples, as well as a remnant of a Dutch fort before the Chinese booted the Dutch out. We stayed at the Ta Lee Hotel which was being renovated, so we got a very nice room, good breakfast, free parking and loaner bikes for an unbeatable price. 101*|good breakfast makes for a happy Jennifer, even had steamed buns :)

The loaner bikes turned out to be handy since driving and parking around Tainan for short distances just isn't worth it, but the distances were just a bit too long for walking.

We started with Chihkan Tower, which is more a house built on top of an old Dutch fort which was taken over by the Chinese when they were booting the Dutch out:


what it used to look like, obvious Dutch looking houses inside a fort, cute :)
what it used to look like, obvious Dutch looking houses inside a fort, cute :)

Next, we went to see a lot of different temples, which Tainan is full of since it was the former capital. Many are old and some not very well maintained (I didn't take pictures of them), but they are all an important part of the history:





Buddhism is well spread in China, but the Chinese also have a lot of idol good like people they revere in temples and bring food to. In some temple, we saw over 30 of them, with a little kid giving some of his candy to each and every one of them. It must be expensive to be religious there :)




this kid had to give some of his candy to each idol
this kid had to give some of his candy to each idol

pig hearts, chicken, yummy looking shrimp, and more
pig hearts, chicken, yummy looking shrimp, and more

some shrines had idols you made offerings to for love
some shrines had idols you made offerings to for love

Each little light (used to be candle, now LED), assigned to someone who paid to make a wish and has their name on it (I assume you pay for an amount of time and their your slot get recycled):




But you don't only buy your wishes and prayers with small lights, and various food offerings, you also buy paper money (yellow and red) in huge stacks and burn them to get your wishes to come true:




I should get into the paper selling business, it's good money :)
I should get into the paper selling business, it's good money :)

I just need to undercut the existing wishing paper money sellers ;)
I just need to undercut the existing wishing paper money sellers ;)

did I say that big wishes cost more wishing money? :)
did I say that big wishes cost more wishing money? :)


and then your burn it
and then your burn it

big furnace to burn your wish money
big furnace to burn your wish money


And if you want to be really safe, you buy a light, offer paper money, and food, just to cover all the bases :)


You then finish your prayer with incense sticks and bowing to the idols:


We also went to check out the city's south wall:



The city also has a temple in Koxinga's honor, for booting the Dutch out of Taiwan. His son, the last of his dynasty that was losing against Ming Dynasty, eventually committed suicide when it was clear that his dynasty had lost and his reign was over. His 5 concubine also killed themselves to respect him, and the five concubine temple is there to honor that:


the 5 concubines
the 5 concubines

Koxinga
Koxinga



More temples, more idols:












After Tainan, we drove towards Anping by the coast, which is where the Dutch first arrived and built a fort of which there isn't much left but a few unearthed foundations. We started with a later fort built by the Golden Castle, a fort built later to protect against the Japanese:



Next, we went north a bit to see Matsu Temple:







Just next to it was Anping Fort aka Fort Zeelandia back when the Dutch built it:





not much left of the original fort
not much left of the original fort

From there, we drove to PingTung to see Jennifer's family still in Taiwan and had dinner in a Japanese restaurant which was much more Chinese than Japanese, but tasty nonetheless:






See more images for Taiwan Day 08: Tainan and Anping

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