Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If I get mid-life crisis at 30, will I die at 60?

Meet Nikita, my new Scion tC. She's sporty but still practical.
I'm doing my part for the economy: Toyota pays me, I pay Toyota.
Isn't she beautiful?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

More Andrea Art

Commissioned by my sister for her dining room in Oakland.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

U.S. Regulators Report Finding No Electronic Defects in Toyota Vehicles


WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. regulators have yet to find any electronic defects in Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) vehicles, a U.S. vehicle-safety official reiterated Wednesday, as a scientific panel began studying potential causes of unintended acceleration.

Some members of Congress, consumer advocates and product-liability lawyers have suggested that engine electronics may have played a role in problems that led Toyota to recall more than 8 million vehicles globally for sudden- acceleration and gas-pedal problems. Those critics have questioned the adequacy of efforts by Toyota and government regulators to study electronics.

"We have not actually been able to find a defect of electronic-throttle- control systems" in Toyota cars, said Dan Smith of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speaking before a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

He said regulators have only been able to identify two causes of the Toyota problems--floormat entrapment of the gas pedals and pedals that are slow to return to idle.

The academy is undertaking a broad study of unintended acceleration and will eventually offer recommendations on how regulators should improve their ability to set standards and identify defects.

Smith said his agency hasn't ruled out the possibility of electronic defects and that investigations are ongoing. NHTSA is working with NASA engineers to study the Toyota recalls, including possible electronics defects.

NHTSA chief David Strickland told the academy panel that unintended acceleration is a problem that affects all major car manufacturers.

"Complaints of unintended acceleration are not--repeat not--exclusive to Toyota," Strickland said.

-By Josh Mitchell, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6637; joshua.mitchell@ (END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Read more:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

They finally found the Aliens' implant...

Maybe this CT scan can explain the pain in my sinuses?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Toyota Announces Progress Toward Commercializing Fuel Cell Vehicles (BusinessWeek)

By Alan Ohnsman

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., the biggest seller of hybrid cars, said it has cut the cost of making fuel-cell vehicles by about 90 percent since the mid-2000s and may be able to price its first retail hydrogen model at about $50,000.

The first model will be a sedan with driving range equal to a gasoline-powered car, “with some extra cost,” Yoshihiko Masuda, Toyota’s managing director for advanced autos, said in an interview. The Japanese carmaker has cut production costs to about one-tenth of earlier estimates that ran as high as $1 million a car and would need to reduce current expenses by about half before starting retail sales, he said.

“Our target is, we don’t lose money with introduction of the vehicle,” Masuda said in Torrance, California, where Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based. “Production cost should be covered within the price of the vehicle.”

Hydrogen cars that don’t sell at a loss may boost support for the technology, which has lagged behind electric cars in U.S. research funding amid criticism it’s too expensive. Toyota, General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co., Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co. have all said they will be ready to sell fuel-cell vehicles to retail customers by about 2015.

Toyota plans to sell an “affordable” model in the U.S. and elsewhere, the Toyota City, Japan-based company has said, without providing details. Were the carmaker to set a U.S. price at about $50,000, the market for the vehicles would be “small, but with some support,” Masuda said, without elaborating.

Potential Advantage
“On a cost basis per car, range and performance, fuel-cell vehicles can have an advantage over battery vehicles,” said Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “On a system basis, infrastructure, battery cars win.”

Toyota’s American depositary receipts fell $1.77, or 2.3 percent, to $74 at 2:39 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Masuda declined to discuss Toyota’s sales volume goal for the car.

California, Japan, Germany and South Korea are promoting fuel-cell vehicles to help curb greenhouse gasses, as the only exhaust from the cars is water vapor. Fuel cells, layers of plastic film coated with platinum sandwiched between metal plates, make electricity in a chemical process combining hydrogen and oxygen.

Less Platinum
Toyota cut expenses to make the vehicles by reducing platinum use to about one-third the previous level and finding cheaper ways to produce the thin film used in the fuel cells and the carbon-fiber hydrogen fuel tanks, Masuda said yesterday at a conference in Long Beach, California, held by the National Hydrogen Association, a trade group that lobbies for the fuel.

Toyota and GM now use about 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of platinum per fuel-cell vehicle and aim to reduce it to about 10 grams, according to Masuda and Charles Freese, GM’s executive director of global powertrain engineering. Platinum futures for July delivery rose $25.90, or 1.6 percent, to $1,675.60 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Shifting from low-volume assembly to mass-scale production would lead to further cost reductions, he said.

Hydrogen vehicles are typically larger and offer greater range and faster fueling than battery models. A lack of fuel stations, high production costs and limited durability have slowed their introduction beyond test fleets.

Honda, GM
Honda has leased FCX Clarity fuel-cell sedans to 19 Los Angeles-area retail customers since 2008 and GM has more than 100 fuel-cell-powered Equinox sport-utility vehicles that it loans to individuals and fleets.

“Our target is at least 100,000 miles, 10 years” of use for each vehicle, Toyota’s Masuda said.
The U.S. Energy Department gave out more than $10 billion in low-cost loans and grants for advanced battery and electric- car production in 2009, while cutting hydrogen funds to $68 million. Congress later raised the amount for hydrogen research to about $190 million.

“Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and we can have it forever,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said at the conference in Long Beach. “We need to wake up the federal government.”

An initial goal for the start of retail sales is to have at least 40 hydrogen fuel stations in Southern California, or four times the current number, GM’s Freese said in Long Beach. That would be enough to accommodate as many as 15 million drivers in the region, he said.

--With assistance from Pham-Duy Nguyen. Editors: Terje Langeland, Chana Schoenberger, John Lear

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kae Inoue at

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Happy Holi!

My roommates and I (plus a roommate's coworker) go to the Indian Festival of Color, which was more fun BEFORE they brought out the cold water!

after the rain...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

That seems like a lot of thinking for a bear...

When polar bears hunt, they crouch down by a hole in
the ice and wait for a seal to pop up. They keep one paw over their nose so that
they blend in, because they've got those black noses. They'd blend in perfectly
if not for the nose. So the question is, how do they know their noses are black?
From looking at other polar bears? Do they see their reflections in the water
and think, "I'd be invisible if not for that." That seems like a lot of thinking
for a bear.

-Mark Whitacre, "The Informant!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Solstice Again

Happy Solstice 2009! Happy New Year 2010!

Hey, Everyone;

It's Solstice again, time for my annual newsletter. I hope everyone has had a good year. I have to admit, 2009 was a difficult time for me. I went on worker's compensation for a chronic wrist injury, then disability for chronic fatigue syndrome, and a slew of other bad stuff happened. I spent a lot of time in doctors' offices and in bed, miserable. But Solstice symbolizes things getting better, right? In the meantime, let's forget the bad things and focus on the good things.

I rang in the new year in South Carolina with my friend Saima, her husband Sajid, and their new son Safan. Here we are touring a regional plantation.

As you know, I don't spend much time around babies, so I took a little time with Safan to disprove the theory that Andrea and kids don't mix. I even got him to smile (just not in this picture) by rubbing his belly and repeating the phrase "happy baby!" over and over.

The next few months were spent in therapy for my wrist, business travel, and coming down with that mystery illness eventually diagnosed as chronic fatigue. I was able to rouse myself for a visit from an old college friend, Travis. We spent a few days doing the quintessential LA stuff like seeing the "Hollywood" sign, checking out the beaches, and cruising Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills.

Here I pose with the cast of "Star Wars" on Hollywood Boulevard after seeing a movie premier at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

In May I travelled to Oakland to spend my birthday weekend with my sisters Carmalyn and Paige, both of whom now live there. They made me a giant chocolate chip cookie with candles to celebrate. We also took in a show, an art festival, and of course, sight-seeing. Here we are near the Golden Gate Bridge. That was quite a hike! I practically had to be carried back to the car.

In July, I shored up my health enough to go with my chorus to sing in a music festival in Salzburg, Austria, birthplace of Mozart. It was amazing! Here is a view of the town from the fortress above - I borrowed this photo from a fellow traveller. We sang a mass with other choruses from around the world in the DOM cathedral (with the green dome) you see in the bottom right.

The day before, we sang the "Concert of Nations" in the Mozarteum. Here members of my chorus, the Torrance Civic Chorale, do our individual numbers for the audience and other singers. If you're looking for me, I'm in a light green scarf in the front row way on the left end.

In our free time, we took bus and walking tours. I also snuck out on my own to pay a visit to Mozart's birthplace at the famous No 9 Getreidegasse, and another house where he lived across the river. I also paid homage to the grave of his sister Nannerl, who I think should be the patron saint of set-aside siblings. I really got into the spirit with my musical umbrella and scarf!

Salzburg is famous for several things. The most popular being, of course, the birthplace of Mozart, and the (very close) second being that it was the setting for the story that inspired "The Sound of Music". Perhaps the third most famous thing about Salzburg is its triple-centered chocolate candy, called Mozartkugel. All along the streets are wooden life-size cut-outs of Mozart advertizing this candy. Music and chocolate together! I thought he could use some company.

The fourth most famous thing about Salzburg is its salt (from which the city gets its name). On our way out of town we visited a salt mine. The most interesting thing about the mine is the means by which the workers did (and tourists currently do) get down to it, which is two long wooden slides. Here Mary and Christie and I set an underground speed record.

One afternoon we snuck into nearby Bavaria to visit the Eagle's Nest (Kehlsteinhaus), former vacation hideaway of Hitler and current scenic overlook/restaurant. Here I make a vain attempt to look wistful among the breathtaking backdrop of the alps.

After we were done with Austria, we took a short visit to Budapest, Hungary. Before then I'd never had much interest in Eastern Europe, but now I'm completely fascinated. Budapest is so close to Vienna and yet it is so exotic and otherworldly, with its strange language, gypsy heritage, and peculiar architecture, not to mention the crazy cars! Also, it was HOT, reaching 100 F most of the time we were there. One afternoon we took a steamy boat ride on the famous Danube and were served cocktails while taking in the various sights. I tried to look as classy as I felt, and maybe missed by a little bit.

Hungary considers itself to have been settled in exactly 896 CE, and in 1896 the vast majority of its capitol was renovated in celebration of its millenial anniversary. Budapest is a town of many monuments to its heritage, and certain land is protected due to its irreplaceable view. Here I sit on the outposts of a church in hilly Pest and look out over the Danube to the Parliament building on the flatter Buda side.

Upon my return to the US, it was work, work, work for the next several months. My health was slowly improving but I was still in a lot of pain and needed a great deal of sleep to maintain a full work week. Nonetheless, I tried to make the best of it. On several occasions I was dispatched to the New York City vicinity, and found a few hours to make it into Manhattan. Here my coworkers and I take the Staten Island Ferry for the free views of the Statue of Liberty. I was also able to visit my college friends Peter and Travis, and a former co-worker Adam. Seeing old friends definitely makes business trips more worthwhile.

Of course, no newsletter would be complete without some photos of my all-weather companions, Ginger and Dusty. I have started taking them for walks around the complex on leashes, and they are taking to it better than you would imagine. Mostly they walk me, not the other way around, and in Ginger's case there is more grass-chewing than walking involved, but I think it works for all of us.

Here's Ginger, in her favorite wildlife-viewing window.

And here's Dusty, in his favorite summer sleeping pose.

I recently joined a gym and cut way back on my sodas and desserts. I'm starting to need less sleep and feel a little better. The doctors told me they couldn't help me, just that I need to rest a lot and not push it. But I find that exercise makes me feel better, not worse. So there goes seven months of sleeping too much and not getting well. I'll have to keep you posted on how things progress from here.
I wish you a great winter solstice and a very happy new year!