Cars of Kevin Part 1: the Cadillac Cimarron

I realized that I have actually owned quite a few interesting cars in my life so far.  Let’s start at the very beginning.  My 1987 Cadillac Cimarron.  If you look anywhere on the internet, this car is guaranteed to be in the top 10 of any worst cars ever made list, and usually credited with the lowest point in Cadillac’s history, or the car that nearly killed Cadillac.  In my mind though, it was actually a really cool car for many reasons, needed competitor to Europeans, but poorly executed for the time.

The car is really a re-skinned Chevy Cavalier, and shared the same platform as a bunch of other GM cars of the time like Buicks and Oldsmobiles.  This was a huge turn off to the Cadillac buyers of the time, but common practice in the auto industry now.  For example, VW Touareg, Audi Q7, and the Porsche Cayenne uses the same platform.  This is really Cadillac’s first effort to get to a younger segment that they didn’t have before.  They are now doing so successfully with the Cadillac ATS (shares platform with Chevy Camaro BTW).  It’s a pretty good looking car.  Mine was in a lighter blue.

Cimarron

My family bought it used in the early 90s and I drove it in high school and first couple years of college.  The dash is awesome for 1987, all digital, aluminum look surrounding the instrument cluster, very 80’s futuristic. At the same time, everything is where it should be. The interior is a huge step above its Chevy cousin.  Against BMW, Audi, and Saabs of the same vintage that it was supposed to compete against, it set itself apart.

Cimarron dash

The car had a 2.8L V6 making a now absurdly low 125HP by today’s standards, but it did only weigh 2700 pounds.  3 Speed automatic, and 0-60 in 10 seconds or so.  In comparison, a 2016 Honda Fit is 2600 pounds and makes 130HP from a 1.5L engine.   The earlier models had a smaller engine and better MPG.  The V6 version MPG is around the low/mid 20s. The Cimarron cost ~$35,000 in today’s dollars, once again very much in the same segment where the Cadillac ATS is now, competing back then as now with Audis and BMWs.

Cadillac-Cimarron-November-1981-ad

The drivetrain of the Cimarron was very dependable, it did burn a little bit of oil, but the all digital panel was not.  We did not have any mechanical issues during the time we had it aside from regular maintenance.  Sadly, one by one, each display started to fail.  First it was the fuel gauge, then the oil pressure, then temperature.  Until eventually the entire main display died in mid 2000.  Getting the panel repaired would have cost much more than the car was worth, and we donated the car.  Mechanically the car was very sound after 20 years, alas, the electrics did not.

While the car is widely panned by the press, in my book on its own, without all the baggage of GM’s failures of the 80s, it was a unique, dependable, and fun car for any teenager and college student.  I will always have a soft spot for Cadillacs.  Maybe one day, a CTS-V wagon.

Beers of Taiwan

I went to Taiwan around Thanksgiving time and had a great time there.  The 7Elevens and FamilyMarts is a wonderland of foods and drinks not found here in the US.  See earlier post on tea eggs.  In particular, beers and snacks.  Since the weather is pretty hot and humid, beers are perfect.  This post will feature some of the more interesting beers / light alcohol “alcopop” drinks.  IMG_0695As you can see first haul is mostly regular beers.  First 3 Japanese imports.  A Kirin lager named Bar Beer I believe is made for the Taiwan market, Suntory Premium Malt is for the Japanese domestic market.  More familiar to Americans, Orion.  The Taiwan Beer Classic isn’t as good as the Taiwan Beer Gold Medal.  And lastly the first flavored beer.  Taiwan beer with honey.  That was spectacular and a revelation.  Who’d thought beer with honey flavoring would be a good thing?  I have to try it out at home at some point.  Not sure if regular honey would dissolve in cold beer.

IMG_0702So I went full flavor beer the next 7Eleven visit.  The honey beer, plus pineapple and mango.  Like a Radler or Shandy, but instead of Sprite or lemonade, fruit juices (at least fruit flavorings).  Could not stop drinking it especially when spending a sunny humid day outside.  Also a Tsingtao in a blue can that is brewed in Taiwan, it tastes noticeably different than the regular Tsingtao.

IMG_0778

Even more adventurous, we will concentrate on the alcohol here. Ok, not so much actual beer, but flavored shochu.  Think of wine fruit sparklers.  Pink Suntory can is white peach, then red tea, ignore 2 cans of Br Brown coffee.  The green gold can is the Kirin 5% chardonnay, tastes like grape juice.  Then the Taiwan mango again.  The whit can is the Suntory white sour that’s tastes like it is mixed with Yakut or Calpis, a Japanese yogurt soft drink.  The last is the Taiwan beer grape, it wasn’t very good.

Favorites have to be the Taiwan Honey and Mango.  Kirin Chardonnay and the Suntory shochus had a little bit of an artificial aftertaste, but great while drinking it.

Best of 7 (fountain pens)

Ended up going slightly overboard with 7 fountain pens after the Great Winter Fountain Pen Spree.  Averaging around $33 each, with a low of $12 for the Pilot Metropolitan and a high of $50 for the Waterman. Some I really liked, and will continue to use on a day to day basis.  Others very much meh and will be backup pens.  All are stock medium nibs.

Winner:
Faber Castell Basic.  The weight, look, and feel was just right for me.  Industrial, minimalist, and yet pretty cool looking.  Everything seems well proportioned.  Writes extremely well.  Blue ink that comes standard is less saturated than others, but very calm and pleasing.

Runner Up:
Waterman Hemisphere.  A much more classic and conventional looking pen.  Smaller and skinnier than the Faber, with a gold and wider and stubbier looking nib, but still very comfortable to write with.  Ink flow and saturation was very consistent.

3rd (tied)
Parker Urban. Very curvy and sleek.  Nib seems small in proportion to the rest of the pen.  Pretty comfortable.
Cross Century Classic.  The opposite of the Parker.  Pen itself is skinny (would like to try a bigger one at some point), but the nib looks much larger than rest of pen.  Hard to believe it is medium with the ink and saturation, especially compared to the Pilot pens.

5th
Pilot Metropolitan.  Great pen, medium is much thinner than others.  Plain  but aerodynamic look.  Can’t beat $12!

6th
Lamy Safari.  Like the overall design design, very different looking than others.  The angular grip doesn’t quite work for me for longer note taking sessions.  The one on I got, the nib is very scratchy, and ink flow was inconsistent at times.

7th
Pilot Prera.  Writes very similar to the Metropolitan.  Shorter, and made of plastic.  Was expecting more especially with the MSRP at $70 on the Pilot site.  Got it on Amazon for $30, but I still rather have 2 and half of the Metropolitans.

7 Pens

So I’m into fountain pens now, again

I haven’t used one since elementary school in Shanghai before moving to the US.  Rite of passage to own a Hero fountain pen.  Sadly no fountain pens in schools in the US.  The ones you see are often the way too expensive status symbol, but also very nice, Mont Blanc or Graf von Faber-Castell.  I took the plunge and started with a Lamy Safari a few weeks ago, and reminded me how much I liked having ink on paper.  So I also bought a few more for home and work.  A Cross Classic Century Medalist, a Pilot Metropolitan, and a Pilot Prera.  We’ll see how it goes when I go full fountain pen for everything.  Also thinking about trying different ink colors like brown, maybe…

Fountain pens

Making some Tea Eggs


Tea Eggs

Another day of winter break, another day of making something from childhood.  While you can get these tea eggs at 7-Elevens in Taipei, a little bit harder to find it here.  Once again, easier than I thought it would be, since the local Chinese supermarket had something already mixed up so I don’t have to mix 7+ spices in the right proportions and put it in a bag myself.

Pretty easy.  Put the tea flavor packet and the powder into a saucepan with eggs (should be submerged).  I added 0.25 cup soy sauce, and 1 tea spoon mirin.  I also could have added some more white pepper powder and additional tea leaves, that will be next time.

High for ~20 minutes, make sure eggs are fully cooked.  Use a spoon or tongs to crack the egg shells but leave it intact on the eggs.  Ideally marbled look.  Then turn down to low heat and simmer for another 1.5 hours.

Tea egg packet

Chinese marinade beef

Beef

Decided to make some Chinese marinated beef.  Luckily, instead of having to come up with the marinade all by myself and finding all the spices and whatnot, Lee Kum Kee already has it in a bottle called Selected Five Spice Marinade.

The sauces

Process was pretty simple. 1 pound shoulder beef, 0.75 cup LKK marinade, 0.25 cup soy sauce, 1.5 cup water, table spoon mirin, 1 lump (~60g) of rock sugar.  Throw it all into a small sauce pan.  Bring to boil, then simmer for ~2 hours.

simmer

Back to having a blog

Last time I blogged and jotted down my thoughts Doogie Howser style was back in 2010, when TEALS first started.

I kept up the blog for a year and a half or so.  Promoted by the education class I was taking at UW at the time to get me thinking about CS education.  Teaching 1 period a day, and eventually starting TEALS.  I stopped right as the school year started and things got very busy.  Fortunately, the old blog still exits!
http://kevinkw.blogspot.com

I hope this blog will give me the time to put my thoughts together not just on running TEALS from a personal point of view, but a few other things I’m interested in:
Alfa Romeos (driving and fixing), traveling, cooking, soccer, F1, gadgets, ABBA, cured meats, beer, British quiz shows, and who knows.