24 months of driving electric

1.13% of all cars are plug in hybrid/electric.  I was part of that 1.13% for the past two years.  Electrics are great in congested, traffic calmed cities.  However, once you leave and enter “America”, electrics are little smug mobiles that are hindered with short range (at least the affordable ones).

Where electrics make sense
I live in San Francisco, where the city government actively makes it difficult to drive a car.  From not fixing the potholes and cracks and diverting the money to bicycle lanes, speed humps and stop signs on every block to active Traffic Calming measures such as prohibiting turning, backwards diagonal parking, removing traffic lanes and timing traffic signals to turn red, thus creating congestion, San Francisco is the master of screwing up traffic.  Driving here, especially in the Downtown core, is an exercise in not moving.  If you’re in an electric, when you’re not moving, you’re not using energy.  And when the traffic does go and stop, you creep along eventually creating enough energy to regenerate your battery, a mile at a time.  In this environment, electrics win.

Aaaand where electrics don’t
Unfortunately for electrics and the liberals that like them (with taxpayer subsidy), most of America is not like San Francisco.  America is long distances between cities, moving at high speed and where there is copious free parking.  Its people cherish their freedom to drive untethered from range anxiety or lack of DC fast chargers.  In this environment, electrics are at a disadvantage because at freeway speed, range disappears quickly and regeneration does not increase range at the same rate you lose it.

Conclusions
Electrics are best for car unfriendly cities.  If you sit around a lot in traffic and drive short distances, electrics are for you.  If you do a combination of city and non city driving over longer distances, a (plug-in) hybrid works best.  And if you drive a lot on the freeway, get yourself a gas powered car.  A lot of the new cars get 35+ MPG which is pretty darn good.   I spent a week in Dallas and didn’t see one electric car on the freeways.  I did see a lot of practical sedans that got good highway MPG.  And this is the lesson I learned after two years with an E-Golf.

Getting itchy pants

So over the past week, friends of mine have taken off to Seoul, Paris, Singapore, London.  Time to plan travel!

In Defense of Panda Express

Yes, I get that Panda Express is not genuine “Chinese food”.  Even though the roots of this chain would count as genuine “Chinese food”.  And it tastes pretty good.   It fills a niche, along with Starbucks (coffee) and McDonald’s (hamburgers and breakfast) for making Chinese-American food available all over the US, cooked to a standard and satisfying the craving for chow mein with soy sauce and Orange Chicken (which is a very guilty pleasure).  Let’s face it, getting different kinds of Chinese food is easier in the big cities than it is, say in Omaha or Des Moines.  But those cities have Panda Expresses there so it satisfies the craving, at least temporarily.

And for each meal at Panda Express (usually at malls and airports), I have a renewed appreciation for Chinese food done properly.  Beef chow fun and wontonmein at Hing Lung (San Bruno), Xiaolongbao at almost any Din Tai Fung.  Yum Cha at Dragon Beaux.  Mabo tofu and Kung Pao Chicken at a good Hunan place.  Despite the food snobs saying otherwise, Panda Express does serve a purpose in the greater cause of Chinese food.  And for the food snobs, you can always order the Wagyu truffle Hor Fun at Lokkee.

The term “Chinese food” itself is misleading.  It can refer to Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hunan, Szechwan, dim sum, wontonmein, cha chaan teng and lots more styles I’ve probably missed.  It’s all good stuff.  I think we should put Panda Express in that same category.

Adventures with Keyless Entry

Most new cars have keyless entry nowadays.  You keep the key fob in your pocket, the car detects it and allows you to unlock the doors and start the car.   Usually it works fine.  Unless the battery in the key fob goes flat.  Late at night.  In the cold.

So last night, a buddy and I went to the ballpark to watch the Giants beat the Nationals.  Seeing that the game was won, we left at the bottom of the 8th to beat the traffic and what not.  We get to the car.  Doors won’t open.  Pressed the buttons on the fob.  No flashing LED.  Flat battery!  It took us an hour to get into the car using the internet and go through the owner’s manual to find how to start the car.  Instead of having a chapter titled “In case of dead key fob”, where instructions on entering and starting the car could be, instructions for entering the car and starting the car were in two different places in the book.

Or we could have just found this video and gotten going in 10 minutes…

Ah well, learning moment.

Travel Rant: Laundry

If you spend more than 5 days from home, chances are you’re going to need to do laundry.  Or you’re one of those people who will pack 10 day’s worth of clothes for a 10 day trip.   Myself, I don’t like dragging luggages across South East Asia.  Or China.  So I try to pack lightly; well as lightly as a dialysis victim can pack.

Most hotels have laundry service at outrageous prices.  S$5 to wash boxers, for example.  Some hotels actually have laundry machines.  Here’s one at one of my regular hotels.

Note the helpful labeling.  Since they’re both front loaders and the hotel has a lot of American guests, signage is a must.  Otherwise you’ll get people putting coins into the wrong machine and demanding refunds from management.  Take a close look at how many coins you have to put into the slot.

Yes, that’s S$20 to do a load of laundry!  These are stickers; I wonder how much it used to be!  At that price, it’s worth it to jump on the MRT with laundry to the nearest laundrette.  Sheesh.

I had one of these…

for 16 years and 170,000 miles.  It was the first car I got after college and was the definition of “sleeper”.  The car was made in Tennessee but the SR20DE engine and transmission was Made in Japan.  Drove it all over California.  Sold it with the original clutch.  Fun to drive!

Honda Clarity

Honda had an event in San Francisco where you could test drive the new Clarity.

The Clarity is a line of cars that are roomy inside like an Accord, full of tech and doo dads and looks retro like a 1970s Buick.  What sets each one apart is their drivetrains.  It comes in full electric (80 miles), plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

The fit and finish are superb as is the interior.  Nice because these cars are Made in Japan.

Like the iPhone holders on the back of the front seats.  Good detail.

But look at it on the side.  That rear wheel!  That’s a 1970s Buick!!

Ippudo Story San Francisco (Lost in Translation)

No Scarlett Johansson here (bummer).  Just two ramen fans that were excited to welcome San Francisco into the big league of ramen towns.  San Francisco has an Ippudo.  Finally! No more queueing at Mensho for hours in the TL with bums.  We could now queue in a wind tunnel off of Market Street! Despite being forewarned about the broth being dumbed down (at Ippudo Berkeley, which opened nine months earlier),  we braved downtown, found a parking space and crossed Market Street for a bowl.  A very expensive bowl.

Yes.  That’s $82 (after tip) for dinner for two.  A beer, a bun, a bowl and some ice cream.  Keep in mind that the same bowl in Tokyo is half the price (along with the beer) in what gaijin call “the most expensive city” in the world.  I would be willing to excuse this as “the price of doing business” in San Francisco, except the broth here tasted like they phoned it in.  It’s technically tonkotsu, but set at 5 instead of 11.  The best way to describe my disappointment is to say that the broth here has been Lost in Translation.  It isn’t as “fierce” as it should be.  Also, no sides of garlic and ginger as the other Ippudos in Asia have.

They did get some things right.  The cha siu was tender and the broth could have been a smidge hotter (in order to keep the noodles hot).  And Ippudo is probably the only place in San Francisco that can actually do the soft boiled ramen egg properly.  Delish!

Because of this, it’s technically an “Ippudo”.  The ramen was bowled properly, the noodles had some snap.  The flavors are there, just not enough of it.  I really wanted to love this place; to be able to say that it’s a match for Ippudo’s Tokyo and Singapore locations (I know these best) and everyone should brave the line and the price for a bowl of Akamaru Modern because THIS is what ramen is supposed to be like.  Instead, I’d recommend this as a starter Ippudo.  Go here and appreciate it for what it is.  A decent, but VERY overpriced bowl (because of the local conditions that restaurants in San Francisco have to operate in, not because of Panda Express greed).  Then book a flight to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai and have a bowl over there.  That’s how it’s supposed to taste.  And you’ll save some money too.

Ippudo SF
18 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103