My Next Car

How can you make a luxury SUV better? By adding a gun cabinet and "self-replenishing drinks cabinet", that's how. This is the Holland & Holland/Overfinch customized version of the Land Rover. If only it had a bacon oven, it would be perfect.

Holland & Holland Range Rover by Overfinch: Gun and booze hauling reaches its zenith

by Alex Nunez (RSS feed) on Sep 26th 2009 at 1:28PM

Holland & Holland Range Rover by Overfinch - Click above for high-res image gallery

This, friends, is how one rolls. Behold the Holland & Holland Range Rover by Overfinch, a joint effort between the gunmaker, Land Rover's bespokery and, well, Bacchus. One hundred tweed-wearing pheasant slayers will have the opportunity to drive this sybaritic super sled to the hunting grounds. Frankly, one wonders why anyone would ever bother leaving the SUV. This ultimate Range Rover is outfitted with a gorgeous, custom-integrated gun cabinet, a cavernous backseat console/fridge, and a liquor cabinet nicer than anything you'd find in Don Draper's office. Our favorite feature? Well, the liquor itself is "self-replenishing," meaning that for the first year of ownership, Holland & Holland Rangie owners will have the vehicle's booze supply refilled automatically. Think of it like bottled water home delivery, only with single-malt scotch, small-batch gin, and other fine adult refreshments.
Naturally, all the interior trim is customized to match the cabinetry, which, in turn, can be made to match the customer's Holland & Holland firearms. The paint colors offered are exclusive to this model, of course, and the exterior is dolled up with unique trim and wheels as well. Aspiring Limey ballers take note -- you can even swap the standard dubs with off-road rubber for a pavement-only 22" wheel/tire package as well. The whole thing is deliciously ostentatious and wonderful. Power comes from either the blown 503-horse gasoline V8 or the diesel TDV8. It should come as zero surprise that this sort of exclusivity carries a dear price, so bring money. The H&H Range Rover will set you back at least £120K. Not that that'll be a problem for the target audience. For more, check out the PR after the jump.

Read the whole article for more.

Thanks to Bryan for the pointer.

Beautiful Night at Safeco Field

Last Friday, I took Andrew (12) and Michael (9) to see the Mariners play the Indians at Safeco Field. We were there with our friends the Shirouzus, who are huge baseball fans. Even though the M's were blown out 0-9, I really enjoyed the evening. I forgot how much I like going to see baseball games live.

It was a very lovely evening -- not cold at all. You can see the Seattle skyline behind the stadium, bathed in the beautiful sunset colors.
Safeco Field at sunset.

Their son (and Andrew's classmate in Beijing) made a sign that they waved around between innings; alas, they were never picked up by the scoreboard cameras.

Of course, my kids were more excited about the free application Nintendo (part owners of the Mariners) made for the Gameboy DS; you can install it from stations all around the stadium. It's a pretty cool wireless app that allows you to see replays, watch where the pitches go, order food at your seat, see the stats from other games, view player stats, and play sports related games against other people in the stadium.
Pitch count on Kenji Johjima on the Gameboy DS.

All in all, it was a great evening.

Following Beijing Air Quality

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This is so cool. The US Embassy (I think) is Twittering Beijing air quality stats. In addition to the sheer coolness of it, there have been some concerns that official local sources may not always have accurate numbers. Of course, I feel worse now about how bad the air really is. The average yesterday was 201 (very unhealthy) while I was hiking around town.

Ramen Robot!

I need one of these. A lot.

Ramen robot replaces fleshy chef at Yamanashi eatery

A robot pours soup in a ramen bowl at

A robot pours soup in a ramen bowl at "Momozono Robot Ramen," a ramen shop in the Yamanashi Prefecture city of Minami-Alps, as shop owner Yoshihira Uchida looks on. (Mainichi)

MINAMI-ALPS, Yamanashi -- "Momozono Robot Ramen," a ramen shop that opened here in November last year, is gaining popularity not only for its delicious ramen noodles, but for its robotic chef.

The ramen-making robot was built by 60-year-old shop owner Yoshihira Uchida, who spent about 20 million yen on its construction. Customers can place their orders on a computer in the shop, customizing various aspects such as the levels of soy sauce, salt, and richness of the soup. Uchida says there are 40 million different flavor permutations.

The noodles themselves are cooked by a human, with the robot creating a perfectly blended soup which is then delivered to the human chef via a conveyor belt, who adds the noodles and toppings. The whole process takes only about two minutes, a minute shorter than instant cup noodles. Prices of ramen per bowl are 500 yen for regular size and 300 yen for small size.

Uchida developed a love of electronics during elementary and junior high school, which he went on to study at the Musashi Institute of Technology (now Tokyo City University) and the University of Toyama's graduate school, focusing on electronic circuits and motors. After graduating, Uchida worked on noodle-packing machines at a food manufacturer until he retired from the company last year.

While working for the company, Uchida, a huge noodle lover, opened a soba noodle shop 10 years ago. He later started to make ramen -- which received mixed comments from friends, with some saying the taste was strong, and others too weak. In the end, Uchida hit upon the idea of creating a robot that can allow customers to choose the flavor they want.

Uchida began to develop the robot at his home in around 2003, asking an iron foundry to produce the specialist parts he needed. He finally completed the robot in November last year, but suffered teething problems: ramen with no taste, and computer crashes caused by spilled soup. After repeated repairs, however, Uchida finally managed to iron out the bugs.

He's now aiming at automating the addition of noodles and toppings, and shrinking the robot itself. He is also planning to open his second ramen shop in Kofu possibly by the end of this year.

"I want to mass produce the robot in the future and leave my mark out there," he says.

(Mainichi Japan) July 4, 2009

Microsoft SmallBasic Rocks

Like many geeks of my generation, I grew up writing code in BASIC, first on a TRS-80 Model III (2.03 mHz Z-80!) and timeshared mainframes (via keypunch cards and a 110 baud modem!) Back then, every personal computer had a computer language (usually BASIC) built in so almost everyone learned a little programming. Unfortunately today, it's harder to find the places to write code other than the browser (WSH anyone?) and even harder to find users to bother to learn.

I really want the boys to learn to program, not necessarily to become expert developers, but to see what's behind the games they love and to learn a little algorithmic thinking. So, I was delighted to find that Microsoft had built a cool, lightweight version of BASIC called SmallBasic. This free download has a nice IDE (editing environment), turtle graphics, and access to FlickR.

Screenshot of Microsoft SmallBasic IDE

Since I gave to Andrew (11) this afternoon, he hasn't stopped typing in the sample code in the tutorial; better still, he's already started improvising off those programs. Just now, I said "I'm really glad to see you doing this." He replied, "It's fun." and returned to his coding.

I love it when Microsoft does cool stuff like this.

Awesome Silverlight Sailing Application

My friend Nigel Parker, who works in the Microsoft New Zealand office and who I met on my trip there almost three years ago, does some amazing things as he shows off cool new Microsoft technology. The latest thing combines two things I love - great technology and sailboat racing.

Right now the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series races are underway in Auckland. These races are in Americas Cup class boats with Americas Cup crews. Even for sailing enthusiasts, it's hard to watch sailboat racing, but Nigel helped build a very cool race viewer using Silverlight (a very slick newish product from Microsoft) that makes following the races easier to understand and frankly more fun.

You can read his account of the creation of the app on Nigel Parker's Outside Line (his blog). Of course, check out the app and follow the race action on the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series website.

He has such a cool job and is good at it...

(BTW, go Team New Zealand -- I can't root for BMW Oracle, even though they're the American team...)

Stopping China Mobile News Text Messages

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As soon as we got our China Mobile mobile phone accounts we started getting a lot of Chinese text messages. We initially thought they were all spam text messages, but it turns out some are daily news messages from China Mobile. I'm sure if I could read Chinese this would be a nice service, but since I'm illiterate, it's not so useful.

Fortunately, my colleague John sent me the instructions for turning off the news messages. Just send a text message to 10658000 with QXCXP in the message body. You should get two text messages back.

Now, if there were only an easy way to stop the other SMS spam messages. It's really bad here.

Super Fun Game: The World of Goo

The boys and I have been fighting over who gets to play this charming and fun game: The World of Goo. It's a little like Lemmings or Cloning Clyde in the sense that you are trying to get a set of dudes from point A to point B, but the game is very clever and well-executed with a construction twist.

You can try the game out first for free. We've played the PC/Mac version and love it. We'll have to try to Wii version once we unpack our Wii...

It' a little hard to tell what the game is about from the video below, but you can see even from here that it's just beautiful. Anyway, give it a whirl!

Video Games in Japan

Throughout our trip to Japan, I took the boys to go play video games; there were tons of great arcades through out Tokyo and Kyoto. There were a few trends in games that I hadn't seen much of (if at all) yet in the US.

First, many of the popular games had physical components you could use in the game play, like a card or a token. Each time you play, you get another piece, randomly selected. The more you play, the more players or moves you have. This also adds a trading/collectable element to the video game and rewards players who play more often; brilliant. We saw this with Mushiking in the US, but this went even further in Japan, including the Pokemon Battrio game the kids played which gave out poker chip-like tokens with different Pokemon on each (gotta catch 'em all indeed).

A specialized form of this genre involved buying a starter deck of cards for 300-500 yen or so (about US$3-5) and then moving multiple cards from the deck on a game surface to control armies or players. For instance, the boys started playing Sangokushi Taisen3, a real-time strategy game based on the Chinese Three Kingdoms period. (It was pretty interesting learning to play a complex game like this without being able to read anything...) Each card represented a different military unit like archers or cavalry. You position the cards on the surface to select which units were in play and where they started. Then, you move the cards to advance or retreat; you can also turn the card to aim the attacks (like arrows) a particular direction. It was an elegant way of handling a hard UI problem for a video game (normally solved on PCs by mouse and keyboard) -- much more physical and direct.

Andrew playing Sangokushi Taisen3

In addition to Sangokushi, Lord of Vermillion, a party-based real-time adventure game, seemed popular. We also saw a baseball game, a soccer game, and a Gundam 0083 game in this genre. I hope they come to the US soon; they looked really fun. I'm sure they're even more fun if you can understand the instructions!

 Lord of Vermillion

0083 game

Baseball Heroes 3 game