Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

I met the first owner of my GT3!

A bit of a surprise treat this past weekend: I met the very first owner of my 911 GT3.  

It was a surprise because the chance meeting was completely unsolicited, and the car meet I attended on Saturday wasn’t even a Porsche-specific event. While cars costing into the six-figures aren’t exactly common, a plain GT3 is not in the realm of limited-edition Ferraris, where a car’s provenance is immensely important and therefore previous owners are well documented. Porsches produces thousands of 911s each year, so I held zero expectations of being able to meet the first owner of my particular GT3.

It’s a small world indeed.

I knew something was strange when I saw a dude taking a keen look at my GT3 when there was more interesting metal parked in the same lot (a GT3 of the RS variety, for instance). After ascertaining that it was me who owns the car, the guy followed up with a few questions pertaining to the GT3’s origins, and it matched up with what he had speculated: this was the very car he used to own. He had bought it from a Colorado dealership back in April of 2015, and after 8,000 or so miles the GT3 was then sold to a local dealership, putting that money towards a McLaren 570S

There’s a second owner of my GT3 sandwiched between me and the guy I met on Saturday, and after this serendipity I have some hopes of meeting that person as well. It turns out the Porsche enthusiast community in Northern California is rather small.

A normal person reading this may think it ridiculous that there’s people like me who gets excited about meeting the previous owners of our cars; I get it, but a 911 GT3 is not an ordinary car. It was quite informative and special to chat with the first owner on why he configured the car as he did: picking Sapphire Blue Metallic to stand out in a sea of white and silver colored 911s, and forgoing the option for lightweight buckets because it would’ve delayed delivery for six months (one sympathizes). Super geeky details made interesting because the ordering process for a GT3 - or any 911 for that matter - is intricate and specialized. As the third owner, I never got to experience that process, so it was fun to hear the original owner tell his story.

I received some constructive information, too: the GT3 upon delivery was flat-bedded to a shop for paint protection film, so the paint underneath ought to be absolutely pristine. After the film application, the entire car – including the wheels – received ceramic coating; great news for me because I can stop waxing the car during my wash routine. Lastly, the first owner confirmed he took the car to the track regularly, which doesn’t bother me at all because first that’s what the GT3 is developed for, and secondly these cars are paradoxically more prone to break when it doesn’t get driven hard.

911 GT3s are driver’s car in the truest sense, and I’m glad my car have received the proper amounts of exercise since it’s left Zuffenhausen. Meeting the original owner and learning about his chapter with car gave me more confidence and admiration for my GT3, and I’m grateful for this happy coincidence.

The green lizard was a popular attraction.

Showering the old fashion way

This past weekend the water boiler in our rented home failed, and with the call to the maintenance emergency line going unanswered for some reason, we were without hot water for two solid days. Everything went on as normal, except for one situation: showers.

Perhaps it would’ve been fine in a city with much warmer climes, but San Francisco’s signature chill means that taking a cold water shower is a near impossibility. I mean, I certainly wasn’t up for it; not because I can’t handle the cold, but to get a proper clean and open the pores, hot water is a requirement.

So for those two days with the water boiler out of commission, it became a throwback to my early childhood in China. Our apartment back then did not have water boiling amenity at all: to draw hot water for our showers, we literally had to boil it on the kitchen stove. Once up to temperature, it gets mixed with cold water straight from the faucet and into a bucket, and then we showered by pouring the water over ourselves with a ladle.

Primitive stuff compared to what we are used to now, but it was no less effective. I was remind of that when I had to perform the same procedure this past weekend. The clean was the same, yet I’ve only managed to use around two gallons worth of water. There’s no doubt I use exponentially more water showering the “modern” way, because honestly who doesn’t linger the extra bit longer under the stream - it’s so comfortable and relaxing.

Maybe in our efforts to save the planet, I should return to showering the (asian) old fashion way. Certainly it won’t be a big deal should the water boiler go out again in the future. A working stove and kettle is all i need.

It’s a cool, cool Summer.

718 Cayman GT4: atmospheric 4.0-litre!

Photo credit: Porsche

It would appear that natural-aspiration is not quite dead just yet.

Porsche a few days ago announced a new generation of the Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder, the top, most sporting models of their respective range. The biggest revelation from the news is the return of the atmospheric motor to the 718 chassis. Not only that, it’s also a return of the flat-six engine to the Cayman/Boxster twin, with this generation of cars having switched entirely to the much-maligned turbocharged flat-four.

Too bad it’ll cost you six figures to get back the good stuff.

Nevertheless, in this day and age of turbocharged this and electrified that, any new sports car that’s still got an atmospheric beating heart is worth celebrating. The day may arrive when the Porsche GT product line will only feature turbocharged engines and or hybrid drivetrain, but for the time being the unencumbered sounds of natural-aspiration remains ever so sweet. Porsche flat-sixes that revs to the sky is precisely why I bought a 911 GT3.  

A not insignificant amount of enthusiasts was hoping Porsche would simply transplant the 4.0-litre unit serving duty in the GT3 and GT3RS into the new GT4 and Spyder, though it was always a bit of a fool’s wish. It’s difficult to see how Porsche could’ve done it without hugely inflating the already hefty purchase price, and more importantly, not encroach on the GT3’s performance capabilities. It seems the Cayman will forever be neutered in service of the 911 big brother.

Indeed, this new 4.0-litre flat-six engine is not of the vaunted 4.0-liter badged 911s of prior: it’s a heavily reworked motor based on the turbocharged 3.0-litre currently serving duty in the 911. The enlarged engine, sans turbochargers, makes 420 horsepower and will spin to an 8,000 rpm redline; all very exciting stats in a vacuum, but compared to the supremely characterful, motorsport-derived 4.0-litre in the 911 GT3, an engine that goes to 9,000rpm, it’s honestly a bit pedestrian.

Relativity is a funny thing.

So I’m sure there’s some disappointment going around, though we should really detach and look at the overall picture: the atmospheric flat-six is back in the 718 chassis – arguably the purest sports car platform Porsche produces. Yes, it’s a great shame one must spend top money to avoid the charmless turbo four; though for a company that will charge you hundreds just to get the seatbelts in a different color, it’s fairly on brand, isn’t it?

An even more delicious prospect: placing this new 4.0-litre engine of the GT4 in a variant of the 992, perhaps a 911 T. That would give me something to ponder about in relation to my GT3…

My brother graduates from college

Yesterday my brother who is 10 years my junior graduated from university, so you can say I’m particularly feeling my age today. Despite my in-jest adverse feelings, I am supremely happy not only for my brother, but for my parents as well: both their sons are now fully adult, and their sacrifice in raising us is at a symbolic and tangible conclusion.

Next step for them is probably retirement soon, so they can do a bit of traveling. Us millennials aren’t the only ones affected by social media and its related ‘fear of missing out’ pangs: my parents get it as well. A lot of my uncles and aunts have retired already, and they spent their leisure time traveling within China and around world. The pictures from those trips gets uploaded to social media, and from viewing them my mom particularly gets low-key jealous of those opportunities.

Now that my brother is finally finished with school, likely forever, I think my parents have more freedom to retire early, should they choose. It’s definitely a decision to think over properly, because the “grass is greener” effect is strong; traveling is immensely rewarding and fun, yes, but what about the rest of the time when there’s nothing to do - no work to go to? I think that’s something to visualize and plan out before taking the step to retire, because being home all the time may not be as ideal as imagined.

But that’s for my parents to figure out. As for my brother, his unfortunate selection of sociology as a major means it’s going to be tough for him to find a solid-paying job. The real-world application for a sociology degree seems quite limited beyond working for non-profits or a teaching position, and we all know how meager those jobs pay. Not to say money is everything, but we do live in San Francisco, currently one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and the world.

Besides, if he’s to feed his car addiction as I have done, he’s going to need to make some money for sure. Congratulations and the very best of luck to my not-so-little-anymore brother.

UC Santa Cruz: a beautiful campus nestled within a redwood forest.

Last one at the Oracle

Tomorrow evening will be the final Golden State Warriors basketball game to be played at Oracle Arena. Next season the team will move to their gleaming billion-dollar palace across the bay in downtown San Francisco. Moving on up, as the song goes, but the old childhood home has still got one night of magic left yet. We certainly hope so, anyways.

I don’t have quite nearly as much personal connection/memories to Oracle Arena as other more ardent Warrior fans; I’ve only ever attended one game: a playoff game back in 2016 against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a game in which Steph Curry didn’t even suit up due to a foot injury, which selfishly spoiled my opportunity to see him play in person. Despite his absence on the floor, the Warriors won the game easily, marking my record as a good luck charm in attendance as perfect.

That record remains the same to this day; Oracle Arena may be up there in the years, but it doesn’t stop the team from charging contemporary prices worthy of a three-time champion. The hefty ticket price just to get into the building for nose-bleed seats, coupled with the fact it’s all the way in Oakland, stopped me from attending games. Which is fine, because not paying to watch lives sports is one of many reasons how I manage to afford a Porsche 911.

With the new state-of-art arena in San Francisco, tickets are sure to be even dearer in price, though from a transportation perspective it’s significantly easier. A half-hour ride on the T line light-rail train will take me to the Chase Center front steps from my house. I reckon I’ll wait a few years until the initial demand for the new arena experience dies down, and I can get upper level seats at a semi reasonable price, before I attend a Warriors home game in San Francisco.

Before that, there’s one more game left in Oakland; a game 6 to even the Finals series and send it back to Toronto for a decisive game 7. I am super excited; this one is for Oracle. Let’s go.

The one time I made it inside Oracle Arena for a game.

Michelin Cup 2 tires are phenomenal

The San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a heatwave, one of the few each year that balances out all of the parties we’ve been having in enjoying our typical mid 50’s weather, no matter the season. This particular heatwave is quite severe, though: not since Labor Day of two years prior - where temperatures in the city reached beyond 100 - has it been this bad. 94 degrees for three days straight really puts a strain on the nerves.

Especially when buildings in San Francisco aren’t equipped with air-conditioning.

Indeed, every time one of these hot weather patterns rolls around, I always declare that this will be the year I finally buy a portable air-con unit for my room, but it still hasn’t happened yet. Admittedly the not insignificant financial outlay for a machine only to be used a few days out the year is not so easily palatable. Add to the fact that usually by the time I’m ready to click buy, normal cool weather have returned, inducing me to procrastinate.

Let’s see if this year will be different, and I may have a secret weapon. Lately I’ve been super diligent on ensuring I get the appropriate quality of sleep, and a huge factor towards that is room temperature. Apparently, humans are evolved to get better sleep when the weather is cool (I certainly do during the winter months), so needless to say the last few days of this heat have not been conducive to me falling into slumber quickly; not when the bedroom is hovering in the 80s at midnight.

So, spend money to assist with something we do for a third of our lives; makes getting an air-con unit reasonable and justifiable, doesn’t it? I might get a chiliPad too while I am at it.

This first heatwave of the year did allow me to take the GT3 out this past weekend, the first chance to assess just what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires can do when it’s within its optimal operating temperature. The verdict? So. Much. Grip. Astonishingly so. Only now did I realize that driving the Porsche around in San Francisco’s typical middling weather gives almost no information on the Cup 2’s true capabilities.

Is it possible to fall in love with a set of tires?

With the Michelins properly lit up, the GT3’s front-end is simply mighty. The communicative beauty of the 911’s steering shines in letting the driver know via the hands the grip level of the front tires, and in this maiden outing in hot weather, I’ve never felt more confidence-inspiring sensations through the GT3’s rim. I can truly trust the front-end: the tires dig and bite into the tarmac, no matter the amount of steering lock is inputed. The 911’s inherent understeer is still present, but it’s easily correctable when the tires are willing to do the work.

Obviously, the enormous 12-inch wide rear tires welcome the hot weather in equal measure to the fronts. Thanks to the engine being situated behind the rear-axle as is its signature, the 911 offers traction I dare say no other rear-wheel drive car can match. The Cup 2s with proper heat sticks to the ground immensely, but reassuringly so, allowing super fun mid-corner adjustability. Throttle-steer to tuck in the nose a bit or kick the rear-end out for some brief slip-angles: it’s all possible in the GT3, and easily accessible.

The 911 chassis reveals itself splendidly when the tires are on, and I’m ironically eager for more hot weather so I can sample the Cup 2s further it its absolute element. It’s so much fun.

Maybe I will get that air-con unit after all.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

Imposter syndrome at work

Having grown up poor and seeing how both parents work low-wage, labor-heavy jobs just to provide, I’ve been imbued with a sense that you earn your money by working hard - physically hard, that is. If you’re not constantly doing something during work hours, then you are definitely not earning that paycheck. That mentality have served me well in my younger years as it’s all about the hustle and doing the most in order to standout amongst a crowd. Now that I’m decently established in my current job, the inherited thinking from my parents causes a bit of internal conflict.

My job is mainly to help people when they need technical assistance with technology in a classroom. If an instructor have trouble plugging a Macbook Pro into the ceiling projector, I am his Huckleberry. As is the tendency of this kind of work, some days we get an endless amount of phone calls, and others there’s nary a troubleshoot to be had. It’s on those less busy days where I am sat waiting for the next call that the feelings of an imposter and not fully-deserving of my salary, creeps in.

I can’t seem to reconcile my upbringing with the fact I mostly get paid for my knowledge and expertise, and only a small portion is for actual physical work. Indeed this is what a typical white-collar job looks like, and I guess my blue-collar childhood carries some residual effects on whether or not I think myself worthy of such a role. That’s my unique sort of imposter syndrome: am I doing enough to deserve this job? I constantly ask myself this.

Indeed I’ve achieved the hopes of my parents, to not have to trade physical labor for a meager salary, and I am profoundly grateful for it. However, sometimes that gratitude can corrupt itself into an adverse sense of fear that it can all be taken away in short order. So I work hard justify my position, and mentally stress about my competence level. I’m sure in a perverse way that thinking has helped me get to the place I am today, but looking forwards I really could do without with the unnecessary stress.

At some point I need to be confident in what I can do and not worry about the tangible amounts in I am doing. It’s simply the nature of the work.

Indeed it does, writing-on-the-bathroom-wall guy.