31 July 2010

Green Vespa at Work: Idiot of the Week

Tell me what's wrong in this picture?

OK, let's start off with that orange bike on the right. What's wrong with it? You might ask. It looks OK with me since its parking within the assigned Motorcycle space, you might add.

Well, to start of, very much like idiot drivers that double park (for some odd reason they tend to drive Honda Streams), they haven't got a notion of the problems they cause to other people. Even worse, when told how problematic their actions (or non-actions) can be, these type of people just opt to ignore advice and pleas from others. Like I said, idiots.

Anyway, in this particular case, the  space in front of that orange Suzuki thingy is not some free space. It's an actual car parking space. So, if a car came along and parked there, my Vespa that's (properly) parked in its space is trapped. It's fine for the Suzuki but for me, unless I suddenly go mental on some anabolic steroids an gain the ability to lift over a hundred kilos, I'm pretty much stuck in there.

What do you do with these kind of people? Any brilliant ideas out there? Maybe it's time I go all vigilante on that oh-so striking paint job. Hmmm...

29 July 2010

My other car’s a Vespa

You’d see loads of these My Other Car is a [insert name of expensive super-duper car] stickers on beat up or plainly lame cars. Talk about being insecure, eh? On the other hand, considering I occasionally drive around in a Peugeot 307 (that sometimes has Help, Clean Me written in the layer of dirt that constantly envelopes the car), I’d be a good a candidate to have a sticker like this stuck onto my rear bumper.

Fortunately for me, My Other Car is actually a Vespa so, something like this would be more appropriate. Don’t you think?

OK, it’s not actually a bumper sticker but I reckon I’d be able to stick it on to the Peugeot’s rear window, albeit sideways. Maybe I could stick it on to the side windows instead so that my kids get some shade from all those harmful UV rays. Certainly beats those Bob the Builder, Sponge Bob and Ben 10 shade-type things that seem to be a hit with douchebag drivers these days.

By the way, rumour has it Piaggio are thinking of doing a u-turn on their decision to drop the PX from their production line. Seemingly, the suits in Pontodera were so impressed with LML's sales to date, they're thinking of switching back on the one remaining PX production line that they have left (the others were gradually sold to crowds in India over the course of of the last years) and get back into the action themselves.

If true, It'd be interesting what Piaggio come up with in terms of getting around all the EU emissions regulations that effectively killed the PX. Will try to have a bit more on this in the near future...

27 July 2010

Helmet Lining Cleaning

I’ve had my helmet for at least 3 years now. Within that time I admit, I’ve never properly cleaned the thing. Of course, I’ve cleaned the visor and run some wipes across the outer shell as well as the inside but, I’ve never actually properly cleaned the lining. To be honest, the thing just pops on to my head almost every morning without question.

It just constantly does its job and you wouldn’t even take heed of it until something goes wrong. Well, in this case nothing actually went wrong. I just decided to take a proper look at the helmet’s lining.

To my horror (OK not really, but close), I now realised that the helmet’s lining should carry a biohazard warning in its current state. The forehead area looked like it had a layer of kitchen grease permanently stuck to it while the rest of the lining had a potent mixture of hair, sweat, dead skin, dead bugs, pieces of tuna (don't ask me how it got there) and some blood. There’s probably other stuff there as well but we’ll just keep it at that.

Having never heard of anyone washing their helmet lining, I decided to do some research (read: typed in a few words/phrases into Google) on the matter. After a while, I came to the conclusion that this just doesn’t happen. One would definitely be able to wash the Roof Boxer V’s lining - I just couldn’t find any guidance on actually washing it or for that matter, washing any other helmet’s lining. Even Roof’s site was silent on the topic.

As I was too lazy to pop over to the shop where I got the helmet (and get some expert advice), I fiddled with the lining myself. I pulled at every loose end and clip to see if anything would happen. Finally, I managed to get the lining out with minimal damage – some bits of foam from the lining decided to stay put and were left stuck on the helmet.

Undo the clips at the front of the helmet. This is the main thing that holds the lining in place. Undo button-type studs (at the back of the helmet). Be careful not to pull too hard on these as the stud section that’s stuck to the helmet might break away from the helmet itself.

Once un-attached from the helmet, the lining can be easily washed. I was tempted to just throw it into the washing machine but as the plastic piece (that clips on to the helmet) was attached to the lining, I decided to hand wash the thing instead. Plus, some elbow grease would be needed to scrub all the stuff that’s stuck on to the lining over the past few years anyway. I soaked the lining in some liquid detergent for a couple of hours and worked away at cleaning it.

After a good rinse with cold water, I was tempted once again to employ technology and throw the lining into the dryer but common sense prevailed (thought the foam might shrink) and air dried the lining instead. After its day in the sun, the lining was good to go and was stuck back on to the helmet. Lavender fresh and all.

25 July 2010

Vespa in grayscale

I took this picture a couple of weekends ago and for some reason, I just like it. A lot.

I'm definitely no expert in photography so, I won't even go into the photographic attributes of the picture. As for the Vespa, there's definitely nothing special about it either. A quick glance at the front end reveals a a proud GS badge but, even these untrained eyes are more than a bit suspicious about the authenticity of the badge's claim. Hmmm...

This area in front of the St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre would normally be filled with all manner of two-wheeled contraptions which, makes this picture where the Vespa is all alone, that bit more special.

Must've been a slow weekend...

23 July 2010

Standards Corrupted

I received an email in my inbox a couple of weeks ago. It was titled, New Liverpool Shirt. Great. That must be the pre-order reminder for Liverpool's third kit.

When I eventually opened up the email, I immediately noticed something awfully wrong with the jersey. Like any bad rip-off, it had everything but at the same time was all wrong.

After carefully reading through the whole thing, I realised what it actually was. A protest shirt. And a damn good one as well. About time too.

Anyway, is it just me or is it just so obvious that the media (especially the London press) have been going out of their way to praise Liverpool's new manager? About six months ago, when news broke that Milan Jovanović was Liverpool-bound, the only thing you could hear were criticisms of how un-ambitious Rafa Benitez was for taking on a player on a free transfer.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 and Roy Hodgson is in charge of the club. All of a sudden, all you hear from the media is about how great Hodgson is for signing on such a quality player (the same player lest we forget) on a free transfer. Huh?

It doesn't end there of course. Suddenly, Liverpool are ambitious and back in the big league because the club had just signed Joe Cole on...wait for it...a free transfer.

Don't get me wrong though. I've got nothing against Hodgson. He is after all, the new Liverpool manager and as such, he'll get my support even if it is riddled with a good dollop of skepticism but, until he does something drastic to change my opinion (selling Insua doesn't help), I can only see him as a good old company man - out to keep his employers happy and make a healthy profit.

Closer to home and my beloved homeland is again in the news over here for all the wrong reasons. To be honest, I'm somewhat glad that United's shirt sales are going to be hit hard but seriously, don't the powers-that-be over in Malaysia have anything better to do? The Mufti of Johor might be secretly an honourary Scouser but isn't it better if they pulled their resources to go out and save abandoned babies rather make fools of themselves?

Or, like Rafa, are Malaysia's religious authorities also prone to some very biased (mis)reporting? I certainly hope so.

21 July 2010

How to avoid being eaten by Godzilla

I do own a car. Well, it’s not legally mine as it’s under my wife’s name but all small print aside, we have joint-custody over the thing. I get to drive the car on weekends as it’s basically my turn to drive around while the kids go mental at the back or when the weather’s too dreadful for me to get to work on my Vespa.

Unfortunately, owning a car is quite expensive. Even if it is an awfully boring car like mine – a Peugeot 307. Yes, a Peugeot. A great conversation killer in my books. Don’t believe me? Try this:

Blah...blah...blah...So, what do you drive?

A Peugeot. A 307.

Oh, really?


It’s that bad. The silence would be so bad, you could actually hear the sound of crickets in the background. I might as well have bought myself a Volvo or even worse, a Skoda. At least with a Skoda, the people asking the question would laugh out loud and after they wipe away their tears of joy, would ask whether you were being serious in the first place. You’d get some sort of reaction. With a Peugeot? No. Nada. Nothing.

Anyway, back to my first point. Cars are expensive. Well, relatively when you compare it to a Vespa. I’d pay anything between €7 to €8 a week commuting to work on my Vespa. Driving to work, I’d be looking to fork out almost four times that amount. Then there’s the insurance and road tax which unsurprisingly costs three times more. But most importantly (as I was rudely reminded of last weekend) is the cost of repairs and servicing.

Like most countries around the world, my car is subject to regular health checks by the authorities. In Ireland, these checks are called the National Car Test or plain NCT for short. The idea of it is not too dissimilar to that of the UK’s MoT test or Malaysia’s Puspakom. Sadly, my car failed a couple of tests, one of which was an easy fix (re-alignment of the headlights) but the other two were quite serious (worn steering rod/linkage). At the end of the day, between test costs and repairs I ended up having €500 less in my wallet!

I suppose, it’s only good that these tests are enforced on people (specifically people like yours truly). If not, God only knows the state of the cars people would be driving around in. Take for example my Dad’s old Peugeot 504 (yes, this fondness for dull automobiles could be hereditary).

I remember being in my Dad’s car all those years ago. We were headed into KL via the Federal Highway. It was somewhere in front of Angkasapuri (Mid Valley was still an empty field or a bunch of setinggan houses, I can't remember) when we heard a loud thud which was quickly followed by the most horrible screeching noise ever. I was scared shit. I thought the car was about to explode or that Godzilla did exist and we were all going to be in a world of pain.

Fortunately, it was just the car’s exhaust which at that stage had decided that it had to end its rust filled life and let gravity do its work that smoggy morning in KL.

So, although I’m definitely not all too happy having parted with €500 last weekend, I’m glad that my sons won’t have to suffer the same fate as I once did at the reptilian hands of Godzilla!

19 July 2010

Will they ever learn?

Most of you would've heard about Rip-off Ireland but you'd think with this recession going on, some of the people around here would've copped on to the whole economic downturn thing but obviously, not the usual suspects...

I was over at Ireland's sole distributor of the beloved Vespa recently and as I had been eyeing the GTS 300 Super for a while now, I finally decided to go see how much it actually costs in the first place. Not that I was thinking of buying the scooter, it was just good to know who much I'd have to spend if I ever had the money to buy the thing in the first place.

A quick look at the price list and I was astounded. Well, not really considering I was in Ireland. €6,000 for a brand new GTS 300. That was the price. Oh, and they do throw in a few hundred quid in vouchers to soften the blow.

That's all well and good but how does that compare to prices over in the UK or even further up the M1. A quick look at the Vespa UK site shows that the same scooter goes on sale for £3,899 which at today's rate would translate to just over €4,600. That's a conservative €1,400 more than the price over here!

OK, it'll cost a bit more to get the scooter across the body of water between England and Ireland so, let's throw in an extra €150 for transport costs. Then there's the VAT but, considering the UK also have VAT charged on goods, the difference would be negligible. On the other hand, that negligible amount would also amount to another €150 so, for fairness' sake we'll throw it in. Last but not least, one would need to add on the dreaded VRT. That'll make you almost €600 poorer, of course.

So, there you go. There's €900 of the €1,400 justified but there's still the mystery of the other €500. Where'd that money go, eh? I don't know but, the thing I do know for sure is that the other half a grand of my hard-earned money won't be handed over to the dealers over here, no matter how supportive it's meant to be to the local economy...

17 July 2010

Vespa weddings

You know that there’s a recession going on when a wedding-type magazine has as its front cover, a model on a Vespa.

Yes, the days of stretched limos or vintage cars for weddings are over. Really? No chance, but that Mk1 PX does certainly look nice, doesn’t it? A quick peek into the mag reveals that the PX was provided by Southside Scooters. Coincidentally, one of Dave Power’s (he’s the main man at Southside) creations was a featured scooter in this month’s Scootering magazine.

Ever since I was on the look out for my first scooter, I’ve always wanted to pay a visit to Southside Scooters. This might just be the encouragement I needed to finally pop my head down there.


15 July 2010

And down came the rain

It was around this time of the year, eight years ago that my father-in-law made his one and only trip (to date) to visit his daughter and I in Dublin. My wife and I had just been married a couple of months beforehand so, it was quite obvious to me that the visit wasn’t just a normal, I’m just dropping by visit.

Being a father myself these days, I completely understood. Surely, he had the right to know how his daughter was doing after moving in with me – basically a complete stranger, 5,000 miles away from home.

If I recall correctly, my father-in-law arrived late in the evening. He was on a business trip to London and seeing that Dublin was only a 45-minute flight away, popped over to check on us kids right after all his meetings. We woke up the following morning to a gloriously sunny day and got ready to take a walk around town.

I instinctively grabbed an umbrella just as we were about to leave the flat. My father-in-law, who was a man that doesn’t usually say much, looked at me curiously.

I don’t think we need that.

He pointed at the umbrella and was more than likely referring to the brilliant mid-morning sun. I could sense that he was being polite. To me, he might as well have said.

You nerd. Who needs a brolly in this weather?!

But, before I could say a word, my wife jumped in like my very own knight in shiny armour.

Oh, we’ll definitely need it. You’ll see Ayah...you’ll see...

Complete with John Locke-it’s-going-to-rain-all-knowing-look. My wife’s father just smiled and we were on our way.

Fine. The nerd can bring along his brolly.

There’s a saying around here and it goes like this: Ireland would’ve been a great country. If only it had a roof. So, true to form, it rained cats and dogs just around mid-day that day. My father-in-law, being the gent that he is acknowledged that both my wife and I were right.

The morale of the story is, when in Ireland, be prepared or you will be soaked to the bone. Unfortunately for me, that lesson didn’t stick in my head. I don’t think I can be blamed though especially since we’ve had the best summer as far as I can remember. A whole month or so of just sun, sun and more sun.

Yes, I was soaking wet when I got home last Friday and then again on Monday. That’s twice in the space of only four days. I didn’t bother bringing along my wet gear with me over the past month. It’s now properly packed in my Vespa’s toolbox, ready for everyday use.

And to think I was actually thinking of changing my rain-friendly Heidenau K58s to some nice semi-slick ones only a few days ago.

So, summer’s definitely over. It was definitely good while it lasted though. One whole month of blue sky sunshine (it did rain but only in the middle of the night) as payback for a dreadfully cold winter. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.


13 July 2010

Thank goodness it's all over

The Copa Mundial is finally over with Spain as deserved winners. In a way, I’m glad that the World Cup is finally over as I was on the verge of going mental listening to all the idiotic commentary coming from all corners.

Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t mind the odd casual fan jumping on the World Cup bandwagon just for the fun of it. To quote a female work colleague...

I’m not going to pretend that the biggest event on the planet is not going on. It clearly is so, what the hell, I’m joining in. Come on Argentina!

Yes, Argentina. That was the morning after they whooped North Korea 7-0. Good for her though and I really mean it. It’s not these types of people that annoy me it’s the casual ones that try to pass off as some sort of expert of the game that gets my blood boiling. What about these comments...

[Insert country] should play so like this and they’ll definitely turn things around.

You would know wouldn’t you because you’re barely able to name half the Dutch squad? Try pronouncing Schweinsteiger, eh?

Busquets is a waste of space. Take him off and put on Fabregas, now!

Yes, because all Busquets does is hang around with Xabi Alonso in the middle of the Spanish midfield looking pretty. Surely, he’s not the one that intercepts vital opponent passes and marks the space in-between-the-lines where players like Wesley Sneijder and Mesut Özil like to lurk.

Torres looks like a kid, doesn’t he? Did you know that he’s actually 29?

Why that's news to me. OK, South Africa might be in a different time zone to most around the world but surely, that couldn’t have contributed to Torres ageing by another three years!

But Paul the Octopus said...

Right. There’s just too many for me to bear. In fact, I’ve clearly blanked out the more idiotic comments as a control mechanism to prevent me from shoving vuvuzelas up the offenders’ collective arses.

Thankfully, with the end of the World Cup, there won’t be any withdrawal issues. Liverpool kick-off their Europe League campaign on 29th July. Woohoo!

Oh, and considering that the final will be played in Dublin in 2011, does anyone know where I could get tickets for that match or at the very least get on some sort of priority waiting list? The UEFA site unfortunately has only this for an answer...

11 July 2010

Stuff that lie around the house

Just re-arranged a few things in my Vespa storage box. It's amazing how many things one accumulates in a relatively short space of time...

This one's a chrome headlamp ring for the PX EFL. For some reason, I just haven't gotten around to fixing it on my Green Vespa. I bought it a few years ago, most probably a year or so after getting my Vespa. I thought that I'd add some bling on to the Vespa back then but if I found one in black these days, it's definitely going on.

Don't know whether there are expiry dates for 2 stroke oils but if it does exist, this one definitely needs to be binned. I bought this by mistake - the Pre Mix label on the bottle should have stood out like a red flag to me but I was buying it in a hurry so, that was the end of that. I'll either use it one day myself or pass it on to who ever is lucky enough to be around when I have this handy.

On a different note, while I'm typing this, Spain are just about to lift the World Cup - and rightfully so. More on that later...

09 July 2010

Pawangs, Paul and Pil Chi-Kit Teck Aun

Phewww... this week had definitely been some week.

Different deadlines at work were fast approaching and i was in the zone. On auto-pilot or drone mode. I just wanted to get most of the work finished and done with so that I could have a decent, hassle-free weekend. Life unfortunately, seldom goes according to even the best of our plans.

Yes, life took one of its more unpleasant turns when I was abruptly reminded of my responsibilities as a father. My wife rang me at work. Our daughter was unwell and was complaining about it. Bad news. Especially since the complaints were coming from my firstborn who had a strangely high pain threshold.

Yes, when I say high, I really mean high. OK, not Cypress Hill, I Want to Get High kind of high. Just high as if in errr...argghhh just forget it. 

You see, when she was a baby, getting her vaccinated wasn't a problem at all. You could poke a dozen needles into her and all she'd do was squirm or at the very worst, come out with a tiny Ouch! I remember carrying her on my back (in one of those backpacker style baby carriers) during one of our travels - in the mid-day heat of a Barcelona summer and she wouldn't say a word about the excruciatingly painful heat. Scrapes and bruises? She'd just smile at the sight of them. She's like my little SuperGirl or that blonde cheerleader in Heroes - Season One.

Like I said, she's got a very high pain threshold so, when she does complain that she's in pain, it most likely means that it's bad. Very bad.

From the symptoms my wife described to me, my non-medical opinion was that it was appendicitis. I told a friend at work about it and joked...

If it was her appendix, any chance the doctors would move the op until after the match?

OK, bad joke. I know. If my daughter was going to need an operation Germany, Spain and that squid called Paul could wait. Really.

Fortunately, everything went better than expected. My daughter didn't need an operation and was allowed to go home that evening. I had some of my daughter's puke to clean off the carpeted floor in the bedroom but it was all good as I was just relieved that my daughter was fine. Spain beat Germany and for the first time in a very long time, Liverpool would have a World Cup winner in the squad no matter who wins the World Cup.

I was once again looking forward to a good weekend. Life returned to normal and the balance of the universe was restored.

Potentially useful tip of the week: If you think you've got something wrong with your appendix, try to jump. Don't go crazy, a tiny jump will do. If your tummy hurts particularly in the lower right region and you can bearly lift yourself off the ground, there's a good chance you do have appendicitis.

Disclaimer of the week: Like Minyak Angin Chap Kapak or Pil Chi-Kit Teck Aun, this tip isn't medically proven so, if you or a loved is unwell, please seek professional medical help. Local pawang's help is optional.

07 July 2010

The end is nigh

I'm a sucker for good marketing ploys. OK, they don't have to be good in the intelligent sense. Different will do me just fine. So, went it came to some hot sauce packed as a cowboy, I just couldn't resist!

At €6.95 a bottle, it definitely didn't come cheap but I've never been one to skimp on my food. Hence, my ever so slightly big-boned condition. Anyway, the plan is to have a BBQ right before the World Cup final this Sunday. If it's any good (the sauce I mean), I'll report back.

Oh yes, the World Cup. As I write this, Spain had just been confirmed as the other finalist alongside the Netherlands or Holland (still can't figure out what I'm supposed to call this country), courtesy of Carles Puyol. I'm predicting a good final unless the Bash Brothers - Van Bommel and De Jong decide to ruin it all by flying in with some dodgy tackles early on. A good referree and some decent linesmen wouldn't do any harm either.

As always, my instinct is to root for the underdog and in this case, that would be Holland (I've figured it out?) but seriously, can any neutral football fan actually resist the urge to back Spain instead?

Other than the clips of I've seen here and there, I've never actually seen the great World Cup squads like Brazil of the 1970 vintage or the Total Football of Holland in 1974 so really, this Spain squad is definitely the best I've seen live over the past two decades or so. And just because of that, they deserve to bring that chunk of gold-plated metal back to Madrid by the end of Sunday (or whenever it is they fly back).

¡Viva España!

05 July 2010

Dances with deers

Seeing that the Phoenix Park in Dublin is my usual route to and back from work almost five days a week, I would occassionally travel on the main road through the park later in the evening. It's during these occassions where I would sometimes come across the park's main residents - deers.

The strange thing is, you could never find the deers anywhere near the main road in the light of day. Well, at least not easily and not by yours truly. So, the discovery of the deers' daylight hangout was always left as one of those personal quests waiting to be fulfilled on another day or to be included in the list of useless information worthy as an answer to some random pub quiz. That was certainly the case until a few days ago...

That's my son, not a deer. He's running away from the deers in the background (just in case they get hungry and decide to eat him).

A curious turn off the normal route and hey presto! There I was in Lapland . Without the snow and a big fat man in a red suit, of course. Yes, I had found the Holy Grail. The spot where deers go to during the day in Phoenix Park!

That was during the week (ridng solo on my Vespa) and as I was so happy with my find, I just had to bring the whole family to the same spot again (to prove that I wasn't delusional and just imagined the whole thing as well).

Directions to ultra-secret deer hideout: From the city centre, head towards Conyngham Road (don't enter via the main entrance) which should bring you to the Chapelizod Road. Once on the Chapelizod Road, watch out for the first side entrance into the park. At the entrance, make a left (sign-posted Farmleigh) and follow the road. Watch out for Bambi and Co. on the right of the road!


03 July 2010

Adventures in Hi-Def

While out riding on my Vespa, I've always come across some drop dead gorgeous scenery. If possible, I'd stop and snap a picture or a short video of the view. Unfortunately, most of the time, it's either just not possible to stop or the picture just doesn't turn out the same when you eventually stop and try to snap THAT view you had just seen while you turned around a bend. Or a video of the whole Egg Run. It just doesn't have the same impact while off the scooter...

OK, most of it's probably due to the my lack of photographic skills but still, I've always wondered what my pictures would turn out if I had some sort of contraption that could capture the moment while on the move.

Well, I suppose I need not wonder anymore. At least until I get my hands on this thingy that is...

I came across the GoPro products while browsing around a local adventure-type shop. The strap-on/suck-on-your-helmet cameras certainly look like the device I've been looking for. I might just use the cash I've been saving up for a nice expasion pipe, on this instead. Although at the rate that's stuff is sold in Ireland, it'll probably cost twice as much when I order it here.

Watch this space for some on-the-move pics and footage! I certainly hope so...

01 July 2010

It's Roy...

Liverpool FC announced Roy Hodgson as the club's new manager this morning. I've never been so unexcited about a Liverpool manager's appointment, ever. Maybe because of all the media build-up to it. Maybe because for the first time, I didn't feel that the outgoing manager deserved the boot. Maybe because it's just Hodgson.

I don't know.

Whatever it is, it's a new beginning with a safe pair of hands.

Yes, safe. So, it'd be interesting to see whether Hodgson will do a complete u-turn and reverse all the good things Rafa Benitez has put in place OR if he was true to previous form, he'd absorb those improvements and build from there.

Here's hoping for better future for Liverpool. I'll reserve judgement on the manager for much later.

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