29 April 2011

Sightless. Sort Of

I've got almost no vision in one eye. One of the less documented negatives of riding with an open face helmet. Or, maybe it's just me that's being a wuss. Whatever it is, I've got no depth perception whatsoever. Can't possibly get on the Vespa now. Dammit...

Added to that, I'm beginning to develop a headache-inducing aversion to direct light. Unfortunately, this doesn't exclude the glare from my dinosaur of a laptop which can be outright torture. The eye drops should theoretically help. Hopefully.

Will write more as soon as soon as I can see better...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

27 April 2011

Motorbikes by My Daughter

Being a father of three, I am used to being surprised by my kids. Normally, the surprises come in the heart thumping, OMG-what-are-you-doing?!? variety but every now and again, I do get a pleasant surprise. I was enjoying a long overdue lie-in on the weekend when my daughter and son jumped on my bed and excitedly proclaimed that they had a surprise for me.

I was half-expecting the kids to show me an origami swan or a leaping frog since they've been glued to videos of origami-making on YouTube over the past few days. Yay. Trying to be a good father, I managed to contain the urge to blurt out Getoutofmybed Kids! and calmly said...

A surprise? For me...?

Thankfully, my kids aren't old enough to detect the sacrcasm that oozed from my short sentence.

Yes, see Daddy. I made you a book.

A book? That leaping frog would've been way cooler and would've been worth waking up to see, no matter how crumpled. But, a book?

Once again, reminding myself of my fatherhood duties, I rubbed my eyes, stretched and somehow found the energy to sit up.

See Daddy. It's a story of you.

I focused my eyes on the pocket-size "book" and found myself smiling away at the story my daughter had written. So proud am I of the little yellow book that I'd like to share it here with all of you. Here's how it goes:

My daughter's interpretation of my Vespa scooter. Simple yet still easily recognsiable. She doesn't consider my Vespa a scooter because scooters to her are skateboard-with-handles scooters that she has. Daddy's ride is therefore a motorbike.  Also, notice the lightning at the top of the scooter. That's to show how fast the Vespa goes - like a flash. Really. Hahaha...

Of course,  my Green Vespa is by no means big but from an 8-year-old's perspective, it's probably the baddest and meanest thing on the road. It's nice to know that my daughter understands how much I enjoy going about on my Vespa. Woohoo!

This is where the story turns into fiction. What is heartening (and quite astonishing) is how much my daughter understands her Daddy. The red bike she is referring to is a Ducati Monster which has been a recent object of my desire. Well, I'll just keep on dreaming...

Another piece of fiction. A blue bike was chosen to complete the RGB light colour spectrum set. I'll have to figure out what I want as a third bike now. Just in case I come across a dollop of cash. Three sounds better than two anyway.

Thanks for making my day, Ameera. Your book certainly beats the crap out of the leaping origami frog. Daddy loves you loads...

25 April 2011

Weekend of the Warrior

What a weekend. A good, long one. But, all good things must come to an end and as I write this, there's depressingly less than 12 hours to go before I'm meant to be at work, either running around on an errand for a client or looking at a computer screen trying to decipher the work of some trainee who seems incapable of getting the correct answer to one plus one without the help of a calculator.

The guys over Adidas must be feeling the same way too. Although they have a bit more than 12 hours left, in jersey sponsorship terms I presume it must feel like less than that. Yes, Saturday's 5-0 thumping of Birmingham was good news but amongst the refreshing news that Maxi had scored a hat-trick (with Joe Cole popping in one as well) the Beeb managed to sneak in another surprising piece of information in its match report: from the 2012/2013 season onwards, Liverpool will no longer be kitted out by the German sportswear giant.

Apparently, Warrior Sports have agreed to pay GBP25m a season (GBP1.5m more than what Nike are currently paying to United and more than double the GBP12m Adidas are currently paying Liverpool) for the honour of outfitting Liverpool from then on. The deal with the New Balance subsidiary (who are in turn, probably owned by at least one of the FSG owners - this being consistent with the owners' theme of keeping things in-house) will at the very least squeeze as much as the club can from its sponsors. It doesn't take a genius to come to the conclusion  that Warrior will definitely get more than their investment's worth as they force their way into the global football market. And, what a way to enter the market - Liverpool are reportedly fourth place in terms of shirt sales worldwide (behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and United). Certainly a big jump from selling lacrosse and ice hockey gear Stateside. Hopefully, the company are up to it and don't make a balls of their chance.

Of course, I don't really care whether the company's investment earns them a decent return. All I want is that they throw their best designers at creating a Liverpool shirt that every fan can be proud to wear. Can't wait till April/May 2012 now (or at least until some Photoshop know-it-all attempts a Warrior jersey mock-up and shares it online in the very near-future).

23 April 2011

It's A Trap!

I knew the minute I walked into the RDS' Shelbourne Hall that I was heading into a trap. Not actually an Admiral Ackbar-scale Imperial trap but sufficiently dangerous nevertheless.

Admiral Ackbar - not quite enjoying his retirement 

My beloved wife had willingly forked out €60 for a Family Pass to Invasion Dublin but as we should have known with these events, the outlay doesn't actually stop at that. Loads of tempting merchandise awaited us as soon as we walked into the exhibition hall and on my son's request, lightsabers were at the top of the list.

There definitely wasn't a shortage of them to choose from anyway. There were the really expensive movie replica ones down to the really horrible ones that resembled those  cheap glow sticks one might buy at an equally cheap and non-entertaining concert.

We eventually went with the in-between option which cost us the grand sum of €25. And, what great fun we've had with it. After letting my 4-year-old son have a go at it for a while, I took over. The combination of subtle blue lighting, the low hum as the saber is moved around as well as the electrical crackle, every time the saber touches something makes this toy just irresistible. Let me correct myself. It's not a toy. It's a time machine of some sort or an inter-dimensional doorway to fun!

It's no wonder one in five people in the UK believe that lightsabers do exist. I definitely wish someone would invent a real one...

The Hasbro lightsaber - highly recommended

21 April 2011

Register Your Love

This might be ancient news to some but I honestly only found out about it a few weeks ago while browsing Liverpool's Official Online Store to catch a glimpse of the new 2011/2012 Away Kit. Like most people, I haven't seen it in the flesh just yet but from the pictures that have been doing the rounds online, the new kit definitely gets my vote as probably the best away kit the club have had in a very long time.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Contrary to what the post title might vaguely suggest, this entry isn't about signing-up for some online dating agency or publicly proclaiming your love for your wife in a rather awkward way on your Facebook wall (I'll leave that one at that). It's about getting something back for all the Liverpool goodies that you might have bought recently while at the same time helping the club somewhat in its quest to make more money. More money roughly translates to better players and better players means more trophies!

So, what is it exactly that I'm going on about here?

Well, I'm referring to the club's Official Hologram Registration initiative. As mentioned on the registration page, every official Liverpool product (except if it's below GBP£3) has a hologram attached to it, be it on the product itself (on the inside of jerseys, right beside the care instructions label) or on the packaging (as is the case with the couple of Liverpool socks that I bought on the cheap recently).

Like most things shiny, I'd presume the hologram itself would be hard to duplicate by those evil knock-off merchants. Also to make the life of those Golok-based "Grade A" sellers more miserable, each hologram comes with a unique identifying number (conveniently covered in the picture above - for obvious reasons). This code can be used to register your Liverpool product with the club and you are then entered into a draw to win goodies from the club or "fantastic Liverpool FC prizes". In exchange, the club gets your details and would be able to use this to gain a better understanding of its fans' demographics.

The only complaint I have about the whole thing is that its not more widely known among the fanbase (or maybe just the ones I hang out with). Maybe the club can do something and have the link moved to a more prominent area of the store site (the link currently sits buried in the bottom right-hand corner and like Jay Spearing, can be easily missed if you don't look carefully).

19 April 2011

SIP Tubeless Rims: 6-Month Review

Almost six months after starting to use a pair of SIP tubeless rims on a daily basis, I can safely say that I've come to a few conclusions. First, there's the convenience of the whole thing or specifically, the lack of it. Everything's all fine when things go to plan but when there are problems (i.e. punctures), nothing beats the old split rims for convenience.

Maybe I'm just a bit old-fashioned but with the standard split rims, once recovered from a puncture, all that one would have to do is to get themselves a new tube and the whole wheel can be re-assembled in the comfort of home. No hassle. With the tubeless combo, unless there's the right equipment at hand (or you're this dude), a puncture would basically mean a visit to your local garage, dealer, bike shop, etc.

Of course, not wanting to give up that easily on my scootering investment, I got myself some Slime Tire Sealant. Slime won't theoretically save a tire if a 6-inch rusty nail decides to get acquainted with it but for the odd shard of glass, thumb tack or other nasty object that might lie in waiting on a road near you, the tire sealant should be just fine. Hopefully, this €15 investment should save me a couple of trips to the scooter dealer.

That's that negative point sorted but there's another issue that I realised on one of my regular online window shopping visits to SIP - the spare wheel. When the question was raised on the site's forum, I initially thought it was quite silly. Surely, if the tubeless rims were meant to fit the Vespa's standard hub, they should also fit on the PX's spare wheel holder under the side panel.

So, do they fit?

Yes and no. The standard split rims are 2.10 wide while the tubeless ones that I have are the 2.50 x 10 variety. The wider profile which is intended to make tubeless tire-fitting a lot easier, has the disadvantage of restricting the rim from being fully inserted into the spare wheel holder's designated studs. I tried to do this on the normal (valve outwards) side and on the reverse side as well but unfortunately, it didn't work on both attempts.

The good thing is, by placing the wheel on the reverse side, the wheel actually sits into place, supported by the Vespa's battery. The wheel still can't be properly secured to the two studs but with the side panel on, it would still be possible to get around with a spare wheel if needed. I tried this myself and spent around half a day going around town in start-stop, city centre traffic without any problems. I was expecting weird sounds from the loose wheel under the side panel but didn't hear a thing. It might be a problem at higher, motorway speeds though. Obviously, not an ideal solution and not to my liking but still, it's good to know anyway.

Thinking about it again, I bought the tubeless rims primarily for two reasons - the added safety it offered and the bling factor (especially with the polished aluminium ones that I bought). On both counts, the rims delivered so, although the issues mentioned above are a bit annoying, I'm viewing them as part of a getting used to process for an all-new way of scootering, for the moment.

17 April 2011

Dodgy Shocks and Last-Minute Equalisers

My Vespa gets it second puncture in the space of a few months. Strange, I thought as I've never had a puncture on my bog-standard split rims for years but as soon as I switched over to one-piece tubeless, I get two punctures (on the same wheel). So, early on Saturday morning, half thinking of heading off to join the Egg Run and half thinking of staying in bed, I head off to Carl's.

If it wasn't the tyre and rim that needed sorting, it was the awfully bouncy rear shock. I use the scooter to get to work on a daily basis so, it was a choice between getting it sorted ASAP or joining the run and then wait at least two weeks (between Easter and waiting for parts) before I get it looked at. The choice was quite obvious really. 

Anyway, at first, I was beginning to think that I've added so much weight to my body that I've lost my sense of balance as even the mildest bends and corners were a struggle. Thankfully, it wasn't me and more down to a very worn rear shock. I still need to shed a few pounds though...

The tyre won't get sorted on the day but at least it's in the queue. I hope to get a pair of shocks (both front and back) soon so, as soon as I get them in, the Green Vespa should be back to its normal, if not better self. On the way back, I decided to stop the scooter on the side of the road in Phoenix Park and take a break from breathing all the 2-stroke fumes for a change.

Elsewhere in the world, Liverpool's draw with Arsenal capped off a brilliant birthday for me, thanks to my lovely other half who never ceases to amaze me!

13 April 2011

Samba and Numbers

I was at the playground with the kids at the weekend and got bored. The eldest was playing with gravel at an unfinished section of the playground. Thousands of Euro worth of equipment in the playground proper and what excited my 8-year-old daughter the most was leftover construction materials. The youngest was trying to climb up slides and generally kept himself entertained. The middle child was the easiest to monitor - he was rooted to the sandbox and instead of building towering sand castles was digging himself a hole in the sand. He had watched a cartoon where one of the characters had dug himself all the way to Australia. He was trying to do the same.

I'd say if I'd left him there for a couple of more hours, he'd have got quite close. Maybe around Malaysia somewhere.

I was less productive. I played around with my mobile and managed to get a picture of my orange Adidas Sambas. Orange? Well, yes and for a mere €10 it could be in a fluorescent green and lilac colour way and I'd still wear it.

11 April 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

I couldn't have asked for a better start especially since we had lost by the exact same scoreline way back in August 2010 (seems like ages ago these days). It was what you'd expect every manager would say to his team every time they walk on to the pitch. A sort of, Let's Go Out There Lads and Get Them, only this time, everything actually did go according to plan and with 10 minutes to spare to half-time, Liverpool had taken a comfortable lead over Manchester City.

The best thing about the win was the way the team played which was evident in the goals that were scored on the night. Yes, Liverpool are a completely different team when Luis Suarez plays but by the man's own high standards, he probably performed below par. Yes, Andy Carroll would probably (and deservedly) get the headlines in the British press in the morning for his goals but, it was the teamwork and a tenacious desire by all eleven players on the pitch to hammer the opposition into submission that impressed me the most. On many occasions, City's 18-yard box resembled a pinball machine with players moving and passing the ball freely around it with numerous attempts ricocheting off City players and the goalposts.

To top it all off, 18-year-old John Flanagan had a very convincing first team debut at right back. The teenager might not have the fancy tricks and   blinding pace of most starlets but he certainly made up for it with his maturity and confidence (one might even say cockiness) on the ball. There he was playing against footballers with years more of experience compared to him but he just appeared to take it all in his stride and got along with it. One could even argue that Flanagan was so effective that Mancini was forced to take James Milner off in the second half.

It didn't end there though. One look at the bench and at once you get an indication as to how confident the King himself is of his youngsters. With Brad Jones out on loan to Derby, young Hungarian Peter Gulacsi is Pepe Reina's back-up while Danny Wilson gets the nod ahead of veteran Kyrgiakos as cover for either Carragher or Skrtel. Jonjo Shelvey provided some midfield options and thankfully, Fabio Aurelio kept himself injury-free but just in case anything bad happened to him, I wouldn't have mind seeing Jack Robinson getting another appearance for the club.

It's a great feeling to see Liverpool's production line up and running again. Hopefully, the work of all who are involved, both past and present doesn't go unnoticed.

09 April 2011

Vespa PX: Near Farmleigh

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day and it was an excuse to take the long (non-potholed) route home. Unfortunately, the day just didn't end too well. On the way home from a friend's place after the now usual weekly game of football, I struggled to control the Vespa and soon enough realised that there was a puncture in the rear tire. Again. Dammit.

Why do punctures and breakdowns normally happen at the worst possible times? In the middle of the night/in the small hours of the morning, on nights with freezing temperatures, in the middle of pouring rain but never, never on a bright, sunny and dry day. Maybe those days are just too good to be ruined by a puncture or a stuffed carb.

Anyway, this is the second time within the space of a few months that a puncture has happened to the same tire. Maybe it's a dodgy tire or maybe it's a dodgy rim. I hope to find out soon enough...

07 April 2011

Of Basketball Superstars and Liverpool Away Kits

I woke up this morning earlier than usual but kept to my normal morning routine. At breakfast, I had my bowl of cereal in front of me, my 2 year-old son on my lap and my mobile within reach. I checked the top stories on the BBC News app and then scrolled almost all the way down to the bottom of the page half-hoping to see Chelsea trounce United in their Champions League encounter the night before. On seeing a picture of Wayne Rooney’s face firmly planted on the pitch in a very awkward position (what the hell was the man up to anyway?), I quickly came to the conclusion that it went United’s way on the night.

Bored, I kept on scrolling and managed to catch two names that wouldn’t normally be seen together sharing a headline: LeBron James and Liverpool. I scrolled back and as strange as it seemed, the headline didn’t lie, LeBron James becomes minority stakeholder in Liverpool.

Eh? What the...

Always one to be skeptical of the media, I went straight to Liverpool’s official site but there was nothing to confirm the Beeb’s report except for a piece of news in the Transfer Gossip section of the site (out of all places). It didn’t carry the usual, This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club disclaimer either so, it must be true then? Bah...but do I care?

Actually, no. OK, admittedly it is a bit strange but as long as it doesn’t have any negative impact on the club (and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it could), LeBron James is just another shareholder.

So now, to the more important things in this world, Liverpool’s all-new 2011/2012 away kit. There have been two rumours that have been doing the rounds lately. Firstly, there was the rumour where the away kit would be a white kit with light blue (blue?!) highlights that resembles the Adidas stock template seen on the likes of various pub teams around the world, Olympique Marseilles and FC Dynamo Kyiv. If this ever got released, I suspect FSG would be thankful that away kits are changeable on an annual basis.

The other one looked more realistic and to be honest, I actually quite like. A yellow kit with red pinstripes down the front started popping up on eBay from Bolehland’s “Grade A” sellers (where else, eh?) and that was enough to get the rumour mill going.

Fortunately, the official store put an end to these two rumours by sneaking in a short description that can be seen in this screenshot here.

The new Liverpool FC Away Kit, the kit worn by the players on their domestic travels during the 2011/2012 season, will feature Solid Grey/Silver/Red colour way and we are confident it will become and instant fans favourite.

Solid Grey/Silver/Red. Not white. Definitely not blue and not yellow either. Oh, and to the muppets that never seem to get the idea of the black teaser jerseys, it’s not black either. I’ve always liked the grey away kits and hopefully, the one that’s going to be officially released tomorrow (that's next week for the rest of us who failed to pre-order) would follow in the tradition of all the previous gorgeous grey kits. Grey is good. So, that’s another couple of Euro out of my bank account and into the club’s coffers.

Over in Miami, I’m sure LeBron wouldn’t have any complaints.

05 April 2011

The Green Vespa Gets a Logo

I've been corresponding with my bro-in-law via email recently and as usual, as we both share a common interest in classic scooters the topic was errr...classic scooters. I've always known that I've wanted a classic scooter for ages but it was this particular bro-in-law (I have five, the last time I checked) who inspired me to get one for myself. Anyway, our recent conversation revolved around creating a logo for the blog which could double as an airbrush/vinyl graphic for my Green Vespa (maybe on the legshield below the Vespa badge), whenever I decide to get it re-sprayed.

Having zero graphics skills (even my drawing of stickmen can be considered ugly), I fired on examples of what I like the logo to look like along with pages upon pages of commentary of how he could add or amend it to my tastes. After a few drafts we came up with a logo that we both agreed was cool. So, without any further ado, here it is:

SkuterHijau by Awoos

Some of you might have noticed it already as I've been playing around with the positioning of it on the blog page over the past day or so. I eventually settled on placing it on the right-hand corner of the main page but only because I can't get it into what I feel is the best home for it. I prefer if it was incorporated in the blog's title but because of my very limited IT skills, I haven't been able to do this.

Anybody out there care to give me a hand with this...?

Anyway, as for the logo itself, I hope it isn't taken too seriously. It's all tongue-in-cheek really. An ironic nod to the hard biker culture as the least scariest thing you'd see on the roads is a Vespa rider. Oh, and that black, bird-like creature that's in the background is meant to be a Liver bird. My way of showing my allegiance to Liverpool FC but with a slighly different interpretation of the standard Liver bird pose. Hope it's OK that way.

So, what do you out there think about it?

03 April 2011

Roy's Revenge

Through some dogged defending (which included man-handling Andy Carroll) and a good dollop of luck, Roy Hodgson's West Brom were successful in defeating Liverpool at the Hawthorns. Although clearly disappointed, I wasn't entirely surprised as it's been mentioned before and proved time and time again since, this - in a strange roundabout kind of way, just proves how unsuited the former manager is to Liverpool. Hope it goes well for him there...

Fortunately, to distract me from the weekend's defeat, I had a ready-made solution at hand. It came in the form of a rented movie - The Fighter. Catching the trailer on TV (or probably online) towards the end of last year, I was keen to catch the movie at the cinema on its release here in Ireland but for some reason, completely missed out on it then. Thinking that it was a type of Rocky with better acting, I was surprised to find out from female colleagues at work that although initially forced to watch the movie with their respective other halves, they too ended up enjoying the movie.

In short, the movie could be seen as a typical rags-to-riches type of movie but its sub-plots and the quality of the acting just brings it to another level altogether. My wife kept repeating Is that Batman? on seeing Christian Bale's portrayal of Dicky Eklund. Even Amy Adams, who was last seen by the two of us as the goody-two-shoes Giselle in Enchanted was a completely unrecognisable person in her role as "Irish" Micky Ward's supportive girlfriend.

Hopefully, I won't be needing more than the amount of good movies available before the football season comes to an end.

01 April 2011

Ventolin Fridays

It was good to know that Lucas was finally tied-up on a long-term contract. I was getting a bit nervous that current management (newly appointed Director of Football Comolli, Dalglish et al) didn’t actually like Lucas and favoured someone more local (or French). And hey, I’m not getting suspicious for no particular reason either. It’s a fact of life in club football. When there’s a change of management, there’s always a tendency to bring in players management believe fit their own philosophy and demands. After all, it’s much easier to work in a more familiar environment so, why not? The more high profile and senior players are normally exempt from this sea change in personnel but the ones that polarise popular opinion like Lucas (and unfortunately Aquilani as well as Insua) are always going to be prone to a bit of cutting and pruning.

Fortunately, in this case, quality prevailed and any doubt that favouritism existed in the club’s hierarchy was thrown out the window. The message was clear: if a player is good enough to be at the club, he will be at the club. The name on the passport doesn’t matter (although to be fair, this must be at the backs of every DoF’s and manager’s minds when they do the math to meet Premier League requirements on home-grown players).

So, that closes that issue and until the transfer window re-opens, I’d rather keep silly season discussions to the silly season or thereabouts.

In the meantime, with the lack of club-level football due to the international break, a group of us have been keeping ourselves entertained by putting our feet where our mouths and fingertips constantly are. Yes, after almost five years of not playing football, I’ve started to actually play the beautiful game again. OK, it's not proper full pitch, 11 v. 11 football but, an astro turf 7-a-side game is as good a start as any, isn't it? Plus, between my current circle of friends, we find it hard enough to drag 22 of us out to play nevermind lasting 90 minutes on a full-size pitch (with some lasting much, much less than others).

Hopefully, playing regularly will up our fitness levels to a stage where I wouldn't need to worry about where I put my Ventolin inhaler...

Have a good weekend everybody.

Lucas pic by José Porras

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