Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I think I'm going Def

A while ago I was in a local watering hole here with a buddy when an acoustic version of a vaguely familiar song came on. I asked the bargirl if they had anymore from them and she told me she'd never heard of the band. The song was "Animal". She'd never heard of Def Leppard....man, I am getting old or what?
(I know I go on about music a fair bit, and while it is a big interest of mine, this won't turn into a music only blog ok?)
I remember cruising the streets of Rotorua, NZ, with my friend Tim, in his '76 Corolla SR coupe.
It was the ugly shape, a 1300 I think and a beigey-mustard color too - all n all, it was a fairly uncool car, but this was the mid 80s. Just having a Japanese car was cool then - no Mk 1 Ford Escort for us. We had metal hair yeah, and wore thin leather straps around our wrist cos everyone else did.
Tim had a Clarion Tape Deck in the Corolla, and it was auto-reverse...whoa. but underneath that was a graphic equalizer with a loudness button - and a red LED. wicked.
We used to cruise the streets of town thinking we were shit-hot listening to Billy Idol, Bon Jovi, a bit of ACDC, Simple Minds, and a whole bunch of other stuff I cant even remember unless i think about it for a while.
One day Tim put on a tape that I'd never heard of before. It sounded kinda like an evil machine talking or something - it was the beginning of "Love Bites".
Ok, I admit it, I was into hair bands. Shit, everyone was.
Then there was "Pour some sugar on me". Well, it's a classic now, but playing that loud thru open windows after youth group was some kind of sneer to all the chicks who'd normally listen to Alison Moyet or Cyndi Lauper.
"Animal", "Women", "Hysteria", "Armaggedon it" and "Rocket" were all on the same album, and looking back on it, Hysteria was absolutely Def Leppard's defining Album.
I thought they'd burst on the scene when I heard them back in 86 or whatever, but just reading their website now it turns out they started in the mid 70s as a band called "Atomic Mass" then becoming Def Leppard in '77(!).... and would you believe they are still touring right now?
I wouldn't recognise any of the band now(not like some of the other hair rockers like Jon Bon Jovi or Steve Tyler) but I do reckon if I saw a one armed drummer, I'd be certain he's from Def Leppard (Rick Allen).
Looking at their discography, I reckon they didn't really do much after the 80s apart from release some greatest hits albums a few times, but "Pour some sugar on me" was re-made and became the theme song for "Coyote Ugly"starring Piper Perabo (you know the face, not the name) in 2000. Looking at the credits there are some other names of note including John Goodman, LeAnn Rimes and Tyra Banks (What a bitch she's turned out to be on "America's next TOP model" pfff).
That movie spawned a trend in Bar Top Dancing, which IMHO is a bit of a yawn, but seems to be all the rage in Asia. When I lived in Singapore around 2003, the government passed a LAW finally allowing licensed bar top dancing after the scene was underground for a while...like, ooooh it's so naughty to dance 4ft off the floor. In Taipei there is one place that is fueling this hilarious activity for wannabe stars, which is a surprise considering the food there is usually not too bad.

Def Leppard released an "unplugged" album like everyone seemed to after Eric Clapton made shitloads doing it, and after hearing some of the unplugged tracks I am pleasantly surprised at how good hair rock can sound when it's stripped back and unplugged. Actually, 'unplugged' concert DVDs are fantastic, but lets not get started on that...

Def Leppard Official Website
Coyote Ugly

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Am I living it right?

Some people go with the flow. Some people go against the flow. Some people make the flow.

It makes for an interesting world to have a mix of people wanting different things, at different times and realising what is important in life at different times too. It brings so much happiness and sadness at the same time, dreams and hopes come and go. Everyone is looking to discover a synergy.
What is important to some people is a laughable thing to others, and it's the tolerance and acceptance of all our differences that brings peace and happiness.

I love to watch music DVDs. Most people think that is a little weird I think, but with the advent of DVD and affordable home theatre I found the quality of audio and crystal clear video in music to be pleasing to the soul. It's great after a shit day to come home, grab a glass of red and crank a great concert DVD.

Today was a shit day.

In January I bought a John Mayer concert DVD called "Any Given Thursday". John Mayer is an extremely talented musician and over the last 6 months or so I have been enjoying a couple of his albums.
The thing with live music is this, some musicians put on concerts for the money and the show is full of sequenced tracks and by-the-book renditions of their music - close your eyes and you might as well be playing the CD, except the singing is sometimes a bit bum due to the lack of studio help available to them.
John is different. At this concert anyway, his singing is PERFECT. Pin sharp vocals, but not only that, this guy plays the guitar like nothing else. I'm not talking about screaming solos or rapid hammering, but a true man-to-instrument-as-one situation.
It's in the fingers. I don't know how to explain it, but many people can play and instrument 100% OK and hit all the notes at the right times, but rarely, a musician can make the sound coming out of an instrument cross into another dimension - and that's what gives me a kick watching concert DVDs and going to concerts. It's magical.
Over the years I have gone to just about every concert of interest that has come close to where I've been living at the time. Unfortunately Taipei gets hardly anything.

A song performed from the heart brings the lyrics to life, and one track that stood out to me tonight is "Why Georgia". It's funny how you can listen to a song for months or years, and then one day life is a little different to it usually is and then the words just jump out.

Why Georgia (From the Album "Room for Squares")

I am driving up 85 in the
Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon
just stuck inside the gloom
4 more exits to my apartment but
I am tempted to keep the car in drive
And leave it all behind

Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life

Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?

Why Georgia, why?

I rent a room and I fill the spaces with
Wood in places to make it feel like home
But all I feel's alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
Or just the stirring in my soul

Either way I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life

Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why Georgia, why?

So what, so I've got a smile on
But it's hiding the quiet superstitions in my head
Don't believe me
When I say I've got it down

Everybody is just a stranger but
That's the danger in going my own way
I guess it's the price I have to pay
Still "everything happens for a reason"
Is no reason not to ask myself

If I am living it right
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why Georgia, why?

Room for Squares is a great album, and I am amazed this was recorded when John was just 22. How on earth can someone be such a good songwriter and musician at 22? It's just one of those things you can't ever aspire to - it just happens.
The other Mayer album I have is Heavier Things. It's also fantastic, particularly the first track, Clarity.

John Mayer Official Website
Any Given Thursday DVD
Room for Squares CD

Friday, March 17, 2006

T'be shure, T'be shure

Today is St. Patricks day, and even here, yes Taiwan, there is hype about it. Some of my local friends here have tried to get me to explain what it is all about cos they are confused, and after saying "well, that's easy......" I decided I wasn't too sure myself. Green Beer, Irish Band and Irish Stew or something like that. Oh yeah, Guinness. (you know that stuff that is liquid and black on the way in, and solid or semi solid and black on the way out.)
So, with March 17 falling on a friday, I am sure all the oirish pubs around the world will make a killing. Enjoy it, the next Friday St. Pats is in 2017. (I just guessed that, but I was right when I checked.)

I got to thinking about Ireland, and it is one place I'd really like to go to. I'd heard that the countryside is nice or something. But wait a minute, while looking for some pics of Ireland right now I don't think I'd go there for the scenery....cos it looks just like NZ, cept with old shit everywhere.

So what is it about the place? Well, the music for one thing. There is not much I don't like about Irish music, whether it's old reels or modern rock...it's all great. Something about those melancholic riffs that stirs something, I am not sure why. Maybe I am Oirish? There could be a good chance as on both sides a couple of generations ago my ancestors came from Newport in Wales, and Mellor, outside Blackburn in England - both places very close to the west coast of the UK, which is a splash away from the land of Bailey's Oirish Cream. Yum.
Going back to the music, spare a thought for Irishman Dave Evans, whose 7 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with Lukemia. Dave's band has decided to cancel the remainder of a world tour for a while, which is pretty nice of them really. It's a pretty big deal when your stage name is "The Edge" and your band is U2. All the best for Dave and his family.
I see in NZ they are offering full ticket face value refunds for all the cancelled shows. Too bad for all the people that bought scalped tickets on Trademe for several times their face value, of course.
I have been a U2 fan for years. The Joshua Tree is one of my all time classic albums that I have happened to buy 4 or 5 times so far...huh? well, the first one was a tape....and i played it so much it wore out so I bought it again, on tape. About 1984 or 85 I reckon. Then with my first airforce pay in 1989 I bought CeeDee Playa. Sony rack mounted thing, about the size of a VCR (remember those?) Anyway, the first CD I bought was "The Joshua Tree". When you have got a really cool CD player and 1 CD, you tend to play that 1 CD a bit. Ha. Then a few years later it got stolen in a house burglary, and then the next one I bought got stolen in a Car break-in. The CD I have now is a burnt copy of a friends original CD, but hey I'm on #5 so I figured I've paid the licenses enough to own a burnt copy. Now it's on my iPod anyway.

There is one other irish connection I was getting to. Another Irish guitarist by the name of Stu. His stage name is Stu too, which is handy. Stu likes to tell stories about things, I think it is an oirish trait, and I have heard him mention his travels to far away lands like Spee-In. (That's how he say's it, I think he means Spain, pronouced "Sp-ayne") One of his other stories is about how he bought a bargain American Fender Stratocaster off a paraplegic In Taipei. It is the classic Strat I've always wanted too, bastard. Stu's a really nice guy, and he's probably quite dashing too if you are that way inclined. Some people say he looks like Kevin Bacon, but I reckon he's got the Ryan Seacrest thing going on(y'know American Idol- get with it). It's all about when he was born, which was just a few days after me when Apollo 13 was transmitting "Houston, we have a problem". It was a good month.

Stu is actually from Belfast in Northern Ireland (where they have nice murals everywhere I hear) and I haven't asked him yet if he says "Derry" or "Londonderry". Some people are picky about that.
Anyway, Stu did a podcast interview in Taipei in honor of St. Pats day, so now he's also practically a celebrity. And I know him. Honest.

I think that covers some irish stuff, happy Saint Patrick's day.

Ireland Pics and Music
Stu's Interview
Stu's Website

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Too Many Handbags

I got back from Bangkok on Saturday night, late.

Had a great time catching up with Brent and Roche. Brent was working all day Friday, so Roche and I hit the shops all over BKK....well, actually one mall called "MBK".
MBK has got about a million shops in it(some of them even legit stores), give or take 3 but most importantly for this shopping extravaganzaaaaaaaaaaaa with Roche was a Starbucks. Roche being one of the more enthusiastic Formula 1 women fans I know, probably likened the Starbucks in MBK to the pits on a Grand Prix.
First Stop: Fuel and Team Meeting, working out the track route and scheduling the next 3 pit stops for the day.
Second Stop: Fuel again, On the phone taking orders after the first 2 laps.
Third Stop: Fuel again (just a top up), Team meeting to show off the first spree of the 'Tods' (Like, who'd even heard of Tod's handbags before...not me) Other Team members (that would be me) display DVDs, Diesel Jeans, and Motobike stickers.
Final stop: Fuel. Count up of remaining Baht, and counting of handbags. 5 or 6 so far, pathetic effort - let's see more alright? On the phone, more brokering going on. Tanya, Pearla even Sam....everyone needs a Tod's bag right? The final sprint for the finish line is coming up, and she's off.

Did I mention that was just practice day?

Tod Handbags Online (Cheap at $1000 USD up)

MBK Mall, Siam, Bangkok


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Head on my mind

In a few hours I’m jumping on a KLM flight to BKK for a couple of days. Catching up with a couple of mates who are there on business......stop it! Legit business of course.

Whenever I go to Bangkok, Murray Head’s song plays in my mind while I walk around. I instinctively grind my teeth to music in my head, it’s not good. (probably an ex drummer occupational hazard)

The song is a classic, but oddly enough I have no desire to ever listen to anything else by Mr. Head.

One Night In Bangkok Lyrics

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don't know that the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world in a
Show with everything but Yul Brynner

Time flies - doesn't seem a minute
Since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it
All change - don't you know that when you
Play at this level there's no ordinary venue

It's Iceland... or the Philippines... or Hastings... or... or this place!

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky then the god's a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One town's very like another
When your head's down over your pieces, brother

It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city

Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town...

Tea, girls, warm, sweet, sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite

Get Thai'd! You're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Siam's gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or reclining Buddha

And thank God I'm only watching the game, controlling it

I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
I'd let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you

So you better go back to your bars, your temples, your massage parlours

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Wiki about Murray Head

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Long Way Round

I bought this 3 DVD set a couple of weeks ago in Vancouver. It is 10, 1 hour episodes of "The Long Way Round" as produced for TV.
It is the best $24 I have spent in a while.

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are best mates, and they decide in April 2004 to set off on 2 BMW R1150GS's on an motorbike journey of epic proportions from London to New York overland going east. 115 days.

I won't say too much about the journey to spoil it, but there really are some remarkable and interesting places in far eastern europe. The "Road of Bones" for example, is a 2000km stretch of Siberia from Yakutsk to Magadan that was built by prisoners during the Stalin area. It is said that every meter of road required the death of a prisoner, and the bones of 100s of thousands to possibly millions of people's remains lie embedded in it today.

One thing that bothered me a bit about the journey is the amount of support they had. It really was a large team going across the world, but it was just those two guys that were filmed mostly. I have no idea how much that would have cost, but it would be in the millions, and that fact alone makes a trip exactly like that out of reach for most of us. Just having the crew behind them a couple of days made all the difference I reckon. I felt it would have been more incredible if they had gone it totally alone. I guess, Ewan doing that trip would have been a nightmare for his agent.
Count the times Charley says "Fantastic!"

My Singapore based mate Brent and I have talked about doing an epic Journey on bikes, but I think ours would consist of flying to Hanoi and buying 2 new Russian Minsk 100s (About $600USD new), and riding with all our gear down Vietnam, into Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and down the Malaysian peninsula to Singapore, where I think we'd set fire to the bikes on the causeway (I don't think they'd let us ride them in - it is Singapore, you know). I don't think we'd have cameras strapped to our helmets. Much.

Minsk Owner in Hanoi
Minsk Factory

Ewan is such a dude, he really is one of those guys that we all see part of ourselves in on this journey. Some times I found myself a little confused as to why people recognised him, he seems so down to earth you forget how much of a star he really is.
Talented guy too. I still think his version of "Your Song" in Moulin Rouge is one of the most passionate spine tingling songs I have heard, and considering he's not primarily a singer that is quite an achievement.
I recently saw him in "The Island" and while I am not big on sci-fi, I though that movie was great.
Oh, he's Scottish too, and most Scot's I have met are alright. (there you go Sandy)

Ewan's Bio/Filmography etc
Long Way Round Official Site

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

E30s, Clive Owen and 8 minute DVDs

I like BMWs.

In Taiwan, every 3rd car is a BMW, and it is usually black or a dark shade of something else. Apparently Black 5 series sedans are the car of choice of Taiwan Gangstas, so big ups for them.

I owned a BMW once. It was a 1986 E30, 325i with manual Getrag box. Anyone familiar with BMWs will appreciate that in the mid 80s, this car was a rocketship. 2.5liter injected 6 shoe-horned into tiny 3 series bodywork. To find one with a 5 speed Getrag box was a huge bonus.
I spotted the E30 at a car auction around '96, and no one was interested in it because a) It was a european car in a predominantly Jap import auction and b) BMW M20 6 cyl engines are very 'tappety' (girl's, that means a "tick,tick,tick,tick,tick....." sound) so if you are not used to it, it sounds wierd.
So I bought it for next to nothing. It had a fender dent and a lot of milage, but it was still tight to drive.

My other car was a series 1 RX-7 that was a sleeper (rough car, hot engine). Hot 12A ported Rotary (that I built myself from a box of bits that I picked up from an aborted recondition) and on the rice burner was a 48 IDA weber. The carb of choice for normally aspirated rotary's.
My point in mentioning the RX-7 is that at the time, I liked to drive cars with engines singing all day at 7000 rpm. Rotarys ruv that. Ruv it. Anyway, BMW E30s do not ruv 7000 RPM, so there was the transition problem right there.
On the drive home, my buddy Andy was driving the RX-7 and I was driving the BMW. It was a 3 hr coastal highway driven by 2 petrol heads so you can imagine what was going on. On the outskirts of the home town, once again I was extending the legs of the screaming 6 and admiring how it just seemed to be bullet proof when the car suffered a soft thud and dropped a cylinder. It was one of those experiences where I was grinning away at the mechanical music one second, and the next second I was wondering if I just hit a small dog or something.
When I lifted the hood, there was no conrod out the side of the block, no oil slickall over the engine bay, nothing. It idled ok, no vibrations, but just running on 5. Mmmm, well shit, it could be anything like a dropped plug or lead or whatever, so I limped it home the last 10 minutes.
I am not the kind of guy that takes a car to garage, even a BMW, and I figured I had nothing to lose by taking the Rocker cover off. Within a few minutes (gotta love working with German Engineering) the cause of the problem was plain to see: Broken Rocker...shit, how much is that going to cost I thought? A sheepish call to the BMW dealer surprised me. $23, for a genuine part. Man, is that right?
The nature of the failure meant that all the happened further down the head was the valve just remained closed, so no real possibility of any other damage like valve to piston contact or anything. What I should have done was buy the $23 part and put the weapon back into service, but being the paranoid, inquisitive soul I am, I figured the broken rocker was an indication to look further and harder. I decided to take the head right off, and see what else was up. and replace the Cam Belt. and put new manifold studs in. and plane the head. and replace a few rough looking valves. and get the cam nitrided and re ground a bit hotter. and bead blast the rocker cover so it was like new. and...you get the idea. As i didn't have a garage at the time, all the work was done in the lounge, on the coffee table covered in newspaper - rock on. My $23 fix turned into a $1000 piece-of-mind tinker with the big ass cylinder head.
That was the first and last time I had any trouble with that car. I put a Schnitzer Chip into it and a K&N Air filter, which nudged the HP towards 200, and that was fine by me.

The E30 to me is the classic BMW. Rear wheel drive, heavy steering and the model before ABS and electric you-name-its everywhere.
I am going to get another one at some point. The chip and filter are in storage, waiting. Tinkering in the garage is something I really miss living in Taiwan.

E30 Service Manual

I like DVDs.
A year or two back, a friend told me about the BMW movies online, www.bmwfilms.com: " Brace yourself for intricate plot twists, riveting car chases, and a dose of wit. All eight short films of The Hire, created by Hollywood’s finest talent, are available now for downloading and streaming.

These brilliantly produced films star Clive Owen as the driver. Hired for his superb driving skills and unshakable poise, the driver encounters unexpected obstacles that put his abilities to the test. Watch as each film reveals new depths of character, intrigue, and cinematography."

Yes, Clive Owen is Da Man in these 8 DVD quality short films. Obviously, they are funded by BMW so they showcase the various BMWs available at the time, but the driving and cinematography is fantastic. Each is unique in who directed and starred in it, and the style of filming and driving. Guy Ritchie, Gary Oldman, James Brown, Ang Lee and Madonna are some of the people that feature in the productions.

Below is a link to the movies for downloading. (the official BMW site above claims there are no more downloads, but they are still around)

The Hire

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sam, you ARE the man!

Meet Sam Morgan.

Back in 1999, Sam decided to drop out of school and start an internet auction site, called trademe.co.nz.

Not long after it started, I signed up along with my best friend Marty. Back in those early days we were wheeling and dealing all sorts of stuff, and would bid on each other's stuff to get the price higher and all that. At that time, trademe was so small that I remember the team was just 1 or 2 people and I'd get emails from Sam himself from time to time. We were like pioneer traders in NZ, ha.
When I left NZ, Marty continued to buy and sell lots of stuff on trademe (and still does), but for me things went a bit quiet for me there for a while.
When we were living in Singapore, I found a music shop that sold all the good gear, like Gibson, Fender, and Epiphone Guitars.
As it was, the retail price of stuff at that shop was about 50% what it was in NZ, so I spied an opportunity with trademe.
I talked to the shop and got a trade account, which bumped the low price even lower, and I started to buy Guitars in 2s and 3s. What I would do is take them out of the box and photograph them at all angles and close up etc. Then I'd pack them into a proper guitar hardshell case, and cover it all with cardboard.
I went to the post office down the road and airfreighted them individually back to NZ, and listed them on Trademe. They were hot selling items.

Along with the auctions and a few word of mouth spinoffs and special orders, I sold about 11 or 12 guitars before a few things put the brakes on it: Tax & Import customs, Traders who bought but changed their mind and then tried to claim the guitars were fakes etc (what a hassle to sort out), and then the move away from Singapore to Taiwan.

I was approached by a couple of guys that wanted to start a parallel import business, but to be honest, I don't think making a business out of pure undercutting will ever work long term unless it is on a massive scale.

It was fun, and I learned a lot...and actually made a respectable amount of cash...But look at Sam. In 1999 at 23, he started with a borrowed laptop and an idea. It wasn't a new idea. The site wasn't really that complex or flashy. Just a no bullshit, simple site that was reliable.
Today he sold it for 700 million dollars. 700 MILLION dollars.
And he gets another 50 millon if some targets are met in the next 2 years. And he gets to keep his job - and I bet he's not just getting 5 bucks an hour.

Man, 700 million at the age of 30.....what am I doing?

Today's News Release
Small Bio
Bigger Bio
Good Wiki Article
A book about Trademe secrets

Saturday, March 04, 2006


The long approach in YVR commenced as I lifted the window screen after watching "Elizabethtown" for the second time. What I saw was simply a sight for literally sore eyes. Mountains, water, snow and trees. As the Captain crackled something over the radio about wanting to welcome me to Canada, I didn't understand anything much except the outside temperature being -5. At least these people use the right units I thought, then it hit me - my god this is going to be a unique experience.
It sure was. After getting off the flight, the customs lady wanted to know all about NZ (huh) and then there I was standing in that cold. After the shuttle dude took me and my colleague in the bus alone to the hotel, the check in Biotch was obviously pretty pissed of with the fact I was so happy to see the place after waiting, like, 13 hrs to go to bed....yes, even tho it was 8 30 am she told me to "take a seat until 3 pm". yep 3. I mean, I like a good practical joke, but she was grimacing when I said "WTF?"
So I saw some guy but the name of Ryan or Brian or Bill or something who was at a booth called Enterprise cars. I asked him how much to rent a car, and he said $17 per day. SEVENTEEN bucks. After a chat, it turned out the dood was in Khaioshiang last year teaching engrish. Another Canadian teaching english in Taiwan? I mean my god, my first coversation in BC had to be THAT? (except for devil lady still scorning at me thru the glass)
So I took the car, a red Chevy Cobalt reg 700-HDV. That plate meant arot to me, so I told the guy 'Rock on' and peeled out of the carpark and into Westminster Highway heading for van going in wrong direction. The clue was the roads were going #4 road, #3 road, #2 road and I figured there wouldn't be a number zero road, so I had to flick the red beast around. Using my honed TW driving skills I needed not to actually find a U turn place, I just let it rip. 2 litre 6, or at least it felt like it. The radio was a bit dodgy pumping out some french crap, so a scan or 4 got me to 103.5, which was OK. I did notice that everyone drives with their lights on here, so I turned mine on too (little did I know they were already on even though the switch was off) I had the trusty Canon G3 with me, and there I was shooting shots outta the car at the lights or sometime while passing huge pickups called Dodge and Blazer.

"Highway 99, North" a small white sign with a BC on it said, along with Vancouver, BC ferries and Whistler in green....My mission was sealed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Farewell Giorgio

I'm a hoarder. It bugs the hell out of me, but I just can't throw stuff away - I always see some value in something.
When I was in NZ last month I bought 12 shirts. Yep 12. I find it really difficult to find shirts that are comfortable here in Taiwan, and the only place that seems to have potential in the shirt department is Sogo, but there always seems to be 7 salesgirls desperate for a commission that it become pure hell to even look around. Besides that, the shirts they thrust in my face are $3400 NT (about $150NZD) versions, which to be fair is way too much to pay for a business shirt that no one is really going to appreciate but me.
So, in NZ there was a few sales going on and the cuts are much better so I bought up.
The dilemma came when I got home - where do all these shirts now live? So I scanned the wardrobe and gave a big sigh as I looked at some old favorites. Yep fellas, you have got to go.

So I did it. I threw some shirts out. They were past their best and I virtually never wore them anymore.

Take Giorgio for example, I remember him well. I bought that masterpiece in June 1999 in Hawaii. Took the bus from Honolulu to a huge shopping centre called "Waikele". I remember I also bought a Black Donna Karan tie with gold lining there. The tie stays, the shirt must go. It served me well as work dress in NZ, London, Singapore and now Taiwan....I am now embarrassed to say.
But, I am the type of guy that believes quality will always go the distance....and it did again. Buy classic and it will remain timeless? Something like that anyway.

So I ditched 3 shirts. Mmmm, I see there is still going to be a problem in the wardrobe - ah well, there is a bit of room in this drawer over here....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Hartford

I should mention the Hartford early on. As summer approaches here in Taiwan, I can see I will be out an about exploring a fair bit on the Hartford, so let me tell you the story.

Back in the old days, like 2004, we bought a new Yamaha Vino 125 which is a retro vespa style looking thing built out of modern technology.

As you can see I put hotrod flames on it, based on the "hotwheels" look I remembered as a kid in the late 70s. It was a weapon.
I say was, cos about 4-5 months ago it got stolen...grrr.

Anyway, after I got over the trauma of losing that sweet machine, it was time to look for a replacement. We have got a piece of shit second scooter anyway, which is a Kymco. Actually, that is the fastest scooter I have ever been on. It looks like crap, but beats anything at the lights, and has been known to pull wheelies with ease. As fast as that kymco is, it will die one day, and I don't really want it to be out somehere in the mountains on highway 7, on a rainy sunday afternoon.

I enjoy riding, and I don't do it just to get from A to B....so when the weather is nice in the weekends that is usually what is on the cards.

After looking around at a few scooters, and some second hand motorbikes, it became clear that to get something decent and tidy you need to pay a large majority of the new price here. Winding back odometers here is rife at dealers also. Living in Taiwan, it is not as easy as you would think to buy stuff. Firstly you have got to find where it is sold, and as the web and the yellow pages are all in chinese it makes it pretty tough just to get there. Add into that trying to communicate with some dood selling a secondhand one to find out hwere to go look at it etc etc(You can see where this is going)
So, after some fairly lengthy discussions with my learning chinese partner, Ratlung (who was also looking for a motorbike), we decided to check out buying a new Hartford HD 150S each.
It was a bit of a mission, but we managed to talk to the Hartford dealer in Taoyuan. As a stab in the dark, we also went back to the Yamaha store that sold the Vino 125 and asked them. Taiwan is a strange place, and it seems anything is possible so it wasn't too surprising when the Yamaha dealer said they could get us a couple of Hartfords (one of their competitors). Ariel from work did the calling around the shops in chinese to get a good price, which included a security system and a new helmet.
We were all set to go around mid December when I realised that if we waited 2-3 weeks more we would be registering the bikes as 2006 not 2005, so a little more negotiating and we picked up our bikes on Monday Jan 2nd, 2006. I like the idea of efficiency, so getting them on the first workday of 2006 was great.
Anyway, about the first available weekend we could, Ratlung and I took our brand spanking new bikes our for an epic journey, to break them in.
It was a sunday and we left around 10.30 I think. The weather was good and we headed to the Shimen Dam. So far so good.
Then we carried on the #7 Highway, which is the north Taiwan cross-island highway. That was fantastic until we hit rain and low viz about the top of the mountain. Did I mention it was also around 2 deg? Thinking that we were experiencing some alpine weather, we decided to push on towards Yilan, which is on the east coast of Taiwan, and then head back into Taipei. By the time we got to Yilan we were soaked, and damn freezing. A search for a comfort shrine like a BK or McDonalds was fruitless, so we opted for a hot chocolate (out of a can) and some food at a 7-11.
I mentioned earlier our bikes had security systems installed, and one of the features is electric start. So while we were getting suited up for the concluding wet leg of our journey, I decided to start my bike to let it warm up again. This seemed like a cool trick considering we were both still inside the 7-11. Problem was, mine was in gear, so when it started it edged forward and toppled onto the kerb. ARGGGH. Fortunately, and unbelievably, the pegs took 99% of the hit and the bike was virtually unscathed...whew. We both learnt a lesson right then.
We carried on the journey which included 3hrs of hell riding on the #9, which is known as "Ghost Highway" for the amount of accidents that occur on it. I was getting a tad pissed off at this point. It was freezing, it was wet, my visor was a mess when oncoming headlights appeared, so I lifted that...but I wear glasses, so the same effect on those too. Combine this with Taiwanese drivers that honk because they believe a 2 wheeler shouldn't be on road outside the city and then literally move over to try and push bikes into the ditch....add into the mix that every corner seems to have slippery wet manhole covers right on the bike track line....grr.
When we got to Taipei it was a great relief, but we still had another 40-50 mins to get back to Taoyuan.
Ouch, it was one hell of a short sunday ride. In the end it lasted about 10hrs in the worst possible riding conditions, so I was kinda relieved to be home. The bikes looked like they were 20 years old with all the grime on them, but we had 400km+ on the clock of each bike - almost ready for the first service. Mission accomplished. :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I don't like the name blog

...but that is the terminology. After years of thinking blogs were kinda cheesy, here I am writing in one right now.
So why do it then? Well, I enjoy writing things to share sometimes, and othertimes I just like to capture a moment or thought. Pictures help too, so the plan is to use plenty of pics.

I have thought about it for a while, and it took me a while to get going cos I was looking for some blog software that had categories....
....like these here ->
Mostly it is impossible to find categories and all that on free blogs, and I am too tight to pay $4.95 a month for the good stuff, so I found a hack on the blogger help about setting up categories. Ta Da. (Edit: This is now irrelevant as Blogger now has labels. Woo Hoo.)

I hope you like them, well I hope I do mostly.

I am also not sure about this look and feel. It's O.....K..... but it's good to fiddle with HTML now and then so don't be surprised if I change this.

Let's see how this goes. I am feeling positive. Today.