Peacemaker

I hereby dub thee Peacemaker.

I hereby dub thee ‘Peacemaker’.

I try to keep it light, but sometimes life gets too heavy it feels like swimming under the crushing weight of some heavy, toxic liquid (e.g. mercury).  Deeper and deeper.  Unable to catch my breath, or a break.  Closer to an introduction with the ocean floor.  Heh.  Trust me to come up with drama.

I had always wanted a Martin acoustic.  Why?  Well, because Clapton uses one.  And so does Derek Trucks and John May… I mean, Willie Nelson.  After much in-fighting between the responsible and rational part of my brain and the childish, disgusting desire that resides in my pants, followed by hours upon hours of testing a handful of Martins at Guitar Collection in 1 Utama, I settled on a beautiful Martin 000-17SM model.

I chose the smaller 000 (that’s three zeros, a.k.a. ‘triple oh’) body size over the standard dreadnought because it feels slightly more comfortable and less fatiguing when tucked under the arms.  The tradeoff, however, is that the sound from the 000-17SM is a tad boxy compared with a dreadnought.  But hey, if it’s good enough for Eric Clapton…

Besides that, I also installed an L.R. Baggs M80 magnetic soundhole pickup, on the off-chance that Minetrane will perform in front of a live crowd one of these days.  Just kidding.

Since the 000-17SM has been discontinued, I’m putting the specs for this guitar right here for record purposes:

  • Model: 000-17SM
  • Construction: Ply Blocks/Simple Dovetail Neck Joint
  • Body Size: 000-12 Fret
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Rosette: Single Ring
  • Top Bracing Pattern: A-Frame
  • Top Braces: Solid Sitka Spruce 5/16”
  • Back Material: Solid Genuine Mahogany
  • Back Purfling: none
  • Side Material: Solid Genuine Mahogany
  • Endpiece: none
  • Endpiece Inlay: none
  • Binding: Tortoise Color – Brown
  • Top Inlay Style: none
  • Side Inlay: none
  • Back Inlay: none
  • Neck Material: Select Hardwood
  • Neck Shape: Modified Low Oval
  • Nut Material: Bone
  • Headstock: Slotted/Square Taper
  • Headplate: Solid East Indian Rosewood
  • Heelcap: none
  • Fingerboard Material: Solid Morado
  • Scale Length: 25.4”
  • Number Of Frets Clear: 12
  • Number Of Frets Total: 20
  • Fingerboard Width At Nut: 1-3/4”
  • Fingerboard Width At 12th Fret: 2-1/4”
  • Fingerboard Position Inlays: Diamonds & Squares – Short Pattern
  • Fingerboard Binding: none
  • Finish Back & Sides: Satin
  • Finish Top: 17 Style Shaded Gloss Top
  • Finish Neck: Satin
  • Bridge Material: Solid Morado
  • Bridge Style: Belly
  • Bridge String Spacing: 2-1/4”
  • Saddle: 16” Radius/Compensated/Bone
  • Tuning Machines: Golden Age Nickel Side Mount w/ Ivoroid Button
  • Recommended Strings: Martin SP Lifespan Phosphor Bronze Light Gauge (MSP7100)
  • Bridge & End Pins: Solid Black Ebony
  • Pickguard: Tortoise Color
  • Case: 331 Hardshell
  • Interior Label: none
  • Electronics: optional
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HelBo: SLR-02 Kuala Selangor

I’m trying my damnedest not to turn this blog into a motorcycle blog, but it seems that motorcycling and motorcycle-related events have made some memorable impressions on my life over the past few months.

  1. I think the most important update is that I got my bike back after about 6 weeks in repair with the good people at Fast Bikes Sdn Bhd.  They returned the condition to almost brand new, and I am reminded why I love The Midnight Express (TME) so much.  I’ve a mind to send them a cake as a sign of appreciation but haven’t gotten around to doing so.  Soon, perhaps.
  2. I lent a hand to another rider who, minutes prior to my arrival, was involved in an accident with a car.  I was turning a corner when I saw a guy struggling to push his bike to the side of the road.  Having been in a similar situation barely weeks before, it was clearly visible that he was trying to manage the pain and shock.  I parked TME by the side of the road, went up to him, and asked if he was alright.  I told him to get off his bike and offered to help push the bike out of traffic’s way.  The bike’s fork was bent, so pushing the bike didn’t work.  I was left with no choice but to fire up the engine and force the wheel against the bent fork.
  3. The members of the Hell’s Bookworms Motorcycle Club (HelBo) went on a ‘short lame ride’ (or SLR) that began in Restoran Jejantas Sg. Buloh and ended up in Pantai Remis, Kuala Selangor, with a breakfast stopover in Bukit Melawati in between.  We also took some posed photos for the fun of it.

I can’t remember everything else that had happened on the day because this post is a product of extreme procrastination.  But for now, I thought I’d just put this up for posterity purposes.

Ride safe, ladies and gentlemen.

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Crash

A bruised me next to a battered Midnight Express.

A bruised me next to a battered Midnight Express.

The thing I fear the most since I began riding the motorcycle happened to me yesterday. In less than six months, I met with an accident. I don’t know how I ended up in that situation- maybe it was the eagerness to get home for Ramadhan break fast, or maybe it was the subconscious overconfidence whilst riding along a familiar and routine route. Heck, maybe it was just my being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, I am grateful to be alive and thankful to survive the incident relatively unscathed.

——–
Date & time: June 13, 2016; 6.45 p.m.
Location: Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
Weather conditions: Hot, dry
Visibility: Dusk, lowlight
Traffic density: Normal flowing traffic
Third-party involvement & vehicle type: Yes, sedan car

Account:
I was riding along Jalan Tun Razak in the Bukit Bintang to Segambut direction. As I approached the Titiwangsa Monorail Station, I was behind Vehicle A and Vehicle B, with the former in the lead. Immediately after the Titiwangsa Monorail Station, Vehicle A attempted an illegal U-turn (this U-turn is meant for ambulances and other emergency response vehicles) which prompted Vehicle B to slam the brakes. Instinctively, I applied both front and rear brakes hard which caused my bike to skid and, subsequently, collide with Vehicle B.

Several motorcyclists stopped to ensure I was safe and moved my bike (which was practically immobilised due to the damages) to the side of the road.

Physical damage: Bruises in the right shoulder and arms where my body contacted with Vehicle B, and also a dull pain in the pelvic area from, what I presume, impact with the bike’s fuel tank.

The movement you need is on your shoulder...

The movement you need is on your shoulder…

Bike damage: [Not exhaustive] Entire front wheel set, front forks, front brake lever, right exhaust pipe, scrapes and dings throughout, etc.

Lessons learned:

  1. I feel riding in flowing traffic poses a higher risk than filtering through congested traffic.
  2. U-turns (especially illegal ones) pose an accident risk whereby vehicles may manoeuvre at the last second and brake hard to make the U-turn. Junctions are the same thing.
  3. Hard-braking (even at normal speeds) causes the bike to skid. There is little to no manoeuvrability once this happens.
  4. In flowing traffic, there is very little advantage in moving substantially faster than the average speed of the pack. City-riding is about beating congested traffic, NOT beating flowing traffic.

——–

The Midnight Express is out of commission for 6-8 weeks, during which I will be going back to driving. Granted, the thought of driving is a complete drag, but against the possibility of death, maybe I should take this time out to re-analyse and improve my understanding of safe riding.

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Save

Ticket to ride

Since the day I started working in Kuala Lumpur in 2004 up until about a week ago, my daily commute had been one of the biggest sources of stress in my life. Throughout that period, I would spend roughly two hours each and every workday being stuck in traffic, both hands clenched into tight fists in my lap, just inches from losing my sanity.

I think it was around 2011 when I first toyed with the idea of riding a motorcycle to and from work. I remember changing my desktop wallpaper to a picture of a white Triumph Bonneville parked on the side of a posh street in London. That picture remained my wallpaper for a couple of years before the company gave me a new computer, after which I decided to go with a solid, all-black desktop wallpaper – an abyss of blackness so deep it (temporarily) swallowed my dreams of learning how to ride a motorcycle.

2011 Triumph Bonneville

The Midday Express, perhaps?

Fast forward to today, I am pleased to say that I just recently passed the motorcycle test and now hold a Class B motorcycle licence. Since the whole process of obtaining the licence is still somewhat fresh in my head, here’s a condensed guide for those interested in going from total n00b (like me) to a Class B licence holder in Malaysia (as of early 2016).

  1. Pick a good riding school – Since I was a complete beginner when it came to riding, a competent and patient instructor was critical to my success in obtaining a motorcycle licence. Based on the recommendation of a close friend, I went with Rakan Ehsan Driving Academy (RE) under the tutelage of Cikgu Jamal. Although the school is quite far from where I live, RE is also a JPJ Test Centre, which means that I learned my riding chops on the same grounds on which I was tested.
  2. Compare costs – The total cost of obtaining a Class B licence varies from one riding school to the next. Expect to pay between RM800 and RM1,200. RE charges about RM900 (as of early 2016). I will break down the cost of each item in the following points and include a summarised table of all associated costs at the end of this post.
  3. Attend the Safe Riding Theory Course / Kursus Teori Penunggangan Selamat (KPP01) – This is essentially a 6-hour lecture on safe riding. A lot of younger riders scoff at this, but as a mature beginning rider, I found it very useful. The lecture covers a variety of topics, mostly the Highway Code for road users. Cost: RM290 (includes a small curriculum reference book and exercise book); Format: Lecture; Duration: 6 hours
  4. Sit for Part I: Road Law computerised test – After attending the 6-hour lecture, I booked a spot for the Road Law computerised test at one of the MyEG Approved Test Taking Sites. I thought I had crushed it with a 49/50 score, but my friend scored a perfect fifty. What a nerd. Cost: RM28; Format: Computerised test, fifty multiple-choice questions, 42/50 passing score; Duration: 30 minutes
  5. Apply for a Learner’s Licence (“L” licence) – After passing the computerised test, I applied for an “L” licence at the JPJ Office in Petaling Jaya. You can do it yourself at any JPJ Office or get your riding school to do it for you. However, since it would take RE about two weeks to do it and since I could only begin practical training sessions after obtaining an “L” licence, I decided to do it myself. Cost: RM20 for a 3-month validity; Format: N/A; Duration: A few hours if done yourself
  6. Complete the Circuit and Road Practical Training Sessions / Latihan Praktikal Litar (KPP02) dan Jalan Raya (KPP03) – This was the most fun and also most challenging bit of the whole learning process. Cikgu Jamal helped me go from zero experience to being comfortable with riding an explosive machine between my legs. The most difficult bits for me (and for most beginning riders) were getting used to the heavy weight of the motorcycle and completing the bridge, or titi, part of the circuit in over seven seconds. From my experience, it is prudent to schedule weekly sessions in 3-hour chunks. I was so eager to finish that I scheduled a 9-hour session on one of the Saturdays, which ended with my left leg pinned underneath a 200 kilogram hunk of metal. In retrospect, I should have paced myself and managed the fatigue by scheduling shorter sessions. Cost: RM488 (includes motorcycle helmet and gloves rental); Format: Practical training on a motorcycle; Duration: Minimum of 16 hours
  7. Sit for Part II: Circuit Test and Part III: Road Test – This was the motherlode, the kraken, the Big Boss at the end of each video game. In the spirit of full disclosure, I passed Part III but failed Part II the first time around, so I had to come back two weeks later for a re-sit. It was the dreaded titi, man. Cost: RM95; Format: Two-part, practical test on a motorcycle; Duration: Approximately from 8 a.m. until around noon, depending on the number of candidates on the day
  8. Apply for a Class B Licence (“B Full” licence) – Similar to the application of an “L” licence above, I applied for the “B Full” licence at the JPJ Office in Petaling Jaya myself. Since I already hold a Class D driver’s licence, the cost of adding a new class to my existing licence was minimal. Cost: RM5; Format: N/A; Duration: A few hours if done yourself

If you are still on the fence about going for a motorcycle licence and switching over to riding for your daily commute, I encourage you to just go for it. Like everything else, it is quite daunting in the beginning, but I truly believe that with proper technique and by putting safety as the overriding philosophy over our motorcycling endeavour, riding is one of the practical answers towards a more efficient and stress-less commute.

Itemised cost of Class B motorcycle licence

Going back to the Sixties

Gong Hey Not-So-Fat Choy

Gong Hey Not-So-Fat Choy

I can’t recall how the downward spiral began, but between February 2014 and September 2015, I stuffed my face and added more than 10 kilograms to my weight. To be fair, 80 kilograms (I was 70 kilograms before, you math genius, you) wasn’t that bad for someone of my height, but the undeniable formation of a protruding belly was lah. Thus, began my long and undisciplined journey towards losing weight.

I think I’ve tried them all – the ‘no carbs’ approach, the ‘no dinner’ approach, the ‘cheat day’ approach… you name it. In all honesty, none of them worked. At the time, I didn’t understand the governing principle of this whole weight loss malarkey and, like any ill-informed individual, I was just ‘trying things out’. But after numerous tweaks over the course of a few months, things started to click. Here are some quick and dirty tips which could be useful to you if you’re trying to lose weight:

1. Understand the concept of food energy and calorie counting – Your body is like a car that has a fuel tank made of expandable rubber (belly). If you turn the engine on and keep it running in the garage, you burn about 2,000 units of fuel (calories) a day. You can refuel (eat) throughout the day, but if you refuel more than you burn, then the fuel tank is going to expand (put on weight). Conversely, if you refuel less than you burn, the fuel tank is going to shrink (lose weight). If you refuel as much as you burn, the size of the fuel tank stays the same. You can opt to burn additional fuel by taking the car out for a drive (exercise). This is the concept at the heart of my weight loss plan and, I swear this is the only principle you have to understand to lose weight. No purchase necessary, no fad diets, no HIIT bullshit, nothing. Actually, there is one purchase I did have to make…

2. Buy a digital scale – A digital scale is critical because it measures to the nearest 100 grams. More often than not, I would lose only around 200-300 grams a day. An analogue scale isn’t sensitive enough to display such small changes, thus it is crucial to get the most sensitive digital scale you can afford.

3. Download the MyFitnessPal app – Equally critical is the free MyFitnessPal app. I use this app to track everything that enters my mouth every single day, until today. It gives you access to an enormous database of food and its corresponding calorie content. Nasi lemak? That’s 644 calories. Fried chicken? 290 calories. Roti telur and dhal? 414 calories. Having all three for breakfast? 1,348 calories, which means you’re going to have to skip lunch, tea, dinner and supper. You’re going to have to go to bed hungry. And possibly alone, too. Hungry and alone. Lethal.

4. You WILL feel hungry – Take a moment to really internalise this point. If a diet promises that you will not feel hungry, then it’s a scam. Look at it this way – you have eaten above your daily calorie limit every single day for the past few months, if not years. This is why you’ve put on excess weight. The only way to lose this weight is for you to consistently eat below your daily calorie limit, i.e. 1,500 calories or less, at least for a while. And by “a while”, I mean some months. You will feel hungry. You’re supposed to feel hungry. There are very few things more rewarding than going to bed hungry, secure in the knowledge that you ended the day under your daily calorie limit. Maybe you’ll rifle through photos of cakes and pastries before dozing off. Maybe you’ll cry and contemplate murder and/or suicide. But like quitting cigarettes, it’s just a matter of telling yourself to toughen up, so toughen up, Sissycakes.

5. Exercise does not work (as effectively as controlling food intake) – It’s sooo easy to be misled by the glossy allure of exercising to lose weight. You run for ten, maybe fifteen minutes, then “reward” yourself with a large pizza and a big basket of greasy chicken wings later that evening. Don’t be fooled. Exercise is rubbish. Oh yeah, I said it. It supplements any weight loss plan just fine, I can agree to that. But you will lose more weight by effectively managing your food intake than any HIIT program ever will. Don’t believe me? Okay, a plate of nasi lemak and fried chicken is (644 + 290) = 934 calories. How far do you think you’d have to run to burn 934 calories? More than ten kilometres. That’s TEN klicks, bru! I’d rather skip the nasi lemak and fried chicken than run a 10K any day, thanksverymuch.

6. Cut out coloured drinks and binge on plain water – When I began to approach eating from a calorie perspective, I began to eat smarter. Not necessarily healthier, but smarter. Stop consuming drinks which are coloured. Exceptions can be made for Japanese/green tea, maybe sugarless coffee too (near-zero calories). Besides that, start binging on good ol’ tap water (zero calories). Also, always opt for low-calorie alternatives of the same drink, for example, opt for Coke Zero (err, zero calories?) when you’re craving for Coke. This allows you to save up and utilise your daily calorie allowance towards that big piece of fried chicken later that evening. And you know what they say – no drink tastes better than food.

7. Get used to throwing food away – From this point forth, things get a bit grey. I hate wasting food but if the vendor piles a mountain of rice and a pool of chicken curry despite my request for a reduced portion, most of that meal (between ½ and ¾) is going into the bin. The problem here in Malaysia is vendors, especially of the mamak and street food variety, just don’t get what ‘half portion’ means. I know it’s not cool to waste, especially when millions of people die each year from hunger, but heart disease is also not cool.

8. Lie when you have to turn down food – This is the worst bit of all. In Malaysian culture, the social experience is centred around food. I love my family and friends, but it’s difficult to explain to them why you can’t eat (“I’m sorry, Ma. I’ve maxed out my calorie allowance for today”; –“Calorie allowance? Get the hell out of my hou..”), so most of the time I default to either “I’ve eaten before I came, but I wouldn’t mind a small bite.” or “My stomach isn’t feeling well. I’m afraid I’ll have to skip this meal.” Your mother would still know that you’re lying, of course, but what the heck…

9. Other men (and some women) will think you’re a pansy butterfly – You’re not. Okay, maybe a little bit.

“But I’m doing this because I don’t want to die of food-related diseases, like heart disease or diabetes.”
-“You’re doing this because you want to look good in a leather jacket, you vain pot.”
“Okay, and that, too.”
-“Disappointing. What if you die in a traffic accident?”
“Well, at least they won’t have to dig an Xtra-Large grave for me…”
-“You’re not funny. [Pause] Are you happy, though? You look miserable.”
“Err…. sigh.”

10. You will feel slightly miserable – C’mon. Let’s be real here. Healthy food doesn’t taste as good as unhealthy food. FACT. It doesn’t necessarily taste bad, but show me a healthy meal that tastes better than salted-egg fried chicken/squid/mushroom and I will eat that meal exclusively for a year.

Disclaimer: I’m not a physician/dietician/whatever fancy name people in the medical or wellness profession call themselves. I’m some guy off of the internet, so try the above at your own peril. I take no responsibility for any injury or death that you can (and probably will) sustain as a result of following the above. But like I said, at least they won’t have to dig an Xtra-Large grave for y… I’m kiddinggg~.

Return of The Midnight Express

Getting acquainted with the Triumph Bonneville T100 Black a.k.a. The Midnight Express

Getting acquainted with the Triumph Bonneville T100 Black a.k.a. The Midnight Express

Back in 2009, I acquired this beautiful 1984 Tokai Goldstar Sound. It was basically a Japanese copy of a 60s Fender Stratocaster in black-on-black combo – a piano black body with an almost equally black rosewood finger board. Because of its colour, I called it The Midnight Express, as a playful suggestion that the guitar was this steaming hunk of metal fueled by wood and fire just rolling through the deep South on its journey to discovering blues music.

It turns out that that journey was short-lived because, in an effort to pare down my guitar collection, I sold it on Jamtank a couple of years ago.

Today, I took delivery of another beautiful item in that classic black-on-black combo – a Triumph Bonneville T100 Black. As a beginning rider, I am still in the phase where I approach this piece of machinery with caution. There is power under that hood*, and misappropriation of that power will, as I am repeatedly told by friends and strangers alike, end in bruises or worst, death.

BUT, let’s not be unnecessarily morbid tonight. Let’s rejoice. For tonight, The Midnight Express returns.

Note: *I desperately need to collect motorcycling jargon because this sounds weeeaaakkk~~~~!

Hear my train a comin'!

Hear my train a comin’!