Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye 2010!

I wish all of you a wonderful 2011 ahead. For those of you that does S,B and/or R, May all of you swim, bike and run faster.

For those of you practicing a healthy lifestyle by exercising and eating sensibly, i wish you continue to inspire and aspire everyone around you to do the same. Health is Gold!

For those of you that gotten your promotion at work, received a large bonus, bigger percentile of pay raise or even made to take on a bigger role, Good luck and don't forget to balance your life with other things than work!

But if you did not get the above at work, don't despair, work harder and smarter and seize every opportunities given to proof and challenge yourself!

For those of you with family - remember, they are the one that you should live for. Cherish them and see them grow in 2011!

My a more personal note, 2010 has been rather rewarding to me. It has it's upside and definately it's downside. Like how some of you already know, if life throws you a bunch of lemon, make Lemonade! Pepper it with more Joy and Laughter and all sourness will fade off!

See you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

IronMan Western Australia 2011 : SOLD OUT

All within 4hours 20minutes of opening for registration. I guessed it is not meant to be for me in 2011.
I was tempted to sign up, but by committing to the AUD695 (or almost RM1.5K), that would meant i would need to have enough financial mean to pay for the remaining logistics. This has always been a major hindrance for amateur athletes in Malaysia. For those that could afford it, the expenses are always very well calculated and saved; some even took years to re-pay the credit card debt.

My salute to those that had made those sacrifices, monetary wise.

Guess it will be 2012 then. Until then, keep moving forward!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Villa Subang Xmas & New Year Buffet 2010

Holiday Villa Hotel and Suites Subang is currently having tonnes of gourmet promotion happening. As this is the end of the year and with Christmas and New Year happening within the next 2 weeks, the hotel is gearing for the final dash to end 2010 with a bang!
I took the liberty to consolidate all the great F&B promotion into a simple table with the outlet, dates, prices and special promotion per below. Click on it for a larger printer friendly version to be used as a guide for the promotion at Holiday Villa Subang. 
If you want to pinch this and use this in your blog, please link back to my blog, please :)
As you can see, the choices for the next two weeks are almost limitless. I forgot to mention the currently ongoing promotion where there will be buffet BBQ at the poolside at RM70/pax. They also cater for birthday or any event from as little as RM45/pax (minimum pax of 20).
Yesterday night, Holiday Villa hosted a group of 15 bloggers from Advertlets for a sumptuous treat and a little something to expect for the coming festivities. This will be a "full-dressed rehearsal" for the Poolside New Year's Eve Carnival Buffet Dinner.
The bloggers were welcomed by the management of Holiday Villa lead by their General Manager, En. Azhar Mohammad. We were made to feel like VIP throughout the nite and this is very much in line with the hotel tagline of "Let Us Manja You", or "Let Us Pamper You". Indeed, under the careful hand of the F&B staffs, the night was with good food and better company.
The Poolside New Year's Eve Carnival will happen on the 31st December 2010 at the cost of RM111++ per person. We were shown 85% of what will be available on the real day and i could not manage to eat everything even after FOUR rounds of visiting the buffet table. Here is a "blow by blow" (or rather "munch by munch") of what i ate yesterday night. This might make you HUNGRY if you read this entry near mealtime!
I started off the night with at the salad bar where there was enough of greens to make you envy. The assortment of Mesclum lettuce coupled with grilled beef, chicken, smoked salmon, kurau fillet, mussels, anchovies, pickles, aubergine, feta cheese, olive, sun dried tomatoes, mushroom and choices of four types of dressing, they sure sound like enough to give you a week's worth of fiber and kick-start your appetite. Just don't binge on this as you will need the tummy to fill in more stuffs!
The salad, though looked "basic", is enough to make you want to eat it then and there! See Jason here trying to resist!
Fans of seafood would not be disappointed as the buffet spread offers "Ocean Wave". I got a bit excited to see the oysters, crabs, prawns and mussels being laid out. Usually i do not take anything uncook, more so if they are seafood. I have to give it to them that the oysters was really fresh and i might had lost count how many i had yesterday night!
The other seafood was "a la minute" poached or poached when needed so it retain the freshness and juiciness. I also do not usually eat the flower crabs (due to less meat) but the offering yesterday was good. The mussels was delicious when eaten with a tinge of lemon. Good way to start the meal for the night!

If you are a bread lover, the buffet spread includes a selection of bread that makes you feel like you are in Europe (French baguette, Crusty Italian, Fougasse, Foccacia just to name a few i know) and with a good selection of butter too! Just go easy on these so you do not fill the tummy up too soon!
If you are someone that need soup to go with the bread, they have soup too. What was served yesterday was pumpkin soup that tasted like real soup rather than out of the can type, if you know what i meant.

The buffet line has selection of noodles, which are mainly Asian items. Expect the all time favorite (Malaysian diet) such as Canto-noodle (or known as Kungfu Mee, there is really nothing kungfu about it, rather a misnomer by most non-chinese speaking Malaysian) and more. There are up to five different cooking style, of which i had some Canto-noodle just for taste.
There was also Yong Tau Foo, another must have if you are Malaysian. No one can resist a well stuffed foochok (beancurd sheet) or fishballs! Holiday Villa is really going all out to make your dining experience an unforgettable one!
Nicely tucked at the far corner was the BBQ or Grill section. To maintain the authenticity of how a BBQ should be like, the items such as lamb, minute steak, Cajun chicken, crabs, prawns, Bratwursts sausages and kurau fillet are grilled/BBQ over charcoal fire. I noticed that the fire was really under control as to even out the cooking without burning the offering. I give two thumbs up for the grilled (whole) lamb. It was simply a joy to eat lamb minus the usual olfactory experience. The meat was juicy and tasted right as it should.

Needless to say, i had a good serving of what was offered at the BBQ station. The items was grilled to perfection and no meat i tested was too dry, or burnt. Skillfully done.
Step to the next booth and you have Chef Takashi from the Inn of the Four Season (which also serves Japanese cuisine) expertly making hand roll, fresh. I love Japanese food and i have a certain "standard" when it comes to tasting them.
Chef Takashi and his men preparation and presentation was much better than some (five-stars hotel/resort in Cyberjaya which i last eaten Japanese buffet) places I've eaten. The secret in any Maki roll is the rice and there is no skimping of ingredient here. You get the authentic Japanese pearl rice (short and sticky when cooked) freshly made and melts in your mouth with (did i taste Kewpie mayo???) every bite. I had my hand roll made with extra Tobiko. :D
With my (two) plate full of mixture from the BBQ and Japanese station, i sat and enjoyed the food and actually went for my third round at the same booth!

Yeap, vegetable tempura was also available together with prawn and squid tempura. A mushroom broth was steaming for you to dip it in too!
I am further impressed when the tempura that was made tested light and not in lumps of flour like how some pseudo-Japanese restaurant made them. Simply enjoyable and i (tried, very hard) limit myself to two servings. I am not even half way through the buffet!
While Turkey are traditional during Thanksgiving, there is no stopping it being served for Christmas and New Year. The F&B prepared a whole turkey for us to enjoy and i must say it was done rather well. I am no big fan of this big bird, but have to try to justify it being roasted and serve ain't it?
As seen above, even the Chef is having a great time cutting the Turkey up!. If you are a fan of Turkey and has considered ordering it for Christmas, Holiday Villa is selling them (inclusive of delivery) at a reasonable price of RM55/kg. A typical Turkey weigh about 3kg to 4kg and that would give you a rough idea how much it would cost you. Bear in mind that a turkey could feed up to 10 person, with leftovers for the next day's sandwich!
There was only two drumstick on the Turkey (unless they manage to genetically modify it to four) and Mike Yip and Jason Chan managed to take one each. Lucky fler. I had a cut of it and it was devoid of (again) the olfactory usually associated with turkey. The meat tasted very well marinated and very tender. This Turkey had a good "bath" before it was roasted! Soon enough, a crowd was seen around the Carver's station...
By then, i was actually full and what propel me forward was sheer greed and gluttony. I know i should had ate this much, but i have to do justice to the food. Control was the word as i took small bite size portion of everything.
My fourth round was purely North Indian affair. They setup a Tandoori station with the expected chicken tandoori and Kebabs. Naan was obviously on the menu too, so is a few selection of condiment and curry. Holiday Villa claimed that the chef is from North India - so you can be assured of the authenticity.
Eating the tender tandoori was the confirmation that this is good stuff. Chicken was tender and juicy with the right amount of expected "sourness" from the yogurt that was used to marinate it (as one of the ingredient). Thumbs up!
The naan was crispy and soft. This is expected else the Chef has a lot of explaining to do! This was truly enjoyable after all the BBQ and Japanese i had. The spiciness and sourness brought back some appetite!
Right next to the Tandoor kitchen was a Thai Hot Stuff. I smelt Tom Yam but ended up with a good serving of Mango Salad later on. They too have a good deal of spicy kerabu and if you ever need rice to make your (already full) meal complete, they can fry some rice, Thai style for you! I skipped this...
I was already full by then but with dessert on the table, i had to try at least some sweet stuff to wrap it all up.
There was a good mixture of tartlets, french pastries, cakes and creme caramel on the table. I had a little of everything and as expected, it was enough to satiate my sweet tooth. Don't forget the fruits selection while you at it.
Sinful delights. Soul Food. Call it what you want. There will always be space for dessert. And i end the night with a bowl of Air Batu Campur or ABC. I should had requested for more palm sugar (gula melaka) as i like mine sweet, but it was a joy biting through the ABC as the different texture pretty much sum up my "advanced" New Year's Eve buffet at Holiday Villa Subang.
Put into a few sentences, it was colorful (with the assortment and choices), fresh (oh the Oysters!), delicious (most, if not all of the offerings), authentic (the Japanese and the North Indian spread) and most of all, enjoyable!

And this is WITHOUT life band still! We were informed that the local band Heavy Machine will be performing live while you satisfy your tummy on New Year's Eve! At RM111++, It is a bargain for the buffet spread, the quality and the fact that most places in town will be charging an arm and leg just to be part of the celebration on 31st December 2010! Make your booking early and don't forget the other F&B promotions that the hotel has prepared for the celebration.For the rest of you, make your reservation early to prevent disappointment.

Thank you Holiday Villa Subang and Advertlets for the very good dinner and company! My wish for the New Year is that i win lucky draw like how three bloggers did yesterday night and gotten free night stay in the newly renovated executive suite!
For other Promotion currently Holiday Villa Subang is having, please click HERE for more information.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reset

I have been taking photos for the past 20 months with my dSLR. Not much improvement has progressed since and my Project365 could not be completed in 730days instead.

Yesterday, i decided to reset my cameras setting. I've deleted all picture control and over-saturation of colors and over sharpening of images. I need to re-learn. The more i try, the worse it become. The worse the post-processing becomes too.

Until something happen. I will remain as a "Joe with Camera".

So here is some images since i reset-ed my D40, and lets hope some turns into photos one day. Until then, keep shooting.



And have to stick to basic with post-processing too.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Project 365 : Day 121 of 365

Day 121/365 : Home Sweet Home
Spider making my Kamquat tree as home.
D40+501.8+Close up Macro attachment. ISO200. F8.1/4

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe Mistress

I recently posted about wanting to change my current Mountain Bike (MTB) to a hardtail (i.e. no rear suspension) in Facebook. Many offers and advices come in and i thank Shang Leong for being ultra generous with his offer and Azwin to check out with Adira (both my mates in RMC). I even seek the learned Ro-Lance, my wife's partner's husband.

I set myself a max of RM1,000.00 to splurge on. Yeap, not much actually considering a good shock or mediocre groupset will set me that much of money already.

I also have two old MTB that i want to sell off. One is my first MTB which i bought when i was 15 or 16 using hard saved Angpow money. The LeRun Vesuvius served me very well.
My First Triathlon Race : PD Tri
It brought me into a few races before i turned into a pseudo-roadie. I decided not to let sentimental feeling rules me and went ahead to decide to sell it off. Fixing it back, which i initially wanted to, would cost me just a couple hundred less if i were to get a new bike.

After that, i had a Giant Rincon, which was bought over from Bacin. It was  a major upgrade

The Rincon was a size smaller for me, but being a guy that "if life gives me lemon, i make lemonade", i rode it for a good year before trading it for a Specialized HardRock with Bandit and converted it for wifey to use.
My first "long distance touring" - KL-Lumut with Bandit and Doc Amir
Then an offer too good to be true, an "upgrade" from those boring hardtail i had; in comes the Fuji Explorer III. Bought as a full bike and then cannibalized and splitted it with Bandit where he took the wheels and everything that comes with it and i took the body and whatever is on the top. This bike continue to serve me for many many years until last week.
Powerman in Putrajaya
The backup plan as i looked at these bikes that has served me all these year was to just upgrade with the limited budget i have. The shock on the Fuji has to be replaced. It has went over it's lifespan. The rims are threatening to break into pieces as the wall are already thin over the years of usage - with one instance that i pedalled out of Teratak Tekala without a brakepad, but metal to metal to slow the bike down, all 16km of it. The Truvativ Firex crank has a few teeth chipped off and the bottom bracket is screaming to be replaced. Lets not even go into other items that has already seen better days.

Then, i walked into the local bike shop (LBS) i frequent. A no-nonsense typical chinaman bicycle shop that has more junk than bikes on sale. Truth to be told, this is where i source all my MTB-ing needs. I know that the frames here are mostly Taiwan OEM made and with strange names and brand. I also know what i am getting myself into. But when i saw the white frame hanging at the corner with a very familiar name written on it, i could not resist.

A quick check on the build quality and lightness and a quick googling on the iPhone tells me that the geometry of this "copy" is similar, if not the same as the original.

That wrapped it up.

I told the LBS owner to quote me for a complete bike. Most important is that i want an upgraded shock from the last i had. Since i am changing the frame, i told him i want hydraulic disc and nothing less than that. That was my basic criteria and i told him i don't mind a rojak bike where the groupsets are mixed and matched.

I told him i want a bike for trail and mountain-biking. I am building this bike for the single purpose of weekend riding in the trail and for Sabah Adventure Race (SAC) 2011.

With that and with a quotation already 30% more than budgeted, the LBS owner went to work. I did a quick mental calculation and i know it will be at least 50% more than what budgeted simply because the other smaller parts will make up the final prices.

Yesterday, i went to collect it, not after myself and Bandit went to harass the LBS Owner and he has not started the work yet. Then i told him he promised me today (i.e. yesterday) and i am riding with Bandit today as it's a public holiday. He then recalled he promised me today and got right to building the bike.

At 7.30pm, i went anxiously, not knowing what to expect, but i was pleasantly surprised with all the parts he put in. While the best way to say it was he literally put anything he can find in the shop, it was no "simply" build bike.

Here are some photos which i took, after i reached home, with Wifey updating Facebook that i brought back my "4th Wife". The pics will also tell most of you interested to know what i build and it's technical items. I am no big fan of technical specs, so pardon me for that.











As you can see, this is a very basic MTB with slightly better than beginner parts but not hardcore enough to be with the big boys. I can't complain with the budget that i set aside (and busted) to get this ride. It weight circa 12kg and i can easily bring this weight down to about 10kg by simply losing 2kg off my 82kg frame now. I am never a gram-granny but i appreciate that the bike is at least 3kg lighter than my previous Fuji and just slightly 1.5 kg more than my Orbea Ordu. Put in two water bottle and it easily weigh the same as this MTB.

One of the critical component is of course the drivetrain. The 22-44 Deore HollowtechII crank paired with the LX 11-34 cassette are build for XC and climbs. While there are a 10-speed variant available, i decided not to opt for it due to cost and if i ever need a 36-granny, i might as well come down and push the bike (and it's what Bandit agrees!)Completing the drivetrain is a pair of sealed bearing Wellgo metal pedal. I have no intention of going clipless.

Next item was what i always wanted which is a hydraulic disc. I settled for the Tektro Draco, which is most probably equivalent to a Juicy 3. It is basic disc and i figured out if i ever want to upgrade later, i will be able to tell the differences. Going with the brake caliper (dual piston, wow! now i seems like i am having some 4-pot caliper brake system!) is a pair of Shimano 160mm disc. Decent enough for me. Holding the disc is a pair of DT Swiss EX5.1D which apparently a good XC wheelset - in Red and make the bike looked more...pretty.

Completing the wheelset is Hutchinson Scorpion Airlight 2.0. I am a fan of Ritchey ZMax but unfortunately the LBS has no stock of these. No complains here as well because part of the fun of MTB-ing is to find what suit us and hit our sweetspot! One man's rubber is another man's wipeout!

The front fork is a RST F1RST (corny name incorporating the brand name into the model name as well). It is a AIR series where the damping is by Air and has rebound and lock-out control. The model i had is with 100mm travel and 6-preset damping (soft to lockout) and customisable AIR damping. Technology is now available at a cheaper price and i am not going to complain about it. More so this fork comes in at 1.5kg only! Beat that!

Holding the cockpit is an ultrawide riser bar. I had opted for this than the usual length bar because i want a bit more stability and less twitchy. With shorter handlebar, every single movement is amplified, with longer ones, they are more forgiving for beginner like me. Azonic (another Taiwan brand popular in the mid 90's) were fitted with Bontrager 110mm stem and had the diamond-surface Bontrager grip to complete it.

As the frame was already my size (18inches or L, i previously rode a 17, which was a bit smaller for me and need a loooonnnggg seatpost), things all fall into perspective. With the general bike fittings all sorted out and almost perfect, i can't complain more. Oh well, maybe the Cannondale white-red seat could do without the brand name ;-)

The Test Ride
Venue : FRIM, most trails.
Rode with : Bandit, escorted by Kam and Mahesan (Somehow my outdoor life evolve around the RMC 91 batch!)
Total Distance : 10-12KM.
First impression of the bike was good. While i rode it the night before to test out the shifting and ensuring everything is tight and in place, having it wide in the open is better. First 30minutes without Bandit was used to test how the bike behave on the tarmac. Gear shifting were smooth and suspension lock-out works great. Without the rear suspension sucking up some of the power transmitted, every power cranked was delivered to the wheels. Good pickup and better cruising! Going downhill on the tarmac i noticed a flaw with the installation, the rear wheels were bopping about and a closer check ruled out an untrue wheel. It was because the tires were not centred corrected, common when a new tire are fixed and inflated too fast without checking the position. Nothing major a deflating and adjusting can't do.

Once i was with Bandit, we headed out to the usual FRIM trail with intention of going up Steroid Hill. Once on the trail, i felt the suspension working. Very responsive as it soak up those trail bumps while keeping positive contact with the trail. With a MTB this light, the next worry is the front portion lifting up when i pedal uphill hard. With the trail up Steroid coming up, i was still on my middle crank and not utilise the 34-granny yet. The bike gave a very positive feel on the climb and the tires gripped pretty well. I had no real chance to see how the hydraulics will perform yet.
Going up the steepest portion of FRIM was a very pleasant experience as i managed to climb up sans granny-gears. The geometry of the bike offers a good usage of the thigh/quads. Only time something unexpected happened was me dropping the front crank to the 22 and the chain fell off. Lost the momentum and took a couple of 10meters before i regained the ability to climb smoothly again.

The cheap pedal worked like a charm. I guess it help as i was on PVC pedal and a beat up allow pedal in the two previous bike.
Along the way, we swapped bike for a moment as SAC requires us to do a biathlon as well where one member will run while the other bike. It is very important that we can manage to control and ride each other's bike.

The next thing was to test the brake. Coming down the other side of Steroid (we did not do steroid, but went around Bukit Putus instead), i went almost full speed downhill and tested the brakes. One finger was sufficient, with normal pressure on the lever slowed the bike down and with a firmer pull, halted the bike. I am impressed and now know why people spend on their hydraulics!
The bike on the downhill gave me extra confident with the suspension soaking up the bumps and the tire gripping the wet mucky ground. The brakes lend more confident and the riding position allowed me to move backward over the saddle to lower the gravity for stability. I smiled and grinned like how i did when i first bought my Le Run 20 years ago. Memories!

As we were wrapping up the ride, Bandit suggested that we go into the Aromatic Trail for some singletrack action. It is to see if the bike could balance on "edgy" trails. I know better that the ability to balance is not the bike, but the rider. So, it is more of HOW the rider adapt to the bike and be ONE while going over singletrack. Kiara on my mind.
Apart from a few not so confident slip as i rode over slippery tree roots, it was pretty alright as i now realised my inability to ride in a singletrack proper was always because of my bike setup previously. Kiara technicality aside, i think i am starting to enjoy trails such as these again.

The test ride ended on a good note. I am fully satisfied with the bike and the Rojak setup. It is what i can afford and what suits my purpose now. Obviously i don't need a RM5K bike if my intention is just to ride XC and trail with no serious DH action. I must say i am very happy!

And may i introduce to all of you, my *Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe Mistress. Ms. Rojak.
*Eurasian-Spanish Wannabe because this is not an original Orbea frame, but a good copy and made in Taiwan. It is like an Asian trying to be an Eurasian-Spanish. :)









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