Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014: The year in perspective - Part 2

Touring on a 24" folding bike, a unique experience...

We had our Tern Eclipse S18 set-up and tuned for a cycling tour up North.
The intended destination was Pulau Langkawi.
Michelle had made the necessary arrangements for accommodation while I planned the logistics.
With time passing through so swift, we took off to Kuala Kedah and before we knew it, we were cycling in Langkawi.
The 24" folding bike really takes the cake in terms of reliability and comfort..

At Pantai Tengah
Padang Matsirat
Taiping Foldie's Ride

I kept my word to return to the historical town of Taiping where the locals there had hosted a ride for nearly 50 cyclists.
Only four people went up from Kuala Lumpur and the rest were backed by the Ipoh Foldies.
It was a moment of solidarity as we shared our interest of exploring small towns, having good food and great company.

With Taiping's de facto leader Jamell and Johnny Ng of My Bicycle Shop
Return of the Rogue Rider

I have always wanted to challenge myself and this time, I embarked on a 200-km ride from USJ 26 to Port Dickson and Malacca.
It was a solo ride and I took the Tern Eclipse S18 as far as Port Dickson before getting a ride into Malacca on a chartered car.
On the return journey, I was supposed to board a bus in Melaka Sentral, but my ride was already packed to the brim in it's cargo hold and I had no choice but to ride back to Port Dickson before getting a ride from a local chartered car back to USJ 26.
Done it solo, which was a test of mental strength, physical conditioning and sheer determination. 

Fortune favours the bold

The way home... 
Cycle to work and 2014 World Car Free Day

On the second-quarter of the year, I cycled quite a bit from my home to the workplace.
The company where I am employed is very supportive of the Green initiative and I am pretty proud to be a part of it.
I also did a piece on World Car Free Day, where some of us would cycle to work as a tradition.
But sadly, for 2014, I had only one Rookie reporter following me on the Federal Highway motorcyle Lane.

The article I wrote
Page two 

Page three
A chaperone for the rookie

Advocacy work and Aljazeera Arabic feature on cycling to work...

I was contacted by a broadcast journalist from Al Jazeera who wanted to feature Malaysians who cycles to work.
So, I obliged to a fellow journalist and allowed the person to capture videos of the 23km journey from Subang Jaya to Section 16 in Petaling Jaya.
It ended up with an interview and the segment was shown in the middle-east.

A screen-capture of the interview

Off to work and my dog became famous too!
Bikes aside, making up for the doggies!

We haven't been taking our kidz to events and September gave us the chance to participate in the UPM Dogathon and the following month was a rather interesting event called "I want to touch a dog" which was later deemed as "haram" by the Selangor Religious council. The guy who put it together was reprimanded. Politics aside, it was great to see so many Muslim folks coming out to allay their fears on dogs.. The touch thing is a once in a lifetime experience as it became permanently banned.

At the Dogathon event in UPM, Selangor
Our kidz and friends..

The damaged Samo-mobile mk II
What are the chances of getting hit by a motorcycle twice in two years?
Well, that happened to me.
Case one was a Myanmar national who crashed onto my car's front left bumper.
As a result, the guy broke his leg.
A year later, I received a call from my car insurance company. The claims investigator said the Myanmar man is claiming compensation for bodily harm. He could not be trace.
A week later, my car was hit by an illegal racer on a motorcycle. 
The impact crushed my rear panel and took off the bumper.
I sent it to Nissan's accident and repair department and was slapped with an estimated bill of RM10k.
It was then that I've decided to seek the service of an independent workshop and had the job done at 10% of the cost. I also cancelled my claim because the Nissan people had tried to rip me off.
Later, the insurance people too tried to scam me by asking for RM1.08k for a claim that I did not submit for the accident. The case is pending.

The Malaysian Foldie e-magazine
The Malaysian Foldie turns one..

September was a milestone for The Malaysian Foldie e-magazine.
I was inspired by Kris Gomeze, an expatriate living in Thailand who came up with a bi-lingual cycling magazine.
So, I started a simple magazine specialising in folding bikes which is running into it's second year. I am very proud of this and hope to improve it's design and content if time permits.

Giving back: Ipoh Foldie's Open Day

I collaborated with the de facto leader of the Ipoh Foldies to come up with a ride and a skills workshop backed by my cycling buddies Mohd Radzi Md Nor and Johnny Ng.
Four of us took a train up to Ipoh and joined 50 other cyclists on a ride around the greater Ipoh and this was followed by the skills workshop that took place at the Ministry of Youth and Sports complex.

Johnny Ng handling the bike tuning and maintenance session
The gang in Ipoh
December: Laying off cycling and rekindling with an old hobby

I had nearly two weeks off in December to clear my leave and off-day. 
This was the perfect opportunity for me to give the bikes a rest and work on upgrading my ageing Dahon Jetstream EX.
I managed to source for a new set of hydraulic brakes from Shimano as well as a new rear suspension.
At the same time, I recovered some of my old Tamiya model kits and worked on building three armored fighting vehicles of World War II.

The M4 Sherman tanks I built

After two decades, I finally built this Tiger 1 heavy tank
The 2010 Dahon Jetstream EX experienced a re-fit with new parts 
Good, bad and ugly..

If you can't handle it, the workplace can be a prison

I'd safely say that 2014 has been a decent year without much fuss for me.
Though there were moments where some co-workers of mine had tried to pull some fast ones to prove that I am a ninkapoop who is worthless, my Key Performance Index rating had met it's expectations.
Despite my detractors' efforts in trying to dump shit on my ricebowl, I held on tight and braced for the hard fall. 
This is what I believe: no matter what your detractors say, what is not true cannot harm you. I have worked in three English newspapers for half my life. Began my career behind the camera and now, I am managing people and their workflow.
With the knowledge and experience, I will use what I have learned to help others and make it as smooth as possible when it comes to dealing with crisis.
Even that said, there some ripples along the way and I believe that in 2015, I will be sidelined to pave way for my detractors' political ambitions. So, there are some uncertainties, but I guess I'll just have to mow throw and sit out the shit storm.
There are plenty of shortcomings, but hey, you can't stop a man from being happy.. 
I have plenty of adventures to look forward to in 2015 and with a streamlined plan with less baggage to lug around, it will be fun to see everything come together as planned.

2014: The year in perspective - Part 1

A "splashing" start.. 

I was tasked to rig up my section's teambuilding session. And I've engaged a reliable trainer to handle a 3D 2N event in Gopeng. 
By standards, it was the most exciting outing ever.
My co-workers experienced white-water rafting and the young reporters, especially, are really stoked about it.
Well, with the budget for teambuilding slashed to nothing in 2015, the Gopeng experience remains as one of the best ever sessions. 

Getting wet and wild in Gopeng
OCBC Cycle Malaysia: One last fling

I've committed to the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 ride by pre-registering as an early bird the previous year. 
Told the then head honcho, some short ass at KLCC about it at the 2013 edition and his reaction was "uh.. okay". We've done three rides so far; paid for every single event, picked up the medals and well, that was it. No more. 

The Pirate-Ninja at the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2014 (didn't change the info on my photo's watermark)

China Stockyard and Rail 

I was assigned to cover a media visit to Zuzhou, China.
There, I witnessed first-hand, the commissioning of Prasarana Berhad's six-coach Light Rail Vehicle.
This was in tandem with RapidKL's line extension from Ampang to Putra Heights which is expected to be completed in late 2015.
The factory visit also enabled me to check out Guangzhou where we had a night stop before heading back to Malaysia..

In the new LRT coach bound for the Kelana Jaya Line

The new LRT coaches for RapidKL's 2015 line extension programme
Canton tower in Guangzhou, China
Taipei International Bike Show

I booked my passage to Taipei, Taiwan, as early as December 2013 to attend the 2014 Taipei Intl Bike Show.
It was an important milestone for me as publisher of "The Malaysian Foldie" e-magazine, where I sampled the bicycle industry's finest bike and component manufacturers who showcased their ware for the entire year.
The highlight was cycling in Taipei at the Tern Social Ride. There, I met Joshua Hon, the man behind Tern Bicycles and Erich Mah, my go-between who handles special projects for consumer marketing.
The Tern people are the friendliest lot I have ever met.
Taiwan was an interesting experience and I do recommend participating in the Tern Social Ride if you ever hit the Taipei show. Unfortunately, due to no cheap air tickets to Taipei in March 18 next year, I would have to sit this one out..

The Taipei show is one of the most important trade exhibition in the Asian region
Friendly faces at the Tern Bicycles pavilion
With Josh and Eric after the Tern Social Ride in Taipei

Tour of Southern Thailand III, one last hurrah!

Patthalung - Thale Noi - Hat Yai was my last Tour of Southern Thailand.
Having explored the area for the third time, we conducted a successful ride charting more than 270km in total along the loop.
There, we experienced the Thai Songkran Festival and was greeted with warm hospitality of the residents in Thale Noi lake.
The tour also ended our partnership with a few fellow cyclists as we are headed out on our own in 2015.

The crew in Ban Sathing Phra

Bowing out from the touring group 
Project "Road Warrior"

In phase two of our 24" folding bike acquisition programme, I've singled out the Tern Eclipse S18 as our choice bike for future touring adventures.
This bike has it all and all you need is to slap on the panniers and we are in business.
So, we purchased two Eclipse S18 to complement our existing Eclipse P9 and X20. The only thing that became a major disappointment was the fact that the product guy from the Malaysian Tern distributor was not sincere. The dude was so greedy, he actually ordered a few bikes for his handler's interest. But that doesn't bother me at all because good stuff like the Eclipse S18 or the "Road Warrior" is meant to be mounted and ridden by all who can afford it.. 

One of the best touring bikes in its class

Michelle taking a spin on the Road Warrior

Team Road Warrior
Tour of Indonesia: Sumatera

I've been planning to cycle in Indonesia for a while and the most viable plan: was to explore Sumatera.
To realize this plan, I engaged my cycling buddy Mohd Radzi Md Nor who took time off to travel across to Sumatera with a ferry via the Malacca Straits.
We spent seven days in Indonesia and clocked about 270km covering Dumai - Duri - Minas - Pekanbaru.
Sumatera was an eye-opener and a prelude to more adventures in the Indonesian Archipelago.

At a jetty in Pulau Rupat, Indonesia

A warrior's monument in Pekanbaru, Indonesia
Quarter one and two round-up

I would safely say that the first six months in 2014 was awesome. Did some traveling, acquired two new bikes, and a lot of cycling adventures.
There were no shortage of highs and lows when it comes to work, but I guess being employed to fullfil an 8-hour/day task, I do what I feel is right to get on with the day's programme..

Monday, December 15, 2014

Time out: Italeri M4A1 Sherman 'Calliope' 1:72 kit - part 2

Top hull assembly...

With the tough parts on the M4A1's lower hull and undercarriage nicely settled, I began work on the top hull. 
The M4A1 is a refined tank compared to the early production models. It has curvier lines compared to the crude M4 that was produced in 1942 by five different contractors and about 6,784 of these tanks had rolled out from the assembly line to serve in North Africa during World War II.
The Italeri kit, I must say, is made of quality plastic. It's solid and not as flimsy as I had expected.
I began with the turret assembly and worked on the 75mm gun. 
These came in two parts and the tip of the gun was a real tough piece to work with.
It didn't fit well and to set it correctly, I rolled the gun barrel on its side to get an even surface.
That was the best  I could do to resolve the issue..

Actual photo of the M4A1's hull

Later M4 Sherman tanks has a gun mount on its forward hull
With the Italeri 1:72 kit, there is an option to assemble the turret with it's commander's hatch opened. The kit is supplied with a miniature figure and I found that a tad too hard to paint, so, it's hatch closed!
After completing the turret, I began the top hull assembly by cementing its tools like the tank's shovel and bars.
The 30-caliber gun turret on the bow of the hull was easy to mount. Since this is a small kit, the details are pretty impressive. 

Fitting the upper hull 

The hull, revealing the tank's engine compartment

Hull and turret assembly before applying weathering 
Applying weathering to the starboard side of the upper hull
Dealing with small parts..

I have to be extremely careful with cutting the small parts, some as little as 3mm in length.
The plastic cutter I used was too big for this small kit, so, I used my cutting blade and sliced off the parts one-by-one.
To make sure that these are not all over the place, I bought some trays from Daiso and called them my Work In Progress (WIP) trays.
It works wonder as I am able to pick up the parts with a pair of modeling tweezers.
The small parts have to be gently lifted from the tray. If you apply too much pressure the parts will slip off and worse case, it will fly off the jaws of the tweezer. You simply launch the little part into oblivion.

Tweezers comes in handy when it comes to fitting extremely small parts
Putting it together and adding the final touches...

I spent the whole day assembling the Italeri 1:72 M4 Sherman kit in my reading room.
With the upper hull completed, the following step, was to glue together the tank.
And finally, when it takes shape, what's left to do, was to apply the decals on the tank.
This is pretty straight forward. There's little details on the tank with the exception of three stars on the forward, starboard and port side of the hull. 

The nearly complete M4A1 Sherman medium tank
A decal on the port side of the tank
The completed tank with weathering on its undercarriage
Perspective in size: 1:72 M4A1 and the 1:48 M4
Final touches includes a 50-calibre M2 Browning (Ma Deuce) machine gun on the commander's hatch. 
This was painted in gun metal finish and weathered with the Tamiya weathering master kit. Even for a small gun measuring no more than 1cm, the details were amazing. There's a magazine box that comes with it, but I felt that it was unnecessary to assemble it.
Rather than painting the exterior tool, I applied weathering on them to give it that worn out look.
As for the "Calliope" rocket launcher, I didn't assemble it because the M4A1 was good enough to display on its own.
After completing this kit, I was rather suprised with the finish and what I have been missing out after all these years.
One thing is for sure: there are more interesting 1:72 Shermans out there and I am pretty excited at the prospect of modeling them!

Time out: Italeri M4A1 Sherman 'Calliope' 1:72 kit - part 1

A different set of challenge..

I was browsing through the aisle in one of the few remaining plastic model kit store in Sungai Besi and found an Italeri 1:72 M4A1 Sherman 'Calliope' tank.
This is a special kit that comes with a rocket launcher. Probably during the later stages of World War II.
There was an opened box, so, I inspected the contents and decided to buy it.
At RM49.90, this kit is pretty expensive. But, later, I found out that the kit retails at US$17.55 (RM61.31 excluding freight and tax) via an on-line store. 
So, that said, the 1:72 kit is cheaper here without any doubt.

A snapshot of the kit's box

The parts in the kit
Way I see it, the Italeri kit has been lying on the shelf for some time. The interior of the box was already moldy.
But the decals and instruction sheet seems to be unaffected by time and humidity.
When I laid out the kit, my challenge was to assemble the tank's hull which came in five separate pieces.
To get a solid undercarriage, the fitting must be precise. Any gaps in the seams has to be filled with putty and sanded smooth.
So, in terms of quality, I'd say that the Italeri kit kinda exceeded my expectations. As a matter of fact, I was really surprised with the engine detail on this little package.

The details.. 

There's a six-piece assembly required to build the tank's engine and it comes with an axle and a transmission box. 
If you prefer to kit-bash, you can do a cut-away to show the tank's interior. Once fitted with the upper hull, the details vanish.

The engine and transmission box

Lower hull assembly

Preparing for weathering
Assembling the hull was a nightmare. 
There's no margin for error as you might end up tearing the kit apart and building it back again.
I started by spraying the kit with a Tamiya spray paint (TS-5 Olive Drab). I don't have an airbrush system, so, aerosol spray would do. The rest of the kit was touched-up by hand with a brush and Tamiya Acrylic paint.
For the engine assembly, I used the Tamiya XF-84 Dark Iron arcylic paint to give it a raw and matt finish.
And with the Tamiya weathering master applied, the engine really stands out with two tones of metallic colour. In short the dark iron base acts as a primer to accentuate the colour of the engine and transmission box. 

Bogey and track assembly

Sherman tanks are built with a Vertical Volute Spring System (VVSS) with a set of three bogeys (similar to what you see on a train coach) and roller wheels.
These small parts comes in halves and has to be glued together. What's interesting is that the wheels are free-rolling in the bogey assembly.

Reference from a real tank's VVSS bogey

Details on the roller wheel
The completed bogey assembly and sprocket wheel
There's really no issue putting together the VVSS suspension. But, painting the roller wheels - is a bitch!
I started by using the Tamiya XF-1 flat black paint on the surface of the wheels (the real wheels have a layer of rubber on it) and found that there were ugly splotches on most of it.
Later, I individually painted the wheels to give it an even coat and touched up the mess with the Tamiya XF-65 olive drab acrylic paint. 

In some cases, modelers skip painting the roller wheels as seen in this reference 1:72 model kit by Dragon models. (reference from
With the VVSS bogeys in place on each side of the hull plates, I glued together the lower hull to create the tank's undercarriage assembly.
It takes about 30-minutes for the liquid cement to set and a full day to cure. So, I worked on the weathering on the bogey and roller wheels. 
It turned out pretty good as the flat black paint brings out the highlights from the silver weathering cake from Tamiya's weathering master set C (Orange Rust, Gun Metal and Silver). 
Next, I worked on setting the tracks. It was a near disaster as the heat-bonding nearly melted one of the tracks.
I re-worked it a bit and managed to save the rubber track from completely wasted.
Slowly and gently, I fitted both sides of the tracks and noticed that the matt black paint that was sprayed on it was peeling off. 
If I had applied a primer coat, this won't be the case.
With the lower hull completed, I applied weathering on the tracks and called it a day..