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Jul 28, 2015

Pastor Dewey Smith on Homosexuality

If you've ever met me, you probably have a pretty good idea how I feel about organized religion...

NOT a fan.

That said, I LOVE this video and think that everyone should take five minutes out of their lives to watch it. It is NOT a slam on organized religion...


For those who do not understand the reference to "Freaknik in Atlanta", click here.


Jul 24, 2015

Tire Pressure is CRITICAL

If you come to Việt Nam or go anywhere else with even the slightest thought of renting or buying or riding a motorbike/motorcycle, take a tire pressure gauge with you.

Tire pressure is VERY important. If it is low, the bike will not handle properly. If it is very low, you are likely to have a blowout. The tire could also roll over enough that the rim contacts the road in a turn, causing loss of control and a likely crash.

Low pressure also affects tire wear and fuel mileage—in case those are more important to you than safety.

Tire pressure that is too high is relatively safer than too low, though you will still have negative effects on performance, handling, comfort, and tire life.

I'm sure tire pressure gauges are sold somewhere here (probably Saigon), though the only Vietnamese I have seen using them are the few to whom I've gifted them—and they use them irregularly.

This is today's topic because I just returned from the local tire dealer/repair shop.


The rear tire of my Steed had a s-l-o-w leak and I was topping it off every two or three days. Yes, in addition to at least four tire pressure gauges, I also have a small compressor powered from a pigtail installed on each of my bikes.


This leak was especially frustrating because less than 400 km ago I had brand new tires and tubes installed.

It took two rear tubes because the first one was improperly installed, the tube got pinched, and in less than 3 km went flat with a big tear—tear, not puncture.
That yellow line is only on brand new tires
Definitely NOT the preferred riding position!
One of the advantages of using Hein Moto in Saigon is they have a pick-up service.
This slowleak was due to a bad "weld" and is irreparable.
Great! The BRAND NEW TUBE is shit.

The closest new 170/80-15-PV78 tube might be in Saigon—or it might be in Bangkok. Fortunately, I was ready for an un-fixable tube. I had a relatively new, low kilometer, one-patch tube in my pannier. I carry spare new or one-patch tubes for both wheels of the bike I'm riding EVERY time I ride between cities, off-road around Dalat, or to the tire repair shop. Even I wanted to ride tubeless, my spoke wheels require a tube to keep the air from escaping through the spoke/wheel interface. With non-tubed tires, I would still carry a tube for each in case the tire couldn't be plugged.

Click here for good information on plugging vs. patching tires, fix-a-flat, and more.

This post started out recommending that, if you plan on riding on two wheels, you take a tire pressure gauge with you.

Because...

The amount of air pressure in your tire is NOT something that you or anyone else can guesstimate accurately enough. Since arriving in VN eight months ago, I have had air put in my tires by "mechanics" at least seven times. When each pronounced the tire ready to roll (by putting away the compressor hose), I used my tire pressure gauge to check the pressure. In tires that call (on the sidewall) for 38 psi, the mechanic-supplied pressure ranged from 15-54 psi. The closest any of them got to 38 was 34.

Close, but no ceegar.

The other day, My came by when I was checking tire pressures. I put the gauge on her motorbike and found that the rear tire that should be at 42 psi was at 15. Out came the compressor...

How long since you checked the air pressure in your tires? If it's as long as it'd been since you checked your oil level (you know who you are ;-) when I wrote about that, close the computer and go check them now. Yes, even especially if you drive a car! The recommended tire pressure is on the sidewall of every tire, though cage (four-wheeled vehicle) owners should use the recommended tire pressures on the sticker inside the driver's side door, usually on the B pillar (the vertical piece next to the door handle). Check the cold (it's been sitting for at least 30-60 minutes) pressure on every tire on every vehicle and get them right.

Remember... it's only two or four very small patches of rubber between you and the road and between you and potential disaster. On large SUV tires, I can cover the area of one tire's contact with the ground with my spread-open hand. Respect your tires, keep an eye and the occasional gauge on them, and they will serve you well.


Jul 22, 2015

Hodge-podge

As promised in the last post, more photos are coming...

Soon...

Today's post is a hodge-podge. How long has it been since you've heard THAT term? If your answer is "all my life", ask your parents... but only if you can't figure it out before the end of the post.

Click here for ANOTHER reason to stop eating beef:
"Giving up beef will reduce carbon footprint more than cars, says expert.
"Study shows red meat dwarfs others for environmental impact, using 28 times more land and 11 times water (than) for pork or chicken."

Video: Hanoi police hunt man for allowing dog to drive motorbike
Why am I unsurprised?

"Some places remain unknown because no one has ever ventured forth.
Others remain so because no one has ever come back."—unattributed

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before"—Mae West

I wrote, in a number of previous posts, about my challenges with the Vietnamese language. I met a guy the other day who's only been here a couple months longer than I and his Vietnamese is impressive. He told me that he has a gift for languages, but don't ask him to do math. I'm really good at math and don't need that gift anymore... who do I see about swapping my math chip out for a language chip?

Most of you readers probably have little familiarity trying to learn a tonal language, so I'll give you a few examples. These are only some examples (and I'm sure there are others) of, depending on how you pronounce it:

1) tam could mean

  • a shower (tấm)
  • a toothpick (tăm)
  • sheets (tấm)
2) toi 
  • garlic (tỏi)
  • I or me (tôi)
  • sin (tội)
3) dau
  • head (đầu)
  • strawberry (dâu)
  • pain (đau)
  • where (đâu)
4) duong
  • sugar (đường)
  • street (đường)
5) nam
  • male (năm)
  • 5 (năm)
  • year (năm)
That is NOT a typo! THE LAST THREE ARE ALL PRONOUNCED THE SAME!!!

I know I've more than once asked the waitress for a shower. They've never said yes, though occasionally I'll get a toothpick.

I'm unsure if the colloquialism is the same here, but if I ever get slapped asking for a strawberry, I'll know why.

Five years is "năm năm" if talking about a length of time. If you're talking about five years old, that is "năm tuổi".

Just kill me now!

My says that my attempts to speak Vietnamese are "same same baby". At least when the baby speaks, people don't hold their hands vertically and rotate them rapidly (what I call the WTF)! LOL


Funny video:



"There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't."


Click here for an incredible motorcycle drifting video


This is a very moving video poem:



A few weeks ago, My and I flew to Đà Nẵng for a long weekend. One of the things we like to do, wherever we are is "di gau" (ride around—that's MY way of writing what I hear her say when she wants to do it).

As we were riding around Đà Nẵng, we stopped for a light and a Vietnamese man rode up and stopped next to us; about four feet away. Normally, I won't look around if someone stops out of grabbing range, though this time I did look over and I have no idea why. I'm very glad I looked, though, because as soon as he came to a complete stop, the man fell wobbled and fell over... in slow motion.

Fcuking drunks!

He was trapped under his bike and, as he tried to get out from under it, started flopping like a landed trout. A few people left their bikes in the middle of the street and ran to help him. My started to get off the bike to help and I stopped her. I said that he didn't deserve her help and that as soon as he got upright, he'd be off and riding again, possibly right at us. We got way out of there and out of his future. 

Drunks on motorbikes are a problem here. Virtually every evening I ride, I get passed by someone on a fast scooter who's either wobbling or bobbing and weaving when going straight is a better option. The biggest problem I have is that they come up from behind so fast that they're hardly visible in the mirrors and even if they were, any evasive move on my part might put me in their addled path.


This ingenuity popped up on my radar last week and it is now how I fold my t-shirts (video):



The title of my next blog may be... "Not all those who wander are lost."—J.K.K. Tolkien


Speaking of blog names, thank you for your numerous suggestions for my possibly upcoming "Riding the World" adventure blog. At this point, the leading contender is Global Hopscotch. Unfortunately, www.globalhopscotch.com is taken by one of those squatting companies that makes money while not contributing anything to society—though that won't keep me from using the name.


This last quote I saved 'til now 'cause I'll lose a couple of you... I also took one word out of the last line to mitigate the losses. I have no idea who wrote it; I just agree with it.

Religion is like a penis.
It's okay to have one;
It's fine to be proud of it;
But please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around;
And PLEASE don't try to shove it down my throat.

Have you ever had a Buddhist preach to you about how you're going to hell?
I haven't and I'll bet I've encountered more of them than most westerners...


Jul 18, 2015

Beautiful Việt Nam in Photos, Part One

I took a lot of photos over the past six months and they're just sitting on my laptop. It's long overdue to share some of them...
The only fresher sugar cane is un-cut in the field

"Tourist Police" are tasked with protecting tourists.

This "regular" police officer is not peeing in the street.

The yellow-uniformed traffic police usually ride two-up on their 150 Hondas

Buddhist alter with food offerings--found in many homes and businesses


Two of the pro-helmet billboards on Hwy 20 that I think
are paid for by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation

My first motorcycle flat tire happened out of my cell carrier's coverage area; two kids
riding by stopped and, using another carrier, called a guy with a service truck for me.

One of the Prenn Waterfall elephants foraging by the side of the road

The view from my balcony at Villa Pink House, Đà Lạt

The waiting room at the Saigon Dermatological Hospital

Everything I brought to Đà Lạt except one bag and the motorcycles--delivered by bus.

This is the decal guy I use in Đà Lạt. I love how he holds the
blow drier while manipulating the decals with both hands.

Some scooters are more beautiful than others...


Orchid vendors at Đà Lạt Market

I wonder if the kid knows he's wearing road kill on his head?

If you ever see the guy above in a restaurant with greens on the table, eat somewhere else. Both he and his female friend picked up a branch, rubbed it under their noses, and then PUT IT BACK ON THE PLATE which would be put in front of the next customer. I walked over, threw the greens in the trash, and told them how disgusting they are.

My friend Nhi's son Thịnh loves riding on the DRZ. His mom, not so much...

The great new highway into Đà Lạt from the south is closed to motorcycles :-(

Đà Lạt Twilight (sans vampires)

The bridge heading toward the Đà Lạt Market from the east (iPhone photo)

Dropped the DRZ on the street and the gear shifter penetrated the clutch housing

When the mechanic saw I had a dirty air filter (Steed), he ripped out the
filtering baffles and replaced them with a piece of open-cell foam before
I could stop him. It now has a cleanable, 100,000 mile K&N air filter.

Bahn Xeo, A Vietnamese rice pancake and one of my favorites...
even though it's fried in oil. Eating them the VN way is NOT intuitive.
Cut the pancake with (provided) scissors, Pick some greens and lay them on
the rice wrap. Use chopsticks to add a slice of rice pancake
Roll tightly and dip in the rice vinegar (I now add hot chilies to it) and enjoy!

Đà Lạt Market at night

It's a good thing that the hydrant is too far from a structure to be of any use.

This is a fish that apparently divides itself into segments
when fried and was neither oily or greasy--very delicious!

The red fruit at upper right is what they call a plum, though it's nothing like Western plums.

More to follow...




Jul 16, 2015

Mũ bảo hiểm này bảo vệ tương lai của tôi

"This helmet protects my future"

We are finally ready to meet with pre-schools and ask if they will allow us to have a meeting with children and parents to talk about why children need to wear a motorbike helmet... and to give each child from 3 to 5 years old a free motorbike helmet.

First-draft helmet graphics

This is the business card I designed:

It has the phrase that will be on every helmet, "This helmet protects my future" at the top. Then it says, "Free motorbike helmets for the young children of Dalat" with the phone number and email address I set up. The email translates to "Love Your Children"@gmail.com.

The photo is of the three year old daughter of a friend and she is wearing the helmet I bought her the first time we met. When I saw that she rode on her mother's motorbike sans helmet, I asked Mom if she would let me buy a helmet for her. Mom agreed, and as soon as we put it on her, she LOVED it!


On my first visit to Vietnam almost two years ago, I noticed that a number of adults and 99+% of the children did NOT wear a helmet when on a motorbike. I understand that many adults either think they're bulletproof (WRONG!) or that the government shouldn't tell them that they have to protect that thin boney cover over their brain. Whatever your thoughts on that, children CANNOT make fully-informed, rational decisions and parents should make them wear a helmet.

Period.

I was greatly troubled by seeing so many children in daily danger. Upon my return to the U.S., I started researching ways that I might help and read about AIPF and their current work with elementary schools in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. I emailed them and asked if they have any plans to branch out to Dalat; they said they did not. My next question was, will you sell me helmets and literature you've developed? They said yes, so the next step was figuring out where to get the money.

Labor Day Weekend 2014 I had an Estate Sale to offload my accumulations and I decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from that three-day sale toward buying helmet for the children of my new home.

I had some nice stuff and never hesitated to ask a fair price. Between sales and a couple small donations, I collected $7535.28 and every penny is still sitting, untouched, in its own bank account.

In addition to the helmet shown in the Estate Sale flyer and the one on the card above, I've used my own funds (NOT those set aside for helmets) to purchase three adult full-face helmets for Vietnamese adult friends, two adult-size helmets for other Vietnamese friends (as in the rest of the world, some people object to wearing a full-face helmet), and nine child-size helmets either for children of friends. None of the children had ever before had a motorbike helmet and all wear them 100% of the time they're riding. It's a start...

A law went into effect very recently in Vietnam requiring all children six years old and older to wear a motorbike helmet. Since the effective date of that law, nearly every six-plus year old child I see on a motorbike is wearing a helmet, so it is helping greatly. Helmet-wearing children under six are more prevalent than prior to the law's implementation, though my unscientific visual survey puts the overall number at less than 10%.

Last Friday I met with a Ho Chi Minh representative of Protec about purchasing the helmets I want to give away. Protec is a non-profit project of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, who is doing a great job of promoting the wearing of motorbike helmets by children. AIPF was instrumental in getting the various helmet laws passed throughout SE Asia, including the one covering 6-plus year olds here in Vietnam. They have given away thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of Protec motorbike helmets in the ASEAN countries.

From the Protec web site:
"Protec Tropical Helmets are specifically designed for the hot and wet climates of ASEAN countries. Protec safety experts have measured over 5,000 Vietnamese heads throughout the country to guarantee that these helmets will fit your head perfectly at any age. Protec helmets keep your head safe and are suitable for Vietnam’s chaotic traffic patterns.

"The Protec helmet is designed to be lightweight and well-ventilated, with a fit-band that is adjustable to any head size."

The funds currently earmarked will purchase helmets with face shield for about 500 children. There are quite a few schools and each has from 250 to 400 children, so I am working on setting up a way for anyone wishing to donate money to help us buy more helmets.

My friend My (Mee) and I are both working on this project without compensation. Vy (Vee), the one other person working with me volunteered to work gratis, though because of her personal situation I insisted on paying her US$5 per hour—a living wage here for full-time work. Vy and I met on my first trip to Đà Lạt and she is pretty much fluent in English, so 98+% of our communication is a breeze. We've brainstormed a few times about this project and she is making cold calls to local schools trying to get us face time with the principal.

Vy met with the first school on her own and they were VERY skeptical; apparently unable to believe that a foreigner would give away 300 quality helmets to children he does not know. She suggested that we go to the next school together and this morning we did just that.

I spoke, Vy translated, and we were very well-received. The school administration is quite excited about our proposal and assured us that the parents will be receptive. The Head Mistress even beat me to one of my planned suggestions—that they require the children to wear their helmets to and from school and promised to do so. I added that I am considering offering 20,000VND (~US$1) to any kids I see wearing one of our helmets on motorbike, to which she replied that both the kids and the parents would love that idea.

We agreed that this would be our first school and discussed some of the logistics. Lead time on the helmets is 3-4 weeks, so they would arrive too late for us to distribute them before I leave on my trip to the U.S. The tentative dates for the presentation are 14-15 September. We decided to have two presentations on consecutive nights because each will have up to 300 people, students and parents, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Vietnamese people are extremely challenged at queuing up patiently. Two main groups with further sorting into seven classrooms should help things run more smoothly.

The two school officials with whom we met today

In addition to 270 or so helmets for the children of this school, we offered to give an adult-size helmet to each of the 26 staff members. Our thought is that when the children and parents see the school staff wearing helmets of the same design, it will reinforce the value of the children's helmets and help foster an additional sense of community. The bright smile on their faces told us that they were hoping for such an offer.

When I got home after the meeting, I found an email waiting for me from Protec. It contained the graphic design for the helmets:
It's a good first draft. Because I'm ordering more than 300 at once, they will make them in Hi-Vis yellow, a non-standard color for them. The layout/color of the writing on the side needs a bit of tweaking and I'm on-the-fence about the colors of the stripe. I left the stripe color up to them for the first go-round and am wondering if the red/white/blue stripe is because I'm an American or did it just look good to them? Either way, I'm thinking a complementary color might be visually more appealing. I'll sit with it for a couple days and then see what I think.

If you'd like to weigh in, I welcome your comments and/or emails. After placing the order, I'll post the final design.