Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Sermon: Saving the Planet, One Less Carbon Footprint at a Time

I wish to state my case concisely and simply.

There is a 100% foolproof way to reduce humanities Carbon Footprint.

It is less footprints.   Vastly less footprints.

Duran: Planet Earth

Fridays For Future
UK Climate Change Protest Weekend Sept 21-22 2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019

End of Term: Philips Sonicare Platinum

I can honestly say, that before suddenly completely failing, our Sonicare toothbrush was doing a fine job :-)

Marcus and Agata keep detailed records, and so I refer you back to our March 2017 detailed review of the Philips Sonicare Platinum. In other words this product has lasted about 2.5 years, in which time it must have been used for at least 4000 minutes, but we will talk costs later!

I hope it's 100% obvious that electrical toothbrushes will clean your teeth better than any mechanical equivalent, or of course doing nothing.   The Sonicare vibration instead of the Oral B movement was recommended to Marcus by my Gum Specialist as a superior solution to try and tackle Receding Gums and Gum issues in general.

And my main dentist, who is seen regularly  (at my age!!) confirms that my Gums have shown some marked improvement since 2017.

Sudden Death & Costings
Yes, one day it was working fine, then the next dead as a dodo.  A hard reset  (press power and +key) fixed it for a week, now it is I am afraid firmly wandering towards Silicon Heaven.

I reflect that the original Capital cost was about 100 GBP and so this equates therefore to about 0.025 GBP  i.e. 2.5p per minute of usage. So for our pretty obsessively teeth cleaning houseshold, that runs to about 11 pence per day. Let's say 12 including electricity. Surely not too much to pay? 

Feature Creep
Looking for our replacement brush has been interesting.  Here is a bulleted summary of what we found

- The retail price of the best Sonicare is over 300 GBP!!

- Sonicare toothbrushes are on massive discount everywhere, often at over 50% discount, even from the UK manufacturer shop.  Bonkers.

- There are a whole set of confusing different lines.  like Diamond Clean or ExpertClean

- The industry is now subject to chronic feature creep.  That means adding functionality that you might never use  (after the first week of curiosity) 

- As an example our Bluetooth connection of the now deceased model to link to a Smartphone app, well, that lasted about one week.  What a complete waste of time

- The current vogue is to manufacture different brush heads that will be automatically recognised by the toothbrush.  What a load of ****.   I can just press the button to select what I want me thinks.

What you Really Need
We think what you need is a 62,000 movement / minute model.  With manual programs and intensity buttons.  No Bluetooth or Smart head detection required.  Pressure feedback (indicating too hard a brush) is worth it.  Surely you don't need a model with accessories like a cup!

In 2019 prices of this basic spec model should be well under 100 GBP.   You are saving money indeed on 2017 prices.

Start looking here

Friday, September 20, 2019

England: End of Season Swim

Subtitle: 5 Go A Swimming

Marcus and Agata and 4 other Run Alcester members decided we would finish off the summer season with a swim at the Lenches Lake

In our region of Warwickshire there are not too many options for Open Water swimming at any temperature and this Thursday although the ambient air temp was about 18 degrees at 7pm in the evening, well the water did not seem to know about it.

Cheryl was on secret squirrel photographic only duty and did not give me any time to but the belly in and the chest out

 It was time for Marcus' first lap.  But I kid you not, it was so cold and I was so disorientated that I forgot to start my watch.   And, as we all know that an activity not recorded, well did it really happen I hear team members calling?

I think the expression on Ruth's face says it all.  How fluppin cold is it, and if I catch Marcus who suggested this, he's going to be in some trouble.

On Marcus' first lap it was so cold that I was actually gasping and could not put my face into the water continuously making front crawl a little tricky.

After a few circuits I felt just a little better and exited the lake proudly saying that even in freezing cold lake England it is just about possible to Open Water swim and enjoy it.

Lenches tells me that swimming sessions will continue until the temperature is about 11 degrees.   You can find them here

Oh So Pleased!

I think we all felt that we had gone above and beyond our  daily exercise goals for the day.  So here is a wonderfully happy celebration song ...

Thursday, September 19, 2019

BREXIT: Let's Finnish This By September

Ah BREXIT, the surreal comedic gift that keeps on giving.
Marcus' report from England is that this week matters have indeed been getting past surreal.

Most thinking, non jingoistic British have by now almost given up.

The essential problem is that whilst it is now a surreal soap opera, the problem is that the entire British population are now unpaid extras in the performance :-(

At the same time that the Supreme Court prorogation debate occurs, Uncle Boris was in Luxembourg.

Surreal #1 Boris and the Missing Press Conference as shown above

See also PodiumGate

Surreal #2 Boris and the Hecklers.
It is now becoming quite fashionable to rock up to Boris and go into full heckle mode.  A heckle a day leads to schadenfreude with May (Theresa is lovin it)

Surreal #3 Even the Finnish get Involved
The mild mannered Finns have now released a statement telling Boris he only has until end of September 2019 to get substantive written proposals for changes to the Theresa May agreement to them.  Otherwise it is all over.  Don't you just love the EU preemption tactic.

What's that song I hear them singing at the Conservative party ERG?

Not Over


I would like to close with an old business maxim:

You can trade with somebody a thousand times, but you only get screwed once.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Basking In The Minutiae of Our Lives

Marcus and Agata are back from a Sleepover, you know, the sort of thing that you might have done when you were about 10, if of course you would have had the benefit of a normal childhood.

Now back in our beautiful home in England; we are just sitting back and trying to focus on the many positive aspects of our lives.  It is the sort of thing many Religious people seem to attribute to benevolent outside forces.  I can hear the familiar echo of Giving thanks to God trying to assault me from the past.  But no,  we ascribe our current circumstances to our own actions and decisions thank you very much.

We have to decide on where the catcam can sensibly be placed.   It's messing up the kitchen as shown above.

Meanwhile, the cat (not our cat) popped in to check our house was safe from intruders during our absence.

Our morning walking path just got a small upgrade, making life just that little bit easier.

These and other minutiae continue to make our daily lives incrementally more wonderful each day.   And at last, we have some time to give back to our friends in the best ways that we can.   Long may it continue.

Reach Out

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Tale of Two Pi

No photo description available.

The two subjects covered today are simply two Pi.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then, let us begin

The Mince Pie Season

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

Every year in England we have some seasonal Christmas foods unavailable during the rest of the year.  Marcus' personal view is that shops have started the Christmas Puddings and Mince Pies early.  Well because, you know, who knows what foods will be readily available as of November 1st 2019 :-(

So yes,  Mince Pies are now available in British Supermarkets and Marcus begins to stock up and eat them.  Each mince pie is about 250 calories, and with every consumption one simultaneously has a momentary increase in pleasure but overall decrease in fitness.  So self control needs to be exerted. Let's say 2 maximum per day?

I did an analysis last year and Morrisons' home baked pies came out on top.  Since then our local farmshop hillers have proved superior, but they are literally twice the price.  I guess it depends how deep your pockets are.

The Raspberry Pi

My love affair with the Raspberry Pi just gets stronger and stronger.  This week I'm investigating three things

a) The Move to 64 bit Raspberry Pi

The Pi currently runs a 32bit Operating system, even though the latest hardware is 64 bit capable.   As of well now, it's possible to start running a 64 bit kernel

pi@testpi:~ $ uname -a

Linux testpi 4.19.71-v8+ #1263 SMP PREEMPT Thu Sep 12 16:28:48 BST 2019 aarch64 GNU/Linux

b) Using a PC to provide a network connection to a Pi Zero

c) The Recovery Partition
Trying to provide a way to recover your system

The Interview Test
I've met a lot of pompous know it all's in my time.  From the guy (it's always a guy) who said he would never enter a Machine Room on Principle, to the UNIX expert who did not know vi.   If I was hiring a so called UNIX/ Linux expert I'd ask them to give me a 10 minute talk on Raspberry Pi.

Popquiz: Who sold more: Raspberry Pi or Macbook Pro?

Interview Q: Compare and contrast the strengths of Pi Linux vs Macbook UNIX

IMHO in the last 10 years there has never been a more powerful and game changing computer system since the IBM PC.   If you claim to be an IT guru and you've never actually used or experimented with one, yes .. you personally, not your subordinate, not your team, not your kids, then I'd rate you as bullshitter until proved otherwise.

And So
That's is the story of 2 Pi.  One is seasonal, the other is sensational.

Take it away Carl ...

Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: Salomon 2L Agile Race Backpack Rucksack

This is a mostly positive review of the Salomon Agile 2L Rucksack.   I purchased it from Amazon on Prime Day for about 40 GBP.   The long video below discusses the following points

- I'd classify this as an ultra light and simple rucksack for running races upto about 70km depending on your water stops

- My model was supplied with 2 x 500 ml soft flasks.  But in practise I can only use one.  Why?  Because, for me, with both installed there is too much weight on the front and the whole unit jigs up and down too much whilst trail running

- Also I found that you can get the water flask in or out when there is anything else in the pocket on that side.  So on a race this would mean at refill point, you attempt to fill your water bottle by removal.  First you have to take out the contents of your smaller adjacent pocket and on a race there is a great possibility you'd leave something behind

- My working config is one water bottle limiting this to 500ml fluids which for me is good for 15km if frugal

- On the back is a single stretch pocket and in that I can fit a waterproof, hat and gloves, 2 food bars

- On the front right pocket I fit 2 gels, a large Oneplus smartphone, some glucose

The pack sits very high leaving a lot of room on your back for ventilation

The fabrics used I think are cheaper than Salomon's higher end products

Salomon 2L review

I think this will be my Rucksack of choice for competitions where water stops are frequent enough to make it work.  For a long distance serious ultra with a long required kit list this would not work.  But for shorter events: great.  Plus for training runs I like to use a single front bottle for fluids, a bladder is so much more effort to fill and then clean afterwards :-)   I paid 40 GBP including 2 soft flasks which is excellent value,  any more any you need to consider this against the more expensive competition.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Report: Heart of England Forest Marathon 2019

On Saturday September 14th part of Run Alcester, namely Marcus, Agata, Tuula, Becky and Mark assembled at Henley in Arden school to begin the Heart of England Forest Marathon 2019.

As you can see booking office was a pretty low key affair :-)

Trees not Medals

Don't hesitate to click to zoom, but essentially for every entrant 2 trees are planted.  10 for us total, and yes we did Carshare.   There are no medals and no timing chips, the modest race entry fees goes towards this conservation effort.

There were quite a few checkpoints according to the map but we were not prepared for how comprehensive they were.  So 4 of us turned up in full trail running rucksack gear stuffed full with food and bladders and fluids.  We would find they were not needed!

Our brave team, we are all Run Alcester members.  Hint: If you live in this area you should come and join us!

 The walk to the start was quite casual and this is inline with our ethos for the day and indeed that of the race.   You could actually walk this marathon distance   (starting an hour earlier) but we would be running it casually

A Running Experiment
Marcus and Agata have often said quietly and politely that we should now be at a level of fitness enough to complete a daily marathon.  But most importantly to do so without tearing our feet to shreds, or exhausting us for the next day.   We would test this today

 Full team at the start

Let's Go and Stop

 Ordinarily in Swiss mountain trail races, Marcus is known to grumble loudly at congestion of people stopping runners from actually running.

But today we are taking things easily, so the big jam within the first 5 minutes, to get past one (of what would be many) kissing gates, was taken with just a smile.

Food and Stops

I've tried my best to capture the spirit of the event.  It was in general, slow paced running in beautiful English countryside.  Oh, and it was sunny (upto 20 degrees C) and dry, something that is not as frequent as I would like.

Other major pluses were evident in that we did not have to negotiate i.e cross many / multiple prickly hedgerows, something that England  (and for example unknown in Switzerland) is absolutely full of

Kissing gates and styles were a major pain in the arse.  But considering that we were not racing we took it in our stride. 

We spent our hours just running with each other, chatting, smiling and soaking up the delightful countryside.

I hope this is evident this from our happy faces.

 So many stops equipped with delicious food.  I wish we had known and we would not have brought all those food items with us.

The Stats
What these gentle stats show Marcus, is that with an average Heart rate on the day of just 103 bpm, it was time to head our post race for a celebration cream tea.   And with the 2000+ calories spent, I am still calorie negative for the day.  Wonderful.

Really All Good?

So it is a few hours post run now.  And yes Marcus' and Agata's bits are still in 100% fine condition.  Not tired.  No aches. No Pains. No blisters.  Feet as above in A1 condition. 

Post race, resting heart rate is now often below 40 bpm.  We like.

We quietly appreciate that our lives and fitness levels have now reached a decent level.  Took dedication, but we are at last there.

Take it away Woolfy

Saturday, September 14, 2019

NEC Bicycle Show 2019

Agata, Pierre and Marcus simply love cycling, oh and also bicycles and the technology that helps us cycle quicker and monitor our rides.

Our mission as we trotted around the 2019 NEC Bicycle show was simply to enjoy ourselves, show restraint, and not instantly empty our bank accounts.

I made a few visual notes as we gawped and walked around

 Darling Ribble

Ribble have developed and blossomed in the 20 years or so that we have used them.  Above all they still have fantastically low prices, a bicycle configurator, and in 2019 some very fancy products.

For Marcus, any ultra lightweight componentry has to pass the "I can easily clean it test" These clavic brakes fail miserably. (Choose these instead)

These fancy components are on the show bike which is actually holding this sub 6kg masterpiece with only balloons.  But I don't think this kit is specifiable on their wonderful configurator.

More eye watering bikes from Ribble.  Note the From ... pricing

 Ribble are now aggressively pushing e-bikes.   If I was 20 years older and very wealthy I'd have at least one in my bicycle stable

Marcus spoke to the man who mused he was adding an extra balloon as this had to better support the 5.x Kg bicycle for a few days running!

 I don't like Mavic wheels these days but the Ribble stand was positively overflowing with them.  I do admit these Tour De France celebration wheels are rather beautiful, though I'd have to employ a servant to clean them.


 Have a promotion for 530 and 830 units where you get a 50 GBP cashback.  My 530 is great but had this promotion been available months back for me I'd have gone for the 830 because the 530 interface  (maybe on purpose) is a total and utter disaster.    With 50 GBP back the show prices are very very good.

I tried to get Agata to go for the 830 but she was not convinced.

Limar Helmets

 Like cars, helmets just keep getting heavier and so this 180 gram size Medium Limar helment is now the worlds lightest.  I nearly went for it, but Limar is a pretty entry level brand.  Numerous visits to other stands like Kask or Giro reveal more expensive 200 gram helmets.  So nothing was bought.  More research required.  Quality sub 200 gram helmet.  From whom?


 A whole set of well crafted but unconnected headlights and tail lights.  I think they are not getting it.  Lights these days are connected to each other and to a Head Unit. Usually via ANT+.   Lezyne has none of this technology.   Come on Lezyne.

Wattbike Atom

Agata and Pierre spent so long at the Wattbike stand looking at the more compact Atom (vs the Pro)  that I thought they might have got a job there.   It is certainly a beautiful product and it has computer control of the resistance, so you can set the Watts desired and then it changes resistance to match your cadence so your Power output is constant or as per the course you are following.

In England most serious cyclists, excluding Marcus and Agata seem to have a Wattbike.  We are still thinking about it.
Money and space are two issues!


 We did not attend but there are several


 I am a big Deda fan and must spe up a RHM Rapid Hand Movement handlebar soon


 As an ex multiple Condor owner I always like to look at their stand.  For me I'd probably go Ribble these days to create my perfect bike, but for hand-built and service of course Condor would be superior.

 Anti theft skewers.  If I had some spare cash to experiment with I would have bought some


Saw some nice conversions.  The issue is that at over 60K GBP this is an expensive, though compact and practical way to travel with bicycles on roadtrips.     We know people who can do custom conversions in the UK, so contact us instead should you want to spend considerably less!


 Had light products that are configured via a Smartphone app and talk to each other, principally turning on and off together.  They don't talk to any Garmin head-unit and the target audience is more the occasional cyclist.  To me not sure they have the right strategy.

SRAM AXS 12 Speed

 As a blissfully happy SRAM, 11 Speed eTap user you might think my criticism of AXS 12 speed is merely envy.  But no, really I don't think anybody needs 12 speed even in a one-by (i.e. no front mech) setup.   I think 11 speeds should have been where we stopped the gear war evolution.  But apparently not. 

 No time to check them out but if I did I would cross check them against Brompton Electric.

Crank Brothers

 Agata's venture to Time pedals is thankfully ending.  She is going back to Crank Brothers which I have always thought looked very cute.  Of course I'd be even happier if she joined me in the Speedplay gang (with me), but Eggbeaters are her preference.


Knog had a monster 2000 lumen light but at the expense of something so large I actually thought it might be a joke.  But I think I found this link, so no, it is real.

A Great Day
Marcus, Agata and Pierre have a thoroughly good time.   We spent small and smiled large.  We did walk out with a few cycling goodies that will be reviewed and tested shortly.  But we always remember: all this kit is only a means to the end of actually getting on our bicycles and cycling for real.