Thursday, November 21, 2019

Is It Time For My First and The Last Corvette?

As Marcus is now a bonafide Old Person you will not be surprised when I say that I was looking thru a recent Pension statement.  I'm now of an age where I can preemptively take this hard earned money pot and blow it on something, well like a Chevrolet C8 Corvette.

I already wrote about the impressive first impression of the 2020 year Corvette (release is 2019 in the US, they always name the year wrong sic. )

But then the very complete Jay Leno documentary above made me think more seriously.   Having watched that great 56 minute expose I was really impressed.

Here are my summary of thoughts for UK ownership though:

- It's more a car for sunnier climbs.  For a hot US state and at US prices, I'd have no other car (in my stable)

- But for wet and mostly damp England the value and enjoyment proposition is very limited

- It does not make sense in any UK urban environment since it is 1933 mm wide and 4630 mm long.   Also, if I was ordering one I'd double check it would fit in the garage prior to ordering please.

- This is a proud new metal design, with a claimed un-named single part carried over from the C7 (!!)  This means great chance for cockup, and best to wait for early adopters to find problems and not you

(Expect the car to be vastly oversubscribed at launch and to  command a premium for immediate resale, there will be flippers everywhere)

- The new Mid Engine design is the right way to go, however the old Hatchback design, which could fit a bicycle into  (yes I checked!!) is now history.  Same capacity allegedly just split into front and rear trunks.

- The Convertible design (even the Coupe has a removable roof) will be of limited value in wet England.

(Dear Chevrolet, if you want to loan me one for the purposes of leak testing it in my wet English climate, contact me immediately!)

- There will be a RHD version for UK, Australian and Japanese markets

- The car contains a 6.2 Litre V8 with 495 Horsepower.  It's not going to be very economical on fuel, though this ancient engine has proved over decades to be very reliable

(Note the custom dual clutch gearbox is new, so nothing can yet be said of its reliability)

- Although the car could be called traditional American there is not even a nod to the environment with for example a mild Hybrid, it's petrol, petrol, petrol

- Global car markets are now transforming faster than any time in the last 20 years.  Petrol only Personal motor vehicles risk becoming not just unfashionable but unacceptable and un re-saleable within the decade.   Well, this is true for First world Europe, less so for Eastern Europe, and for the USA, who really knows.

If the shift to Electric (only) vehicles moves as quickly as many foretell, this could indeed be the last generation of Petrol only Corvette or even end of the Corvette line altogether.

I think owning this car in the UK would be a frustrating though initially entertaining experience.  If you really must have one in England's Green and Moist Land, make it your Occasional or European GT car, just not a daily driver.

Corvette C8 2019 First Impressions


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We Are Watching Chernobyl

Chernobyl Trailer

This is an article about Chernobyl, and in particular the powerful mini series that chronicles the events of the worst nuclear disaster we have ever seen.

I'd heard that it was good and indeed received many awards at the Emmy Awards.   My purpose here is to convince you to watch it too

Some Biases
Agata remembers as a child living in Eastern Europe, living much closer to Chernobyl than Marcus, that she was kept inside during the time of the disaster.

Marcus has spent almost a decade with UK Power Generation including working on UK Nuclear Power plants.  And walking and working on the core of a working Nuclear reactor and all that kind of stuff.

So we both have our stories to tell, and overall Marcus was certainly a great advocate of Nuclear power in years gone by, and even today (pre watching) I was of the opinion that Nuclear combined with Renewable (solar, wind) gives us the best chance of a credible Carbon Neutral energy generation strategy.

Remembering Chernobyl
Chernobyl is given to be the Nuclear Plant disaster that occurred in Ukraine on April 26, 1986.  I highly recommend this Wikipedia explanation of events.

In summary; a long overview Safety Test was planned to simulate an electrical power outage of the reactor and the need to otherwise power the reactors water pumps during such a situation.  Whilst the test was in progress a series of bad timing, bad operational decisions, and a design flaw of the RMBK type reactor caused an explosion in Reactor 4.

The result was that the Reactor core was exposed and the equivalent of 2 Hiroshima Nuclear bombs worth of radiation was being emitted every day, for over one week.

The Series Does It Better
With my background in Power Generation and my time later spent in Post Communist Easter Europe I felt immediately drawn into the realism of this tale as told by the TV series.

I highly recommend it to all those who want to think about the pro's and cons of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons.

In the UK you can watch it via NOW TV

My Learning Points

- This was a single Nuclear disaster.  And the largely untold or undisclosed carnage that it caused.  Not just the deaths due to immediate radiation, nor just the suffering of those made ill who died later.  Consider also the fatalities of the many engaged in the radiation cleanup, and the over 500,000 people engaged who could have been more productive elsewhere.

The scale of the disaster and what was necessary to put it right, or at least prevent the radiation from further contaminating the environment  is one that has not been told before

- There is to me no question that if this contamination and make good was necessary for a single Power Plant then the effect of any Nuclear Style war are just un-survivable.

If there is just one take away from this series to me it was that

- We do have to think about the appallingly crude design on Soviet RBMK reactors and whether this pollutes the credibility of the wider nuclear industry worldwide

- We also have to think about the safety of these reactors in a modern world with terrorist elements adding to the risks of Operator/Regime incompetence to judge whether the Nuclear Reactor program can be considered safe in 2019 and beyond


If you wanted to know more about Nuclear Power, watch the series

If you wanted to know the real consequences of an Open core, watch the series

If you wanted to understand the scale of the tragedy, watch the series.

And even if you only  want to see Great Acting and Screenplay, watch the series.

Overall, please watch the series.

Official Explanation

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Three Mobile Subscription Gladly Renewed

I always believe in supporting good service and I feel that Marcus' recent Smartphone renewal with Telecom provider Three deserves some (positive) comment.

Setting the Scene
Of course Marcus and Agata are now living in England, at least for the moment.  In our country of so many years, Switzerland, we became used to High Prices for Phone Calls, restricted Data contracts, and poor service.

In the UK we expected a 'less bad' service and today I renewed my Smartphone contract with Three.

Of course before renewing I did an extensive search of other UK providers who offered unlimited Data Plans for my mobile.   Instead of their being only Three, with the proposed, and yet I venture awfully premature advertisement of 5G many Telecom players now do offer phone plans with unlimited data, but at a cost that makes Three mobile look obscenely cheap.

Unlimited Data
We rely on a powerful Internet connection at home in the UK.  

Specifically all our TV, our Security Systems, over 100 Internet of Things devices including sensors, cameras, SmartHome devices.  All of this sits on top of  what needs to be a constant and reliable Internet connection.

Although we now have a private Fibre to the Home contract  (almost unheard of in the UK countryside by the way) we need to have backup.  And Marcus is paranoid so we actually have a Primary and 2 backups

It's like this

a) Fibre to the Home connection,  falling back to

b) Dongle 4G SIM to Mikrotik router,  falling back to

c) Marcus' primary Smartphone connected to Microtik Router

It's important that this is done in a transparent way and in a future post I'll highlight how this can be achieved using Mikrotik Routers.

The Negotiation

Having done my due diligence I rang 3 , which is 333 from any connected mobile.   I spoke to Girish.  He turned out to be one of the most polite and helpful service personnel I'd spoken to in a while.

I won't bore you with the negotiation but I ended up with the following contract

- A continuation of my current contract

- 12 months duration only
(So if I leave the UK again, my liability is small)

- Unlimited data,  phone calls and texts in the UK

- Unlimited UK Hotspot usage

- 19GB in Europe and 12GB USA Data per month

- 19GB/month  Hotspot in Europe

And here is the punchline

For less than the advertised 20 GBP per month.   They did me a deal as a long standing customer, and I am really chuffed.

When I think about the yearly costs of technology or clothes or electricity and compare it to what is now less than a 250 GBP per year payment for a portable unlimited data connection I am absolutely gobsmacked.

I'd like to re-iterate that Three mobile is providing this connection for a fraction of the cost of alternate vendors.

Of course they may have some special Black Friday offers also, but I feel at the price I paid I already have exceptional value.

Really well done 3 Mobile.  You Did It Right.  If I could have switched to a better provider I would have done, but there simply is none.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Broadway Mudathon 2019

It was another rather early Sunday morning when the brave trio which is Marcus, Agata and Tuula journeyed to Broadway for their 2019 Trail Marathon.

Given the catastrophically wet weather (and associated flooding) in our neighbouring Stratford and Evesham areas we were not sure what to expect.

As such we arrived to race start about 07.15 Sunday with a variety of clothing, plus all the mandatory kit that was needed and inspected at the Kit Check.  This included Medical Emergency Kit, Smartphone, Rainproof Jacket,  Hat&Buff&Gloves, Whistle,  Emergency Food.  After Kit check we are allowed to get our numbers

Race Report

After a comprehensive Race Briefing we all jogged to the start
We started on time.  There is an initial bunch up / slow down as all runners get stuck behind a kissing gate.  Over the course of the race we had to Open (then close) over 30 gates.  Kissing Gates, Single Person Gates, Farmers Gates. The whole flipping lot! This is definitely a characteristic of UK races.  I never experienced this level of frustration/ delay in any Swiss race :-(    Over the course of the race though there was no issue after hour 1 when runners had spread out.

The weather conditions on the day were actually dry in the air.  Or to be more accurate it was not actually raining, but it was rather foggy.  (Non English readers:  England is never truely dry.  Especially in country areas a dry English day means not actually raining and quite possible damp everywhere).  Anyway it was only about 5 degrees C, but the amount of physical effort we all put in (due to muddy conditions) meant that we survived the whole race on just baselayers, we did not have to fall back on our wind/rain jacket, which I previously mentioned is part of the mandatory kit.

Because the running world in our area seems increasingly familiar, of course we actually ran into people that we knew

Marcus running in the fog.  Believe me there was a considerable amount of it

 More Fog

 Large sections, and I mean several kilometres of the 42.9 were thick, gooey mud.  You had not much option to skirt around it and when it gets to to cover the top of the shoe, it is well, difficult to run except slowly and with a lot of care.  At any moment on a downhill or adverse camber you can fall over, or worse, fall over and injure yourself.

The major saving grace was that although it was rather muddy, due to last weeks torrential rain, during the run itself it was merely foggy and not raining.

I counted 4 aid stations where we could stock up on water or CocaCola or squash.  Additionally sweets like Jelly Babies or Crisps were available.   We stopped at 3 aid stations, ignoring the last one as we wanted to finish more quickly!

 There were not too many stops en route for a shared photo opportunity, except this one.

I'd say at least 80% of the course was trail, and muddy trail at that.  But there were a few tarmac sections.

 What are the chances, but team Marcus-Agata-Tuula all wore the same Salmon 12L trail rucksack.  Full review to follow.  (Salomon, where is that sponsorship deal!!)

Our medals will soon join our collection in the cave.

Post race we all had some stretching to do, so that tomorrow we will hopefully barely notice the events of this Sunday.  After all there is a club run Monday night.


We covered the 42.9km course in 5 hours and 7 minutes.  Trail course with a lot of mud.  We were extremely pleased with the times.  No injuries. Marcus drunk 500 ml of water/coke over the entire Marathon, some sort of new (minimum) record.  I ate 2 Cliff Bars and about 10 jelly babies.

Say it Again Marcus
Of course I've said this so many times now, but it's never to late to repeat the mantra.   Daily Exercise!   Now, I am not expecting readers to indulge in a Daily Marathon, certainly not from a starting almost zero daily exercise.  But what I am proposing is at least something daily, and over time building up a fitness level where a Exercise becomes pleasurable, and hence a daily dose becomes something you look forward to.  This can be the case, aged 9 to 90, age is not a barrier.

Oh, And Just One More Thing

Agata did most of the organising for this event.  Including making the actual bookings, liaising with the Race Director about details, talking with Tuula, getting us .GPX courses ready for our Garmin (with turn by turn instructions) and now even testing Pace Pro, and helping with the washing mountain post race.    

All this helped us celebrate another fantastic Wedding Anniversary.  Lucky guy I am indeed.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Last Cycle 2019

Wiggle, Speedplay and maybe last cycle
Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor, nature and water

This is the view from the start of the Stratford Park run this Saturday.  Well, it would have been except that as you can see it was cancelled, due to er flooding.

The end of an awkward week for Marcus and Agata including all too much Administration, Legals and that weather.  Now that the temperature is down to about between 5 to 10 degrees it's time to stop cycling regularly until 2019.

Today there was an additional challenge as my Shimano shoes have been returned, fixed by Wiggle.

I also took the opportunity then to fix new cleats to these cycle specific shoes.  The old ones above are done and have exceeded the 5Km cycled in the last year I'm sure.

So we completed the cycle and as usual there was a focus to our activity

 Our bicycles are screaming, take us home, this is awful weather!

 Ice Cream is attractive despite the chilly weather!

 Merry Christmas :-)

 Sounds unlikely but a variety of wine grown and produced locally.

So that might be it for another year.  All in all we congratulated  ourselves for not just lounging on the settee at home all day.   Daily exercise people!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Being A Worker

The Worker

Here in the UK it has been quite a traumatic week.  Not only has there been severe flooding on almost a Venetian scale, but we have had to deal with the December 2019 Election Campaign.

All Political sides it seem are intent on shaking a money tree of more or less infinite proportions.

Increasingly I see a small preposterously paid elite / community with unrealistic ideas and time-frames.  They formulate policy, they organise, sloganise, but really they are pretty clueless.

Like providing a free, full-fibre broadband to all in the UK by 2030 via a Nationalised Openreach (Do read the comments)

The above song is instead to celebrate all of us Technical Individuals who like myself have spent decades honing real skills.   Whatever our position today,  however senior, we still have made it a priority, and a promise to ourselves, to keep current those baseline skills, and that critical thinking that hopefully keeps us grounded.

Good solid honest workers at heart.  Not bullshitters!

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Long Slow Road to Garmin Cashback

Whilst I truly appreciate Garmin and the quality of their products, this is a story about Garmin Cashback ...

Money, Principles and Pragmatism
The fact that Marcus has stuck with a seemingly unending process to get a mere 50 GBP from Garmin is an accurate reflection of 2 facts

a) I'm trying to be logical and chase income sources that make sense to me in terms of time and reward

b) The perilous, or what I would prefer to call precise state of said finances.

I refer all back to my 2010 article which asked the question:  What Number Are You?

What Garmin Made Me Do!

I bought a Garmin 830 Cycle Computer

Apparently it came with a 50 GBP Cashback, in the form of a MasterCard, loaded with money that I could simply spend.

The laudable idea is that you carry this whilst out Cycling and (typically) use it to pay for Coffees or other sundries when you have a pitstop.

Sounds excellent right.  Except 

01  I bought the Garmin Unit

02  I filled out the Cashback form online. Reaonably long form.  Hit send ... rejected.  Turns out I have to wait 30 days from purchase before continuing with the procedure

03 I had to put a note into my Diary, because guess what, if you wait too long you forfeit the Cashback

04 30 days later I logged on and completed the form.   It's non trivial in the sense that you also have to send them your receipt

05 There was NO response at all from Garmin

06 Sometime later I got a response from Pure indicating the card was being sent

07 Card Arrives, but of course it's not usable.  I thought for 'only' 50GBP value it would be

08 You now have to register on the Pure Website.  ... < sigh >

09 Then you have to enter all your card information to get a secret code

10 It was supposed to be with me in 'minutes' but it took 24 hours to arrive

11 You go back to Pure and with the secret code  & activate

I note this is a once off card.  It cannot be topped up :-(  What I'm grumbling is:  If this was a top upable card then maybe the hassle could be worth it.

12 I still have not used the flippin card!  Torrential Rain in England  (not Garmin's fault I acknowledge) may keep me from cycling until 2020.  I presume it's going to work.

One Thing is For Sure   When I finally get off my bicycle and use this card for a coffee and cake there is going to be finally some celebration!  What a Palava


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Not Just Another Apple MacBook Pro 16" Review

Introducing MacBook Pro 16"

So if you watch the official Apple MacBook Pro (MBP) 16" video above it's almost as if you  (the user) need not worry your little head about any of the details, such as: specifications, features, or well certainly the price for the new system.

Read this commentary though and you can stand your corner when you talk to any Apple Fanboy or Fangirl.  Let's go:

Level Set
To Marcus the MacBook Pro is an iconic computer, even if you might argue that macOS software is a pretty outdated form of UNIX these days. And don't even get me started on that 1990's throwback desktop GUI design. But, to continue 

MacBook Pro has always been a market leader in terms of eye candy, build quality, weight, screen Rendering. Somewhat less so in recent years for Serviceability, Expandability, CPU performance, Ports, Screen Resolution, Keyboard.

What Timing

The big Apple announce for this year on September 10th 2019 was only iPhone related.  You could say that Apple did not want to shift focus from their big revenue earner namely iPhone; to lesser important computer items like, this MacBook Pro 16, and the still as yet not fully announced Mac Pro.

So the November 11th announce to Marcus is like:  are we supposed to be grateful for this low key release, or just a bit resentful ?!?  MacBook Pro,  not ready or appropriate for the big time anymore :-(

The Best Reviews

Watch these, any more and I suggest you'll get overloaded

Decently polished Verge review

Brian's charismatic review, of course

Some Important Points

- Of course you can jack up the price to a preposterous amount, but bear in mind early reports are that nothing is upgradable.  So choose the memory and Solid State disk options now, because you can never change it later.

+ Max specs include 8TB SSD, 8 Core Intel i9, 64GB RAM

+ The new MBP16 is a bit of a looker

+ Base cost of the 8 core, Intel i9 processor machine with 16GB RAM memory and 1TB disk storage is 2799 GBP

- USD Prices are quite a lot cheaper.  Unfair to UK consumers Tim Apple,  I cry foul

+ The 15" MBP is no more.  It's withdrawn.  So it is 16" or nothing for the future

+ Official Tech Specs

- 3072 x 1920 Screen resolution. Of course we are not giving you a full 4K screen  (I know!)

+ The keyboard has a Physical  Escape Key, and a Delete key.  I nearly fainted.  (No Backspace of course)

+ After the disastrous butterfly keyboard, Apple has gone back to the traditional scissor switch keyboard.  Like the one they used 2 generations ago. It's now dubbed the Magic Keyboard to avoid embarrassment.

- There is still a touch bar on every 16" MacBook Pro

- A reminder to PC folk.  Apple does not offer touchscreen Laptops, ever.  MBP16 is another example.

+ Astonishingly large 100 watt hour battery

= Claimed better CPU thermal cooling to avoid throttling under sustained heavy workloads. Significant, needs verification.

+ Weight is about 2Kg which considering the battery is impressive

+ Improved Audio over outgoing MacBook Pro 15

- Webcam is still 720p  (WTF)

- Still no Kensington lock, so easy to steal

+ TouchID fingerprint sensor

- WiFi is still only 802.11ac  (If it's soldered you'll never be able to upgrade to 802.11ax).  Hmm, you just know that any 2020 MBP 16 refresh will have 802.11ax, so you can just buy another one right?

+ Bluetooth 5.0

+ Four Thunderbolt 3 ports i.e. upto 40Gb/sec each.  Really impressive.

- No SD card slots

The Way Forward
You'd just have to be a complete Muppet to buy the outgoing 15" MacBook Pro right now, I don't care who might offer what deal on Black Friday

You should also wait for decent tech reviews, before any MBP16 purchase so give that at least another month

It will be interesting to see what components if any are user replaceable, wait for the iFixit review at least.  Let's see if the Apple tradition for designed obsolescence is there (as usual)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Askhole Paradyn

Due Diligence
I suppose Due Diligence sums up my approach to life, the Universe and Everything.   It means to always do some basic research before diving in with a question.

If I book an appointment with the doctor, I'll have researched my condition / ailment first,  I'll have tried to fix myself any small issues, and only when that fails I seek professional help.

Probably you all have that 'friend' who continues to ask (and ask) you, question after irrelevant question.  And who takes no heed as to your responses.  In 2019 it's now spread worldwide,  to a sea of unthinking, army of Internet based questioners ...

AskHole & JustAsking

Top definition ... We can conclude that an "askhole" is a gaping, cavernous pit of stupidity, into which good, sound counsel is thrown and subsequently lost forever

In this World

It's come to my attention that in many environments, online marketplaces being a gross offender,  people are short on thinking, research, and quick to ask the most irritatingly banal and simple questions.

Some Possibilities are

- Troll
Somebody making an offensive or deliberately stupid comment in order to annoy or rile

- Moron
Somebody who is not malicious, just really so stupid, that day after day, year after year they are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves.

- Asshole
Somebody who is malicious, not so stupid, that day after day, year after year they are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves. I'd like you to do all the work they posture.

Why Just Asking Hurts (Me)
A response from  a seemingly offended buyer who asks ridiculous questions, that I object too is often

Just Asking, Mate

[Many buyers seem to regard me as a mate, even though I have never met them]

The implication is that they are offended, by my offence.

So this is why /Just Asking/ hurts

- It shows me that you have a lack of thinking / consideration.
- It puts me on edge to genuine buyers, making me wary and cynical
- It messes with my worldview of others being fair, honest and decent
- It challenges my ethos of trying to treat everybody with care and respect

One Day Soon
Of course this level of irritation cannot be allowed to continue for much longer.  Right now,  I'm tolerating but not enjoying this state of affairs.