Saturday, October 31, 2009

International Fun Run

The main objective for today is to participate in the foreigners only Continental Airlines International Friendship Run. This happens this Saturday at 09.00 i.e. about 24 hours before the real marathon tomorrow. It should be simple, we all assemble near the United Nations and do a gentle 4Km run which ends in Central Park. After that we have a "VIP" breakfast booked at the Tavern on the Green.

Video Diary:

Police start redirecting traffic, they know the Friendship runners are coming

So many nationaliaties (including majority French it seems) have paid a small fortune to run this Marathon!

Agata and some Swiss colleagues

Marcus completes the run. Please notice the Swiss flag I am carrying!

Video Diary: Friendship Run

Back on the streets I can only assume this is Halloween and not normal attire

And likewise, that this subway passenger really does not have a severe head injury

Pre-Marathon Fireworks party in Central Park

Ingrid our Technical support has arrived! Together we attend the pre marathon Pasta party at the Tavern on the Green.

Inside the Tavern on the Green

Video Diary: Marcus has flu

Video Diary: Marathon prep

Friday, October 30, 2009

Leaving Lausanne

Let us review the basics. This is our second holiday in 1 month but also our 2nd holiday this year. And our main purpose is to goto New York as part of the Nestle PowerBar team and run the ING New York Marathon.

After an all too early 4am wake up alarm we journey to Geneva airport for a 06.00 flight checkin and rendezvous with the rest of the European PowerBar team.

Video diary: Busy Busy Busy

Agata waits patiently in the Princess Lounge

Some 8 hours later we are safely on a Kuoini hired bus to the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan

First views of Manhattan in the distance

Open Air car park, no building required

Cycle courier with a large load

Grafitti is Art man, so long as it is not on my car

The long line forms for tomorrow's Halloween costumes

Meanwhile some Manhattan residents have already made some extraordinary efforts.

Back at the Javits center the Nestle PowerBar team assembles for a team photograph.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lausanne Marathon 2009

Well as prospective entrants for the New York Marathon which occurs in just 7 days Agata and I needed to put in some last minute training.

So what better than to participate in the
2009 Lausanne Marathon :-) Agata was committed to run the 10Km with friends in order to celebrate Simone's birthday, leaving Marcus to run the Lausanne marathon. I was told (by everyone) to go very slowly.

Well that sounds easy in theory. But in practice I saw so many heffalumps walloping past me it seemed rude not to keep up. Despite Agatas' instructions I soon caught up the 03:45 baloon pace man, and then the 03:30 pace man. Then I continued forward and caught up the next group of runners (in block1) who had started 4 minutes earlier.

At Km20 things seems to be going too well when the 03:30 pace man for block1 came into view, and by a combination of corner cutting, and determined plodding of my short fat legs I managed to finish the line just ahead of him. Hence the time of about 3 hours 25 minutes. Wahoo! That is an unbelievable 20 minutes faster than the last marathon.

So early; that Agata was still sitting comfortably in
Creperie D'Ouchy when I waddled in (since I had promised to take at least 4 hours).

So all is well, Lausanne marathon completed and hence preparation for New York is assured. Obviously I now have a perfect excuse to put in a slow New York time, "I was still recovering", and I have a few more like: "I was so happy to see my old home town, I got distracted". 7 days and counting down. New York here we come!

Until then, it is time for WINE!

PS: A bit thanks to Lausanne Cantons' brilliant organisational skills. We drove to within 300 metres of the marathon start, parked the car 45 minutes before the race and started running on time. In New York we have to be there 4 hours before the race start. We have been told to bring a sleeping bag, and I am not kidding.

Post marathon weight: 63.8Kg (meaning that I am now a full 10Kg lighter than a few months back. Don't ask me how). Having been overweight my whole life it is time for me to pose myself a philosophical question: Will I now recognise that I'm probably no longer fat?

Marathon time: About 3 hours 25 minutes (oops, I was supposed to run a 4 hour race)

Injuries: None. Also bizarrely I do not appear to be that tired. Agata tells me it's the extra red blood cells from Kilimanjaro that are carrying me.

Agata, Simone, Rashida, Marianna, Ilona and Ania all in great spirits as usual.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Microsoft Windows 7

Well for the (really) non IT family readers out there: Today is the formal release date for Microsoft Windows 7.

After a Vista PR fiasco due to what I would maintain was user resistance to Vista UI and interface changes, plus major (3rd party) driver holes, Microsoft now has Windows 7. Ironically since Vista launch CPU's have got stronger, DDR3 memory is now freely available and cheaper, and 64bit drivers are now commonplace. So no wonder people believe that W7 is faster!

So I've received my bona fide Windows 7 licenses and yesterday a grumpy DHL man arrived bearing yet more Windows 7, 32bit and 64bit DVDs from Microsoft. All paid for, I mean someone has to actually buy a copy right?

And finally, all that pent up PC hardware that is preloaded with Windows 7 is now actually available to buy. Hello new Quad core laptop :-)

01 Microsoft Windows 7 installation

02 New Microsoft Windows 7 features

03 Personalisation

04 Security

PS: For the more technical and to avoid this post being a complete waste of time check out the Microsoft Store
Windows 7 USB / DVD Download Tool

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

IBM DS8700

I know what you are thinking. What a stunningly good looking storage unit. I guess it looks just a lot like its' predecessor the DS8300. Any more similar in fact and we would have to rename it a Porsche.

So why might you be interested in this DS8700 upgrade?

  • Internally using IBM POWER6 processors and PCI-express busses (cf POWER5 and RIO loops)

  • Single frame 128 drives and 128GB cache, to 5 frames with 1024 drives and 384GB cache

  • Raid-5 and Raid-6

  • 73 / 146 GB SSD and 146 / 300 / 450 FSCSI and 1TB SATA disk choices

  • Upto 64, 4GBps FC ports

Tony Pearson's DS8700 summary

Barry Whyte's DS8700 summary

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The wrong symbol


Does anyone hear prayers, life after death, do humans have souls? Katherine had answered all these questions, and more. Scientifically. Conclusively. The methods she used were irrefutable.


I think it was when I read with a mixture of 10% amusement and 90% horror the above words in Dan Brown's novel The Lost Symbol that I knew I was going to have a tough time finishing this book.

Whether by sadistic pleasure, trolling or agent provocateur I had been l lent this copy from a friend and the initial chapters of the book proved exciting action packed copy.

Our hero Robert Langdon is duped into visiting Washington (DC, USA) and finds that instead of giving a lecture that he falls into a chain of events whereby he attempts to find and rescue his friend (and leading Freemason) Peter Solomon.

And so we become subsumed into an adventure where in a Mormon like transposition we find out how Washington DC could be the centre for recapturing the wisdom of the ancients. I did enjoy the book even though it attempts to reinforce some classic anti-science stereotypes with lines like:

Science was not so much making discoveries as it was making rediscoveries

Perhaps we simply need science to catch up with the wisdom of the ancients

But leaving these grossly insulting lines aside, the ending chapters are soft and anti-climactic, does not explain matters sufficiently and just plain annoying

Perhaps Dan is leaving room open for The Lost Symbol II

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kilimanjaro -we are back

So we are back from Tanzania. In summary all 5 of us successfully climbed to Kilimanjaro's 5895M Uhuru Point. After the descent we travelled back to Moshi from where we made a short 1.5 day Safari in Arusha. We then hopped onto a silky smooth KLM Boeing 777 plane to Lausanne, went out for a celebration run (Lausanne Marathon in 2 weeks) and so are now calmly relaxing with some Merlot and a lot of photographs to sort through.

Kilimanjaro Planning
Test Hike to Breithorn
Kilimanjaro preparations
Kilimanjaro beckons
What I forgot to take

Our Actual Holiday
Thursday October 01 - Destination Kilimanjaro
Friday October 02 - A tour of Moshi

Rongai route begins ..
Sat October 03 - Day 01: Loitokiok to First Camp

Sun October 04 - Day 02: First Cave to Kikewela Caves

Mon October 05 - Day 03: Kikewela to Mawenzi Tarn Huts
Mon October 05 - Day 03: Acclimatisation walk
Tue October 06 - Day 04: Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Huts

Wed October 07 - Day 05: Summit attempt Kibo Huts to Gilmans then Uhuru Point

Wed October 07 - Day 05: Kibo Huts to Horombo Huts
Thu October 08 - Day 06: Horombo Huts to Marangu Gate

Arusha Safari
Lake Manyara Safari

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Just the Video Diary entries
Ania parks the car
Arrival Tanzania
Report on Moshi
Preparing for first day of Kilimanjaro
First Camp
Towards Kikelewa

First trek with Mohammed
Kikelewa it started raining
One hour later and I am cold
Kikelewa to Mawenzi Tarn huts 4330m plan
Mawenzi Tarn arrival report
Plan to Kibo Huts
Marcus shoots off to Kibo Huts with Mohammed
Cloud is coming to get us
Kibo Huts arrival
Summit planning
Advanced Mountain Sickness
Jola walking slow but sure
Franco and Jola to Uhuru peak
Marcus Summit report
Porters Song
Back in Springfields Hotel
Really Wild Bank raid
Ngorongoro Mini Safari
Lions stage a sit in
Lunch by the Lions
Bumpy Ride
Will we make it home

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kilimanjaro Kit review

I think it would be very useful to future enthusiastic and athletic Kilimanjaro trekkers to review some of the hits a misses of kit that we took to the mountain.

Recommended Equipment
Kilimanjaro by Henry Stedman travel guide
If you buy only one thing on this list then this guidebook should be it. Informative and with good maps of all the many and different routes. We used the Rongai ascent route and therefore the Marangu descent route.

Komperdell C3 Ultralight Carbon Poles
Somewhat astonishingly, poles were only needed on the summit ascent, this is truly a sign that the Rongai route (and others) are not really technically difficult in terms of terrain or gradient. Only the summit (and indeed the latter half) is steep and on shale. On this sections poles really make a difference.

Panasonic LX3 camera
Less than 300 grams of pure quality. We took a total of 4 batteries which were enough to power the camera for over 1000 photographs on 8GB over 9 days.

Steripen Water Purifier
Using UV light it takes just a minute or two to purify 1 litre of water. As a paranoid measure we also used purification tables

This flexible clothing garment is useful as a hat, neck warmer and even water purification filter.

Isostar or Nuun
These tablets can be added to your purified water to give it a better taste and add energy or nutrients respectively.

2 litre bladder and 1 litre platypus
This gives you a 3 litre water capacity. In practice I used only about 1.5L per day (if that) so I was actually always carrying around an extra 1.5Kg. That's quite wasteful, but good backup and useful to companions who don't think about carrying water at all. Note that your bladder will free at some part on the summit attempt. For me just before Uhuru point.

Leatherman Charge
Instead of the usual and lighter Leatherman Micra I took the full, larger and heavier Charge along. A brilliant multi purpose tool we used it to cut plastic bottles and make a few sawing adjustments to my rucksack. It's large enough to be used as a weapon, though thankfully we never had to use it for that.

Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag
1Kg and a bag that will keep you warm (without a liner) on all parts of Kilimanjaro. The temperature drops below 0C so you really need something that is warm enough to let you sleep. This is the lightest bag I could find, though I had to buy a separate compression bag as mine did not come with one as standard (annoying).

Dried Apricots and Kumquats
Apricots were recognised by porters and accepted gratefully as food. I walked with the porters a lot and this was a great friend maker. Kumquats were bought at home (did not see any in the Moshi market) and lasted for 5 days. They are delicious, wholly edible (except the pips) and provide calories and a bit of hydration.

Raidlight 40 rucksack and front pouch
The brilliant thing is that the front pouch can store your camera and nibbles and anything else that is heavy. In this way I always had instant access to the camera and food and some balance to traditional sacks where all the weight is on the back.

Toilet Paper
Light and voluminous and also essential! We found that our tour company supplied paper but yours might not.

Plastic Bags.
Put all your clothes in plastic bags and keep a few Ziploc bags spare. Useful for times like when a porter put my rucksack on the ground pressing open my bladder valve and drenching entire rucksack. Plastic bags kept my clothes dry!

Waterproof and windproof outer trousers /Jacket
I'd recommend a shell jacket and trousers for wind and rain protection. You will need a tough and not a lightweight set because rough environmental condition on the hike could rip lighter products open.On the ascent the waterproof trousers were an excellent shield to the bitterly cold sub 0C winds.

For daily trekking you cant do much better than Decathlon 520 diving gloves. Flexible and warm when wet they really protect our hands. For the summit you will need your very warmest ski gloves. Anything less and you are an idiot. It gets really cold.

Bloc Stealth sunglasses
Light weight, functional and quite tough.

Invest in a comfortable sleep top and trousers and pair of socks. You need this to keep you warm, comfortable, dry and not too smelly at night when you change out of your daily trekking clothes. Mine were all cotton and worth the 400 grams total weight.

Useful for eating in the evening to make us all feel good. We did not take enough! Because we thought it might melt. But believe me, you get up the mountain so fast this is not an issue. Take more chocolate.

Not so useful
High energy food: I took a barrage of Nestle Protein bars and local Swiss Apricot and Almond slice bars. The theory was to take enough food to last the whole trip. However our cooks were so good that these not really required. If I did it again I'd take no more than 1 bar per day.

Knives and Forks
We took some trekking cutlery. Never used.

I wish I had taken:
Hygenic wipes
I never realised that these could be effectively used to clean you instead of a shower (which to remind you is unavailable for 6 days). I had just one pack. If I did it again I'd take a pack per day.

A watch with an altimeter
My old digital watch was clumpy so I took no watch. I was forever using the clock on the camera. A poor substitute. Colleagues had altimeter watches. Something like this Casio

A simple radio or Apple iPod nano, speaker and solar charger
Early nights could have substantially improved with some music. A simple radio is probably the best solution. This is what the porters use! The nano idea is good in theory, but it needs an external speaker and charger and wires. Too fussy.

A full length Carrymat
I used a lightweight Thermarest Prolite 3 small . Whilst only 310 grams it was too short and my feet froze. I'd like to find something almost as compact but warmer and longer.

More US Dollars
In God we Trust or in fact in Dollars they trust. Does not make any sense in today's financially bankrupt Dollar world but the Dollar is still king. Take small denominations (20 USD bills) and lots of them.

Ear Plugs
You need to get to sleep in the afternoon and the nearby porters or fellow trekkers might be quite noisy. Take earplugs!

A larger rucksack
I wish Raidlight did larger than a 40L rucksack so I could have taken my Vesalight sleeping bag with me. Then I would have been able to say that I'd carried all my gear with me. As it is the Versalite in a stuffsack is still large, and unfortunately you cant use a smaller sleeping bag as it would just not be warm enough. A 55L rucksack would be the minimum you 'd need to take everything with you. If however you do what is the established norm, then you could just take a 20L day sack and a large 60L plus bag for porter carrying. But as I've commented before, seems like cheating right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Morning lights at Haven Nature Safari Lodge

Tanzania loves speed bumps

Roadside view

Video Diary: Ngorongoro Briefing

View down to the crater

Our Panasonic LX3 camera makes even this 4x4 look good


Wild Kitty


Kori Bustard


Zebra or is it Zebrae?

A brace of Hippos

A brace of tourists

Video Diary: Lions stage a sit in

Video Diary: Lunch by the lions

Masai relaxing by the lake


Video Diary: Bumpy Ride

Video Diary: Ngorogoro Summary

Street views having left the Conservation Area. It is a dash to Kilimanjaro Airport. Will we make it?

Mud Bricked huts

Basic Dwellings

Lake Manyara Christian College

Ominous dust storms ahead

Obama Sales

Street Art

Vultures having a spot of lunch

Roadside Cows

Some racing cyclists make me feel at home

More homes

A dust storm followed by rain is always challenging. In a "luxury" Land Cruiser without windscreen wipers or screenwash, & no discernable headlights, even more so

So you can understand that it was not one but two bottles of red later in the Bar at Kilimanjaro airport that enabled us to relax and unwind a little.

And a mere 12 hours later we are back home in Switzerland. The shower and washing machine are in for some exercise.