Thursday, June 30, 2011

Under Pressure

Under pressure,  yes that has been my story with regard to my Blood Pressure.  I looked up Hypotension under Wikipedia  looking for some good news.   Nothing turned up  so to invent my own ...

  • Over your lifetime your blood pressure goes up,  so at my prehistoric age (!!)  it should be up to normal or even slightly high by now
  • The average heart goes on for about 2.6 billion heart-beats, so a lower average heart rate points to a longer life span
  • During periods of intense exercise  I find my heart rate jumps above 100 and my blood pressure starts to look pretty normal.  So whilst frantically exercising I never have to think slow down, heart rate too high.  Surely good news :-)
Now the process of monitoring is simple yet annoying, so I'm pleased to announce a big leap forward in Automation.

I have been waiting for this for some time and finally it is available in Switzerland, for example from Galaxus  Here is my summary

  • The gadget has an Apple connector.  It works with an Apple iPhone or Apple iPad.  It will not plug into your PC or Apple computer!
  • It comes pre-installed with some AA batteries.  This is handy because we can not figure how to get the battery cover off.  The paper manual provides no clue!  So when the batteries run out then we have some head scratching to do.
  • We plugged it into an iPad and on the third or so insertion it sprang into life. The application installed and then we are all set to go
  • The gadget sits on the upper left arm, conversely most other devices attach to the wrist
  • After some whirring  it does what you think:  measures Blood Pressure and Heart rate, sending the results to the mywithings website

Overall then,  if you chose to regularly monitor your blood pressure, this gadget will make the measurement much more automated and convenient.   If the numbers are not good, then it is of course up to you to make the necessary changes, the gadget can't do that for you.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Build Your Network Today

Individual Employers, Job Agencies, Professional Institutions, Social Networking sites are all at it.
They want, and sometimes insist that you first register with their web portal.  Then begins an entensive data entry proess whereby you submit personal  and often confidential information into their specific application.

For a job related activity you might need to type in your entire career history, every employer, every qualification, every role and responsibility, all to have a "better" chance of being accepted for a particular job application.

In every single case I have seen the information needs to be typed (cut/pasted) in manually.  It is a long and tedious business.  

What did I learn?

  • Your old Word format CV is no longer good enough

  • They are not interested in your Web based CV

  • You will need some method of storing all these portal login userids and passwords

  • You will need good typing or cut/paste skills to put the same information into each agency / institution

  • For me it has meant over 20 different portal sites

  • Should you later apply via an agency you may find the smallprint conditions of the corporate portal may hold that any later agency based application may not claim any commission should they suceed in placing you.

  • In some instances the Employment portal is outsourced.   [e.g.  we're such a desirable employer and we have so many applications that your job application could be rejected by a third party]

At the end of the day should you find a job, you have to login to all of these sites and update them with your new position and availability.  What a total nightmare.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the Bag

3.64Kg (+iPhone) was the weight of the rucksack that I ran to work with today.

And the reason?  Well I'm in more last minute training for a much tougher race than the
Biel race of last week.

Wheras Biel was hilly, the new Verbier course is Mountainous.   A vertical change of some 6,900 metres.  The course is long and the cut off time is 36 hours!   I am aiming to take no more than 24 hours.

So in the rucksack today was just what I'm going to need at the start at 05.00 Verbier ...

  • Inov rucksack with 2L horizontal bladder  (i.e. at the bottom of the sack).  I plan to fill with no more than  1L fluid.  Water stops are every 10Km or thereabouts

  • Gloves  (and long trousers and long T shirt) will be worn, even if it's 20 degrees plus.  My skin alergy madates it :-(

  • 500 Grams of food

  • Apple iPod and backup iPod (can't live without my music)

  • Cup  (Water stops are cup-less)

  • Blanket  (mandatory)

  • Sunglasses and hat

  • 2 lights  (mandatory) and spare batteries

  • Buff  (in case cold, good for injuries)

  • Compede  (good for injuries)

  • Duct Tape (good for injuries/repairs)
  • iPhone (to record videos & to contact Agata in the case of emergency)

Well when you add all this up it comes to about 4Kg, which is flippin heavy!  I wish I was fitter. Anyway it is time for a hot  (30 degrees) , 20Km (long ish),  uphill, and heavy rucksack ballast (4Kg) training run home :-)

Links: (Thursday Update)
Test run under load video

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Greek Tragedy Dads Army Scale

In breaking news it transpires that the Greek Financial crisis will be rated on the Dad's Army Scale

Even in year 2000 the Greek deficit was greater than the max permissible EC limit  (the UK crossed the same threshold in 2007 for example)

1 – Ah , I wondered who would spot that

In 2001 when Greece joined the Euro,  it was widespreadly known that it did so without meeting the Euro membership conditions

2 – Do you think that’s wise?

2004 Greece Spent over 10 Billion euro on the Olympic Games.  Debt rose

3 – May I be excused, please?

May 2010: Greece gets  first part 110 billion euro bailout after finding its deficit > 13% GDP

4 – You stupid boy!

Tuesday June 28 2011:  Austerity Measures for Greece to be approved by Parliament

5 – You ruddy hooligans!

Sunday July 3 2011: Eurozone minister to release emergency funding

6 – Don’t panic! Don’t panic!

Friday July 15:  Greece pays back 12 B$ using our further loans!

7 – We’re doomed – doomed… Doomed, y’hear me!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

S.M.A.R.T status

Self Monitoring And Reporting Technology is a series of counters maintained by all modern Hard Disks enabling you (and the manufacturer) to check the status of your drive.

Most of my smaller i.e. 2TB and below drives are up for sale so I thought I would go the extra mile and sell them based on their real life performance and hours used.

By word of a small plug then I thought I would recommend purchasing the HD Tune Pro utility.   This is not only able to show the SMART counters but also perform a decent performance test, and when all is done securely erase the drive prior to sale.

Basic Drive Information 

Full Stoke Performance Test

Additional Performance Metrics

The SMART counters displayed .. this disk is only 200 Hours old!

HDTune Pro  Download and Buy Pages  (30CHF / 35 USD)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Swiss Taxes

We believe the Majzel - Bennett household is a modern one.  Most responsibilities are shared equally.  However when it comes to paying our taxes Marcus has been handed the opportunity.

So there was some trepidation this morning that  whilst searching for a Networking Diagram, I came accross our [unpaid] tax bill for June 2011.  Shock and horror!

So how does the Taxation system work?:

  • If you arrive in Switzerland and receive an L or B permit you will be taxed at source
  • Here tax is deducted from your salary as it is earned (like in the UK Pay As You Earn PAYE for example)
  • Unfortunately  when both you and your partner work (traditionally the wife does not work) then the salaries are added together
  • In Switzerland ALL your salary is taxed at one rate
  • So,  when your combined salaries are taxed cummulatively the rate can skyrocket
  • Example,  our individual tax bands are say 30%,  but on our combined salary perhaps > 40%
  • So at each year end reconsiliation we have had to remember to save an Audi TT S Black Edition in cash.  That's the extra tax we pay because we are married! And no, I am not kidding!

Time passes and we have a better class of Residence permit.  Now :

  • No tax is deducted at source
  • At the end of a year you tell the Canton your combined total earnings, & they work out the tax for the next year and you pay this monthly.
  • Naturally this assumes you don't ever change your job / salary, else your tax situation gets very complicated!
The only benefit will therefore be at the end of year we don't land ourselves the mother of all tax bills.

Thanks Switzerland,  I think  :-!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fancy UK car hire

If all had worked out as planned our  vacation in England would have come with a fancy car.   Sadly there was no [legal] way for a UK citizen to get temporary UK car insurance on a foreign car.

So we are back to Plan B:  Hire a car from a UK hire company.

Since we spend some days in England we wanted something fancy, wihthout mileage limits and here is the results of the search

ebay:PBsupercars: I had seen them on eBay before.  But I found out that only a Manual is available, from London only, and pickup/return can't be at the weekend.  So not so flexible, but better prices than Avis.

AVIS: About 300GBP for a 8 day hire

Avis Prestige:3.5K for a 8 day hire


Hertz: Almost 700GBP for a weeks rental.   My (very large) corporate employer is supposed to have preferential deals.  I tried the business rate, the Casual rate, the Contractor rate.  No difference in price.   Disappointed or what!

Borrow Car: We surveyed some friends.  The plan was to borrow their fancy car which they rarely used && pay them the going rate.   Nothing suitable found!

Buy Car:We hope to execute a classically longer US road trip.  In that case we'd like to buy a Sports Car drive it for the duration then sell it at the end of the holiday.

So which one did we choose?

Well on our limited budget not a supercar, but something a little different.   When we arrive in the UK, the picture shall reveal all!

AVIS Prestige

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Never Implausably Sick

This phrase is Part of an IT contractors mantra.  By this it generally means that no matter how ill you might feel, unless blood is literally oozing from your body,  and main sections of the body are immobilised:  YOU SHALL GO TO WORK.

But as I sat sniffling at work yesterday  I found an exception.

My work colleagues scared that they might contract the flu issued a For Goodness Sake Go Home on me.   And so dutifully I am at home today.    Whilst in Agata's company she issued me a Don't Give that Flu to Me instruction.     

Meaning that I am  trying to sit in the study, doing what a Geek does best,  playing with the Interweb.  And when I get  a little faint I go back to bed to stabilise.

Monday, June 20, 2011

ICANN make money

The list of Top Level Internet Domains has until today been a pretty short one.  There are the above establishments. 

Then there is the country list    (abreviated list shown, full list is here )  

But now,  I assume not just in an effort to raise large amounts of cash but for our surfing pleasure we will soon have the chance to surf to  a logical end name  

e.g.  or

According to the BBC:

It will cost $185,000 (£114,000) to apply for the suffixes, and companies would need to show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying.

What does it mean in practice to Geekdom ?

Well certainly a rewrite of the above classic text, and for me a strangely alien looking URL to view in the future.

BBC: Icann increases web domain suffixes

Pensionable Ages

Throughout the Developed world Pension Ages are rising,  mostly due to the economics of slowed population growth.

I might have been critical of Greece earlier, so to redress the balance a short note on Government schemes...

You see, it should be obvious that the Government pension contribuitions you pay today pay for the pensions of the currently retired, whose number are significantly smaller (as opposed to what might be more logical, for your own retirement)

So,  when the birth rate drops, your lesser number of descendents will have to work longer to fund your retirement.  The above table shows the trend (click to enhance)

This is combined with another obvious factor, which is that the Government Pension is borderline insufficent to pursue a comfortable retirement. The message is: to guarantee a miserable life post working, save nothing, just rely on the Government Pension, you know it is going to be woefully inadequate.

NB:Nicely excluded are most other countries that are overpopulating so fast that whilst pension contributions might theoretically be sufficient, other economic factors will prevail longerterm e.g. that they won't have enough food, land or energy resources to actually live or live peacefully.

Slow Motion Car Crash

I have heard it said that on the Secondary markets, Greek debt is already being sold off at a substantial discount.  So in fact my financial friend tell me that Judgment day may well be related to July 15 2011 and not Harold Camping's May 21 2011.  Those apocalyptic T shirts might find a use yet.

To remind all:   Greece owes  $400 billion in bond debt.  $120 billion should be paid by 2014, and $17 billion is needed by July 15, 2011

So what is in my financial plans for July 2011 ...

  • Forget any last minute holiday deals to Greece
  • As per normal mantra, reduce personal debt
  • Think what you will buy in England if 1GBP <= 1.2 CHF
  • Think what you will buy in Euroland when 1 EUR  <= 1.0 CHF
  • Fingers crossed that any Suisse contagion will be minimised

Hold that Loan
10 facts about Greek Pensions

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Walk on the wine side

With all that Friday night and Saturday morning running it seemed essential that Sunday should be spent relaxing.  And this brought to mind that our orders of the excellent Waverly Hills Organic wine had not yet been collected ...

Like any true Geek, a glass of wine and Marcus gets pixelated

Agata relaxes 

Kids play device to leave parents in peace on Sunday

We check out the stealth lapin

Then we visited the carwash in order to get our baby TT ready for sale.   If anybody is interested in one of the mostly gently driven, regularly serviced, always garaged, Audi TT 3.2 circa 2004, with just over 100K Km on the clock then let us know :-)

Finally as night drew close it was time to go out for a stroll both to prove to ourselves that our legs were not really so stiff after that run  && also to stop ourselves over-eating!

Graffiti in Lausanne, well I never!

Another busy Sunday night street

 Personal Railway

Our local Goats 

 Hey,  what you looking at!

Nightfall, time to go home

Job well done,  there is a rumour that we need to work tomorrow, but until then ... we are still relaxing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Biel 100Km (Rain Rain Rain)

There are many stories to tell about our Biel 100Km run that Marcus just competed.  Where should I start?

Well we booked the race after a work colleague tipped us that it was a beautiful race.     

After booking we were dismayed to see the weather forecast transition from the possibility of some rain to heavy torrential rain.  Still we naively thought, how bad could it be!

This race we regarded as a bit tricky because

  • Marcus never ran such a distance before
  • It was at night! (starting 22.00)
  • It was not just on flat tarmac: includes stony forest paths, and hill sections
So overall quite a challenge,  now with the added distraction of continuous rain!

 This is the route

The only dry view of the day!

Marcus's Race Report:
My main grumble was the rain.  Over 5 hours of it!

The good news is that pretty much everything else worked like a dream:  I took a waterproof and wore it to keep dryish on the run.

Food strategy:   Initially I tried bananas but they were not very tasty, so I converted to Full Fat Coke (sugar/calories/fizzy) and orange slices (delicious!)

My iPod nano got waterlogged however and got stuck on random play at full volume.   After 11 hours of that I was almost deaf!

Worst Section:  At Km 55 we had to run for what felt like an infinity of narrow, uneven, wet, often muddy,stony forest paths. I got my left foot blister here:-(

End rush: Since I was not that tired overall I took the opportunity to speed up on the last 10Km.  I quietly smiled as I past many people who had strode past me.

Staffette:   I was repeatedly overtaken by people with this word on their backs.  I thought it meant staff.  And I was bloody surprised that most of these people did not look like 100Km runners and seemed to have very clean clothing!  Turns out staffette is a relay team, and the overtakers were fresh, a just starting runner with hence clean clothing.

Agatas story:

Agata entered the Marathon distance race which shares the same route as the 100Km except that they do 2 city loops (totalling about 7.5Km) then join the main route.  The 100Km does one loop at starts at 22.00 not 22.15

All this means that I could not understand how ahead of me on my course were a whole set of Marathon and Half Marathon runners.  How did they get ahead of us?  They started 15 mins later and had to do an extra 3.5Km.

The answer is that a whole group   (we think nearly all, including Agata) got misdirected bypassing their 7.5Km and placing them ahead of me.     This was good for me  (I caught up Agata), but bad for her as nearly all marathon times have been disqualified!

An official apology is on the website.  And very smart Agata noticed something was wrong so ran an extra 7.5Km by doubling back just before the finish, so running the right distance (but in the wrong place)

 If I'm going to wait 6 hours for Marcus to arrive I shall get comfortable.

This was Marcus's first serious distance UltraMarathon.  As I suspected since I am short and fat I can't go quickly.  So the longer distance races actually suit me better.   I did thoroughily enjoy myself despite the weather.  Both of us attempted our distances without any UltraMarathon training / experience, i.e. using just general fitness.  This means our next UltraMarathon should be easier and we plan drier!


Marcus Ate / Drank
At each 5K Waterstop: (Orange juice/Banana) then (Cola/Orange Slices), finally (Water/Orange Slice). 
Additionally 2 SIS Gels and 2 Powerbars which I carried

Injuries / Grumbles
Marcus has a very sore right foot big toenail!
Also a blister on the base of my left foot
No other grumbles, in fact my legs are in better shape than apres 20K Vitodojo!

Marcus ran 100Km in 11 hours 11 minutes
Agata ran the marathon distance in 4 hours 20minutes
Ranking website

General Fitness and 2 x 20  (return i.e. 80Km) of prep this last Tuesday/Wednesday

Biel 100Km website
Marcus pre race video report
Marcus in race video report
Marcus finishes the race video