Friday, August 31, 2012

Slow Down Take It Easy

Here in Switzerland the Government has an official campaign urging us all to, well, Slow Down and Take it Easy.  No, I am not kidding.

And so this Friday I tried to get into the spirit of things

I finished work as close to lunchtime as possible and headed to the Vevey-Corseaux plage pool in Vaud Switzerland and had a good hour of Swimming in the Lake and in the (heated) pool

What did I learn?

  • No doubt that this area has really earned its name as the Swiss Riviera.    Just so beautiful out on the lake
  • On the Lake fisherman were casting nets.  It's quite scary as I felt I might get a bit tangled up
  • The Finis swiMP3 player made my hour really a pleasure
  • The Pool was 24 degrees and it felt like a wonderful hot bath after the colder lake
  • Some hours later, ouch!  You don't really get tired during a gentle swim, but later there are some subtle and not so subtle aches all over

And so afterwards there was just time to slowly drive home and retire for a little nap.   

Slow Down Official Swiss Video

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tour du Pays de Vaud

Tour du Pays de Vaud means quite literally tour of the country of Vaud.  

Every year our Canton Vaud in the French Speaking part of Switzerland organises a set of gentle running races

Here are the locations

We missed the first one in Penthaz because we were on vacation but we have managed the next three.  The last was in La Sarraz, a small town to the North of our most excellent town of Lausanne.

This evening we plodded around the 8Km trail course and unlike last week in Mezieres the temperature was only 25 degrees C not the 29 degrees of last week.

What makes these runs so special?

  • It a friendly natured and short run
  • But if you push it you can get truly exhausted in just 8Km
  • Well Priced   (well 20 CHF per run per person)
  • Timed via DataSport
  • Lets you visit 5 local towns, good advertising for them and good advertising for idyllic Swiss small town country life
  • Short enough so that most anybody can attempt it
  • Participation by both old and young and male and female

So we managed 38 and 41 minutes for Marcus and Agata at La Sarraz.  We were most happy with our  times and we look forward to that last Saint-Prex climax.

Links:  Tour de Pays

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ah Broadband

I have been trying to keep silent but the nighly dosage of English TV taunting me with offers of fast Optical Fibre broadband have forced me to speak out.

Dear Swisscom: It is now 3 years that we have been waiting for our Fibre Optical broadband connection.   And just over 1 year  (that is 12 months) since you promised us it was available, and could be installed, and since  we signed the installation contract

Meanwhile we are already paying just over 100 CHF   (that is 66GBP) per month for our considerably slower VDSL copper broadband connection.

Yesterday we received this stunning   (to be clear I am being sarcastic) offer from Migros.  5Mbps connection for 54 CHF ( 36 GBP)

Let me see how does this compare to Virgin?  We checked and in London it would be a 15 Mbps connection for 21GBP per month including a phone line.   (31 CHF monthly)

So let's see.  London is 300% faster and just about half the cost of the very cheapest cheapo Swiss Internet connection.

I don't think I can disclose how much Swisscom would like to charge us for Fibre, you might faint, but perhaps if they graciously let us wait another 3 years the price might reduce?

Swisscom Optical    (step6 == wait 3 years)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Digital Magazines

The backstory is simple.  Marcus spends a ridiculous amount of time scanning paper magazines before discarding them.  It would be much more efficient to just order, read, and then file a digital copy.

Years ago I used Zinio.  But they were so proprietory I stopped.  Now is the time to reconsider.

For the purposes of the comparison I chose my existing paper EVO magazine subscription

Paper Copy

Paper is still a great tactile and high definition/resolution medium .. BUT

  • It uses paper! And so is ultimately environmentally unfriendly as compared to a digital copy.  [ My single data disk could hold over 3000 years of EVO subscriptions & I think the energy cost of creating the disk rather than the paper is less]
  • UK magazines posted to Switzerland are expensive.   UK price 12 issues + free toolkit = 48 GBP,  CH price 58 GBP and NO toolkit.
  • How do I save the Magazine?  Well its a process taking at least an hour:  Guillotine,  scan double sided colour,  check for missing pages,  assemble multiple scans (scanner can only handle 60 pages) to one file, move file to adobe server,  OCR scan, save and encrypt file,  copy file to repository, backup.

    Er, so more like 2 hours then!
  • Complications exist when magazines are taken on holiday, since they can't be discarded and have to be labourously taken back home  [An issue when backpacking, which we often are]

iPad Offer

  • 30 GBP for 12 issues.  Same price for UK and CH delivery.  Good!
  • You can only read it on the iPad
  • How do you store it?
  • The advanatage of the iPad edition is that its scrollable, designed specifically for the iPad and has numerous video and other innovative links that actually make it somewhat superior to the paper magazine.
  • Full marks to EVO for the implementation, but why can't I read this on a Windows system or even an OSX Apple system please?

Zinio Edition

Let's start with the [only] good news.   The magazine looks great and reads easily, but only on my 30" screen.  On my 13.3" laptop screen it's a major hassle/impossible to read it

  • 32GBP for 12 issues
  • How it works?   You buy the magazine then install a Zinio Reader.  By default launching the reader will then connect to the Internet to view the magazine.

    OR: you can download the magazine locally and then read it without the Internet connection.

    BUT dear Zinio:
    - you don't declare where the download is saved to
    - it is not in any recognisable format
    - it gets save to my C: (or / ) filesystem
    - on a MAC you see the - O X of a windows app displayed   ... sloppy

    If you install Zinio on another device e.g Laptop, then yes, you'll need to download your magazines all over  (you cannot transfer)
  • Zinio then have tried very hard to lock you in to their proprietary format, they don't want to let or encourage you to take your magazine with you.

Pirate Copy!

Available from the usual sources and free of charge, normally EVO magazine.  Of course it's not guaranteed to be there plus you are ripping off your publisher and committing a small misdemeanour.

On the Plus side the Pirate Copy is a regular .PDF file (usually) so it's compact, portable and readable into the long future on devices from iPad to PC to OSX to Linux.

I might have thought that the obvious ease with which a Pirate Copy could be obtained might have pressured either the OSX copy or Zinio in terms of multi platform readability / pricing.  But is seems not!

Current Decision
Well mostly I'm relucantly going for Zinio single issue downloads as a stopgap to something more interesting.  May the alternative arrive shortly, because as a knowledable consumer, I unhappy to buy into proprietory anything!

EVO magazine iPad and Print edition
EVO iPad demonstration video

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another tail of two kitties

I've already remarked on a tail of two kitties  but today I have another comparison closer to home. It is about two kitties close to our home in Lausanne who I've known both for over 4 years

Cali's new home is in Rivaz and this week I am on kitty care duty.  In his previous residence equipped with a cat flap feeding was a solitary affair for me.  Cali would run out of the house mewing loudly 'Please make sure to change my water and top up the food bowls, I will be back later'.

Now, sans flap he has to stick around and at least maybe be a little friendly.

After some time,  I announce dinner is ready, but Cali refuses to come.

After considerable chasing, the only option is to bring the food to Prince Cali.  He graciously accepts his Chicken flavoured evening meal.

Now time for a spot of self cleaning.

And then something quite new. Cali stays around long enough for some stroking and the starting of the Purring machine.  Wow, times have changed.

40 minutes later I am back home and I'm visiting a neighbours cat.   His nickname is ungrateful kitty.  In over 4 years I've never got closer than about 3 metres to him before he practises an Olympic 100m sprint in a direction away from me.

And yes, today,  he make another dash away.

But today's  experience with Cali gives me hope.  I hope that one day Ungrateful kitty might relent and become less suspicious, more accepting and even friendly.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lausanne Triathlon 2012

Subtitle: Please do as I say, not do as I do

Yes, it is that time again, the 2012 Lausanne Triathlon is upon us once more.  Since this is our home town Agata and Marcus believe that participation for us is obligatory irrespective of the weather.

And so as last week progressed we stoically noticed the ever increasing temperatures, often exceeding 30 degrees C also came with long showers.

The forecast for this Sunday morning was rain until 06.00

How did we get on?

Pre Race madness

 Agata is setup

 Yes, it is a pretty popular event

Marcus is setup including wetsuit

Despite the official Lausanne website indicating that wetsuits would be allowed regardless of temperature just before the race they were banned.   No problem I thought.  I would use the Compress Sport leg and arm protectors during the swim  (slowing me down, but protecting me from the sun).  A few minutes later, Tannoy announcement #2: Banned!

So I did a triathlon race swim for the first time just in a tri suit.

Good wishes from Kathy

Marcus Race Report

Swim:  A group of 3 of us were very grumpy about the wetsuit ban.  In retaliation we let the face start and then casually got into the water.  That will teach the organisers we thought!

Meanwhile the weather conditions were epic.  It was choppier than on our SwimTrek holiday  . And that had been in the Sea!  Waves the size of well big things. I tried to take it easy and think that well I'd catch everyone up on the Bike.

Bike:  With my new rear wheel and 150gram tyres I was optimistic of a good time.  As the next para indicates.  it did not go well.     

With bicycle failure I had no option but to nurse the bike home by just applying the least pressure possible to pedals and freewheeling wherever a downcline presented itself.

Then to cap it all on lap6 a strange tinkling sound from the back wheel.   I had to stop and diagnosed that my rear light bracket had worked loose and had intersected with rear spokes.

So my worst every cycling triathlon time.

Run: With a leisurely cycle I had plenty of energy for the run managing 10Km in about 42 minutes.  Wow, I big record for me.

Post Race:  We did all the packaging and were about to cycle home when we realised we needed to get our Defi Cards signed.  So all the way back to the expo.

 Agata Race Report

A good swim considering the conditions followed by both a fast bike and run.   Almost  a timed Personal Best at 3 hours 7 minutes.

What An Idiot
(Subtitle: Don't do what I did children)

With my Mavic R-SYS SL rear wheel having a worrying crumpled bearing housing I have been secretly building a new Ultra Lightweight wheel.

I assembled it on Saturday, made a test 5Km cycle and then in a bad judgement call decided to use it this Sunday.

On lap 2 out of 6 my complete rear wheel locked up solid on a long downhill. 

The KCNC lockring had unwound, the cassette had disassembled itself, some bits are bent.   I put the ring back hand tight but fearful of it working loose I resolved not to use any long gears and only to cycle when absolutely necessary (i.e. freewheel if possible).   So over 1 tortuously slow hour of cycling later, I finished.  Take it from me kids,  only use tested equipment in races.

A challenging Swim,  over 50 Km of cycling today,  a sticky Bike situation overcome,   sunshine,  great company, well it's pretty much all good. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Asus VE276Q 27" screen

It may be an alcohol free Saturday evening but I'm in the study smiling.  Why? Because the Asus VE276Q monitor I'm playing with is well, just great.

I'm building an Apple Mac Mini based OSX system and well the current Samsung screen is well, just inappropriate.  Apple might try and litigate against me just for connecting the two together.

So I began shopping for a larger, 27" inch screen.   The ultimate choice would be the uber high resolution 2560x1440 pixel  screen, for example the Apple Thunderbolt Dispalay. Cost  1000 CHF  (> 600 GBP). Ouch!  (Plus if the next iteration is likely to have USB3 ports this expensive screen will be obsolete fast)

Back to reality and on a budget you can instead choose a 1920x1080 screen.

Note: It's a shame really since the Mac Mini does have a DVD dual link graphics output.  Therefore it is actually the only computer in its ultra miniature class that I know that can actually drive a 2560x1440 or 2560x1600 pixel display.

An absolute bargain and less than 250CHF later   (160 GBP)  I had unwrapped the Asus VE276Q 27 inch screen.  A real beauty.  What is the verdict?

+ Just let me emphasise the price again.  25% of the Apple screen!  Only 250 CHF.

+ A Great Variety of inputs: Displayport, HDMI, DVD-D, D-Sub

= Decent resolution.  Well 1920x1080 is somewhat lowbrow but very watchable for moves and RSS feeds

- TN panel technology, so pretty basic and not the IPS of the Apple, but then neither the price

+ Great Onscreen Menus with lots of Options including Picture in Picture (PIP)

+ Inbuilt Stereo Speakers,  enough for casual use

+ VESA mount on the back

+ 3 year warranty

+ Comes with DVI and VGA and audio cables

So I'm most impressed and since it's going to be shipped out almost immediately to a new home, I'm sad to see it go, but I think it will make an excellent companion for Mr Mac Mini-me

Asus VE276Q manufacturer site
Apple Mac Mini specs
Apple Thunderbolt display with USB2.0 currently

Friday, August 24, 2012

Looking back at Ramendan

My coworkers may have noticed some different energy levels at the office during the last month.  I am of course talking about the consequences of Ramendan.

As of August 20th 2012 it is over, my first year of Ramendan

What did I learn?

  • My energy levels have certainly changed.  The unusually high carbohydrate intake has been an energy boost

  • We think we spotted a dead giveaway of a Pastafarian Olympic Athlete.  Some religions believe in fasting and abstinence leading to reduced performance. Conversely we are proud to stress the advantages of our special month:

  • Increased Pasta consumption has allowed me to give up Chocolate and abstain (with a few notable and disastrous exceptions) from the intake of Alcohol.   Just look at my improved Blood Pressure!

Yours sincerely,

Pasta Marcus

May you also be touched by his noodly appendage.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weighting Around

Contrary to many retailers impressions Marcus and Agata's funds are far from infinite.

There has to be a very good reason for Marcus to spend almost 300 GBP   (450 CHF) on a pair of cycling shoes. In this case the Sidi Ergo 3 Vent Carbon Vernice Road Shoe Speedplay Cleat edition.  They better be pretty damn comfortable and light ...

By having the 4 rectangular holes on the shoe base it means you dont have to screw a converter plate to tranform a regular 3 triangular hole shoe, and should provide the above described benefits.

But since we are stressing the weight saving, just what is the shoe weight anyway?
The following dance was performed

  • Marcus checks Sidi website for shoe weight
  • Remarkably for a shoe boasting a weight advantage, actual shoe weight not found
  • I pose a question to Wiggle asking for weight remarking that the manufacturer website did not inform
  • Wiggle rejects question as inappropriate!
  • I query Wiggle as to why inappropriate
  • Wiggle says if its not on the website then they don't quote it
  • I mention there are numerous ways to determine shoe weight
  • Wiggle says they can't quote weight since it's a handmade shoe and exact weights can vary!
  • I say, OK then, how about an approximate weight
  • They think about it & then offer to weigh some shoes .. answer about 350 grams per shoe

So to conclude

  • Wiggle staff got there in the end, but it was a lot of work
  • 350 grams or thereabouts is some heavyweight shoe!
  • By comparison the Mavic Huez is a race ready 200 grams per shoe
  • The shoe no doubt has many qualities but light weight is surely not one of them
  • It looks instead like a high function, high mileage shoe, with claimed hand built quality
  • I'm still interested but even with Wiggles excellent no quibble return, getting a wrong size means paying that non refundable Swiss duty, making this shoes test too expensive!

Sidi Ergo 3 Vent Carbon Vernice Road Shoes
Eurobike update
Sidi Wire Road Shoes with Speedplay for 2013

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Swiss Heat Wave

So far the portable air conditioner has remained safely stored in the basement.  However the Swiss Heat Wave is starting to wear me down.

The weekend reached an astonishing 35 degrees Centigrade and this afternoon in Vevey it was over 30 degrees.

With a Triathlon in just a few days it was time for some last minute fitness training

The run to Vevey was so very easy,  at the late start of 06.30 I did get some sun but not enough to get significantly above 25 degrees

The run back was however a subtle torture! At over 30 degrees I went very slowly and drank frequently but it was not enough.

Coming home I made a dash for the shower and was so exhausted I could not stand.  Is this what it is like to be a geriatric old person as I sat in a cold running shower to recover.


  • I am terrible at running in conditions over 30 degrees Centigrade
  • Our dreams of one day running the US Badwater ultramarathon just receded back to infinity
  • This time I was well hydrated with a bladder just I got totally exhausted
  • It is all the fault of Swiss Global Warming
  • I'm a bit nervous for any forthcoming triathlons.  They last 3 hours not 2!
  • The old adage applies,  must try harder and losing some more Kg would be the best way to make any sort of running easier.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Petzl Nao

Petzl Nao is the latest generation in sub 200 gram, professional head torches.

The main design feature / innovation is that the Nao has a distance sensor that controls the use of the long distance and short distance light beams.

Additionally it is by design a USB 2.0 socket to inbuilt rechargeable battery design.

The main use would be for night-time running races or trekking.  Also in and around the home, for example bicycle maintenance when you need both hands free. Prior to Nao we used Petzl Myo RXP lamps.


At the back is a compartment containing a removable rechargeable battery.  In normal use you press a clip and release the entire battery pack and compartment.  It exposes a standard USB male connector that plugs into any suitable USB charger e.g. computer slot.   3 LEDs on the side of the compartment indicate charge level.

Surprisingly you can take out the rechargeable and instead insert 2xAAA batteries.  But hold on.  It is ridiculously fiddly so you would never manage this unless it was dry, you had another head torch to light things up AND you were not in a hurry.  Forget this on a race.  You would be better off carrying another precharged battery.

This is the standard as supplied rechargeable battery

How Is the Strap?
As with the Myo there is an optional and very fiddly to assemble head strap.  But you only need to fit it once!

The side strap is a thin band but they it fragments into a pullable cord towards the sides and back.

This allows possibly a better fitting but I'll have to try a long run  (not yet) to be convinced.  For walks and small runs I've found it to be 100% okay. I need to test it on a real night race before giving it full approval

PC Connection
Goto this webpage and download some customisation software

In the application you can select upto 4 profiles and have one of them activated

Working around the House reactive profile

 Multi Sports reactive profile

Summary Points

  • Slightly heavier than the Petzl Myo RXP  (170 grams)  the Nao is 197 grams

  • The distance sensing actually works!   I am really pleased

  • The long distance , full power beam projects at least 50 metres.  It's absolutely amazing
  • On high beam the battery might last no more than 5 hours, so for a longer night race you would be best taking an additional recharge pack  (do they sell them?) .  Using dry cells inside the battery compartment is really not practical.