Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Another Joyous Year

Marcus and Agata have a few thoughts about the outgoing year of 2014 ...

00. Not Working
Grandmaster: The Message

Marcus has spent most of 2014 looking for employment. Work has been performed, but financial gain, that has been lacking.  I recognise that a perfect job is hard to find, but I'd settle for just a decent employer.  Before poverty strikes. Anybody?

01. Accidents and Pain

2014 was planned to be a year of exercise and achievement.  Unfortunately in April Marcus suffered a collision with a motorcycle  (not my fault) and busted ribs, which took a literally agonizing 6 months to recover.

Then just as Marcus regenerated a lung infection struck meaning that I could not breathe, even walking up a flight of stairs had me gasping at anything beyond a 60 plus heartrate.

So Marcus's aspirations of exercising greatness have been postponed until 2015. 

02. Internet everywhere

(LTE speeds in Lausanne are usually between 30 and 70 Mbps download)

We now have unmetered Internet both at home and whilst mobile anywhere in Switzerland.  And we've tested out the economics and practicality of 4G/LTE mobile internet living in developed countries we might near-term relocate to.

We now rely on a fast and reliable connection for our music, media, news feeds, backup, voice/video communications, shopping, research, education and more.  Besides each other it's our single most important enabler.

03. Cats

The Cats at home in Lausanne have become Marcus's daily companions.   I can fantasise that we have a meaningful relationship but in reality I recognise that they have me quite well trained as an enthusiastic feeding machine.

04. A fantastic Wife
Coldplay: Always in my head

Agata has been the bestest partner that Marcus could possibly imagine.

As Geeks and strongly secular we hope that our example shines through.  If we can find each other, by ourselves, with our extremely particular, possibly paranoid list of pre-requisites, without the help of imaginary friends then we ask those of you trapped within the framework of unhappiness to make a plan for a positive change. We only have the one life that we know about.  Don't waste it.

05. A better Diet
(Another Cale Superfood snack)

Marcus and Agata have resolved to eat more healthily and this means dropping unhealthy food groups entirely, and eating less processed food.

Of course all this comes at a financial cost and at the expense of time, so don't kid yourself that this option is open to all but the few.

06. We didn't buy anything [expensive]

In the spirit of economy, restraint and really just common sense; our budgets have been significantly tightened.  I can see the Ferrari, Bentley, Porsche and Aston Martin dealers in Lausanne in tears :-)

07. We junked a lot of things!

We further prepare our future selves for a life of mobility and minimalism.  As such we ask of everything that we own:  Do we still need it?  If we have many of something, how many more than 1 shall we keep for the future.

08. We Cycled and Ran and Swam

Despite injury, both Marcus and Agata tried our hardest to exercise.  We have found the sports that we now love and so participation is now a pleasure not a chore.   

Our totals for 2014 are easily into the 5 figure Km mark.  We are pleased. We participated in over 20 races including:

100Km Race to the Stones Run

180Km Cylotour

Mont Ventoux Cycling

Stockholm Marathon

Daily exercise that you enjoy should be apart of everybody's life, not just to enrich the soul but to make you healthier and therefore less of a burden to the state and to others.

09. Converting to Cloud

With an eye on a mobile future we've analysed what data we actually need and how to access it without a permanent home base. We've ditched local media libraries that took over 20 years to create in favour of Terabyte Cloud storage from Google and DropBox.  Also our email and photography stores are also cloud based.

10. Planning our Future
We try to envision where we would like to be in 10, 20 and even 40 years time.  And what funds we will need or what lifestyle economies we need to make to ensure that this can be achieved without debt.

And so to summarise:

Marcus and Agata have had another great year.  We are still untangling life and very much looking forward to 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Let's get this Video Party Started

Zhu: Faded

Once Marcus was invited to a rather posh party but amidst the black tie goodness was the crushing reality that I had been seated next to a hive of bigots, privileged and testosterone filled young men who thought they were not only always right but worth listening to.

And so as Agata and I plan for a New Years Eve celebration we consider

- Location, Location, Location (safe and legal and not flippin too cold)
- The right friends (bores need not attend)
- The right music (something to dance to)

Obviously as extremely particular people there is always a temptation to be defeatist and stay at a home,  but all things considered, we are determined to make it outside  IRL somewhere.

Before that, we put together some of our 2014 favourite warmup videos ... enjoy

Route 94: My Love

Lilly Wood: Prayer in C

Kiesza: Hideaway

Duke Dumont: Need You

Lily Allen: Hard Out There

John Newman:Blame

Clean Bandit:Rather Be

Zedd: Stay the Night

So kids,  just remember, whilst the quality of the music is going to be a pre requisite, what is going to make the New Years Eve party is simply good company.

Zedd Documentary

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Shoe Difference

It is not just the categories of electronics, computers, clothes.  Practically every aspect of Marcus and Agata's inventory has to work hard during it's life.

As you can see above the Salomon SpeedCross 3 shoes really need replacing.

And then I thought?

Surely Shoes are different. [to other aspects of attire such as Clothing]

With shoes I would suggest the following:

  • Most casual, sports or business shoes don't cost a fortune considering how many hours we would use them for
  • Clothes can become tatty and yet still functionally usable, but when a shoe deteriorates it is normally a greater issue:
  • It can let in water, from above or below, it can fail to provide physical protection from stones or debris, and, it can fail to provide the correct support leading to a lifetime of foot issues.
  • The last point, foot problems, is particularly poignant to Marcus since I've personal experience of multiple family members who have neglected their feet and have consequently became almost unable to walk in later life.
  • As a test you can try going for 24 hours without walking, i.e. crawling only is allowed.  See how you get on, and then realise that you should not mess with the longterm health of your feet.
  • Sidebar: Obviously if you wear High Heeled shoes I desperately want to ask you the question.  Why?

I think Marcus and Agata reckon on running (say) upto 5,000 Km each per year and this translates into a constant stream of new running shoe orders.

So here is the replacement ... Another pair of:

Salomon Speedcross 3 CS available from Wiggle UK for 80 GBP + taxes.

I did try desperately to wait for the Speedcross 4, but they are not yet announced.  Bad timing Marcus.

As usual Salomon trail shoes have bonkers sizing, until you know your size, buy from a local shop unless mail ordering and returns is easily possible.

Salomon makes quite a few iterations of the shoe with the basic version being about 30 grams lighter than the others.   There are normal, Clima Shield  (Waterproof), GTX (Goretex Waterpoof), SpikeCross  (With metal spikes for snow adhesion).

I selected the CS Clima Shield.  This is a good Waterproof shoe and small uplift in cost to the basic model, although heavier.

I've always wanted the SpikeCross but these can't be used on normal tarmac due to the small metal spikes, so if this Winter 2014/ Spring 2015 we do enough dedicated Snow running (in the mountains or if it snows frequently) then, and only then,  will I consider a dedicated extra pair.

 All variants have the Salomon speed lacing system

Rather regretfully in 2014 this Clima Shield version is now quite a heavy 341 grams per shoe.

Buy the shoes you need to correctly support and cushion your feet.  Always buy activity specific shoes  (business, running, cycling, etcetera).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Religious Nourishment

Many religions of this world have a set of rules of food prohibition that seems to exactly match wise procedures of the time when many hundred or even 2000 years ago there was no known concept of hygiene, knowledge of bacteria or viruses and certainly no man made refrigeration.

It is almost as if these prohibitions were not religious sanctions from an almighty all knowing creator but merely good for that early time of our primitive human development.

Regrettably not, and the prohibitions on food groups, and eating particular animals are still enshrined in religious law.

What about your faith then?

Our celebration meal on December 26, 2014

Luckily for Marcus and Agata who are devout followers of the one true FSM,  Spagetti in particular and Pasta in general is of course our chosen food.

I say luckily since as shown above the meal of Pasta, avocado and sauce is of course both nutritious and delicious, and is not made from the killing of animals often in a way that would guarantee their suffering [according to the dictates of a religion]

Pretty good huh!

Quid Pro Quo

Since however we do try to participate in the positive components of other religions [as we see it], then we made for a classic Christian meal on lunchtime December 27th, 2014.

We think this is appropriate at this time of the year.

As far as I can see it, nowhere in the bible was there a Celebration of Christmas pudding or Turkey, but I can find reference to Loaves and Fishes.

The feeding of the 5000 is present in all of the Christian canonical Gospels using just 5 bread loaves and 2 fish.

Additionally in Gospels Mark and Matthew, there is an additional description of the feeding of the 4000 using 7 bread loves and some fish.

And so, lo and behold
Marcus and Agata have done their part for some cross faith integration and understanding this Christmas.


Religious prohibitions
Dietary Practices
Food Taboos
Jewish Dietary
Forbidden Islamic Foods

A traditional British Christmas returns

Well Marcus is just delighted and can only thank the heavens, well quite literally.   

Although Marcus and Agata are not in England right now we have reports from UK friends and family to confirm that snow is indeed falling.  And that there is the traditional British reaction to this situation:

  • Neither the nations private drivers or public authorities have in general seen fit to look at the weather forecast
  • Those that have, filled with traditional British over confidence have assessed the situation that: We will be okay on our journeys regardless
  • Britain is, still one of the few European countries that really has no idea of the concept of /Winter Tyres/ i.e. tyres that have special surfaces to dramatically increase grip in below zero icy and snowy conditions
  • Therefore based on the above factors one can just guarantee a press /bad news bonanza/  as Motorists across the land come to a snowy grinding halt
  • The position in London where underground public transport is available to all is less pronounced allowing the Capitals inhabitants to poke fun at their Northern troubled neighbours inability to cope with snow when /up North/ people are supposed to be rougher and tougher.

Boxing Day weather bomb about to hit

Now that UK winter traffic chaos is firmly on the way I can relax and tell all my relations in England,  yes a traditional British Christmas for you has finally arrived.

You are welcome.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Choosing a Towel

This post is simply as the title suggests:

Choosing a towel!

In our lifestyles we take at least 2 and perhaps many more showers per day. And so having a decent quality towel is a fine end to the senses after a long relaxing hot shower  (usually at the end of some extended exercise).

Agata and Marcus have talked about it and we can't understand why one would not carefully select the very best towels for your needs, especially as really fine towels cost below  30GBP   (50 USD, 50 CHF)

Not Stealing

Hotel towels are of excellent quality.  However taking hotel towels is stealing and so we neither practice and actually frown on this behaviour.

Some of the Parameters

  • What will you use the towel for and where will you use it?
  • Is weight important?
  • Is cost [really] a factor?
  • Do you regularly change the towels anyway?
  • Choice of different sizes for purpose hand, bath, swim, beach etcetera.

The above picture comes from John Lewis in the UK which very helpfully explains their hierachy of towels, with the best being at the bottom (Suvin Cotton) although Suprima Cotton is heavier.

Many people stop at Egypian cotton which we would suggest is a mistake. On the John Lewis scale I would select Suprima Cotton.

We buy most of our towels in the UK and ship them back to Switzerland, the UK has a big supply from stores like John Lewis and House of Fraser.

Marcus and Agata admit to being particular.  We would be horrified to think of buying a towel without due research and understanding what we would be using it for.  And we'd be equally horrified if somebody just bought a random towel for us /because it looked nice/.   Towels don't cost much so choose the best ones for your needs!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Needs

Christmas needs your time, conversation, and good cheer with friends and family.  And perhaps indulgence with a very small i.   

What it does not need however is an ocean of Christmas TAT, of mindless, unloved, unwarranted and wasteful presents and expenditure that really represent Global absurdity.

In many countries the shops will again have re-opened on this day after Christmas (known as Boxing day in England).  But I ask you to stay strong.  A Retail therapy session is not best advised IMHO.

And Instead
With all the time and money that you have saved, you can also invest in your own health.

Yes, in the framework of /practice what we preach/ we can say that even on Christmas day as shown above Marcus and Agata managed our daily step count.

Now if you exceed this number, then fine you are converted.  Conversely if you are at the other end of the scale if you don't do anything then you can start by taking a short walk at the end of any meal or snack.  And go for a daily target of initially 1-2K, then 5K and then higher!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reasons Greetings 2014

In Switzerland it is both legal and Marcus and Agata would say essential to print out customised stamps for this time of year, the above being our seasonal example.

So to all our friends and family,  Marcus and Agata wish you Reasons Greetings 2014.

And here is our 2014 collection of Seasonal Images

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Just fixing the kitty tree

The thinking persons collection

Wow, look at those presents!

Never mind the waistline for Christmas Lunch

 Post Christmas Lunch 2014

A Christmas afternoon game?

 Our thoughts are with you Homee.

I have no idea how this happened

Oh please no!

 You spin me round

Feline greetings

 So warm in Lausanne Switzerland, no Snow

This is a really boring Christmas Party

Post party it is time to nap

Let us not forget

FSM is the light of the Universe
Have Faith

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Working to Live?

Depeche Mode: Get the Balance Right

I am going to propose a small and simple thought experiment which whilst not perfect is Marcus suggests more true than not true.

This experiment is only valid for those of you who regard Christmas as a special time of year.   This (of course) says nothing about one's religion or lack of it.

Christmas in 2014 is Thursday December 25

Let's assume that Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24 is spent travelling

So what are you doing on the day before?  If you are working upto the last minute, and then travelling all Thursday then IMHO

You don't dignify Christmas

You did not give it a build up, an anticipation,  you again prioritised your work over the Christmas journey.

Dignified Events
All of us have significant events in our lives. If we continue to fit these in around our work, prioritising work over everything and anything else then I am very much afraid your work life balance is mismatched.

My significant life events include

Death of parent(s) or siblings
Birth of your child or that of a close relative
Marriage and Divorce
A new home or leaving an old one
Christmas, New Year
My Birthday or that of partners/relations
Accident or serious illness

Assuming that you celebrate Christmas as a special occasion then you should take time to prepare for this special event.

If you can't be bothered to dignify this significant event whether you are religious or not, then it is quite possible that you are (mistakenly)

Living to Work

and not

Working to Live


The secret life of

Now this is getting ridiculous

Yes,  this afternoon the balcony sliding door is wide open.  

How warm is it?

Well actually it is 14.8 degrees Centigrade in the shade on the balcony here in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Absolutely unbelievable.

 Winter has officially been cancelled.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Getting RAW

At last I have had some time to consider how best to feed my Photography habit.

Besides a better camera than the current APS-C Sensor Samsung that Marcus and Agata have had for over 3 years now, we are looking at different picture formats.   

(As with all Google Blog posts simply click on a photo to go into full screen photo mode, particularly relevent for this posting)

In principle RAW  format

What has led me to RAW

We take a lot of pictures.  

We want to be able to keep the originals in the best possible quality and have a mind to be able to edit them as we want with least loss of quality.

What about the Space?
Disk space might be relatively cheap, but let's start from some facts:

In 2014 I just checked and we have saved, after editing and manipulation 12395 photographs/ videos in 72.6 GB of disk space.

Individual processed photographs range from (say) 1MB to 6MB and videos could be any size.

If I assume that RAW photography takes x3 space to current .JPG and that we will increase by 5% annually, and that we want to plan for 40 years of photography.  Then we need to set aside

Sum (n=1 to 40)   (72.6*3) * 1.05 ^ n

This is about 28TB, so if for reasons of paranoia we double it we get roughly 60TB including current photographs.

This seems achievable even using 2014 Network Attached Storage (NAS) technology and we already have a filing system structure  and format devised for such sizes.  So all looks good to Marcus!

Twilight Testing
I made a  5 shot test using 3 camera  (Smartphone, APS-C sensor compact,   DSLR)

Smartphone Cyanogenmod Camera

- Cyanogen mod android camera application crashes frequently for slow shots.  Known issue. These were not so I got away with it
- HDR mode makes for surreal colours
- Each photograph about 3MB from a 12MP sensor
- Smartphone provides automatic GPS tagging
- I selected Cyanogen RAW format but the pictured were saved in .JPG jpeg regardless of my setting.

Smartphone Google Camera

- Google camera never crashes and is fast to shoot HDR photos
- HDR setting leads to un-natural colour presentation
- Each 12MP photo is about 5MB in size
- Smartphone allows automatic GPS tagging

Samsung APS-C Sensor Compact

- To be honest the 16mm portrait lens does a brilliant job
- Each RAW photograph is about 36MB
- Google Picasa can't understand the Samsung .SRW raw format so the above pictures were converted to JPEG reducing them in size to 8MB
- Installed EyeFi card provides almost GPS tagging but only if the picture is taken within range of a known geolocated WiFi


- Photos taken using a more professional DSLR but with a kit lens so far  (to be replaced)
- Each RAW photo is about 24MB
- Upload of the Sony style .ARW image IS recognised by Picasa without conversion
- Embedding of GPS data will be non trivial. Possible method using GeoSetter and an import of a track log being investigated.  But a palava!

Summary so far
Since disk space is not a current or foreseeable limitation I will for sure migrate to RAW photo shooting

I have to see why Cyanogen won't take RAW photos

I'd say the photo quality advantages of RAW over the prior JPEG formats are really not apparent for an untouched photo.  According to the literature however when edits are made, RAW provides a richer starting point.

Picasa on the Web won't upload the Samsung RAW format but was happy with the Sony .ARW format

Digital Rev: 10 annoyances