Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Swiss Motorway charges 2015

Here in Switzerland driving on our Motorways is not free.

We levy a special 40 CHF per year tax  (28 GBP or 41 USD) which enables you to drive for 1 year without further charges.

I moseyed into the Post office to buy the 2015 version a while back and noticed that there was a special gift pack including some Toblerone Chocolate.

I did not quite know the French for /is this some sort of generous free offer/ and so just paid up my 40 CHF 

 As I was leaving the Post office I noticed another advertisement telling me that the tiny chocolate was an extra 4.95 CHF

I might have know it!  Nothing in Switzerland is free and usually one pays a premium for just about anything here.

But overall
We like the 40 CHF motorway tax.   It's not too much to pay as a supplement, and one has to marvel at the fantastic smooth surfaces and cleanliness of Swiss Motorways.

If you really never use the Motorways then simply don't pay the tax.  And 40CHF will not get you very far on a French toll motorway.  It really is actually good value!

Plus in the winter time there is a series of pipes which squirt white powder to combine with the snow and help it melt and therefore dissolve away into the drains. [Note, what with all the global warming, we didn't need any of this for the 2014 winter here in Lausanne :) ]

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bicycle Testing: Is this a Crack which I see before me

This was to be a post about the end of Marcus's gruelling Bicycle testing / commissioning process. You know, the one with the happy ending where everything worked, and the end user, in this case myself, cycles off smiling and happy into the sunset ....

My body is not a Temple
Several decades, or to talk it up, a Century ago, Marcus realised his body was not really a temple, more of a fragile eggshell.

You might have friends whose real life behaviour emulates the old American TV series Jackass

My body is probably at the other end of the spectrum .. thin weak ankles, small boned, and a skeleton that fractures and breaks at the smallest fall.  I need to be wrapped up, and careful.

For me then, my healthy longevity is only going to continue if my bicycle does not spontaneously fall apart on me, despite constant hard use at speeds up to 70Km/h and on ascent and descents over 15%.

It has to be reliable, just bulletproof.

Nothing less can or should be tolerated.

The Checklist and Some Explanations
Click to view enlarged the list I first made for Agata and then subsequently used for my bicycle.


Whilst tightening up the Front ultra expensive TRP brakes the cable mounting screw to the front callipers snapped in two!  Can't find a replacement.  Have a cobbled solution so far.  I might consider replacing the while front brake for Dura Ace  (+50 grams heavier) because maybe TRP is just too fragile.

The Mavic R-SYS SL wheels have very delicate bearings which seemed to have perished.  I've replaced the bearings and now the play is reduced.  How to test?   With bicycle in a stand, press the wheel rim towards brake.  Should be smooth, progressive resistance not something loose.

With Agata's chain issues I checked very carefully that my chain had no tight links or bent chain parts.

The latest Garmin Ant+ sensors are fantastic.  Nothing needs to be mounted to any spoke.  

One of the brakes was squealing so I replaced one pad.  Just one, I am that mean.

I can't mount the powerful Cateye light on this carbon handlebar. As a temp solution I'm using a lower power  (but only 30 gram!) Moon white front light.  It lasts 30 minus on overboost only!

No lose spokes but the Mavic front can't last much longer. Actually I have a Dura Ace C24 waiting, but it is heavier :(

The 11 speed Dura Ace mechanism works like a dream.  Whilst as a cynic 11 gears is far too many  (I'd be happier with about 8 and lighter!) I must say the changes are smooth and yet precise. It just works.

Dura Ace setup of the Front Mech rhowever emains problematical. To me the shifter is inconsistent but I have it changing now and not rubbing in the important gears  e.g   39 front and 25 back or 53 front and 11 back

The new handlebar has nowhere to mount the GPS watch. Hmm.  Normally I mount the smartphone in a wristband mounted between triathlon bars.  But can't mount bars so no smartphone display either.  Hmmm.

The Aero water bottle seal is broken but I have no idea where to find a new unit  and associated clamp.

The Pictures
 I still use the toolkit that Angela gave me for my Birthday in 1984.   Good times!

 Tape to mark correct insertion point for changes.   Carbon seat, because my bottom and cycling trousers are all the padding I need.

One brake pad replaced, I was not happy with performance

Rocking with Shimano Dura Ace CS-9000 11 speed transmission.

Vertical position of the front mech is to within absolutely didy squat clearance of the main larger chainwheel.

Cable bolt sheered off whilst tightening.  I can't find a replacement.  I can't imagine how this TRP brake can have such soft and poor quality fastener.

 Gear and brake cables actually pass inside handlebar and in fact it is such a tight fit that it took hours to install.  It does however need to be tight because any movement causes the brakes (for example) to NOT WORK!   If the sheath is loose then applying the brake tightens sheath first and only when it can't tighten any more does braking start.   

So it all works well now, but I had to do test runs and get out all of the slack from the internally routed holes.

Pictured also the Garmin Watch mount.  As I write this I say it has now disappeared and I can't find it, but it enables mount of watch.  Of course it's 90 degrees out so operationally awful.

Fine adjustment of the rear mech angle in 1st gear (not the one shown!) so that the chain wraps around the most teeth possible.

Check all nuts are tight.  Wherever possible use a torque wrench and the normally Shimano recommendations as listed in their installation manuals.  It is easy to over tighten and if you do that to Carbon Fibre it can just break.

Both Dura Ace hoods are torn and so are covered with Duct tape.  It's not a good solution but you can't order replacement 9000 series hoods anywhere that I can find.

Getting those buggers on was not possible without damage.  If I ever have to take them off it's just going to get worse.

 Most of the test runs are on sharp descents and climbs

Garmin cadence and speed sensors are fitted communication is via Ant+

Really close brake adjustment, works since Mavic and Shimano wheels are absolutely true.

Front mech has an option to vary the pull angle by changing the angle that the cable enters brake.  Mech comes with a plastic tool to help you decide how to thread cable.

In my humble opinion front mech adjustment is best done with a smiling, clever and tolerant wife.  Thanks for you patience and logic darling Agata.

The now old ultra light Mavic R-SYS SL clincher front wheel still going strong (well with the new bearings).

 Cable Ends are applied.

 Looks so nice and zen!  No bar tape and no bar ends.

Oh Dear

Is this a crack which I see before me,
The fissure toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

It has been over 2 months and certainly well over 1000Km of testing.   And until 2 days ago everything had checked out just fine.

However: I just returned from a decent and hilly course where I though on occasions  the headset felt just a little loose.  Alas, on returning home I found to my horror a hairline crack had developed on the left side of the handlebar stem. Can you see it in the above picture.  I did not over-tighten the headset honestly!

I now need to urgently replace this integrated Carbon Handlebar and Stem.   It was a complete and utter pain to fit, it looks great, but if its not going to be reliable I must consider a different option.

To be continued.

Jackass Golf Carts
Full Picassa Album of Bicycle Testing

Sunday Sermon: Not a Religiously inspired Murder, just Murder

Like Andreas Lubitz, Marcus too has run a Marathon, and with all the senseless killing in this world I too am sometimes quite depressed, although probably not clinically so.

But an important lesson for all: 

Correlation is not the same as Causation

Politically (In) Correct
To me this is a simple case of a deranged person, deceiving their employer and willingly and knowingly murdering the passengers on the plane he was co-pilot to, whilst at the same time committing suicide.

Lubitz was not a convert to Islam as some uninformed and agenda setting articles would have let you believe

He had a recent relationship breakup

His clinical depression was in 2009, some 6 years ago, not currently.

At the time of the murder he did have a medical condition but the details are not public except to say that Düsseldorf University Hospital who was treating him said it was not for Depression.
He had been praised by the FAA in late 2013 as a pilot setting a positive example

Who is not responsible
I never studied German Law, but based on my English training, Lufthansa probably has a duty of care towards it's airline passengers.

And so if there was a conscious and demonstrable neglect in some way, Lufthansa could face legal action.

However claims that

- Lufthansa are definitely responsible and liable
- That poor procedures and standards were in place

I believe are patently misguided, and evidence of the spreading blame culture into Europe.

Employees can lie and deceive their employers as are the indications in this case.

Procedures are already in place to gain access to the locked cockpit via a code  (see my article) should the only occupant lose consciousness.  This was not the case here. 

Learning Points

  • Not all acts of mass murder committed in first world countries are via religious fanatics
  • For the Germanwings Plane, the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was not a follower of the Islamic religion
  • When atrocities are committed please let's all wait for a fair and balanced assessment of the situation and the motives of the individuals concerned.
  • Depressed people are not prone to acts of murder

Saturday, March 28, 2015

AeroPress Coffee Machine

The AeroPress is a lowish cost manual way to make a quality cup of  coffee from granules of your choice, let's see how

Can it really be this good?

Marcus and Agata drink a lot of coffee.  I wrote in December that we were striving to ween ourselves away from the High cost and also relatively high waste Nespresso coffee machine environment.

The cost of Nespresso is of course relative.  If you have own a yacht in the neighbouring Lausanne harbour  (we don't by the way!) that say costs 20,000CHF  (14K GBP) to keep afloat each year even if you don't ever use it, then paying about 1000 CHF  ( 700 GBP) a year for convenient coffee at home might sound like a good deal!

But we are trying to economise where it makes sense and so I'm delighted to talk about the AeroPress coffee machine.

It makes a truly excellent cup of coffee with minimal fuss or  waste ...

In Practice

 You get a few extra bits that you don't need if you are careful.  So what you need is 

- a kettle to boil the water
- some ground coffee grains
- AeroPress machine
- filter paper and screw top
- spoon to put coffee in
- something to stirr coffee in AeroPress
- Cup which is big so that AeroPress can sit on top of it (see later)

 Put the ground coffee in

Add boiling water, or if you are freakishly sensitive you can heat to the best temp which is below boiling  (some Googling indicates between 90-95 degrees C, hotter and the coffee comes out more bitter)

Put the filter paper inside the screw top and attach

These days I am using these glasses from Ikea as coffee cups since the fit over the unit directly

Turn over and being to press

The AeroPress is so named because as you can see below the plunger is a layer of Air and then the hot coffee below.

This is supposed to be the fun part, where you press the hot coffee thru the filter.  It makes a nice whoosh at the end since after all the liquid is expelled the air layer follows.   Marcus with his puny arms says it is quite exhausting!

Remove the end cap

Peel off the paper filter and then press the plunger and the coffee grains shoot into the organic recycling

 These bits need washing

Marcus and Agata add different milk according to their preferences

Marcus being obsessively fussy now heats up the coffee to a precise temperature (normally 40 seconds, 750Watts) with his measured milk.

The whole coffee making process is dominated by the boil time of the kettle, so to minimise, fill the kettle with just the right amount of water, which of course is also the energy efficient thing to do anyway.

How is it then?
Makes a great cup of coffee

Superior to the French Press I used to use, although only just.

Uses grains, so you can choose your own beans, grind them etcetera.  This gives you maximum flexibility and minimum cost cf Nespresso  which is a lot more expensive  (but  faster, and more convenient)

There is no capsule waste and the spent coffee granules go into the recycling.  With a French Press the granules are wasted down the sink.

The AeroPress is pretty easy to clean, much better than a French press.

Overall it is a winner.

Availability Notes
It's not available anywhere in Switzerland so after a preposterously large postage fee and waiting over 1 week my AeroPress arrived from England.  In the UK or the USA you can get them on eBay no problem.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Marcus out the Door

For a period of over 30 years now I,  Marcus,  have been apologising to family, landladies and now my wife Agata

It would seem that getting Marcus out of the Door is subject to a myriad of small, cumulative, yet ultimately effective, restraining factors summarised in the above diagram.

The Critical Self Analysis
I realise that I am very prone to completionism  (my made up word) and interruptism   (again, my made up word). Oh yes and parallelsim ...

- Completionism: The feeling that you have to finish something that you have started

- Interruptism: Means you are doing task x.  Task y interrputs you, so x is pushed to the stack.   In the middle of y, task z interrupts, so task y is pushed. Etcetera. Until multiple stack pop operations are complete.

- Parallelism: Means you always desire to start multiple automated parallel tasks off before leaving

I am still waiting

Agata is often to be found next to the exit door occasionally asking /Husband, what exactly are you doing?/

  • Answering email
  • Downloading latest Podcasts and synchronising iPod
  • Adding another audio book
  • Setting up the robotic vacuum cleaner
  • Setting off the dishwasher and washing machine
  • Starting the iDrive upload  (months to run)
  • Checking paper post, scanning, deleting
  • Feeding the Cats

And on the return now we are both slightly prone to

  • Putting our gadgets, players, phones, health monitors back to charge
  • Setting up the automated photo transfer programs  (from photos taken whilst out)
  • Putting away all that washing
  • If returning from sports, which happens multiple times per day showering, changing, and eating :(

And last but not least, writing the daily Blogpost!

Quaint or a Problem?
I can only apologise profusely to all who have been held up with Marcus' dithering.    In my defence I claim it's eminently rational, and be aware that in the case of an emergency I leave immediately.

Forgiveness please.

Enigma: Mea Culpa