Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Place for Everything And

Subtitle: Everything in its Place

I've noticed a humorous tendency as Marcus and Agata return home from any prolonged absence.

We unload our vehicle, and then without almost speaking, we both start to industriously, almost frantically  to put back the items from our holiday, and begin mundane parallel tasks like starting the washing machine, or server Dropbox Synchronisation.

It's becoming a mantra, an unquestioned behaviour and I wanted to contemplate the reasoning and whether it was time to start worrying about ourselves :-)

Being Logically Orderly
In England we have a space constrained living and storage environment.   This does rather match our orderly brains though; because with the 2 simple rules below you can deduce where things are.  Example: Race medals must be in the cave, because that's where sports equipment and paraphernalia is.  Reading Glasses must be in the Marcus' study because this is where paper documents are analysed.

Storing things logically means than even if you forget where it is, you can deduce where it is likely to be

Our two golden rules are

1 place to store a type of item
All our head torches are stored in one place.  Doubling up would just be logically confusing.

Redundancy only as necessary
We might have Cold, Snow and Summer running Hats.  Plus a backup for when they are in the wash.   But we would not have 5 summer running hats each.  Ridiculous!

Pain Before Pleasure
Our post arrival home goal might be to have a nice dinner, including desert and some Wine, Talking and Television.  All rolled into one.  But we want to get all the unpacking and restocking tasks out of the way first.

Looking back to my student habits, Marcus would do the homework and write the Engineering report on days 1-2.  Then I'd have days 3-14 to relax, comforted that work items were completed.

No Butler / Home Help

My parents generation, especially whilst resident outside of the UK may have experienced a different lifestyle.   Perhaps including a child minder, gardener, cook  and quite literally a fleet of helpers bringing food, dry cleaning, car cleaning and time saving services to our door.

If Marcus and Agata were living this lifestyle in England we would be the first to leave all that unpacking and washing duty to somebody else :-)

In Summary
We try to keep our lives grounded.  We do our own shopping, washing, cleaning and tidying up after any holiday or home absence.  We want to have dutifully claim over such adjectives like clean, organised, logical, industrious as rightfully ours.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Comedy and a Life of Connections

Hal Part 1

I found a new comedian of like last Sunday.   Hal Cruttenden

I wanted to walk everyone thru the process of discovery and we'll start with an important example.  Some might say the most important in your life: finding the ideal partner, which in my case is female.

You perhaps all have friends with advantages you don't have.  Being attractive, not being ugly, being tall,  good physique, all the way down to good at conversation.

Now if you don't have these advantages you have to do something the attractive person does not have to do very much.

Try hard
Trying hard, and looking for opportunities has a terrible success rate, and if I was an accountant I would look at the stats and just not bother.  But the thing is, without making this effort, you'll just never find a partner.

What is the Rule?
For the average looking,  we need to try.  And similarly in life we have to look for connections and activities that make us happy.

And So
I love comedy, but finding comedians that match your psyche takes, well effort.  How did I find Hal Cruttenden?

I use AntennaPod and subscribe to multiple Podcasts.  I'll listen to at least 4 hours of audio per day, from paid sources, from Podcasts, and the beautiful Radio 4, listening to a balance of things that I like, but also looking for new sources.

 I listened to the Comedy Club compilation and found Hal Cruttenden and then checked out Youtube, and the usual sources :-)

But Seriously

If all of this is a little too light hearted I can also recommend BBCR4 A Good Read and Audible as a digital successor to a physical book club.

In Summary
 For the non pampered, the not spoon fed, and people who are not stunningly attractive, we have to make an effort, and make our own discoveries.

More Hal

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Running the London Marathon 2019

So Marcus is very happy to report that my first London Marathon is completed.   Very good result for me (03.31), nice time in London, especially running around the East End, my home of over 15 years.

Great support from Run Alcester,  darling Agata,  our friends Kang and Lyan, and post race from Petros.  All made for a wonderful weekend.

Some Preparation
As I commented this week  I am recently recovered from a horrific Lung Infection.   This gave me 3 days  (not kidding) to put some Marathon training in.  In other words I would rather have to rely on my current fitness level to carry me through.  I did have some time to put in a 17km run before the marathon, but my running club Run Alcester strongly recommended that I did not do my usual 35km pre marathon training run,  2 days before the actual. For once in my life I listened to their advice.

Pre Race

I remarked on the questionable process  that forces you to arrive at least 1 day before the London Marathon to pickup your numbers.  There is no postal facility.   

A good deal of Saturday was spend driving to London.  Parking in Central London.  Travelling a long way to Excel and picking up the race pack.

Adding to the expense but also the pleasure was the extended time we spent at the Salomon running stand.  Marcus bought new shoes, of course not to run for this Sunday, that would be a noob error.  But the Salomon Sonic RA Pro 2 that I bought will replace the RA Pro 1 shoe that I will be running the marathon in, the shoe is ready for replacement already.

Waiting About

Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of our friends Kang and Lyan, I was driven to the race and this meant I only had to wait 1 hour and 15 minutes for this Sunday race to start!   I really got the VIP treatment here and it was really appreciated.

Race Report 

On the one hand I gave it everything I had got, with the proviso that I did not want to unduly tire myself out.  I was to finish, calmly, and would have been able to continue running, just not any quicker!

Here are my comments


The Garmin Fenix 5S Plus and Trekz Air combination worked absolutely brilliantly.  It means that I can store music on the watch, and use that for both activity tracking and Bluetooth connection to the Air headphones.   I don't need to carry a phone!   It was actually a shame to not carry a phone for the purposes of photography, but this is a short distance Marathon not a long Ultra carrying a phone for  the usual security and emergency rationale hardly applies here

Food and Water
In order to save weight I only took Glucose tablets as a backup energy source and researched what Calorie drinks and gels were available on the race

I wrote this on the shoe attachable timing chip

This was the race plan: Calorie drink at 12, 18, 37 km and Gels at 22, 29 35km.  As you can see this race differs from most in that I actually looked at the course map, found out where the water and food stations were and came up with a plan.  Better late than never (in my running career) I suppose :-)

The Timing Excuse
I was aiming for a comfortable 03.30 time and this means running at about 12 km/hour which equates to 5minute or less kilometres.

Now my fancy Garmin Fenix 5S watch was speaking out my km pace every km and it was always below 5 minutes per km.   So I was convinced I would be easily under 03.30.  In fact about 03.24.

(click to zoom)

But do you see what happened?  My marathon was actually 43.60 Km long!  How can this be?   Well at km 36 on the watch I was very surprised to see that the distance marker on the course displaying 35 km.   I thought, surely a mistake, but 1km later it appeared to be 1km out again.

Either they got the distance wrong for Blue Course runners, unlikely I feel, or perhaps all that running around crowds of people really did extend the distance.  So I did run the Marathon distance in 03.24 and the full 43.60 measured km in 03.31.  Hmm.

Other People
I shared this marathon with over 40,000 other competitors.  It was a sea of people from beginning to end.   I'm not sure if all my weaving between people caused the extra running distance, but it surely did not help.

I suppose that this is just the way that the London Marathon is, so I have to accept it for any future attempt.  As I get older my anthropophobia is actually getting worse, but right now today's crowds were bearable.

Crowd Support
I did have many moments whilst running.  The support of cheering crowds was quite overwhelming and it lasted nearly the entire course, certainly from km 10 the streets were absolutely packed out.  So much cheering was a real boost to my running and I am sure everybody.  Thanks Londoners.

Beginners Error

Ow and flipping Ouch.   I completely forgot to put Vaseline on my nipples so after Km 25 it was clear that chafing was taking its toll.  Such a noob error.   My only excuse was I was away from home.

The Goody Bag

Post race I got not only a medal and a T shirt but also a bag of sponsored goodies.   Lentil Chips?   How did they know my dietary requirements :-)   Perhaps the day of the healthier crisp is really upon us.

Summary and Marks out of 10
I gave the London Marathon a decent 8/10 on the Marcus happiness scale.    I almost finished in 03.30, which was my goal but for the extra distance I seem to have run. 

I had wonderful support from friends who got me to the start, cared for me afterwards, and positively encouraged me during my weeks of sickness and during my recent recovery.

The weather was decent and dry  (though windy), the food and drink stations worked well, and my Music and food strategy worked absolutely fine.

As usual my self criticism is: Thinner legs and reduced weight would transform Marcus into a much faster runner, but until I get my act together longer term and better my diet this is the way it shall be.

London.  It was expensive, but good. 


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Costing the London Marathon

There is a terribly good chance that this Sunday, young-ish Marcus will be a pootling down to London to participate in a Marathon.

It was however a conversation with a Team-GB athlete that had me thinking.   How much is this costing me, and not so much can I afford it, but should I afford it in the future, etcetera.

The Entry Fee & Ballot
You fill in a form and send the organisers 39 GBP and you are put into a ballot.  For 2019 there are 17,500 places but 414,168 people entering the ballot.   You chances are therefore about 4.2% and 95.8% of balloteers are therefore rejected.

Charity Place
If you raise sufficient money for a named charity you can gain a place.  As an example 2000 GBP of charity money is needed for Cancer Research  This is the charity homepage

Club Place
Every UK Affiliated running club with over 20 members gets a Club place.  There has never been a better motivation to join your local running club.   Typical Running clubs in the UK will cost less than 50 GBP per year.

Speedy Runner

If you are a proven fast runner you can qualify on a previous marathon result using the above table.   For men particularly this is a tough call thanks to it being rather competitive.

Lodging and Travel
An old ploy is to make sure that you must pickup your race numbers in person at least a day before the Race.  And thanks London, you fit this /money grabbing profile/.    There is no option for example to post your race numbers.

So for non London residents it means arriving on Saturday or earlier and booking a hotel room for the night before.

Our charges therefore are currently

Drive to London (120 miles at the .45GBP gov rates)  54GBP
1 nights accommodation   150 GBP
Excel Parking and Rail charges   50 GBP
Drive back home 54 GBP
Total lodging and travel   308 GBP

You need to spend at least a day in London.  1 day's healthy eating the night before and say a healthy breakfast.  Shall we say 20 GBP?

Consumables and Disposables
Most marathon runners , Marcus included, will want to have my particular brand of pre Marathon drink and energy bar, and specific Gel Bars during the race.   And for big races like London and New York you are herded into starting pens for over 1 hour prior to race start.  So you typically wear an outer layer of disposable clothes that you discard minutes before race.  There is also the incremental cost of any trousers, tops or shoes you will have trained in or bought for the race.   I'd rank this cost at 50GBP,  or considerably higher if you needed to buy some road shoes.

All the Costs then

So for the average out of towner, the direct cost of this run around London is at least 400 GBP.  Plus the effort to get a place which can range from the cost of your time spent to earn 2000GBP of charity money, being an Ultra Fast Runner, a lucky club ballot  winner or an unbelievably lucky Ballot winner.

But I Just want to Run :-(

Running a marathon race should be a test of your endurance and relative performance against others of your age and sex.  I personally am both saddened and rather annoyed that many major sporting events in the UK and USA are both ridiculously oversubscribed and force users into raising large amounts for charity.

I'd much rather see 
a) more sporting events at all levels from 5K, half marathon and marathon
b) Focusing beginners on less than Marathon events.  Becoming a frequent and then proficient Parkrun runner for example is a much greater health benefit, and local and free!
c) More funding for Medical causes outside of Charity, this means reducing the need for Private funding by better government support, and critically, a change in the populations attitude promoting health and wellbeing to try and counter lifestyle assisted illness and reducing the effects of genetic based issues.

With that said,  I'm running Sunday.  I will do my best, and give it my 100% as always.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Automating the Garador Garamatic 10 Garage Door Opener

We already have Electric Garage Door opening systems made by the German company Garador.

But wouldn't it be nice to be able to control the opening and closing of the Garage Door via our secure smartphones, or even using Amazon and Alexa.

Let's see if we can enable that

Open Sesame

The key thing to know is that with power applied to the system  (obviously!) then if you momentarily short the right two terminals together you will cause the door to move from open to closed, or vice versa.   If you short while the door is opening it stops.   Its just like pressing the button on your 433 Mhz remote.

Another Incher!

I recently discussed the use of a WiFi connected Inching Switch to remotely power on my workstation.  We can use this same design again.

To recap the inching Switch is a low cost  (10 GBP) relay that can  momentarily switch on or off.   We won't actually power the output circuit at all we just use it to create a momentary short using Inching Mode 1, on the terminals of the Garador

WiFi Pre Requisite
This solution only works if you have WiFi inside your Garage or Workshop.  Of course we have!  And note to villains.  Wifi in these area is protected by yet another firewall and on a LAN segment that is part of our DMG   (Demilitarised Garage Zone :-)  We talked about it here

Mock Up and Implementation

 We chose this Sonofff  (Itead) device because we like Sonoff Quality and this device can be powered from 5V micro USB, and boy we have a lot of those spare adapters!  

The only difference from the mock up is that we glued the circuit board to the side of the USB power adapter.  The gun is available cheaply here

Remember that you take the wires to the bottom 2 connectors as shown here

eWeLink Application

This is used by many automation devices worldwide.  Just remember that in Quick Pairing mode you should be connected to the Internet and not have connected to the WiFi connection that your Sonoff is producing

So the full instructions are connect up the Sonoff to the USB power supply.  Mount into Garage with the 2 wires coming out of the Sonoff relay on the terminals of the Garador Motor Unit.

Install the eWeLink application on your Smartphone and then press the setup button on the Sonoff so that you have a fast flashing LED.  Then use the Quick Pairing Mode to make the connection to the Sonoff Incher Relay.  User guide here

As I commented previously our Garage is not only behind an additional Network Firewall, it broadcasts a SSID that is unique and separate from our Home Infrastructure.  So if compromised in some way it can't destabilise the rest of the house.

Further Security
Of course we have multiple security systems regulating access to our property and within the house and garage.

But this would be considerably undermined if you could shout an Alexa command to open the Garage!

If you recall Alexa does not distinguish people's voices and so a perfect stranger (villain) could issue an 'Open Garage Door' command.

For this reason although Alexa has the Ewe Skill enabled we have disabled voice control for any Door device.

And Tada it works

Garamatic 10 manual
Sonoff Product Link

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Because in 2019 Health is Still Wealth

In view of real life actual events that I experienced first hand I'm not in the habit of crediting my parents, but the expression

Health is Wealth

The expression if not the implementation is something I can duly credit them with.

For the last 3 weeks Marcus has had some terribly debilitating lung / breathing problems.  So bad that I could not physically lie down and sleep as mucus or other fluids would come up from my lungs and literally stop me breathing.

Recovery and Fitness Level

Agata and Marcus have a mantra which is that we routinely, and we mean daily perform enough exercise so that on any given day, we should be fit enough to run a marathon.  And be able to do this on any subsequent day too.

I feel that in the world of Athletics it's not just performance that you need to concentrate on, it is moreover recovery.   There is no point be able to complete a marathon, gasping and struggling, if you are so  exhausted that you are out of action for the next 2 weeks.

We recently met a triathlete who claimed he took over 3 months to recover from an Olympic distance event.   This is just not acceptable!

How Did I Recover?

- Contacted the Doctor ASAP, I mean after week 1 going downhill, and breathing becoming increasingly difficult, I saw my local UK doctor.   I got aggressive steroid medication

- I got Nutrition advice from running friends and family.

- I made a list of all possible foods that might be aggravating mucus production.   This came down to Milky Coffee.  I stopped drinking all Coffee  (from >6 cups per day to 0)

- I completely stopped all deserts or processed foods that could in any way shape of form be thought of as unhealthy.  No chocolate,  no Ice Cream,  No deserts of any kind. No Crisps.  No Bread, No Easter Eggs, No Hot Cross Buns or any Pastry.

- I ate more Greens, including Green Salad and Rocket

- I  kept as warm as possible, wearing gloves, hat and buff even inside the home and even whilst sleeping.

- I kept exercising, often at a level that had be spitting and spluttering, but something has to be done every day, no really

- To keep up my resolve I watched another horrific program showing me what happens when uncontrolled eating takes over your life.   Please let this never become me.

Tonight on the Stratford running track I was not coughing out my guts like last week. Just running cleanly. As above. 

It's just a tad late but I now have just 3 days to put in some proper Marathon training.   It has to be done. And it will be done.

My appeal to everybody is:  Regulate your Diet and Exercise until you become Healthy.  In the long run this is your responsibility.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cleaning your Teeth whilst Combating Depression

Today I am going to argue that just a little time spent twice daily on your dental hygiene will not only directly benefit the health or your teeth and gums, but will also bolster you mood leading directly to more smiles and better times

Evolution and our Teeth
Today in 2019 we all expect to live decades longer (on average) than our Grand Parents.  Our teeth have to work considerably longer before we expire.

Additionally our food choices are in general more processed, can easily be more sugar laden and are mostly an order of magnitude worse on our teeth that even a few decades ago.  Of course, this is under every individuals direct control, but the trend is there.

Finally the quantity and frequency of our food intake is changing towards the larger.

Overall these 3 factors mean to Marcus that I need to take better care of my teeth today than had I been born 100 years previously

A Routine

Using the tools above, after breakfast in the morning, and last thing before bedtime I undertake a 10 minute cleansing ritual

1. Rinse Mouth of debris using tap water

2. Use the Manual Water Flosser to jet between teeth and dislodge loose particles.  (The manual flosser not a mains or battery powered unit is simple and effective)

3. Use Dental Floss to further clean between teeth and use the tooth picks as necessary if you have food lodged in receding gums.  This can also reduce instances of bad breath.

4. Use a Sonic Toothbrush to perform a full tooth clean.  (I'd choose Sonic as the best all round toothbrush, please Google)

Four  steps, 10 minutes.  Not exactly rocket science.

Challenging Depression
Having a useful and meaningful routine such as the above gives your life some structure and leads to meaning.   After you have finished your mouth feels clean and refreshed.  It provides an excellent pick me up start to the day, and is mirrored by the feeling of wonderfully clean and smooth teeth at night as you sink into that pillow, last thing at night.

A Nice Reply
For over 15 years whilst living in Switzerland, Marcus and Agata have maintained a regular (6 monthly) dentist elsewhere.   On my last 2 checkups for dental and cleaning both professionals commented positively.  Now there is so much less to do.  At last after over a decade your tooth and gum health is turning around.

I was so extremely pleased.  It gives me the motivation to continue my morning and bedtime mantra.

Just 20 minutes per day people. It is really worth it.  You only get one set of Adult teeth.   Let's make them last our lifetime.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

That Summertime Feeling

Defining the Summer
For over a decade in Switzerland Marcus would define my start of the summer as a time when I would have to keep the blinds closed so that the burning Sun outside did not turn the inside of our house into a hothouse

Meanwhile in England
It's far from commonplace to even have blinds, or to attempt to prevent the sun from streaming into your home.   But for the last 2 weeks by my Swiss definition, Summer has gloriously applied to England too.

It has been consistently over 18 degrees Centigrade resulting in an inside home temperature of over 25 degrees C unless as shown above the blinds are closed.

Today the Patio Doors were full open as the shaded and cool breeze attempted to bring down the 25 degree insides of our home.  All the while it seemed squadrons of bees flew around our bushes, they clearly think summer is here, right now.

Continued Variability

Whilst the temperature has for over 10 days exceeded 20 degrees on most days you can see that the forecast tells a different story for the future.

And that's the still sad truth about the UK weather system.   London excluded  (they still have drier and hotter weather) the rest of the country still has varied weather and in particular damp weather.

Unlike our old home in Lausanne Switzerland,  rain persists on a more than frequent basis.  A dry day in England usually means  a) moist weather  b) a day that can include some rain.  In fact the Met (Weather Centre) don't count small amounts of rainfall in their dry day classification.

In Lausanne  Switzerland by comparison, the air is dry, rain falls heavily and infrequently.  The number of totally dry days per month exceeds 20, and usually 25.   Not so much in any area of England.

And so Back to Global Warming
Decades ago, UK residents were less aware of their climate relative to hotter and drier parts of Europe or further afield.  Today the Worlds Climate, and views of constantly hotter climbs are but an Internet click away.

I think more British people realises the shortcomings of the British weather, and  when hot and dry weather lasting more than a few days comes forth, it is still a cause for celebration.

Whilst Global Warming will lead to both higher sustained temperatures and greater variability, many UK residents look mostly to the former.    Sustained, hotter and drier climate == good. 

And even I feel conflicted when I perceive the UK climate is at last getting warmer and drier and approaching the glorious climate I have become accustomed to in Canton Vaud Switzerland.

Cake by the Ocean

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday Sermon: A Miserable Week For The Religious

Sunday Bombings

I'd first like to comment that I am deeply pained and sickened by the murderous loss of life in Sri Lanka.  Whatever the shortcomings of Religion, murder of its celebrants is cowardly and unacceptable.

The right to worship or not worship,  in peace, should never be denied.

Overall this has been a disastrous week for Christians.  It started with a near fatal fire in Paris 

A Simple Plea

I ask all Religious people to consider what items of belief, or teaching, or evidence you believe supports your faith.   

And of course, why you consider your neighbour of a different faith is most surely misguided. This leads to the Outsider Test for Faith

What parts of your faith are the Religious bits, e.g. your Creation story, your Religious leaders story, and what are the teachings that in many cases are not Religious at all, merely all about /good and decent/ behaviour.

In ancient times your Religious prophets interpreted good fortune as a sign that your God was protecting you, a chosen people from the /others/.

But this week we have seen for Christians that at best your God's protection is between weak and non existent.  Could it just be that the God you have grown up with is merely an Imaginary Friend?

Please consider the Evidence

Sri Lanka Bombings quartz
God is not a Good Theory