About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

26 July 2015

New Bike

I bought my old bike 10 years ago. Back then it was a good bike for the price - it had front shocks (yes that was a novel feature) - but most of the components and features are significantly outdated today (such as v-brakes). Since I restarted cycling seriously 2 and a bit years ago, I have been itching to get a new one. Once MN landed one of the only Sliverback Slade 1s in the country a few weeks back; I decided to get one too.


The Slade 1 has medium range components (Shimano XT, Rock Shox Gold) and an amazingly light frame. I decided to get cleats also, and it has taken me a while to get acclimatised to cycling with the front of your foot. And it is a joy to ride - especially uphill! I took it on my current circuit at Groenkloof and made good time for a first ride - 8 minutes up on the previous ride, and 0.8 km/h faster. Once I get used to bike, I expect even better times and speed.

Lastly, Anton from Summit Cycles has provided great service in the process - from measuring before order, to setting up the bike optimally. Looking for a bike in Northern Jo'burg - go check out Summit Cycles.

19 July 2015

Coffee and Chocolate Expo

Expos can be a hit and miss affair, and IMO it depends on the combination of exhibitors, activities and the uniqueness of the combination. This weekend's Coffee and Chocolate Expo was largely a miss.

For R100 entry, you didn't get much. Yes, there was a band playing, but it was outside and cold; so not much going there. The exhibitors were largely the same that you find around Jo'burg - either commercial chains such as Vida and Seattle Coffee or those that frequent weekend markets. There were some gems in the rough; but overall it wasn't worth it.

28 June 2015

Movie: Jurassic World

20 years ago, Jurassic Park was a ground breaking movie - not only the visual effects but the scary impact of genetic engineering taken to the limit. Jurassic World, pays quite a bit of homage to this past; and introduces a dinosaur that is "bigger, scarier and cooler" - made by genetically splicing a number of species of modern and ancient species - that is both dangerous and intelligent. It is not groundbreaking like Jurassic Park, and the concept is more like a zoo gone mad than a natural park (as anyone who has been to a safari can attest); but it is still fun. Throw in some family drama, regurgitate some plot lines from the earlier movies, and even better special effects - and you have a highly entertaining movie; despite the poor script.

16 June 2015

Xiaomi Mi Band - The Long Usage Review



There are two amazing features of Xiaomi's Mi Band - it's price of 99 HKD and its battery life of approximately 180 days.I bought mine on my first day in Hong Kong (on 2 March); and have worn it for most of the time since. The band is comfortable, although I would have preferred a band that stretches a bit more. I do take it off before showering - so I can't vouch for its water-wear.

The band has two major functions - step counting (as the general activity monitoring) and sleep monitoring. The step counter, at least when taking steps, is quite accurate. I actually tested in on the 4 odd Km walk around the top of Victoria Peak, and the distance counter was spot on. I am not sure how it works for other activities though - the reading during my bike rides seem a bit low for example.

The sleep counter has been more iffy - it largely gets it right; but I find that it sometimes gets waking up times wrong - especially if I have hit the snooze button a few times :) I do like the view of "deep sleep" and "light sleep"; but can't really vouch for its accuracy! There have been some other weird bugs - like recording sleep activity when I was not sleeping (e.g. watching a movie or reading a book for a long period of time) or not recording sleep activity during a short nap in the afternoon. Since I don't do either of those type of activities frequently, I have only noted a few examples of this occurring.

The software does integrate to Apple Health - though this aspect has been quite buggy in a few different ways:
  • Apple Health and Mi Band double counts. If I have my iPhone in my pocket, and walk - Apple Health counts both those steps and those recorded by the band; and instead of correlating it adds these up.
  • The sleep tracker in Mi Band is editable (to record more accurately waking time at least). However, edits do not seem to feed through to Apple Health.
  • The sleep tracker in Apple Health does not account for "deep sleep" and "light sleep"

When I was in Hong Kong, the Mi Band was great to keep track of how much I actually walked in the city; and there has been a great contrast in the drop off in walking since then. I often miss the 8000 steps default target during the work days -  although this does depend on which office I am based at. The activity tracker has not changed my actual routines - but has made me aware of the level of activity that I have taken. So in that way I suppose, it is quite positive.

Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road

I remember bits and pieces of the Mad Max series - although Tina Turner in Beyond the Thunderdome sticks out the most. This is quite different - in fact, Mad Max is not really the main star of Fury Road; but rather Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa puts in the commanding performance as the hero. 

The cinematography is stunning, the stunts are stunning, the sound track is perfect - and Charlize Theron puts in a really great performance. It is a great action movie and great fun.

30 May 2015

Uitkyk


The views from the top are stunning, especially on a clear day. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say about the hike up to the top - the rest of the scenery is rather drab, and the hike itself is not very exciting. It is basically up and down, and although it's a steep climb, it's not much of a challenge if you are not unfit. In terms of logistics, secure parking is available at the start at the Risski Estate; and the trail is relatively well marked and maintained. Reservations are required, and the minimum group number is 6; although for us, there was no one there to check either the permits or the group number. See the Footprint page for more details.





24 May 2015

Modderfontein Reserve and Northern Farm

I started regular mountain biking after a long break about 2 years ago; and have largely stuck to Groenkloof Nature Reserve just outside Pretoria. Groenkloof has a lot of variety in terms of length and difficulty of tracks; and over the past two years, I have steadily increased both the distance and difficulty of my rides.

In the past few weeks, I have branched out to other venues - Modderfontein reserve, and Northern Farm. Both venues are more well known, and more popular; but strangely much of their tracks are relatively easy in terms of difficulty. In fact, except for some sandy trails, there isn't much in terms of difficult terrain (both venues seem to focus more on distance it seems) - at least on the intermediate rated tracks I have ridden.

While neither has the large game that roam Groenkloof (so no running into giraffes, zebras and ostriches), the do compensate with more dams and greenery. In fact, Modderfontein dam spots a neat waterfall near the entrance of the trail (and the view from the Gautrain as it approaches Marlboro station in the mornings can be spectacular).


I will keep riding on Groenkloof for most weeks - the uphills and terrain may be more painful; but equally their downhills are faster and more exhilarating; and it ultimately provides more exercise. Northern Farm and Modderfontein can serve as nice breaks in routine however - and I am keen to explore other opportunities for more such breaks.

17 May 2015

Swan Lake

While I am not a fan of his ballets, I love Tchaikovsky's ballet scores - especially the score of Swan Lake. Thus, M did not have to try too hard to persuade me to go to a performance of Swan Lake this month. There are two ballet companies showcasing Swan Lake this month, and we settled on the St Petersburg Ballet company's performance at Montecasino.

I can't really judge the ballet performance itself; other than make a few lay man observations. The prince (the male lead), didn't seem to have much presence - in fact, it seemed that the jester and the magician had far more presence and activity than the prince. The jester for example, was far more energetic and seemed to have most of the acrobatic performance. In comparison, Odette (the lead swan), definitely had stage presence and commanded the stage when she performed. The dancers were backed up with a magnificent stage production; in terms of the backdrops and costumes - so it was a visually stunning feast.

As for the music - it was fantastic. It was great to hear the music in sequence and link the music to the actual story. The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra gave an amazing performance; and overall it was a great performance (although I am not rushing to watch more ballet performances).