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).

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).

01 May 2015

Movie: The Imitation Game

In my opinion, biographical films should try to portray the character and events as realistically as possible. This is particularly important, as biographical movies have a far wider audience than books and other biographical material - and also to preserve the accuracy of the character and achievements; not only of the main subject but also of the characters around the subject. In all of these respects, by all accounts, The Imitation Game, is a failure in the portrayal of Alan Turing and his fellow cryptographers.

The movie gets too many things wrong. Alan Turing was not a self centred, isolated genius who single handedly broke the Enigma code. The Enigma code was not the only code to be broken, and its success did not happen all at once. Fellow cryptographers also had significant contributions to the project. The military management did not actively hinder the project. And so, the list goes on.

That said, the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch was impressive - and the movie does make a fine inspirational tale. It's just a pity that the real tale is just as amazing and didn't need to be fictionalised.

30 April 2015

Movie: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I suppose that it was inevitable - that the villain the Avengers fight are created by the Avengers. It's the logical extension of the Hydra movement hatched in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the latest Avengers, it is Ultron, an AI built by Tony Stark, that goes rogue, and wants to rush in the age of the machines (like that plot hasn't been done before).

As to be expected, the movie is action packed; corny one liners, generally unbelievable physics and weird geography errors (we go from a rusting shipyard to Johannesburg in the same scene sequence). It is a fun movie, but the movies have become formulaic. Brainless entertainment, can still be entertaining though!