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31-12-2016 Strava Rapha Festive 500

Strava Rapha 500 total as of 9:40 this morning: 527 km

Current Rank 3,706/66,413 (which is nearly top 5%, which is stunning considering the longest ride I had ever done before this was about 20 km)

I was very surprised at how painful and grinding it wasn't. I feel much better now than I did after my first "long" ride, which was shorter than the little warm down I just did to get me over the 500 total.

I'm convinced that these 8 days have done WONDERS for my riding ability, and that when I go back to my 17 km each way commute I'll find that it seems like I haven't even warmed up properly before I get to work. Meaning I'll have to start doing interval training on the commute I guess.

Issues? Well I have been getting more and more pain in the palms of my hands, especially once I get over 2 hours on the bike. My thinking on this is:

1. I could go for better bar tape and or gloves, which is probably a good idea, but may be just covering up the symptoms

2. I probably have too much weight on my hands, indicating my seat is too far back forward and tilted too far forward.

3. My seat is in that position for testicular comfort reasons

4. Therefore I need a better seat, which means trying out 11ty different designs until I get the perfect fit.

Also, yesterday I started to get pain in my left knee. Now I did manage to get this dislocated once in Jujitsu, so it is a risk, but it has been behaving itself for about 5 years now (front squats FTW) so I was a bit surprised.

THEN when I came to a stop... I couldn't unclip my left foot. Now I was giving myself a safety margin, so I could unclip my other foot and not fall, but when I looked at my cleat it seems it had come loose and was rotated about 10 degrees anticlockwise. So now when I rotated my foot the shoe hit the pedal before the cleat came out. This was almost certainly holding my foot at a slight angel, hence the knee pain.

Today, with corrected cleat position, it felt much better, but I was still getting discomfort in the knee at the end of only 2.5 hours. Hopefully this is just lingering from yesterday and a few days off the bike will fix him up.

28-12-2016 Strava Rapha Festive 500

Over halfway there, at 312 km.

26-12-2016 Strava Rapha Festive 500

Well this Festive500 isn't quite as bad as I feared.

Previous ever longest ride: 20 km

Today: 80 km for a Rapha500 total of 203 so far. It's easier than I thought.


Next post to be from Hornsby Hospital, Cardio Pulmonary Unit

24-12-2016 Strava Rapha Festive 500

And it seems that the guys at work talked me into this 500km bike ride thing.

Only 63 km so far, then I had to go to a Christmas lunch. Then it started to bucket down.


Anywhere else around the Hills District that is really flat and easy?

09-12-2016 Uphill Slog

One of the best things I've done lately for my health is to join the work beer drinking club.

The reasoning is fairly obvious. After Friday afternoon drinking beer, I have to ride the bike home. Which means that I have to ride the bike to work in the morning. And then I might as well ride at least once more during the week, seeing as I've got everything ready.

The reason I might not do this naturally (without alcoholic encouragement), is that the ride home is one big, long, uphill stretch. As seen on https://veloviewer.com/ .

13-11-2016 Last bits from China

On the plane, free movies. I started to watch the new ghostbusters... gave up after 15 minutes. Boring and bad acting. The only thing of note being that at least they seemed .to be going with a different plot. So I changed to Pride and Predjuce and Zombies. Much better written, much better acted. Much hotter actresses and much better in every way.

(Ok, one actor was good in Ghostbusters. A minor part, the university official who fired the character from Colombia university. He was also the only actor I'd ever seen before. And loh and behold he played Mr Bennet in PPZ.)

As with ghostbusters, they changed the plot a bit from the original (the original Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, which was itself subtly different from the version Jane Austen herself ended up publishing.) To be honest the zombies themselves were fairly lame comparred to the ghosts in Ghostbusters, but zombies always were the lamest and least impressive of all movie monsters. And the fight scenes in P&P&Z were classic low budget hack and slash by people who had apparently never even used a machete to clear shrubbery, let alone had ever had 5 minutes instruction in actual sword work, or watched anyone who had.

Which sends me off on a riff about sword work. I first realized that movie sword work was rubbish (yes, even Princess Bride) when I saw En Guarde, which is a French movie about sword fighting. This was a movie that made sword fighting look like a martial art, with that beautiful fluidity and economy of movement that peaple studying say Karate or Tae Kwon [ Do] get after they reach about the 4th level black belt. This of course varies from person to person and club to club. I knew one guy who had it well before his first level black belt. ANYWAY, in En Guarde the swordsmen (and women) had the same thing, and once you saw it it was obvious that any great sword user would have to look like that. Bladework, to an even greater extent than hand to hand combat, is all timing and skill, and so it should look like a dance not a 10 year old trying to swing an axe. And if you look at a champion woodcutter you'll see that they have a fair amount of the same rhythm and smoothness too.


Golf on tv in the bar. Golf would be much more interesting if players had shotguns and were allowed to shoot down the other players balls in flight.

The golf balls I mean. Other wise the female players would have a big advantage.

Dearest Wife

What is alcohol level? 4.7% Yeah this beer is really light.

Things that you gradually get used to in china.

The traffic. I can walk.across busy six lane* roads now. Albeit by screwing up my courage and trying to look as big and hard as possible. Not in the "dont pick a fight with me" sense. More in the "iwill do a lot of panel damage to your car/van/bus/scooter if you hit me" sense.

*Six marked lanes. About 8.7 lanes of actual vehicles.

And I get to Beijing and I notice how well behaved the traffic is by Ningbo standards.

Leaving a lot of food on the table and plate.

Having people actually serve you in restaurants.

Driving on the wrong side of the road. I'll actually have to make sure I adapt back in Oz before I get behind the wheel.

Traffic again, I'm starting to be able to predict when someone will suddenly swerve into another lane. Or stop in the middle of the traffic. There is a pattern here, it's just not the Australian one.

Going to a "nice restaurant for brunch" and having it turn out to be in the grounds of the imperial palace. With little plaques on the trees to say which emperor planted .them.

12-11-2016 Dear wife makes a heartfelt plea

Can I have a tissue please?

My ear is full of water

It depends on how fast you are:

If my brain gets full of water

The most tortured person… is you.

12-11-2016 Hong Kong Peak

So.. in hong kong, I decide to do the trip to the peak. The story is that you can take a train, or a tram, or a bus, to the central or admiralty station and then walk to a tram that takes you to the top of the peak in the center of the island. Easy right.

Except when I got to the peak climbing tram station there was a vast queue waiting. Maybe an hour or so. Well I can walk to the top in an hour, I'm not lame! Ok it took me an hour an a half. But I saw a lot more of the park and rainforest than if I was in the tram. Then I spent half an hour wandering the top of the mountain looking for the top tram station. I saw a bunch of stuff the tram riders would miss out on.

Once I found the top tram station the line was only one minute so I got a ticket to go down. It was worth doing at least once. Or at least if you aren't scared of heights. Dear wife would not have been able to handle it. She would, and did, much prefer to stay in the city and shop.

Also, sugar bar on the 32nd floor of hotel east, some interesting penisarses cock tails and excellent chips.. some pretty lame cocktails too, luck of the draw.

03-11-2016 Arms

Last Upper Body Push day before I leave the gym equipped hotel. I was fairly OK with having achieved 8 sets to 69kg last time, but this time I got psyched up and pushed to 74kg.

And then to 78kg. For the final 3 sets.

02/11/2016 Legs

Last Leg day before I leave the gym equipped hotel. Rather than my earlier plan to increase reps, I decided to increase range of motion. So I’ve been working with a setting that puts my knees right up to my chest.

With 114 kg per leg that drops me to 2 reps per set. So I’ve had it structured like the old Doug Hepburn workout of 8 sets of 2. And then add one rep per session, so workout 2 has one set of 3 and 7 sets of 2, workout 3 has 2 sets of 3 and 6 sets of 2… at workout 9 you have 8 sets of 3 so that at workout 10 you bump the weight up (or the seat even further forward) and start again with 8 sets of 2.

After the single you do a few higher rep sets to pump the blood around. Doug recommended 5 sets of 5, but to ensure I get to work on time I’ve been doing 2 sets of 25 which really, really burns in the final reps. With the single leg reps I’ve been doing I just put both legs on the machine for the final two long sets.

01/11/2016 Window shopping

Went to a bike shop last night, to see if they had cheap stuff like pants or bike lights… errr no…. cheap was not a feature of this shop.

It was a Trek shop, and the bike you see when you walk in was

a) More streamlined and advanced than any bike I’ve ever seen in Australia.

b) AU$16 000

c) Droolworthy.

It appears to be a heavily customized version of a Trek Madone.

Or at least it was droolworthy until the shop staff pointed out another bike that was against a window. THIS bike was

a) Somewhat less streamlined and all integrated.

b) AU$22 000

c) Light.

How light? The staff said (translated by my work colleague who is Chinese) “You can pick it up with one finger.” So I stick out my little finger, put it under the top rail, and lift… and nearly throw the bike into the roof. It weighed NOTHING. Actual figure was 4.75 kg. This was with a full set of gears, brakes, full drop handle bars etc. Not one of these stripped down single gear fixies with no brakes and half the handle bars cut off.

The drool was strong with this one… Ho Lahz as the Chinese say.

The design features were of great interest.

• Seat was a hard carbon fiber shell, zero padding, and thin enough that you could literally cut yourself (not easily, but still) on the edge of the shell. Not 100% sure that’s a great design feature for where your genitals and inner thighs will be rubbing… but whatever.

• Seat and handle bars were fixed position, not adjustable. The bike was custom made for one person so that can be done.

• Carbon fiber spokes and rims

• Tubeless tyres

I think it was a customized and modified one of these. A Trek Emonda SLR. The best version I can see on the website is a porky 5.38 kg, so this version was pushed beyond that.

31/10/2016 Ancient Pagan Holdovers

The restaurant at breakfast today had pumpkins carved into scary faces, like in an American TV show. I’ve never seen that before. It’s actually rather effective.

Definitely a cultural twist that came from a country that was very, very rich by historical standards. Using huge lumps of perfectly good food for decoration.

Meanwhile at work, I find that Bing translator is so useless that it can’t give me the Chinese for “Plastic injection molding machine mold release agent”. It gives me useless things like “condom” though. What word am I more likely to use while on a trip to China at any time or place?

Clearly Bing is completely out of touch.

And yes, I’m using Bing because Google in blocked in China. Apparently there is a Google.cn version that does work, but you can’t download it from the normal google aps downloader… because google is blocked in China. I had an iphone last time and they didn’t have this problem then.

27/10/2016 Mistake

Good day in the gym today. I was doing shoulder presses, which the previous round I managed to do 8 sets, working up to 59kg. This time I got to 59, powered out a set of 3, thought that it was a bit heavy, and decided not to increase the weights or reps today. So after set 8, including 6 at 59kg, I went to lower the weight back… and found that I had put the pin in 64kg instead. Cool….

26/10/2016 Weather

The wind changed, so all the pollution blew away and we have blue sunny skies and bright sunshine. Which is both more pleasant seeming, and makes the job easier, for technical reasons I’m not supposed to blog about.

However, it also makes it a bit less comfortable. Because we knew we’d be coming to a city that is typically grey, raining and overcast, we have all those long sleeved shirts and jackets and stuff that were developed for use under those conditions. Bright semitropical sunshine isn’t so suited for that clothing style.

I’d already dealt with one clothing error. Because I knew there’d be a gym I made sure to have shorts, t-shirt and gym shoes so I could hit the iron.

But the t-shirt I’d chosen (actually a polo shirt) was too well made, of decent, heavy gauge material. Hence, if worn to the gym, sweated in, rinsed and hung up to dry, it is still unpleasantly damp when the next gym session rolls around the next day. What I actually wanted was a cheap, thin material shirt that would dry in hours.

So, I went shopping. Surely an industrial city in China would have low quality, cheap, mass produced clothing? You’d think?

Well not so you’d notice. At least here in the foreigner’s business district it all seemed upmarket, with the cheapest stuff being like the shirt I already had.

Then I found a Walmart. This is an American chain of super-supermarkets. That had a huge selection of everything! Except nice cheap chocolate (doh!) or mens t-shirts (d’doh!!). Eventually I tracked down a “men’s athletics shirt” which sounded like what I wanted. It was long sleeved and a tight stretch material. Oh good, this looks like what I already have back in Australia to wear when biking in the cold. Except it isn’t too good in the cold because it is actually very thin and porous, and dries quickly. Ideal for gym wear. It was $15 which was a lot more than the $6 I paid back in Australia, but still cheap enough that I didn’t care. I also grabbed an “underwear tshirt” because it was only $4 and might be good too.

I got back to my room to find that I didn’t exactly have what I thought I had. The athletic shirt was much what my Australian biking shirt SHOULD have been. Lycra, but thick enough to be warming. NOT what I wanted in a hotel gym where they have the heat cranked to 26 (The hotel wants the gym hot. It makes people warm up more quickly so they are less likely to pull a muscle. And it makes them not work out as hard, so they are less likely to hurt themselves in some other way. But they are sweating like a pig, so it FEELS like you are working out hard and hence you are satisfied.)

Not a disaster, the shirt still dries quickly so I can deal with the heat, wash it out, have it dry before the next session. And when I get home I can swap it with my biking shirt the next time I need a warm top.

And the $4 underwear shirt? Long sleeves, and apparently also designed to keep you warm. Which is out of keeping with the hot sunny weather.

24/10/2016 Push

As referred to below, today was upper body push day in the gym. Get there to find it was a bit crowded, and the only warmup machine was the stair climber, but a couple of minutes of that was enough to get me warm, and so it was on to shoulder presses.

Except that some other guy was on the machine. Now I’d seen this guy before and he tended to move around a lot, only using a given site in the gym for 5 minutes or so before moving on. And given that he appeared to be as skinny as a rake I didn’t think he’d be spending much time at a shoulder press station.

But meanwhile, I just do my warmup using dumbells, of which they had a good selection running up to 50 pounds. I did a set of 10 presses with 25, and then 5 with 30 and another 5 with 35. Sure enough, the skinny guy had done only a set or two before going on to a treadmill, so I got onto the press station.

So why didn’t I stay working out with the dumbells? Because I was taking advantage of the few weeks with these machines to go really, REALLY heavy. Machines do so much of the stability work for you that you can just go all out with no concern for balance or worries about dropping it. So I got to the shoulder presser and started on 50 kg (same as the heaviest dumbells, but with no possibility of using body movement to make it easier for myself.) A set of 3 on 50 kg, 54 kg and then 59 kg. OK, I can do a lot more with a barbell, but when locked into the machine with no body movement possible, and starting from a dead stop at the bottom position, 59kg was my max.


So I ground out 6 5 sets of 3 on 59kg. The last one refusing to go up more than a couple of cm.

Then, to the cable row machine. I put on a single hand grip and loaded in 120kg. One arm shrugs, 5 with each arm. Three sets. That’s fairly heavy.

Then back to the dumbells where I grabbed the 10kg bells and did 2 sets of 25. By which I mean a set of 22 and another set of 13.5. Shoulders and triceps fairly worked, I hit the door.

So, how to progress? This seems fairly clear for the push section. I have to make it to the full 8x3, and then increase the weight.

The legs I did yesterday aren’t as clear. I worked up to the full weight stack. Using one leg. So the only way forward is more sets or more reps. I’ll go to more reps, which legs apparently respond to better.

The other important parameter? I had a French waitress today so I could order an actual espresso and she knew what I meant. Still tasted like rubbish, but at least it was a rubbish espresso rather than whatever the Chinese girls were serving up.

23/10/2016 Wisdom

1. Whenever you have 5 or 10 minutes to kill, start on some task you have waiting. Prepare a list of such tasks so you have them ready to go. But the task will take a full hour or two of solid work and you won’t get anywhere in the five minutes until Bob arrives? I’ve been surprised how often this isn’t so.

a. A surprising number of tasks prove much easier and faster than they looked.

b. A number of tasks turn out to be impossible, either because they just are, or because you need to get some tool or have to ask person X about Y, or some other roadblock. Much better to spend five minutes to realize you need to stop than to set aside 2 hours for the long task… and need to stop after 5 minutes.

c. A lot of “5 minute waits” turn out to be a lot longer than promised.

I’m reminded of this because I was just reading the internet when the maid came to clean the room. Feeling a bit embarrassed to be just playing while she was working, I opened the spreadsheet I’ve been meaning for days to update and started to work. I figured I’d only get about 5 minutes done, but at least I wouldn’t be sitting there like a stupid gweilo while she made the bed. By the time she finished I was 95% done and so I completed it and got back to reading Americans yelling politics at each other.

22/10/2016 Easier is better

I’m coming to the realization that much of the secret in getting fit is to make exercise easier, not harder. Oh sure, harder exercise is better… if you do it. But 90% of the time, the problem isn’t that you aren’t working out hard enough, it’s that you aren’t working out at all. Where people get into trouble isn’t because they take it too easy when they do a daily, or bidaily, workout, it’s all those days, weeks, months… when they have put it off till tomorrow, because frankly it’s a big hassle, effort, and a little bit scary. Then they finally force themselves into it, put in 2 solid hours of sweat and pain and boredom, hating every moment, and have more pain for days afterwards. And then start putting off the next session because the last one was such a negative experience.

Now this morning was leg day for me. LEG DAY is a very scary phrase for many people, but I just rolled out of bed at a reasonable 6:30, threw on some clothes, went down to breakfast (I’ll admit life is easier if you have someone making breakfast for you, even if they don’t know how to do acceptable coffee). Then I came upstairs, swapped my trousers for shorts and went down to the gym.

• A couple minutes on the rowing machine just to get warm.

• On to the leg press machine, set of 10 at 50kg, 5 at 80kg, 5 at 90 kg. Ready to start.

• Still on 90 kg, take one foot off the machine and do 5 reps with one leg. Change legs.

• 5 reps per leg at 100 kg

• 5 reps per leg at 110 kg

• 5 reps per leg at 120 kg

• 5 reps per leg at 120 kg

• Both legs now, 2 sets of 25 reps at 120 kg as a warm down.

• Wipe the seat with the towel, throw the towel in the bin and go back to my room for some real coffee* and a shower.

Still didn’t have to rush to be dressed and waiting for a taxi to take me to work at 8:30.

Admittedly the exact details of this require me to be in a luxury hotel… but I accomplish much the same at home just using a barbell, a couple of containers of rocks, and a welded iron rack originally intended as a shop display for fishtanks. So is this going to make a full magazine article with airbrushed photos of professional bodybuilders screaming in pain as they complete the 37th set? No. But I have had a couple of people ask me if I do steroids, so it isn’t a complete waste either. AND, (this is the critical point), at no time am I worried about the effort required, or the time required, or the resulting inability to walk. So I can do this every day, and just have it be the standard way I wake up. (I don’t do legs every day, I do upper body push, upper body pull, legs. So legs are every third day.)

*Real coffee? Outside of Spain and Australia, I’ve never encountered anywhere that can make decent coffee. Even England and France were suspect. Though admittedly I haven’t tried the rest of the Mediterranean nations. The solution when travelling is to go to Woolworths in Australia (or New Zealand) and buy Jed’s coffee bags. Just add hot water, the result is far, far preferable to the type of petroleum byproduct swill they will try to serve you in places like China or the USA.

19/10/2016 Work trip

In China for work. 3 weeks of work in Ningbo, followed by being able to catch up with dear wifey in Beijing for another week. So 3 weeks of expenses paid, luxury hotel. One week of… not.

But at least there is a moderately decent hotel gym.

29-08-2016 More Test Drives

OK, earlier this year I got to test drive a Renault Clio RS turbo Sport Cup which was, in summing up, a beautiful sweet little sports car, if not actually seriously fast. (I mean not fast by 2016 standards, it will destroy say a 1970s-80s Ferrari.)

To reset my internal car meters after years of driving the ‘coon ute, BMW 530, and various luxobarge Lexii and Audii, I went and “test drove” a slightly non-stock MR2 turbo.

Mmmm…. Actually, it isn’t that much worse than the Clio RS. The engine is rated at the same power (though this one was freshly aftermarket tuned, slightly better breathing and might be putting out a bit more) and the weight is the same (MR2 might be slightly lighter, but on the MR2 test drive there were two guys in the car, on the Clio drive there was just me). The MR2 is a 2.0 vs. a 1.6, but on the other hand the Clio is running an engine and turbo that is over a quarter of a century more advanced (!!!!). So similar levels of straight line performance, with the edge going to the old MR2 because it has better grip on a standing start.

Handling? Well the MR2 was a mid engine sports car designed for great handling, and then it was running fresh new (100 km old) 2016 adjustable shocks and new 2016 era performance tyres, and the result was something that in reality I couldn’t tell the difference between the old Toyota and the new Renault. Where the RS Clio DID stand out was in the traction control and ABS and all that, which the MR2 did without. I think they would be equally as much fun on a twisty mountain road, until something went wrong, when the MR2 would flip off a cliff backwards while the Clio saved you so neatly that you barely noticed.

Interior? OK the Clio wins this round. The MR2 was sold new in Oz for about 30% more than the cost of a Ford Falcon, and that was the non-turbo model. Say 50% more than the Falcon for a turbo model, and translate to 2016 and that makes it a $60k car. The $30k Clio was all over it for sound insulation, feeling of solidity, leather interior, solid, firm, positive feel to all the controls, just about everything. The only thing that came close was the steering feel (apparently the MR2 had been tweaked a bit in this department). The Clio OWNED as far as the seats were concerned, and of course the electronic toys which is one thing that the older MR2 has a good excuse for. Everything else? No excuse. They had leather in 1990. They just didn’t use it.

And no, not a wear and aging thing. The MR2 had a new interior.

MEANWHILE, in looking at MR2s, I see that the cool kids are dropping Camry V6s in them. Really? And there is one for sale ($2500!) only 15 minutes drive away....

So, the 3.0 V6 MR2. (Would that make it a MR3?)

Compared to the turbo fours in the earlier MR2 and Clio (which were very, very similar) the V6 is... better. Not enormously better, not spectacular, not "turns the MR2 into a completely different car"... but very clearly better.

In some areas, namely above about 3500 rpm, once you've got the turbo spinning, the turbo 4 is the same as the V6. Both are rated at ~150 kW, so no real surprise there. But at low revs, and in that first half ? 3/4 of a second after you've suddenly floored it, the V6 is clearly ahead of the smaller, (in the case of the Clio 47% smaller) 4s without the turbos spinning.

At 1500 to 2000 rpm up a hill, the V6 just accelerated up. The turbos would have struggled. And when you suddenly floor it, both turbos respond fairly quickly with a wooOOOROOOOOM. The V6 just goes ROOOOOM. It just better, there is no other way to put it.

On the other hand, it isn't THAT much better. Hardly enough to justify all the mucking around that an engine swap involves when the turbo 4 is already available. And newish turbo motors are still coming out of Japan where they were in production to about 2008 or something (and the 2008 models were a fair bit more advanced with 190 kW compared to the old 150 kW model.)

On the gripping hand, this assumes you are going to leave the engines stock. (And what kind of person goes for engine swapping but isn't going to modify the engine???) The stock 150 kW V6 beats the stock 150 kW turbo. But we all know that basic power ups will turn that turbo into 200 kW, while the same effort on the V6 will give you maybe 170 kW. And a more enthusiastic power up on the turbo, spending maybe a couple of thousand (new exhaust, new intake, bigger injectors, retune) will give you 250 kW, while the same effort gives you maybe 180 kW on the V6. Pushing the turbo about as far as I would go (same as above plus a new, better, turbo) gives you 275-300 kW while the same effort might take the V6 to 190 kW, if that.

Now, if you go all out, spending say $7k and up, you can turbo the V6 (include the cost and trouble of an engineering certificate and government approval at this point) and it reverses again. The V6 with a turbo gives you 400+ kW, and the same amount of money probably gives you the same power from the 4. And a 400 kW 4 would be a lumpy, laggy, unresponsive drag racing motor that would be difficult and probably slow to drive on the street, while the same power 6 would still be responsive, fun, and should be more reliable. But realistically I'm never going to take my car that far (evidence: the falcon is still non-turbo) and so this isn't worth thinking too much about.

On the fourth hand, this is the 3VZ engine from the 92-96 Camry. There are other V6s around, such as the 3.5L 2GR from the current Aurion or the 4.0L 1GR from the Hilux/Prado. These engines can put out over 210 kW in stock trim, have a lot more torque than the little 3.0L, are lighter than the older iron block V6, and are apparently easily tuned to get 230-250 kW. I've no doubt that a 250 kW 2GR V6 would be faster, and more fun, than a 275kW turbo 2.0, while being newer, stronger and morer betterer in every way. Apparently they are harder to put in an MR2, the fit is tighter and the more advanced electronics are harder to wire up and get working. But if one that had already been done became available for a reasonable price...

Lastly, there is the matter of this particular example of the V6 swap. And the answer is that this $2500 car was... rubbish. The tacho didn't work with a V6, the air conditioning wasn't hooked up, trim was falling off both outside and in, one body panel was black, the rest were various different shades of red fading to light pink. The black panel had a rust patch that had a patch of black duck tape covering it up in an attempt to hide it. It needed a complete strip down, rust repair, and respray which would either take weeks or cost the same as the purchase price. The engine was leaking oil onto the exhaust. The idle kept stalling when it was cold. And it didn't have registration or an engineering approval for NSW.

Really, it would need at LEAST $2500 (the purchase price) spent again to get it to an acceptable standard (and my standards aren't that high). It could very easily blow out to being twice that or more if any of the "easy jobs mate" turned out to not be easy. After all, if they were so easy, why didn't the current owner put in a day or two and fix them all up before showing it to a prospective buyer?

So, this one is a big fat NO, but the overall concept is interesting.

04-07-2016 Election

Standing in line to vote. Ive actually heard americans claim that one reason people vote (its optional there) anyway they claim that many people vote as a form of social signalling. Well I'm in line here and half the queue appears to be still in their pyjamas and I dont recognize anyone. Its literally impossiple for me to be signalling anything here except to myself. And, of course, via the actuals votes I cast which is a possibility that Robin Hanson appears to have overlooked.

As with many social theorists, hes got himself a.theory and applies it way way more widley than is justified.

Not as bad as Scott Adams with his hypnotism fantasys though. It isn't as bad if you assume that hypnotism is just his word for persuasion, sales, and marketing.

02-05-2016 Sports Advice

Once again I'm led to a conclusion that just about everything that the general public is told about sports is wrong.

In this case, I'm referring to the old stereotype of "trying too hard". The movie standard of the "young gun" who is never able to achieve his best/win the championship/get to the olympics (and usually get the shallow, sports obsessed groupy girl to pay attention to him) until he listens to the wise old, small, ugly, and strongly-ethnic-if-not-actually-a-green-alien-muppet coach and learns to relax, meditate, be-the-ball, let-the-force-flow-through-him and all the other cliched nonsense that such stories always use.

Well, outside of movies, does this actually make sense? Does relaxing, not trying to hard, and just letting everything happen actually give you better performance?

My opinion is that 99.9% of the time, the answer is NO! As with other sports advice, the people we are trying to copy are the 1/1000 or 1/100,000 absolute pinnacle of the sports, and these are people who have very different needs than any normal person.

For optimal performance you need the right amount of what, for lack of a better term, we call arousal. Now arousal refers to a few different things, if means the sustained effort you put in during your performance, it means how much adrenalin is pumping through your system, it means a complex mental state. These things all interact, which is why I'll just use the one term.

Now the actual optimal level of arousal varies between different sports (golf needs less than sprinting for example), different people, and probably even different times and places within different events. But there will be a range that works better than others, at least for a given person at a given sport.

Now your champion, or near champion (the person depicted in a sports movie, or equivalent martial arts/combat movie) is going to be someone whose normal level of arousal is pretty spot on. Otherwise he would never have got to the point of nearly being the champion. So most of the time, he's sufficiently excited and adrenaline pumped to put in a top performance. However, now it's the final battle and he is going to be even more excited than normal. He is, if anything, too aroused and might start suffering because of that. So Yoda rocks up, tells him to calm down and meditate while sitting on a rock for 15 minutes, he comes back down to his normal levels, and everything works out.

The movie logic works.

But only if you are normally spot on with your level of arousal, and now you are more aroused than normal.

If, for example, you are NOT on the verge of winning the olympics, then you have little reason to believe that your normal level of arousal was optimal, and that all you need to do is calm down those championship nerves to get back to the optimal level.

Based on my own experience, and that of most people I've been able to observe, a normal person's arousal level is way, way too low. And getting far more aroused, getting angry, screaming and listening to hard rock music and snorting ammonia and doing all that stupid rubbish is far more likely to improve performance than sitting cross-legged for a while and thinking about trees falling in the woods.

OK, not for Golf, or Target Shooting. But most of your normal sports that require effort and pushing through pain and discomfort barriers.

The fact that all this screaming psych-up stuff tends to be annoying to other people may be a factor in them telling everyone else to calm down and relax.

Sports pharmaceutical researchers (if you know what I mean) might want to look at those old Norse Berserker warriors, and how they got fired up for battle.

Dead Pool

What a marvellous movie. Totally unsuitable for children, but still marvellous.

02-05-2016 My comments that I wrote in Honkers

Starbucks hongkong. Ordered a macchiato. Got something the size and identical in all ways to a coffee flavoured milkshake. Wtf

Artist gonna art. Get a painter showing off his paintings in front of a bunch of enthusiasts and next thing he's grabbed some paper a and is doing an extension of the scene out along the floor. Then he gets scissors, cuts it up, and hands out sections for free.

Result: people walking around with paper covered with wet paint. Mix with alcohol, crowds, fashionable clothing = disaster. I think the dry cleaning industry made more money than the art industry from this show.

Speaking of which: Art shows have the widest variety of clothing. Just about every person set out to be differently dressed than everyone else. Formal ball gowns, three piece suits. Three piece suits but in fluorescent leopard print. What I am sure is an actual potato sack worn over leotard and tights. You get it all. Some even manage to make it look good. (Not the potato sack guy.)

Ok, now there's people dressed like it's a medieval fair.

The Martian.

I heard this described as "You know that bit in Apollo 13 where they have a box of random junk and they have to make a working air scrubber? Well if you ever wished the whole movie was like that, then The Martian is for you."

Which it is. Which only leaves the question of what sort of person DOESN'T prefer the whole movie to be like that, instead of a bunch of soppy emotional rubbish?

Wandering around the streets of.hong Kong by myself in the night... it's disappointingly dull. Clothing shops, jewellery shops, Chinese medicine shops, multiple different clones of Starbucks. Ho hum.

In theory hong Kong is a very unregulated society. there should be places that sell drugs and other things that are forbidden to the peasantry back in oz. But I've no idea how to find such places, what to buy if I did. Or what to do with the purchase. Plus I couldn't take it home anyway. So meh.

Reviewing Classicsp

Because of repeated recommendations I just watched a couple of classic movies from the past.

Blazing Saddles

Completely lame. The entire thing was silly, but not quite silly enough to be funny. The only joke worthy of the name (which, come to think of it, was the only joke anyone mentioned in their recommendations) was when the black sherrif took himself hostage, with a gun to his own head and "Nobody move or the nigger gets it!". Which was worth a smile.

The rest of it? Forget it. Any humour that was there has been faded by changing social rules and/or more modern stuff just being better.


Also silly, but silly enough to be a laugh. Maybe it'll date as badly as Blazing Saddles, but right now it's fresh and chuckleworthy.

Smokey and the Bandit

Yeah, pretty cool actually. Very, very 1970s, but to an extent that has shifted from current, to outdated, to forgotten, and is now quaintly historical.

There is some wierdness, like the fact that shipping beer across the country was illegal in the first place. But weird US law is still with us. They have laws against some toilet designs, and high flow shower heads. You could do the same movie right now, about someone shipping high flow shower heads, and once again (because the law is clearly so offensive and stupid) it would make sense that so many normal people would act in favour of the smugglers and against the cops.

There was some sort of love story sprinkled through it, but only one scene was totally devoted to said lameness, and I just skipped that bit.

The rest of it was just a good old fashioned car chase. As with many US movie car chases, they are using 6 metre long slabs of pig-iron on slumberdown suspension that rock for an hour after coming to a stop. So actual high speed maneuvers aren't going to be a feature. But once again: realistic for the 1970s.

The hero car, a 1976 (77?) Transam was basically the last of the first generation of US muscle cars. By the mid 1970s the rest of the Mustangs, Chargers, Challengers, GTOs and the rest of the breed had been either dropped altogether or totally emmasculated by the combination of emmisions regulations, increased fuel prices, and the banning of leaded high octane petrol. I don't have the reasons as to why the Transam was able to struggle on for another half decade... but it was also nowhere near the performance of a few years earlier. Still it was a reasonable choice as the car to get when you need something fast, flashy, and available brand new at a local dealer within an hour or two of getting the money.

It turns out that there is an identical car on carsales.com.au right now for $8000. Mmmmm.... nah. My mental defense against such sillyness is to look at what much more modern Japanese equivalent is available, and sure enough you can get a Lexus Soarer GT for the same money that is much the same size and shape while being much better built, much newer, much faster, much better handling, enormously nicer interior, far less likely to be a rusty moneypit, has Toyota parts and maintenance costs (ie. very low) and is hence preferable in every conceivable way.

In theory if you were adding a turbo (or two) to the Transam you could end up with something staggeringly quick (in a straight line only) whereas the Soarer is already turbocharged so that isn't an option. But that level of major project is something that I know I'd never actually do, given that my ute is still naturally aspirated. As I'm not going to buy the Lexus (too big, too old) then I'm sure not going to touch the Transam.

01-04-2016 Renault Clio RS turbo Sport Cup

So this guy at work went and got himself a new car, and it is the new, turbo version of the Renault Clio sport which was itself considered one of the best little hot hatches in the world.

With the larger Megane RS turbo being considered by at least one guy I know as "more thrilling to drive than anything under $150k, and the equal of anything above that with the sole exception of the Ferrari F430" the fact that the smaller and lighter Clio has moved up to also run a snail means that this is potentially a very good thing.

However, I managed to stuff up the test drive and not get the keys until 4:47 on Friday afternoon, at which point the traffic had built up to the point where I could not really stretch the legs at anything rather than rare intervals.

Furthermore, I managed to avoid learning that you really, truely need to hit the secret button to put it into SPORT, or even RACE, mode to "really wake it up and transform the car".

So... I was hampered by lots of traffic, couldn't take it to the desireable test roads, and it was in "girl mode" instead of RACE. So how was it?

OK, I didn't think it was the best thing this side of the best Ferraris. But I did think it was a very, very sweet little performance car. It was a bit leasurely away from a standing start ("Oh! It is much faster in RACE mode" I am told.) But once the turbo spooled up it was a seriously quick thing.

I wouldn't be surprised if it was of equal straight line performance to say a 300zx twin turbo that I drove once, or even a twin turbo Rx7. Yes, even though it's wrong wheel drive. You could, if you used full throttle in 1st gear, and you concentrated, you could tell that something was going on through the front axles. But it was never annoying or disruptive.

OK, checking the figures: 147 kW and 240 Nm in only 1217 kg. 0-100 in 6.7 seconds.

Compared to the 300zxtt in 6.2 seconds (new) and RX7tt in 5.7 seconds (new). OK, the clio isn't as fast. But remember the Clio is an automatic. And those are times for a new car, so it may well be that the versions I drove, which were at least 10 years old at the time, may well have been off the pace.

There is still the issue of handling. The big brother Megane Sport Cup 275 was a good handler. How good? It may not have been quite as thrilling to drive as the Ferrari F430, and at 0-100 in 5.7 it wasn't as fast (though the same as the RX7 tt), but it got better lap times than either of them. So it must have made it up in the handling. For all the previous Clio's they've been saying the Clio was, if anything, even better in the corners than the Megane. So significantly better than a F430 then...

How did I find the handling? Well I didn't. I was unable to go fast enough to get the car to do anything. It just went around corners. I went faster, the car went around corners faster. It was still way, WAY within the comfort zone, not even getting close to the point where handling comes into play. (Remember, this is a friend who has just thrown me the keys and told me to bring it back alive. I'm not going to hammer his pride and joy more than necessary.)

Eventually I got to an open car park and, full throttle in first gear at maximum lock... I finally got a tyre to squeal a little. But the car was still rock steady and unfussed. The closest I've got to this before was in a 4wd V6 Mitsu Galant with the Anti yaw control distributing power back and forth to all 4 wheels. In a cheap ($29k!!) FWD jumped up shopping trolley this was so impressive.

I should point out that the Galant VR4 managed the same trick with 5 cm of water covering the road... that would be an amazing feat if the Clio could pull that off. Today was nice and sunny and warm, which is why I was allowed to take out my friend's baby.

The size was compact, but not as outright small as I was expecting. Being a hatch it would still be quite practical, though not quite as all-encompassing as the ute. But seriously, for a driver, or a driver and passenger it would never seem too small unless you are much, much bigger than me. I'm talking maybe if you were 125 kg or more you might have a problem. And it has occasional use seats in the back, but you wouldn't want to be there every day unless you were a kid.

I've read criticism of the interiors of the Renaults, but on the contrary it seemed VERY nice, with lovely padded leather, great seats, solid feeling controls and everything else you could want. Maybe the indicator stalk was a little thinner than you would think was "robust", but that was all I could notice.

And the car itself seemed like a very solid little thing. The stereotype of the old German cars where the door would close with a THUD rather than a CLANG and where it feels like the entire car is machined out of a solid lump of steel... that's how it felt in this little French car which was sold on the basis of being super light.

Apparently the Renault Sport vehicles are made in a separate Renault Sport factory, which is quite different from the standard Renault production line, so this can't be taken as general praise for the French brand of Nissan... but I'm now very interested in the performance vehicles bearing the RS diamond.

31-03-2016 After Easter

Had the ignition on the 'coon die on me at the top of a hill on a 6 lane highway and rode it down with the engine dead for about 700 metres before I found a side road I could turn into. Which had a traffic light stopping me. So now I was stationary and had to push the car across 3 lanes of traffic into a NO STOPPING zone.

NRMA agreed the ignition was dead, so I had to replace the coil and module. Repco wanted $76 for the coil and $173 for the module, ebay wanted $76 for the both of them, delivered next day. Then I replaced them. So it works again.

Then I did a pub crawl around Hong Kong with the Dearest. I've got pics of her doing pole dancing at some joint with her bestest friend. Can't even remember what bar that was.

03-01-2016 Aftermass

Never never never wink at a barman and ask him for the " Gnarliest burbon you got, man. " just don't.

Barmaid is an even worse idea.

In the USA for work.

The yanks hAve a bewildering range of different sweeteners but it is required in a desperate attempt to dull the horrendous taste of what they call coffee. In what was surprising, but given the first point logical, development: we have an entire high technology industrial park (including the research center for HP) without a single coffee shop. In Oz we would have had several speciality shops (with experienced baristas who learn the favourite drink of each regular) as well as multiple espresso machines in the lunchrooms of each company. But the yanks think they are into coffee but they have no idea.

Mind you, as a Sydney sider, I've gone from not drinking coffee at all to thinking that (for eg. ) Paris is somewhat undeveloped in this respect. Now Barcelona: that city has it's cafe act together.

Deadly feasts by Richard Rhodes. This is a book that traces the science, politics and real world results of mad cow disease and similar illnesses. It's fairly good though the big surprise result of it being "prions" is a bit rich. Anyone who bothers reading such a book is probably aware of that much.

Like a history of ww2 that has the big reveal being that Hitler did it.

There were a few other weird things.

- the microscopist who first spotted the infectious agent vomited when she realized what it was. Why? How does a breakthrough in your life work cause vomit? How does someone who vomits whenever she gets excited get to work in a disease lab. You'd think that was going to result in her being quarantined every time she starts to get anywhere.

- the book finishes up with the possibility of huge, socially devastating plagues ripping through the English population by about 2015. Well I'm reading this in 2016 and not so much. To be fair the book emphasized that it was all conjecture with no evidence.

- then right at the end of a book about how a slow government response to a very new and weird threat could have resulted in more deaths than a swift and open response could have. There is suddenly a bizarre sentence blaming it all on the distrust in government that had arisen in the us and uk over the previous few decades. This one line had no backup. No development. And was so out of keeping with not just the story but the whole tone of the rest of the book. That it looked like a line added by some third party in the printing house or somewhere. If anything it is a story about the government using the official secrets act to prevent scientists telling the truth that might have saved some lives. That would support the "don't trust the government" movement.

City Girl by someone using a fake name, so whatever. A strange kind of book. It is the autobiographical story of a securities trader in London during the 2006-2008 period that saw the global financial crisis.

So you'd think it would be very exciting. Full of bizzare financial products and weird interest rate swap trading strategies.

But no.

Oh, there were bizzare financial products and weird interest rate swap trading strategies, but they are just casually mentioned in passing, before the author concentrates on what is important. Namely that she is female, what she was wearing, that she was a girl, where she went to go drinking, that she was not a male, what strip clubs she went to, that as a woman she was female, what her workmates drank, the surprising fact that as a female she was a woman, and strip clubs.

Yes, she was absolutely obsessed with her own sex. It is mentioned on nearly every single page. This is despite the fact that it appeared to have very little if any bearing on the story.

Oh she SAID it was vital to the story, how being a woman was a huge deal in the City of London financial firms. But then she tells a story of her doing exactly the same things as all the men.

As far as I can see, there were three times in the whole story where being a woman made any difference at all.

1. She was once at a meeting and there was a pot of tea and nobody served it. She guessed (no evidence) that she was supposed to serve because she was the girl.

2. At one firm, she and another woman looked at their yearly bonuses and compared them to what they guessed the guys were getting and the women were shortchanged. Note: also a guess.

3. She went out with some guys to a night club and they all met up with Russian models and got a hotel suite for some bonking. She didn't want to bonk some Russian girl (despite the fact that she keeps going to see female strippers with her workmates) and so she goes home early. Which is what I would have done. And given she was married it's a perfectly normal thing to bow out of such a night even if you were male.

In fact, like the prion book, I am sort of suspicious that maybe the author wrote a perfectly normal story about working in finance and the publisher said "Nah. There is nothing that grabs the reader here. Look, why don't you go through and emphasize how you were a young woman challenging the male dominated British financial system. That'll get all the young women to buy your book."

Personally, I would have preferred a lot more detailed analysis of trading strategies, or even just interest rate swaps.

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