Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What exactly does Yahoo do?

Subtitle: Verizon goes absolutely bananas

There was a time when I knew what AOL (America on Line) did.  They provided a way to access the Internet, or their own all singing and dancing Internet portal.  They used to hand out free Floppy Discs, and then CD's.  You then installed a client program, that included a telephone dialler.  So using a suitable modem, you dialled a local Point of Presence  (POP) and connected to the Internet.

And then DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) happened.  This made it possible to have much faster permanent Internet connections from your home.  Making AOL dial up just totally irrelevant and redundant.

So for about 10 years after I got DSL (and then VDSL) I was left asking the question.

What does AOL do today?

And then Verizon bought them!!


Wind the clock forward and for the last 5-10 years, when Google has become the default and defacto search engine I have been wondering, what exactly does Yahoo do?

I even signed up and tried to use their services.

But every one of them, from email to Finance, which were free by the way, seemed to be just worse than Google.  Which left me with the question:

- Why would I use any Yahoo service, rather than say Google  (other Free email and Internet search providers are available :-)

- Where is there business model, I mean how exactly are they making any money?


Wind the clock forward to July 25, 2016 and a headline I did not expect:

Verizon buys Yahoo

Now exactly what are those guys at Verizon smoking?

So my questions now are

- Dear Verizon,  I have some magic beans.  Would you be interested in buying them?
- What has Yahoo done for you lately?
- What has AOL done for you lately?

Answers on a digital postcard please.

Boy this is turning into one perplexing week or even year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Good Listener

Subtitle: In Therapy

Do you enjoy listening to people?  
And understanding people?

Do you enjoy human interaction?

Do you feel that you make a positive contribution when you listen to friends and advise them, should they ask you for guidance?

For Marcus, I do know people who have been in therapy and also people who I wish would attend therapy, but won't even consider it  (well because you can't force or coerce your friend(s) to attend).

That said, perhaps those sceptics and doubters might just read this blog article.  And well, listen to some or all of the episodes of

In Therapy

To me it sounded so enlightening, I want to go, right away!

Another wonderful find from

BBC Radio 4

Surely the worlds best radio station for speech. <Discuss> :-)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Time to Charge

Subtitle: Stop winging about charging

 This is Marcus and Agata's portable charging station. We use multiple Orico 12V portable charging adapters to satisfy our portable USB charging requirements.

This includes sports watches, timers, cameras, and specialist cycle lights.

In this article however I'd like to focus on selection on appropriate tools that can fast charge

The Shower Time Principle
The simple idea is the following.  You only need to select a fitness device that last your usual exercise schedule and can be significantly if not almost totally recharged whilst you take a long post exercise shower ...

Marcus's Garmi n920XT sports watch.   From 2% to 40% post shower.   Absolutely brilliant.

Microsoft Band 2.  From 10% to 55% whilst in the shower.   The Band 2 however does have appalling battery life if the screen is on, so whilst the recharging is impressive, the overall Band 2 is not recommended  (Full review to follow)

An increase in 30% battery life whilst in the shower.  My Nexus 5X can charge really quickly but only if your USB-C charger is capable.  The above is a re-plug into a non fast charging socket  (1.5 hours to charge 50%,  need to replug to a fast charge socket.  Note the Nexus will say on Front screen charging or charging slowly on lock screen).

Nexus 5X on fast USB-C charge

What I recommend is select a charger and device that is able to significantly if not totally able to give your device 1 days extra charge, or as close to,  whilst you take a shower.  Agata and Marcus take at least 2 and sometimes 3 showers per day after our exercise activities.  And then, our devices are pretty much at 100%.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Sermon: Feeling Safe on European Streets

A day after the Munich atrocity where 8 citizens in Munich were chosen at random and murdered in broad daylight, the BBC Radio 4 premier news program ran some news articles.

It included a Religiously oriented peace which suggested that Prayer and Pilgrimage might be tools that can be used to combat these atrocities. A piece from a Christian minister.

I'd like to set forth why this is just the most illogical and delusional advice

- The claim as I understood it was that praying to a Christian God would improve the situation
- It wasn't clear whether this was just to improve the mind and mood of the person praying
- Or whether additionally the process of praying would somehow actually prevent further attacks from actually occuring
- It was also not clear that this was Christian prayer or simply any prayer to the God or Gods or Religion that you are part of

My best response

Religious people conveniently point out that faith in general and the efficacy of prayer in particular is not open to testing.  Ultimately because should studies begin  show no improvement, i.e. that prayer was no better than placebo, a major religious rationale and construct would be dismantled and show false.

For further information on real studies see this link

Copy Cat Issues
As I write this I notice yet another attack, again in Germany.  Whilst the motivations may differ significantly to Munich, the prospect of violent and potentially suicidal attacks in Europe is troublesome.  The ugly truth is that attacks using implements that you can buy in any Supermarket or DIY store cannot be prevented.

SO: Feeling Safe
Consumer confidence in any technology e.g airtravel,  personal safety e.g. right to enjoy life peaceably without a constant threat of violence or death against one, etcetera is always disproportionately effected by one off events.

Terrorists, activists etcetera rely on this negatively leveraged result that imbeds itself into the mindset of the cautious human.

The facts remain that these terrorist or violent attacks are infrequent and that in Europe and in most developed countries except the USA, strict gun/ firearms laws restrict the ownership and supply of guns and equally importantly ammunition,  shooting ranges.

All in all,  we continue to feel very safe.  Despite Munich,  and those shown above we are talking less than 10 this year to date

TED: Worrying about Terrorism

Jumping to Conclusions
I do detect a disturbing trend that tends to automatically blame and suspect a mass killing to not only be terrorist related but also directly related to proponents and followers who claim to comically represent the /Religion of Peace/.

I think there is a real problem linking flawed thinking, unacceptible behaviour and defective moral behaviour due to literal Religious interpretation, but terrorism is actually not the problem, in actual fact it misdirects attention from the real issue  (which is of course the underlying tenets of the Religion).

My suggestion would always be when these attrocities occur is

- Analyse the facts
- Don't jump to conclusions
- Wait for actual video, audio footage
- Wait for Government statements, which are backed by Intelligence reports
- Equally: Don't ignore any elephants in the room

New terrorist blueprint

Munich shooter loner

Swiss reflect on terror

Terror Checks in France & Jams

Saturday, July 23, 2016

ORICO MPU-4S USB Charger revew

When Marcus and Agata are travelling around, often to races, we need our Sports timers and other gadgets charged. (For mains chargers instead see here)

But we only have a 12V battery source.

We found that Orico has a range of 12V to USB chargers.

One favourite is the MPU-4S.  It forms an integral part of our charging solution in Stuart:

We have 3 four port chargers!

- One in the garage to charge our bicycle lights
- One above the fridge to charge Marcus sports gadgets like Sports Watches, timers,  Action Cameras and Smartphone
- One by the bed to charge Agata Computer gadgets like iPad etc.


We really recommend the Orico 4 port USB, 12V chargers.  the MPU-4S is just one in their range of car products   To us they provide an indispensable function helping to keep all our USB devices charged up in quick time.  You may also consider these for the car where you have multiple devices to charge.

Orico MPU-4S Charger
Mains 5 port Charger Anker

Friday, July 22, 2016

Retirement Plans, take 1

Subtitle: The State probably won't be there for you

How do you see your retirement?  Will it be long care free days living in an idyllic location.

It depends to a great extent in which country you have lived, saved and retire in.  This Quartz article refers  For Marcus and Agata this will be Europe.  However whilst not as dire as the prospects for Indians, I have some mildy depressing news.

If you are over 40 I can share you some secrets with you

- If you did not start saving for a Personal (non state Pension) now you are screwed
- If you are relying only on a Government State Pension to support you in your old age, you are screwed
- If you are relying on your offspring to support you, you are screwed  (because right now Millennials can't even afford their own housing, in fact they want you to support them, not the converse)

Government Forces
The problems started when
+ People began to live longer
- Funding for pensions collected via taxes diminshed
- The government spent your pension money on other stuff
- This includes the pensions of the existing population.  This effectively turns your state pension contributions into a Ponzi scheme.  There, I said it.

In the future with more old people, and less taxpayers  (millennials are either not working or barely contributing) the gap gets preposterously wider

Bottom line:  The UK (and other European) Governments will change pension rules so you get less.

And note:  The solution is most definitely not to import unskilled foreigners or encourage a UK youth population explosion hoping to attract more taxes from that demographic.  As already noted this group is a drain rather and has already resulted in the Government extending rather than contracting the retirement age  (NB: Earlier retirement was something we had always been promised by media and Government)

We would advise:  Assume your Government pension pays ZERO when you retire, anything they might actually pay should be considered as a bonus and pocket money at best.

Your Occupational pension , i.e. that from your job of working, is more reliable, though note its payout is linked almost entirely to the current Stock Market indices.

The Solution

- Start saving early, if not until now then start now.
- Housing equity is the most sensible option, because cash deposits don't work in 2016 and stock markets are severely over valued
- Make a plan to downsize before your retirement
- Make your dependents, e.g. children quite aware that you will not be able to fund them.  And further, in fact you'd like them to support you. It's called expectation setting!

 You may end up not even having a house, except one on wheels.

You may need to dispose of your car and consider something more efficient

You may consider disposing of any family heirlooms

 You need to seriously consider a change of lifestyle.  And definitely not spend time in expensive tea rooms.

Yes, downsizing is key.  Very painful, but you should plan not to be a burden to society, the state your friends, or family.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Neoprene Ankle Protectors

Subtitle: Trying to become more normal

For over 20 years now, and that is a long time, Marcus has worn Neoprene Ankle protectors for any and every run.

How it all started
Over two decades ago when I was 20 years younger into my running career, I folded my ankle several times whilst trail running.  I mean for example, on the right foot, your foot pushes outwards, and the bottom of your foot, the sole point upwards.  There is also a loud cracking or snapping sound as your tendons give way.

A few hours later your ankle will have swollen so large that you cannot wear any shoe and about 1 week later, if you are lucky you will be mostly recovered.

Some Advantages [or wearing Neoprene]
- Very difficult to fold over your ankle
- Keeps feet quite warm in winter weather
- Provides extra cushioning, much gentler on joints whilst running

Some Disadvantages
- Seamless neoprene protectors are in 2016, very difficult to find
- You need to buy a slightly larger shoe size
- Your foot heel and toes are not in the neoprene sock, and hence don't quite touch the shoe inner, meaning your body weight is badly distributed and also there is less 'feel' to the running shoe
- It's a real faff in races.  For example in triathlon you lose time in transition, or say whilst entering a house, you need to take of the shoes and protectors.  Really this is the principle annoyance!
- Marginally heavier combination i.e. weight of protectors!
- Whilst the protectors do what they say, they protect your ankles, it also means that you run the risk of your ankles remaining weak.  For Marcus, I recognise that my historically weak ankles have never strengthened because the neoprene has been providing the support.  Too late to change?

Too late to change?

In order not to shock my feet into a quick trip to the hospital  for the last month I gradually stopped wearing the neroprene protectors.

Since I have perfectly flat feet I have to been even more careful when changing any running foot parameter.

Nevertheless I have continued and for the last 3 weeks I have been neoprene free!

Using the above Salomon S-Lab ultra light trail shoes the improvement in shoe to foot fit has been immediate.   The shoes now fit like a glove and on short runs i.e. less than 20Km, I seem to be flying along

Early days, but no ankle folds on the last few forest runs over uneven surfaces.  Not much of a test, but slowly does it.

- Today I have (at last) more time to experiment
- So, at last I'm trying to strengthen my ankles
- Stop using those Neoprenes
- Become more normal and stop with that faff!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, A hero for our times

Subtitle: Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now

The above is an except from the latest book at the time of writing by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  After reading about the history and circumstance of Ayaan, and her first book Infidel in 2007 I was rather smitten.  How could somebody who had come from such humble and ordinary beginnings jumped cultures and continents to become one of the foremost thinkers in the secular world.  It is nothing short of fantastical.

The events in Wurzburg in July 2016 have me instantly thinking back to her current work,  called

Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now

The first prophetic page of the book is displayed above and the entry point that I hope will grab the readers attention.  If you did not eagerly read it on May 19th 2016 as I did, then please consider reading it now.

Wurzberg axe attack

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bee Nice

You are looking at the fantabulous Agata and Marcus Bee hotel that we installed a few months back.

Marcus is particularly fond of bees mostly because of the honey.  Honey is part of my daily breakfast porridge regime. To me it is still amazing that millions of bees are able to satisfy the human demand for honey.   I only hope that honey does not become more popular because I fear only honey prices and not production would rise as a result.

Additionally,  Bees are very hard working, sort of cute looking, and make a very nice noise.

For years
We have had bees buzzing around our apartment in Switzerland and we read up on the situation that these are solitary bees who are nominally not part of a hive.  And such bees need homes!

This was our first attempt at a home, which was a considerable effort to lug a large wooden stump from the forest, then cut and drill it.

Then one day Aldi had a special offer on Bee Houses.  Agata said I could buy just one :-(  so that is also installed on the balcony and we are please to report that some of the tubes have been filled and sealed.

So we are expecting some baby bees sooner or later.

We are excited!  More news later.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Meltonic Energy Food

Marcus loves or Agata would say is infatuated with Honey.  In fact it's part of my morning breakfast Porridge regime.

So when, on our recent Etape du Tour cycle we came across energy bars from MelTonic at the pre race village I had to buy some.

Yes, they were slightly expensive, but I like to try and support honey based manufacturers!

My favourite was the crushed almond and honey energy bars weighing in at 25 grams.   Sold in packs of 5

They literally melt in your mouth and I can really detect the honey dissolving away.  Delicious.

Currently they have a website but don't yet sell or ship to Switzerland   (a common issue!)

Anyway, really recommended.

Other Products

Meltonic official

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Sermon: Don't Pray for Nice

I am not a Terrorist

The latest act of terrorism in my Geography was in Nice, France just a few days ago.

My heart is torn and I have the deepest sympathy for all the 84 victims, and additionally those injured physically or mentally and further; the families and friends whose lives will be forever negatively changed by this terrorist act.

I'd like to stress that I have not seen convincing evidence that the attack was perpetrated by someone claiming to represent the Islamic State or an extreme Religious viewpoint.

However, that said, I return back to the title of this article.

Please, never pray for me

And personally I am actually quite offended when I hear people who are  Praying for Nice

My offence and indeed overall sadness at those praying is because to me praying to an /imaginary friend/  will not actually change anything for the better.   I have some images

If you want to change lives for the better my suggestion would be to speak gently and sincerely to those who hate, who hate because their religion taught them to hate, taught them that their sex and or religion was superior to others, and show them a more enlightened alternative.



Nice: ISIS claims responsibility though no firm evidence
Allahu Akbar claims,  circumstantial, not fully confirmed

Sunday Sermon: There is no Honour in this Killing

Beyonce: Blow

Qandeel Baloch: BAN

Pop Quiz.

Both of these videos contain graphic images.

But one comes from an environment and society where Men and Women have (pretty much) the same freedom of expression under the Law and Society.

However in the second, the video from Qandeel Baloch will probably be one of her last.  Why?  Because in her environment and culture she has suffered from a dishonourable killing.  A murder no less.

To all of us living in Societies, Countries, or Enlightened Social Class structures where this kind of killing is unthinkable:  Ask yourselves what you can do to show your disgust at killings like this

There is no honour in this killing


Saturday, July 16, 2016

But We Love Lausanne

Olstead and Cincotti: Breaking up is Hard

Subtitle: Trying not to live in Lausanne

I'm sure all foreigners living in Switzerland, such as Marcus and Agata, and even most Swiss would agree:

Living in Switzerland is very expensive.

For some time we've been considering our position, trying to find somewhere that is an alternative to Lausanne.  But increasingly it is our beloved Lausanne, well because:

01 The Lake

The lake is about 5Km and 30 minutes drive at most from our home.  Here watersports are the norm with sailing, windsurfing and SUP (Stand Up Paddle) commonplace.   During the months May to September inclusive the water is warm enough for excellent Triathlon training.

02 The Vineyards

There is not only local wine, but spectacular views and road cycling routes through the vineyards.  The famous Corniche less than 10Km and is on the official list of most beautiful spots in Switzerland tourist route.  

03 The Ski Resort(s)

The ski resort of Champery is less than 1 hour door to door, and when you ski over the mountain you reach the French resort Avoriaz.

And in the summer you can of course just hike or trail run or mountain bike these trails instead.  Bliss

04 The Mountains

In the summer season there is at least one and often more trail running race in nearby mountain villages.  Here in Switzerland Sport and mountain exercise is taken for granted around Lausanne. 

Mountain walks are also easily possible or hikes between beautiful regions stopping for lunch at quaint Swiss mountain retreats for lunch.  Not so bad!

05 The 50 metre pool(s) and Tracks

There is the Lutry, heated outdoor pool, open from May until September.  It is a gem and often almost empty, you can be assured to have no more than 2 of you in each 50 metre long lane on a typical 1 hour swim session.  What luxury.  And the same year long swim pass will give you access to all of Lausanne's many (well > 4) pools anytime.

And we have access to not one but two running tracks.  Open all the time, and with shower facilities.

06 The Weather

As a fair weather and dry road only cyclist I can attest that rain is kept to a minimum. It is extremely rare that at some point in the day you cannot go out for a 2 hour, dry road cycle.

07 The Postal System
The postal system just works.  Whilst there have been some cutbacks reducing the number of local post offices we still have 2 within 2km, not bad I think.   And postal deliveries every day.  And a trust system whereby small parcels are simply left in the unlocked lower portion of the postbox.  Because in Lausanne, it is still pretty safe.

08 The good Driving

Outside of the town people are not so much in a hurry.  You can pootle along at 50 Km/h and not be flashed by road rage drivers.  This means whilst cycling you are not often pushed off the road by drivers who for the most part are impeccably behaved.

09 The Cleanliness

When Agata and Marcus step out back to our respective home countries we are of course happy.  But also sad that home does not match up to the tidiness and cleanliness of Switzerland.  We are always rather glad to return to Lausanne.   

Not just in our tiny Apartment, but the majority of Lausanne is meticulously clean

10 The Serenity
There are birds and some cows to mainly interrupt our lives aurally.  And to a lesser extent cars and screaming kids.  But less so that in other areas we have lived.  This is not New York with steaming sidewalks, or London with beeping taxis.  No, it's an altogether more serene and most would say refined place to be.

By the way when I speak of Lausanne I'd include Lausanne the city and the neighbouring towns of Lutry, Pully, and towns along the lake like Lavaux, Saint Saphorin, Corseau, La Tour de Peilz, Clarens upto Montreux.


Today I spied the above Porker outside a wine bar in town.  I thought, this Porsche 356 perfectly sums up our current hometown:
Chic, Beautifully Tidy, Fit for Purpose,  Graceful not Macho, Classy.   Just like Lausanne.

Yes, Lausanne is going to be a tough act to follow, and we are still searching, so please get in touch if you think you know the equal of such an idyllic location.

Porsche 356