moved

Posted by: Ian on 12 February 2012

Normal service will resume at http://the-way-to-the-centre.com/blog. In a few days, i’ll try and permantely redirect there aswell.

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stuck

Posted by: Ian on 10 February 2012

I am not amused by my webhost. They seem to have gone AWOL and although the server keeps ticking, I cannot get any response from them. This is a problem for two reasons:

  1. I’m out of disk space
  2. In order to move to a new (responsive) host, I need control of the name server stuff
  3. My non-responsive host currently holds that information.

Since I’m effectively hamstrung, my remaining options are to move to a new domain, or wait till the ownership of this one expires (in about 5 months) and re-buy it through another service.

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tour de pie III

Posted by: Ian on 13 September 2011

A couple of hours by train south of Sydney is the Illawarra Region. This area is well known by cyclists; primarily for two things – big climbs and tasty pies!

Click for larger images.


[Route Profile]

Nick was over from the UK to sort out some visa things, so since his folks live down that way he invited me down for a ride. At this point I would like to point out that Nick has spent the Australian winter last four months touring France and Spain by bike; riding many of the big mountains and racking up the miles whereas I’ve been doing a few weekend rides and running during the week instead of sitting on the turbo (anything is more fun than turbotraining).

After a perfectly timed meeting at Bombo Station – I was walking down the platform ramp as Nick rolled up, we had a couple of kilometer spin through Kiama before turning away from the coast and heading for the hills.

Saddleback

First up was Saddleback Mountain, which starts while still in Kiama, but doesn’t really get going until you have crossed over the Pacific Highway. With a name like Saddleback, it is somewhat unsurprising that the profile resembles, well, a saddle. 1.5km around 9%, a bit of a dip, and then another 2km pitch at around 10% and then a flatter top.


[Saddle-shaped Saddleback]

The scenery on the way up is particularly impressive, with views to both sides as you climb along the ridge line.


[At 520m, started down there by the sea]

An additional (optional) section of Saddleback Mountain takes you up Hoddles Lane to the lookout. This section was extremely steep, averaging about 19% for about 500m but I saw 25-30% on a few occasions. I think I was cranking about about 45rpm, and doing 7kph while winching myself up a half turn at a time.


[Climb to the lookup - % gradient on the right).

After stopping briefly at the lookout platform, it was time to tackle the descent back down to the main road (25pkh with the brakes on and off the back of the bike) before the equally fast and extremely rough drop down Fountaindale Road towards Jamberoo. The last section of Fountaindale is slightly smoother, and it was a chance to try and relieve the cramping hands. The sooner hydraulic disc brakes are on road bikes the better!

Jamberoo

Since we were out for a fun day rather than hardcore training, we refueled on espresso in Jamberoo before setting off again towards the escarpment and the climb up Jamberoo Pass. There is a gentle grade direct from the turnoff onto the pass before you hit the hard stuff - about 2km where the gradient stays at around 13%. After that the gradient ramps up and down between 5 and 10% for a few kilometers - i found this section much worse and struggled to find a rhythm on the fluctuating slope. Fortunately Nick didn't have too long to wait at the Jamberoo Lookout before I arrived. I checked my computer and we had managed just 36km in two hours, though we did have 1,400m of climbing under our wheels already.

I had thought that it was a short (i.e. 3km) run from the top of Jamberoo to Robertson, but I was somewhat mistaken. We cruised along for about 12km before we hit the bottom of a short 2km climb up to Robertson. I was lacking in power by this point so just span my way up enjoying the scenery, no records were going to be set by me today.

At Robertson we made a stop and for fuel (pie and espresso); I particularly like the wildberry and apple, though I would have preferred it without cream (they normally ask), and it would have been even better steaming hot. After 20 minutes or so we put on gilets and arm-warmers for the descent of Macquarie Pass; the downhill starts soon after leaving the pie-shop so there is no chance to warm up.


[Tasty tasty pie]

Macquarie Pass

The road surface on Macquarie Pass is fantastic and the corners are perfectly cambered so you can rail around them without worry. The Descent is around 11km in length and took a touch over 14 minutes; we didn’t get any hassle from cars as we outpaced them, and actually got caught behind a couple towards the base of the pass. Out of habit I turn on my Superflash for descents like that – I use the whole lane for such a fast descent so it’s good for a little extra visibility.

Heading Home

At the bottom of the escarpment it was significantly warmer so we used up our momentum before pulling over and stripping back to summer riding attire. The remained of the ride heads back towards Albion Park (the station there makes a good start/stop for a shorter ride), then heads for the coast at Kiama via Swamp Road and Jamberro (village not mountain!).

This section is undulating with a couple of hills and fast descents on good roads with some really nice views. Unfortunately as we got closer to the coast the sea breeze picked up and we battled into a headwind. Finally though, we made it to Minamurra Station where I would head back to Sydney. A quick look at the timetable showed the next train in about 45 minutes; plenty of time for another coffee at the nearby cafe.

I’d definitely recommend a ride or two in the area, although it is really for experienced cyclists only; the hills are steep and some some of the descents can be fast on poor surfaces. I’d also recommend a compact/ triple unless you are particularly fond of pain.

the numbers

Overall stats: Distance: 65.9 miles (88.03km)
Time: 3 hours 58 minutes
Average Speed: 13.8mph (22.1kph)
Climbing: 6,109ft (1796m)
Average Heartrate: 150
Average Cadence: 73rpm.

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fear the greeks

Posted by: Ian on 22 August 2011

Positive health requires a knowledge of man’s primary constitution and of the powers of various foods, both those and natural and those resulting from human skill. But eating alone is not enough for health. There must be exercise of which the effects must likewise be known. If there is a deficiency in food or exercise, the body will fall sick.

Hipocrates, 5th century BC.

Not bad for someone writing 2,500 years ago; seems we’ve forgotten a lot.

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Sennheiser OMX 680i review

Posted by: Ian on 20 August 2011

For some reason I am exceptionally tough of headphones. I look after them, but they just die. Oddly almost always in exactly the same way – the bass driver of the left unit failing. In the space of two years I have been through:

  • Three pairs Senheisser CX400s
  • Countless pairs of $12 TDKs
  • TwoThree pairs Shure SE210

For running however, my current Shure’s are a bit too soundblocking and they don’t have a remote control unit. I started using the freebie one that came with my iPhone which let more sound in and have a remote, but those had a habit of falling out. A lot.

After a bit of research I wound up buying a set of Sennheiser OMX 680i headphones. These ones have an over the ear hook to hold them in place, other models in the range have a variation on the in-ear style or a neckband system.

The units are the result of work between Sennheisser and Adidas specifically for sport. They feature Kevlar reinforced cabling and the ear pieces and microphone are designed to be sweat and rain resistant.

Music-wise, the sound quality is pretty good. Well, good enough to motivate with a decent rendition of Killing in the Name anyway. The main selling points of the headphones though is their claimed water resistance and a remote control compatibility with iPhones and other newish iPods. The control unit allows you adjust volume, go forward/ back or even make and answer a call (if you can muster up enough oxygen!).

I’m always impressed how many controls you can build into something with one button and a rocker:

  • One click – play/ pause
  • Two clicks – go forward one track
  • Three clicks – go back one track
  • Push and hold – answer/ end call (or start voice control)
  • Rocker switch – volume adjustment

As for the water resistance however, they definately are that. So far they have survived a few rainstorms, and perhaps more tellingly, a trip through the washing machine and a subsequent spin through the drier too!

Pros:

  • Comfortable, once you have bent the units to fit
  • Waterproof
  • Remote control features

Cons:

  • Over-the-ear design not ideal when also wearing sunglasses
  • Tricky to tailor the fit with the supplied ear covers
  • A bit pricy at AU$130

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Team Ag2r

Posted by: Ian on 23 July 2011

This year Ag2r La Mondiale are again headed up by Nicolas Roche, son of Giro D’Italia & Tour De France winner Stephen Roche. Unfortunately Nico’s leutenant John Gadret withdrew fatigued after a strong Giro.

Nico has had an up and down tour, finishing with the gruppetto on the Alpe and finally slipping out of the top ten over all.

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painting le tour

Posted by: Ian on 20 July 2011

Rob Ijbema of Painting le Tour has been doing a daily painting of the Tour and most other major races for a few years (I think this is Rob’s 4th Tour). I really like the dynamic style and the way that Rob doesn’t just do the ‘obvious’ winning shot.

I finally succumbed to temptation and bought myself Stage One from this year, with Gilbert away from the peloton on the Mont Des Allouettes.

Rob is actually not shipping mine quite yet, just incase pick another one or two (assuming they are not snapped up before I see them!). Maybe I can get one of Cadel in Yellow for my Australian friends.

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thomas voeckler

Posted by: Ian on 17 July 2011

Thomas Voeckler is confusing those with a short-term memory by hanging on to the yellow jersey as he did in 2004. The only difference this time is that instead of loosing time to the big guns up Plateau de Beille he was climbing with them and indeed pulling back some of the attacks.

If things stay the same all the way until the final time trial in Grenoble it is going to be very close. Ti Blan leads Cadel by 2’06″ and Evans put 2’12″ into him in the TT.

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jens voigt

Posted by: Ian on 16 July 2011

At 39 years of old Jens is one of the quintesential hard men of the peloton. Always happy dishing out pain on the front or escaping for a long range breakway there can be few riders who enjoy their time on a bike more.

Jens has just signed up to twitter (@thejensie) and garnered over 30,000 followers within the first 24 hours!

Some other facts about Jens Voigt:

  1. When he crashed, sparks were seen flying from the pavement. They were from Jens’ face because he is a Terminator!
  2. Jens Voigt once challenged Lance Armstrong to a “who has more testicles” contest. Jens won… by five.
  3. Eddy Merckx was actually a neo-pro at the same time as Jens, but Jens dropped him so hard that he shot backwards in time to the 1960?s, where he became a great champion.

Jens is also blogging daily during the Tour De France for Bicycling Magazine here.

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alarm clocks and apple scripts

Posted by: Ian on 14 July 2011

For the last couple or three years I have been using the Powercontroller application as an alarm clock on my Mac. Each morning it starts iTunes with a recently played song and slowly increases the volume so I don’t get shocked out of bed.1

One of the features of Powercontroller is the ability to run scripts and following a rewatching of Iron Man I thought I fancied something like Jarvis that told me the weather in the morning before I got out of bed.

Most of the scripting was cut, pasted and modified for my own needs. Although I learned pretty fast so much of it was resequenced to better fit in with what I needed and to improve the efficiency.

There were two main hurdles in creating my messenger:

Adjusting the volume for the voice based on location.

At my apartment, my laptop is always connected to a set of speakers so I realised that if I just had a default volume I would either get blasted out of bed if the volume was set for the internal speakers, or not hear the message if I was not at my place.
Unfortunately, Applescript does not have a way of testing for a headphone jack (there is a way where you allow the computer to ‘read’ the screen but trialing this I had troubles with screensaver locks and other applications that run overnight (such as Carbon Copy Cloner) that have popup messages on completion. Eventually I settled on a method where it tests for the SSID of my router, on the assumption that if the airport is connected to my router the computer will be plugged into the speakers.
The script also captures initial volume settings so it can return to them once the message has been delivered.

Testing for an internet connection

As the script checks my mail and gathers live weather data, I realised that it would go horribly wrong if it could not do this (for reasons such as staying at a hotel with no internet or my housemate turning off the modem). It took a while but I eventually found an elegant solution that just tries to ping a website (in this case the Apple site) and then either runs or does not run relevant sections of the script.

With all that done, at the allotted time something like this happens:

  1. Clock reaches desired time
  2. Powercontroller starts iTunes and wake up script2
  3. Appropriate amount of pause is included in the script to both give it time to complete the data gathering and to let iTunes music kinda wake me up
  4. System volume level is captured, then reduced.

    “Good morning Ian”
    “It is 5:55 AM”
    “Today is Thursday, 14 July 2011″
    “You have 3 unread emails”
    “Now, the temperature is: 9 degrees centigrade, and it is Mostly Cloudy.”
    “Todays forecast is: Showers Late, between 12 and 19 degrees.”

  5. System volume level is put back, I try and get up

It doesn’t quite have the eloquence of JARVIS and I would like to extend things to include a news headline and the like but I’m happy with things as they are at the moment.

  1. Except when I set it wrong ?
  2. Which also instructs iTunes to check for new podcasts ?

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team movistar

Posted by: Ian on 8 July 2011

Team Movistar have had a tough season this year. First the tragic death of Xavier_Tondo in May and then a horrific accident involving Mauricio Soler in the Tour De Suisse from which he has only just come out of an induced coma

Perhaps motivated by these incidents, Joaquin Rojas Jose is mixing it up in the sprints and currently sitting in second place in the Green Jersey competition.

Movistar have one of the longest team lineages – first as Reynolds in 1980, then becoming Banesto, Illes Balears and finally Caisse d’Epargne after which they came close to folding before last minute sponsorship by Movistar.

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bernard hinault

Posted by: Ian on 6 July 2011

In each be@rbrick series, there are around ten different ‘public’ models (their pictures are on the side of the box) and a number of secret designs too. The chances of finding each one are typically different, ranging from something like 15% to 0.5%.

I think Be@rnard Hinault would definately be a rare secret!

Bernard Hinault in the 1985 La Vie Claire team Jersey.

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