It is said that with age comes wisdom. I would be happy for that to be true, because today I must have been very very young then.

For example, if you want to make a long bike ride in order to hit some milestone, like your first metric century, it is not indicated to follow ANY of the following points:

  • instead of doing this in the season, when you're fit, wait over the winter, during which you should indulge in food and drink with only an occasional short bike ride, so that most of your fitness is gone and replaced by a few extra kilograms;
  • instead of choosing a flat route that you've done before, extending it a bit to hit the target distance, think about taking the route from one of the people you follow on Strava (and I mean real cyclists here); bonus points if you choose one they mention was about training instead of a freeride and gave it a meaningful name like "The ride of 3 peaks", something with 1'500m+ altitude gain…
  • in order to not get bogged down by too much by extra weight (those winter kilograms are enough!), skimp on breakfast (just a very very light one); together with the energy bar you eat, something like 400 calories…
  • take the same amount of food you take for much shorter and flatter rides; bonus points if you don't check the actual calories in the food, and instead of the presumed 700+ calories you think you're carrying (which might be enough, if you space them correctly, given how much you can absorb per hour), take at most 300 calories with you, because hey, your body is definitely used with long efforts in which you convert fat to energy on the fly, right? especially after said winter pause!
  • since water is scarce in the Swiss outdoors (not!), especially when doing a road bike ride, carry lots of water with you (full hydro-pack, 3l) instead of an extra banana or energy bar, or a sandwich, or nuts, or a steak… mmmm, steak!
  • and finally and most importantly don't do the ride indoors on the trainer, even though it can pretty realistically simulate the effort, but instead do it for real outside, where you can't simply stop when you had enough, because you have to get back home…

For bonus points, if you somehow manage to reach the third peak in the above ride, and have mostly only flat/down to the destination, do the following: be so glad you're done with climbing, that you don't pay attention to the map and start a wrong descent, on a busy narrow road, so that you can't stop immediately as you realise you've lost the track; it will cost you only an extra ~80 meters of height towards the end of the ride. Which are pretty cheap, since all the food is gone and the water almost as well, so the backpack is light. Right.

However, if you do follow all the above, you're rewarded with a most wonderful thing for the second half of the ride: your will receive a +5 boost on your concentration skill. You will be able to focus on, and think about a single thing for hours at a time, examining it (well, its contents) in minute detail.

Plus, when you get home and open that thing—I mean, of course, the FRIDGE with all the wonderful FOOD it contains—everything will taste MAGICAL! You can now recoup the roughly 1500 calories deficit on the ride, and finally no longer feel SO HUNGRY.

That's all. Strava said "EXTREME" suffer score, albeit less than 20% points in the red, which means I was just slugging through the ride (total time confirms it), like a very very very old man. But definitely not a wise one.

Posted Sunday night, March 12th, 2017 Tags:

Fine art printing—at home

It is very interesting how people change over time. Way back in the analog film era, I was using a very cheap camera, and getting the film developed and pictures printed at random places in town. As the movement towards digital began, I started dreaming of a full digital workflow—take picture, download from camera, enjoy on your monitor. No more pesky physical stuff. And when I finally got a digital camera, I was oh-so-happy to finally get rid of films and prints.

But time passes, and a few years back though, at the end of 2013, I had the misfortune to learn on various photography forums that, within certain limits, one can do high quality printing at home—quality high enough for serious prints. I always imagined that "serious" prints can only happen on big, professional stuff, but to my surprise, what I was reading was that many professional photographers can do their prints themselves (for certain paper sizes). I tried before printing photos on my laser printer that I wrote about, but that is a hilarious exercise, nothing more. Thinking process was pretty simple:

  • another hobby? check!
  • new gear to learn? check!
  • something more palpable to do with my photos? good enough reason, check!

So I decided to get a photo printer. Because hey, one more printer was the thing I was missing the most.

Ink

The think with inkjet photo printers is that the bigger they are, the more cheaper the ink is, and the more optimised they are for large volume printing. The more optimisation for large volume, the worse the printers do if you don't print often enough, in the sense of dried ink. This means clogged heads, and each of the serious printer manufacturers (Canon, Epson, HP) deal in different ways with it; some by having extra, spare lines in the print head that replace the clogged ones, others have replaceable printer heads, others rely on wasting ink by trying to flush the ink lines, etc. Also within each manufacturer's lines, different printers behave differently. So one must take this into account—how often will you print? Of course I thought very often, but the truth is, this is just another hobby, so time is lacking, and I have weeks going by without turning the printer on.

And so, I did have some problems with dried ink, but minor I'd say; I only had once to run a "power cleaning", when due to real world I didn't have time to turn the printer on for months; I managed to choose a good printer in this regard. I never though computed how much ink I wasted with cleaning the heads ☺

Paper

Another issue with printing is the fact that the result is a physical object, outside of the digital realm. And the transition from digital to physical is tricky.

First, the printer itself and the ink are one relatively straightforward choice: decide (by whatever criteria you want) on the printer, and most printers at this level have one set of inks only. But the problem is: which paper?

And as I learned, since how the paper looks is a subjective thing, this is an endless topic…

  • first question: glossy or matte ink?
  • if glossy, which type of paper? actually glossy (uh, no), semi-gloss, pearl, satin?
  • if matte, are we talking about textured or smooth matte?
  • what weight? fine art paper that I tested can go from a very interesting 100gsm (almost like standard paper) Rice Paper, to 210, 286, 310 (quite standard), 325, 350 and finally towards 390-410 heavy canvas;
  • on the more professional side, do you care about lifetime of paper? if you choose yes, then take care of choosing paper with no OBA—optical brightening agents;
  • and if you really want to go deep, what base? cellulose, alpha-cellulose or cotton?

As you can see, this is really a bottomless pit. I made the mistake of buying lots of sample packs, thinking that settling on a specific paper will be an objective process, but no. Three years later, I have a few favourite papers, but I'm sure I could have almost randomly chosen them (read 3 reviews, choose) and not gotten objectively different results.

ICC profiles and processing

Another thing is that simply having the printer and the paper doesn't mean everything is fixed. Since printers are analog devices, there needs to be a printer and paper specific colour profile, so that you get (on paper) what you see on the screen (which also needs to be calibrated). So when choosing the printer you should be careful to choose one which is common enough that it has profiles, ideally profiles done by the paper manufacturer themselves. Or, you can go the more basic route, and calibrate the printer/paper combination yourself! I skipped that part though. However you get a profile, if you tell your photo processing application what is your display profile and your printer+paper profile, ideally you what you see is what you get, this time for real.

Except… that sometimes the gamut of colours in the picture can't be represented entirely in either the display nor the printer profile, so the display is an approximation, but a different one than your printer will do on paper. So you learn about relative and perceptual colorimetric conversions, and you read many blog posts about which one to use for what type of pictures (portraits have different needs than landscapes), and you wonder why did you chose this hobby?

Of course, you can somewhat avoid the previous two issues by going more old-school to black and white printing. This should be simple, right? Black and white, nothing more. Hah, you wish. Do you do the B&W conversion in your photo processing application, or in your printer? Some printers are renowned by their good B&W conversions, some not. If you print B&W, then the choice of papers also change, because some papers are just awesome at B&W, but only so-so for colours. So says the internet, at least.

But even if you solve all of the above, don't give up just yet, because there is still a little problem. Even if you send the right colours to the printer, the way a certain picture looks on paper is different than on screen. This circles somewhat back to paper choice (glossy type ink having deeper blacks than matte, for example) and colour-vs-b&w, but is a general issue: displays have better contrasts than paper (this doesn't mean the pictures are better looking on screen though). So you use the soft-proofing function, but it looks completely weird, and you learn that you need to learn how specific papers will differ from screen, and that sometimes you don't need any adjustment, sometimes you need a +15, which might mean another run of the same print.

You print, then what?

So you print. Nice, high quality print. All colours perfect!

And then what? First, you wait. Because ink, as opposed to laser toner, is not "done" once the paper is out of the printer. It has to dry, which is a process taking about 24 hours in its initial phase, and which you help along by doing some stuff. The ink settles during this time in the paper, and only after that you know what the final look of the print will be. Depending on what you plan to do with the print, you might want to lay a layer of protective stuff on top of it; a kind of protective film that will keep it in better shape over time, but which has the downside that a) it must definitely be applied after the ink has dried and the the paper has for sure finished outgassing and b) it's a semi-hard layer, so you can roll the paper anymore (if you were planning to do that for transport). Or you say damn it, this is anyway a poor picture…

So with the print all good and really in its final state, you go on and research what solutions are there for hanging prints at home. And look at frames, and think about behind-glass framing or no glass-framing, and and and… and you realise that if you just printed your photos at a lab, they'd come directly framed!

I still have the really minimalist hanging solution that I bought a year ago unpacked 😕 Getting there, sometime!

Costs/economic sense

If you think all this effort is done in order to save money on prints, the answer is "Ha ha ha" ☺

While professional prints at a lab are expensive, how much do you think all the above (printer, inks, paper, framing, TIME) costs? A lot. It's definitely not worth unless your day job is photography.

No, for me it was more the desire to own the photographic process from start to end: learn enough to be able to choose everything (camera which implies sensor which implies a lot of things, lens, post-processing, printer/ink, paper), and see (and have) the end result of your work in your hands.

Is it worth all the trouble?

Fast forward three years later, I still have the printer, although many times I was thinking of getting rid of it.

It takes space, it costs some money (although you don't realise this as you print, since you already sunk the money in consumables), it takes time.

Being able to print small photos for family (e.g. 10×15) is neat, but a small printer can do this as well, or you can order prints online, or print them from a memory card at many places. Being able to print A4-size (for which framing for e.g. desk-use is a pain) is also neat, but here there are still simpler solutions than your own big printer.

The difference is when you print large. You look at the picture on your big screen, you think/imagine how it will look printer, and then you fire an A2 print.

The printer starts, makes noises for about 10 minutes, and then you have the picture in your hands. The ink is still fresh (you know it takes 24 hours to settle), and has that nice ink smell that you don't get anymore in day to day life. With a good paper and a good printer, the way the picture looks is so special, that all the effort seems trivial now.

I don't know how looking at pictures on an 8K 30+ inch monitor will be; but there's an indescribable difference between back-lighted LCD and paper for the same picture. Even at the same relative size, the paper is real, while the picture is virtual. You look at the people in the picture on your display, whereas the people in the print look at you.

Maybe this is just size. A2 is bigger than my monitor… wait, no. A2 has a diagonal of ~29 inches (vs. the display at 30"). Maybe it's resolution? An A2 print out of D810 is small enough to still have good resolution (it's about 320dpi after the small cropping needed for correcting the aspect ratio, which matches the printer's native 360dpi resolution). Coupled with a good printer, it's more than high enough resolution that even with a loupe, there's enough detail in the picture to not see its "digital" history (i.e. no rasterization, no gradients, etc.) Note that 360dpi for photo inkjet printers is much different from 600-1200dpi for laser printers (which are raster-based, not ink droplet based, so it's really not comparable). In any case, the print, even at this (relatively large) size, feels like a reflection of reality. On the monitor, it still feels like a digital picture. I could take a picture of the print to show you, but that would defeat the point, wouldn't it 😜

And this is what prompted this blog post. I had a pretty intense week at work, so when the weekend came, I was thinking what to do to disconnect and relax. I had a certain picture (people, group photo) that I wanted to print for a while, and it was OK on the screen, but not special. I said, somewhat not very enthusiastic, let's print it. And as the printer was slowly churning along, and the paper was coming out, I remembered why I don't get rid of the printer. Because every time I think about doing that, I say to myself "let's do one more print", which quickly turns into "wow, not, I'm keeping it". Because, even as our life migrates into the digital/virtual realm—or maybe more so—we're still living in the real world, and our eyes like to look at real objects.

And hey, on top of that, it was and still is a pretty intense learning experience!

Posted late Saturday night, February 12th, 2017 Tags:

Solarized

A while back I was looking for some information on the web, and happened upon a blog post about the subject. I don't remember what I was looking for, but on the same blog, there was a screen shot of what I then learned was the Solarized theme. This caught my eye that I decided to try it myself ASAP.

Up until last year, I've been using for many years the 'black on light yellow' xterm scheme. This is good during the day, but too strong during night, so on some machines I switched to 'white on black', but this was not entirely satisfying.

The solarized theme promises to have consistent colours over both light and dark background, which would help to make my setups finally consistent, and extends to a number of programs. Amongst these, there are themes for mutt on both light and dark backgrounds using only 16 colours. This was good, as my current hand-built theme is based on 256 colours, and this doesn't work well in the Linux console.

So I tried changing my terminal to the custom colours, played with it for about 10 minutes, then decided that its contrast is too low, bordering on unreadable. I switch to another desktop where I still had open an xterm using white-on-black, and—this being at night—my eyes immediately go 'no no no too high contrast'. In about ten minutes I got so used to it that the old theme was really really uncomfortable. There was no turning back now ☺

Interestingly, the light theme was not that much better than black-on-light-yellow, as that theme is already pretty well behaved. But I still migrated for consistency.

Programs/configs

Starting from the home page and the internet, I found resources for:

  • Vim and Emacs (for which I use the debian package elpa-solarized-theme).
  • Midnight Commander, for which I currently use peel's theme, although I'm not happy with it; interestingly, the default theme almost works on 16-custom-colours light terminal scheme, but not quite on the dark one.
  • Mutt, which is both in the main combined repository but also on the separate one. I'm not really happy with mutt's theme either, but that seems mostly because I was using a quite different theme before. I'll try to improve what I feel is missing over time.
  • dircolors; I found this to be an absolute requirement for good readability of ls --color, as the defaults are too bad
  • I also took the opportunity to unify my git diff and colordiff theme, but this was not really something that I found and took 'as-is' from some repository; I basically built my own theme.

16 vs 256 colours

The solarized theme/configuration can be done in two ways:

  • by changing the Xresources/terminal 16 basic colours to custom RGB values, or:
  • by using approximations from the fixed 256 colours available in the xterm-256color terminfo

Upstream recommends the custom ones, as they are precisely tuned, instead of using the approximated ones; honestly I don't know if they would make a difference. It's too bad upstream went silent a few years back, as technically it's possible to override also colours above 16 in the 256-colour palette, but in any case, each of the two options has its own cons:

  • using customised 16-colour means that all terminal programs get the new colours scheme, even if they were designed (colour-wise) based on the standard values; this makes some things pretty unreadable (hence the need to fix dircolors), but at least somewhat consistent.
  • using 256-colour palette, unchanged programs stay the same, but now they look very different than the programs that were updated to solarized; note thought I haven't tested this, but that's how I understand things would be.

So either way it's not perfect.

Desktop-wide consistency

Also not perfect is that for proper consistent look, many more programs would have to be changed; but I don't see that happening in today's world. I've seen for example 3 or 4 Midnight Commander themes, but none of them were actually in the spirit of solarized, even though they were tweaked for solarized.

Even between vim and emacs, which both have one canonical solarized theme, the look is close but not really the same (looking at the markdown source for this blog post: URLs, headers and spelling mistakes are all different), but this might be due not necessarily the theme itself.

So no global theme consistency (I'd wish), but still, I find this much better on the eyes and not lower on readability after getting used to it.

Thanks Ethan!

Posted late Wednesday night, February 9th, 2017 Tags:

Warning: Spoilers below. Rant below. Much angry, MANY ALL-CAPS. You've been warned!

So, today we went to see "La La Land", because I've heard good things about it, and because I do enjoy good musicals. And because of this, I wrote this post, instead of what I originally had in mind (related to kernel configuration).

Was it a good movie? Definitely yes. Was it a good musical? So and so. Did I like the ending? HELL NO, over and over NO.

The movie itself was much better than I expected. I don't read plot details in advance nor real reviews, so I expected more of a musical, and less of a good plot. But the movie had a very good plot. Two young people, striving to fulfil their artistic dreams, fall in love, and they fight through-sometimes helping, sometimes hindering each other—until, finally, each gets their own breakthrough, etc.

The choice of actress was spot on—halfway through the movie, I was thinking that I can't imagine the same plot played by a different actress. Of course many other actresses could have played the part, but Emma Stone played so well, I have trouble seeing the same character with the same always half-happy, half-sad attitude. The choice of actor was I think OK—at first I was in doubt, but he played also well. Or maybe it was just that I couldn't identify with him at first. Not that I identify well with artists in general ☺

The dance scenes were OK, and the singing good, but as I said, the musical part was secondary to the actual struggles of the characters. The movie itself was, technically, very well done; a lot of filming was in bars/clubs/locations with difficult lighting, and the shooting was very good. They also had a scene on a pier, looking towards the ocean and the setting sun, and the characters walking towards the beach—so heavily back-lighted, and I kept thinking "If I get only one shot this perfectly exposed and colour correct(ed), I'm happy". So high notes here.

Back to the plot. The story of how she and him fought their own struggles was very nicely told. Tick-tack, up and down (hope and rejection), leaning on the other to get morale back, is a captivating story. The cliff-hanger at the pre-end with her career, the going back home, the last minute save, all very well told.

So at this stage, I would have given the movie a 9/10. And I was happy.

Then we have the usual "one character has to go away to a far away country for a long time", except in this case it was just 4 months. And they have the usual discussion "what do we do with our relation, where do we take it", and she says "I will always love you", to which he replies "And I will too" (or equivalent).

In my mind, this means they'll have to survive during the break, they'll have to also survive through his touring months/years, but in the end love will be stronger. Because this is what the movie told us until now, that she made it because of him, and he made it because of her. Neither of them would have been this strong without the other (he wouldn't have picked up the invitation from his old pal, she wouldn't have gone to the final audition request nor write the play which got her the audition/recognition). Estimated movie ending: awesome.

And then… something happens. The timeline jumps 5 years in the future (as expected), and she is famous, married (WITH SOMEONE ELSE) and happy mother of a 3-year old. Through fate, she and her husband enter the club of Sebastian (as he also fulfilled his dream), she and Sebastian see each other, he plays their song, during which we're served a re-run of the movie but in stupid "everything goes well" style (all bad events eliminated), in which it is she and Sebastian who enter the club (which belongs now to somebody else), and then we're back in real time, song ends, she and her husband leave, but before that she and Sebastian exchange one last smile, THE END.

And I'm sitting there, not believing my eyes. WHAT THE? So I get home, not write this post for four hours to calm down, but I can't. Because this doesn't make sense. AT ALL.

What does the internet say? Quoting from this CNN article, written exactly today. The director says:

"That ending was there from the get-go," [director Damien Chazelle] told CNN in a recent interview. "I think I just have a thing about love stories where the lovers don't wind up together at the end; I find it very romantic."

Huh, excuse me?

"I think there's a reason why most of the greatest love stories in history don't end with happily ever after," Chazelle said. "To me, if you're telling a story about love, love has to be bigger than the characters." Chazelle sees Mia and Sebastian's love as a "third character" and something that "lives on." "[The ending gives] you that sense that even if the relationship itself might be over in practical terms, the love is not over," he said. "The love lasts, and I think that's just a beautiful kind of thing."

OH FOR THE LOVE OF. This is a wishy-washy explanation that tries to approach the thing from the artistic side. No, this is bullshit, because of multiple things. Let me try to roll back and explain what I think was the intention.

  1. An earlier fight between Mia and Sebastian points to the fact that they're both very dedicated to their careers, and this means it's hard for them to stay together if they both chase their dream. He has to be on tour, and she has to rehearse for her play, so they won't see each other for at least two weeks (in this instance). Later, she calls him and leaves a message that she hasn't seen him in a while (complex scene which ends in another fight, which is very well done). So we see the conflict that seems to say "You can't have a relation of equals; one party has to give up their dream". While this might be partially true in the real world, I don't go to movies to see the real world.

  2. After the year-long window into their life, I can't think that either Sebastian or Mia can be really successful without the other; because they are so alike, so passionate about their dreams, that a normal person wouldn't be able to understand and push the other when they need. However, the ending show both Mia and Sebastian quite successful, so one has to wonder: did they make it alone? Sebastian seems so (we don't see a partner for him), Mia unclear, likely not. How did Sebastian get through? What did Mia find in her husband?

  3. This is very one-sided, since I'm a man, so bear with me: Sebastian helped Mia through her tough time. Once she got the breakthrough (and they split), she found somebody else, and I have to wonder in what circumstances they met. In the sense that maybe her husband only knew "successful Mia" and not "struggling/aspiring Mia". Her husband seems completely oblivious to all the eye contact between Mia and Sebastian in the club, seems to know Sebastian/about Sebastian not. How deep is their relation?

  4. This is still one sided, sorry. When they break up (before Mia leaves for Paris), Sebastian asks "so where do we go from here?". Mia says "Nowhere". He asks once more, she rejects him again. So after one year of mad love and cries and happy moments, he gives up over two sentences? He's been following his dream (proper Jazz) in spite of all downturns in life until then, but he gives up on his real love over this? It doesn't make sense; trying to identify my self with the character, I can't reconcile this scene at all, unless he didn't really love her.

So no, I don't see them ending apart as romantic. I see it as the director is saying "You can't have both love and your [career] dreams. Choose either.", and he gives the "love" fake ending in the mini-re-roll of the movie, and the "career" wrong ending in the actual ending. And worse, he does it by negating significant parts of the character development done until now.

Moreover, this conclusion is wrong. Wrong because this is a movie, and if movies don't manage to make you dream that you can achieve all, if movies tell you "choose either", then all is lost. Their love is not a separate character; them struggling to find each other in the successful phase of their life, learning to adapt to the new "he" and "she", would be the third thing. As it was shown, their love is simply a young love, that can't really survive the changes in life; they each said "I'll love you forever", but with this ending it sounds more "I'll cherish the memory of young you forever". Or differently said, it sounded like a cheap excuse to use when ending their relationship, in order to not negate the relationship itself.

My version of the movie is another half hour long. It explains how Sebastian get over the "only jazz is pure old jazz" and manages to build a successful business around his old-style-but-modern jazz, instead of the pop-style jazz of the touring band (while thinking about her). It explains how Mia becomes a successful actress and gets over her first/second movies (while thinking about him), because one movie doesn't make one really successful (that reminds me: 3 year old child after 5 year forward-jump? when/how did her career go?). Hell, make it even more bitter—show how their correspondence starts strong but becomes more and more sporadic over time, dying after the first 2 years. Show how both of them try other relations, and not find the same spark that they had before.

And then, after they have matured, they meet again. And, just like the first time, they fall for each other, once again. She for his music, him for her passion for acting/for acting itself. She finds that him naming his club after her suggestion is oh-so-grown-up-and-sweet, he is happy that she finally grew into what he saw in her from the beginning. And he sings their song once more.

But no. I'm not an artist, so I can only get the "die hope die die die love because I can" version. I still recommend the movie, but not the "after 5 years" scenes.

Also, I didn't get time to bike today nor yesterday, so all you really get here is an ANGRY RANT. Because while I drink the coffee black and the tea without sugar, I like my happy endings, DAMN IT.

Posted at midnight, February 6th, 2017 Tags:

Almost all traces of the snow are gone.

After a very dry December, January was an awesome month. Lots of snow, even in the city, that held for (I think) three weeks—very rare for Zürich. This happened because the temperature never went above -5°C, even during the day—proper winter for the city!

It was awesome to bike in these conditions. At first fresh snow (best! but slow), then packed snow, it never actually became dangerous ice.

And then, at the end of last week, temperatures started climbing. First near zero, then 1-2°C above, then it finally started going warm (above freezing even during the night). And the snow started melting a bit, then more, and then it started raining.

And it rained for three days. The worst thing, seeing snow being rained upon. Dirty grey snow, slowly melting away… I don't like this picture.

At least now the snow is gone, and the streets are almost dry, and we can look to either some more snow (I wish…) or spring.

I'd rather take -2°C global average temperatures than +2°C. I'm not sure what -5° would mean, but compared to no winter…

Posted Wednesday night, February 1st, 2017 Tags:

Human languages, part 1

I do enjoy writing blog posts, but sometimes time is lacking, other times inspiration. As I was eating dinner today, I was lost in thoughts and my eyes stopped on the documentation from a certain medication for coughing (the thing almost noone reads, like EULAs). I was surprised quite surprised with te text that I said “well, some blog posts on languages might be interesting”.

Background: My mother tongue is Romanian. While growing up and learning foreign languages, I considered only the utilitarian aspect of languages, but as I get older (not old, older! ☺), I find human languages more and more interesting.

Back to the subject: this being Switzerland, most everything is written in German, French and Italian (in this order of frequency). German is still a foreign language to me (let's say I get by, but not nicely), French is the fancy high class cousin, and Italian… Well Italian is a special case. When I first saw Italian on TV (a newscast while travelling in Italy) I was shocked at how much one can understand without learning Italian in any way (much, much more than German after years of trying). So Italian language is quite close, and usually one understands a third to half; this is both spoken (less in common language, more in official language) and in writing.

In this particular case, the instructions of use say (sorry for typos, manually copying):

In casi rarissimi possono manifestarsi reazioni di ipersensibilità grave con tumefazione del viso, difficoltà respiratoria (dispnea) e diminuzione della pressione arteriosa.

What was surprising here was not the list of side effects (hah), but that this short phrase is 98% identical to the translation in Romanian; not only words, but also phrase structure. I don't think I've ever seen this before:

În cazuri rare se pot manifesta reacții de hipersensibilitate gravă cu tumefacție a feței, dificultate respiratorie (dispnee) și diminuare a presiunii arteriale.

Not all the words are identical, but even the one that is obviously different (it. 'del viso', ro. 'a feței') is easily translatable as 'visiune' in Romanian means 'to see', so the link is clear. This phrase structure is also quite a natural way to say the things in Romanian.

I was then curious to see the French version, which is:

Dans de très rares cas, [the medicine] peut déclencher de violentes réactions d'hypersensibilité s'accompagnant d'un gonflement du visage, de détresse respiratorie e d'une chute de tension.

French is usually quite different from Romanian that one has to learn it (for quite a while, especially for grammar) in order to be proficient in it, but here you can make also word-by-word translation (transposition?) that doesn't lose the meaning:

În cazuri tare rari, [the medicime] poate declanșa violente reacții de hypersensibilitate acompaniate de o umflare a feței, de ???? respiratorie și de ???? a tensiunii.

Basically here we have two non-equivalent words, and a bit more wierd phrase structure—it sounds more like coloquial speech than written language—but for French is also surprisingly close. You'd invert some of the adjective-noun pairs (fr. 'violentes réactions' is understandable in Romanian as 'violente reacții', but it sounds very poetical and you'd usually write it as 'reacții violente').

The next phrase is no longer that similar, but the one after is again obviously identical:

Se osserva effetti collaterali qui non descritti, dovrebbe informare il suo medico, il suo farmacista o il suo drogerie.

which is:

[Dacă/If] se observă effecte colaterale care nu sunt descrise, trebuie informat medicul vostru, farmacistul vostru sau [xxxx - no real equivalent].

And the French is also identical, modulo again 'droguiste':

Si vouz remarquez de effets secondaires qui ne sont pas mentionnés dans cette notice, veuillez en informer votre médecin, votre pharmacien ou votre droguiste.

which is:

Dacă remarcați efecte secundare care nu sunt menționate în această notă, informați medicul vostru, farmacistul vostru sau al vostru [xxxx].

This is even closer; 'votre' is more similar to '[al] vostru' than 'suo', and the phrase structure is much more natural - this is exactly how you'd write it in 'native' Romanian, whereas the Italian is not (I had to add the 'if' to make it parseable). The 'vous' in 'vouz remarquez' is 'voi' in Romanian, but doesn't need to be added as it would be redundant; but it doesn't confuse the phrase. The 'veuillez en informer' doesn't have a 1:1 translation (it would be written as 'vă rugăm să informați'), but is still understandable; a false friend translation would be 'vedeți să informați'/see to inform/voir informer.

Why is this all surprising? Because Romanian has a significant amount of words of Slavic origin (~11% in overall vocabulary, 15% in most commonly used 2500 words) and some from other nearby countries (Turkey, Greek, some Hungarian and German). At a stretch, it's even possible to write simple but complete sentences entirely with words from Slavic origin, as I learned from this interesting youtube video. Also, our accent is almost always confused with Russian, not with Italian or French.

So to get to a summary: normally you see sentence elements that are similar or identical, but not entire sentences, and definitely not phrases. What made the three languages here keep, in this particular case, not only similar but almost identical words and also almost identical phrase structure? Is it the subject (medicine)? Maybe. Is it a random fluke? If so, I don't remember seeing it before. Do I just see similarities where there are none? Possibly ☺, but at least I thought it worth mentioning; it was quite surprising to me. Did my brain get confused by too many languages and I misinterpreted words that don't really exist (e.g. I was sure that 'vizajul' is a Romanian word, but upon checking, it isn't…)? Also possible.

In any case, for me it was a good subject for a blog post. Now let's not go near Spanish and definitely not near Portuguese…

Posted late Thursday night, January 27th, 2017 Tags:

Had some printer fun this week. It was fun in the sense that failure modes are interesting, not that there was much joy in the process.

My current document printer is an HP that I bought back in early 2008; soon 9 years old, that is. When I got the printer I was quite happy: it supports Postscript, it supports memory extension (which allowed me to go from the built-in 64MB to a whopping 320MB), it is networked and has automatic duplex. Not good for much more than document printing, but that it did well. I didn't print a lot on it (averaged it was well below the recommended monthly limit), which might explain the total trouble-free operation, but I did change the toner cartridges a couple of times.

The current cartridges were running low for a while, but I didn't need to change them yet. As I printed a user manual at the beginning of the week (~300+ pages in total), I ran out of the black half-way through. Bought a new cartridge, installed it, and the first strange thing was that it still showed “Black empty - please replace”.

I powered the printer off and turned it on again (the miracle cure for all IT-related things), and things seemed OK, so I restarted printing. However, this time, the printer was going through 20-30 pages, and then was getting stuck in "Printing document" with green led blinking. Waited for 20 minutes, nothing. So cancel the job (from the printer), restart printing, all fine.

The next day I wanted to print a single page, and didn't manage to. Checked that the PDF is normal, checked an older PDF which I printed successfully before, nothing worked. Changed drivers, unseated & re-seated the extra memory, changed operating systems, nothing. Not even the built-in printer diagnostic pages were printing.

The internet was all over with "HP formatter issues"; apparently some HP printers had "green" (i.e. low-quality) soldering, and were failing after a while. But people were complaining about 1-2-4 years, not 9 that my printer worked, and it was very suspicious that all troubles started after my cartridge replacement. Or, more likely, due to the recent sudden increase in printing.

Given that formatter board fixes (bake in the oven for N minutes at a specific temperature to reflow the soldering) are temporary and that you can't find replacement parts for this printer, I started looking for a new printer. To my surprise (and dismay at the waste that capitalism produces), a new printer from a higher class was cheaper than replacing all 4 cartridges in my printer. So I had a 90% full black cartridge that I couldn't reuse, but I'd get a new printer for not much more.

Interestingly, in 9 years, the development was:

  • In the series of printers that I had (home office use), one can't get a Ethernet-only networked duplex printer; the M252 series has only an 'n' variant (Ethernet only, no duplex), or 'dw' variant (Ethernet, WiFi, Duplex); if one wants duplex but no WiFi, it's available only in the next series, the M452.
  • The CPU speeds increased 2-3× and memory capacity by 2-4×; however, memory or font expansion is no longer possible.
  • The M252 series still uses Fast Ethernet (which is enough and consumes less power), whereas the M452 series has Gigabit.
  • It seems the cartridges come in two different capacities, but basically colour laser printers still employ the same 4-colour cartridge set (compare to photo printers at 9+).
  • I did just a brief examination of the market, but for home use, it seems the recommendation is still HP for no-troubles use or other brands for cheaper costs. Of course it varies a lot in reviews, but this is what I understood from forums; maybe I'm biased.
  • There was no increase in real resolution; the native grid is still 600dpi (photo inkjet printers are also stuck at 360/720 native for a while), but the ImageRet software processing seems to have advanced (from what the white-papers say).
  • Print speed however has visibly increased; still the same 2-3× increase, but this is wall-clock speed increase, whereas the CPU/memory is less relevant.

I was however happy that one can still get OS-independent (Postscript), networked printers that are small enough for home use and don't (necessarily) come with WiFi.

However, one thing still bothered me: did I have such problems because the printer died of overwork at old age, or was it related to the cartridge change? So I start searching again, and I find a post on a forum (oh Google, why did you remove "forum search" and replaced it with "language level"?) that details a hidden procedure to format the internal storage of the printer, exactly for my printer model, exactly for my symptoms. Huh, I will lose page count, but this is worth a try…

So I do press the required keys, I see the printer booting and saying "erasing…", then asking for language, which makes me happy because it seems the forum post was correct in one regard. I confirm English, the printer reboots once more, and then when it comes up it warns me: "Yellow cartridge is a non-HP original, please confirm". I get confused, and re-seat all cartridges, to no avail. Yellow is non-HP. Sigh, maybe that cartridge had something that confused the printer? When I visit its web page however, all cartridges except the newly installed black one are marked as Non-HP; this only means that I can't see their remaining toner level, but otherwise—the printer is restored back to life. I take the opportunity to also perform a firmware upgrade (only five years newer firmware, but still quite old), but this doesn't solve the Non-HP message.

The printer works now, and I'm left wondering: was this all a DRM-related failure, something like new cartridge chip which had some new code that confused the printer so bad it needed reformatting, at which point the old cartridge code is no longer supported (for whatever reason)? Was it just a fluke, unrelated to DRM? Was the problem that I powered off the printer soon after replacing the cartridge, while it was still doing “something” (e.g. preparing to do a calibration after the change)?

And another, more practical question: I have 3 cartridges to replace still; they were at 10% before this entire saga, and I'm not able to see their level anymore, but they'll get down to empty soon. The black cartridge in the printer is already at 77%, which is surprising as I didn't print that much. So should I replace the cartridges on what is a possibly fully functional, but also possibly a dying printer? Or buy a new one for slightly more, throwing out possibly good hardware?

Even though I understand the business reason behind it, I hate the whole concept of "the printer is free, you pay for the ink". Though in my case "free" didn't mean bad, as a lifetime of 9 years is good enough for a printer.

Posted at midnight, December 18th, 2016 Tags:

Wow, a mouthful of a title, for a much simpler post.

Up until earlier this year, I had only one sport GPS device, and that was a watch. Made sense, as my "main" sport was running (not that I did it very consistently). Upgraded over a few generations of Garmins, I mainly used it to record my track and statistics (pace, heart rate, etc.) The newest generation of watch and heart rate monitor even give more statistics (left-right leg balance, ground contact time, so on).

Most of this data can be looked at while running, but only as an exception; after all, it's very hard to run with one hand up in front of your face. The other useful features—guided workouts and alerts during normal runs—I've used, but not consistently.

So when I started biking a bit more seriously, I wondered whether it would make sense to buy a bike computer. The feature intersection between watch and bike GPS is quite large, so clearly this is a "want" not a "need" by far. Reading forum posts showed the same question repeated multiple times… What convinced me to nevertheless buy such a bike GPS were the mapping/routing features. A bike GPS with good routing features, or even just maps on which tracks can be overlayed, can certainly ease the discovery of new routes.

After a few months of use, my most useful feature is one that I didn't expect. While the mapping is useful and I do use it, the one that actually is significantly better than my watch is the large display with data fields that I can trivially check almost continuously on road biking, and during technically easy climbing sections for mountain biking.

My setup looks like this:

It's a 9-field setup; the Edge 1000 can go to 10, but I like "headline" field. The watch can only go to four, and is basically not usable during rides, unless one would use a quick-release kit for mounting on the handle bar.

This setup allowed me to learn much better my physical capabilities, why I sometimes run out of energy, and how the terrain affects me. Random things that I learned:

  • Gradient: on a road bike, +2% grade is just fun, -2% grade is excellent; on a mountain bike, -2% is somewhat felt but not so much. Going above 6-8% on a mountain bike is tiring, and above 15% means I can bike but I will dip too much into my reserves. Not sure yet what the numbers are on a road bike…
  • Cadence: on flatter routes, my most efficient cadence is 102-108 RPM; between 98-102 I feel I need to extra push, and below 98 I know (now) my muscles will get tired too early; on significant ascents, I don't have enough gearing to sustain such an RPM, and that tires me faster. On medium distance flat rides (~70Km), I usually do ~100 averaged over the whole distance.
  • Heart rate: below ~140 is recovery, ~140-150 is sustained effort, ~150-160 is short-duration pushes, and anything above ~160 will eat through my anaerobic budget, which means I'd better stop soon or my performance for the rest of the ride will suffer; this, surprisingly, matches quite well with my latest run lactate threshold (as computed by my watch), which was 161bpm.
  • Condition: when cruising without pedalling or when stopping, I can ballpark my current condition very easily by seeing how fast my heart rate goes down.
  • Total ascent: useful for two things: to make me proud how much I've already climbed, and—if I know the total ascent for the route—either make me despair how much I have left, or make me happy that the climbs are done :-)

Seeing all this data only after the ride is less useful since you don't remember exactly how you felt during specific points in the ride. But as real-time data, one can easily see/feel the correlation between how the body feels and what data says.

One thing that would be also useful would be real-time power data (3 sec average, not instantaneous) to correlate even better with the body state. I now use heart rate and cadence as a proxy for that, but being able to see actual power numbers would increase the usefulness of the data even more.

Unfortunately, none of these makes the climbs easier. But at least it allows me to understand why one climb feels hard and another easy (relatively speaking). I wonder if, and how this could be applied to running; maybe with smart glasses?

Conclusion: yes, I do recommend a bike computer with a large display (to be able to see many fields at once). Just in case one has disposable income at hand and doesn't know which hobby to spend it on ;-)

Posted Sunday night, September 4th, 2016 Tags:

Nationalpark Bike Marathon 2016 report: gravity rules!

"Marathon" is a bit of a misnomer, since I did the short route, not the medium nor the long one. But hey, it's the official name!

Setup

This race has four possible lengths: "Valader" which is full round-trip Scuol-Scuol (137km/4'026m), "Jauer" (Fuldera-Scuol, 103km/2'934m), "Livignasco" (Livigno-Scuol, 66km/1'871m) and "Putèr" (S-chanf to Scuol, 47Km/1'051m).

After many debates, I settled on the Livignasco route, as that was what I was reasonably confident to be able to do. The only problem was that this route (and all the longer ones, of course) were going over Pass Chaschauna, which is a quite hard climb. My bike shop person, who did the full length a number of times, just said when hearing the route I was planning: "Chaschauna is a bitch…" Bad language, proper characterisation.

The route choice also impacts the logistics: except for the full route, the question is where to sleep the night before? One can sleep either at the start place, or sleep in Scuol itself and take the official shuttle to the start place, but this means waking up much earlier. I decided to sleep in Livigno, as with a 7:45 start this would allow me to sleep until ~6:30, have a quick breakfast and be in time for the race. Problem #1…

So on Friday (26th) I drove to Scuol, picked up my start number, and then drove over to Livigno and checked in to the hotel. Speaking of picking up the start number, I saw this at the start area:

While picking up my start number: the race is so fast that an STI
is needed as pacer??

An STI needed as pacer? How fast are these people, I wondered?

Day of the race

My plan to have a relaxing sleep until relatively late failed. I went to sleep with difficulties: late dinner due to my late arrival in Livigno, and then I was stressed enough about not missing the race that at 05:05 I already woke up, and was checking the clock every five minutes. Finally at 05:30 I gave up and got out of bed, with only about 6½ hours of sleep. Problem #2.

The other problem was that I naïvely thought the hotel will have breakfast from 07:00 or even 07:30. Hah, as if this was Switzerland. The hotel had breakfast from 08:00, no reason to hurry, right? So I had a poor man's breakfast in the room, some energy bars and an ice tea. Problem #3. At least I had time to grab this picture from the hotel room:

Good morning Livigno!

Not bad. On to the race!

But before that, remember to fill my hydration pack with 3L of water, and put it in my not-so-light backpack. Of course I had tools and some spare parts with me, what if something happens? Problem #4, over-planning.

The race

The setup at the start was pretty easy. Wait near the start until 07:45, then go. For me, not too in front, of course:

Ready for the start!

Pass Chaschauna

About 3 kilometres of easy/flat road, and then it starts. Pass Chaschauna, killing your legs softly…

Already climbing… on foot! But not everybody.

But at least the pictures were nice!

The climb is hard, but the view is worth it!

Still climbing…

So high already! Good legs :)

Looking back: it's been a loong way up…

I can see the top! …and the remaining steep meters to climb
:(

The climb is difficult. It was around 22% for most of the time, and very few people were able to bike up. Not only the absolute meters were the problem, but also the fact that the ground was quite loose, and pushing the bike, or rather climbing up while pushing the bike, was difficult to do in bike shoes with cleats. Proper hiking shoes would have been much more adequate. Maybe this is why despite the effort, some people biked as much as possible? I was careful not to over-exert myself and walked almost all the way up. Hence the pictures…

But at last, reached the top of the pass, and was very happy to be done with it. The GPX file from my Garmin says it took only 4 minutes (1.2km) after the race start to actually start climbing (it was not obvious we were climbing so early), and then 1h:20m/8Km to get from 1'817m altitude to the highest point at 2'658m. 8Km in 1h:20m, faster than walking pace but quite slower than running pace (on flat terrain, of course).

At the top of the pass I was quite happy:

Finally at the top! Clipping in and…

Go! Smilling and happy!

And then the descent started:

I wonder how steep it will be going down…

This was an easy section :/

All the way leading to the race I kept thinking only about climbing Chaschauna, and not about going down on it. It was quite an experience, which I won't forget soon.

The trail was already well travelled, which means that besides the loose ground in form of large clumps of dried earth, there was a layer of fine, somewhat moist earth, about 3-5 centimetres deep, which made the downhill "interesting". Coupled with what was a much steeper trail than going up—I saw most of the time ~33%—it's no surprise that many, or even most, of the people were walking their bikes down. The GPX track says that the trail goes 319m down in 1Km (so a 31.9% over one entire kilometre), then another 130m over the next 1.4Km (9.28%), and then (not sure if this is the pass per se or after) another longer segment of ~260m over 3Km (8.56%). The first steep segment needs lots of skill and concentration, the others are normal gradients.

But at least things go fast. What took uphill took ~40 minutes for the last 450m up, downhill it took only 15 minutes!

Falling

I was able, thanks to recent training, to bike down the trail, or at least I thought so. So on the steep segment I was struggling to bike down and keep control of my bike, putting one leg down on some sections but in general being "on the bike", being hit by the dirt I was throwing in the air despite the mud-guards, being careful but at the same time enjoying this difficult section.

That is, right up to the point where I got, I think, too comfortable. After the second-to-last curve, the rear wheel slides, I lose balance and fall in the (thankfully soft) dirt a bit more forcefully than I should have, the bike also sliding along in the dirt. No damage to myself, just some trivial scratches; the bike seems a bit shaken (fork was turned 180°, full of dirt, etc.). I get again on the bike and I continue down; however, something seems off: the rear brake level doesn't have a return anymore, I have to push it to go back. Still usable, but strange.

So I continue the other two segment of this descent, and over these ~4-5Km I feel the brake issue going worse and worse: it's actually hard to push the brake lever back, and even pressing it doesn't seem to have much effect. And then the realisation dawns on my: I have hydraulic brakes, and the worsening thing leads me to think my brake hose has been punctured (by what? I fell in loose dirt) and I'm losing the brake fluid with every press.

Now, on flat road, biking with only the front brake is tricky but doable. On an MTB course, having only one brake is not a smart thing™. Not easy, not smart, and definitely dangerous. It also felt very strange to not have both brakes, and then I realised how much I work with the brakes in unison.

I knew that there are repair posts in the race, but I didn't know if they can fix such things (and doing a brake fluid refill… how complicated is it, how much time does it take?). Anyway, I resolved to try and continue if the terrain allows until I reach the first repair post, and stop if it gets too steep. It would be pretty sad to have to abort the race after only 10Km, right?

The terrain did cooperate: up and down, so I was able to bleed speed easily, and even though through forest, the visibility was good enough that I could plan ahead. It was strangely lonely at this time: I was going slowly and thus not reaching from behind anyone, but also not being reached by riders from behind. I did enjoy it a bit, the quietness of the forest, just interrupted by the squeaking of my front brake…

And then I finally see the sign for "Repair: 1Km". Yaaay! maybe I don't have to quit the race. And then, about 100m further on, another sign: "Danger! Steep descent". Uh-oh… tantalisingly close… Let's go slow. And yes, here I was overtaken by 3-4 other cyclists. This was the single moment in the race where I did have a moment of real fear: at one point, I was going down with the remaining brake as pressed as I could without compromising stability, and I was still gaining speed. Not smart, and as I was debating how to fall to stop my descent, the terrain started to get less steep, and I finally reached the repair station, at kilometre 21.

Difficult repairs

There was another person being serviced for a flat rear tire, so I wait in line and discuss with him my problem. Upon hearing I only had the front brake, he said: "Wow, how did you manage to descend this last segment?" "Well, slowly…".

My turn came up, I explain my problem and my theory, and the repair guy gives me one look, the bike one look, but doesn't look at the brake hose. Instead, he looks once at the brake lever, sees that another cable guide on my handle bar was bent during the fall and actually was mechanically interfering with the brake lever, unbends that thing, and says "here you go". I was stunned. 15 seconds of looking at the problem without stress, and the problem was solved. I could have done this myself if I took the time to look and think, and not hurry. And I could have enjoyed all the downhill on the pass, with two functioning brakes.

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way, and this was one. I got off easy though, as I didn't have a real accident while biking with only one brake. And they say you get wiser as you get older…

Anyway, brake repaired, I stopped at the Sanitär tent to have my scratches disinfected, and onwards. The following few kilometres until S-chanf I enjoyed very much.

S-chanf

And then, 2 hours 10 minutes into the race, I exit the forest trail, reach S-chanf, and start climbing and descending and climbing and descending. In the sun, which now (after 10 AM) is not that light anymore. The initial climb at S-chanf, while not much, took away my remaining short-term reserves.

The route is 50m ascent, then down and then another 50m ascent, and after a bit of flat another 75m ascent… I was getting tired, despite eating energy bars and drinking water (and juice at stops). This goes one for an entire hour, during which I cover about 23Km, so not a bad speed everything considered. But getting more and more tired.

There were also some very nice segments, along the river, in the shade of the forest. Some fast downhill, some fast flat.

I got overtaken by quite a few real racers, that were going so fast I couldn't keep up with them as in I didn't dare ride that fast even when I had the energy. Clearly they were from the longer segments, and boy were they fast! A number of couples (or pairs?) one woman one man, a number of bigger groups, all going as if they had E-bikes or super-powers, not just biking along tired like me…

Last climb

And then, the last big climb: half an hour of going about 300m up (absolute values, so cumulative number would probably be higher), in the sun, over about 6Km, so only 5% average gradient. But I was tired and even resorted to walking on some portions… At least I could take some pictures again:

Much later, climbing again.

Or have pictures taken:

A bit of a smile left. Yes, that's a smile, not a grimace!

Nice views:

Look, nice castle! Stopping for a picture, and not because I was
*dead tired* :)

At one point, in a bit of a shade, I stop to catch my breath. Somebody else stopped as well and, seeing as I was checking my GPS, asks:

  • "How much do we have left, about 10K?"
  • I say yes (or was it 15K? the numbers don't match well)
  • "And how about altitude?"
  • "About 350m left…"
  • "Sigh…"

I got overtaken by a lot of cyclists here, although many of them were from S-chanf route (based on the number colour). Sad…

The thing is, besides the climbing and the sun, this and the previous part was a very nice route: through small towns, high above the valley, beautiful landscapes, etc. Just enjoying it was hard, since I wasn't a) trained well enough and b) prepared well enough.

Last segment, last downhill

In any case, after that hard half hour, it's flat (or rather said, average gradient zero):

Flat route, good pavement. Can catch my breath, and take a
another picture.

Good road, good views, but I'm on the last virtual bar of my battery, so the remaining 15Km I do in 40 minutes, also "eating" the last ascent meters—still about 300 left, I think, but up/down/up/down, so you could reuse kinetic energy to gain potential one.

The only question I had now was, the route was at this moment about 400m higher (in absolute altitude) than the finish point, so when do we lose that altitude? The answer was a very very nice answer: in the last 5Km, for an average gradient of 8%, just perfect. I was tired however, so I couldn't really enjoy or go fast here, but it was a good feeling.

Finish!

And then, entering Scuol, not really believing I'm near the finish, that I will be able to actually stop and relax. My finish picture doesn't do justice to how happy I was at that moment:

At the finish, happy happy happy!

However, after passing the finish line, it was a bit weird. I just stop now? What next? So weird to just walk, not push pedals, and not go up. Or down.

The funny thing here was that I thought I didn't use much of my water (hydration pack) during the race. But soon after finishing, I drank the equivalent of about two glasses (let's say 0.5L) and it was over. So I did manage to drink 2.5L during the race, plus the sport drinks at the stops.

Time for stats: my Garmin says 67.07Km, 4h:29m, average speed 15.0kph (hah), 1'615m elevation gain. Official numbers say 66Km, 1'871m elevation, and thus 14.22kph. Ranking-wise:

  • 147/192 in the overall men Livignasco route
  • 44/60 in my age category

Sigh, could have done better. I was aiming for somewhere around last 33%, not last 25% :-P First classed was ~66% faster than me…

Going to the train station was hard as in difficult to move my legs. Took one nice picture of Scuol though, so was able to think a bit:

After the race: Scuol is not so bad…

And then the long way back to Livigno. Took me 4½h to bike to Scuol, and about 3 hours to go back via public transport. At least I ate a sandwich in the meantime. Then reached Livigno, which was also looking nice:

Took me almost as long by public transport as by bike, but
finally back in Livigno. Also nice!

Then got on my bike, which at this point was magically light and easy to ride (it seems I was at least partially recovered), rode to the hotel, packed my stuff, and drove home. On the highway I had my first real meal for that day, but I was quite tired so didn't feel like the achievement it should have been…

Lessons

The biggest takeaway from this race was the huge learning experience I got. The race was itself awesome, but the learning even more so.

First, for this particular race, it's much better to sleep in Scuol and (if not doing the whole route) take the shuttle to the actual start. Yes, one has to wake up earlier, but you have assured breakfast via the organisers (++++!), and after the race you don't have to get even more tired by taking the train and the bus and…

Second, I need better logistics: I don't need to carry that heavy load (spare tube, pump, tools, jacket in case it's cold) when the race is well organised. The water in the hydration pack was useful, but carrying it up Chaschauna was a pain. Not sure what I'll do next; it's possible to survive only on water/drinks from the food posts (basically 2.5-2.8L is equivalent to only 4 750ml bottles, and there were I think about 6 stops?), but the hydration pack is so easy to use…

Keeping one's head cool and not stress about things also would help: had I looked at my brake lever in peace, I could have solved it myself, and not ride ~10Km with only one brake.

Also, losing some weight (as in losing fat, not having a lighter bike) would definitely help. I could stand to lose 5Kg easily, probably 10Kg, and that would bring me more in line with other people in the race (at least looking at the pictures). And hey, my Watts/Kg would improve magically!

And last but most important, I need better training. Training on how to use my energy, training longer rides so that my body gets used to it and doesn't bonk after 3 hours, training training training. Which I like, but the problem is time to do it…

Also, in case anybody wonders: yes, I do recommend this race! It was definitely fun, and the route itself is very nice, nicer than the pictures here show.

Closing words: gravity rules. Up or down, it's hard and punishing. Still: Ride on!

Posted in the wee hours of Friday night, September 3rd, 2016 Tags:

Last weekend I had to stay at home, so I did some more virtual training (slowly, in order to not overwork myself again). This time, after all the Zwift, I wanted to test something else: Tacx Trainer Software. Still virtual, but of a different kind.

The difference between Zwift, which does video-game-like worlds, is that TTS, in the configuration that I used, uses a real-life video which scrolls faster or slower, based on your speed. This speed adjustment is so-so, but the appeal was that I could ride roads that I actually know and drove before. Modern technology++!

And this was the interesting part: I chose for the first ride the road up to Cap de Formentor, which is one of my favourite places in Mallorca. The road itself is also nice, through some very pleasant woods and with some very good viewpoints, ending at the lighthouse, from where you have wonderful views of the sea.

Now, I've driven two times on this road, so I kind of remembered it, but driving a road and cycling the same road, especially when it goes up and down and up, are very different things. I remembered well the first uphill (after the flat area around Port de Pollença), but after that my recollection of how much uphill the road goes was slightly off, and I actually didn't remember that there's that much downhill, which was a very pleasant surprise. I did remember the view points (since I took quite a few pictures along the road), but otherwise I was completely off about the height profile of the road. Interesting how the brain works ☺

Overall, this is considered a "short" ride in Tacx's film library; it was 21Km, 835m uphill, and I did it in 1h11m, which for me, after two weeks of no sports, was good enough. Also Tacx has bike selection, and I did this on a simulated mountain bike, with the result that downhill speeds were quite slow (max. 57Km/h, at a -12% grade), so not complaining at all.

Next I'll have to see how the road to Sa Calobra is in the virtual world. And next time I go to Mallorca (when/if), I'll have to actually ride these in the real world.

In the meantime, some pictures from an actual trip there. I definitely recommend visiting this, preferably early in the morning (it's very crowded):

Infinite blue

Sea, boats and mountains

Mountains, vegetation and a bit of sea

View towards El Colomer

A few more pictures and larger sizes here.

Posted at midnight, July 27th, 2016 Tags:

This web site/blog is powered by ikiwiki.