Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Red Hot Chili Exercise

I have been conducting an experiment when I go swimming, and it seems to be working. Whether it is purely psychological or not, I don't know. The theory works like this: endorphins are released by the body in response to pain, in order to reduce it. A well known source of endorphins is "hot" stuff like chilies, because the "heat" feels like pain and the body responds.
Similarly, the body releases endorphins during exercise, as a response to the exhaustion and pain caused by the exercise. Usually I stop exercising long before this happens, because, quite frankly, I'm a wimp and I can't push through the exhaustion and keep going. As a result my fitness grows at a slow pace because I'm incapable of sustaining any exercise routine that becomes too uncomfortable. "No pain, no gain" is just a cliche, and no amount of macho talk can persuade me otherwise.
So I wondered what would happen if I could trigger some endorphins before exercising. Enter the humble chili. If you chew a raw one it causes a short burst of pain in your mouth, which causes the body to release endorphins. I chew enough to make my eyes water, and the sensation lasts for around a minute or so.
By the time I have changed and got in the pool, there are still endorphins in my system, and I can exercise without pain and exhaustion setting in for a while at least. It makes the whole exercise experience far more repeatable and not the demotivating nightmare it was before.
Add to this some dance music while swimming lengths, and the experience is downright enjoyable. So much so that I have been going to swim nearly every day, thanks to the encouragement from Chris at the Gaining Mass blog. FYI Chris does not use chilis, but he has some good things to say and he has a lot of courage.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yet Another File Explorer Bug

Why do we put up with crappy software like Windows Vista? My guess is that this bug will carry over into Windows 7 too. It certainly didn't exist in Windows XP, because I originally wrote the batch file on an XP machine.
The faulty screen above was created using the batch file command
start x:\dev\clinic
which is supposed to open and display the contents of a folder. In this case one on the X: drive, which is a Truecrypt volume. Notice how the Path section at the top incorrectly shows "Computer", and the "Folders" view incorrectly shows drive "C:"

Now look at the screen below, where the path and folder information is correct. This was created using the command
start explorer.exe x:\dev\clinic
Notice how both views show a music-related view, even though the Vista default view is set to "All Items" and I regularly have to re-customize the folder back to "All Items".
I wonder if reporting this bug will get as much response as reporting the previous one, which was almost zero.
Update 3pm: This Bug issue has been escalated to [Microsoft SA's] Response Management Team and captured as a Feedback. Reference 2009042900700

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How do you rate PerfectDisk 10 Professional?

I haven't looked at PerfectDisk 10 yet, because I'm in the final (and tediously slow) stages of setting up my FRAGG benchmark machine. But a blog called ITReviewed has posted a 5/5 star review of PerfectDisk 10:
Defragmenting your hard drive is an integral part of keeping your PC healthy. The defrag utility which ships with all modern versions of Windows is very simple to use and can give your PC a performance boost, but there are better third-party utilities which are faster, more effective, and offer a lot more features and flexibility. One such program is Raxco’s PerfectDisk, probably the best of its type and one utility which I have relied on for a number of years.
PerfectDisk is a lightweight software utility that helps to ensure that your Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Home Server systems maintain the best possible hard drive performance.

I mention this review because readers can write their own review and submit it. I'm intrigued to know what users of the program have to say.

Elections in South Africa

Monday, April 20, 2009

ANC Spokesperson Jessie Duarte is an expert on dark classes

"The African National Congress has noted the desperate attempts by mischievous forces of darkness bent on misleading South African voters by distributing and mounting fake posters purported to be those of the ANC," said spokesperson Jessie Duarte.
Now she has gone one step better, in an interview with a local journalist: "You people must get a life. You’re terribly classist and if you’re not black I would say you were racist. But, well I suppose you could be racist even if you were a black like me." (see photo above)
"Look, you guys, there is no soap that will wash a Times journalist in my eyes. It’s not unfortunate, it’s reality. I think that if you are a South African who wants to see transformation then you’ve got to join in the fight for it, not become part of the third force."

I hate to burst your bubble Ms Duarte, but you are really giving South Africa a bad name, especially after these comments and your disasterous interview on the BBC. Instead of attacking the media with self-righteous platitudes, how about answering some honest questions. Why are there so many Zimbabweans desperate for food and work in South Africa? Because your party allowed Robert Mugabe to destroy the Zim economy while your party applauded and defended him.
Instead of making quips about the British looking in dustbins, why not own up the thousands of homeless South Africans who scour the dustbins and rubbish dumps looking for food, and anything they can sell to eke out an existence way below the poverty line. These people probably can't vote because they have no documents and no place to call home, so your party ignores them.
And before you get too self-important, just remember you are a politician, which means you are at the bottom of the food scale, way below journalists and lawyers; somewhere on a par with criminals, thieves and rapists (and I'm not referring to your party leader either). Spokespersons like you and Carl Niehaus have no credibility whatsoever: we expect you to lie and spin and deny and we really find it tedious and insulting.

Journalists would do the public a great favour by not quoting you at all. So either shut up or get your facts straight. And how about that URL for Zuma's blog? There isn't one. You got mixed up with his email address. DUH! But then competence was never a requirement for an ANC position. Just ask Manto or Alec Erwin.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hardgainer Mass Calculator: how slow and steady progress yields results

Never mind all the advertising hype about "Massive Gains in 6 weeks!" that permeates the bodybuilding and strength training magazines. I just laugh. I'm not built like Charles Atlas, and I have no delusions of grandeur. Today is Thursday and I'm still stiff from exercises I did on Sunday! I'm a classic "hardgainer", and I discovered the Hardgainer FAQ over a decade ago.
What I didn't realise at the time is the maths behind the method, and how impressive it could be. If I could guarantee that you would double your strength in 2 years and 12 weeks, would you believe me? Probably not. But it is theoretically possible if you can follow the HG training technique.
Part of the problem is that the potential gains are lost behind the numbers. So I have created an Excel Spreadsheet to help. The graph of a typical workout pattern over 54 weeks (3 periods of 18 weeks) with a "previous personal best" of 100 kg is shown above. Notice that the new personal best after just over a year is now 139.4kg, or 40% improvement.
I can vouch for the technique, albeit at a less grand scale. I managed to improve my bench press from a measly 30kg to an average 40kg in a year, without injury. Before using the HG method (and buying the 500g, 250g and 100g plates required to do it) I would have been expected to go in jumps of 2.5kg, since the smallest weight at the gym was 1.25kg, and you need one on each end of the bar. Going from 30kg to 32.5kg was manageable, but the jump from 37.5 to 40 was just too much, and I could never do it.
When the increment is only 200g, you can't feel it, and your muscles get time to adjust. Since you spend 10 weeks out of 18 setting a new personal best, it's much easier to motivate yourself, too. The Hardgainer method has absolutely no glamour or magazine recognition, and your gym won't have the small weights required, so you'll need to buy them. I got mine from the UK and the postage cost more than the weights, but it has been worth it. The FAQ has all the details.

Excel Spreadsheet download 37kb: no macros or viruses, just a graph and calculations. Please scan for viruses to make sure.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Election Poster Darwin Awards

In the last election the DA won the Darwin Award for their poster with a picture of Tony Leon and a slogan that said "South Africa Deserves Better". Clearly the voters agreed that we could do better than Tony Leon, because most voted for other parties.
This time we have a neck-and-neck race between the DA's "Vote to Win" slogan, since it begs the questions "Win What?" and "Who Wins? The DA or the Voter?". The other contender is the ANC's dubious slogan of "Working together we can do more" since it leaves a perfect space for graffiti artists to stencil in the word "crime" or "damage" or whatever.
Do these people have no brains? Are they such ballot sluts that they can't check their own posters before they print a zillion of them to pollute our cities?

Related posts: Zuma the Nija Turtle, Zumatello, Cape Town crime poster, Greek poster, what if?, "Fuck You Jacob Zuma".

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Goodbye iPod Shuffle, hello Nokia 3120 Classic phone

Today my iPod Shuffle 1GB model finally died with a "write error", meaning that the crappy flash memory has failed at a critical location, so the iPod software won't work. I doubt very much whether it can be fixed, but it may be worth a try.
I bought the 1GB model as a backup for the 512kb model that I use with my OtterBox, a waterproof device that cost twice as much as the iPod itself, but which allows me to listen to music when I'm swimming. It cuts down on the boredom of swimming training and makes it fun to swim lengths, particularly to dance music classics.
I have stopped using the iPod for listening to podcasts or audio books, because my cell phone can do that. It's a basic model Nokia 3120 Classic, but with the extra USB cable attached and a 2GB MicroSD memory card, it works better than the iPod Shuffle, and pauses the audio book when I receive a call.
Now I don't have to have two sets of earphones, nor do I have to pay Apple any more money for their overpriced products. They have never allowed South African customers to buy music from the iTunes store, which has always annoyed me. I would rather pay Nokia for some accessories that make my phone more usable.
The phone is better in other ways too: it doesn't lose its place when pausing audio books (Apple refused to fix that bug), it has a speaker so I don't have to use earphones, it includes a radio and camera, and it is included with my basic phone contract, so I can keep my phone costs down. Less clutter in my pockets and round my neck too.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Vista 64-bit added to the 2009 Defrag Shootout

I have decided to abandon testing on Windows 7, partly because I screwed up the backup I had made, and mainly because I think it would be better to test a 64-bit environment instead. So I have been busy installing Vista Home Basic 64-bit Edition instead.
There is another reason, too. I need to see if I can get my database environment to work with MySQL, so I am combining the two requirements together and installing MySQL 5.1 64-bit on the FRAGG machine as well. I will not run the MySQL service when doing the benchmarks, but at least I can save some time having both available.
I have obtained a legitimate license for Acronis True Image Home 11.8101, which is working perfectly (Not 2009). Stand by (but don't hold your breath) for more results. I am still experimenting with the hIOmon software, in order to obtain some useful benchmark information and analysis.
On the defrag front I have been notified of several new defrag programs, which will be included in the testing:

Update Tuesday 7.30pm: One thing I have already noticed is that the 64-bit Vista needs more RAM. Much more than the 1GB available in the machine. I guess that anyone buying it without at least 4GB is basically wasting their time anyway, but be warned if you intend to buy the 64-bit version of Vista or Windows 7. Most of the SPECviewperf V10 benchmarks failed for lack of RAM (or some other incompatability I haven't found). I have experimented with switching off a bunch of services in order to conserve RAM usage.
Update Wednesday 10pm: There must be a problem with the graphics driver or something, because only 2 of the 64-bit SPECviewperf V10 benchmarks worked, and some of the PCMark Vantage 64 benchmarks failed. So I have run the 32-bit versions, and they seem fine. Clearly 64-bit software is not ready for prime time just yet.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Zuma: A Nation Mourns

Following the NPA's election rally on national TV, the nation is in shock and mourning. How anyone can have charges against them dropped because other people broke the law is a mystery to most of us.
So now we have crooks getting other crooks off the hook by engaging in criminal activity. The mind boggles. If Zuma is innocent, then Shabir Shaik's trial should be overturned. But enough of that: South Africa's legal community will attempt to recover its tattered reputation somehow, I'm sure.
Of course, the political fallout has yet to be determined, and I'd hate to be anyone in governement who has to deal with foreign governments. Oh the shame and humiliation! The rest of us just mourn the passing of democracy, justice and rule of law. It was a fine illusion while it lasted.
Some cynic said "Democracy is where the majority gets what the majority deserves." Sadly, in SA this is true. The majority is going to elect a party of ciminals into office, as they have done in the past, and they will be screwed once again by the likes of Julius "Fork and Knife" Malema. They deserve what they get. Unfortunately the idiots will not be the only ones to suffer.
NPA: Non-Prosecuting Authority, no longer the National Prosecuting Authority
Update 9th April: The ANC's dufus response to these posters (actually they are pretty awesome) was to blame "mischievous forces of darkness". Actually that's a pretty good ANC definition of the word "voter". Do they really not have a clue? Electorate = "mischievous forces of darkness".

Update 14 April: It would appear that the NPA plagiarised their statement from a Hong Kong judge. It sounded too clever to be genuine.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Neville Clarence Technologies: king of spam

Neville Clarence Technologies is a South African company that makes devices that help the blind and visually impaired. Unfortunately Neville himself must be brain-dead, because I have tried everything I can think of to get off their mailing lists, short of a lawsuit.
And my attempts to get off their mailing list have been going on for years. They just won't take 'no' for an answer. I have spoken to Neville's wife (about 3 years ago), I have filled in the form on their web site, I have clicked the "unsubscribe" link to obtain an error ("Database error 1146 while doing query Table 'ncteca_db1.phplist_user_blacklist_data' doesn't exist"), I have phoned their switchboard. What else must I do? Sue them for violating the ECT Act and send the guy to jail for a year?
The person sending the emails is incompetent, because the email was sent just before midnight on 1st April, advertising an event that took place earlier that day, and one that has already started today. DUH! I hope their products and service aren't as bad as their marketing.