My walk along the Singapore Formula 1 track

I finally ticked one item off my bucket list this week when I took a walk along a real life Formula 1 track.

Singapore F1 track walk

It took me a little over an hour to walk the 5 and a bit km after work. I stuck as close as I could to the track, but along the start/finish line on the east side it was closed off. They were taking down the seating for the Chinese New Year parade. I had to jump a fence and duck in and out and get a photo:

From our office at the Raffles tower (at the marker on the above map) you get a good view of half the track. I’m trying to swing it so I can be here for the next race and watch it live.

The worst travel companion

I recently completed a work trip to the States to get a bit of training. I flew to San Francisco via Melbourne on a beautiful QANTAS A380. It’s quiet, stable, and just a delight to travel on. I sat next to some goth chick who never said ‘peep’. I hope to travel with her sometime in the future so we can not talk for the whole trip again.

But, on the way back I traveled on an older QANTAS 747-400. Don’t get me wrong, these are nice aircraft, but they’re a little noisier and more susceptible to turbulence. I sprung a little extra for an Exit Seat, which meant pretty much infinite leg room since I could stretch out and not touch anything, a blessing of unimaginable joy when you’re 6 foot 4. In fact if I stacked my pillows just right I could lie flat, only at a slight angle.

I took my seat and greeted my travel companion to my right. His name was Mark. We exchanged stories on where we we from and where we were going. “I’m heading home,  I was doing some computer training for my job” was all I really wanted to share, and was pretty much what I was expecting in return.

But Mark offered more. The story of how he got on this particular aircraft seemed to begin with his birth, and meandered around via his childhood and youth. I tuned out, nodding occasionally to feign interest only picking up that he was a bodybuilding hairdresser originally from Lebanon. After what seemed like a few hours of this tedium I checked my watch, hoping that we’d be landing soon. No such luck. We were still on the tarmac, suffering from some delay in taking off. This wasn’t to be my only inconvenience in this ordeal.

The girl on my left, it turns out, was a doctor. She was Australian, returning home from a friend’s wedding. Fair enough, nice to meet you, see you at the other end.

Once we got in the air, Mark asked me if I managed to sleep on aircraft. I don’t travel very well, not well at all. I don’t really ever manage to sleep, that I know of, and generally feel like I’ve been hit around the head and body with a bag of oranges for the whole trip by the time I disembark. Mark told me he’d give me some ‘sleepers’ to get me through the trip. “Sleepers?”, I asked. He reached under his seat and produced a small gym bag CHOCK FULL TO THE BRIM of tablets. There were tablets in unmarked clear plastic lunch bags, tablets in screw-top containers, and tablets spilling onto the ground.

I asked him how he gets through airports with so many tablets. “Nah, they’re looking for stuff like cocaine. Not my stuff”.

Mark offered me some small yellowish tablets. He said they were Valium, marked with 25, which I’m guessing was the dosage in milligrams. I took it and looked at the doctor. She nodded, indicating she recognised the pills. I told Mark I might take one of these later if I felt tired, thanks very much. Mark said the Valium would relax me, but then if I wanted to go to sleep I’d need some of these other tablets, larger white ones. I can’t remember what he called them.

I met eyes with the doctor chick and she gave me an almost imperceptible shake of the head, and a wild “not if you value your life” look in her eyes. I thanked Mark, and told him I’d consider one of these if I really was feeling awful.

He pulled out three other lots of tablets, with names along the lines of Rizoplam, Nomonugex and other gibberish. I declined each of these, not wanting to make it look like I was totally relying on the doctor.

And so the trip continued. After the seatbelt light turned off, Mark got up and opened the overhead locker, spilling the contents onto my head. He had another bag of drugs which he took down. For the next few hours he sat in between the rows of seats, blocking access to the staff and passengers, and counted his pills over and over. He did this for about four hours.

It was dinner time, so the stewardesses really needed him to take a seat so they could get the drinks trolley past him. He gave up counting, stuffed his bags under his seat (and some under mine) and we were served our choice of a hot chicken or cold fish meal.

Now, when most people finish their meal they hang onto their trays and wait for the stewardesses to come and retrieve them. But not our Mark. He was intent on getting rid of his and getting as soon as he finished. Since we were in Exit seats, we didn’t have tables which fold down from the seat in front, but rather extended out from long arms from under our own seats. Mark tried holding his tray in one hand and folding his table back under the seat with the other and managed to spill half his rubbish onto my lap. I suggested waiting for the cute girls whose job it was to clear all this away to come and get his tray, but he really wanted out of his seat.

Once he was out of his seat, I thought he might casually walk over to the staff with the meal trolley and hand it over. But no. He stepped into the galley, opened a cupboard and threw the tray and the contents in, snapping the door shut with a “job well done” grin. He sat back down, put his own custom headphones around his neck, jacked up the volume, popped a handful of pills and fell asleep. I have no idea why he turned the music on, given that they headphones weren’t on his ears, but I was just glad he was sitting still and not shuffling about making an annoyance of himself.

This gave me the opportunity to talk to the doctor about the pills he had. The Valium, she said, weren’t too harmful but the dosage was fairly high. If I wasn’t used to taking them already, then 5-10mg might be OK. The others he showed me were extremely high dosages, not something she’d recommend to someone who didn’t have a pre-existing medical need for them. One of them doubled as an anti-psychotic prescribed in jails and such for hard core violent criminals with mental issues. Another, she was sure, was used on horses for muscle building. I decided then that upsetting Mark may not be a good idea, and the doctor agreed.

Meanwhile, a stewardess looked at us wondering where all the rubbish in the galley came from. We pointed at Mark, and she rolled her eyes.

So, despite Mark waking a couple hours later and elbowing me in the head when he stretched out, and despite lots of other inconsiderate behaviour I didn’t take out my frustrations on him. I suffered through my 14 hours, happy to make it back to Australian soil, knowing that I was that much closer to being reunited with my family.

How to not post a Facebook status

I’ve been hitting the gym, lately. Our new offices are in a residential high rise building with a pool, a spa and a small gym. There’s a few different machines there, but I’m old-school and mostly stick to the dumbbells and the inclined bench, along with the bike to warm up and warm down. I’ve been working out during my lunch breaks in an effort to get a bit healthier and to lose my big fat gut that’s been developing over the last couple years. I’m half expecting to give birth to an alien chest burster one of these days.

Anyhow, last Friday I decided to blast my calves by performing Standing Calf Raises, where you find a small step or around two inches, place your toes on that step and then raise the rest of your body up that step using only your calves. I remember from my younger days that I had really good calves and could do Standing Calf Raises while carrying 90kg on my shoulders. No other muscle group was ever quite as strong as my calves. I was proud of my calves.

So, remembering this, and remembering that I’m a old, fat, unfit, baldy bastard I decided to take it easy and gently ease into my calf routine. I settled on picking up 15kg dumbbells in each hand for a total of 30kg extra weight while making sure to warm them up, stretch them out and cool the down afterwards. I blasted away at them for 20 mins or so and felt pretty good about it after I’d hit the showers.

The next day I was a little sore all over as you’d expect, but Sunday was torture. In fact for the better part of a week it felt like my calves were 3 inches shorter than they should be and just would’t stretch out enough to allow me to walk. Standing was painful, and I hobbled around like an old man for a few days.

But it was around Wednesday when a friend of mine spotted me at the train station waiting for the train home, headphones on and eyes closed. I was most likely listening to Echoes by Pink Floyd trying to dull the slow throb I was experiencing after forcing my legs to carry me the few blocks from my office to the train station.

I felt an intense flash of pain shoot down my leg from the back of my knee all the way to my heel. I thought someone had taken a flying Karate side kick at my calves, but it turned out I’d only been lightly poked behind the knee in an attempt to unbalance me. I squealed in pain, and half the people on the platform stared at me. I was quite embarrassed.

And now we get to the point of the story. I scolded my friend who, to be fair, didn’t know the ordeal I’d been going through. But then I thought to myself “I’ll show you. Wait until I tell the Internet about this”. I got onto my phone and posted this:

It wasn’t until I’d pressed “save” that I paused and thought to myself that I could have worded it a little better. I mean on the face of it, this looks pretty serious right?

I swear it was about 15 seconds later that my phone started ringing. It was the Imperial March from Star Wars, the one I use for Suzanne’s incoming calls. It was then that I knew that it was a poor choice of words for a status update, and I should have known that Suzanne would read it straight away since she’s always on Facebook. I got chewed out, and dreaded going home because I knew I’d get a bollicking late into the night.

A couple people also Tweeted at me, asking if I was alright. HTC Sense also posts to twitter, conveniently, and it seems Suzanne wasn’t the only one concerned for my welfare. I was able to pull the Tweet easily enough after explaining that it was a joke gone wrong, but I had to wait until I got home to delete it from Facebook.

At one point I thought of adding an update along the lines of “I got assaulted at home. No security around to help me”, but thought better of it. I guess the lesson here is that I need to think more clearly about what I post. Even though I post joke statuses for a living, it might not be that funny sometimes.

Which is cheaper: Regular or Premium Unleaded fuel?

The table below represents all the fuel I’ve bought for my little car for almost the last 12 months:

I only use my car to drive between my home and the local train station, and occasionally I pick the kids up from sports after work. Other than four traffic lights and expected annual weather/temperature changes there isn’t a lot of variance in conditions. Sometimes I’ll get all four lights green, sometimes all four will be red. Of course stopping and starting light this effects mileage. I try to run my car to as close to empty as I dare and then fill it to the brim every time, although sometimes I break this pattern by necessity.

Given this data I want you to tell me if it’s cheaper for me to run my car on Regular Unleaded (highlighted in green) or Premium Unleaded (in yellow) which can be anywhere from 2c to 10c more per liter, or even if a solution exists.

I’m not interested in fuel use. I don’t care if I use more volume of one fuel than the other per kilometer. I want to use less dollars per kilometer.

I’ve discussed this with some workmates who have come up with various results, all of which are a bit wishy washy for my liking. For example, it was found that I seem to be buying my Premium Unleaded cheaper than the Regular, on average. I guess this is because I was buying more Premium before Christmas when it less expensive than Regular is now.

If you take simple averages, then it’s costing me 35c per 100km less when I run on Premium than when I run on Regular. But I don’t think it’s that simple, and I don’t quite know how to go about it.

Any mathematicians out there want to give me a hand with this? Never mind the whole “if you don’t run your car on the right fuel it harms your engine and costs longer in the long term” red herring. I just want to know which is the cheaper fuel per kilometer traveled.

The A380 is a fine aircraft

My new favourite mode of transportation is the Airbus A380. I got the last QANTAS Sydney to San Francisco direct flight when I left for the states a couple weeks ago, which left only LA to Sydney on the way back and happened to add 10 hours to my journey when you throw in having to wait around in terminals for connecting flights. The trip was made so much easier, though, by the fantastic A380.

I was a bit naughty and turned my GPS on when leaving LAX and found that between takeoff and reaching cruising altitude we have climbed at an average of about 45 degrees. I didn’t ever think that most commercial aircraft climbed that fast. The A380 has a higher cruising altitude than other aircraft such as Boeing 747s and this allows for a smoother ride with less turbulence. Also, this aircraft is surprisingly quiet. It was like traveling in a quiet car which made it easier to keep rested. Mercifully the seat next to me was empty so I was able to stretch a leg over. Let me tell you, and extra couple inches makes all the difference when you’re a 6 foot 4 dude on an aircraft.

I was able to catch some nice video of contrails forming off our wings.

Throw him in the Hole

I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, but have never managed to do a lot of sightseeing I’ve wanted to do. This time around I finally took a little trip out to Alcatraz!

All I know about Alcatraz is from movies like Escape From Alcatraz, The Rock and Birdman of Alcatraz. In reality, I didn’t expect it to be anything like these movies, but what really impressed me was how accurately it had been modelled in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 on PS2.

I must admit, though, that the solitary confinement cells look particularly effective. Perhaps I should threaten my kids with something like this when they’re being particularly trying.

Snow in San Francisco

According to reports, I might be here for an historical occasion. It’s actually supposed to snow here in the Bay Area. It has been unseasonably cold here especially over the last weekend. I really hope it does!

Went and played some basketball in Oakland today. I remember the last time I was here watching the local news channel and they’d have the nightly murder count for Oakland, right after the weather. This little place we went to was a nice area though.