kennymatic

Life through food, fun and fotos

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The inconvenience of flats

A flat tire while driving is a fairly irregular thing during regular driving through the city. Riding a bike along the shoulders/bike lanes of industrial roads is a different matter though especially through the wet months here in Metro Vancouver.

When I started riding a bike to work last year I started in early September. We were at the tail end of another stellar summer and I managed to get over three weeks of rain free riding in. One thing I discovered once it started raining was that rain tends to carry more debris onto the shoulders of the road and leaves it here. It didn’t take long after that for me to get my first flat tire.

I had repaired flats in the past so this wasn’t a big deal the first time it happened. The big difference for me is that this is the first time I had to repair flats for the sake of commuting. Repairing a flat so you can go for a leisurely ride is one thing. Repairing a flat so you can get to work or back home is a completely different exercise.

Here are a few things you should carry to be prepared for handling a flat while riding/commuting:

  • a means of re-inflating your tire – either a mini hand pump (Topeak Mini G MasterBlaster Bike Pump with Gauge) or CO2 canister (Planet Bike Air Kiss CO2 Bike Tire Inflator)
  • a spare tube – it’s easier to simply replace the tube while you’re on the go than to try to patch it especially if it’s dark or/and raining
  • a patch kit – you will rarely ever need this on a commute but for the long haul rides having backup doesn’t hurt
  • tire levers – these things will make getting the tire off your wheel much easier – but NEVER use them to pry your tire back on, it is fully possible to get your tires back on your wheel without prying them on with tire levers. There’s a pretty good chance that the tube will get pinched while prying your tire on with tire levers

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re changing the tube:

  • Once you get your tire and tube off, take some time to inspect your tire/tube for the cause of the flat, there’s no point fixing the flat if there’s still a metal sliver, shard of glass or thorn still stuck in the tire which will give you another flat as oon as you get going again
  • DO NOT use your tire levers to pry the tire back on to the rim, tires can be a pain to mount on the rim but it is possible to do so without prying them on. Anytime a tire is pried on to a wheel with levers there is a chance the tube will get pinched, effectively causing another puncture before you even get going, or compromising the tube, resulting in another flat in the near future

You should always be prepared for a flat while riding especially if there’s a chance that you’ll end up stranded. I had to call my wife for rescue more than once because the bus that runs along my route stops running after a certain time. But the better alternative is to not get a flat at all which is what we’ll discuss in the next post.

So I started riding a bike to the office

OK so this isn’t really new, in fact it’s been happening for almost a year now so I figured enough experience had been gathered to talk about the decision in a bit more detail. Last August at a family gathering my uncle had mentioned getting a new bike. This conversation got me thinking a bit about how I used to do quite a bit of riding on my Specialized Rockhopper and how it would be nice to do some riding again. Unfortunately this thought didn’t last too long.

Soon after that event a blog post a from a fellow Twitter user, SnarkySteff, caught my eye. “My Topsy Turvy Love Affair with Cycling” got me wondering about how cycling could change my life. Soon after Steff published another post about “Cycling: Why You Should Start & How“, and that really got me thinking about things that I could be doing on my bike instead of taking the car all the time. I was almost convinced that I should make the move and acquire a bike. Once again other more “important” things got in the way and I lost focus.

Labour Day rolled around and kids everywhere were back at school. This meant that thousands of extra cars would be flooding the arteries to ferry kids to the no stopping areas at their schools (what happened to the time when everyone just walked?). My commute by car the first day back to school was relatively routine. The second day, someone managed to get into an accident on the East/West Connector (highway that connects New Westminster and Richmond, BC) on the S-curve. Usually any accident on the connector turns traffic flow into gridlock and this occasion was no different. My usual <25 minute commute had ballooned to close to 45 minutes. Sitting in the car on the connector I watched a cyclist breeze by along Westminster Hwy and I thought to myself, "That could be me". I started to look at bike options later that afternoon.

The next day, somehow, the exact same thing happened and once again my commute was a nightmare. While sitting in traffic I was convinced that this was unacceptable. I was going to get a bike and ride to work. After some searching I decided that my best bet would be a Brodie Energy (hybrid). I put in the order and I would have my bike within a few days. I managed to get stuck in standstill traffic a few more times before the bike was finally ready for pickup. This experience validated my decision to start riding to the office.

A few things were still needed before I could ride to work: helmet, riding gloves, hand pump, and a patch kit. In addition to acquiring the bare necessities I also made preparations at the office by dropping off some necessities like a pair of shoes, a change of cloths, toiletries and a towel. I have to say my office is so well equipped for cyclists I couldn’t believe I didn’t start doing this sooner. We have a secured bike room, a change room, lockers and showers.

Brodie Energy

Brodie Energy

The cycling route to the office is pretty good with a dedicated bike route the whole way. I had concerns about one stretch where the bike lane shared the road with big trucks but when I did get around to riding to the office on the first day (September 11) the ride went well and without incident. Even though it took almost 45 minutes, that time was spent pedalling away and not cursing at sitting in standstill traffic.

Timed with RunKeeper

Timed with RunKeeper

The original plan was just to ride once or twice a week. I ended up riding three times in the first week and since the first ride to the office I’ve done another 295 commutes by bike to total over 4,200kms. Some weeks I would ride all five days. The only days that I drive are days where I need to get to some appointment or dinner where it wouldn’t be practical to be all wet or sweaty. It’s been mostly great the whole way, with just a few inconveniences involving flat tires. I hope to share more of my experiences about riding with you in future posts.

Safari, I’m breaking up with you.

Late this summer when iOS 6 was released I did something a little crazy and completely switched my default web browser over to Safari from Chrome. I was already liking the Reader mode that was introduced in iOS 5 and with all the new iCloud features I thought the shared bookmarks and tabs between Mountain Lion and iOS would be the future. For a while things were great. Being able to see my Reading List, bookmarks and open tabs from any of my Macs or iOS devices was really convenient.

But in the last few weeks something started becoming more and more apparently, Safari is ridiculously slow. I have a modest 2011 iMac with an i5, no SSD, but I do have 24GB of RAM. And on more complicated websites, Safari could come to a crawl when scrolling lots of content. Loading less complex pages seemed ‘slower than it should be’. Even navigating backward/forward through previously loaded pages was sluggish, especially going back.

So today I thought enough was enough and I loaded up Chrome on my iMac for the first time since fall. And I have to admit defeat. Chrome just works. No beach balling, no spiking CPU usage, no waiting, everything just loads properly. Google also introduced synced tabs back in May 2012, which was technically a few months before iCloud tabs was available so I don’t lose that feature. Tabs that I have opened on my iOS devices will be available on my Macs and even work PC and vice versa.

The only real issue with using Chrome on iOS is iOS doesn’t allow you to change your default browser but for now that’s just something I’ll have to live with because Chrome on iOS makes Safari look really dated and Chrome on OSX just runs circles around Safari.

Dinner Club – ChongQing on Kingsway – Review

Dinner Club – ChongQing edition

This 2012 February Edition of Dinner Club, selection by Ann, had us visiting ChongQing Szechuan in Burnaby. Since Anny is currently galivanting through the concrete and steel jungle of NYC I ended up with the task of putting out a review of our experience at Chong Qing. This Burnaby location is the third of the ChongQing restaurants and has been open for just over two months now. The location is smaller but could potentially still seat larger parties. But be aware there are only about eight parking spaces in the parking lot. Additional street parking is available on Kingsway.

The menu is divided into appetizer, dim sum/pastry, soup, seafood, chicken, duck, pork, beef, vegetable, egg, tofu, noodle soup, noodles and fried rice sections. Like most other Asian restaurants there was a large selection of items to pick from.

Our final menu item picks included, Moo Shu with Crepes (pork), hot and sour soup, fried green beans, Szechuan fried rice, Chong Qing beef and deep fried spicy tofu. The hot and sour soup came out first and each dish started coming out soon after at a fast and furious pace.

Hot and sour soup

The hot and sour soup was fairly standard with the usual suspects of shrimp, tofu, bamboo shoots, wood ear and an unexpected group of button mushrooms. We all definitely agreed that the soup was spicy enough, but both Angela and I thought that there was a bitter taste to the soup that we just couldn’t appreciate. I’m guessing the bitterness came from the overcooked wood ear or it could have been the slightly tough bamboo shoots.

Moo shu pork

The Moo Shu pork with crepes was the most popular dish of the night. The crepes were nicely steamed and wrapped the Moo Shu pork nicely without breaking up. The only problem with the dish was the half order only came with four crepes, we added an extra crepe for $0.30 but even then there was probably enough Moo Shu filling left to fill two or three more crepes. The filling would also go well with plain rice but we thought the highlight of the dish was actually the crepe and to run out so soon was a little disappointing. Although, running out of wraps like this is fairly standard in Asian dishes. Eg. who wouldn’t wish they’d get more Peking Duck wraps?

Fried green beans

The fried green beans Szechuan style were well cooked, the beans in this dish can be over cooked at times. Angela claimed this was her favourite dish of the bunch but she also thought that wasn’t saying much, believes she’s had better at S&W Pepper House.

Chong Qing beef

The Chong Qing beef was served on a bed of flash fried greens (we think it was baby spinach). The flash fried greens were great (what isn’t great when it’s fried) when they were fresh but being as delicate as they were they became soggy fast, either a result of the beef being overly saucy or us not eating fast enough. It was a agreed that the beef was tender but I found the amount of sauce a bit over powering.

Spicy tofu

The deep fried spicy tofu probably the least talked about dish. Both Angela and Ann thought it lacked flavour. I will concur that it was definitely not spicy but didn’t think it was too bad overall. My only issue with the tofu was that it didn’t quite have that crispiness to the outer fried surface.

Szechuan fried rice

Last but not least was the Szechuan fried rice with chicken and shrimp. Personally it was my favourite dish of the night because of the Szechuan spice and “al dente” preparation as Morten described it. While Morten claimed that the rice was cooked properly, he also claimed that it was annoying to eat off the plate with a pair of chopsticks. Angela thought the rice wasn’t cooked enough and felt that it didn’t “clump” properly. There’s no way to please everyone in this Dinner Club sometimes.

While not all the dishes were perfect Chong Qing does offer another decent Szechuan choice in the Metrotown area. The dining room is bright and clean, the tea has an addictive hint of lychee to it and the service was very attentive. I’m hoping it was just an off night for the hot and sour soup.

Dinner Club Score: 4/5

4/5

I’m still using my Nexus S

That’s not to say that I was hugely disappointed with the iPhone 4S announcement. OK, I was a little bit. But after getting over the fact that the body wasn’t redesigned I was quite pleased with the refresh of its innards. But this post isn’t about the iPhone 4S.

Since my last post I have chewed through no fewer than four different custom ROMs for my Nexus S.

The List

The Results

SuperAOSP – based mostly on stock Gingerbread with a few hints of Cyanogenmod I thought this was going to be the game changer ROM for me. It helped me save my phone from the OTA update that silenced my mobile radio and it had all the features I was looking for. Unfortunately after less than a week I found that the phone as becoming less and less responsive. During a weekend in Seattle I found that I could probably MAKE a coffee while waiting for my phone’s camera to start up. Reminding me of Phil Schiller’s jab at Android phones during the iPhone 4S keynote.

Cyanogenmod 7.1 – determined to address the performance issue I discovered that CM7.1 had finally been released. I tried CM on several occasions but ended at the same result each time. My Nexus S would freeze over night, the result, no alarm to wake me up in the morning. This seems to be a common issue with Nexus S phones running CM and I was hoping it was finally addressed in 7.1. After running the ROM for four days I thought all was well. Unfortunately on the fifth night I awoke to a fully awake, fully frozen phone in the middle of the night. This was completely unacceptable as I was depending on the phone’s alarm to wake me early the next morning. The phone proceeded to lock up nightly for the next three days. That was the end of my CM stint. Again.

MIUI – I had avoided MIUI up until this point simply because I thought its design was pointless. Why would you want a launcher that looked just like iOS but not quite? I finally caved to MIUI because I was running out of ROM options. I was pleasantly surprised at MIUI, with a launcher unlike anything I have experienced on Android, bundled applications, completely redesigned settings menu, and easily customizable themes. And on top of it all everything was very pretty. The one issue with the stock MIUI ROM was it was missing support for some key apps such as DSP Manager. After three days of use I also found that the phone would become laggy. A reboot fixed promptly fixed that. I’m still wondering if the lagginess has something to do with the apps that I use.

Brainmaster’s MIUI – The random sluggishness of MIUI prompted me to give this tweaked MIUI ROM a go. I’m only one day in so far but EVERYTHING up to this point is working wonderfully. The question is will it stay this week for more than a week. The Brainmaster MIUI ROM includes a number of performance optimisations for the overall system, phone app, launcher and camera. It also includes DSP Manager, built in ad blocking, Google Music, a kick ass music player, Titanium BackUp and more.

My Nexus S with MIUI

In short I’m VERY happy with the way the Nexus S is running right this moment with Brainmaster’s MIUI ROM. The main question is will it stay that way? Hopefully yes. I was one lock up away from giving up on the Nexus S while I was running Cyanogenmod and fully ready to pay full retail for a new iPhone 4S. With some luck Brainmaster’s MIUI will help me save a couple of hundred bucks.

UPDATE: OK so two oddities to report. I’m not sure if these had anything to do with the ROM or not. On Saturday, Oct. 22nd, evening my phone went into a continuous reboot cycle just as I was fiddling with an Android Pro Widget (twitter) which resulted in me having to pull the battery. And then again on Sunday, Oct. 23rd, the phone rebooted randomly (single reboot, not a loop) as I was doing something in the Flickr app. I don’t know if these reboots had anything to do with the ROM. But so far I’m still VERY happy with the phone’s performance and behavior, with the exception of the reboots.

Android and the road back to iOS

T’was the night before Xmas, I mean “Let’s talk iPhone”. In less than 12 hours Apple will reveal to the tech world why the next version of the iPhone has taken 16 months to be unveiled. There is a lot riding on the “Let’s talk iPhone” event for Apple. It will be Tim Cook’s first keynote presentation since taking the reigns as Apple’s CEO, iOS 5 (should) will be close to release with more features to show off, a potential “world changing” assistant might make an appearance, and the biggest iPhone question of 2011 will finally be answered, will there be an iPhone 4S or 5, or both?

As crazy as it sounds the nights before Apple keynotes are always like Christmas Eve for me, possibly even more so this time around. After six months on the Android (Nexus S) wagon I may be ready for a hop back to iOS.

Nexus S

A bad experience with the Android OTA update system last week going up to 2.3.6 nearly made the trip back to iOS a certainty. Someone somewhere either at Rogers or Google screwed up and I’m almost certain that the the wrong version of the 2.3.6 update was pushed to my phone. The end result was an immediate loss of network connectivity. There are plenty of other people with similar experiences here, here, here and here. In short, the firmware pushed to my version of the Nexus S had the wrong baseband which resulted in a non-functioning cellular radio.

Prior to this OTA mishap my Android experience had already been above mediocre at best. The proximity sensor was severely buggy, Exchange support was sketchy, managing background services was a pain, finding a launcher that had the features I wanted and didn’t chew through system memory was a chore, performance was up and down, and battery life was almost worse than my old iPhone 3G.

Ironically it was the same OTA mishap that led me to find a new custom ROM for my phone, SuperAOSP, that actually fixed a number of the above issues (Exchange support is still mediocre).

Android definitely isn’t iOS. As an OS it is much more complete. With all of the widgets, background apps and apps you can add it provides much more power over iOS. But with all the things that can be done on Android that many more things can go wrong. An OTA update shouldn’t kill my cellular service. I shouldn’t have to go through four different launchers to find one that performs well. I shouldn’t have to hunt down a custom ROM to fix trivial issues. I just want the phone to work.

While I’m hoping Tim Cook makes the world “Oohh and ahhhh” tomorrow I have this feeling we’re only going to see an “iPhone 4S”. But if there is an iPhone 5, I might have to pull a few monetary strings (break the bank) and go for an early upgrade.

Portable LEGO

A little over a month ago I participated in my second photo marathon. Contestants of the 12×12 Vancouver Photo-marathon were required to take a series of twelve photos on a roll of supplied twelve exposure film. Each photo had to satisfy a theme announced at the top of the hour with all twelve photos being exposed in the same order in which the themes were announced.

Keeping with my fascination with LEGO I decided to do my second photo-marathon with scenes of LEGO minifigs. The difference this year was that I took the LEGO on the road with scenes involving the real world. This meant my LEGO collection had to become a lot more portable.

I managed to survive hauling the following (basic 4×2 and 2×1 bricks, minifig accessories, prebuilt props, and some 100+ minifigs), around for 12+ hours (albeit being quite sore the following day):
Portable LEGO

Perogies!

Good perogies, dumplings traditionally stuffed with potato, cheese, sauerkraut, or meat filling, can be hard to come by if you don’t have the right hookups. OK that may be a bit of an exaggeration but one place to have a great perogie meal is at Friday Night Supper at the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Vancouver.

Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral

On the first of every month the church holds a supper between 5 – 8pm, open to the public offering a selection of Ukrainian foods, with pyrohy (perogies) as the main event. The supper is prepared by volunteers of the parish and serves as the main fund raiser church.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Volunteers

The perogie dinners come in both standard and vegetarian options with cabbage rolls, sauerkraut or salad and with optional sausage and sour cream. Borsch with rye bread and dessert (black forest cake on the night I went) are also on the menu. Overall the perogies, sauerkraut and sausage were great. The rice in the cabbage rolls seemed a tad overcooked for my tastes. Would I still go back? Most definitely.

Regular Dinner

Get there early as there have been stories of them running out of food and there always seems to be a lineup. Bring some friends and be prepared to share a table with strangers. Its a great communal eating experience.

Lineup for Friday Night Supper

2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Riot Disappointment

Yesterday, June 15, the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs finally came to an end for the Vancouver Canucks. For just over two months I, and I assume a majority of this city, were on an emotional roller coaster ride as we followed our team through the highs and lows of a lengthy NHL playoff run.

The daily routine was interrupted as social events were all of a sudden were set aside in favor of the Canucks’ playoff schedule. As the playoffs wore on each win was followed by greater euphoria and bliss and each loss was followed by disparagement and near depression. It was an unhealthy cycle that was affecting my mental health.

Yesterday I was just glad it was going to come to an end. A win or loss by the Canucks would put an end to this hockey season and let me get back to a normal life. Unfortunately it was a loss and to make matters worse before the game was even over trouble had started breaking outside at the live viewing sites in downtown Vancouver. All of a sudden my own ups and downs of following the Canucks weren’t the issue anymore.

Somehow I thought the city would get through another loss of the Stanley Cup. I thought the citizens would be better than those that participated in the 1994 riot. Before I knew it the situation in downtown Vancouver went from a single burning turned over car to all out window smashing and looting. A few good Samaritans tried to stop the carnage but were quickly eliminated by the mob. The police response seemed slow but they were vastly outnumbered at the same time. It was a double blow, losing the Stanley Cup in Game 7 and then having to watch live coverage of hundreds of losers tearing up the city with thousands of gutless onlookers.

Today I’ve had the feeling of disappointment all day, not at the loss of the hockey game. But that people would have so little regard for the law and other people’s property. Smashing windows, burning cars, looting Pringles for the sake of entertainment is quite a sad sight to see. It took years to shake the reputation of the 1994 riots, 2011 will go down in history as even worse.


Photo credit: Unknown

Canucks fans downtown celebrations

Canucks Fan Celelbrating

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past seven weeks you will probably know that the Canucks have been playing in the NHL playoffs. More specifically the Canucks have started playing for the Stanley Cup as of last week. Each win has brought bigger and bigger crowds of fans together in the downtown area to celebrate. Tonight the Canucks 3-2 overtime win over the Bruins once again brought thousands of fans into the streets of downtown Vancouver. I took the opportunity to check out the celebrations downtown and they were nothing short of epic. It was like we won the 2010 Olympic Mens Hockey Gold all over again.

The celebrations are sure to get more intense with each Canucks victory. Two. More. Games.

We want the cup!

We are all Canucks

Group cheer

GO!

Bearing down

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