Bike trials.

March 29, 2011
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This year I made a point of buying the tools I needed and fixing my bike up completely by myself. Allegedly to save money.

I knew that the shifting needed to be tuned, but more significantly the rear wheel was bent. My chain had already broken twice at the end of last season, so that was on the replacement list. Examining the teeth on my cogs though, they seemed. (Not a surprise, I was terrible with maintenance on this bike so the chain aged considerably faster.) Once I got started, I discovered that the rear-derailleur hanger and the derailleur itself were bent.

Determined to make up for past transgressions in maintenance, I started with a $140 stand from MEC. I’m glad I chose it over the $180 version, it’s plenty tall enough, sturdy, looks nice (in person) and quite easy to store (it becomes compact, though still fairly tall). I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without a stand, it makes all other maintenance tasks so much easier: no more cussing and frustration when the upside down bike topples over. As well, much easier access to the derailleur limit screws.

I then spent $40 at Canadian Tire on car wash detergent, sponges, brushes, rags, steel-wool, grease and touch-up paint and followed these guides and washed three years of crap out of it … in my living room. My building doesn’t really have any kind of facilities or place for doing this kind of thing. I did the wheels in Heather’s bathtub. To my credit, she was only suspicious because the tub was scrubbed cleaner than it was. I expect to be doing this in friends’ driveways once it’s nicer out.

Anyway, though I had to be careful with dripping, I was surprised at how easy it was, and how shiny and new even the cogs looked after I was done. While I had several gouges in my frame, no rust had formed thankfully. I sealed them up again with touch-up paint. I just discarded the chain.

I used this $80 stand to true the rear wheel. This was surprisingly quick and straight-forward. I’m pretty sure the reason everything was bent in the first place was because of my building’s terrible storage situation where I’m required to keep my bike in a bike-rack in a packed communal room. I’m pretty sure the derailleur and wheel got bent from my lovely neighbours shoving my bike out of the way. I figure I’ll have to fix the wheel somewhat often. I need to write the building management and try to figure out some better solution.

Other expenses at this point were $15 on a chain and $5 on a degreaser from MEC.

As I started tuning the bike following these guides, I discovered that the entire rear-derailleur system was bent. The hanger and the derailleur itself. Shifting to the lowest gear would actually insert the derailleur into my wheel. As well, the lower jockey wheel (the little gears that pick up chain slack) was seized unless I unscrewed it’s bolt a bit. After consulting some sources, I decided that I was best taking this to the shop, that I wasn’t going to buy the $50 tool for repairing the hanger myself.

It turned out to be a $4 part and $9 of labour at Curbside Cycles. I asked about the mangled looking derailleur and seized-if-I-tighten-it jockey wheel, but was told it was supposed to be like that. Righto. My bike was otherwise functioning great until my second ride to work, where the rear derailleur completely fell apart and launched the jockey wheel somewhere into traffic. Shit.

$70 (inc. tax) later for a new derailleur at Sweet Pete’s, shockingly easy to install myself. I did struggle to finally get it perfectly in tune, but it just came down to yanking the cabling through it with enough strength.

The bike now works possibly even better than when it was new.

Last weekend I also added $30 fenders from MEC. BUT THAT’S IT.



So that works out to about $430 tax-in. I’m looking at 5 months of biking almost every single day to work to break even at the end of August. Obviously I save more for any extra trips. The tools I acquired should also last forever so I’ll be ahead of the game in all future years. Even the consumables will last a long time.

2011/03/30 edit: I had a stupid accident with my helmet (not while wearing it), though really it was due for replacement anyway. Another $70. Lost a winter glove at a party and the mornings are still too cold to ride with bare hands. $50 for cool-weather biking gloves. $136 together with tax for a new grand total of $566 to recoup.


The 4-Hour Body + food log

March 28, 2011

The 4-Hour Body is a new book by Tim Ferriss, or at least it was new when I first started writing this post at the end of last year

I bought it because I liked the excerpts I read on Gizmodo. I’m extremely pleased with it and endorse it wholeheartedly, though there is some weird stuff that is probably safe to ignore. Word of warning though: it’s a massive tome. You only need to read small sections at a time (concentrate on one goal at a time), but it’s a little impractical to carry around because of how unwieldy it is in hardcover. I wish I’d bought an e-book version, but originally thought this might be something I’d want to share with people. I frankly want to keep it all to myself, hah.

Back in December, I’d barely started with the recommended diet, but switching to only eating legumes for carbs had made an immediate difference in my wakefulness and alertness. The difference was night and day. I was often still sleeping like crap, but I was vastly more productive during the days. I also lost a significant amount of weight pretty quickly.

Since though, I started falling into bad habits again. While most of my meals are still of the protein+legumes+vegetables variety, I’d started eating junk food again as well.

So it’s time to get back on the wagon. Since willpower didn’t work, I’m trying one of the weirder ideas in the book: take a picture of food before you eat it, and better yet, post it somewhere to keep yourself honest. We all carry cameras around with us on our phones nowadays so it’s simple. The idea works in embarrassment and potential shame ha. Do you really want to take a picture of a hamburger? And it helps to have people keep you honest.

So that said, my food log can be found at:

I’ve set up WordPress to not post those to the main page. For some reason the photos don’t show up until you actually open each entry. I’ll figure that out.



The kind of spam a crappy neglected blog gets

February 23, 2011

Real posts coming soon I swear!


Chapterhouse + Ulrich Schnauss + Fjord Rowboat: Lee’s Palace on 06/10/2010

November 14, 2010

Fjord Rowboat 2Only a month late on this.

Less than a week after James, I got to see the greatest complete line-up I’d ever seen: Locals Fjord Rowboat, and my all-time favourite electronica wizard, Ulrich Schnauss, opened for classic shoegazers, Chapterhouse.

A friend I was going with knew Fjord Rowboat personally, and he gave me their albums a couple weeks in advance so I would know what I was in for.  Their albums were outstanding.  They could easily qualify as a major-label act.  I got a mid-career Catherine Wheel vibe out of them.  A particular stand-out track was Paragon (Click to listen).  The only thing is maybe they were a little too similar sounding to those early 90s shoegazer bands (of which Chapterhouse qualifies as too), but it was great to hear here and now.


Fjord Rowboat 3

Regardless, it was the first time in ages I actually wanted to see an opening act.  They played as if they’d been doing this for years.  Everything sounded and looked great.  Nice equipment too, which they were actually lending to Chapterhouse.

Ulrich Schnauss is someone I discovered a couple years ago courtesy of my brother, and Kim at Penguin Music, and just became completely infatuated with his music.  Chapterhouse was an influence to his sound, and Schnauss has often tried to bring the indie aesthetic to electronic music.  (Check out Goodbye: I think he succeeds incredibly well there.  Previous albums are more pure electronics and more ambient.)  Reviews of the event (see bottom) have alluded or mentioned that Schnauss was actually largely responsible for this reunion tour.

Ulrich Schnauss 1

Unfortunately, his set did not seem to go over particularly well with the crowd.  They were there for guitars, and he just sat at his computer mixing in Ableton Live, occasionally throwing in a live keyboard accompaniment.  He played a long time and people seemed to start getting bored.  I heard several remarks about how he could have just hit ‘play’ and left the stage.  He had visuals of European cities and vistas shot from a moving vehicle, but the screen was too large for the Lee’s stage and sat off-kilter behind drums and other equipment.  The effect was much better when I saw him perform at The Rivoli three years ago.  He should tour with a vocalist.

I knew all his albums backwards and forwards yet the only track I recognised was Never Be The Same, the introduction to Goodbye.  I managed to catch a clip:

Before publishing under his own name, he’s been known as ‘View To The Future’ and ‘Ethereal 77’ and probably several other names I’m not aware of.  I recorded the following because I absolutely loved the sound of it, but I have no idea what it is.   I don’t know if it’s coming to a forthcoming album, or if he was just mixing some of his older music:

And then came Chapterhouse.  To be honest, as slick and amazing as their albums were, I didn’t know what to expect from a reunion tour 20 years later.  I walked in completely blind.  (YouTube footage had actually scared me off from going to go see The Happy Mondays, but they are a special case…)

Chapterhouse 1Chapterhouse 4Chapterhouse 3

I was completely blown away.  The years had been entirely kind to them, though it certainly helped that the band were only in their very early 20s when Whirlpool first came out.  They still looked reasonably youthful, but more importantly sounded amazing; their voices still sounded syrupy and young.

It was a vastly better experience than seeing shoegazer legends, My Bloody Valentine was.  I guess it was my fault for not doing my research before, but I had been unaware that MBV had a reputation for holding some of the world’s loudest ever concerts.  It was so insanely loud that people were passing out and vomiting in the crowd.  I was worried this was a shoegazer thing, but Chapterhouse didn’t depend on the volume gimmick, just textured swirly psychedelic, even danceable, guitars.

Chapterhouse 13

Chapterhouse 20Schnauss came back out to perform Pearl and Love Forever with the band, and once again for Inside of Me at the end of the encore.

The show was phenomenal and certainly made me re-evaluate (and raise) Chapterhouse on the scale of legends-of-shoegazer.

The rest of my photos can be found here.  Before the show I contacted the venue and asked on the Facebook and Last.FM pages if anyone knew what the camera policy was.  Andy Sherriff of Chapterhouse was kind enough to contact me and let me know the band wouldn’t mind.



Some other reviews of the event:

• Lithium Magazine
Panic Manual
GTA Music Scene

Something nifty that came out of this: the gentleman that runs noticed these photos and asked if I’d mind contributing to his blog in exchange for concert tickets. The first show I did for him was Bruce Peninsula.


James: Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on 30/09/2010

October 13, 2010

I got to see James for the second time at the end of September.   Unable to find any regulations about cameras, I brought mine in:

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I was done shooting anyway, but unfortunately security accosted me and made me put the camera away because it had “removable lenses.”  Apparently having a sub-SLR isn’t enough any longer.  The rest of the pictures I took are here.

It was unfortunate because a bunch of friends happened to get invited to dance on the stage during Laid (not my video):

The show was outstanding.  It started out with a simple, stripped down version of Sit Down (official, but non-album version video), with Tim Booth walking down the centre aisle from the back to the stage.  When I last saw them at The Phoenix two years ago, they just started with a double-speed version of Born of Frustration (nonsensical fan video), which was unfortunate because it’s my favourite track by them.  Still, at least I got to hear it once as it was the only time I got to see it live: they skipped it this time around.

Despite that minor setback, the show was phenomenal. They played a few new tracks, but lots of favourites such as Ring The Bells, Seven, Getting Away With It, Tomorrow, Stutter, Say Something, Sound, Out To Get You and Sometimes. Their newer tracks, Dust Motes, Crazy, It’s Hot, Porcupine and Tell Her I Said So went over just fine considering how quiet they were to begin with.

The only shame was that the crowd went nuts after their encore, but that was it. It almost seemed as if the band would come back with the lights dimming again, but disappointingly the venue’s piped music came on and the crew started disassembling the band’s gear.  On their blog they commented:

The show in Toronto was amazing.  The audience clapped forever, calling for endless encores.  Too bad there was a curfew…

Mr. Booth commented on Twitter:

The manager at the toronto venue said he hadn’t seen any audience make such a noise in 10 years of owning clubs.

Maybe next time they’ll choose a better venue.  The Queen Elizabeth Theatre wasn’t the worst place I’ve seen a show, but it inhibited the band.  Considering it was seated, no one I knew there complained about their view of the band, and the sound, no pun intended.  That said, the assigned seating really impeded the energy.  People really just want to be able to dance and/or make fools of themselves.

Other takes, as I discover them:

BlogTO (great photos)



Lithium Magazine (also great photos)


Jailbreaking & unlocking an iPhone 3G with any firmware and a PC

June 29, 2010

This post is mostly intended for someone to come across via Google having trouble unlocking his or her phone.  There is a tonne of misinformation and lots of scams out there.

My girlfriend had been using an unlocked 1G iPhone for a while.  That phone was locked to AT&T in the USA while she has beens using a cheap Bank of Montreal phone plan here in Canada.  She doesn’t want to pay for a data plan; she’s happy just using wi-fi on the iPhone whenever it’s available.

The 1G had started to die though, with error messages constantly popping up.  Each time the message would pop up, the screen would turn on, so the battery could only last a few hours.

She bought a used 8 GB 3G iPhone locked to Rogers to replace it, however the previous owner had updated it to official Apple iPhone firmware 3.1.3 which did several things to make unlocking it to other cellphone networks impossible.

With iPhones, there are two distinct hacks: jailbreaking means that you can run home-made software on your iPhone without needing to go through Apple’s official App Store.  Unlocking, like with any other cellphone, means that you’re not restricted to any one particular cellphone carrier.

In addition to the main iPhone operating system, (now known as “iOS” as it’s shared with the iPad), there is separate firmware that controls the modem in the phone: the part that actually connects with the cell network.  This firmware is known as the baseband.  Finally there’s a bootloader as well, which may be governed by the hardware iteration rather than software, but I’m not sure.  The jailbreak used to be mostly dependent on the operating system, the unlock used to be mostly dependent on the baseband version.  The bootloader determined whether or not you could restore your iPhone to older versions of baseband which could then be unlocked.

The sum total though was that with old hacks, it was impossible to unlock my girlfriend’s 3G iPhone to work with her cell provider.

Once iOS 4.0 was released however (June 21, 2010), the brilliant hackers that figure out how to jailbreak and unlock these things published exploits they had been withholding.  They’d been waiting for iOS 4.0 to come out to get more mileage and not waste them on an otherwise minor firmware update.  These current exploits work with ALL iPhones from 3G onwards, all basebands, and all bootloaders.

To unlock your 3G:

  1. Sync your phone with iTunes.  Make sure it creates a backup.  If it doesn’t (from ericajoy, found with Google):
    • Open iTunes
    • Go to Preferences
    • Choose the syncing option
    • Remove the iPhone backup
    • Press OK and exit Preferences
    • Sync your iPhone
  2. Update your 3G to the proper full iOS 4.0 with iTunes. It should be prompting you to whenever you connect your phone to your computer with iTunes open.
  3. Download and run Redsn0w from the Dev-Team Blog.  The earliest version that works with iOS 4.0 is 0.9.5b5-4.  (Click the Windows link on the post I linked.)
  4. It will ask you to point it to the IPSW file of your CURRENT FIRMWARE (which will be 4.0 now if you followed step 1.)  The file is called iPhone1,2_4.0_8A293_Restore.ipsw.
    • In Win7 it will be found in C:\Users\<YOUR USER NAME>\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
    • In WinXP it would be found in C:\Documents and Settings\<YOUR USER NAME>\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
    • Alternatively, you can just download it separately from a site such as this one.  (Look for the iOS 4 section at the bottom of the page and click the iPhone 3G link.)
  5. Redsn0w will take some time to process the IPSW file, then it will prompt you for some options after you hit ‘next.’
    • The option you must select is “Install Cydia.”  Cydia is the programme that installs all the non-Apple approved iPhone applications, and will be required to actually unlock the phone.
    • On the 3G I recommend you also enable the “homescreen wallpaper” and “battery percentage.” The 3G isn’t really fast enough to do multitasking well, but it’s up to you.  Leave everything else unchecked.
  6. Your iPhone should be connected to the PC already.  Turn it off by holding the power button on top, and swiping across the screen when asked to.  Hit ‘next’ and follow the rest of the on-screen instructions.  Redsn0w is going to ask you hold the power button for a few seconds, then hold the power & home button for 10 seconds, and then let go of the power button while still holding the home button for 30 seconds.  You can let go of home once the screen changes and things start happening on your phone.  If gives you another chance to do it over if you screw up.
  7. The rest of this is automated.  It can take a while to finish.  Redsn0w on your PC will soon say it’s done, that the rest takes place on your iPhone.  You can close redsn0w at this point.  I believe it took about 10 minutes for the iPhone to finish it’s business.  You now have a jailbroken iPhone 3G.
  8. To finish the process and unlock the phone, run the Cydia app on your homescreen.  It will take some time to update itself.  (Roughly five minutes.)
  9. Click on the search tab, and search for “ultrasn0w” (the “o” is a zero, like in redsn0w).
  10. Install it, and select reboot once it asks you to.  Your iPhone 3G is now unlocked.

From now on, do not install any new official Apple firmware until you’ve absolutely confirmed that you can jailbreak and unlock it.


Quick thought: iPad

April 11, 2010
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I haven’t been neglecting this blog, honest. I just can’t finish any of the articles I want to write for one reason or another.

Just a quick thought. One of the most frequently heard questions I keep seeing over and over regarding the iPad is, “Why do you need it?”  Now I have no interest in one myself — if I only casually wanted a portable PC, I’d be all over it, but I intend to go back to school eventually, and the iPad just wouldn’t cut it with its on-screen keyboard.

But I want to point out, it’s such a bullshit rhetorical technique.  Everybody knows that nobody needs anything but food, shelter, and clothes if he or she is modest.

It’s perfectly okay to want/lust after something, and it’s nobody else’s business … except maybe creditors.  I guess being an Apple fan is just a slightly more abstract hobby.


Firefox add-ons.

February 9, 2010

I think most of my techy friends have moved onto Google Chrome at this point, but I’m still a bit of a Firefox die-hard.

These are my favourite add-ons which I believe aren’t as popular as things like AdBlock, and might be of use to you.

1. The best theme I’ve come across so far is “TwentyTen

It’s modern, sleek, and uses the Win7/Vista Glass effect quite well.

2. ScrapBook – Saves webpages to your computer with a click.  It’s like bookmarking, but it actually keeps a record of the page.  It’s useful because you don’t have to worry about the page vanishing between visits.  I mostly use it to keep track of recipes, hah.

3. SpeedDial – Creates thumbnail links of your most important/frequently used webpages in new tabs (like Opera).


e-book readers.

January 22, 2010
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Procrastinating a bit from some contract work I need to get done tonight.

I’d seen Amazon Kindles in person a few times, and was absolutely blown away by the quality and legibility of the text on the screen.  I didn’t get to spend that much time with them though to really get a feel for the features.  I didn’t like how a lot of the device’s real-estate was used up by a keyboard though.

Today I spent a while with the Sony eReaders, and was surprised to find that they don’t look or feel nearly as nice as the Kindle.  They looked great in their press-shots and sounded vastly superior to me, but they felt quite cheap comparatively.  When these things are supposed to recreate the “experience of reading a book,” which detractors keep bringing up, it’s apparently a really big deal.

Speaking of e-book readers in general, the ability to change text-size I think is a killer feature.  However one thing I noticed on the Sony readers, and really disliked, was that they wouldn’t justify or typeset the text particularly well.  It’s especially obvious at larger font sizes. I don’t know whether the Kindle does this either, but it seems like it’d be a great feature to further enhance legibility.  Maybe most people don’t notice this sort of thing though.

It does make me think though that I really don’t want to be an early adopter in this instance, and it’s steeled my resolve to get through all the physical books I’ve acquired over the years before I invest in something that will be obsolete in a few months



January 20, 2010
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I’d been meaning to write about Avatar for some time since I’d seen it, as none of the reviews/articles/criticisms I’d seen on it quite captured my thoughts.  Now this Macleans article, by Brian D. Johnson, captures them far more succinctly than I could manage: Why Haven’t You Seen Avatar Yet?

The only thing I’d really like to add is to chastise people who are reading so deeply into what is really such a superficial movie.  The plot is so thin, the characters are so shallow, you’re just seeing what you want to see, or ‘jumping at shadows’ so to speak.  Despite the lack of depth, the movie still manages to be an awe-inspiring experience.  It’s really okay to just watch it with an open … or possibly empty mind.