Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Product review - iCarry and Run Keeper app

Two products that I am now using as part of my daily life, I thought you might like to hear about.

The first of these is the iCarry made by Ozaki. Generously bought for me by my mum-in-law, this product is a mount for my iPhone to be attached to my bicycle's handlebars. It's brilliant and very useful. The phone fits snugly in the holder and as long as you secure the ball-joint that allows 360 degree rotation of the phone, it will sit firmly in place in front of you.
One of the best parts is being able to access maps while on the move. This is particularly useful when navigating around London. Without it, I often end up streets away from where I intended. (I was going to claim this was due to a faulty internal magnet having been born downunder, but after speaking to a local - he gets lost too, so it must be the streets themselves which have developed organically over the last several centuries.)
Other advantages include being able to see what the time is, who just messaged and that someone is calling. There are 'amplifying' and 'sound-gathering' cones at the base - but I haven't ever used the phone for a call while it's in the case - so can cast no light on their effectiveness. I have also used it to track my route, speed and time spent cycling through the application 'Run Keeper', which I'll review next.
The disadvantages are not immediately obvious - but they don't take long. Maps will automatically go to sleep after 1 minute which leaves you completely in the dark (literally - black screen) as to where you are. I also had the trouble at one point of 'compass interference'. For regular iPhone users, you'll know that means you need to wave the phone in a figure 8 motion - a bit hard to do while it's attached to your bike handles (although not impossible, and I've lived to tell the tale). The other trouble when the phone goes to sleep is re-entering the PIN - I've relaxed how long the security sleep setting is, but if I'm not in constant contact with the phone, then I often have to re-enter the PIN.
Another disadvantage in this climate is that you can't work a touch screen while wearing gloves. For me, gloves are a must. As the current weather is much like a Melbourne winter, I look forward to the next few months with a degree of trepidation.
I now look constantly to my handlebars for information feedback - something I really notice when it's not there. I'm going to have to be careful not to leave my iPhone in the iCarry while I head into the shops, that's for sure.

The second item that actually overcomes some of these issues is the iPhone application RunKeeper. It tracks time, location (via GPS) and calculates speed based on these. It overcomes the sleep obstacle by the application being always live, unless you actively send the phone to sleep. It also has a map (although it shows the route you've followed, not where you need to go). As it is always utilising the GPS, it can run down your battery.
RunKeeper is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
One of the main benefits is that it allows you keep a history of your exercise: what type (cycling, running), for how long, minute-by-minute intensity, total distance travelled (according to the GPS), average speed, calories burned, and a map of your route. It also allows you to upload this information for each of your activities to their website and do a whole bunch more exciting things.
The RunKeeper website allows you to
store and analyse your activities, share your activities via Twitter and Facebook (don't hold your breath waiting for me to post), record your weight and body fat ratio, and encourage friends that are also using the application. Having not used the website much yet - my favourite part so far is matching my speeds (line graph) to where I am on the road. It shows that the reduction in speed is at that major cross-roads, not because I automatically run/ride intervals. All this is free.
There is a RunKeeper Pro application that is available for $12.99. The only additional benefit I can see is coaching coming through your headphones. This is an audio cue to help you match a target pace or to follow an interval of time/distance.
I do need a couple of additions to take full advantage of this application while running. (i) To upload music, so that I can listen to music at the same time; (ii) To buy/make an iPhone holder, as occasionally clutching at my mis-shapen breast to keep it from falling out of my bra is not becoming and I don't think sweat is very good for my phone.
I have used this application while both cycling and running, however, I think the best part will be the accumulated information over time that I will be able to analyse on the website.

It's times like these I'm glad I have an early adopter husband (and family), who can introduce me to useful technology like this.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The National Gallery

Monday last week I checked out the National Gallery. The paintings inspired me to get outside and start taking photos again. The lighting and composition of some of the pictures really drew the eye. One that springs to mind is a tutor demonstrating vacuum to a family by candlelight. The light on the faces of the family and the surrounding gloom really draws the eye to consider each of their faces.

Not only were the paintings great to see, the National Gallery building itself was gorgeously decorated inside. Large domes of frosted glass top the galleries, letting in the maximum of natural light to view the paintings.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

European Ultimate Frisbee Championships

Spent some more time on the right side of the road this weekend. In Loret de Mar for the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships, followed by Barcelona for a look around. I have written a post for a travel-writing competition and so can't put it up here until I know I've lost. I will post it then. Briefly, I had a good time and my team, Iceni, won bronze.
And again - photos coming soon.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Estonia visit and families

This weekend we visited Lee's Estonian relatives. We had an excellent time meeting, exploring, playing and staying with them. Mostly, we spent time with Mari-Ann's cousin Riina, and her family. They are a very close family and it set me to wondering what elements create a close family.
Was it the fact that in the 400 years of Estonia's history, only in the last 19 years have they had independence? (With a false start in 1920) So they appreciate freedom and the important things in life?
Was it a strong (vocal?) matriarch? Riina is a strong woman.
Was it living in close proximity? All four of Riina's children live in Tartu, or within 10km.
Is it having young kids in the family? Riina has grandchildren between 3 (I think) and 18 (over the weekend).

If I step back from my own family, who I believe are fairly close, it starts with values. Family values that family is important and spending time with family is important. Feeling loved and close meant spending quality time with each other.

It just so happens that I come from a family with a strong matriarch, so I can't be sure whether this is a necessary part or not. I wonder how much you have to actually like each other. Raised by the same parents does guarantee some of the same beliefs and values, but as we grow up, different experiences are bound to shape the people we become. Perhaps a strong matriarch can remind us of those initial values and bring us together. (I imagine a strong patriarch could be similar.)

Australia is a long way from 400 years of oppression. But I hope it will not trivialize it too much to relate this to hardship. For us, hardship was mostly borne by our parents. In my opinion, financial insecurity had the greatest impact. We never lacked the essentials, and we weren't distracted by an endless supply of toys.

As for geography, I don't think our family can really claim proximity - mostly because of me. I'm in London, my sister in Perth, brothers in Geraldton and parents in Mingenew. Closeness in geography doesn't always guarantee frequent contact. It does make it easier though. Perhaps I should revise proximity to frequent contact then. I feel close to my family through fairly frequent Skype calls - although now I have a job (Yay!) that may change (oh).

Young kids have brought our family together. My brothers both have kids and there's a joy in spending time with them and watching them learn and grow. There's a newness to it - each new development is a discovery, an achievement, a delight, and these new developments are so quick and frequent - I don't want to miss a thing. They just grow up so fast!

Whatever it is that guarantees a close and loving family, I hope that we can do that with our own family.

Riina's family:
  • Eero, and girlfriend Edi. Eero also has 2 older kids.
  • Urmo, wife Merje, twins Emma and Ekke.
  • Kaari, husband Egert, son Eik Martin, and daughter Mia Laura. (Lots of games of Sabateur)
  • Karina (~16 years old)
  • and German exchange student Freya.
Photos coming soon.

Some Estonian words we learnt
Please - Palun (p/balloon)
Thankyou - Tänan (danun)
Thanks - Aitah (aeta)
Hello - Tere (t/der-re)
Goodbye - Nagamiste (Nah-ga-meast)