Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Zen of the Bicycle

'I want to learn how to ride a bike!'

It started with that idea. It was like a line from a Queen song. This is not as momentous as learning to drive a car or climbing the Mt. Everest. We are not talking about a Harley motorcycle. We are talking about a bicycle. 2 wheels, pedals, no engine, just an ol' bike. 'Boris bike' to be precise.

The afternoon is just right, sunny yet with a gentle wind. The park is filled with school children coming out of the building in front of the park to stay for a while. A number of bikers zooming in and out the field. And there we were, successfully rented a bike for £2 and ready to try out our patience on one another. We had a pathway almost secured for ourselves, aside from the people who would pass by every now and then. 

 I learned how to ride a bike from my late father when I was around 5 or 6 years old. I could still recall upgrading from a bike with two small wheels supporting the back wheel to just one. And then the day came when my dad said he'll let me ride a proper bike on my own. I could not count how many times I fell, stumbled and almost ended up crying. Probably I did cry. 

He kept pushing me, literally and figuratively.

We were running too fast and I was telling my dad not to let me go as he was holding at the back of my seat. Apparently he did let go of me metres away from where I was with my bike, on my own. 

Teaching a family member how to ride a bike at a young age is quite normal. Teaching your girlfriend at a proper adult age is almost always not the best idea. She obviously had doubts, and fears. I did not deviate from her fears. I did tell her I earned my scars and bumps and pains. It's alright to recognise that. 

On that afternoon, I believe we have reached The Zen of the Bicycle.



Reality vs Expectations

'I won't give you cliches like: 'Great job' or 'if I can do it, you can too' or 'it's okay'. We want results at the end of the day, you'll be riding that bike on your own.' 

If I told her she did a good job despite her numerous attempts and not learning how to ride a bike at the end of the day, then I just lied.

Patience.

I asked, 'Are you sure? Are you ready?'

She said, 'As long as you are patient with me.'

'No, I can have all the patience. I will tell and teach you the same things over and over again. You have to be patient with yourself' I replied. And she was.

Honesty.

Her hands on the handlebars were not steady. I was standing on her left side as she always tend to lose her balance on that side. I was holding the bike seat with my right hand, and the handlebar with my left hand.

'You are not adjusting your balance. Your bike will go as where you will take it. If you're going left, shift to right.' It confused her at first, and told her to feel it herself.

Failure.

I emphasised on how to properly press on the brakes with both hands and to land and stop with one foot on the ground. She was initially stopping with both feet and jumping on to one side of the bike. She was able to bump into metal rails and posts before pressing on the brake.

'The metal post can't move' I told her with a dash of sarcasm. I wanted her to understand what would happen if she didn't practice safety at first.

'I'm not expecting you to ride a bike in a real road today, but you must be able to avoid a running kid on the path for example.'

I told her even the best bikers in the world can crash, it's best to be safer than not.

Trust

'Get on position, let's do it again' as we were gearing up for another run to practice her balance.
'Wait, there's  a little boy on the way' she feared.
'Do you trust me not to let you run over that boy?'
'Umm..yeah.' 
'Okay then, let's go' as she placed her feet on the pedals and I got ready for another push.

It was not about if she trusted me, it was about building her trust in herself and her ability to keep pedalling despite the risk of running over a toddler.

Coordination


She was having trouble which to do first, whether to pedal harder or to maintain balance. I showed her as I rode the bike on what she was doing and what could happen. I knew she was overthinking. I came up with the simplest that I could come up with: Power and Balance. Power, which shortens my phrases which pertains to pedal harder. Balance, which stands for her handlebars. 

Passers by were looking around us. I was shouting 'Powerbalancebalancepower' like a crazy man. I was supporting her bike not with two hands, but with just two fingers under her bike seat. 

Success

We were going faster, I was now half-running with her by her left side.

Then I raised my arms forward to show her: 'Look, no hands!'

'Are you still holding me?!' knowing she could not believe she's riding it by herself.

I ran faster than her and answered: 'Nope!'




It was a great exercise for us both. Physically and mentally.

Her being a student and I being the teacher. But even more so, I was glad we managed to get through as we felt happier that we did it together. We survived the day without frustration or disappointments. Her joy brought the inner child in me as I felt I also just achieved something for the first time. We are great as a team. It was when we gave me a huge hug that I realised it was all worth it.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? 
When was the last time you taught someone for the first time?

Read More

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Matrix for a Tenner.

Neo: 'Am I dead?'
Morpheus: 'Far from it.'
- The Matrix.


No one knows what the 'Matrix' is, but basing on the film, the virtual world is in fact a pretty cool place to check and visit every once in a while. Minus Agent Smith of course. We may be a few years to have a VR world like the Matrix, but it'll be pretty cool to learn how to fly or kung fu in a few minutes in the comforts of your sofa.



The VR Headset war is currently bannered by the popular Oculus Rift wherein you could feel yourself immersed into a computer-generated world. If you are a big fan of first-person games, or amazed with 3D/4D entertainment technology, VR is waaay bigger than that.



The pricetag for the Oculus? Plays around $500. Pretty reasonable for such an advanced immersive tech gadget. But what if there is a way to experience VR for a pocket change?

Google Cardboard VR headset entered the VR wars with a very unique asset given in its name: cardboard. Yup, seriously. 


You are using CARDBOARD.



 If you ever purchased something from Amazon, think of that box with a few things attached to it like lenses, magnets and velcro straps and voila: instaVR.





I was skeptical at first having seen the review videos of VR gadgets. But then I joined the fold. (pun intended.)

It is easier to assemble than origami. I downloaded the Google cardboard app demo and I popped in my Samsung S4 in the now VR headset. I initially had difficulty fitting them in since I am wearing glasses, so I have to use without them. On the links, I have seen more models and shapes of the VR from Briztech's shop in https://vr.briztech.co.uk which could please us glass-wearers. That's the same with smartphones. Not all smartphones are created equal. I am not referring to Apple fanboys v Android wars, but the screen sizes are not the same. There are available headset models that fit larger screens than a regular-sized one.


For the demo app I used, you could see the menu and scroll through it by either looking to the left or the right with selections such as Tutorial, Tour guide, Exhibit, Windy Day, Earth, Videos, and Photosphere. The Tour Guide placed me in the Palace of Versailles, where I could feel like I am in the palace itself as I would feel in a museum. There was a voice-over tour guide as I 'walk-through' the rooms inside. I looked down and I was standing on shiny wooden parquets, above me was a ceiling full of fantastic paintings and massive chandeliers. 

I also liked the Videos, wherein it pulled my video files from the phone. I could see the video files 360 degrees around me, and I selected them as I 'point' my vision at them. To click and select an item, I pulled down the metal ring on the left side of the headset.

Check and get your headset here -> Briztech Google Cardboard VR Headset

Apart from games, here are some of my ideas for the vast use and potential of this VR Headset:

1. Educational purposes. 
 Imagine having a headset per student and 'send' them to a 'virtual museum.' Yes ideally the museum experience is still a priceless must-do, must-see. But realistically and economically, with just an app and a cheap device the wonders start and all happens in a class room. 

2. Fitness/training video.
 Ok this would sound really beyond the depths of actual training, but if Neo can learn Kung-fu, why can't we?

3. Video streaming
 It can make you feel seated in front of a big-screened cinema. No need to buy a 278" tv. Just pop it in, sit on the sofa, prop your legs up and munch your snack away. No noisy banters by kids in the front, no sticky floors from spilled-drinks. Even Netflix can pick up on these ideas. 

4. Virtual Travel
 Travel services or tourist agencies can provide tourists and hardcore travellers give more than just a glimpse of the travel destinations. Yesterday: photos and brochures and videos; tomorrow: VR-based ads!

5. Advertisers
 Pop-up Ads could be annoying, and seeing them on youtube videos make you make 'Skip the ad' in less than 5 seconds. But, they're there for a reason. But what if ads were clever and cooler in VR? Let's see if skipping is still an option in the future.

Google Cardboard's tagline: Experience virtual reality in a simple, fun. and affordable way.
Check, check and major check. The potential for this device is endless. Be it for the regular mass consumer for entertainment or games, or for the developers.

HEY NETFLIX/YOUTUBE, MY COMMISSION IS WAITING. 
I'M LOOKING AT YOU.


notes: Google Cardboard VR Headset images from here.





Read More

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Guys, Brogues Are Harmless. [So is Fashion.]

'Oxfords, not Brogues.' 
- Eggsy, Kingsman Movie, 2015.



It was after watching the film 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' when my eyes were opened to proper gentleman fashion. I'm the typical guy who wears shirts/jeans/sneakers on almost any occassion. The only difference perhaps will be the right coat/jacket for the weather, and then the random headgear that I may pickup. 

Exhibit A:


The 'Stoner' Look:
-Random statement/nerdy shirt
-Any seemingly clean jeans/Joggers
-Any sneakers that's comfortable and easy to reach.
*Coat optional if really cold.

So yes, I have been refused entry to nightclubs for wearing the inappropriate footwear. 

'What's wrong with my Chucks?!'

I just choose not to spend much time thinking of what to wear. I'm lucky my work entails me to wear a uniform, or else it'll be a disaster for me. When ladies say: 'I've got nothing to wear', it really means they have enough in the closet but just can't choose which. But when the men say: 'Uh, I've got nothing to wear', then most likely he really does not have anything to wear.

From the numerous sneakers that I have, I only have a pair of black leather shoes. It's been with me for the last 5 years. I've used it in any occasion that would fall into the 'formal' category. When I encounter men wearing more sophisticated shoes like oxfords and brogues, I always give the cliche reasonings like:

-Because he works in an office, and probably on a senior role.
-Because he's rich.
-Because he's old.
-Because he's a fashion blogger.
-Because he's metrosexual.
-Because he's Barney Stinson. 

But just like any fine wine, age does well to taste. As for me, my taste in clothing may not be particularly as good as wine or that dude in the lookbook site, but it has more range than just sneakers. So the hunt began for the best brogues that I could find and try on. All I have in mind for finding one are comfort, style and the price.

Bang came in Goodwin Smith. He's not a person, technically, but that's the shoe brand. The company that was founded in 1928 made sure that the gentlemen, including the 'bros', will be able to wear something snazzy both for work and for play. 




Their shoes are definitely of top quality. I chose the Newchurch Tan Brogue style. So far, it's been looking too good and too smart that I have to display them in the bookshelf. Look at those beautiful beasts!

It has a leather upper and the sole is rubbered. Style plus comfort, check. Upon checking the prices on the site, I was delighted that a pair costs way less than a pair of Jordans or my favorite sneakers. Yep sneakerhead friends, I have sold my soul to the devil! 

Now, to put their theory to the test that Goodwin Smith shoes are so good that you can wear them day or night, for business or for play, I had them fitted in and rolled out my entire wardrobe. 

[Okay, there's not much.]

Behold my first and could possibly the last time to do a 'fashion' blogpost.

This look is called:
'We're on a formal meeting, but damn what a hangover that was.' 

This look is called: 'Zoolander got nothing on me.
Hashtag WOKEUPLIKETHIS
Hashtag MESSYHAIRDONTCARE'
This scene is called:
'My phone battery died, squad hasn't showed up yet.
Therefore I have to wear cardigans.'

This look is called:
'It looks so good, it makes office coffee all by itself.'
This look is called:
'Pretending to be an Avengers film actor attending premiere night.'
This look is called:
'Is the photographer okay? Hello?'


It wasn't all that bad in the end. They fit smooth and it was more comfortable than I expected. I had more effort put in for the self-timer shots on the camera, poor thing!




Think you can do better? If the brogues made me look and feel that I can scrub up and feel like a real 'dapper dude', then so can you. Don't ditch your sneakers, I love mine. But there's always room for some oxford brogues. Trust me. Ladies will love them, and you'll earn brownie points from your mom. 


Indeed #BuckingGoodShoes.

To find out more about the exciting shoes Goodwin Smith has to offer, check them out here -> GoodwinSmith. They're also very active on the social media, find them on twitter and instagram on @GoodwinSmithUK. 


P.s. I heard a buzz that they're lining up new products for the ladies. Uh-oh! :)




Read More

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Postcards x Athens

It was a fantastic day yesterday, as the land in this side of the world heated up above 20s. That big ball of glowing light and heat called sun has finally showed up. It reminded me of beaches and daydreaming of the next holiday trip.

One of the most memorable trips we had was in Athens, Greece. Everywhere was postcard-worthy. Here are just some of them. I have them posted over in the tumblr photoblog-> here.

Postcards x Athens. 
The skies were as blue as in the flag of Greece. This trip on 2012 was one for the ages. We arrived into the heart of Athens from Santorini, and we were greeted by rallies and protests. 
The next morning, the Acropolis was filled by tourists as usual as if nothing happened.  


Greeted by the Greek sun, it was no wonder the gods and goddesses chose this to be their stomping ground. It was painfully beautiful I had to pinch myself whilst standing in front of the Parthenon.   
We were surrounded by thousands of years of priceless history. 
σας ευχαριστώ













Read More

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why It’s Cool To Be a Geek Reason #436

How many dinosaurs can you identify? How many scientific names of plants could you recite? Do you know the easiest scientific name for an animal to remember is Gorilla gorilla? [At least for me anyway.]

If you think the film ‘A Night at the Museum’ starring Ben Stiller is fun and awesome, then this is ten times more than that. [Or hundred times?]

The Natural History Museum has a collection of millions of specimens that covers millions billions of years. If that’s not enough to challenge how you think about the natural world around you, their hundreds of scientists conducting science research will convince you otherwise. 

Normally visitors would’ve shared the things found inside the museum. I myself took gazillion photos of dinosaur fossils, meteorites, preserved specimen of rare species and Darwin’s statue. But that would defeat the purpose of having the museums. So here I’d just share the shots I took of the museum building, where in itself is a sight to behold for architecture lovers.

Sometimes dubbed as ‘cathedral of nature’, work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. I would spend hours just staring at this grand structure. And a lifetime won't be enough to marvel the collection inside the museum. 

Admission is free, and donations are very much welcome. Find more about them here -> nhm.ac.uk
So if people call you a geek, relax. That's the new age 'swag.' 

Calmly recite to them the Table of Elements so they can learn a lesson or two.











Okay, can't help it! Here's a Stegosaurus fossil life-size model! 
I was transported to my 7 year old self in an instant. :)


Read More