Author Archives: Andrew

I replaced my Muse Headband battery

Further to my original post where I complained about my Muse meditation headband having a dead battery, my new battery arrived in the post this week and I managed to replace the old one successfully.  I even made a video of the whole procedure.  Check it out here:

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My Muse EEG meditation headband has a dead battery

I bought a Muse EEG headband a couple of years ago on an Indiegogo crowdfunder thing. Which means I paid for it about four years ago because it took two years for them to get into production. But they did get it into production and good on them because it actually works. If you’ve never heard of the Muse, it’s an EEG device that tracks brainwaves while you meditate and relays audio feedback via an Android or iOS device to help you regulate your meditation.  Various sounds represent your level of calmness so that you can stay focused on the meditation.  In my experience it works very well and seems to accurately track your mental state via brainwave activity.

Anyway this isn’t a review of the Muse it’s more of a complaint. The thing has worked very well apart from the odd dodgy iOS app update but recently the battery has turned to shit. I’d get a couple of hours use out of it in the early days but now it can’t even get through a single 20 minute session after a full charge. I wrote to Muse giving them the chance to redeem themselves by offering me a new one for free but they merely offered to sell me another whole device with a bit of a discount. Umm no thanks.

There are a couple of problems with the battery setup in this device. Firstly it’s not easily replaceable as it’s a small lithium polymer battery soldered to a PCB inside one of the pods on the side of the unit. Secondly you can’t even run the device while it’s on charge with a USB cable plugged in. So now that the battery hardly holds a charge I need to do something.

There’s a tear down video on YouTube so after watching that I realised it’s actually pretty easy to open up the thing. And having done that the battery looks reasonably straightforward to replace with a bit of soldering. And after considerable searching on eBay I found a battery that looks like an exact match for the original in Hong Kong (3.7v lithium polymer 552030 20mm x 30mm x 5mm in case you’re wondering).

I’ve ordered a couple since I’ll need to replace it again in two years time. $12 each including postage wasn’t too unreasonable and considerably less than buying a whole new unit. Shame on you Muse!!

Stay tuned for part 2 where I bring the Muse back to life or kill it for good.

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The Year of George

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza is to get a payout from work at the start of summer. George then realises that he will have a fully funded summer of doing whatever he pleases. The “Summer of George!”  Thanks to Tony for pointing out the similarity to my predicament, only my summer of George is planned to be a year, and I didn’t get a payout, so I’ll call it the Year of George.

After two weeks of seaside idleness on the north coast of nsw I’m now back in Sydney. The first day back at work for many, but snorkelling with the blue groper at Clovelly for me.

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Villedoux to Nantes 120km

Last night’s camp site was a rest area at the edge of the village of Villedoux, and the two main advantages of this were the relative luxuries of a picnic table and a bin. You get pretty tired of squatting to cook, squatting to eat, squatting to shit when camping, and I can see why George lugs around the additional weight of a camp chair that allows him to sit in comfort.

After breakfast at our picnic table we headed north toward Nantes. The weather early on was blue skies and clear. I put sun screen on. But then it turned nasty after our morning tea break. We held this break just off the road at a factory that supplies components for graves. There were pallets of gravestones from India strewn all over the forecourt. George was quick to search the deserted premises for a power socket as he is now permanently on the lookout for power to charge his precious ipad to keep it alive. He’s been collecting mentions of tears in books for some time now but I think he may switch his obsession to finding places in France where he can surreptitiously charge his tablet for free in between wild camps. Charge number one today was in the old barn of a warehouse at the grave factory where we sheltered from the rain.

We left the grave factory just before noon, hoping to get to the next village about 10km down the road before the Intermarche closed. This is Sunday in France where most shops are closed all day and only a few supermarkets open in the morning. We rode through half an hour of pissing down rain to make it to the Intermarche before 1230. Unfortunately they shut at 12 so we were too late anyway. Even the dumpster was off limits to George, being locked behind a barrier to keep out the likes of him.

After a morning of being rained on we were keen to get out of the weather for lunch and also seek out free ipad charging for George so we tried a McDonald’s. it indeed had a power point so George was able to charge his ipad while I ate a Big Mac meal, followed by a second Big Mac. Did you know that a Big Mac contains 510 calories? And if you eat two of them and some fries at 2pm you’ll be able to ride a loaded touring bike until about 7pm covering about 60km or so, all while savouring the flavour of that delicacy as it repeats on you over and over?

Our third charging episode was just an examination and not an actual connection to power. George has discovered that all (well, both the ones he has checked) of the cathedrals in France are both always open to the public and have a power socket in there somewhere. George will be taking up prayers from now on in order to keep his fix charged up. But he may have to eat his pork liver pâté outside the church to avoid offending other pilgrims.

And apparently cows can detect the smell of one of their kin being fried up. At least that was what it looked like to me.

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Champagnelles to Villedoux 120km

After a night of tossing and turning I finally crawled out of my pint sized tent to make breakfast when rain brought a halt to play. So back in the tent to drink coffee while stooped over like the old lady I saw in the supermarche yesterday.

We are making our way north to Brittany where George wants to check out a ville etape north of Nantes. The terrain has flattened out and there isn’t too much wind so progress is good.

The highlight of the afternoon was an afternoon tea stop where I gorged on pastries. All manner of horrible deeds are forgiven when you still have another 40 km to cover.

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Montpon to Champagnelles 122km 800m ascent

We were both a bit tired today and the only thing of interest to report was that we found what is supposedly the only grass velodrome in all of Europe. It was bumpy as hell.

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Degagnac to Montpon 136km 1000m ascent

After some breakfast with Yvon and Collette we received the royal send off with Yvon escorting us on his bike for the first 10km of the ride. Conditions were perfect today with no wind, perfect Lot department scenery complete with toy town villages and sculpted countryside. Still plenty of climbing but nothing too draining.

We were covering ground quickly, having made it to the 50km mark by noon. We stopped for a leisurely lunch after which I felt pretty sluggish for a couple of hours. But the miles were still flying by.

I had only bought lunch ingredients at our morning supermarket stop and still needed to find some chunk of meat for dinner. At this point I would like to chide the Intermarche corporation for their useless signage, since one of them indicated a supermarket nearby, but which was almost 30km down the road in a completely different town. This contributed to our high mileage for the day and my feeling completely knackered.

Our campsite for the evening was in long grass and was mildly infested with ticks. I managed to drag several into the tent that must have hitched a ride on me or my gear, so I spent the rest of the evening hunting down the bastards and staying in my sealed cocoon. George thinks I should collect the ticks in a box and unleash them on people who deserve some kind of cruel punishment.

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Saint Antonin to Degagnac 93km

George and I awoke next to the fast flowing river at Saint Antonin and climbed out of the village toward Cahors. I actually ended a previous trip cycling trip with Yui in Cahors, and this was the start of seeing familiar towns in the Lot and Dordogne departments that I passed through about eight years ago.

We were making good time, and George was keen to push on today, as our host in Degagnac, Yvon, was heading out to see a professional table tennis match at about 6pm. In order to tag along we needed to cover the undulating 93km to Yvon’s house before then. As it turned out we had time to spare, and I was able to have the most glorious shower in the history of the universe when we arrived.

Yvon had a full schedule of activities for us that promised to fill our rest day there. He and his girlfriend Collette were amazing hosts and kept us fed and entertained throughout.

Yvon is a well known and respected ping pong champion who has refereed at the national level and still plays competitively. He also coaches a local team that he helped to start in his village. He’s certainly passionate about the sport and keen to introduce others to its nuances.

Our first ping pong exposure was getting into Collette’s car for a rocket ship ride through back roads to Villeneuve sur Lot, where a local team were taking on a team from Paris. Having never seen a match before it was certainly interesting, including the obsessive wiping of the table by the players with their hands and towel breaks etc. The local team won easily, despite the Paris team including a former national champion of France.

The next day we dabbled in little table tennis ourselves in Yvon’s shed and had an amazing home cooked meal with an American couple who live in the area.

A visit to Rocomador was also on the agenda, and Yvon’s F1 driving through the winding back roads made George so sick that he spent the next hour prone in the car. George prefers the bike.

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Castres to Saint Antonin 104km, 650m ascent

After a pleasant breakfast with our hosts Frank and Marie-Helene we headed off toward Albi. Albi and Castres are both Tour de France towns this year, with one of the stages finishing in Albi and the next one starting in Castres. George was of course keen to visit the tourist office in each town but is generally disappointed this far out from the Tour as most offices have little information to offer.

We parted ways with Craig who has to head home to Notre Dame de Rouviere. He’s headed back into the hills again but at least he should have a tail wind. It’s been a real treat travelling for a couple of days with someone who speaks the language as that opens up opportunities for interactions with the French that don’t normally present themselves. Hopefully we can repeat it again someday.

And then it was two again. George and I covered another 60km or so from Albi which started off with a few moderate climbs, then some rollers, then dead flat along a river. The last 20km was almost effortless compared to the last two days as we rolled beside the river.

We found a snug tent site hidden amongst a stand of bamboo next to the river and I cooked up some tasty duck fillets them fried my potatoes in the fat. Yum.

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Bedarieux to Castres 100km, 1650m ascent, more headwinds

Another day of climbing up and down the pretty hills of France into a headwind.

Craig was a bit slower today, having exerted himself the day before, and he spent more time grinding up hills at the pace of us mere mortals. There were times today when I wish I had just one more gear lower. My 26/32 was a struggle up some of the long and super steep grades that we were climbing.

We bumped into an extremely chirpy German fellow who had just retired last year and was enjoying his new freedom by touring everywhere. He didn’t tell us his name so I’m going to call him Gunter. Gunter had the typical German touring machine, with a big beefy frame that looked similar to a mountain bike, four bright red ortliebs, rohloff hub and super heavy duty Schalbe tyres. He had ridden in Canada, china and Vietnam in the last year. And he loved china and Vietnam. He also loves bike paths. So there were a few things that I would have disagreed with him on if I could be bothered talking. Fortunately I was too spent from climbing a hill and Craig did all the talking.

We left Gunter and continued climbing. Being a Sunday there is of course not a single shop open in France so we were getting a little concerned about food. A Casino brand supermarket presented itself in mid afternoon and allowed George to get in a little dumpster diving. It wasn’t a bad haul, we scavenged about a dozen yogurts, a few litres of fruit juice and some iced tea drinks. We could have scored some shellfish too but that stank.

The rest of the afternoon is all a bit of a blur now but I do remember that we had a couple of particularly sensational ten degree slope descents going down into Castres that put a grin on my face. I managed to hit 67kmh in a full tuck. I still felt a bit ripped off as I would have made it to 80 if it hadn’t been for the headwind and bulging panniers on the front of my bike.

Everyone in Castres were going nuts when we arrived since their team had just won the French national rugby championship. Every car in the town was honking and waving flags and somewhat impeding our progress towards the Office de Tourisme where George wanted to seek out Tour de France info. While trying to find it, we bumped into a French couple on the street who Craig asked for directions. The next thing we knew they were offering to take us in for the night. I was more than happy to accept a shower and a bed, but George seemed a little reluctant as he loves sleeping in his tent so much. Craig was no doubt a little worried that he would be the designated interpreter since he speaks fluent French.

Marie-Helene led us to their warehouse residence not far from the centre of town. She is apparently a retired ballet dancer and her partner Frank a painter and motorcycle enthusiast. The downstairs section of their warehouse was thus filled with motorbikes and large canvases in various stages.

It turned out to be a pleasant night. They fed us and Frank somewhat confused us with esoteric utterances. At first he said that we were all poets on the bike. But then later he said that Craig was a poet and that George and I were just voyagers. Or was it George who was the poet because he described a bike tour as a work of art? I can’t remember. Anyway it was nice to sleep in a bed.

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