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May 29, 2011

Mexico City – A Suprisingly Nice City

The text message comes in from Fawzan as I'm transitting in Madrid (an awful experience).

Dude! guess which city featured on the World'd Most Dangerous Cities on TV last night? :D

Mexico City

I ended up travelling to Mexico City twice (cheers boss) in the Summer of 2009. The direct BA flights were always impossible to get an economy ticket on, so I had the privilege of using Iberia on both occasions. A long 2hr flight from London to Madrid, and THEN you start your mammoth 13hr journey. I would land at 6:00am and head straight for the customer's office in des Pantalons (yep) for a long day until 8pm. Best way to start readjusting to a new clock? Reset the old one.

Now someone in the airport will volunteer to pull your light suitcase 90 or 100 metres out of the terminal for you and point you at a taxi and then expect to receive some dollars/pesos for that. Save yourself the embarrassment of having no cash and don't let them! Now I'm belted up in a worn small toyota, and the taxi driver did about 3 hail marys. I thought why does he need to do that? We're just going to downtown Santa Fe?

Argh! We're going to crash into that stationary coach in our lane!

Zipping and weaving through traffic like there was a time-limit in each lane. Our taxi would end up at exactly the same level you would have been if you stayed in the same lane. At least some petrol was wasted on the way! I don't get latin drivers.

I got to the customer site and popped into a cafe whilst I waited for the Americans. Now this is when you get the foreigner ordering something he doesn't want. I somehow ended up with a toasted soft cheese and ham croissant (gracias) and a coffee. Now in Europe you pay for this with your Visa/MC. But in the Americas the roles are reversed, they give you a dirty look for presenting a low cost Visa to them and then request you pay with an American Express.

The Americans arrive and are very grateful for my appearance and sympathetic to my long journey. They seem to need to commute weekly from Dallas (3hrs). We get along well and the day's work goes quite well working with the Americans and the Mexicans and I manage to get a breakthrough - rewarding after a long day.

Travelling around Mexico City seems fine with the locals, the small areas you go for lunch seem nice and safe, the tranquil hotel lunches and the weird Polanco hotel district seems good too. The best part is when you go out on those highways over the mountains to the other towns. Remember playing those driving games in the arcade where there are 3 lanes either side and they twist and curve along the mountains ridge? That's what it is like there.

Mexico is hot, about 25degrees but only slightly humid. And one of those places you have to remember not to drink the tap water.

MonterreyMexico City 1

I even had the chance to go to Monterrey on my second trip. This meant a 2hr Madrid flight, 13hr transatlantic (business fortunately), then another domestic Monterrey flight 2hrs. I think that may have been the definition of tired. Monterrey is just flat land in the middle of the valley, with lots of factories inside. Everything manufacturing related was here.

I stayed at the Intercontinental both times in MX and in Monterrey. Seems more classical styled (verging on aged?). I had to extend my stay by 1 night once and the Continental was full on the Tuesday night, so was the Nikko next door. It seems the demographic of people going to MX city seemed to be businessmen. Rooms at weekends must have been freely available. Fortunately a double double-bed room was available in the W. I missed a trick not using this hotel for the past 2 stays! They had ipod docks and USB connections on all their stereos, a funky bathroom where the shower was a cup in the middle of the room and the head just popped out of the ceiling. And of course the W does not believe in frosted windows nor bathroom doors. Now I thought it was cool to have a shower whilst looking out at the city from the high vantage point, but the American's room had no frosted windows in the actual toilet part! So his party piece was being able to tell people that he would be sitting on the 'throne' and have an unbridled and amazing view over the city.

I would say it didn't feel too dangerous when I was there. Admittedly I was at Polanco where the cream of the crop seem to hang out. But the odd local lunch place we went to seemed nice and fine. They said it was probably the North of the country which would be the most dangerous. And everyone I met were very nice and friendly.

So I leave you with some tips:

  • Stay at Polanco, W Hotel if possible
  • Don't buy Tequila from inside the airport if you're transitting via somewhere, you will have a short Spanish lady in Madrid Security shouting at you
  • Don't get an adjoing room in the Continental hotel, as your neighbour WILL bring a prostitute back with him at 2am to disturb your sleep! (You can tell from the fake laughter)
  • Keep with the local food in moderation. Try to have beer.
  • Avoid the British/Irish Pubs that undercook the beefburgers (the lights are so dim you won't notice your eating steak tartar); No amount of Duvel 8.5% will save you from the inevitable at 3am in the morning

December 29, 2009

Sony Ericsson C905 Long Term Review

C905

I waited ages for the Sony Ericsson C905 in 2008. It was just what I needed, a phone that could handle many features, but is not a smart-phone. I still wanted a xenon flash to replace my trusty K800i that served well for 2 years. A xenon flash is undeniably useful. It allows you to be there to take something that only a regular camera could have. The K800i ran all the apps I wanted to: OperaMini to google maps to a trading platform. The addition of WiFi, HSDPA and GPS in the C905 was very welcome. Despite my previous abhorence to the 3 UK network I decided to return because it was the only network that had Skype available, and plus it is now managed by a reputable telecoms firm.

So after about a year how has it faired?

The camera with xenon flash has been brilliant - with red eye reduction on it is capable of three successive bursts. Only gripe is the colours on any daylight photos are a bit washed out. Everytime I take a picture it produces a 1MB file which I just right click and email or upload online. It has followed me around the world allowing me to capture important moments such as visiting the Acropolis and socialising with great people in Mexico.

Most days when I wake up, BBC's World Business Report show is unavailable on computer at 7am, so I just use the phone to stream the show over HSDPA to catch up on the news. One time I found myself on the train to London watching the Wimbledon final. The other commuters were hunched over my little screen.

I like how on the phone each java application can be set permissions for whether it is allowed to use mobile network and/or WiFi. This has been useful for ensuring the mobile network's Skype application continue to work whilst hooked on to WiFi. I have noticed a few issues (probably with earlier SW versions) where on WiFi emails can't be sent/received unless when your phone's on a non-home network. This can be solved by allowing connections to "Any Network." Not an issue for me, but might affect some people.

The GPS doesn't work too well in built up areas, even with assistance (where the local mobile basestation provides which satellites can be reached from the area). If you're in an empty field you can get lock without assistance but then you might be waiting anything between 30seconds or 30 minutes. I find googlemaps works better without GPS enabled. When the GPS does work, you can use it from log your running regieme to turn-by-turn road mapping with Wayfinder. Wayfinder (subscription needed) did work well on a quick drive to Wales and it even tracked my progress for reviewing later in Google Earth.

Battery life is ok. When I use it (with gmail, operamini and skype open all day), I use just over 50% each day which means a daily charge is needed. When I leave it alone on HSDPA network, it lasts 2-3 days on standby. Unfortunately my operator has locked out the 3G/2G switch for commercial reasons.

The phone reboots every now and then, but then again I am stressing it by running three java applications simultaneously all the time. I wanted the simplicity of the basic Sony Ericsson OS but I think I have now reached the limits of non-smartphones. So to conclude the phone has been very good for the past year. Great travel companion, WiFi allows hooking on to local cafes to send your emails and allowed me to capture moments I might otherwise have missed. Next phone may be an LTE Android though!



July 21, 2009

The Parthenon

The Parthenon (C) Nathaniel Ho 2009

© Nathaniel Ho 2009

Camera: Canon EOS 350D
Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6
Filter: Skylight 1A
Date: 14th April 2009 18:52
Location: Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Focal Length: 18mm (equivalent focal length: 29mm)
Shutter: 1/125s
Aperture: F/14
ISO: 100
Post–processing: can't remember - minimal contrast boost I think


June 27, 2009

Hong Kong Island Skyline

Hong Kong 2009 I -  62

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2009


March 31, 2009

This may get you in a lot of trouble

If you have been shopping at Topman and bought some manly shirts, you will probably find "Topshop" on your credit card bill. What you don't expect is the description of Women's Clothing to be included. This is either very funny, or very unfunny if it gets you into trouble!


Topman

Actually some of the men's clothes in there are a bit girly...


March 22, 2009

Results for 'Expert' F1 2007 Season Predictions

Follow-up to 'Expert' F1 2007 Season Predictions from nathanielho :: blog

Sorry this is over a year late!

I can confirm that the 2007 Winner was Rich! Followed by Paul in second place and myself in third.


F1 Predictions 2007 - Results


2009 Predictions coming soon!


March 14, 2009

Dublin 2009

Bank of Ireland (C) Nathaniel Ho 2009 Trinity (C) Nathaniel Ho 2009


I was on trip to Dublin this week on a work assignment. Going out there was brilliant: 30 second check in at BHX, 3 minute baggage reclaim at DUB, a quick AirCoach connection and a quick walk through the grounds of Trinity College to get to my hotel.

It was nice to return to again Dublin and doing my homework 9 months ago certainly helped! My experience of the O'Callaghan Davenport hotel was good. It was in a perfect location for my needs south of the river. When travelling for work you have to get used to dining alone! My favourite destination was the Millstone on Dame Street. I tried the Ostrich burger - it's frankly awesome meat. I managed to get an a few hours off on my last afternoon to visit the National Gallery and the Old Trinity Library.

Obviously this good fortune meant I was in for some real poo on my return. My flight was delayed for 2 hours and I had already got to the departure lounge 2 hours early! It didn't help that I was visiting Dublin during my 'no alcohol' month. So I wasn't able to make have an Irish coffee or have a Guiness during the four hour wait! It. was. hard.


February 21, 2009

Keep Alive

I apologise for not providing any update for almost 6 months. Even the lobbying from pressure groups to keep the blog alive ran out of steam.

I have been working steadily in my first full-time job, playing football on tuesdays and living in Leam. I work in the telecoms industry (no surprise) as a services engineer and the graduate scheme I'm on means I get a lot of varied training. I have been fortunate to meet quite a lot of good people within and outside the company. Leam is comfortable, however after 4 yrs of uni, almost everyone I know have left the town.

You find when working full time, there are a few changes you must look out for:

  • Weeks and months pass quite quickly - There is none of the pain of long terms that existed with school and university.
  • There is no homework - if you have homework, then you need to find a job with no homework!
  • You come home, eat, watch tv, sleep and then do it again - this is a dangerous trap that you can easily fall in to. The trick is to make the most of your free time - which isn't that hard. And another important thing to do is to USE your annual leave.
  • Your blog is never updated

So once you are aware of that you can plan your time well. I have made odd trips every now and then to keep in touch with old uni people. I think I have got a good balance going - except for the blog updates.



September 14, 2008

F1 Drivers' Favourite Words

Kovalainen: "maximum"

Alonso: "maximum"

Massa: "for sure" or "I did a great lap"

Montoya: "for sure" and "that's racing!"

Trulli: "for sure"

Heidfeld: "Fewwawis"

Webber: "mate"

DC: "conditions"

Button: "the car's just not fast enough"

Michael Schumacher: "optimum"

Hamilton: "team"

Raikkonen: "I was having a..."


July 22, 2008

91.1 mpg in real life

On the 100 mile journey from Silverstone to his home in Surrey, along a lot of motorway and some large altitude changing country roads, Will managed a whopping 91.1mpg average in a VW Polo Bluemotion. A simple economical 1.4 litre turbo diesel engine in a small car means that it is under the magic 100gCO2 per km which means no congestion charging (and I think no road tax). It has skinny tyres, a slicker aerodynamic profile and long gear ratios. Frankly it whips the silly Toyota Prius. Our figure could actually have been even higher had we not got stuck in some of the usual M25 traffic. We had achieved 95mpg from the motorway journey before we hit the country roads.

91.1mpg in a VW Polo Bluemotion


The main tips are:

Get to 55mph and top gear as soon as possible. Keep it at 55mph. At all other speeds, be in the right gear for the speed you are travelling at.

Slipstream lorries - they cruise at around 55mph (avoid fast coaches) and they punch a nice hole in the air for you to tag along. Try following oil tankers as this will require a combination of both skill and bravery! We saw an average of about 120-130mpg behind a lorry. If you're worried, you can keep your left foot over the brake pedal just in case.

Allow the car to gently build up speed on downhill sections and keep it in the same position everywhere else.

Keep the a/c off and windows closed. This may require you to wear fewer clothes and drink cold water. You may only open windows when you are braking. Will particularly enjoyed the aero braking element of putting his hand out of the window. You may only use A/C to increase engine braking in cases you would have applied the brakes.

Carry speed through corners - this must be balanced with acceptable tyre wear, as tyres have very high embodied energies.

Acclerate Gently: only depress the accelerator enough for gentle progress.


By doing this, one 40 litre tank of fuel could have a range of 950 miles!! Maybe this could be used as a new government incentive to keep the kids driving slowly: cash payouts for high fuel economy?


Critical Stats:

Fuel Consumption Average: 91.1 mpg (imperial) or 3.10 litres per 100km
Peak Fuel Consumption: 182.0 mpg

Average Speed: 41 mph
Peak Speed: 67 mph


July 10, 2008

End of University

The last 3 weeks of university were exam-free and apart from results day, carefree. I have no more exams ahead of me. We filled up the first week well with our flat-bonding trip to Dublin and a quick trip to the WTA Birmingham Classic. After that we just mainly chilled out watching many Rocky movies and playing a fair bit of tennis, making the most of the facilities whilst we were at uni. The same could be said about going to the last few union events of our uni lives (and of the current union).

It was not particularly sad leaving university (it was in the 3rd year when the Bachelor degree'd friends left). After 4 years you just get the feeling that the time is right to leave and I will see most people after uni anyway. Try as I might on the train journey to London to play the most sad songs I couldn't induce any tears - it turns out that I am an emotionless robot. On the contrary, I was actually very happy with a smile on my face when I thought about my time at Warwick. Fortunately no one else was in my end of the coach to see a ridiculous idiot grinning from ear to ear. Another reason is that it is easier for me because I'll be working in Coventry come September anyway. Everyone else seems to be moving to London. Absolutely EVERYONE. Seems like I'm the only one left behind!

So I'm supposed to say university has been rewarding and I have made a lot of good friendships. Both of those are true. It has certainly been fun. I wish everyone the best of luck with their futures!


This blog stays alive...



June 23, 2008

Dublin 2008

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2008

Its the afternoon of Friday 6th of June, every other Warwick engineer has already finished and is sitting on the piazza, enjoying the sun and freedom. I'm sitting in my last undergraduate exam along with the other last few MEng students left inside Westwood games hall waiting for the clock to hit 5pm. After reflecting back on 18 years of education about 500 times in my head, all I want to do is to get out of that room as soon as possible!

Tuesday morning arrives and the hive is up at 5am buzzing around the flat, packing and making sure they have their passports. The whole journey was quite painless and we arrived at Dublin at 9.30ish. At the airport, we found it quite strange that about 3 buses refused to pick us up and take us to the city centre. The Metro showed us why...

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2008(C) Nathaniel Ho 2008


When we finally made it to O'Connell Street we decided to walk along the riverside towards Phoenix Park and the Zoo. Dublin Zoo is very good and very well maintained (though I may just be comparing it to London Zoo).  It was a very hot day so in order to cool down we popped to the Guiness Storehouse. The tour was strenuous and they make you go through 6 floors before you can reach the roof top bar for your reward! The roof top bar gives the best view of Dublin, which isn't really that exciting from the top because all the buildings are consistently 5 storeys high.

That evening we went out to the usual touristy stops: Gallagher's Boxty house for dinner and Temple Bar. I managed to catch up with an old school friend studying out here whom I had not seen for 4 years.

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2008 (C) Nathaniel Ho 2008

Our second and last day was spent in the South again, walking around Trinity College and the nearby Museum of Ireland. Rain interrupted our picnic in the park and a good Irish pub lunch became a great alternative. After lunch, we made a quick trip to Dublin Castle before returning to Temple Bar to pick up the kids from the creche.

It was simply a great trip with the whole flat!

(C) Nathaniel Ho



March 23, 2008

Imagine: being always on

I came across an interesting prediction whilst researching for a presentation: according to the Nokia Siemens Networks, by 2015 there should be 5 billion people 'always on'. This is a pretty amazing feat that will happen. Simply put, 5 billion people will have permenant access to the communications infrastructures (telephone and internet). This will be achieved by manufacturers selling low-entry mobile phones for $10 and networks expanding to the remotest of places, making it affordable and available to a wider audience and communities that used to be cut off from civilisation.

Along with the relentless move to 'always on' mobile connectivity, the greeting my phone (shown below) gave me a few weeks ago might become a common occurance! :S

Leave Me Alone

You have a missed call, Unread SMS, MMS and email... argh!


Imagine: life with just a pen

This is the time of the year where everyone moans about essays, dissertations and exams. But can you imagine things 10-15 years ago where the average student probably didn't have a laptop or maybe didn't even have their own computer to use. Essays written by hand and not on a word processor. Research done exclusively on books without the aid of search engines and stuff like google books. Must have been tough! And yet we still moan...

Le Travail


February 11, 2008

I. want. one.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Just when I thought deciding between the Asus EEEEEEEEE PC and the HTC TyTN II (aka O2 xDA Stellar aka T-Mobile mDA Vario III) was difficult enough, there's now another one to add to the mix. I want that shiny thing pictured above. Looks like SEM have done the wise thing and dumped the rubbish Symbian OS and are installing Windows Mobile instead. Copying the HTC angle-sliding screen design, should be a hit. The only problem is its only got HSDPA but no wi-fi (according to the spec sheet) (update: it does have wifi!). It will probably out at the end of the year - hopefully when I'll have some money to afford one!

More Info on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1


No Service is normal service

Its now been 2 weeks that my Resnet internet connection to my campus room has been inactive. Its basically some duff CAT5 wire with poor SNR. The response time needless to say is slow - primarily because the network guys wouldn't believe the problem wasn't to do with my computer until I carried my desktop down to the service point to prove it was fine. Still the nice guys down at service point gave my system a full valet interior cleanout with the compressed air, so it wasn't a total wasted excercise. And now networks are too busy moving offices to deal with calls.

Due to some guy trying to sue IT Services to claim some money back for ridiculously poor service in 2005-2006, ITS have changed their T&Cs to basically look like a charity who offer free internet at no obligation to the end user. So refunds won't happen. Still the nice people at the service desk do their best. But I what I really need is authorisation to use a switch and a very long piece of cable!

Fortunately before coming back to campus I got a data tariff on my phone, knowing that one day I would need it. Unfortunately I've hit the upper end of the data limit! Got to slug it out for a bit longer...


February 10, 2008

Dave Channel

The Dave Channel is simply the best thing that has happened to the UK in the past 6 months. In the holidays I would wake up at 11am on a cold December morning and you start the day with healthy dose of a Top Gear episode. It has brought back the funniest show ever: Whose Line Is It Anyway? a show I have not seen since I was about 11 years old!

Since ITV killed off the World Rally Championship coverage (in every way), it seemed as if it would not return to terrestrial TV. But thanks to Dave's excellent advertising to create awareness and to bring in new fans, their well made WRC show looks to be a success in my view. Quite frankly, the layman terms and easiness of watching it will surely make more people interested in it. The Dave channel is simply awesome.


February 07, 2008

Internet first, voice second

I have notice a huge flaw with my phone. Supposedly, the best thing about 3G is that you can be on the internet and have a phone call at the same time. Unlike 2.5G GPRS which is like a V.92 dial-up in terms of low bandwidth and (lack of) connection permenancy - you can't receive calls when you're actively on the internet.

On my SEM K800i I find that even with 3G good reception, I get awful call quality, because it can't handle a switch-circuit voice call and data at the same time. It keeps dropping a lot of downstream switched-circuit voice data - and I can't hear a damn thing. This means I have had to stop using push email (which maintains a permenant internet connection to the email server). I have no idea whether this limitation is due to the phone itself or UMTS technology. Has anyone else experienced this problem?


February 06, 2008

Crumpets Saves Lives

A few weeks ago Chris was warming up some crumpets for tea on his grill. Little did he know that cooker had a wiring fault and wanted to murder him!

Time for some GCSE Physics again: A wiring fault had basically caused the live terminal to reach the whole metal outer case. Normally in this circumstance, the power would be pulled down to earth, large currents would be drawn and a fuse would have blown, all within a split second of turning the grill on. Unfortunately and shockingly... the cooker did not have an earth wire and nor do most other cookers in question! (If you live in Claycroft, I recommend you eat out - always). 

So the cooker case was nicely floating at 240V AC. Touching this alone would have been fine, but the nice stainless steel metal kitchen work surfaces are earthed. This gave Chris an electric shock when he touched the two potential differences! Fortunately, he had two series resistors to limit the current - these came in the form of two crumpets, one in each hand. 

The problem averted thanks to the crumpets, but Chris is a scientist and he had to make sure it was a fair test which is explained in the cartoon below:

The Difference between a Normal Person and a Scientist

Source: http://xkcd.com/242/

The second one threw him back :S


December 20, 2007

Race of Champions 2007

The Race of Champions always sounded like an awesome concept. Put the best drivers of different motorsport disciplines in one stadium and pitch them against each other in equal machinery to find out who is the best! The past few years it has been in the Stadt de France, and this year it came to Wembley. So naturally we had to go (plus a few of us were getting the shakes from motorsport withdrawal symptoms during the off season period).

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2007

One of the great things about it was the return of the legendary Michael Schumacher to "competitive racing." Historically I have always not liked him. I was always supporting the "other" person: Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. But now with the legend absent, I started to appreciate him more - the dude's a hero. 

Most of us were the old Warwick Motorsport gang: JJ, AJ, Rich, John, Jen and I. We sat at the top tier on a crisp 3degC Sunday. My gosh was it cold all day. It was hovering about zero all day. I also thought Wembley was quite empty, but when you consider this is a motorsport event and it has filled up half the capacity, its not that bad.
(C) Nathaniel Ho 2007

In the Nations cup, we saw some great races.  I was rooting for Norway (Solberg brothers) but I was pretty sure Finland (Gronholm and Kovalainen) was going to win - especially when Gronholm seemed to be only driving his own Ford Focus WRC in almost every round! In the final Schumacher raced Kovalainen in the Punto S2000 Abarth. Schumacher stalled and lost a lot of time. Kovy managed to get up to the back of Schumacher to lap him. But Schumacher decided to drive flamboyantly sideways to stop him, but he got through. But eventually overall, the Finns were pipped to the title by Team Germany (Vettel and Schumacher). 

In the mid interval, we got some cups of warmth from the cafe whilst some very good stunts were being shown. The legendary Stig Blomqvist made an appearance in the original Audi Quattro, Priaulx drove his WTCC BMW 320i, Kristensen drove his Le Mans Audi R10 TDI, Coulthard drove his Red Bull Racing F1 car, Vettel drove his STR F1 car and Matthias Ekstrom made the most smoke in this Audi A4 DTM.

(C) Nathaniel Ho 2007

In the Champions of Champions races that followed we saw some fantastic races. The closest finish was Andy Priaulx vs. Heikki Kovalainen in the Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24's. They were neck and neck but Kovy over cooked it coming out of the last corner and overcorrected a slide and got into a tankslapper which made him cross the finishing line sideways before colliding backwards with the barrier. "Heikki you're a lunatic!" I shouted whilst the crowds cheered. By 6.45pm it was so cold we had square ice cubes around all our toes, and Mattias Ekstrom beat Schumacher 2-1. Schumacher was still amazingly setting all the fast laps in the day. It was great watching him slide the RoC buggy into the first corner on the inside track. After the podium presentation we all ran home to defrost!