Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jlab Epic 2 Bluetooth Earbuds

I recently purchased the Jlab Epic 2 Bluetooth Earbuds, after trying many different earbuds (and from the excellent review on Wirecutter). 

Wirecutter claimed that these were the absolute best headphones for working out and I wanted to replace my Klipsch S4i wired earbuds with a bluetooth headset using an Apple iPhone 7 or an Apple Series 3 watch.

Since these Jlab Epic2 were quite expensive - $99 on Amazon.com or Best Buy - I decided to scour Ebay and found an excellent deal for $60.



After using these earbuds in my Active Sports gym, I have identified the following positive and negative traits.

Positives:

  • Midrange and treble sound clean
  • Connects quickly to my iPhone 7S
  • Announces battery level when first turned on
  • Good battery life (12+ hours)
  • Stays on during a heavy Nike workout (which includes jumping)
  • Includes lots of different ear plugs

Negatives:

  • The bass response is seriously lacking (in comparison to Klipsch S4i wired earbuds, and AUKEY Latitude Earbuds
  • Price is a bit high at $99 (though I found a deal on Ebay for $60)

Now that I have used the Jlab earbuds for a couple of weeks, I have found a few more issues. During work outs, the earbuds sometimes pop out. Also, the bluetooth connection is not very strong - it frequently cuts out on mountain bike rides.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

AUKEY Latitude Wireless Headphones

Wanting to retire my iPod Nano player with Klipsch S4i earbuds, I decided to try using my iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 3 with wireless, bluetooth earbuds.

I was looking forward to avoiding long cord dangles and fully wireless operation during my workout sessions at Forma Gym and during mountain biking rides.

Researching online, I saw that the AUKEY Latitude wireless headphones were highly recommended by the Wirecutter and at a price of $30 on Amazon, they were hard to resist.

I purchased them from Amazon and used them for about two weeks. Eventually, I decided to return them due to the fact that they kept falling out of my ears during workout sessions. Otherwise, they performed very well.


Positives
  • Relatively Inexpensive ($30 on Amazon)
  • Paired quickly with my iPhone7 and Apple Watch Series 3
  • Nice bass response
  • Battery lasts 8 hours
  • Seemed durable
Negatvies:
  • During workout sessions, they kept falling out of my ears. I tried various combinations of medium and large wings and sizes, but they did not stay in
  • Mids and highs are not as clear as my Jlab Epic 2 or Klipsch S4i


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: Babolat Pop Tennis Sensor

After being disappointed with the Zepp 2 tennis sensor, I decided to continue my search for a tennis sensor that can provide meaningful/actionable tennis statistics, so that I can improve my tennis game.


I decided to try out the Babolat Pop tennis sensor, since it was popular and relatively inexpensive. With Babolat Pop, one wears a wristband which contains a small packet where the small sensor resides. The sensor records the motion of one's playing hand.

The sensor itself looks like a small, thin card with a button to turn off/on. This sensor pairs over Bluetooth with one's smartphone (I used an iPhone 7).

The Pop Smartphone App provides a lot of meaningless statistics that are hard to understand.

For example, the PIQSCORE has style, speed, and spin percentages. The exact meaning of these is not well known.

The Activity Calendar provides a visual record of past training sessions and matches.


There are other screens of statistics, such as the ones below. The numbers don't always make sense. Since I was playing against the ball machine, the best rally of 26 doesn't really make sense.



After playing a series of 5 games over the course of a week, I noticed that most of the statistics stayed the same, but since no individual data is provided, it's difficult to determine how to change one's game for the better.

For example, Pop kept telling me that all of forehands are being hit flat. However, even when I tried to deliberately use a lot of spin, it still did not recognize most of my topspin forehands.





After more use, I decided that this tool really did not provide any useful data, and decided to return it. It really needs to provide more details about each stroke.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Bellarmine vs Mitty Football

I arrived at San Jose City College, where all of Bellarmine Home Football games are held at around 6:35 pm. I parked my car in the parking garage, entered the stadium, and walked over to the Bellarmine concessions stand to purchase some food items. I decided to get the highly recommended tri-tip sandwich, chips, and water.

Unlike the previous Bellarmine football game against Gonzaga, this game was much more crowded from both Bellarmine students and Archbishop Mitty high school students.

I found my seat near the Jazz band (where my son plays the trumpet), and waited for the game to start (at 7:00pm), while other alumni and students walked about.


The game started around 7:00pm, and Bellarmine quickly scored a touchdown. 7-0 Bells!
There was not much scoring for the next quarter and the half ended on a 7-0 score, with Bellarmine leading.


Unfortunately, Bellarmine lost the lead, when Mitty was able to score twice, leading with a score of 14-7. It was disappointing for Bellarmine.


I enjoyed the game and the sounds of the jazz band right above me.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Biking John Nichols Trail

On my last mountain bike ride at Almaden Quicksilver Park, I stopped by for a short break and got talking to another mountain bike rider. She told me about a mountain bike ride in the nearby John Nichols Trail in Los Gatos (quite nearby), which she thought was one of the best rides in the area.

Since I have never biked there before, I was intrigued and curious about this new trail. She said that it was not as grueling as Almaden Quicksilver with more shade and better scenery.


I arranged a ride with a couple of my friends and we arrived at the trailhead of Jon Nichols Trail (in Sanborn Park).


We unloaded our mountain bikes and started our ride. The first part of the ride was quite level,on a very wide trail full of other mountain bikers and hikers.


The trail was very scenic with excellent tree cover.


Once we passed Lake Ranch Reservoir, which was full of fish, the trail started to narrow and wind uphill.


There were a couple quite steep sections which required pedaling in the lowest possible gear, but I made it to the top (vista) with only one stop.

I recorded a GoPro 4 silver video in standard definition (shown below) and in high-definition (use the link).


The view for the Vista is quite nice, and I could see a vineyard in the distance.


Since I recorded the ride using Strava, I used Relive to generate a ride video.


The ride back down to the parking lot was quite fast! I really enjoyed this trail and hope to do it again.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bellarmine vs Gonzaga Football

It was my son's first Bellarmine vs Gonzaga Football game and my first home tailgate.
The actual game was scheduled for 7:00pm at San Jose City College (where the pre-game tailgate dinner was held from 5:00 - 7:00pm).


When I arrived at 5:00pm, I parked at San Jose City College's parking garage and walked over to the dinner tables. The Bellarmine crew was setting up a catered dinner for chicken, sausage, and hot dogs. I decided to purchase 2 dinners for my wife and I, while we waited for the Jazz Band to setup and play.


Alex played trumpet with the Jazz Band, and I was surprised by the quality of the band and how many songs they played.

I recorded a short video on my iPhone of the Jazz Band playing a tune below:


After we finished with the dinner, we walked to the nearby stadium to watch Bellarmine College Prep's Varsity team take own Gonzaga.


While the football team was getting ready, the Jazz Band played a few numbers.


The football game was quite exciting, but unfortunately Gonzaga immediately took a lead, first 7-0, then 14-0, from which Bellarmine could not quite catch up.

I was surprised by how crowded the game was - I didn't expect so many Bellarmine fans!

Bellarmine lost 19-38, but I enjoyed the game.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: Zepp 2 Tennis Sensor

I was always curious about tennis sensors and was set on purchasing the Babolat Pure Aero Play tennis racket with built-in sensor technology. Since it was very expensive - $350 - I decided to try a lower priced option - the newly released Zepp 2 Tennis Sensor.


I attached the Zepp 2 to my 2017 Wilson Burn 100S tennis racket, using the provided "insert mount". In the Wilson tennis racket, I popped out the "W" cover with a small screwdriver and inserted the Zepp provided "insert mount".

After charging the Zepp 2 sensor, I attached it to my racket by turning it into the racket mount. It seemed secure to me, but it does stick out.


I installed the free Zepp app from the iTunes store on my iPhone 7. It easily found and connected to my Zepp device.

After playing two matches, I checked the recorded stats on my iPhone.
The status screen looks like this:


In the Zepp box, there are 3 different methods for attaching the Zepp 2 sensor to the tennis racket. I used the best one (the insert mount).


Having played a few matches, I can now report my findings on this new Zepp 2 Tennis sensor.


Zepp 2 Tennis Report Card

Positives
  • $100
  • Work with my Wilson Burn 100S racket without any special adapters
Negatives
  • The sensor sticks out at the end of the racket (and I find the extra length obtrusive)
    • Why didn't the designers allow it to rest inside the racket? There is plenty of room on the racket's handle
  • Turning it off/on is really stupid:
    • Holding the on/off button for 4 seconds turns the sensor off or on - but whether or not it's turned on or off is hard to tell. A separate OFF/ON buttons would have been nice.
    • There is no "on" indicator - the designers should have at least used a blinking led or something. Once when I though I turned it on - I actually turned it off.
  • Charging cable is also poorly designed. Why invent a whole new connector when a micro-USB would have worked as well?
  • Zepp iTunes app was a bit buggy. One time, it locked up while syncing with the Zepp sensor. 





Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: Something Rotten at Orpheum Theater

After hearing positive review of "Something Rotten"  from our friends, I decided to see it in San Francisco's Orpheum Theater (if I could get reasonably priced tickets).

Today, on Sunday, September 3, when I checked my iPhone's TodayTix app, I realized that there could be some seats available at the $40/ticket price. At 9:00 am, I was able to get the $40 Rush tickets (which turned out to be in Row Y of Orchestra for the 2:00 pm performance).


The Mercury News wrote a delightfully accurate review of Something Rotten. I am posting a short excerpt below:
One thing you have to admit about the new Shakespearean spoof “Something Rotten,” it comes dangerously close to living up to its title. Despite being very funny at times, I found the music and lyrics a bit uninspired. 
“Rotten” slices and dices the Shakespearean canon until it’s as cheesy as a Denver omelette. The rub is that once you’ve heard one Shakespeare gag, you’ve heard them all.


The plot’s a nonstop Bard put-down. The preening peacock Will (a wonderfully funny Adam Pascal) is the rock star of the London literary scene and he has a lock on box office returns, so Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel Bottom (a nuanced Josh Grisetti) decide to up the ante with a new genre. Nick pays a soothsayer to predict what the future holds for the theater and the prediction is for — wait for it — musical comedy. Enter the “Hamlet” parody known as “Omelette: The Musical,” which leaves the brothers with a lot of egg on their faces.
Both Shakespeare and Broadway get a drubbing here which is kind of fun, for a little while. There are some funny bits, particularly Nostradamus’ (an astute Blake Hammond) epic song and dance number summoning the ghost of musicals yet to come in a massive name-checking chorus line. He shimmies and sashays from “Les Miz” to “Avenue Q” in a cheeky showstopper (“A Musical”) that goes so far over the top it’s upside down.
Songs like “I Hate Shakespeare” and “The Black Death” feel uninspired. It’s a bit like “Spamalot” if you take away the Monty Python stuff.
Despite McClure’s engaging performance as the ink-stained wretch Nick and Pascal’s (“Rent”) stylish strutting as the leather-clad Billy Idol-style rock god, moaning that it’s “Hard to be the Bard,” the play is not quite the thing here. The shtick is the real star of the show, from the groaner puns spewed by a mincing Puritan preacher (Scott Cote) who seems obsessed with bottoms to the overstuffed codpieces and the fangirls holding up candles (the precursor to the lighter) at the Shakespeare concert. 
In the funniest and most insightful joke of the evening, the moment that had the audience roaring with applause, the soothsayer has premonitions about musicals in the future. He gets flashes and images but nothing definitive. For instance he knows you have to solve a problem like Maria and he knows there are people called Nazis. When asked if these Nazis are good or bad, he demurs.The elastic-limbed choreography is consistently eye-catching and the costumes are pithy, but the words or the observations rarely get anywhere near as noteworthy as the production values. 
Something Rotten Report Card


Positives
  • Full of zany zingers, making fun of Shakespeare and most American Musicals
  • Very funny at times
Negatives
  • "The Black Death" song seems uninspired / kitschy 
  • Stage Decorations were average
  • Most of the songs are not of the same level as other musicals, such as Spamalot (not to mention Chicago or Anything Goes)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hiking Butano State Park

When our friends suggested hiking at Butano State Park, I was surprised to hear about it - since I never heard of it before.It turned out to be only 80 minutes away from Los Gatos (so quite nearby).


When we arrived, we decided to follow some of the suggestions from Alltrails.com:
  • Start from the Park Entrance parking lot
  • Follow Six Bridges trail south toward Ano Nuevo trail
  • At intersection with Ano Nuevo, follow the Ano Nuevo trail East toward the Olmo Fire Road
  • At Olmo Fire Road, turn  right, walking a short section
  • At intersection with Goat Hill Trail, follow Goat Hill Trail north until fire road
  • Turn right at fire road and then walk a short distance
  • At intersection with Little Butano Creek trail, get on the Little Butano Creek trail
  • At intersection with fire road, walk to the park entrance

We decided to shorten the hike, as we were running out of time and everyone was tired from the steep ascent in the Ano Nuevo trail. At Goat Hill Trail, we turned left and walked toward the fire road, taking it all the way back to the park entrance.


I also tracked my progress on Strava and had a nice recording of my hiike on Relive.
This 3.3 mile shortened hike took us 1:50 hours with an ascent of 940 ft.


After the hike, we stopped for lunch and coffee at the tiny village of  Pescadero. We thought about eating pizza there, but the pizza restaurant burned down.


I saw a really cool car parked next to the Downtown Local coffee shop. The "Mocha" I ordered was so-so, but the beautiful 3-wheeled car with a V-twin was something to admire.

I have never seen a car like that and it was beautiful to look at.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Biking Saratoga Gap and Long Ridge

As weather was very hot, I decided to mountain bike the Saratoga Gap and Peters Creek trail in Saratoga (starting at the Vista point parking lot at the intersection of Highway 9 and Skyline Boulevard).


I arrived just before 9:05 am and was riding my 2011 Specialized S-works FSR with newly built wheels. The rear tire flat has been fixed at Silva Cycles.
The trail started out with an easy climb to a single track with nice green cover.
I recorded a nice high-definition GoPro 4 video on my ride here:




I also tracked my progress on Strava and had a nice recording of my progress on Relive.



I also took some photos on the ride.


The ride too about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I really liked this trail - it's not as tiresome as Almaden Quicksilver County park - but is more scenic with many different sections of single track and technical descents. I hope to ride it once again.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Watching Constellations at TheatreWorks

Today, my wife and I went to see Constellations at TheatreWorks of Mountain View.


I have never heard of this particular play and thought that it might be a musical, but it turned out to be something entirely different.

The basic idea of the plot is to imagine a universe where all possibilities are explored sequentially. In this incarnation, the two main characters: a beekeeper (Robert Gilbert) and a Cosmologist (Carie Kawa) play and endlessly replay the same conversation (and various romantic interludes) with some subtle variations.

The Mercury News review of this particular play is spot on about the multitude of possibilities explored. At times, I felt a bit bored with the repetition, but it was an interesting concept.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Practicing Tennis on the Ball Machine

I have been practicing forehand, backhand, volley, and serves at the Sunnyvale Tennis Center for a long time. I decided to record my technique, for further review with my trusty GoPro4 Hero Silver camera mounted on a tripod.


In this short GoPro4 video, I am practicing my forehand and slice backhand



In this short GoPro4 video, I am practicing my forehand and backhand volleys.


In this next short GoPro4 video, I am practicing my kick serve.



In this next short GoPro4 video, I am practicing my flat serve.


The serve is broken into 8 phases. I made comment to errors I have observed in red.
  1. Grip: Continental
  2. Initial Stance: Platform
  3. First Move (turn away from the target)
  4. Ball Toss (using  fingertips)
  5. Trophy Pose
    • The racket should fall behind my right shoulder, but it's not doing so
  6. Serve Stroke
    • During the stroke, I should be approaching the ball with the edge of my tennis racket - not with an open tennis racket. This is causing a "push" stroke. The racket should open at the very last moment - during pronation. I realize that I'm not always gripping my racket in correct Continental (need to check grip more often)
  7. Contact
    • I was releasing the pinkie finger on my tennis hand prior to contact. Need to correct this error!
  8. Completion