Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spot the Difference

Can you notice any differences between these two swimsuits?

See if you can spot the difference(s) between these two swimsuits, and think before you read on. Well, the colors are different. However, that is all that is different. I bought these two swimsuits on the same day in the middle of May for the same price at the same store and they were both exactly the same size. So why is one pair bigger than the other, and significantly bigger?

As with anything I buy new, I tend to put it in a drawer and continue to use something old first. I don't recall using the blue/black swimsuit until at least the beginning of June. That means I have used it at the most two months, and that would mean about 200,000 meters of swimming at the most. But this blue/black pair is completely shot, and I feel if anything a little betrayed.

When I bought the trunks, I thought that I would do TYR a favor by buying their product since most of the elite swimmers have switched to the Speedo LZR. When I read the labels that came with the garment, I noted how they claimed that the material helped the water flow by smoothly, somewhat like water off a duck's back. That might have been the case the first day I used them, but certainly after a couple of weeks, they were no better than any of the other old pairs that I had been wearing.

I notice nowadays that a brand name does not mean a lot. For instance, a company like Nikon will make a whole range of cameras from something that gets really bad reviews to something else that is at the top of the line. When I grew up, a Rolls Royce was a Rolls Royce and there was no cheap model for sale at Wal-Mart. One of the reasons I hesitated about buying a Speedo, was that for a long time swimming garments with the Speedo logo were frequently sold in bargain discount stores in Taiwan. Maybe they were fake, I don't know. In any case, I had the impression they were cheap and of poor quality. The problem nowadays is that one might end up buying something high-priced because it has a fancy name, only to find out within a week that it has stretched to three times the size. I think I need to learn how to feel material in a store and to tell from touch what will actually last and what won't. To get value for money I have a 10:1 rule: 10 kilometers of swimming for US$1 of expenditure on swimsuits. Maybe I will need to buy the bare minimum to keep costs down. I certainly don't intend to pay $65 for something with my own design on it. If I buy one of those, I will need to swim 650 kilometers, which at the current rate would mean it would have to last at least six months. I doubt if it would last that long.

As I continue to soldier on with my swimming (I have now been at this lark for a little over four months now), I managed to swim a total of 4,000 meters yesterday (Tuesday) and 4,650 meters today (Wednesday). I included about 1,500 of broken sets (meaning with some rest in between different shortish swims). On Tuesday I felt fairly tired, in spite of having Monday off (maybe too busy working or whatever), but today I felt a little better. In the 200m race at the end of the workout on Tuesday I went 3m 16s, but I went 3m 10s for that same distance in a race shortly before getting out of the water today. I might add today I wore a different (old) swimsuit. I think it helped me feel better able to rotate my hips. So today's time was two seconds faster than my previous best. I want to break 3 mins on this distance, and I guess it will happen bit by bit. No time to try to give up now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Week Goes By

Surf's up! Nothing like a typhoon to generate some waves!

A typhoon has just passed through Taiwan, strong enough in parts of the island at least to close down businesses, schools and transportation services. In Kaohsiung where we live, although there was quite a lot of rain, the wind did not appear particularly strong, and I kept the glass doors leading to the small lanai adjoining my office on the 5th floor open all day. While a lot of offices apparently closed, I was able to get quite a lot of work done at home, since it was my off day from swimming, and there is not a lot else to do on days like this.

Apart from thinking about retirement recently and what I have got to do to be able to consider doing that one day, I have also been inspired by a number of people who have been preparing to swim the English Channel this year. Some have already made their attempt, not all of them successful, and others have still to face that extra special day in their lives. One guy who has already attempted it in the last few days (unless his swim date was postponed) is nearly 71 years old. You have to be that old if you want to be the oldest person to successfully swim across. In 2004, I believe, someone swam it after his 70th birthday. Not that it is easy. A lot of really tough and well-trained people aren't making it. If you are interested to know more, look at Mark's blog in my list of English blogging friends and he has links to many of this year's Channel aspirants. If you read around the blogs, you will find a lot of useful information especially about the mental preparation.

As for my own swimming, I am continuing to do my usual practices. Friday 4,700m, Saturday 3,850m, and Sunday 4,050m. Nothing particularly special. I did 200m in 3m 18s on Saturday and 3m 16s on Sunday when racing against my friend. I think I was a little tired, as I can only do them at the end of the workout when most people have left the pool and we can each more or less get a lane to ourselves. On Saturday the pool (meaning the few available lanes) was particularly crowded making progress very difficult. With about four others sharing a lane, I can usually steamroll my way through. When there are six or more, swimming at all different speeds, it is virtually impossible to do anything. Clearly, I need to keep my head down to maintain good body alignment as much as possible.

At least it is almost the end of July. I envisage August being a busy month for the pool, but after that the kids will need to go back to school and when the weather isn't quite so hot, attendance will drop. My total meters for the last week was 26,750 meters. That may sound a lot. I think it all depends on the surroundings. In Kona I could swim a lot of distance when the ocean was calm, but generally it was hard to do more than about 3,000m when attending a Masters' workout and trying to do a little extra myself at the end. Distance of course is not everything. I need more speed work. I seem to be swimming the equivalent of a slow jog - a slow, deliberate push off the wall, 14 to 15 strokes and then the same starting at the other end. I have read that at training camps in Canada, successful triathletes have been advised to focus on "process" and not on beating so-and-so or on the time each lap. So perhaps for me I need to (1) get a good push off the wall with my head down, hands slightly higher up and keep my feet still while gliding, and then (2) focus on 14 controlled hand strokes with good water entry and follow through, while (3) pretending I'm listening to a tempo machine so that I can coordinate my stroke turnover with an imaginary drumbeat. One thing I am going to do more is vary my swimming speed. When lanes are fairly crowded there are times when you get stuck behind someone just as he is approaching the wall, and other times you get a chance to overtake and race them to the other wall. So I can use all those annoyances to improve my swimming.

A couple of months ago I bought some TYR swimming trunks. They looked and felt good at first, but now they feel like the bottom half of a pair of pajamas. I guess I won't need to order one of those underwater parachutes swimmers train with. I still have a Kona Aquatics swimsuit (new and unused). Maybe I should change into it for the last 10 minutes of a workout when I really need to race against the clock. However, I think it is better to have a lot of drag when swimming. When I really get to do a race, and wear appropriate stuff, I should feel a little faster.

We currently have no working camera at home as the boys are still in Taipei with the only one that can be used and the sale of our old apartment has not yet been finalized. It seems like everything we need to buy or are going to do depends on finally getting rid of that apartment. Still, I don't intend to buy much except for things we really need. I am worried about getting old, and not having enough or my folks not having enough.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some Thoughts on Retirement

I guess most of you will not even read this sentence since you will be thinking that my topic is of no relevance to you. Well, I'm glad that you do not need to concern yourself about this. At least I have come to the realization that at my stage in life this is indeed and important issue for me.

I in no way have it made. I gave up a full-time employment (for which I had never received anything related to a pension) in 1999 to go with my family to Hawai'i to be a student first and then a volunteer. After eight years, we returned to Taiwan in summer 2007 with a few thousand in cash (in the bank) and a modest but oldish apartment in a fairly remote part of the suburbs of Taipei.

Fortunately, in spite of being a volunteer in Hawai'i with only meals and eventually health insurance provided in exchange for the work I did, the realities of life taught me how to survive on very little or no income in the form of donations, which is often how volunteers survive long term. By the time I left Hawai'i, I was able to cover my living expenses (including the high rent) and also enter the Ironman and related races. It basically started with a few inquiries from people in Taiwan who required my editing and translation skills and eventually I had plenty of work to keep me busy, at least a lot of the time.

So, when I returned to Taiwan, it was not as if I had to look for a job. My email address remained the same and that was basically all that mattered. My advice on retirement is of course based on my own circumstances, which will probably differ significantly from the experiences of other people. Anyway, to keep things brief and to enable you to draw your own conclusions, here are a few pointers as I see things at present:

1. Get a nice home, but one that is inexpensive to maintain: Our apartment near Taipei had served us well from the days when our older son could not yet stand up. They rode their tricycles up and down the living room, caught the school bus on the road outside, came back for vacations from Hawai'i, sometimes bringing an American friend or two with them. However, the immediate neighborhood was more run down compared to when the boys were small, and the house needed a lot of work to get it anywhere near looking really nice. After seeing something a lot nicer and meetings with bankers where I had to show through tax statements that I had consistently been earning money in Taiwan even though I hadn't been living there, we were able to purchase a brand-new and significantly bigger place in southern Taiwan in the same city as all of my wife's siblings. Then with the banks happy to provide the mortgage needed for the new house, through my day-to-day work I was able to pay for quite extensive repairs to the old apartment (to make it liveable and/or sellable), and then as we got possession of the new place, to pay for the various fixtures and fittings (such as for the kitchen, fitted closets for the bedroom, curtains, a solar energy water heater on the rooftop, air-conditioners, the list is endless and the work isn't finished yet). So at least my wife gets to have the kitchen the way she wanted it for the first time in her life. The reason why I wanted to get a place like this sooner rather than later was that moving house proved to be really quite difficult, even though we brought little furniture down with us, preferring to buy mostly new furniture for the new house. We had something like about 150 boxes or cases of things, each of which held the equivalent of suitcase. It was a nightmare and my younger son and I (the older son was overseas on a course), spent more or less the whole night just moving the boxes downstairs from our 5th floor apartment, to get them on to the road where the moving truck could pick them up. I had thought my knees were bad, but I seemed to manage very well with all those steps and boxes. We had 20 years of things that we had accumulated.

By having a home that is inexpensive to maintain, I am obviously thinking of condominiums with association fees or elevators, etc. For our new place, we don't have any of these. We only pay for utilities according to what we use and of course phone and Internet fees.

Great care should also be taken when buying a house. While I don't think house prices change very much in Taiwan, only a week or two ago a large block of apartments with basements got flooded out by the heavy rains from the typhoon. Those apartments are less than 10 miles away. We don't have a basement, and now I see why.

2. Learn to manage money well: When in Hawai'i I just assumed that every woman had a rich husband with me being the only exception. For those of us who haven't had a steady job with a pension and the rest for the last 30 years or so, life can more often than not be a battle just to have enough to pay the next month's rent. That was my experience the whole time in Hawai'i, and I am kinda tired of that lifestyle. It can be really stressful, especially when signing legally-binding contracts to rent an apartment for six months when we can only afford the deposit and the first month's rent. Having one's own home means that you can live comfortably (you get to buy a nice bed which will last you forever), and at least over here in Taiwan the value of the property is unlikely to fall, even though it may not go up much. A good way to save money is to cut down on expenses (since incomes are often relatively fixed) by cooking your own food (which is much better for you anyway), working from home if possible and saving time and transportation costs, using a bicycle or public transportation, etc., and avoiding unnecessary things like subscriptions to clubs, spas or health drinks, etc. when there are significantly cheaper alternatives. A final word of caution about money. Make it hard for you to spend money (i.e., be very strict with yourself on the use of credit cards), but convenient for others to put money into your account in return for services rendered, and ideally have several accounts with relatively small amounts in each. Remember there are a lot of swindlers out there who will do everything to cheat you.

3. Have a Plan "B" and maybe a Plan "C": While one should try to focus on one's current lifestyle in terms of income and budgeting, do dream about that eventual second home in Hawai'i, for if things go well for you, that may well become a reality in the not-too-distant future. On the other hand, it might be a good idea to think of a "worst-case scenario" (not too bad a one) should you or you spouse have an accident or a major illness, or something unexpected happen. To better cope with such an eventuality it might be a good idea to build up some cash reserves in the bank that could be easily withdrawn if needed. This might mean having to postpone a vacation, but it may be well worth it. We should not be a burden on our children, as they will have their own lives to lead. However, we should be there as much as possible for them, and as far as ours are concerned, they are always welcome in our home, and maybe that eventual second home may be for one of them.

4. Don't think of retirement as just sitting around doing nothing: I hope to see retirement as being in a situation where I do not need to work to cover my living expenses. However, it will be a long, long time before I can do that, particularly in view of the generally low interest rates that would apply to any savings. So I hope to continue to work as long as I can (by doing something that is knowledge-intensive rather than physically demanding (as my brain will be the last thing to go out - I hope). Then I will continue to focus on the sports I am interested in (currently swimming), in the hope that they will keep me healthy, although health and fitness are two different things. The sports help me feel I am still capable of doing things, of beating some younger people, and that I am not just an old fogey. Still, the kind of sports lifestyle I have will depend on how much I can sensibly afford. I do not have the kind of money to travel the world doing Ironmans, but I can train cheaply in my own back yard, and maybe consider doing Ironman Japan and going over to Hawai'i to train and race with my friends. There are also various social activities in the community we should consider getting involved in, and everyone will have his or her own preferences.

Anyway, I could go on and on. However, anyone who has read this far will have other blogs to read and other things to do, and I must also turn my attention to some more "work" or bed or whatever. In closing, please do not think of me as being old. (I am in denial). I am at 23,000 plus meters in the last 5 days of going swimming - tired, but still surviving!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Update on Swimming

This is the view we had of Kaohsiung from the harbor (minus the mountains). Next time we will take our own picture.

It is Thursday evening as I write this and thus for this week three days of swimming (Tues, Wed, Thurs) have gone by and three more remain (Fri, Sat, Sun). For me this is a typical week. Nothing particularly exciting happening, and no trips out of town. In fact most of my time is spent either at the pool or at home, or maybe occasionally in the public library where I can have a change from just working at home.

On Tuesday I swam a total of 5,200 meters. The first 5,100 started off fairly fast (due to another relatively fast person sharing the lane, but I gradually settled down a bit and finished that in 1 hr 40 mins. After 5 mins rest, I raced my friend over 100m, but I only went about 1m 35s. I think I had just had enough by then.

On Wednesday, I was tired relatively speaking (insufficient sleep the night before) and swam a total of 4,300 m, but was a few minutes slower than normal on most of it. Anyway, I did it which probably helped. At the end my friend and I swam a 200m race, which was more relaxed than a 100m. I went 3m 17s. I felt I could have done better, but I settled for it. I haven't had the right conditions to swim 200m (like an empty lane and a friend to race against) for a long time. I really want to break 3 mins for it.

This morning (Thursday), I swam a total of 4,650 meters. Due to the dynamics (others in the lane), I swam fairly hard and was clearly better than yesterday. I passed th 3,850 mark (2.4 miles equivalent) in 1hr 15m. Later, after a few minutes' rest, I got ready to race my friend again over 200m. I went out the first hundred slightly faster than him, but I must have slowed down without realizing it on the second 100m as I finished a second or two behind him in 3m 12s. I felt pretty relaxed. Maybe I didn't feel my life depended on it. Anyway, it was nice to swim more comfortably.

So, after three days, I am at 14,150 meters. I am not trying to go for distance particularly. Just hanging in there and trying to do what I can given the conditions (like how many people are swimming in my lane and at what speeds, etc.) The pool is likely to be pretty busy until at least September. As the winter months come (there actually isn't really any winter here in Kaohsiung), there will be less people and maybe my training can be a bit more focused.

At home I am also trying to do some "land exercises" each day to build strength. Improvements are only slow, but at least there are some improvements.

This evening Hsiu-chin and I went to look at the nearest beach to our house (about 30 mins by scooter from our house plus a short ferry ride). Not quite Waikiki, but at least it is possible to swim there if I really wanted to go there instead of the pool. I wanted to take photos, but our only working camera is with our sons at the moment. I want to buy a new camera, but we need to sell our (old) house first to do so. I don't buy on credit (apart from the house).

Anyway, tomorrow morning will be another swim at the pool. Not particularly exciting. As I swim I will tend to think about body alignment as I push off the wall, and on not dropping my elbows as I pull through. No nice little fishes to watch nor three little birds to sing their sweet little songs. Boring as the swimming may be, I keep at it. It takes me about two hours each morning from the time I leave the house to go there, swim and shower and get changed. Then I estimate it takes me another two hours later in the day to catch up on lost sleep. It really creeps up on you. If I don't take a rest, I end up thinking I am swimming laps when I am trying to do my work. Fortunately, my bed is between my "office" and the kitchen. I am also glad to say that I am injury-free at present, but having said that, I better take care. One never knows from one day to the next.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

北島 康介の200m平泳ぎの世界新記録 World Record Swim

北島 康介の200m平泳ぎの世界新記録
Kosuke Kitajima sets 2:07.51 WR in 200m Breaststroke

北島 康介の200m平泳ぎの世界新記録 New World Record

北島 康介の200m平泳ぎの世界新記録
Kosuke Kitajima sets 2:07.51 WR in 200m Breaststroke

日本語:北島 康介 (きたじま こうすけ) 、1982年9月22日は、日本の男子競泳(平泳ぎ)の選手。アテネオリンピックの100m平泳ぎ、200m平泳ぎの金メダリスト。身長177cm、体重72kg。2008年6月8日、東京辰巳国際水泳場でのジャパンオープンの男子200メートル平泳ぎで、SPEEDO社のレーザー・レーサーを着用して挑み、5年ぶりとなる2分07秒51の世界新記録(0秒99更新)を樹立。

English summary: Kosuke Kitajima (北島 康介, きたじま こうすけ) is a Japanese swimmer currently aged 25 who presently holds the world record in the 200m (LCM) breaststroke. He first broke the breaststroke world record while still in his teens and won gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004 in both the 100m and 200m distances. Unlike some of his larger Western counterparts, he is only 177 cms tall (less than 5ft 10in) and weighs around 71 kgs. While the world records in these distances, particularly the 200m, have changed hands in recent years, Kitajima regained his 200m breaststroke world record in June 2008 at the Japan Open. His time of 2:07.51 shaved nearly a second off the previous record of 2:08.50 set by Brendan Hansen of the U.S. in 2006. He did it wearing the new Speedo LZR swimsuit. Hansen is considered to be his main rival in the breaststroke. Since the Japanese team will now be wearing the new Speedo suits, at least that puts them and the Americans on a level playing field as far as the Olympics this year goes. It will certainly be interesting to watch this race. Good luck, Kosuke, and everyone else who will be competing. You are all super swimmers!

中文:北島康介(1982年9月22日-)是一名日本游泳運動員,出生在東京,身高177公分,體重71 公斤,曾經獲得2004年夏季奧林匹克運動會的100米蛙泳與200米蛙泳的金牌。北島在蛙泳上最大的競爭對手是美國的 Brendan Hansen. 他雖然於2004年雅典奧運時在100米蛙泳與200米蛙泳擊敗 Hansen,獲得金牌,後來 Hansen 於2006年於200米蛙泳打破世界紀錄 (紀錄為2分08秒50)。可是,於2008年6 月8日在東京再一次以2分07秒51於200米蛙泳打破世界記録。真的是不可思意!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sheila Taormina: 4th Olympics, 3rd Event

Photo of Sheila Taormina, courtesy of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Chinese summary: 美國女游泳名將希拉·陶米納(Sheila Taormina)打破歷史,在4 屆奧運中參加3 種不同項目(游泳,三鐵,現代五項運動),成為史上第一人。她在1996 年奧運奪得4x200米自由泳金牌,在2000年悉尼奧運及2004年雅典奧運參戰三項鐵人賽,而到2008京奧,這位來自美國39歲名將參加現代五項運動。

「同一個世界,同一個夢想」(One world, One dream) (The motto of the Beijing Olympic Games. I prefer the way the Chinese expresses it: "The same world, the same dream".) Let's lay aside our differences and unite together during this great event.

I first heard about Sheila Taormina when she was training to participate in the Olympic distance triathlon at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Little did I realize until very recently that she was now training to represent the United States at the 2008 Games in Beijing in modern pentathlon ( if you would like to refresh your memory on what sports are involved here, please click here). These two events together with swimming, for which she won gold in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 while competing in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, mean that she will be an Olympian in three different events, and the first woman in history to be such.

While she is clearly very gifted and talented in sports, it has by no means been easy for her. There is such a wealth of talent in every discipline these days, especially in a vast country like the United States. You can find out more about her own story on her blog (look at Sheila's earlier posts, too) by clicking here.

Of course, some people might wonder why a woman in her late thirties is spending most of her time each day working on the various disciplines that make up this modern pentathlon. Why can't she just live a "normal" life? That to me raises two questions, the first being to ask what a "normal" life is, and the other to ask what is the point of just living a "normal" life. Surely, we should live a life that is more than just "normal". Wouldn't you rather be doing that than living a humdrum existence?

As I grew up, I watched parts of the various Olympic Games on TV, but in my mind I could only be a spectator. I wasn't ver good at sports at school, so for me to ever think of going there was out of the question. So in a way, those people worked on their sports, and I just lived my own life. After university, as organized sporting activities (like cross country running races) came to an end for me, I just did my own thing for a while (like some rowing, biking and running), and then I gradually lost my focus and the demands and pressures of life gradually took over.

I am pleased to say that while I am now in my fifties, due to my getting back into serious training for triathlons in recent years, I at least can see improvements in my swimming. I believe that I am swimming better now than I ever did before. Due to aging and physiological limitations, I will probably never be able to get the form I could have got had I been training like I am training now 20 0r 30 years ago, but I can still improve and have that great feeling after a good workout or race. I hope in a few future blogs to write a bit more about how to "get it all together" (i.e., training in the context of life in general) especially from the perspective of someone getting on in years, unlike most of you. However, that time will eventually come for you, too.

To recap on my recent swimming training, from Tuesday morning to this (Sunday) morning (i.e., six days) I swam a total of 23,550 meters. This was mostly fairly relaxed non-stop swimming, at least for 3,000 to 3,500 meters, and then some short and faster swims with fairly long rests (at that point I needed more of a rest if I was going to push it). I did not do any particularly fast times, but I noticed that I was swimming more comfortably while maintaining similar speeds as in the recent past. I also negatively splitted, partly because I was joined later in the swim by people who gave me an incentive to push the pace, and partly because as I got warmed up I just became more energized. I have been feeling good. Maybe it is time to take it up a notch, perhaps by trying to pick up the pace a bit, or just increasing the distance. I am also doing more land exercises at home. I am limited in terms of the equipment I have, but will probably order some StrechCordz from the U.S. fairly soon. Having been doing some resistance training on my arms is enabling me to feel stronger on these longish swims, especially towards the end, and to maintain a consistent 15 or so strokes per length (25 m). I usually use open turns on the long swims (there are usually others swimming in my lane that I have to constantly watch for), and I am still not very good at getting a good push off the wall. Anyway, I don't want to overdo it, as I want to exercise my arms, too!

I think I can tell when I am tired at home (or elsewhere) during the day: when I drift into semi-consciousness and think I am in the process of swimming laps. It can be scary. I need to get good rest so as not to get into that frame of mind.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Sheila gets on in the Beijing Games. I certainly would not like to have to compete against her in the swim. The shooting will be a test of nerves on the day. The fencing will depend on the skills learned. The horse riding will partly depend on how much the horse you are assigned likes you. The 3k run, the final event, will be like the tail end of a triathlon. That was certainly a distance I liked to run when I was younger. You could run hard, but not too hard, and you could get the whole thing over with pretty quickly.

I also propose inventing a new five-discipline sport for those in Hawai'i: swimming, running, biking, paddle boarding and kayaking, and maybe a Tarzan like swing on a rope into the ocean to finish off. Let's meet at the Kona Brewery to discuss it, and figure out how we want to share the income after we commercialize it. Is anyone out there interested?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Six-Point Meme: You are Tagged!

What I consider to be a good vacation - More swimming!

I was just nosing around a few of my friends' friends' blogs and came across the 6-Point Meme prepared by Shirley Perly, a lady and triathlete I have never met although we have probably done some races together in Hawai'i. So at the outset I would like to apologize for intruding on her website, but since she encouraged those reading her blog to play the game of tag, here is my own humble contribution.

The six points concern facts about myself that people may not know about, but which may also help other people get to know me a little better.

1) My best bike ride ever is probably the one I did from Harrogate, Yorkshire to Norwich, Norfolk (in the U.K.) at the age of 25 covering a distance of 180 miles in 11 hours 45 minutes. I traveled alone, and my aid stations were grocery stores where I would drink three pints of milk in rapid succession or stock up on freshly made doughnuts. My bike was a ten-speed and quite heavy, but it was comfortable (probably because it was large enough for me), and treated me a lot better on long rides than anything I have ridden since (or at least until I get my "dream" bike).

2) I am a natural biker, but I currently only swim, which is a lot more work for me, especially when it comes to seeing improvements. I can run, too, but have taken the last year off running because I hurt my knees last year biking (on a bike that was too small for me). Fortunately, I feel a lot better now. The swimming keeps me fit and makes me feel a lot more balanced as it requires a lot more upper body training.

3) I feel that things like one's nationality or even one's ethnicity and upbringing can impose huge limitations on our lives. I am British by nationality, English, Scottish, Belgian and Swiss in terms of ethnicity, and in terms of my thinking and daily life all those plus Chinese, Japanese, Thai and goodness knows what else. If I had the chance to be reborn, I would have a "World" passport.

4) My height has often bugged me in life. While I tend to prefer to keep a low profile, as I am not a particularly outgoing type, I always stand out wherever I go. I don't think this problem is unique to me or just tall people, as opposite poles of a compass attract, and I have at times being drawn to people of the opposite sex who probably feel the other way. Although being tall has its problems when it comes to buying clothes or shoes, it certainly is an advantage when swimming, and when biking, too (especially when I get that super-duper bike that actually fits me).

5) No matter how serious I get with doing triathlons and the Ironman, etc., I will never ever go to some beauty parlor and have all my body hair removed. Fortunately, I am not related to the grizzly bear and so can already swim efficiently without making any major adjustments. I did go as far as thinning out the hair on my legs prior to my first Ironman race, but I think it made me look a little anaemic and probably did not really make much of a difference on my time in the end. I am happy with the way I look in that regard. With a Speedo lazer-razer, there won't be any need to go to the wax lady anyway if I am just doing a swim.

6) Much to the annoyance of family members, when eating something tasty, I often like to lick the plate to finish off. In Britain where I grew up, when we ate soup, we were supposed to tip the bowl away from us to get the last scoops. Later, I noticed the Chinese would often just pick up the (smaller) bowl and pour it into their mouths. So when there is still something left after following both of the above approaches, I will just do what our pet dogs did when I was growing up and resort to using my tongue. That is the most natural way, in my opinion, and it tastes the most delicious. No wonder the dogs always lick their lips afterwards.

On the news front, nothing particularly exciting is happening, and I am trying to keep up my swimming training (in a more crowded pool since it is the summer break), while devoting most of my other waking hours to my work which is keeping me pretty busy. Last week I swam a little over 20,000 meters, had Monday off (pool closed), swam 4,050 meters Tuesday, and just 3,100 meters today (Wednesday) (I overslept). I am tired with it all. Despite getting up before six in the morning, I rarely get started on my work until midday as I feel tired mid-morning after coming back from the pool and start my work by lying down to sleep. (Don't worry - I am not cheating my boss as I am my boss.) I am about 4 months into this phase of my swimming training and have about 11 left. I hope I can keep at it even when it gets more boring and I don't see any improvement.

In closing, congratulations on Bree on a fantastic performance at the Vancouver Half Ironman. She got third, but she also rode about two miles more than the other competitors when she and the front lady's motorcycle escort went off on a wild goose chase early in the bike. For more of the details, see Bree's write-up by clicking here.

Finally, thank you Shirley for giving me something to write about today, and if any readers feel so inclined please be tagged for this 6-point meme.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Taipei Trip and Meeting Old Friends

A trip to Taipei, some computer problems, being busy and a little tiredness made it more difficult to write my blog. A break from it occasionally, however, cannot be bad. On Thursday night, I stayed for probably the last time at our old apartment in Taipei. I have gradually become less and less attached to it over the last year and even before that when we were in Hawai'i, and am glad we are finally getting rid of it. However, we bought the place just over 20 years ago, and so in spite of some of the inconveniences of living there, there were many good times, too.
Perhaps my highlight on Friday, apart from a nice lunch with three ladies from a government institution that I occasionally do work for, was a brief visit to another government institution where I worked either part time or close to full time from 1992 to 1999, to the day before we left for Hawai'i. This institution has some 800 employees, and it is for the majority of them a place of lifetime employment. People who join the civil service here after graduating from college are assigned to a job or institution and are often still there when they retire more than 40 years later. So each time I visit (I last visited almost one year ago), I know exactly where to find most people - at the same desk locations and probably doing much the same work as before. Only one lady I wanted to visit was not there, and the person (another old friend) sitting at her desk told me she had already retired. Well, I guess that becomes more common as one gets older.

There are many people at this place that I used to see each day and chat with in the 1990s. Although I have since been living elsewhere, overseas and now in the south of Taiwan, each time I go there brings back many good memories. I again saw the policeman on duty there that always used to chat with me. In addition, I briefly spoke to several colleagues in the department in which I used to work over ten years ago, who still looked much the same but clearly showed some signs of having aged since then. There were people I saw that I attended a Bible study with in those days, as well as others who were concerned about me when I needed medical treatment at that time, one or two who helped me handle some of my financial paperwork when my family and I relocated to Hawaii, and others I worked with more directly in my job there.

We live in a world where people constantly come and go (including ourselves) and in which it is often difficult to make lasting friends, especially the older one gets. While I no longer have a regular job as such, through my work in Taiwan I am still in touch with a few people that I met over 20 years ago. While such relationships may be more professional than being purely based on friendship, the fact is that we have experienced life together at different points in time over a long period. A few of these long-term contacts are now in very high positions within society and to find out what they are doing, I usually only need to open the daily newspaper. Others are in the formative stages. For instance, any professor I am occasionally working with now may be a Cabinet member in the not-too-distant future.
While I cannot say I have very close friends (and I think that while family members are of course friends, they are not the same since I think friendships are largely voluntary and not based on blood lines or binding agreements), I have tended to have friends from diverse cultures and backgrounds. My interest in learning languages hasn't just been an academic interest or a search to better understand my own roots, but a way of making friends. Today at lunch at church my wife introduced me to a Chinese lady and her French husband who were visiting and it was a pleasure to talk with him in French. A good thing about talking with a native is that he can correct your mistakes as you go along, and so you can learn something, too. Certainly, languages are bridges between cultures, and I wouldn't have most of my Chinese friends without speaking to them in Mandarin or even Taiwanese in some cases. I don't think learning languages is that difficult. With the right environment, well prepared materials and some encouragement we can at least reach some degree of familiarity with a language. Perfection isn't necessary and to be honest there is still a lot more that we can learn about our own mother tongues.

Another interesting incident in Taipei on Friday was when a Chinese lady professor came up to me as I was picking up my medicine in the hospital and asked me: "Are you Bruce?" When she said her name I immediately knew who she was, and although I had known her through my work for several years we had never met. So how did she recognize me? "From looking at your blog!" she replied. She is one of a few people here in Taiwan I have told about my blog. I often wonder what is the relevance between articles about my swim workouts or with pictures of people dressed in Splish suits and my efforts to relate to people in government and academia in Taiwan. Well, I hope they don't think I am about to retire!
Which brings me back to the subject of writing this blog. I started this blog in March this year and it was through the encouragement of one or two friends at first, in particular Bree, that I persevered to keep writing even though I wondered whether anyone would look at anything I wrote. I see from many of my friends' blogs that Bree is a great encourager and you could say a great friend to many. As I write this she is probably on the bike in the Vancouver Half Ironman. I don't have many details of that race and maybe I will just have to check the news tomorrow to find out what happened. In closing, friendships are valuable, and while blogging is not necessarily the best way to try to make friends, it has in my own experience proved to be very useful. At least when I see some of your guys on a subsequent visit to Kona, we won't need to catch up on the past. It will just be necessary to get our goggles on and start swimming!
Pictures from top to bottom: (1) The 25-meter community pool I swam in the late 80's and 90's; (2) View from rooftop of Taipei apartment; (3) The study room, now lifeless and almost empty; (4) A nearby dog (with an owner). The trip back to our former neighborhood is worth it just to walk the hills and say hi to the dogs who will still remember me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Natalie Coughlin Breaks Women's 100 Back World Record

美國的女子100米仰泳冠軍考格林 (Natalie Coughlin)
Natalie Coughlin recently broke the world record at the 100m backstroke, which also gave her a spot in that event at the Beijing Olympic Games. At Athens, she won gold in that event, too. Natalie grew up in California and is of Irish and Filipino ancestry.
I had the opportunity to briefly meet her when she visited Kona together with a team of girls from the University of California at Berkeley (her alma mater) one winter vacation, possibly the end of the year 2004. She was not swimming, as her foot was in a plaster cast. From this video, it is clear she is fully healed from that.
Today, I swam 3,900 meters, and most of it was good solid swimming. Only that, at the end, I was too tired to go better than 1m 30s in the 100m race against my friend. Well, I suppose we get tired sometimes.
Tomorrow I will be in Taipei and am not sure if I will swim. I will see what I feel like when I wake up.
Enjoy the video. Natalie is a joy to watch. Sad that the girl who got third and had swum really well during the trials doesn't get to go to Beijing. That's competition for you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hackett's 400m Freestyle at the Australian Olympic Trials

澳大利亞人哈克特(Grant Hackett)在男子400米自由泳比賽中

While this race took place in March this year, with the Beijing Olympics fast approaching it is a good idea to look at the swimming of some of the people who are likely to dominate certain events there. Besides, in this 400m event, the photography is good enabling viewers to observe Grant Hackett's swimming technique. In particular, watch his hands, especially from the time they enter the water to when he takes the catch.

Grant Hackett was born in 1980 and won the 1,500 meters freestyle event at both the Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) Olympics, and has a very good chance of winning gold again in Beijing at that distance. He is no doubt the best in the world at this distance and has been for probably a decade. He is one of the fastest in the 400 meters, and in 2001 covered the distance in 3m 42.51s, and time that only Ian Thorpe (who is now "retired" from competitive swimming) has bested. Hackett is 6 ft 5 in tall and weighs just under 200 lbs. So the bigger people amongst us can take heart. Not that this matters so much. Libby Trickett of Australia who holds the 50m and 100m world rccords is relatively short in stature compared to the ladies she raced against.

As to where I am at at present, the pool is more crowded with the summer vacation upon us, and parents bringing their children to the pool, as well as older children coming by themselves. Yesterday I covered 3,850 meters in all in what can be described as a "sluggish" workout. Today I fared a little better, again covering 3,850 meters in all, with 3,000 m in an hour exactly (despite some lane congestion), and races against my friend of 100 meters in 1m 27s and 50 meters in 40s. Of course, these times are very slow compared to those of the best, but at least we can learn from the best and get better. A lot of it comes down to training. We are all human and are each gifted physically in various ways, and so if someone else can do it, then we can certainly improve on our own times so far. At the end of training today, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. Even holding the handlebars of the bike kind of required a lot of effort. Hopefully, after recovery I will be a little stronger.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chrissie Wellington Wins Frankfurt & Just Misses World Record!

Chrissie Wellington winning the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawai'i last year! A few minutes ago, she won the Frankfurt Ironman, in a time very close to the all-time women's Ironman record (missing it by only 31 seconds)!
This morning I had my last swim of this last week, and afterwards I felt a little tired. I swam a total of just over 24,000 meters this week. My workouts were slightly shorter on average than in previous weeks, more around the 4,000m mark, but I did try to push a bit harder more often in each swim. The highlights of the week were a 100m in 1 25s and some video footage of me swimming taken by our elder son, James, which enables me to see what my swimming looks like, and so that I can make some needed adjustments.

However, the main highlight of today was the Frankfurt Ironman race in Germany. While I originally wanted to see how Chris McCormack would get on, since this race had been talked about for a long time, I ended up watching fellow countryperson Chrissie Wellington have a fantastic and absolutely brilliant race.
Chris McCormack of Australia won the Frankfurt Ironman in 7:59:55.3 (a truly great time!). It was a hard fought race, and it showed what a true champion Macca is. Well done, Chris! Eneko Llanos of Spain looked as if he was going to win until fairly late in the run. He had a great race, too. However, I think the spotlight in this race was as much on Chrissie Wellington of Great Britain as on Chris McCormack. After her performance, who could have any doubts she will win Kona again this October. Ways to go, Chrissie!

Chrissie had a good (wetsuit) swim, apparently 48 something minutes. While she was in the lead on the bike for what seemed like a long time, she was only a little more than two minutes ahead, and that gap was narrowed to a matter of seconds. However, at transition, she was at least 8 minutes ahead of the second woman. Her race, was not without its problems. Late in the bike, she seemed to lose all her water bottles and was not able to replace the water she needed to take in her nutrition for an unspecified distance until she finished the bike course. When she was briefly interviewed in transition, it did not seem to have affected her. When asked if she was concerned about the girls behind, she just said she was running her own race. Her unofficial time at T2 was 5:48.36.

As she ran well the first few miles and extended her lead, the focus shifted away from the competition to whether she could complete the fastest women’s Ironman in history. Here is a collection of news snippets that were posted on the Ironman live coverage website:
How fast will Chrissie go? Wellington completed 14.2 km of the run in 6:48:12. That gives her 2:11:48 to do 28 km and still go under nine hours. That's 4:42/ km. he's running at 4:10/ km right now, which would get her to the line in 8:44! That would be the fastest time ever for an Ironman!
(At 7:10 into the race) The women's race heats up ... for second! Currently leading the women is Chrissie Wellington (#60) -- she's on world best time pace and is running away from the rest of the field.
(7:18) Wellington probably has no idea ...That she's on pace to smash the world best time here today. Wellington only became a full-time triathlete in January of 2007 -- since then she's won three Ironman races, including the Ford Ironman World Championship. She is so inexperienced that she refuses to use tubular tires because she "wouldn't begin to know how to change them."So, you can be sure that she doesn't know that Paula Newby-Fraser's world best is 8:50:53, set at Ironman Europe in 1994.
(7:23) Wellington through the half-marathon. Her overall time to that point was 7:17:49 -- which gives her 1:32:11 to set a world best. All she has to do is run a half-marathon in that time!
(7:34) Nicole Leder goes through the half-marathon. She's in second, but she's 17:45 behind Wellington.
(7:51) The Wellington report Now the big question is whether or not Chrissie Wellington is on her way to a world best time here today. If she can average 4:24/ km for the last 13.5 km, she will get Paula Newby-Fraser's world best time.
(8:16) Wellington passes 34.5 km ...Her time is 8:10:59 to this point. Less than eight km to go -- she's still on track for a world best time here today.
(8:33) Is that 8:50 slipping away? Chrissie Wellington went through 37.6 km in 8:30:49 -- which means she has exactly 20 minutes to run 4.6 km -- a tough challenge!
(8:36) Smiling to the line Chrissie Wellington has a big smile on her face as she works her way towards the finish line here at the Romer. She has three km to go, and about 13 minutes to do it to get a new world best time.

(8:41) Go Chrissie Go! Says our Ironmanlive writer Henry Budgett, who hails from Great Britain.As he just pointed out, though, Wellington isn't particularly driven by times or records, so it'll be interesting to see if she actually does push over the last few kms of the run here to break that 8:50:53 time that has stood for 14 years.Wellington probably had the run course record in Kona in her grasp last October -- instead she cruised into the finish, enjoying the last few minutes of her amazing race.Wellington's parents are watching her for the very first time in an Ironman today -- how's that for a nice present for mom and dad?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Freestyle Swimming Footage

While in Kenting at the open air pool, I was able to persuade our sons to film me at swimming. This is the first time in my life that I have had a video like this. I used to think I had quite a good technique, and now I can immediately see a few errors in my stroke (like my left hand coming over too much, and my feet coming apart), not to mention the flip turn, which still has me a bit baffled. At least I am doing them without getting a lot of water up my nose. So I have a few things to work on. Hopefully, I will become a little more streamlined and a little faster as a result.
This is a 25 meter pool, and you could say I was trying to swim fairly hard but without losing my stroke since I appear to have swum 50 meters in about 40 seconds. I took like 16 strokes one way and about 17 the other, no doubt due to a fairly weak flip turn. These days when swimming a little slower, I tend to take 15 to 16 strokes per length.
While I learned to swim as a child, I did not have any formal training until I did a lifesaving course in Taiwan in 1997, at which point in time I received a lot of helpful advice on how to swim freestyle. In Kona, I received quite a lot of help from Steve Borowski of Kona Aquatics when I attended Master's swimming as well as his 101 classes for a few years. However, since we were in a fairly large group setting, advice only came intermittently. In addition, at that time, I did not have any video footage.
Of course, just correcting a few mistakes isn't going to suddenly make me faster, and correcting them may be easier said than done, since my body has probably adapted itself to the wrong technique so that it may be hard for me to do something else. However, I will try, and that will give me a reason to continue swimming, as sometimes I wonder why I swim anyway.
In the future, I would like to attend a class taught by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen, who runs Aquatic Edge. However, that will depend on a lot of things like my happening to be in Hawaii when she is actually running a workshop at that time. Anyway, I can dream of being taught by the best teacher around for now.

Picture of me in the ocean at Chialeshuei. The sea was really calm, which was a surprise to me as last time I was here (in February) the sea was rough and there were a lot of surfers.

Swimming freestyle 50 meters seen from a side view. The background noise is that of a lawn mower!

Swimming freestyle from the front and behind. From this angle, the weaknesses are more obvious. Maybe nerves (because I was being filmed) contributed to the poorer technique. In any case, I have plenty of things to practice now. Again, thanks to James and Morrison for filming and the still photos, too.

Family Trip - Kenting, Southern Taiwan

On Thursday morning I first went to swim near as usual at the pool near our home. I was a little tired and after slightly fewer meters than normal I went to the jacuzzi for five minutes or so, and then back to the pool to slowly warm up for the 100m race. While I still lost the race (by about 0.5 secs), at least I was pleased that I covered the distance in 1m 25s, this being my fastest so far, and showing that the improvements are still coming even if they are microscopic. One of my turns was not much good either, but I managed to gain on my opponent going down the stretch. Shortly afterwards we raced over 50 meters and I just edged him out, finishing in about 40 seconds.
However, the big highlight of the day, and of today also, was the family trip we had to Kenting (墾丁) near the southernmost tip of Taiwan and about a two-hour drive from our home. Our elder son drove and did a very good job of that. We borrowed his friend's car as we still don't have one of our own. With gas prices, I am not sure I even want one.
The first day we arrived down there shortly after lunch and went to Maopitou (鼻頭) (lit. cat-nose-head), where one of the rock formations looked like a cat's nose and head. The sea looked beautiful, and had I been with my Kona swimming friends, I don't think we could have resisted making our way down to the shore and going in. However, had I tried to do anything like that myself, I guess the whole population of this island would have considered me to be nuts and I would probably have been put in prison.
A little later we were driving around where most of the hotels are and it reminded me of Waikiki - just shops and people, and some ocean and mountains out there is the distance. One of the only beaches we passed in that area was one close to the big hotels which was packed with people paddling in a fenced off area about two feet deep, with plenty of lifeguards and whatever else to prevent anyone trying to do anything more adventurous like trying to swim away from the seawater paddling pool.
Fortunately, our hotel was an almost ten-minute drive away from the beach up mauka (墾丁國家公園) and was a lot quieter and had some good views, as well as green grass. It also had a 25 meter outdoor swimming pool, and guess what, it was pretty empty most of the time. Here it seems only small children like to swim and they have a lot of fun, but are clad in inflatable arm bands and little inflatable boats so that they don't actually swim, at least not without artificial support. An adult might accompany them, but usually to make sure they don't stay in the water too long and can get to the next activity on time. So I was able to swim freely, but it was also rather lonely. In the real world I have few swimming friends. I just read about them on the Internet.
My family wanted to go to another swimming pool, which we did, and could because the two hotels were part of the same hotel chain, and so we had the privilege of using the other pool. This other pool was in the crowded part of Kenting (墾丁) and the hotel rates were much higher, way beyond what I could or would be willing to afford. It was like a playground, and there was no way I could ever have done any training there.
We tried to watch the sunset, but we miscalculated and ended up on the other side of the island. However, the views were beautiful. We had a good buffet dinner back at our hotel where we were staying which was part of the room deal, and I surprised even my family by eating probably more than the three of them put together.
The next morning the pool at our hotel opened at 8 am, and so I got in a training session of a little more than an hour and covered 3,050 meters. This wasn't something I had planned, so it was a kind of bonus. However, again I felt like I had just flown in from another planet. After a large breakfast, we eventually packed out things and drove down to the Oluanpi lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔), where we walked around for about one hour in the middle of the day - ouch! The sun was really strong. After countless photographs, we headed back to the car and drove about 15 minutes to Chaileshuei (佳洛), which is normally a good surfing beach, but the sea was very calm today, and just ideal for a swim. However, we were in a bit of a hurry, so the fact that I even got wet was quite an achievement. This is where I went for training with some foreign triathletes in February, but the sea was very rough then, and I thought it darn right dangerous at that time. One thing that surprised me was the huge contrast between Kenting (墾丁) and Chialeshuei (佳洛). Kenting is packed with tourists and is very noisy and you are not free to do anything as far as some serious swimming is concerned. Chialeshuei (佳洛) is almost empty, except for some avid surfers, there are no stores, and just a few bed and breakfast type places. It is the ideal place to have a good rest.
From Chialeshuei (佳洛), our son drove the car home and we got back in about 1 hr 45 mins. It is about 80 miles, which means one could bike, spend the night at a guest house, swim and then bike back the next day, or at least bike most of the way back and try and take a train for the latter half of the return journey where the areas are somewhat more built up. Fun if you have friends to do it with, and not fun if you do not.
The first stop on our family outing - Kenting is behind us in the distance
The hotel 25m pool - More or less maintained just for me!

At the up market resort pool. Living the high life.
View of Chialeshuei (in the distance) at sunset.
Our hotel doubles as a museum for Chiang Kai-Shek, who liked the area.
Kenting's pointed mountain. We climbed it when the boys were small.
The pool - My first time in an outdoor pool this year.
At Oluanpi - the southernmost tip of Taiwan
Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻)
Jumping in front of the Oluanpi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔)
Special thanks are extended to James and Morrison for their great photography. We had two smallish cameras with us, but both had problems, and the problems got worse over our stay down there. Looks like I need to buy a new camera.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Feeling Tired Today

Our younger son's room on the 4th floor of our home. Note that we had curtains especially fitted. This room also has a very good air conditioner, which makes no noise, because it is a very good Japanese brand and the motor (which is outside the room) is separate from the blower. The glass in the doors on to the lanai is slightly tinted and is reputed to provide UV protection. This is essential here. The sun during the summer months appears to be brighter and stronger than in Hawai'i. Fortunately, the sun does not shine into the room. The afternoon sun is blocked by the building opposite.

Monday was my so-called rest day (no swimming), and Tuesday I had a relatively normal swim. Today (Wednesday) the swim went OK, but as soon as I got on my bike to return home, I just felt a lot more tired than normal. While I stayed up the whole morning, around 12:45 pm I went for what was supposed to be about a 20-min rest, but ended up sleeping about one hour. I felt fairly tired and weakish much of the afternoon. I guess at my age, it catches up with you.

On Tuesday, I first swam 4,200 meters in 1hr 22 mins, of which the last 1,000 meters was at a faster pace (about 18 mins). That was a good way to finish that phase of the workout. After a few minutes resting and a slow 100m warm-up, I raced my friend over 100m and did 1m 27s, losing by a second. We then raced a 50m and I just lost that swimming it in 40s. Total distance, 4,500 meters.

Today, I first swam 3,500 in about 1hr 10mins, but I was struggling to keep my pace towards the end. I then swam 50 meters at a time, a little slower than moderate (around 50 secs each time) with something like 20 second rests in between. That got me up to 4,050m. Then a rest, and slow warm-up then a 100m race. I had one bad turn (where I was too near the wall so I could not push off), and I did not have a lot of energy, so I only did 1m 31s. Then we raced over 50m, and that was a bit better as I did that in 40 seconds. Total distance today, 4,300 meters.

I think today I just needed to catch up a bit on sleep. I also probably haven't eaten so well these last few days, and that may have sapped my energy. Tomorrow morning, I will go to swim as usual, but we will go on a trip later in the day, and I will miss Friday's swim training.

I realize that good rest is very important. There are always many things we need to be doing, and it is easy to be constantly busy. I don't think it is just age. I remember getting very tired sometimes as a student in my early 20's. It was very tiring just trying to think what to write when starting to work on my Masters' thesis. Fortunately, I do not have too many things that have to be done very urgently, and so I will try to be a bit more laid back these days. Hope you are all getting adequate rest. We all need it.
Today I also added a couple more "video bars" in the right-hand column. The top one currently focuses on Japanese anime movies (this time Miyazaki's "Memories of Yesterday") and is all in Japanese. These clips are short reminders of the movie, which I am sure all Japanese will be very familiar with. I particularly liked this movie, and watched it over and over again when in Kona. The middle video bar focuses on swimming (this time Alexander Popov as there is some useful instructional material), and the bottom one on music (this time the Japanese artist Kitaro). Since I have also installed the Playlist music player which turns on automatically, it may be necessary to pause the sound on this unless you like listened to two things at the same time. Maybe some multi-taskers can handle this.