[Bike] – NEXT bike gets an upgrade (well more like replace :P)

Just because I have a new one doesn’t mean the old one doesn’t get some love too 😛

Today the shifters I ordered a while ago finally came in the mail.

Shimano Tourney SL-TX30

Low end of the Shimano’s, but hey, anything beats a SunRun. The old shifters were grip shifts which means they are part of the old grip too. Removing the grip shift to a thumb shift meant I needed new grips too. Thankfully, the grips that I separately ordered came in on the same day. Yes, they are purple so it matches the frame color. Here’s the new shift and grip installed:

The left thumb shift is responsible for the front derailleur. It is not indexed so it is a friction shift, this is quite common in cheap or low-end shifters.


Holy crap, these are terrible as they are super stiff. They are only slightly better than grip shifts in the sense that they are not grip shifts. If you are looking for a shifting nirvana, look elsewhere.

The right thumb shift is responsible for the rear derailleur and it is indexed. Blue button upshifts one, and being a thumb shift means you can downshift from 6 to 1 in one thumb push.


These are actually quite the joy to use. The up shift button gives a very similar feel to the much more expensive Alivio (SL-M430). When it comes to down shifting, I reckon that this is even better. The Alivio that I have on the other bike features Shimano’s “Rapidfire” technology. In simple terms, you can down shift three gears at max with a single push. The Tourney here doesn’t feature that, but because it is a thumb shift, you can down shift from 6 to 1 in a single push. Take that “Rapidfire”.

For those who are hardcore about the shifting “feel”, again, these feel similar but are not Alivio’s. Their cheapness does come through as you can feel the lightness.


+ It is nice to have a standard grip now (vs grip shifts which introduce a bulge on the side of the shift)

+ It is not a grip shift (Grip shifts are meh, oh and they also wear your gloves out more)

– As you can see, the button you push is in the middle which is okay and reachable by the thumb. Problem occurs with the lever on the top and your thumb is usually near the bottom.

They shift, they work, they are not grip shifts and they are priced cheaply (13 USD).


* The purple grips fit! They also feel nice!

** Krazy glued the broken mount for the speedometer and it worked!

[Bike] – Cateye Velo 9

Take a step back in time… I bought this:

EBay: 1.99CAD + free shipping (~30 days)

How did it hold up? Surprisingly, rain didn’t kill it, snow didn’t kill it, low temperatures didn’t kill it and drops didn’t kill it. What did break was the mount, which is responsible for connecting the speedometer itself to the sensor. Hmmm.

My NEXT bike (read: Walmart) has definitely taught the lesson where at least in the bike world you get what you pay for. Which eventually led me to buy a nicer bike, the GT Avalanche 2014. So I wondered if this rang true for things like bike accessories.

In comes the Cateye Velo 9. One of the more popular entry-level bike computers next to the Sigma BC 5.12.

Price? 29.99CAD + 5% Alberta Tax + 1 hour of biking in -10C to find a bike shop that has the thing in stock.

Let’s get the shallow stuff out of the way:

Although plain and simple, it looks good when mounted on the stem.


Uhhh yeah… it looks like I mounted a small CRT TV on to my handle bar.


Identical. Okay, the Cateye has one more feature, it tells you how much carbon you have offset for riding a bike instead of a car. But yo, I don’t need a 30 dollar speedometer to tell me that it is more environmentally friendly to ride a bike than a car. I know Cateye, I know.

So what are you expecting out of this at 15x the price?

Quality. I expect this to outlast + give me less downtime than the EBay speedometer.

The question to answer

As you can see the EBay speedometer is back up and running because I Krazy glued the mount back together. Every time I have to do that is a dollar gone to the Krazy glue gods.

This is a question of lower initial cost + high maintenance cost down the road (EBay) or higher initial cost + lower maintenance cost down the road (Brand name stuff)

The test

The EBay speedometer is mounted on to the NEXT bike, my “grocery run” bike (<5km runs)

The Cateye speedometer is mounted on to the GT Avalanche bike, my “commuter” bike (>5km runs)

Let the test of time begin…

[Online adventures] #9 – Pentax Q

“Possibly the cutest mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera”

I use a Sony NEX-5R as my primary camera, an APS-C mirrorless camera. However, even though it is a mirrorless camera, because it uses a larger APS-C sensor, the lenses are correspondingly big. Therefore, I wanted a camera that is small enough to take with me everywhere. However, I wanted to do this without sacrificing DSLR-caliber manual controls.

Essentially, I wanted a camera that satisfies these three goals:

– Small and fun to use casually

– Has manual controls so it can get serious when required

– Cheap as I already have a more expensive setup that I’ve already heavily invested in.

Well, if you want something cheap, EBay has it covered!

EBay: 122.3USD + 10.68USD shipping

For about 150CAD in total (back when CAD was similar to the USD) I got a second hand Pentax Q! Meeting one of our requirements, cheap 😛

On the left, Pentax Q and on the right, my trusted Sony NEX-5R.

Close-up with its flash deployed! Its almost transformer-like.

What is so special? Isn’t this just a normal compact camera? Wrong.

As hinted above, this is an interchangeable-lens camera. Here’s the geeky bits of the sensor:

Sensor size = 1 / 2.3, 4:3 aspect ratio, BSI CMOS, 12MP with sensor shift image stabilization.

It also has a standard hotshoe for external flash

Full control with P/Av/Tv/M modes (in the Sony world they would be called P/A/S/M)

All that packed into a pacakge that is slightly shorter than an IKEA cup

Don’t let the small size or toy-like appearance fool you, this camera has DSLR-level controls. This camera now meets 2/3 of my requirements.

Small but fully loaded

21 scene modes

11 digital filters that can each be adjusted

11 color filters that can each be adjusted

High dynamic range, multiple exposure shots, interval shooting (timelapse) all here.

DSLR-like manual controls + 21 scene modes + 11 adjustable digital filters + 11 adjustable color filters + HDR + ME + time lapse. Fully loaded indeed.

More filters

See that mysterious dial? That is a dial for filters so you can get to them quickly!

Yup, this camera has nine more filters that you can assign exclusively to the front dial.

Theoretically perfect

– Cheap, check.

– Has manual controls, check.

– Small and fun to use casually, check.

But is it practically perfect? Let’s find out in the test shots.

Test shots

1/80 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Social setting, just put the camera in auto and enjoy the moment.

Deserts at Duchess bake shop with friends. Camera in full auto mode.

1/1250 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Physical shutter test

At anything slower than 1/2000, it uses a physical shutter.

1/5000 @ f2.8 ISO 400 – Electronic shutter test

At anything faster than 1/2000, it uses an electronic shutter, up to 1/8000.

1/3200 @ f4.5 ISO 500 – Here we want a fast shutter speed to freeze the bee. I chose 1/3200 fairly arbitrarily but it did what it supposed to do. The bee was frozen.

1/4000 @ f2.8 ISO 250 – Here’s the fun part! Filters! This one is called tone expansion.

1/8000 @ f2.8 ISO 250 – Unicolor bold, you can really get creative with these filters.

1/1600 @ f2.8 ISO 125 – Cross process

1/50 @ f4.5 ISO 6400 – Here we can see the limitations of the small sensor; however, combined with a filter (tone expansion here) the shot is actually not bad.


I got what I wanted! This camera is capable of being a compact camera that is fun to use day to day. As in the auto-mode is fine, filters are fun and even better when you have quick access to four of them with the quick dial in front.

When we really need it, the full manual controls are there.

The smaller sensor does become a problem in lower light situations with noticeable image noise after ISO 800.

Overall a great camera that is small and easy to bring with you, yet delivering image quality that is above what you will find in a phone camera.

Bubble Waffle (鷄蛋仔) Attempt #idonotknowanymore

I’ve been rapidly prototyping so many bubble waffles lately I’ve lost count what number is this. As of now, the fridge contains materials to make ~30 more.

Under the advice from a person from Macau, I’ve further refined the formula and it’s getting really close taste wise. As a nice bonus, it is also getting pretty close looks wise!

Crappy matters…

*To keep the site and the article PG13, diagrams will be used instead of photos*

At some point I saw a video of a toilet so powerful it flushed Lego bricks. College humor even tried flushing a whole chocolate cake down a toilet and succeeded within 12 flushes. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-whLdHYgPwA)

Mine? Jammed by toilet paper. Did I do something really wrong to a toilet in the past such that now I get such weak toilets?

I did the usual. Grabbed a big bucket of water, poured it down, hoping it that it would flush.

It didn’t…

Grabbed a plunger, gave it a few go, water went down. It worked! End of story right? Nope this is where the fun begins.

The problem(s)

Toilet would only flush every second time I activated it. Water no longer comes out of the edges causing incomplete flushes. Toilet bubbles. I thought to myself “oh crap, I probably really broke it by now”. Its 7PM so it’s too late to call residence maintenance to drop by and it’s a Friday so the next time I can call them is next Monday. However, this needs to be fixed now. This isn’t a university residence where there are public ones to use if yours break. The next toilet I could use is one kilometer away located in another building.

I’ve never encountered this issue before. So first intuition is to escalate this to the professionals. So I proceeded to google up some numbers that I could call. I typed in “Edmonton plumbers” and common sense stopped me from hitting the enter button. I thought to myself “Wow this google search is bound to contain so much scams and spams. I switched to my phone, texted a friend and see if she had a plumber’s number. She didn’t. Oh well 😛

Let’s google this

To me googling “Edmonton plumbers” sounds like “How to download more hard drive” level of scam. Feels like a good candidate for links that will get your computer infected with something bad for whatever reason. Let’s not break another thing today. Last thing I want is wrecking my surface because I googled something stupid. So, let’s do this with some precaution…

It would be nice to not do this on my computer… use a virtual machine!

Virtual machine: Oracle VirtualBox, allocated 2GB RAM, running Ubuntu 15 x64

Running on host: Microsoft Surface Pro 2, 4200U + 8GB RAM, running Windows 10 x64

Computer nerd stuff aside. I hit the search button and I don’t like what I see already, but I am in virtual machine so I was like “oh whatever, I should be fine in here”. I clicked into a link and I was greeted with a big smiley face “How can our plumbers make you smile”.

Poor Photoshop job? Check

Cheesy low resolution graphics? Check

One liners that sound oddly sexual? Check


Price? Nope. Huh, I figured. So I googled that too.

Turns out they have a “dispatch fee” ~70CAD. + Repair fees. Wow, no way. I shut the virtual machine down and went on with plan B.

Plan B
– Do it yourself

I major in computer science and minor in economics. Needless to say, I know nothing about toilets. However, if computer science has taught me anything, if you don’t know something, you’ll know enough about it after a couple hours of googling.

First problem – water trouble

Since the toilet looked like it was having trouble filling up the bowl, I decided to give the tank a check. Voila! The toilet was configured way below the required water line. The landlord pays for water so I guess they were trying to save some costs here. How it works is that there is a float that dictates how much water gets into the tank. As water rises, the float does too. Once the float gets to a certain height, it stops water from entering the tank. The height that it stops the water from entering the tank is determined by a stick. I reconfigured it to match the required water line as indicated in the tank and the flushes seem a little stronger but still requires two pushes.

Second problem – Siphon jets got clogged

Wow fancy name. Instead of describing it, this diagram does a good job.

Source: http://chestofbooks.com/architecture/Building-Construction-V4/Water-Closets.html#.VmTzyYkrKUk

In the diagram “G” is supposed to kick start the siphoning effect by pushing water out so the water goes over “C” so that this happens at the U-bend:

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siphon#/media/File:Lappo.svg

Without part “G” the siphon effect can only occur when there is so much water in the bowl that water goes over point “C”. This is why overwhelming the toilet with a bucket of water works.

Turns out using the plunger can clog this hole. The trick here is simple. Grab a popsicle stick, give the siphon jet a good swirl to loosen up the clog. Activate the siphon jet by flushing. Swoosh, a whole bunch of paper pulp shot out of it. All cleared. Now the toilet flushes with one press. However, there still isn’t any water coming from the edges to flush the sides.

Third problem – the rims

Just by pure inspection, the holes on the rim seem to be clear of anything. But hey the siphon jet looked like it was clear when it was not so I decided to give it a swirl too. What I did here was similarly simple. I grabbed a zip tie this time because the holes are smaller. Gave each individual hole a swirl. Attempted to flush the toilet. Voila, more toilet paper shot out of the siphon jet and the rims are flushing water out again. Referring back to the diagram:

Source: http://chestofbooks.com/architecture/Building-Construction-V4/Water-Closets.html#.VmTzyYkrKUk

This makes sense as the rims are indicated by area A. The zip tie would have loosed up the clog. When we flush the toilet, water (along with the loosened debris) will travel through “A” and out through “G” the siphon jet.

But how did toilet paper end up getting to area A? Turns out when I first tried to unclog the toilet by pouring a bucket of water, I filled the bowl to the edges. Tissue pulp then rose into the holes and clogged up the rims.

All cleared! In fact the toilet now works better than before 😛


Problem 1 – Water tank levels were too low. Possibly because my landlord wants to save on the water bill.

Problem 2 – Siphon jet clogged. Possibly caused by using the plunger which can push debris up the jet.

Problem 3 – Rims were clogged. Possibly caused by attempting to flush the toilet with a bucket of water.

1 was out of my control, 2 and 3 were caused by what most people would do when they first encounter a clogged toilet. Lesson learnt here: the toilet is more complicated than one might think and generic toilet troubleshooting might end up causing more trouble than there already is!