The Geek Biker

Rambles of a geek that rides a bike

Monthly Archives: January 2014

Exercise till you puke – NO

Arnie said in an old interview that when you reach the pain barrier and you push past it, those extra few reps are the ones that makes you stronger, bigger and better. I can’t ever remember him saying that a person should get into a gym routine and start exercising till they puke from the start. Or that a trainer that doesn’t push you to point of digestive explosion is not a good trainer.

I’ll start off with the usual bit that any amateur should add on a blog/column/written piece. I’m not a fitness or health expert. I have no supporting credentials to backup the below but logic, common sense and readily available information.

I have a bit of experience in the exercise world. I’ve been going to a form of a gym since start of high school and been climbing the monkey bars before then. I always played a sport until university where my studies did not allow the commitment (though looking at my grades you might differ). During my university ‘career’, I went to a gym at least 3 to 4 times a week. At one point 3 times a week twice a day. I’ve seen my fair share of ‘pukers’ in the gym and field. Those who push themselves or gets pushed to such an extent that they stand bent over and reflect on what they’ve had for breakfast and lunch. On the other hand, I’ve never exercised in such a manner that I had to revisit the past food consumption. Only once did I taste a past sandwich in the back of my throat and I knew I had to stop. The reason is simple, I just knew it could not be good for me.

You might think that my reason is just a simple way of saying I don’t want to puke, but logic told me otherwise. The first reason, before I cared about why people puke when they exercised, was simply that your body needs food as fuel to keep going. So why would I push myself for the food not remain in my body and leave me without fuel? That just didn’t make sense.

After uni when I almost did bring forth the past delicacies, I did a bit of  reading which gave my sense of logic a pat on the back and said ‘That a boy!’. What happens is as follows (no medical terms, explained in Tarzan tongue):

  • You exercise.
  • Muscles need more oxygen
  • Oxygen go to muscles. Carried by blood.
  • Blood all go to muscles
  • Not enough blood left for tummy
  • Not enough blood left for kidneys
  • Not enough blood left for intestines (guts)
  • Not enough blood left to make food go to poop
  • Not enough blood left for whole digestive system
  • Not enough blood…
  • System go reboot

And then comes the nausea and all the gory goodness that goes with it. Including sometimes passing out. Well that can’t be good right? “Yes it can!” I hear you scream from the cough and behind the tablet you got because the computer is too far away to read this little nugget of gold wisdom! Body builders do it all the time. Even in the move Pumping Iron the Governator and his buddies almost shared a puke bucket and they grew like beasts. Well, that would be the exception I contest your argument with. Bodybuilders eat up to 7 times a day and takes ‘vitamins’ to help carry the oxygen in their bodies. Not steroids, some legal over the counter pills taken in copious amounts can do it as well. Their routines are tailored for one reason and mostly only for that particular person. And lastly I will rest this argument which will lead to another, they do not throw themselves in to a new routine because they realised they ate too much the months/years before and are overweight, they start from scratch and work their way up to their balloon state over years! Years I say, not weeks or months.

So, the last argumentative rant I  would like to throw in this soliloquy is about the personal trainer that pushes their clients to over exert themselves…Where do I start? I’ve never had a personal trainer. Even in the 9 months I exercised like a mad man and picked up 20 kgs of muscle, I never had the help of someone who is ‘trained’ to be a personal trainer. I do however have years of experience in watching them thump around and look at their own reflection while their client has their backs arched in a way that will definitely cause nerve and muscle pain for at least three days if not more. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few out there in the wild that do their job proper but the stats I think are against the odd few good men and woman. So when I hear that a personal trainer has pushed a client or is of the opinion that a client needs to be pushed to state of pukiness or to faint, I can only shake my head in disbelief. First off, because a client is paying this person to help them, secondly because this will probably scare the client away, lastly because a personal trainer should know better. They should know that pushing a person to puke is wrong not only because of what I described about oxygen and nausea but also because there is another more deadly evil about.

It is called rhabdomyolysis. (Try saying that 5 times in a row very quickly).

Dr Google defines it as “the destruction of striated muscle cells; (especially in horses) azoturia.”  Basically, when the muscles are overexerted, muscle fibers would start to breakdown. It is bad because it means you loose muscle, and not fat. But even worse is that the muscle fibers’ content gets released into the bloodstream. The highway that runs through all the major organs. Myoglobin is a protein in said muscle fiber which is also released into the bloodstream and is very harmful to the kidneys. To such an extent that it often causes kidney damage and/or failure…ouch.

Some symptoms include:

  • Faintness/confusion (But that is just  being a bit tired I hear you say)
  • muscle soreness (Just a bit stiff I hear you say)
  • general weakness (must be all the exercise)
  • abnormal urine colour (maybe I need to drink some more water).

The symptoms look almost normal for someone use to a lot of hard exercise, but as the reader can now see, it could be way worse. I sometimes wonder that if I could pronounce ‘rhabdomyolysis’ and I ask personal trainers about it, if they would be able to tell me what it is and if they would know how far they should or could push a client before it kicks in. Unfortunately I do think that personal trainers are a necessary evil to help those who know nothing about exercise to get into it or at least make a start. The question then turns to, how do I know which of the personal trainers are any good?

I can only advise to ask questions. Ask the loner in the gym who does not have a personal trainer and it looks like they might know what they are doing if they can point out a trainer they think might be good or if they had to choose one, which one and why. Be informed about the issues with starting a very tough routine. Tell your trainer when things are getting out of control. A good trainer should be able to see when the client is just throwing a hissy fit or if they are on breakpoint and immediate action should be taken to re hydrate and rest the client.

I will end this through stolen words from an author who wrote about pirates:

Individuals and nations owe it to themselves and the world to become informed.
Paul Harris

This rant follows after reading another article about a person who almost died from a personal training session.



Project Jeeves: Google Code

I have posted previously about Project Jeeves. The digital butler I coded. I decided to halt the coding and put it out there for the world to enjoy. It is downloadable here:

A warning and note as usual. I’ve developed this in my own time with no attention to detail/comments/structure. It was purely developed as I found solutions to problems I faced.

Here is the description I’ve added to Google’s site:

Started with me playing around with java code.


  • Script-able actions on input commands
  • TCP input service
  • Voice recognition input service
  • Text to Speech output using Google text to speech
  • Text to Speech using local libraries if internet is unavailable
  • Serial (USB) output to control servos.
  • A minimalistic GUI
  • A web remote gui that was never finished.
  • Web camera interaction
  • Arduino -to-IR LED interaction to interact with remote driven devices. i.e. TVs, Radios etc.

Services hooked up

  • Gmail interaction. Read and act on emails
  • Google calendar interaction. Read appointments
  • News service reader
  • Weather service reader.
  • MP3 player.
  • Exchange rate reader

Jeeves also

  • Tells simple jokes
  • Give ‘random’ comments and feedback

Screen shot of minimal GUI initialising:

Screen shot of minimal GUI interaction response:

I almost forgot, there is even some code in there to act on a servo when Jeeves talks. I hooked this up to a 3D printed skull’s jaw. So each time Jeeves starts talking, the skull’s jaw moves.

Two videos of the skull (Geoff Jr) moving via a 2.4GHz controller which I replaced with the Jeeves servo controller:


Dev blog write ups


An example of a greeting script


An example of scripting the webcamera to take picture after a countdown


A robot of foam and straws – Strawbots

Sometimes I brows ready to grab some ideas or when I think I need a new project to get my hands dirty with. It always amazes me the things people can come up with. Like Strawbots.

The instructable seems quite straight forward, you buy a few sheets of foamboard, straws and elastics and get started. Here is my version of Harvey 1.0 Strawbot and it cost me around $15 for all the bits including a longer body single hole punch:




I do not contest that my strawbot has a few odd features that the originals don’t have, but I think it gives it character. I’m not sure if there is a better way of doing it, but the only way I could think of was to first print the blueprints on a piece of paper, cut it out, then transfer the plan to the foam, and cut it out again. Anyone has a better idea, let me know.

Anyway, below are the links to the creator’s blueprints and instructables:

And how he should have looked if I had the right straws and elastics (probably most important bit here is the elastics):

I think next time around I’ll get some proper elastics and try Harvey 2.0

Faith in humanity lost – a bit

Today I had to park my bike a few meters away from its usual location. This usually indicates that something bad is going to happen during the day. You see, I’m a creature of habit.

The day went surprisingly fine, until I got back to my bike and realised the saddlebags are open. I never leave them open. So I knew what I would find next, or wouldn’t find. My gloves were stolen. They are not even that great. But they were a gift from my dad.

So tomorrow I will leave a note in my saddlebags to the thieves if they wish to return for more loot. In the note I state my deep sadness at the lost and the reward I will leave (them) if they return my gloves.

I say (them) in the last sentence because I have my suspicions. When I walked to the train station from where I park, I saw two homeless men (friends) having a bit of a hardy conversation at the coffee shop. They then ventured down the path where I park my bike a few meters away from its normal spot next to some cars. 

I’m just glad that I didn’t get back to my bike on its side, as was my first through when I saw them walk that way.

Quit Smoking, The Game

I don’t smoke. Never really have. I tried a cigarette, then thought to myself “myself, this tastes pretty shit”. And not touched a cigarette since. That doesn’t stop me from pestering those around me that do smoke. One way is to keep emailing them stuff about quitting. I don’t do it because I really care about their health, I just like to annoy them. One pretty cool one was a “Breakout” type game. I’ll not try to explain it in too much detail, the picture below should be enough


Good video, great sound track

Go Pro videos are known for their sturdiness and the users’ willingness to put themselves in awkward positions/situations to get that few seconds or minutes of fame and airtime.

The video below shows a dude trying to cross a flash flood on a bike, but it doesn’t quite work out. Take a look. It is a pretty good clip (ad maybe?).

Not quite sure about the “Be a hero” tag line for this clip. But the best bit I think is the music used. A song called Evil Ways. It can be found here:

or if you are evil inclined:

Textworld : ASCII turnbased game

I grabbed a copy of the libjcsi library and decided to make a turn base ascii-style game. The game would have simple concepts:

  • There would be a world to explore.
  • There would be FOW.
  • There would be weapons to pick up.
  • There would be a hunger and thirst factor and health.
  • An axe would cut trees and hammer go through walls.
  • There would be zombies.
  • Limited AI. If they see you, they attack. If you move out of sight, they walk to last seen position.
  • If you fire a loud weapon, or fell a tree or break through a wall, it would be noisy and the zombies in the area would walk to that spot.
  • There should be different areas. (City, Water, Road, Parks/Woods, Cemetery).
  • There should be an inventory that allows weapons/food/wood/bricks to be picked up/stacked/discarded

So here is what I quickly duct taped together.

Game loads a mapfile and generates areas per pixel. So the map file below will generate an grid area of 100×100 screens.

Each pixel represents a screen area (mapObject) that could be a building, road area, forest etc.
The gameplay area is 75×20 “ascii characters” wide and high. So the game screen looks something like this (area not fully explored):

A screen (map area) represents 1 pixel on the map posted above.

You’ll notice health, hunger and thirst in top right.
Inventory bar at bottom.

Starting the game gives you some minimal options. The game saves on normal exit and that save is the continue point. There were no options added and it was on my long todo list. but all the options were configurable in property files.

House being explored:

Help screen:

Somethings I still wanted to change:
Too many buttons… having an ascii type world, there is not sense of the direction the characters are looking in. So I have multiple keys to move and shoot in a specified direction.
Then there are also a key to interact on inventory items that does not require a direction. i.e. food, drink.
Lastly, the library does not allow access to the number keys. So the only way to move through the inventory is to scroll with X and Z…I don’t like this at all.

I’ve decided to stop development as I did most of the things I set out to do. It was a fun little development. The code is all downloadable here:

A note to the adventurous: The code was done quickly and very dirty. If you were looking for proper structures and comments, then probably best you not venture in the abyss which is this code set. That also mean it is pretty simple code since I had to understand what I was coding.

Grooveshark, the groovy way to listen to music online

Music is what keeps me from going insane. Some of my music might also drive me insane. All and all, I love music of all sorts and with the internet, it is getting easier and easier to get your grubby paws on music. The legal and an excellent alternative to listen to music online is through

I’ve compiled and saved a few of my playlists for most occasions. Access it here:!/tvanzyl/playlists


Puppy eyed T-Rex paper illusion

I like this one, it is a simple yet effective optical illusion. First see the video below then I’ll spoil it with the how-to:

The illusion is all in the mind. You cut out and fold the T-Rex and once done, you’ll realise that something is a miss, the face is turned inside out. When you close one eye and look at the T-Rex, your brain is trying to make order out of the disorder. In other words, trying to make out the 3D object by using one eye which does not allow 3D viewing….I’m confusing myself…You can only see 3D through both eyes. When you close one, then your brain tries to compensate for the lack of 3D viewing pleasure.

To make it yourself, cut out the T-Rex below and fold according to the plans of the dragon. Or print out the dragon, either way.



After typing all of this up, I looked into its origins and found a lot more:

Well done sir!

My first instructable


I’ve always been a fan of the site so I thought I post a little something on there as well. It is not as comprehensive as some of the instructions on there, but I thought I’d give it a go and test out the ease of use of their interface. This will all be very important when I put up my detailed plan for world domination.


Anyway, my instructable at this point was  a simple, converting music format from one format to another. i.e. m4a to mp3.

It can be found here: