Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doomsday prepping

During the latest family trip out of Singapore, I happened to have some time to watch some telly. The hotel that we stayed in had two TVs, which meant that I was able to watch some other channels other than the Cartoon Network.

National Geographic has a series called "Doomsday Preppers" where preppers (in some cases "loonies") prep for some end of the world scenario e.g. super volcano, collapse of the economy. Recently, as part of daily YouTube fix of watching videos, I have been watching a lot of of gear reviews around prepping.

One of the hot topics at the moment is Dec 21st and the Mayan prediction of a new phase in the world. Some people have taken this prediction to mean the end of the world and some even have linked this date to the "three days of darkness" prophesy in the Bible.

Against the backdrop of all this doom and gloom, I have been doing a little prepping myself, better to be safe than sorry right?

Some stuff I have been doing:

  1. Packed a "bug out bag" - which contains stuff like tarps, ponchos, rope, camping oven, flashlight, knife, first aid kit etc
  2. Started stocking up on water and basic foods like rice, canned food, dehydrated soups.
  3. Since a human being needs about a gallon of water a day to survive, I have also bought a few types of water filters in case I need to filter rain water to drink. It is possible to extract pure drinking water from any water source using a solar still in the worst case scenario as well.
Have you been preparing for the end of the world? Would love to hear your stories on this topic.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ironies in life

"Isn't it ironic.. dont chiu think?"

According to foreigners, Singapore is one of the most attractive places to work. People from other countries are beating a path to the door to work and live in Singapore.

What Singaporeans have to get used to is being told that a position based in Singapore is better placed by foreigners. Sounds drastic, but it is actually the plain truth. Foreigners are taking jobs not just at the upper echolon of companies but also at the lower rungs and in the middle.

My wish for Singapore policy makers is for them to experience the same rejection in their jobs. Let's import foreign talents to replace civil service and garment positions.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Stringing 101... for dummies

I have been stringing my own tennis rackets since 2000. I was fed up with some questionable stringing jobs from stringers in Singapore. When one "reputable" stringer broke my beloved racket at the time - a vintage Dunlop Max 200g, I decided to invest in my own machine.
Now the machine I bought isnt one of those fancy electronic types that tensions the string for you using a motor. I bought a manual Gamma spring tension machine instead. I have been using it for all this while and it hasnt given any problems. Made in USA does stand for something.
I am not a pro-stringer by any means but after stringing hundreds of rackets for myself and my friends, I feel that I at least can give some advice to budding stringers or people who want to get into stringing.
Firstly, buy a machine and learn how to use it. I would suggest that you buy a machine that will last you for some time, at least as long as you retain your interest in tennis. For me, manual is better - either a drop weight model (around 200-400USD) or better still - a spring tension model (around 700-1500USD). Get a model that has 6 mounting points. The electronic models are great but pricey and have the potential to break. Motors do break. Although stringing saves money in the long run, you have to string lots of rackets to make up the cost of the machine. I estimate about 6-12 dollars saved per racket strung depending on the string that you choose. My Gamma cost me about 800USD incl shipping and I think it has only made up the cost in the last few years (I typically do around 20-30 string jobs a year). There are plenty of guides to stringing out there and YouTube has plenty of videos as well. In addition to the machine, you will also need a sturdy table or stand (stands are usually additional), some cutters (standard wire cutters will do), a pair of pliers (I use the bent nose ones), an awl (to act as a pathfinder for new holes) and lastly a measuring tape (I tape the tape to my table).
Types of string and stringing methods. In addition to the machine, you need to buy string. Hopefully by now you would know a little bit what types of of string you like - what thickness or "gauge" you prefer. There are literally hundreds of string out there, and they come in single pack or in reel form. For the sake of economy, I usually buy reels of string. As a rough guide, I usually stock a big reel (600-700feet) of a good and cheap synthetic - for me I use Gosen OG Sheep Micro 16g or 17g. Gamma and Prince make great synthetics as well. I also have a reel or two of polyester string - I currently alternate between something by Luxilon or Topspin. For the last few years, most of my stringing jobs have been using the 2 string method and I have been doing hybrid stringing jobs with poly mains and synthetic crosses. My current Wilson rackets are mostly strung with Topspin Cyber Flash 17 on the mains and using a synthetic like Gosen OG Sheep Micro 16g or Gamma Synthetic 16g on the crosses. I use a thicker gauge cross as the synthetic cross will usually break before the polyester main. Stringing using the 2 string method has several benefits - the stringing jobs typically take less time and there is also a little bit less wastage compared to the 1 string method. I usually dont do any fancy patterns "Round the world" or no shared holes. For maximum economy, I usually measure and cut the optimal lengths to string a particular racket e.g. my Wilson 85-90 sq inch rackets typically only require 18ft for the mains and 16ft for the crosses. I usually take 35-40 minutes to do a single racket (a tip - dont be too fixated about speed when you first start).

Maintenance. My Gamma has largely been maintenance free. The only thing I do once in a while is to use a tension calibrator to make sure that the tension is correct and do a rough wipe down.
Has stringing my own racket helped me in my game? Well to be honest, not really. Putting the best stuff on your racket wont make you the next Federer. Some times I get the urge to just throw my racket at a stringer and get it done. You get the convenience of stringing anytime you want or whenever you break string. For me, I save some time by not having to travel to the stringer location and make another repeat trip to collect the strung racket.
Does it make sense to have your own stringing machine if you only have one racket and you only play once a month? No. I would say that you should only do this if you play frequently (about 1-2 a week minimum) and you break string often. The general advice is that you should restring your racket annually as often as you play a week e.g. if you play once a week you should restring once a year.
Let me know if you have questions and I'll try to help!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Auto gearboxes a cause for bad driving

A colleague of mine TW recently made a remark that the prevalence of cars with auto gearboxes on Singapore roads has resulted in driving standards getting worse.

His logic was that drivers using traditional manual gearboxes would be more in tune with what the car was doing. Also having to operate a manual would mean that behaviours such as using a mobile phone while driving would not be possible (not taking into account contortionists who are able to hold an iPhone between their shoulder and neck ;).

I tend to agree with his theories. Drivers are getting lazier nowadays. Even signalling is become rarer on Singapore roads. Alas, with the demise of manual cars (you can't actually buy a manual car anymore unless a special order is made) this theory is a moot point.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hitting the foreign talent (FT) wall in Singapore

Desperation or despair kinda sneaks up on you in mid life.

When you are young, and if you are a graduate, you have the feeling that the world is your oyster. You feel that you are able to get a job in any company, get a good job and start enjoying the feeling of making money. You have plenty of headroom to climb - or so you think - to the upper echelons of a corporation.

Where I am now - solidly in mid-life - middle aged, mid career, life doesn't look or feel so rosy anymore, especially in this place called Singapore.

You see my friend, companies are typically top heavy creatures. Lots of entry level jobs doing the real work, a moderate number of middle level jobs for people to middle manage others and then, a tiny few top level positions. In the company that I work for, a software product company, it is no different. 

In a typical homogeneous society like Japan or Europe (this is slowly changing however), this would still bode well for mid career managers. You should have similar thinking similar background people above and below you in the organizational hierarchy. Your bosses should understand you, know that you are aiming to move upwards, and also understand the societal norms i.e. what holidays mean in terms of importance e.g. never scheduling project deadlines near Chinese New Year, for example and other responsibilities that parents face e.g. taking leave to accompany children during exam periods (admittedly a Singapore idiosyncrasy).

In Singapore, however, if you are working in MNCs and not a government organization (which is pretty homogeneous i.e. typically all Singaporeans) or are pretty lucky, this situation will not typically happen. "Foreign talents" fill the upper spots of the company hierarchy. They also fill the middle slots and the lower slots but the upper spots are typically all FT territory. They live a rarefied upper class life in Singapore, living in posh places, drive the Lambos and Ferraris, send their children to expensive private schools and don't know (or give a rats ass) what problems Singaporeans face. It probably wouldn't feel so bad if these FTs are smart and capable, fair and respectable but it sure stinks when they are nearly all stupid (cunning), lazy etc ones.

As a mid-career worker and in a middle level position in Singapore, you feel stuck. I feel that there is no way that you will rise further in a corporation as the FTs are entrenched there and will never give up their positions to others anymore. Its like a glass ceiling however it feels more like a brick wall. So this is what the future looks like. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moving from the iPhone to an Android

iOS and Android don't mix, its quite clear about that. On the other hand, I also think iOS is for dumb or lazy people and Android is for the nerd. After using an iPhone for three years, its pretty hard to move. But move I must.

One of the tasks I am doing during my planning to switch smartphones i.e. from my current iPhone4 to a Samsung Galaxy S3 is to make a small inventory of things that I need to migrate and how I will perform the migration.

  • Favorites (on Safari) - pretty easy, just type these in

Apps (now this is where it starts gets tricky)
- Bloomberg - I pretty much have to recreate my stock entries
- Watsapp (messaging app) - there is no easy migration path, your best bet is to export each message trail by contact to a txt file and archive it)
- Runkeeper (my exercise app) - not sure.. does Runkeeper migrate?
- Squeezebox Touch app - yes there is an equivalent on Android

Now you know why Apps are so important to phone companies. They lock you into the platform and make it difficult to unstick yourself from it. They are the main reason why a smartphone is great though.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Taxi drivers in Singapore don't drive in the rain

A recent study of 80 million GPS record recording Singapore taxi driver driving patterns shows that taxi drivers here are afraid of rain. A large proportion of taxi drivers will just sit out the rain by the roadside or seek a hidey-hole.

This is in line with my previous post about the professionalism of the Singapore taxis driver.

Singapore taxi drivers are in a limbo state. They aren't salarymen like the bus drivers here and they don't own their own taxis. Instead, they rent their taxis from the taxi companies at a rate of 80-200 SGD a month. This explains why they have no incentive to drive on days when they don't need to. Either when they have already met their quota or exceeded it. Even though taxi drivers here are not supposed to reject fares, it is a fairly common occurrence, often with the reason that they are changing shifts.

Which brings me to the possible methods to curb this unprofessional behaviour of taxis drivers. First of all, there are too many taxis on the road. Singapore has over 28,000 taxis plying the roads here compared to 18,000 over taxis in Hong Kong covering a much larger area in Hong Kong. Eliminating 8,000 taxis would still mean Singapore would have more taxis than Hong Kong. Make taxi drivers fight for the right to drive by setting high standards.

 Which taxis to remove? Obviously the taxis that have poor record in terms of serving the community (put a happiness meter in every taxi for passengers to rate each ride and allow the public to easily rate or mark any taxi on the road based on its driver's good or bad driving) should be fired and prevented from driving ever again. Taxi drivers who loiter and do not put in a sufficient time on the roads should be fired. Make taxis the responsibility of their drivers by making taxi drivers own their own taxis with a low repayment rate. This way, the drivers will be incentized to drive more and more safely.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's next for Apple?

Apple is now the biggest company in the world based on market valuation.

Over the past few years, the iPhone has been their main seller, their nĂºmero UNO product bringing in the most profit. Unfortunately, I think so many iterations of iPhone and shipping so much product I think the market is kinda tired of the iPhone. It has become boring especially with so many people having at least one generation of phone.

After the iPhone, the next major seller was the iPad. We had the iPad 1, iPad 2 and the ridiculously named "new iPad" which automatically made all the previous versions "old iPads". I guess "iPad 3" was probably a patented name which they couldnt use. Or maybe it was an unlucky number.

Apple is a design company. It's products aren't necessarily better in any way than it's competitors the iPhone when it came out didn't have the best battery life or the best camera etc.

My predictions for the next Apple products?

a) Apple iPhone - introduce the iPhone 6 obviously. However I have feeling that the smaller is better credo will come back and Apple will introduce a smaller iPhone - iPhone mini - smaller screen obviously and controlled mostly by voice - Siri.. ugh. After that.. its pretty obvious they will launch an iPhone Nano... and Pico... you heard it here first boys and girls..

b) Apple iPad - the iPad mini will be launched soon however it is definitely a strategic move by Apple henchies to match what the competitors are doing. If Steve Jobs were in the house still, he would introduce ever larger iPads until they were big enough to fill a wall...

Monday, September 24, 2012

The secrets to Federers longevity in Tennis

  • Ideal body frame for tennis (i.e. 6ft 1) with wide shoulders for power and strong legs for a stable base and quickness. Players who are too tall are usually slower and are ungainly. Players who are too short have no reach and less leverage for power.
  • Although it doesn't look like it, have a really strong body core and strong legs
  • Little or no fat
  • I do not believe Federer does much gym work to develop muscles etc. or if he does he probably works on flexibility in conjunction with gym work
  • Relaxed grip and wrist for power and to allow a late hit.
  • Same ball toss for flat, slice and kick serves adds deception to serve. He still tends to favor the serve down the line for the deuce court and the wide serve to the ad court.
  • Late hitting adds deception to the shots. The wrist flick - most beginners to tennis get told that tennis strokes do not involve the wrist but that is wrong. The power in the forehand and backhand of Federer and most other pros is the pre-cocking of the wrist and the wrist snap that they make precisely as they hit the ball. It allows him to hit the ball even when out of position.
  • True confidence (or arrogance) that he can beat anyone.
  • the long hair..
  • Sunday, September 23, 2012

    iPhone 5 - a sign of things to come from Apple?

    I had - in the quest for the latest and greatest - dutifully queued up at my local telco provider Singtel Apple iPhone "launch" events for the past 2 releases of the iPhone. This year though was different.

    First of all, I was utterly disappointed with Singtel not getting its act together in their coordination of the registration process. Their website was inaccessible for most of the registration period and I pretty much gave up. For goodness sake, its not the first time you guys have done this. Time to leave and head for another telco me thinks.

    When I finally got my hands (on a friend's) iPhone5 the disappointment deepened. Overall comments from the people who managed to get their iPhone5 was that there was nothing really new in the phone except for the speed increase from the faster processor and 4G support. Nothing new in Apps, except for the much reported buggy Maps application. Nobody really thought that the increased screen size was a big deal since rivals like the Samsung Galaxy and Sony's Xperia already have larger and, I thought, nicer looking screens. The longer screen actually makes the iPhone5 screen look narrower and more "remote control-like" than previous iPhones although this is a bit of an optical illusion.

    The big draw of the old iPhones were (to me at least) their designs. I personally thought the iPhone5 was a little bit dull design-wise. There is absolutely no WOW factor. I actually preferred the design of my old iPhone4, with its glass back and aluminum sides. The color choices of only the white and black option show that Apple is unable to break the design protocol defined by Steve Jobs. The white iPhone5 has a really ugly looking two tone back, fussy chrome trim and a weird looking mutated "face" on the top of the phone (see below). I don't think you can find any existing iPhone users who actually prefers the new iPhone5 design over their previous phones.

    However, if after my little rant you still want to get one, the black iPhone5 is definitely the one to choose if you really had to have a iPhone5.

    So will I buy an iPhone5? Maybe - eventually - when my iPhone4 and/or its accessories die. A big turn-off for me is that the whole world and their grandmother has an iPhone and it has totally lost its cool and uniqueness factor. Apple is a victim of its own success.

    I might get one of the Android phones in the meantime as they are significantly cheaper to pickup without a telco contract. The current crop of new Android phones give off a more innovative vibe compared to the iPhone5. Don't confuse me as a Samsung fanboy but anyone who has handled a Samsung Galaxy S2 or S3 will feel like the designers had a brief to be fresh and be bolder with their designs. As I said before in my last post - it really seems that innovation and good design has left Apple, after Steve Jobs left the building.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Apple's iPhone 5 - an expensive proposition in Singapore

    Just received some news about a colleague who just collected her iPhone 5.

    As most of you probably already know, the iPhone 5 has a new connector which means that all your existing pre-iPhone 5 accessories are made redundant. Ok, there is an adaptor but who likes using adaptors and does this mean you have to have multiple adaptors every where?

    The iPhone 5 also has a new SIM card form factor - the nano SIM. The iPhone 4 which was introduced 2 years ago used the micro-SIM card which I guess is redundant now. Singtel - the telco I use in Singapore - is charging SGD39 (USD32) for a nano sim!

    You have got to be kidding..

    Since my two year old iPhone 4 is on its last legs - the home button died some time ago and the phone is seriously lagging - I was thinking of getting a iPhone 5 but I am now seriously reconsidering getting a Samsung S2 instead. Maybe all sense in Apple is gone ever since Steve Jobs left the building.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Stress in the Sin City

    It doesn't take long for a visitor to Singapore to observe that this city is not like any other city. And I don't mean the greenery or the food or the shopping and the apparently orderliness of the place.

    Singapore is an unnecessarily stressful place.

    Just take this morning when I dropped off my kids at the childcare centre on the way to work (my kids have been to childcare since they were 18 months old.. since my dad died, I do not have the luxury of having family childgivers taking care of my kids for me). The childcare place we use is in kind of a childcare hub where there are many companies running pre-schools. What we have done (along with hundreds of other parents) is typically to stop by the small stretch of road running alongside the schools and drop the kids off.

    Now, this road is also shared by the Singapore Police Force who has a branch in the area. They have always "co-existed" peacefully with the schools and parents in the use of the road for the past 2-3 years, primarily because they have two entrances to their building. Recently though, one of their entrances was closed for renovations. As a result, the SPF has suddenly decided to take over the use of the road that we used to share. They have deployed numerous policemen to patrol this stretch of road preventing parents from stopping their cars to drop off their kids. This morning, they even called in the LTA or Land Transport Authority - kind of a pseudo road enforcer type organization - to fine and issue summons to cars that have stopped along this stretch of road even temporarily.

    Politicians in Singapore have been vocal in the media recently about the low birth rate in the country and wonder why Singaporeans are not having more children. As a result of this low population replacement statistic, the government has been importing immigrants and workers at a record rate. Since 2002, the population has grown from 4.1 million people to about 5.2 million in 2012 and has made Singapore the most densely populated country in the world with about 7300 people for each square kilometer (as compared to a country like the UK where there are around 400 people for each square kilometer, even Tokyo and Hong Kong have only 6000 people per sq km). People are literally fighting for space here. Property prices are a world high. Even having lunch here is stressful as people fight for places to sit down to eat. The train network is packed to the point that it keeps breaking down.

    For a small country of roughly 700 sq kilometers this is ludicrous.

    This is the country I live in.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Taxi drivers as a model of good driving habits‏

    There have been several conversations recently regarding the bad driving habits being exhibited by drivers on Singapore roads. Although there are no easy fixes, through my observations however as a driver, I feel that one way that driving standards can be improved is by making taxi drivers the benchmark when it comes to displaying good driving habits.

    Taxis, due to the nature of their large numbers on our roads, are highly visible. As of Jul 2012, there are more than 28,000 taxis operating on Singapore roads according to data from the LTA. I would venture to say that all the typical Singapore driver bad habits e.g. horn abuse, abrupt changing of lanes without signalling, speeding up in lanes when someone signals, tailgating/road hogging, sudden stopping on roadsides are all exhibited in some way or form by taxi drivers here.

    If taxi drivers were to show all the best characteristics of good driving, I feel that it would rub-off on other drivers on Singapore roads.

    What are some of the ways of improving taxi driver driving habits you might ask? Besides the obvious way e.g. sending taxi drivers to good driving courses or other training courses, taxi companies should take a more active part in reprimanding bad driving and incentizing taxi drivers for good driving behaviour. Have a scheme whereby other road users can give feedback ok good driving behaviour shown by taxi drivers. Have a scheme where taxi drivers will face bans when they exhibit bad driving habits.

    When I have taken taxis in Singapore in the past, the drivers who I spoke to tend to be a stressed lot who complain about business being harder now as compared to the past. The stress of bad driving habits on the roads as well as that of competing with others could possibly result in bad driving habits. As the ratio of taxis to population (and land size) in Singapore is much greater than in other countries, for example Hong Kong, one way to reduce this stress is to reduce the total number of taxis on our roads which would ensure that taxi drivers would not have so much competition in looking for fares and in turn exhibit bad driving.

    My hope at the end of the day is for Singapore to have a model taxi force, which consists not just of the latest and most modern taxi fleet and systems, but also where taxi drivers display good driving habits which the rest of the road users will model themselves by. This in turn might also make Singapore a less stressful and dangerous place to be for other road users.

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    A collection of Chinese Foldie Knife Specs

    New hobby alert!

    I currently have a couple of Swiss Army Knives ("SAK"s) and Leatherman multi tools and was contemplating to get some Chinese foldies (Ganzo, Sanrenmu, Bee, Enlan, Navy etc) on the cheap on ebay for EDC ("everyday carry") - was looking for some blades that were fairly distinctive in design. Didn't want a foldie that looked like a dinner knife! Guess what I got in the end?

                                       Blade Length (inches)   Closed Length (inches)   Blade Steel
    Ganzo G704               3.35                                4.48                                 440C
    Ganzo G710               3.74                                4.6                                   440C
    SRM 763                    2.55                                3.66                                 8Cr13MoV
    SRM 710                    2.79                                3.66                                 8Cr13MoV
    Bee L05                      3.26                                4.4                                   8Cr13MoV
    Enlan EL04                3.38                                4.6                                   8Cr13MoV
    Enlan EL02                3.46                                4.72                                 8Cr13MoV
    Enlan L02                  3.26                                4.08                                 8Cr13MoV
    Enlan EM01               2.795                              3.5                                   8Cr13MoV
    Navy K631                3.74                                4.72                                 440C

    Although the Ganzos and the Navys supposedly use 440C - technical name X105CrMo17 which is a fairly good steel (much better than 420C which is softer and stains easier), some forums speculate that it is actually closer to 8Cr13MoV. Incidentally - CrMo stands for chromium and molybdenum, V stands for Vanadium.

    I also compared the Chinese foldies to some popular American models

                                         Blade Length (inches)  Closed Length (inches)    Blade Steel
    BM Mini Griptilian      2.91                               3.87                                  154CM
    BM Griptilian               3.45                               4.62                                  154CM
    Spyderco Endura4        3.75                               5                                       VG-10
    Spyderco Delica           2.875                             4.25                                  VG-10

    In the end, I realized what I wanted was to get some American blades as well so I only got 3 Chinese foldies:

    SRM 763 - original Chinese design?, Axis lock, G10 grip and supports tip-up carry with the clip (tip up carry allows you to bring the knife out in one motion and flick it open).
    SRM 710 - super hyped up blade so I guess I had to try it. Got the foliage colored scales and the black blade.
    Enlan EM01 - didn't want to get the big brother the EL01 so decided to get the smaller brother. G10 handle and perfect dimensions for EDC. Also supports tip-up carry.

    Pics to come when the knives arrive!

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Streaming music in the home using Logitech's Squeezebox Touch

    Like many hifi enthusiasts, I have been dreaming a lot about digital audio lately.. having my music all in a high quality digital audio format e.g. FLAC or Apple lossless at my beck and call anytime and anyday from any device in my home.

    For the longest time, this wasn't possible or involved a lot of dough to achieve. But now - with devices like Logitech's Squeezebox Touch or SBT in short (which I just bought from for around USD230) - the dream is finally becoming a reality for not a lot of money.

    My configuration in my home is to put all my music into my NAS - in this case a Synology DJ212 running the SB Server software - and stream the music to my hifi system using the SBT. The SBT is connected to my NAS currently using the WIFI connection (in the future I will use Ethernet only for greater sound purity), and the SBT is connected via a coaxial digital cable to my DAC. I am also able to use the RCA outs on the SBT to connect directly to my amplifier.

    How do you access the music you might ask? Well, I am using the free Logitech Squeezebox app to select which tracks I want to hear, arrange playlists etc. My Synology NAS also has software that allows me to access and play songs on my iPhone or iPad (using Synology Apple apps).

    Check out my My Logitech Squeezebox un-boxing!

    Will network streaming audio eventually replace my CD player? Eventually, maybe and only if you have a very high quality DAC like Naim's nDac. However a quick comparison shows that CD still has a slight edge for me in terms of timing and PRaT.

    For me now - I am enjoying both mediums i.e. the convenience of network streaming via my SBT/NAS and also spinning CDs!

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Alternatives to the Wilson Pro Staff 85

    I have been using the Wilson ProStaff 85 Midplus (or "PS85") racket for nearly 18 years. I do not believe that there will ever be a racket like this made in the future, with the same feel, with the same longevity in terms of having players buy it and use it and win with it for so long. Recently however, I have been tempted to find a replacement for my faithful sidekick on the tennis court. My search was not triggered by any desire for more power on my groundstrokes or improvements to any other part of the game. The main reason, and I hate to admit it, is that I am getting older and am beginning to feel the weight of the PS85 over the length of a long hitting session.

    As mentioned in my earlier post, my PS85 has been customized by applying lead tape on the PWS area of the Wilson (at the 3 and 9 area of the head). The effect of applying lead tape at this area is to increase the stability of the hit (the stock PS85 is very headlight at around 12pts HL unstrung). Adding lead tape brings my racket balance to around 10pts. The other effect of adding weight is the produce a slightly heavier ball on the hit and that I can feel the head a lot better. All good things to do with a racket however, there is a cost, it adds to the overall weight of the racket. My PS85s all weigh more or less the same - around 13oz strung with grip.

    When Roger Federer burst into the tennis scene as the heir apparent to Pete Sampras in 2001, he used a PS85 (Taiwan version apparently). Over the years, he has had the most influence on Wilson still retaining a relative small headed racket of around 90 sq inches in the market. Like or hate Federer, I guess the purist tennis player has to thank Federer for helping in this part of Wilson racket development.

    I have used several of these rackets (Wilson nCode nSix-One Tour 90, Kfactor Six One Tour 90) in the vain attempt to find something that emulates the feel of the PS85 to no avail.. until the Wilson Kfactor ProStaff 88 ("KPS88") was released for a brief period in the early part of 2009.

    Here was a racket, with the exact same weight as my leaded PS85, which felt most similar to that racket in terms of the solid, almost creamy, feel it imparted to the practitioner on the court at the hitting point. It felt "dense", if you know what I mean, and felt like part racket part knife when swinging it. However, it had one main drawback and that was the balance. Wilson had a bad QC when making this racket and even though it was listed as having a 10pt HL spec (which seemed ideal for me), some of the rackets I had had a 6pt HL balance instead. So what, some of you might ask? Well, for most tennis players, balance is nearly everything when it comes to "liking" a racket and being able to wield it properly. I was always a little bit slow when it came to getting into the hitting zone with my KPS88. Forehands were ok, backhands were ok - beautiful slices resulted, net game was ok, however the serve was a disaster.

    Clearly, the KPS88 was not the racket that I was looking for. I still bought two of them, hoping vainly that I would get used to them.

    Around sometime early this year, I purchased a mint late version of the US version of the Wilson BLX Six.One Tour 90 ("BLX90") second hand from a guy here in Singapore. It was strung with Luxilon Big Banger - kind of like the string of choice of Singaporeans nowadays - and after hitting with it briefly, I shoved it into my racket bag and dismissed it as another failed clone of my beloved PS85. I forgot about the racket until one day - I was too lazy to restring enough of my PS85s and ended up bringing the BLX90 along. I don't know why I felt like the BLX90 wasn't good during my initial hitting session with it but for some reason, during my second session, the racket felt really good. Even though I never added any lead tape, the balance was spot on and the racket being .6oz lighter than the PS85 really helped a lot. Even though I felt that I could not hit a a heavier ball compared to the PS85, the faster racquet head speed I could generate compensated by giving me a little bit more spin generation ability. I had a lot less mishits as well.

    Thinking back, I think I know why my initial encounters with the 90 sq in models from Wilson didnt quite hit it off. I was using the Asian version of those rackets which were around .7oz lighter than the US versions and which were more head heavy.

    Since the BLX90 is no longer in production, I guess I will have to source the second hand market for them or get the replacement the Wilson BLX ProStaff Tour 90 which just came out this year. Look out for my impressions then. Ciao!