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Togo Loco

23 years ago, I left Togo delighted to see the back of it. Half a lifetime ago.

That time, I sold my XT and flew to Moscow on Aeroflot. I was sad to see my XT go – Yamaha’s single-cylinder, continent-wrecking beast which had taken me some 4,000 miles overland from Leicestershire and across the Sahara to a little-known West African country.

This time, I took what was supposed to be an easy route – via TAP airways from Lisbon to Lomé. This time, I left behind my XR – my iPhone which costs more than the average GDP per capita – the smartphone which I had piloted via Amsterdam and Lisbon airports to my final destination.

Many things happened in a short trip, and some of the things about Togo that I’d forgotten were the sounds.

The Sounds of Togo

  • roosters. no matter what time of night, there’d be a rooster crowing
  • hissing. people not snakes. The Togolese hiss at you to get your attention. It’s remarkably effective.
  • sweeping. with twig brooms. The locals sweep loose red dirt from slightly firmer red dirt with twigs strapped together – the African Swiffer.
  • horns. motorbikes and taxis not animals. A honk from a vehicle might mean, “I’m coming and will kill you if you don’t move.”, “I’ve only got 8 people in this 5 seater car so have more space to fit in paying passengers – would you like to go with us?”, “I’m overtaking this car which is overtaking a lorry which is overtaking a motorbike on a blind bend and I’m not sure if we’re all going to die. What do you think?” or anywhere in between
  • “Yovo!”. meaning white-person. Mostly children in rural settings would yell this at me in a well-meaning way, followed by some laughing and waving.
  • drums. people with drums. Some of them annoying middle-aged French tourists, but mostly people who live there and like a bit of drumming.


Coinbase is draining my iPhone Battery

My iPhone battery has been perpetually low for the last few days, and I’ve noticed my pocket warming up when I’m moving around. So what is the battery-draining culprit? Coinbase.

Having just got a new battery fitted to the pesky iPhone 6s, I was disappointed to realize it was always out of juice after a few weeks of regular usage. Luckily, it’s easy to see what’s killing your battery now.

Coinbase Draining my battery

Coinbase Draining my iPhone Battery

A quick jaunt into Settings -> Battery loads up a chart like the one above of phone battery usage for the last 24 hours or 10 days. It also points out things like “You’re using High Brightness which is killing your battery” (yes, so that I can see the thing in the bright sunshine of Nottingham in November).

The chart also makes things dramatic with red bars when you’re phone is dying. Mine on the right shows Coinbase hogging 61% of my joules, like a dyslexic and not very thorough burglar.

Looking at the 10 day view, Coinbase is not such a hog, so I’m guessing it’s something to do with their update a few days ago. An update without much useful description as to what it’s supposed to have fixed.

If you’re not familiar with the online cryptocurrency trading platform, where were you in 2017?!

Watching Bitcoin, LiteCoin and Ethereum values go up every day was a giddying and addictive buzz. Coinbase allows you to purchase such cryptocurrencies, and has subsequently added a bunch more such as Ethereum Classic. If you don’t know what this means, it’s a long story. Suffice it to say that Bitcoin is cheap right now (compared to this time last year, and if you want to sign up, get £10 free if you click on this link)


I used to look at my Coinbase balances every 30 minutes at the end of 2018

Why would Coinbase be using so much power? Could it be mining on your phone?

Cryptocurrency can be mined using computer (or possibly phone) processor resources, which ends up putting money into your account. I can’t imagine there’s enough power in my iPhone6s to make any serious headway – miners tend to buy dedicated graphics processing rigs to do this, and the electricity they use to power them is offset by the value of the coins they produce. Which works well when BitCoin et. al are at a premium (they’re not now) or you live somewhere with cheap electricity (or steal someone else’s). Or theoretically, you install code that runs on other people’s machines (or phones).

How to Stop Coinbase Killing Your Phone Battery

The fix is pretty simple. Find your Coinbase app on your phone. Hold your finger over it for a bit. Then when it starts to wiggle, hit the ‘X’ and wait for them to sort out their software.

Given that crypto values have fallen off a cliff lately, you’re probably not going to be actively monitoring the values if you have a buy and hold strategy, known by the illiterate masses as “BUY and HODL”.

Still, it is looking cheap these days if you fancy a flutter…


Delete Coinbase. Come back next year.


How to Stop Grammarly Ads on YouTube

Grammarly Ads on YouTube really get my goat, and I wanted to figure out how to stop seeing them. After a bunch of searching for “how to stop grammarly ads on YouTube” yielded nothing, I sat down at my stand up desk and thought about it.

I figured it out. And there’s only one sure-fire way.

Why Do I Notice Grammarly Ads So Much on YouTube?


Tired of seeing this over and over and over and over again?

I probably wouldn’t have noticed them any other day, but yesterday I had a bit of a YouTube binge. Sometimes when I’m sad, I watch men fighting on YouTube – it’s like a mis-placed aggression being acted out on a canvas surface. It only really hurts myself.

Now there’s no reason to expect young men to donate their brain cells to sport without being paid. So YouTube has two modes – ad supported and a subscription model.

Grammarly wants to tout their product and pays for the privilege.

YouTube gets some money, the person providing the content gets some money.


(though I suspect it’s really content aggregators who provide montages of other people’s content who really get paid – “Top 10 apocalypses that ended worlds” probably doesn’t feed too much money back to the original four horsemen that started them and their patient videographers – I believe the fifth horseman is now called Social Media and gets the lion’s share of funding, but then again is probably doing more to cause depression and anxiety in the modern world. And as we know from dirty warfare, you don’t win by killing people cleanly, you weaken the opposition by wounding them severely and forcing them to care for the wounded. Ergo Social Media’s unwitting side-effects are probably doing more to hamstring civilization than smallpox)

So Grammarly is paying a bundle to get their product out there. On one hand you might see their grammar and spelling correction as helpful. On the other, you might see that sending every single thing you type to a third party (over and above Google et al.) might be a great opportunity to lose every single secret you ever wanted to keep and to give yet another platform the knowledge to advertise the heck out of your interactions.

The Only Way To Stop Grammarly Ads

The answer is pretty simple I’m afraid.


It’s that simple. Click like there’s no tomorrow

You click on their ads as often as possible.

The company has a marketing department. It has a budget. It is measured on its ability to put ads on a network, get people to click on them, and then ultimately sign up for Grammarly – either the free version where you just give them every jot of your typed data, or the paid version where you pay about $30 per month for the same privilege.

So every time you see an ad, click on it. You’ll see a link from YouTube like this:


So What Happens When I Click on a Grammarly Ad on YouTube

If you break down the URL above, you’ll see standard tracking parts – things beginning with utm_ (utm_medium, utm_source etc.) allow the marketeers to say what generated the click to their site, and also present different data quite easily to the user.

You can build your own utm_ URLs ideal for google analytics at the Google campaign URL builder.  ( Random fact: UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Modules – Urchin being a company Google bought in 2005 to help them get Analytics up and running)

The useful part in this for us people frustrated by the sheer frequency of Grammarly advertisements is the utm_medium=cpc part. CPC stands for cost per click.

So every time we click on it, the campaign budget is used up. The more we click, the less money they have to pay for ads. The less conversions – people signing up from YouTube clicks they have – the less they’ll be inclined to flood YouTube with their visual canticles.

Everyone Needs To Contribute to Stop YouTube Grammarly Ads

I can’t do this all by myself. We need everyone to click the living bejesus out of those ads consistently for a week. Click the damn thing every time you see it. Get your friends to click it. Get your enemies to click it twice. Click it til the insipid campaign is all done. Spent and spent. Exhausted crashing on the walls of user indifference. Click it til it’s dead. If I can place a banner here for Grammarly I will.

Does Grammarly Work?

If you want to know more about Grammarly, you might give their product a whirl. I know I did a few years back and thought it was quite a useful way to learn more about grammar. I’ve written a little update, and will use lots of funny parameters in the link to that Grammarly update to show how they work (although in practice, you wouldn’t need to do that with links from your own site.)

I love the BBC’s comment on Grammarly when it raised $110m in funding in 2017:

Its own website contains the sentence: “Enhance your sentences with Grammarly’s context-optimized word choice suggestions to instantly improve the readability of your document.”

Clearly split infinitives are safe from the software’s forensic gaze.