Thursday, January 31, 2008
Its just that the last time around it blew the primaries, and much more significant stories off the front page, and made you wonder what the hell is wrong with us that a has been starlet proportionally is more important than anything in the world at this point.
A sense of reality has returned. Of course now I'm going to TMZ to read all the gory details ;-)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
But why I hear you ask ?. I’m a little strange in that I will run in absolutely anything, rain hail, hot, ice, it doesn’t matter. Cycling I already have the rods, plates and screws, so once it gets below 28 or there is ice outside, that’s it, I’m indoors. Also to build a good base of fitness there isn’t time to do too many one and a half to two hour rides during the work week and before dark. So the trainer, because you can’t coast or stop pedaling offers an honesty to workouts, the conventional wisdom is that half an hour on a trainer is equivalent to an hour on the road. It also allows specific drills such as pedaling one legged (makes your pedal stroke apply power all the way around instead of just pressing down), sprints, long hard resistance intervals etc, so you can focus truly on weaknesses and become stronger overall.
Now this is all great, there are many benefits from convenience, to specific training, higher intensity workouts and the ability to work on weaknesses. But it’s indoors. Staring at a wall. Thus impossible not to feel like a bloody hamster.
I’ve tried watching tv, but its unfulfilling, it doesn’t matter on the movie as I can only concentrate on doing one thing or the other. To be honest I get bored and get off the bike if I have the tv on, though the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre did work for a while. They also make DVDs for training, one chap being Troy Jacobson of Spinervals. With delightful titles such as “Suffer-o-rama”, “No slackers allowed” and “Have Mercy”, well you get the drift, he is what would happen if Satan, Michael Bolton and Celine Dion got together for a threesome and had offspring.
All I can say is this winter thank god for my baby ipod, stick it on, zone out while reading and warming up, toss the magazine and get down to business. Those who know me well already know that I’m not wired together right eg. My mountain bike is a single speed. ONE. GEAR, I am at my happiest when out training in the worst possible conditions, snow ? I’ll eat it, rain, bring it on big boy. So it should come as no surprise that this winter for the first time I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy working hard, sweating my nuts off, and grinning ear to ear the harder it gets.
I need to get out and get a bunch of those neoprene wristbands made for cycling, training motivation with “Suck it up, buttercup” on them (a favorite mental mantra). But what about the other side – “Git ‘r’ done” ? Thoughts ?
For something a little different, I wanted to introduce people to a friend of mine, Bob Mina. The two articles below are true classics from his xtri writing, and will strike chords with anyone who has ever been to a gym, enjoy, just don’t try to drink coffee while reading. His triathlon and Dragon boat race reports can be found to the right.
Spin class Part 1
Spin Class Part 2
Now I should add that whilst I am validating/verifying 6-8,000 emails at a time I am at no point sending an email, but instead verifying the address exists, using Port 25 (SMTP out). I am doing this to REDUCE spam by my clients, by validating the addresses on their newsletter lists, we don’t spend time trying to deliver to non-existent mailboxes thus clogging ISP email servers. We send out 1-1.5 million emails per week on behalf of these clients, so even a 10% failure rate can be a pain for all involved. Again, this ain’t spam – its opt in rather than out, and in 7+ years of business we have never been spam blocked or greylisted by any provider.
So they lift it, but that it will be re-instated probably within 24-48 hours of me hitting a search apparently, unless I switch to use port 587, ugh, guess I need to write more software, or get my developer to hurry up and move this to a server based version using our own servers, which are..NOT ON COMCAST !.
So that was a true piddler of a weekend, going loopy and ending up running these things round the clock from Saturday into Monday (go to bed, set alarm clock for 3 hours, get up save results and run next test), so one was a very grumpy little unit Monday morning. Times like these make me sooo happy I work from home, I think human contact in an office at that point would have resulted in genocide.
Though I had run and lifted weights on Sunday, it was only enough to lift the black clouds for a little bit, but completing everything Monday morning, followed by a conversation with my partner that I was going to go take a 2 hour mental health break and all became right with the world.
It takes me exactly 12 minutes to leave suburbia on the road bike, at which point I am on narrow, back country roads, the woods still full of ice that hasn’t thawed out from the last ten days. The last 12 months of riding and running and last 4 months of intense and committed training, much of the riding carried out on a trainer in my basement have provided incredible fitness dividends. So this ride was a release, a release and letting go of the stress, aggravation, frustration and annoyance, with the strength and fitness to back it up, I floated up the first few hills and then the next long one attacked, settling into a hard rhythm dancing on the pedals, then jumping out of the saddle and laying the smackity down on the road, repeat several times.
It never ceases to amaze me how getting outside and exercising truly shapes and changes my attitude towards anything in life, when I returned a couple of messages that would have been aggravating were just water off a duck’s back and were swiftly dealt with, my team was bonded with and a direction and plan was crafted for our launch next week.
All is right with the world, interspersed are a few pictures from the ride. I wonder why only one side of the mailbox received the abuse and bullet dents (.22 judging from the size and lack of penetration)…
Word for the day is rhinotillexomania – look that puppy up, it was on a triathlon blog !
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go." T. S. Elliot
Friday, January 25, 2008
…and some start off incredibly and then just fall apart.
It is now that I am seeing the benefits of the last 4 months commitment to both my health, diet and fitness training, though I’ve been training solidly for a year now, it wasn’t as consistent as it should have been. From October I found a new and renewed focus, taking care of all aspects, from weights, to running and nutrition, though I have many years experience the difference came in handing over the responsibilities to an online trainer, and the results have been better than I could have hoped for. Today was almost enlightening as I could feel every muscle firing and releasing, just floating above the ground, not just my legs, but the beginning of each stride in my core muscles. If you have ever done any of the meditation exercises where you focus on each part of your body and concentrate on them to relax you know the type of feeling.
Then I got back, whipped up a smoothie and jumped on a conference call at which everything went to hell in a handbasket. It appears our understanding of code that we have developed, then handed over to IT, that was all sorted in a conference call this morning is not what we thought it was. So now a new priority, that is dependent on which of two solutions IT is developing and which one will be complete first. Net result is I have to do all the prep work for both ways, rather than choosing one.
Oh well, its what they pay me kibbles for. Plus I know that I have a group mountain bike ride tomorrow morning in VA to look forward to. I think I’ll take a “Fukitol” pill, load up the shuffle with lots of sleazy 80s hair metal and go throw some weights around ! :-)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
In today’s age and the ubiquity of search engines, social networking sites and the like it has become possible to reconnect with our past in a myriad of ways. As I wrote in my post “Walking the Straight Line”, life is not a single linear journey, but instead a child’s squiggle allowing us to go back and revisit the past but in the context of the present.
Over the last couple of years I have been able to reconnect with many people from past lives through Facebook, LinkedIn and a UK version of Classmates.
But also, sometimes in searching google a name pops up that elicits a connection or memory. My post of life in
Alphonse Vinh was one of the first people I met when I moved to the
It was Memorial Day, and he was kind enough to invite my then girlfriend and I to a cookout at his home in Old Fairfax. Having read his writing, and spoken to him on the phone I had a picture in my head of an old style
The evening was quite simply wonderful, is knowledge and passion for both southern culture and history encompassing and riveting. Also his graciousness both as a host and gentleman quite at odds with the way we live our lives today. One act illustrates this perfectly, when we were about to leave, he reached into a vase of carnations and presented it to Cairen, as he did for any female guest that visited his home, not an act with any shallowness, but simply an expression of his gratitude for accepting an invitation and spending time in his company.
Below is a piece he wrote on mourning, specifically the break up of a relationship. Every time I read it, I am transported to the place and an insight into his feelings, together with reminiscing of my own feelings at those times :-
"For those who have mourned and for those who mourn still"
A ubiquitous mist has enshrouded the mountain on this cold November day. The sky was like a Turneresque gouache of grey-white. Houses hid behind a soft, foggy screen of white, round twin circles of light-yellow glowing like will-o'-the-wisps peeked through the vanished roads, announcing the immanent approach of a car. A few ragged trees could be seen from my window silhouetted like photographic negatives of lean black lines against a white void. Unseen leaves made sounds like hollow gourds against the still grass and everywhere was the pale-white mist. The silence of my world covering the solemn morning like a mourning shroud was interrupted by the occasional caw-caws of crows in the distant, ghostly woods.
How unnatural seems the world about us when we mourn. We get up, we dress, we pray, we sip our coffee, we walk to work, we perform our duties, we serve others in their needs, and all the while our inner universe has disintegrated into the chaos of sorrow, and the galaxies of our soul exploded into a trillion fragments, and the worlds of our emotions are cold orbs where suns have vanished. And yet we must go on even when our home universe has exploded, we must try to go on, homeless exiles in search of a new, restored homeland.
As I went through the various duties of the washed-out day, the pain swelled inside, and I thought of my fellow human creatures at their diurnal routines across this shrinking planet, and wondered how many of them carried on with conscientiousness despite their private sorrows. Each man and woman suffers grief alone in his or her own individual way. One can never measure another person's pain, and should not. So often well-meaning friends and acquaintances will try to comfort the bereaved person by making light of their grief and referringto the sufferings of others in faraway
My afternoon was my own and I sat before my writing-desk and read and thought. As the mist swirled outside, dancing beneath the street-lamps, the gathering dark emerged, and the pale light from the newly lit street-lamps conjured up images of wraiths, those memories from my past, and I clearly saw the dear features of my lost love, and I remembered her long, slender hands, her grave blue eyes, and the curls of her blonde hair streaked with dark gold strands. For a very long time, I kept a lock of her lovely hair which she had sent me carefully folded in a ribbon of blue-gold silk, in my pocket-calendar, and every day, I carried her next to my heart. When we lose the people whom we love most in our lives for whatever reason, we must put away tangible tokens of their continuing presence in our lives. We must mourn for them, for their physical disappearance from our lives. In time when we can bear to gaze at the photographs of our beloved recalling happier times, they do not seem to resemble the live person we recall laughing and talking and embracing with. In following the long dark journey into the night of grief, the images of the loved one will change, perhaps fade way like the ghostly lights in a fog, and that too is necessary. Our love for the lost lover will not die, but it must be transformed, for the life we shared with them is over now and dead like the fallen leaves in winter. We must learn despite the pain to surrender our memories of her and let her go in peace. Somehow, some day, somewhere in time, by the mercy of the Spirit, we will wake up one morning to find ourselves in a new universe where the light shimmers and the myriad suns warm the glowing orbs of our soul, the mist of grief will have vanished like the will-o'-wisps of our haunted past, and we will walk out into a new life, and as we look into the newly leafed woods shaking with the spring breeze, we see the
faces of those we loved and lost, and our hearts will be full of love for them, but it will not hurt anymore. And then we will understand the brave words of Albert Camus, "In the midst of winter, I discovered within myself an invincible summer."
Alphonse Vinh –
You obviously know me well enough to know my email address, drop me a line and say hello, eh ?
Monday, January 21, 2008
A few days before Chinese New Year in 1998, I decided to go into the office early. By this time I was living on the South Side of Hong Kong Island, in
Although it was less than three miles from all the skyscrapers, my view from my apartment was of the beach down below, and out to see where at night the horizon would glow orange from the cargo ship's lights.
As I set off, the day was just beginning to break, it looked like another overcast day as it had been for much of the previous week. I was undecided yet to take a taxi or the bus to
I waited and looked back up towards my apartment, which was one of only two tall buildings in the bay. Behind I could see the mountains, known locally as the "Twin sisters which I had hiked over the previous weekend.
It seemed strange to see trees in bloom so early in the year, and I thought back to my visit to the US, three weeks earlier, were the snow was still hard packed on the ground. Here I am just a few weeks later on my way to work in shorts and a t-shirt. The mode of dress was out of necessity, even in 'cold' season, when the local Cantonese dress in thick padded coats, the temperature hovers around 80-90 degrees, with oppressive humidity. Luckily all offices have shower facilities, with mine having a rooftop restaurant in amongst the A/C units, and two squash/racquetball courts. So suits and dress shirts stayed at the office, this slight inconvenience was my price for getting out of the city, with it's attendant noise and bustle. Here I could choose to spend quiet time, while still being able to take a 15 minute bus or taxi ride either to the teaming city night life, or a quieter evening down on
As I ride the bus, we ascend the gap through Wong Chai Gap, and the view across Deepwater Bay to some of the houses and apartments always has me wondering how people can afford these, these are no 800 sq. ft, US $5,000 per month abodes - multiple cars outside, Porsches, Ferraris and Rolls Royces, anything les than an S Class Mercedes without you own driver and you are a nobody. As we cross the top of the gap, the panorama of skyscrapers comes into view, first
Soon, we pass the racecourse and begin to circle the back streets of
I soon come upon Wan Chai, a pale shadow of its former reputation during the Vietnam war, long gone are the working girls of Suzie Wong's time, to be replaced by seedy Thai strip bars, fast food stalls and western style themed drinking establishments, as I cross the street, I begin to notice all the orange trees , a tradition around Chinese New Year, they are a little over two feet tall with the darkest of green leaves and covered with small bright oranges, they are everywhere, in doorways, by stalls, in windows. Suddenly it seems as though the drab pre-dawn springs to color. I cross the square in front of my office, passing under the windows of Mulhanny's Irish Bar, towards the corner occupied by Joe Bananas Aussie nightclub, these places quiet now, but the familiar sounds of pounding drum and bass music can still be heard from places such as the Big Apple, the Kit Kat Club and Crossroads, the occasional early morning reveler appears from a doorway, a girl from the bar half on his arm and half supporting him - bleary eyed, clothes half askew and blinks in the daylight, perhaps surprised to find that night is almost ended.
As walk towards the escalator walkway that will take me into the second floor of my office building I pass a man crumpled in a doorway, a puddle at his feet, sadly not one of Hong Kong's few tramps, but a westerner, from his pin striped suit he could well be a banker, not a young man, and certainly too old to be sleeping in doorways. Part of the sad underbelly of
I reach the office, passing through the doors to a huge orange tree, newly arrived last evening - this one is full size. In addition to the oranges, there are hundreds of Lai See packets, covered in the traditional Chinese script in gold lettering. Tradition dictates that at Chinese New Year, a manager will hand out a packet to each of their staff, containing money as a good luck charm for the coming year.
I ascend to the roof, and collect my morning noodles, sitting at a table just as the sun makes it's first appearance for the week and collect my thoughts before showering and changing for the day ahead
Thursday, January 17, 2008
On my first trip alone were several language faux pas, from loudly announcing to a colleague across a very busy mall that I was going to go downstairs and buy some fags (I think every Brit who has been here has pulled that one). Through to a female business contact who announced in a bar “Look at the fanny on that”, I being of the male persuasion nearly broke my neck as me head spun round faster than the Exorcist wondering what kind of bar she had brought me too, however it was just some guy in jeans, look up the meaning and understand why Brits giggle uncontrollably when Americans talk about a 'fanny pack', I'm sorry we just can't help it.
My personal favorite was a presentation at a very large and very well known Federal integrator down in Mannassas, VA. While setting up the projector to my laptop (this was 93 so back in the days when getting these things to work required black robes and a suitable sacrifice to the gods of IT), this rather well built gentleman at considerable volume announced that “My suspenders are too tight today”, now that’s all well and good, and innocent. However, being fresh of the metaphorical boat from the UK and yet to be indoctrinated into the myriad differences in language I immediately wen with my meaning for the word and completely lost the plot, you see in the UK what you call suspenders are what we braces. However in the UK what we call suspenders you call a garter belt. Now you see my mental image ?. Good, it was the toughest presentation I have ever faced, involving many, many trips to the “Giggle Loop”.
Even today I can be flummoxed by what seems an incredibly simple question to answer, eg. “Is Britain on the metric system ?”
Now if you are from the UK you know the answer, but trying to respond, "yes, sorta" and "it depends" doesn't seem to cut it for someone from the US where even slang language itself is much more precise.
To try and explain :-
We use metric for small distances (mm, cm), weight (grams) almost exclusively...hmm, ok, that's not very easy.
Let me start again - distances first - mm and cm for short distances (* see note), though 2 feet is more often used than 60cm, athletics is metric (100m, 200m, 400m 10,000m), but longer distances are more often in miles (eg Nottingham to Lincoln is 40 miles).
Weight - grams for cooking weights, ie. small. Heavier weights would be tons rather than metric tonnes, and kilograms are used a lot. But for how much you weigh though you might know how many kilos you weigh as the scales have kg on them, you are more likely to know it in stones - 1 st. = 14 pounds. But we don't know our weight in pounds, more like 13 st 6 lbs (188 lbs) as that's what the scales say. So in "Whole Lotta Rosie" by AC/DC, Rosie weighed in a 19 stone, she's quite a big girl.
Petrol (gasoline to you lot, when we say Gas we mean natural gas - the stuff you cook or heat your house with), the petrol pump measures in litres, but we think of a car's economy in miles per gallon. Oh, and just to throw a complete wrench (spanner, which also means someone of dubioUs intelligence) to it all a British (Imperial) gallon is bigger than a US one
UK gallon = 4.55 litres
US = 3.8 litres
Fun isn't it, might as well just ask us how long a piece of string is.
* - for those with depraved mind, ‘equipment’ length is always quoted in inches. Remember how cm is only used to measure ‘short’ things.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Why he is suing now and not back when the show was made is beyond me, and now my son is older I'm a little out of touch with pre-school tv. Naturally Will grew up around the Teletubbies, who in their own right to an adult are rather bizarre, but to a child they represent something else. The thinking behind the tubbies is that if you listen to one its all the basic constructs of speech - ba ba, aa aa, te te etc...the first show to deliberately target that age bracket.
But anyway, in reading about his shows the descriptions of the characters make me howl for some obscure reason (I really must go and have a sit down chat with the voices in my head one day). Lets see, we have :-
Igglepiggle - the main character, big, cuddly and blue with red hair. Inside the costume is apparently some tatted up rocker from Liverpool.
Upsy Daisy - female and of Afro-Caribbean descent, usually chased around the garden by her be and has a catchphrase of "Ooh upsy daisy".
Makka Pakka - a cave dweller fond of cleaning things, especially his other forest friends with soap and sponge that he carries in his cart.
Tombliboos - there are three of them Ooo, Unn and Eee, beat on their drums and their pants fall down regularly.
Truly bizarre. Have a look at this slice of baby heaven :-
In my day it were just sock puppets called the Clangers on tv :-)
Oh and as a disclaimer, when out of your head on morphine in a Hong Kong Hospital the Teletubbies in Cantonese are essential watching.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Now see, both Guv'ner and I have passports that say "Her Majesty" on them, and we remember this show. According to Wikipedia it was made by Hanna Barbera and shown on NBC...but how is it only British people remember it ?
I recently read an article on the language of the spirit comparing several passages from both the Bible and the Koran and their similarity. In reading it I was struck by a line that a British comedian called Dave Allen always used to close his shows – “May your God go with you”.
Two things jumped out at me, the first was a simple sentence “You might not like who I am but I am all that I have. If we go back far enough, are we all not brothers of color from the red loam of the Dark Continent, trying to make our way home” – Scott Tinley.
This strikes home for me as we are in an election year, already I feel amongst people that I know the closing of ranks and drawing of battle lines in the sand, without rhyme or reason we stop listening to any point of view that differs even one iota from our own and metaphorically scream “I’m right and you are wrong”. As a nation and a culture we are already intolerant of any other view, and insular in our outlook, an election year seems to exacerbate this.
Surely it would be better if instead of being intolerant of others beliefs we embraced those differences, instead of being insular in our lives, groups and outlook that we reached out wider, learnt and experienced outside our comfort zone. These are things a Government can never provide us, yet we expect them to solve these problems. It is a free thing to do, and yet we don’t.
The other was the six tenets that he believes are his life, which made me think how I would interpret them as they apply to me.
- We look outside and seek the answer to our own problems from others, or to blame what has happened to us on others or our ‘situation’. Surely the answers to our lives come from within us and the discovery of who we are, if we are lucky we find purpose from this self examination. After that we have to accept a great part of our answers and happiness will always come from others, whether they be friends, children or a random act of kindness by a stranger or acquaintance. So we find ourselves not only through insular self examination but through the connection of others. We must find a way to connect.
- We should accept change and suffering sometimes, as through those experiences our character is shaped. This includes making and acknowledging mistakes we ourselves have made, together with understanding why we made that choice, otherwise we are doomed to not learn from that experience. Through this we find meaning, and a deeper appreciation for others bad experiences that we would have found easy to dismiss before.
- Life today is at a pace that often brings with it chaos, confusing and struggle. We are buffeted at every turn by media and people telling us that we should have meaning and understand our lives. Accordingly we often make changes on a whim in the belief that a quick fix will provide what we are looking for. Yet very few people understand themselves to know what to pursue as a life path, we are all an experiment of one, so why would some talking head psychologist on a tv program or a book have the understanding of ourselves to provide a plan. Instead accept that life is a constant path of living and growing, take strength from the change and the limitless opportunities to grow and change as a person without letting that process get the better of you. The process of growing as a person is where we should define ourselves.
- If we seek self awareness in one place, we will become one dimensional. No one piece of advice or plan can deliver an understanding of yourself, as there are many components from physical, psychological, spiritual, experience and knowledge. An old Chinese proverb says “Tell me, I forget. Show me, I learn. Let me do, I remember”, so unless we act on our growth and pay attention to what we have learned we will not realize fully the gains that we have made. There are higher powers we can follow, whether they be a deity or a belief in oneself that drives us to be all we wish, but ultimately no one power will deliver us the salvation we seek, but only through a constant desire in all areas of our lives will we see the power of self and accepting others.
- We focus too often on worldly rewards as a statement of who we are and what we have done. Surely it is a greater satisfaction to look within yourself and see happiness and satisfaction as great person than to look out of your window at the greatest penis extension ?. While we should enjoy the trappings of success if we attain them, they should not shape nor define who we are. Ultimately a life without a spiritual attainment of self is still a hollow existence.
- We imagine that life is a straight line, that while it may go through peaks and troughs is still linear in fashion from start to finish. I prefer to think of it as a child’s squiggle that they draw through a puzzle maze, that while sooner or later it might find its way to the exit, in the meantime it meanders, goes back and revisits mistakes and finds a new, more successful path. Life is not a straight line, and thus we should not treat it as such, if we allow ourselves we can revisit times or places that bring us joy, or repair bridges that may have been broken, but we were too stubborn to mend them.
Nothing in life is an accident, we have the choice to make who we are, and as a result, create our own fulfillment. If we are brave enough to live the squiggly line.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
While I gather my thoughts together for a blog more along the lines of where I want to go I could not pass this up in today's news released at the CES show :-
"Hit me baby one more time"
Isn't it just such a cute idea, groove along to your favorite tunes while putting someone in a world of hurt.
But it does raise the obvious question in my mind of what your top 5 favorite tunes to play while tasering the beejesus out of someone ?