Saturday 31 January 2009

A few good reasons to watch telly

I don't have a tv - I haven't had one since I moved home in August. And I don't want one either because, as you know, unless you have DSTV... well then there isn't much to watch on One, Two and Three, which is what I had before. And I don't want satellite because all I'll do is waste hours flicking from one channel to the next; which is what I do when I get my hands on a satellite remote control.
What I have been doing is working through tv series DVD boxsets (the joy of DVD players on laptops), specifically Prison Break (Season 1), Alias (Season 1, 2, 3) and I've just finished Brothers & Sisters (Season 1). It's taken me about 6-months to work through them - and there are still more delightful seasons to watch!

Wentworth Miller is THE reason to watch Prison Break

Rob Lowe is so THE reason to watch Brothers & Sisters

Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan are THE reasons to watch Alias

OK, so I'm like every other girl on this planet who thinks Wentworth, Rob and Michael are totally dishy; and who wouldn't want to be Jennifer beating up the bad guys in sizzling h.o.t. & s.e.x.y. outfits?

Friday 30 January 2009

More than just milk

At Woolies Foods about two weeks ago I noticed that they've changed the packaging of their long-life milk. Instead of the common 1-litre Tetrapak box, they've changed to a plastic milk bottle-like container. In doing this they've scored another regular customer... for their long-life milk at least.

What do I have against Tetrapak containers? They're are difficult to recycle; in fact, I don't know that they can be recycled because of their multiple layers, which are fused? in any event there's no recycling symbol on them. As for these plastic bottles... they go straight into my plastics tub. Easy. The power of environmental consumerism.

"Consumers operate in an impersonal market economy where they make choices unburdened by guilt or social obligations; they just have to be able to pay. But a typical global community consumer see himself/herself as part of a larger whole that is affected by a collectivity of individual consumption decisions and has to question the global integrity of purchasing a product, and will decide not to purchase at all if the integrity is being challenged."

Talking about milk... do you remember those glass milk bottles and the battery-powered milk trucks that used to deliver milk early every mornings. I probably last saw one in the early-80s. I used to go with my great aunt (grandmother's sister) to the local milk shop. She would get a "chain" of those blue, round, plastic coupons - they had a hole through the middle. She would leave the appropriate number out for the milkman, with the empty bottles from the day. He would replace the empties with bottles of fresh milk.

Perhaps we'll go back to glass bottles at some stage? You can take your bottles back to the shop when you do your groceries. They could then give you a return coupon against your next purchase of fresh milk - like getting your deposit back on glass colddrink bottles in the old days. It's would be like taking your material shopping bags with you to the store. After a while you don't think about it, you just do it.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

It's ECG time... again

I'm still relatively young and I've always been sporty and healthy. In the next week or so I'll be going for what I count to be my fourth electrocradiogram (ECG) since late 2001.

No, no. There's nothing wrong with me (that I know of!). ECGs are commonly requested by organisers of staged ultra marathons. And as I'm running the RAW Namibia event in 3-weeks, it's time to visit my doctor. No ECG, no run.

As far as I can ascertain, this whole multi-day ultra marathon ECG thing is to ensure there are no abnormalities lurking, which could be triggered by days of running in hot conditions (races generally don't like people to keel over at their events).

I just think it is funny that I've had so many; and all for races.

It's a date

At work I've been meeting with magazines that "want to get involved" with my client. And you know how it goes with friends; "we must get together for coffee sometime". The problem with both of these situations is that they're indefinite. And this usually means that nothing will happen.

Consider the alternatives:

"We want your client to advertise in our next issue" - yes or no

"Have you got two handsets for our new competition prize" - yes or no

"Are you free for coffee at 3pm on Sunday" - yes or no

My mom has this great example of how we avoid offending people (asking for what you want can be perceived - by yourself - as offensive), even at the risk of our own safety.

Picture yourself waiting for an elevator. The doors open and there's an unsavoury character in the lift. All your alarms go off and little hairs stand up on your arms. You know that getting into the lift is a b.a.d. idea; but you get in anyway because your action of not walking could send a message to this guy that you find him offensive and dirty and smelly. It also says that you are judgemental. So, you get in, against your better judgement.

You wouldn't be worried about offending him if you were lying on the floor of the lift with three stab wounds to your abdomen.

I love hooking up with friends for coffee or lunch or dinner. I do little enough of this. Left to my own devices, I'll spend my weekends chasing deadlines, writing articles, planning races... But when asked, "Are you free on Saturday for brunch at 10?", 99.9% of the time I'll answer yes.

I chatted to a friend last night who I haven't seen in person for about... 6-months. That's half a year! We've been wanting to hook up to shoot photos together for ages (he's a fabulous photographer and I'll learn a lot from him). So he says, "We should get together one weekend". I hesitated for a moment and then ran for my computer to check my diary. I knew that if I didn't make a concrete decision another 6-months would slip past. The result is that the weekend after this we'll go play photo-photo for an afternoon and then have dinner with his wife when we get back. It's going to be such a great day.

And the day before this I'm playing with my orienteering friend. Again this is a situation where we've been wanting to do breakfast for months and months and months. We set a fixed date last week.

I had a really neat meeting today with a chap from a big, big company. I've got stuff from my client that we want to donate to some kind of initiative that gives women a helping hand to create their own income streams in rural areas. I told him what I had; I asked what he had and then we selected the best option. 15-minutes later our meeting was successfully completed.

If you want to find a team mate; if you want a new headlamp for your birthday; if you want to see a friend, who always seems busy and occupied, for tea, just ask. People respond more favourably to specific requests.

I'm good at accepting fixtures but not that good at setting them. A new habit to work on for February.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Spending your time with strangers

After the sprint course orienteering at the Joburg Zoo this morning (super event, fabulous turnout - especially of new participants and children) I had a really interesting chat to one of our adventure racers / orienteers. It got me thinking about time - time for yourself and sport - and the very special people in our community who contribute so much to our lives.

I don't know how often I've heard people saying that they want to run / cycle / go to gym but that they don't have time. This has most often been in social situations outside of this adventure racing / orienteering community. Afterall, chances are pretty good that if you're reading this, you're sporty and active already. So you'll certainly relate to encountering "I don't have time to exercise" people at general social events. I've also overheard these conversations while standing in queues at the supermarket. It is definitely not uncommon.

When you reach transitions in your life - new job, moving home, changing Provinces, new baby - then something has to slide. It is ok for your usual exercise routine to take a back seat for a few weeks while you adjust to the changes (healthy body, healthy mind would probably help you to cope better anyway so this isn't a totally good reason to stop being active completely). And then you get back into it once you've settled down.

But no exercise at all because you "don't have time"?

Friend #1 works for a financial institution and her job is demanding. She's married and she has two young children. She spends a lot of time with her children in the evenings after work with homework, drawing, reading and educational games. The children have extracurricular activities during the week and over weekends, like swimming lessons, dance classes and music lessons. She supports these activities and has also brought her children up to be outdoorsy and sporty. Motivated by her own children and the overall benefits to other people her sporting community, who also have young children, she has developed a children's skills programme. She has worked on this for months, spending time on it after the children have gone to sleep and over weekends. She plans the children's events, which are partnered with the adult events. She also has her own training to do, which she does early in the morning before the children wake up. And, she is on her club's committee and she is involved with organising events too.

Friend #2 has a full-time, but flexible, job in a profession he didn't study for. He has part-time involvement, running his own business, in the profession he did study. He is heavily involved in two sports - organising events, committees, guiding training - and is focused on contributing to his communities for the good of the sports (and the participants). He is also involved in another sport, which he has done for years. He attends sessions weekly. He is also a competitive athlete so training is important - in multiple disciplines. And he is married and has many pets. Children are on the horizon.

Friend #3 is married with two children. He has a position of responsibility in his company and his profession is specialised. So much so that he has even written a big, hefty book related to his industry specialisations. Like my other friends above, he is involved in multiple sports - organising, developing skills training, which he shares with other people. He also puts in training time and he participates regularly.

Friend #4 is single. He runs a main business with another on the side. He's also committed to more than one sport in terms of organising and he is very involved in his clubs and committees; he has been for years and years and years. He also puts in a lot of training time in multiple disciplines and competes locally and internationally at top level.

These four are not alone; many others within our community hold down day jobs and they juggle family committments and their own training with organising events for other people.

They also all cook, have other family responsibilities - in addition to children and partners - like visiting parents and siblings, they maintain homes, read books, watch telly and meet friends for lunches and dinners.

What unites my friends described above, and others like them, is that they are involved in their communities. In this case I'm talking about our close sporting communities. They do these things because they want to. Not only for themselves and their friends within these communities, but for absolute strangers. They put in all this time to share what they love with people they do not know. This is what makes the World go around.

I'm proud to know these people. They're special and caring.
Back to the issue of "I don't have time to exercise". Mmmm...

Friends, I appreciate all these things you do. You could be spending your weekends lying on the couch, drinking beer and watching sport; but you don't. The energy and time you put in makes a big difference to the World. Our World. Thank you.

Track pt3: Lots of 200m repeats

I was too late on Thursday to make it to track. This was probably a good thing because my calves were getting stiff after the Wednesday night step aerobics class. I've been stepping fairly consistently - at least once a week - for the better part of 16-years. The dance classes I started attending in May last year clashed with step, so I traded. Anyway, I had a gap on Wednesday and the gym was packed, so step was a good option. The class was good and I made it through without falling off - it's like riding a bicycle. By Friday I could feel my calves everytime I stood up after sitting for a while.

Back to the track thing... Alex sms'd the track session on Thursday and I'm going to be doing it at lunchtime on Monday. Alex and Sarah claim the session to be "good fun". It is 20 x 200m repeats with 30-seconds rest (standing still).

Remember to warm up and cool down with easy jogging of 800m to 1km. Enjoy.

POST SCRIPT: I received a sweet email from a good friend this morning. In it he says, "You do realise I have been running track again because of your most intriguing blogs? I am actually going to try and run 1500m on the track this coming week." That's the spirit! Go, go, go.

I do hope some other readers are at least thinking about trying the track thing. It really is fun.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Track pt2: Burning rubber!

Track session part 2 took place tonight. Alex Pope, accompanied by sister Sarah - also an accomplished orienteer, came through to the grassy school track too. Well,tonight's session was a tough-tough-tough one, with 600m and 400m repeats. I'm gonna feel this one tomorrow.

If you'd like to give it a try...

Warm-up by jogging easy around the track twice. Then do 4 x 100m strides, running at a good pace and focusing on stretching out your legs. Then the fun starts...

The session involves 600m, 1:30 rest, then 400m. That's one set. Do four setswith 2:30 rest between sets. But, there's a catch. The third set... instead of a rest between the 600m and 400m, erase the rest and run 1000m straight. The last set will have the 1:30 rest between 600m and 400m. Nasty - but you feel good for it afterwards, not during.

The one really nice thing about track is that even if you're not as fast as the others, like me, you still just do your own thing according to your watch (it does help to have a watch that takes splits). You see the other people on the track and if they're in a rest session and you're running, they shout words of encouragement, which is really sweet.

The guys were talking tonight about a wicked session that includes wicked repeats (more on this when we do it). Arthur and the others were relating tales of suffering rather gleefully. Mmmm... I can see track is going to be an adventure. I look forward to getting my revenge when I can rope them into attending a local orienteering event. Hahahaha

Tuesday 13 January 2009

The Best Job in the World

The BBC posted an article, on Monday, about a position that is being "billed as 'the best job in the world'". All you have to do is be the "caretaker" of Hamilton Island, Queensland, in the Great Barrier Reef, for six-months. It is beautiful (see the video); and it comes with a pay-packet of AUD150,000 "and a rent-free three-bedroom villa, complete with pool".

That's a whopping R997,235.13 (very close to ONE MILLION RAND) at today's exchange rate. This effectively erases the stress of "What am I going to do to earn a living after the 6-months is up?"

So what do are you expected to do? Well first you have to apply - by sending in a 60-second video selling yourself for the job. Then, if you get it, you head over to Hamilton in July and spend the 6-months "exploring the idyllic surroundings, filing weekly blog, photo diary and video updates and conducting ongoing media interviews".

Yes, this is a true job, not a joke. Queensland Tourism have put this concept together - a fabulous PR exercise for the region. The job is being advertised in 18 countries and competition is sure to be tough. Applications close 22 Feb.

There is a town on the island, with a population of 5,000 people - and an airstrip. So you're not alone.

I can just see days filled with exploring, learning about the fauna, flora and marine life, hours of snorkeling and paddling. And I'd hone my orienteering mapping skills, which are currently negligible because I've barely had a free weekend to practise, by mapping the island for an O event. What fun!

Gee-whizz, this has my name written all over it! Which probably explains why my friend in the UK sent the link to me.

Nice, nice, nice.
The website is, but I can't get on to it. As you would expect, it has received massive attention and the website hasn't been able to handle the traffic. 200,000 prospective applicants visited the website in the first 24-hours following the announcement of the competition! Tourism Queensland's website is

Friday 9 January 2009

Cleanse that clutter

I've always been a "thrower-outer"; I'd rather live in a mostly empty room (bed, fridge, couch) than a rabbit-warren cluttered with furniture and ornaments. I'm not that sentimental about possessions or clothing either - no matter who gave it to me; if I haven't used it or worn it in a year, it goes bye-bye.

Sure, there are a few exceptions, like my books. And also had some other odds that lived in a drawer and were kept because they couldn't really be gotten rid of (where? to whom?). Well, most were stolen (very little financial value) when my home was broken into in November - and I didn't completely mind because they were unnecessary luggage that I should have / could have passed on years ago. The thieves cleansed clutter I didn't need.

The theft aside, I've always enjoyed a good environment cleanse; the satisfaction of getting rid of stuff I don't need is energising. I remember doing major clean-outs before starting to study for exams and these days I can't resist the urge to declutter before writing major articles or any other thought-consuming tasks.

I was recently introduced to Tim Ferriss' blog - And through Tim's blog I've just discovered Leo Babauta (; "The Power of Less"; he went from 1 reader to being one of the Technorati Top-100 blogs in the world in less than 12 months) and Merlin Mann (; "Inbox Zero" concept).

Leo is fabulous and a number of the entries in his posting summaring The Essential Zen Habits of 2008 are inspiring. There's no esoteric weirdness; just common sense.

The remaining months of last year were tough for me; I reached my limit where I was juggling too much stuff - and it broke me. Learning from this, I've been cleansing committments and responsibilities to whittle my activities and surroundings down to things I want and need to do. Work in progress.

Leo has some great comments on The Four Laws of Simplicity and How to Apply Them to Life and 21 Easy Hacks to Simplify Your Life. In dealing with physical things in your home, read Zen mind: How to declutter for inspiration.

Life is simple; we clutter it with unnecessaries. You're guaranteed to find at least two points in there that you should be implementing.

My key word for this month is "Simplify"; and it should establish a good base for the rest of the year.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Track training for speed

I have procrastinated about proper track speed sessions for months...errr... years actually. Sure, I've been doing cadence sessions quite regularly and once a week or so I do intervals or speed pyramids on the treadmill. But I really haven't put in enough time for the sessions to make a big difference. On Tuesday evening at gym I bumped into a running friend who told me about a local spot for track training on Thursdays. I did my first session tonight... and I survived!

Track sessions are speed workouts geared to improve your running speed. You're required to put in hard, fast efforts over defined distances - anything from 200m to 1000m - with rest periods inbetween repeats. The length of the repeats or rest periods depends on the purpose of the session. And these repeats are run around, or slightly faster than your goal 5km race pace. The idea is that you want to become used to running at this pace so that you can duplicate it in a race. Yes, it takes a few weeks to start seeing improvements.
If you're keen to give the session we did tonight a try...
Warm up by running around the track two or three times at an easy pace. Then, do 4 x 100m strides to stretch out those legs. Now the fun starts... Run 300m, rest 1-min, run 200m, rest 1-min, run 300m, rest 1-min and run 200m. Then rest 2:30 before starting another set. Do 4 sets. You need to run at a pace you can maintain; it will be faster than your normal, comfortable pace that you'd run for 5km. You will be breathing heavily and you will feel those 300m intervals. Then run twice around the track at an easy pace to cool down. Total session takes about 45-minutes.

The good news is that I have some new running buddies; and, more importantly, a fixed weekly speed session at a local school field (it takes me 10-minutes to get there). I hope to see some [much needed] improvements in my running pace over the next few months.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Clean your slate

I've never been big into New Year and overambitious resolutions; I make small resolutions (I think of them as tweaks) throughout the year as and when I think of things I need to, want to and should do. No need to wait for 1 Jan to do things that are good for you.

The one thing about New Year... it is almost like completing a project or the last episode in a tv series season. It is good to get to the end of something, even though you know another season of the series awaits.

We tend to live too much in the past (memories, good times, hording sentimental items) and the future (always planning for weeks, months and years ahead) and not enough in the present. New Year helps to cut part of a tie with the past; to clean the slate and start again.

That's good because it focuses you a bit more on being positive, full of expectation for the months ahead and open to [creating] opportunities now and in the future.