The Power Of Negative Thinking

Pic from:

We hear so much about the power of positive thinking that I wanted to write this to put a case for the other side, based on a recent experience of mine.

Now Father Time is no friend of mine (or anyone else’s I surmise) and so I have been wanting to do a few things just to see if I still could. You know, that horrible feeling you get as you age, when you haven’t tested yourself for a while, and you start to think that you aren’t up for some of the things that you used to do. Especially when you have been enjoying more than a healthy share of food and wine and not enough exercise!

Well last year I set myself a goal to do a 100km cycle before June this year. I also had a goal to cycle to Mt White, just north of Sydney. I measured the round trip from home to Mt White cafe and although it had a lot of hills it was only a bit over 80km so these had to be two separate goals. (Damn! twice the work!).

I went into training – softly – just doing regular cycles around home and getting things moving in the right direction physically. However, I then had a little setback. One of those annoying little injuries one can get which aren’t much at the time, but which have the potential to completely derail your plans if you don’t pay them due attention.

So I stopped cycling, and any other form of exercise for a few weeks. Then I had a trip to New Zealand for about three weeks. Shortly after returning I did a three day cycle from Bright to Wangaratta via Beechworth and realised that this 100km cycle was not going to be easy, even on the flat, and I pretty much gave up as I was getting niggles from the old injury.

Pic from:

Anyway the end of May was racing around and Sydney was blessed with some truly nice weather. I decided that I would try to cycle to Mt White as I didn’t want to get to the deadline without even having tried to reach one of my goals.

I even convinced myself that cycling to Mt White would satisfy BOTH goals as the expectation when I set the 100km cycle was that it would be reasonably easy going (ie flat) and the cycle to Mt White, as any Sydney-sider knows, is anything but easy for cyclists.

I was so convinced that this was going to be a disaster that I even put the bike rack in the car and gave my wife instructions for a rescue and asked her to stay by the phone. In my mind I was fully expecting to be struggling to make it to Pie In The Sky cafe (about 25km), but I really needed to try, just to keep some self respect.

I was so concerned about my ability to make a respectable distance that I went slower than I normally do. I set off on a foggy cold morning just before 7am taking it very easy. Even getting to Hornsby was a drama, with steepish hills (though short) and a lot of traffic (it was a work day). My thighs were already feeling the pinch and I’d only just started.

My fear about failing too soon, prompted me to take it even slower. Up some of the hills I was down to little more than a walking pace and these were the babies.

For the less experienced cyclists out there you will appreciate that when you engage the very low gears (the granny-wheel) there is an apparent compulsion to spin the pedals faster as if there is a direct link. Whenever I caught myself doing this, I backed off and forced myself to slow down.

Before long I was at Cowan, feeling pretty good, and so I stopped to have a break and a drink. My plan had been to stop at Pie In The Sky (PITS), a bit further on, but I was concerned that it might not be open. Sure enough, when I went past at 8:45am it was not yet open, so I thanked my good decision and just kept going.

From PITS there is a massive downhill followed by a steep climb for 10km up to the Mt White Cafe. I coasted down from PITS reaching about 44km/hr and then started the real ride. Using my slow technique I was doing only between 5 and 6km/hr over the steeper sections. I even stopped for a while half way up.

By the time I got to the Mt White cafe I was still feeling so good that I just sailed right on past thinking that I would get extra kms under my belt before I stopped. Once they were done there was no taking them away. If I left them to do once I had returned home it never would have happened. If they proved too much, I still had the car pick-up option.

Anyway, I cycled out until I reached about 51km, just to give me a little margin. I was so elated that I pigged out on a toasted sandwich, chips and a coffee when I returned to the cafe.

After a good feed and a break I headed home again, sticking with my slow strategy as there was still the climb back to PITS and several other hills too. The descent was steep – I got up to 57.5km/hr, just coasting.

The day had warmed up by now and home beckoned, but I resisted the urge to push and go faster. PITS was another welcome rest after the climb up, and I treated myself to another coffee and feed.

Ultimately I arrived home just before 3pm, feeling pretty good still. My average speed whilst cycling was 16.8km/hr (I guess those fast long downhills helped with that!). The entire trip took 8hrs with a total of 101.7km! I not only had cycled to Mt White Cafe, I had also reached my other goal of cycling 100km. Even the next day I felt pretty good with my bum being the only sore spot.
So this story is an example of how (at least sometimes) negative thinking can help. I was so sure of failing that I went extra super cautiously, and not only achieved both my goals in one go, but did it in style in that I was not physically devastated for the next few days.


Extreme Gelato

Photos: Kathy Chan c/- New York Serious Eats

Extreme is the new norm. These days if its not extreme, its passé. Old Fashioned. Out of the running.

It seems that even the humble ice cream is subject to this more. Recently when venturing into the city of Sydney I happened to walk past a Shop called N2 Extreme Gelato on Dixon St.

Intrigued, I went inside, half expecting the ice cream makers to be doing double backflips or somesuch while they assembled the ice cream, all the while dodging razor sharp knives whizzing through the air.

But no. Instead I was confronted with a couple of gentlemen in chemistry-lab white coats (or should that be Loony Bin white coats??) and a lot of smoke or mist. The set was complete with a display window filled with large chemistry-lab mixing or measuring beakers filled with a whitish liquid – presumably milk.

It turns out that that the ice-creams are not simply “assembled” as per normal ice cream cones. The ice cream is quite literally made on the spot – to order. And the flavour choices are very exotic too, although there is not a large selection.

How does Strawberry, Rhubarb and Orange Blossom sound. Or perhaps Black Salted Caramel. Maybe Coconut, Lime & Lychee is closer to your tastes.

It turns out that the smoke or mist is from the Liquid Nitrogen (−196 °C; 77 K; −321 °F) used in the making of your “instant” ice-cream. I can’t speak for them all, but my Black Salted Caramel was very smooth and delicious, but perhaps not as dense as traditional gelato. This is a great eat – even if only for the novelty factor.

It turns out the method using liquid nitrogen has resulted in a World Record for the fastest manufacture of a litre of ice cream – a stunning 18.78 seconds!!!

Photo: Viola Zuppa (aka Kimari)

Just saw this post by Frizztext. A great resource for bloggers and web developers alike.

Flickr Comments

Test your site via – you should chose a theme, which gives a good responsive not only to desktop computers, portable laptops or tablets – but especially also to mobile phones! So I changed my wordpress theme from “pilcrow” (yesterday) to “responsive” (today: now also mobile phones are able to present my blog – please tell me if I’m wrong!)
compare my yesterday’s test with wordpress theme pilcrow: the mobile phone only could grab pics not larger than 150×150 – not my usual 500×500:
what a pity, I do not have a mobile phone with internet capability… – laugh about me enjoying the video below and call me Emma:

Why Your Blog Needs to be Optimized for Mobile Devices
7 iPad:

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This Blog Has Moved


If you are one of the few people that read or follow this blog then you obviously are amongst the world’s most erudite and wonderful people. Welcome aboard!

This blog has just been relocated to here at or you can use for simplicity and robustness. Unfortunately that has caused the loss of all previous “Likes” – and obviously there were thousands of them! 🙂

So – I suggest you start off by liking a few of the existing posts just to get your monika re-established here. I’d really like it as well, as it feels a little bleak and naked here without them all.

Thanks heaps,

Privacy – A Paradise Lost

Who’s watching you?
Image courtesy of:

Lets just get it out there – these days there is nowhere to hide, no privacy.

This is a story of the 21st century. We don’t need 20th century ideas like Kim Jong-il and Big Brother. All we need is our friends and neighbours. Or perhaps ex-friends.

Here’s the first scenario: you are careful to protect your identity when on-line. You read Terms and Conditions closely. You make a decision NOT to join Facebook because you feel that their T&C’s are just wrong and don’t like the morality of their founder and the way they seem to do business and not look after your privacy.

With those web services you do join you are careful and circumspect with the personal information you give. While not being deceitful when real personal information is required, you take care to limit what is provided so that tracking you, or finding out who you are in the real world is not as easy as it might otherwise be. For example, when a photo of you is required you use one that your friends would recognise as you but would make it difficult for a stranger to spot you on the street.

You know that in the world of Facebook  there are 1 billion users and of those some will be crooks on the prowl. This is not being paranoid, this is just adopting a sensible 21st century mindset.

But then the defences crumble. And they crumble quite innocently and non malevolently. Someone has posted a picture of you on Facebook (or possibly some other web facility). The photo is not of you exactly – rather a group photo at some function or event but with a clear and full frontal view of you – and tagged your name to it.

In one short moment so much of your caution and care has been blown and put to waste. There are also other important issues such as with Facebook, they now claim ownership of the photo and you may never be irretrievably untagged. It is possible (although agreed, unlikely) that it could be used for widespread advertising or whatever else Facebook wishes.

But what if the photo was yours to begin with and a copy given to others at the function – the unspoken intent being for personal use. You still own it, but anything like group photos are quite likely to be passed on sooner or later, even if it is a breach of copyright. As a digital file you have no idea of where it could be sent and therefore who might end up posting it on the web, or for what reason – even if innocent. Once someone posts it onto Facebook their T&C’s say that they, Facebook, now own it, even though it wasn’t the poster’s to give away.

I understand that Facebook allows one to force a third party to untag you from photos, but to do so requires you having a Facebook account in the first place, and presumably in a version of your name identical to the tagging.

If you do not know the photo has been posted and do not know the person who posted it, or for relationship reasons do not wish to contact that person, then the only option is to live with the privacy breach.

Welcome to the modern world.

The second scenario is this: you are in your backyard, sunbathing scantily clad, or perhaps doing a bit of gardening without your designer trackkies on. Although you are surrounded by solid, high fences, you notice that there is a camera pointed at you from the side of your neighbours house.

Based on a radio program I have just heard, here in NSW Australia at least, it is not a crime to erect a “security” camera and direct it into a neighbours backyard.

Similarly, even if there are rules regarding the flying of drones there are apparently no controls on the use of it by someone to observe what is going on in your backyard, if operated by an individual. This has actually happened recently in Mollymook.

Needless to say I think anyone would count either of these as invasive. Certainly it is inconsistent as I believe that here in NSW it is actually illegal to use a camera on a beach – or at least there are laws covering how a camera can be used on a beach – just to protect people’s privacy.

Image courtesy of:

The Astrophysicists Guide To A Party

You are new in town and were lucky to score an invite to a party. This is your big chance to break into the local scene, but whom should you try to connect with? Lets take the astrophysicists view of the social universe.

The first thing you might notice is that the room is broken into groups of people which we’ll call galaxies. There is obviously more opportunity for finding your best place in the largest galaxy as there are more people to interact with. Aim for there. Do not get distracted by the brightly shining star wandering about, she is about to inflate, explode and become a red dwarf.

At the centre of each galaxy there is a supermassive black hole. Whilst highly stable and relatively immobile these people are soul destroyers, as they radiate such a strong influence that most of us have no chance of escaping them let alone competing with them. If you get too close and cross their event horizon, you will not have enough additional gravitas to have any influence on your similarly captivated neighbours or anyone else in the galaxy.

Best to take a tangential path to these supermassive black holes so that you can use their energy to thrust you into contact with other heavenly bodies, whilst not getting absorbed by them.

If the galaxy is big enough you will notice some clustering occuring. At the centre of each cluster is a Sun. Suns attract many localised bodies that have not yet crossed the supermassive black hole’s event horizon and are therefore available for your influence. A sun is what you aim to be. While supermassive black holes just swallow everything that comes near, suns allow other lesser bodies (planets) to happily co-exist and even (almost) compete, collecting satellites of their own (moons).

However if you just turn up as a roving fully formed star, you will disturb existing clusters and may spiral with one or more other stars. When this happens, it is usual for one star to be ejected from the cluster and galaxy. It is not very predictable which star will win and the effect it will have on the planets and moons, so it is best to avoid this strategy. A better strategy is to become a star.

One becomes a star firstly by picking a group of unclassified people because one needs a critical mass with no existing sun or black hole. Then you move into their midst and radiate a little personality. Once this personality influences nearby bodies they will give you some attention. A wave of attention giving will radiate away from you and all that attention will allow you to shine. You are now a star!

Some people to be aware of are the asteroids and the comets. These people are not desirable but need not be the destroyers they might sound. Comets are actually harmless but might not seem so initially. Comets come floating in from some distant location putting on a good display as they come. The good news is that you can see them coming from a long way off and they will leave just as they come if you do nothing to intercept them. They are all show with little substance. Best just to let them come and wait for them to leave.

Asteroids are a different story. You often wont see them coming until its too late and they are about to collide with you. Unfortunately there is no avoiding the asteroid once it has entered your system. Fortunately they are smaller, usually, than even the smallest moon and are self destructive. With this in mind the best strategy for handling the asteroid is just to continue being the same sun, planet or moon you were before their appearance and bear the impact with as much grace as possible.

Afterwards the other bodies in your system can admire the character the impact has given you, whilst seeing that essentially you are unchanged.

Sometimes there are unseen forces at play in a gathering. These are respectively Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Essentially these two have opposite effects. Dark Matter seems to hold groups of people together despite the obvious strong attraction of nearby Suns. There is no known reason for this phenomenon, but it is suspected that it is due to the unrecognisable attraction of a member of the group.

Dark Energy is the force that results in a gathering breaking up. The effect of Dark Energy becomes evident after it is well entrenched, but by this stage its power is overwhelming and there is no fighting it. Even supermassive blackholes are eventually victim to it. Its presence can be detected early by the astute observer by noticing the surreptitious but growing departure of individuals. After a while, the Dark Energy generated flow grows from a trickle to a flood of people and eventually, apparently suddenly, all remaining people leave at once.

With this information you are now equipped to attend any function and assume your rightful place amongst the stars!

Psy-Man Says: Kogan style

Steve Jobs once said something to the effect that it is the kiss of death to let the accountants run a business. Here’s how that works.

I recently bought a small rechargeable battery unit for charging my i-devices when away from mains power. I bought it from Kogan – an on-line retailer of course, but a fave of a friend of mine. They were cheap and where I saw the device advertised.

Firstly it didn’t ship for about 10 days. When it arrived, there was no User Guide or Manual. Great! I thought – we have finally made it to the post RTFM era. This device must be so easy that even an old fogie can use it (I remember when that expression was “even a child can use it”). Unfortunately it wasn’t. It had two connections, a button and a row of what looked like lights.

Lucky for me there was an included postcard which said Kogan was saving paper and not printing manuals. Instead go to their website and download it. So off to Kogan’s web site I went. However there was no manual or user guide to be found.

Next step – off to the web. Well that threw up lots of results. About 26,900,000 results (in 0.30 seconds) to be exact, according to Google. After some time of skimming through the more promising results I was not able to find my particular device other than on Kogan’s site. It seems that this is one very catchy (and popular) product name which nobody has bothered to patent or trade mark. Obviously it is not made by Apple!

Never mind, there is always the company’s web support service. Kogan have a support page as you would expect so I spent about half an hour forming all the questions I thought I would need answering to provide somewhat the equivalent of the non-existent Manual or User Guide. My minimal list was 6 questions, from memory.

I say from memory because after spending all that time and effort trying to ask a complete but also minimal set of questions, the web form failed to include them in the acknowledgement receipt it sent me. But not to worry, they will be copied into the response I get right?

Wrong! 3 days later my questions are finally answered, but the answers are all I get, not the question being answered. Now a lot can often be inferred about the question from the answer, and this was no exception. It became clear rather quickly that the bulk of the questions I had asked (ie. all but one), which were about charging the unit, had been answered as though I was asking about charging my i-device from the unit. FAIL!

So then I reply asking if they can not only redo the answers for charging the unit but also include the original questions, so as to remove any ambiguity or possibility of error – remember there is no manual or user guide for this device so I need some instructions which will not only be clear now, but remain clear and unambiguous to me when I try to figure out how to use the device in 2-3 years time on our next big holiday.

The next response completely ignores my requests and provides a single statement even more ambiguous than the set of answers I got first time. And still no copy of my questions. Or their answers.

I don’t know about you, but I am not a child of the 21st century. I have 20th century values when it comes to customer service. And matching 20th century triggers on my frustration when it comes to poor customer service. So having figured I’ve spent about $100 of value in frustration and time by now, all over a $39 unit I still can’t use because Kogan decided they wanted to save one sheet of A6 paper, its time to return the unit and cancel the transaction.

Nothing, it seems, is simple. There appears to be no way to do this from the Kogan web site, but as I paid using Paypal, I could register a dispute through them. This also had its challenges.

At the part where you have to write up why you are registering a dispute, I decide to give a lot of info to help Kogan by way of feedback, rather than simply complaining. Of course writing up the above story, even when shortened considerably, takes some effort and time, but I thought it would be worth it to help point Kogan in the right direction.

When done I pressed the “continue” button and after a few seconds I was presented with a new screen saying that my session had timed out because I had taken too long! Of course it did not keep anything I had typed …

However this now gets resolved, the final direct post-sale cost to Kogan would have to be in excess of $100, for the $39 item. And that does not take into account any loss in future sales from me and anyone I can influence.

All because Kogan wanted to save the price of a piece of A6 paper.

I really can’t decide whether it would be better to have my role or Kogan’s played by John Cleese in the sit-com.

All In The Mind

Its funny how things are not always as you imagine. The other day I was going to the pub to meet some friends and parked just down the road expecting the carpark to be full. As I walked across into the carpark I noticed that there was a large group of bikers at the bottom, all resplendent in their dull black leathers, faceless black helmets, patches, bandannas and Harleys.

My immediate reaction was a pause to assess my safety walking across the carpark to the pub. This only lasted a moment as I did not of course wish to attract attention by being seen to be rattled by their presence. About this time one of the bikers broke off and started walking more or less on an intercept path with me.

Now was a time to dig deep if ever there was one. Look calm and relaxed and above all SHOW NO FEAR!

Anyway, as this biker got reasonably close to me, I heard this throaty yell from one of the others, probably the long dirty haired behemoth I had noticed: … “Hey Brian!”

Well, that came as a shock. As it dawned on me that he was not yelling at me but rather his companion, I wondered what self respecting Biker would be called Brian. “Brainless” would be a better moniker than that! Brian somehow just does not rank when it comes to invoking fear and respect.

Anyway, that seemed to diffuse a bit of my anxiety, but then the thought crossed my mind that he was only going to say something like “Go easy on him, he’s such a weedy old runt”. But what followed nearly caused me to laugh out loud.

“Whaaat!” Yells Brian, turning around slowly, with obvious aggrievance in his tone, since he had been diverted from his intent of helping me see the light.

“Can you get me another pie while you’re there!

Don’t dis my Ass, Jack!

Flowing from a conversation over a beer the other day, I have had a quick read of the Wikipedia entry for the symbol(s) of the USA Democratic party. It is fascinating, a story of turning weakness into strength, criticism into pride.

Starting at the beginning, what is now called the Democratic party actually called itself the “Republican Party”. They were labelled Democratic by their opposition in an attempt to stigmatise them as purveyors of democracy or mob rule. Over time the party adopted this as their name, with obvious feelings of pride in the label.

Getting back to the symbols, it seems that there has not been an “official” symbol until quite recently, although there have been unofficial ones. Most notably the donkey.

During intense mudslinging in 1828, Andrew Jackson’s critics had labelled him a jackass because of his populist views and his slogan “let the people rule”. Jackson decided to go along with it – even using images of a donkey in his campaign ads.

These are fantastic examples of how to turn criticism to advantage and to me, are strongly linked with the promise of strong democratic institutions.

FYI the link to the Wikipedia page is:

Undies vs Panties

“Now this one will be hard for you to pull off” says my wife with a large smirk befitting the pun. She’s referring to her challenge to me to write a post on our ongoing argument as to whether women’s briefs are called undies or panties.

To a man, there really is no question – they’re PANTIES!

This raises an interesting point. What is it about the word PANTIES. Perhaps its just that “undies” sounds too industrial. But really I think it is more than this. There is something in the word PANTIES that actively appeals to the Casanova and/or caveman in men, whereas “undies” just conjures images of dirty laundry.

Maybe this is one of the greatest marketing coups ever – the wholesale mindsetting of the male population, probably by a lingerie company (a shame no-one trademarked “panties”). Or maybe there really is a primal aspect to the words we use.

Whatever; undies or panties, so long as women wear them and bare them (on appropriate occasions) I’m happy!