November 21, 2010

Champagne of the day

For a tasty, and authentic champagne (from France!), I've discovered Louis Bouillot for $25.00 a bottle in Leo's.

I make this request: don't all of you go out and buy it at once! Leave me some!

Louis Bouillot

Summary of 2010's running

Spring Into Shape Race 3 2010 As another year draws to a close, and I stick some more race numbers up on the wall in the study, I pause to think about how my training and running in general has gone this last year.

In what seems like only a few months ago, but was really more like twelve, I decided that 2010 was the year that I give up my fun runs and look after the body a little more. Of course, that didn't happen, and I competed in 5 different runs with no thoughts of giving up.

The Spring Into Shape series runs September, October, November each year and has a 4 and 8 km run. This year, they offered a 12km option as well. Having entered the 4 km runs previously, this was the year to up the pace a little, so I entered the 8 km option for the series.

To avoid lots of words any typing, this year, I experienced the following with my running:
  • Ran in Spring Into Shape series (3 races, 8.5km each)
  • Ran in Melbourne Marathon (5km race)
  • Ran in Run Melbourne (5km race)
  • Entered Olympic Dream, which got cancelled due to poor numbers (come on Melbourne!!)
  • Brief recurrence of shin splints
  • Numerous other tight bits after racing
  • Winning a new pair of Mizuno runners at "Run Melbourne"
  • Running the first race of Spring into Shape in the new runners and not being able to walk for three weeks afterwards (have since gone back to my trusty ASICS)
  • Doing a run technique session with Liam from Vigor Health & Fitness
  • Doing a regular stretch class the day after the race
  • Being diligent with pre and post race stretching, compression and icing

My Spring Into Shape times were as follows:
Race 1 (September) 0:53:53.7
Race 2 (October)   0:56:04.4
Race 3 (November)  0:54:20.5
Melbourne Marathon 5km 2010
The common threads for each race, not just the series, were as follows:
  • The first 300 meters are always the easiest 
  • The rest is not so easy
  • The key is to not stop running, just slow down instead
  • The key is to also run at a consistent pace, my watch tracks pace which is invaluable
  • The last 200 metres is always the easiest
  • Always wear a watch that tracks distance because there's a difference between net time and gun time
  • There are some inspiring people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities out there who are running
  • There are some seriously fit and fast people out there
  • Running tights really suit some people
  • Running tights really do not suit some people
  • A bit of technique can go a long way

While the thought of "maybe it's time to retire from running" has again crossed my mind, I am determined not to give up completely, and soon, the regular run group at Vigor may have another member. Just because I'm turning a number with a zero in a few weeks is no means to give up. In addition, it will become part of the necessary preparations prior to my UK trip in 2011.

My Personal Trainer should also note the cap that I wear in each race is a bit of advertising for him!

February 8, 2010


People either love them or loathe them, but for those who love them, how great are sardines on toast?

Great comfort food, and healthy too!

My FebFast Journey Day 8

As stated in my previous post, for the month of February, I have joined FebFast and cut out alcohol in an attempt to have a bit of a detox.

I'm writing this post in day 8 or 9, depending on whether you count from February 1st, or January 31st, when I started.

Today's Weight: 80.4 kg
Waist: 89 cms/35"

Day one was easy up until I made dinner that night. A nice couple of pieces of fillet steak with some coleslaw mixed with fresh grated horseradish. Out of habit, I went to the fridge to get a glass of something nice to go with it, Preece Rose most likely, and had to stop myself. While I would normally classify myself as someone who "drinks occasionally" or "socially" I realised that I had become a more-than-occaisional drinker and needed to cut back a little anyway.

I also bought some of those metabolism boost tablets from the health food store in an attempt to doubly kick my body into doing something. The first couple of days, while battling with the want (or was it a need?!) to have a drink, I felt like my body was starting to take notice, and in one really weird instance, the scales told me one morning that I was 78.8 kg, and I felt that the muffin top had shunk ever so slightly. Amazing. Maybe.

As you can see from the stats above, my waist has remained the same and I've only lost 0.6 of a kg...! My weight does tend to fluctuate over the course of a normal working week and tend to find that I'm lighter/fitter on a weekend/Monday, and that the stresses of a working week seem to stall my metabolism a little. [Note to self: check I still have a metabolism.] The thing is, if I stand up properly, that waist line seems quite trim [Note to self: stop checking self out in mirror.]

What I do like about my metabolism, mostly, is that it seems to keep everything in balance, and if I'm a certain weight, the body will maintain that unless there is a significant change in circumstance. Up until October(ish) last year, I was about 78kg, again on that plateau. A sudden rush of work travel, with lots of work dinners, late work nights, lots of work-sponsored (amazing might I add) wine, saw me pop on about 2-3 kg. While it surprisingly didn't affect the waistline of my suits too much, I was conscious that it was an extra 2kg for my (delightful) Osteopath to have to lift! Regardless, it's going to be an uphill battle to try to get the body to work overtime to get rid of those extra kgs and start losing/adapting rather than gaining.

I consider my diet to be good, no junk foods, I avoid added sugar except in tea or instant coffee, I try to get a balance of salads and veges, as well as a good mix of protein during the week. Eating regularly is also important and try to graze during the day. I avoid pasta, fatty foods (except for bacon & eggs once a week), processed carbohydrates, sometimes like a bit of fruitcake or tiny bit of chocolate, although prefer to snack on savoury rather than sweet. In all, I would say my diet is good, but am hoping that after Feb, I will have seen some difference to things.

Maybe the answer is that my alcohol consumption, despite the rare bottle of bubbly that seems to disappear very easily, isn't making that much of an impact on the body, weight or waist wise, but cutting it out is obviously going to contribute to my healthy detox month.

Getting to day 8/9 now seems quite easy when I'm here. I have resisted temptation easily on a couple of occasions, supplementing a glass of wine with a glass of agrum or similar, although I am expecting some more occasions where I will stare longingly at the bottle in the fridge, only to remain strong. I will have to hide that unopened bottle of bubbly in the fridge and the sparkling shiraz at work, just in case.

Now to find a nice yoga class with good looking people hehe

My FebFast Journey

For the month of February, I have joined FebFast and cut out alcohol in an attempt to have a bit of a detox. While the idea of a detox sounds like something I'd do, giving up alcohol, as a lot of my work people would understand, may be a very tough thing to do.

FebFast invites people to participate in a booze-free February, and at the same time raise funds to support organisations working in research, prevention and service delivery concerning the use of alcohol and other drugs by young people. This year’s proceeds from registration payments and fundraising go towards the Australian Drug Foundation, Mater Health Services – Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Service (Qld), Ted Noffs Foundation (NSW & ACT), Youth Substance Abuse Service (Vic) and FebFast’s grants program for smaller grass-roots organisations.

I celebrated my last January drinking day by having two small bottles of white wine on the flight back from Perth (a rather nice Grosset Reisling), and doing the turkey. The cold one.

Starting Weight: 81kg
Waist: 89 cms/35"

I'm hoping that with the fairly good diet and the moderate but regular amount of exercise I do, the above stats will start to change (i.e. go down!) a little the further I get into this.

We'll see...

Welcome to 2010!

Welcome to the first post of 2010. There have been many thoughts/ideas/concepts pass through my head since New Year's Day, but I haven't been able to jot them down, even though I carry a notebook for that purpose.

Rather than try to catch up and write a small blog post for each of these things, I thought I'd summarise each in a one-liner so you can see where my brain was going. Sometimes, I wonder myself!

Being Healthy

This train of thought is a common one, and accompanies me to work most days. It follows patterns such as, how can I get more energy to exercise more (A: exercise more!), where can I find a good Yoga class, the fact that my waistline hasn't changed despite changing diet and exercise habits, how alcohol is bad and good and bad all at the same time, how I should try to give up alcohol (hence FebFast - see later post), wondering how much good liposculpture costs (for the 'muffin top') etc.

The purpose of money and working, hierarchy, and a bit of communism.

This train of thought happened one day on the way to work, after I'd bought a coffee and began thinking about the Star Trek universe where money is more-or-less obsolete, and we "buy" things on a sort of bartering for what we do or what we contribute to society. For example, "in exchange for a coffee, I'll give you some workplace counselling and business process engineering help".

Why a lot of bad/careless drivers seem to be women with children in the car.

This one is a bit of a conundrum, in that wouldn't one drive more carefully when one's children are in the car, but at the same time, because the children are in the car, it's probably why one drives erratically, fast, and takes risks, probably to get home quicker.

Cynicism and love

Let's just leave that one, and put on "What is Love?" by Haddaway instead.

What if I was to look for a new job?

This one is a tough one. I have been here for 17 years this year, and while I often think about whether it's time to move on "just because" I can never think of a job or workplace situation that would interest me. Other than being paid to stay home of course. Suffice to stay that the people with whom I work are all far to good to leave, and the work is kinda fun too.

Random BlackBerry thoughts

I am happy with the decision to go back to a BlackBerry/CrackBerry as my primary phone/smart phone. As a corporate user, it suits my lifestyle a bit more, however I do often still carry the iPhone for music, games, twitter at home etc. A big influencing factor was buying the BlackBerry Bold 9700 which is a really nice piece of hardware, even though the OS is fairly similar to the other BBs I own/have owned. There are also some cool accessories coming out, such as the Bluetooth Music Gateway (got it - pretty cool), and Bluetooth presenter (which I will have to avail myself of).

How much I love my car

Yes, the age-old phenomenon where a man forms an emotional relationship with a four-wheeled conveyance, with due acknowledgement that some women suffer the same.

How cool is that blue sky, wow, that house went up/down quickly, where is that swimming pool again

Just some random ADD moments!

There were a lot more, and I even contemplated carrying a voice recorder with me (wait, I do, it's next to that notebook), but have forgotten them. Perhaps I'll do a summary post like this occasionally when there's enough to blog about.

August 13, 2009

Off on another BlackBerry journey

I love my iPhone. As a Mac Geek, and having owned 4 previous Macs in addition to the 2 I own now, having an iPhone is just the completion of the love affair I have with Apple products. I love the way it interfaces to MobileMe and Exchange and gives me both my work and private calendars, contacts and email. If anything that level of integration is the selling point.

The app store is another great thing about the iPhone, there’s almost an application for everything. I’ve even started thinking about getting in on the same and writing my own someday.

Of course it also plays music, tells the time, checks the weather, takes photos, and tells me where I am. It does all this and looks sexy too.

There is a BUT coming on. But.... The battery life and the keyboard frustrate me.

Prior to standing in the queue outside the Vodafone store on the 11th July 2008, I was a BlackBerry user or CrackBerry addict. I had the 8800 which while a nice size and shape, wasn’t that sexy, didn’t have a camera or a great music player, only allowed me to look at work contacts & calendar (it did the email thing very well), and didn’t have much in the way of apps. BUT... It had a keyboard and the battery life was brilliant. I got it out of the box yesterday for no real reason and went to charge it up and found that after 12 months, the battery had only lost about 10% of its charge.

The reason why I’m getting frustrated with the iPhone is due to the volume of work emails I get. While not all of them need to be answered, typing on the touch-screen keyboard is fiddly after a while, and doesn’t lend itself well when having to deal with a significant number that need to be answered. What this means is that I don’t answer as many as quickly as I should, and wait to get back to a desktop or a laptop. Partly, this has cured me of my CrackBerry-itis, but means that the support I provide others is sometimes a bit late or lacking. On a lighter note, often the auto-correct kicks in to produce some funny emails (this mornings “I’ll cone over when I get in” - happy coning!).

BI (Before iPhone), if I had to go interstate or even to some client meetings, I would often just take the BlackBerry and leave the laptop at home. I could do emails, create and respond to meeting requests, as well as set Out of Office all from the BB. It was great being able to travel light, especially when it was an in and out job (so to speak).

Now, with the iPhone, I am back to carrying a laptop with me, so I can do all of the above. While I can do emails, and now can send meeting invites with iPhone 3.0, there still a few things that require a proper keyboard or access to a proper exchange/Outlook client (or use the Safari Browser on the iPhone I guess).

Then of course there is the battery life. Doing a Twitter search for “iphone battery” finds many interesting tweets, mostly about how bad it is, but sometimes with a contradictory “it’s great” one in there. The battery life, particularly compared to the BB is appalling, as many people would know.

Take today for an example. Fully charged at 6:40, turned off at 8am for a 2 hour flight. Checked email, and twitter. Back on at other end, checked and then sent 4 emails, checked weather, twitter, tweeted, received two short phone calls, sent and received one SMS. The battery is now down to 80%. I don’t have wireless or Bluetooth on, and have screen brightness just under half way. Push is permanently turned off. Now there may have been other things that I did, but given it’s just gone 12:30, I would expect that I’ve still got some good juice left, e.g. down to about 90% instead.

The iPhone is left on but on silent over night, and mostly gets down to 20% in the morning, which could be good. My ritual every morning after getting up, is to plug the iPhone in so that it is fully charged by the time I leave for work.

This routine works, but I remember days where I would charge the BB every 2nd day and would still get all of the above done in a morning. Some days, I charge it again during the day, or at least give it a little top up, remembering the old iPod rule of “a little and often” and also have a charger in the car.

The other night I got the iPhone out and noticed that it was having trouble connecting to the Bigpond POP server. While over a wireless connection, I watched while over 3-4 minutes, at least 1/3 of the battery charge indicator (I didn’t check the actual %) disappeared while it continually tried to connect to the server. That’s madness. It seems when it tries harder to connect to something, e.g. when it falls back to non-3G, it uses up way more battery. That has to be fixed.

Given I would place myself at the lower end of being a road warrior these days (I was mid-range 16-18 months ago), and given I’m going to start getting back on the road more and more in the future, I am starting to think that the iPhone is not the ideal tool for what I need. The integration of the iCal and Exchange calendars is absolutely fantastic, but as each day goes by, I can see myself going back to the BB and managing 2 handsets.

I’ve availed myself of a new BB Curve 8900, which is small, light has a keyboard, already is showing great battery life, has a much better media player, a better camera, and of course will do the email thing very well. I need to determine whether it will sync with iCal at all (the desktop sync app does I think), and then I need to consider whether I will replace the iPhone with it once the current contract runs out. The truth is that I don’t listen to music much and only use a handful of the apps I’ve downloaded, so it’s going to be a hard and tough decision over the next while.

Like my other Mac exploits, when I have them, I will blog any interesting things that I find about integrating the BB with Mac Life and MobileMe as I discover them.

So the BB/CrackBerry journey begins again, and who knows where I will end up.

July 16, 2009

Mindfulness etc

I've just been doing a bit of bin-diving to rescue my copy of last week's Sunday Life magazine from the recycle bin. Sarah Wilson of Masterchef Australia writes a column and last week's was on the subject of mindfulness; a take on the 'living in the present' and 'being present' perspective. It's a good article because it did get me thinking again about the way I live my life and indeed the way I live each minute.

Sitting here in the kitchen after reading the article again, I looked at the clock and thought "three hours until I have to leave for the Osteopath - that will go in no time." As the thought had rattled through my conscious brain, I then thought "actually, no, that's heaps of time, three hours worth of cleaning or ironing (as an example)." In case you're wondering, I'm not a clean or ironing freak. The article, like many we often read throughout our lifetime did good to reset the tought patterns, as we seem to need occasionally.

Several years ago, I worked with an inspiring Project Manager who had studied human behaviour and some psycho-analysis over the years. She would often say things that at the time seems a bit cliched but years later we find ourselves quoting this person as we realise that did actually mean something at the time. To clarify, we did think they were good at the time too! Three of these 'phrases-of-wisdom' that I still try to remember are:
  • Be present
  • What's the purpose
  • When the lift door opens in the morning, I'm at work, and home is left at home (and vice versa)
In many a meeting, I remind myself to "be present" which in a way is a take on the mindfulness. The aim is to put all other thoughts away, stop thinking about what's for dinner, or what life might be like if xyz had happened, and concentrate on the meeting. It's amazing that when I do this, as simple as it sounds, the meeting seems to go much better and both the other attendees and myself get the most of out of.

Relevant to my line of work, but possibly can be used elsewhere is the response "what's the purpose?" In the my world, when working with a client replacing an old, ageing Health IT system with a new and current one, we get asked (or told) that the new system must do this, that, or the other. The same can be said for business process. One of the responses we were taught was to ask back "what's the purpose?" because often the person requiring whatever they require cannot articulate exactly why. It sometimes comes down to "because we've always done it this way" and no thought has been given to exactly why or whether it's still needed.

Driving to work is a good thinking time, even when the drive is only about 15 minutes (sorry, too far to walk in the morning!). Once I get work work, lock the car and walk up the stairs, I force myself to leave non-work stuff in the carpark, and concentrate on work. While that's often easier said than done, because calls and emails come through during the day, the aim is that while I'm at work, I concentrate on work, and when I leave work, work stuff is left behind for the next day. It's about being mindful, or present at work. I've had people work with me and for me in my team who quite obviously don't understand this, some even after discussing it in team meetings. Calls are made, bills are paid, fellow colleagues are distracted by these, or what they're packing to go on holiday. It doesn't just affect yourself, it affects those around you, allowing others to be mindful and present as well. Training family members to call between 8 and 8:30am or after 6pm unless it's urgent also helped me here too.

The mindfulness lark can apply in so many different situations, both professional and personal, and it's been tough, and in a couple of cases, just about impossible to get others at work thinking the same way, but the biggest challenge is one's self. Start working the change at home and see how different the day becomes.

July 13, 2009

My Twitter experiences so far

Twitter seems to be the latest thing when it comes to keeping in contact with anyone and everyone, or even seeing what people are up to, are about to get up to etc.

I've been on Twitter since the end of March 2009, having originally joined with the intention of boosting my blog (which I've hardly written in) and develop, maybe, a (change of) career in writing and social commentating. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, but I have gone through the addiction, searching for anybody and everybody, posting inane updates (e.g. I'm having beans for dinner), and generally wasted a lot of time. I have found people I know, and added some, and avoided others. However, I have come to some realisations:

Post about relevant stuff and people may follow you.
One thing I've noticed is that when I tweet about relevant or interesting stuff, e.g. Mac/iPhone, my wine and restaurant choices, commentary on TV programs (Masterchef is a good one!) etc, then I sometimes get a response/tweet back or a follower or two.

Contribute to trending topics
Tweet about stuff that's trending, and people will follow you, particularly if you show some humour (e.g. again, Masterchef). The highlight is being 're-tweeted' where someone posts your tweet back

Answer questions asked by fellow tweeters. While it's fun to tweet that you're eating beans, it's actually more fun to interact with fellow tweeps by answering questions or comments if you know the answer. This also means they might follow you.

Be aware of volume
When I consider whether I may follow someone, one thing I do look at is the volume and quality of their tweets. I'd be more inclined to favourite the tweet I thought was interesting if I think that they person tweets too much about not much at all. This one is a funny one though because I have been prone to the quantity, not quality rule at times!

Use favourites
Favourites are handy. 'nuff said.

Get a good Twitter client
Using the web interface is good for occasional use, but if you're going to get into it, get a web client. There are heaps out there. The ones I have used/tried are:
  • Tweetdeck
  • Nambu
  • Tweetie
There are also ones out there that look like an excel spreadsheet, apparently done so your boss doesn't think you're on Twitter!

Also, there are plenty of sites that work in well with Twitter to allow to you post links, pictures etc:
Happy Tweeting, Tweeps!

p.s. I don't really like beans!