Another Year of Good Intentions … and some follow through!

Yes, amazingly there is a new post on this poorly maintained blog of mine. If blogging could be likened to a dietary intake I would need to consume copious amounts of All Bran to be more regular.

At the beginning of the year I had a goal to maintain 10,000 steps per day. I failed … and dismally! However, I have improved on last year. So I am going with the same goal next year. I am pretty confident I will achieve it in 2014. Why am I confident?

During the year my Father had a life and death struggle with Fournier gangrene. This form of gangrene runs rampant in diabetics and begins in the nether regions. It is a very rapid killer and it was touch and go for Dad for a while there with several weeks in hospital with many operations to save his life and remove the infection. Thankfully the doctors and nurses caring for him were brilliant and managed to save his life. That experience, and realisation that diabetes is on both sides of the family has led directly to a new resolve.

The first step was to begin tracking my diet again with . I am now aware of what I am putting in and making smarter choices. It has also left me to question why I fell off the wagon previously … I enjoy the healthier food!

The second step was joining my local gym. I love the gym now and one of the key determinants of going there was the 24×7 availability of the gym, something my previous gym could not provide. Whilst I am not an everyday visitor I am a regular visitor and am getting my moneys worth.

The third driver is I am a regular visitor to The Back Dr at Shellharbour for chiropractic care. Safe to say that I have not felt better in years! My chiropractic health was absolutely disastrous, it has improved, and will continue to improve. I now also have orthotics, something which were grossly overdue. My feet were as flat as a very flat thing!

All in all the three factors are leading to a greater energy level, in fact I feel guilty when I skip burning the energy. Since implementing these three factors I have dropped 11.3kg and am determined to keep going. So that is why I am confident of reaching that target.

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Li Cunxin’s “Mao’s Last Dancer” … a book review

Mao's Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer

“Mao’s Last Dancer” tells the story of Li Cunxin, a poor peasant boy who was to become a great dancer. The story focuses on the development of Cunxin from a boy whom knows nothing of ballet through to great success. We also read of the learning of the political ideology of Mao and the effect it had on the Chinese people during the cultural revolution. The political agenda and the search for dancing prowess collide and eventually Cunxin must decide between the two, a decision that comes to a head after visiting the USA which called into question his entire belief in all his learning about the world and the merits of the chinese political system.

Like “The Hunger Games” I came to this book after viewing the movie. I felt the movie was good but focussed on Cunxin’s life out of China heavily. I wanted to get a stronger sense of Cunxin’s developmental years in China. The book delivered that in spades.

I really enjoyed learning about Cunxin’s early years growing up in the commune. This gave me a real sense of what he was about and how much he was connected to his family. It also helped with understanding the distress when he was removed from the family unit and put into a dance boarding school. The culture shock would have been immense for the young Cunxin.

It is always a voyage of discovery for a young child to discover what they want to do with their life. For Cunxin that discovery was enforced, he would be a dancer. So the portrayal of the struggle about why he should dance and that he indeed would enjoy dance was a wonderful read.

The political overtones were also a necessary requirement. The description of the amount of learning the children were subjected to gives a real sense as to why the community of the time seemed to really love their leader. His regime had a way of manipulating often innocent words to reflect whatever they wanted. Interestingly this extended to former beloved Chinese leaders such as Confuscious, and not just foreign influences. The focus on the punishments also gave the idea that the state was repressed. This provided the perfect backdrop for the eventual discovery of the freedoms offered by western societies and the merits to struggle to earn them.

I loved the book immensely, even more so than the film. I will be watching the film shortly once more. The next book I am to read is Andy McNab’s “The Russian”, a book tied in with the Battlefield 3 game.

My rating:

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 

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Peter F. Hamilton’s “Great North Road” … a book review

Peter F. Hamiton's "Great North Road'

Peter F. Hamiton’s “Great North Road’

Let me start the book review in the way others who have reviewed this book have, with wow this is one big book!. At 1,087 pages it has to be one of the longest pieces of fiction I have ever read. It should also be mentioned this book is written for adults and contains no pictures. So each of those pages is text. That said this book is not a read that is a hard slog by any stretch.

“Great North Road” tells a tale of a world where human cloning is well established, the human genome is manipulatable to age slower and be rejuvenated. a real and present danger from a seemingly invincible extra-terrestrial entity exists, and instantaneous space travel is made possible via a gateway. The story begins as a murder investigation when a clone of the most powerful family, the North’s, in the city of Newcastle (UK) is found murdered and floating in the river Tyne. There is though something very odd about the murder method, a method used once before 20 years ago on one of the colonial world’s St Libra. The convicted suspect, Angela, is still under lock and key in prison. She had held firm that she was innocent and another sentient extra-terrestrial species had been responsible. A bug hunt begins on the planet.

The story is told through the intertwining of the murder investigation, the bug hunt, and the characters back stories. There are a lot of flashbacks and pointers to technology that currently does not exist. The flashbacks are pertinent to the story and adds to the stories layers building a rich view of the world and it’s citizens. Hamilton thankfully also does not get too technical when describing the technology. He focuses on the function, not the details, of the devices in use. The technical details that are shared are pertinent to the story.

Back to the raw and undeniable length. Could this be addressed? I think the answer is yes, but should it. Unquestionably Hamilton could have split the narrative into two smaller books. One could focus on the police investigation into the murder of the North. The other the bug hunt on St. Libra. However, I could be argued that this would detract from the overall story. I would go so far as to claim that the two stories in isolation would not have been compelling. When combined into this singular entity they are, in fact never have I been so compelled to read on.

This truly was a pleasure and the story well balanced. I will be looking for more Hamilton in the future. Any reccaaommendations?

My rating:

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆ 

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Australia Day 2013 and the Flag Debate

Let me start with Happy Australia Day! On this day we commemorate the discovery and settlement of the Australian continent by Captain Cook. I will not discuss the merits/follies of the British claiming Australia as terra nullus. Rather bask in the glory that this discovery has delivered over the years. Now to the Australian Flag Debate.

For as long as I can remember there has been a debate in Australia around the national flag. Over the years a number of alternative flags have been proposed to replace the current flag.

Australian Flag

Australian Flag

The current flag (pictured above) is a long standing and attractive flag with a considerable amount of meaning to the nation. It consists of:

  • The British Union Jack in the top left corner.
  • The 7 pointed Commonwealth Star in the bottom left.
  • The Southern Cross on the right.

So in essence there is a nod to the forefathers of the settlement, the celebration of federation, and an constellation that Australia has a somewhat unique view of. So what are the objections?

I think the major objection is the presence of the Union Jack. There are a few reasons for this including:

  • It is fair to say that some people find that part of the flag a bit of a problem as there is no acknowledgement to the original settlers of the nation.
  • Makes us look like we are still a part of the United Kingdom.

Personally I am not concerned with the presence of the Union Jack, but can see the arguments for a change. I would though like to see any change preserver the other components of the flag.

There have been many alternatives proposed over the time. These can be seen at the Flag Society of Australia website. Looking at these options I am pleased to see that the 7 pointed Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross remain on a number of options.

In terms of overall layout my personal favourite from the collection above is Russell Kennedy’s Reconciliation Flag (1997). In fact Russel has further developed the design to alternative flags (including State flags) and can be viewed at Creative Roots.

If the flag is to change to this format I would like to see the Commonwealth Star to be placed on the flag, perhaps the top left corner. I would also suggest that the current state insignia on the current flags could go here.

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Progress to 912,500 Steps for Exercise (Post 4)

This is the fourth in what will be a regular spot this year. I have set myself a goal of 2,500 steps of dedicated walking as exercise time per day. That is walking to the office or toilet do not count. That represents 912,500 steps in the year. This does not mean that every day I will walk, rather the average over the year needs to equal or exceed the 2,500 paces. I will post one of these weekly.

Progress is captured using my iPhone with the Pedometer Ultimate App. I will also be sticking with for calorie tracking. I am now watching my food intake as per previous success last year.

The table below is a summary of progress to date.

Date Steps Total Steps Days Average Justification
01/01/2013 2,300 2,300 1 2,300.00
02/01/2013 0 2,300 2 1,150.00
03/01/2013 5,748 8,048 3 2,682.67
04/01/2013 0 8,048 4 2,019.50
05/01/2013 0 8,048 5 1,609.60
06/01/2013 5,439 13,487 6 2,247.83 Missy Baxter came for a walk with me!
07/01/2013 6,055 19,542 7 2,791.71 Missy Baxter came for a walk with me!
08/01/2013 0 19,542 8 2,431.50 43 degree day, too hot to walk.
09/01/2013 0 19,542 9 2,161.33 Chronic back pain left me bed-ridden.
10/01/2013 7,071 26,613 10 2,661.30 Missy Baxter came for a walk with me!
11/01/2013 0 26,613 11 2,419.36 Bowling night
12/01/2013 0 26,613 12 2,217.75 Day off with my girl
13/01/2013 0 26,613 13 2,047.15 Intended to go walking after Quartet, but it rained.
14/01/2013 6,594 33,207 14 2,371.93 Missy Baxter came for a walk with me!
15/01/2013 5,999 39,206 15 2,613.73 Solo walk with a rapid start.
16/01/2013 0 39,206 16 2,450.38 Bowling night.
17/01/2013 0 39,206 17 2,306.24 Needed a rest.
18/01/2013 0 39,206 17 2,306.23 45 degree day.
18/01/2013 0 39,206 18 2,178.11  
19/01/2013 0 39,206 19 2,063.47  
20/01/2013 0 39,206 20 1,960.30  
21/01/2013 3,551 42,757 21 2,036.05  
22/01/2013 0 42,757 22 1,943.50  
23/01/2013 0 42,757 23 1,859.00 Bowling night and knee injury!
24/01/2013 0 42,757 24 1,782.54 Knee injury persisting.
25/01/2013 0 42,757 25 1,710.28 Knee injury persisting.

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