The Blog (archived)

All posts in chronological order, as originally published
Page 7

Average TV Viewing

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I just stumbled across some statistics (source here) for the average viewing time of television, and was flabbergasted at how long people spend in front of the box per day:

Japan: 5 hrs, 1 min
USA: 4 hrs, 28 mins
Eastern Europe (inc. Russia): 3hrs, 43 mins
Western Europe (inc. Britain): 3 hrs, 35 mins
Australia: 3 hrs, 7 mins
World average: 3 hrs, 7 mins per day

Most drivers (it seems) ignore speed limits and many drive like lunatics to shave a few minutes off their travel times. People get anxious if the checkout queue is moving slowly. I spend five seconds per day collecting my navel lint and people accuse me of having too much time on my hands (see my guestbook). Yet according to the statistics these same people who get upset about trivial amounts of time being “wasted” are probably, on average, happy to spend more than three hours every day sitting in front of the television.

Being anxious about minutes, while letting hours slip away, appears to be normal. If that is the case, not being normal may be a good thing!


Rules for Achieving

Friday, January 12, 2007

There are only two rules for achieving anything:
1. Get started
2. Keep going

I noticed the above many years ago on the wall of someone’s office, along with other motivational slogans. It’s simplicity appealed to me, and something I just read on the Internet reminded me of it. I repeat it here because it is relevant to this time of year when people tend to make resolutions.

Lots of worthwhile goals are never achieved - like writing a novel, sorting the photo collection or sock drawer, losing weight, reading a series of books, building something, etc. One reason is procrastination - we simply never get around to starting something. Or if we do start we may not see it through to completion, due to lack of time, losing interest, unrealistic expectations, or a million other reasons.

The slogan I quoted distills some profoundly simple logic from the business of achieving goals. If we start, and keep going, we should finish … eventually (and an achievement that takes a long time is better than one never started or completed). Looking at it this way can make a large project appear more achievable. The trick is in dividing it into bite sized pieces that our self-discipline and schedules can realistically cope with.

My example is the reading of the Bible from cover to cover - something I decided I wanted to do over 20 years ago. For years I read bits and pieces but never got around to tackling the whole Bible. Eventually I started a one-year reading plan, only to abandon it because I couldn’t keep up with the reading schedule. I thought a three-year reading plan would be more achievable because the lighter reading schedule would be easier to stick to, so two years ago I began. So far, so good. One year from now I will have finished reading the whole Bible, systematically and thoroughly. All I really had to do was get started, then keep going.



Monday, January 1, 2007

Last week my parents cat, Oliver, was accidentally shut inside my dad’s van - he must have sneaked in un-noticed for a nap. Soon afterwards the vans horn sounded continuously, and Oliver was found standing on the driver’s seat with his paws resting on the steering wheel, making the horn sound. If he hadn’t attracted attention in this way, he could have literally roasted inside the vehicle as it was a hot day.

razletterbox.jpgThis behaviour is on a par with our previous cat, Rastus (pictured). She was known to occasionally knock on a closed glass door to be let in - her claws tapping the glass made just enough noise to be noticed.

Also last week, in Cairns, Queensland, a kitten named Tinny saved a family from a house fire (see news story). By clawing on the face of the son whose room was on fire, and meowing loudly, the kitten alerted the family to the fire and enabled them all to escape. His early intervention not only saved the family but also spared the home from major damage. The family dog didn’t start barking until the fire engine arrived.

When people talk about clever attributes in animals, dogs get most of the glory. But as these few examples show, cats should never be underestimated!


Recycling old calendars

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Are you thinking of getting a calendar for 2007? Are you an environmentally sensitive, pro-recycling person (or just a cheapskate)?

If so, you may be pleased to know that dates and days of the week for 2007 are identical to 2001. Other matching years are 1990, 1979, 1973, 1962, 1951, 1945, 1934, 1923, 1917, 1906, 1900, 1894. I found this on time and, along with calendars for any year which can be customised and printed, and other useful info.

So if you have an old calendar for any of these years, it can be re-used next year, although giving one as a gift may not go down too well.


How much is enough?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Affluenza_cover.jpgI read a number of books while on holiday in New Zealand. Most were novels for relaxation, but this one made me think - Affluenza: when too much is never enough by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. Authors’ website here.

It is written from an Australian perspective, and poses the question “if the economy has been doing so well, why are we not becoming happier?”. The authors describe how the Western world is in the grip of a consumption binge that is unique in history. We (as a society) have bigger houses, better cars, more appliances, and more money to spend — yet rates of stress, depression and obesity are rising, we are working longer hours and going further into debt. The more we have, the more deprived we may feel - despite being one of the world’s richest countries, with real incomes better than ever, 62% of Australians believe they cannot afford to buy everything they really need (thats need, not want).

The book contains a lot of well researched information on consumption, debt, overwork, waste, sickness, and how we pursue happiness. And how we don’t achieve fulfilment through spending money on things we don’t need. Serious stuff, but it is well written and an enjoyable read. It ends with discussion on ignoring advertisers, reducing consumer spending, and recapturing time for things that really matter.

I think we all know deep down that happiness doesn’t come through buying lots of stuff. Yet it was fascinating to read the results of current research which graphically illustrates this. It also validates the wise words spoken by Jesus in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:15):

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”


Democracy in Western Australia?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Western Australia is a democracy in which elected representatives carry out the will of the majority … or is it? The issue of daylight saving raises questions about whose will the politicians are carrying out.

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives
2. Government by the people; especially: rule of the majority

Normally, Western Australia doesn’t have daylight saving. However, some people - particularly politicians - have always been eager to see it introduced here. Following a trial of daylight saving in the summer of 1974/1975, a referendum was held and THE PEOPLE SAID NO to daylight saving.

In the 80s, supporters of daylight saving argued that public sentiment had changed, and that people too young to vote in the previous referendum wanted it, and deserved to have their voice heard. Another trial was held in 1983/1984, followed by another referendum, and once again THE PEOPLE SAID NO. Not content with the wishes of the majority, politicians and others used the same arguments to force another trial period in 1991/1992, followed by yet another referendum, and once again THE PEOPLE SAID NO.

If a majority consistently vote NO to something, three times over three decades, shouldn’t that be the end of the matter? Our elected representatives don’t think so, at least not when they won’t accept NO as the answer. Despite public opposition, and using the same tired arguments that didn’t hold before, our politicians have decided amongst themselves to impose yet another trial of daylight saving upon us, starting next week. The previous one-year trials didn’t get the result they wanted, so this time we’re getting a three-year trial, in the hope that we’ll just get used to it. The referendum to follow in 2009 will take place in the dark winter months when the summer heat is a memory - presumably to maximise the yes vote.

A letter I read in a newspaper compared it with rape … like a man wanting to have his way with a woman, getting three refusals, then going ahead anyway in the hope that she will eventually get to like it. Western Australian politicians may not be rapists, or fit the definition of dictators, but their imposition of daylight saving against the proven will of those they represent doesn’t fit the definition of democracy either.

In case you’re wondering - our reluctance to embrace daylight saving is largely due to the excessive heat that accompanies daylight in our summers. Of Australia’s eight states and territories, the five coolest have daylight saving, and the three hottest don’t, and this is no coincidence. Most countries near the equator do not have daylight saving; in fact it is observed in only 70 of the world’s approximately 200 countries (and only in parts of some of those), by only 1/6 of the world’s population (details here).


Accomodation Highlights of New Zealand

Friday, November 24, 2006

For me, accomodation on a long trip has to be cheap (otherwise I can’t afford a long trip). However, these days I desire greater comfort levels than I used to endure as a young backpacker. These opposing objectives were satisfied very well on my recent New Zealand trip by some great places to stay, which I feel are worth mentioning.

One was the BBH backpacker hostels chain, which boasts over 350 of the best hostels in the country. Many of these (not all) offer single rooms and real beds (not bunks), so you can enjoy the space, privacy and security of having your own room, while still enjoying the budget price, good facilities and sociableness that backpacker hostels are famous for. My favourites were Dorset House in Christchurch, Neptunes in Greymouth, and Moana Lodge in Plimmerton (Wellington).

zo060822-01.jpgMy other discovery was holiday parks (known also as motor camps, caravan parks, RV parks, campgrounds, etc). New Zealand abounds in them, but the Top 10 Holiday Parks chain generally have the cleanest and best facilities. They cater for caravans and motor homes, but also offer motel units, cabins and tent sites, with communal kitchens and ablution buildings … as their website says, “a bed for every budget”. In my travels I stayed in many cabins, which were similar to having a single room at a hostel. One main difference is the clientele. Whereas backpacker hostels are mostly used by foreign visitors, holiday parks are used more by locals exploring their own country … a good way to mingle with the natives! Two of my favourites were at Pohara (on the beach in Golden Bay), and Arthur’s Point (pictured, peace and quiet just 5 mins drive outside bustling Queenstown).

Thanks to these hostels and cabins I stayed in some awesome locations, mingled with interesting people, and kept my costs within budget - without once having to sleep on a bunk bed or share a room with snoring strangers.


Hiking the Rakiura Track

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

North Arm Hut on the Rakiura TrackAnother highlight of my New Zealand trip was the Rakiura Track. This is located on Stewart Island, which I’ve already mentioned as a highlight, but the track is worthy of special mention.

I visited during the winter off-season and had this three day hike almost to myself … for me the solitude enhanced the enjoyment of what is mostly wilderness with little evidence of humans. Scenery included beaches, quiet inlets and bays, a variety of forests, roaring creeks, and hills. The two well-equipped huts provided a level of comfort I’m not used to on hikes (North Arm Hut pictured). Track conditions varied from gravel and boardwalk to mud and tree roots, but the pure charm of the environment overshadowed any obstacles.

The Rakiura Track shows what much of New Zealand was like before people started destroying the forests. I only did one multi-day hike in New Zealand, and was happy to have chosen this gem.


Business Neighbours

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Passing through Darfield in New Zealand, I noticed a ski and snowboard shop and a chiropractor occupying the same building, as neighbours (pictured). I wondered about the juxtaposition of these two businesses … coincidence, or a symbiotic business strategy?

It amused me because skiing and snowboarding are not good for the back - my past ski trips were usually followed by chiropractor visits to rectify the damage done by skiing. Maybe the chiropractor set up shop next to the ski shop to take advantage of skiers returning rental gear with sore backs. Perhaps not, but it wouldn’t be any different from pharmacies (drug stores to you Americans) being located in medical centres near a supply of patients who have been prescribed drugs.

It made me wonder what other complementary businesses might become neighbours … McDonalds and Weight Watchers?


The Cardrona Bra Fence

Sunday, August 27, 2006

People do some odd things, don’t they? Recently I came upon a stretch of fence which has been decorated with hundreds of women’s bras -just hanging from the barbed wire, for no obvious reason. It has become widely known as the Cardrona Bra Fence, and is located on the Cardrona Valley road south of Wanaka in New Zealand, near the snow farm turn-off.

It apparently started when four women each removed their bra and hung it on the fence after leaving the nearby Cardrona Hotel one evening prior to new year’s eve 2000. It was their way of bringing in the new century with a bit of humour, but the sight of bras on a fence inspired many others to follow suit, and the underwear collection underwent a great enlargement. More details are on the snow farm’s website.

Hundreds of bras hanging from a fence. Its not logical or practical and serves no useful function … but is delightfully quirky and hints at the diversity of ways in which humans can be creative and humorous.


A Unique Gentlemen’s Room

Friday, August 25, 2006

I don’t want toilet-related things to become a theme of this blog, but I just had to share these pictures of the inside of a men’s toilet I visited recently.

Its located in Queenstown, New Zealand, in the lobby of the Sofitel hotel complex (I didn’t stay there - finding good toilets is part of the art of being a good traveller). In the gents, six life-sized illuminated pictures of women appear to stare down at each of the urinals with expressions of amazement, or pity. Its a bit disconcerting to be standing there doing one’s business, with the feeling of being watched, or sized-up. But I congratulate this hotel on being innovative enough to make their toilet stand out from the crowd in such a fun and imaginative way.


Lint Collection While Travelling

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Anyone familiar with my daily habit of collecting my navel lint may be wondering if this habit continues when I’m travelling, and away from my collection.

On reflection, I don’t suppose anyone has thought about it, but I’ll provide some reassurance anyway. I have a very tiny plastic container, the width of a little finger, which I keep in my toiletries bag. When away from home - even if camping - I routinely store my navel’s lint in this container, then transfer it to the main collection when I get home. This ensures the collection remains complete, which can only enhance its value. So now you know!


Furthest South

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Ernest Shackleton’s furthest south was latitude 88° 23′. Amundsen and Scott made it all the way to the pole. I can’t compete with that, but I can claim to have drunk coffee in the world’s southernmost Starbucks cafe, and to have visited the most southerly McDonalds in the world.

Both are located in the city of Invercargill, on the south coast of New Zealand’s south island. Apart from Antarctica, only the southern end of South America and some lightly populated islands lie further south than this.

I visited one such island - Stewart Island. Only a 20 minute flight south of Invercargill but a world away, and visited by relatively few overseas tourists (that was part of its attraction to me). It was pristine primeval forest, prolific birdlife, beaches without footprints, and unpopulated hiking tracks. And unless I fulfill my dream of visiting Antarctica, it was also the furthest south I am ever likely to go.

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