Sunday, July 31, 2005

22/6 at Phillies

At 6:30pm I left my apartment to catch the 9700 bus all the way to Sinsa, which is close to Gangnam. From there I caught a taxi across the bridge to Itaewon. Met Vanita, Michael and Mark and headed to Shakraa for some pretty damn good lamb vindaloo.

Met some other people after that, and then headed to Phillies. Jeepers, South Africans seemed to come out of the woodwork, in all shapes and sizes. There seemed to be no Australians anywhere, and just a few New Zealanders, and one motherlessly drunk Russian.
One guy, Chris, left the bar as the game started to go and get his springbok rugby jersey. He's also worked in Bristol and Edinburgh, and done those transafrica bus trips. Interesting guy.

I met another guy, Pieter, who has written an illustrated book. He says it cost him more than W11 million to pay for the printing of 2000 books. Or was that 200? 2000 books at W10 000 apiece is W20 million.
The book itself is very basic, but it's good to see someone get off their butts and do something in this tricky business. He is aparently married to a Korean, and is soon starting his own hagwon. He must be in his 60's. Seems like he is here in Korea to stay.

The boks played brilliantly, and then made mistakes. Was a bit of a scrappy game, and for a while it looked like it was going the other way.
I think the altitude was in our favour, and the home crowd, in a big way. It was good to leave the bar with a win.
As I was leaving a Korean waittress called Helen was telling everyone in Afrikaans, 'Jy is mooi'. Quite funny.

Outside it was still very warm. When I got home my thermostat said 28 degrees Celcius. Ooooch.
Next week we play New Zealand. The Boks can't afford any mistakes against them.

Friday, July 29, 2005

What the F

Not sure what is going on in Korea. Walking around town there are a lot of T-shirts that brazenly shout the full 4 letter word in a variety of mantras. I remember being in Botswana in the 1990's and a young black kid was wearing a shirt that said FUCK BEING NORMAL.
I see language as a kind of an art, and I see foul language as foul, and vulgar. It has its place, but not on t-shirts. Not sure whose idea it is, but this as a fashion statement does a disservice to the Koreans. It's just sleazy.

Had dinner with Sun Young and she pulled out a CNN article about swine flu emerging in China. Why is it that there's always a new killer disease coming out of China. Even as far away as South Africa, we bear the brunt of Asian flus during winter. What the HELL are they doing on their farms?
After dinner the waitress brought us free tea and cake. I was really stuffed at the end of the meal.

It's been raining a lot here. The air is very damp and sort of misty tonight.
Going to hideout in my apaertment tonight. Read. On Saturday night the rugby's broadcast in a bar, so a few of us are going to that.

Right now Corneli is winging her way to Thailand. Good for her. She hasn't once travelled out of Korea during a vacation, so I think it's about time, and well deserved too.
She's going to an area called Krabi. I went through it. It's not far from Ko Phi Phi - some islands I visited twice while I was there. Should be a lovely place to unwind.

I've been asked to write an article on somewhere 'exotic' for a South African magazine. Not sure whether to write about Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines or Thailand. All are special in their own right, for vastly different reasons.

4 days left of my vacation left.
Cheolwon 629
Cheolwon 630
Cheolwon 640
Cheolwon 642

Cheolwon Last Year

Notice the time. This year I did a 7:46

Blue Moon

Well I emerged at last from asylum and went with Corneli (who is going to Thailand tomorrow) to Blue Moon to wish Jamie well. She's making her exit out of Korea tomorrow. For good, she says she hopes.

Had a long island iced tea and chatted about hagwon heaven and hell (what else), mud festivals and sharks.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Livingstrong and Staying Cool (Part 2): The Run

Earlier, as a way of providing some background, I said that in high school I was younger than almost all of my peers by at least a year. It may not seem that way, but it was a big difference then.
One of the things I don't really understand is how those guys saw me as being a threat to them. I guess I was a bit cheeky and arrogant, and they tried to strangle that out of me. One of their pet phrases to me was, "You're ugly".

Before the race, a military guy who works for a radio show held a dictaphone under my mouth and asked me a few questions. One of them was: "So why do you do triathlon." I gave him the short answer. Why did I leave my apartment, totally unfit, to face blazing hot conditions and the inevitable comparisons to a previous, better performance?
"Because it's exciting."
The long answer, why I do this sport, is because it allows me to pull on the clothes of the superhero. To climb into the skin of the ghost, and go to timecarved understandings that have done hundreds, thousands of spinal journeys...and taken to me to a real self...the stronger, faster ghost. That place where you flow, where you go into a zone that is the perfect you, the best you, under all the shit.

For me, triathlon, and cycling, is about pursuing a dream, a beautiful picture, or series of pictures, a real life Oscar Clip, a poetry of actions and real life art. It's where you come out of the water ahead of everyone, or make a turn on the bike and realise how strong you are. It's where all your efforts surprise you into being your best. It's the antithesis of a life that sometimes feels lazy, and ugly, and boring, and unchallenging. I don't do this sport because some geeks at school said I was ugly. I'm not ashamed of me...if I'm ashamed of anything it's them.

Triathlon is how I pursue my dreams of beauty. It's where I play with aerodynamics, and carbon toys, and a heart rate monitor.
And we do it together...all of us...and see how close we can get to our shining ghost selves.

The run on the 24th was very long, and it started with exhaustion. The question was, how far could I go with an already exhausted body. It was something like the Apollo 13 having to find it's way back to Earth with only enough power to run a lightbulb.
At 5km I went under a tent and felt my arms. They were already burning in the sun. I pulled out a tube of factor 44, and smeared the stuff on. My arms were wet and stiff and sore from the unfamiliar position on the tri-bars.
I did think about turning back around. Surely more hours of the same was going to lead to some kind of medical failure. Sunstroke.
I ran out of the tent with a bottle, took a swig and handed it to one of our club athletes on his way back.
Then I literally identified a lamp pole, road, or bottle, and ran to it. I'd reach it and walk for a while and repeat this over and over and over. By the time I reached 10.5km I was too tired to even walk.
But having reached half way, the walk had one thing in mind - to finish. That's the feeling I like in a race. Where the chips are down, and you've just go to push against the odds.

I waited under one or two trees, to cool down. Sometimes, my body got so screwed up I didn't want water thrown over me. It just seemed to much of a shock. I chewed on bananas, drank some watermelon juice, stuffed a big block of ice into my shirt and felt it burn and melt away over 7-8km. I kept putting a hand behind my back to hold the ice, because it cooled my hands and just offered some relief. It was a long struggle...I won't waste time here giving a blow by blow, but it was a long time walking and moving forward slowly under the sun. A few times I looked up to the sun to see if any clouds were building up.
Then, at 2km, a guy pulled up alongside me and said, "Hurry up."
A few had said "Cheer up" and now I wondered what the point of it was.
"Why? Why must I hurry?" I asked.
"Cut off in 20 minutes."
That surprised me. "C'mon" he said, and so I ran with him, thinking I'd let him pull away. We both stopped on a line in the road, and then I suggested we run again. He did, but the third time, urged me to run ahead. I was quite surprised, despite overwhelming weakness and incredibly deeply imbedded fatigue, I quickened my pace a little and kept going.

I got in under the finishing banner in 7:46 - about 14 minutes to spare.
Funnily enough, I felt a soft satisfaction finishing this race that meant more to me than some other races. I was given my medal and finishers shirt, and then taken to a table for more watermelon juice. I lay down and half conscious, spoke to two other Americans. Not long after that I went to pack my stuff away and fetch my bike. It was then that I started to feel dizzy, and had to fight to stay conscious.
Those movements in the heat were just too much for an already severely overheated body.
I crawled under a big silver aeroplane while Jason went to fetch me some water and I sucked some gel out of its foil.

Lying under the shade of aeroplane was my moment, in that long hard day, where I got my piece of beauty. Fighting for consciousness inside the quivering waves of heat.

The Most Valuable Global Brands

Today, have a look at what the world has focussed their money and their minds on (until the present) to create the most 'valuable' brands. A brand really is an idea in your mind. A memory.
These are our memories. A sugary black drink called Coke that is pretty unhealthy. Next, a software monopoly which we use sometimes to be more efficient, increasingly just as an alternative way to amuse ourselves.
Pornography on the internet, for example, earns 3 times as much as America's three biggest TV networks combined.
Microsoft is followed by a few other technology companies. Then there's entertainment, junk food and a reliable motor vehicle company.

In a decade, few of these will make sense as the world changes, downscales and becomes far more down to earth, far less able to afford luxuries like entertainment, cargo pants, and frappucinos. With the possible exception of Intel and Nokia, we will see 'junk' companies like Coke, McDonalds, Disney and Marlboro fly out the window. Over even more time, we will see Energy Companies (Shell, Amorco, BP) become the Microsofts of the new era, and also companies whose primary purpose is the production and distribution of quality foods, fruits and vegtables.

Brand (Parent Company) 2005 Value in Millions
1. Coca-Cola (KO) $67,525
2. Microsoft (MSFT) $61,372
3. IBM (IBM) $53,791
4. GE (GE) $44,111
5. Intel (INTC) $33,499
6. Nokia (NOK) $24,041
7. Disney (DIS) $27,113
8. McDonald's (MCD) $25,001
9. Toyota (TM) $22,673
10. Marlboro (MO) $22,128

Global Brands

By Robert Berner and David Kiley with Mara Der Hovanesian in New York, Ian Rowley in Tokyo, Michael Arndt in Chicago, and bureau reports
BusinessWeek Online

BusinessWeek/Interbrand rank the companies that best built their images -- and made them stick.

Advertisers who want to reach the Bublitz family of Montgomery, Ohio, have to leap a lot of hurdles. Telemarketing? Forget it -- the family of five has Caller ID. The Internet? No way -- they long ago installed spam and pop-up ad blockers on their three home computers. Radio? Rudy Bublitz, 47, has noncommercial satellite radio in his car and in the home. Television? Not likely -- the family records its favorite shows on TiVo and skips most ads. "The real beauty is that if we choose to shut advertising out, we can," Rudy says. "We call the shots with advertisers today."

The Bublitzes and other ad-zapping consumers like them pose an enormous challenge these days to marketers trying to build new brands and nurture old ones. To get a reading on which brands are succeeding -- and which aren't -- take a look at the fifth annual BusinessWeek/Interbrand ranking of the 100 most valuable global brands. The names that gained the most in value focus ruthlessly on every detail of their brands, honing simple, cohesive identities that are consistent in every product, in every market around the world, and in every contact with consumers. (In the ranking, which is compiled in partnership with brand consultancy Interbrand Corp., a dollar value is calculated for each brand using publicly available data, projected profits, and variables such as market leadership.)

The best brand builders are also intensely creative in getting their message out. Many of the biggest and most established brands, from Coke to Marlboro, achieved their global heft decades ago by helping to pioneer the 30-second TV commercial. But it's a different world now. The monolithic TV networks have splintered into scores of cable channels, and mass-market publications have given way to special-interest magazines aimed at smaller groups. Given that fragmentation, it's not surprising that there's a new generation of brands, including, eBay, and Starbucks, that have amassed huge global value with little traditional advertising. They've discovered new ways to captivate and intrigue consumers. Now the more mature brands are going to school on the achievements of the upstarts and adapting the new techniques for themselves.

So how do you build a brand in a world in which consumers are increasingly in control of the media? The brands that rose to the top of our ranking all had widely varied marketing arsenals and were able to unleash different campaigns for different consumers in varied media almost simultaneously. They wove messages over multiple media channels and blurred the lines between ads and entertainment. As a result, these brands can be found in a host of new venues: the Web, live events, cell phones, and handheld computers. An intrepid few have even infiltrated digital videorecorders, devices that are feared throughout the marketing world as the ultimate tool for enabling consumers to block unwanted TV ads.

Some marketers have worked to make their brand messages so enjoyable that consumers might see them as entertainment instead of an intrusion. When leading brands are seen on TV they're apt to have their own co-starring roles -- as No. 9 Toyota Motor Corp. did in reality show The Contender -- rather than just lending support during the commercial breaks. All are trying to create a stronger bond with the consumer. Take No. 41 Apple Computer Corp., which last fall launched a special iPod MP3 player in partnership with band U2. Not only did the "U2 iPod" say "U2" on the front and have band signatures etched into the back, but the band starred in a TV ad and buyers got $50 off a download of 400 U2 songs. No. 8 McDonald's Corp.'s sponsorship of a tour by R&B group Destiny's Child means that fans who want access to exclusive video and news content about the band have to click first on the company's Web site. "It's hard here to tell where the brand message ends and where the entertainment and content begins," says Ryan Barker, director of brand strategy at consultancy The Knowledge Group.

It's no accident that most of the companies with the biggest increases in brand value in the 2005 ranking operate as single brands everywhere in the world. Global marketing used to mean crafting a new name and identity for each local market. America's No. 1 laundry detergent, Tide, is called Ariel in Europe, for example. The goal today for many, though, is to create consistency and impact, both of which are a lot easier to manage with a single worldwide identity. It's also a more efficient approach, since the same strategy can be used everywhere. An eBay shopper in Paris, France, sees the same screen as someone logging in from Paris, Texas. Only the language is different. Global banks HSBC, No. 29, which posted a 20% increase in brand value, and No. 44 UBS, up 16%, use the same advertising pitches around the world. "Given how hard the consumer is to reach today, a strong and unified brand message is increasingly becoming the only way to break through," says Jan Lindemann, Interbrand's managing director, who directed the Top 100 Brands ranking.

Possibly no brand has done a better job of mining the potential of these new brand-building principles than Korean consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co. Less than a decade ago, it was a maker of lower-end consumer electronics under a handful of brand names including Wiseview, Tantus, and Yepp, none of which meant much to consumers. Figuring that its only shot at moving up the value chain was to build a stronger identity, the company ditched its other brands to put all its resources behind the Samsung name. Then it focused on building a more upscale image through better quality, design, and innovation.

Beginning in 2001, the newly defined Samsung came out with a line of top-notch mobile phones and digital TVs, products that showed off the company's technical prowess. By vaulting the quality of its offerings above the competition in those areas, Samsung figured it could boost the overall perception of the brand. Besides, consumers form especially strong bonds with cell phones and TVs. Most people carry their mobile phones with them everywhere, while their TV is the center of the family room. "We wanted the brand in users' presence 24/7," says Peter Weedfald, head of Samsung's North American marketing and consumer electronics unit.

Now that strategy is paying off. Over the past five years, No. 20 Samsung has posted the biggest gain in value of any Global 100 brand, with a 186% surge. Even sweeter, last year Samsung surpassed No. 28 Sony, a far more entrenched rival that once owned the electronics category, in overall brand value. Now, in a nod to Samsung, Korean electronics concern LG Electronics Inc. has followed its rival's playbook. Cracking this year's global list for the first time at No. 97, LG has also sought to elevate its product under a single brand led by phones and TVs.

Some of the older brands in our ranking are clearly struggling to remake their marketing and product mix for a more complex world. This year's biggest losers in brand value include Sony (down 16%), Volkswagen (down 12%), and Levi's (down 11%). VW acknowledges its brand value slippage. "Volkswagen is well aware of the current deficiencies," says VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard. Sony, which disputes that it is losing brand value, has suffered from an innovation drought. The electronics giant pioneered the Walkman, but left Apple to revolutionize portable MP3 players, as well as digital downloading and organizing of music. Meanwhile, Sony's moves into films and music put it into areas where its brand adds no value. Worse, those acquisitions made Sony a competitor with other content providers. That, notes Samsung's Weedfald, gives his company an advantage in linking to the hottest music and movies. Samsung, for example, is lead sponsor of this summer's much-hyped movie, The Fantastic Four, in which a variety of Samsung gadgets play a part. VW faces different problems. It has attempted to move upmarket with the luxury Touareg sport-utility vehicle and Phaeton sedan models; but that has left car buyers, who associate VW with zippy, affordable cars, confused. Similarly, Levi's introduction of its less pricey Levi's Signature line in discount stores means it now competes on price at the low end, while trying to fend off rivals like Diesel at the upper end with its core "red tab" brand.

Of course, defining the essence of a brand is only part of the battle. Communicating it to the consumer is the other. On this front, there has clearly been a divide between newer brands that use traditional advertising as just one tool in an overall marketing plan and older ones that grew up with it. Sony, for example, far outspends Samsung on traditional advertising in the U.S. on electronics products. (Samsung advertises on TV only during the last six months of the year, its peak sales period.) Many young brands that scored big gains in value, like Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, depend on their own interactive Web sites to shout about their brands.

Now some older brands, like Coke, ranked No. 1 in overall brand value, and McDonald's are decreasing traditional ad spending. In the past four years, McDonald's has cut TV advertising from 80% of its ad budget to 50%. Most of the shift has gone to online advertising. What's evolving, then, is a model in which most brand builders use a variety of marketing channels. HSBC has branded taxis to carry customers for free. And although eBay spends most of its marketing budget on Internet advertising, it also relies on TV to some extent to boost simple brand awareness. "With fragmentation and ad evasion, you can't count on one medium," says Tom Cotton, president of Conductor, a branding strategy firm.

Marketers who do turn to TV are trying to make brand messages as engrossing as the programming. Last year Toyota, whose brand value rose 10%, paid $16 million to have its vehicles be part of the storyline on NBC reality show The Contender, about small-time boxers competing for a nationally televised bout. The grand prize: a million dollars and a Toyota truck. Rival Nissan, up 13%, has been parking its Titan pickups on Wisteria Lane in hit ABC show Desperate Housewives. The trucks will also ride into the new Dukes of Hazzard movie this month.

Nor are TV and movies the only target. No. 1 Coke, McDonald's, No. 88 Smirnoff, No. 16 BMW, No. 23 Pepsi, and No. 61 KFC are among brands striking deals to plant their brands in video games and even song lyrics. Deborah Wahl-Meyer, who headed Toyota marketing until recently moving to the company's Lexus division, says both divisions attempt to seed magazine and newspaper articles with vehicle references and pictures. "We have to be more a part of what people are watching and reading instead of being in between what people are watching and reading," Meyer says.

In an echo of Procter & Gamble Co.'s creation of the soap opera on radio and then TV, some brand builders are taking control of the programming themselves and creating content that tries to draw in ad-allergic consumers. BMW, whose brand value rose 8% over the past year, turned out a series of popular short films on the Internet starting in 2001. The seven-to-ten minute films starred BMW cars and were produced by A-list Hollywood directors like John Woo. The German auto maker has moved onto comic books based on the films aimed at Bimmer-aspiring teens and adults alike. "It's imperative to create media destinations that don't look like advertising," says James McDowell, who headed marketing for the BMW brand before recently taking over as chief of the parent company's MINI USA business. BMW has also embraced the enemy, TiVo, the television-top gadget that consumers use to skip ads altogether. Since last year, BMW has produced short films and long-form ads accessible through TiVo's main menu page. BMW fans are alerted to the films in the on-demand video menu when a BMW ad runs.

Such old-line brands as No. 14 American Express Co. are heading down the entertainment path, too. Tipping its hat to BMW, AmEx ran long-form Internet ads/films starring Jerry Seinfeld last year that succeeded in drawing consumers to its Web site and Webcasted concerts. AmEx Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes says flatly: "Brands are not being built on [traditional] advertising."

Still, none of these marketing ploys are sure bets in a world where old-school advertising means less. That's why more marketers are investing in design as a fundamental way to distinguish their brands and to stay on the leading edge of technology. "Design isn't just the promise of a brand, like TV advertising -- it's the reality of it," says Marc Gobe, chief executive of design consultancy Desgrippes Gobe. Samsung has tripled its global design staff to 400 over the past five years. No. 73 Motorola, whose brand value rose 11%, and No. 53 Philips Electronics have boosted design spending. The move sparked the launch of Motorola's hot-selling Razr phone, the thinnest flip phone ever made. No. 85 Nissan gained 13% last year on a wave of bold designs, like its curvy Murano SUV and Altima sedan, as the Japanese company differentiates itself from Toyota and Honda through design rather than quality.

Good design implies more than just good looks. It's also about ease of use. Apple demonstrated this with its iPod. Users can pick songs or download music from the iTunes music bank with the swipe of a finger. That's blunted sales of Sony's Walkman MP3 player, which has been criticized as too cumbersome. Design can also mean sound. Samsung insists that all its products make the same reassuring tone when turned on. The Samsung tone is even being used in some advertising. "We want to have the same sound, look, and feel throughout our products so it all works toward one Samsung brand," says Gregory Lee, Samsung's global marketing chief.

The era of building brands namely through mass media advertising is over. The predominant thinking of the world's most successful brand builders these days is not so much the old game of reach (how many consumers see my ad) and frequency (how often do they see it), but rather finding ways to get consumers to invite brands into their lives. The mass media won't disappear as a tool. But smart companies see the game today as making bold statements in design and wooing consumers by integrating messages so closely into entertainment that the two are all but indistinguishable.

Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc

This wine...actually a Sauvignon Blanc version of a Steenberg wine (from South Africa) featured among a handful of other very inexpensive but excellent wines in the New York Times interactive section today. Blanc means that it is a white wine, so the picture above is simply to provide an idea of the label. Could not find a picture feature a Steenberg white wine. But you can view a sample below.

Check it out here:

Top 3 in the 2005 Tour De France


The Reservoir

This must be one of the best venues for an outdoor triathlon swim anywhere.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Livingstrong and Staying Cool (Part 1)

The day before the race some of the elite athletes (who race in a small group separate to age groupers like me) recognised me from last year. We had a short conversation. I jokingly told them I have gotten very fat and wished them well for their race. I actually felt quite embarassed and uncomfortable. I wondered whether I'd made the right decision at the door in my apartment to come back here and race. Not only would I be comparing my performance from last year but so would they!

I had other things to worry about too, like electrolytes. On such a hot day one of the biggest concerns, beyond hydration, should be losing too much salt out of your body. Was happy to find that some tents at the little Expo had GU2O.

Now for the cycle itself.
I was pooped from the swim coming into the transition area - a clear sign I was way too unfit for what I was doing. I noticed one or two bikes of guys I thought might have come out the water before me, still on the racks. Packed my wetsuit in my bag (as these bags are packed into trucks and driven to a second transition area - quite unusual). I didn't have to worry about goggles because I didn't have any!
I also quickly attached my Polar Heart rate monitor to my bike, realising, as I did so that it was sitting snugly because the plastic face plate was at home.
As I wheeled my bike out I noticed Jason started to get out of his wetsuit.

I quickly caught the two guys just ahead of me, then put my feet in my shoes and enjoyed the rest of the long downhill opener. My heart rate was at 165 which is way, WAY to high. It needed to be around 150-155. I was also not flying down nearly as hard or fast as I could, so the 165 told me to wake up and smell the coffee.
At 2-3km the guys I passed in the beginning, edged by me. Soon after, Jason pulled up alongside on his blue Cannondale telling me I was "Looking good."
I let him go, then with a bit of an effort, pulled alongside him and spoke a little more. Finally I let him go, telling him if I kept this effort up for too much longer I'd blow my race and have a very difficult day. From then on I settled into my own race, gradually easing slower and slower and being passed by one, then another, then another guy on a bike. Some guys had style, like one on a Cervelo that pulled right to the top 10 men when I saw him again.

My cycle was so fast last year, I struggled to make some turns. In part it was the speed, also the momentum generated by the deepness of the Zipp rims, and sometimes it was because a thin layer of gravel lay on some corners - a recipe for falling. This time I had none of those problems. I started pouring water over myself pretty soon.
Since my watch had stopped recording the swim at 2 minutes something, and was not facing me squarely, I wasn't very clear on my schedule for gels. The rule is every 30-45 minutes, but I abandoned that and just went by feel.

On a short out and back section I saw Jason again. He made up a few places, and shortly before halfway Ee Sung Hee patted me on my butt as she passed me, wearing the yellow jersey of the Tour de France no less. Made me smile. Soon after I really began to struggle. I felt very tired, uncomfortable. My arms and shoulders weren't used to an aero position at all since all 3 my training cycles had been on conventional bars.
The girl from Sokcho who injured her legs stuck her face out of a yellow bus and shouted something, and when the bus returned she shouted over a microphone PAAAABBOH (which means 'stupid').
From then on I didn't feel so great, and even went onto the small chainring from then on. I couldn't believe I wasn't even at 50km.

Over the next 10-20km I felt irritible, probably should have eaten something but didn't feel like it. Felt uncomfortable and hot and very very tired. I think the hard swim was part of why I felt tired, and the heat. I also think some days you wake up feeling awesome. Some days you are way below par. This was the latter.
At about 65km, after seeing Pete and another guy on an out and back stretch, and anticipating they'd soon catch me, I got off my bike and cooled off in an irrigation canal.

Felt better getting back on the bike, and got into a steady rhythm for the last 20km.
I remembered how I had overshot a turn in last years race, and had to come back and still managed to stay ahead of the pursuing pack. I remember how annoyed I was because of that unnecessary waste of energy.
Then, approaching the 10km to go point I noticed the first runners. What was quite funny is they recognised me and some of them, although they were suffering and overheated, smiled at me.
At one aid station, with about 7.5km to go, I think, one of the woman shouted at me, "You did it!"
A bit further down the road I found Jason, swung around and cycled with him for a bit. He said he was having stomach cramps. I know on a run like this it's good to have some company, anything to get your mind off the torturous heat. It was quite funny pulling up at the same aid station again. "I did it?" I asked with a big smile.

Jason ran off and I wondered if I should go any further with him. Maybe he didn't want to talk or anything. But then he said something and I cycled up to him and we spoke a bit more. After a few more minutes and funny glances from passing runners and cyclists (remember I was running at this point in 2004), including one guy who shouted, "What happened?", I turned around, told Jason to "Livestrong" on the run (he was also wearing a yellow wristband) and headed back.
I was pretty sure that I was in no condition to do the run.

I thought, if I see Pete, I'll have to do the run because he can't have done much training. (I learned later that he had done some!)
About 1 or 2km from the finish and 2nd transition I found Pete, turned around again and told him I didn't think I was going to run and chatted with a him a little. I went down a small downhill with him so when I turned around had to go back up it again!!! I must have cycled about 100km!

So you know I arrived at T2 thoroughly bewildered. Very very tired, after about 4 and a half hours out. I had no wish to do the run, but a strange thing happened after I left Pete. I looked at the triathletes plodding along slowly and I thought, What makes me so special? Am I so special that I must sit out of this race because I don't feel so great? If these people can do it, if they can struggle through it why can't I?

These inklings got fuelled even more as I headed slowly into the transition - the tar so hot I could barely stand still on it. Everyone seemed to be focussing on 'the foreigner', including a Korean girl who stood around me telling me over and over to "Hurry up". For the first time, I think ever, I couldn't even find a place to rack my bike. I had to push one or two bikes to the left and right to make space!
Then, slowly I got into the mode of putting on my shoes, stuffing some gels into my shirt pocket and getting my heart rate monitor off my bike. This last move was not because I felt I needed it. I just thought, left in the sun, it would probably be destroyed. I also stuffed something under the wheel of my bike to prevent heat from the road absorbing into the rims and exploding the tyres.

I started moving forward and felt okay. I plodded out of the transition like someone who has not run for a month. I was like, Okay, okay...let's go.
One of the triathletes from Sokcho who came to Cheolwon with his family gave me a drippy coffee icecream as I came out of the transition.
I'd just done 100m. What lay ahead was 21km through an oven. To stand around for the time I would have been out there would have been hell. But I was supposed to run.

(To be continued...)

Learning From Lance

Below is an article from a writer I quite enjoy who is also the star columnist for The New York Times. His book, The World is Flat, also stimulates the thought process. Like Kunstler though, I see Globalism as a temporary offshoot of Cheap Oil, and not an Independent Process in its own right. Friedman fails to realise the larger Economic picture, but he does have some useful insights.

This morning I saw very quickly some highlights on the Oprah show. Oprah was comparing the lives of women throughout the world. Iceland was interesting. Singapore too, possibly because I had a girlfriend there and also loved being there with her.
They said a growing trend for overweight women in Singapore is to go to special weight loss clinic where they pay $150 to lie down on a bed, covered with plastic and have their bodies bombarded with some kind of microwave or electric current or something, and rocked to and froe.
What kind of people fall for that? Apparently the well educated people in Singapore. What a disgusting solution to being fat! To pay money for a treatment that pretends to rock the weight off you, so that you don't have to raise a finger, or change your life in any way to undo all that sitting around and unhealthy (food) consumption. The people who do these treatments are trapped in a comfort zone of insanity and laziness.

The article below expands the discussion around the subject of this collective malaise that we see infecting people around us in the world today.

Published: July 27, 2005
There is no doubt that Lance Armstrong's seventh straight victory in the Tour de France, which has prompted sportswriters to rename the whole race the Tour de Lance, makes him one of the greatest U.S. athletes of all time. What I find most impressive about Armstrong, besides his sheer willpower to triumph over cancer, is the strategic focus he brings to his work, from his prerace training regimen to the meticulous way he and his cycling team plot out every leg of the race. It is a sight to behold. I have been thinking about them lately because their abilities to meld strength and strategy - to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow - seem to be such fading virtues in American life.

Sadly, those are the virtues we now associate with China, Chinese athletes and Chinese leaders. Talk to U.S. business executives and they'll often comment on how many of China's leaders are engineers, people who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest - not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America's most serious deficit today is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.

John Mack, the new C.E.O. at Morgan Stanley, initially demanded in the contract he signed June 30 that his total pay for the next two years would be no less than the average pay package received by the C.E.O.'s at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. If that average turned out to be more than $25 million, Mr. Mack was to be paid at least that much. He eventually backed off that demand after a howl of protest, but it struck me as the epitome of what is wrong in America today.

We are now playing defense. A top C.E.O. wants to be paid not based on his performance, but based on the average of his four main rivals! That is like Lance Armstrong's saying he will race only if he is guaranteed to come in first or second, no matter what his cycling times are on each leg.

I recently spent time in Ireland, which has quietly become the second-richest country in the E.U., first by going through some severe belt-tightening in which everyone had to sacrifice, then by following that with a plan to upgrade the education of its entire work force, and a strategy to recruit and induce as many global high-tech companies and researchers as possible to locate in Ireland. The Irish have a plan. They are focused. They have mobilized business, labor and government around a common agenda. They are playing offense.

Wouldn't you think that if you were president, after you had read the umpteenth story about premier U.S. companies, such as Intel and Apple, building their newest factories, and even research facilities, in China, India or Ireland, that you would summon the country's top business leaders to Washington ask them just one question: "What do we have to do so you will keep your best jobs here? Make me a list and I will not rest until I get it enacted."

And if you were president, and you had just seen more suicide bombs in London, wouldn't you say to your aides: "We have got to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. We have to do it for our national security. We have to do it because only if we bring down the price of crude will these countries be forced to reform. And we should want to do it because it is clear that green energy solutions are the wave of the future, and the more quickly we impose a stringent green agenda on ourselves, the more our companies will lead innovation in these technologies."

Instead, we are about to pass an energy bill that, while it does contain some good provisions, will make no real dent in our gasoline consumption, largely because no one wants to demand that Detroit build cars that get much better mileage. We are just feeding Detroit the rope to hang itself. It's assisted suicide. I thought people went to jail for that?

And if you were president, would you really say to the nation, in the face of the chaos in Iraq, "If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them," but they have not asked. It is not what the generals are asking you, Mr. President - it is what you are asking them, namely: "What do you need to win?" Because it is clear we are not winning, and we are not winning because we have never made Iraq a secure place where normal politics could emerge.

Oh, well, maybe we have the leaders we deserve. Maybe we just want to admire Lance Armstrong, but not be Lance Armstrong. Too much work. Maybe that's the wristband we should be wearing: Live wrong. Party on. Pay later.

Still Sweating

Just went out now to stock up.
Jeepers it's hot and sweaty. I checked on and August is supposed to be, on average, hotter than July.

I made a few calls to South Africa yesterday. Someone told me that it's been unseasonably warm in Bloemfontein, that it went up to 27 degrees C even though it's midwinter there. Did I understand correctly?

Also had a long chat with Fransa. She really makes me laugh.

I'm sorry I haven't posted more pictures. Since I've downloaded all 21 stages of the Tour de France, and each stage is about 1Gig of memory, and I have a few other movies too, I think it's lack of Virtual Memory that's slowing down the uploading of pictures.

At Newcore today I asked for olives. Sometimes the Koreans use the some word that we use. No one knew what 'olives' were. Maybe if I said orleebs they would have gotten it. Anyway, I found some eventually and got some other vegetables. Will need to go to Carrefour anyway because for bacon and mince, and button mushrooms. Newcore's mince tastes terrible.

Corneli called earlier to say the biltong I ordered from South Africa has arrived, and so has the Harry Potter book she ordered for me along with some of her books.

I wish a typhoon would sweep through here and just suck up all this hot, wet air and blow it somewhere else.
I'm having a light salad for lunch, and will probably go and swim tonight at 8pm, at Sungho. I'll pick up the rest of those groceries on the way back.

The Road Through A Hard Day

Right now I'm having a very relaxed morning. I've watched stage 20 (Time trial Stage) of the Tour de France, checking out the timetrial machines. As luck would have it, Lance Armstrong is on Oprah today as well. It's an interesting story too, it's not just inspiring. It's interesting that after 7 Tour wins he is a very wealthy man, a mulit-multi millionaire, and he is now quitting professional cycling to spend more time being a dad.

Deep Desire

His own dad left his mother when he was very young, and left behind a very angry, and determined young man. It may be that that act of abandonment fuelled a very very deep desire to pursue powerful dreams of happiness and triumph.
Looking at Luke, his son, I see a child not unlike some of the terrors in my classes. Strongwilled, exuberant, hard to control. Under the right guidance, and in the right place, these traits can lead to prison, or greatness.

Before I get to the 'Hard Day', here's a little background which you may or may not care about.

In Junior School I was a very balanced kid. Top 5 year after year after year academically, especially loving Biology and English and of course Phys. Ed., and even though I was at least a year younger than almost everyone, I was one of the strongest runners (even though I did virtually no athletics training) and the fastest swimmer. They called me an 'attitude problem' in high school, and I didn't really take orders gracefully from anyone during that time. Not from my peers, who fast forwarded into adolescence, shaving, and gruff voices while I was still a little boy coming to terms with a lot of turmoil in my own private universe.


I remember matrics giving me their bags - we were expected to sometimes carry them to their classes - I remember throwing a bag down and telling the guy to stop being lazy and take it himself. The teachers seemed to love me up until high school, where they began to take the sides of my bullying peers, and I think, decided I was worthy of all that targetpractise, a softy, or a sulker or something. I remember one of the most common insults I got in school was being told I was 'ugly'. I do think it is also the job of teachers to engender values such as fairness, kindness, and respect...a way of treating people. As a result, I pretty much disliked most of my teachers in high school. They seemed to me biased and only able to focus on the most popular students, which I think now represents a lack of conscientiousness on their behalf.


It also has to be said that my class (both at school and at AAA) were rumored to be very clever classes, and so competition was fierce. Unfortunately, at school, our class also had a strange penchant for backstabbing, and oneupmanship. Some friends I had a year behind me told me that things were very different in other classes, where all the students basically got along with each other, and supported and eoncouraged each other. I often daydreamed of pulling out of school so I could slot in to a class behind mine. Every time I decided instead to just endure the process and get the business of school done. If I could have done it over, I'd have gone for a happier school experience, and probably a more successful one, even if that meant a year longer. Since I immediately did a year of military service (then mandatory) after finishing school, by the end of that year it was scrapped, so my effort at enduring a less than stellar school experience proved unnecessary, and I think, costly. Our class was about chopping the head off of anyone who got far enough of the rest of us to stick his neck out. It's a shame, because it seemed to me to be a lose/lose way of going through school. But obviously, when it was over, I was free to choose my destiny.

Desire for Events

And that unpleasant period obviously set the stage, in a way, for needing to make up for lost life, lost joy, lost performances. There is still a need to prove my mettle in a way that I think is way past the time most people lose their desire for competitive sport. I still feel a very strong desire to want to seriously pursue my best for events like South African Cycling Championships, The World Ironman Championships, South African Triathlon Championships, the South African Ironman and other less prestigious, but neverthless challenging events like the Argus, like the Two Oceans, and this event of last weekend, The 5th Korea Irontriangle Triathlon Championship.

The 5th Korea Irontriangle Triathlon Championship

I've done this race in 2003 and 2004, and in 2004 was tantalised by the possibilities after a brilliantly fast swim-cycle combination, (I was 2nd overall going into the run)but then slowed and frustrated by a very hot, difficult run. I struggled to stay cool on the run, and became increasingly thirsty and overheated. The picture in my profile (right, top of this page), where I am carrying two bottles of water, was taken at about 15km of the 21.1km run in 2004's race.


So I wanted to make amends this year. I really wanted to have a super run and have a top 5 finish.
None of that was to be when a double deal of illness unwound all of my Ironman training. I was supposed to come into Korea with this amazing platform of fitness prepaid in South Africa, so it felt like a slow motion horror movie when I got sick once, tried to get back on again and then got sick a second time. It's not easy to describe how demotivating this is, this rapid deconstruction of a painstakingly built up level of fitness. But it was wiped out, and I ended up registering for the race within a milieu of confusion and despair, to be quite honest.


I managed, in the weeks running up to the race, to get in a few swims, and began to enjoy these. I also cycled 2 or 3 times to Imjingak, and was starting to enjoy that too. Because of the heat, I didn't go out running at all, and I decided to turn this period into the OFF SEASON, and so I just need to keep a basic level of fitness ticking over until September/October, which is when the cycling season gets into gear in South Africa.

Decision Time

But you know, standing at the door with my bike and my bag, I actually stopped and said to myself, "Do you really want to do this?" I faced my lack of preparation, I knew the whole race would be a vastly inferior version of the 2004 performance, and I really, really didn't want to be racing in the heat.
But there was also the love of the race, the adventure of that, compared to the dreariness of being at home watching TV or some movie or eating something with someone (as something to do!).
I got to Sungho just before 2pm on Saturday and met the guys. Just the trip there through the heat left me dewy and wet.

Fast Forward to the Race

Last year, while I was getting my gear ready, a truck drove through the transition area and drove over my goggles. The plastic is superstrong, and so there was only a slight break in one of the lenses. I was able to use them. This year I when I jumped into the reservoir and reached for my goggles, they'd quickly slipped off my head and I guess, floated down and out of reach.
If there is a triathlon swim anywhere in the world where you probably don't need goggles, it's Cheolwon's reservoir. It's a freshwater reservoir, and they only allow paddle boats on it. Water is calm and clear green.

Remembering how uncomfortable I was at Sokcho's swim, I did a decent warm up this time. My arms felt heavy and my lats ached. Not a good sign. I swam for a good few minutes, trying to get the painful cramps out of my arms, and after about 750m I felt more comfortable.

Given my fitness, I had a great swim. A small goup of about 10-15 broke off the front, and I headed up the rest of the pack. I also drafted in the water wake of a swimmer who was pacing me perfectly...for at least a third of the way. That's not something I usually do, but it worked for me here. I also have to say that I could sightswim perfectly without goggles, and since the water is so clean, my eyes didn't burn.

Last year we went off in waves, and I took a very wide route around the pack and buoys (effectively probably adding on a good 50-100m). This year, since we didn't go off in waves, and there was lots of open water ahead of us, we hugged the ropes. After a while I took the lead and the swimmer I'd been tailing, tailed me. We did one last swap after the last buoy, and he led me to the carpet that takes you up a steep path to the transition area.
Last year my swim time: 30:43. This year 35:00. My heart rate coming out was 170, which is another way of saying I was giving 100%. I had to pull on a length of rope to get up the very steep rocky embankment right on the waters edge.

Overall: not a bad swim given how little I trained.
(Note: Will post bike and run later today).

Deadly Heat Wave Sends Temperatures Above 100°

Published: July 26, 2005

Clusters of states across the nation were enduring another stifling day in a deadly heat wave that broke record highs in some cities and had temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in others.

The National Weather Service posted excessive heat warnings stretching from Illinois to Tennessee and from North Carolina up to New Jersey, where the heat was blamed for at least one death.

Records highs were recorded today in Alaska, Florida and Colorado by the National Climatic Data Center. Many areas in the east were expected to cool slightly by this afternoon, while the temperature in some cities was expected to remain above 80 overnight, rising again to above 100 on Wednesday.

As temperatures rose today, city workers across the country scrambled to help people stay cool, in hopes of avoiding more deaths this summer. Dozens of heat-related deaths of mostly elderly, homeless people and children have been reported across the country.

In Arizona, where last summer 34 people died from the heat, two children have died in a hot car and at least 24 people have died in Phoenix from heat-related causes, said Will Humble, a bureau chief for disease control at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Most of the people who died were homeless in areas near Phoenix shelters that had been distributing water and ice, Mr. Humble said. But despite the free service, as temperatures rose above 115 last week, he said, "clearly it wasn't enough."

A high temperature of 106 was forecast for Phoenix today. City workers were operating cooling centers by shelters and soup kitchens near the state capital, Mr. Humble said, and several air-conditioned buses were parked in the surrounding area so that homeless people could cool down inside for free.

Cooling centers were also made available today in New York, where temperatures are expected to reach 100. In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg urged New Yorkers to use cooling centers and public swimming pools instead of illegally opening fire hydrants, which "wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute."

New Yorkers can call 311 or log on to to find the nearest cooling center or public pool.

City workers in Chicago were driving people in shuttles to cooling centers and checking in on elderly residents, said a spokesman at the department of health, in an effort to prevent a repeat of the July 1995 heat wave that killed 500 people in the city over a four-day period.

The deaths were attributed to blistering temperatures above 100 that left residents of cramped neighborhoods with asphalt pavement and boarded-up buildings especially vulnerable, according to a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chicago.

In Missouri, where the temperature is expected to exceed 100, health officials are urging people to spend time indoors, in places with air-conditioning. Missouri hit a daily record high on Monday, with 103 in Vichy-Rolla.

At least three people have died in Missouri, and 150 heat-related illnesses have been reported, said Brian Quinn, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Two of the women who died appeared to have had air-conditioning, but were not using it, he said.

The demand for electricity to run air-conditioners is expected to break records in the District of Columbia, Maryland and in parts of Virginia today, according to Pepco, the energy company that serves more than 725,000 customers in the three regions.

Pepco - which broke its record for peak demand at 5 p.m. on Monday as customers used 6,452 megawatts of power - asked its customers to "use energy prudently" to help prevent "possible power supply problems."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Had dinner last night at Spaghettia with Sun Young. They've completely changed their menus, at last they've wisened up to the fact that their food is ridiculously cheap and delicious, and now you have to order one portion for the same price as the original bowl of pasta (originally enough for two).
Had a seafood pasta with light oil dressing - really delicious.

Just now met a New Zealand girl downstairs, who I have seen a few times. Rachael, says her Ozzie boyfriend is not happy about the rugby.

Been telling a story in some classes about a snail that wants the biggest house in the world... That's made me in the mood for garlic snails for some strange reason. Maybe I'll grab some at Outback on my way home...

42/2 Last Day

We have a 5-7 day vacation. Still not quite sure which. Really need this break to rest and also hide away from the heat. Will also use it to develop a road map for the next few months.

Goods news at GnB Restaurant is that the teachers room has been moved to what used to be a storeroom/classroom (fitted with an aircon) so that's an improvement.

Will relax the first couple of days of the break, I expect, do some fun stuff like rollerblading and swimming (Jason said the military have 50m outdoor pools that are virtually empty, so I hope to go sometime as his guest), and then there's the rugby game. That should be a jol. After that I'd like to make a trip on the KTX. Heat permitting I'll go.

Annie told me this morning that they have ordered two airconditioners and have been on a long waiting list.

Sunburn is not nearly as bad as I thought. Sun Young gave me some cream which I've used for the back of my arms. That's where it's reddest.
Got to go and teach now...

Mine's the red bike on the left.

The Wound and the Wounded

Was lying in bed early this morning with words blitzing through my head. Thought if I put them down they'd stop bothering me. Usually when I do this I adopt the profile of novel (chapter number and name) because who knows where it will take you. Anyone think this story should be continued?

The Field

You were running through long grass, away from the road when it happened. I was watching you that day, making your way back through that quiet hillside on the outskirts of town. You stepped on a tea colored bottle. The sun damaged part of it shattered, but the rest of it held firm, and sent jagged teeth clean through the foam of your Nike Airs. I saw you suddenly running on one leg, out of balance, as red wine poured from your foot, soaking the dry blonde grass in a glistening red. You fell into the long grass and it cushioned your fall. You turned on your back, and covered your green grey eyes with your elbow. And lay spread-eagled below me and the sky, with the sun and the crackling grass full on you. It was then that I began to comprehend the wound in you and the wound in me.

I wish you knew the times I watched over you when you were a child. I know I probably watched over you more than a mother should have. In death, the world is clear, it’s all revealed, and our cares and controls are just illusions to help us feel safe. Watching you there in the long grass, as a cold sweat took hold of you; I felt something like the tug on the limb that has been amputated. I felt my silver thread tighten and draw me down even closer to the Earth. And I stood there, your mother, your ghost, haunting the sunrays.

It was not easy. The shock of the pain, the exhaustion of the run, and the sight of eyes of meat watching you from inside your shoe that turned you cold and faint. I leaned over and my see-through silver shadow fell over your face. I saw the small knot knitting your forehead into a frown. I heard your small baby breaths. I realized how much you’d changed since I’d last touched you. Your head shaved and smooth. I waited with you, helpless, as a stranger might do having found an abandoned baby.

I stood there thinking all these things against the flood of Heaven, against the drowning pressure all ghosts feel when they walk the guilty Earth again. I abandoned you because I was abandoned. You know how sorry I am, and that the fugue took over. But seeing you there I realized how that same abandonment had rippled through your life and though different, and modulated by exercise and the many good things happening in your life, was bearing down on you despite your resistance to it, in spite of your battle against it.
I don’t know if it is in our blood, to feel unreal or unwanted burdens. But I know the day my blood left my body; I could see that no one in this world can move through it without going insane first. Watching you here, I wish I had tried to live my way back to sanity. I suppose I did try, for many years. I suppose what I mean is I wish, even though I may have known I would probably not have succeeded in finding a lasting sanity for myself, I could have tried, kept trying, as you do. I could have accepted those nightmarish travails, the hours, and just swum each day patiently against the entropy, against the tide, just as I do now, to leave the bed of Heaven for the belly dancing dreams on Earth. Is there sanity in that? The gush of light here whispers to me, no.

I can hear your heart fisting in your chest.
I can see the rush below your temples.
The universe and its truth swim me away from you. Truth is eternal. And brutal to those not awake. I look at your eyes but only the living can recognize consciousness in the living. Your eyes cannot see me until your journey is done, and even then, if you have not found a way to the here and now, if you have not awakened, you will continue that journey until you do.

If you really want to know, it was the bang of the gun, and my last seconds with my cheek on the floor, unable to blink, that brought me to my Awakening. And then, with all that joy and beauty and love beckoning, my life slipped from me.
And so here you are.

You will have to find a way home. I can see that. You will have to get up and get to a road or a path before it gets too dark.
But you just lie there, not even grimacing. Just frowning, some fantasy spinning through your mind. Now is not the time. You need to move now.
I whirlwind away reluctantly, my silver thread drawn into a spiritual hurricane, borne by the powerful wind of a Great Spirit. You are a dwindling speck below, your red spray still visible from these dizzy heights and then I’m gone but I will find a way to return I promise.

We were stuck in traffic during part of the trip to Cheolwon. We stopped here to buy some corn on the cob and tomatoes. The guy on the left hand side lost his arm. While running the half marathon portion of the half ironman I noticed a small steel triangle hanging off a barbed wire fence beside the road. In fairly small letters was the word 'MINES'.

This is one of many 'bridges' under construction. They are rigged with explosives, so that if there is an overland invasion, the overhead portion collapses over the road, effectively blocking it.

Not too far from this point you can actually see into North Korea. At one point this road snakes along the Imjin River, and is elevated and lined with trees. The curved barbed wire fences and watchtowers lining the river run along its length, but I wondered whether the road was not designed so that people in North Korea could see the traffic swarming along it. North Korea is much poorer, and a key way to overthrow the country, or for the local people to get fedup with hardship and poverty. All outside communication is cut off, so one of the few ways North Koreans can learn anything about the world beyond their country is to look across the river. It's a long way across, and I'm sure local North Korean residents and farmers are not permitted near the southern boundary anyway. I think something like 1 million troops (in the North) patrol the length of the North South axis. On the Southern side, by contrast, farmers are paid subsidies to till the soils between the miltary bases. There's a lot less urban development as you get closer and closer to the DMZ though.

Here's one of many bunkers.

This road to Jeongok is only a handful of kilometres from the North Korean border. You pass military bunkers, checkpoints. At one point I saw a mock helicopter on stilts, perched about 30 metres in the air, with cables and stuff suspended from it. I presume they practise jumping out of helicopters using tethers here.

This is still close to Ilsan. It's these flags that I 'found lying in the road' on my way to Imjingak, and are now hanging up in my apartment. They're to promote a peace festival somewhere on the DMZ. (DMZ = Demilitarised Zone - the mnost heavily fortified and probably dangerous border in the world).

This phone is using GPS software. The LCD has a red arrow showing which direction to take at various intersections, how far it is to the destination etc. Once or twice it took us on roads that were slightly off the beaten track.

This may look like an early morning photo, but it's actually mid-afternoon. The heat builds up incredible humidity which hangs over the fields and mountains as a sort of hazy mist, which appears at first glance to be an overcast sky.

Race goodie bags.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Deadbeat & Cranky

Yesterday's race definitely ranks as one of the hardest I've ever done. It's a hard day if you go in fit and strong, just because the heat on the run is unimaginable. I went in with a couple of swims, 3 cycles in the last month and zero (nada) runs.

Think I'm exagerating? This is what Karlee posted yesterday on her website (

This weekend was so hot that I just took it easy and stayed inside reading and watching videos under the air con. :) Not too interesting, but a lot better than melting outside. I can't believe how hot is is here. I know I went through this before, but it is still hard to get used to.

I've been suffering a lot in the heat as it is. I also can't believe this heat. I'm bacially nowhere near acclimatised to very humid weather, hot, mid 30's C weather like this. So to actually race in it was always going to be a tough ask.

According to our Polar heart rate monitors, temperatures on the road scorched up to 38 C (with high humidity). My heart rate shot up to 170bpm on the swim (and even the swim was warm), and I tried to moderate my effort after the first 5km on the cycle. I'll describe the race in more detail later. I ended up being out for 7h 46m, and stopped a few times to smear Factor 44 sunblock. I even stopped on the bike to cool off in an irrigation canal. My body was wet the whole time, so the sunblock was greasy and runny and ran off my skin the whole time. It still did a reasonable job.

Below is a paragraph I've copied from an email I've just sent. Don't have the energy tonight to sit here writing odysseys all night.
Body is pretty roasted, I'm a walking Thirstland, but not limping quite as bad as Ironman.
Like Ironman came really close to passing out afterwards.


That's a new word I've invented that means emotional blackmail by your boss.

Been cranky all day today. Director chose the wrong day to thumbsuck about stuff ...I dunno what he's thinking...he's a bozo. He's griping about stuff that isn't even happening. I think because I called him this morning to inquire why our vacation is 5 days instead of 7, he is trying to save face or ward off me asking for vacation time by blaming me for stuff at school. I asked him, if I've made so many mistakes, why has he only told me that face to face twice in 3 months. I suggested if he tells me about a problem, I can speak to parents, apologise for whatever, and understand what is happening. I dunno, maybe he has a point. But I get the feeling he is panicking now because so many teachers have left, and now is trying to get us to foot the bill, work harder, and make everything right. I'm not 100% rational today and maybe I have made some mistakes. I'm sure I have. But you know what, I don't really care. The school's a shithole, or maybe it just feels like that because it's so sticky. But you know what's funny? There's an aircon in every room except the teacher's room. His actions basically say this: screw the teachers. That's why 5 of them have left in the past month.

His face started twitching with anger as he was speaking to me, and that anger started to resonate when I realised he was talking about stuff that wasn't even true. Do I want to work for a jerk like this? Am I supposed to cower like a little puppy? I gave him a little speech about how dirty this school has been (he had his newest teacher clean the whole place till 1am at the end of her first day), on his being rude to everyone, his staff, (Sun Young, the doctor I'm teaching said as much when she called the school looking for me and ended up speaking to him), and asked him how come he is a Christian reading the bible everyday, and very obviously but 'there's no kindness'.

Blame Game

He kind've changed his tune after that, and you know, I was surprised he didn't interrupt my temporary fugue with a stupendous self righteous rant, or show some kind of angry reaction. He actually seemed to be listening. A phone call interrupted my Oscar Clip, and I later got to thinking that this was all just a ploy to make me feel guilty or undeserving asking for the week's summer vacation stipulated in the contract.
I don't always understand how minds work here, and I don't pretend I ever will. I have a few ideas and most are probably off target.

Elsewhere, the world is also cooking. If you've read the earlier posting showing how CO2 is now 3 times higher than any records we have (including from ice and mud cores going back over 400 000 years), and we bare in mind that CO2 and rising air temperatures go hand in hand, my own personal,firsthand, original, source experience is to feel that the weather is definitely changing. If next year is hotter than this year, here, then that's frightening. Because a few degrees higher than it's been and it's becoming life threatening.

Now to focus on something altogether different: Black Hawk Down is on OCN.

Triple-Digit Temperatures Scorch Midwest

By NATHANIEL HERNANDEZ, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 45 minutes ago

CHICAGO - Skyrocketing temperatures surpassed the 100-degree mark here for the first time in six years, prompting Chicago officials to implement an emergency response plan honed after hundreds of people died in a heat wave a decade ago.

Sweat-drenched city workers fanned out across Chicago on Sunday, checking on elderly residents and shuttling people to cooling centers. By late afternoon, temperatures at Midway Airport had reached 104 degrees, just one degree lower than the highest temperature ever recorded in the city, according to the
National Weather Service.

"If you looked at who died in 1995, it was not triathletes, it wasn't people at ballparks, it wasn't people at outdoor festivals, it was the elderly who were living alone," said Dr. William Paul, acting commissioner of the city's Public Health Department.

Full Story here:

Schoeman sets new world record

Montreal - South Africa's Roland Schoeman set a 50m butterfly world record of 23.01 in the semi-finals at the 11th World Swimming Championships here on Sunday.

Schoeman improved on the previous record in the non-Olympic event, set by American Ian Crocker in Austin, Texas, on February 29, 2004.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I'm sitting at a computer that has been set up right beside the reception in the hotel we're staying in.
Today has been unbearably hot.

The highlight of today was swimming in the reservoir.
It's 8:33pm and still extremely sticky and warm.
I'd like to finish this race, and if it is very hot, I'll just take it easy and enjoy it. Maybe get off my bike and swim in a nearby stream if the opportunity presents itself.

If it is hot enough to melt tar, I think I am just gonna sit out the run in the fountains around the finish.
Just had dinner now, and met an American, Jason, who is also doing the Ironman in Jeju. Will be good if we can do a portion of the race together tomorrow.

I've taken quite a few photos. Will post them tomorrow at some stage.


Perfect time trial means building entire day around one hour

By CHRIS CARMICHAEL, For The Associated Press July 22, 2005

Imagine building your entire day around one hour. One hour in which only a perfect performance will be considered successful. The final test in Lance Armstrong's quest to win a seventh Tour de France comes in Saturday's Stage 20 individual time trial, and after 14 years as a professional cyclist, it comes down to one perfect hour. An individual time trial can be the loneliest hour of a cyclist's life. While most cycling events involve a pack of riders, you're all by yourself during the individual time trial. There are no teammates to call on for help and no one to draft behind. There's a car following you, but the people in it can't give you food or water. It's just you against the clock, fastest man wins.

Lance Armstrong excels in this discipline. To be successful in what's referred to as ``the race of truth,'' you have to have the ability to produce a massive amount of power and hold that intensity for 60-80 minutes. To win Saturday, Lance will have to average about 30-31 mph for about 72-74 minutes. To put that in perspective, the average cyclist can sustain 30-31 mph for about three minutes. In order to win an individual time trial in the Tour de France, Lance seeks perfection. It's not enough to be perfect on the bike; everything he does from the moment he wakes up has an impact on his performance.

The day starts at about 8:30 a.m. Riders don't need to wake up exceedingly early because the daily stages are scheduled so they finish around 5:00 p.m. The whole team eats breakfast together at about 9:00 a.m. The meal consists of whole grain cereals, dark breads, omelets, fruit, and often potatoes or rice. It is quite high in carbohydrates because the body depletes about 80 percent of its carbohydrate stores in the liver overnight.

After breakfast, Lance and his teammates will go out on the road for a short spin. Lance will ride his time trial bike for about 25-30 miles to get comfortable on the bike and stretch his legs. He hasn't been on this very specific machine for more than two weeks, and it's good to get reacquainted with it in the morning before competing in the afternoon. Once he gets back from his morning ride at about 10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m., Lance will talk with the mechanics about the bike and possibly make some slight adjustments. He'll get a shower and probably a quick massage to keep his legs and back supple and loose, and then he'll relax until lunch.

Lance will eat his last substantial meal about two and a half hours before his start time. As the race leader, Lance will be the last rider to roll out of the start house, so his start time will be late, probably around 4:22 p.m. The meal will be mostly carbohydrates because that's the primary fuel he'll be using to power his high intensity effort. He'll eat a few cups of a light pasta dish; he won't want anything that will sit heavily in his stomach. He'll also eat some whole grain bread, fruit, and maybe some salad.

There is a rule in cycling that the shorter an event, the longer the warmup. For long road stages, riders barely warm up at all. Lance warms up for about 50 minutes before long individual time trials, and he'll arrive at the race site about 90 minutes before his start time to get ready and start warming up. While Lance changes clothes in the team bus, his time trial bike will be put on a stationary trainer outside. Some of his teammates will be there warming up for their own time trials, and the others will already be on the course. Lance's 50-minute warmup is not just a simple spin to loosen up. To win a time trial, you have to be ready to ride at maximum speed from the moment you leave the start house. You have to prepare your body, otherwise the shock of going from rest to maximum effort will significantly harm your performance. Lance's warmup is designed to wake a sleeping giant. He has to gradually activate his aerobic engine, and then increase intensity to progressively activate the energy systems that power successively harder efforts. Lance goes hard in his warmup, and actually goes above the effort level he reaches during competition. He needs to kick-start the mechanisms that control the production of energy and metabolic byproducts when exercising at very high intensities. About 10 minutes before his start time, Lance wraps up his warmup, eats a PowerGel and tucks another under the leg of his skinsuit. His bike is removed from the stationary trainer, checked over by the mechanic, and Lance heads for the start house.

Once Lance looks down the ramp to the road ahead, all of the hours since he woke up melt away. He sits still on his bike, both feet secured onto his pedals while someone holds him upright by the back of his seat. The starter finally begins the countdown. His fingers count down the final five seconds to Lance's start time, and then his hand flattens and extends out over the ramp. It's time to go.

For the next hour and change, Lance will ride as hard and fast as his body and physics will allow. Though he'll burn more than 1500 calories during the effort and sweat out about two liters of fluid, he'll only consume one 100-calorie PowerGel and one 500-millileter bottle of fluid.

There's no time for more food and nowhere to carry more fluid. Moreover, there's no room for error. There can be no stiff back from a poor night's sleep, nor an empty or upset stomach from a bad or incorrectly-scheduled meal, or mechanical problems with the bike or insufficient power from an inadequate warmup. Perfect rides come from perfect preparation, and there's no one who has mastered the art and science of preparation the way Lance Armstrong has.

36 C

My software provides up to the minute news and weather data. Today is predicted to be 36 degrees celcius. I went out at 10:30 am to have my Stratos bars fitted to my bike and the STR's removed for tomorrow's triathlon. At 10:30am it was already cooking. I have to fetch my bike at 1pm from the Cannondale Shop and will be carrying a bag for the trip. Going to be a very sweaty trip from my blue cool apartment to the club car's aircon.

I saw in the newspaper that Spain is also having its hottest and dryest season since historical records began...

Oil shocks come quickly, not giving people time to plan for oil substitutes. There won't be time to plant energy crops and wait around ten years for them to grow. There will hardly be time to wait for the ethanol plants to be constructed.

So here's how the next oil shock might play out in the woods: After the short-term rationing and associated chaos, we'll see ethanol plants under construction everywhere except in the deserts. But while they're being built, much wood will be cut for home heating and for hastily converted oil-fired power plants. Government forestry agencies will make TV ads and booklets extolling the virtues of clearcutting for energy supplies and wildlife. They'll also tell us that our forests are biologically over-mature and in need of "rejuvenation."

Foresters and loggers will probably get extra fuel rations. If the situation gets really bad, they might be conscripted in some fashion to serve the national interests by "producing" more cellulose feedstocks to feed the ethanol plants. Landowners may see their forests condemned by the state for the same purpose. Of course the government would turn over appropriated lands to Exxon-Mobil-BP-Texaco for actual "management" of the biomass resource.

On the positive side, we'll finally get mandatory paper recycling because most of the pulpwood needed for making paper will now go for ethanol. We'll see public money spent on public transportation. There will be lots more bicycles and power-assisted bicycles on the road. Fuel cells will be specially designed to run on ethanol. There will be national campaigns for people to go vegetarian so that land devoted to pasturage and grain production for livestock can be converted to energy crops.

Prices for photovoltaic (PV) panels will come down and will be installed on many roofs. Large PV arrays will be installed in sunny, desert areas. Windmill farms will pop up wherever there's enough steady wind. If huge efforts are made in energy efficiency at the same time, there might be enough solar and wind electricity to satisfy most residential and commercial demand. Industrial demand will be another matter.

Meanwhile, forests will keep disappearing into the maws of chippers for ethanol feedstock production. Then at some point it will become clear that we face a critical choice: our forests or our cars? It will still be years before all the energy crop plantings will be ready to harvest. For most people this will be a very difficult choice. Oil and car company propaganda won't make matters easier.

We can only hope that Gaia won't get too perturbed with all this, plus all our other crimes against her, and just decide to shut us all down by means of massive forest fires, insect infestations, diseases and diebacks induced by climate change. We'll have to hope that the same fate doesn't befall the energy crops. And we'll have to hope that we don't get a climate "flip-flop" back towards glacial conditions just when we're busy at adapting to life without fossil fuels. The timing would be just too much.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Billabong Day

Today was 34 degrees Celcius, and tomorrow is supposed to be a sweltering 36C. Oh, I've just rechecked and it's back to 33C. Sun Young told me today was the hottest day so far this summer. It actually didn't feel too bad. I went to school dressed for the beach - wore my Billabong shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals and a cap. Got the aircons whirring and had my ice coffee ready right off the bat. I ate 3 or 4 ice cool nectarines for lunch - delicious.

It was a very easy day at school. Only a third of the students were present. Most of them are off enjoying their vacations. I handed out a lot of puzzles and crosswords and was pleased to see very high levels of concentration and interest. I think it's a fact moany teachers forget, or avoid: children (and adults) learn best playing games/having fun. It's a sad reality that we adults get out of the habit of playing games.

After school I missed the 3300 bus by about 10 seconds, and had to wait about 16 minutes for the next one. Usually the wait is 4 or 5 minutes.
Sun Young drove to Aroi where we had dinner and an English lesson. After a few minutes Ryan and Aaron arrived. Aaron has had a hectic time in the States. He contracted CMV, and an extended stay in hospital has saddled him with a huge bill. The equivalent, I think he said, of W15 million. That's really tough.
He has a buddy in San Diego, so we gave Aaron Sun Young's email so that they could get in touch when Sun Young goes there for her medical conference.
We left Aroi at 22:00, and Sun Yougn very generously paid for the meal. My share would have been W14 500, which is roughly twice as much as my 'donation' earlier in the day for a newspaper (which, ironically, I gave to Sun Young). I felt there was an odd sense of humor filling the shivering heatwaves around me today.

I am so glad it's weekend. Next week is just 2 days work before another week long break.

'I saw it, he's dead'

London - Police shot and killed a man at a London subway station on Friday, a day after the city was hit by its second wave of terror attacks in two weeks.

The details of the shooting at Stockwell station in south London were not immediately clear, but media reports said he was a suspected bomber.

Passengers said a man, described as South Asian, ran onto a train. Witnesses said police chased him, he tripped, and police then shot him.

"They pushed him onto the floor and unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He's dead. Five shots. He's dead," witness Mark Whitby told the British Broadcasting Corporation. "He looked like a cornered fox. He looked petrified."

Color...No, Terror by Numbers?

Anyone notice that London's terror attacks occurred on 7/7? Has a similar ring to it as 9/11 doesn't it?

Yuan news 'great for SA'

By: Helmo Preuss

Johannesburg - The move on Thursday by the People's Bank of China (PBC) to remove the decade-old US dollar-yuan peg is great news for South Africa, as it will encourage even more South African exports of raw materials to China, without necessarily leading to a stronger rand, analysts said.
The main proviso is that South Africa gets its logistics chain management up to the standards of its competitors; otherwise all the extra demand engendered by the yuan revaluation will go to countries such as Australia and Brazil.

That is one of the reasons why Maria Ramos was appointed chief executive officer of transport utility Transnet, as Transnet is the key player in the logistics chain.

Railway derailments, stacker malfunctions, lack of rolling stock, the unavailability of cranes for the port of Ngqura, these are all completely unacceptable and as bad as dropped passes in a Tri-Nations match.

The halftime score line was not very impressive, as bulk export volumes declined by 2.9% year-on-year (y/y) in June to only 9.194 million tons after a respectable performance of 10.24 million tons shipped in May.

Who dropped the pass?

Chinese imports on the other hand grew by 15.1% y/y in June, which is a performance that South African exporters should at least have matched.

Rio Tinto for instance boosted its second quarter iron ore output from its Australian mines by 15% y/y to over 32 million tons, whereas Kumba will be lucky to export that much in a full year.

Apart from boosting demand for South African exports, the Chinese revaluation will also help in "burden-sharing" of the adjustment to global imbalances.

Over the past three years, the burden of currency adjustment to the US dollar has been carried by Europe and the so-called "commodity currencies", which includes South Africa.

During this time, the US trade-weighted dollar has depreciated by some 10% with no effect on the burgeoning US foreign trade deficit, which already exceeds 6% of gross domestic product.

The "free-floating" currencies have appreciated by some 30% against the US dollar, but the Asian and Middle Eastern currencies, which account for around two-thirds of the US foreign trade deficit, have kept to their pegs, accumulating massive foreign exchange reserves and intervening to keep their currencies "weak".

In China's case, their foreign exchange reserves are the world's second largest at over US$710bn, while Japan, which has the world's largest, is equally under pressure to allow its currency to find its own value without Bank of Japan purchases of US dollars.

In the fourth quarter 2004, the rand went to its strongest level real trade-weighted value this century, as real exports grew by 9.3% y/y.

This is in marked contrast to the fourth quarter 2001, when real exports plummeted by 8.0% y/y, the weakest y/y change in exports this century, resulting in a record weak rand.

Now that Asian - Middle Eastern currencies such as the Saudi Arabian riyal are unlikely to abandon their decades-old peg to the US dollar - currencies will share some of the burden of global currency re-alignment, it means that although South African real export growth could exceed last year's performance, the rand need not appreciate as much.

43 10 Done, 20 Weeks Remaining

Had quite a productive morning. While the last 3 Tour De France stages were downloading, I got some educational material, with the focus on fun, off the net. Discovery has some useful stuff, like puzzlemakers,crosswords, lateral thinking brainteasers for kids etc. Made some massive puzzles and other games since today the Public Schools break up for the holiday.

Fixed up Sun Young's Abstract which is hectic medical jargon, and posted some articles that show a clear and present danger, in terms of both H5N1 and Climate Change. I saw a documentary done by National Geographic which reveals new insights in the complicated Theory of Weather and Climate. It's fair to say that this documentary disturbed me as much as The End of Suburbia did.

Also did all the washing and cleaning, then slipped out into the oven to pay my phone bill across the road. Last month it was over W60 000, this month it is W48 000, with at least W43 000 being internet charges. Shows you how little I make local calls from home.

Then went to the bank to pay my electricity bill. Just over W30 000. I am expecting a shock when I get the next one as I have been putting the aircon through its paces. Day and night. Turn it off, and my apartment rapidly transforms into a sauna. I turn it off when I go out, and when I get back the thermometer reads around 28 degrees.
Feels like I am sitting in a sauna right school. Sweat is literally streaming down the back of my neck.

Everything went quite smoothly until I went to buy a newspaper in Madu subway. Maybe reality was different to how I remember it. I remember grudgingly parting with my W500 coin (needed for the bus), and then right after paying I pulled out another W1000 note and asked for change (2xw500 coins). The woman insisted on taking that as payment for the paper, and when I tried to explain I had already paid she called her son over. Since I was running pecariously close to being late, I thought stuff it, and grabbed the W500 coin I'd placed with the opther 2 W100 coins, between the sweets (which I think, thinking back, she probably hadn't noticed). Now I think she thought I'd stolen her money, so sent her son after me. I was feeling huffy, having paid W1200 for a W700 newspaper.

On the stairwell I heard her son shouting and running after me. Now I realised they clearly thought I'd taken the newspaper, that I'd stolen it. This annoyed me even more, because I was the one who'd lost money. I quickly whipped out my wallet, trying to dispel the myth that all foreigners are criminals, and intended to do away with whatever money they thought I owed with another W1000. The irony is, I had a W1000 in my hand, and one W500 coin, but I had to hold on to these for the bus. So when I opened my wallet, all I had was a wad of W10 000 notes, and one sweaty W5000 that I'd discovered in my pocket in the bank.
So I stuffed a W5000 into his hand.
Then, amazed at myself, and going slightly crazy at the same time, ran up the escalator, and now the guy pursued me again.
At the top of the escalator I tried to explain, using actions, exactly how I had made the purchase. Except I lacked W200 in coins. Exasperated, I left him with a total booty of W6200 (for a W700 newspaper).

Now, I'm not sure why I didn't just leave the newspaper. It wasn't as though I really really wanted it. And ironically, I'd already read most of the Herald's stories online this morning anyway. Crazy!

The good news is I am 1/3rd of the way through my time here. I've worked May, June and half of July, and have 5 months to go if we include the first part of December. And after August it will just get cooler and more pleasant. I'm sure during the last third time is really going to fly.

I'm going to Cheolwon tomorrow to do this half Ironman, but if it is hot like today, I won't even start the run. This week also seems to have raced by. Hopefully I'll do the same on Sunday.