Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008: Year in Review - My Highlights, Lowlights, Lessons Learned, Regrets and Hopes for the Future

Like everybody else, my 2008 was a roller coaster ride of mythic proportions. Somewhere in there the world seemed to come off the rails, with words like food crisis, financial crisis and climate crisis suddenly entering the mainstream with a vengeance. Can I see a show of hands - anyone still think climate change is all in our heads? Or that the 'market' will sort out our energy predicaments? This year we discovered that we need to be accountable and responsible for some of the problems we have co-created.

The world - and by that I just mean all the people in it - expects a lot of confidence from its celebrities and success stories. And yes, confidence has its place. For example in sport, one has to confidently and aggressively and single-mindedly pursue one's goals. However, single-mindedness and a blinders approach in all aspects of life can be phenomenally misguided, dangerous and frankly fatalistic. George W. Bush epitomises this, but many ordinary people echo similar strong but ultimately deluded views.

It is not entirely the fault of the individual, although of course individuals are free, and have always been, to break free from the conventional wisdoms - or lack of. One of the conventional psychologies are that we are consumers. That belief alone is responsible for a vast amount of damage - to ourselves, our environment, our world. It is an unhappy way of being, and will have unhappy consequences - we're experiencing many of these now.

Our most treasured and closely held beliefs - embodied in religion - are an important reservoir of ignorance. The more we believe in some things in spite of evidence to the contrary, the better our faith. Really?

To conclude my finger pointing - I very confidently predicted that oil prices would end the year at $150. I was wrong. I have since heard predictions about 2009, and going onto to 2010 and 2030. If we - and I - learn anything from 2008 it is that volatility has increased to near-chaos levels. This means we can't confidently expect anything of the future...but perhaps we can have some faith in ourselves, and try to trust that our fellows will do the same. That faith will have to be different to the faith we've had in the past - if it is not discerning it will cost us dearly. We might lose our homes, our families, our jobs.

Now, the highlights of 2008.


It has been an incredible year. It started with a great trip with my family to Botswana. The Argus, and staying at the Colosseum was stunning. Since then I've visited Seoul, South Korea on a press tour, I've cycled to Durban, I've met some stunning people especially through cycling but also through my photography. My photography this year has really taken off.

Roxanne Meyer [above]
deserves a mention. Great gal. Jordana Malkoff - also someone to watch.
My Cansa cycle race in Sun City (we stayed in the Palace) was awesome - I finished in just over 2:30 averaging over 40km/h. In terms of the other races, the OFM was one of my best and another Free State based race where I gave my brother carrots in the final section. More recently the triathlon in Potch, was awesome.

In terms of writing and photography, it has been a super year, with stories published in Financial Mail, the Sunday Independent, the Sunday Times, Leisure Wheels (including feature stories), Ride magazine, The Times, Sowetan - and photography in Rapport, The Times, True Love and One of the highlights was interviewing Dan Barker, one of the animators from Horton Hears a Who!

In terms of entertainment, who could forget The Dark Knight, Juno, Australia, Horton and Hansie.
Some of my more memorable reads this year was Garth King's book on Hansie, and Clinton van der Berg's biography on Ryk, Chasing the Dream.

I've met some great new people this year, especially through cycling. It really shows how we meet like minds, like spirits, by pursuing our passions. People who love what they do are great to be around.

Finally, this website has done phenomenally well this year. On numerous occasions I was serious about quitting blogging completely. My goal was to reach 100 000 page impressions this year. In September alone this blog drew over 35 000 hits, and from 3000 hits a month in January is now drawing a steady 7000 page impressions month on month. Since the internet is likely to explode in South Africa next year, online resources that are already in place ought to do even better next year. I feel very fortunate to be working in this environment. The only other environment that seems to be viable in the chaotic context we now find ourselves, I believe, is Pharmaceuticals (oh, and farming, and renting one's home...)


My trip to Korea had a nasty aftertaste. Despite working myself literally to exhaustion, I went through a troubling period where no editor even responded to story offers. Given the background work and expense involved in getting this material, this was enormously dispiriting. Also,since the Olympics were in Beijing (a stone's throw from Korea), and the SA team were based for a time in Daejon, Korea, it was particularly odd for me that editors apparently had no interest in Korea.

One of the people I encountered in Korea I initially got along with like a house on fire, and she later did a 180 and seemed to believe I was a typical South African misogynist and racist. This was based on an offhand remark I made about my interpreter, saying she would make a great PA to the head of Samsung, or the President. She then twisted the comment, saying, "Would you want to be a PA?" and when I answered "No" judged this evidence of my distasteful sexism. Even though I discussed the remark with my interpreter who didn't see it in the miscroscopic context, this person took up her cause on her behalf. Quite sad.

Another lowlight - a drunk guy stucking his finger in my eye at 'O Hagans near Fourways, saying, "I don't need to watch movies to open my eyes to what's going on." That same evening an ex-girlfriend and ex-friend enjoyed drunk once-off sex together and then each later described in some detail how wonderful it was.
The premiere of Triomf provided a Part 2 to the horror, where this friend decided to lecture me on my love life and appropriate standards, and the projector appropriately enough burned a hole through the celluloid.

I was horribly sick a few times during the year. On one occasion I had food poisoning or something similar, and each movement felt like I was moving through ice cold needles.

[1 hour after bee sting - the swelling begins...]
2 bee stings - and right now my eyes are almost swollen shut from the second bee sting this morning. Race for Victory was the other one, also not one of my best races.

[8 hours later - looking distinctly serial killer-ish]
While I have met some stunning people for my photography, I have also met some incredible time wasters. Unfortunately the time-wasters have been in the majority.

My 94.7 and Amashova races - hated them. The Roodeplaat triathlon - where I learned that you cannot participate with triathlon bars - was a ginormous waste of time.

Then there are a few lowlights that I'm not really at liberty to mention. Suffice it to say, one person can make your life a living Hell on a daily basis.


Regrets - I've had a few. I wish I had tested myself for AIDS sooner, visited the Melrose Arch Gym more and not missed so many early bird cycle sessions.

After Potch I regret not doing any of the other short course triathlons. Triathlon is a very natural fit for me since I am a strong swimmer and cyclist, and with some effort, am capable of a respectable run.

I also regret that I am still in the 80-something range weight wise. I wish I had switched to water-only drinking earlier, and also trimmed my meat intake. I am now a lot more serious about diet.

I regret not cycling along the M1 highway to get to the start. This meant I rode 24km instead of 11km, and got off to a poor start at the back of E-bunch.

To some extent I regret the amounts of time spent online and on this blog. It has interfered with my training, especially in terms of not getting the required rest or sleep before and after work.

Lessons Learned

I guess I have learned quite a few. One is to have a combination of a flexible attitude and a singleminded focus. Another is to follow the lead of champions like Ryk and set goals. I set goals for this blog, and for the articles I intended to publish, and more than achieved these. I have different goals for 2009, including publishing literary work (books) rather than articles, losing around 7kg (weighing 75kg), doing the 2009 Ironman and possibly getting married.

I have also learned to let sleeping dogs lie. This is something I have never believed, all my life, but not everyone wants to deal with their own issues, and I guess that is their problem.

Hopes for the Future

Like everyone else, the financial pinch is a concern. Will I have a job this time next year? How much worse will things get? I spoke with Barry Ronge earlier today who said the top movies this year were all based on Comic Books. I think the top 7. This shows to what extent people want to escape their circumstances. The fact that a real life story - Sex in the City, and James Bond - were the top performers on this list says something of how relevant reality has become to our present scenario. Yet it is in the real world that we will need to be inspired, and have inspired performances.

Next year will be my 20th year reunion at Grey College - the class of '89. Quite a few of the guys have friend requested me recently on Facebook. Jeepers, I think we all remember people from school we'd rather not hear from again. I didn't want to buddies then, why would I now? Why do they? The class of '89... Moving right along...

When I visited Potch last weekend for the triathlon, I realised in my gut that there is hope for us yet. Maybe not for everyone - but if there are people who are happy to gather on a Sunday and swim, bike and run - happy to put in an effort, to see what they can do, then there is definitely cause for hope.
Only through hard work and effort will we do well. Those used to laziness, convenience and being fat are going to struggle. Here's a warning. As the oil era winds down, the world will need to shed most of its passengers. There won't be enough capacity to feed them or provide them with fuel. Will you be one of the majority that sinks, or will you learn to swim?

I intend to do the half Ironman in mid-January in East London in 2009, and based on that will see whether the Ironman in April is on. I also intend to do a plethora of races in Gauteng, including Gauteng Champs. I will probably do all the cycling races I did this year, and attempt to improve on all of them.

I'd like to see NVDL reaching 10 000 hits a month and reaching 300 000 page impressions this time next year.

I hope to go under 3 hours in this year's Argus, and to begin to compete with the VB's as a member of Cycling South Africa. I guess if I have learned anything this year, it is to let sleeping dogs lie.

I will be working in new directions in 2009 - one area I want to develop is video. Especially publishing streams on YOUTUBE. The other aspect is I intend to publish at least one book (it's already written) in 2009, and hopefully more to follow. My strategy of writing more and more and hoping a publisher would accept me seems to be going nowhere. So I will probably self-publish the first handful and see what materialises subsequently. I also hope to develop a children's book - Simon and the Cyclopede...and I had another children's story idea recently...

I also want to continue to pursue my photography. Perhaps I will have another exhibition in 2009.

I think it is up to all of us to find news ways to adapting to the new rules. The new rules are:

- rapid change
- chaos and crime
- no growth/contraction
- pessimism
- panic

A great place to start is with your own thinking, and your body. If you can use your mind to change your body, the rest is easy.

Finally I'd like to wish all my supporters, friends and visitors to NVDL a happy and festive Christmas. Personally I believe 2009 will be tougher than 2008 has been. The good news is we are now in a more rational environment, and the way we were living wasn't healthy for us or our world.

In 2009 we can take hands and start learning how to live again. Share your lessons and laughter with me, why don't you, and say 'Yes' to all the opportunities that come your way. Thanks for being here with me throughout this year. See you soon!

2007 in Review
Inside the Free State’s biggest cycle race
Jennifer Aniston is looking GREAT
Chabal - The Human Wrecking Ball

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