Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why fixing energy policy is so difficult

Posted on April 25, 2011 by gailtheactuary

Everyone would like to fix the US energy policy, *but doing so is almost impossible, in my view, primarily because we need to be planning for a much bigger change than most people can even imagine.* [italics added]

***It seems to me that our international financial system is at this point, inching closer and closer to collapse. It needs growth to operate. Now that world oil supplies are virtually flat (and China and India and oil exporters are getting more of the oil), the financial system can't get enough growth momentum. The US has applied various sleight of hand techniques to try to cover this problem (see my post
What's Behind US Budget Problems?), but *at some time in the not too distant future, the techniques are going to stop working, and there is going to be a major financial crash, with debt defaults.* This could happen when QE2 ends, or maybe QE3, QE4, or QE5. The timing may vary by country, with some countries holding out for a while longer.*** [italics added]

*The reason I point this out is because after such a crash, as far as I can see, everything is going to go downhill quickly.* [italics added] This is a graph of my view of one such scenario of oil supplies, if a country that imports all its oil undergoes such a collapse:
Figure 1. Type of drop in oil consumption that could occur, if a country gets shut out from buying oil because of debt problems.

***The point is that the oil consumption goes down very quickly, not over a period of many years, because the decline in supply is determined by something quite different from what oil is in the ground--it is determined by ability to pay for the oil.*** A potential buyer can be cut off very quickly, if its credit is no good. We have gotten used to the idea of being able to keep running a tab, but at some point, this whole process is likely to come to a halt--something that can't go on forever, won't. Some international trade may continue, especially when a country has goods to trade for oil (rather than an IOU), but the level of free trade we have now can't be expected to continue indefinitely.

***The problem I see with a collapse scenario is that a plan that uses less oil and tries to make it go farther really isn't helpful. Thus, a gas tax, or cap-and-trade, or fuel-efficient cars, or more fossil fuel extenders like wind and solar PV really aren't helpful. Instead, we need to put our effort into figuring out how we would get along without fossil fuels and nuclear, rather than get along with less. Arguably, we may have some supply for a while, but if we do, we need to use it to help with the transition, not to expect such supply to continue forever. This is the big problem I have with energy policies and transition plans--they assume we are planning for a slow decline, when it is likely that we will not have such a decline.***
In the case of an oil producer rather than an oil importer, perhaps the situation is better, but even here, there is a question of how much will continue to be produced, if there is major political upheaval. We know that the USSR broke up at the time of its collapse. There would seem to be a substantial chance of that happening elsewhere.

***Everyone would like to add new and more complex systems to help--for example, more wind with upgraded transmission systems, smart grids, and electric cars. As nice as these might seem, the new systems become more and more complex, and more dependent on everything working together exactly correctly. As we lose ability to import spare parts, they will become very difficult to maintain, and will likely collapse within a few years. While they seem appealing, I don't think they will add very much for very long.***
*Moving to a new system will require a lot of other changes:* [italics added]

1. A different financial system, that is not dependent on debt and growth.
2. More even distribution of incomes. With much less wealth, it won't make sense for a few to have such a disproportionate share.
3. More even distribution of land. Without fossil fuels, it will not be possible to farm nearly as large plots. This also goes with more even distribution of wealth.

*Changes such as these would be very difficult to make within our current structure. But without making such changes as well, it is hard to see that the new system would work.* [italics added]

In a post a while ago, I explained some of the things that seem to me to need to be done. I called the post,
What President Obama Should Have Said Regarding Energy Policy. ***I don't know that there is a real way that we can make major changes, without actually hitting a financial wall first. Perhaps a few people can work on such changes, and implement their own local versions of them.*******************************************************************************************************************************

Courtesy of William Tamblyn: 
China Proposes To Cut Two Thirds Of Its $3 Trillion In USD Holdings

Submitted by
Tyler Durden on 04/24/2011 11:05 -0400

All those who were hoping global stock markets would surge tomorrow based on a ridiculous rumor that China would revalue the CNY by 10% will have to wait. Instead, China has decided to serve the world another surprise. Following last week's announcement by PBoC Governor Zhou (
Where's Waldo) Xiaochuan that the country's excessive stockpile of USD reserves has to be urgently diversified, today we get a sense of just how big the upcoming Chinese defection from the "buy US debt" Nash equilibrium will be. Not surprisingly, China appears to be getting ready to cut its USD reserves by roughly the amount of dollars that was recently printed by the Fed, or $2 trilion or so. And to think that this comes just as news that the Japanese pension fund will soon be dumping who knows what. So, once again, how about that "end of QE" again?

***China's foreign exchange reserves increased by 197.4 billion U.S. dollars in the first three months of this year to 3.04 trillion U.S. dollars by the end of March.***

***Xia Bin, a member of the monetary policy committee of the central bank, said on Tuesday that 1 trillion U.S. dollars would be sufficient. He added that China should invest its foreign exchange reserves more strategically, using them to acquire resources and technology needed for the real economy.
And as if the public sector making it all too clear what is about to happen was not enough, here is the private one as well:
China should reduce its excessive foreign exchange reserves and further diversify its holdings, Tang Shuangning, chairman of China Everbright Group, said on Saturday.

The amount of foreign exchange reserves should be restricted to between 800 billion to 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars, Tang told a forum in Beijing, saying that the current reserve amount is too high.

Tang's remarks echoed the stance of Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of China's central bank, who said on Monday that China's foreign exchange reserves "exceed our reasonable requirement" and that the government should upgrade and diversify its foreign exchange management using the excessive reserves.

Tang also said that China should further diversify its foreign exchange holdings. He suggested five channels for using the reserves, including replenishing state-owned capital in key sectors and enterprises, purchasing strategic resources, expanding overseas investment, issuing foreign bonds and improving national welfare in areas like education and health.

However, these strategies can only treat the symptoms but not the root cause, he said, noting that the key is to reform the mechanism of how the reserves are generated and managed.
The last sentence says it all. ***While China is certainly tired of recycling US Dollars, it still has no viable alternative, especially as long as its own currency is relegated to the C-grade of not even SDR-backing currencies. But that will all change very soon. Once the push for broad Chinese currency acceptance is in play, the CNY and the USD will be unpegged, promptly followed by China dumping the bulk of its USD exposure, and also sending the world a message that US debt is no longer a viable investment*** opportunity. In fact, we are confident that the reval is a likely a key preceding step to any strategic decision vis-a-vis US FX exposure (read bond purchasing/selling intentions). As such, all those Americans pushing China to revalue, may want to consider that such an action could well guarantee hyperinflation, once the Fed is stuck as being the only buyer of US debt.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How social media impacts study performance

Is Social Media Ruining Students?
I think this is also true in terms of overall work performance. Facebook is a time and attention sponge.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Two Oceans Vibe  - By Nick van der Leek

I've just had a look at my dated obsolete SONY CYBERSHOT 7.2 mp camera to figure out why I was such a lousy photographer on the 23rd.  Seems it was automatically set on No-Flash which meant it needed a much higher light setting for clear snaps.  Not ideal lighting then if you're running an hour before the crack of dawn.  So apologies for the mostly poor picture quality below.

This was my first half marathon in roughly 6 years, and it's hard to say which one had more people.  The previous one was at midday near Seoul, a flat course, and a beautiful day.  I ran a 1:39.

This race attracted a record 14000 entrants, and the race T-shirt was a doozy.  It is an amazing feeling driving to an event like this and finding major traffic jams at 5:30am to get to the start.  The start of course is throbbing with shivering runners in their thousands.

I was feeling nervous because my calves were stiff, and I was hoping against hope that since they felt less stiff running than walking, I'd be off the hook.  Unfortunately, during the  first kilometre, I knew I was in for a long, brutal day.  My legs felt extremely stale and tired, and I really felt the gradual upward tilt of the road through Claremont.

The downhill at Wynberg brought Jean-Marie and me to a long downhill, and 5km, which we reached in 28 minutes.  We were hunting the 2 hour pace-runners, because that was our goal - to run a sub 2 hour.  6-7 kilometres felt fine, but I started misfiring at around 8-9km.  Now the road tilted towards Constantia Nek, and so I finally said to JM, "Don't wait for me."  A few moments later she drifted forward in the throng and was gone...heading towards Sub Two Hour Land.

I had been trying to extricate myself out of E [aka the no-hopers] but it was quite an interesting group.  There was even a runaway bride, with veil, running with her husband [they had 'JUST MARRIED' safety pinned to their vests].  They sounded like run-loving-pommies. 

JM hit 10km at 57-58 minutes, I had already lost about 3 minutes by the time I reached the 10km mark.  Then we headed for Southern Cross Drive, 3km of uphill.  I refused to walk, which meant eventually I was running at just above walking pace.  It was amazing to me at this point to still be surrounded by a thick swathe of runners, in fact I was ensconced with bouncing bodies from start to finish.

At 15km the road dipped a little but beyond Kirstenbosch the sheer distance started eating the back of my knees.  I started feeling like a muscle could twang at any moment. I saw someone here called Tanya, smothered in tats, running in a pair of Vibrams, and slowing noticably on the downhills.  And so was I...runners were slowly drifting by me now, on both sides.  I hate it when that happens!

I'd obviously not trained enough beyond a few treadmill runs, and was hopelessly underprepared for the uphills.  At kilometre 18 the alarm bells were going off, so for the first time I reached out for some Coke to kickstart the system.  19-20 was a teeth-gritting, snail-shitting nightmare, with my legs screaming at me that I was leading them back to permanent injury and would I please give them a fucking break. I insisted on not walking, and threw another cup of Coke at my mouth.

Someone pitched up alongside me with the sign: "I may be slow..."  She said her partner had the rest of the message: "But I'm faster than you."  She then proceeded to walk, catch up to me, walk, for the next 2 kilometres.  The signs on the lampposts weren't any help either:
- Almost there
- This is your greatest feet
- The truth is in your sole

The incidental uphills in the last kilometre were depressing to say the least, and whilst I entertained the fantasy of going under 2:10, the last hill laughed at me.

Again, I refused to walk, and once on the grass in front of UCT sped up, and got some nice momentum going until my inner thighs gave a jelly twinge...I slowed as I passed the announcer, who said, "Come on Nick."  I finished in a crappy 2:12, but I have to say, I'm invigorated and encouraged by so many people who have the strength, the motivation, the wherewithal to run 21km mostly in the dark.  It gives me extra hope for mankind, I must say.  If the average Joe and Jill can do this, surely we're capable of quite a lot when the chips are down?  If I'm happy about one thing it's that I ran this race in not the best shape and got through it without hurting myself.

My next half marathon is next weekend, so hopefully I'll feel fresher and can get to work whittling my way back to that PB I set in Seoul.
PS. JM ran a cracking 1:57.  Many thanks to her for positive motivation and steady pace for the first half.

The Da Vinci Code [FINAL Scene]

"The holy grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits. The blade and chalice guarding o'er her gates. Adorned in masters' loving art, she lies. She rests at last beneath the starry skys"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Barefoot Revolution: Barefoot Ted Speaks...

You'll need iTunes to listen to this. Ted starts gabbing at about 25 minutes in this 1hour plus podcast from Marathon Talk, Click on the image below, and visit Episode 41:

10 Most Iconic Photo Portraits of the 20th Century

The cliché goes that "a picture is worth a thousand words," but some photographs eschew any such numeric limitation and go on talking to us forever; certain photo portraits have that rare power. Far more than pictorial representations of celebrated or instantly recognizable figures, they capture so much more, seeming to encapsulate not simply the very essence of the person in shot but all they have come to stand for – the attitudes, beliefs and values of an entire era. Here are ten photographs of iconic individuals which triumph in communicating in myriad and immeasurable ways.

10. Salvador Dali, Dali's Mustache

Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali epitomized eccentricity in both his life and his work, and it is his penchant for the strikingly bizarre that is so brilliantly captured in this image by the great Latvian-American portrait photographer, Philippe Halsman. Halsman worked with Dali in the 1940s, and their collaborations were compiled in the 1954 book, Dali's Mustache, in which over thirty different images of the artist's flamboyant facial hair can be found – including this famous version. As well as the popular painter's distinctive upturned waxed mustache – almost as iconic as his art – the shot shows Dali's facial expression at its oddball best, eyes wide, seeming to stare at the viewer as if from around a corner. A perfect testimony for probably the 20th century's most popular artist-celebrity, a man at once disdainfully aloof and anxious for public attention in all that he did.

9. Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch

Blond, curvaceous and beautiful, Marilyn Monroe epitomized the American female sex symbol. No other starlet has reached her iconic status in the popular imagination, and no other photo captures her sensuous yet innocently seductive power better than this one, snapped by Matty Zimmerman in 1954. Famously taken as Monroe posed over a Manhattan subway vent while in character for The Seven Year Itch, the picture shows the actress laughing as her skirt billows about her, blown up by a blast of warm air from below. Hundreds of photographers' flashbulbs went off at the location of the midnight scene, leaving Monroe's watching husband Joe DiMaggio enraged about the media spectacle. The couple were divorced just weeks later, but the movie was a highlight of Monroe's career, and this shot captured her still radiant, eight years prior to her "probable suicide."

8. Winston Churchill, The Roaring Lion

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is seen as one of the great wartime leaders and a strategist who made possible the Allied victory in World War Two. However, his personal qualities – his bullishness and his belligerence – were just as key to prevailing over the Nazis. It is this essence of defiance that the 1941 picture by acclaimed Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh succeeds in capturing. The shot of the scowling statesman with his hand on his hip was taken in the House of Commons in Ottawa, where Churchill had just given an address. The story goes that Karsh angered his subject – already irritated at having not been told of the shoot – by taking the lit cigar from his lips after Churchill had refused to remove it himself. Churchill's expression did the rest, rendering him the personification of war-torn Britain – The Roaring Lion, as the photo was titled. One of the most famous photo portraits ever, it is also said to be the most widely reproduced.

7. Muhammad Ali, “Get up!”

When Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of their 1965 rematch with what would become known as the “phantom punch,” the incident would go down as one of the most controversial in boxing history, as many suspected Liston had thrown the fight due to threats from the Nation of Islam, or in order to take a payoff. Nevertheless, more enduring than any cries of 'fix!' was this image, which shows Ali standing over his laid out opponent, screaming at him to “Get up and fight, sucker!” The scene was snapped by legendary sports photographer Neil Leifer at the ringside, and the picture seems to encapsulate everything the passionate, outspoken champion Ali was about. While not a typical photo portrait, it remains the single most iconic image of the man who proclaimed, “I'm the greatest,” and the most famous and heavily publicized sports photo in history.

6. Ernest Hemingway, Papa Bear

This famous photo of American literary giant Ernest Hemingway is another by the great portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. Karsh's mastery of lighting is shown in the picture of 'Papa Bear,' a shot that somehow seems to mirror the stark minimalism of the writer's prose and capture the sense of both melancholy and raw adventure that figured in his life. The portrait, taken at Hemingway's home near Havana in 1957, offers a window into the soul of the big bearded man with elevated eyes wearing a rollneck sweater; a man both intensely imaginative and highly athletic; “A man,” recalled Karsh, “of peculiar gentleness, the shyest of men I ever photographed.” Tortured by alcoholism and ailing physical and mental health, Hemingway blew his brains out with a shotgun in 1961. Is the anguish of his world-weary existence expressed in this photo as it was in the words of his books?

5. Marlon Brando, The Wild One

While it may look camp today, back in 1954 this image symbolized youth rebellion in the extreme, and it is also arguably the most famous picture of Marlon Brando – the mercurial method actor who set new standards for presence on the big screen. It was the publicity shot used on the poster for outlaw biker movie The Wild One, a landmark in cinema history in which Brando starred with his brooding portrayal of gang leader Johnny Strabler. The image of a young punk astride a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle became iconic, a distillation of all the movie represented with its depiction of a violent subculture whose roaming protagonists could take over towns. Highly controversial at the time over claims that such anti-social behavior was being romanticized, the movie – and photo – kick-started a craze for leather jackets and macho attitudes. The biker counter-culture was born.

4. Jim Morrison, American Poet

One of rock music's most well-known frontmen, Jim Morrison has left a legacy that refuses to die, and his music aside, none of this is captured better than in this 1967 black-and-white photograph by Joel Brodsky. The shot was taken in New York as part of 'The Young Lion' series, the photos of which were used on the covers of The Doors' first two records, as well as many books, compilation albums and other merchandise. Morrison, a self-styled enigma, died of a drug overdose in a Paris apartment in 1971, but this instantly recognizable image shows him at the peak of his artistic powers and still in great physical shape – a sex symbol and a music icon audiences went wild for. In the portrait of the American Poet, we see the singer bare-chested, arms outstretched, drunken, charismatic eyes gazing into the camera lens – intoxicating an already turned on generation.

3. Albert Einstein, Sticking His Tongue Out

Perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, Einstein needs no introduction: the proponent of the general theory of relativity shook the very foundations of physics and lay the foundations for the Atomic Age. This is perhaps his most famous photographic portrait, an image that captures the moment the man synonymous with genius stuck his tongue out at photographer Arthur Sasse, thereby capturing so much more. It is a photo that has helped crystallize Einstein's image as the brilliant yet nutty scientist in the popular consciousness, yet it also shows his human side: the Princeton professor celebrating his 72nd birthday with the irreverence to poke fun at the trailing cameras rather than smile for the fiftieth time. It reveals the rebel in Einstein, a true personality who escaped Nazi Germany in 1933 and who was feeling the chill of the McCarthyite climate at the time the picture was taken. The original was sold for $74,324 in 2009.

2. Florence Owens Thompson, Migrant Mother

A portrait iconic due to the fact that its subject is not a celebrated figure, documentary photographer Dorothea Lange's picture of a 32-year old mother of seven became a key symbol of the Great Depression and one of America's most famous photos. Taken at a pea pickers' camp in Nipomo, California in 1936 the shot (one of six) of the weather-worn woman, with near-despair etched into her face, alerted a nation to the plight of its people – focusing their suffering, and their strength. The image was reproduced in the press, prompting the federal authorities to send in food to the thousands of starving workers stuck where the picture was taken. However, the relief arrived too late for the widow and her young family; they had already moved on. Though she remained anonymous at the time, in 1976 Florence Owens Thompson revealed herself as the face of the photo that had defined an era.

1. Che Guevara, Guerrillero Heroico

No photo portrait is more iconic than that of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. It has been hailed as the 20th century's most famous photograph, but more than this, it has become part of the fabric of our visual language. The image captures many possible emotions in the 31-year-old Guevara's searching yet defiant expression, according to photographer and lifelong communist Alberto Korda including anger, pain, stoicism, and an “absolute implacability.” The picture was taken in Cuba after a memorial speech by his comrade Fidel Castro after the 1960 La Coubre explosion, with Guevara snapped twice just before he vanished from view. Cropped, it would become not simply the mythic hero's most celebrated portrait, but a meta-symbol of revolution and the global spirit of unrest. Long after Guevara's execution in 1967, modified versions were endlessly reproduced in posters and other media, to the point where its commodification appears to mock the ideals it once represented.

Bushmen: Persistance Hunting

Barefoot Revolution: Interview with Professor Tim Noakes [Part 2]

At this point, having gone through my list of questions, and around the time photos were taken, the 'interview' became a more natural, casual, conversation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sir David Attenborough's Speech at UCT [PODCAST]

Follow this link to listen.

One giant speaks of another: Attenborough at UCT
14 April 2011
Sir David Attenborough Birdman: Sir David Attenborough speaks on the work of Alfred Russel Wallace and the amazing birds of paradise.

Sir David Attenborough, renowned broadcaster, writer and naturalist, described his Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture at UCT on 13 April as the fulfilment of a promise made long ago.

In 1945, he explained, he went to Clare College at the University of Cambridge for his undergraduate studies, and there met Patrick Niven, grandson of Sir Percy FitzPatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, and son of Cecily Niven, who would later bestow the £15 000 endowment that underpinned the establishment of UCT's Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. For years Patrick Niven beguiled him with stories of South Africa and its sights, inviting Attenborough to visit him here.

Despite his best intentions, Attenborough was never able to take up the invitation.
Until last night, when he spoke at UCT as a guest of the Fitztitute.
"Now sadly it's too late; Patrick died a few years ago," Attenborough said, "but I am keeping my promise to him as best I can."
Attenborough's lecture, titled Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise, was on the long-running collaboration between another two men, naturalists and scientists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin.
The self-educated Wallace and the privileged Darwin, educated at Cambridge, couldn't have been more different, said Attenborough. But it was Wallace's travels and findings in South America and, particularly, the former East Indies or Malay Archipelago (now Indonesia and Malaysia), and his independent mooting of a theory of evolution based on natural selection, that would convince Darwin to outline his own theory in his revolutionary and provocative 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, probably "the most important book in the whole history of zoology", Attenborough explained.

The two men would, however, collaborate in the joint publication of two papers, which ran under the combined 1858 title, On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection.

Attenborough dedicated the bulk of his lecture to Wallace's groundbreaking work on the flightless birds of paradise - renowned for the strikingly colourful plumage of the males, used to full effect in mating rituals - in New Guinea and surrounding islands. Wallace became the first European to actually see the birds in all their glory, collecting a number of red birds of paradise from the island of Waigeo, today part of Indonesia.
"Wallace . . . had one overwhelming passion - for birds of paradise," said Attenborough. The birds, he added, had been an obsession of Europeans for hundreds of years, bewitched by their plumage and tales of their origins. (Birds who "float eternally in paradise", and so had no need for wings.)

Attenborough also showed footage from his own BBC documentary on the birds, Attenborough in Paradise, in which he finally fulfilled a childhood ambition to follow in Wallace's footsteps. (In addition, he regaled the audience with a story of his technologically challenged first attempt - sound hiccups, black and white footage - to film the birds in the 1940s.)

It was these birds and his later travels around the East Indies that inspired Wallace's contributions to the theory of evolution and the role of natural selection, which explains that those biological characteristics that are more useful for survival become, over generations, the most dominant ones, while not-so-handy traits become less common; and also prompted his theories on how different species are forged under different environmental pressures.

"It sounds simple, but its implications are very complex and profoundly important," said Attenborough.
Wallace wrote up this theory in a series of letters that he mailed to Darwin in England. The rest is well-recorded history.

Darwin has since become a byword - Darwinism - for evolutionary theory. But Wallace has not gone unsung, even though he often departed from Darwin on some of the details of evolutionary processes (and Darwin was usually proven right).

But Wallace was, in his later years, lavished with awards and national honours, including the British Order of Merit.
In addition, his book, The Malay Archipelago, in which he recounts his eight years in the region and published in 1869, remains an "amazing book", part adventure story, part scientific exploration, and peppered with profound insights, said Attenborough.

Attenborough ended his lecture with a quote from that book: "It seems sad that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions. This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man, many of them have no relation to him, their happiness and enjoyments, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone."
The packed and enchanted Baxter Concert Hall, naturally, gave Attenborough a standing ovation. And vice-chancellor, Dr Max Price, noted that having Attenborough here at UCT could be likened to Wallace seeing those birds of paradise for the first time.
Listen to a podcast of the lecture.

Girl with the bird of paradise tattoo

Girl with the bird of paradise tattoo
Sir David Attenborough had the audience eating out of his hand. No more so than when, in a Q&A following his lecture, young British student Hayley Evers-King, doing her PhD in oceanography at UCT, pointed Attenborough to a tattoo of her favourite bird of paradise on her back. Which is his favourite bird of paradise, she asked Attenborough? "It would be very ungallant of me," he replied, ever the gentleman, "to say anything other than, naturally, yours." Cue more laughter and rapturous applause.

3 Cool Pictures

Monday, April 18, 2011

3D Printers [VIDEO]

The Biggest Wave You've Ever Surfed? [VIDEO]

Jetlev: Isn't this the coolest thing! [VIDEO]


How to be the best version of yourself 
- by Nick van der Leek

If we believe we have limitless potential, why is it we’re perennial underachievers? 

The world is full of stories about early starters, but there are late starters too.  Consider James Earl Jones, a man from Arkabutla [where?] Mississippi, a black man, and a man with a stutter. He was 46 years old when he was offered to play the voice of a certain very dark character, and due to the dubious nature of the role, Jones didn’t want to be credited.  Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars’ propelled Jones into a career spanning seminal flicks like ‘Field of Dreams’,‘The Hunt for Red October’and ‘The Lion King’. Perhaps Jones would never win an award as an actor, but that voice – well, that could certainly take him places.

Sometimes a little humility and a lot of faith are just the ticket to take you places.  But what if unlocking our potential is as simple as taking a pill?

While this is the compelling premise for the contemporary film Limitless [Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro], don’t be fooled for a second!  It’s a myth that we use only a fraction of our brains. Actually we utilize most regions of our brain each day, we simply don’t call all regions into service at the same time.  Concentrating demands a lot of energy from the body, about one fifth of the body’s energy is just for the brain.

But the brain is also the key to unlocking your full potential.  In the following ten steps to becoming SUPERYOU, notice how much of the process is not about physical strength, but attitude and just learning to flow.

SUPERYOU in 10 easy steps:

1. Family Support First
This is both the most crucial and the hardest ingredient to guarantee.  A cursory study of the world’s top achievers, from Superman to Bill Gates, Ryk Neethling to Richard Branson, from Lance Armstrong to Neil Armstrong, reveals the consistent but unseen face of family support [in Lance’s case a single mom].  That love is a driving force, a motivator, that’s hard to beat.

2. Dream Bigger
What inspired someone like Oprah Winfrey to greatness?  Sometimes it is seeking a life that is the complete opposite of the life you once had.  If you’re nowhere, especially if you’re at rock bottom, be still and take a moment to dream, to really dream of the your personal mountain summit. Set goals and don’t stop aspiring to be better!

3. Start Now
Each moment is precious. Start young, or, if you’re already old, Nelson Mandela was when he emerged from prison, try at least to maintain a fresh outlook on life.  Be open to new thoughts. Each day, harness the power of the morning.  Get up early and get yourself out there into the world.
One of the most motivated South African triathletes you're likely to meet is a chap from PE by the name of Alec Riddle.  Here's an extract from a 'Note' he posted on Facebook recently:
Dawson Trotman once said "The greatest time wasted is the time getting started," so make sure you do get started sooner, rather than later as the last thing you want to do is go to your grave with the 'dance' still left inside of you. Our lives change when we change something that we do everyday and success is the sum of many, many choices and sacrifices.
Don’t wait for the right moment, in fact don’t waste a single second.

4. Train Hard
It takes hard work to get anywhere.  Practise does make perfect.  Each moment spent focussing on a goal, and applying yourself to it, teaches you to be better at it.

5. Toughness Means Humility
They say BMT cannot be taught.  It can.  It’s a mindset.  Find different levels of success, and start out with humility.  Make sure, no matter what you achieve, that humility doesn’t change because it’s one of your best tools for learning. 

6. Use Models
Every famous person aspires to be better than themselves, and their stepping stones tend to be models.  Find someone to believe in, but don’t forget to believe in yourself once you surpass their achievements.

7. Celebrate Failure
Failure presents us with the best lessons ever for learning how to improve, and ultimately, to win.  You can’t do this without buckets of humility.  Before Ryk Neethling won a single Olympic medal, he gave up on swimming.  It was once he started swimming for fun that he noticed he might be better as a sprinter [he’d been coached in long distance for most of his career].  By celebrating this failure [rather than sulking] he turned his life into success.

Constant And Never-ending Improvement.  It’s something the motivational speaker Tony Robbins came up with.  It means every day, every time you do something, concentrate on doing it better.  Focus on what you’re doing, love what you’re doing, rather than trying to get it over with as soon as possible.

9. A Successful Lifestyle
Success must become a lifestyle.  The ingredients to success involve successful habits,  high personal standards, and a minimum level of constant discipline.

10. Never [ever] Give Up
Did Lance give up when he was diagnosed with cancer?  He could have taken his insurance money, over $1 million, and retired.  Instead, he backed himself. 

Backing yourself is the first and last step to becoming Super You.  But the business of getting to your full potential is also just a function of the choices you make and that depends ultimately in the faith you have in your self.  Once you get the faith, keep it locked deep inside you and you can take it all the way to the top.

SA Offroad Duathlon Champs Zewenwacht [PHOTOS]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

World's tallest building will be 1 mile high [VIDEO]

Famous Men and Their Motorcycles

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 10, 2011 · 69 comments
in Blog

Few things have captured the passion, the sometimes obsession, of men like the motorcycle. There’s no mystery as to why this is. Motorcycles represent a peculiar combination of several manly elements: danger, speed, singular focus, solitude, mechanics, noise, and physical skill.
Many famous men were motorcycle enthusiasts; they combined their passion for things like acting, music, and adventure, with a love for bikes. Motorcycles were a perfect outlet for their zeal for life; riding the open road with the wind in their faces left them invigorated and inspired. Today we take a look at the relationship ten famous men had with their motorcycles.

T.E. Lawrence

“A skittish motorbike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness.” -TE Lawrence
T.E. Lawrence, aka “Lawrence of Arabia” was a passionate motorcyclist and a devotee of the Brough Superior. Brough Superiors were considered the “Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” and Lawrence had his custom-made; short of stature at 5’5, he ordered his bikes with a smaller back wheel to accommodate his height. Lawrence owned seven Brough Superiors during his lifetime, referring to them as his Boanerges (sons of Thunder), and calling each George (the first was George I, the last George VII). In 1935, while riding George VII and awaiting delivery of George VIII, Lawrence swerved to avoid hitting two boys on bicycles, was thrown over the handlebars, and died a week later from his injuries at age 46. Lawrence loved to ride his bikes fast and hard; he was likely going around 100 mph, the bike’s top speed, at the time of the accident.

Marlon Brando

“It still pleases me to be awake during the dark, early hours before morning when everyone else is still asleep. I’ve been that way since I first moved to New York. I do my best thinking and writing then. During those early years in New York, I often got on my motorcycle in the middle of the night and went for a ride–anyplace. There wasn’t much crime in the city then, and if you owned a motorcycle, you left it outside your apartment and in the morning it was still there. It was wonderful on summer nights to cruise around the city at one, two, or three A.M. wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a girl on the seat behind me. If I didn’t start out with one, I’d find one.” -Marlon Brando
Before he became famous, Brando cruised the streets of NYC on his bike, and in the coming decades, whenever his fame started to feel oppressive, he’d get on his motorcyle and simply head out into the Southwest, riding through the desert for miles on end.
In the iconic film, The Wild One,  Brando rode a 1950 Triumph 6T Thunderbird.

Bob Dylan

In 1966, Bob Dylan’s career was going full throttle; several of his albums had gone gold and platinum, he was touring the world, and he was soon to publish a novel. His schedule and impending commitments were brutal. Success was crashing over him like a wave, a wave that perhaps would have drowned him if a mysterious motorcycle accident had not intervened. While tooling along near his Woodstock, NY home, Dylan apparently crashed his 1964 Triumph Tiger 100 and suffered an injury to his vertebrae. While he was not taken to a hospital, he enjoyed a long convalescence; he did not return to touring for almost a decade. The accident provided Dylan with a way to slow down his life. He would later say:
“When I had that motorcycle accident … I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus, I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.”

Clark Gable

While this seems to be a posed press photo, Clark Gable did indeed ride a motorcycle, a 1934 Harley Davidson RL to be exact.

Hunter S. Thompson

“But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin and no room for mistakes. It has to be done right . . and thats when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that the fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and the dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it  . . . howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica . . . letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge . . . The Edge  . . . ” – Hunter S. Thompson, Hells Angels
Writer Hunter S. Thompson earned his motorcycling chops the hard way: by riding his BSA A65 Lightning for a year with the Hell’s Angels. His experience  riding with (and getting stomped by) the gang became the book,  Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

Clint Eastwood

While Eastwood was only an occasional rider in his personal life, he rode motorcycles as part of several of his films. In Coogan’s Bluff, for example, he chases an escaped criminal through Central Park while astride a Triumph Bonneville.

Charles Lindbergh

As a boy, Charles Lindbergh had a keen fascination for the mechanical workings of machines generally and for internal combustion engines in particular. When he was in high school, he ordered a twin-cylinder 1920 model Excelsior “X” motorcycle through the local hardware store. Lindbergh was a shy and quiet young man, but he rode his bike fast, hard, and, as his classmates remembered it, rather recklessly. “I loved its power and speed,” he admitted. On the way to town, Lindbergh would tear through a path that ran past a power plant, through a thicket of bushes, and along the steep banks of the Mississippi River. As an observer remembered, “it seemed like he wanted to see how close to the edge he could get without plunging in.” The owner of the plant became so concerned that he closed off the trail. But the future pilot was as cool on that bike as he was behind the controls of a plane; he never had an accident.

Buddy Holly

In 1958, coming off a tour and flush with success, Buddy Holly and the Crickets decided to spend some of their hard earned money on new motorcycles. They flew to Dallas and started shopping the local bike stores. But the owners, unaware of who these young lads were, treated them dismissively; the owner of the Harley dealer practically pushed them out the door. But they found what they were looking for at Ray Miller Triumph Motorcycle Sales, where each man picked out one of the latest models: Buddy chose an Ariel Cyclone, J.I. picked a Trophy, and Joe B. decided on a Thunderbird. The guys then headed back to Lubbock on the bikes, but not before stopping by the Harley dealer to show off their new rides.

James Dean

Hope for teenage nerds everywhere. James Dean on his first real motorcycle. Pre-smoldering angst.
Of course the “Rebel Without a Cause” had a thing for motorcycles. He got his first real motorcycle at age 15, a 1947 CZ 125-cc. He was the only kid in his small town in Indiana with his own motorcycle, and he rode it full throttle, losing two teeth in a fall. The locals called him “One Speed Dean.” And that one speed was “wide open.”
When he dropped out of college to pursue acting, he traded his beloved CZ for a Royal Enfield 500cc vertical twin. But he wouldn’t hold onto that bike for long. While home in Indiana on break from working on a play in NYC, Dean decided to ride his Royal Enfield all the way back to the Big Apple. But when it broke down along the way, he traded it in for an Indian Warrior TT. When Dean arrived back in New York, he had the bike serviced at a shop…where Steve McQueen worked as a mechanic.
Later, wanting to emulate Marlon Brando, Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy, the last bike he rode before he died.

Steve McQueen

There is perhaps no famous man we associate more with motorcycles than the King of Cool, Steve McQueen.
Before Steve McQueen made it big as an actor, he would compete in–and win–weekend motorcycle races on the first bike he owned–a used Harley. Even when Hollywood success came calling, acting gigs always had to compete against his passion for motorcycles. McQueen amassed a collection of over 100 motorcycles, his favorites being vintage Indians. When the weight of celebrity grew too stifling, McQueen would grab one of those Indian bikes and tear out of Tinseltown and onto the open road. McQueen loved off-road racing as well, and raced the Triumph’s TR6 in everything from the Baja 1000 to the prestigious International Six Days Trial.
The TR6 also famously makes an appearance in The Great Escape. In that film, McQueen performed many of his own stunts; however, contrary to popular belief, it was not McQueen who jumped his bike over the barbed wire fence in that iconic scene. Because of insurance concerns, Bud Ekins was called in to make the leap.