Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making do

With what we have because times are tougher

Feeling OK with what we have

No more label worrying

No more brand concerns

Well not so many anyway

Notice how the imitations in many product lines are so good today

Notice how when there are fifty million shoe and trainer designs no one knows any longer what brand is what or what model year it is from

Truly the new model Nike is only known to those who really care

And who cares any longer if it is the new model or not?

Do you?

New times should alter our priorities

Should tell us to let go of things that have little or no real meaning

And if they do have real meaning for you, then why is this so?

Are you playing look at me?

Are you worried that people notice your brand of shoe

New times demand new thinking

Thinking about what we buy should reflect this new thinking

Change your thinking for these changing times

Buy products that last, for performance, quality too

Let go ego buying

Buy brands you like for sure but only when they deliver on true quality

Hard to say this when so many are built in China in the same factory

Or in Indonesia, Vietnam or really you have no idea where

In reality today you often buy the logo and design

The build is from anywhere in Asia and that can be the same brand, just different models from different factories in different countries, in fact often is

So what is that premium for?

With fashion so broad today why bother

Choose what truly suits you

What you feel good in

And where you have to wear particular clothes then just buy what you need of them as well

Humans love feathers

'Look at me I have more feathers than you'

Choose to let go the feather game

Feathers are for those who have nothing else

Make your statement about yourself through your personality

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jeans and sneakers

Suddenly young in t shirts

Rocket science arrived in business

Exotic financial products, some discredited by the financial crisis others growing steadily

Marketing in new colors and forms

Using language differently

Wearing casual clothes

A great big chasm between the bosses and their young geniuses

A new different age group making money

An age group owing nothing much to their elders

Nor do they have the same values

Nor do they kowtow

Nor are they interested in climbing the corporate ladder

They are to be found in most developing and developed countries

Where will they go?

What will they want?

Who knows
One thing for sure
They will make their mark on the world
Whether this will be just the world of IT, media, finance and marketing or the wider world at large remains to be seen
So far the indications are that they are everywhere intruding and making their own statements
Have they understood their power to disrupt?
Have the older generation got it?

No and no

So where next?

Not sure but the accelerating pace of change is going to throw up some shocks

These young of the facebook, twitter generation are certainly marching to a different drum

One where they can shape their own and our future without consideration of the rules of the current mainstream

Wearing sneakers and jeans as their everyday clothes

No more suits and ties

Funny really whenever older mainstream people want to show they are 'off duty' guess what they put on................ jeans

But not sneakers please loafers for them

Just to show their innate superiority or so they believe

Amazing really how important these little things are to so many

Ways in which humans signal their status or pretences

Important markers or so they would have us believe

Ways where we show which group or sub group we see ourselves to be in or part of

Jeans and trainers for me

And for you?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Things about coffee

For centuries, Arabia controlled the coffee industry until (as legend has it) a pilgrim from Mecca smuggled beans back to India and began an agricultural revolution.
The Dutch also managed to get a plant back to Amsterdam and to their colonies in Indonesia, so Europe soon had new cheaper sources for their beans.
Coffee is now grown in more than 70 countries and is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world after oil.
The most expensive coffee in the world comes from the droppings of the Asian palm civet, a small catlike animal that loves to eat coffee cherries.
The cherries only partially digest and the seeds are excreted intact.
The droppings are washed and the beans, sold as Kopi Luwak, can cost hundreds of dollars per pound.
The partial digestion process is supposed to add a wonderful musky flavour.
But Does coffee wake you up?
Coffee does not make you alert.
If you are a regular drinker of coffee, drinking it just eases the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
So, if you never drink coffee you're probably more alert than a regular drinker who has just knocked back a double espresso.
The effects of caffeine usually last between two and three hours, although that can extend to four or five hours depending upon an individual's sensitivity and metabolism.
And is it stronger than tea?
A cup of filter coffee contains about three times as much caffeine as a cup of tea, although dry tea leaves do contain a higher proportion of caffeine by weight than coffee beans.
The higher the temperature of the water, the greater the caffeine extracted from beans or leaves.
An average 30ml espresso contains about the same amount of caffeine as a 150ml cup of PG Tips.
So a single-shot cappuccino or latte won't give you much more of a caffeine hit than a cuppa.
A cup of instant coffee, on the other hand, contains only around half the caffeine of a filter coffee.
So there you have it
Enjoy your coffee or tea and take a smile with you into the week

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Black Swan

A black swan is just what the name suggests a black swan

However it is also a description of something considered impossible

Until that is a black swan was found in Australia

Up until that time swans were all considered to be white

Since that first back swan was found others have since been noted

In other words something is known to be impossible until events prove otherwise

Interesting maybe but not exactly what I want to talk about

What I want to talk about is how humans insist on saying something is impossible until events prove otherwise

From stock markets to traders statistics people will state that something is impossible because it makes their life easier

Then bang suddenly the event occurs

The result is almost always extreme

And then after the event papers appear explaining how it was predictable

Society then accepts this official version explaining how it was really predictable all along

Not so

If these events were really predictable then someone would have predicted them

They did not

And had they done so they would probably have been laughed at

Called mad even

Take the 1914 world war - no it was not predicted

9/11 - no it was not predicted

Ash clouds in 2010 - no they were not predicted nor was it seen that this would all but flatten the aviation industry

No it was not foreseen, but watch, over the coming months articles will appear explaining how it was really predictable

We seem to have a genetic problem in admitting that we do not know many things

No we do not know the next rare event that will impact us

No we do not have any clue

What we do know is that these events are are fortunately quite rare

And we do know that the next one's impact will be severe

Time to understand that what we do not know is more important than what we know

Forget it

We are not ready to acknowledge this nor to talk about it

Society likes to pretend it knows everything

Governments like to pretend they do too

Just observe for yourself that we do not know and that this is important

In  your own life the same applies what you don't know is far more important than what you do know


Because many of the major events in your life will stem from things you do not know

Think about it how many of the major events in your life so far came from things you knew beforehand?

Not many if at all


Look at your life through new eyes

Live in this moment now because what you do not know is surely going to impact you and your life

So the only intelligent thing to do is live for this moment now as the unknown will come along anyway whatever we do

So waste no more energy worrying about this and that because it will not come about as you think anyway

Let go, enjoy life please without so much worry because life is not going to happen as you think

The unexpected will always have more impact on our lives than the expected

There are more Black swans out there

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Where were you?

When I needed you

Most of us have wondered about that at some point in our lives

At a time of crisis

Of great difficulty

We turned around and found ourselves alone

Our so called friends gone


Left alone

No one to turn to

And so we handled things as best we could

Some finding good solutions others not so good

And then for many a funny thing happened

Someone they had never really paid much attention to

Someone on the edge of their life

Not even a real friend

This someone stepped forward and offered help and support

Funny so many people have shared this with us

And that person proved to be true

Made an effort to help and was really supportive

Really was so helpful

For some it helped redefine how they looked at people

For others they just accepted the help

And through this experience they were able to look at themselves and their so called friends

Painfully understanding that many they had thought to be friends were nothing of the sort

They were users hanging around for their own advantage

Users who disappeared at the first hint of trouble

At the first hint of responsibility

Dodging any moral obligation

Ethically challenged people who walk away when their so called friends are in trouble

And from all this?

Look at your own friends

What is the basis of your relationship?

Are they really friends?

Have they ever been tested?

Can you count on them?

And if you say yes on what basis can you believe this to be true?

Better find out it might be important one day

Apart from which who wants to hang around with a crowd of hangers on?

Friends are those who are there for you when you need them

And you are there for them when they need you

Are you a friend?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Being right

All the time
Every time an argument comes along she has to be right
Every time a disagreement arises she has to be right
She has to be right about everything
And this can be very tiring for anyone living or working with her
Two approaches are usually adopted by those living or working with her
Either agreeing all the time that she is right
Or by arguing and disagreeing with her
Neither one does more than react to the latest situation
Neither one addresses the issue as to why she should feel the need to be right
Being right is often if not usually the sign of a control freak
And being in control means being right
And why would one need to be in control?
Because without this illusion of being right
Her world will crumble if she is not in control, life is too dangerous, too frightening
Too frightening for her to contemplate
Too threatening
Her inadequacies can be exposed
Her inner fears realised
So being right is central to her strategy for handling life
Without it nothing is sure
Nothing is clear
Fear and danger lurk in every corner
And this state is very common with both men and women
Can it be changed?
Only if we are prepared to find that underlying cause, because we sincerely want to change our lives
Only if we can understand that life is about change
Life is about risk
Our modern world tries to pretend that we can remove risk by buying xy and z
By behaving in certain 'correct' ways
Doing what we are told
Never challenging
Accepting the norms of behaviour shown on telly or in the media
Then life can be safe
Sorreeeeee nature will expose this lie
At some point usually around early middle age nature will force change upon you
Being right will be exposed
There will be nowhere to hide
Only breakdown or ill health and without our health life is not so funny at all
Many are then broken, they come to us all the time
Others find the way to fight for their sanity they finally try to 'get it'
And change to fight for a better experience of life
And find that better life by being more flexible and tolerant, caring for others even
A life of risk and letting go, open to new ideas, growing and learning
Life is risk
Risk at every turn
Risk is all around us all the time every day
We get by by not thinking about risk because it might hurt or harm us
Letting go of control devices such as being right sounds dangerous
The reality though is that being wrong is fine, admitting imperfection and doubt are OK
Besides imagine the joke of trying to be a perfect human?
Being out of control is fine
Life is life that's all
The sooner you understand this the better your life can be
Let go your control games
Embrace life
Live with uncertainty embrace it even
Try saying 'I am wrong'
Or even 'you are right'
A step further to realise it does not matter
For most situations there is a reasonable place to compromise, try it
Scoring points and being right also creates friction and enemies
Over time these forces are going to unite against you
More fighting. more winning and losing
Being right is a tough strategy to live with and a very debilitating one
Maybe better not to be right
Besides being in conflict all the time as a life choice is not so clever
For by definition this is what being right means, disagreement and manipulation
Oh and being right means distorting things because none of us can be right all the time over everything.............
Can you?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

He ho

..................and it's off again we go
We know all the things we should be doing
And we are not doing them
Tell me is that so?
If you know all the things you should be doing and you are not doing them what is going on?
How can it be that as an intelligent modern human
Person of the world
Well informed
And you choose, because no one forces you to, ignore doing what you should be doing
Are you lazy?
Well yes
Yet lazy today can bring disaster tomorrow
Well yes
So don't you care?
Well yes
But you still do not change
Well no
And how many fit this pattern?
A large large number of people we find
People who would deny that it is like that or rationalise their behaviour
Yet in reality behave in ways they know to be dangerous to their well being

And so it goes on

Then one day disaster strikes

And down they go

Should we be sorry?

Have compassion for you?

That you knowingly ignored what you knew you should do?

Yes or no?

What do you think?

In such real human situations we usually sigh and help because after all it is my brother, sister or my best friend

Should we have done so?

And when it happens all over again?

Time to say no more


Leaches exist in every family or group of friends

And where we know those who refuse to change

Refuse to listen

Yet clearly know they are not doing what they should

Then this law of the Universe comes into play

Do not offer your help unless they ask

Exception for your brother, sister or best friend

Offer your thoughts once and once only

Then leave well alone until they ask for help

If they do not ask for help and keep getting into trouble then walk away

It is not your responsibility if they choose to do dumb stupid things over and over

You are not responsible

Get it?

Get on with your own life

Enjoy it even

Leave them to theirs

Of course there are exceptions

Beware those who live by using others

Who manipulate

Why yes there are some, probably in your life too

Why maybe even you?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rule 150

Did you know that the human neocortex ratio for homo sapiens, you get a group estimate of 147.8 or roughly 150

And so?

This happens to be the size of brain that allows us to handle the complexities of a social relationship where we can 'know' the other members of a group that size

We are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that size or kind of social relationship

The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship

The kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us

In our history if we look at some of the old hunter gatherer tribes for which we have evidence of their village sizes it will be found to be around 148 - 149 people

Military planners have found that functional fighting units cannot be substantially more than 200 men

Not because of obduracy but by trial and error over the centuries it has been found that more than this number of men cannot be sufficiently familiar with each other so that they can work together as a functional unit

Of course it is possible to run larger groups but then you have to impose complicated hierarchies and rules and regulations and formal measures to try and command loyalty and cohesion

Below this number it is possible to achieve these same goals informally

With religious groups who lived in self sufficient agricultural colonies they also knew this rule and whenever they grew to this size they would be split into two and start a new one

And where are we going with this?

Under 150 people things can go along fine the once over this number just the smallest change in the size of the community can trigger divisiveness and alienation

Groups of humans about this number then begin to behave very differently

They lose the group ethos

They form small sub groups

Rival centres of power emerge

They lose the ability to agree and act with one voice

Shared ideals come under pressure from diverging opinions

Structurally things get more difficult

And yet and yet

This knowledge is not secret yet we still want to build bigger schools

We still want bigger social groups

A small bit of knowledge yet so often ignored

Small yes but the origin of so many tipping points

Observe these numbers in your own environment

Observe them in the world around you

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Counter intuitive

What happens to health during an economic recession?
The question surely is a no-brainier.
Wages drift down, unemployment goes up.
Those who have lost jobs become depressed
Those who haven’t grow fearful and anxious that they may.
The outcome for many is stress if not deprivation.
Health, it’s clear, will suffer; the death rate is bound to rise.
Wrong – at least if the experience of history, and one bit of history in particular, is anything to go by.
Few economic downturns have been as dramatic and as deep as the Great Depression that overtook America during the 1930s.
But figures from that time show that mortality fell and life expectancy increased.
The data suggest that economic hardship is good for health.
Can this be true?
Links between bodily and economic well-being are far from straightforward.
In the related area of socioeconomic inequality we’ve already become aware of unexpected influences through the work of Professor Richard Wilkinson of the University of Nottingham.
In his 2009 book The Spirit Level, co-authored with Kate Pickett, he summarised a raft of research all pointing in more or less the same direction.
In countries where there is a big earnings gap between rich and poor, life expectancy is lower while mental illness, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse are all more common.
The real surprise is that it’s not only the poor who suffer.
The population as a whole do less well if the gap is wider.
The nations with the smallest wealth gap and the lowest incidence of health and social problems are the Japanese and the Scandinavians.
The countries with, respectively, the greatest and highest are America, Portugal and Britain.
The biological explanation for this is uncertain, but possibly mediated by the hormonal effects of perpetual anxiety about status and position, or loss of them.
Economics affect health but not always as you might expect.
Dr Jose Tapia Granados is a researcher with a particular interest in the Great Depression.
A doctor by training, he moved into economics and works at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
During the Depression, from mid 1929 through to 1933, he says, life expectancy at birth rose from 57.1 to 63.3 years; mortality fell.
The pattern was much the same for men and women, and blacks and whites.
Years of recession are followed by years of recovery in which GDP returns to what it was and then grows.
Between 1934 and 1936 the US economy boomed – but mortality rose and life expectancy fell.
In 1938, there was another recession and another reversal of the trends.
The pattern lasts throughout economic ups and downs from the start of the 1920s to the end of the 1940s.
Deaths from TB and cardiovascular disease tended to fall in bad years, but peaked in economic expansions.
This apparently perverse relationship between changes in economic activity and changes in mortality was first seen as far back as the 1920s – to the bewilderment of those who’d noticed it.
They were so puzzled they felt they must be doing something wrong with the numbers,” says Dr Tapia Granados.
More work in the 1970s fostered the suggestion that although the figures were right they reflected a lag between the downturns and the emergence of their damaging effects.
Although the effects might appear during the recovery phase, it was said, they were not caused by it.
Dr Tapia Granados doesn’t accept this explanation, saying that for this to be credible, he says, business cycles would have to be regular and of equal length.
So what is going on?
There is evidence that in periods of economic expansion people smoke and drink more, sleep less, work longer, experience more stress, and suffer more industrial injures – all bad for health.
And what of the period of economic contraction?
It’s a mirror image, he says, in which most of these influences are reversed.
An enforced switch to part-time working, for example.
To work many hours per day increases risk of heart attack.
Fewer hours decreases risk.
During recessions road traffic deaths decrease and during expansion they increase.”
Hence the counterintuitive outcome; recovery from recession, not the recession itself, does harm.
Critics point to a contradiction between this and the link between rising GDP and improving health.
Dr Tapia Granados acknowledges this, but denies a contradiction, saying: I’m talking about fluctuations on top of the general trend.
He suggests that a clearer understanding of what’s going on in economic cycles could contribute to the development of policies to minimise harm and enhance health.
These might include a limitation on overtime, increased holiday entitlements, and improved safety legislation

Monday, June 21, 2010

Clever thinking

We’ve all heard the plastic bag horror stories—the billions of bags discarded every year that wind up polluting oceans, killing wildlife and getting dumped in landfills where they take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Researchers have been wracking their brains for years to figure out a solution.
But leave it to a Canadian high school student to leave them all in the dust.
Daniel Burd, an 11th grader at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, has discovered a way to make plastic bags degrade in as little as three months—a finding that won him first prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, a $20,000 scholarship, and a chance to revolutionize a major environmental issue.
Burd’s strategy was simple: Since plastic does eventually degrade, it must be eaten by microorganisms.
If those microorganisms, as well as the optimal conditions for their growth, could be identified, we could put them to work eating the plastic much faster than under normal conditions.
With this goal in mind, he ground plastic bags into a powder and concocted a solution of household chemicals, yeast and tap water to encourage microbe growth.
Then he added the plastic powder and let the microbes work their magic for three months.
Finally, he tested the resulting bacterial culture on plastic bags, exposing one plastic sample to dead bacteria as a control.
Sure enough, the plastic exposed to the live bacteria was 17 percent lighter than the control after six weeks.
Once Burd examined the most effective strains of bacteria, he was able to isolate two types—Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas—as the plastic munchers.
At 37 degrees and optimal bacterial concentration, the microbes had consumed 43 percent of a plastic sample within six weeks.
Excellent thinking and actions by a young man
And how many adult scientists have been spending how many millions over how many years to find a solution to this problem?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sport dreams

Max Biaggi rides motorbikes for Aprilia in the World Superbike Championship

He has been World champion several times in the former 250cc class of Moto GP

Recently in an interview with an American organisation he was asked why a particular motorbike manufacturer Ducati was not doing well so far this year

He said

"Maybe (Ducati) think about, someone thinking, or other things. I don't know.

Only money, or I don't know, or career in some point, or I don't know.

But the dream must be the focus number one for your goal, for your life.

The goal and dream for you to strive for.

In racing your dream has to be your motivation"

The interesting line for me is the last one

"In racing your dream has to be your motivation"

In life as well your dream has to be your motivation

If you are aiming for an exceptional goal that is

A dream to own a house might be fine for many

A dream to attain a good position for others

Ambition is in our modern world considered to be fine and admirable

In spiritual thinking not so ambition is considered a bad thing

Because so often ambition leads to poor behaviour

Leads to lies, deceit, ruthlessness

Not admirable qualities

And a dream where does that fit?

In the context I am thinking of its fine because the pursuit of a dream is subtly different from ambition

Ambition is at all costs whatever it takes, murder, violence, lies, deceit all are fair game to those with ambition

Dream is an objective we wish to attain

Dream is something we are pulled towards

Something that is with us all the time

We might pursue it at the expense of all other things in our life

Moral and ethical behaviour is often part of our dream

Ambition to often overrules other considerations

Dreams often rule out unreasonable behaviour

In sport the dream is to be champion

It is with you all the time

We can notice how for some it overrides the dream and becomes ambition and winning at all costs

In all sports there are those for whom ambiton overrides a dream

Can you see the difference?

Look at sportsmen and women and see how they are

Is there a real distinction?

Difficult because it can be so subtle

Do you have dreams or are they ambitions?

We say yes there is a difference

Maybe that's one reason we watch sports to see the nice one's win and the ruthlessly ambitious get beaten

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Investigative reporting


Over the last fifty years or so governments around the world have found ever more ways to shut down criticism
Recently Iceland rewrote its law to create a haven for investigative reporting after so many countries have imposed laws or other restrictions making it difficult and in some cases impossible to state the truth in the media
Iceland has passed a sweeping reform of its media laws that supporters say will make the country an international haven for investigative journalism.
The new package of legislation was passed unanimously on the sixteenth of June in one of the final sessions of the Icelandic parliament, the Althingi, before its summer break.
Created with the involvement of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, it increases protection for anonymous sources, creates new protections from so-called "libel tourism" and makes it much harder to censor stories before they are published.
It will be the strongest law of its kind anywhere, said Birgitta Jonsdottir, MP for The Movement party and member of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which first made the proposals.
We're taking the best laws from around the world and putting them into one comprehensive package that will deal with the fact that information doesn't have borders any more.
Wikileaks has been involved in the drafting of the package of laws alongside Ms Jonsdottir from the beginning of the process more than a year ago. Its founder, Julian Assange, worked from Iceland on the organisation's release of the incendiary video of an apparently unprovoked American helicopter attack in Iraq that left eighteen people dead, including two journalists.
Mr Assange did not respond to requests for comment via email.
But in February, he wrote: All over the world, the freedom to write about powerful groups is being smothered.
Iceland could be the antidote to secrecy havens ... it may become an island where openness is protected – a journalism haven.
Because the package includes provisions that will stop the enforcement of overseas judgements that violate Icelandic laws, foreign news organisations are said to have expressed an interest in moving the publication of their investigative journalism to Iceland.
According to Ms Jonsdottir, Germany's Der Spiegel and America's ABC News have discussed the possibility.
More immediately, it is hoped that the changes will rebuild the Icelandic public's belief in the press.
Trust in the media was very high before the crash, but then it sank,said Hoskuldur Kari Schram, a reporter with Stod 2 television in Reykjavik. Maybe this will be a step in the right direction.
Mr Schram added that it would have an immediate effect:
It will affect my relationship with sources right away.
It will make my job a whole lot easier.
But there was doubt overseas that the international ramifications would be as powerful as the law's Icelandic proponents claim.
As an exercise in aspirations, it's a bold and important endeavour, said Professor Monroe Price, founder of the programme in comparative media law at Oxford University.
But if it's a significant issue like a national security question, then the charging jurisdiction will figure out ways of asserting its power.
UK media organisations will watch developments closely.
The British system has come under particular scrutiny recently, facing criticism that it is too easy to exercise censorship of stories and over libel provisions widely perceived as excessively favourable to complainants.
Last year California enacted a law that allowed local courts to refuse to enforce British libel judgements.
According to Ms Jonsdottir, a poet and writer, the provocation of a larger global conversation on the subject is crucial to the success of the new legislation.
It's going to have an impact but it's also going to be symbolic, she said.

A. Bland

Friday, June 18, 2010

So close

To death

So many times

One moment, no not a moment, a fraction of a moment of inattention and you are dead

High risk activities where death is the penalty for failure or inattention

I have been asked many times why would anyone do this?

Why do people do these activities?

For myself several such activities were a major part of my life for many years

Some were a part of my job, others hobbies

So my answer to this question has also evolved over the years

Because in my own life I have been close to death several times

Maybe too many times

Most of them when younger, some in the army some outside, some in cars others on motorbikes, on mountains, some skydiving on skis even

So today after watching some videos of young people "pushing the envelope" I feel to say it again from where I am today

Just talking here about those where the activity takes you close to death

There are many elements involved when consciously going to the edge

I will talk about these because the others where you come close to death without planning are not about conscious efforts to push the envelope or go close to the line

They are though interesting to me in as much as I have been impressed by how fast I reacted to those situations

In a sense faster than possible

What I observed was how my mind went into overdrive instantaneously as I became aware of the danger I was in

Like clicking into another space, another level of consciousness

Time shifted, everything being brought down into slow motion

Total focus, total concentration on the situation, nothing else existing

Absolutely clear about the options available, the mind or maybe beyond mind showing in real time what choices were available

Decisions taken in fractions of seconds

The appropriate action flowing from the decision taken

Sometimes resulting in damage to myself, other times destruction of equipment or vehicles

Afterwards an acute strong feeling of relief

A feeling of being so much more alive

Colours, smells, tastes, sounds more powerful

Amazing feeling of being alive and being a part of life, living

Later usually that night sweat, shakes, let down as to how close it had been comes into focus

Always saying thanks for support and help received because seldom could I have got out of the situation without such support

For the amateur it might seem like good luck

For myself it was clear on many occasions that more than luck was involved

Then over the following days after such an escape a review of what had gone down from a to z

Lessons learnt, absorbed, retained, filed away for future use

Moving on from unplanned, unexpected near death experiences to those where you are approaching danger consciously

Different because you are aware of the possibility of death

You have already decided to go ahead

You have accepted the risks involved

You inform yourself of all possible permutations that you can

You are doing this because the activity is beyond exciting

It is taking you to an intensely private space where you test yourself with no room for failure

You are going to the edge

You choose to go there for the adrenaline rush but also for the mental and emotional rush

For the exercise and practice of detail

For the experience of being able to relax and perform under pressure in an extreme dimension

Where equipment is involved you check it thoroughly

The night before doing whatever it was I would feel nerves, not so much on the day itself

Would review all the actions I would take for the different life threatening scenarios that I could imagine arising

Doing this so that if and when one arose no time would be lost thinking

Action could then be instantaneous, often this being the only margin available

The difference between life and death

When the day and time to act arises tension and nerves are less

You focus on the actions to come

Becoming quiet with checking of preparations

Relaxation is greater as experience showed that problems arise when you are too tense

So conscious work was done to be more relaxed

Not switched off but rather focused and relaxed

Being aware of all elements that could impact on safety and performance

Then the action or activity itself

In my case moving into a different state as you move into the action

In the action being in a different state of consciousness

A different experience of time, fractions of seconds becoming infinite

Critical points and actions being approached and passed safely

End of action

Feeling of life being more intense, greater conscious and appreciation of life

At the same time a feeling of peace, enormous inner peace

Then along comes the day when things go wrong

This usually happens blindingly fast

One second all is fine the next the unexpected

Where the critical point arises and something goes wrong you are making an instant appreciation of the situation

Instant appraisal of possible actions

Selection of action

Action initiated with mind also taking in time left before impact or death and your physical location in relation to that final point

Where the action is only partially successful calm understanding of probable outcome while searching for any other possible actions to get you out of trouble


Coming conscious, pain

Huge pain

Also awareness of not being dead

Hospital treatment and the slow process of recovery

On and off thinking about what went wrong

My fault?


Other people?

Everything thought through

Decision to do it again

Training, getting fit again

First time after lay off extra tension

Do it

Huge, huge relief

What a thing to be so alive!

Private, private world

The world of shared danger, but a danger faced alone

At the time an addiction so strong that you cannot imagine life without it

For many years that was my experience

Then without really noticing other elements come into your life

You stop one day

Maybe never to do it again

For me those other things now give me more but in a very different way

My past life, my other life fades away

So strong were the experiences though that it is easy to revisit them whenever I want to

Not often now, but today I just felt like it

To try and share a bit of what that extreme point is like

Taught me a lot about myself

Maybe that is why it was so powerful

Nothing like repeated danger to learn about yourself 

Learnt somethings that would not have been possible otherwise

You cannot pretend to face your fears - you either do or you do not

Just a personal thing

A personal choice

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Footnote to shame

MEPs caused outrage yesterday by rejecting a colour-coded system of food labelling which health campaigners said would inform consumers about levels of fat and sugar and halt rocketing levels of obesity.
Instead of the traffic light labelling system devised by the UK Food Standards Agency, the MEPs backed the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) system favoured by food manufacturers.
The GDA scheme, which has the support of Pepsico, Danone, Kraft and other multinational food corporations, is expected to be introduced across Europe by 2013, unless blocked by member states in the EU's Council of Ministers
No additonal comment needed

Finally another important step

Following the devastation of the second world war, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg, established by the Allied Forces to try leading figures of defeated Nazi Germany, described aggressive wars waged against other nations as "[a] supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".
Some 60 years later, history was made in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 12, 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, the site of the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
For the first time in the war stricken story of mankind, waging aggressive wars has become a prosecutable crime in international law and given precise meaning and teeth before the ICC - this on the strength of an unexpected consensus reached between member states of the Court (or in ICC terminology 'states parties').
The conference in Kampala concluded with the adoption of a resolution that at last defined the crime of aggression listed in Article 5 of the Rome Statute - the Court's founding treaty - using the UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX) as a guide.
The resolution, in effect, criminalises the use of force (for example: blockades, invasions, bombardments) against another country in violation of the Charter of the United Nations; giving the Court the power to try future political and military leaders who plan, prepare, initiate or execute illegal wars, and to hold them (individually) criminally responsible for the commission of this new, and long-overdue, international crime.
Equally importantly, the Kampala resolution settled the conditions under which the ICC could exercise jurisdiction over the crime.
No Security Council monopoly
The inclusion of the crime of aggression is a game-changer for global governance [GETTY]
The final text of the agreement reflects a language of compromise - in part, proposed by Canada - needed to appease all sides of the debate on the highly complex and divisive issue of empowering the ICC to prosecute those who wage illegal wars.
It does not take much imagination to guess where the dividing line has traditionally been drawn on this delicate question.
In general, most of the rift has been focused on the level of nexus that should exist between the ICC and the Security Council in the prosecution of the crime.
Thanks partly to the inconsistent track-record of the Security Council and the politically driven exercise of the veto powers of the five permanent members of the Council, most Middle Eastern and African states, and indeed the majority of the Court's states parties, have insisted on limiting the Council's involvement.
The rationale behind this standpoint is nicely captured in the opening address of the Iranian delegation, which was present at the conference in an Observer capacity.
Headed by Jamshid Momtaz, the former president of the UN International Law Commission, Iran aligned its position to that of Egypt's (which coincidentally attended on behalf of the non-aligned movement), and articulated the following:
• It is not legally convenient nor does it serve the cause of justice to tie the functioning of the Court to the decisions of the Security Council and, in a sense, leave the Court at the mercy of the Council. The Security Council is, by nature, a political organ and as such cannot act as a judicial filtering for the Court. The Security Council's practice in the past six decades indicates how dominant the political considerations of the permanent members have been in its decision-making processes. This includes those decisions made under Article 39 of the Charter, in particular the determination of an act of aggression.
Iran while recognising that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the UN Charter falls on the Security Council, nonetheless adds:
•[This] does not mean, however, that the Security Council can play a determining judicial role for the Court. The prior determination of an act of aggression can facilitate the work of the Court, but the absence of such determination should not handcuff the Court. Otherwise, the raison d’ĂȘtre of the Court, as a judicial body, would be undermined.
It must be said that the anxiety over granting exclusive control to the Security Council is overwhelming shared by human rights NGOs.
Richard Dicker, the director of the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch captures this shared concern in the following statement.
The "ICC as a judicial body must be independent from the political interference of the Security Council that is a political organ that takes decision for political reasons".
On the other side of the debate, the most robust resistance to the activation of the crime has come mostly from the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Benjamin Ferencz, a former prosecutor at Nuremburg, and one of the leading advocates of the crime of aggression suggests this is because: "… the Security Council members do not want to surrender their powers to the ICC."
The permanent five - the UK, US, Russia, China and France - amongst other states argue that the triggering, and certainly, the classification of the Court's jurisdiction over the crime must reside on the exclusive powers granted to the Security Council under Article 39 of the UN Charter.
Turkey, a non-permanent Security Council member, had taken a somewhat similar position.
Resolution criminalises the use of force against a country in violation of the UN charter [AFP]
The language of the resolution adopted in Kampala attempts to reconcile these two general schools of thought. And here is how:
Under the adopted resolution, the Security Council, after making a finding of unlawful use of force in breach of the UN Charter, can refer a situation to the Court pursuant to Article 13 (b) of the Rome Statute, whether or not the matter involves the acts of a state party.
This will ensure that the Security Council is the principal body that can classify the act as a crime of aggression, and trigger related ICC proceedings.
However if the Council fails to act within six months - say, due to a political gridlock - the Court can exercise its jurisdiction regardless and try nationals of a state party responsible for the crime of aggression on a state party referral, or when the ICC prosecutor commences an investigation on his own initiative.
In this last scenario, a prior authorisation from the pre-trial chamber of the Court is required.
These latter two options, offered as a compromise, counter the default monopoly that the Security Council would enjoy in classifying the offense and blessing it, as it were, for prosecution.
The resolution ensures that in the event the Security Council does not act, the Court will not be hampered by this inaction.
The resolution's limits
The resolution adopted in Kampala does have conditions attached to it.
For one, the newly adopted crime of aggression does not directly apply to non-state parties. It is worth recalling that major global players like Russia, China, US, Israel, Iran to name but a few are yet to become states parties.
The resolution also places restrictions on when the crime will have operative effect.
The ICC will not be able to exercise jurisdiction until at least 30 states parties have ratified the new amendments (likely to occur without difficulty).
Further, the states parties will have to wait until January 1, 2017 to activate the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime.
These are of course temporary hurdles before the crime is given full force of the law.
There are, however, other limitations.
Given that the Rome Statute is an international treaty entered into voluntarily between states, the Court's states parties can declare themselves exempt from the application of the crime (except for instances where the Security Council has referred the case to the ICC).
Additionally, the Security Council can pass a resolution deferring an investigation or a prosecution under Article 16 of the Rome Statute on grounds that they are injurious to international peace and security - such resolutions must, however, be revisited every year.
Regardless of these restrictions, make no mistake what transpired in Kampala is a tectonic step forward towards the fulfilment of a more refined international legal order where the rule of law is venerated and applied universally.
The inclusion of the crime of aggression in the arsenal of prosecutable offences of the ICC is a fundamental game-changer in global governance, forcing behavioural adjustments to the historical practice of waging war as merely "the continuation of politics by other means".
It is at this stage a fait accompli, and the world is better for it.
First, it demonstrates the truly international nature and independence of the ICC, where states parties can, on an equal basis, play a decisive role in shaping the future direction of the Court.
Unfounded misperceptions about the Court that prevail in the Middle East have to date prevented the region from reaping the benefits of ICC membership and protecting the human rights of the Middle Easterner.
In view of the tremendous losses suffered in the region through past wars and lapses in human rights protection at the national level, and with more conflicts projected to be on the horizon, it is only reasonable for states in the Middle East to ratify the Rome Statute and become states parties.
Apart from the deterrent dividend that being a member of the Court could yield by potentially changing the calculus of would be aggressors (that is strategic power), ratification would also mean empowerment and legal remedy in the event that crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court are committed.
At this juncture, the ICC boasts 111 states parties.
Of this number, the only Middle Eastern country that is a state party is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; a peculiar fact given that the region has been the stage of countless conflicts and human rights violations, and its states, the victims of numerous instances of aggression.
The ICC, it has been said, "is a kind of a sword of Damocles for those who admit a possibility of achieving political goals by committing mass murders, extermination and violating international law" - these are words, tellingly uttered by the Russian delegation at the commencement of the conference in Kampala.
It is past time to partner up with the ICC, and bring the culture of impunity in the Middle East to an end and assist the Court to achieve its notable mandate.
Human beings, Middle Easterner or other, should not be condemned to have their fundamental human rights trampled upon, with the consolation that they may have tranquility and recourse in death in the realm of the divine.
Fatalism and unwarranted suspicions towards the Court must give way to more informed decision making and dexterous action.
We are living at a turning point in history where the deficits of the past are slowing giving way - through friction, trial, courage and sacrifice no less - to a more aligned and balanced relations amongst states.
We are not there yet by any means, but the velocity of change has been fixed towards a more enlightened path for humanity.
It is hoped that Middle Eastern states, and generally all states currently looking to the Court from the sidelines, recognise that the ICC is an institution emblematic of this new century; one that is fit and equipped to function - independently and impartially - in this newly emerging global arena.
After the first world war, the former US secretary of state Charles Evans Hughes - a forgotten giant of his time from the romantic era of US influence in the world - stated the following in a speech presented in 1923: "War should be made a crime, and those who instigate it should be punished as criminals."
Almost a century later, Kampala 2010 became the embodiment of these prophetic words.
We have much to be proud of.
Yet the quest for peace and international rule of law is long and fraught with enumerable obstacles; but to march forward we must and collectively.