Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hill and Mallard put up, shut or p**s off

Thank you to all of those who have given up so much to represent New Zealand at the commonwealth games. However because you haven’t met our expectations we’re going to say you are not good enough. Doesn’t sound very nice does it ? Enough to make some athletes take up a “proper job” perhaps ? I wouldn’t blame them.

It seems a rum old deal when Trevor Mallard and Nick Hill describe the New Zealand CWG team as lacking in mental toughness. With quotes like: "New Zealanders tend to be too nice." or they lack: “ruthlessness” and a “cut throat” attitude. I at least am left in no doubt as to who the gutless ones really are. They were careful of course not to say gutless themselves.

Mallard is an ex –teacher professing an interest in rugby and mountain biking who deservedly may be described as a sporting never was. Hill is an ex electricity exec who got as far at Otago U20 rugby so we might call him a nearly has been. Can’t see what about these two really qualifies them to talk about the difficulties and the issues surrounding modern international elite sport.

Hill does sit at the top of SPARC it must be said, but he doesn’t actually run the high performance program. He is probably far to busy working out performance based funding formulae and medal expectations for 2008, which appear to have no correspondence in reality. Can a team of athletes really be described as lacking in toughness when they fail to achieve goals that apparently they didn’t even set themselves ? When the head of SPARC blames a formula and the athletes for the failure to achieve an apparently uncontrollable if not arbitrary gaol; I start to question whether he has any grasp of sporting reality at all. I certainly doubt whether he should really have influence on New Zealand high performance at any level. My earlier point remains you don’t damn athletes because they failed to meet your expectations however well calculated.

Mallard is easier to explain; he clearly feels that NZ have underperformed and that this reflects poorly upon him personally, hence his expert analysis and conclusion that NZ athletes lack “mental toughness”.

Phrases like lacking 'killer instinct' or “mental toughness” reflect exactly the unarguable platitudes that are referred to by the inept and intellectually bankrupt who are unwilling to take responsibility for failure. However if anyone is interested at the bottom of this section I have put the dimensions of “Mental Toughness” as researched and published by Jones, Hanton and Connaughton of the Uni of Wales in 2002, who took the time to ask elite coaches and athletes what they thought mental toughness was. Note the absence of phrases like not being too nice or indeed cut throat/killer instinct. While you are at it see how many of those 4th places can actually be attributed to lack of these qualities. And if you have time read the more sensible and measured response of Dave Currie our very capable chef de mission.

I too am disappointed to see that NZ didn’t do a well as on previous occasions and there may be room for improvement in many areas. But to be honest my first step would be to sack those in authority who appear to want to either grandstand at athletes expense or are unable to take responsibility for their share of failure. Such people are in my opinion of no use or value to a team. Say something positive or constructive or shut up. Better still go join act and then we know not to take you seriously.

1. Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals 2. Having an unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents
3. Having an insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed
4. Bouncing back from performance set-backs as a result of increased determination to succeed
5. Thriving on the pressure of competition
6. Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it
7. Not being adversely affected by others’ good and bad performances
8. Remaining fully-focused in the face of personal life distractions
9. Switching a sport focus on and off as required
10. Remaining fully-focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions
11. Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition)
12. Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cars and me

Okay lets make something clear.....

I love cars, I was brought up in a car town. The kids I grew up with worked in the factory until they closed it down. Crikey I used to have a compendium of cars, models and stats in my head just like all the other kids. Cars are in my blood they were an indivisible aspect of my growing up. Had my first proper kiss in a car, got laid for the first time in a car, had a birthday party...yep in a car. Once filled a car with birthday balloons just so that I could romance a beautiful girl. So much of the beauty, pain anguish and excitement of my life has been framed by a motor windscreen. Even now when I get behind the wheel of my cheesy Nissan, the Bogan, the Kev whatever.... screams to get out. When I'm on the road with the stereo loud you can see the years (and the common sense) just flow away from me. Get the idea ? There will always be some part of me that will so so so looooooove cars, driving and the illusion of freedom they bring.

So why have I chosen to walk to work ? I'm a selfish bugger I don't want to give up my car......

The problem is that as I have grown older I've learned to look beyond, bonnet, mirror signal manouver. Every time I drive I know I am doing a bad thing. Me I'm bad; not just the other guy driving next to me, or the guy I am passing on my left or the Mum driving her kids to I really mean me. I am as bad as everyone else and especially bad when I am the only one in the car.

That fact bothers me... but not as much as the fact that it has taken 23 years to figure this out and think a little differently about the issue. I'm worried that there may not be enough years left for everyone else to figure this out and more importantly to think so differently as to change the way we live; which is what is necessary in order to save the future. This is my responsibility as much as it is that of anyone else who gets behind a wheel.

I'm tired of ruining the lives of people I have yet to meet........The difference between my parents and I is that the truth and consequences of my actions are inescapable.

The equation I keep in my head is this.....Millions of years ago trees and plants were more abundant than they are now - they harvested Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and released Oxygen, keeping the Carbon. In so doing they created conditions essential to allowing mammals and in turn me to exist. While we were evolving, the trees and plants died and the Carbon they harvested went to earth with them. It made coal and oil.............All the time we burn these as fuel we reverse this process. Logically if we do this for long enough we will eliminate the vary conditions that allowed us to exist at all.

I like many others I am concerned about the fact that we have no means to re-capture the carbon dioxide and the elimination of important life giving conditions is set to take place awfully soon. How do I come to feel this....I look around and notice that this fuel we is starting to become costly because it is no longer in abundance. If this fuel is scarce then we may assume we have made considerable inroads into reversing natures carbon dioxide harvesting process. This should worry us all not just the Americans or the Alaskans or the Chinese but me too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Apple's slice too big ?

The question needs to be asked; has Apple fallen out with someone big in the music industry ? Has Jobs had a standoff over the cost of ITunes ? Because in response to potential French legislation requiring the interoperability of DRM.......Apple are squealing....

"If this happens, legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers."

Not true, in fact the reverse may be argued:

No-one is talking about the French calling for the removal of DRM technology far from it.

However in the current situation as I see it; If for some reason I don't like IPods i.e. because they sound c**p (partially true IMHO) and want to buy a superior competing device (fill name of any other device in here). Having quite possibly invested $thousands in ITunes(quite possible), I have limited options......

i) Burn all ITunes on to CD and then rip them to non DRM MP3 – Not very legal and likely to add the the probability of piracy due to the proliferation of non-DRM protected material.

ii) Use either an existing player like Winamp or some freely available software to achieve the same aim. Also not very legal blah, blah, blah.

iii) Go and download my entire music library from existing pirated sources. Don't see that being too popular either; especially if I see other stuff I like and don't have to pay for.

iv) I could of course buy all the music again from a compatible service. I think most business men begin to see the customer starting to look a bit pale and poor.

v) I guess I could just buy another IPod and suffer c**p sound.

From a distance it becomes clear that the only gang who benefits from ITunes is Apple when things are viewed in this way. They (Apple) stand to lose a lot if they allow interoperability of DRM. Most of the commentary on the topic has acknowledged this. What has been made less clear is this argument that ITunes with its restrictive approach is damaging the DRM cause. Something that I suspect hasn't escaped the notice of the big DRM gangsters that run the digital copyright racket. In truth I suspect they have known this for some time.

Far be it for me to say that French politics is corrupt, but like the rest of Europe they are quite responsive to the voice of the DRM Gangsters (music companies and existing exploiters of copyright)....hence the present draconian and non-sensical digital copyright legislation which can be operated as a racket to make people pay more for less....rant rant rant.... My point being, I don't think such a challenge to Apple would have come about without the backing of someone other than the consumer. Someone somewhere wanted this to happen it seems likely that the consumer was not considered here. This legislation only really damages Apple. After all, as far as I can gather (not reading in French) the rest of the package looks like your usual don't use ripping or cracking software gumpf. Which would explain why M$oft, Yahoo and others are not squealing.

Was this just the right time for a well targeted challenge to reopen a shrinking uncompetitive market or was this in fact just the right bit of legislation at the right time ?

Well you know what I think.......(he said slipping a legit CD into his PC for ripping to the hard drive in an unprotected format). Don't love DRM or the Music industry but boy do I want to know who Apple p****d off.

The bit that does make me chuckle is the probability of another copy protection own goal. I suspect after the current round of publicity, more people will know how to get round ITunes protection than did before, hence the pirates gain allies.......Thanks Apple - Greedy Greedy Apple........

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Killing in the name of……

This is a blog best known for misplaced and mis-timed irrational outbursts. Watch this though. The images really do speak for themselves. For the first time in a loooong time I cried for real at the sheer hate and anguish caused. How can anyone feel that they are being justly represented by people who would condone and do such wrong……,,1730817,00.html

I think when you see things from day to day you don’t for one reason or another feel the full impact of it all…

It makes me ashamed to speak the English language. Can we ever put right and make peace with those that we treat in this way ?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Smokocar ?

I’m sure this must seem both evangelical and absurd but in many respects drivers are the smokers of the 21st century. They occupy an extraordinarily protected and expensive place in society. Just as smokers of the early 20th century were allowed to light up where and when they wanted, so drivers are allowed to drive wherever and whenever they wish. Roads are in many respects both metaphorically and sometimes literally the ashtrays of our age.
The fact of the matter is that driving is a health hazard for those driving and those around them. This can be illustrated in terms the levels of activity associated with driving, the amount of activity that is subverted by roads-unreasonable driving and the effects on the environment. Please don’t try and convince me that vehicle emissions are somehow unlike passive smoking. There is a clear and indisputable health precedent for the reduction of vehicle use (some would argue there is quite a compelling economic one as well). This is a key battleground for health in the coming century. In the post war developed world the same precedent was established with respect to smoking. Replace the phrase “big tobacco” with “big motor” and you have a grasp of how some people feel about the issue. Taking bikes off roads is the same, as saying non-smokers can’t stand in a room where someone is smoking. Indeed the issue should be reversed, just like smokers; motorists should be forced to occupy a decreasing space in society. Actions like this can and should be driven by the knowledge that it will benefit the health of everyone involved.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We the little people vs. Auckland transport planning

ARC announces a funding gap of $700m and declares that the public transport wishlist is in the freezer. Absent from this declaration is any suggestion to cease road building and road improvement so we may assume that this is business as usual in cartown. And the already f****d up public transport system can rot again. Well how bad can it be ?

It takes my wife 80mins to get from Auckland hospital to our door at peak times a journey that can’t be more than 15k (a fit adult on a bike can do this in half the time). At sparrows fart the trip to work never takes less than 50mins (nb. There are no viable really early buses from where we are as we found out when we tried to catch an early plane). But now the fun starts - we cannot afford for my wife to take the bus-ride from the stop at the top of our drive why ? Because that route is owned by a different company to the one that runs the majority of routes into and around Auckalnd central connection of these services for the regular commuter would require a ‘special pass’. To buy a linked annual pass for this purpose would cost another $1000 on top of the $1400 we already pay. So to go from door to door using the bus service from the shore would cost a minimum of $2400p.a.. If my wife wasn’t a student I suspect it would cost closer to $3000. I dread to think of the cost to someone who has to use three services to get to work and doesn’t buy an annual pass. At these prices cars are starting to look really good value for money.

But here’s the best bit, my wife renewed the bus pass (that only she can use) at a cost of $1460 using the provided internet portal. The site declared that the pass would be delivered within four working days. It wasn’t delivered so two days before the expiry date she had to phone them to find out where the pass was. My wife was told that she would have to go to and collect the pass from a someone involved at Auckland Uni who was to be found at enrolment. If we had not have phoned how long would it have taken for them to tell us and did they propose to do it in writing ? After 45mins of queuing the pass was obtained with the accompanying excuse that the passes kept on getting stolen in the post so they wouldn’t send it. This is a lie defeated by the fact that the passes can be de-activated on request and therefore useless to the thief. The second reason given was altogether more truthful, so few passes had been requested they basically couldn’t be bothered to sort out postage. How lame is that ?

Despite considerable subsidies from ARC, the incumbent service provider still fails to open its books to public scrutiny, fails to provide a service that in any way really encourages all but the most determined commuter and has yet to buy its predominantly agreeable drivers a decent wage; But! they still pay shareholder dividends of course. Just how f****d up can this be………………

And no the alternatives for those of us on the shore are not good…..

Both my wife and I stopped cycling to work, why ? because Auckland drivers have no regard for anyone but themselves. We have collectively cycled in Beijing, Shanghai, London, Geneva, Paris, of all these places Auckland remains the worst. So bad in fact that it scared us off the road.

That said you really don’t want to walk in a town where the only safe place for cyclists is the path and consequently there is no safe place for pedestrians. This is also the town that cannot be a***d top put pavement on both said of many roads so getting to work on foot is a trial of lights that seem to take forever. Which is necessary because you have to cross and re-cross the road to find the pavement that will get you anywhere. Don’t bother running unless you want to spend a fortune on orthotics and physio either. The camber of many paths here is just silly…..

When I first got here I wanted to run from my house to the skytower over the Auckland bridge I have given up hope, but the idea still gets a few laughs along with the excuse that no paths were added to the bridge because the gradient was too steep….go on tell me that this rumour is true…..