Why I am running the 2013 New York Marathon

Kilimanjaro1I used to be a very fit and active person – I enjoyed sports, hiking (Kilimanjaro, Simian Mountains, Snowy Mountains high country) and the outdoors. I used to row. I used to play (very amateur) rugby. I used to ski at least 3 or 4 times a year.

In 2009 I had a vehicle accident which severely injured my back and pelvis. It took me close to 6 months to walk properly (on painkillers) and as for running or any kind of impact sport, fugheddaboutit. At about the same time, my business activities went into a fair amount of distress and turmoil – it was height of the global financial crisis and my entrepreneurial life was a continuous firefight. I should add it was a firefight that I nearly lost on a number of occasions. I stopped looking after myself, I ‘porked’ out a bit…

In 2011 I got married and pretty soon thereafter along came Max, my son. I remember walking out of the hospital very early in the morning on the day he was born and asking myself “what the hell just happened?” The world has never looked the same since that day. I’ve become more open to other people’s needs, I care more deeply about what is happening in the world … I should also add that I get angry more easily when I see people doing things that are going to leave our planet in worse shape for him. I suppose you could say that Max was a great awakening for me.

snugglebug and daaadaLittle children are also an uncensored mirror to ourselves. I have learned from Max that I am selfish. I am consumed by my business activities. I don’t give my time as freely as I perhaps should. He has also taught me that I am not as healthy as I should be – when bending down to pick him causes back discomfort at 38 years of age, one has to ask the question of what will happen when he is 10 and wants to kick a football around?

This is a very critical issue for me.

I used to enjoy running. I never did it “seriously” but would do 5 or 6kms 3-4 times a week. When I stopped running my body changed. Many of you will know that I am concerned about men’s health, but it is a real issue that doesn’t sometimes get enough airplay. As men age, we put on fat, we work too much (and don’t get enough sleep), we drink too much (all those business trips to Japan and Korea…). In my case I experience moodiness and hormonal imbalances that are a direct result of my being about 20 kg overweight. With hormonal imbalances (lack of testosterone) we men lose our drive, our energy … and even sex drive.

So, I had a choice. Testosterone supplements or getting my health together. I chose to focus on my health.

I’m not perfect yet – I love good food and (on weekends) a bit of wine. On a day off work or a break from travel – I’d still rather catch up on sleep, or play with Max or read a book (or even update my blog!). But now I am watching what I eat, I have a trainer and in my spare time I am running again – and I look and feel a whole lot better. By the way – my trainer Tarryn is awesome – she has been working on my core training and my back pain is gone. When I started jogging back in January I made it 2kms before I got back spasms. A couple of weekends ago I ran 12kms pain-free … and could feel my abdominal muscles working for me! Absolutely amazing.

Max learns to walk, while Dadda learns to run again...

Max learns to walk, while Dadda learns to run again…

I am a goal-oriented person so when I decided I needed to start exercising properly again, I wanted to shoot for something that would really make me work at it. I also wanted to do something for my son so that one day, when he looked at pictures of me when he was little, he could understand that my love for him was so deep and so transformational that it had the ability to improve my own life in unexpected ways. I am running this marathon for me – and I am running it for Max – so that my health will be there for him in the future when he needs it.

Many of us have lost loved ones to heart disease – and now that we are slowly getting cancer under control, it’s our major killer. My uncle had a heart attack a few months ago. My aunt has recently had two strokes and has severe cardiovascular disease. I lost my beloved grandfather to a heart attack 17 years ago (at a comparatively young age). So I decided that I would not just run for myself, but that I would also use my friendships and my network to run for the Heart Foundation. The Heart Foundation does critical work for research and prevention of heart disease and it is my privilege to join their 2013 NYC Marathon team.

If you have a heart – please donate to my Heart Foundation fundraising page.

Anyone want to buy a (now) riverfront Calgary apartment?

Just my luck. My wife and I own a small apartment in Calgary, Canada. Long story why – but we do. We’ve had tenants the last few years but recently concluded we didn’t want the hassle anymore and decided to sell the property. Summertime – the best time to sell, the weather is nice, the park across the way looks pretty. Yeah, well the day we choose a realtor to sell the condo, the sky parted and a great deluge came down from the heavens.

A year of water hoiked it down in a couple of hours. Was it a sign?

If you have not been following the events or seen newsflashes, Calgary is under water. A week before the famous “Calgary Stampede” our celestial governors decided to turn the Saddledome into a vast pond – it must be billions of dollars of damage. The footage is extraordinary.

I have three comments.

Firstly, my hat off to Naheed Nenshi and the City of Calgary for the way this was handled. By all accounts, an exemplary demonstration of effective city government. I’ve heard phenomenal stories of how fire, police and emergency services have efficiently – and tirelessly – ensured the safety of the populace. My understanding is that despite the widespread damage and incredible water depths (and literally rapids running through parts of the city) that there have only been 2 or 3 deaths. Kudos.

By the way as an aside note, I am a big fan of Mayor Nenshi, a really superb example of a vibrant and committed public servant. A future Premier of Alberta … maybe even a Prime Minister in the making? He certainly beats Julian Trudeau hands down in my book (true sign of a lack of inspirational political candidates when we have to resort to genetics). I’ll also add that my [awesome] Brother-in-Law, Juan (who lives in Calgary), is Nenshi’s doppelganger – they literally could have been separated at birth – and has actually had to grow a beard to stop random people coming up to him and telling him what a great job he is doing running the city. Hilarious! So you see, our family has a unique insight in Nenshi’s competence and popularity as a Mayor.

Separated at Birth

Secondly, although our apartment itself was not damaged, the building got a pretty good soaking at a ground floor level and the basements/car parks and lobby were certainly flooded. Methinks we are going to have to be a bit more creative about how we market our property. Perhaps:

Top floor, waterfront Calgary property with an intimate river atmosphere located (somewhere) at the intersection of the Bow and Elbow rivers. This superb property boasts sweeping river views, in-ground basement swimming pool and aquatic recreation area, a swim-up bar, a pool lounge area and valet parking with free car washing – every day! Watch birdlife from the master bedroom and sense the tranquillity of a water feature in your own living room. Close to nature, close to water and only a short boat ride to the centre of Calgary.

… sigh.

Lastly, our thoughts go out to the people of Calgary who are dealing with this in real-time and on the ground, not from afar like we are. Calgarians are tough, resilient and generous people who will help each other through this difficult time. It was “classic” Calgary to see the T-shirt theme for Stampede this year was “Hell or High Water.” You can buy them online and all proceeds go to flood relief. Hopefully the show will go on in a few days time.

Krill oil : yeah, let’s wipe out the bottom of the food chain too

I’m sitting on a plane and watching the “Last Ocean” –a visually stunning documentary about the Ross Sea (Antarctica) and the “Tooth Fish” (a.k.a the Chilean Sea Bass). It’s a very remarkable and thought-provoking exposé on how we are depleting our world’s oceans and how our insatiable demand for fish is rapidly turning our oceans into deserts.

It was while scrolling through movie options on my in-flight entertainment system that I saw this particular title. Ordinarily, I must confess I would have probably chosen Hollywood “escape” over something like this at the end of a long day where a bit of comedy or a mindless action sequel is a better mental fit. But it just kind of drew me in…

This documentary is simply beautifully filmed and nothing short of fascinating … but also sort of depressing when you think about how dysfunctional and destructive we humans are as a species.

However, today – quite by coincidence – this part of the world was already on my mind. Earlier today I happened to drop into a drug store to pick up a prescription and walked past the nutritional supplements and vitamin isle. Every week there seems to be a greater diversity of offerings in this part of the store. The health supplements business certainly seems to be very much alive and well (I am clearly in the wrong business). What really caught my eye was a whole shelf dedicated to Omega-3/5 supplements and a promotion on krill oil.

Yep. Krill oil.

I picked up one of the containers and read the description and nutritional information. Basically krill oil is a kind of hyper-potent “fish” oil that is made from vast schools of tiny crustaceans that live in our southern oceans. Krill is about as far down on the bottom of the food chain as you can get before hitting plankton – it feeds everything from tiny fish to gigantic whales and is arguably a cornerstone of the world’s ecosystem.

So, basically the effect of fishing for krill to make krill oil supplements is to wipe out the bottom of the food chain while we also (rather successfully) wipe out the top of the food chain by over-fishing everything with a set of gills (and plenty besides that happens to get snared in our nets). I did a few minutes of surfing and while the quantity of krill reserves seems staggering in numerical terms – the tonnage being fished is also not small. Proponents argue that krill can be sustainably fished and that the fishery reserves are vast compared to demand, but to me these statements kind of remind me of historical accounts of when bison roamed the Great Plains of North America in such vast numbers that fields were turned black.

Abundance, only until decimated by us.

I am not an ecologist. I’m not an expert on marine habitats. But I suspect that one day we will look back at when we fished for krill oil to make “health pills” and it will seem as barbaric as the days when we took pot-shots at bison from a train, or turned elephants into foot stools. My son will come home from school and ask his Daddy why our generation “killed the krill.”

I will never buy this product.

By the way, check out the Last Ocean Trust. This is something worth supporting… by all accounts, our Antarctic oceans are a magic place to protect forever, for our children.

Oh yeah, and don’t eat Chilean Sea Bass either. If you do, it means you don’t give a damn about the planet.

Kevin Rudd, you sneaky bugger…

I’m aghast.

Three years after being ousted by the Labor Party, Kev is back. I suppose technically, having won the Labor leadership ballot 57-45, he is now – subject to the Governor General’s “blessing” – Prime Minister of Australia.

Again.

I have always been a Labor supporter but I will not vote Labor in the next election because they do not deserve my – or anyone’s – loyalty. A fundamental cornerstone of democracy is stable and functioning government that is there to serve the People, not to serve itself. The power struggles and infighting within the Party over the past three years has been nothing short of disgusting and the Government has dropped the ball on major issues as a consequence.

When Gillard came to power the Party made its bed. They should lie in it, even if the bed turns into a coffin.

But good ol’ Kevin told a different kind of “lie” many times and in different ways. He stood at the sidelines and coyly said he would not challenge leadership. He said it again and again. He said it with vehemence. He said it with a smirk on his chubby schoolboy face. He said it with convoluted and opaque sentences. He said it with crisp and staccato clarity.

How are we supposed to trust someone who flip-flops like this? Did he not know if he wanted to be PM? Was it a last-minute decision (perhaps brushing his teeth that morning)? Was he bullied into it by the ALP? Or did he just decide to mislead everyone because he thinks we are all plebeian enough to be wowed by some sort of 11th hour, white-knight-Kev-to-the-rescue charade?

If Kevin had any gravitas, if he had any sense of statesmanship, if he truly was a leader worth following – he would have not succumbed to the temptation of what will be a brief, transient and irrelevant epoch of leadership. Instead he should have declined the poll, supported Julia Gillard and been part of re-building the Labor Party post-election. But Kevin doesn’t care about his Party or his Country, he only cares about himself and this manoeuvre is nothing less than the brief ego trip of a weak man.

Australians should not vote for Kevin Rudd in August. Australians should not vote for the Labor Party in the next election. Although it pains me to say this (and my contempt for Tony Abbott is well known), we need a complete change of government and there needs to be a price to pay for this skulduggery.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you vote for Clive Palmer (joke… check out this parody). Certainly an honest day in Australian politics makes rebuilding the Titanic (a.k.a. “Clive’s Tugboat”) look like a cakewalk.

PS: I retract any nice things I have ever said about Kev in the past…

They really did “send in the Mounties”, eh?

I was amazed to see a typically sensationalized headline in my newsfeed this week “Prabhdeep Srawn: Canadian soldiers to join search for Brampton man missing in Australia” and “Canadian Armed Forces join search for missing bushwalker.” Given prior analysis of Canadian culture, I just had to read … and pass comment.

Turns out this poor guy has been missing in Australia’s Snowy Mountains for about a month now. Having hiked a fair amount in the general area in which he disappeared, I can say from experience that it is a pretty rustic part of the world. The main issue is that weather can change dramatically this time of year and the terrain is really quite rugged. Wet surfaces, sharp rocks and trecherous escarpments means this is not terrain for the solo hiker. Plenty of snakes too – and likely to be sunnying themselves on rocks since it hasn’t been cold enough for snow and the fall sun has been lingering a bit…

In a prior blog I suggested that in the event of a Canadian in danger abroad, the government wouldn’t “send in the troops” – unlike their bretheren south of the 49th parallel who would have a Blackhawk over in a jiffy. When I read this article, I thought I was going to have to eat my words.

Not so.

As it happens, it’s a bunch of his buddies from the Army (he’s a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces) and they are looking for him on their own time. I’m really impressed – it’s a true testament to the comraderie and concern of his friends that they would join in the search after the NSW State Police stopped looking for him after about a month.

I hope they find him – preferably alive. Good luck guys! Hike carefully… and watch out for Copperheads and Tigers, eh…

My thoughts also go out to his family.

“Enduring Awareness” – what was Boeing thinking?

One of the latest trends in corporate advertising seems to be these highly visual, slightly cryptic “value propositions” that glossily illustrate a technology vertical or an application area. GE likes them, Chevron definately likes them (the “We Agree” series). But this past week I saw Boeing’s new advertisement in a top-tier current affairs newspaper and my reaction was very mixed. It is reproduced in a somewhat roughshod format below:

Boeing Ad

At the time, I had a moment of discomfort and a bit of a pause but then dismissed my personal overreaction. But then a day later a good friend of mine (who shall not be named but is a morally upstanding sort – you know who you are…) forwarded me the exact same ad, knowing that I was an avid reader of that particular newspaper. He chased it with a simple statement “not sure if I should laugh or cry.”

What was Boeing thinking?

Now, I am not an expert in military hardware and I have always (peversely) sort of admired those military tech geeks that can eyeball a bit of kit and recognize the model, caliber of munitions and rattle off half-a-dozen facts about the weapon or aircraft or whatever. But I am about 95% sure that this is a picture of a Boeing Scaneagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or “drone”, as it is known in common parlance. I will also accept that drones have all kinds of applications – both military and civilian and I probably don’t need to enumerate them to make a point. The issue is that, on the whole, UAVs are synonymous with military activity. They are used to spy on people, they are used to gather intelligence in hostile territories, and they are used to establish sophisticated communication networks to direct force. They are also sometimes used to deliver force directly. Although the Scaneagle is not perhaps as immediately identifiable as a General Atomics Predator (that we see just about every week on the evening news) it clearly falls into the same stable of technology and applications.

Given the level of contention right now about the escalating use of military drones and particularly the legality of the Obama adminsitration’s use of drone strikes and recent policy shifts (or not) around drone usage, you’d quite reasonably think that a company like Boeing would be more cautious about how to associate its brand with something of such major public and human rights concern. Sure it’s a cool image – a sleek fuselage and high-tech looking electronics package. Ultimately, however, this is a technology used to spy on and kill people. Yeah, life doesn’t tend to “endure” for long when you are on the receiving end of this technology…

Why is Boeing pushing this image? I don’t get it.

What I think bothered me the most when I saw the ad the first time was something subtler. Boeing is a sophisticated company, presumably with marketing and CSR teams that are not filled with neophytes. Therefore they must have done serious research on shareholder engagement and brand development, and made the informed decision that this was a good idea. Sure, companies do stupid things, but obviously Steyr and Colt are sensitive enough not to run full page ads for automatic weapons in the Economist, Second Amendment and gun control debate notwithstanding. Moreover, Boeing has so many other cool civilian and space technologies they could have boastfully profiled without having to resort to a shadowy and slightly nefarious looking UAV image.

This means that Boeing deliberately chose the image precisely because they knew it would have a desired impact, because Boeing believes that we find these technologies interesting, impressive and appealing. It means as prospective shareholders and public stakeholders of military action (at least theoretically – in truth many of our democratic institutions are a little battered at the moment) we were supposed to see this and respond positively and favorably.

What does this really say about how we have evolved as a society?