Archive for July, 2009

Genetics And Running

July 26th, 2009 No comments

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in my early teens, and I can’t speak highly enough of the benefits this has brought. It clears the mind, improves the mood, gets you outdoors and in touch with nature, keeps your cardio-vascular system in good order, and keeps you slimmer, fitter and healthier than even many other types of exercise can do.

I think the main reason I started running as a recreational activity was because, having previously always thought I was pretty average at sport (if not at everything), I suddenly discovered that I was able to finish ahead of many of my classmates in school cross country runs. This was very self-affirming. I had suddenly found something I was good at, and received recognition for it. And of course then I discovered the extra enjoyment and benefits that started to come from doing it more regularly on my own.

Having said that, I am not a champion runner by any means – just averagely good, perhaps. On the (rare) occasions that I have raced I seem to place quite well in comparison with the bulk of others who enter the races, but never anywhere near the very best. In illustration, here is a record of my most recent training run – in preparation for the Sydney City to Surf run in two weeks time – faster than some, slower than others. 🙂

But why was I relatively good at running in the first place? Presumably it must be my genetics. In fact my mother recalled that prior to my birth, her doctor had told her that he thought I would be good at sports, because he had detected a slow fetal heart rate. The implication there is having a cardio-vascular system which is inherently capable of higher work rates. And of course the other factor is having a suitable frame and musculature, and on that front not only are both my parents naturally slim, but they also had been good at sports, at least in their youth.

So the question I now ask myself is, if I had not had this genetic foot-up (so to speak) what chance that I would have developed a lifetime sport habit?

I suspect that without that boost to my self-esteem at an early age, I may well not have taken to sports at all, or if I did then probably in a far less enduring or beneficial way. And on this basis, I have to feel a lot of sympathy for those who find it much harder than I to keep up the discipline of regular exercise or sport.

If you are one of those who do struggle to exercise regularly, all I can do is to encourage you to ignore the genetics, to forget about comparing your sporting performance with the super genetically-endowed champions, and simply enjoy the benefits of what it bring to you – which is simply a higher quality of life, and personal enjoyment of it.

Categories: Genetics, Running Tags: ,

Principles to Live By – Balance

July 18th, 2009 2 comments

I intend to write about some principles that I have found to be invaluable in my own life.

Obviously I am writing about them as ideals. As imperfect humans we do not always manage to manifest our ideals perfectly. However, maintaining the intention to do so is a powerful practice in its own right.

The first one I will tackle is balance.

Do you lead a balanced life? Are you a rounded person? Do you maintain balance and poise no matter what is happening around you? Or are there aspects of yourself which are a little out of kilter?

The principle of balance works in many ways, at many levels. For example

  • Physically – Are you equally strong on both sides of your body, or equally supple? Is your upper body more or less well developed than you lower body? Of course we do not have complete control over these things due to our genetics, past accidents or influences which have left their marks. But we do have control over how we sit, stand, move and exercise and whether we put more effort into our weaker areas than our stronger ones, and whether we focus too much on one type of exercise which might overdevelop one aspect of ourselves in relation to others.
  • Emotionally – Are you more or less emotionally strong or resilient than you are physically or mentally strong? Do you repress your emotions or are you perhaps too easily emotionally aroused or too quick to dump your emotions onto others? Do you willingly put yourself into situations which you know will challenge you emotionally, or are you emotionally timid?
  • Mentally – Can you see both sides of an argument? Having decided on something after reasoning it through, are you able to maintain your resolve? Or do you often allow your emotions to hijack your thoughts?
  • Spiritually – Do you have a voice of conscience, a set of morals or standards that inform your thoughts, feelings and actions? Are your standards too highly enforced, leaving you often feeling guilty and repressed in your humanness, or do you overindulge yourself and put your standards aside rather too often?

In all these things (and in other aspects of life too), working towards balancing ourselves invariably leads to a higher quality of life.

If you thoughtfully examine current affairs, news and world events, it is possible to see how lack of balance of one kind or another has contributed to tensions and turmoil. Almost all distress in life comes through lack of balance of one sort or another and although much of the distress that you feel may come principally through a lack of balance by other people, groups or nations, balancing ourselves lessens the likelihood that we will inflict harm on others, and thus reduce the endless cycle of action and reaction that often ensues from this.

Although it is often futile to attempt to moderate the extreme or unbalanced behaviour of others through mental persuasion, the example that you set in your own life can be far more subtly influential, at least to those near enough to you to experience your presence and state of being. And with the whole world being within just six degrees of separation, any positive influence you have within your own immediate life sphere can spread far and wide – probably much more so than you might imagine.

Good luck with your efforts at finding a dynamic balance!

And in future articles, I will be seeking to do my own bit by covering a healthy balance of topics.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Fielding Offside on Climate Change

July 14th, 2009 2 comments

Australian senator Steven Fielding is becoming notorious for his recently acquired stance on climate change. He appears to have been heavily influenced by the fringe dwellers of the climate debate.

Graph from Fieldings website - complete with scientifically unsound title

Graph from Fielding's website - complete with scientifically unsound title

A page on his website states his case and documents elements of his own “debate”, including 3 questions he has posed, the answers provided by the Australian government and further comments and analysis by several hand-picked dissenting scientists.

A careful read of all the referenced documents reveals that not only did the government provide clearly argued answers to each of the questions he posed, but also that those answers strongly refute the premises of climate change skepticism. For those who don’t have the time to read the whole thing, the exact questions and a summary of the government’s answers (in my own words, for brevity and clarity) follow, below.

The subsequent response to the government’s answers by Fielding’s chosen scientists also makes for interesting reading – not so much for its scientific content (notably not peer reviewed itself), but rather as an example of how it is so easily possible for fringe scientists to argue a paper-thin case with the appearance of scientific gravitas, when in fact all they are doing is focusing on isolated pieces of tangential factors and evidence, and completely ignoring the mass of evidence which points in completely the opposite direction.

The most damning part of their answer however, in my opinion, is their assertion that Fielding’s questions “remain unanswered” by the government. Fielding has seized on this absurd assertion and now wears it like a badge of honour. Whatever their level of scientific credibility, their personal impartiality in this matter is clearly compromised.

Fielding Question 1

Is it the case that CO2 increased by 5% since 1998 whilst global temperature cooled over the same period (see Fig. 1)?  If so, why did the temperature not increase; and how can human emissions be to blame for dangerous levels of warming?

Government’s Answer

The surface air temperature is just one component in the climate system (ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere). There has been no material trend in surface air temperature during the last 10 years when taken in isolation, but 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. Also global heat content of  the ocean (which constitutes 85% of the total warming) has continued to rise strongly in this period, and ongoing warming of the climate system as a whole is supported by a very wide range of observations, as reported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Fielding Question 2

Is it the case that the rate and magnitude of warming between 1979 and 1998 (the late 20th century phase of global warming) was not unusual in either rate or magnitude as compared with warmings that have occurred earlier in the Earth’s history (Fig. 2a, 2b)?  If the warming was not unusual, why is it perceived to have been caused by human CO2 emissions; and, in any event, why is warming a problem if the Earth has experienced similar warmings in the past?

Government’s Answer

While the Earth’s temperature has been warmer in the geological past than it is today, the magnitude and rate of change is unusual in a geological context. Also the current warming is unusual as past changes have been triggered by natural forcings whereas there are no known natural climate forcings, such as changes in solar irradiance, that can explain the current observed warming of the climate system. It can only be explained by the increase in greenhouse gases due to human activities.

Fielding Question 3

Is it the case that all GCM computer models projected a steady increase in temperature for the period 1990-2008, whereas in fact there were only 8 years of warming were followed by 10 years of stasis and cooling. (Fig. 3)? If so, why is it assumed that long-term climate projections by the same models are suitable as a basis for public policy making?

Government’s Answer

It is not the case that all GCM computer models projected a steady increase in temperature for the period 1990-2008.  Air temperatures are affected by natural variability.  Global Climate Models show this variability in the long term but are not able to predict exactly when such variations will happen. GCMs can and do simulate decade-long periods of no warming, or even slight cooling, embedded in longer-term warming trends.

Categories: Climate Tags:


July 11th, 2009 No comments

Why didn’t someone tell me about this blogging thing?!

Well, actually I’ve known about it for a long time. And I’ve already been blogging for some time about work related issues here –

Its just that I’ve blogged only about work related issues, and now I’m succumbing to the urge to say some things about the issues in life that I feel need some more attention – things that I feel deserve to brought to the attention of others… and maybe that includes you.

Here’s to a stimulating, enlightening and empowering dialog!

Sydney Storm Clouds

Power & Majesty - Sydney Storm Clouds At Dusk

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: