Friday, 28 January 2011

Cotton wool kids

I was reading the most recent copy of the CTC magazine (a cycling magazine). In it there was an article about a father and son who cycled one of the CTC Challenge Rides together. These are sportive rides ridden on open roads, and are intended to be challenging in their
distance and or / the terrain they encompass.

The article was written by the father of a twelve year old son, who shared his father's passion and enthusiasm for cycling. The ride they did together was the Phil Liggett Challenge Ride, which is a 100 mile ride through the Peak District, and takes in many of its famous climbs, including the notorious Holme Moss. Having ridden in the area myself, (including Holme Moss) I can testify first hand as to how difficult such a ride will be. I can also testify to how spectacular such a ride will be, and the sense of achievement that such a ride bestows upon the rider.

Before the ride, the Dad told various magazines and journalists about the fact that his twelve year old son was going to attempt such a challenging ride. Naturally, he was very proud of his young offspring, and quite rightly so too.

While most of the magazines and journalists were full of praise for the young lad, one magazine did not share this attitude, and went so far as to say that they would not condone the young lad's adventure, as their readership may take the view that it constitutes bad parenting to let a child of twelve ride such a challenging event.

What nonsense! The Dad in no way applied any pressure to his son, and in fact went to great lengths to go through what the ride would involve. The lad made his decision to ride with the full facts, and without any parental pressure whatsoever. I would never condone a parent who applies pressure on their child to partake in an activity they were not completely comfortable with i.e. the pushy parent syndrome. If the child however is armed with the full facts and is highly motivated, then why stop them?

Children are not the delicate things our society thinks they are. Children who are motivated and ambitious should be encouraged, not discouraged. With the right parental support, a child can reach goals that may even surpass those thought possible by their parents.

We live in a society where children are cossetted and wrapped up in cotton wool. Far too many parents are overly protective, and don't let their children do anything that carries even the smallest risk. We're all too aware of the absurd lengths that Health and Safety has taken within our society, where children are not allowed to play conkers unless they are wearing protective goggles.

Several schools have even gone out of their way to discourage children from cycling to school, in a society with increasing levels of obesity amongst children. Presumably the schools in question would rather reduce any potential risk to themselves, than try to encourage something that might actually reduce a national problem.

We need to let out children fall down, make mistakes, play games and have fun. The greatest thing a parent can do for  their child is to let them grow up and make their own decisions and mistakes. We can't wrap them up in cotton wool forever. That doesn't prepare the child for the hard knocks they will receive in the real world. So unwrap your child, give them plenty of support and guidance, and let them live their lives and reach their full potential!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Friday, 21 January 2011

Be Inspired

Be inspired by your accomplishments,

Don't feel threatened by your limitations


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Please sponsor me in my Night Rider cycling challenge for charity

I'm taking part in the 2011 Night Rider event - a 100km cycling event through the moonlit streets of London, to raise money for Arthritis Research UK.

I have chosen Arthritis Research UK my friend's Dad suffers with Arthritis and I want to help to raise awareness of this debilitating condition.

The 2011 Night Rider cycling event starts from Crystal Palace and takes us past over fifty of London's most famous landmarks including Tower Bridge, a deserted City of London, Canary Wharf, The London Eye, Hampstead Heath, Piccadilly Circus, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Through Virgin Money Giving, you can sponsor me and donations will be quickly processed and passed directly to Arthritis Research UK. Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation and will claim gift aid on a charity's behalf where the donor is eligible for this. I really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations.

All contributions are very welcome.

Please visit my fund raising page to make a donation.

 


Monday, 17 January 2011

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Stop South Korea From Burying Pigs Alive

It sounds too horrific to be true, but officials in South Korea are piling pigs on top of each other in trucks, dumping thousands of them into mass graves, and burying them alive.

This atrocity is intended to control an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, but there is an inexpensive vaccine for the disease that the South Korean government inexplicably refuses to use. As many as 34,000 pigs have been killed in a single day. If this cruel slaughter is allowed to continue, the number of pigs killed could reach more than 1 million.

Please urge South Korean authorities to stop this massacre immediately. Send a polite e-mail to the ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the U.S., Han Duk-soo, telling him that you want the South Korean government to stop burying pigs alive and to use humane methods of controlling foot and mouth disease.

 


Don't you believe in anything?

 

Don't you believe in flying saucers?, they ask me. Don't you believe in telepathy? - in ancient astronauts? - in the Bermuda triangle? - in life after death?

No, I reply. No, no, no, no and again no.

One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"

"Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe in anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be".

 

- Isaac Asimov

 


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Keep Life Beautiful

Thanks to MarvellousMe for this image.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Friday, 7 January 2011

Pale Blue Dot

This is the most humbling speech ever made by anyone. It is the 'Pale Blue Dot' speech made by the late, great Carl Sagan. Read the words to this and watch the accompanying video, and you cannot fail to feel humbled.

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Pale Blue Dot video


The 5 Ways of Being Positive

  • CHOOSE to be positive (the most important one)
  • Understand your IMPACT (we all have one, but few realise it's importance)
  • Take PERSONAL responsibility (give yourself greater control of your life)
  • Have BOUNCEBACKABILITY (we all get down, but get your bounce back quickly)
  • Set yourself HUGE goals (forget realistic, aim higher)

Positive psychology has identified these as the traits of the 2%ers. These are the people who have the most positive outlook on life. They are not necessarily the richest and have the best jobs. What they have is a positive attitude to life. Only 2% of the population live anywhere near close to their full potential. If you want to start reaching your full potential, and to become a better version of YOU, then start putting these traits into your daily life. After 7 days of doing something, it becomes a trait and a habit!

Do it today!!


Thursday, 6 January 2011

Heroes - Frank Zappa

Continuing with my Heroes series of blogs, I'd now like to focus the latest in the series on one of my musical heroes - Frank Zappa. I have long been a fan of Frank Zappa's music. If you happen to play a musical instrument, then you simply have to check out some of his back catalogue. It is often quite eclectic, as his music spans many different musical styles and time signatures.

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 РDecember 4, 1993) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, electronic, orchestral, and musique concr̬te works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist (Wikipedia).

His music was notoriously difficult to play. When auditioning musicians for his band, he would ask them to sight read difficult pieces of music, to be able to play in odd time signatures and to be able to play in many different styles (rock, jazz, latin, reggae).

His music would require extremely high levels of memorisation, as few of the songs followed the typical verse-verse-chorus-verse-verse standard of most typical songs or compositions. The compositions themselves would often be written in multiple time signatures, often in odd time, and in many different styles and tempos.

During concerts, the band would rehearse many hours of music. The actual set list for any particular concert would be handed out to the other musicians about half an hour before hand. Even while the band would be playing a song during a concert, Frank would change the style or tempo by using pre-determined hand movements and gestures. For example, he would pull his hair to indicate dreadlocks, indicating to the rest of the band that he wanted them to switch to playing in a reggae style.

So not only would the musicians have to have extremely high levels of technique to play the often extremely difficult musical pieces, but they would have to be able to play under high levels of pressure too.

Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and he gained widespread critical acclaim. Many of his albums are considered essential in rock and jazz history. He is regarded as one of the most original guitarists and composers of his time. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 (Wikipedia)

The album that got me into Frank Zappa was called One Size Fits All. I hadn't heard any of his music prior to listening to this album, but was blown away by the sheer level of musicianship, and the complexity of the music. The track 'Inca Roads' is a particularly difficult piece. It was also a very accessible album. Rather than sounding like a self indulgent album, where the songs were complex for the sake of it, the songs were very musical where complexity was simply a by-product.

My favourite Zappa album is Joe's Garage. If you're serious about your music, then you quite simply have to own this album! The album is a rock opera and concept album. If you want to hear a group of musicians playing some highly complex, but stunning compositions, then you need to listen to this album. It also contains one of my favourite ever pieces of music in the form of 'Watermelon In Easter Hay'. There are few albums I would consider perfect, but I think Joe's Garage is as near to sheer perfection as I have ever come across!

The albums feature Ike Willis as the voice of "Joe", a stereotypical garage band youth who unwittingly journeys through the miasma of the music business. As well as various other characters, Zappa provides the voice of the "Central Scrutinizer" character—a mechanical voice that narrates the story and haunts Joe's psyche with McCarthyistic 50s-era discouragement and "scrutiny." In his liner notes Zappa also states that the story was inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which outlawed public musical expression. The story parodies various topics such as groupie migration, sexual repression of the Catholic Church, Scientology, fetishism, struggling musicians and the censorship of music (Wikepedia).

I was lucky enough to see Zappa live in concert on his last ever tour of the UK before he sadly passed away. It was an experience I will never forget. To hear and see so many of my favourite Zappa tracks being played live by an ensemble of the world's best musicians was amazing! They also played Revel's Bolero, Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven and The Beatles's I Am The Walrus. What a show!

Zappa's music will undoubtedly live on forever. He was one of the most highly respected musical composers of his generation, and has inspired and influenced many more musicians and composers, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Please sponsor me in my Night Rider cycling challenge for charity

I'm taking part in the 2011 Night Rider event - a 100km cycling event through the moonlit streets of London, to raise money for Arthritis Research UK.

I have chosen Arthritis Research UK my friend's Dad suffers with Arthritis and I want to help to raise awareness of this debilitating condition.

The 2011 Night Rider cycling event starts from Crystal Palace and takes us past over fifty of London's most famous landmarks including Tower Bridge, a deserted City of London, Canary Wharf, The London Eye, Hampstead Heath, Piccadilly Circus, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Through Virgin Money Giving, you can sponsor me and donations will be quickly processed and passed directly to Arthritis Research UK. Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation and will claim gift aid on a charity's behalf where the donor is eligible for this. I really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations.

All contributions are very welcome.

Please visit my fund raising page to make a donation.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone the very best in 2011! Have a Happy New Year!

And a special mention to those who are no longer with us. While you are still in our hearts, you will never be forgotten.