2009 in review

2009 was a watershed year for me, as I set out to break out of a slump of mediocrity and begin my journey to becoming better.  In 2009 I decided to start looking at my own development and let me to draw up the most comprehensive “goals” list I have ever put together.

Overall, 2009 was the year I rekindled my love for meeting & getting to know people. It’s no secret that part of this was due to Twitter, however this served mainly as the mechanism to be able to meet new and wonderful people (as mentioned here in my Connecting to People post, about my social-media-inspired trip to Melbourne). 15+ years ago I was using IRC to meet new people and arrange social gatherings, BBQ’s in the park, movie nights, trips away, etc. I really enjoyed IRC and the power it had to connect us to people we had not yet met, as well as continuing the relationships we had built up. Twitter does this for me today.

In order to capture the thoughts on 2009, here’s a breakdown of my personal 2009 goals with some commentary on each one:

1. Increase my volunteering efforts (First volunteering event was on 4th Jan)

The biggest volunteer effort of note was that I became the coach/manager of my 7yr old’s Soccer team. I was directly involved with the development of his soccer skills, and many times during the season he said “I’m glad you are the coach of our team, daddy”. You could not ask for more than that 🙂

2. Researching the Blanda name/family tree/how ‘Blanda’s’ are related (already begun)

Facebook has really helped me understand more about the Blanda name, and connect with many Blanda’s all over the world. I’ll continue the work throughout 2010 to not only connect with more Blanda’s, but also to know more about them & how we’re linked together.

3. Improving the quality of my relationships, both personal & business, including visiting more people and having more people over for lunch/dinner/a drink or a chat (includes spending more time with my boys).

Here’s perhaps THE BIGGEST win for me in 2009 – As mentioned previously, I had neglected my love of relationships & people, and through Twitter, Facebook and Skype, I’ve found new ways of connecting with people that culminated in becoming a regular at many Sydney coffee tweet-ups’ including #escm, #nscm, #wscm and #coffeemornings. I’ve met many wonderful people at these tweet-ups, some of whom will feature prominently in my 2010 Goals!

4. Understand how I tick

This is one of the most difficult things any of us need to do – understand how we work. What we like, what we don’t like, what irks us, what makes us burst into flower and really succeed at life. During 2009 I began my research into the Brain and how it works, dabbling in anything related to physiology and psychology. This is a work in progress and has helped me understand what happens to me when I am tired. See Understanding Yourself & Taming The Ugliness (an apology).

5. Work out what I want to do with the next few years of my life

  • Getting onto Twitter has opened my eyes to a number of people who can help me answer this question (or at least assist by asking clarifying questions)
  • This blog is and will continue to be part of my journey through life.
  • The next few years will almost certainly involve Volunteering, People, Relationships, Storytelling, Exercise and enjoyable activities.

6. Become fitter: All of the below are either a part of or will be a result of becoming fitter:

  1. Participate in more cycling events (including completing the 90km version of the Gongride)
  2. Take up a martial art with the boys
  3. Participate in more walking/jogging/running events (including completing a Half-Marathon)
  4. Build a small gym in my garage
  • The second biggest win for me in 2009 was in the atrea of physical fitness. I did a lot more km’s on my bicycle than in previous years, including teaming up with some Twitter friends for the 90km Gongride. I also began riding to the coffee mornings to keep the riding up.
  • We did not get to take up martial arts as a family – we did not have the time/ability to include it in the schedule in 2009, and will be revisited in 2010.
  • I did complete the Sydney Half Marathon as well as the Sutherland2Surf and City2Surf runs.
  • The gym in my garage has a few dumbbells and punching bag. Couple this with the stepper and skipping rope, there’s more than enough equipment to keep us fit and healthy!

To Summarise 2009, I give myself a A- rating – I will build on this momentum when I publish my 2010 goals. I would like to hear your thoughts on my 2009 goals, OR to contribute your thoughts on what else I can add to my 2010 Goals (there’s still time!) Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

Thoughtful Gifts

Many of you may know I am not that into having possessions (aka “stuff“), but do appreciate items that add value to our lives, or items that stimulate creativity in my children. Here’s a list of things to consider when buying gifts this Festive season (or any occasion for that matter!)

Thinking points

  • Does the list have a single use only? (if so, it’s unlikely it would be in our house)
  • Will the recipient truly use the product/item/service or will it be tried once and not used again?
  • Does the item need supervision to ensure the recipient doesn’t get into trouble?
  • Is the item useless without other people (think water pistol)
  • If something goes missing or breaks, can it be fixed/repaired or is it done with?

What’s on the list?

Here are things on the shopping list for the family that fulfill the following criteria: Allowing creativity, inspiring, family-oriented or can teach practical skills.

  • Lego – This has always fit many criteria and is a big thing in our house, so it’s  almost always on top of the list. Lego rarely looks like it does on the box when my boys get into it! They make ‘creations’ out of the pieces and Mr 7½ photographs them for posterity. Any type of lego can be used for these creations!
  • Computer games that require thinking – puzzle solving games are big (like Lemmings or Chips Challenge from days past), as are adventure games (Indy Lego for the PS2 fits the bill for family-oriented as the kids love playing with someone).
  • Board games – We’ve bought Uno, Magic 7, Guess Who, Trouble and many others over the years and we still get a lot of use out of them.
  • A3 Sketch pad and crayons, pencils, textas, rulers etc. The number of artworks we have in this house is quite large, and we’ve even extended into making colourful placemats (with an A4 Laminator and their creative genius!)
  • Matchbox/Hot wheels cars – these are used in many ways, from simple vroom vroom races on the floor, to being part of the lego or geotrax cities that get created. They’re also great at some social events to help keep the kids occupied
  • Outdoor activities – for past Christmases + Birthdays there have been kites, bikes, balls and scooters.
  • Last Christmas, Mr 7½ got as digital camera and has found many, varied uses for it, including making home videos and creative pictures when you shake the camera (also taking photos of Lego creations)

So, what didn’t get a  look in?

  • Dunka Doos (you soak them in water and they ‘grow’ into larger animals)
  • Star Wars Light Saber (nothing you can’t do with a few toilet rolls or some time + imagination with a broomstick and some paint). At $60 or so for a single-use item it’s up there on the list of things that are not likely to make it into the house
  • Transformers – they don’t do much except transform, and most of them {wheeled vehicles} don’t roll very well. Once a piece is broken, the toy becomes useless.

These are my thoughts…what are some of yours?

Understanding yourself

One of the important aspects of looking to become better is to learn more about yourself. I experienced this first-hand last night when I fell asleep ion the couch at 8pm. Something I rarely ever do. This was after I’d ranted and shouted at the rest of the family for no good reason. My amygdala was obviously underworked and needed to make its presence felt right before my body screamed ‘enough’ and sent me off to sleepyville…..

A little background

I have been sleeping with a Mandibular Advancement Splint since 2001 after participating in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of these devices to help prevent snoring + help the user get a good night’s sleep. I had one custom-made and tuned by a Dentist during the trial & have used it ever since. 10 days ago, the splint chipped and broke and is no longer safe to use (it’s made of a plastic of some sort and would now cut my gums/tongue/mouth if I continued to use it). I have been going to bed later and not waking up as refreshed as I had been when using the splint, and didn’t think much of it until this morning.

In thinking back, I have been slowly losing sleep each night (or not getting the right kind of sleep) over the past few nights, and it caught up with me. You can only go so far before your body screams ‘enough’. Before I fell asleep on the couch, I was snappy and Mr Shouty Man (my eldest son calls me that) and took out some hidden/underlying frustrations on the family. This is not an isolated incident and has happened before.

I also noticed that my behaviour mirrored that of my 4½year old son when he’s tired – he becomes unresponsive to simple requests, is snappy with others and frustrates easily.  I should have seen the warning signs earlier, but acknowledge that most of the time you’re tired, many higher-level brain functions do not get a look-in, only the basic desires make themselves known/felt. So looking back on it, I now see that a combination of things banded together to put me in that position last night. I hope that with this new understanding of how I react to things when very tired, it might help me control the behaviour before I turn into Mr Shouty Man!

So what have I done?

  • The above does not condone my behaviour!
  • I have since apologised to my wife & children.
  • I have explained to them why it happened and that it was not their fault.
  • I have bought myself a replacement splint from Instantly Stop Snoring, a great Aussie company helping people get a good nights’ sleep! It just arrived so will let you all know how it goes 🙂

Will that be enough – time will tell, but I hope I have more understanding of myself to help me out next time this happens! (For more information about Sleep and it’s importance, check out one of my fave blog posts on the topic 11 Reasons Why You Absolutely Need More Sleep).

V8 Supercars Sydney Telstra 500

I had the opportunity to attend the Season finale of the V8 Supercars at the Sydney Telstra 500 at Sydney Olympic Park. Below you will find my thoughts on the event as a whole, and some suggestions for next year, to make the event bigger and better!

We’ll start with the good stuff:

  • The Facilities: The race made great use of the facilities of Sydney Olympic Park:
    • Transport: BIG WIN, and the event certainly made use of the facilities that Sydney Olympic Park had to offer! Getting into and out of the event was very easy and efficient (except for the footbridges…see below)
    • Plenty of Toilets: Thanks to the many permanent toilet facilities around the place, you hardly ever had to queue or miss any action – a big plus compared to other racetracks.
    • The family zone was a winner (as was the Olympic Torch water feature to keep people cool), as were the many various places to sit and rest (mostly around the other pavilions).
    • Concerts: This worked well at the Clipsal500 and worked well here – great to see ANZ Stadium get a workout. Getting Cold Chisel ‘back together’ was a coup, and no doubt helped lure more punters off the couch.
    • Shade: There were plenty of places to go to get some shade, including the picnic tables in various parts of the precinct as well as inside the buildings – This is an absolute must with the weather in December in Sydney!

Now, onto some of the areas that need some work to be even better next time:

  • Track Crossings: There need to be more (at least 3 more). The Bigpond bridge next to the Novotel proved to be woefully inadequate, with long queues of people wanting to move inside/outside the track at various stages (start of qualifying, start of the race, home-time).
    • My suggestion would be to allow track crossing similar to the setup at Adelaide (where a lot of foot traffic arrives in the middle of the back straight – in between races they open the track for a few mins to allow a bulk group of people to cross the track). This would be especially useful near the Bigpond bridge. One small bonus is slightly less concrete walls we cannot see through.
    • There there needs to be another crossing somehow from the back of the pits to the pit-straight grandstands – the 2 nearest crossings are quite a distance away, often through very narrow walkways (see choke points, below).
  • Covered Grandstands: A shelter over the grandstands (again, a-la Clipsal500). I realise that the grandstands on the pit straight may not benefit with the setting sun in the afternoon, but it would help.
  • Grandstand airflow: The grandstands did not allow much airflow under the seats (other grandstands have a simple mesh arrangement; these grandstands were blocked). There was a great breeze blowing (hats, tickets and paper) onto the inside of the circuit – we could have done with that breeze in the stands!
  • Choke Points: There were a number of places around the track where you were down to 1-2 people wide, and created choke points. One of these had a raised step that I saw a few people stumble over. These choke points may be alleviated with more track crossings.
  • Super-screens: There were 14 super-screens at the track, and Tony Cochrane has come out and already said “…that if the post-event review determines there needs to be 20 big screens then they will be in place in time for next year’s Sydney Telstra 500.” The problem is not really whether there are enough, but of their placement. On the outside of the track near Bigpond bridge, I could see 3 screens from where I stood, my suggestion is to revise the placement of the screens.
  • Photography: With so much steel and concrete around, there were hardly any clear spots to take pictures of the racing action. We need the ability of both professional & amateur photographers to help tell the story and get the message out there about V8 Supercars. I’d suggest some more ‘open’ areas behind the racing action to be opened up; allow photographers (with requisite passes/checking) to use the large elevated Car-park to get some good high shots, and perhaps on some corners (like turn #8) setup some stands with clearer view of the track for photographers (perhaps limit time to a few minutes to allow people rotation?) Overall there could be a little less steel in some places where it is no danger (like looking down the ‘roller-coaster’ straight from turn 8 towards turn 9)

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself and believe the event was a success. I am not sure the V8 teams ever had so much ‘comfort’ in a large, covered, breezy building to work on their cars in between races! I will be back next year and hope the event gets bigger and better!