Adventures in Facebookland

I recently went on a binge of uploading and tagging photos to the Facebook. For many years, I have been reluctant to do so.[1] However, a person’s Wall/Timeline is now the first place I go to for the low-down on someone in whom I am interested – platonically, physically or romantically. It is my storefront, my brochure, my catalog, and my perennial report to the world.

The joy of the peloton

There are few times when I ride beyond my comfort level than when I am in a group of other cycling enthusiasts. I usually start my weekend ride once most cyclists have finished theirs. However, on rare occasions I manage to join up with a peloton. This happened a few Sundays ago – a furiously gusty day in which every direction I turned seemed to present a head wind. After a double espresso and toasted HCT croissant, I coalesced with a couple of different teams and a few other soloists, and for maybe half an hour – from Black Rock to St. Kilda – we bunched up tight in double-file and stayed above 30kph in spite of the gale.

The danger of getting too comfortable

“If you strive for comfort all the time, you just end up becoming less comfortable in general,” young survivalist Jaimie Mantzel argues - clad in a mail armor suit, and doing pull-ups from the ceiling of the dome house he hand-built[1] - to justify why he makes his life a constant challenge.

According to both secular and Buddhist teachings, all progress emerges from dissatisfaction. Similarly, life hacker and author Tim Ferris argues that comfort can be a trap: “It’s worse to tolerate your job than to hate it because, if the pain is painful enough, you’ll make a change,” he says.

I like to apply this same philosophy to both cycling and living. While I think that a ride, like life, should ultimately be enjoyable, I also believe it important to make both a little difficult: if I have the choice of doing things the hard way, or the easy way, I often go for the former, and not just out of a sense of masochism.[2]

Three cycling philosophies

I have ridden with friends on numerous day-trips – along the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail, up Mount Dandenong, over to Emerald Lake, through Cranbourne’s Botanical Gardens, and beyond Williamstown to name a few. I have found that each of my friends has very different approaches to being on a bike, seeing cycling as one of the following:
  • an aesthetic activity – as an opportunity to tour a gorgeous environment; 
  • an ascetic activity – as a means to an ends; for instance, it’s all about reaching the top of the mountain or doing the full extent of a rail trail (if you don’t succeed, the ride was a failure) and suffering is part of the package; 
  • a hedonistic activity – as a precursor to a rewarding meal and a pint of beer. 

The invisible hand of our pasts

Try this for a thought experiment. Imagine you were able to ‘teleport’ instantly anywhere in the world, a la Star Trek. Here is the rub, however – doing so involves having an exact replica of yourself created at your destination, yet the transporter destroys your ‘original’ body in the process. So by all appearances, a perfect ‘clone’ of yourself – with all the memories, all of the hopes and aspirations you had before stepping onto the transporter pad – is now lounging under the Eiffel Tower or gawking up at the Great Pyramid of Giza while your ‘previous’ body is now vapour. 

Would you still be the first to say, ‘Beam me up, Scotty’?

Wake up Sheeple! The Anna Karenina principle and the domestication of people

I was going through the Wikipedia page of the very fascinating Professor Jared Diamond, American scientist and author, when his use of the Anna Karenina principle grabbed my attention. According to Professor Diamond, animals need to satisfy all of a number of criteria in order to be candidates for domestication (regardless of their other advantages, which otherwise doom them to failure).

These criterions entail that they:

  • be easy to feed 
  • have a high reproductive turn-over 
  • breed well in captivity 
  • possess a pleasant disposition 
  • refrain from panicking 
  • belong to a well-defined social structure.