Race For Life: What’s it all about?

This time next month, I’ll no doubt be feeling pretty chuffed after my Race For Life event ~ and quite possibly, indulging in a celebratory glass or two… But not because of the actual race ~ because of the money raised for Cancer Research UK.

As much as I love running/power walking/walking, and lots of lovely gym sessions, my motivation is Cancer Research. Now, okay, I’m sure you’re thinking this is pretty bloody obvious and it is, I agree ~ however, my point is this: Race For Life is the least I can do.

While I was being tortured on the cross-trainer this morning, I drifted off and started contemplating life…

Life is everywhere you look, staring you back in the face. Isn’t that fantastic?

Life is unpredictable, full of twists and turns, endless surprises. You don’t even know when that next bend is looming, never mind what’s lurking around it, ready to jump out at you and scream “I’m your one true love!” or “You just won £15,000 on the pools!” or “It’s terminal, I’m so sorry”.

Yes, life is all around us. But life has a best friend who accompanies him everywhere he goes: death. Without life there is no death and without death there is no life.

Life’s best friend serves as a reminder that life is for living. Life can be lost in the blink of an eye or the gasp of a breath. And cancer is one hell of a scary beast ~ not many of us are fortunate enough to have dodged the repercussions of its sting. So always trust your instincts, grab opportunities, and smile!

And that’s why I’m running Race For Life this year ~ it is the least I can do.

In defence of #duncansdream

If you’ve not encountered #duncansdream on Twitter, the premise is for the followers of Duncan Bannatyne ~ entrepreneur and one of the Dragons ~ to become friends and follow one another.

It started with a tweet last Friday afternoon. This one from @DuncanBannatyne, to be precise:

I would like to #ff all of my followers so all you need do is start following each other then we will all have 90,000 follwers. Simples

This soon became #duncansdream thanks to @iancreek ~ and also became strangely addictive!

Normally, any tweets that say “do this and you’ll gain a billion followers in a nanosecond” make me want to retch ~ don’t these people realise we want to make real connections and not just pointlessly boost follower numbers? But when I stumbled upon #duncansdream, I found it interesting because I like Duncan Bannatyne and think, as a successful entrepreneur, he has a lot to impart. I figured others who followed him would likely be interesting people to get to know.

And I was right. Thanks to #duncansdream I’ve discovered some fantastic people, many of whom I may otherwise never have “met”. So, thanks, Duncan!

However, not everyone on Twitter has warmed to this hashtag. I understand why people dislike the “follow me and I’ll follow back” approach some people have taken to #duncansdream ~ and, although the original tweet was about all Duncan’s followers following one another in a bid to reach 90,000 followers, for me #duncansdream is about connecting with new and interesting people. I don’t want 90,000 followers just so I can say I’ve got 90,000 followers ~ if I ever reach that number, it’ll be because I’ve been fortunate enough to come into contact with so many interesting individuals. As Justin Hay wrote in his blog, in reference to those people who view #duncansdream purely in terms of numbers: This kind of behavior really does sadden me because I believe #DuncansDream is for more Twitter Users to interact with each other, make new friends and Network.

I couldn’t agree more.

Twitter is such a special place and should be treated as such. It’s for making connections not accumulating mammoth follower numbers.

For me, I love the banter of Twitter, the irreverent and irrelevant comments, the sharing, the endless information and news,  the RTs and #FFs (although I have to admit I’ve been hopeless recently when it comes to #FFs for my followers and I punish myself daily for this), and the endless possibilities. I’ve made some really good friends, gained new clients, and discovered exciting business opportunities through Twitter.

I absolutely love Twitter. I’ve met so many fantastic, talented, funny and kind people through this amazing social networking site, and every time I log on I’m excited to tweet old friends and curious about new people I might discover.

This is why I feel there’s no place for automated follows on Twitter. Doing this, defeats the entire point of Twitter ~ it’s all about engaging and sharing, and if you just follow people for the sake of it, there’s nothing to be gained from it. I always check a new follower’s bio and profile, reading recent tweets and looking at the website link to help me decide if this is someone I want to engage with. Sometimes, I miss new followers but the moment they begin to interact with me is the moment I start to follow.

To my mind, #duncansdream is just another way to connect with like-minded people and forge new friendships on Twitter. Having something in common ~ in this case, following Duncan Bannatyne ~ means there’s a chance you’ll click with your new followers, and if not, you can simply choose not to follow them.

And that’s why I think #duncansdream is brilliant ~ keep it personal and keep the dream alive! :0)

Face Facts: Not all our Facebook friends are our friends

Facebook is often in the news at the moment ~ whether it’s because of the site’s privacy policies or celebrities with accounts. Only yesterday, George W Bush created an account on the social networking site, gaining over 20,000 “likes” in the initial few hours, for example. So I’ve been reminded of an article I read on Times Online earlier this year, about the fact not all the people on Facebook who “like” us may actually like us.

A study conducted at Oxford University revealed that although we are inclined to amass huge numbers of friends on Facebook, in reality we are only friends with a small proportion of these people.

Carried out by Robin Dunbar, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, the findings of the study support one of his earlier theories – “Dunbar’s number”. Developed in the 1990s, this theory claimed the size of our neocortex – the section of the brain that deals with language and conscious thought – restricts us in our management of friends. Regardless of how sociable we are, our neocortex ensures we only stay in frequent (at least once a year) contact with about 150 people.

The original study was conducted on various societies from Neolithic villages to contemporary offices and showed a breakdown in social cohesion as the social groups became too large.

Dunbar is now looking at social networking sites to see if these have increased our social groupings. So far, the results imply sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo have not affected how we conduct our social lives.

Dunbar said: “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world. People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they’re unlikely to be bigger than anyone else’s.”

Textin: Itz gr8 4 spellin

Research  has found that children who regularly abbreviate text in messages ~ so-called “text speak” ~ actually enhance their ability to spell correctly. The reason for this link between texting and literacy is said to be due to the need to understand how the words sound in order to shorten them sufficiently for text messages. For example, shortening the word “great” to “gr8″ reveals an awareness of the sound and form of the original word.

The study, which involved children aged eight to twelve, was conducted earlier this year and forms part of an ongoing study at the University of Coventry.

To ensure children can write effectively in a text and convey their message in the most succinct manner, abbreviations and initials are used together with techniques like rhyming ~ which are central to the development of reading and spelling also.

Clare Wood, reader in developmental psychology, told BBC News: “If we are seeing a decline in literacy standards among young children, it is in spite of text messaging, not because of it.”

Day 12: Fun in the sun

In case you think I spend all my days in the sunshine, I should point out that the following blog post was written on Saturday 22 May :0)

Ah, this is the life. I am in Rutland, on the Hambleton Peninsula. Ross is fishing, and Radish and I are reclining in the shade. But don’t go thinking we’re being lazy ~ we have already walked the 6 mile circuit. And the weather is so glorious that we thought we’d make a day of it, following a delicious lunch in the Finch’s Arms with a spot of ~ in my case ~ chilling, blogging and reading, and ~ in Radish’s case ~ partaking in stand-offs with sheep.

I’m not sure life gets much better than this…

Anyway, back to business ~ Race For Life, getting fit and raising money for Cancer Research UK. Despite not blogging daily as I’d originally hoped ~ too many fantastic copywriting projects on the go at the moment, and one includes my web design business (coming soon) ~ I have made time for exercise. Every day has included at least one double-march with Rads and I’ve even frequented the gym a couple of times.

Race For Life is something I’m passionate about. I want to use it as a real force for good ~ to get fit and, much more importantly, to raise money for Cancer Research. Not many people are fortunate enough to have dodged the devastation of cancer at some point in their lives. If you would like to support my race, that would be amazing ~ and thank you so much.

And returning briefly to Rutland, the day ended on a high ~ Radish discovered that swimming is fun! Previously, she’d only paddled in water but today she swam. I tried to capture this momentous moment on the iPhone but I managed to video only grass, possibly because Radish suddenly charged at me when she spotted the phone in use. She dislikes the iPhone…

Day 2: Frisbee farce

I’m writing this blog while glugging fizzy water and feeling slightly dizzy due to a lack-of-food anxiety (I haven’t eaten for almost four hours now) ~ so I hope it makes some sort of sense.

I have just returned from my second walk ~ a “power” walk, really ~ with Radish, my dog and fitness trainer. Radish is a little miffed that we only marched around the block once this time, but I’ve explained to her that it’s best to build these fitness things up gradually. With two laps around the block this morning plus this evening’s exertion, it was beginning to border on the ridiculous.

Today’s stats:

I have no stats. Radish and I just walked for about 50 minutes this morning and 25 minutes this evening ~ with a bit of frisbee in the park thrown in for good measure. I was going to use my iPhone as I have a this-will-make-you-run-more app but talking while running this app doesn’t work ~ I mean, talking on the phone, not just to Radish. So…tomorrow I’ll buy one of those pedometer things so I can count the steps.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of Radish with her frisbee :0)

Day 1: Gym o’clock

11 May

My third visit to the gym this year; and I almost enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for the wading-through-treacle moments or the burning-stitch event on the cross-trainer, it would have been triumphant. And I even managed to run for 60 seconds at a speed of 6.6. I know.

Today’s stats:

Cross-trainer ~ 28 minutes, 338 calories, 2.76 distance

Treadmill ~ 10 minutes, 78 calories, 0.74 distance, 4.0 speed
(1 minute’s running at 6.6 speed)


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