Spring Rain

There is something about a good afternoon storm. It is even better when you can sit outside and watch it come through. It is mother nature providing entertainment with awesome lightning and thunder. With a recent absence of rain, it is also just nice to finally have a decent downpour.

Don’t be afraid to spread your wings.

Don’t be afraid to spread your wings……you might land somewhere exciting.

Of course, you might just land somewhere not so good by spreading your wings and trying something new. The fear of landing somewhere bad, of messing things up, of people thinking we are a failure/stupid/reckless etc. is what stops many of us from trying. But should it? Stop and have a look at the most successful people you know. Have they always gotten things right? Is everything they have ever tried been a success? Has anyone ever ridiculed them for their ideas or what they are attempting to achieve?

Continue reading Don’t be afraid to spread your wings.

Not a bad view for a morning run

Sometimes work requires that I not only work on the weekend but am also away from home working on the weekend.

This weekend was one of those weekends. This morning, on a Saturday, I woke up in Broadbeach Queensland, with a whole day of work ahead of me. However, the joys of the many different time zones in Australia at this time of year meant I was awake early. So what should one do on a Saturday work day when waking up early? Sleep in maybe? Have a lazy breakfast? Well, I decided to go for a run. It was definitely the right decision. Being away from home and working on a Saturday isn’t so bad when the payoff is getting to run along looking at this!

Continue reading Not a bad view for a morning run

The fluff is Falling

When I was at student at the Australian National University (ANU), there was one thing that could always be relied upon. Every year, the fluff would fall. It would fall from the trees and be EVERYWHERE! It was never a good time for allergy sufferers who used to pay dearly when the fluff fell in the form of watering eyes, stuffy noses and lots of sneezing. However, apart from the effect the fluff falling had on allergy sufferers, it used to also instil fear in every student at ANU.

The fear was not due to any toxic properties of the fluff, but rather due to a saying that everyone student lived by: If you don’t know your stuff by the time the fluff is falling- you’re stuffed!

This meant if you had been taking it easy during the academic year and hadn’t put your foot on the accelerator to get your studies sorted by the time the fluff started falling, you were doomed. Many a student gave up when they realised how far behind they were when the fluff started falling and simply started partying like the year was over (generally speaking too much partying was why they were in this predicament in the first place!). Others would study day and night in the hope that they could defy the odds. Those who had their studies under control would simply acknowledge that they were one step closer to exams and summer holidays.

It has been a long time since I studied at ANU, but when out walking this evening I came across fallen fluff. For a split second I felt the fear rise before I realised I am not a student and therefore have nothing to fear from the fluff. For me now, it can simply be a botanical phenomenon that occurs every year. However, I think a little bit of me will always be just that little bit concerned for a split second every year whenever I see that the fluff is falling.

Hairspray Jr.

This weekend I was lucky enough to make it to my nephews’ school production. I hadn’t previously been able to attend previous school shows so it was great to be there and even better that both the two older boys were involved this year. We were all booked in for the final performance on the Saturday night, although my sister and I did sneak in and catch the Thursday night show without telling the boys in advance. Given the boys were so nervous we wanted to be there to support them but thought it would make them more nervous knowing we were in the audience. They did appreciate having us there when they found out about it after the fact. While it was a high school show and unfortunately experienced some technical glitches with the microphones, it was great.

I have always thought that some of the best memories and valuable skills you learn from high school are not about the classes and graduating but the extra stuff you get to do along the way. The musicals and shows, public speaking, sports, camps, school bands. The stuff that doesn’t get you your final score that gets you into university or whatever you want to do next but from which you learn more about yourself and other people than you could ever learn in a classroom. I loved the extra stuff I did in school, from public speaking and debating, to sports, school band and school productions. Basically, anything they would let me do I did and I was grateful later that I had taken the opportunities that came my way. I was happy to see that the boys had taken the opportunity to engage in similar experiences at school.

My nephews definitely have far more singing and dancing abilities than I ever did and both had lead roles in their production. Having not seen them in something like this before I was both excited and a bit nervous for them. They had put in so much work and were both looking forwards to seeing their hard work pay off as well as being a bit anxious about it all going well. I myself found I would watch the songs where they had solos holding my breath slightly until they were done. I needn’t have worried and neither should they. Their hard work really did pay off and they both performed really well. I hope that the memories they have from this and everything they get from participating in the show stays with them long after the curtain closed tonight.

Well done boys xx.

The Power of Statistics

Woo hoo! Winter is over! Today is the first day of Spring which means the Canberra winter has officially come to an end. This year seemed especially cold to me but was it colder than normal? That is the question and if you listened to the radio this morning it depends on which report you were listening to, as to whether it was indeed an especially cold winter. One report I heard today said that if Canberrans felt it had been a cold winter they were right, and another report said it was no colder than usual. One would think that the weather, the temperature, was a fact. Therefore, it was either colder than usual or not. That however, is the joy of statistics. When first encountering statistics in my student days, I naively thought that they were fact. They are as they are. I have since learnt that statistics, are open to interpretation and representation and some statistics are better ‘quality’ than others. While it might be true that the average temperature during winter was x degrees, there is then some flexibility in how that information is interpreted. Is it compared to the average in the past 10 years? Or since records started? Is it important to take into consideration the amount of nights below zero? The number of days over fifteen degrees? Or how long the maximum temperature was reached for on a given day? You get the general idea. The thing about statistics is that people can use them different ways. It irks me when people try to use them in a misleading way. The power of statistics is that if one does realise that they can be subject to interpretation, then they can be interpreted as fact or indeed the data can be presented differently in order to convey the desired message. For example, consider a graph where the scale is reduced so that instead of having 0 to 100%, it shows 99 to 100%. The effect of this is that a non-significant difference between two statistics can suddenly appear to be very significant. Someone presenting the information in this way can manipulate the data in order to show what they want.

In these two graphs, the data difference between the two companies looks quite different, simply by changing what is represented in the scale.

Consider another example, often we have scientific studies that can be used to show the difference between two groups. For example, maybe Group A performed better on a memory test than group B and Group A was given a dietary supplement with a magic compound whereas group B was not. This may be presented by the company in such a manner that it promotes sales of the dietary supplement. However, if not all the information is presented, it may appear that the dietary supplement makes a significant difference when really it does not. Whether the difference between the two groups is significant depends on the size of the two groups, the variability between the two groups and whether there are any other factors influencing the difference between the groups (maybe one group was older). It is also important to know how sure we are that the difference is significant- what is the probability that the difference is just due to chance?

The power of statistics is that they can be used to change people’s behavior, but the danger of statistics is that they are not the pure fact that they may initially appear to be. If one is aware of this then before making a decision based on statistic, you can look at the statistic More closely. You can examine it to see if you are truly happy with what it is representing or if the way it is being interpreted. Then you can determine if it is something on which you should allow your behavior, thoughts or decisions to be influenced by.

So next time you see a statistic presented, have a look more closely and question what it is really saying.