If you can get people to ask the wrong questions, you don’t have to worry about the answers.

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Mongolia!

Sorry for the long absence folks… got the procrastination bug lately… but during that time I was in Mongolia! land of the blue skies! here is my take on it -
Having survived my 4 week mountain bike trek across Mongolia, I am slated to head south into the Gobi for 8 days with a tour operator.
Mongolia is truly made for mountain biking and horse trekking. It’s like riding one massive long golf course, except the massive steppes have mountains on all sides, a river running through the valley, gers that are always in sight, rocky outcrops, and perfect grass/lawn as far as the eyes can see.  We (i.e. 3 of us) didn’t bump into any other cyclists, but we did bump into a few horse trekkers doing central Mongolia on horseback, and yes if you haven’t ridden a horse much you can get blisters down there.
I had an epiphany on my first horse when I realised I was allergic to them, that was the end of that. After a couple of hours it was off the saddle and straight back onto the bike seat.
After 4 weeks tenting, cycling and “ger’ing” in the country side, you start to make a few observations -
  1. There is no time in the country.
  2. The sun always sets west.
  3. One finger between the sun and the horizon is equal to approximately half an hour
  4. Every ger is a potential restaurant, hotel and pub.
  5. Every ger is a distiller.
  6. Every ger will have at least a few guard dogs. If the owners aren’t there to hold the dogs so you can pass through, nothing quite turns you into their best friend by throwing them some beef jerky. Had to do it a couple of times on the trip.
  7. Young kids in the country learn to ride at a very young age, I’m pretty sure I saw one no more than 6 or 7 years old mount a horse with his little brother holding tightly behind him with no saddle.
  8. With 4 million people and 40 million livestock, there is plenty of meat to go around, but for some reason the country folk only seem to eat mutton.
  9. $hit is literally everywhere, yak, cow, horse, sheep, goats.
  10. Dry dung burns pretty good, keeps the mozzies away too.
  11. Illegal logging is rampant. We heard chainsaws and spotlights in suspect areas after dark a fair few times.
  12. Airag is fermented mares milk. Refusing to drink it is not polite.
  13. The locals love storing airag in old car motor oil containers. A policemen actually poured airag straight out of a Castrol GTX bottle, refusing was not a choice. I was like WTF, how do you clean a used motor oil bottle?!?! anyway we drank it and survived.
  14. If there is 40 million livestock, there must be at least 10x the amount of squirrels. The steppes were littered with squirrel holes everywhere. Not safe for mountain biking but fun.
  15. Country folk are definitely more inquisitive than city dwellers. Hospitality was better too.
  16. Every herder was fascinated by our mountain bikes and they all wanted to ride it. Most of the time you just do a swap for a little while.
  17. Mongolian vodka is distillate from yoghurt made from yaks milk. To get enough distillate to fill a 2 liter bottle might take a while.
  18. Alcoholism is a big problem in small town areas. We had 3 annoying drunk locals come to our tent on one night, one after the other. After that we learnt to camp away from well used dirt tracks.
  19. Do not take a detour unless you are sure what is ahead. We realised the dirt tracks where there for a reason after being stuck at an impossible river crossing, we had to back track.
  20. Old Russian minivans and jeeps are the preferred choice of transport across the country. They are unreliable from what we were told but that it was much easier to fix than a Japanese equivalent. Landcruisers are also highly prized.
  21. If you see a motorbike in the countryside it is most likely a Shineray, a Chinese cheapie. You can get one for $950 at the black market cheaper if bought second hand.
  22. The bird life in mongolia is large, abundant and awesome. Many times we saw flocks of mountain eagles, falcons and even vultures swirling around looking for feed and they don’t mind getting close to you. I saw a bird that was much bigger than a golden eagle, its wingspan was massive just not sure what bird it was.
  23. For all the talk about mongolians eating marmots,  we were never able to spot one.
  24. Men must always walk clockwise in a ger and women anticlockwise.
  25. It is disrespectful to step on a door threshold of a ger.
  26. If Mongolians give you the little finger it means dissatisfaction.
  27. It is bad luck to give and accept gifts and travel on a Tuesday and Saturday. This comes from Mongolian shamanism.
  28. Finally, though I haven’t experienced it myself, I’ve been told up north if you pay enough to the right reindeer herder, you can become Santa Clause for one day and ride it.
UB itself is a pretty drab dull looking city. Being a soviet satellite it’s not unsurprising, but it does grow on you. At least here you can avoid mutton. The wealth gap is pretty huge and obvious. No doubt it has something to do with the explosion in mining here. Tall buildings are popping up all over town and construction does not stop during the 3 good months of summer they have. Everything grinds to a halt in winter where it can reach minus 35. I’ve been told that the worse part about winter is not the cold but the pollution, all the smoke from burning wood just hangs in the valley. There seems to be a huge Korean influence, there is also a noticeable Dutch and German influence. If UB is an eyesore, than the countryside surely makes up for it.
Not much else to say about the cycling itself, except to say that you can never have enough rope, duct tape, hose clamps, carabiners and cable ties.
Bayartee!

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How to add 10 years extra to your life

Going back a few posts ago, I covered an article about the “top 5 regrets of the dying“.

My response was painted with broad brushstrokes. Still useful but only taken in a general sense.

Recently I discovered Jane McGonigal, a video game designer and the following is her response to the “top 5 regrets of the dying”

As an added bonus, by watching the TED video and following her simple instructions you will learn how to add 10 years extra to your life.

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? That’s what I thought before I watch it and realized she had a point.

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I can’t believe Jimmy Kimmel got away with it, but he sure was funny and he nailed it for a full 24 minutes – respect.

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Incredibox – incredibly entertaining and addictive

Nat Uhing from thesmallestforest (whom I have a lot of respect for) got me onto this. My version (click image above) is not as good but it was fun!!!!

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Forget the Prius, just drive on old 1.0 litre 90s model car

If you want a fuel efficient car forget the Prius. Have you seen how much those things cost lately…


Prius

RRP

$33,990**

Full Driveaway

$37,523.70**

 

Fuel efficiency does not come cheap. I could do a lot with $37,523.70 in Australia…

In case you didn’t know, fuel efficient cars have been around for yonks. They call them little Daihatsu charades. You know the ones from the 90s with the 1.0 litre engines. Here just like the one I have –

I never understood why people buy sedans when a hatchback or wagon is so much more practical… I can fit 2 bikes in there!!

There not the most beautiful looking cars, but who cares, they drive me from A to B and no one will look at you funny for not washing your car.

See that, that’s what the inside of a car hood use to look like, there was enough space to fit both your hands in there with a spanner and wrench and to be able to turn the bloody things. Heck you can fit a dead body in there if you really wanted too!

No need for an alarm system, the standard club lock did the trick, and that funny looking wire in front of my Gregory’s manual was my spare key!

 

Granted, these cars would not perform as good as a Prius in a crash test, but hey don’t blame the car, blame the driver. I bought my charade for $500 second hand from a geezer who simply had no need for 2 cars once she bought a new one. First thing I did was add a bottle of steel seal to the radiator. This thing is the cheapest prevention for a blown head gasket I have ever come across and to show you how it works watch Scotty Kilmer –

Pretty simple really and for what it cost me via ebay which I recall being around $80 it’s done a fine job because you can actually feel a noticeable difference before and after adding the steel seal. For an extra $150 for third party insurance and another $50 for a road worthy certificate I was able to get it on the road no fuss, it still had 3 months of registration on it! In total it cost me $700! Let’s see, on my wage it takes me 3.5 days to earn that take home – can I build a car in less than 3.5 days?! Hell NO! God I love the division of labor. Amen to Brother Adam Smith.

I’ve since driven 10,000kms in the car and it never ceases to amaze me that this has been the best investment since forever I can remember… well… sort of… you see, being a carburetor and living up here in the tropics of Darwin, humidity in the wet often and frequently reaches saturation point. Its during these times that the car acts funny when starting up because the air is so wet, so there’s been a few occasions where the car has gone idle while sitting at the lights and usually during a heavy downpour. Funnily enough it has never happened to me only to people who were driving my car, namely my ex… haha but there you go. Luckily there is an easy fix for this and it’s as simple as using premium leaded fuel. That’s it. I think the higher octane helps to override the wet air… no one else has come up with a better theory so I’ll believe in my own for now.

With that disclaimer out of the way, what about the fuel efficiency you might ask, well according to Wikipedia the average fuel consumption between the entire generation of Prius’s from 2000 onwards are about 5.0l/100km in city driving, surprisingly it does worse in highway driving. As for my charade I’ll speak from personal experience and for every 30l it does about 450kms which equates to about 6.6l/100kms. The factory specs actually have it at 6.0l/100kms. Not bad for a second hand car that’s more than 20 years old! So the question you then have to ask is this – Is spending an extra $37,000 on a Prius worth the extra little bit in fuel efficiency… No need to do the math, you will never drive enough kms to save it all back either unless hyperinflation ensues and petrol costs go through the roof in which case you won’t be able to afford to drive anyway. By the way did I mention the Prius is at least 600 kgs heavier? Yeah that’s right are you willing to pay an extra $37000 to lug an extra 600kgs to drive the same amount of people and carry the same load? Don’t even mention the servicing and maintenance costs. These days that’s how dealers make their money, I’m sure you’ve all paid for a car service so I won’t need to remind how expensive these things can be. The worst part is even if you wanted to service it yourself, you can’t… your talking very high voltage components here. It’s not like my charade where all you had to do was jack it up, change the oil, filters and lube it. No it’s more complicated with new cars now, it’s so complicated you can’t even buy a Hayes manual for a Prius.

Sure there might be reasons to buy a Prius over an old used Charade, I get it – the feeling of driving something new, creature comforts, luxury features, gizmos and gadgets, aesthetics, atonement for guilt induced by your environmentalist buddies, or maybe you just want to sincerely help the environment etc. Sure if those are your reasons, you are first of all not ‘Zen’ enough, second of all buying a used car is actually better for the environment. Call me cynical but I know what I would do with an extra $37000 and I’m sure Eric Peters (car expert) knows what he would do with with the extra $37000 too!

 

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Core Values, Mission Statement, Aim and Goals in life

I’m currently going through a goal setting exercise. I’ve always had trouble setting goals and sticking to them. After buying into Early to Rise’s goal setting webinar it made me realize that what I really needed to do was to firstly clarify and clearly define the core values I am trying to reflect before I even begin to write down my goals. Sounds all very easy but I can assure that it is not and it actually requires a fair bit of constructive thinking. I spent the last few days mulling over what core values I am trying to achieve as a person, in no particular order the list below definitely resonates. I hope one day they will all be aligning true north for me.

Core Values

  1. Treat others the way I would like to be treated.
  2. Do what I promised to do.
  3. Learning how to make mutually beneficial exchanges.
  4. Honesty, Truth and Respect.
  5. Frugality – Make do, waste not want not.
  6. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  7. Being fun and focused.
  8. Unflinching when confronted with challenges.
  9. Making a profit through honest means.
  10. Accepting people as they are.
  11. Being able to listen without defending.

The next step is to distill my mission statement into one sentence. For me this was easy as I define my mission to be my calling

Mission

“To serve as many people as I can by doing the most important thing I can do in which I would be most difficult to replace”

Next step is to define my life aims. Aims are essentially the culmination of your goals summarized into a few sentences. In other words they are the overarching umbrella goal of my life’s actions.

Aim

  1. Not ever having to worry about money again and to be able to work anywhere I want and not be tied to one geographical place.
  2. A lifetime partner to share in all of life’s wonderful experiences.

Finally, the nitty gritty of goal setting can begin. I have broken up goals into outcome goals and process goals. Outcome goals are the ends that are to be achieved. They are specific in nature and have target dates to hit. Process goals refer to the day to day tasks, to do’s that must be done in order to deliver the outcome goals by the target date. Both outcome and process goals are further divided into different categories. This is because life is more than just wealth, it’s also about health, self-improvement and a state of being. If we focus just on one aspect and not the others there is the potential to feel dejected whenever progress is slow, the key is to view this holistically, while one aspect may be slow to progress other aspects may be on track. Knowing that overall you are able to hit your goal targets helps to from a holistic perspective and avoid disappointment. Personally for myself I find that I am able to motivate myself quite well in health related goals, but not so in my blogging related goals (see below).

Outcome Goals

Health                                                                                                Ship Date

  1. Learn to Swim (breaststroke) for 1km                                     2012-09-01
  2. Complete 100km bike rides                                                       2012-08-01
  3. Run to work in under 15 minutes                                              2012-07-01
  4. Master cooking for going primal                                                2012-06-01

Wealth

  1. Complete Diploma of Building Surveying                                 2012-08-01
  2. Pay off all credit card debt                                                          2012-06-01
  3. Save 50K                                                                                       2012-08-01
  4. Save 2K for rest of Mongolia bike tour                                     2012-08-15
  5. Setup SMSF                                                                                  2012-06-01
  6. Own 10 debt free houses/units/investments                          2022-01-01
  7. Master options trading using Greeks                                        2012-12-01
  8. Begin PR process in Belgium or Asia                                         2014-01-01
  9. Start an import/export business                                               2014-01-01
  10. Setup offshore bank account                                                      2014-01-01
  11. Setup offshore tax structure for business                                2014-01-01
  12. Set up Cook Island trust                                                             2014-01-01

Blogging

  1. Build a blog that attracts on average 10 views a day             2012-06-01
  2. Launch frugal website on SBI                                                    2012-07-01
  3. Launch Building Surveying website in the NT                        2012-12-01
  4. Launch DarwinCharacters.com                                                 2012-12-01
  5. Master the use of commercial wordpress                                2012-07-01

Self-Improvement

  1. Unflinching in all situations                                                        2013-01-01
  2. Learn how to converse in Mandarin                                        2012-08-01
  3. Learn how to converse in Spanish                                            2013-08-01
  4. Learn how to read Mandarin                                                    2012-08-01
  5. Learn how to read Spanish                                                        2013-08-01
  6. Learn how to dance one routine of swing dancing                  2012-08-01
  7. Save 4K and get braces fitted for teeth                                   2013-12-01
  8. Master fastcar by Tracy Chapman on the guitar                   2013-06-01

Social Happiness

  1. Build stronger family ties than what I have now                   2013-01-01
  2. Build core group of friends I can rely on if need be               2013-01-01
  3. Start dating again                                                                       now

Process Goal                                                                                              Review Rate

Health

  1. Review personal goals every day                                             Weekly
  2. Run to work every 3rd day                                                       Tue & Thu
  3. Breaststroke 500m                                                                    Wed & Fri
  4. Cycle to work                                                                               Mon, Wed & Fri

Wealth

  1. Finish one Building Surveying assignment a day                   Daily
  2. Pay $500 into credit card every fortnight                              Fortnightly
  3. Pay $500 into savings account every fortnight                      Fortnightly

Blogging

  1. Write one valuable blog post a day                                           Daily
  2. Study SBI action guide every day for one hour                      Daily
  3. Learn something new about commercial wordpress              Daily
  4. Post review of 1 online marketing article per week                Weekly

Self-Improvement

  1. Organize Mandarin/Cantonese classes with Cliff and Ru      Monthly
  2. Organize Spanish classes with Sonia                                         Monthly

Social Happiness

  1. Call parents on phone                                                                  Weekly
  2. Catch up with core group of mates                                            Weekly
  3. Go on dates                                                                                   Monthly
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