Tuesday, April 01, 2008


6 billion of us

One of the things that has crossed my mind when I'm on the Tokyo subway us how fleeting our connections are as humans to other humans. I couldn't help but look at people on the subway and think to myself I'll never see them again, and that's so true. there's 6 billion of us; in big cities we catch a glimpse of another person, sometimes be self-concious of ourselves. But in reality it matters little. We will never see these people again.

Perhaps its a stark realization. Perhaps blunt. We all have our own ambitions, our own worries. Our own prejudices.

And what ties us to one another, other than family, is the chance meeting that turns into a repeated occurence.

So I guess part of the question to life is another question: who cares? Do as you please, don't hurt anyone. Be happy, get what you can, help who you can. Be true to yourself, but don't let that limit you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bullet Train

I'm on the Shinkansen train to Hiroshima from Kyoto. First time on a train like this, and let me tell you...

It's so fast you would have to take it to believe it. The countryside and cities flash by so quick, that if you see a person walking, they might only take one step as you rocket by. Then there's the physical sensation of a constant G-force pressing you against the seats, first as acceleration than as a constant, and the sound of rumbling. its an awesome feeling! and so smooth too... no European or American train i've been on ever went this fast.

At a stop, another train passed us going so fast, that its turbulence made the train I'm in jump as it passed, and after it passed. crazy

Travelling in Japan

Many times when I travel I get the feeling of overt racism. Nothing is usually said, its more looks and actions. Its rather sad, since I keep a very open mind having now travelled much of the (civilized) world. So many people have a hard time smiling. it does affect me, but hey I have always lived outside their demographic. More than anything we should feel pity for these people for their shame and ignorance. if that sounds somewhat spiteful- it isn't really; they are the past, people like me, Chris, Sean, and many others young and old who push the boundaries are the future. To these other ugly people, hold on to your prejudices - because I assure you they will be destroyed.

One thing I have come to appreciate is how open, friendly, and welcoming Brits are. I think they are even more so than North Americans, at least while I'm travelling. Am privileged to be British, maybe more so than Canadian.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

poem from vancouver

the sun sets over the bay
the earth hurtles east
waves climb reinforcing the shore
our presence ignored but still present

merchant ships rest as monoliths
against silhouettes of aged mountains
today they are here
tomorrow charting across the vast ocean

Monday, March 05, 2007

and to support my point

The Globe reports that cellphone usage in Canada lags behind all the developed world in this article:


"Just 56 per cent of Canadians have a mobile phone, compared with an average of about 90 per cent in the rest of the developed world."

"The average cellphone bill is one-third more in Canada than in the United States, and although the price gap is closing, it continues to hinder the adoption of wireless communications in this country"

"the country's adoption rate for cellphones puts it on par with Tunisia (average per capita income of $8,600 U.S.) and slightly behind Turkey"

Hooray corporate Canada!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Little things make big differences

So I've been living back in Canada for about 2 months now, and minus the sometimes very cold weather, there have been a few other things that I've noticed about being back. (Maybe I should call they annoyances!)

The first is mobile phones. My one and half year old RAZR stopped working last week - so I've started having a look around for a replacement phone. In the UK, you can easily get the RAZR for free on a 1 year contract on any network (most mobile contracts are 1 year). In Canada, you can also get the RAZR, but it's on a 3 year contract, and it's not free. There's also some subtle differences in the phone costs. In the UK, the included air-time is only deducted for out-going phone calls. While here in Canada, you are not only charged for air-time for incoming phone calls, you are also charged long-distance rates if that incoming phone call is long distance! If you go pay-as-you-go you're in for a bigger surprise. In the UK, pick up a RAZR for $130 cdn including taxes. In Canada, Fido is selling the same phone for $400 not including tax!

The second thing I noticed is Canada's bank fees. The UK has enjoyed free banking for years for consumers (though there are rumblings that we will need to maintain a minimum balance now to enjoy them). When I say free bank fees, I'm talking specifically about the ability to withdraw money from any ATM. Virtually no UK bank will charge you a fee to withdraw money from another UK bank; whereas in Canada, I'm charged a $1.50 per transaction. It costs the banks virtually nothing to allow this - because of the electronic infrastructure, but as consumers all we can do is watch the bank's profits rise, and moan about the lack of good services.

If any company in Canada came along and fixed these things (mobile phones and banks) they would gain a massive influx of customers at the cost of the other carriers or banks. No question.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blowing up another Canadian Myth

Excellent article in the Globe and Mail about Canada's military role in the world today; exploring motives and interests.

More practically, it explodes the myth that Canada is a peacekeeping country that supports UN missions. Hopefully I can stop hearing about this now from fellow Canadians, because the facts don't support the talk.

Total military personnel on UN peacekeeping operations
Jan., 2007: 72,784, Canada's contribution: 56 (0.077%)
Aug., 1991: 10,801, Canada's contribution: 1,149 (10.6%)

From the article.

How fragile our existence really is

Last week, two unrelated events in Ontario Canada occurred at approximately the same time:

1. CN rail workers went on strike
2. There was a huge fire at an Imperial Oil refinery

The net effect of these two unrelated events, are estimates of upto 1/3 of the provinces petrol stations having been closed, rationing of gas, and a 20% increase in purchase price in essentially 1 week.

Analysts are saying it is a combination of additional factors that has caused this: hard winter weather - the frozen St. Lawrence river (in ice-free conditions, oil could be shipped in); the rail strike just compounded the problem, and the low amount of oil inventory kept on hand (i.e. reserves by fuel companies) because it keeps costs lower for petrol companies.

What it illustrates, I think, is how fragile our existence is. Ontario is a province that relies heavily on gasoline for transport (ultimately employment, since most Canadians need a car to get to their jobs), heating, and energy production. Practically the whole economy is based around oil.

Most of the world's oil is produced in countries with unstable politics: Russia, the middle east, South America, Africa -- all major oil producers, and almost all with unstable political climates.

I am a betting man (mostly through world stock markets - which have taken a 10% tumble as of yesterday, which will undoubtedly further fuel political problems); I would bet Oil is in big trouble, and that means Canadians are in for a rough ride.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Let's blame India and China

On October 30th, a review on the Economics of Climate Change sponsored by HM Treasury and written by Lord Stern has grabbed significant front-page headlines. You can read this report here.

Anyway, what it says is quite important - because the conclusion, for the first time, is not whether climate change and global warming are occuring, but that climate change is indeed real, and at a pace which is heading towards irreversibility.

Of course when a report comes out like this, there are still plenty of skeptics and lots of naysayers who would refuse to believe the numbers until of course their own beachside house in Florida Keys washes away.

But what really behooves me, is to start reading unresearched and blatantly incorrect commentary from these people, and even worse - news sources trying to convince others that a) the conclusion is wrong and b) it's the developing world's fault anyway.

Well let's set the record straight. Below are several links from international studies showing CO2 emissions by country. Sure, China and India are definitely contributors, but it is the western countries that by far need to accept most of the blame and truly change their own behaviour.

According to a UN study in 2002, ordered by top polluter here:

United States, 5,844,042 (thousands of metric tons)
China, 3,263,103
India, 1,220,926

This image from the UK National Energy Foundation, shows the picture even better. It indicates CO2 emissions per person, (dated 2000)

See those big gray areas - those are your top polluters. Sure, this is 2006 and this map is from 2000, and India and China surely are contributing more than they were. But all that shows to me is how long the US and Australia have gotten away with bad emissions. They've done it for decades.

But that's not the end of the blame game. Part of the fallout from the Iraq war and troubles in the mideast in the last year is the price of Oil rising to a new high. In August, 2005, a barrel of crude hit $62 (USD).

Who were western consumers and the news sources quick to blame? China and India.

Well, by the CIA's own account, both the Chinese and Indians have a long way to go to catch up to the US. I mean the US consumption of 20,030,000 bbl/day is actually 2 times as much as China (6,391,000) and India (2,320,000) combined.

So let's give the rhetoric a rest, and stop attacking developing nations. The US is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world, and consumes more natural resources than any other country in the world. They continue to argue they can't afford the economic cost of reducing emissions, but then again, they're able to spend billions of dollars on more important things.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The hard truth about iPods

Just further evidence why rampant consumerism is bad.

From Macworld:

Low-paid workers toil long hours at Hon Hai’s Longhua, China, plant to produce Apple’s popular iPod nano music player, the newspaper said. It put the monthly salary of these workers at £27 (US$50). Workers at a different company that produces the iPod shuffle were paid £54 per month. These workers paid for their own room and board, which amounted to around half of their salary, it said.

The manufacturing relationship between Apple and Hon Hai is typical in the electronics industry.

In most cases, electronics manufacturing isn’t handled by the company that sells the final product, but by a contract manufacturer. Vendors squeeze the contract manufacturers hard to boost their own profit margins, often playing one off against another to get the lowest price. In turn, contract manufacturers look to reduce their costs as much as possible, and that means keeping wages low.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Consumerism = low innovation

I am a regular visitor at forums on the digital camera site DPReview; and particularily because I own a Pentax *ist DS SLR camera. I paid approximately $1000 CDN for it last year. Since then Pentax has discontinued the model and come out with lower cost and lower specified SLRs. (Now, it is more than likely they will produce a pro model in the future, but that's not the point.

Likewise, I bought an Apple iPod 3 years ago - a 15gb model, known by iPod users as the 3rd generation. Back in 2003, iPods still weren't huge - they were just beginning to enjoy the market domination they have today.

My 15gb 3G iPod came with the following accessories in the box: case, remote control, earphones, power supply, dock & firewire cable. And I paid 200 (British) pounds for it.

Today's 30gb 5G iPod comes with the following: earphones & USB cable. It's price is still 200 pounds. All the additional accessories however, are about 20 pounds each if you desire them.

So onto the theory...

First Pentax. Pentax, like many other traditional companies that produced film cameras for decades, is struggling to survive in a marketplace that is no longer dominated or differentiated by quality. Digital cameras at this present point in technology, are all very similar in the technologies they employ, and as such, are all very competively priced the same. Unfortunately this results in low margins of profit, razor thin magins - and this leads us to formulate camera manufacturers that cannot survive on low profits - are simply going to be forced out of business. The scenario you are left with is that only the big players (like Canon, Nikon, Sony) that have massive marketing budgets propping up strong brand names, and are diversified into other other areas; are the only ones that will, can, survive this long march.

I think perhaps alot of people think that technology at some point, stops growing exponentially, and hits a plateau or a low slope linear curve. Personally I don't think it is science that is limiting technological growth, but the effects of low prices destroying competition.

Microsoft is a classic example. Once they eliminate or marginalise the competition in a market area, innovation almost completely falls off. All you need to do is look at Internet Explorer vs. Netscape. Once you monopolise a market, you can proceed at your own pace (or lack of pace) of development because you are no longer under the threat of competition. Microsoft acheived low cost of their product by bundling it with every Windows PC sold. Zero effort, and zero cost, required by the consumer to use it.

Likewise, Apple today is approaching monopolisation of the digital audio player market. So far, though, they are still innovating, perhaps because there is still sufficient competition out there. However, this competition will only benefit companies with large economies of scale, and those that have sufficient differentiation (either by price or technology). Well diffentiation is low, and prices are similar. Already Apple has claimed a half-dozen victims in the digital audio marketplace. But competing with price with other manufacturers has had an effect on Apple as well. Recall the example above; Apple's current 5G iPod comes with less accessories than their 3G iPod. Was it a decision by Apple to remove these accessories because they weren't being utilised by consumers, or was it to increase profit margins? I think the answer is pretty clear to that. They've now got a healthy profit margin on the iPod, and everyone knows that accessories have huge markups.

And that's where the consumer comes in. At the point where differentiation between products ceases (both in quality and features), it is only cost that remains. Given todays disposable society, most people are not looking for new technology (many aren't even looking at quality). They're looking for low-cost products to save pennies. It is this same market of consumers who will drive smaller companies out of business, prop up monopolies, and resultingly ... stop innovation.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Canadian Productivity an embarrassment

A Globe and Mail article reports on Statscan findings on Canadian Productivity:

Canada's productivity, defined as output as a percentage of hours, has been a source of embarrassment in recent years. On average, Canada's productivity growth has hovered just above zero since 2000. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen productivity grow by an average of 3.8 per cent since the start of the decade.

“Foreign-controlled plants are more productive than domestic-controlled plants in general,” Statscan said. “This is because foreign-controlled plants and firms are also more innovative, more technologically advanced, and more likely to perform research and development.”

I've believed this for quite a few years. Canadian wealth is driven by an abudance of natural resources; not innovation. The Canadian Government needs to support R&D more; support their Education system more.

We also have a very embarrassing record in sport. Just look at Australia; a country with less people than ours; and how well they do in sports. Again, it's a lack of money by the Canadian government into sports development. As a side effect, just imagine how much money could be saved in health care, by encouraging people to be more active. Bring back the Participaction ads. Put more money into encouraging sports.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

End of the Church

Well, I just could not resist commenting on the Vatican's latest ban on gay priests.

The Vatican has published long-awaited guidelines which reaffirm that active homosexuals and "supporters of gay culture" may not become priests.

But it treats homosexuality as a "tendency", not an orientation, and says those who have overcome it can begin training to take holy orders.

At least three years must pass between "overcoming [a] transitory problem" and ordination as a deacon, the rules say.

All Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, regardless of orientation.

'Transient' tendencies? Who the hell are the kidding? This sounds like it was decided by committee trying to satisify everyone instead of coming down with a decision one way or another. Let's just play it safe. So according to the vatican, if you're gay, but happen to stop being gay for 3 years; then now you can be ordained as a priest. Of course, you've take a vow of celibacy, so I'm not quite sure how one could be gay or straight either way.

Let's forget all the scientific evidence out there that clearly shows that people are one sexuality or another; hardly transient in nature. Unless of course the Vatican is suggesting that bi-sexuals are ok, but gays aren't.

The Church needs to shut itself down. In increasingly liberal societies throughout the west, not only are homosexuals being accepted into society; they are now earning legal rights (in Canada, Britain, to name but two).

This is just another clear indication to why the Church of the Roman Empire is making its deathbed. The possible good they could do in a modern world - upholding morals maybe - is worth nothing; if they can't be relevant to people's lives. If there are gay people who believe in Christianity; then who is to say that Christianity doesn't accept them? Oooh libelous - the Church want's you to believe they are the 'voice of god', representing the faith on earth. They've even threatened governments of countries. I've got one phrase for you Vatican: RIP. And it can't be soon enough as far as I am concerned.

Religion has a place in a lot of people's lives. But there's a bigger revolution coming and it's called scientific reasoning.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Barbaric acts against Cats and Dogs in China


"...footage taken in a fur market in Guangzhou, southern China.

The film shows animals being thrown from a bus, and into boiling water.

A Chinese official said boycotts were not justified, and blamed US and European consumers for buying the fur.

In the film, dogs and cats packed by the dozen into wire cages little bigger than lobster pots are pictured being thrown from the top deck of a converted bus onto concrete pavements.

The screaming animals, many with their paws now smashed from the fall, are then lifted out with long metal tongs and thrown over a seven foot fence.

Some are senselessly beaten by laughing and smiling workers.

All are then killed and skinned for their fur - many are believed still to be alive as their skins are peeled away."


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Canada's Performance 2005

A Government of Canada report summarising performance highlights for 2005. Of interest to me are the metrics on innovation, entrepreneurship, education, income, social diversity, and believe it or not - political participation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brutalities against Women in DR Congo

A very moving short picture story about what 2 women in the DR Congo have suffered.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

play & work - Canada Vs Britain

There has been recent discussion in the news about Canada, Australia and other countries trying to reverse the so-called "brain drain" by trying to get ex-pats to come home. I have no idea if the brain drain is real; but there are lots of ex-pats who don't really want to come home for economic and lifestyle reasons.

Let's start with personal reasons: annual employee leave in Canada vs. annual employee leave in the UK (where I currently live):

Canadian holidays for 2005: 11*
Minimum leave by law, given to an employee in a Canadian company: 10 days
My personal experience is that Canadian employees get 10 days.

total: 22 days
* includes the average provincial holiday of 1 day

British holidays for 2005: 11
Minimum leave by law, given to an employee in a British company: 20 days
My personal experience is that British employees get 25 days.

total: 36 days

By moving to the UK in 2001, I got 64% more annual leave than the job I left behind in Canada.

A 2004 poll by Monster notes "75% of Brits said that they took 21 days or more holidays over the year when only 21% of Canadians and 13% of Americans received the same."

Now let's talk about economic reasons:

Average Canadian salary for a software engineer living in Toronto: $60,000 CDN

Average UK salary for a software engineer living in London, UK: $96,000 CDN (£45,000)

2005 After Tax income for the software engineer in Canada:
That $60,000 becomes $46,000 CDN

2005 After Tax income for the software engineer in the UK:
That £45,000 becomes £31,690 - or $66,549 CDN

Now of course the cost of living is higher in London than Toronto, probably at least 50% more, so the extra income made in the UK doesn't account for much.

But the 64% extra days of leave certainly is real enough. These numbers are of course really basic - and can't take into account quality of life, personal desires or ambitions; but what it tells me as an ex-pat Canadian; is that there is real reason and benefit of working outside of Canada.

To be honest, having more annual leave is worth more to me, than having more money. After all, there isn't that much difference in what a professional engineer might save in either country; but the extra holiday has tangible benefits: less stress and more fun, and isn't life meant to be more than just work?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

From the BBC:
Rich world 'failing' on Quake Aid

"The charity, Oxfam, said less than 30% of $312m (£175m) sought by UN aid agencies has been pledged.

It said the US, Japan, Germany and Italy had given less than their "fair share"

It also said seven rich nations - Belgium, France, Austria, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain - had so far donated nothing at all."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

From the BBC:
Quake 'is UN's worst nightmare'

The UN says the shortfall in aid for victims of the South Asian quake has made the relief situation worse than after last December's tsunami.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Flickr talk @ the BBC

In August, Cal Henderson of Flickr gave a talk to a group at BBC New Media. Here's my notes from his talk on Flickr's development team and process:

The main theme was to keep the project team small. I believe the members of the Flickr team are composed of a single creative, a product manager, a public-facing developer, a server-side developer, and a DBA. The present team size is 8 (9?) people.

The benefits of a small team were indicated as easier communication - more ownership / responsiblity of the product / and little or no paper trail. The team as a whole could do rapid releases at a stated frequency of upto 10 times a DAY (though it was unclear if these were minor changes to markup, instead of larger changes that would require more testing).

Their development process breaks down into the following structure:
1 day for planning - involving the whole team, using post-it notes and cue cards.
1 month for development
1 month for refinement

The features identified in the planning stage are priortised by a set of drivers: coolness factor, pet factor (exec wants it), user demand, and others.

The 1 month development timeframe is meant to deliver a feature as quick as possible; and permit rapid releases. The basic premise is to treat everything as a prototype; and drop a feature if it isn't working out. It is not uncommon during the development timeframe that the original spec for the feature changes due to new experience. Being able to have the flexiblity to drop or change a feature is important.

R&D is primarily accomplished by encouraging the team to experiment and do prototyping, and mashups (identifying synergies with their product and other products and building actual products with it).

During the 1 month refinement time; the primary focus is on observation (of users), tweaking, and considering the removal (deletion) of a feature.

The observation of users is mostly driven by the community forums.

Deletion of a feature is important - as it's better to cut your losses on a feature that isn't right or isn't going to work; instead of sinking more money into a losing proposition.

During releases, there is no true "testing" process - they rely primarily on the developer to ensure their code is tested. However, if a bug is found, instead of doing a rollback, they try to fix the bug on the fly and immediately get out another release. Cal mentioned they do more serious testing if they are modifying something that could have bigger impact (such as DB schema changes).

To facilitate this rapid development methodology, strong points were made on having:

1. good release tools -- one button to release and deploy apps
2. good rollback tools -- see reason above
3. good issue tracking -- metioned use of fogbugz for tracking customer-facing & internal issues. Cal mentioned that Yahoo! use bugzilla and he hates it

Flickr's architecture is layered, from top to bottom:

Presentation (CSS)
Markup (smarty)
Page Logic (PHP)
Business Logic (PHP)
Database (MySql)

Some other interesting tidbits:

- Will flickr do audio or video? probably not - as looking at a photo requires less user time (i.e. they need to invest time to consume audio & video)
- They maintain a maintainable app by ensuring strong coding standards. These standards mandate both structure and readability of code; so that it can be easily picked up by another developer
- Little or no "formal" product documentation. The code is documented (and though it wasn't stated as frankly, I took this to be "living documentation")
- Cross training is minor. A developer at one layer (say the Page logic) would be familiar with the layer above and below themselves (because they have to either build the API for the layer above, or employ the API from the layer below). Cal mentions this is partially countered by having strong coding standards.
- Low turnover of people - mainly because of an ownership of the product - motivated and interesting work. Avoid boring work, staying on the same project for 2 years, and work that stagnates - ie. has matured to a point where more time is spent on maintenance and support instead of innovation.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thoughts on 38,000 dead people

The BBC has been diligently reporting about the earthquake in Kashmir - and the latest toll is estimated to be around 38,000 people dead.

It's staggering to think of the hardship that the survivors must now struggle through.

But the point of this post is to dig deeper into why those of us in the west feel that this is incident is being glossed over in the media. Yes sure, when Katrina hit New Orleans, it was in the news for weeks. Is the media to blame for that?

Witness a different scenario - the tsunami at the end of last year - some 200,000 people dead and what happened? The world responded on a massive scale to support and provide aid to the affected countries.

Aid is flowing into Pakistan and India now after this earthquake, but I can't help but get the feeling it is more of a gesture than real concern on the part felt by us in the west. When I speak with colleagues at work; the earthquake isn't mentioned.

Some editorials talk about donation fatigue. With so many tragic events happening all the time, people are tired of donating. I think while that might be somewhat true; it's still not the point. I donated £40 to the UK Red Cross for the earthquake; I really feel sorry for these people. But my main feeling is to a large extent - helplessness. My biggest problem today will be to mop my floors and go buy some shoes. How can my minor issues compare to a disaster where 38,000 people are dead half way around the world?

The reason I believe the earthquake isn't getting the coverage and possibly aid it deserves, is because of geography and culture. Societies generally tend to care about things when they hit closer to home. This applies geographically because if an incident is physically nearby - you can't ignore it. And if the affected societies share the same culture as your own, then you are more likely to be emphatic towards them.

It's easy to feel sorry for people hurt by this tragic event, but difficult to feel emphatic towards - what is to us - really a foreign place, and a foreign culture, and that's why I think the earthquake isn't getting the attention it deserves.

Monday, August 15, 2005

20 tips for 20-something Canadians

I'm 31 and feel like I'm both far enough and close enough to my 20's to be able to have an opinion on what to do in your 20s:

Tips for 20-something Canadians

1. There is a huge world that exists well beyond Canada and the United States. It's exciting and humbling to discover what a diverse and beautiful place it is.

2. Never in history has it been so easy to travel to around the world for so cheaply and easily. Who knows, maybe we've hit the peak of western civilisation; and it's downhill from here. Get your tickets while oil is still cheap.

3. Memories last a lifetime. Travelling is an adventure. When you're 80, how likely are you to remember the 3rd car you bought? How about your first time in Moscow?

4. Be financially smart. While it is important to stay out of debt; it is equally important not to be obsessed with having possessions in your youth. You're always going to buy stuff. In your 20's, you have alot of disposable income and little debt or responsibilities. When you're 40, you still have the rest of your life to earn money and have the stuff you wanted.

5. People are living longer. So people are starting to have families later in life. I don't see any reason to rush into that.

6. Watch your diet. Sorry this has to be mentioned especially because North Americans are wealthier than just about everyone in the world. It's very easy with the kind of technology we have these days to put on the pounds. We sit in front of tvs & computers; we drive cars; we can acquire groceries easily. Wealth and the lack of enough exercise easily identify North Americans compared to people in other parts of the world. Even Europeans, quite wealthy, aren't as obese as North Americans. It comes down to this: either excercise more to burn off the calories, or reduce your calorie intake. Diets don't work - being healthy is a lifestyle.

7. Dress comfortably, but well. Really truly honestly, most people don't want to see you in your Walmart joggers. First
impressions do count. Take care of how you look and other people will respond to that.

8. Underestimating yourself is natural. Fear is natural. I once took a 3 1/2 month trip around the world by myself. Was I scared? Definitely. However, it was easier than I thought (and I'm going to do it again). Look at the root causes of your fears and try to think about them rationally. Fear of the unknown is natural. Courage is natural too.

9. It has to be said that alot of us hit our late 20's with ambitious goals we don't reach. This doesn't mean we should become negative about life, or worse sink into depression. It should mean that you become wiser and more focused about what you can achieve.

10. Dream. The moment you stop dreaming or setting goals for yourself; you're lost. The only way forward is to want to achieve more for yourself. Your success in life is determined by how bold and how much you want something.

11. If you want something bad enough, you can usually have it. I'm not talking about material possessions or superficial desires. I'm talking about self-achievement. If you want to be someone or something - then it really does matter how much you put into yourself.

12. Don't let others put you off. Everyone around you will voice their opinion about things - alot of this has to do with self-justification. Alot of people also feel the need to be superior to others. People will say that "you can't do that" or you're not good enough. They will show off, and you might feel inferior or intimidated. There are a lot of pressures from people around you, be it friends or family, for you to be a certain person. You need to shield yourself from that, and remember they are only as human as you. They've made their own mistakes. They've made their own choices. No one is perfect.

13. Only you know what you want. There are lots of pressures from parents, peers, your professors - suggesting what you should do with your life. Be careful that you understand "what you want" instead of what other's want for you.

14. Build relationships. You may be shy, quiet, or lack confidence in yourself. But people are easier to talk to than you might think. Most people are capable of being friendly! The more you communicate the easier you will find it. Greater success requires great communication skills.

15. Smile! A smile goes along way to building relationships between people. Make it a genuine smile. Don't judge people right away; give them the benefit of the doubt. You would want the same returned to you.

16. Be positive. No one wants to be around a negative person. Being positive is a way of life. If you are positive about your life, than it will grow in a positive direction. Believe good things are possible. You will have off days, everyone does; but keep believing.

17. Have fun. You're young! Life doesn't always have to be about the bigger picture. Life isn't always fair to other people. But this is your life - make sure that you are happy.

18. Have a conscience.

19. Don't be greedy.

20. Remember that we are all just a moment in time.

Blowing balloons leaves you gasping for air.