Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Today at reporter.co.za

The Mountain Climbing article is featured today on reporter.co.za. To read it, just click on the title of this post.

Today I'm also submitting an article on The Psychology of Gob and Triathlon Training in Korea.

The last 3 submitted articles have all been approved and should be published soon:
1) From Apartheid to Eenheid
2) Not a civil service (on the SA Post Office)
3) World Weather Report

Visit www.reporter.co.za periodically for my latest contributions.


H5N1 has been centred around South East Asian countries around 2003. For the first time, it is highly activated, and has moved well beyond those borders, and is now in Africa, and in the heart of Europe. H5N1 has now been reported in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and numerous other neighboring countries.

China has recently warned of the potential for a 'massive outbreak'.
What's happening now is an outbreak, followed by widespread culling, and then a few days or weeks later, another outbreak.

One of the problems with brid flu is certain countries, like Vietnam, have poultry as an integral part of daily lifestyle and culture. It is hard for them to survive without it. Many farmers make a living out of cockfighting, and admit to hiding their cockerels, which one man described as 'meaning more to me than my family'.
This creates a certainty for repeated infections, with the virus having the opportunity to become more efficient.

A good way to stay updated on this issue is to get google alerts on H5N1 mailed daily to your email address.

Monday, February 27, 2006

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I think you've got to not always expect people to meet your own expectations. You've got to let go of always having expectations when it comes to other people. Anticipate, but don't expect. Expect is hard and unforgiving, and inflexible. Ancipation is softer, more open and positive. And also to not always judge things that don't happen (from the other person), but let them be themselves. If we love someone, we ought to love them the best way we can: by letting them be themselves. Otherwise, why would we love them or be attracted to them (unless from a selfish desire to merely be loved in the way that we wanted.)

It's a constant choice to let the person you love be who they want to be, or ask them to do/be what you want. That choice is important, because whatever you choose, you will tend to create the same choice in them.

Rain Delayed Play

 Posted by PicasaIt's been raining all weekend, but play was delayed perhaps, but went ahead anyway.

In the rugby : The local team, the Cheetahs lost to the Highlanders from New Zealand in heartbreaking fashion. After dominating and almost scoring a try, the Highlanders scored in the last 5 minutes, to win 17 - 12.

Cricket: South Africa have beaten Australia (the world champions) twice in a row. First in the 20/20 opener (by two runs, and today...

South Africa wins first ODI against Australia

Posted at 6:29am on 27 Feb 2006

The South African cricket captain Graeme Smith hit a century to steer South Africa to a convincing six-wicket win over Australia in the first one-day international at Centurion.

The opener thumped an undefeated 119 from 124 balls -- the highest score by a South African in a one-dayer against Australia
who won the toss and made 229 for eight in a match reduced to 47 overs a side by rain.

South Africa-- set a revised target of 204 in 41 overs after more rain -- got home in 37.3 overs.

The second game in the five-match series will be played in Cape Town on Friday.

Copyright © 2006 Radio New Zealand Sport

I went to gym at 6:30pm, praying that it didn't close at 7pm (as it does on Saturdays):

Swim: 0:53
Distance: 2km
Best 250m: 3:29
Best 100m: 1:15
Legs felt tired during kicking.

Weight: 84.5kg

Met a guy in the pool, Renier, who plays Masters Water Polo. He said he came 7th in the 30-40 age group at Midmar, his time: 24 minutes. I can swim faster than that. He said he might call me if they need water polo players.
Also did some upper body work upstairs.

Am going to train hard this week, especially hills and adding more running. Also have tests at university and must meet with the art designer at Xposure, as my Heartland stories are being readied for printing. Currently have 2 images on www.reporter.co.za.

Depression Posted by Picasa

The art of rain Posted by Picasa

Machines for machines Posted by Picasa

Window of opportunity, on a rainy day Posted by Picasa

Building blocks Posted by Picasa

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World Weather Report

Are we faced with an emergency or is it all hype?

Today’s weather report put the chance of rain in Bloemfontein at 80-100%, and indeed, it’s rained the whole day. The rainfall for February, so far is 94.6mm, and the average, measured over 30 years, is 111mm. I ‘m guessing after today’s rain, it’s pretty close to that 30 year average. This being the case, what ought we to think about climate change, global warming, tipping points and trigger effects related to melting ice sheets and what not?

For one thing, the weather is being monitored more closely now than ever before. The level of detail is so thorough, that supercomputers are able to run models, predicting, sometimes very accurately, from the mundane (daily temperatures in Upington), to the vital (Hurricane tracking in the oil rich Gulf of Mexico).
In South Korea, as the days to an Ironman triathlon were counting down, race organizers and many athletes followed the track of a Typhoon (a Hurricane in the western Pacific is called a Typhoon, and a Cyclone in the southern hemisphere.) Where it went would have a direct impact on the race. In the end, the swim was cancelled due to high waves, but the Typhoon was seen, online, to be drifting away based on real time updates of satellite photographs. So the organizers were able to confidently permit the other two legs of the event to go ahead as scheduled.

Both the tracks of Hurricanes in the Gulf and Typhoons in the South China Sea appear to have changed the very landscape they move through. The same way that water in a lagoon changes the position of sandbanks, it appears that these systems, over millennia, have carved at the landmasses. Both Japan and the peninsula area of Florida lie on a parallel path to most storms, thereby funneling them, guiding them on what is usually a predictable path. It’s interesting, but what does it mean?

Patterns and Exceptions

Meteorology pertaining specifically to the analysis of storm systems provides a useful point of departure. Firstly, storms originate in a predicated area, and then follow, with some variation, similar tracks. Obviously other systems can have an impact, but in a National Geographic article*, which plots these tracks, the pattern is fairly clear. Storms originate off the tropical west coast of Africa, develop strength as they track westward, and then swing north and northeast, exhausting themselves over the North American landmass or along its Eastern Seaboard. Typically the typhoons approaching Korea swing westward at the last minute, along or parallel to the Japanese islands before wasting away at higher latitudes, also moving towards the northeast, and dying near the Russian landmass (near Vladivostok). Secondly, there are exceptions to the pattern. This should provide an indication of what is an appropriate basic assumption regarding world weather patterns. Obvious patterns, sometimes broken by aberrant systems.

The question being asked now, is: Have we reached a point, or might we soon reach a point, where there are more aberrations than patterns? In other words, Weather Chaos.
This is a difficult question. It can be approached from two angles:

The Acute Angle

Hurricanes in the gulf from 1985-1994 were borne from lower sea temperatures (1-2 degrees Fahrenheit lower) than of the subsequent decade. This change in sea temperatures led to the doubling of the number of storms, and it is well known that 2005 had the warmest Gulf waters, and broke all time records for Hurricanes and Tropical storms. After the alphabetized list of names had been exhausted (an exceptional occurrence), new storms were given Greek names, Alpha, Beta and so on. The Gulf example provides clear evidence of the link between warming and extreme weather phenomena, particularly highly destructive events. This cannot be overstated. Hurricane Katrina was responsible for the wrecking of a modern city, New Orleans, in our time. Hurricane Rita was on a direct line towards Dallas, and then veered off (North) at the last moment. The wrecking of New Orleans can be compared to the destruction of other cities throughout history, through natural disasters, such as Pompeii and others.

The Oblique Angle

Perspective is useful. The atmosphere of our planet has changed a great deal over vast periods of time**. We started off with a helium atmosphere, and then it became an atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Living things produced a waste product, through respiration: a poisonous gas called oxygen. Then oxygen supplanted carbon dioxide, and new life forms flourished that breathed oxygen alongside more ancient organisms (conifers, ferns etc). Oxygen causes oxidation: it’s a fancy word for corrosion or rust. Oxygen is what destroys an apple core, turning its flesh brown in seconds. Oxygen is harmful to some extent to our bodies too, which is why we need to take antioxidants, vitamins D and E. We need oxygen to live and breathe, but it can also harm our bodies. The point of the above is to represent change and paradox as both intentional and chaotic processes.

Each year about 6 billion tons of CO2 is poured into the atmosphere. Studies show that the measured level is only 3 billion tons. About half the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere is being absorbed by the planet. The rest produces warming. Experiments in the canopies of the Amazon rainforest have shown that massive amounts (an average of 5 tons of Carbon, per hectare, per year or 6000 litres of petrol) of CO2 are being absorbed here, pushing the forest from a mature system into a growing system once more. Thus the Amazon functions as a carbon sink for the planet. CO2 is absorbed by the forest, and manifested as plant tissues. When these tissues die, decay allows the release of CO2 back into the atmosphere. So too, does burning. A small variation in both rainfall and warming can prohibit forests from being able to generate or sustain themselves. Measurements in the Amazon do show both of these anomalies. The threat is obviously that the Amazon can quickly change from being a carbon sink, to a carbon emitter. This represents the threat of a tipping point effect.

A recent documentary aired on the National Geographic channel (Climate Change: The Day The Oceans Boiled) points out that warming can bring about the destabilizing of hydrates, particularly in the arctic. Hydrates are locked into ice or held inert by cold and pressure under permafrost or the ocean floor. Hydrates contain fantastic amounts of CO2. The documentary goes on to show that the danger of these hydrates being released is not probable, it’s already happening. Satellite photos show massive chimneys of the stuff bubbling off the ocean floor, like subterranean gas field fires, like the one’s we saw during the first Gulf War in Kuwait.
Some models predict a rise of 8 degrees Celsius (of Arctic Ocean water) by the end of this century.
The documentary goes on to show that 55 million years ago, spontaneous releases (of hydrate) took global temperatures to 15 degrees Celsius higher than ‘human beings have ever experienced’. If this recurred, worldwide weather in large parts of the world would be extreme and unendurable.

Two Contrasting Views

The first view assumes that we can be certain about Climate Change. It is a fact that currently CO2 levels are 3 times higher than they have ever been measured (including the 400 000 year old ice core and mud measurements). There is a direct correlation between CO2 levels and air temperature. Changing CO2 levels coincide with Ice Ages, natural events that occur in cycles of both 100 000 years, and smaller events every 20 000 years. We are due for an Ice Age at present, and the Earth appears to have entered this phase since 1850. An Ice Age is preceded by a period of warming.
During the last 105 years (oil was discovered in 1901) the planet has recycled approximately half its entire liquefied fossil fuel (oil) reservoirs, converting them into heat and gas through combustion in furnaces and automobiles. The cause of CO2 increases is manmade, but these escalations may be eclipsed by a trigger point (once warming reaches a critical level) that releases hydrates (these natural reservoirs have very high concentrations of CO2)and produces a catastrophic runaway effect., which. This massive exchange represents an unprecedented event, and how can we expect anything less than violent weather reactions of increasing intensity.

The second view is a humble one. Our knowledge of the environment is tiny. The information we have has been collected over an incredibly short period of time vis a vis the planet’s history. Carbon dioxide only represents a tiny proportion (less than 1%) of the atmosphere. The planet is in a natural warming period, and no one knows how much of that is natural, and how much is manmade.

What are we to make of these warnings and predictions? Assumptions are not inevitable, and research can guide change.
Perhaps human beings need to avoid the above distinction (between natural and manmade), and see themselves as ‘natural’, and thus part of the forces of nature. We are likely to see some remarkable and chilling changes in our lifetimes. We have a choice: to be consumers or custodians, but either way connected to this blue planet we call home.

*National Geographic: In Hot Water, by Chris Carroll, August 2005, p78-79
** Dox Productions, The Day The Oceans Boiled, narrated by Matthew Zajac, directed and produced by David Sington

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Had a long day yesterday trying to sort out the box that arrived with my damaged computer parts. Made numerous calls, sent faxes, spoke to neurotic and paralytic post office tellers who managed to not know anything or do anything for several hours.

Think I may have sorted it out: a R3000 refund will be divine intervention at this point.

Last night I wrote down 10 potentioal revenue streams. The most exciting is the possibility that when Franna goes to France, I might take over as the coach of his Froggies Swimming Club. We're meeting later in the week to talk about it.

The Rain and the Parade

Tuesday was the last day that I did any exercise, so I knew the exertions of today's 110km race would be a shock to the system. It was, but dampened to some extent to soft rain falling for almost the duration of the race.

You might think rain is the last thing a cyclist wants, but it's not necessarily true. Lance Armstrong likes rain and adverse weather, because he trains (or used to train) whatever the weather. It can dampen the morale of a pack of a riders, but in my case, given the slippy roads and reduced visisbility, it held the pack together a lot longer than it would have otherwise.
This can create a very dangerous scenario, with elite riders mixing it up with people who ought to be cycling with huge red L's on their backs. Not Losers, Learners.

There were no falls in our pack, which exceeded a hundred for up to 45km.

My race started off at the 110km post, where only 5 riders had gathered. Because it was raining, the thought crossed our minds that the majority of 110km riders had stayed home. But what had happened was one bunch had already departed, and now the 110km bunch were situated one group up (not at the designated post). As a result, when the race started, I was right at the back and had to make my way through to the front.
Once the riders turned onto the N1, the front group had made a gap on the whole group, and I expended valuable energy to catch them. I did, and enjoyed their company until the climb up the Kimberley Road to get back on the N1 highway.

I knew they were going to surge, because it's a long, hard climb, so as the road tilted upwards, I delicately eased into the front of the whole pack. Seconds later they shot out of the blocks, and while my bike was ready to fly up the mountain, my flab held me back.
That's when I lost the elite guys, and then, on the downhills that followed, reeled in a few guys, formed a small bunch, reeled in another fugitive fleet and then one more. Now we were the runner up group, of about 40 riders.

I knew the race would come down to the long uphill on the N1 (after Pitstop), and it did. With 85km done and about 25km to go, we began the long climb and I did the same thing, eased into the front to soften the blow of the climb. I looked on the graph (of my heart rate) and I see I pushed myself about as hard as I could: 170's. The bunch spread out into a long trickle, and regrouped on the downhill, but 5 of us, including me, got left behind. I should have raced as hard as I could once over the top (at Engen) and used the momentum to hop over the little hill after the bridge. But, I decided to be more conservative and work with the guys with me. I thought we might catch them, but my companions were all too tired to contribute, and after setting the pace for long stretches, I resigned myself to staying with my little group.


And that's how the race ended. The guys I ended with are not top cyclists, and so I feel they reflect on my performance. My bike aswell, was very light today (removed a CO2 cannister, and through away a water bottle at 60km) - so the finger should be pointed my flab, and lack of training. YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

On the positive side, last year I was too sick to do this race, and remained sickened and weakened until the Argus (3 weeks later). Perhaps I can use this period to close the gap on my perceived fitness last year, and try to throw off some weight, targetting the area immediately surrounding the belly button.

Distance: 104.2km (Odometer showed 107 before downloading it)
Time: 2:49:24
100km @ 2:41
Kcal: 1802
Average heart rate: 158 (Maximum 173)
Average speed: 36.9km/h
Average time per km: 1:41

This ride was only a little slower than last weeks, and given the many hills, that's a reasonable achievement.

Francois Vorster came 2nd in his age group at SA Triathlon Champs, so he has been selected for the SA Team, competing in the World Champs in Switzerland. He'll be right next door in France, when the race comes up.

Franna's times:
Swim: 22:08
Bike: 1:04
Run: 38:30

Overall time: 2:07


There is a visible shift in sectarian conflict in Iraq. This has a destabilising effect, and may plunge the region into civil war. My prediction is that, given the strategic importance of the region, tensions can only intensify, and spread into Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel and beyond.

One way to diffuse the tensions is a worldwide trend towards alternative energies, adopted on a grand and aggressive scale.

Given that this is an unlikely scenario, we unfortunately face the future with a near certainty of widespread war.

77 dead from fever on French island

(Le Reunion is situated south of the African continent, and a few hundred kilometres from ports such as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.)

by Andy Stenton
Feb. 25 - A mosquito-borne disease is blamed for the the deaths of 77 people on the Indian Ocean island of Le Reunion.

"Chikungunya" fever has affected one in six of the population of three quarters of a million.

There is no known cure or vaccine.

It is an extremely painful illness with high fever and severe rashes.

The nearby islands of Seychelles and Mauritius have also recorded cases.

Click on this post to link to the video coverage.

Saudi Blast: What Took You So Long?

Oil has climbed 4% on news of a blast on a big oil refinery in Saudi Arabia. Don't misinterpret the title of this post as being smug, or a possible endorsement of the attack. It's not. It has simply been an obvious tactic and one wonders why it hasn't been attempted more often. It's possible that Saudi/Muslim attacks on Saudi/Muslim oil is truly an act of sabotage, futility, more so than a suicide bombing can be. Desperation is a dangerous thing, and we now appear to be in that zone where the world's attention is so focussed on Saudi oil, that the enemy of your enemy is not your friend, and the friend of your friend, is not your friend either. Now it's winner take all, and the losers are trying to spoil the prize.

The prize is this precious resource that is no longer meeting global demand. This makes it an even more precious and valuable resource, and the stakes can only get higher, along with everything else: prices, risks, rewards.

Oil prices spike on Saudi attack

By Margaret Orgill
LONDON (Reuters) - Oil jumped more than $2 on Friday after news of a suicide bomb attack at the huge Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, which triggered worries about supply from the world's top crude producer.

At least two cars exploded at the gates of the Abqaiq site when security forces fired on suicide bombers trying to storm the facility in the country's eastern province.

"It's all about perception. Just the idea of an attack in Saudi Arabia is enough to make the market jumpy," said Glenn Murray, an oil broker at GM Oil.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi described the raid as a "terrorist attempt" but said oil exports had been unaffected. He said a limited fire at the site was being brought under control.

"This incident had no impact on oil and gas production in the kingdom," Naimi said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. "The plant continued production at full levels and export operations are as usual."

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via Abqaiq which handles about two thirds of the country's output.

"This just emphasizes fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York.

U.S crude prices settled up $2.37 to $62.91 a barrel after hitting a high of $63.25. London Brent was up $2.06 at $62.60.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Training Report: 22-24 Feb

1 year ago I came down with a bad case of strep, so I've been meaning to avoid it this year. It hasn't been easy, because there is a lot of pollen in the air, and I wake up with pretty bad hayfever. The constant presence of mucuous presents a support surface for a bacterial infection.

The Tour de Bloem is tomorrow, and it's a 110km cycle race. I'm still good enough to do it, but having not cycled since last week's 100km, I'm not feeling that fresh. But it's an improvement on last year:

1) competing in the event
2) using my Zipp wheels

Weight continues to be an issue. Will do an easy 5km run and perhaps a swim this evening.

The Argus continues to hang in the balance. I'll probably make my final decision after tomorrow's race. I feel I'd rather commit to the travel and other costs only when I know I can put in a very good performance. I think a long period of building a fitness base is in order, instead of have erratic peaks and troughs, as the body struggles to make sudden adjustments and then breaksdown,

From Apartheid to Eenheid

Eenheid means unity. It is Apartheid’s opposite. South Africa is on a road between these two social extremes, and the outcome is not guaranteed. The road to unity is long and difficult, and the going, to redress poverty and disease, painfully slow. Having returned from a total of 6 years abroad, Nick van der Leek returns to ask: What has changed? Where is the country going, and where is the road likely to take him and everyone else? Is there a chance of finding Eenheid at the end of the road?

Having enervated for two years in the United Kingdom and four in crowded South Korea, I return to South Africa a different person. While I left poor, embittered and angry, I return feeling love and relief and a growing sense of excitement, to be home. I’ve found the life of a foreigner, an outcast abroad, exciting but exhausting, colorful and enriching, but also lonely, finally becoming monotonous and tiring. Travel is an insight filled education, and perhaps the greatest insights come of home when one is furthest away from home.

During the flight home I sit beside a black couple, young students, who have been holidaying in Thailand. I return to find the economy bursting out of its seams: almost 5% GDP, the highest in 20 years, inflation at its lowest in a decade, the exchange rate almost impossibly strong. And on the surface, a plausible and pleasant harmony in the malls and shops where blacks and whites represent a vivid combination of color and affluence as they graze together like cattle and sheep in their contemporaneous efforts at consumption and urban survival. It’s a sharp contrast from the homogeneous dullness of England and especially Korea. Here is an energetic diversity, especially in the youth.

I’m back in Bloemfontein, a student city in central South Africa, where I grew up under Apartheid. Bloemfontein is a mostly Afrikaans, Christian conservative city. It’s a lot less conservative now, and a lot more cosmopolitan. A lot of student housing in the suburbs is filled with international students, from as far away as China, but mostly from African states like Nigeria, Namibia and Lesotho. Our next door neighbor is a black doctor. The girls around here are famously stunning. Both whites and blacks take care of their appearance; many wear eye-popping blouses and skirts. Big hair, for the boys, appears to be in. And Bloemfontein has become officially cool, now that local boy, Ryk Neethling, the world champion swimmer (and Olympic gold medal winner), has become South Africa’s favorite celebrity. Bloemfontein has also produced top female triathlete, Kate Roberts, and over the years famous people like JRR Tolkien, Steve Hofmeyr, the singer/songwriter, filmmaker Leon Schuster, athlete Zola Budd and the late Hansie Cronje. International teams come to South Africa now, to centres like Bloemfontein, to compete, and we send teams abroad – cricket and rugby especially, but also specialized sportspeople like Kate Roberts (triathlon) have the priviledge of participating in the Commonwealth Games. Other talents are dispatched to the Soccer World Cup (this year our team did not qualify, but South Africa host the next World Cup), the Olympics, even the Tour de France. My generation missed out on participating in any of these events during the years of isolation. It’s still a bitter pill to swallow.

On Saturday the 18th of February, I ride in a local 100km bicycle race. At least 4 of the cyclists in our bunch are from Lesotho, and another half dozen black cyclists, are locals. I’ve cycled for a few years, but being in a bunch with black cyclists is new for me, and I soon find out, also for them. Although they are strong, cycling is a subtle and strategic sport, and riding in a bunch is unnerving. A black cyclist swings about erratically and at one point, almost knocks me off. A cyclist beside me tells him, “Watch out.” Over a 100km we get to know the nuances of the riders around us pretty well. With 10km to go, 2 black riders break off and we’re unable to catch them. I’m impressed.

The school I attended in Bloemfontein did not permit blacks to attend, and neither did any of the others. Even when I was a student at Free State University in 1991 there was just a trickle of black students; now it is positively cosmopolitan. In my 7 years at university, I remember how shy, lost and clicky the African students were, and the tension and antagonism going on in the Afrikaans hostels when their new inmates moved in.

Six years have passed and I’m back on campus. I’ve signed up for a postgraduate course at the University of the Free State. I’m one of 26 000 students. Today in lectures, I ask a question and a few seconds later, an African girl sitting right in front of me asks a question, and then offers another comment.

A third year student of Social Sciences tells me that a very cute black guy “thinks he’s white” because he has a white girlfriend.
She adds, “He can do so much better.” Everyone in the group laughs. It’s casual now, on campus, but there are occasional incidents. I’m told that an Afrikaans guy from the Reitz hostel beat up a black girl from Zimbabwe last year.

I’m inspired and thrilled by the new youth, the vigor and turns of color, but is it all just a meretricious guise? I interview my Drama lecturer, an Italian lady by the name of Manuella Loviso. She points to a straw mat pinned to a board behind her.
“A girl gave that to me. A black lady really. Her name was Kenny. She died 2 years ago of Aids.”
Manuella tells me about Mrs Mosala, who brought her green peppers from her garden in Lesotho. Are these gestures real evidence of change?
She tells me of the unrest at the university two years ago, when there were rallies (she points outside her window), “Out there,” in the road below, calling for cheaper university fees. All appears to have been resolved; there have been no rallies since.

In fact, the Free State University now has a reputation for leading the transformation process, becoming a truly multicultural village. These transformations and language policies have been endorsed by Nelson Mandela.
Manuella tells me that the students of color come from as far afield as Uganda and Eritrea, many from neighboring Lesotho, and both local and international students are beginning to feel more at home on campus. I’ve personally met Asians from Hong Kong, and Taiwan. She says, “You get a sense of it in the classroom. They’re more oriented now, and showing greater confidence.” She points out that they are not always competent, but this is true of all students.

I’m swimming in the local gym, and in the lanes on either side of me are young children. One is a little girl, with dark, chocolate brown skin. Her green Eunice gap reminds me that education has changed across the board. Eunice, when I was at school, also had no black students. Today the schools where I live, in Bloemfontein, are known by the races attending them: Brebner is a school where mostly Asian students go, CBC is filled with mostly Africans, and schools like Grey College, Saint Andrews, St Michaels and Eunice have smaller proportions of African students. The boy’s schools have had to introduce new sports like soccer alongside conventional national sports like cricket and rugby to be fair to every scholar. When I was at Grey there was no soccer in High School, so I feel somewhat envious.

The local cricket team, the Eagles, and the rugby team, the Cheetahs, have stars players of color. Brian Habana, a Springbuck on the national side, is the fastest player in international rugby. Makhai Ntini remains a fearsome bowler on the South African cricket squad.

But not all is positive. The roads in Bloemfontein are cracked and potholed. As a cyclist I’m painfully aware of this. Crime remains a problem: During my first few days in Bloemfontein there were a series of murders, attacks and robberies. Speculation was that with everyone away on holiday, criminals were taking their chances. Still, I go jogging alone at night, feeling safe, but looking over my shoulders in the darker neighborhoods on my route. Two weeks ago my girlfriend’s cell phone was stolen. The thief was captured on camera. While the one distracted her attention, the other quickly pocketed her phone. Both remain at large.

I’m personally finding Affirmative Action (the government approved policy of employing a representative workforce) difficult to swallow. I’m painfully conscious that I am a white male. A white female has a better chance of finding work than I do, and a black female has the best chance. Unemployment continues to be worryingly high, at around 30%. And of course, AIDS, with over 5 million infected, continues to hammer at the country’s morale.

I’ve interviewed a lecturer, now I approach a number of students. At first I feel, out of politeneness, the black students are saying what they think I want to hear. But then they drop their guard.
They tell me, “There are too few black lecturers at the university.” One attractive girl from Namibia, studying medicine, tells me: “My lecturer told me, in front of the class, that he didn’t think I’d make it to my final year.” She feels insulted, and feels the whites still dominate too much. She says the white lecturers are difficult to approach, and offer tips on tests to white students but not to them.
Her friends agree, saying blacks aren’t given enough opportunities. I argue that when they leave university, doors are opened for them, and not for white students. Lebo says, they’re shut out of the intervarsity, and important functions have a few token blacks.

Once again I argue that it might just be a case of preparation, like an athlete making ready for a race, it takes time to integrate into a new environment.
But I surrender when they cite a number of disheartening anecdotes. The medical student is explicitly angry at whites, saying, “I don’t like whites.” She tells me that at the time of the (recent) rugby match between the Bulls and the Cheetahs, she was walking on campus and someone called out, “Hey kaffir.” It wasn’t the first time.
I’m embarrassed.

The girls tell me that on the surface, the appearance is pleasant, but under the cover is a lot of resentment. Blacks blame whites for a lack of opportunity, and 10 minutes later, sitting down to dinner with my Afrikaans girlfriend, her brother and others say the same thing: they blame the blacks for the lack of opportunities. I ponder: “Maybe both sides are blaming the other, when neither is to blame. Maybe, for example, trying to get a job, is just difficult. But each side is in the habit of heaping blame on the other side. Maybe our focus should be on doing what’s possible, instead of blacks blaming whites and whites blaming blacks for every thing that seems unfair. Life is unfair.” This starts a lively debate, that strays into farm seizures and mixed marriages.

The Free State, and Bloemfontein, has one of the lowest rates of employment in the country. The city is, as mentioned earlier, merely a student city. Local people like Ryk Neethling and the late JRR Tolkien did not wait for their opportunities. They worked hard, and seized their chances. Isn’t that a law of nature? Isn’t our racism just an excuse?

South Africa has been called, ‘The World in one country.’ It is. It has beauty and diversity in its countryside, its flora and fauna, and its people. The country’s history is a tragedy, and if the country was a person, it would be an old, but exceptional man. Someone like Nelson Mandela. Most of that existence has been the denial of life, liberty and property. In the old South Africa, the mantra under the emblem read, Unity is Strength. We did not believe it, not enough to live it. Slowly, the country with 25% of the wealth of the African continent is starting to heal. The country, at times, has the appearance of Eenheid. I believe we are finding our way, but there’s a long way yet ahead of us all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bird flu ruffles few feathers among SA's street traders

Bird flu is now present throughout the EU, India and Africa. It remains a problem throughout Asia. What is obvious is the virus has become mobile. It is not in a passive phase as we have seen since 2003 - 2005. The levels of alert and readiness of the average person ought to be adjusted accordingly.

Johannesburg, South Africa
22 February 2006 11:51

The man shrugs his shoulders and stares blankly at the Society for Protection against Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) officer when asked if he has ever heard of bird flu. Beside him, row upon row of chickens, pigeons and guinea fowl languish in filthy, cramped cages at the informal Kliptown market in Johannesburg, South Africa.

To the side of the stacked pens, few shoppers notice the limp, sickly-looking chickens next to the neighbouring stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables for sale.

"We try to educate the traders about bird flu, but most of the chicken sellers are foreigners who don't speak English or any of the South African languages. So it is difficult, they don't understand what we are saying," explains the SPCA officer responsible for animal welfare at the large informal market, who asked to not to be named.

He added that many of the unlicensed markets around the country are in far worse condition when it comes to cleanliness, and that general awareness of the deadly H5N1 virus, and what preventative measures should be applied, is poor.

None of the half-dozen poultry vendors asked about bird flu know anything about the disease, or how it can infect humans. The market, at the heart of Soweto, is one of dozens that operate daily across Johannesburg, where battery-farm chickens deemed unfit for sale to supermarkets are offloaded.

Along with South Africa's large commercial poultry farms, these informal markets are considered high-risk areas by health officials on the watch for any outbreak of avian flu. That surveillance has taken on greater urgency with the arrival of the disease in Nigeria this month -- the first known African case.

United Nations bird-flu expert Fred Musisi says South Africa is internationally recognised as being "avian-influenza free" and has strict measures in place to maintain that status. "The outbreak [in Nigeria] poses no real threat to the country," comments the Food and Agriculture Organisation official.

However, he stressed that South Africans remain naive in terms of the disease, which has to be addressed for the country to contain a potential outbreak of the virus effectively.

"I think the South African government is in a better position than most African governments. They have a contingency plan and protocol for surveillance, and have gone through the exercises for managing an emergency," says Musisi.

"But what we also really need are public awareness campaigns and activities that really alert people to the dangers: poster, radio and television campaigns on the subject; [and] engaging with schools so that kids are made aware of the disease, so if they see a problem with a chicken at home they will tell someone."
He adds: "I know this might cause alarm among certain elements of the population, but it is better to get a false alarm on an animal than to get no feedback at all."

The SPCA's national manager of farm animals, Celeste Houseman, shares Musisi's concern over the lack of awareness of the disease.

Most rural people "haven't got a clue" when it comes to bird flu, she says. A media campaign is of paramount importance, as a cull of suspected poultry will be implemented immediately once the first infected bird is detected.

"We monitor the informal trading markets across the country, and if there is an outbreak of avian flu we will be at the forefront of the fight to contain it. The problem is the disease seems to spread so fast that containment will only be possible if everyone is aware of what to do," Houseman notes.

"We have been trying to contain an outbreak of swine fever in the Eastern Cape for the past few months. At this stage we have culled 200 000 pigs and the outbreak still hasn't abated," she says, highlighting the difficulties associated with containment.

SPCA officers who regularly monitor the markets say the recurring presence of another highly contagious poultry disease might prove helpful in combating an outbreak of bird flu, due to the similarities of both symptoms.

"Chicken sellers at the market are aware of Newcastle disease, which is fatal to chickens but not humans, and the symptoms are similar to avian flu. At the moment, when they recognise the Newcastle disease symptoms -- weight loss, excessive mucus and measles -- they just chop the heads off and sell them.

"But if we could get them to report animals with those symptoms, it would be a good start," says an SPCA official.

Alongside surveillance of commercial and domestic poultry, the South African government announced on Monday it has rushed through registration of Tamiflu -- regarded as the best existing treatment for H5N1 by the Medicines Control Council. With the way clear for its importation, discussions are due with Tamiflu's manufacturers, Roche, over stockpiling the drug.

"The registration of the drug forms an important part of the country's comprehensive preparation plans in the unlikely event of an influenza pandemic," said a Department of Health statement. It will complement work on finalising the country's "first human influenza preparedness plan", which is due for consideration by the Cabinet. -- Irin

Bleached shorts, sewage and a fax from Korea

The good news: of the 10 stories submitted to reporter.co.za, 6 have been published, and 4 are approved and about to be published. In terms of multimedia, images: 11 submitted, 1 rejected, 3 still in the editors queue, the rest published or approved.
That's quite a good success rate. I'll try to maintain a regimen of 3 submissions, 3 times a week, of both images and stories (that's a total of 18 contributions).
The return on investment is fairly small at this point, a few hundred Rand, if that, but the importance is that it is seen by a larger audience, and can be picked up by the likes of Yahoo, and other major companies. If that happens then the bucks will start rolling in.

This morning raw sewage started gushing into our garden because of a combination of storm debris and accumulated sewage. With the stormwater drainage blocked, dark grey stinky water started overflowing into our garden, spilling within metres - a metre - of my bedroom window.

I called the Municipality and after a decidedly lazy start, they got their butts out here. Now dark water is slowly sinking into the turf. Apparently Nettleton Road had a similar problem earlier in the morning.

The pool is also choked full of leaves, so I became The Pool Man, and managed - whilst sitting to unclog leaves from an outlet pipe - to turn my navy blue Nike shorts into an artwork called Snowstorm. See, I sat on some Chlorines that sprinkled onto the side of the pool, instead of in it. Might have to buy some blue dye or something.

The fax from Korea is asking for a CN24 form so that I can claim for damage to computer parts sent over.

And that's a wrap.

SA's new citizen journ site gets its first scoop

Barely two weeks after its launch, South Africa's first citizen journalism portal www.reporter.co.za is “exceeding expectations,” according to the website’s editor Juliette Saunders. Felix Bate reports.

Saunders said the public has been responding positively to the news portal, though she could not give the number of hits the website has been getting. But she said that there were already more that 1800 registered contributors, sending stories.
In this short space of time, the website has also managed a scoop by breaking the story of a helicopter crash in Cape Town, with an eyewitness account and pictures.

Reporter.co.za is the brainchild of by Johnnic Communications, one of South Africa’s leading media houses, managed through its new media wing – Johncom Group Digital Media.

Saunders said the aim of the venture was to do something innovative and radically different in the new media space. This has been made possible by advances in information and communication technologies, which has enabled the growth of the phenomenon of citizen journalism, whereby anybody with the simplest of means and interest can report on events they witness.

This South African venture follows on the heels of the explosive success of a South Korean version (Ohmynews) http://english.ohmynews.com, that began back in 2000 and the growth in popularity of www.agoravox.fr in France as the leading citizen journalism portal in Europe. Some stories from these sites are now listed by Yahoo News alongside news from other established news agencies.

With a team of experienced journalist that includes Peter Malherbe, Manu Padayachee and 20 others, Saunders says they aim to provide the public with a forum where their views and voices can be heard. “We would not try to talk to the public or push an agenda,” said Saunders, “We are trying to get the public talking in such a way that we are informed by the general public.”
She added that the content will be a mix of different kinds of news from different sources and perspectives, particularly what interests individuals and what grabs their attention, “we don’t want to copy any newspaper format, the choice of stories will be very open,” she said.

The editorial team will provide newsdesk support and coordination to all the contributors, mentoring them through their stories. Saunders noted that most of the stories they are getting lean heavily on opinion and general comments rather than facts. Thus the editorial team is there to guide the contributors and enable them to get newsworthy stories, she said.

“We try to inform and educate them especially on the dangers of plagiarism, and also give pointers on how to find good stories, how to write properly, and especially not to lift other people’s stories and claim they are theirs – as we have had two cases already.”

Apart from news, the website also features other sections like columns, a fun zone for poems and quirky bits, a reporter zone where users can learn the basics and ethics of journalism, and a community forum page. Registered contributors get paid between R25 and R35 for the stories, and more if their stories are picked up by other news agencies.
Though citizen journalism has been welcomed around the world as an alternative to mainstream news sources, it does not yet threaten the position of old media as the primary source of news. Though it is accepted that Ohmynews did play an influential role in the last Korean presidential election, it still has not displaced the old media in South Korea.

Since 9/11 and the London bombings, the phenomenon is growing as individuals with basic technologies are able to put out stories and pictures of events they witness even before news crews get to the scenes, and the public and mainstream media have taken note of the role they can play.

Saunders says she hopes reporter.co.za grows to that level of influence and she sees its future as a “stand-alone virtual newspaper, providing news to the public”.

Note: My article on Heart Rate Monitors appears in today's reporter.co.za

Filling up in Botswana. Photo courtesy Casey van der Leek Posted by Picasa

 Posted by Picasa

Victoria Falls - these three images courtesy Casey van der Leek Posted by Picasa

Ruth, after flying over a wonder of the world. Posted by Picasa

How to train with a Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor (HRM) will make you smarter. You will train smarter and become better, knowing yourself, your limits and how to extend them. You’ll do all your training to a certain % of your maximum. A HRM puts science into training, and gets rid of a lot of the guessing.

Do you have a digital camera? Know how to use it? HRMs are easier, and a lot more fun. There’s something fabulous about knowing what your heartbeat is, and trying to get the numbers rolling towards 200. But you also learn how to slow yourself down. Breathe. Think about blue. Think soothing, pleasant thoughts. See? Now, if you had a heart rate monitor you could actually monitor how much your thoughts and breathing influenced your resting heart rate.

It’s a useful tool, it’s fun, but it also provides vital information. A heart rate monitor is a must for anyone who enjoys exercise, and is especially useful for those striving for specific goals. A HRM is for those who want results, whether these might be:

- Fat/weight loss
- Increasing fitness
- Getting into absolutely peak shape and performing consistently at a high level

The most obvious choice when it comes to HRMs is the patented Polar series, made in Finland. I have a silver 720i, and it’s a specialized device, it has attachments which fit onto the fork of a bike and measure everything cycling: altitude, temperature, speed, maximum speed, average speed, even cadence. The watch is attached to the handlebar and so while one is cycling you can see what your heart is doing and put yourself in the appropriate zone.

To determine the appropriate zone, you will need to determine your predicted maximum heart rate.
The age based formula is 220-age. For me it’s 220 – 34 = 186. Your heart rate monitor can even determine this value, called HRmax-p. To do it you will (having not eaten 2-3 hours prior to the test) undergo a Fit. Test. Don’t worry, you do so lying down, and lying very still. You shouldn’t even talk to anyone.
At the end of the test you will hear a sound signal. Scroll through your wrist unit and you will see the test result for both your predicted maximum heart beat and a value describing your fitness level (OwnIndex), and the date.

OwnIndex is another useful piece of data. As the name suggests, it’s a unique digit which becomes meaningful when compared over a period of time. OwnIndex is really a description of your fitness. I am 34 years old and my OwnIndex is 60, my predicted maximum is 184. My user’s manual says that for my age, a value above 56 is excellent. Feels good. But a test done in August shows my OwnIndex at 63 (the higher the value, the better), and my maximum heart rate at 180. In my case, being fitter means my maximum heart rate is slightly lower. In a recent cycling race I maxed out at 176, and it felt like maximum. Now I know I can push quite a bit harder.

What makes these watches almost as fun as toys, is that they are so useful, and tell us in so much detail how we work. It’s also good to see results. Most heart rate monitors (from Polar) can download sessions onto a computer using an infrared device or uplinking, using ultrasound. Polar has excellent support software. Regular updates from www.polar.fi can be downloaded from the internet, but a software filled CD comes with most units. It’s an inspiration to see a race or a series of training workouts instantly rendered on the calendar, and as a graph on your training log, giving the changing heart rate values, altitude, speed and at any reference point the specific values for that point. Improvements can be seen immediately on your Polar Precision Performance software.

Everyone is different, and each HRM will serve its purpose in a different way. Think of it as a coach. It will guide you to train more effectively. It can inspire and direct you how and when to race harder. It’s a tool, but that’s all it is. I do recommend buying a good HRM, but don’t become so fascinated with it that you forget to train. Or to focus on individual workouts. Often, knowing your heart rate is 176 may make you back off from pushing even harder.

For me, as a dedicated triathlete, the real gift of this device is showing me, in flashing numbers, not when I ought to go harder, but when my body is too tired to train, and rest is all important. Then the resting heart rate may be 10 or more beats above normal. Soon, with experience, you will know exactly what your heartbeat is without even looking at your HRM. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?

PC Haides + 1

Did you pick up a bit of a smug, self loving, I'm-so-clever la di dah theme in the previous post called 'PC HELL'? Well, all along I ought to have touched wood. I'd had one systems startup without any trouble, and so I thought I'd demystified a million and 567 357 1's and 0's. Alas, on the next startup, the popup was back:

Touched error: Thotkey could not be retrieved. Error number 000.3004 and you are one of those zeroes loser.

Well you have no idea what an awful day I've had. I've felt sick. Is there such a thing as incomputerza? Bird flu may be worse, but incomputerza is far more prevalent.

So this entire evening I have been on the Toshiba site downloading every utility zip I could find. After that, I'd be close to saying I'm beaten, because not sure what else to do.
On the last systems startup, all streams of data coalesced.
It was as if the data rose up and in one green voice, sparked these words to me:

I believe it is our fate to be here. It is our destiny. I believe this night holds, for each and every one of us, the very meaning of our lives. This is a war and we are soldiers. What if tomorrow the war could be over? Isn't that worth fighting for? Isn't that worth dying for?

Well I am not sure if it is worth dying for but if I don't get away from this computer now, while it is a functioning unit, I'll be overcome by incomputerza.

Knock, knock Nick.

Book Review: State of Fear

(Note to regular readers of this blog: I've already done a blase review of SOF. Since I have to pull up my socks when submitting to paying customers, who gets to benefit, why you, my adoring public. So here's the shinier version, with all the 'i's dotted and the 't's back to front. Please place comments below if you find a post interesting - or not)

I’ve always liked Michael Crichton. From Jurassic Park to Prey, he’s always infused a creative intelligence to the bestseller list.
Like John Grisham, he’s also easy to read. But I wonder if they’re starting to lose their touch. Michael Crichton’s State of Fear isn’t as fresh or dynamic as Prey , and Prey was written with a blunter pencil than the one used in Jurassic Park. What’s happening?

State of Fear is about global warming. I think. It may be more accurate to say that the characters argue themselves to death, or at least out of breath. Some of it works, but some of it doesn’t. Perhaps Crichton ought to start writing non fiction, because he’s becoming a crusader. It’s not a criticism; I believe he’s onto some important points. Of the 670 page paperback, the last 40 are devoted to fact filled appendices and an extensive bibliography.

I’m the last one to complain when important subjects like Global Warming are threaded into popular media. I just worry that, mixed as it is here with crashing red Ferrari’s, cannibals and War of the Worlds lightning bolts, it will become entertainment, and seen as just another passing thing. The recent carnage in the Gulf of Mexico, shows that the weather is a serious business that effects us all.

Crichton, to his credit, does a great deal to demystify the science of it. I often found myself reaching for a pen or pencil to underline a fact that would have a cocktail party begging at my feet for more succulent scraps. The way he demonstrates how data can be massaged, and graphs with almost identical stata can be shown to show an uphill line (warming), or downhill (cooling)or even a flat line (no change). This demonstration alone makes the book quite a useful device for any wannabe politician, lawyer, economist or defender of the faith who might need a way to have information serve their purposes. And the book forces the reader to wake up out of a kind’ve popular mysticism, by rendering conventional wisdom as conventional delusion and ultimately flawed.

Incidentally, this might be something the author intended. He makes some startling, and riveting statements, many of which make a lot of sense.
But must we have our attention diverted by car chases, bitchiness and murderous Australian octopi?
You know, it’s a difficult answer. Chances are neither you nor I would touch a book labeled: Global Warming: Now You Know. This way, the Crichton way, we get a bit of an education while we’re enjoying ourselves.

One of the points Crichton makes in his books, is that whoever pays for the scientific study of something, tends to have an influence on the data coming out in a way that makes the patron look good. There’s a built in bias, whether the patron is the government or Greenpeace.
It’s an important message in these bewildering times, but to be honest, I often didn’t know what to believe, or what the author’s position was on Global Warming. This is the best and worst device in the book. You find out you have no idea what’s going on, and then realize, this is the perfect place to start. (Crichton does finally state his view in an appendaged Author’s Message.

Bottom line: It’s an above average book, but it’s not his best. It might be his worst. It’s intelligent but it doesn’t fit together very well. It’s perfect for very long airplane flights where all your fellow passengers speak a different language. Then again, it is about a State of Fear, and the weather (possibly) going mad. Try this: stay home on a perfectly beautiful afternoon and, with the book within crawling distance, decide for yourself whether to be afraid (and reading) or swimming in the pool. I think the book recommends both.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

PC Hell

I am forbidden to use the Toshiba Notebook (my dad's) because the last time I did all manner of popups and malware infested the memory. Let me repeat: the computer that I am using right now, to type the word 'may not'may NOT be used. After my dereliction of duty (apparently) in February last year, my dad called in a PC detective (a real person!) to do some spring cleaning, and she got most of the spiderwebs and debris that was slowing it down out. Most. But not all. Having sowed seeds of destruction, and having appeared to my fathe rto be a wrecker of machines, I headed back to the land of Broadband (South Korea - one the foremost destinations on the planet for internetivity (internet -connectivity)).

Unbeknownst to me, every time my dear old dad turned on his notebook, after startup there was an annoying pop-up, similar (but not the same) as the one above. This served as a constant reminder of my misdemeanour. Thus, when I returned 6 months later, it should have come as no suprise that I was effectively banned from using his computer AT ALL.

The Cat's Away

But when the cat was away (and still is), the young mouse, called Nick van der Leek, got out to play, once again on his dad's Notebook. This time it was not locked away. And this time all the mouse did was check his email. And add a post to his blog. And then post something on reporter.co.za and eeek. Suddenly, whilst checking his doings in the archive of www.3xluck.blogspot.com he suddenly found the website went white, and it said FILE NOT FOUND, and the address had suddenly changed to: http:///. This rang a bell. A bell from 6 months ago.

This is not a drill

Delving into the vault of what happened then, Nicky Mouse immediately got to work, first running a Spybot Search and Destroy, and then checking to see if Windows Update needed to be updated.

A sickening feeling in his stomach.
Search and Destroy picked out:

DSO Exploit (5 entries)
and AllCyberSearch (1 entry)

Immunisation wiped them out, but once he did another sweep using Search and Destroy they all came back.
Now he used google to find out what other people had done to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, Windows Update required over 12 essential updates, and a 152MB patch called SP2. On a long drop toilet-dialup modem, this was going to take a long time (9 hours in fact).

It's Hot

With Googles help Nicky Mouse used the information from Spybot's Search and Destroy to locate the Hkeys (registry values). One by one he painstakingly went in the deep chasms of software architecture, terminating each 1004 file one by one. There were 4.
Then he downloaded hijack this, and did an info scan on anything that looked suspicious. Hijack this is a very good weapon, like an atom bomb. Problem is, if you wipe out something you want, it's never coming back. Ever. He wiped out a HOTKEY file, then downloaded Lavasoft to get rid of AllCyberSearch.
I've left a few steps out here, but long story short, the Mouse, working on borrowed time, and well into the wee hours, finally comes up with a clean Spybot scan. It's good news, except that the information on google said change the 1004 vlaues to 1003, not to delete them.
The only way the mouse will know if his attempts have done more harm than good is to reboot.

After the reboot the 'TEMP' popup that has plagued the computer has vanished. Success! But in its place is another one, asking for a HOTKEY. Google once again comes to the rescue, providing links to Toshiba. The Hotkey is actually a startup file, and has something to do with the Touchpad. It needs to be installed. He follows the white rabbit to Toshiba, and downloads, careful to download the driver under the same model as the notebook.
Now to see if it works. Restart the computer.

Same thing. Popup.
Redo from start.

Copy to Startup

He downloads a second driver, and then copies the installed filed not only onto the All Users/Startup/Programs (possibly not in that order), but under the User: Casey.
Seems like a long shot.

No Trace

Now there is no evidence that the computer is any worse than it was before, in fact, it doesn't have any popup screen to greet you when the computer boots up.
However, on his way out, he notices the icon for a picture (used to post onto this site) has an unusual icon. A small white square with three blobs of different colors. That's not right.
Finally he has all images opened on the same program (click on the box that says, 'Always open with this program').

In Summation

The bad news is that I've left a few traces of my using the computer, despite it being'banned'. The good news is, those traces are all good:

1) The computer is updated with the latest patches so is effectively immune
2) The annoying 'Temp File' popup has been squished
3) All image files, including .bmp files now open instantly on Windows Viewer as opposed to being delayed while Adobe provides the details of its patent protection

When you've been in PC Hell, it's not often that all's well, and ends well.


By clicking on the title of this post, you'll be linked to the above website. I have two stories in today's online paper, one is a 'Top Story' on H5N1, and another is the movie review (posted below).

I read in the local newspaper (Die Volksblad) here that www.reporter.co.za is based on the premise of another website called www.nowpublic.com

Please comment on either article, that way they may ask for more!

North Country

I didn’t want to watch this movie, because I thought there would be a lot of male bashing involved. I was under the impression it was a feminist sort of movie, which is fine, but I didn’t think it was a good movie to watch with a girlfriend. I was wrong. The movie touched me, and there is a lot to talk about afterwards.

The movie is directed by Niki Caro, a beautiful brunette born in Wellington New Zealand. She has produced Whale Rider, an exceptionally fresh and sensitive film, also focusing on the trials of a young girl. North Country is imbued with similar deft touches. It has softness, and clean lines and colorful airborne sweeps over a cold and hard landscape and its embittered people.

One review I read described the movie as predictable. I’m not sure it is. It has plenty of surprises, and it has plenty of subtlety.

I found the dynamic between Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) and her father Hank (Richard Jenkins, from Rumor Has It, Fun with Dick and Jane; he’s also Six Feet Under’s Nathaniel Jenkins) compelling, as well as her relationship with Sammy, her son.

Her best friend at the Minnesota mine is Glory (Frances McDormand, from Fargo). At one point Glory, notices Josey’s wedding ring and says: ‘Who’s the lucky?’ Josey immediately licks her finger and pulls it off.
Glory corrects herself: ‘Who’s the unlucky?’
Josey says: ‘Me I s’pose.’
And she has been. I won’t say why, but she has been through some serious stress, and somehow, the new community she’s found, quickly begin to resent her as well, and spread rumors about her. All her luck runs out, and she says as much on the edge of a skating rink at one point. Soon she is an outcast, fighting desperately for the love of those nearest and dearest to her.

The performances of Sissy Spacek as her mother Alice, Woody Harrelson (Bill White) and young Thomas Curtis (as her son Sammy) combine to generate feeling, then emotion. Even Sean Bean (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Island) is in the cast (as Gloria’s husband). There is an Oscar clip near the end of the movie, where, in the basement of his house, he offers I’ll-be-your-father-for-a-minute counsel to Josey’s son Sammy.

It is a memorable film not least because it is based on an important book by Clara Bingham. If I told you the title of the book it would really give away the impetus, and the importance, behind Josey’s struggle. Beyond all the madding crowds, the dirty work and the dirty mouths, there is a heart of gold. It’s an important message. This film has a sensitivity and a shimmer that sings clearer than a lot of American Cinema out there. It also seems as though American actors and directors are losing their touch, because we have a New Zealander directing a South African in a brilliant film, with a British actor (Bean) doing his best to sound American too.

Hopefully the attention will turn, someday soon, to the countries in the South.

This is the fourth of 4 pieces (3 approved so far for publication) I've submitted so far to reporter.co.za

A bird in the hand

A Life Of the Possible (Not the Actual)

Sooner or later we must measure ourselves in the real world, against some external standard.

Examples of not doing this, are all things sentimental, and escapism, and wishfilled, like:

- constantly listening to music
- trawling the internet (or blogging)
- reading or talking
- dreaming

The antidote of course is doing. Don't talk about it. Don't think about it. Do it. That's the real life, the rest is advertising, most of it, false advertising.

One of the best ways to start engaging with the world is through physical acts of doing.
Like exercise.
That way the amorphous begins to solidify, and life reveals itself to be both bigger, badder and more magical than we ever imagined. Life belongs not to those living it through their imaginations.

So start running, and come alive again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Google This

Did you know that Google is the world's biggest media company, by value. It's a $100 billion company. Its mantra is 'don't be evil' and its mission is 'to make all information accessible to everyone all the time'.When I read this I got a little jolt.

Rocketboy, my pet project, on constant hiatus it seems, has a similar mission: to bring everything to everyone, everywhere, for free. Put in a different way, to overhaul the way we consume, to maker consumption more efficient. To make buying a hamburger simpler and easier.

I called Preller today and found out that a vacant space near the offices of Heartland retails for R6 100.
I'm considering putting an ad in the paper and drawing a crowd of eager, and desperate graduates. With enough talent, you can establish a deep pool of human resources, human capital, organise it and manage it, and make somnething out of it. This country needs job makers, not job takers.
But do I have the courage to setup a launching pad?

I feel I need a good team, and a support system. Everything else is in place...like a bunch of lego blocks. All slot into each other, but if you slot them in without a good plan, you may end up making a mess, or a monster.

Interestingly, three company's are being used a lot these days. By me anyway. Google (they power blogger, Picasa, gmail, Firefox (browser) and their search engine), Yahoo (for mail) and of course, Microsoft (using their browser (Internet Explorer) and having your system boot up using their operating systems (Windows XP etc). To an extent these three help each other - once I get my mail off Yahoo(using IE), I know what info I need to get using Google. But they also compete with one another, because Google want us to use their browser (and Firefox is better), Microsoft want to kill Google, and offer their own blogging and photoediting software. How it works is the best and most popular wins, but not only that, the software that reaches the consumer first and is the most user friendly tends to be the most popular and becomes adopted. This is what makes Google so good. In the age of Information, Speed is God. Efficiency is expected.
So too, in the age of consumption, Speed (and efficiency) is God.

Imagine generating Rocketboy alongside Alchohol, and for a while you could have the models making deliveries?
Need to play with my Lego some more.

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Yellow Leaf

Strange day today. Like a lot of pieces of a puzzle that didn't fit together because they were different puzzles mixed together.

But I did get 2 stories published on reporter.co.za (H5N1 and GOING BIG), and I called for a job interview in Welkom.

On the downside, I spoke with the deputer editor of Acta Academica and she shot me down, and when I got up she shot me down again. My lecturer soothed my ruffled feathers somewhat...
By the time I got to gym I felt really drained, and it took an enormous effort to do 10 pullups, and I felt the life was being sucked out of me when I did my usually lengths underwater (as part of the swim workout).

Swim: 27:30
Distance: 1.25km
Best 100m: 1:15

Gym: 22:30
Pullups: 10
Torso and legs, with some abdominal emphasis.

Weight: 85.25kg

After gym I grabbed a bigger and then had tea with Jenny. Caught the end of 6 Feet Under. Finally managed to upload the images Juliette (from reporter.co.za) asked for - had been trying the whole day to do it.
I also heard that students get charged for their use of the computer. Adds to the pressure I am feeling.

Will attempt to get out of bed at 5:30am tomorrow and cycle with the guys. Psst. Can I tell you a secret...I really hope it rains.
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