Sunday, October 29, 2006


A candle's light does not diminish when it gives its fire to another...

I'd expected Saturday's race to be a full standard triathlon, but it turned out to be another half standard. It was just as well because I felt fairly worn out when I woke up on Saturday, and my legs felt tired in the warm up. The good thing about doing another half standard was I could compare my performance to 4 weeks ago, and it's good to see my fitness is improved in every department. I swam better, and felt more comfortable (despite only swimming 3 times), cycling felt great, and felt quicker and more comfortable on the run (despite only doing minimal work on my run).

The anticipated match up with Vic never happened - he had a so-so swim, I was about 10 seconds closer to him than last time, and he was only about 15 metres ahead of me heading up the slope. Benedictus was on my butt, and he edged in front on me while I took some time slipping my feet into my shoes.
Vic gave up the lead just after the boom gates - evidently he had a slow puncture or something, and so I followed Ben up the slope and out. He made a gap of about 20 metres but I wasn't unduly worried. I was doing my race, and it didn't suit me to start off the bike with a sprint to catch someone or pass them. I passed him on the longest drag up to the highest point (at around 4km). I thought he might hang on - it's only a 20km timetrial, but by 10km he was maybe 10 seconds behind and the gap had doubled by the end.

I started the run feeling fairly fresh, but I was panting. I wasn't too happy when Ben surged by me at about 500m on the run. He was really flying, whereas I was doing a brisk jog. I'll have to work on my running so I can shift up at least two gears. Ended second, and Vic managed to finish too. There were only 8 of us, but was quite a nice race.

Hennie did well despite a puncture 2.5km from the end, and was on track to do a personal best. Barendine seemed to be cruising through the event and seemed happy with her result.

Here are some Race Stats (bike section):
Time: 31:44 (Previously 36: 46)
Distance: 19.5km
Average: 36.8km/h (Previously 32.6km/h)
Kcal: 544 (656)
Heart rate average: 156 (160)
Temperature: 19 C (maximum 20 C) - it was unexpectedly cool on Saturday.
1:38s per kilometre (40km race was 1:32, and previous tri race was 1:50s per km)

Becoming more efficient so going to work to continue the trend.
We had a nice braai after, threw the frisbee around and when I got home I slept for about 3 hours. Next week is a very big race: The OFM Classic.

Near Miss

Since starting my new job I've been cycling every day, and the number of near misses I've had on my bike have become alarming.
On Thursday for example, coming down the long sweep into Bloemfontein, a pair of buses had stopped at the traffic lights halfway down. I would have slipped by through the inside - as the light had just turned green - but a schoolkid hopped off the bus right then. Since my momentum was interrupted I only reached the back quarter of the bus. And then I saw and felt it moving towards me. I slowed down just in time and watched as the bus basically drove with the edge of its wheels along the concrete margin of the tar. It left absolutely no space for a bicycle with a human being on it (and this is on a two lane highway). If had been there I would have been bacon.

On the same road, earlier in the week, but a little further down, a maroon combi swept around me, on my left hand side (going into a right hand turn). As you can imagine, if I am going too fast, or she has to slow down at the last miute - bacon. She got caught up in a traffic jam outside the Varsity gate so I slammed my fist on the flanks of the car as I went by, and shook my finger at her.

There's more, but I think today's example is noteworthy. I was on my way here (to the computer lab at the Free State University), when I got held up at a traffic light. When it turned green I pulled off, aiming for a point on the opposite side of the highway, so I could turn into Klerck Avenue. Now remember, I was first in line at the intersection. A white BMW swept by me (appearing to think I was going to make a sharp left turn), and fortunately I saw the car (it was almost under my knee!) since I'd pulled away slowly didn't have to worry about momentum.
I then skipped up to the lady waiting at the turn (it always happens, they shoot past you and then wait for ages 5 metres ahead somewhere - what's the point?).
I rapped on her window and she just stared deadahead. Just ignored me.

She attempted an escape, but Klerck Avenue is filled with speed bumps, and the car ahead of her was enjoying this fact: Sunday in Bloemfontein. I found her car parked at 38 Melville Road, and recognised her daughter. An old man and some other people were in the front garden of a pretty derelict looking house, starting up a braai.
I pulled up and asked: "Who is the owner of this car?" The little girl stuttered, "My Mama."
The woman emerged a few seconds later, with a mask of nonchalance on her face. "How can you drive like that?" I asked her in Afrikaans.
"Well, I saw you, so I don't know what you're upset about." she responded.
"If I didn't see you, you would have knocked me over," I said.
At this point the old man said: "I think I need to hit his mouth with this stick."
"Well, are you going to apologise?" I said, notiving the old man was maoevering towards me with one of those umbrella-type canes with the rubber nipple.
"No. I didn't touch you. If I touched you I'd apologise."
"Lady, if you touched me I'd be dead," I said. "You know, every day, it's people like you who endanger cyclists. Every day there's someone like you we have to avoid. We're actually people in the streets, not objects to get around. So you're not going to apologise?"
"No." She turned her back and walked away.
"I see you live at 38 Melville Road," I said.
She immediately stopped, and a few cracks appeared in the mask. "Look, I'm sorry, okay." It was said with all the remorse of a serial killer on death row - okay, that's overdramatising a tad, but you get the point.
Another man offered to write the address down for me. "The problem is you don't have any respect for a human life," I said.
The same sarcastic man repeated what I'd just said, but in the voice of a crying child. I spewed some venom at him at which point the old man was at the gate and feigned a swing at my head. I didn't move - I somehow guessed he was all bark.
The rest of the family now joined in with their witticisms. I left, disgusted, taking a last look at the BMW. It didn't seem to belong in a street filled with such derelict houses, and decayed and prickly old people.

I would have preferred a result that ended something like this.
"I was in a hurry but actually I have no excuse, sorry."
"Okay. For the future please give us cyclists just a little more right of way. We deserve a bit more than we're getting. And another thing. Remember if you 'touch' us, that scratch on your car means almost certain death for us. And it's so easily avoided. Capiche?"
"Okay enjoy your braai now and have a nice day."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blogs: Reading between the lives

Ever get the feeling someone is just skin deep? Well, obviously they're not. Every person is just like you: a living, breathing ooze of bloodvessels, electricity and swarms of emotion. While in the past the evidence appeared to the contrary (reckless driving, boozing, infidelity), we now have an exquisite resource for plumbing the depths of the human condition. Of course, we already know what it is: it's the blog.

There used to be documentaries about the human body. This is Joe's heart, or this is Joe's lung. It was fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating as Joe's Blog. (I've just googled Joe's Blog and sure enough you get: - not sure if it's everyone's cup of tea though).
And that's just it. Every blog is different which sets them apart from the dime a dozen newspapers and other content we get beamed to us. Blogs at least provide us with truly customised content - content from our friends, family or simply someone we agree with or like to expose ourselves to. A blog offers the one thing mainstream media doesn't: micro media.

I have a blog ( and I have my own captive audience of around 20. I'm not looking for a mass market (some like are). I have an ex-girlfriend who reads my blog religiously (when I visit her office unexpectedly her screen is often on a webpage I've posted in the last hour). If someone is visiting me blog it means its one less person clicking on major content providers here like

I'm predicting that blogs will soon be encouraged and then become compulsory at school level. A blog will serve a number of functions. One: establishing the identiy and personality of the blogger. This function cannot be overstated. By giving your webaddress to someone you provide not only an extremely elaborate business card, but also The Complete Guide to (fill in your name here). That can be a valuable tool for landing a job, and if you're a good blogger (if you write with panache and your content has some style and color) you might attract some fanmail, even a girlfriend.

I had a woman from Florida suddenly discover my blog and within days I was receiving some pretty lurvy durvy emails from her. Which brings us to do the down-side. Blogs can be used to spread malicious code, to slander, and to create a virtual world which bears no relation to an actual life. Freaky.

But used in the right way blogs can do a lot of good. When you meet someone at a bar or a barbecue, a fully fledged blog can very quickly provide someone looking for someone else with clues to actual compatibility (whether for friendship, romance, a job, someone to move in with etc). Blogs can provide the sort of information that builds trust, and when bloggers form a network, then these data streams arrange themselves in teams and patterns that might prove to be very meaningful.

Blogs give visibility to the invisible man, a voice to the meek and small, and a grandstand to those wishing to communicate to the crowd. In time the library of our lives will swell and bloom in Cyberspace, filling the void with supernovas and glittering galaxies of information. So beware: everything you say (every thing) may echo out there for who knows how long. So make sure you say what you mean, and mean what you say.

How To Be Unhappy

Make little things bother you. Don't just let them,
MAKE them.

Lose your perspective on things and keep it lost:
don't put first things first.

Get yourself a good worry, one about which you
cannot do anything.

Be a perfectionist, which means not that you
work hard to do your best, but that you condemn
yourself and others for not achieving perfection.

Be right. Be always right. Be the only one who
is always right, and be rigid in your rightness.

Don't trust or believe people, or accept them
at anything but their worst and weakest.

Be suspicious. Insist that others always have
hidden motives.

Always compare yourself unfavorably to others.
This guarantees instant misery.

Take personally everything that happens to you.

Don't give yourself whole-heartily to anyone or

One Two

Hennie and Me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

C'Mon Summer

It's steamy summer already, with temperature already crawling up to 33 C. The top half of the country is in the grip of a heat wave (and it's still October!).

And now for the good news...

Tour de South Africa; yes, really!
Now we have our own Tour

I’m sure I’m not the only one who watched international cycling teams battling up the Alps, swishing through sleepy villages and then thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be grand if we could have something like Le Tour de France over here.’ I recently wrote an article for go! magazine (published in this month’s issue, p164) called Tour de Free State which is about the joys of multi-day cycling. And only a few days ago I was wondering: how come there are the Tours of Britain, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, Australia and we only have (in terms of an international cycling race) the paltry Giro del Capo. Well, that’s about to change.

By March next year we’re likely to see a big tour, with 20 teams (12 local and 8 international) kicking off in Bloemfontein. Mr George Schoonraad is the organizer of the Tour of Southern Africa (it includes jaunts into Lesotho’s murderous mountains). The dates are tentatively set from 16 March to April Fool’s Day, and they’ll cover around 2200km.

The UCI must still endorse the tour and insodoing give it a status rating. It’s expected to get a rating similar to the Giro’s of 2.2.
This Tour will be the real thing. It will have a prologue, team time trial and lung bursting climbs. And in the tradition of the Tour de France, the last stage will culminate in several laps through Bloemfontein.

The route is likely to change every year, so one year it may start in Durban, another year in Port Elizabeth etc. Schoonraad has said that the only bottom line is that the Tour will end every year in Bloemfontein. If Bloemfontein seems an odd choice, people ought to visit this city in 2 weeks when the OFM Classic is held, one of the countries biggest cycle races. The highways around the city teem with cyclists, especially around weekends, and on some roads signs have been erected warning motorists to beware of cyclists.

The Tour will be good news wherever it goes. Staying overnight can boost a small town’s revenues by perhaps R200 000, according to rough estimates by Schoonraad.

I can already see flocks of cycling fans heading towards Lesotho’s steepest slopes, and special cycling hotels being erected eventually, near the toughest climbs. It ought to be a feast of fun and fitness.

A Frog's Life

Familiar Faces

Some of my Chinese students.

Andre (Pantani's Ghost)

San Marie (Miss Muffet)

Barendine and Valdi (When Harry met Sally?)

Scary Thought

You would have thought I'd have had a car by now. I've been in South Africa since November, after all: that's about a year without wheels. In South Africa, that's not easy. Of course, technically, it's not true that I've been entirely without wheels. I mean right now my Cannondale is leaning against the wall of the computer lab (after a small tantrum they allowed me and only me to bring my bike into the lab - pretty much in line with Dupree in You, me and Dupree).

And my long suffering girlfriend has borne the burden of trips to gym, trips to the supermarket, trips to coast and so on an so forth. I'm sure the Girls Guide To Men states somewhere: only date men with jobs, houses and cars.

My father has also consented to me using his rusting green frog, and at other less frequent times, the girl magnet - the Willy's Jeep.

Barendine has also driven me to a number of cycle races and running sessions, and plenty of others - too many to name, have given me a ride from university or elsewhere (including more than one lecturer, and others).

I expected to take delivery of a CA registration 2005 Golf, especially after my sms precipitated a flurry of eager calls on a Friday morning by a guy called Pieter. I liked the car, didn't love it, and thought R65 000 was a reasonable deal. I was surprised when I offered R63 000 and he accepted without blinking. I was supposed to get the car on Saturday, then cancelled because of a cycle race, and then took off work an hour early only to have the banks computers crash on Monday.

Today his driver arrived half an hour late, and when I arrived at the Car Bar my red number was nowhere in sight. Instead Pieter offered me a navy blue 2002 model, for R56 000. He seemed to be trying to wean me off the red one, and now that I thought about it, he hadn't called me much since Saturday. After Friday's obsessive calling, what had happened?

He explained that the car was being cleaned, and that the bank wanted R33 000 up front. I said it wasn't a problem, that was at 3pm, and he assured me I'd have the car at 5pm. It's almost 10pm. It's quite a deliriously dumb feeling to be wanting, needing a car after all the dismissive articles on the end of oil etc.

Seeing as though my daily commute to work is now 15km, I'm really just buying this car for those rainy (windy and hailly) days, and so I can stop being such a pain to car owners everywhere. There's another perfectly simple reason: I'd really just like to have a car. You can get around when you want.

If there is one thing the world will learn with a shock it's the stress, the unfathomable frustration it will experience when that freedom has been taken away, and not for merely a single year in our lifetimes. Let's hope that time is a few decades away, but my guess it isn't. It may well be in this decade. Scary thought.

The Rotting Corpses of Dogs

Why Nigeria is in such a mess

Chinua Achebe’s No Longer At Ease starts off with what turns out to be the conclusion to Obi* Okonkwo’s attempts to resist corruption. He is in court, and the question is posed: ‘How can an educated young man with so much promise do such a thing?’ The following 150 pages present an unraveling of the Nigerian’s fall from grace. The book presents grim details of the forces of corruption at work in Africa. These are woven into the somber backdrop of the slums of Lagos. The currency of Lagos turns out to be not the dollar or the pound, but ‘kola’ (bribes). Achebe depicts the erosion of culture and the corrosive effects of dishonesty and corruption on the individual in a way that awakens our sympathies, and stimulates insight into the difficult situation that prevails in Africa.

Obi Okonkwo is special because he’s a ‘been-to’ – uniquely selected to be educated abroad in England; the sole designate, but obvious choice, for this singular privilege; it was made possible by the inhabitants of his village, Umuofia.

After 4 years in England Obi returns and his idealized sense of Nigeria suddenly evaporates. Lagos had been represented to him once, by an officer in a military uniform. These people were heroes to the locals (who had seen countries like Egypt and Burma), and when they visited a market in a random village, they took whatever they liked. Lagos, the soldier explained, ‘has no darkness’ (because it had electricity). But when he returns there are things Obi no longer recognizes, ‘like the slums of Lagos’ which he now sees for the first time.

The grim side of Lagos is revealed in its sewers filled with the rotting corpses of dogs (killed by new car owners on purpose for good luck), Long Life Potions (supposedly a cure-all for everything from Rheumatism to dog bites), and November’s drenching downpours.
And immediately upon his return Obi becomes aware of the deterioration of his parent’s health; his mother is frail and skeletal, and his father only slightly better off. How he wonders, could they become ‘all bones’ in just 4 years after serving the church faithfully for 30 years?

His initiation into the ‘scandalous’ nature of life in Lagos intensifies when he is appointed into the Civil Service, is instantly put into a position, by Mr. Mark, to accept a bribe. Obi is shocked, but shortly after the refusal of the bribe the sister of Mr. Mark, a young schoolgirl, visits him and offers to sleep with him in exchange for a ‘recommendation’ for a scholarship. Obi also refuses this offer. Meanwhile, Obi has fallen in love with Clara, a beautiful girl from a forbidden caste (an osu), and is determined to marry her despite the traditional misgivings of his tribe (the Ibo). Gradually the forces of corruption become apparent. Joshua Udo, a messenger for the Post Office is sacked for not paying a bribe he’d committed to paying. A man tells Obi, ‘[It’s about] money, not work…Anyone who likes to work can return home…’
Even the President of the local union endorses bribery (he chastises Udo for failing to honor his promise to pay, then reinstates him), showing to what extent corruption is common currency in Nigeria’s capital.

While Obi feels elated (‘like a tiger’) for resisting Mr Mark’s attempts to bribe him, he is later aware that everyone in Lagos is dispensing this wisdom: ‘You may cause more trouble by refusing a bribe, than by accepting it.’ And the Minister of State, slightly intoxicated, had added that ‘the trouble was not in receiving bribes, but in failing to do the thing for which the bribe was given…and how do you know a “brother” or “friend” is not receiving on your behalf?’

Then Obi receives an outlandish electricity bill which he describes as ‘sheer robbery’. A British co-worker describes Obi’s electric bill for one month as being equal to the payments for a full quarter in England. And the high costs for automobile insurance seem even more sinister. With these financial pressures at work, it becomes difficult to resist the ‘easy money’ of bribery. When Clara, who at this stage is practically Obi’s fiancé, procures the money (fifty pounds) suddenly, no explanation is given.

Then, swiftly, Obi’s life begins a downward spiral. First Clara’s fifty pounds is stolen out of their car. Then Obi visits his parents and is told by his mother that she will kill herself if he marries Clara while she is still alive. And his father admits that his own father cursed him when he went away with missionaries; that his father (Obi’s grandfather) killed a young boy that was raised in his family (the Oracle of the Hills and Caves instructed him to kill the Ikemefuna – a boy given to the village by a neighboring village as a gesture of appeasement). And that Obi’s grandfather hung himself after killing the boy, who was like a brother to Obi’s father, with his own hands. Obi is told how everyone believed it was ‘a great wrong’ that was committed, where a man took the life of a child that called him father.

Thus the noose tightens around Obi. Feeling cursed, he crashes his car during the drive back to Lagos from his parents’ village. His situation goes from desperate to chronic when Clara finds out she is pregnant. More money, that Obi simply doesn’t have, is required to perform an ‘illegal’ abortion. Obi discovers he can be paid a traveling allowance for every mile traveled, and lies about the distance traveled to insure a maximum payout. The doctor, at first refusing to be involved, later blithely announces: ‘We are all criminals’. Clara suffers a secondary infection and remains in hospital for five weeks. Obi is broken-hearted to have ruined his relationship with her, but soon matters are made even worse. In a carbon copy of the first visitor to his office (Mr Mark), a man arrives asking for a ‘recommendation’ for a scholarship. And leaves money for Obi on the table. Soon after a girl arrives and Obi sleeps with her. But he feels no sense of elation, and decides against telling a friend about it. Soon after the same man returns with a policeman and finds the marked bills (of the bribe) in Obi’s pocket. Now the story is complete, and we see how and why this educated young man, with so much promise, has ended up in court.

Mr Green makes a comment which seems to me to sum up the ignorance and frustration of the West with Africa. He says: ‘I have lived in your country for fifteen years and yet I cannot understand the mentality of the so-called educated Nigerian.’ Nigeria has 4 months of holidays (originally imposed by the colonials), and plenty of ridiculous kickbacks for government employees while the poor masses starve. Chinua Achebe helps the outsider to appreciate the magnitude of the problem, and how things can so easily fall apart once we are ‘No Longer At Ease’ with ourselves and each other in whichever country it is we call home.

*Obi is a shortened version of Obiajulu, which means ‘the mind at last at rest’. It’s an ironic name, because in one sense it reflects the peace of mind of Obi’s father, who was anxious to have a son, but also, more darkly perhaps, reflects a mind that has not understood the machinations of corruption, and when it does, is suddenly able to sleep and go numb.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Image above courtesy

Repeat Broadcast

I actually typed a 10 minute message and then blogger crashed, so I lost all the information. Am not going to retype it but will provide a bulleted list of this weekend:

- Won a 40km cycle race (average 39km/h) with Hennie's help
- No prizemoney but scooped up a bottle of Energade in a Lucky Draw (Barendine also won her race, finished about 2 minutes behind us, and San Marie won the 80km race)
- Ran 9km afterwards in searing 37 C heat.
- Met Lynn Slettevold to discuss the exhibition (she's a photographer), and later went to her home - very artfully decorated, in a nook not far from me - before going to dinner at Dros.

- Cycled 110km on Sunday. Just before the longest and hardest drag my intestines pressed EVACUATE and I had to dash to Pitstop to make a...well, a pit stop. Ooooooofffmmgggrmmmmaaaaah.
Two guys caught me going up and I dropped them a bit later.

Cycled to work today and have just returned now from a swim.
Best 250m = 3:32
Weight: 80.75kg (after a huge supper)

Saw Ina at gym (the girl I wrote about for Shape mag). Had quite a good chat.

Feeling good and healthy, although things didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped today. Waited for 40 minutes at the English Department for Mrs Fourie to come back from lunch, and didn't get an important call I was expecting.

Have arranged to go with CJ to do the 94.7. Staying at Alex's place.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Certainty Principle

How Christians and Scientists can stop irritating each other

[Yesterday as I was going into the university library, one of the cycle tour girls was just coming out. I loudly called her and waved, and she responded with a glare at a small fly buzzing a few centimetres in front of her nose. Odds are she is the source of the hatesms I received about a week ago, decrying the fact that I wrote an article that was more about me than God. I reminded her that go! is not an NG Kovsie Kerk publication, but happens to be a magazine about the outdoors.]

Brian Fleming starts off his documentary (The God Who Wasn’t There) by making a really good point. He says, simply, that ‘The Earth revolves around the sun.’
Of course, he says, this wasn’t always so. In the days when Christians rooled (intentionally spelling btw) the sun (and everything else) revolved around the Earth. It’s a particularly clear sign of how egocentric people turn out to be when they become collectively confident that their beliefs are right. Many intelligent people were killed or jailed or worse if they were found out to be tampering with irrefutable ‘fact’ . Only one example is this one: the idea that the Earth was the centre of the universe.

Of course, it’s a matter of relativity and context. Depending on who you are, and what you think, you could well argue that the Earth is the centre of the universe. Unfortunately, you cannot argue that the sun and other celestial bodies revolve around the Earth because of one simple problem: they don’t. In that sense it’s not about perspective, or context – it’s simply incorrect, and one of the ways we explain why (quickly) is we say: ‘[that belief] goes against the laws of nature.’

Robert Winston’s The Story of God (he also narrated the Walking with Cavemen series) also paints an interesting (if worrying) portrait of the swathes of fundamentalist Christians in suburban America who are narrowly outnumbered by children of a lesser god. In his documentary he flies over the Grand Canyon and quotes Christians who believe this million years old riverbed is actually about 4000 years old. The Grand Canyon ‘happened’, Christians say they believe, when the great flood (the one that made Noah famous) emptied into the sea. Interesting argument, except why aren’t there hundreds of similar canyons? Another belief is that the dinosaurs coexisted with men (and their eggs were carried on board the ark). I’ve also heard that God also created the fossil record (meaning he placed dino skeletons in rocks as a sort of treasure hunt and puzzle by numbers for us to follow) and setup the missing link scenario to make sure we choose faith over facts, or something similarly nonsensical.

It’s plain that Christians see the bible as the literal ‘word of God’, and so spare no expense (or a single rational blip of consciousness) to force reality to ‘fit’ into biblical paradigms. Sorry, but it doesn’t work. I’ve tried. Some of it is useful analogy (eg. creation and evolution) and even the basics are fairly sound, but the bible can’t be said to be without errors or contradictions. Of course, as soon as you’re not taking the bible literally, it becomes difficult to know just how broadly symbolic a description like ‘6 days’ ought to be taken up. Which is more meaningful, 6 days or 3.4 billion years?

I personally feel that Christians usually focus on the wrong end of the stick. Why spend time dealing with pointless arguments about aliens or creations when the bible’s strong point lies in its moral philosophies. There is so much good that can be made out of the bible’s moral arguments: ‘love your enemy, love your neighbor as yourself, turn the other cheek, the meek will inherit the earth etc.’

Christians, I suppose, must hold onto their beliefs because to doubt their incontrovertible God inspired knowledge simply will not do. After all, admissions of uncertainty in the face of such an awesome boast (to know the mind of God – something perhaps only Hawkins and Einstein and perhaps Newton might realistically lay claim to) means they have almost certainly either made fools of themselves (or God), or a mockery of their own lives, and a full realization might initiate a shakier next chapter of their lives. Stepping into the light is often pursued awkwardly. Yes, it’san awkward progression into a brightly illuminated reality (which is quite different from illusion or subjective truth). Real truth, objective truth, tends to be humbling, and may hurt our sense of self importance.

Scientists are not necessarily the good guys in this adventure. It is often the scientists that are first to mock the newest ideas of fellow scientists, their own peers who might be great thinkers. Einstein, and recently I heard of a local geologist (who first spoke about plate tectonics) and people like Hubbert (who came up with an algorithm that predicted American Peak Oil) were all treated with skepticism and ridicule by other scientists who simply ‘knew’ better. Why? Because the truth, their truth in fact, their paradigm, appeared unshakeable.

No, life is constantly changing, and our explanations for reality therefore cannot be absolute, but can and should perhaps maintain some underlying (if not absolute) principles.
What is obvious is that life, the universe – okay, everything – is governed by change. With change comes uncertainty. And thus, intelligent reasoning on the nature of life, the universe – yes, everything – means that we have to accept a modicum of uncertainty about our own ideas. Think of it like being in love. There’s a certainty about the feeling, but an uncertainty about the degree of the feeling, the extent and potential for the feeling, and certainly how reciprocal those feelings are. Meanwhile, one can have a pretty certain gut feeling that the original feeling is genuine (or not). Nevertheless, by admitting to some insecurities (that simply must be present in any equation or deliberation), by conceding uncertainty, we open ourselves to discovering the fullness of the illuminated universe – that sprawls before us like a city sparkling under diamond filled skies.

The next time you’re in an argument with someone about a fact that is ‘indisputable’, say: “You know, I could be wrong (and so could you), but here’s what I think… I wonder…could it be?” The ability to keep two opposing thoughts in your head is a sign of higher consciousness, and it’s something we should all seek to develop in our collective stream of consciousness.

Shadows and Storms

It's been raining a lot. Today, after the sun rained burning arrows, clouds barreled upward on thermals forming masses of icy cumulous that suddenly melted.
My big flower put beside my door has come alive with hundreds of little fingers breaking through.

It's strange being at university again. I remember most of my university career was dominated by a relationship I had with a silly schoolgirl. I did have a couple of interests in students, but never got the show on the road.

I am getting into good shape. You notice it when you see photos from a few months ago. Quite nice to see my face changing shape, and some sculpture returning to my calves and legs. Now for the rest.

This semester is just about done. Just need to hand in one more assignment.
Shape has sent me an invoice for the story, and I've also heard today that Heartland once again reneged on their promise to pay. They really are a bunch of skelms.

Meanwhile I have drawn up a list of people I'm inviting to the exhibition. I'm at 60, and that excludes people Lynn's going to invite. Should be good.

Above image is Mykonos, in March this year.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Going to have an exhibition at my place on the 3rd of November, from about 7pm onwards. Will probably combine my stuff with Lynn Slettevold in the following categories:

black and white

The image above (New Year's Day) was taken in Clarens on January 1, 2006.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Legs have been feeling quite sore. Not sure if it is from the hard runs lately, or hard cycles or both. Missed today's run as there was a huge storm which stripped leaves off trees and in Brebner Road, strong winds and driving rain sliced a big tree in half.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Kunstler: Sheer Entropy

October 16, 2006,
I got an email from a reader in the banking sector who said that he generally likes this blog but I that I was "way off" in last week's observations about the US economy. I called him on the phone to entertain his complaints in more detail. His main complaint was that I failed to appreciate the fantastic resilience of American can-do enterprise, and what it means in the larger economic scheme of things. He said that massive amounts of capital were moving into investments for alternative energy and into new technology associated with the pursuit of These capital flows, he said, would keep the US economy humming as far ahead as anyone can see.

He was a thoughtful and articulate fellow, but I still disagree. I still view the US economy as chronically diseased. It must be in the nature of a stock market melt-up, of the type we've seen the past month, to exert a hypnotic effect on herd expectations -- generating any number of rationalizations to make the melt-up seem a healthy and natural occurance when it is actually something like an aggressive cancer feeding on the organs of our society and sucking the life out of them.

There may be money flowing into ventures, but that is no guarantee that these ventures will produce significantly more petroleum or viable substitutes for petroleum -- or anything that will permit us to keep running WalMart, Disney World, and the interstate highway system. We could sink a trillion dollars into research and development for perpetual motion machines, too, but the venture would probably end in tears.

It seems to me that as long as our overall goal is to keep a lot of cars running by other means, at all costs, then we are going to be horribly disappointed, and our investments will amount to a Chinese fire drill performed like a game of musical chairs with overtones of Ponzi. Whatever else the future may be about, it is unlikely to be a continuation of mass democratic happy motoring in the service of mass consumption. So an investment campaign to save that mode of human existence is a waste of investment. It is just the financial facet of what may turn out to be an even more comprehensive, and utterly futile, effort to save the entitlements and previous investments connected with American suburbia.

A recognition of this would at least allow us to get on with other things and make better investments in a reality-based future.

Personally, I doubt that the putative investments in and related tech amount to more than a tiny fraction of the total capital surging into the markets these days. The big oil companies are spending more of their considerable profits buying back their own stock and crafting farewell compensation packages for retiring executives than on exploration and discovery. In one place they have put up some E & P money, far eastern Russia, they just got their asses kicked by the host government, so they won't even be sticking around there. Excuse me for saying that Chevron's "Jack" experiment in the deep water Gulf of of Mexico will prove to be a public relations stunt. The money going into biodiesel, ethanol, and shale oil combined is probably less than the capital being directed into the next generation of MP3 players.

To me, the Fall 2006 Euphoria only underscores how divorced the financial sector is from real life. Day by day, thousands of grifters are making huge digital dollar profits on abstract financial plays in a global virtual casino. None of these plays has much to do with anything of real and enduring value. They're just scoring points on consolidations of ailing industries, on turns of the interest and currency differentials wheel-of-fortune, abstruse shorting strategies, and similar non-productive shenanigans. While these thousands of playas party hearty, millions of non-playa middle-American shlubs are underwater with their mortgage payments or real estate taxes, going bankrupt from their child's emergency apendectomy, or desperately seeking parking places where the re-po man won't find their Ford Expedition on which they failed to make payments numbers thirty-eight through forty-four after being laid off by the Uniwanker Corporation.

The sentiment now in the financial press is -- like that expressed by my banker correspondent -- that the US economy is indestructable. It's like Jason, the protean stalker-slasher of countless Halloween movie reels: an implacable monster on a mysterious mission. Nothing can stop it or kill it. Not the tanking real estate sector, not military misadventures in the Middle East, not a ball-and-chain of unimaginable debt. Like Jason, the US economy is fueled now by sheer entropy -- the force that drives everything toward death.


Meeting Venus

Reflections on a visit to a nursery

I haven’t gone to nursery with the purpose of buying green leafy lifeforms ever, I think. Have you? I’ve tended to think of nurseries as places for old retired people, and whacko sociopathic gardeners who have too many cats and a TV from the 60’s.

I think people like us can be forgiven for avoiding these overgrown supermarkets. It’s bewildering from the outside. All these strange lifeforms and what are we supposed to do with them? Where are we supposed to put them, and how to take care of them?

Well, if you go to a good nursery like Bloem’s Pretty Gardens (conveniently situated a few hundred metres downhill from the N1, in the opposite direction to the city centre) everything is made so simple a small child could understand what is happening.

If you buy seeds (for carrots, tomatoes or summer flowers) the hermetically sealed packets have simple cartoons overleaf showing when to plant, depth, when they’re ready to harvest, etc. Nothing could be simpler.

My requirements were simple. I had a paved driveway that looked a little sterile, and I wanted to give it a little life. So I needed leafy life forms that could stand full day, full sun exposure. Guess what: they exist! Geraniums (Pelargonium exotica) at R32 each. I also wanted something to crawl up the wall. I found a lovely creeper (Topiary Ivy, R257) that had already wound its way around a circular wire mesh construction, creating an elaborate green donut. Nice!

What about indoors? Can plants survive in almost dungeon like darkness? No problem, a tall Schefflera Kalahari (R268) doesn’t like any direct light, but open the curtains in the morning or it might get a little depressed.

Although Pretty Gardens has a lot more than just plants for sale (plenty of coffee shops, arts and craft markets, plenty of exotic animals for sale, horserides and so on), it was in the foyer while waiting to pay that I came across a bunch of Venus Flytraps (Dionaea muscipula).

The edges of the Flytrap are equipped with teeth-like serrations, and as the name suggests, this is a carnivorous plant. The ones I saw were tiny, but were selling for over R500. Interestingly, the Flytrap is found in nitrogen poor environments, like bogs. It’s indigenous to North and South Carolina in the United States, and is especially common in North Carolina’s Green Swamp.

Even when you buy soil for seeds there are various "types" of soil to choose from. There’s potting soil, seedling soil (for flowers and vegetable growing), bark chips (to prevent soil from drying out (only R15). The point is there’s plenty of obvious information to help you get exactly what you need for your garden and home.

When you’ve put your plants to bed, remember the simple things: water and light in appropriate amounts. Today I saw a lizard scuttling into a flower pot. Last night I watched some new flowers closing as night fell. Adding color to your environment adds life to otherwise empty spaces, and seems to imbue you with a fresh sense of wonder for the world. There is something to be said for the quiet wisdom of trees and flowers that nod and bob their heads, their small sensitive fingers plucking at the air like children.

There is something wonderfully symbolic about buying plants. It’s an act not only of investing in the world, but also of putting organic systems into our environment. Plants are good for us human beings. In a world of hard metal and dead plastic, we need to sink vigorous roots into the Earth and allow the soft petals to erupt. When they finally unfold they tickle the air and touch us, resurrecting and refreshing everything around them.

Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

From rags to glamazon

Perhaps I have a short term memory. How else could I explain calling this by far the best movie I have seen this year? No, it’s not a question of amnesia at all. Even Barry Ronge describes this five star flick as radiating class in every frame of film. That it does.

If you don’t know by now, Devil is a flick about the fashion industry. It works so well because it’s such an honest (and somehow innovative) approach. It’s honest because it’s based on the true story of a young student, with no interest in fashion, who worked as an assistant for Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. Lauren Weisberger’s book was an attempt to exact vengeance on a boss from hell. This film is filled with satire, but lacks the bitterness of the book. It’s an innovative approach because it manages to poke fun at the absurdly ridiculous conceit of the fashion industry (and its moguls) whilst captivating and dazzling us with its flawless (but apparently meretricious) depictions of human beauty. Those depictions in this film are literally breathtaking.

Meryl Streep plays the very stylish editor of an iconic fashion magazine called Runway. For me it’s another Oscar Award winning performance from her. This is the same woman who acted so memorably in beautiful films like Adaptation, The Hours, Out of Africa and the Bridges of Madison County. Meryl Streep remains one of Hollywood’s most astute actors, and this is perhaps her most intelligent performance yet as overbearing and imperious Miranda Priestley. In the closing few scenes of the movie you begin to see Miranda with her guard down. The flick gets especially deep and revealing in one scene near the end (the hotel room in Paris) where she is not wearing a stitch of make-up, and in two follow up close-ups (even with the make-up back on) we’re allowed to see slight flaws: there’s a spidery trace of old age and fatigue now, on that otherwise ivory smooth face.

At one point, in the limo, she tells her assistant Andrea (played by Anne Hathaway) ‘everyone wants this’, referring to their glamorous lives. It’s not hard to imagine that we do, or to pretend that beauty, even when it is made up, is real, and worth everything. But of course it isn’t. Beauty doesn’t last, it gets old, or covered up, or superseded by something more beautiful. Thus a fixation on what is merely beautiful has to be shallow and temporary, because it is so fleeting, so transient. And to base a life on being beautiful is to be engaged in a war, from day one, against the forces of entropy (gravity, time and the like).

Anne Hathaway’s performance is superb. She transforms into a heartbreakingly gorgeous girl (from an already stunning jersey wearer). She has incredible big brown eyes and succulent lips, a sunny persona – a contrast to co-worker Emily Blunt’s lunar, steelier and skinnier appearance.

Stanley Tucci is one of those actors whose names we’ll never remember, even if we remember him from movies like The Core (with a full head of hair). He does a lot better here as an effeminate and obviously gay stylist, with a sharp tongue.

Devil is a film about the personal cost of being perfect. It’s also a film that gives you a warm, devil may care buzz that lasts for days. Oh, and one more thing: If you work in the fashion world darling, do not let your boss watch this film!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Image courtesy

Training Gains Momentum

Last night we went to an unusually quiet calm-before-the-storm Mimosa Mall to meet Dennis and Antoinette. We watched what must be the best film I've seen this year: The Devil Wears Prada. It's a story about going from rags (but not necessarily poverty), to Glamazon. The big eyed brunette reminded me a lot of Samantha, who works at House of Coffees. A great feel good movie, and Barry Ronge rightly calls it the best movie about the fashion industry ever made. Why? Because it pokes fun at the wicked nastiness that typifies fashion moguls, but we're still fascinated and awed by how beautiful designers can dress up the human form. Meryl Streep is one of my top 5 female actors (not bad since she's not a spring chicken). Anne Hathaway may make the list soon. I also like Kate Beckinsale, Kate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson.

2 more movies to watch out for:
The Guardian
Night in the Museum

After the movie we went to Spur and had some of the best grub I've had in a while. Been eating lots of nuts and fruit and salads lately - not bad, but enjoyed my food last night. Finished off a steak and plenty of veg with a brownie. Yumm.

Exercise wise

After resting on Friday I got up this morning before 7am to do a 10km run.

Distance: 10km
Time: 47:50

Immediately after we cycled 50km. Hennie and I left everyone else behind - nice cruising speed. Averaged around 35km/h until we took it easier through Heuwilsig..
Time: 1:29
Distance: 50km

Bloem is buzzing, and full of orange flags and fieterjasies. The place feels like a Dutch enclave (house of Orange and all), which is good for a change.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unusual Road

This blog is titled: 'A Road to a Home'. Given my housewarming yesterday, has my road come to an end? To be sure it's been an unusual road and it's becoming unusual-ler. This is because I'm fitting more comfortably, each day, into my shoes as a writer. And that means I can live pretty much on impulse, and as spontaneously as I choose. But back to the original question: am I home?
Well, no. It is a comfortable new abode, and it'll do for the time being, but it isn't connected to any organic systems (despite buying some plants and planting veggies), I don't own it, and it isn't part of any communal system. These are the requirements, as far as I'm concerned, for a home. A real home - not just a McShack in suburbia.

Things have gone pretty well this week. Teaching has been blissfully easy (have been teaching reading out of a book called Mutant Message Down Under, and discussing clips out of Groundhog Day + focussing on vocab, pronounciation and speaking).

I've also gotten in two good runs and swims, and am still pleased to have 180km behind me, and to be almost in the 70's weightwise.

The fact that I found the time to throw a party illustrates the excent to which I am feeling centred and actualised.

Need to focus on saving, and looking towards a holiday through Swaziland to Mozambique. Either that, or Zanzibar. For now it's Currie Cup Fever in Bloem. Will try to get a few snaps of the atmosphere up here.

Oooeer: It's Friday the 13th

The historical significance behind Friday the 13th, and how to get through the day in one piece.

13. It's assumed by some that the number 13 lies beyond our human intellects. After all, ancient people counted 10 fingers, and two feet (feet were one unit each) for a total of 12. That's where our knowledge, apparently, abruptly ended.

At the Last Supper, there were 13 people present, and one of them betrayed Jesus.

Perhaps the most profound connection to Friday the 13th happened about 7 centuries ago. It involved the Knights Templar.

"On October 13, 1307**, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars ? knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren ? in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven..."

Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson* each have 13 letters in their name. Businesses will make less money today, because some people (people like me?) are fearful of what's out there, and scared people don't spend adventurously. Some might even choose to stay in bed all day.

Okay, so what's all that got to do with little old me, and my life, here in Bloemfontein. Well, here's a record of what happened today.
Today everything seemed to want to go wrong. From the word go I wasn't sleeping well. I tore off the plastic cover on the mattress (probably a dumb thing to leave it on), and as I did, a ghoulish green light zipped under my fingers. I finally fell asleep, at about 3 in the morning. When my cellphone chirruped, I really didn't want to get up. I turned the alarm off at least 3 times.

But I did get up in the end. I decided, for a change, to make a fruit smoothy for breakfast and the thing wouldn't work. Is it broken? Time was ticking by... I finally figured out the plug wasn't working, but that little game made me late for work.

Cycling home - less than a 100m from home - I saw a ditch in the road. I was about to swerve slightly out, but I heard car humming beside me. For some reason I went straight over the hole, me and my bike bouncing violently. The car missed me by less than a metre. Had I swerved out, it would definitely have hit me.

An unlucky day? Perhaps. But all these things happened yesterday, on Thursday the 12th. And a lot of them happened because I had just moved into a new place, and wasn't that familiar with my environment. Can I expect tomorrow to be worse?

In the British Medical Journal (1993) entitled "Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?" it was found that hospital admissions of Friday the 13th was 'significantly higher' than on 'normal' Fridays.
They concluded that the odds of being in a transport related accident on Friday the 13th went up by a staggering 52%.

People who consider themselves unlucky, are in my opinion, most likely to face increased risk. Why? Because believing, in fact, focussing on bad luck tends to manifest it in some way, in your life.

That doesn't mean if you think Friday the 13th is hooey that everything's going to be fair dinkum. Remember, there a bunch of nervous wrecks out there expecting things to happen. So a lot of those barely avoidable accidents may well happen simply because people, expecting them them to happen,also allow them to happen.

Is Friday the 13th hooey? Well, in Korea, the written number 4 is the same as the Korean character for death. As a result, in elevators, you see floors written as follows: 1 - 2 - 3 - F (for four) - 5 - 6 etc.
444 is also an unlucky number. In cricket, 111 is unlucky. Anything can be unlucky if you make up your mind about it. In the same way, you can chose arbitrary numbers to be lucky. It's a choice, but choices are influenced by what we really believe, and can't help believing.

Remember the hype about the Millenium Bug. It was also about a number - 1999. It's just an arbitrary number. Ask a tree or a butterfly or a road what day it is, or what time, and they'll say, "Listen buddy, it's day, and it's spring. Okay!"
Okay, and here's holding thumbs and touching wood that y'all will be too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


On Thursday at 19:30 I'm having a housewarming.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, please come.

There'll be a cheese and biscuit buffet but please bring your own wine.

You don't have to bring gifts, but if you really really want to, you can buy me a potplant or a dvd, or something for the kitchen.

If we're hungry and feel like kuiering elsewhere, maybe play some pool or something, we'll head towards 2nd Avenue. I think I'm just going to feel like a fairly quiet, cozy evening at home with friends. Hungry horses can order pizza.

For directions, call me at 0729733929

The Flying Elephant

Will the A380 break Airbus?

For the full story click on the title of this post

"North Korea is more than just another nation joining the nuclear club. It has never developed a weapons system it did not ultimately sell on the world market, and it has periodically threatened to sell its nuclear technology. So the end of ambiguity about its nuclear capacity foreshadows a very different era, in which the concern may not be where a nation’s warheads are aimed, but in whose hands its weapons and skill end up. " - from the New York Times online.

The Road Is Long, But In The End, It's Only With Yourself

All smiles before the pain.

Ettiene and Barendine on the way to covering 133km

Barendine before the chain came off, and 5 and a half hours (est) before claiming her R1000 first prize. Think the camelpack did the trick?

How to move a refrigerator...

...without using a car.

Running Amuck

Thought I would lie down for 5 minutes before going for a run yesterday and ended up losing consciousness. Have been really tired and the last few days, but I'd rather catch up on sleep and recharge on immunity than train myself sick.

I also managed to attend my first university class yesterday and my second today.

Teaching the Chinese kids is going well. We spent quite a while studying Groundhog Day (I took my DVD player along), so time went by quickly and it was quite enjoyable. Not a bad way to earn a living!

After teaching I had lunch - macaroni, just what the doctor ordered, and after a short nap got up at 4pm and ran a route I used to run when I was a hotshot triathlete. It's a 9km route with two or three sharpish climbs. I felt a lot lighter and quicker than the last time I did this route, and was encouraged to finish under 45 minutes. I also ran into Andre, who was cycling around Preller, and we had a good chat while I puffed alongside. He said on the uphill I was going 10km/h and on the downhill, 11.5km/h. He also asked if I would make myself available as the media representative for the Free State Cycling Federation (He works as a printing technician, I think, for our local newspaper, controlled by mighty Media24). I said sure.

Total time: 44:38
Distance: 9km
Ran with iPod and a light t-shirt. Felt good.

Meant to also go swimming tonight but spent a lot of time doing work on the labs computers. Wrote a story on the Airbus for Ohmynews and another story on Survivor SA for reporter. My picture of the Krugersdrift dam overflowing, taken with my Samsung phone, was published on the front page of Isn't technology wonderful!

Have 2 stories pending that I'll do later tonight or tomorrow:
1) Meeting Venus: Your nursery is full of surprises
2) Bulemia Up Close: What happens when self esteem gets sick

I also bought the latest SHAPE magazine on a whim. My story on Ina van Tonder is on page 131. Check it out.

To get Shape on your cellphone go here:

Satellite broadband delivers news

Tuesday, 10 October 2006
News teams are discovering the benefits of BGAN services to deliver the latest news updates from remote areas in the region. Mike Feazel reports.

Shortly after a massive landslide devastated the village of Guinsaugon in southern Leyte province in the Philippines in February this year, a reporting team from Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) was in the village, broadcasting live
via satellite.
The KBS team was using essentially the same technology that allows yachts in the Mediterranean, the South China Sea, or even passengers on Singapore Airlines, data access or to send streaming media via the Internet. The Korean reporters sent both stored video files and live streaming video back to Seoul via a briefcase-like satellite antenna and transmitter terminal called the BGAN, or Broadband Global Area Network, that altogether weighed well under 3kg.

The briefcase transmitter/receiver could be set up in minutes and be transmitting via the satellites of the International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat).“In broadcasting, and the media industry, the most important thing is to be able to convey updated news reports to viewers quickly,” said Tony Park, engineering director of South Korea-based Arion Communications Company, which provided the transmitters and satellite time to KBS.Because the site of the landslide would make using heavy newsgathering equipment dangerous, only lightweight systems were allowed.“The field where the incident occurred might be unpredictable and dangerous,” Park explained, “so with heavy equipment, reporters might have difficulty moving promptly and gathering news.”

Inmarsat’s BGAN high-speed satellite data service solves that challenge by packing everything a broadcaster needs into a briefcase-sized package that is several times smaller than the camera and other equipment the reporting team carries anyway.

As the BGAN terminal can handle full-quality voice and Internet data transmissions, it also allowed the KBS team to leave its Iridium satellite telephones behind, thus reducing costs and, as the Iridium phones are nearly as heavy as a BGAN terminal, adding little to the total weight.Size and convenience are the main reasons KBS chose BGAN, Park said. “Because it is ultra portable and has a high-speed data rate. Besides, the price of the equipment is much cheaper, and the service rates are cheaper too.”

For its coverage of the landslide, KBS reporters sent back some video clips to Seoul as digital files that transmitted in slower than real time. The advance transmissions allowed higher-quality video to be received in Seoul, stored and played back during the 9pm newscast.

In addition, the reporter on the scene did a live stand-up, allowing the anchor to ask additional questions and show the responses in real time, though the streaming IP data rate was limited to a somewhat less than satisfactory 128kbps, meaning less than full broadcast quality video.“To be honest, the streaming service was not good,” Park admitted, “and sometimes transmission of data was not always successful.”

But, as has also been the case in news coverage of the Gulf War, many news organisations have found that even reduced-quality video of a very newsworthy event is better than no video at all.“In spite of the problems, KBS is satisfied with BGAN,” Park said. However, a high priority for future generations of the product is to get higher data rates. Park also said KBS would like an Inmarsat earth station closer to Seoul, allowing cheaper and more stable connections.

BGAN can be used via a variety of terminals from manufactures such as Hughes, Thrane & Thrane, Nera and Addvalue. The Nera terminal, for example, weighs less than 1kg, though its data rate is only 64kbps. One Hughes terminal handle up to 256kbps, and all have Ethernet and USB connectivity, and some offer Bluetooth.

Inmarsat BGAN satellite coverage is available throughout Asia, with the exception of the northern part of Japan, and extends through about half of Australia, as well as all of Europe and Africa, and most of the Americas. Inmarsat claims it reaches more than 85% of Earth’s landmasses.Customers can either pay per megabit for best-effort service or by the minute for reserved on-demand capacity at a guaranteed data rate.BGAN service was also used by rescuers in the aftermath of the Java earthquake in May this year.

France-based Telecom Sans Frontieres flew in teams equipped with BGAN to help aid agencies help thousands of victims.A similar satellite-delivered broadband Internet service is now available to yachts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean via Intelsat. Integrated services provider Station 53 uses Intelsat transponders on the IS-905 satellite at 335.5°East to deliver voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony, as well as data transfers and Internet connectivity through Intelsat’s GlobalConnexSM-managed network.Station 53 said the result is higher than DSL speed for connections, primarily to luxury yachts.

The speeds support streaming video both upstream and downstream, it said. “Our customers demand always-on connectivity, whether for work, recreational or safety rea- sons,” said Station 53 president Sean Farrell.Such mobile high-speed satellite broadband services, however, have not been a universal success. Citing high costs and relatively low revenue, commercial aircraft maker Boeing recently decided to pull the plug on its Connexion by Boeing high-speed satellite service to commercial airlines.Boeing officials said the market did not materialise “as expected” since the service was launched.

Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney said Boeing will write off about US$320 million of the money it invested in Connexion, but an internal evaluation determined that that was best for the company. Boeing talked with several potential buyers for Connexion, but did not receive any offers that were better than a simple shutdown, officials said.Not everyone agreed with that decision.

Harry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research, speculated that Connexion might just be “an idea that is ahead of its time”. He speculated that with time, and the right pricing, a service like Connexion could be a big success in the long term. Consultant Tim Farrar predicted in-flight communications could generate $300 million revenue annually.Part of the problem, some experts said, was that Boeing contracted for too much transponder space aboard satellites operated by Intelsat, SES Americom, Eutelsat, AsiaSat and others, including a 20-transponder SES lease just for trans-Pacific coverage.

But other inflight satellite or cellular communications services continue offering much the same thing to customers, including some operated by AirCell, OnAir and Jet Blue.

Thailand-based Shin Satellite’s broadband satellite business has also been struggling. For the fiscal quarter ended June 30 this year, Shin Satellite lost nearly $1 million, and revenue slipped 10% to $40 million. Most of the decline was in its IPStar satellite broadband business, where revenue fell to $5.7 million from $14.2 million a year ago. Shin officials, however, said they believed the downturn was a minor blip, and that future quarters would show renewed growth.Even Inmarsat had a downturn in its most recent quarter, though sales of its broadband service to the aeronautical industry were up 36%, driven by growth in its new Swift64 Broadband service.

Much of the growth has been in use of its BGAN service by the news media, said CEO Andrew Sukawaty. “In the Middle East, you’d be hard-pressed to see a single news programme which is not using [a BGAN terminal for broadcasting].”

Kunstler: Apogee vs Aygo

Okay, I admit it. The world is running out of oil, but before it does...ssshhh...there is a car I would like to buy.

I know that sounds like wanting to shoot a rhino before it becomes extinct, but while the party is still on, I would like my small crumb in the cake. My children will probably say, "Dad, what was a car?" Must I say something like: "Well, I stopped driving them because I knew we all would have to soon."
Actually, you know, that sounds like something I might want to say in TheWorldAfterThis.

Image below is of the Aygo (pronounced 'I go'), soon to be released in Europe, and then here.

Kunstler's comments below...

October 9, 2006 Against the background of everything else happening in the financial markets is the apparent circumstance of peak oil. Even The New York Times joined the chorus in a Sunday editorial, saying:

Our demand for petroleum products strains the limits of the global capacity to supply them. In past decades, if a pipeline broke in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia might compensate by setting workers to pumping more oil. Now, with little additional capacity, rising prices are necessary to balance out supply and demand.

No more increasing capacity = peak oil. It's as simple as that. We now have nine and a half months of "rearview mirror" action to look back and see that world oil production has retreated from its all-time high of just over 85 million barrels a day (m/b/d) achieved in December 2005 (just as geologist Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton had predicted). For 2006, production has remained in the 84 m/b/d range every month reported so far, while demand has exceeded that.

Texas oil man Jeffrey Brown, a commentator at, the outstanding oil discussion group on the Internet, makes the point that Saudi Arabia is at the same point statistically (in terms of ultimate recoverable reserves) that Texas was at in 1972 when production there peaked. The world's four greatest oil fields are in depletion (Burgan [Kuwait], Daqing [China], Cantarell [Mexico], and Ghawar [Saudi Arabia]) and these have accounted for over 14 percent of the world's oil production. (Ghawar alone accounts for over 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's production.)

The North Sea has peaked and production there is "crashing." Venezuela has peaked and its oil is shitty heavy crude. Indonesia (an OPEC member) has peaked and is now a net oil importer. Nigeria's political chaos is making production increasingly difficult-to-impossible. Production in the Canadian tar sands is not making up for losses elsewhere. The US is down to about a four-year supply of conventional crude and condensates while we import 70 percent of the oil we consume. Discovery of new oil (including Chevron's largely hypothetical deepwater "Jack" finds) is barely covering a fraction of the world's consumption. So it goes....

Where finance is concerned, the basic implication of peak oil is pretty stark: an end to industrial expansion (i.e. "growth"). All the alternatives to oil will not keep the industrial economies expanding -- they can only slow down a contraction, and only marginally so. The trouble with this picture is that finance is a system that uses paper markers to represent the hope and expectation for the expansion of wealth. These markers are currencies, stocks, bonds, option contracts, derivatives plays, and other certificates that are traded in open markets. If there is no longer any hope of increased wealth in the world, then all those tradable paper markers become losers. Their value unwinds and imagined piles of wealth evaporate into thin air.

The unwinding process depends on the psychology of the people who own these certificates. If they do not understand the global oil situation and its implications, then they will continue to hope for and expect expanded wealth, and thus continue to regard their paper certificates as credible markers of value. And that is largely the case at the moment, since most of the playas in the financial markets are not paying attention to the peak oil story, or don't believe it is for real.

Two special and transient circumstances are now propping up the financial markets. One is that for practical purposes the world is virtually at peak, meaning this is an extra-special time of strange behavior (like the point in the apogee of a steep sub orbital flight in which passengers become momentarily weightless). Supply and demand for oil are only beginning to go out of whack (that is, demand just barely exceeding supply). Even at this early stage, the oil markets themselves are showing stress, as hoarding behavior sets in and induces wider swings of price volatility. But these swings in oil prices -- such as the one we're in right now, where prices have crashed 20 percent since the panic buying (hoarding) of June and July -- send false signals to the financial playas. The main false signal is that all is well on the global oil scene...there's no real supply problem...and hence no threat to the continuing expansion of industrial production and its associated wealth-generating activities. This signal just tells the playas to buy more paper markers. Thus, the stock market goes up.

The way to peak is that financial markets take on a life of their own -- as existing wealth "invests" itself in more paper markers hoping and expecting to "grow" into even more wealth. The problem here is that existing wealth is actually being squandered, since the paper markers will only lose value as the hopes and expectations vested in them dissolve in disappointment. But we haven't quite reached that point yet.

In simply bidding the markets up, the system has spun off even more gobs of presumed wealth. Some of this "liquidity" -- say, in the checking accounts of people who work for Goldman Sachs -- has found its way into Manhattan condominiums, or Aspen McMansions, and filtered through the system to everyone from the lawyers who write up the pre-nuptial agreements to the guys who sell the furniture to the people who drive the delivery trucks that bring it to the door, to the men laying tiles in the new bathrooms.

The basic insanity of a system that presumes vastly increased wealth where none will occur, has led to further distortions in finance. The most obvious one is the so-called housing bubble. The misplaced extreme expectation in the ever-increasing value of paper wealth, led to the hijacking of mortgages by financial playas who bundled them into odd lots of tradable debt (promises to pay) and used them to leverage abstruse bets (hedges) on the behavior of other kinds of paper markers (currencies, interest rate differentials, commodity prices) -- very profitably as long as all playas believed that industrial societies that run all oil would continue to grow, to produce more wealth. The level of abstraction in these rackets -- their distance from the reality of productive activity --is self-evident.

But they were so successful that the profligate creation of ever more mortgages became an increasingly reckless and irresponsible enterprise. Contracts were made with house-buyers who had no record of credit worthiness and often no real proof of income. Contracts were made on terms (interest payments) that were deceptive, even ruinously false, for the house-buyers. The reckless reassignment of lending risk into ever more abstract layers of deferred obligation, and the ease of credit that ensued, allowed millions of ordinary people to acquire real property on unrealistic terms, which had the affect of bidding up the price of houses that these owners will eventually have to surrender for nonpayment.

That process is now underway. The reckless creation of mortgages had the further effect of stealing demand for house-building from the future. So many new houses were built and then sold to people who will probably have to surrender them, and then so many more beyond that were built in the expectation and hope that reckless mortgage creation would continue forever, that there is now a massive over-supply of total existing houses while the pool of suckers for new ruinous mortgages has shrunk to zero.

Similar excesses in all the other lending and debt sectors, including "non-performing" credit card obligations and government deficits, will also unwind and thunder through the system.

Meanwhile, the false signal from the oil markets that has been broadcasting for eight weeks will come offline and a new signal will come on as prices go back up. The pause in bidding for future oil induced by the panic over-buying of the summer will end. The heating season is here. It's 40 degrees out in upstate New York this morning and the furnace is cranking. The Chinese and the Indians and even the people in France have not stopped using oil, even if Americans have put their Winnebagos up on blocks for the season.

As the price of oil goes back up, the financial markets will get a new signal that running industrial societies has just gotten more expensive again. That will dampen hopes and expectations for increased wealth from these societies. Meanwhile, the air will be coming out of millions of mortgages, and the loss of value will spread among playas holding these bundles of mortgage debt (i.e. promises that money spent on houses is being paid back, which it won't be). At the same time the houses themselves will lose value as the pool of potential buyers shrinks to nothing. That is, the inflated value (high price) of these assets will deflate.

As this occurs, there will be far fewer wage-earners putting up additional houses, fewer furniture sales, fewer trips by delivery truck drivers and fewer tile-jobs in the McBathrooms.

This is why I view the fall melt-up of the stock markets as a swan dive. We're at the apogee now, just as the world is at the apogee of its oil production. I confess, I thought the reality of our economic predicament would be recognized by the playas and their markets sooner than it has. It turns out the chief luxury of the final cheap oil blowout has been the artificial support of unrealistic hopes and expectations.


Survivor South Africa

Rana's luck changes

While Barry Ronge wrote in the Sunday Times' magazine this week that he doesn't care who gets voted off Survivor SA (and presented a Political Survivor SA model), there's someone I'd like to stick around: It's Nico, the restaurant guy.

Nico may not be playing with all the wits that a survivor needs to win the game, but he's entertaining and likable.

This episode was technically pretty good. Less disembodied voiceover's from Mr Bayly (some quick flickbacks to show his face when he makes a comment). My only criticism is Nico looking straight at the camera while drinking his coffee. It was a weird 'aha' moment. It made me think: 'Shucks, they obviously tell them to ignore the camera and it's probably quite hard to do'.Not sure if it was this week's or last week's episode but I also spotted the edge of a microphone dipping under the top of the TV screen. Small mistakes, but it blows the whole Castaway vibe.

For once Rana won an immunity challenge: seems Gareth is a good swimmer, and his swim put Rana ahead, with the others maintaining his lead.

Brigitte probably committed the cardinal error both for herself and other females on the island by voting for Mzi as arranged, instead of Nico (who she wanted to vote out). As a result Nico got only 2 votes, and was saved from possible elimination. This means Aguila, with Danielle gone, are 2 men and 2 women strong. Rana interestingly enough have the same setup. If Brigitte voted Nico out, the women would have outnumbered the men 5 to 3. But with even odds the question will the men outwit the women?
If Zayn doesn't pull up his pants (which seem to keep falling down), he will be the next to exit Rana.

Don't the tribes merge round about now? Watch the next episode to find out whether the boys or the girls are going to survive on the island the longest.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Terrorist in the Making?

No, just sanding old paint off an old desk.


This 18 year old cyclist has travelled and raced in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. She won the recent Windmill's Casino race and I'll hopefully interview her when she's in Bloem again for the Ofm race, 107km long.

This picture was taken on one of our Sunday morning excursions.