Thursday, November 30, 2006


The road is sometimes child's play...

Yesterday I went for a quick swim at the stadium. It was still very warm even after 6pm. Swam a quick 1.5km in under 30 minutes.

On my Polar calendar I notice that last year my workout time suddenly dived during this period - November/December. The reason is obvious: the extreme heat! Going to continue to build up my swimming, and try to squeeze in runs just before sunrise, or sunset, when it's a little cooler. Have laid off on the bike, but think I'll be back in the saddle next week. The break's been good though. Might have lost a little fitness, but have been able to fully focus on some other important areas, and with some success I might add.

I thought I would do some good today, and so opened up the delicate and difficult issue of Peak Oil (as explored in the DVD, the End of Suburbia), with some of my students. I also paid my rent today (Andreqw said he would try to install a roof over the driveway) and bought one of those thingies that allow you to play an iPod on a car radio’s cassette player.

Met two Brebner teachers in Incredible Connection and I once again expressed my admiration for their endurance there. Nice chat. Also encountered an oldish guy who also studied English with me. Gave him my number so he can buy some of last year’s 3rd year books. Feeling glad now that I haven’t signed up for another year. Maybe I’ll head back to university, but not in 2007. Need a break.

Also went to see Fransa at the gym and told her about some good news I’ve heard.
Think I'm going to go out tonight and eat a big juicy expensive meal somewhere.

Meanwhile, the world still continues to turn...

INTERVIEW-Bird flu focus shifts from Asia to Africa
29 Nov 2006 09:57:00 GMT
Source: Reuters

BANGKOK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Asia's relative success in fighting bird flu could see a shift in resources to Africa where the virus is spreading among some of the world's poorest countries, a top U.N. animal health official said on Wednesday.

The latest human death in Indonesia and an outbreak in poultry in South Korea has shown the H5N1 virus is far from being eradicated in Asia, where it re-emerged in late 2003 and later spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

But previously hard-hit countries such as Thailand and Vietnam have had success in containing the virus, Samuel Jutzi, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization's animal production and health division, told Reuters.

"Asia has been, with domestic resources and external resources, in a position to be rather successful while other parts of the world, particular Africa, are much less," he said.

"Africa is much weaker, economically and structurally, to respond," he said.

More than 50 countries have battled the virus, which mostly affects birds but has killed 153 people since 2003 and fanned fears of a global human pandemic.

Among them are some of the poorest countries in Africa -- Uganda, Niger, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Djibouti.

Jutzi said bird flu experts meeting in Bamako, Mali, next week were expected to make Africa a top priority.

"This time, the focus is on Africa," he said. "Africa is much less in a position to control the disease than Asia."

The World Bank said on Tuesday as much as $1.3 billion more was needed to fight bird flu, with more than $500 million of that going to Africa.

Asia's latest bird flu outbreak in South Korea, its first in three years, showed that no country could let their guard down.

"The outbreak is not a surprise. If you look at South Korea, they are handling the outbreak very effectively as they did last time," Jutzi said.

Vietnam, China and Thailand, where the government has reported no new outbreaks since August, had made great strides in detecting and containing the H5N1 virus, he said.

But the international community should continue to help Indonesia, where authorities confirmed the country's 57th bird flu death on Tuesday, as well as impoverished Laos and Cambodia.

"It is a very difficult situation in Indonesia. The virus is basically active throughout the country," he said of a virus which has spread to 30 of 33 provinces.

"I think the international community still has to invest more in helping Indonesia to get on top of the problem," he said.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006



I swapped my R250 black poof yesterday for a tall chair (with backrest) and a small, cheap, yellow fishing rod. Still need to get a fan.

Went for a swim at the stadium (with Werner):
Swim: 51min
Distance: 2km
Best 50m: 33sec

Also did 6 pullups.

Meanwhile birdflu is bubbling under in South Korea. It's just stuck its neck out in Iksan, about 230km south of Seoul. And the 57th victim has died in Indonesia (on Tuesday), making the archipelago the current ground zero.
What makes the H5N1 threat in Korea so dangerous is that it is the 5th most densely populated country in the world (has SA's population on 1/10th the landmass). This means once there's an outbreak it's very difficult to contain.

Meanwhile I have stuff to do. The triathlon on Saturday is one of my priorities, but there are a couple more.
Jaco, my lawyer, tells me that he should get a judgement from the court so I can take action. Need that R8000 that they owe me, especially we Christmas coming up.
See how that pans out.

Now for a fan...
above image courtesy

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Intruder Alert

I arrived home yesterday after work, just in time to catch someone in my kitchen. As I took a step he jumped onto the kitchen counter, then after a moments pause, hopped out the window. Mr Kitty Kat couldn't have found much to eat - the fishpaste was in the fridge and other than the water in the sink and a few kernels of popcorn, he must have left on an empty stomach.

I've also had the neigbour's dog trespassing. For some reason he's taken to chewing my plants (about R2000 worth), including divets of grass...which I found almost a metre away, looking like a green scalp.

If you click on the title of this post, it'll take you to a website that has discussed an article I wrote titled: Antidepressants: Do they work. Ordinarily I might be quite annoyed (I didn't give permission to have the story copied or distributed), but it's for a good cause and it's in a good place, so that's fine.

And I found the light sensitive sensor that watches over my car and driveway has been damaged. By a stone? Fortunately it still works. But I wonder if someone deliberately tried to sabotage it. I find it hard to believe that a fragment of plastic chipped off by itself. I guess it's possible.

Must cycle to work tomorrow as I have been getting slack in terms of exercise. Haven't been feeling 100% healthy though, which may explain the lack of motivation to a point. Recharging, but as a side issue, my writing is going well. I have 2 stories published on reporter today.

Go here to read 'em: (Freaky Food and The Good, Jackie and Agliotti)

Access Denied

The disadvantage of a blog is simply that it's sometimes too accessible as a 'public domain'. The writer of a blog probably (and most often)has in mind an invisible audience of friends, some who are real (and possibly live in the same city or country as the blogger), others who might be known to the blogger but either forgotten or the blogger is simply not continuously conscious of their existence, and then still others, friends of friends and strangers from farflung places like Iceland and Nepal. It's all good, of course, when someone google's their way to your blog because they're looking to read something about, say, how South Africans spend Christmas, or(a girl searching for) a guy's Christmas wishlist.

It's altogether more sinister when someone is googling stuff like '9/11 twin towers satan' and they find their way to my innocent piece of webspace dedicated to training regimens and environmental concerns and perhaps an incidental reference to hell or satan as in: why the hell would I do that? Or: it was hot as hell.

Meanwhile, if you think I've just conjured up the satan link, check this out:
My point is, over a period of time, your blog is going to be hit (now the word starts to acquire a grim kind of significance) by undesirable people. I don't just mean nut jobs, I mean, maybe you were driving somewhere and you pissed someone off that you knew. Or you're applying for a job and a jealous (or vindictive, or simply insecure) person that knows you has access to your personal diary, and it's with some vindictive glee (and no small amount of self righteousnous)that they're going to source whatever they can find that paints you into a bad light.

If you're like me, and you publish the good, with the bad, with the ugly (hoping that the good shines the brightest), then you do run the risk of being run out of town. I've had a couple of undesirable visitors, and even at times, I want a bit of privacy from the people who regularly read my blog that I actually like. Sometimes one needs to express something about someone close to you, but you simply don't dare. This is why it's a good rule of thumb (for me anyway) not to eviscerate the details of a recent argument with one's girlfriend, simply because things can change in 24 hours, and once again, a jealous rival, or big brother, or someone who simply wasn't there might draw the wrong conclusions. There's the very real risk of someone coming across a single post (particularly once it's been referenced and passed on to/or by another) and then read as an isolated but apparently substantive representation of who you are.

There are blogs entirely devoted to flashing this sort of voyeuristic stuff, as a sort of my-life-as-a-soapie. Often the more sordid the better. It's not my thing. Mushypeasontoast is a very popular blog about an attractive girl (whom I've met) who basically pinballs from one drunken encounter to the next. It's very popular, but unlike me, she simply has to conceal her identity. When we met her she refused to allow photographs of her to be taken (but some were taken anyway), and also refused to share strategic information (such as for which magazine she worked). She also confided that she'd already suffered the attentions of stalkers, and I can't think of anything more unnerving than a stalker who is nourished daily by your blog, even worse, when your disappointments and setbacks actually make them feel better about themselves.

While the core audience of this blog is probably less than 20 different people viewing this page per day (and probably even less than that, maybe 5-10 different people who may check and recheck and refresh a few times a day), it certainly doesn't constitute my definition of a public forum, and I wouldn't want it to. Correction: sometimes I would, for example if I post a story that I believe is meaningful and important. But other times, I might not want anyone to read something I've posted. I remember writing about the 180km cycle and being really upset about the race (and not happy with a teammate), and although I was determined to write and log the workout/race (for comparitive purposes one year later especially), in the back of my mind I thought: I really don't really want anyone else to read this (but I suppose they can).

Then I received comments on that particular post which I felt like responding to as follows: Please stop reading my blog. Or: Can't you just not look at my blog today?

And what about someone like me who routinely posts articles, fiction, sometimes even a university assignment: isn't it just an invitation for plagiarism? After all, if someone in Smallville USA published a perfectly suitable article I'd written(found using google), how would I know about it? Unless it was published on the internet and unless I went back and googled all my own articles looking for duplicates, and who does that, I would never know.

Fortunately, google has a remedy for this dilemma. Anticipating massive demand for increased privacy (and possibly to defend from unnecessary lawsuits), google have come up with a beta version of blogger, which will allow users to password protect content.
I think this will prove both very popular and very useful, although it's a shame in a way, because it simply constrcuts millions of gates in cyberspace, when blogs helped create endless fields of unfenced access.

In the case of my blog going beta (and it will, the version is simply not compatible at this stage with such a huge blog - mine has over 5000 posts), visitors to this blog can simply email me for access, and obviously, if I know you, and you prove to be devoted and trustworthy, you're always welcome.

The password for the rest: access denied.

Kunstler: Super-Inflated World


November 27, 2006
Last week, I had one of those clarifying moments when the enormity of the American fiasco stirred my livers and lights again. I was riding in a car at sundown between St. Cloud and Minneapolis on I-94 through a fifty-mile-plus corridor of bargain shopping infrastructure on each side of the highway. The largest automobile dealerships I have ever seen lay across the edge of the prairie like so many UFO landing strips, with eerie forests of sodium-vapor lamps shining down on the inventory. The brightly colored signs of the national chain fried food parlors vied for supremacy of the horizon with the big box logos. The opposite lane was a blinding river of light as the cars plied north from the Twin Cities to these distant suburbs in the pre-Thanksgiving rush hour.

All that tragic stuff deployed out on the prairie was but the visible part of the storm now being perfected for us. On the radio, Iraq was coming completely apart and with it the illusion of America being able to control a larger set of global events -- with dire implications for all glowing plastic crap along the interstates, and the real-live people behind the headlights in those rivers of cars.

The main fresh impression I had amidst all this is how over it is. The glowing smear of auto-oriented commerce along I-94 (visible from space, no doubt) had the look of being finished twenty minutes ago. Beyond the glowing logos lay the brand new residential subdivisions full of houses that now may never be sold, put up by a home-building industry in such awful trouble that it may soon cease to exist. If suburbia was the Great Work of the American ethos, then our work is done. We perfected it, we completed it, and, like a brand new car five minutes after delivery, it has already lost much of its value.

The chief failure in American politics lately has been the inability to appreciate the relationship between how we live here and how other people in other lands support us with their resources -- oil from the Middle East, human labor and money saved from the fruits of human labor from the Far East. The oil obviously runs all the cars and the money from China and Japan supports our debt (and incidentally pays for building ever more big box stores and fried food emporia). The Middle East is now so close to exploding that we may not get so much oil from them in the years ahead. China and Japan have stepped back from buying American debt in the form of US Treasury certificates.


Even if there were no exogenous forces operating, the proverbial Man-From-Mars casual observer would have to conclude that America has built all the shopping venues it will ever need (and far beyond), and certainly more single-family housing subdivisions useful only in a happy motoring meta-system. But the exogenous events are out there and they are going to assert their power to make us uncomfortable and to alienate us from the very stuff that we have poured all of our wealth and spirit into.

The New York Times headlined yesterday that the US government might try to start negotiations with Iran and Syria over the fate of Iraq -- an idea so preposterous that it might have been a wire-story from The Onion. Iran and Syria have no interest in the matter whatsoever except in the failure of America to control events, and the humiliation entailed by that failure, which is happening on its own. So the story is a clear signal of our desperation that we are even pretending to make overtures.

For the US military this is a tragedy of classical Greek dimensions, a playing out of implacable forces despite its heroism or even good intentions. But for the American public, back home, enjoying the bright lights of the WalMarts and the steaming heaps of baby back ribs, and the comfort of the ride home with the latte plugged into the cup holder and Jay-Z's inspirational thoughts playing on the car stereo -- it's really the end of the road.

I've been saying for a long time that as our illusions dropped away, the US economy would fall on its face. I think the process is underway, especially with last week's movement of the dollar against the Euro. All the elements are now set for a full-throttle depression in which currency loses value while credit dries up and incomes are lost. You get a fire-sale of assets that behaves like a deflation while the dollar itself inflates. The Federal reserve can't possibly drop interest rates if foreigners will not buy our bonds.


Losing your house to the re-po man is a major illusion-breaker. The housing bubble has popped and entered a downward self-reinforcing feedback loop that will be understood as a death-spiral of valuation. Even if nominal house prices stayed close to where they are, dollar inflation would signify a real drop in value. The jobs associated with the bubble -- everything from the legions of house-framers to the realtors to the creative mortgage hawkers to the Crate-and-Barrel furniture elves -- will drop into a black hole. Mortgage obligations will not be met, credit card payments will stop, house refinancings will no longer be possible as equity dissolves, the WalMart associates will get their pink slips, the vacancy signs will go up in the strip malls, and a mighty sob will be heard above the prairie wind.

This is really a tight spot. Wider war in the Middle East is hardly out of the question, with Iran and a broad array of jihadistas emboldened by America's flounderings in Iraq. A year from now, perhaps, or less, we will lose our access to a substantial portion of the imported oil that we run all our stuff on. The sodium vapor lamps will flicker out. The last taco will be served. The US public will have to start paying attention and making other arrangements.

I believe what Garrison Keilor says about the people in Minnesota. Scratch below the surface, you'll find a thoughtful, practical mentality. I believe that when they can't do anymore of what they're doing now, they'll turn around and do something else.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Fibre Factor

Is the magic bullet missing from your diet?

Have you ever tried to clean a greasy pot with a tissue thin porous cloth? Notice how the cloth itself gets all greasy and in a jiffy it’s not cleaning anything? To clean it effectively you need something to scour and scrub with. You see, whenever you’re eating anything cooked in oil, any meats, and especially things like eggs, hamburgers, pizza and fries, you’re greasing the entire length of your intestines. If you went down there to check it would be a slippery sewer not unlike the greasy pot you’re averse to washing in the sink. So what to do?

It’s remarkable to what extent fiber has been removed from our diets. We even seem to have been programmed to remove it when it is there. People habitually peel their apples before eating them, some people remove the crusts of bread and toast, or even peel tomatoes and mushrooms. Don’t do that.

Did you know our innards more closely resemble those of cows and sheep than they do lions? Somewhere along the line I guess we got crazy with hunger, hanging around in the jungle, and we started killing and eating animals bigger than termites. That’s on the scale of cows and sheep starting to eat small lizards they come across, or chasing after chickens, stomping them to death, and sprinkling wings and thighs over their long grassy salads (as we do). It’s actually disquieting, monstrous even, when you think about it.

Yes, when you’re conscious of what an animal is designed to eat, you do get a queasy sense imagining that diet changing radically. A sheep that eats chickens isn’t probably the sort of sheep you’d like to eat, is it? Well, are you aware that cows have been fed pellets that are the offal of slaughtered cows? The pellets are made of ground horn, and hoof, and scraps of meat and skin? Cows are being turned into carnivorous cannibals, and chickens into egg-popping maniacs in cacophonic factories with pretentious lighting+. We fill our bodies with the meat (and the stress hormones) of both these creatures, and we’re already pushing our digestives systems to the limit. No wonder people are developing cancers at the rate they are.

What we need to do is re-introduce fibre into our diets. Start at the very beginning, with breakfast. Wheat Bran is an excellence source of the stuff, and some cereals* pack 29% fiber into a 100g serving. Even so, as soon as you splash your milk over the stuff, you’re already mitigating the effects of the fibre. Milk is really a form of mucous secreted by mammals for young mammals. It’s got all sorts of material (like protein and bacteria) to help young mammals grow bones and muscles. When you add milk try to use skim milk, or soy milk, but the important thing here is that you’re at least taking in something with fibre, instead of greasing your innards with bacon fat, greasy eggs and coffee stains.

After trying a Wheat Bran breakfast, you’ll notice a lot happening later in the morning. Once you’ve had a bowel movement or two your stomach will feel softer, and looser and less stiff, and if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, the roundness of your tummy is likely to flatten before long.

While Wheat Bran isn’t particularly tasty, it’s an incredibly good source of fiber. If you really can’t stand eating it every day, add a few sprinkles to your cornflakes. Meanwhile, make sure you’re getting fiber everywhere else. Eat potatoes with their skins on, same goes for apples and other fruits (with the exception of the obvious ones like prickly pears, bananas and oranges).

Prawns, in their husks, are excellent scrubbing brushes once swallowed.

It’s important to bear in mind that our innards do, in the end, resemble that of a vegetarian animal. They’re long and convoluted. Food is meant to spend some time stewing and digesting. The digestive tract of carnivores are short and straight. That’s because meat, when it digests, releases a lot of gas, and a lot of toxic stuff. If you don’t believe me, compare the whiff of dog and cat excrement to horse and cow. There’s a huge difference. And if you’re habitually releasing noxious clouds that would make your cat wince, it probably means you’re erring on the side of too much meat.

Like most people, I love meat. Barbecues and biltong** especially. If we’re going to eat this stuff, we have to make sure we sort of make up for it by eating as best we can ordinarily. The average meal ought to be 75% vegetables, with 25% or less meat. At the moment, in many western countries, but especially here in South Africa, it’s the opposite; meals are based around the meat component. You’ll have a big slab of meat with some vegetables inserted in the little bit of plate space around it. Wrong, it has to be the other way round.

Our bodies aren’t built like carnivores. When we eat so much protein in our food it tends to vegetate in our stomachs, draining us of energy (instead of giving us more), and besides making us tired, it basically causes all sorts of blockages in our internal systems. One of the best ways for overweight people to lose weight without doing any exercise is simply to switch to a meal with more fiber and less meat. Try it, the results will surprise you, and you’ll be far healthier and more comfortable in your own body for doing so.

+Egg farms simulate night as much shorter and day far longer, than it really is. Imagine what that does to you.
*Like Bokomo’s Fiber Plus
**Cured, spiced meat

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lonely Road

Above image courtesy
I was really tired last night. You know that feeling when ordinary light seems to burn your eyes and seems overexposed? I'd been invited to a braai but just needed to sleep. Woke up after an hour but then plans changed, no more braai. Watched some Smallville then fell asleep. Some torrid dreams.

Woke up at 5:55am but still felt really tired, so did what I hate to do, missed the cycle race and slept late.

The dog from next door has been coming over and eating my plants, or lying on them, or finding some other way (perhaps urinating on them) to make sure they die. They've put up some wooden boards against the gate to keep him out but this morning he was back, hunting for a green shoot to nip in the bud.

Not feeling very motivated this morning. It's a shame missing out on a cycle race, but I'll try to rest today and then go for a run and swim when it gets cooler this afternoon.
Yesterday I had an awesome swim (after a pointless meeting at 3pm that lasted 5 minutes) with Barendine, Franna, Ina, Benedictus was also there.

Swim: 1:14:47
Distance: 2.08km

Did some core exercises this morning. Missed the Vanderbijl triathlon today as well, which also bums me out. On the positive side, both Cosmo and Ohmynews have asked me for some specific content, so will work on that when my energy starts to swing back.


[For those of you who are wondering: why does he put emails into his blog? The answer is simply that it makes the info easier to find for me. Within a day or two emails get lost into the 50 odd emails I get everyday. This blog archives info making all important stuff easy to find, and also archives information that may be useful in terms of making comparisons (in terms of training), or provide a legal background to a particular matter (which is like stating something for the record). In this sense timeframe becomes quite vital]

Hi Nick,

Thanks so much for sending these through to me. Your writing is very good – I particularly enjoyed the marriage myth piece. As you have suggested, I think the best thing for us to do is commission an upfront man piece.

Upfront Man: A one-page (650 words) column, written by a man for women. Should be funny and anecdotal but should also contain some new thought, perception, philosophy, theory or insight. Should have a ‘take-away’ factor, so that women readers feel they have learned something or seen something differently or somehow benefited, as well as having a good laugh. Should give women some insight into the way men think, does not have to be about relationships, although it often is.

I think the best avenue, would be for you to suggest a few ideas for this slot (just need two or three sentence explanation of what you think the story will be). We can then discuss the angle, etc.
Also, I encourage you to read through a recent COSMO. Get a feel for the tone and voice used both in the Upfront Man slot, and also throughout the mag. And keep in mind who a COSMO girl is:

€ She is bold, brave and SEXY.
€ She is 25 and single (or dating, not married).
€ She is a little wicked, flirty.
€ She strides.
€ She is positive and optimistic.
€ She is black AND white.
€ Sexually she is confident, having fun, and On Top.
€ She rules her universe.

She is not…
…winsome, a waif, an elegant lady. She is not a fashion victim, nor unfashionable.

Let me know your thoughts.

Kind regards,

Hi Nick,

Your soul story is currently on hold waiting to be attended to. I'm sorry to disappoint you but we can't publish Dr. Phil. It's the sort of subject where the readers could be referred directly to his website and book on

We have lots of story ideas here: Perhaps there are some that take your fancy?

We've also had two nice stories from Max Lin and Shannon McCann today. It reminds me you're very good at delivering a sense of place in your writing. You could try that again perhaps?

We've also put out an appeal for winter/summer themed fiction (actually for Christmas but we wanted to be inclusive). I could imagine that you'd be good at writing something about South Africa, Africans and religious belief.

Best wishes,


3:05pm - 3:10pm

My meeting with Proctor and Gamble was a silly waste of time. At least P&G were in agreement about this, they also said it was a silly waste of time for them. That's hard to understand. In my case, it was a pointless 5 minute meeting that achieved nothing. It's hard to imagine, when they have not honored their own procedures, but simply engaged in a sort of procedural nepotism, it's hard to see how they can claim I've wasted their time. They have wasted their time, and now have allowed this actually small problem to balloon into a bigger problem that will demand someone elses attention. Aren't I the one who sent in a complaint? Once again, did they offer me a single open ended minute to simply ask: what's happened, how did this all start, why are you unhappy, because, you know, we actually [are supposed to] care. They simply don't. All they care about is self-preservation; protecting their micro-domain.

Here's why. If you're sitting at home watching TV and a stone comes flying through your window, and you get up just in time to see who it is [someone from the local mafia], just how much good is going to the mafia going to be, to complain about what happened? Ergo: They're either going to make some excuse, or laugh at you, or simply get rid of you.

So it was unfortunate that P's* meeting started exactly as G's had two weeks earlier. She basically had a prepared document that she wanted me to sign. No attempt to start any kind of dialogue. No sincere attempt to try to understand the situation impartially. More like an immediate wall going up, a defensive wall. The document was obviously prejudicial (as in judged well in advance of the appropriate time to exercise judgement).
When she started reading her prepared document (which was all about how much she agreed with her colleagues, and how much she disagreed with me - someone I was meeting with for the very first time, and also someone who refused to speak to me on the telephone when I called her), I asked whether or not they wanted to hear what I had to say. All they seemed to want me to do is listen to a judgement and sign a document. Great, thanks for your help again. Does anyone remember that I actually wrote a letter complaining about something? They're trying to make this into them accusing me of something.

On my way out I pointed out that at no time had anyone actually called me to discuss my complaint. I still have not spoken to anyone about the complaint. They have had long discussions between themselves to get their case together, up and down, left and right. The last thing on their minds appears to be actually finding out what I think. Their focus has been this blog, and that's all they have focussed on. It's something to discuss (possibly) but only after we've actually addressed the issue at stake here: the complaint I made about rude and unhelpful responses that developed into a recognisable pattern.

Once again, the last thing they want to do is find out the actual state of affairs, because the last thing they want to do is have to consider taking any steps against one of their own. So now I am at the 3rd level in this hierarchy of entropy, and everyone is patting each other on the back, and still, no has even offered or attempted to listen to a single thing from my side. So much for student morale being something they care about. That went sailing out the window some time in August, and was already eroding well before then.

I was also really surprised to see Gamble there. All along his game has been to be uncommitted and uninvolved, apparently impartial (but actually not) and I think he was just hoping I'd forget about it. I visited him in his office subsequent to the complaint and he never insisted beyond a casual, weak inquiry, on gaining some background. But yesterday he started to get really excited (for once), taking his cue from P who kept interrupting me and forcing me into the scenario she'd prepared: I read the statement, he signs it. When I objected, she objected and so did he. Well this wasn't getting anywhere. I pointed out that there's actually a case to be made against how he has been running his department. This really woke him up. He quickly pointed to a recording device (which apparently was on anyway). Nice one guys, just another example of fair play.

This year, during both semesters, lecturers often - and I don't use that word casually - often have been absent, unaware of their own timetables, unable (or unwilling in R's case) to provide a timetable, it's been impossible to actually attend lectures with doors being locked and locations changed, and this Grievance procedure demonstrates to what extent a student, simply pursuing the resolution of something, is frustrated at every turn.

This meeting was a metaphor for the whole thing. Failure to listen. Failure to adhere to reasonable process. Failure to be accountable. Failure in the end, to care. Instead it was a demonstration of a top down, slapdash, one way hierarchy, which insisted on tersely telling someone their place, manuevering them into a position, rather than being open in order to discover the actual state of affairs (as most reasonable people would).

G tossed the word 'l' at me quite a few times. I said that I'd stand by every statment I've made, and I'd even consider publishing this fiasco of manners in a local paper. Both P&G indicated that they would welcome that.

Interesting. My blog represents an unacceptable 'public domain' for personal jibes but they're perfectly happy to accept a purposefully written report to a newspaper (this with a definite agenda - to accuse in the public domain in no uncertain terms) outlining incompetence at every level. How does that make sense? I wonder whether I am going to speak to a reasonable human being next, with a proportionate sense of what is fair and proper. Or am I going to have more documents read to me that I have to sign?

Friday, November 24, 2006

No Man Is An Island

As I pulled up at this intersection on my way to the pool yesterday evening, I spotted this beggar about to tuck in to what didn't seem like a bad meal. But fancy making a traffic island your home. And check out the trolley bulging with precious worldly possessions.


It's one of those incredibly hot days that make the roads sizzle, and everything turns sleepy. Coming over the brdige a black car, with tinted windows drifted into my lane just as I drew alongside it. I picked it up and jerked my car away but it was a nasty shock. Further down the highway was a three car pileup, with a Polo's rear window smashed out by a truck laden with bricks.

Went to Mystic last night and enjoyed a bit of a change of scenery. Despite haviong a car, or possibly as a result of, I've been so busy this week, and only managed two training sessions (1 swim, 1 cycle). I plan to remedy that tomorrow by doing a cycling race and following it up with a run.

Will try to run today if I can catch up on sleep before that.

The Good, Jackie, and Agliotti

It’s time for a new sheriff

He wears a badge, and folks ‘round ‘ere used to respect him. But things have changed some. Jackie, that’s the sheriff, is s’posed to be the sheriff. Yep, he’s the sheriff alright, of Interpol. That’s a mighty big responsibility for a man. And this man also happens to be the law in this country. Now I don’t know what you’ve heard, son, but what I heard is that one of our sheriff’s best pals is what they call ‘a businessman’ in these parts. Some folks be sayin’ that just last year he walked on down to the OK Corral in his fancy suit and gunned down his best friend, Old Man Kebble. Folks say the gunman they saw was this same fancy pants Italian, Agliotti. I guess when he means business he means dirty business. And lately the sheriff’s and he’s bin doin’ plenty business together.

Now I don’t know about you, son, but seems to me to be a conflict of interest. Why jus’ the other day I saw them two eating breakfast together. Both of ‘em eating hash browns and chicken eggs, as chipper as two doggone puppies on a bone. Fancy that. The sheriff drinking coffee with a killer. That’s not how it’s supposed to be son. That’s just not right.

Now folks have been asking the sheriff to hand in his badge, but all’s he could say so far is, “What in heck’s wrong with two decent men having a breakfast time together?” Well, I dunno about you, but two men doing stuff together in the morning like that, like starting out the day that way, it just don’t feel right to me. You know what I mean?

Yeah and the Deputy, man named Nqakula, he’s bin sayin’ people’s around here are talkin’ too much. “Where’s the evidence?” he says. Well, I tell ya, son. A lawman just has no business keeping the company of a killer. Even worse, makin’ excuses for it. This used to be a God-fearin’ town son. People used to be respectable here. Now the wagon’s can’t come into town without the injuns taking off with the loot. And folks are sayin’ the injuns aren’t injuns at all, but cowboys dressed like injuns.

People’ve been chasing the injuns for years. They’ve been shot to hell. Now my experience is the injuns don’t harm us any, less we harm ‘em first, and we done did plenty of that. Now there’s hardly any of them critters left. We’re started thinking it’s bin the sheriff making like all them bandits is the injuns, blaming ‘em, and protecting the real bad apples. Bin getting away with it for years, Jackie has, lining his pockets with loot, and blaming them injuns.

And folks around here bin sayin’ that lawlessness has gotten lots worse over the years. That’s the truth son.
Now, you know, once upon a time all the land here belonged to the injuns. Everything. Then the first of us arrived, and some of us were very ambitious. Some would say jus’ plain greedy. Some folks saw the land and wanted it, and were prepared to get it by fair or foul means. Foul suited some better, ‘cos it tended to be a faster to get what they wanted. Times changed, but some old habits die hard. What the cowboys started doin’, I heard, when a lot of the land was sold up, they’d go dressed up as injuns, ride to a farm, all hollering noisy-like, and burn down the farmhouse, kill the farmer and his wife, making sure they were seen. It was also the cowboys who started ‘scalping’, an ugly ritual that people even today wrongly put down to them injuns. The injuns did scalp their victims, but as an act of revenge, and only after learning it from the ‘pale face’ who did it to them.

What we have in South Africa, seems to me a case of indians (like Agliotti) dressing up as cowboys, and cowboys (like Selebi) colluding with the indians. In this metaphor, the indians are the ‘bad guys’, and the cowboys ought to be the law. But they aren’t. It’s all a deception. The real bad guys, it turns out, are the guys who are supposed to be the good guys. Ah reckon we need to get ourselves a new sheriff, m’boy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things Change

Both images courtesy It's the same wall of the same building, but the destruction picture is the most recent image.

Hold Your Nose


A lot has been happening. After buying my car on Monday (which is enough of a lifestyle change already) Quintiles also asked me to attend another assessment and interview for Project Leader, which is a fairly big deal. I had to prepare a PowerPoint presentation with two days notice, and spent Monday night burning the midnight oil, and paging through books like Friedman's 'The World is Flat' and Kim's 'Blue Ocean Strategy'. It's interesting reading.

I got very little sleep since I only finished preparing the presentation in the wee hours of the warning. Thank goodness I had a car because my battery needed a break. I could feel the numbness of fatigue creeping into my brain at the assessment on Tuesday.
But today's presentation went well. It's an amazing job - travelling and presenting Quintiles work all over the place. Just up my street.

I've also been reading a book called 'Who Moved My Cheese', which is about anticipating change. Think I'm doing that, but need to step up the pace and head out into the maze some more.

I've been covering this book at school, which I've dubbed 'Sleepy Hollow', since the students are finding the combination of heat and hours of English a recipe for getting a few snoring symphonies in before lunch. I suggested to Shirley today to become a tour guide in Cape Town, and be the first to the cheese. With good enough marketing, the Chinese might discover Cape Town and million strong flocks might be lured here. Yay? Or oh no, what have we done?

I also bought Smallville's Season 4, and have managed to watch a few episodes. It's interesting stuff. I like the combination of humble beginnings and powerful inner ability.
I also think it'll make interesting discussion with the students.

Looking forward to good news from you know where. I really need to be growing in the world of work. Not in the teaching sense though.

Meanwhile, is it a concidence that I presented wearing a superblue shirt, and a red, candy stripe tie?

Making the Most of the ‘Flat World’

The frog in the well: imagine a frog born in a well, that’s lived its whole life in the well. It’s worldview is the well. And then the walls of that well come down, and all frogs begin to communicate with all the other frogs in wells. That’s what happened when the Berlin wall fell, frogs celebrated because they knew they were able to learn about the whole world, and participate in it. That challenge remains.

Zoom In
Whether you’re a small creature, struggling to make it to a pond, somewhere to thrive, or you’re the biggest fish, with all the resources, the world has rules, and these rules are changing.

In the modern world, small companies can act big, and big companies must act small, to make the most of what Thomas L. Friedman calls ‘the flat world’.

Your world depends on:
Who you are
And where you are
The world is the relationship between individuals in an environment.
Where these interrelationships happen – for human beings at least – has become increasingly irrelevant.

If you’re a shepherd boy in Lesotho, you wouldn’t agree. Being so remote, you’d argue that you don’t have access to so many of the resources that are available to others. If you’re, say, a cyclist…perhaps someone doing the Pro Circuit in Europe, like David Zabriskie, (who has beaten Lance in a time trial), the chances are he frequently draws on plenty of services and international brands. Cyclists are frequently away from home, so he’d probably use the internet for lots of emailing, and he’d watch CNN, in English, to find out what is happening. But I wonder, which services do these guys have in common? Today, maybe it’s Coca Cola. They probably don’t both use Amazon, or Heineken. In time, perhaps the shepherd will go to work at a Nando’s restaurant (a South African brand expanding abroad) or become a lawyer in Johannesburg and find out about the world using Google, and watching TV.

The world experienced by the shepherd is very different to the world experienced by the cyclist. It’s like a frog in as well, unaware of all the other frogs. For the shepherd, the world is round, it’s vast, it’s huge. He’s stuck. For the cyclist, it’s fast, it’s flat, it’s small (and accessible) and it’s full of usable brands and services. Good news for the shepherd is: the cyclist’s world, with its technology and services, is rapidly infiltrating his environment. Two quick examples: Vodacom (the cellular network) and Eskom (supplier of electricity) already have a presence in remote and rural Lesotho.

What are the features of a Flat World?

A global supply chain of services means that it’s possible to have supermarkets like Wal-Mart or Pick ‘n Pay, and twenty different car brands driving down Nelson Mandela Road.
Because of mass production and efficiencies in production, we’ve seen the middle class benefit, and the average individual growing far more powerful. In today’s society power follows wealth. In the past, it was the opposite.

In a Flat World, everything moves faster. To simply stay where you are compared to the competition, you’ve also got to pick up the pace.
Speed is the most vital innovation today: success often depends on merely being faster than a competitor, or put in another way: being the best means being the first to innovate.

10 Forces That Flattened The World, according to Thomas L Friedman’s book:

1. The walls came down. The Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the end of Apartheid – all these allowed capitalism to makes us unequally rich
2. Peek into the world. Netscape suddenly put the whole world onto the same playing field, enabling the internet, and allowing cyclists and shepherds to talk to each other
3. Moulded technology. Work flow software enables the service industry the way Henry Ford enabled Manufacturing. It means accessing talent anywhere in the world, 24/7/365
4. Mozilla – Firefox, a free web browser. Brings us the benefits open sourcing. It means setting up infrastructure, but commercial software companies (or data management companies) must go a step further, and focus on differentiating themselves and their services
5. Outsourcing. How did the world get around Y2K? Outsource drudge work to save on labor costs and to focus on the big projects.
6. Offshoring. China make things, then sell them somewhere else.
7. Supply Chaining is a very important flattener. Wal-Mart and Pick ‘n Pay have supply chains that encircle the Earth.
8. Insourcing is an exciting idea. UPS does it beautifully, and here’s their mantra: Your World Synchronised. They create value horizontally. They pursue deep collaboration. For this sort of business you need huge amounts of trust. UPS employs Toshiba technicians, their systems are at work inside pizza delivery services. If you order Nikes online, its routed through UPS. UPS core business is helping small businesses achieve parity.
9. In-forming. It’s even more subtle than Insourcing. It’s self-collaboration, becoming your own self-directed, self-empowered researcher, editor. In-forming is searching for knowledge. Google does it. Their goal is to make easily available all the world’s knowledge to everyone, in every language. Google employs hundreds of mathematicians. Google wants to democratize information. It’s about searching your own memory more efficiently. Search out collaborators. In this area of business, reputation, or brand power, becomes vitally important.
10. The Steroids. Digital gadgets, cellphones, music in your pocket, notebooks, all mobilize the flatteners. And now there’s VOip: Voice over Internet Protocol. Phone calls over the internet will revolutionize the telecoms industry.

How should companies operate in a flat world?

Companies in the flat world need to develop their inner sanctums instead of putting up outer walls. Small can act big, and big companies can flourish by acting small. The best companies in the end are the best collaborators. Companies will also need to identify and strengthen niches, and outsource the rest of their business. Why? Outsourcing aids faster innovation. As far as possible, especially if technology systems flow through your business, make your business into a buffet, a digital buffet.

Imagination is what drives us to innovate, and develop eventually, a higher operating consciousness. Imagination is an important instrument of innovation, because it gets us to the Blue Ocean, and allows us to develop and implement Blue Ocean Strategy. Blue Ocean Strategy is simple, but if you fail to implement it you can find yourself in the Dead Sea. Here are the basics of Blue Ocean Strategy*

Head to competition is damaging
 Red ocean filled with rivals
 Blue oceans: uncontested market space
 Create and capture blue oceans
 Reach beyond existing demand
 Focus on the big picture, not the numbers
 Reconstruct market boundaries

To overcome the challenges of global resourcing, instead of downloading the past, just upload the future. Instead of mere management of data, move towards the creation and evolution of data. And while all this is happening, remember who you are! Develop and stick to an identity with integrity, and nurture a culture that’s open and adaptive. Then, all that’s left is to understand the pattern of commerce in the world, anticipate changes, expect things to speed up again and again and remain in sync. No one said living in the flat world was going to be easier!

The World is Flat; a brief history of the twenty-first century, by Thomas L. Friedman.
*Blue Ocean Strategy, How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When in need, always count on one of these...

Kunstler: CERA says, "Don't Worry, Be Happy"

November 20, 2006,
Last week, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) released a report saying that there was no imminent global oil problem and that enough new oil would come on-line to permit current levels of consumption -- and beyond! -- for more than a hundred years into the future. CERA's stunningly disingenuous report flies in the face of everything that is known about the current world oil situation.

CERA is fronted by Daniel Yergin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil industry, The Prize. Apparently, Yergin has parlayed his legitimacy as an historian into running a disinformation service wholly owned by the IHS Corporation, a lobbying and public relations firm serving the defense, oil, and automotive industries. Apart from making a lot of money as executive vice-president of a company with about $300 million in net annual profits over about $500 million in gross revenues, it is a little hard to discern what Yergin's motives might be in shoveling so much bad information into the public arena.

Much of CERA's "story" hinges on the supposition that snazzy technology will allow the recovery of "oil" (liquid hydrocarbons) from solids that require costly mining and processing operations to covert them to liquids. In effect, CERA says that tar sands, kerogen shales, coal-to-liquids, plus super-deep ocean drilling will not only make up for currently depleting fields of easily-acessed liquid sweet crudes, but actually surpass current total production. This would seem, on the face of it, to violate everything that is known about Energy Returns on Energy Invested (ERoRI). And, in fact, the very companies working the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, have just this year steeply raised their dollar estimates of what it will take to convert that stuff into usable liquids -- it ain't a pretty story.

CERA does not acknowledge some of the fundamental facts of the current situation, for instance that the world's four super-giant fields responsible for at least 15 percent of total global production since 1980 (Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, Burgan in Kuwait, Daqing in China, and Cantarell in Mexico) have all passed peak and turned down into depletion. CERA doesn't acknowledge that discovery of new oil peaked worldwide in the 1960s with more than 40 years of steady decline since then. Or that there has been almost no provable meaningful discovery the past several years (and Chevron's as yet unproved deepwater "Jack" claim of 3 to 15 billion barrels total is not significant in the context of a world that now burns through 30 billion barrels a year.)

CERA doesn't acknowledge that the predicted US peak of 1970 was absolutely on target and that our domestic production of regular crude has fallen from around 10 million-barrels-a-day in 1970 to under 5 m/b/d now (still declining yearly, including the Alaska North Slope fields).

CERA doesn't acknowledge that current total global oil production through 2006 is at least absolutely flat and more likely falling (depending on whose numbers you look at), which would tend to indicate that the world has bumped up against the ceiling of its all-time total capacity. CERA doesn't acknowledge that exports are down nine percent this year because the nations with export capacity have growing populations and economies that require more and more of their own oil.

The CERA story also tragically gives aid and comfort to those who deny that climate change needs to be taken seriously, since it is saying, in essence, that we can easily continue pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- by burning as much coal as we can. The CERA report amounts to "don't worry, be happy."

Perhaps most tragically, there is no corrective for this mendacious PR. It's not against the law to spread lies about a business venture -- which is what the oil industry is -- even if its truthful condition is critical to the functioning of our society. There's no oversight committee or agency authorized to investigate public relations activity. It's a basic case of buyer beware. Unfortunately, the buyers in this case are America's political leaders and the news media responsible for informing the public.

The mainstream media last week swallowed CERA's PR hook, line, and sinker, without a single reflective burp. It even drove the prices on oil futures markets down a few dollars a barrel -- though the price was back up by Friday. The only cogent analysis of the CERA report took place on the Internet, and for the most part on a single site:, which is the best-informed forum of debate on these issues operating in the United States.You can go directly to their initial response, composed by Dave Cohen by clicking on this link.
It's worth taking the trouble to read.

2006: In Review

I’ve been in South Africa just over a year now. What’s it been like to be back in Bloem after 4 years on the other side of the planet?

Well, I remember New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Clarens, and thinking, with some trepidation, about the year ahead. It’s proved to be a good one.
It’s certainly been a few steps up in comparison to last year in Korea. It was not only more colorful and lively, but also filled with plenty of unexpected experiences and adventures.

Things didn’t start off that great, of course. I was staying at home and getting on my dad’s nerves, and things seemed bleak (and unlikely to change). I went on a trip to Lesotho in January, which was an amazing adventure in itself. As a result of that trip, I wrote and published 5 stories in Heartland magazine and found a plumb job for my sister, working on a nature estate. Then there was the Argus in March, a little disappointing in 3:18, but nevertheless by far my quickest time.

And then I went on the cycling tour, from Ficksburg to God’s Window. That was a stunning experience, and while away I received word that Brebner High School wanted to hire me as a teacher. Then followed 6 very, very hard months. In that time I moved into the hostel, continued with university studies, attempted to continue training, coached hockey and most difficult of all, taught extremely badly behaved classes, 30-something energy sapping mobs, about 5 a day. This was a period of profound energy expenditure, and I often didn’t have any time to rest or relax.

One exception was an especially memorable trip to Fauriesmith, with Fransa, where I finished 8th or 9th in a 100km cycling race. A not so good result was in PE, where I rode dismally in a 30km timetrial, and burned packets of moolah in the process. The trip to J-Bay, with the rainbow, made up for it to some extent.

Then I received my marks for the first semester at university (taking 2nd and 3rd year English: I managed a distinction and 2 x 71%. Not bad. I also stepped up a gear with my writing, churning out 2 stories a day for reporter, and working on two more articles for magazines. Early on reporter awarded me with two prizes for best photograph in two separate competitions. Several months later go! and Shape published these stories, and soon after that I was selected to represent reporter at a blogging conference, all expenses paid, at Rhodes University. The trip to Rhodes (where I upgraded my pre-paid contract to a contract, and got a Samsung D900 phone + DVD player), and to Cape Town afterwards, was another enjoyable excursion, despite an episode of vomiting and nearly dying in Rhodes. But I also suddenly found myself out of a job in mid-September: after two terms, Brebner didn’t offer me a third temporary contract. I had intended to try to last one more term, and then possibly throw in the towel.

When they didn’t renew, on the one hand I felt incredibly relieved, as I was burning out at a geometric rate. But on the other hand, it felt like a kick in the face. After all, I’d been determined to tough it out and survive, and I had just begin to figure out the names of my kids.
Subsequently I felt the walls closing in. I felt like I’d been voted off the island. But fortuitously, I found a nice spot to move to conveniently situated in Westdene, my father made the surprise gesture of giving each of us kids R20G, and I immediately landed a plumb job teaching at a Chinese school. Instantly the huge amounts of stress were erased, and significantly, the energy surged back and I was able to train. I did the OFM in October, in 2:56, which is a significant improvement on the Argus, a race almost as long.

My second semester results have also just come out: 67%, 70% and a distinction. I’m pretty happy with these results, especially given the problems I’ve had finding classes, getting sick, and also missing lectures around the time of my visit to Rhodes.

Joining Tokkie Wheelers, training with people like Barendine and Hennie, and with JP, formed a backdrop to much of the second half of the year. In the last few weeks I’ve done a few triathlons, and now almost every weekend, there’s a cycling race to sharpen the muscles even more. I’ve also started swimming at the stadium pool again.

Meanwhile I am contributing stories daily not only to reporter (over 200 stories sent in, of which about 95% have been published, along with plenty of pictures), but also ohmynews. I want to raise my earning there to about R2000 a month. I’m currently at about R1500, with about 50% of stories published. The problem with ohmynews is that they publish only one story a day, and often write back to me asking me to make one or two small modifications, which means one story might take half a week to get published.

So it’s been a very rich year, in various areas, and I feel quite blessed to have come through it so well. Things could have turned out worse, a lot worse.

My relationship with Fransa has taken a lot of strain because I haven’t had a car this year, and for a few other reasons, but we’re still together and today is one of those days that I’m glad we’re still a couple. I believe one of the reasons this year has been so good, is because she’s been supportive for the most part, and her love and kindness have been important inputs this year.
On the family front things aren’t so great, although my sister did start a new job in Mooi River (a dream job really) thanks to me scobing out the place, and my recommendation of the place to my sister, and my sister to the owner. I haven’t seen my father much this year, nor my brother – but at least that’s allowed me to focus on getting my house in order.

I’ve achieved more than I expected to this year, in almost every facet: work, sport, relationships, studies, writing – the whole gamut.
I’m disappointed about the time trial at SA’s, and the 94.7, and some of the stuff going on in between, at Brebner, at university and so on. I’m also disappointed in Heartland, and Justus, since they still owe me R8000, and it’s reasonable to say if I had that money I’d probably have felt slightly more comfortable about having a car by now. Not having a car has been what’s weighed down my enjoyment of this year the most. By far.

So my goals for 2007 (in no particular order):
- Argus under 3hours
- SA Cycling Champs Time Trial (average 40km/h = 45 minutes, faster than Alex and CJ))
- Kimberley to Bloem: 5:15
- OFM 2:35
- 94.7 2:30
- Free State Colors in Triathlon (and to beat both Vic and Benedictus on the day)
- Under 2:15 for standard triathlon (SA Champs)/Under 2:05 in 2008
- Improve Salary (either by teaching privately, working at Quintiles or getting paid more for writing, or photography – including photographing weddings)
- Photo exhibition (by end of March 2007) and 2nd one by end of July 2007.
- Being published in one of the big 5: FHM, Men’s Health, GQ, Sport’s Illustrated or go!
- Finishing: The Sunburnt Soul (by March 2007)
- Buy a Sony Playstation 3 + games
- Buy a Toyota Ay-go (or at least buy a car before end of May 2007).- Buy a mountainbike
- Buy Zipp aerobars
- Join Supersport Gym
- Upgrade Video Card of Desktop to Nvidia
- Draw (tennis, swim + cycle in graphic art)
- Travel to: Swakopmund, Swaziland
- Weigh 75kg by end of March

*** I seem to have gotten to a cracking start (from certain perspective anyway), since I bought a Chrysler Neon today. Quite a good deal, since I got it for a few thousand below its retail value, but it's a bigger, flashier and more expensive car than I had in mind. But like the guy said who sold it to me: "Buying a car is an emotional business."

Survivor South Africa

With Mzi and Vanessa’s return from exile, all bets are off

The toughest challenges on Survivor turn out, often, to be the most simple. Like standing for as long as you can in the hot sun, on a narrow piece of wood, trying to keep your balance. This was the challenge facing the 4 exiled to Dead Man’s Island, and Lezel was the first to fall out, followed by Sport’s Model, Brigitte. That meant Vanessa and Mzi were back in the game.

The element of surprise was a powerful component of the game at this point. While Zane, Jacinda and Gareth were toasting their top 3 positions with coconut milk, they were unaware that the rules of their game were about to change. Shortly after reintegrating, the five survivors faced up to their next challenge: a hard run again a bungee cord, with the greatest distance assuring immunity. Gareth, handing over the immunity necklace, went first, and put in a dismal performance – the worst in fact. Mzi went next, with the best run of the group, Jacinda coming in second. Mzi narrowly beat Jacinda in a final match up, to win vital immunity for himself.

It was here that the tide turned. Power shifted to Mzi, but, in hindsight, it could be argued that more power shifted than was reasonable. With Gareth, Zane and Jacinda on the one side, even without the immunity necklace, the original tribe members of Rana could still have simply voted off Vanessa, and possibly Mzi once again. If that had been the case, it would have made the whole stint on Dead Man’s Island a bit pointless perhaps. But in terms of strategy, it probably would have made sense to try to restore themselves to the original status quo. Certainly, from the point of view of Gareth and his comrades, this must have been the most logical way to go.

Obviously when it became clear that factors beyond their control (namely the producers of the show) were orchestrating new moves against the surviving three, they suddenly reacted in a panicky put-yourself-first fashion. It was premature, perhaps, to say ‘all bets are off’ with 5 survivors on the island (in a ratio of 3 to 2), but it certainly keeps the audience guessing. It was Zane who was the first to buddy-up with Mzi (someone he professed to feel very guilty about voting off). And he very quickly agreed to vote off Jacinda. Meanwhile, Gareth had also been informed of the ruse, and in typical ‘nice guy’ Gareth fashion, he told Jacinda of the ploy and asked her permission. She cunningly gave her permission, but then went to Mzi and Vanessa and convinced them that Gareth’s head was a far greater prize than hers. Mzi and Vanessa accepted the counteroffer, and cleverly kept this change in arrangements from both Zane and Gareth, and when the vote came, Gareth voted for Zane, Zane voted for Jacinda, and everyone else voted for Gareth. Mzi and Vanessa had successfully gotten all three of their previous opponents to turn on each other, and flummoxed at least two of them into trusting them.

Gareth had played a good game up until this point. But what was he thinking: telling Jacinda he was going to vote her off, and then voting Zane off? Probably he’d asked Jacinda to also vote for Zane, but once Gareth’s name came up, Mzi, Vanessa and Jacinda began to smell the money.

In an aside to all this drama, Zane, who had struggled to pull his weight (and he appears now to have lost some), managed to easily win a reward challenge – a beautiful Hyundai Tucson 4X4. His celebration at winning (with the first throw of a hoop, when everyone else had missed), was infectious and also touching. In other Survivors it is often the winner of a big reward (either a car, or an overnight in some comfortable honeymoon suite) that, this late in the game, unlocks hidden resentments. But not this time.

So now it’s evens Stevens. Two members from each tribe, two males and two females, both sexes represented equally in two tribes. I think it’s between Mzi and Jacinda, but the tide seems to have turned, and who knows, Vanessa or Zane might get lucky, or simply outwit or outlast their companions in the upcoming challenges. The next episode is the two hour finale. At this point in the game, anything can happen.

The Sunburnt Soul (Ctd)


A bead of perspiration squeezes through a pore, then joins another, and forms a silver stream down my face.
For an hour I simply sit, contemplating the desert. I can’t remember when last I absorbed so much of the world for such a long period. And, inadvertently, as the vastness is revealed to me, I begin to travel along a vast inner road.
There is a jingle of an icecream bell, the thump of little boys feet on a carpeted passageway as my brother and I gallop to the door. “Ice Scream Man”, we scream. We catch him only a few feet from the driveway. He pulls the lid from the large, Styrofoam box and wisps of icy vapour snake outward. Our small feet are standing on the soft, small rubbery front wheels of the icecream bike. We sink our arms into the icy dark cave, and pull out orange and chocolate wrappers, with small flattened wooden sticks poking out one end.
“How much is this one?”
“What about this one?”
Invariably we buy an icecream with waffle-like wafers on either side, and soft, cool, creamy vanilla on the inside. We dig out a blue two Rand note, with van Riebeeck’s head glancing at us.
We walk back home, our barefeet stinging on the tar, until we step into luxurious shade, my brother and I, our tongues wet with cold white, sweet dollops.

When I blink another bead has formed and snaked down my cheek. I bend over, and feel the wind lick me with its sandpaper heat. A drop of sweat loosens from my face and falls into the dust. It forms a dark spot on the red sand, and then suddenly it’s gone, as though it was never there to begin with.


The moment finally comes when my thumb squeezes the switch, and I pitch these words into space.
‘Delta, this is Echo 1.”
Then: “Roger Echo.”
“What is the situation?”
“Roger Echo. Ahhhh…uhhhh…Echo…there’s ah…uh…yeah, I’m…uh echo, there’s ahhh…”
“Roger Echo, we ahhh…uh…we’re having a…uh… fuel problem.”
“I know that we had an error on one of the gauges. Possibly a grain of sand. Apparently we were bone dry within half an hour after takeoff.”
“So, Delta, we’ll be needing more fuel, over.”
“There’s a fuel problem.”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. How long will it take to get more fuel?”
“Echo, there’s a fuel problem.”
“Roger, can you give me a timeline.”
“Echo, we’re also experiencing a fuel problem here. Everyone is.”
Echo, we’re also experiencing a fuel problem here. Everyone is.
“Please advise. Do you want me to wait here? Over.”
“Sssssssssssh.” For at least a minute: ssssssssshhhhh. Like the sound of a single car on a desert highway, only it never reaches me…
“Please advise over.”
“Er, Echo 1…er….[muffled]….[unintelligible]…”
“Standing by over.”
“Delta, Echo 1 standing by, over.”
But the car never gets any closer.
“Er…Echo 1…ah….uh…Echo 1…”
Then, sharply: “I’ll do it! Ech – Andy! This is Tom van Leewen, the director of Operations at Orapa.”
“Roger, over.” Unusual for Tom to be at the airfield…
“Uh, Andy, we’ve got a bit of a problem here.”
I nod slowly to myself. I’m about to depress the button-
“Something’s happened.”
For some reason, I felt the penny drop right then. It’s not often adults, professionals, behave this way. I knew something had happened to shake the world. I knew it.
“What’s happened?” I ask softly. Then I press the switch and ask again: “What’s happened?”
“Uh, Andy…there’s a fuel problem. Some uh…some uh…oil well in the Middle East…er…a Saudi well was hit. Uhhhhhhh…ksssh…Um…a terrorist got into one of their super reservoirs; its been on CNN, on all the channels for the last few hours. The world’s biggest oil well, Ghawar, has gone.”

A big gaping hole instead of words.

“Yeah. Um…and the Chinese are already reacting to this. There’s been a up of the Gulf. The markets are going crazy. It’s's a meltdown. It’s an absolute meltdown. People everywhere are starting to… huh? Yeah yeah…horde fuel. Uh… So we’re struggling right now to get some to you. They’re uh…yeah in a minute…huh?[muffled voice in the background]… even looting in Maun and Gaberone. Listen Andy, hang on…”
I digest this news for several minutes, and start when the mike erupts again: “We advise you to abandon the ship. Try to get yourself to where food is, or shelter. Things seem to be getting worse by the minute. [Softly in the background: ‘Sir it’s your wife on line one’] Good luck Andy. Krrrrrchf.”
Those words introduced me to the desert of the real. I seem to hear them echoing back at me, through time, and each time they bury themselves deeper into me, like a thorn, or a nail splitting my bone, digging into the wood under my skin. Sometimes I wish I’d never heard them, but of course, how could that change anything?
So there I sat, with the radio steaming in my hand, and my eyes closing – thin flaps of skin with the sun burning through the red capillaries between them and the membranes of my eyes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Year Without A Car

...and why we all need to imagine what it’s like

Take a triathlete, add a propensity for suffering, the capacity to endure, and a governing psychology predicting a never-ending oil famine, and you have the perfect volunteer for this assignment. But bidding your car farewell still means plenty of gnashing of teeth, by Nick van der Leek

Woe betide the world when we suddenly wake up to discover: Ooops. Not enough oil for the world to get to the next station. And the world is some project. There are thousands of cities with black stuff running through their veins (pretty much symbolized by complex grids of glistening tar roads radiating into suburbia.) I mean, just think about the daily demand of just a couple of cities out there with 30 million plus people (like Seoul, Tokyo and Mexico). And everyday those people have to go to work. There’s suburban sprawl everywhere, from Jozi to Jericho, that depends on cars swimming in and out to keep it fed.

Living without a car is a snip if you don’t live in South Africa, or rural Australia, or most of the USA and Canada. I lived in a satellite of Seoul for four years and you know, I didn’t even want a car. London was harder, since taxis are so expensive there and buses just aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the Far East. Living without a car in South Africa is about as fun as chewing on someone else’s toenails. No, not something anyone would cheerfully volunteer for.

So how did I do it? Well, even Bloem, where you can cycle across the diameter of the city in less than an hour, sooner or later, you’re going to need a car. It’s abundantly obvious from the word go that public transport in South Africa is virtually non-existent. Even if you were determined to use it, that might mean waiting an entire afternoon for a single bus. The alternative is the mini-bus taxi. I considered it once, but kept seeing very clear front page articles, titled: Stupid White Guy Left For Dead After Riding In Taxi, or Idiot’s Body Still Missing: Pair of Oakley’s in a field remain the only clue.

It’s not that I’m a sissy. I’ve done a very risky and illegal 5 hour trip at night along the Philippino island of Palawan in a waist-wide pumpboat. A mini-bus taxi, you must understand, presents a death wish of another order.
So, from the beginning, after returning to South Africa, I relied on the charity of dad to solve my transport dilemma. He has five vehicles (3 four by fours). But after only a few days he became less supportive. He is, after all, a widower who is used to having things his way.

One of the difficulties I encountered from the word go was getting to gym. Today (14 November), a consultant from Virgin Active called me to say I need to renew my membership, which goes to show, it’s been exactly a year since my re-integration into South Africa. Because the first thing I did when I returned to SA was take out a new gym membership. And, with Virgin Active on the far end of town, around 8km from home, getting there, especially at night, was proving tricky. It proved too difficult to get regular transport so I wasn’t able to train (in the gym at least) consistently. I think I went 20 times this year, max. Hence:

Living without a car lesson #1: Forget gym, but make every trip count

To be honest, the effort to get around kind’ve makes the idea of gym obsolete. Thus, the future may be a world with no more gyms, fancy that.

After getting on my dad’s nerves eventually, I did what the middle son eventually must do, and got my lazy, good for nothing butt into a job. I taught economics at a high school, and conveniently stayed in the hostel which was across the road from school, close to gym, and best of all: home cooked meals down the hall. Nevertheless, my own stores ran out pretty quickly, and I tended to visit the shops on a daily basis for airtime, the newspaper, and the odd chocolate. It soon became clear that running out of food made the journey home that much more dangerous (imagine a plastic bag loaded with stuff, swinging dangerously and heavily from handlebars). So, when I went out for dinner or coffee with my long suffering girlfriend (who has a car), I’d stock up on groceries on the way back.

Living without a car lesson #2: Prioritize

Fill up with essential groceries whenever possible, and remember to get the sort of stuff active people eat (think fruits, vegetables and pasta, not bottles of wine, biltong and sushi).

Not having a car means the demands on you increase threefold or more. You not only have less time (since getting from a to b is harder), but less energy, and the result is you’re simply less mobile. To get around as much as possible, use your cellphone, know other people’s schedules, try to synergize your schedule, plans or one-off operation with what others around you are doing. Do the most important stuff first, especially banking, bills, and visits to the doctor and dentist?

Living without a car lesson #3: Delegate, network, synergize – but beware of your credit line

Build up your credit (also called the emotional bank account) with friends and family. Help ‘em out moving furniture or mowing the lawn, or washing dishes at a party.
Delegate, network, synergize: these aren’t just pretty words – if you don’t intend to be miserable you’ll need to be very skilled at being in the right place at the right time in terms of yourself and other people. It’s not an exact science, it’s an art, believe me. Know the routes your friends use to commute to work. Know where they have lunch. Know when and where they train. Join in, or tag along and get your errand done. Don’t use up your credit in one go either.

One useful trick that I used was test driving cars for a magazine I did some freelance work for. Technically it’s not a real long term solution, because it’s actually using someone else’s car. I got to test drive an Isuzu double cab, a Toyota Yaris, an Alpha Romeo GT and others – and I have to admit, whenever I got my hands on the latest in automobile technology it was hard not to be seduced by it. Oh the power, the elegance, the ease of it! But what a pity, I’d invariably think, that these wonderful machines run on stuff that we’re eventually going to run out of. Can you honestly enjoy life on the highway, in air conditioned comfort, and using push button power when you know it’s built on a platform that can’t possibly last?

Living without a car lesson #4: Roll with the punches, and expect a few on the nose

Once I found myself in a situation where I woke up one morning, feeling dizzy and weak and unsteady on my feet. I thought it was just a mild case of flu. The rules at work required a doctors certificate if I was absent for more than two days, so I needed to get to a doctor. It was snowing (yes, snowing in Bloem) the day I needed to go to the doctor. Sure, I could walk or cycle to the doctor and risk getting pneumonia on top of what I already had. So I called just about everyone I could call. No one could help, especially since the appointment was midmorning. Family had gone away to the Maluti’s. That was when I realized how helpless I really was. When you really have to depend on someone, and no one can help you when you need help, you know you’re in trouble. I had to postpone the appointment, and when I finally made it he [the doctor] booked me off for the rest of the week, saying I had a serious bacterial infection in my lungs. That week in bed felt like a month.

Living without a car lesson #5: Adapt

What are the options? If you don’t have transport, get the mountain to come to you. Get all the numbers for food delivery, you’ll need them. Just today I found a new place called Ouma’s Kitchen that delivers wholesome meals in Styrofoam containers by bike messenger – for less than R30!
Or, instead of getting fat on takeaways, get yourself a mountain bike and get yourself around on your own steam.

Living without a car lesson #6 Accept that you’ll be less independent

Realize how selfish we are as a society right now, and those we seek to depend upon are just as selfish. Each person is expected to have their own car, own house. That’s new for this era. Think of cavemen. They shared everything, including the cave. Imagine cave people expecting to have their own cave to themselves. It is very hard to become dependent (once you’ve been independent) and it’s also hard for people who are independent (girlfriends, family) to deal with you. You don’t have a car! It just doesn’t fit into their paradigm. Of course, someone who doesn’t want anything from anyone else is also very hard to help.

Living without a car lesson #7 Get used to wishful thinking

I think the future is going to be filled with reminiscing about ‘the good old days’. What’s not so good about now is that things are more important than people, and that our relationships with stuff have taken precedent, in many cases, over our relationships with people. People these days seem to think very little about scrubbing a friendship because of some minor transgression. Why? Because there are so many other diversions to occupy our time. This commitment to materialism is a lifestyle choice that is the rule, never the exception: after all, we spend most of our time working to buy things, then having those things insured, and then keeping these possessions in a thing container (called a house) which also happens to be where we put ourselves and our family. Take it from me, we’ll yearn for now some day, but actually we’re better off with less stuff, and more time one on one with ourselves and each other.

Living without a car lesson #8 Get grateful

The party isn’t over yet, so enjoy it while you can. Enjoy the fact that you can drive to a cycle race for the weekend in a faraway city. Enjoy that you can go for holidays on the beach even if you life in a desert. Enjoy getting takeaway burgers at a drive thru (without getting out the car). Enjoy the fact that you can drive for 10 or 15 minutes to the nearest supermarket, and have access to products from as far away as China, New Zealand and Finland. Enjoy how magically easy it all is, and how incredibly powerful an average individual can be (even though it turns out to be for a very limited blip on the human timeline).

Living without a car lesson #9 Take Deep Breaths

When it’s finally over, when the lights go out and the lines at petrol stations become permanent monuments, whole communities are going to become morbidly depressed and apparently powerless. Reality isn’t going to be pleasant. TV channels will be filled with practical DIY shows, including Planting Your Own Vegetable Garden, and Campfire Stories. Survivor will cut too close to the bone. Irony, in fact, will be a luxury we can no longer afford. Entertainment will wither as more of us find we need to get to work to feed and clothe and equip ourselves based on local resources and piecemeal infrastructure. Learn to handle plenty of extra stress and disappointment, and try to do so by getting busy with urgent projects.

Living without a car lesson #10 Reconnect

The chances are very good that if you're without a car for any length of time either your girlfriend will dump you, or your family will disown you (not literally, just in terms of their behaviour towards you). More than likely, both will happen. With lots more free time, you'll have the option of choosing with whom you'd like to reconnect, and you'll also discover to what extent being in a car disconnects you from the world at your doorstep.

The good news is that our current lifestyles are actually cancer-inducing. Millions a year die of heart attacks. Half of married couples divorce. Reconnecting doesn’t mean turning on your cellphone or sending an email. It means the opposite. Look someone in the eye. Stop the clocks and give someone your time and full attention. More important, give yourself the time of day, and reconnect with who you are. One long walk is the first step in that direction. While some have a governing philosophy of ‘Kill a rhino before it becomes extinct’, I’m inclined to want to buy a Toyota Ay-go, and do a round-the-country-trip before the oil runs out. But I have a conscience, and I know a race is coming that will require preparation.

We will have to reconnect towns to organic systems – that means streams and pastures. Cities, filled with top-heavy infrastructure and inefficiencies like skyscrapers, will evacuate, the principal activity everywhere will become, surprise surprise, agriculture.
I believe we already know this, but some of us are less willing to own up to it than others. To the extent that we can accept the coming reality before it engulfs us, we’ll be able to move safely and happily on our road – wherever it goes.

Car Trouble

Well, I didn't go to Johannesburg to do the 94.7. If I had my own car I definitely would have. My brother wanted to come back one or two days later, and since we were going to split the rental costs halfway, it made sense that I get equal use of the car. When it was clear that wasn't going to be the case, I thought I'd cut my losses. I couldn't come up with the motivation to get in the car and have to endure 800km or more of petty bickering.

Unfortunately, the strategy didn't work all that well because, back in Bloem, I thought I'd make up for the disappointment of missing the 94.7 by going on a small spending spree. I should have known when after 5 minutes in Musica my girlfriend (who drove me there)said she wanted to sit down to rest her feet. Buying her lunch also didn't seem to soften her resolve to make sure she wasn't enjoying herself. And the dinner at Spur on Thursday was all but forgotten. It wasn't as though I was selfishly buying for myself. I visited just two shops and asked her at both if I could get her anything. I even offered to buy her lingerie.

So I'm feeling a bit low because it seems like the people close to me have a habit of insisting on what they want, how and when they want it, wanting it exactly the way they want it. I think I need to find a way to surround myself with people who aren't cloying perfectionists.

First up though I really need to get my own car because, as my father always says: "The only person you can depend on is your self." Unfortunately, that's true, no matter how much people profess to love each other.

The imbedded message in World Interrupted was to say, you know what, we're all connected to each other. So how happy can we really be when we're supposedly comfortable, and someone close to us needs our help, and we don't give it? It doesn't say much for long term harmony. In a world where we're all connected, helping you indirectly helps me.

The reason why I love my sport so much is because it espouses the philosophy so well, of The only person you can depend on is your self. Nevertheless, in cycling, the opposite is true. The more you can depend on the other riders, the more energy you can save, and the stronger you can be, for longer. Covey calls this WIN/WIN. It's amazing being able to depend on yourself (some people can't even do that), and then also be dependable. When that's true, everyone can be very happy, and everyone who races wins.

Unfortunately knowing the path isn't enough. Communicating the path isn't enough either, especially when the person you're communicating with is governed by a paradigm of money (which is 'I win/you lose' or the perfectionist's diehard mantra: 'I am right'. The only way to walk the path, it seems to me, is when you've been enlightened by enough experience, that proves win/win living really works. And when you're with someone who knows this, there's no argument, no communication even: you simply get on with the job of working together, like cyclists in an echelon - a machine of smooth efficiency that is 1000 better than one cyclist struggling alone against the wind, flying a flag of righteousness at a few roadside beetles.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

World Interrupted

The World Is Not Enough Without You In It

You have to believe when you close your eyes, that the world is still there. When you sink into the sheets, when the world sinks and swims in its half Earth darkness, the sun rises like a hundred yellow balloons over a hundred thousand cities and gardens and fields. People you’ll never know, people you’ll never even see, plants, pets, birds, roads and mountains – will do their thing without your even being there. Stadiums will erupt, whether the spectacle is swimming or badminton or dog races. Without your even being there, all this is happening. And yet, you are there, an unconscious rhythm, a sleeping computer connected to the planet even if it may not seem so. Because inside a computer are all sorts of files that aren’t running. Because they aren’t running doesn’t mean they can’t run. They don’t run because they don’t want truth, or the truth hasn’t asked them to be what they were born to be. But you’ve made up your own truth.

And when you wake up, what is the world to you? Is it a place where we can have breakfast, get into the car and go to work? Is it a place where we can read in the newspaper about stupid world leaders, or a rich musician getting a divorce? Is that the world? That’s a very small world, a single piece of pepperoni on the pizza of the world.

In one day, there is Africa, and its problems. There’s Antarctica crunching and thawing under the sun. There’s the whole lumbering yard of South America, with its fires and the steam of the Amazon. There’s Mexico and giant, scintillating cities like Dallas, and Phoneix, and Vegas, and New York. There are the lakes, the vast Alaskan Wilderness, and so much sea surrounding it all. And above the sea is this faint black curtain that seems to be everywhere. Towards China and Taiwan it becomes darker and dirtier. Over the vast archipelagos of the Philippines and Indonesia, where chickens kick each other to death, and parrot and clown fish dance in the shallows, and turtles flap their way through the coral – this same veil drifts, as if in search of a bride.

In the Pacific some storms wagon-wheel their way between Australia and Korea, turning waves to froth. Meanwhile the jungle from Borneo to Bermuda wilts, and the ocean floor quakes and rumbles. Sand becomes too hot to walk on. Nuts burn in their shields.

And when you get up this morning, you take the world – your world – at face value. There’s a lot more. But you simply eat something, and get in your car, and add a few more puffs of thin black smoke to the worldwide curtain.

One day will be cool, the next blisteringly hot. One season will be dry, the next the heads of wheat will drown. Insects will build cities in our homes, and we’ll wipe them out again and again, but they’ll keep coming back, sometimes bearing diseases, sometimes finding their ways into our cupboards and our beds.

The leaders we call stupid know something that we don’t. We’d do what they were doing too, and probably lie about the reasons just as they do, because it is no good spreading a panic, even worse being unpopular messengers, and even worse to be voted out of power.

Your memories are who you are. Do you remember when you were a child? And your imagination, do you still use it? Do you play, do you still dream for a long moment, and find yourself strung out in daydreams? You see, under the stars is plenty of life, for a whole day, and then the gift of another whole day. And while the sun beats down, the wind whispers in your ear: ‘Do you believe the world is still here?’ That you’re still here in it?


See the world for what it really is, and find your place in it. Because the organism of the world is incomplete without you alive, living your life, in it. And when you hold your life in your hands, and you see the whole world, how can you stand there and do so little? How can you be so small when you have imagined so much?