Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fair to Midlands

Rode to Natal in torrential rain on almost deserted roads. Plenty of frog dodging. Lunch in Clarens (I had Canadian Salmon).

Had a fantastic Christmas lunch - a three course meal - with some interesting and fun Christmassy games. At the table was an ex-Air Force Colonel, a Mrs. Dunning, who was one of South Africa's first female pilots. Her sons are all pilots who train Saudi pilots in that country's air force. It reminded me that I was 1 of 2 kids selected when I was in the Air Force to be trained to be a pilot and given a house. Also had to sign a 7 year contract (after just completing a 12 year contract called School). So turned it down. Mistake?

Before we left Pine Lodge we watched the stars. Saw some satelites swimming through the star pricked sky. There are so many stars in just our galaxy that they resemble a milky white swathe of misty light. Amazing.

The sun is out so will probably go tubing down the Mooi river and for a horseride at one point. Intend to go to the beach before heading back to the Free State highveld. Am getting fat, but the motivation to train is also intensifying by the hour.

Will stay away from a computer for at least 3 more days!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pants Falling Down

I must be getting into shape because my pants seem to be sliding down my bum all the time.
I had a good session today in the pool with Mark.

Swim: 0:52
Distance: 2.5km
2x500m (250’s in 3:40)
4x 250m (Best 250m = 3:27 & 3:28)
5 x 50m (Best 50m = 1:17)

Received the vehicle registration papers today from Adrian, and finalized the insurance so at least that’s done. Taking the car in for a lubrication service now.

Will meet Adrian and camp over in Golden Gate before driving on to see Candice near Champagne Castle.

Pool party tonight.

Crime Watch

Be very, very vigilant because the authorities aren’t

I had a funny thought recently. I thought: Well, you know crime is really bad when celebrities are murdered and robbed, because then it really means it’s an epidemic. It’s everywhere if even famous people are everyday victims of crime. Well, guess what?

Here’s a list* (just a short one) of celebrities or simply well known people that have been either murdered or burgled this year:
1) Taliep Petersen (murdered)
2) Judge Bernard Ngoepe and his 4 year old daughter smothered under a bed while the domestic worker was raped, then robbed (murder, rape and robbery)
3) Brett Goldin (actor – Straight outta Benoni) and Richard Bloom (Production manager of Craig Port clothing) both found with bullets shot point blank into the back of their heads (murder)
4) Kurt Darren (burgled by 4 armed robbers)
5) Soli Philander’s mother (brutally attacked and murdered)
6) Megan Herselman (journalist) was on her way from Johannesburg International Airport to a guesthouse (killed in a rain of bullets)
7) Ryk Neethling (robbed twice)
8) Naledi Pandor (Minister of Education) had two laptops stolen amongst other items (burglary)
9) Ngconde Balfour (Minister of Correctional Services) had a trophy stolen that was awarded to him for his work in correctional services – additional security might be a good idea Mr Minister! (robbery)
10) Nadine Gordimer was locked in a store room while burglars stole jewellery and cash (burglary)
11) Last and worst, Nonceba Mzondo, the daughter of a popular jazz musician McCoy Mrubata was beaten to death and her eyes cut out (murder)

I’ve said it before: there is a culture of dishonesty in this country. Perhaps, to truly reflect the level of dishonesty, we should say: there’s a culture of extreme criminality amongst South Africans. It may not be fair to suggest that the average South African is a criminal, but certainly a substantial fraction is.

Swimming pool

Here’s an everyday example of just how prevalent this attitude to criminality is. I went to do some swimming training at the local public pool, and purposely went when most of the public have left (that is, just before closing time).
My swimming partner and I purposefully put our bags about 10 steps up on the stadium’s seats, explicitly so that anyone walking by would have to walk up a few steps to reach the bags.
I told my swimming buddy Mark to try to keep an eye on our bags while swimming. We started off with two sets of 500m each, and before we’d finished the first set (in other words, after about 5 minutes) I noticed a young boy standing halfway up the stadium’s steps, apparently staring into space. I stopped where I was in the water, and stood watching. The boy stood around aimlessly, and after about two minutes, walked slowly away and then abandoned the stadium completely.

Then we started our second set, and I was halfway into it when a young boy approached our bags directly. Once again I stopped, saw him glance back (he was right beside our things, less than a foot away from Mark’s bag, and there were no other bags in the stadium seats), and then saw him walk an elaborate arc up the steps (apparently to nowhere), then right and then exiting the stadium seating completely.

I went on with my set but within about 4 lengths Mark had stopped and then I stopped too. This time there were two, a little girl walking right beside our bags (about two metres above ground level), and another boy, older, on lookout, perched above her, who was looking straight at us. Both Mark and I stopped, and while we stared at them, they glanced from us into space, and then occasionally back to us. It was obvious that they didn’t have any proper purpose to be doing what they were doing, because when we watched them they suddenly seemed to not know what to do, where to look, or where to walk to. After two or three minutes both gradually exited the stadium. When we finished our set I said to Mark (who has just returned from Scotland to spend Christmas with his parents): “So you see just how quickly the people here try to steal your stuff. It’s almost instantaneous. Leave your stuff somewhere and immediately they’re trying to take it.”

Also disturbing is that all of these ‘perpetrators’ were young children, probably no older than 15 years old. Mark commented that one of the kids he’d been eyeballing gave him the thumbs-up signal as he walked past and left the pool. Mark said: “Does he think I don’t know what he was trying to do?”

The lesson to learn is that being very very vigilant is the answer.

Farm murders

18 farmers have been murdered in the region during the last year, 4 in the last 2 months. On a daily basis the local paper reports an old woman or old man being shot in the head in their homes. Typically these pensioners are in big houses by themselves.

2010 hanging in the balance

I don’t really see any sign that the crime fever is going to go away any time soon. I don’t get any sense of police fever. I never see the police, so I wonder where they are and what they are doing. The figureheads certainly talk the talk. Recently a Belgian man attending a swimming gala in Durban was attacked by a gang of youths, and had to watch how his fiancé was raped by a group of these youngsters while he was held at knifepoint. She was raped on Durban’s promenade, and he said he could see, right behind them, guests standing on the balcony of the hotel he was staying in. He also said that he didn’t see any sign of the police and the fact that that rape happened in the open and that no one did anything was particularly disturbing.

Local authorities said that tourists should have known not to be out late at night, but it’s obvious that if tourists visit the country in 2010, are they to be expected to remain indoors after dark? Meanwhile two questions must be asked:

1) Are there elements in authority who should be prosecuting and catching criminals but instead they’re profiting (aka taking bribes) from the lawless in this country?
2) Should more local communities take the law in their own hands?

*Stats from ‘Bekendes vanjaar slagoffers’ by Malani Venter, Volksblad, 20 Dec 06, p7

Religion is as catchy as flu

Human psychology is demonstrably susceptible to religion

I’ve had a few conversations over the last few days on the forbidden subject of Religion, and I have to say, I don’t enjoy the topic at all. I constantly feel I am getting sucked into diseased or contagious thinking, and even when you offer a cogent statement you get a response that is frankly – well, it stops the conversation cold.

But I understand how powerful beliefs are because I held certain beliefs (of faith) very strongly at one time, and regurgitated my responses without having the presence of mind (please note the meaning of those words: presence of mind) to reflect on whether these really were my conscious thoughts. And do you know what: we wouldn’t believe in our beliefs if they weren’t so easy to believe. Sometimes what we believe makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t, but the point is, the belif itself is sticky and efficient, and it works for us in some way. Unfortunately, believing something doesn’t make it true. Belief isn’t a prerequisite for reality, but consciousness is. Being conscious is not in the same boat as having a belief, in fact it’s fair to suggest that beliefs prevent us from accessing the obvious reality in the present moment. Why, because our present paradigm has been overthrown by overarching programming.

How does this happen?
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – Arthur C. Clarke.

If you sometimes wonder how God came into being, it’s really quite simple. When a primitive culture encounters a more advanced culture (and not necessarily of a different species), engendering godlike status is a natural, if illogical reaction.

It’s important to remember that the pattern for cargo cults doesn’t vary. There’s a single blueprint. If you’d like to verify for yourself (something one should always do), refer to David Attenborough’s book Quest in Paradise.

Cargo cults have been around for as long as 200 years, and as recently as 30 years ago. Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion writes: “It seems that in every case the islanders were bowled over by the wondrous possessions of the white immigrants [coming] to their islands, including administrators, soldiers and missionaries.”
Remember that the primitive people who encountered white sailors noticed they never seemed to make anything. If something was needed these ‘gods’ went away and came back with exactly what they needed. Obviously, if you have an ‘island’ psychology, meaning if your world and perception of the world (and the universe) is confined to your and a few neighboring islands, then it simply doesn’t occur to you that these boats are sailing unimaginably long distances into a completely different environment, with vast cities, where sophisticated cultures and economies have developed. So the natives viewed the cargo as supernatural. After all, the gods seemed to spend all their time in rituals, and none in conventional practice (such as hunting, fishing, or planting crops). Dawkins suggests that shuffling papers behind a desk, to a primitive, might appear to be ‘a kind of religious devotion’.

So the primitives put together an idea how to procure ‘cargo’. Now bear in mind that for them, cargo is a source of magic. Cargo is not merely treasure, it is life enhancing, life transforming. So how do you ‘get’ cargo? What rituals need to be performed? Dawkins writes: ‘Build masts with wires… listen to small boxes that glow with light and emit noises…persuade the locals to dress up in identical clothes and march around…’

These rituals that seem at first to be incomprehensible, later make perfect sense. They’re intended ‘to persuade the gods to send cargo.’ Richard Dawkins explores this interesting aberration in human beings from page 202 of his book. He notes that several cargo cults sprang up during the same period all over the world. David Attenborough indicates cults springing up in New Caledonia, Fiji, the Solomon islands, the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and ‘over fifty [cults] in New Guinea’.
Attenborough writes: ‘The majority of these religions claim that one particular messiah will bring the cargo when the day of apocalypse arrives.’

Dawkins ponders whether so many similar cults indicate ‘unifying features of human psychology’. The legend of John Frum is a fascinating example. Whether or not Frum existed as a real man is not known for certain, but in Vanuatu he was treated as a savior, as a figure of messianic significance. Dawkins points out that although this cult is a fairly recent one (dating back to 1940), and although official government records show some (inconclusive) evidence that he existed, it is by no means certain that he did.

The legend goes that a small white haired man with a bird-like voice would come again, wearing a shiny coat glittering with buttons. Frum was something of a revolutionary, prophesying and turning the locals against the visiting missionaries. According to the cult, Frum went to his ancestors (which must mean he was killed), but promised to return, and his return would bring abundance to the people (in the form of cargo). Frum’s prophesies were about cataclysms and natural disasters, his return would heal the sick, and bring youth to the old and infirm. Everyone would have as much cargo as they wanted. Interestingly, Frum also prophesied that on his return he’d bring a new currency, coins with coconuts on them, which led to the local inhabitants spending all their money in 1941. Despite serious damage to the local economy, and numerous arrests, the cult continued.

Then, a few years later, the local religious leaders promoted a new version of the Frum cult, informing the locals that Frum was the King of America, and would arrive out of the sky in an aeroplane. In order to lure him to land, the locals cleared forest and built dummy aeroplanes on the new airstrip. The airstrip even had a dummy tower and dummy air-traffic controllers (made of wood).

In the 1950’s Attenborough visited Vanuatu (specifically an island called Tanna), taking a cameraman with him. After finding evidence of the Frum religion, they finally found the high priest, a man called Nambas. The priest referred to Frum as ‘John’ and claimed to communicate constantly with him by ‘radio’. His exact words: ‘Radio belong John’.
The radio turned out to be a woman with a wire around her waist who would supposedly act as a conduit, and the priest was able to decipher her twaddle. Nambas also claimed to know in advance that Attenborough was coming, since John had told him.

Attenborough asked what Frum looked like.
Nambas: ‘’E look like you. ’E got white face. ‘E tall man…’
Apparently the legend continues to change and evolve, but one thing is certain. He will return on February 15 (though of course the exact year is unknown.) When Attenborough observed a ceremony to welcome John Frum on February the 15th, he asked one of the devotees, a fellow called Sam: ‘Isn’t 19 years a long time to wait?’ (It had been 19 years since the ‘real’ Frum had ‘promised’ to return with bountiful cargo.
Sam replied: ‘If you can wait 2000 years for Jesus Christ to come an ‘e no come, then I can wait more than 19 years for John.’

In 1974 Prince Philip visited these selfsame islands, and immediately became deified. Dawkins makes the excellent point that the details of a religion can change very quickly, and spring up suddenly, out of nothing.

Dawkins provides 4 lessons from the above scenario, which are worth considering:
1) Speed beliefs come into existence
2) Speed at which the origination process covers its tracks
3) Human psychology is demonstrably susceptible to religion
4) Cargo cults are strikingly similar to other religions

Dawkins also points out that in the modern era, charismatic celebrities like Princess Diana, Mother Theresa and Elvis Presley have all but been deified as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cool by the Pool

Image courtesy topleftpixel.com

According to my horrorscope for this month, I have a whole long list of things to do, obstacles to negotiate and I'm urged to just 'keep moving'. Well, I am, but so far no light at the end of the tunnel. Keep moving right?

My car alone has prompted a lot of drama and expense. I'm also caught in a small dilemma: stay home during these most important holidays (in terms of having fun and replenishing the spirit) to save money (after a very good, hard, tough year), or incur extra debt but return totally refreshed? For me it's not an easy choice. Still making up my mind.

Meanwhile after yesterday's cycle I had a nice lunch with my father (which included cold meats and Bar One icecream), and later went swimming with Mark. I only did 1.5km, but managed a 250m in 3:38 which isn't too shabby. Need to get that time under 3:30 now.

A Pool Party is scheduled for tomorrow night. Everyone is required to bring something that is inflatable. Guess I'll take my core exercise ball.

My car is going in for a lubrication service tomorrow, but I still have to finalise insurance, find someone to water my plants, have more money sent over from Korea, have my left hamstring seen to, maintain fitness and lose weight...and enjoy all of this before hard work starts again on January 2.

One more thing: today is December 20th, which means it's just more than a month before my birthday, but, perhaps more important, the next triathlon is the day after my birthday, on January 20th. Aiming to drink no fizzy cooldrinks and eat no chips for the next 30 days. Burp.

Email from the author of 'The Climb'

To: Nick van der Leek

Fr: Weston DeWalt

Never fails. Around this time of year I begin to think back on the days I was traveling with Anatoli just prior to his departure for Nepal and his attempted ascent of Annapurna. He was very much present in those days, buoyed by the reception THE CLIMB was getting and the news that the American Alpine Club would be honoring him during their forthcoming annual meeting.

This afternoon, in a break from some ongoing research, I took a dive into the Internet to look again at some of the things that have been said about Anatoli. I wandered across your Blog and your description of the Krakauer-Boukreev controversy. It is the clearest exposition of the debate that I have ever seen. Thanks for remembering a consummate climber and one of the finest men whose company I have ever had the opportunity to share.

Best wishes for the Holidays and the New Year


Weston DeWalt
Research l Investigations l Analysis
Pasadena, California USA
Office: 1-626-799-2580

Tuesday, December 19, 2006



At the end of today's cycle I came across a burst water mains right in the middle of the road as you come into Klerck Avenue (the street where I grew up). The geyser was about 20 metres high. Rushed home to get my camera but when I got back they'd closed off the water. Would have been nice to have a shower with some other people in the neighborhood. It's sort of thing you see in commercials.

Meanwhile, my leg handled the ride, but still felt sensitive. We're talking about arranging a trip to J-Bay and cycling the nicest pieces. Still in the works go. Might go after Christmas or something.

Yesterday I saw Mark Collie at the Stadium pool, and hung out with the New Zealand neighbours. Did a few jumps off the high diving board. Came back at 6pm to swim 2km. Also saw Adrian, had my car registered and tested for roadworthiness, and then dropped Adrian off at his place. Told me some hectic stuff about Celeste, his wife (who used to be a supermodel. She won the same modelling competitions as Charlize Theron).

Going to swim again today at about 6pm.

Am a bit frustrated with Ohmynews as I've posted about 4 good stories and they've only published the last one. I guess I'm going to have to resubmit each one, one at a time. Would like to draw more Ohmynews cash today but looks like I'll have to wait till Thursday or Friday (they have a minimum you can transfer, which is a few hundred rands).

It's incredibly hot today, and yesterday was too. Check this out:

2006 is one of the warmest on record
by Nick van der Leek

It’s interesting when you talk about climate change. There are still some people who appear to be listening attentively to a serious conversation on the subject and then respond: “You really think it’s happening?”
The year 2006 (that’s this year, to be clear) is the sixth warmest year since records began in 1861.* The British Hadley Climate Centre and the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) recently issued a joint statement on climate change. The warmest years since reliable records were kept were 1998 and 2005. In fact the 10 warmest years during the last 150 years were in the last 12 years. Average surface temperatures this year increased almost 0.5 degrees Celsius when compared to the period 1961-1990. In the Northern hemisphere this figure is closer to 0.6 degrees.

The World Meteorological Organization reports severe droughts and floods worldwide, as well as very austere winters in Asia and Eastern Europe. America has just experienced the warmest January to September (since records began), and Australia has registered the highest temperatures, in a series of stinging heat waves, since records began. Heat waves have been the pattern all over the world, from the USA to Europe. Many European nations reported the warmest autumn since records began in those countries. Large parts of Africa remain in the grip of serious drought (Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia etc). Many of these same countries experienced floods during their rainy seasons.

According to the WMO, 1976 proved to be a turning point. Temperatures increased three times quicker than in the first three quarters of the same century. Most computer aided climate models predict a catastrophic change in climate after the 2050 tipping point (if current emission trends continue). It’s at this point that methane hydrate deposits (which are superstores of CO2) which have been locked into the Earth’s crust by forces of either extreme pressure or cold will be released.

People have received plenty of warnings about climate change over the last few years, but in almost every instance, these warnings are answered by counterarguments, which basically mix-up the signal. As a result, many people are confused and doubtful as to how serious climate change is, and whether it is imminent. Here are the answers:

Predictions are that the Arctic will be entirely free of ice for parts of the year in the next 20 years. Significant sheets of ice have already melted and disappeared. We know this. The consequences of having more energy transferred to the atmosphere (in terms of more moisture, more warm, unstable energy) is simply that weather becomes more chaotic and less constant. This means more extreme weather events, fewer definable patterns and general instability. You might say: what’s wrong with an extra storm here and there? Well, here’s the problem. On a local scale small fluctuations can signal crop failures, and crop failures on a worldwide scale simply mean food shortages on a massive scale, inducing increasingly expensive food prices, then ever expanding famine.

On the second point, is climate change imminent? I’m sorry but I have to be blunt here. This is a stupid question. The climate is not only changing, it is changing at an accelerated rate, which by implications means that of course, it’s happening now. Where I am in South Africa I am seeing plants that I bought from a local nursery (that are supposed to love sun) having their uppermost leaves burnt dry by the fierce fire of the sun. We’re finding here, in South Africa, that we’re getting a month’s rainfall in one day, or missing it altogether. Other areas have seen the worst flooding ever. It’s likely that this is going to get worse.

Climate change doesn’t only mean rising sea levels. Long before that happens the carbon sync – the great Amazon rainforest – will eventually reach the point where the temperatures are just too hot to be fit for a forest, and so it’ll transform into savannah. The carbon sync absorbs at least half of the world’s CO2 emissions, and if the forests die because of a dry season just a few weeks too long, then the forests are vulnerable to fires, and are then instantly transformed into a giant carbon emitter.
This also represents a TPE (Tipping Point Event).

In only a few years, people will look back at how this society was distracted and entertained by current trends in consumption and excess. There will be reminiscences filled with bitterness and regret simply because people will remember they were exposed to countless warnings, but chose to doubt them, chose to listen to those who were in a position to influence people so they could continue to make more profits out of plundering the planet. Personally I think our prospects are pretty poor. Might we see GM and Daimler Chrysler and Toyota building giant atmosphere processors, atmosphere coolers, in the years to come? We human beings have been naughty children, ignoring our mother’s calls (Mother Nature), and those entreaties to curb our enthusiasm are about to manifest into a more retributive reality.

*Based on findings published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Monday, December 18, 2006



On Saturday I somehow got my corpse out of bed and onto the road with Hennie at around 7am. The previous night we had a nice dinner at the Mexican (pretty expensive, but nice atmosphere), and some people had too much to drink. I also, earlier in the day (Friday) celebrated the end of the year’s work by putting on a set of tyres. Good Year, what else?
And by going for a drink at the Dros. When I came back, I drove the Chrystler, which had been sandwiched between a pole and a tree outside the High-Q premises,


over a small pavement cliff, scrunching the undercarriage. The extra Amarula I had to drink hadn’t helped my perceptions, but I’m not sure if I would have seen the piece of pavement sticking out of the pavement like a knife. No sure that I did any irrevocable harm to the car, but the next day, did some harm to me.

Yes, I went running with Hennie, and in my sleepy state I’d forgotten that I’d actually torn my muscle a little running uphill sets hard (on Wednesday). Then we started to climb and I felt the muscle start to whine and strain. Then, just before the Administrator’s House (at the top of Happy Valley) and muscle ripped. Imagine a piano wire being plucked. OW! I actually blurted out a small shout of pain but Hennie didn’t hear me. I ran slowly up the last section, hoping the pain would subside. It didn’t really. I should really have turned round then and walk home but didn’t want to let Hennie down, and anyway, I wanted to be out running. It wasn’t very bright to then run up Naval Hill. The muscle had already been hurt and in the last and steepest section it pulled AGAIN! I tried to walk or run it out but each step was painful, if not more painful than the last.

On the hill we saw giraffe, a few antelope, and after Hennie left to fetch the car, I saw a biggish tortoise crossing the road. Hennie arrived in his car (after running back to my place) just past the grid.

Later in the day I went to have my car washed near Pretty Gardens. The neighbours that have just moved in were there. So I joined them for some ice tea and had a really interesting chat. Danica is 14, Tristan is 12, and their mum is 40-something, and quite an artistic woman. After chatting for ages I bought another creeper and some soil, and then went to fetch the car. Had a braai in the evening, but felt down about hurting my hamstring on the first training day.

On Sunday though I took Tristan to the Stadium pool and got in a nice 2.75km swim (despite having to make my way in the water around a drunk). Avril Lavigne was there too, or at least, some who looked a lot like her. Bought Tris and myself KFC burgers before coming home and watching the last of the Smallville series.

Need to get my car registered and insured now. I know: what have I been doing!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Swimming Highlights

road running
Today is predicted to reach 35 degrees C. The sky is already bulking up with cumulous and dust.

Going to put 4 Dunlop tyres on my car. Have been struggling to get insurance. The insurance companies are very iffy now, now that it is the season for burglaries and car accidents. How considerate of them (to drag their feet).

Speaking of which, I threw at least two students in the pool today, one of them I discovered, to my hororr couldn't swim (she almost drowned for about 10 seconds)and two more got thrown in by their classmates. Had quite a fun last day, enjoyed a good chat. Harry gave me a red Chinese thingy to hang somewhere.

Rested yesterday, but the day before, Wednesday, I got in an excellent 2km swim (in 40 minutes.

Going to focus on training and getting into the right head and spiritual space this holiday. This has actually been an excellent year, with some downs but plenty more ups. I'm really happy how things have turned out. From amodest start I've managed to grow in every area. Here are some of the highlights:

- 6 months of teaching Economics at Brebner High School (strictly speaking I am not a qualified teacher, but I do have third year Economics)
- won my first cycling race
- did the Ofm in under 3 hours (despite terrible tactics)
- Interviewed and photographed Jean Marie Neethling
- Published two stories in go! and Shape magazines, and have a few possibilities taking shape right now
- Have published over 260 stories on reporter.co.za, and of a total of 93 stories sent to Ohmynews, more than half have been published or podcasted (with much better remuneration than reporter)
- I've won two photographic contests on reporter
- was selected to represent citizen journalism this year at the Blogging Conference at Rhodes
- I bought an awesome new car for an excellent price
- I moved into my own place, furnished it myself, bought plants and effectively set down some roots
- got a distinction in one of my university subjects, and completed English up to third year level (meaning I can do Honors when I choose to)
- also made plenty of new friends, especially in the cycling field
- found a running squad to train with
- have just achieved a strong degree of clarity about myself, what I believe, and what I feel is my purpose in life
- am also happy about my career prospects, and overall potential to grow


I've worked very hard this year, especially at my writing. Next year plan to write more selectively, more for magazines, less volume (citizen journalism stuff). I also plan to kick up my performance in sport by a few gears. I am to be back, leaner and meaner than I have been for years, in 2007. Ironman I'd like to do again, probably in 2008 with Hennie and Barendine. I'd like to go under 3 hours in the 2007 Argus. I'd also like to be published in at least 5 magazines next year. I'm going to continue with photography, and travel to somewhere beyond South Africa. Bali, or Bolivia or something.

Happy New year everyone, and have a good Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Good Neighbours

I went to add electricity next door late yesterday, and somehow set off the alarms of the house next door. A neighbour peeped over the wall and caught me red handed.
"Just putting in the code to top up my electricity," I explained.
She invited me in to her place and offered me some fruit juice. Her son Tristan was playing Grand Tourismo on Playstation, and her daughter was doing some gardening (wearing yellow clothes to keep her hands clean).

Turns out the family have been living in Christchurch for the past 17 years or so. And now the lady is an art lecturer at the Free State university.

They had some interesting stories to share. Will share them here when I have a chance.

Hope it rains today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Forever setting goals and making plans is an excuse for trying to wiggle out of dealing with, or even enjoying the humdrum of every day life. But that's where we are, and what we have. We're in the here and now, so instead of always wanting what we haven't got, or wanting to be where we aren't, we really ought to find ways to make the present for us. I know I need to work on success in this area.

Hurt my left leg's hamstring yesterday during hill sessions. Not badly, but felt a twinge and then felt slight pain at a certain point on each stride. Had a nice swim, only 1km, just before the run.

Today is boiling hot. Going to lie low, then swim, and then either run or cycle after, depending on how the muscle feels.

Got agitated at the school. Kids are so lazy now they virtually don't do anything. Which makes my day long and boring, and the uppermost paragraph very relevant. Two days to holidays. Can't help counting down, but will try to make the best of these last two days.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Washday Blues

That story I wrote on insects not being able to fly straight has now hit over 3000 readers, and was voted the top story on the site. That's a first for me.

The place behind me was burgled last week, which has me somewhat on edge. Apparently it was completely cleaned out: TV, beds, furniture, everything. That means a truck must pull into the driveway and these guys must just go for it.

I had a good training weekend, with two 60km cycles, mostly on the small chainring,

and easy, and a good run with Hennie and Barendine up and around Naval Hill, early on Saturday morning. After some warm days, the cooker has been turned back on. I am sweating here in my shirt.

Turned down an invitation from Ruth to have dinner with my father and brother. Was somehow tied up to a request to housesit her place while they have Christmas together with my sister. Quite weird. Needless to say, the house that needs to be sat in the most is mine, especially after the security scare last week. Need Andrew to install additional burglar bars, a driveway cover and I probably need to think about getting an alarm system set up.

I've also posted about 10 stories on reporter.co.za, so am going to give writing (for them anyway) a break. Ohmynews is going well, and will be able to transfer cash again by the end of the week. I need it too: new tyres, insurance, servicing the car, Christmas presents and so on.

Having Maria clean and tidy my place today. Will swim and run this afternoon. Am starting to feel stronger and faster again, and want to be really strong by January 20.

Crime Foil
Practical ways to keep criminals at bay

I’ve just heard that my next door neighbors have been burgled. Not from them, but by the new tenants, a young mother and her two children who’ve just moved in. She tells me that the burglars simply used a metal bar to pry open the security gate. She also tells me that the burglars made a clean sweep. They took the television, beds, furniture, everything. Now I believe the place I am staying in was also burgled previously. The rear entrance where the burglars got in has since been walled up and security has been tightened. So the question we ask ourselves is : how can we live safely in this country?

Actually, there’s quite a lot you can do. Start by having a look at this shortlist:

- Play the devil’s advocate. Think like a would-be burglar. Where would you try to get in? Now beef up the security in those areas.
- Develop a strategy. Let’s say there is a break in, do you have a strategy to deal with it say if you’re still on the premises? For example, do you know who you are going to call? And have a strategy for coping with a break in when you’re away. An alarm system, a neighbor (make sure you have their phone numbers, and a few others besides).
- Know you are being watched, and keep a lookout. Pay attention to the people you see hanging around. Yes, they may seem innocent, but they’re paying careful attention to when you’re home, and when you’re not. Pay attention to them, make eye contact. Make sure they see that you’ve got your eye on them. Sometimes when you drive away from home, go around the block and drive by your home again slowly, taking in whoever is standing around. Make sure they see you looking around. If you see someone particularly suspicious, speak to them directly. Simply say, “Hi, are you waiting for something?” Or: “Can I help you with something; you seem to be looking at me?”

There are more general stratagems which are also very effective. Go over and meet your neighbors. Speak to them. Find out what their experience is. Often other people have very valuable personal experiences, and it’s easy to find out what the trends are in your area. Bear in mind that criminals are already doing this. They scobe a neighborhood and then discuss their options. They’ve also tested what works, what’s effective and what’s not. Make sure you’re not sending out a signal saying: “Burgle me.”

Also, don’t allow people to approach your front door on a daily basis. Have them wait at a gate, or tell them not to come back. Be especially careful with workers (painters, electricians etc) who have access to your home. Supervise this access. Make sure you’re watching every move. Make sure they do their work quickly and then get out. Be civil, as rudeness may encourage retribution. Give, as far as possible, but with the understanding that it is a ‘once off’. Don’t hire people to mow your lawn or do your washing off the street. Make sure, if you have someone working in your house, that they are trustworthy. This can’t be overstated: how do you know your maid or gardener isn’t informing his friends where you are and for how long you’re likely to be away?

One thing you might want to pay attention to, believe it or not, is litter. I read a report recently stating that criminals recon a neighborhood, assess it, then leave colored pieces of litter on the pavement, driveway or gutter. It seems like an innocent scrap of garbage, but the color communicates an important message (I wrote an article on this topic which so far has not been published). Anyway, I have noticed a consistent stream of red colored scraps being placed right in front of my property. When I remove it, there’s a new flyer, or can of coke, or MacDonald’s container to replace it. I wish I had a CCTV camera so I could see who is placing these color coded objects. Red, incidentally, means ‘expect resistance’. In one sense that’s good news. I’m guessing a burglar would prefer to break in to a green coded place, where the message is: all clear. Of course, if they do decide to break into my place, they’ll probably come with weapons.

My advice isn’t to have weapons in the home. The death rate in countries where owning a weapon is legal (like the USA and here) is simply staggering. Very often weapons are stolen by criminals, or used in the heat of the moment or accidentally – causing untold tragedy. Have a system in place so that if your inner sanctum is breached, you can instantly communicate ‘help’ to someone who can help.
Be careful hiring a security company. Make sure other people have good things to say about the security company you have in mind. I’ve seen security companies abuse their free access (using codes) to townhouse complexes, so that either they sell the information, or become the perpetrators themselves.

Employ devices that simulate human activity. There are a few, including plugs that are designed to activate on a timer (which can be used to switch on bedside lamps, your radio and television). Use motion sensitive lights, and if possible, more than one. Try to put them where a burglar can’t see it. If the light shines at him from under a bush, or around a corner, he’s more likely to be unnerved and leave. Close curtains. If someone can see inside your home, they can also see you’re not there. Also make sure you don’t have a television waving seductively at a would-be burglar through the window. I know, it’s easier said than done.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of simply being alert. Be very alert. After all, your safety and your stuff is at stake here. Unfortunately, your adversary is not a wild animal but another cunning human being. You need to outwit your adversary. Get as many eyes on your home and the homes around you as possible. Remember to pay attention to the homes around yours too. And be curious. If you see a car that doesn’t belong, or furniture being removed in a hurry, call your neighbor and find out what is happening. Communicate regularly with neighbors, and form a network.

Once again, remove litter outside of your home. Although a security system is advisable, a good dog is even better. Get a dog that barks at strangers at the front door, and when it does bark, encourage it and give it a reward. Make sure the telltale signs of your absence (say, when you’re on holiday) are not going to give you away:
- locked gates and doors, a home in constant darkness with all windows closed
- mail piling up inside and outside the mailbox
- no car in the driveway
- a garden starting to go wild

Have someone visit your premises and make sure they give the place a once-over so that it at least looks lived in.
Finally, make sure you are insured, and that your windows – all windows – are properly barricaded. Good luck and keep safe this festive season.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Road to Hurt

Click on the title of this post to see how many fatalities and injuries arise per year from road accidents.
In South Africa alone 39 people die every day, that's 14 200 a year, and far more are seriously injured.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Image courtesy topleftpixel.com

Just Landed...on Moral High Ground

The Moral High Ground, by Jim Kunstler
No, this blog is not about Iraq or the new Democratic congress. It's about Kramer, Cosmo Kramer, or the actor, Michael Richards, who played him on TV's Seinfeld series. By now the whole world has heard about Richards' outburst onstage at the Laugh Factory. Forgive me if this now seems like hopelessly old news. But I have been reflecting on the incident.

My girlfriend said this morning that she thought it might have been part of an act that just backfired horribly, a riff gone wrong. I disagreed. Based on the rough digital recording I saw -- the same one everybody else saw -- Richards definitely lost it. He was seriously angry. He unloaded. He fell into the swamp of the moral low ground and sank up to his lips in quicksand. Supposedly, he was being heckled by some black audience members. As far as I know, next to nothing has been reported about the content or manner of their heckling, except that Richards wasn't being funny enough for them.

Richards responded by shrieking "Niggers! Niggers!" at them and added (I paraphrase) that if it were fifty years ago they would have been lynched with forks stuck up their asses. It was a pretty harsh retort to heckling. Within the context of America's beleaguered recent history, advocating lynching and torture on account of race is about as incorrect as it gets. In any case, Richards then suffered media crucifixion for his transgression, followed by the now ritual public apologies and promises to go have his head examined.

Late last night, I was surfing around the cable channels when I chanced upon an HBO show called P Diddy's Bad Boys of Comedy, or something like that. I stuck around and checked it out. One comic (sorry, I forget his name) must have used the word "nigger" thirty times in the course of his act. He referred to the (mostly black) audience as "niggers" and his riffs were generally centered around the amusing things that (his word) "niggers" do, especially in sexual situations. The comic's exertions seemed warmly appreciated by the audience.

The foregoing has prompted me to arrive at some conclusions about what is happening in our country. There used to be a region of the collective spirit called the moral high ground. It was the place where the best intentions came to consort with the possibilities for sociopolitical progress, where honesty frolicked with bravery. It was the place where goodness and righteousness resided, a sunny, well-watered Arcadian glade within the larger low ground wilderness of human failing and sin. The high moral ground was fully racially integrated.

The social justice campaign of the 1960s was very much a drama enacted out of the moral high ground, with all the vicious monsters of the low ground wilderness prowling the margins. Up on the moral high ground was Martin Luther King, Lyndon B. Johnson, Rosa Parks, James Meredith, the Kennedy brothers, and literally a holy host of others. Malcolm X started out down in the low ground and journeyed up onto the high ground. The monsters out in the low ground were the various southern racists who opposed racial integration, the KKK crackers who killed Goodman, Cheney, and Schwerner in Mississippi, the obstructionist elected law-makers like James Eastland and Strom Thurmond, and so on.

Where race issues are concerned in America, white people have had to remain officially up on the moral high ground. White people are not off the hook for slavery and Jim Crow serfdom and never will be. There's no going back to these things and no excuse for them. White America cannot afford to abandon the moral high ground, or even the pretense that they occupy it.

But a curious thing has happened to black America. It has largely vacated the moral high ground, especially in the personae and behaviors represented in popular culture. What would Martin Luther King make of Snoop Dog and Fitty Cent? Indeed, what would he make of a whole pop culture dedicated to portraying young black people as violent criminals and prostitutes? It's significant, by the way, that these performers characterize their antics as "representing." Representing what?

As for political leadership, what would Martin Luther King make of Al Sharpton, engineer of the disgraceful and mendacious Tawana Brawley scandal, who has been unofficially pardoned by the media (and by extension, the public). What would Martin Luther King make of P Diddy's Bad Boys of Comedy?

White people are so frightened of appearing to step beyond the moral high ground that even academic discussions of "the N-word" employ this laughably craven euphemism. It's interesting to note that at the same time the talking heads on CNN are palavering over "the N-word," P Diddy's and Russell Simmons' employees are over on HBO calling each other "niggers" with abandon. Is it really okay for us to be two separate societies with two separate standards of behavior?

I'm not convinced, either, that it is enough for some black comedians to declare that they will stop brandishing the word "nigger" in their acts. A character in William Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury says, “a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behavior; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among.” Isn't this what Snoop Dog and Fitty Cent are all about? And isn't it to some degree behavior engineered to make white people uncomfortable?

White America has for many years dedicated itself to sucking up its own discomfort. When someone like Michael Richards blunders beyond the moral high ground and reveals the anger and resentment underneath this stoical mask of tolerance for "diversity," white America freaks out and rushes to anathemize it. White America does not want its discomfort to show, so it sucks up everything from the Tawana Brawley affair to the OJ Simpson verdict to the televised daily doings of Snoop and Fitty (which white children emulate as fun behavior).

White America does not want racial conflict -- and understandably so -- and will humble itself to any extent to avoid it. To some degree, Hip-Hop is black America's reminder to white America that there are a lot of heavily armed and vicious young men out there who might call off their incessant partying and kick off a national scale gang war. This is white America's worst nightmare, much worse than Iraq, or global warming, or peak oil. This is also, by the way, the reason that white America idolizes Barack Obama. He is the first figure on the scene in thirty years who offers the promise of leading all of America back to the moral high ground.

from www.kunstler.com


After submitting 85 articles to a citizen website called ohmynews.com, these are the most popular:

1) Why Insects Can't Fly Straight at Night (1865 at last count)
Internal guidance system can't distinguish between distant stars and nearby artificial light

(to read the above story, click on the title of this post)

2) The Secret of Lance Armstrong's Success (1427 views)
The winning psychology of the seven times Tour de France champion

3) Will Climate Change Bring About Sudden Death? (1296)
[Analysis] New predictions of temperature changes in less than a human lifetime

Further craziness is that I went cycling this morning at 5am, despite rigor mortis beginning to set in after yesterday's track session (hard 400m sets)and the previous days sled dragging.
It was nice to be out in the fresh early morning air, but work was triply hard, and quadruply dull. My muscles are so sore and tired now it's hard to move without hurting. Think I'll take it easy this afternoon, and swim tomorrow, and do some distance running and cycling over the weekend.

Meanwhile I've bought myself a Telefunken (TV), and have been asked to edit and manage a newsletter for a cycling club. Could be interesting.

Now there's just the Christmas craziness to get through.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Rested yesterday. Legs still felt buggered from the 10km run after the triathlon. Since today is a beautiful day going to try to fit in a Cycle, run and swim, starting at 3pm and ending at about 7pm.

Click on the title of this post to link to today's reporter story.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Plans

I still have two weeks to go before a two week break. The plans are to get in plenty of training, especially running, and to make the following acquisitions (inless they've already been made by then):

- soundtrack to The Devil Wears Prada
- new Samsung TV (already have a bargain lined up)
- new tyres for the Chrysler
- run (and buy new running shoes)
- Christmas pressies

I also want to do a little road trip around Lesotho, taking in the mountains, but more particularly the southern KwaZulu Natal and Wild Coast beaches.

Over the weekend there was an awful article (taking on cyclists) by Deon Maas. The editor of the newspaper deserves a lot of flack for allowing something like that to go in.

I also came 3rd in Saturday's triathlon, with an okay swim (came out of the water 3rd), a good cycle (1:05, average of just under 36km/h - 1km/h slower than the half standard cycling average). The run was just a matter of surviving, since I didn't do any training for it, and it proved extremely tough in the heat. I started it just ahead of Vic (who I caught in the last km of the cycle, and despite getting off my bike at one stage to check and adjust the brake blocks). He made a 200-300m gap on me on the run and then got no further, which, judging from my lack of fitness, really isn't very good. Neither was my overall time, 2:33 (I've done a 2:00 before). I started the run on 1:35 so I think with a bit of effort I can make a sub 2:10 in the near future.

Today though, my legs are hurting more than they have after a hard marathon. Will train at 5pm just to drive the point home even further: get running (and get lighter).

Click on the title of this post to link to my Ohmynews.com article on running. You can also download it as a podcast

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Good Weekend

Tomorrow's triathlon ought to be tough, not least because of a lot less training in the last 2 weeks, and also the incredible heat we've been having the last couple of days.

Probably go to see Bond tonight, but need to put on my tri bars now and get some lunch.

Still need to make up my mind about where to go, and what to do for Christmas.