Friday, August 31, 2007
Perfect crimes are unlikely but possible
Remember Jill Dando? She was a British television presenter murdered in April 1999. She was returning home at around 11:30am after visiting her fiancé when she was shot point blank. The killer’s weapon was home made. The murder led to a high profile hunt but was the killer ever found?
In just six months the police had interviewed 2500 people and taken hundreds of statements. After a year Operation Oxborough looked to have been a failure. But then investigators turned back to a previous suspect that had been overlooked. After a period of surveillance, Barry George was arrested and charged for the murder of Jill Dando.
The surveillance demonstrated that George was in the habit of following women in the street. He had also been caught in the grounds of Kensignton Palace (Princess Diana’s home). He had a rope with him and a balaclava. A small quantity of forensic evidence formed the basis of the case against George. When his flat was searched it was discovered that he had developed a compulsion towards celebrities, and appeared to have developed a fascination with hand guns.
Firearms residue was discovered in a coat that belonged to George, but the coat could have been tainted by residues whilst in custody of the Metropolitan Police – a fact that is freely admitted. Thus the linking of George to the Dando murder is at best tenuous, without any scientific basis. George is currently serving a life sentence while his lawyers prepare another appeal. Did Barry George kill Jill Dando? It is certainly possible, but it is impossible to say for certain.
If I Did It
In 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were murdered. Brown Simpson’s ex-husband OJ Simpson was implicated in what was hailed ‘The Trail of the Century’. While Simpson was not found guilty for their murders, bizarrely, he was found to be liable for their deaths (is there a difference) in a civil court. A judgement in excess of $30 million was declared. Simpson has paid a fraction of this to date. Perhaps Simpson’s book If I Did It was conceived in a bid to recoup some financial muscle. The book is a first-person apparently fictional account describing in detail the murder (had it taken place). The book, thanks to howls of protest, has subsequently been withdrawn by the publisher.
Osama Bin Laden
Perhaps the greatest foil in living history is Saudi born militant Osama Bin Laden’s successful suicide plot on the Trade Centre towers in New York, on September 11, 2001. That this tall, thin man has been able to strike into the heart of America, and remain on the run for 6 years now, is in itself a mystery. Who would think it possible, that having incurred the wrath and vengeance of an eager-to-war generation of Americans, and with the best technology on and off the planet, Bin Laden has managed to evade capture?
But did Bin Laden mastermind the attack? In suicide bombings perpetrators are meted a form of instant justice. Bin Laden released the following message as part of a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera on September 16:
I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.
But three years later, not long after the 2004 presidential elections in the US Bin Laden said:
I will explain to you the reasons behind these events, and I will tell you the truth about the moments when this decision was taken, so that you can reflect on it…the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance's oppression…
In 2006, Osama Bin Laden said:
I am the one in charge… I was responsible for entrusting the 19 brothers … with the raids.
The three examples provided here involve a suspicious character who has been judged guilty without apparently, sufficiently evidence. Bin Laden presents a surfeit of evidence including a confession as well as overwhelming resources directed towards his capture. And Simpson presents a case that appears to present a motive, but no incriminating evidence.
If a perfect crime is getting away with murder, without anyone finding out the perpetrators identify, none of the above examples would qualify. So it is even more unbelievable when crimes that occur so brazenly – as is the case in all three examples – and those responsible somehow remain at large, outwitting and evading all efforts to prosecute the law. These scenarios describe in part the level of intelligence of policing authorities; and that they have their limits.
Sharon Stabley for The New York Times
Can you believe it is already spring? I've been pining for warmer days and suddenly they're here. Are you ready to get out there?
Entering online competitions in South Africa means that you have a better than average chance of winning. This is especially true when visiting the more specialized websites.
The reason for this is that South Africa’s websites attract fairly small segments of the market, and niche websites attract an even thinner segment of the population. This explains how and why I won a hamper from Bicycling recently.
On The Times online right now, you can also win yourself anything from a snazzy video camera, to a Spa Package to a Beer Bird chicken braaier. Visit the ‘Competitions’* page at www.sowetan.co.za or www.thetimes.co.za.
Recently Johncom held a ‘300’ DVD competition. 10 winners received DVD’s and t-shirts from Nu Metro, and two of the winners were work colleagues. Gallo (another brand that is part of Johncom’s stable of brands) will be adding a competition soon for the latest James Blunt CD.
So visiting these sites is really an easy way to get lucky. The questions are ridiculously easy, but make sure you get them right. I’ve been told quite a large proportion of entrants probably don’t bother to make sure of their answers.
So the next time you’re online, make it count. You never know, one click may win you a weekend away with someone special.
I've really gotten into the swing of things, and I have to say, it feels like the more I train the more disgusted I am by my lack of fitness. I've published a story on Reporter today titled Eat Junk And Die. That's how I feel, just sick and tired of living counterproductively.
I think in order to live healthier it helps to have people around you who do the same. Share their habits. So Alex has been a big help, and joining the gym has been awesome, especially since there is a Kauai there, and so I can hit two birds with one stone: on my way home I can pop in to gym, train, and have a healthy dinner. So when I get home I can just relax.
Have no idea what I am doing this weekend. Last week I sms-d a bunch of people to organise stuff, but the week has flown by. Think I am going to recharge and exercise. Not sure if I really feel like being particularly social. Do feel like a movie though, and eating out somewhere. Will see.
Swim - 45:36
Weight - 86.5kg
Run - 37:00
Swim - 20:00
Weight - 85.3kg
5am Cycle - 1:36
Thursday, August 30, 2007
>The Associated Press
Oil prices continued to climb Thursday after jumping in the previous session on unexpected declines in U.S. refinery utilization rates and crude and gasoline inventories.
Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose 36 cents to US$73.87 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, midday in Europe. The contract rose US$1.78 to settle at US$73.51 a barrel Wednesday.
The crude and gasoline inventory declines in the U.S. suggest the refining industry is easing back from what had been a scramble to produce more gasoline to supply the peak summer driving season, which ends this weekend.
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that refinery utilization rates fell 1.3 percentage points to 90.3 percent of capacity in the week ended Aug. 24. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, on average, had expected no change.
The decline in activity helped cut gasoline inventories by 3.6 million barrels.
Analysts had predicted a 1.8 million barrel decline.
The graph below shows petroleum supply at an all time record low (20 days).
By the same token, we live in a world where we have somehow come to believe that the only way to get from A to B is in a vehicle with an engine that conforms to the combustion template. So it runs on fossil fuels etc etc. Of course there are plenty of options we human beings can substitute to before we even begin to nag and queue for a new engine engineering. I am not advocating, not in the slightest, that research into alternative engines not be made our greatest priority. But I am saying there are some commonsensical truths that we can focus on in the mean time.
Some years ago I read a book called Diet For a New America. Even then the writer posited the common sense behind a vegetarian diet. Even the most basic of these form a cogent argument for human beings to change their habits. A more vegetarian based diet is healthier. Is a vegetarian diet is also cheaper compared to meats etc, and surprise surprise, if more people follow a vegetarian diet, we can decrease the strain on global natural resources a great deal.
A world with more vegetarians naturally implies far fewer MacDonald’s, KFC and other fast food-junk food outlets. Wouldn’t this be a good thing. There must be something wrong with our thinking if there are 31 000^ MacDonald’s restaurants in 120 territories. Americans eat 550 million Big Macs a year, 17 each second, and have an obese population as large as the population of Spain. Being fat is directly correlated to being unhealthy.
It is incredibly difficult to become overweight on a largely vegetarian diet. Refined foods, including produce in the form of bread are the exception.
In South Africa fuel oil prices have translated into higher food prices (as is the case elsewhere in the world. Over the past year the greatest price increases have been in meats:
Whole frozen chicken: +30.2%*
Pork chops per pack: +46.5%
Milk (long life full cream): +29.3%
This is the most inconvenient truth of all. The energy it takes to get meat from the field to the dinner table is disproportionate, to put it mildly. It costs us not only fuel, but also massive quantities of water, medicines – including antibiotics – must be made available to massive herds. Then – and people simply don’t imagine this aspect – once the animal has been transformed from quadruped to plastic wrapped packs, these have to be kept refrigerated until sold. This includes long haul shipping and trucking with constant refrigeration. The energy expenditure here is also gargantuan.
For anyone who has eaten beef in countries like South Korea, Britain or South Africa, the differences are noticeable. Beef in the first two countries are often imported, frozen and lose a great deal of national value. This beef also has a bland taste and a leathery texture. Even in South African supermarkets, although beef tastes a lot better than in countries where meat is imported, it is a lot less tasty than beef (or other meats) eaten on the farms where these animals live and range (outdoors) in herds.
This means that not only does the refrigeration cause the quality and taste of meat tissues to deteriorate, it also discolors and must otherwise be prevented from rotting. Thus colorants and other additives are applied to these animal tissues to prevent them from turning blue or purples.
It has also been pointed out on numerous occasions that, based on our dental and intestinal design, human beings are not primarily carnivores, and yet the proportion of meat in the average diet reflects a predilection for meat. Our bodies in fact are designed for a diet that is mostly (perhaps as much as 70%) based on non-animal foods.
Thus a simple way to measure the health of the systems on Earth is to connect these to the health of the human species that governs these systems. How healthy are you? What proportion of good food do you consume? How much is water, how much is junk? Because to the extent that we are capable to intoxicating our own bodies, we will necessarily rape and ruin the environment, and the results for ourselves and the organic systems will invariably be the same. Cancers, heart attacks, breakdowns of some or other sort.
This brings us to the bottom line. The question we are faced with when considering all the inconvenient truths, including those that apply pertinently to ourselves is:
From NY Times.com
By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH
Published: August 29, 2007
EVER since “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore has been the darling of environmentalists, but that movie hardly endeared him to the animal rights folks. According to them, the most inconvenient truth of all is that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than all the sport utility vehicles combined.
The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.
Getting yourself motivated and staying motivated
All the decisions you’ve made in your life have brought you to where you are right now. So if you want to be somewhere else, you need to make new decisions; different decisions.
Your world is what you focus on. Energy will flow in the direction where your attention is. Because your own mediocrity constantly undermines the desire for excellence (and mediocre people do the same to those who are successful around them), you have to brace yourself for what’s to come. You need to be resilent, and you need to be focused. Essentially it is about being sure what it is you want, and then going for it.
Recently I wrote the Take Away Tummy article. The vital step in that article was identified as coming out of denial. Weighing oneself. But why stop there. If you are about to make investments in yourself, get yourself completely up to speed on what is happening to your body.
Just today, for example, we had a number of health groups visit our corporate headquarters, offering free medical measurements. I discovered that my eyesight is still in good nick, and resting heart rate and blood pressure are in a good range. But I was concerned that my body fat was borderline and BMI index out of the healthy range (it’s based on a height to mass ratio). These statistics tell you in black and white exactly where you stand. You can even assess your probability of suffering a heart attack. This depends on a host of factors, some you cannot change (genetic factors, age and sex) and even more that you can change (weight, blood pressure, exercise level). My risk level is 24%. It’s that low thanks to the fact that I am already exercising.
It’s important to decide on a level of commitment when you start. Remember that if you want to stay motivated, you will need to achieve results. So if you think you’re going to lose weight and be receiving compliments based on walking 30 minutes a day, think again. My suggestion is that you respond to what is happening to your body with a stern regimen. Don’t be easy on yourself, be disciplined. Put in a greater effort than your first estimate. Why? Because if you intend to gain momentum, if you intend for this to be a lasting change, the sooner you see results, the sooner you noticeably lose weight, the better your chances of sticking to the effort level. Conversely, even if you’re training fairly hard, it’s unlikely you’ll maintain it over the very long term given incremental improvements.
Work on a steep gradient of effort at first
Control your diet
Prepare yourself to be disciplined and strict on yourself
Focus on letting yourself be activated, not on getting yourself thin – there’s a difference
Celebrate your success
Finally remember this as a simple but effective ‘real world’ way to motivate yourself. You are where you are because of every single decision and action you have ever made. So be very conscious of the decisions you make from here on out, because they can get you to where you want to be. Whether you do is entirely up to you. Good luck!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | 01:56 PM ET
by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca
NASA has a long history of bringing mementos from Earth aboard space shuttles to drum up interest for the sometimes painfully slow process of constructing the orbiting International Space Station. In June the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with an artifact from the 17th-century American settlement of Jamestown to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding.
Now NASA is celebrating a more recent occasion – the 30th anniversary of Star Wars – by sending the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film aboard the space shuttle Discovery in October.
As the collectors' website Collectspace.com reports, "the force will be with them."
We had various health groups in the building today:
Eyes: I have 20/15 vision. It's apparently better than 20/20 vision. This is a relief because my brother (who I've always assumed had probably the same eyesight as me) got prescription glasses a few years ago and so I always thought I probably need some too.
Resting Heart Rate: 63 (The norm is 72 which I think is a lazy standard)
Blood Pressure: 144/85
Cholestrol: 4.24 (Desirable: >5)
Glucose (just after lunch): 6.5 (4.4 - 8.0 Non Fasting)
My ideal body weight for my height is: 80.3kg - 86.2kg (I'm just above that at 86.5kg)
BMI: 27.5 (Ideal is 20-24)
Fat %: 18.8 (Ideal: 13-19)
Heart Rate Risk: low (24%)
Estimated average energy requirement per day: 3813 kCal
Estimated (my guess) daily training energy: 1000 kCal)
"You have a tendency to have a muscular build..."...hmmm...
During the past decade a growing chorus of energy analysts has warned of the approach of “Peak Oil,” the time when the global rate of extraction of petroleum will reach a maximum and begin its inevitable decline.
I do not propose here to provide more than a bare-bones explanation of Peak Oil (detailed information can be accessed by way of the footnotes). Suffice it to say that while there is some dispute among experts as to when it will occur, there is none as to whether. The global peak is merely the cumulative result of production peaks in individual oilfields and in whole oil-producing nations, and these mini-peaks are occurring at an increasing rate.
From The New York Times online
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS and JEREMY W. PETERS
Published: August 29, 2007
The stock market plunged late in the afternoon yesterday, registering its biggest drop in three weeks as investors were hit by fresh worries over declining consumer confidence, falling house prices, shrinking profits on Wall Street and uncertainty about the Federal Reserve.
Conference Board's Report on Consumer Confidence
Stocks were down most of the day, but the biggest drop came in the last half-hour of trading as computerized trading programs, which automatically sell when stocks fall by predetermined percentages, amplified the gloomy mood that had prevailed from the start. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 280.28, or 2.1 percent, at 13,041.85. It was the steepest one-day decline in the Dow since Aug. 9, when it shed 387.18 points.
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq composite were each down 2.4 percent, with all but 13 of the stocks in the S.& P. 500 down for the day.
Analysts said there appeared to be no specific catalyst for the decline. Rather, investors received a steady drumbeat of discouraging news about the intertwined woes of the housing industry, the mortgage market, hedge funds and a broader credit crunch that the Federal Reserve might have difficulty alleviating in the short run without creating longer-term problems for the economy.
Owen Wilson recently made a suicide attempt. The word I would use to describe him is irrepressible. He seems like the last person who would be feeling blue.
I think people who suffer from depression have unstable moods. This means just as happy/enthused as they may be, there's a flip side to all that. That's scary when it comes to personalities like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Leon Schuster etc.
It also goes to show the Afrikaans saying is true: van lekker lag kom lekker huil/From laughter comes tears.
And it does imply a certain kind of discipline. To endeavour to stabilise our emotions - both the positive and the negative.
Have fun, enjoy yourself, but don't lose the plot, because life will balance you out. Seems like at the end of things is a peaceful harmony that is the whole - it is the sum of all things, neither good nor bad, no color in particular except all colours, the white light that is the full spectrum, the rainbow of the universe in a single blue white beam.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Running to work this morning was a lot tougher than I expected. I think the little backpack added that much extra weight which made a big difference - especially on the 1.5km long second uphill on Glenhove. I paced with an idling Hummer that was stuck in traffic. Quite funny that running you can get to work almost as fast as driving. Imagine if everyone went to work this way.
Think I ran the 5km in about 36 minutes. When I went into the building's shower area my engine just kept on revving. It took a long time for my heart rate to start slipping. Even after the shower when I sat down at my station, beads of sweat filmed on my forehead and knitted themselves together in a small, warm saltwatery worm.
At 10:30 Vlad and I had a meeting with Webmail CEO, Jeff Ellis. Very interesting swap of ideas actually.
Last night Oprah chatted about The Secret. She said something vital: make your life about letting yourself be who you are, not getting what you haven't got. So many people - me included - kick against the current of their own lives. Not life, but the flow that is engered into ourselves; go with who you are. Your passion. Your love. Setting your spirit free. So many of us get caught up in what we don't want.
We need to start paying attention to what we do want.
Here's an easy way to do that. Make a list of the things you don't want. For me that's:
Finding oneself married and that I or my partner is 'defective'
Being unattractively fat
Not succeeeding financially
Being a mediocre sportsperson
Being perceived as mean
Being essentially disconnected (to family and friends)
Going nowhere and floundering in a meaningless life.
Okay, now make your list. Once done (and make it as long as you can, generate a list of polar opposites. So based on the above, what I really want is:
Have a sense of relationship with those around me
Find a strong, talented, beautiful partner - a real human being/Be all those qualities yourself
Get fit, and wiry-strong
Work towards a house and a disciplined approach to work, investments and spending
Pursue excellence/excellent performances in - The Ironman, the Argus, The Epic, OFM race, marathons, triathlons etc.
Be less sensitive to others who are insensitive. Nastiness is often just self-centredness
Be open and accessible, make as many invitations as you accept from others
Find meaningful things to do, and do them purposefully
The secret is that we already know who we are; we're just to chicken shit to move forward with who we are. But when you know who you are (and that just requires tyou quietly settle into your skin, feel your spirit - you can do that right now) it's absurd not to be who you are, and not do all those things you know you must do.
Just how homosexual are you?
Homophobes in progressive society lose a lot of points. But we are still far from being a society where friends can come out willy nilly (er...) and be openly who they feel they want to be, in fact who they feel they are. Some of us are still asked to keep secrets as though the risk of coming out were still far too big a gamble to bear. Homophobia clearly continues to infect modern society. Why is this so when even our constitution supports protection and acceptance for minorities?
Cue the new cool. The metrosexual. Is metrosexuality compatible with homophobia? No. A metrosexual is someone, a man, who grooms himself about as much as a woman does. This is really a creature who openly cares for himself and is sensitive to others. Is it real though, or do metrosexuals just pretend to be having this apparently avant garde approach to each other and the world?
Is their psychology ever really tested? Now I imagine that if you are a metrosexual you’ve got to have a general acceptance about other people, because you obviously are confident and in tune with yourself, and that includes, of course, your sense of your own sexuality.
So Mr Metrosexual, I have this question for you. Did you know that after midnight every Friday and Saturday night eTV flights the same soft-core formula ad infinitum (and the smutty ad breaks do go on and on)? Your ability to answer this question honestly (perhaps with some cogent afterthoughts) will already say a lot about how little or how much you’re repressing your sexuality, and how congruent you are with, well, you.
The link between metrosexuals and homosexuals is also more obvious than it may seem: homosexuals share exactly the trait of grooming themselves to perfection, being perceptive and being hypersensitive to the perceptions of others as they try to manifest themselves in the minefield of mindgames that society can sometimes be.
I raise the profile of the metrosexual as it is the modern epitome of the progressive man in western society. In touch with his feminine side, a real man, but also a sensitive and perceptive man. The metrosexual man must be those things to function effectively in a world that now demands attention to details and multitasking and excellent communication skills (including written) as a matter of course. All these skills happen to be also uppermost in the arsenal of the wiliest and most charming women we know.
So as a way to test your compatibility with the metrosexual profile, and to gauge your incompatibility (your homophobia score), let’s return to the eTV analogy for just a moment. The soft-core formula mentioned above usually involves a series of repeated heterosexual trysts, swapping out a blonde for a brunette etc. Often the men involved are extremely passive losers who, in the real world, would find it tougher to get as lucky as they do on TV.
Many of these soft-core actors though, incidentally, also appear to have trouble merely communicating, never mind coming to terms with ordinary grooming, such as shaving their faces, brushing their hair or popping zits. So either what we’re watching is unacceptably dated material (can that ever be said of pornography?), or men will never change. And so we get to the last third of these episodes, the straight sex theme is gently and gradually replaced with some voyeurism and then by girl on girl twosomes, and finally the kicker: our hero with two women, probably blonde and brunette. Any surprises there?
If you’re a guy watching one of these episodes with your girlfriend on hand (so to speak), you might begin to see how skewed the sexuality in these programs really is. If you’ve noticed this ages ago, kudos to you. Yes, it’s designed exclusively for male tastes. Thus plenty of female nudity and female homosexuality, with gay sex absolutely verboten. Is this because the number of gay viewers is negligible? If this were true, we wouldn’t see any girl on girl sex, because surely there are similar fractions of the population that are female and homosexual to those male and homosexual.
So the question is, are most men homophobic only when it comes to male homosexuality? What about women? The female friends I have seem to have a patented approach to female homosexuality: they tacitly endorse it because they know that way they endorse our appreciation of women, and it makes them by implication a lot more exciting and attractive. They know this, and we know they know, and they know, we know they know.
But imagine an opposite scenario: it’s late on Saturday night and your girlfriend is glued to the screen, watching increasingly suggestive antics with numerous men, and men only, along with one lucky lady who only shows off her rounded shoulders, bum cheeks and coiffed hair (you seldom even see her face!) Some women I’ve spoken to say they find the idea of two men together erotic. It makes one wonder if the sexes truly reflect one another in this aspect, of being fascinated with homosexuality in the opposite sex.
But is this really appreciation (acceptance if you like) of homosexuality or is it the enjoyment of the pretense of it? A distinction must be made: often homosexual sex is portrayed as sexual activity between two people of the same sex who would, all things being equal, rather be someone of the opposite sex, but, being frustrated and in sexual overdrive, pursue satisfaction anyway.
Remember someone who is homosexual is really not interested in people of the opposite sex. Like Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Sex with a man when you’re a ‘real’ lesbian feels like rape or sodomy, although society would seldom take that view, or even consider it. I found the scene in that flick a tragic reflection of how disconnected the average person is to the sexuality of others. There’s an unstated popular belief that all homosexuals are just going through a phase.
It’s not the intention here to bring in any religious angle, except just to touch on the parallel pretense the NG church make on homosexuality. At a recent conference it was decided that homosexuality is fine as long as you don’t participate in any homosexual behavior. (Sound of throat clearing)
So a few things to think about. I am all for a world where people should be free to be who they truly feel they are, in terms of the affirmation of the best and truest of one’s nature. So if you’re a schizophrenic child killer, sorry, you’re not invited to bring out your inner nature, since it’s unlikely to be the you you really should be wanting to be. So that’s a crucial distinction.
Why it’s important to have more acceptance in the world is so that people who are homosexual can be homosexual, without feeling forced into sham marriages and all the rest. It’s the subterfuge in homosexuality that creates so much pain and regret - for heterosexuals also - when the truth emerges.
The second point I’d like to throw out there, especially forl those who just can’t find themselves ever tolerating homosexuality: if you have ever masturbated it means you have had homosexual sex. You, being the sex you are, have stimulated yourself in exactly the same way someone else of the same sex would have. Awkwardness towards others always reflects a lack of self acceptance.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Driving to the Chrysler Dealership was a nightmare. Traffic snarling and burping noxious gas. Couldn't believe how far it was, and worse, how long it took. I also ended up driving in a few circles as there are a number of Detours due to construction of the Gautrain subway line - especially Oxford Road.
When I got there they were like: do you have an appointment? This from the fellow who emailed me directions to get there. Do you have a quote? Yes, shall I tell you what you quoted me? (I emailed them at least 10 times, 3 or 4 just requesting directions).
He said: "This is a lot of work, it will take 2 days." That's code for: "We forgot about you, so we'll try to squeeze your work in-between the jobs we've remembered." The drive back was fairly good which was quick.
At work I've figured out to use Google Analystics. What a handy tool! It's almost as soothing as a dummy for a crying baby...
Published: August 26, 2007
ATHENS: Fires raged across Greece on Sunday, bearing down on hamlets near ancient Olympia in the south a day after the government declared a nationwide state of emergency. At least 57 people have died in the past three days, according to the national fire brigade.
Flames were about three kilometers, or less than two miles, from the Temple of Apollo Epikourios, a 2,500-year-old monument near the town of Andritsaina in the southwestern Peloponnese, said the town's mayor, Tryphon Athanassopoulos.
In some cases, villages were trapped within walls of flames, cut off from firefighters and, at times, from firefighting aircraft grounded because of high winds.
Vassilis Adamopoulos, a spokesman for the fire brigade, said firefighters had been helped Sunday because the winds had died down. One of the fires outside Athens was extinguished, but several were still burning.
"The situation is extremely critical," Adamopoulos said. "None of these fires is under control."
By JOSEPH KAHN and JIM YARDLEY
Published: August 26, 2007
BEIJING, Aug. 25 — No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.
China’s cement factories, like this one in Ningxia Province, use 45 percent more power than the world average, and its steel makers use about 20 percent more.
But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.
Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.
For full story click on the title of this post.
Newsflash: current weight is 85.5kg. That number has to come down.
Alex and I went for a ride. Back is hurting quite a lot. Alex rode 165km on Friday, then averaged 103km in 42.2 (2:26). So we both took it easy today. He is leaving for London tomorrow night so I am gonna be a gym rat for the next few days.
Power cuts have been quite irritating. Seems like it's par for the course around here. Otherwise been a good weekend.
A cynic finds that Johannesburg is a South African city worth living in
Mary Smich once wrote: ‘Live in Jozi once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in the Western Province once, but leave before it makes you soft.’ Or words to that effect.
Like all big cities Johannesburg – Jozi to the locals – has a vibe for those already living there, but it is intimidating and impenetrable to those passing through.
I have been one of the biggest critics of Johannesburg. In fact, some time ago I wrote an article on Death of a City (a reference to the inner city slums). I’ve been very jaded by some awful experiences here. These included a 3 hour nocturnal search for an aunts flat in Yeoville (close to central crime ridden Hillbrow). It was a harrowing drive made worse because I was staying on a military base, had a car, but I didn’t have a license. Somehow I managed to not kill myself despite driving through several red traffic lights, glancing wildly around in search of street names. By the time I found my aunt’s flat it was well past midnight. So I slept in the car. Not fun.
And while I was in the Air Force just up the road from Johannesburg, I spent quite a few Friday and Sunday night’s hitchhiking on the highways that link Pretoria to Johannesburg. That is one of the grimmest places to be at any time of day. Just before I got my driver’s license (I only turned 18 years old while in the Air Force) I was in a car crash that gouged a hole in my knee. Somehow the guillotine of metal narrowly missed my kneecap. These blood spattered images formed the basis of my internal collage of Johannesburg. Not nice.
So when I was offered a job in Jozi recently, I didn’t do a victory dance. In fact I had to make a number of sober choices. If Johannesburg is not fun, and not nice, why go and live there, even if the pay is good? In the end, for me – like so many people who have come to Johannesburg from somewhere else – it boiled down to money.
I have only been in Johannesburg for one month, so by no means do I feel my opinion is gospel. I am still figuring my way around the complex and dense urban and suburban environments here. But a lot of friends, and my sister yesterday, continue to say the same thing to me over the phone: “Johannesburg? I could never live there.” While I was out cycling with a friend this afternoon, through the attractive wooded northern suburbs of Melrose and Houghton, I told him: “You just can’t tell people it’s really a nice play to live. They think you’re just being defensive because you have no choice but to be defensive.”
Except Jozi does have a lot going for it. Parts of it feel surprisingly like Cape Town, other parts feel surprisingly African. I think it’s the trees.
Just this morning I went to the Old Eds health club (Virgin Active). It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the best franchise I have ever been to in South Africa (including the Point and Constantia Clubs in Cape Town). It’s true I haven’t visited those clubs in a while, but compared to Bloemfontein’s Northridge Club, Old Eds is in a different class. The facilities include a Kauai restaurant, free internet stations, a lounge setup in the changing room, classy dark wood lockers and so on. The monolithic complex is surrounded by fields for soccer and an open air swimming pool in summer. Wow!
Old Eds is situated in an up market area of Jozi, and thus it can afford to splurge on everything a discerning fitness fanatic might want. But the health club facility is just one analogy. Because of the sheer number of people, and the sheer wealth invested in suburbia malls, galleries, concerts etc pander to the various demands of the locals. By far the most people and the most wealth in South Africa is in Gauteng, the small province that is home to this urban powerhouse. Johannesburg is a world class African city. If there is any doubt, visit Melrose Arch, an expensive complex dripping with diamond clear windows and warm golden roadside lamps. Here you will find banana yellow Lamborghinis parked alongside row upon row of silver BMW’s and Mercedes Benz sedans.
What about the people? My perception has always been that people from Johannesburg are harder, tougher and meaner than elsewhere. Get onto a nearby highway to test that theory. On the other hand, is any big city in the world any different? So many people in the same place have to be determined and committed to get ahead, even to stay in the same place. Things move a lot faster in a big city. The city has a pace, an energy. Johannesburg is no different.
I have personally experienced ‘South Africa’ far more in Jozi than in Bloemfontein for example. There is a lot more culture steaming off the streets. Not only African culture, but Jewish culture, and the culture of the nouveau riche. Yesterday I saw a Rolls Royce sailing down an avenue near to my loft apartment. A week ago a saw a ‘Black Diamond’ (a soap actress) turning a topless red Ferrari and roaring off in my rearview mirror.
So is it all good? Having been a long time critic of the inefficiencies of big cities (traffic jams, crime etc), it’s possible to live a happy life and be contented in Jozi. A good example is a friend of mine who works at Accenture. I’ve always known her as a free spirit, a surfer and lifeguard at Llandudno. When she told me 7 years ago she was moving to Johannesburg, I thought: “Not for long.” She’s still here, and she gets around. This weekend she flew to Washington on business, and from there she’s going to Spain for a short holiday. She also flies to Cape Town often to reconnect to her ‘surfer-self’. But it’s the money that obviously makes this sort of lifestyle possible. That’s what’s exciting.
Unfortunately, the silver linings also have a few dark clouds that spoil the otherwise sunny effect of this spectacular South African city. I use the word purposefully because, for example, even as a cyclist it is possible to enjoy beautiful tree lined streets that wind along golf courses, swinging around small lakes and sweeping through lovely views. Johannesburg is after all the biggest man-made forest in the world. But there are power failures, and while crime may not impact on every individual, there is an awareness of it.
The important point to make is that despite the blemish of crime, by far the most people continue to live and work here. Many of those people love the ethos here, and within a month, I am not conflicted at all to say I am one of them. Jozi is a great city, but I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t lived here to take my word for it. You have to experience Jozi to get what it means to live here.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Well, to answer the qurstion: will you watch TV this weekend or listen to the inner child, the answer is...both.
Had a very good Saturday. After buying some groceries from a kitchen that was becoming threadbare, went with Les to Catz Pajamas in Melville. Lekker lunch, then to Nick. Had a quick drink and chat - she had to fly to Washington at 5.
Wanted to watch the rugby - despite being unusually sozzled - but Vlad wasn't home. Was sleeping when he called and then didn't feel like going out to party. Woke up fresh and refreshed - quite a few good new ideas popped into my head (re: work).
Also established I can join Melrose Arch by November (if I go on the waiting list now).
Speaking of now, am now at Old Eds (at their computer station)after a good 1.75km swim. Might cycle later today with Alex...see the sun has just come out.
He had an excellent ride in Sun City. Averaged 42.2km for 103km (2:26)
Very impressive. Will go to work this evening and upgrade some documents I've been working on.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
My intention today was to work not much more than 5 hours (although technically I only needed to work about 3), but got sucked into work and am actually still here (8 hours and 42 minutes gone by and counting).
Not a good situation as I actually feel so tired and worn out I feel dizzy and incredibly prickly and irritated. The problem was after getting 4 hours sleep and then training twice yesterday (also ran with Janet after work) I should have slotted in a solid sleep last night, but I made the transition to overtired, got a splitting headache and then my mind starting chewing on the bone and I couldn't switch off. Thus, this morning I had to drag the corpse to work and have felt a bit -dig- all day.
Biggest bummer today was a meeting which I thought would be a massive boost. I dunno, seems like the mind was made up even before the meeting and it was just run through the motions. There's more to say but probably best if I don't.
Very glad it's payday. Have a few important admin things to do this weekend. Might also see my aunt. Alex is in Sun City. Must establish my membership here with Virgin Active. Just don't want a repeat of last weekend.
First thing I need is a good long sleepzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.