Friday, June 29, 2007

Tomb Raider - Legend



Read my 'Interview with the Tomb Raider'
Watch here.

Records tumble: months of extremes hit UK


John Vidal,
environment editor
Tuesday June 26, 2007

After a drought last year, the autumn and winter combined were the wettest on record in Britain, and the three months of spring were the hottest on record for the whole of the UK, since 1914.

Despite the rain, average June temperatures so far are well above normal. Yet in April it was hard to believe Britain was not becoming as climatically attractive as the south of France, or the highlands of Kenya.

The early summer was the warmest, sunniest and driest, with the average temperature for April 11.1C (52F), beating the previous record of 10.6C, set in 1865. South-east and eastern England had next to no rain, prompting fears of another drought.

Totals for April were 2mm, around 5% of average rainfall. Wales, and south-west, central and northern England had only around 20% of the monthly average. The exception was north-west England, at nearly 40% of average rain.

Image courtesy topleftpixel.com

VACANCY: WEB PRODUCER

Do you love the Web, know how to hyperlink related articles and handle images?

The Johncom Group Digital Media Division has a vacancy for a WEB PRODUCER.

Purpose: Join a dynamic production team and assist in the content management of a variety of online products within the Johncom Group that includes the Sowetan, Sunday World and Reporter.co.za websites with the prospect of additional/further products in the future.

Key Responsibilities

Content Management:
-As a deadline orientated position, work needs to be published timeously and correctly
-Accuracy is essential: grammar, spelling, placement of content
-Picture editing: web image readiness in terms of selection / suitability, cropping and placement
-Proficiency with a number of computer programs
-Working with a variety of products requires an understanding of the editorial positioning of each in order to ensure that work produced meets the needs of the various target markets of the products
-Liaise with print staff and clients to ensure high standard of online content.

Requirements

-Computer skills: html, Photoshop
-Design / graphic capabilities is an advantage
-Strong English literacy, in both verbal and written communication
-Good team/people skills /Group dynamics
-News awareness
-Flexibility, creativity, problem-solving abilities
-Willingness to work shifts, including night shifts

If you're reading this and you're interested in the position, or know someone who might be, post a comment or email "Juliette Saunders"

Starting Thoughts...

A good start is crucial, but not as crucial as a good finish. The world at large would benefit from being mindfull of this.

Back to Back


Backward spinal curvature (lordosis) – accentuation of the normal concave shape of the lumbar area may be used to counterbalance a large abdomen or for other spinal deformities, hip or leg deformities. This stresses the low back and leads to low back pain.


Or:

Chronic constipation may lead to a condition called fecal impaction. This is a situation where the stool becomes hard and causes stoppage in the bowel. Five major factors can cause impaction: opioid pain medications, inactivity over a long period, changes in diet, mental illness, and long-term use of laxatives. Regular use of laxatives for constipation contributes most to the development of constipation and impaction. Repeated use of laxatives in higher and higher doses make the colon less able to signal the need to have a bowel movement.

Patients with impaction may have symptoms similar to patients with constipation, or they may have back pain (the impaction presses on sacral nerves) or bladder problems (the impaction presses on the ureters, bladder, or urethra). The patient's abdomen may become enlarged causing difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and low blood pressure. Other symptoms can include explosive diarrhea (as stool moves around the impaction), leaking stool when coughing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration. Patients who have an impaction may become very confused and disoriented with rapid heartbeat, sweating, fever, and high or low blood pressure.

Hairball


Imagine being a creature where you have to lick yourself clean, and part of that job means swallowing hair, and then every so often you have to vomit/choke it up. The cat vaulted off the bed in the middle of the night to undertake this sickening chore, and was so disgusted by it, sent itself to the corner (well, beside the heater), for the rest of the morning. I literally couldn't find the cat after doing a thorough Navy Seals thing, and then when light streamed through the curtains I noticed it was hiding behind the heater. Poor kitty!

My back was marginally better this morning, but still woke up thanks to lower based eina. Think the problem is a combination of drinking too little water and not so great digestion (aka constipation). The constipation is new because of reduced training volume...but I've started doing some treadmill running the last few days, and some gym, hence the 'slight' improvement, I think.

My story on Medicine was published, warts and all, on reporter.co.za this morning, front page. I say warts and all because it has some glaring errors, some are mine but some aren't (This one isn't mine: changing sort've to sort have. This one is: I have a 'to' instead of 'so'.) But there are plenty besides. If I was a self respecting writer I should shut down my computer, write a (suicide) note of apology, and hang myself from the tree overshadowing my car (from which birds on a daily basis poo poo their opinion of global warming and easy motoring).

I'm Cake King today so have provided the team with 40 pancakes, and some cinammon sugar for flavour. A slightly more cheapskate version of my previous Cake Day (where I ordered and fetched 4 large steaming Scooters pizzas). Then again, I was tempted to bring a loaf of white bread, with a butterknife and a tub of lard.

This weekend will likely involve far too much watching of television. It's far more tempting at 108 to stay up late watching DSTV (despite eyelids beginning to pierce the toothpicks inserted to keep them open), than finding anything on non-satellite.
Last night I watched triathlon, including Sweetlund, a Canadian, popping in an international race in Des Moine due to heat exhaustion. She walked a bit like a clown, big steps, nose high in the air... Except it wasn't funny, and every girl over the line collapsed on the podium. That's a personal glimpse at global warming. If anyone is going to be sensitive to too high temperatures, it's going to be athletes.

I also watched Entertainment E (Extreme Hollywood), about the offscreen, yet sort've onscreen antics (I suppose I should specify that they are sexual) of actors like Ron Jeremy and Charlie Sheen, and non actors like Paris Hilton and Pam Anderson. Was quite shocking to see how many of these sexual videos are out there. The most disgusting is probably from Tom Sizemore (who should probably think of a name change...Sizeless..?) Thanks to the clips from last night's episode I won't be able to watch Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down without thinking...oh ja, that guy.
Not to be a killjoy or anything, but there are only a select few who should even consider the Porn Merchant path. A flabby body, but lightning, bad camera shots etc just doesn't have the same appeal - sorry (not that I would know).

Back to the (safer) weekend topic...will probably get on a bicycle of some kind...either for spinning, or on an actual real live road. Probably on Sunday. And I need to churn out at least 5 chapters since Human and Rousseau want a complete manuscript, not just sample chapters. So it's quite funny, my mission for the next few weeks: quickly write a book. What I like about 'Holiday' is I know exactly where the story is going, what happens to the principal character and why. That's been true of other things I've written, but it was never this clearcut. So I think it's a good thing. The next two days will also be crucial to test the backache-constipation theory.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Karima


Read my 'Interview with Lara Croft'.

Let’s Get Clinical About Drugs


Start by thinking about the mandate: first do no harm

Let’s face it, almost everyone in the Western World (if you’re sitting at a computer reading this, that’s probably you) uses some form of medication every single day. A medication is essentially anything that alters the state of cellular structures. So whether you wittingly ingest multivitamins on a daily basis, whether you’ve been prescribed anti-depressants for life, or whether you brush your teeth, you’re exposed to chemicals and potions human beings would otherwise not be exposed to.

The consensus is, of course, that medicine does far more good than harm. I’m going to challenge that perception, and as I do, I will no longer use the term ‘medicine’, but instead make use of the familiar American term ‘drugs’. I also prefer the frankness of a ‘Drug Store’ than the more subtle ‘Pharmacy’.

Let’s starts at a basic level. The foods consumed in America are controlled by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Thus we can see that even in what we eat on a daily basis, there are medically/laboratory derived chemicals (preservatives etc) that we consume, apparently without harm. Except over time we do discover that sodium (think Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and sodium benzoate)is present in just about all processed foods to enhance flavour, but what it does is it essentially loads our bodies with excess salt. The addictive effects of MSG are well known, but it is the widespread use of it that may in part explain why heart disease is one of the leading causes of death, and has never been more prevalent in human history than now. It is common knowledge that too much salt interferes wirth homeostasis, causing high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes heart disease and many other health problems.

Saccharin – used as a sweetener – also turns out to induce cancer in Lab animals, but no one is willing to hazard a guess how many people have died from cancers directly or indirectly related to the use of saccharin. Saccharin is often found in conventional juices and sodas. Avoid coffee creamers (deadly bacteria) and eating too much dairy ice cream (yucky yobs of artery clogging fats) too, if you want what's good for you.

Moving from food to treating our consumption of food, it’s been demonstrated that fluoride (used in all toothpaste) is carcinogenic. Move to vitamins and anti-oxidants, and particularly in men, aggressive cancers (including pancreatic) have been proved to occur. This is a particularly ironic area, since isn’t the purpose of taking multivitamins and associated chemicals/drugs to boost the immunity, not compromise it? Yet it has not been proved that multivitamins pose any benefit to already healthy people. It has been demonstrated though that a balanced diet does produce this effect.

Other drugs used conventionally are anti-depressants. There is a very high statistic for the number of people who commit suicide after being on a course of anti-depressants. My mother is one such statistic. Thus, if having started using these drugs, one is literally facing a death sentence when offered the choice, or making it independently, to wean dependence on these mood enhancers.

Generic medicines like aspirin, while useful, when used even for moderate periods cause inflation and even ulceration of the stomach lining. Aspirin is also just one example of a drug that is highly susceptible to being abused by those seeking a recreational benefit, as opposed to treatment-specific results.

Without a medical background, it is not easy to go through the list of what might be termed the Higher Order of Medicine. But even these medicines aren't all silver lining without cloud. So let us consider just three examples: Corticosteroids. These are used to treat arthritus, and thus reduce pain. But like many drugs, even moderate use can be poisonous or harmful. To maximize the benefits of a corticosteroid, but minimize potential side effects, corticosteroids are usually prescribed in low doses or for very short durations. My grandfather had severe arthritis and died in his late forties of a cortisol overdose. He death was as a result of medical people simply not knowing how much was safe to prescribe, and this lack of appreciating how sensitive the human apparatus is to interference continues. And it is far more prevalent than we imagine.

Treating Parkinson's with Dopamine over the short term may radically reverse symptoms, but over the longer term, it may accelerate the disease. These are vital distinctions.

Thalidomide (causing foetuses to be born with shrunken arms the size of chicken wings) is the most obvious example of medicating without sufficient circumspection. We need to be very sensitive about how and why we pour the chemicals we do, into our bodies.

At this point, one must remember the imperative all doctors are supposedly taught: the Hippocratic Oath. Ironically one of the most widespread misconceptions about medicine possibly lies here. Primum non nocere, ‘First do no harm’ does not come from the Hippocratic Oath but is sort’ve indirectly construed from it, specifically according to the following ranslation: "Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts. As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least to do no harm."

Declaring the past and diagnosing the present means that when treating an affliction, we take some time and care in looking at the source (what causes it). Far too many treatments are interested only in relieving symptoms. This is much like a margarine advertisement currently on South African television, which features a person running with a warm and fuzzy voiceover about ‘taking care of one’s heart’.

Some research may suggest a link between cholesterol reduction and heart disease, and so this epithet is overemphasized to suggest that consuming tubs of margarine is actually ‘healthy for one’s heart'. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but without due consideration for the source of an affliction (and not just a detail extracted and iconized), treatment can be harmful rather than effectual.

In the movie City of Angels, the character played by Meg Ryan demonstrates a reality that more doctors and patients need to be aware of. At the end of the day, it is neither the doctor nor drugs (prescribed or otherwise) that cause the body to heal. In fact, healing happens spontaneously. The body heals itself, but the value in a doctor or drug lies in the sense that the body might be worn out or unable to extricate itself from a disease causing scenario, and especially in these cases the body should then be assisted and supported in its own healing process.

Once again, how harm has come to the body in the first place is far more important than any other step, as finding the behaviour or circumstance that is causing pain/depression/illness provides the body with an opportunity to heal on its own. Indeed the psychosomatic link to illness can't be overemphasised. At some point we consent to the overburdening of our immune systems, and sickness (for example a cold)is a response to that unhealthy choice.

In the world today, smoking, drinking, the consumption of various foods, the conventional culture of self-medication and other common lifestyle choices add up to an unhealthy response. In this sense, the responsibility to remain healthy is ours, especially since we instinctively know what is healthy. Drugs, while sometimes useful, are a double edged sword. They help and they harm, they heal and they wound. It is when we are aware of this, and no longer choose to medicate weaknesses, addictions and dependencies, that we can begin the process of healing ourselves, and finding the road to long and abundant life.

The Numbers Game


(Sean Yong/Reuters)

Paris Footloose Once More


Her imprisonment also reversed a mental disorder she said she had suffered from all her life. Asked by King if her time in jail cured her claustrophobia, she said, "Now that I'm out of there, yes."

For background on this story click on the cnn.com link above.

Thor and Mjolnir*


I am a huge fan of DC Comics characters and as a small boy I thought after the first Superman movie we'd see something like what we're only seeing today. It's taken a long time for the Batman, Spiderman, X-men franchises to emerge. What about the Flash, and Green Lantern, Wonderwoman, Shazam, Thor etc etc. I still don't understand why the majority of movies aren't based on comic books (eg action with superheroes). Wasn't Spiderman 2 the most successful movie of all time? Doesn't that say something?
Instead we've had pretend comic characters like James Bond (super spy), recently XXX and Jason Bourne (super spies), and on TV, Knight Rider (super car) and Airwolf (super helicopter).

It's an old trick when introducing the genre that you save the best for last. In other words, you introduce the alien or the new character in the last 3rd of the movie.

Problem is in this film (Fantastic Four, Rise of the Silver Surfer) you hardly ever see the Silver Surfer. The character himself is amazing, but unfortunately most of the time in this movie is spent preparing for a wedding. Yawn.... I've give this movie a 6, but if you're a tweeny, you might think it's worth a slightly more fantastic score.

*From Wiki.com: In Norse mythology, Mjolnir (also spelled Mjölnir, Mjöllnir, Mjollner, Mjølnir, Mjølner, or Mjölner) (IPA pronunciation: [mjolnər]) is the hammer of Thor, the god of thunder, lightning, wind, and rain.

"Mjolnir" simply means "mealer" referring to its pulverizing effect. It is related to words such as the Icelandic verbs mölva (to crush) and mala (to grind), but similar words, all stemming from the Proto-Indo-European root melə can be found in almost all European languages, e.g. the Slavic melvo (grain to be ground) and molotu (hammer), the Dutch meel (meal), the Russian Молот (molot - hammer), the Greek μύλος (mylos - mill) and the Latin malleus (hammer) as well as the Latin mola (mill).

The English meal, mill and maul are direct relatives, while mallet and molar arrived via Latin. It has been suggested that although the name reflects Mjolnir's awesome powers it might also allude to Thor's agricultural nature, as he was primarily worshipped by farmers. An alternative theory suggests that Mjolnir might be related to the Russian word молния (molniya) and the Welsh word mellt (both words being translated as "lightning"). This second theory parallels with the idea that Thor, being a god of thunder, therefore might have used lightning as his weapon.[1]


Overview
Mjolnir is the most fearsome weapon in the arsenal of the Norse pantheon and is used to slay any challengers to Æsir supremacy. While referred to as a club, an axe, and a hammer, Mjolnir was thought to be capable of toppling giants and entire mountains with a single blow.[2] Legend surrounding the war hammer’s origins vary: some relate that "The Black Elves" (that live under the ground where the roots of Yggdrasil begin to form, in Svartalfheimr; svartalf being a dwarf or "black elf"), Sindri and Brokk made it at the behest of the calculating Loki; other tales contend that it descended to earth as a meteorite. Consequently, many Norse pagans believed that lightning strikes were a manifestation of Mjolnir on earth.

Mjolnir is often represented with a bent handle (see the myth below). The rune Tiwaz, usually thought to be a symbol of the god Tyr, is thought by some to represent Thor's hammer. Mjolnir may also mean fertility, the phallus that impregnates the earth.

Sometimes Thor's Hammer is like a "boomerang". Usually, it is used as normal war hammer. There may be a connection between Thor's throwing hammer and the francisca throwing axes of the Franks.

Table Mountain (South Africa)


Picture courtesy Jo Schrock

TimeOut

Last night at gym the lights went out. Emergency lighting remained on, but the place was still pretty dim. Most of us kept gyming until 10 minutes later we were asked to leave. On our way out, the lights came on again, and we started off again -quite funny.

Managed to do 10 pullups which surprised me as I thought I'd deteriorated a lot physically over the past few days. Also did various core and upper body. Oh and saw Peter Kleovulu there. He says he's doing property development*.

Woke up again at just before 6am with backache - Lord knows how sleepy I was at around 6pm yesterday (but went to gym anyway). So now I am considering going to a doctor.

*Right now Virgin Active's squash courts are under construction. There seems to be a terrific deman for these courts. Since Northridge has so much unoccupied space, why not install a squash squart round the corner from the bicycle shop. Just one, and maybe it just gets utilised in the peak hours, but potentially it could be developed into a sport zone (Squash, ping pong, badminton, trampolining, gymnastics...plus associated merchandising for sale alongside). Just an idea.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Unsual Weather...


The Oklahoma City area received about an inch of rain in 24 hours, bringing the city's annual total to 28.03 inches — about 10 inches above normal. Rain fell in Oklahoma City Wednesday for the 15th consecutive day, breaking a 70-year-old record.

Meanwhile in Tehran petrol rations are in place.

And the most remarkable record of all, in Bloemfontein, someone (me) is goiung to gym for the first time in 5 days!

Suggested Fashions For Global Warming



Catnap

Well the double bed proved comfy, and it was nice to have company (just a purring kitty cat), but at around 6am I woke up again with the dreaded lurgy - backache. It got me out of bed and at work by 7am, thanks buddy. I have an idea it might be posture, and lack of exercise. It may have been induced by exercise, in a way, but caused by a lack of exercise (to begin with, if that makes sense).

So will be going to gym on this frigid day.

Quite shocking to see some of the statistics going on around the world. My father and sister are arriving at Heathrow right now, and are probably going to be surprised that it's only 18 C max today in England, plus worst ever floods all over. So I think it's travellers who experience firsthand the global mechanism that is starting to shift.

I also have to say that one day when we sit with the gebakte pere - basically when the melon has hit the fan and fruit gloop is dripping down our faces and off the walls, we're going to be staring at each other saying, what happened?
What happened was we were given ample warnings, but didn't change because we thought we didn't HAVE to. One of those traditional, invisible things in life that demonstrate integrity are those things you do that only you know about. This was one of those things. Caring about the world enough to change private habits, habits that hurt and pollute the environment. But we were too greedy to stop.

It may still sound cheezy and mushy, but when it is a very different world, the perspective will be quite different. I can't help feeling though that as a species we deserve what is coming to us. The internet etc serves as a weak metaphor for connectivity, but we can quickly achieve that by simply being Conscious. You don't need the internet for that - it's a connection to oneself and all other things. It happens by deciding to get in touch with Being, and having a sense what it is like to Be something or someone other than oneself.

CNN etc Today


"The fact that you've got almost a year's worth of tornadoes in less than 24 hours is unusual in that extent," Environment Canada's David Phillips told CTV.ca Tuesday.

...We had almost three times as many as normal," Schaefer said...

...It was even worse in Mississauga, where the mercury reached 36C. That's weather health experts describe as 'dangerous', and it's going to stay on full broil late into Wednesday...


Bob Kerslake, the chief executive of Sheffield city council, said the area had seen the greatest amount of rain since records began 125 years ago.

THE icy weather of snow, hail and heavy rain that has swept across South Africa over the past few days has set 54 weather records. (Cape Times, May 23)
Top: Canada, Middle: Pakistan, Free State (South Africa) Above: Sheffield, Britain.

Europe to move on global warming


Heavy seas crash into the seawall at Tynemouth. north eastern England on Monday.
(Owen Humphreys/AP/PA)

BRUSSELS: Europe must start work now to protect power stations, transport systems and agriculture from flooding, droughts, forest fires and landslides likely to be caused by global warming, according to the draft of a report due out this week.

The draft analysis by the European Commission paints a disturbing picture of the impact of rising temperatures that will scorch the southern Mediterranean, melt Alpine and Scandinavian snows and flood low-lying coastal zones around the Continent.

Such is the scale of the potential problem that the report raises the possibility of "relocating ports, industry and entire cities and villages from low-lying coastal areas and flood plains."

Eyes and AB+


Did you know the official color for the eye above is 'hazel'. Green seems more accurate. I've been trying to confirm that brown eyes are the most resilient to strong light, then blue eyes, then green eyes. Can't seem to find any facts to back this up. Possibly an urban legend?

My blood type is AB+. Type AB+ blood is considered the “universal recipient” because people with this type can receive any blood type. Unfortunately though, it is the only blood type where all other blood types are incompatible with this blood type. Only 4% of Americans are AB+, while 37% are O+.

And Did You Know:

Blood type is inherited, just like eye color.

Certain blood types are more common in certain countries. In China, over 99% of the population has Rh+ blood.

Different kinds of animals have different kinds of blood. Dogs have 4 blood types; cats have 11; cows have about 800. People have 8.

Some people think blood type tells about personality. Legend has it that Type A is calm and trustworthy; Type B is creative and excitable; Type AB is thoughtful and emotional; and Type O is a confident leader.

In Japan and Korea the idea of blood type as personality type is so popular that Japanese ask “What's your blood type?” about as often as Americans ask “What's your sign?”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Road To A Home (2005)


Click on this post to travel back in time to 2005. I was in Korea, having lost all my Ironman fitness.

To rue in time


Can we really say that oil at $70 and more is a benign situation? We're also seeing a consistent situation where supply and capacity is being outstripped by demand (whatever the price?).




I defer to Jim Kunstler:

"Every structural element in our financial sector is a jackstraw groaning under a load of false expectation. The hedge funds are only the most elaborate pieces, with their intertwined webs of exponentially unreckoned risk. The equity markets are a three-ringed circus of 'greater fools.' "

Meanwhile in South Africa where I live the stock market has steamed up to just under 30 000, and there's rumors of 'sell in May and go away' happening in early July.
My thinking is simply this: if all economic is underpinned by energy (as breathing oxygen is the given for us walking around everyday), and that energy becomes more expensive, when do the marklets reflect that? My thinking is later, rather than sooner, and too late, rather than just in time.



And what if Israel is irrelevant to the Rest Of The World in the same way that say, Poland or Micronesia is. But based on our self-reinforcing beliefs we allow these conflicts to instead spread to the Rest Of The World.

Global Warming Good News For Bloem?


It's snowing in Bloem, or should I say, it's snowing again. Last year it did too. For the locals it's a big deal. We tend to use snow in proverbs to describe things that never happen. In fact today I called someone and said, "You know why it's snowing, because I'm calling you."


The thing is, I have lived in Bloemfontein for about 30 years and in that time it has snowed a handful of times. Now it is snowing every year. The current rainfall for this month is more than twice the average for June (measured over 30 years). In Summer we were getting a fraction, less than 10% of rain in some months, and then a month's rain in a single day.


I think what that says is that our summers are going to be drier, when it does rain it will be through very unstable storms, and our winters will be wetter, and snowier. I'm not sure if it is good news for Bloem, but it might be.


Biking as assertiveness training

From http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/

I’m learning something about life from biking everywhere (an element of the no carbon-producing transportation part of the No Impact Man project). It used to be that when I rode around Manhattan, I would chastise myself for getting mad or shouting at drivers or pedestrians. I would think I was becoming one of those rude bikers who thought they were entitled to run red lights and have the waves of pedestrians in the crosswalk part like the Red Sea before Moses.

And I am still not rude in that way. In my view, if the pedestrians—or vehicles—have the right of way, they have the right of way. I try to be polite. On the other hand, I seem to have subconsciously decided, since getting hit from behind by a car, that getting mad and shouting is, at times, appropriate. It has the effect of keeping me, and other people, safe.

Pedestrians sometimes cross against the light without looking (there is no auditory cue from a bike to tell them to). I shout, “Watch out!” I brake. They look. Together—at least so far—we avoid colliding.

Drivers have the habit of honking in order to get in front of bicycles, only to get past and stop dead to make a turn, leaving the biker with nowhere to go. When I see that situation emerging, I shout, “Hey! Hey! Don’t turn in front of me.” Often, they don’t (but I still use my brakes, just in case).

A few times, I’ve been riding in the bike lane, and a driver, not looking, began veering toward me to avoid some obstacle in the middle of the road. I’ve banged on their window to let them know I’m there.

It’s not like me. I always want to be polite and charming. Being overly accommodating is actually a fault of mine (I want everyone to like me). But riding bikes in traffic, I’m learning that sometimes the best thing for everyone is for me to be aggressive. It’s a paradox—to be kind sometimes means to be rude and abrasive. Isn’t that funny?

Backache Back

It's day...let's see...4 of this consistent backache. Good news is I'm sleeping in a different bed tonight, and a double bed, so through the method of elimination I can at least establish if I have made the bed I'm lying in, so to speak ;-)

I got a message on Facebook from a Melissa van der Leek. She's a 20 year old from South Africa, living in Canada. She says she has family in SA. Reminds me a bit of Candice, quite attractive.

I've read recently that the Dutch are the world's tallest nation. It's bizarre that in SA the Dutch have such a bad rap. I think in reality, being called a 'Dutchman' is a compliment, just based on the Dutch's progressiveness. Isn't the world's biggest company also Dutch (Royal Dutch Shell).

One thing that I need to resuscitate is that Dutch capacity for entrepreneurship. Think of the Dutch East India Company, the CD player and Philipps. From such a tiny nation, these are huge giants that emerged in the world. The painters and artists too. Wouldn't mind visiting Holland over Christmas, then go skiing in a neighboring country.

Lunch with dad was good. We both ordered Eisbein. Really bugged me that the waiter pitches up just as he starts opening up his present. It's like, really guy, is it that important to stand here hovering to get the cooldrink order right now?
He's joining Candice at OR Tambo this afternoon then flying to Heathrow.

I think I'm going to give soccer a skip. It's cold outside, maximum 11, and I am sitting here with stabbing pain in my back. It's a catch 22 I think. I think I need to swim or do gym exercises to strenthen my back, but first want the pain to go away. I wonder if cycling was good for my back in the first place? Sitting at a desk all day certainly can't be good for it.

Yesterday afternoon I sent off The Holiday to someone I know through a friend of a friend at Blake Friedman (UK). Fingers crossed.

The Holiday (continued)

Eleven
Dummy

He was standing under the moon edging the banca (pumpboat) closer to the silver edge of foam. When he turned to fetch the fuel, he found himself facing the old man, his name was Eric, and behind him, his flock.
“What the hell are you doing? Who in hell do you think you are?”
The man’s face was worn and red, livid even in the pale light. He was quivering.
“It’s him Eric. He killed Claire, and now he’s trying to escape.”
He held up a hand that clenched into a fist. He turned, twisted by his own rage and turned eyes like burning coals on Hugh, who stood on the beach in just his shorts, his t-shirt wrapped around his neck.
“God help me, tell me what you are doing… And WHY!”
“I wanted to see this Underground River,” Hugh said evenly, measuring every word.
“There’s nothing to see at night,” a young Filipino girl wearing a yellow bandana said. A hand held her back, slapped the back of her head firmly with a ssh.
“Well day or night the Underground River is dark. And I have this.” He held up his hands, then moved to the boat and pulled out a long staff.
“It’s just a stick.”
“Well I was about to go back inside to get a cloth, you know, to fashion a torch.”
“He’s lying.”
“Hugh, my wife is dead, do you know that.”
Hugh folded his arms, with the long narrow staff poking out from either side of his upright body. “I know.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw her body before it was dumped into the reservoir.”
“And you didn’t tell us?”
Eric insisted: “WHY HUGH?”
Hugh slowly sank to his haunches, putting the staff down in the sand. He made a small nodding motion. Eric lowered himself to the sand, followed by some of the others. Those at the back remained standing, two young faces emerged between the arms and necks of the small group in front.
The sea sang a soft lullaby.
The breeze moved the dying Palm above them.
Hugh held up a finger. “In case you haven’t noticed, a small army is camping right behind us.”
“But one of them brought you to us.”
“Look, I’m new here, just like you. But ask yourself this: why would they help us? We are all fucked right here. And right now they’re thinking we can help them in some way. Perhaps the only way we can help them is through radio broadcasts we can interpret and they can’t. But pretty soon they’re going to get impatient, and they’re going to take over the house. It’s a matter of time. You know how people are. When they aren’t comfortable any more with their coconuts and dirty water…they’ll take what they want.”
“That’s bullshit. Eric has known these people for years. You haven’t.”
“Well I know people. I don’t have to know their names to know what they are capable of.”
“Eric we can’t take a chance. For all we know this shit was about to steal one of our boats. You know our rules.”
The group chorused: “No stealing of food. And second, no one person may take something for their own use. Everything is shared.”
Hugh felt the case against him was gathering momentum.
“Look, I am sorry. I can’t sleep and I wanted to visit this river. It was wrong of me to sneak off like this in the middle of the night.”
“Eric, don’t-“
“Wait!” he hissed, snatching words out of the air with his fist. Hugh looked at his face, grubby with tears and misery. “Hugh, you know we saved your life, don’t you.”
“Sure. I know that.”
“And you know we need you. Each of us here needs you.”
“I know. That’s why I need to understand this environment. We have to know how it works if we’re going to survive.”
The sea sounds and the wind again.
“That’s true, but that can be our third rule. Home is our time carved understanding of our immediate environment, and each day we must do one thing to understand it better.”
For some minutes the group memorized this stanza, and finally rehearsed the entire epithet, from rule one to three. Hugh joined in, but softly.
Eric, now satisfied that there was unanimity in the group, turned to Hugh: “You can go to the Underground River, but not tonight. You can go tomorrow, at dawn. You can take the girls, Stella and Michael.”
Michael was the oldest fossil of the lot; the one who trusted Hugh the least.
“Agreed,” Hugh said, offering his hand.
Eric shook it, a cool wet fish rather than a firm grip.
“C’mon, let’s pull this back up.”
Together the group moved the boat back to where it was. There were far more hands than necessary to move it, but they lingered, desperate to seem useful. Afterwards they stood breathing hard, looking up to Hugh.
“Thanks guys, you’re a great team.”
Smiles broke out in dark faces. People joined hands. A small girl patted the watermark under his ribs softly, saying, “It’s a miracle.” A white hand grabbed her and pulled her away.
When they had all left, Eric pushed his staff painfully into the watermark.
“I had better be right about you,” he hissed, then handed the staff to Hugh and walked slowly into the dimly lit house, a dark shadow under the twinkling stars, and enormous moon.
“What’s important,” Hugh whispered softly to the beach, “is whether the world has become what it is, or whether it is still becoming. I think it is far from over, and if that’s true, nowhere and no one is safe.”
He speared the staff into the soft sand. It flopped over, he grabbed it and speared it decisively this time. It stood solidly against the pale flat moonscape around it. Hugh walked to his tent, gritting his teeth.
He knew the soldiers could steal any one of them in the night, and kill them for their amusement. He also knew the body in the water was a message. It meant they meant to poison, or in some shape or form, contaminate or kill every last person that couldn’t defend themselves.
When he lay down on a mere blanket covering the bare black soil, he blinked in the darkness.

I must try to escape as soon as I can. Before the storm. Before the soldiers get themselves drunk on wickedness.
And in his dream he saw the world shape shifting, from a potato to a strange plant, whose leaves opened, grew thorns, and began to eat itself.
In his sleep he murmured: “…still becoming…”

And he saw the silvery silhouettes of the young children on the beach. He saw them wither, like leaves, and all that remained was a bone white staff on an empty beach, its warm sands flooded in moonlight.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mastery and Misery


Did you know we've just gone halfway through the year? We're now into the 26th week.

After my game with J on Friday (4-2), we saw that the blue rubber ball had split slightly along the seam. Thus it was no accident I was hitting some serves with maximum force and then being frustrated that they weren't shooting back as far as they had with Frik. The upshot of all this exertion has been incredible backache over the last 3 nights. It's been sufficiently painful for me to want to reconsider playing the game.

I also have to say that when we stepped off the court two young guys stepped on and we were both blown away by their precision and flow. An effortless symmetrical dance. My hoots of victory seemed silly in comparison to their utterly humble mastery of the game.

Meanwhile the rugby of Saturday was hard to swallow, and I sat out on Dad's birthday thanks to the back drama.

Candice and Dad are gleaving for the Med tomorrow. I went to the Mall this morning to buy him a Springbok jersey, going to give it to him over lunch (at the nearby Spur). Oh and I hear Anne is in town...

Tri-Nations Sport: All Blacks Overrun Tired Springboks

Lethal attacking at the death deprive the Boks of victory

South Africa led the match until the 72nd minute, so the All Black onslaught not only caught the players in green off guard, but turned the entire Kings Park Stadium silent, and left people watching televisions (in South Africa at least) gaping in astonishment.

The slaughter in the final quarter of the game exposed a South African side that had grown tired not only in the game itself, but through the many battles that preceded this vital match. The All Blacks simply looked a lot fresher, and the tactic to wait as long as possible and then attack the beleaguered Boks worked like a bomb.

This despite an opening blizzard of dominating Bok power. Flanker Schalk Burger was brilliant. The Boks started their lead with two penalties, culminating in an unconverted try from a brilliant Butch James in the last minute of the first half. The threat of All Black superstar Dan Carter was contained, but he was not on form on Saturday, had he been the All Black victory might have been more decisive.

The statistics though, at the end of the first half showed that the Boks were doing most of the energy sapping tackling, with 50 as opposed to the All Black tally of just 37.

The second half began ominously with the yellow carding of Pedrie Wannenburg. He left the field for 10 minutes, leaving the Boks outnumbered against the resurgent All Blacks. To complicate matters further, Butch James, who had had a storming game, was substituted by Frans Steyn, who now had to play flyhalf. The 20 year-old last week achieved hero status against the Wallabies, but it was a mistake to throw the youngster against the rising All Black tide. And so it seemed on these two defining moments, the match began to turn.

As Bok coach Jake White put it: “I rather believe we lost it rather than to say we were taken apart and beaten.”
Man of the match, number 8 Rodney So'oialo said: "The game is 80 minutes, and we knew if we continued running with the ball in hand we'd tire them out and holes would start appearing."
That said, the All Blacks proved they are the team to beat in the Rugby World Cup in September. The Kiwis were trailing 21-12 with less than 15 minutes left, and proved their incredible toughness and resilience once more. Captain Richie McCaw, with hard man Jerry Collins in support, scored for the first of two post 70 minute tries by overwhelming two defenders to touch down.
Soon after, All Black winger Joe Rokocoko cruised in for an easy as you please try, leaving in his wake desperate Springbok players lying on the ground, an unusual looseness on the field which the All Blacks used build momentum once more. Carter converted for the final score: 26-21. The All Blacks were unlucky not to score a third try in the final minute.

SA Coach White has sent a ‘B’ team for the Wallaby game in Australia, in order to save his tiring squad ahead of the World Cup. Meanwhile, the victorious All Blacks will need to recover from Saturday’s bruiser in time for their next energy sapping Tri-Nations clash.

The Holiday (continued)

Nine
House

He awakened to a cool metal blade snipping hair beside his ear. The bulge and shudder of bright orange tent flaps. The far-off sigh of the sea. The feeling of a beard, and then his eyes opened.

A young Filipino woman, no a girl, was bending over him, and cutting his hair. Her eyes stretched as she saw he’d woken; she dashed out of the tent. In the minute she was away he smelled the faint scent of death that still lingered in the tent. He lifted his shirt and saw the closed eyelashes of stitches under his ribs. The gray had been replaced by a faint watermark.
Several faces poked into the tent. “Well, welcome back,” one silvery haired man said with enthusiasm, his bright blue eyes wide and happy. “Give him this,” he said breathlessly to the girl.
The other faces blinked at him for a moment, then withdrew.
The girl gave him a sugary drink, perhaps coconut water or something. He sipped it delicately from a supine position.
“Where am I?”
“You’re at Claire’s Beach Cottages, in Sabang. You’ve been here for three weeks. We really thought we would loose you.”
“Who was…?”
“That’s Robert, my husband.”
“Your husband?”
“Yes.”

She cut locks from his hair for a few more minutes. The wind buffeted the tent impatiently.

She spoke softly: “He bought the cottages from my mother.”
High managed a small smile.
She pulled his shirt without inhibition, she’d obviously had to do it for some time. She moved her fingers over the smooth skin below his ribcage.
“We’ve been treating your wound with strong alcohol and…what do you call them… anti-septic herbs. There are no doctors here so we were very worried.”

She picked up the scissors and resumed cutting his hair. She told him that when he was brought here, they wanted to put him in one of the rooms in the house or adjoining cottages, but those already in them wouldn’t give them up. He lifted himself up on an elbow and saw many other tents in the garden besides his, and noticed some people lying in hammocks, talking in soft, serious, but inaudible tones. He could see over her shoulder that the sun was shining outside; it appeared to be a gorgeous day.

“Lie down now, rest; you’re in no condition to move around, much less walk.”
He looked at her clothes, her face, her hands. His hand took hers; her eyes swiveled uncomfortably to meet his: “Thank you,” he said “…for caring for me like this…” And then he slept some more.

It was very early the next morning that Hugh finally emerged, restored if not fully healed, from the near fatal impact on Rizal Avenue several weeks earlier. He stood in a small school of tents, the sea churning nearby, an empty hammock swinging like a spidery pendulum in the early wind.

Walking gingerly on the soft sand of the beach, he sensed his muscles had atrophied. The foam of the sea felt as cold as needles, and yet he knew it couldn’t be that cold. He was amazed at the lightness of his body. He guessed he must have shed 10kg or more. He tested and explored his new body with small jumps in the sand. He still felt a dull ache under his ribs, but for once the stitched eye did not shed a tear of blood.

“Are you alright?”
It was the old man, with a small boy behind him carrying a long fishing pole and an oversized plastic box, presumably containing fishing tackle and bait.
“Yes, I think so. Thank you.”
“Well don’t thank me. My wife looked after you. Get strong, we need every pair of hands around here now. There is a lot of work to do, and it’s obvious we’ll receive no help from the government.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“An awful lot has happened while you were sleeping. When I get back I’ll give you an update.”
“No, tell me now,” Hugh said, stepping closer to the old man, glancing quickly down at the concerned looking little boy, and back into the old man’s expression-filled eyes.
“Well… I never know how to tell people the news any more. Sometimes I don’t know if I can.”
“I know, but I’d like to know. Please.”
“Alright. The world has lost a few cities…to put it mildly.”
“I know about that.”
“You heard about Shanghai, 20 million in that city alone, gone.”
“Yes I know. What about London and New York?”
“They’re still there. The fireworks seem to be over, but there have been rolling blackouts everywhere so far as we know. From South Korea – God help them – to South Africa, even New Zealand. I’m from England by the way, Kent. The United States started seizing oil tankers and directing them towards New York and New Orleans. As a result, a lot of ships have been sunk as a result of other countries fighting over the scraps America overlooked. And every major oil field is on fire, save a few small ones in Africa.”
“So America has emerged unscathed?”
“Not at all. Two trillion has been wiped off the stock exchange – that’s just Wall Street. There are riots and unemployment in the world’s strongest economy and the feedback mechanism has spread the contagion of hyperinflation and instability around the world. Look, we don’t have CNN, but we have the radio and we still don’t know precisely what happened. The world has changed. We have our hands tied now, simply because we no longer had the resources we once had. And the little we have seems to be running out as well.”
High looked down at his feet. “I understand.”
“We know it started with Jerusalem, and at about the same time we had some catastrophic weather here, and in the Gulf.”
“The Gulf of Mexico?”
“Well, as a matter of fact right now there are a series of super storms lining up in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems like this is not only a war without end, but where the weather is our worst enemy. You see we believe it started because a very big storm hit the Gulf of Aquaba and disrupted one of the busiest shipping lanes for about a week. That put incredible pressure on certain nodes, especially on America’s East Coast.”
The man put his hands at his sides, looked out over the sparkling diamonds in the sea.
“It was a shock. America’s inventories suddenly dried up, and so they seized tankers and used air craft carriers to chaperone them towards US ports. Because you see US cities had already come to an absolute standstill. By the way, they still are.”
Hugh kicked the warm sand softly.

“China didn’t like their ships being redirected. Understandably they kicked up a fuss, and made very direct threats against the US. But the US had little choice. They didn’t back down and the next thing North Korea seemed to be acting as an agent for the Chinese; they put the first missiles into the sky. The Japanese and US forces in the Republic of Korea forces shot them all down. Then something happened in Lahore, a massive terrorist attack…and then all hell broke loose. Jerusalem, Seoul and all the rest. You can imagine the backlash the Americans were faced with by the rest of the world. So now they’re withdrawing their troops – it’s a complete withdrawal, and all they can do now is diminish into the West.”
“What about what happened here?”
“Palawan has been destroyed. These people here, you; we are perhaps 100 survivors.”
“Everything on the entire island?”
“Well we were lucky. El Nido up north came through just as we did, but that’s all. This storm raked Palawan from bottom to top. There really were very few survivors. Didn’t you see Puerto Princesa?”
Hugh nodded.
“Puerto as you saw was completely destroyed. From what we know, there are two new superstorms building up as we speak, one in our neighborhood, a carbon copy of the last one, another over Europe. And, as I said, a whole series of them are billowing up off West Africa and spinning towards the Gulf of Mexico.”
Just the silence of the waves roaring in, one after another.
“Of course it’s unprecedented. Of course it is.”

Hugh held a hand over his eyes to block out the sun. “It seems like this is just the beginning,” he said.
“Yes, it will get worse, much worse before it improves. We already have to deal with no electricity and we’ve almost run out of diesel here. It’s becoming exceedingly difficult.”
Hugh looked at the old man, nodded, looked over his shoulder, nodding.
“The Earth,” the old man said, “seems to have passed some tipping point threshold because there’s been a massive increase in warming these last few days. You can feel it here too. I mean look: the forest is dying…”

Hugh turned slowly and saw gouges of desiccated yellow and brown in the forest that had been shielded from the storm by great cliff walls.
“Didn’t it rain here?” Hugh asked.
“Yes, heavily, but it’s dried up very quickly. You will see how hot it is in the next hour. Which reminds me, I have to hurry. Come on Peter.”

The old man and the boy moved quickly to a small bulging outcrop beside the sea. Hugh turned his back on them and walked along the shore. He noticed the water sometimes rushed up to the grassy verge of sand. He knew it wasn’t supposed to do that. And with each step his side ached.

Ten
Heat

Later that same day, when all were lethargic while the heat swelled over the beach like a quivering nuclear balloon, he emerged from the house. His back ached and the thought of sleep sickened him. The heat also did not touch him as much as it weakened them. He was as light as a reed, and eager to explore.

He walked barefoot over the gleaming wooden floor of the house. He walked by the radio room, where the old man was, as always, listening. The man, who had not caught a fish after all that day, gave him a small nod. The voices on the radio were strained; one man had a sore throat.
In the next room he found some of the girls. He moved between them to the bookshelf, and immediately found what he was looking for. He glanced down at them and saw that they were sleeping. He removed a Lonely Planet for the Philippines and turned to the last chapter. His finger traced the Underground River, not far from Sabang. He followed the Peninsula to El Nido. One of the figures stirred and so, silent as a shadow, he slipped out of the room with the valuable book.

He lay on the hammock reading it for a few moments, the hot wind breaking like shards of stinging glass through the withering fingers of the palm fronds.
Then, crossing his legs and sitting upright, hands on knees, he closed his eyes. For these moments he gathered strength and sought direction, while the forest sizzled around him.
The man had said to the group, over a lunch of fruit salad: “We can only survive if we work together.”
Was that a line he borrowed from a movie?

Hugh could not help but remember that another storm was bearing down on them. Without opening his eyes he knew that the aerial behind him, poking high above the roof of the house, was vulnerable, and if the winds blew differently this time, this house would also be destroyed. If 2 superstorms could follow each other within days, then one had to accept the island could no longer be inhabited. There were probably many places like that, and people would have to get used to that. The trick was to find those islands, even within continents that could be depended on for consistently benign weather. Sitting on the hammock, he believed the continent that would provide the best promise of resources had to be Africa. It was, after all, the only continent that spanned so much of both Hemispheres. And that meant somewhere between the tropics he might find viable pockets of life. And hadn’t he read that the Cape floral kingdom was the largest in the world because this sliver of land had been untouched by the last Ice Age? Surely that suggested long term viability?

In the quiet of the noonday heat, he made his plan. It was to return home, to Africa, by whatever road.
And while the old man and many here had already placed their faith in him as a potential leader, provider and protector, he knew he could do nothing to beat back the storm that had all but destroyed him, and would destroy them all if they remain here.

The man had spoken of soldiers in the jungle behind the cottages. Perhaps they could be persuaded to sell some of their fuel, and from there he could take a pump boat in the cool of the night to El Nido.

So he opened his eyes and walked with purpose to the forest. The soil was warm; the trees were wilting in the heat. Not far from the small circular water reservoir he saw the body. He moved cautiously closer and saw it was the girl who had tended him. She was naked, and it was obvious from her wounds that she had been raped, severely beaten and then shot. Her body was riddled with small black punctures made by bullets.

His hands lifted like wings. His ears pricked. His eyes shot left and right. Fearing they might be behind him, he darted quickly along the path in front of him, then dodged left and clung to the trunk of a tall tree. Perspiration poured down his forehead, his side ached, his forehead that had caught sunlight for a few moments, stung.

He heard low mumbling. He peeked around the tree and saw a small encampment. The soldiers were there, with two Jeepneys, and a few tents in the clearing. The men were consorting with one another, obviously drunk. They were all carrying weapons, and now convinced some key players to join them. They walked as a group past the big tree, towards the reservoir and the girl’s body. Carefully, and staying in the fringe of bush and undergrowth around the clearing, Hugh advanced. He ignored the weapons. He entered one of the Jeepneys from the rear and removed a big jerry can. He carried it 200 metres, put it down, and went back for a second one, and a third. Then he made repeat journeys to a position close to the three sidearmed Pumpboats that were moored close to the hammocks, in front of the hotel. He made sure the jerry cans were covered.

Then he climbed back into the hammock, panting and sweating profusely. He picked up his book and researched a possible route to El Nido.
No, the way to survive is on your own. Each man for himself. That was the game plan until further notice.
It took a long time for his blood to cool.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Holiday (Chapter Eight)


Road

Shit.
The moment he noticed the first one he noticed the others. Three, six, eight…perhaps a dozen crocodiles. They were perfectly camouflaged in the forest debris and wet mud, and it was only the movement of one, that alerted Hugh. Now he saw their cold reptilian eyes glowing with yellow hunger.
He heard the mosquitoes, a cloud of them, whining right against his ears but he refused to move.
He was tired and sore and starving. He eaten a few cashews he picked up from the ground. He’d covered perhaps 10km over several hours, looking for shelter, and any other survivors. He did not see a single car, or a single person alive. But having seen more of the destruction in the surrounding area, it was obvious to him now that a storm surge from the sea had swept over the island, and what that had not destroyed, the wind had lashed or sliced to smithereens.

He stood absolutely still. It was the greatest predator the world had ever known against two handfuls of a creature that had stubbornly refused to become extinct. Did these crocodiles really think the tables had turned so soon? Did they really think they could pursue this creature that made handbags and shoes out of their skins, and ate them for dinner at restaurants around the world?

They answered this question in concert, for three of them suddenly moved rapidly and decisively forward, their long noses curving left, while their raised tails snapped in the opposite direction as they moved.
Hugh knew he smelled of blood, his new shirt had a bright red gleam under his ribs that had soaked down his side turning into a dark brown. He was afraid to run lest he tear the wound even further, and he wasn’t sure if he could. Waves of drunk weakness swarmed through him. His cool forehead had a lather of steam on it.

Instinctively, his eyes moved, surveying the area for a weapon. Nothing, just twigs and driftwood. He moved backward, and the response from the crocs was confirmation that this human being was scared after all.

“YAAAHH!” Hugh shouted, waving an arm, then wincing painfully and clutching his side. Fresh bright red blood seeped between his tightly bunched fingers. His eyes darted up. The loud noise seemed to have worked on the croc nearest to him, but others further away advanced, not wanting to loose out on the action. There were more than a dozen Hugh realized; in his peripheral vision the place was crawling with the big lizards, some of them perhaps three times longer than he was.

He was retreating, step by careful step backwards, and they were advancing, drawing alongside one another and opening their jaws wide to threaten their competitors.
He’s mine, they seemed to be saying.
The sole of his shoe squeaked on smooth metal. He looked down to see a smashed sign:
IRAWAN. He thought he remembered something about crocodile farms near Puerto Princesa.
He found a rock the size of his fist and hurled it. It missed the nostrils of the leading croc by a whisker. An odd growing noise. The croc surged; Hugh leaped into the air on pure reflex and jaws snapped shut on falling rain. He landed on the crocs foot, and was surrounded now by crocodiles. The crocs head turned and the side of his jaw bumped him against the calf.
Have I been bitten?
God I am so tired…

He heard a deafening sound, like an explosion. Man and croc froze in shock, then another explosion, and the back of a croc sliced open. In unison the crocs turned around and writhed away, like fifty slithering snakes.
Hugh stood like a statue, heart racing, the noise still roaring in his ears, and his side burning still from the effort of the leap. A hand shot out of nowhere and suddenly gripped his forearm. The shock of this sent a sick chill down his spine that made him want to pass out.
As though he’d suddenly become mentally retarded, he followed the brown hand along the arm to a khaki screen t-shirt. His neck was bulging. He was saying something to him. Shouting. On his head he wore a military style cap, and yes, his trousers and boots were military issue too. In his other hand he held a still smoking shotgun.
The man was saying something but Hugh could hear nothing. He thought of the money in his backpack, and then felt a salty snake coiling on the back of his tongue. He tried to fight the nausea. He tried to resist it. But the snake grew saltier, he tried to swallow but his tongue was dry…and then he slowly collapsed, with the vivid Jeepney grumbling behind the military man, and children’s bug eyed faces staring at him as he fell…under the barrel of the smoking shotgun..

Now there was the constant groan of the truck, and flashes.

The Jeepney rocking violently on a rough almost impassable stretch of muddy road.

A child dabbing a wet cloth at his lips.

The man with the military cap shouting at a kid wearing Prada sunglasses to leave the man’s bag alone.

The innocent blue sky.

The radio turned up very loud. A man’s urgent voice in a tongue he didn’t understand.

The frown dug deeper and deeper into the man’s face. His jaw dropped again and again.

The children sometimes laughing madly, other times they were strangely sedated.

The heat woke him. They had stopped inside a jungle. It was raining softly now. The Jeepney was empty. They were all outside, helping an old woman trapped under a tree trunk…they got her out and found her one leg had been crushed to a pulp, and when they turned her head her one eye was missing. She made soft noises and then slept…or perhaps died. They lifted her into the Jeepney, then after some moments, pulled her out of the truck and set her down on the long grass beside the road. They covered her with palm leaves and drove deeper into the jungle.

The incessant clanking of fuel drums.

Stopping to pick up fruit or some other abandoned item.

It was a nightmare that seemed to continue for ever. The road did not end however many times he lost or regained consciousness. It was just the road, and the pain, and the rain, on and on, without end.

The fever burned him in waves.

The pain in his belly became a dull ache and then numb.

He glanced under his shirt and saw a gray splodge.

I am going to die…

This is not a movie. This déjà vu Daffy Duck mother fucking shit is real, and it’s happening to me. It’s happening to everyone here…

A child’s hand with the kidney shaped pieces of an orange, bumping softly against his lips. His body was dry and yearned for the juice, but his jaw was too weak to chew.

He said one word softly: “Water.”

And water was poured over his cracked lips.

I am going to die aren’t I?

Moving. Trees flashing by the windows. The passengers bobbing on their seats as the rough road continued on and on.

They stopped moving. A hand pushed firmly under his back. His eyes popped open: “What’s happening?” He saw the military man leaning over him, and the children’s faces leaning over the front seat. The man reclaimed his arm.
“I think you are dead,” he said.
“You okay?”
“Okay.”
“We goto Sabang. There is safe place there. Big strong house. But not many survivors. Canyou understan this?” He was Filipino but there was a definite American edge to his accent.
He closed his eyelids slowly, opened them.
“Okay. You bleeding inside your body, my fren. You need doctor very bad.”
“How far?” Hugh croaked.
“Sabang no far, but this road very bad. Many underwater. So wait for water. Maybe long time.”
“News…” he whispered.
“Huh? I can hear.”
“You know news…of the world?”
Their eyes met and he saw the shadow in his eyes.
The man sat back and stared through the panicked wiper blades.
Hugh could hear the rain pounding the Jeepney’s roof. He heard the distant sssh of rain on mud, and the softer roar of a river in spate, tears a road into chunks of mud, melting it like chocolate.
The man’s words seemed disembodied…like echoes…coming out of the roar of the engine and the rain.

“Do you wan hear bad news or God awful fucking news?”
The man glanced at the children in the back of the truck and his body began to shake. Those dark, angry, anxious eyes pinched shut and his lips quivered. He let out a short wail, his bulging bicep pulling a hand over his face. When his hand dropped away his face worse a mask of composure. Even in his semi conscious condition, Hugh found this transition disturbing.
“Riya Sanhigh soul and pyon yang, these cities all gone in the nuclear bomb.”

Riyadh

Shanghai

Seoul

Pyongyang

He closed his eyes.
The world is going to hell…so…
… if I die now it’s okay.

The man’s face, his nose, was almost touching him.
Hugh’s eyelashes fluttered.
“London and…and New York?”
The man’s eyes seemed to be searching his for something.
For hope.
For answers.
The man’s head quivered. He was nodding.
“London and New York…these are okay.”
He sat back, sniffing. “And we’re okay, okay.”
He noticed the tip of a child’s hand being proffered from behind, soft voices saying “okay” and more thumbs poking over his seat.
The man nodded. “It’s okay its okay.”

Outside, just in front of them the soft roar of a river in spate grew loader, and the road was tearing into chunks of mud, right up to the wheels of the Jeepney. The man reversed 20 metres and watched the road in front of them still melting away like chocolate.


Click on the title of this post to link to a YouTube clip on crocodile movement.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Question: Can Capitalism Survive Environmentalism?



And should capitalism survive based on where it is taking us?

Senate passes pro-renewables energy bill



(AFP/Getty Images/File/Justin Sullivan)

This is a big deal, it's the front page headline on the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/22/us/22energy.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

By H. JOSEF HEBERT and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writers 35 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The Senate passed an energy bill late Thursday that includes an increase in automobile fuel economy, new laws against energy price-gouging and a requirement for huge increases in the production of ethanol.


For the pull article click on the title of this post


Meanwhile in South Africa the Bothaville plants have been frozen. Possibly a blessing in disguise as ethanol isn't an alternative in the sense that you can't run the world's highway systems (the way they are being run) on any alternative or combination of alternatives that we presently have at our disposal.

For further reading on this subject, visit:

http://www.busrep.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=&fArticleId=3884708

I also saw an absurd article saying that Boeing will sell something like 500 aircraft by 2020. Not going to happen. Airlines will be bankrupt by the end of this decade at the soonest, and by the next decade at the latest.

The 737 is the most successful commercial airplane family in history, with more than 7,000 orders. Boeing has more than 1,500 unfilled orders for the Next Generation 737 worth over $100 billion at current list prices.

The 777 is the clear leader in the 300- to 400-seat segment with 65 percent of the market, and unfilled orders in excess of 325 airplanes valued at some $80 billion at current list prices. Airlines worldwide have ordered more than 960 777s.

For further reading on this - in Afrikaans - visit:

http://www.news24.com/Sake/Algemene_nuus/0,,6-1607_2134700,00.html

Introducing Hubbers: Coen Pretorius and Hannes Wessels


Nice guys eh...:
(from: http://www.thehubsa.co.za/forum_posts.asp?TID=14069&PN=3)

Coen (pictured above as Psycho):

Dalk is die hoof [emoticon vir 'n vark] ook daar, hy kom ondersoek dalk die ontwikkeling van die minder bevooregtes in sport daar*...

Translation: Maybe the main pig is also there, to investigate the development of the disadvantaged community...

Hannes (as MWNN):

Die hoof? Die hoof van wat!? Net omdat daar n miljoen mense in jou gekkeparadys bly maak dit nie van jou n koning nie!

Translation: The head? The head of what? Just because you have a million people in your fool's paradise** (sic) doesn't mean you're a king.

*Reference to SA Cycling 'too white'
**Reference to this blog

Mr Ache on .5 Day


Been a weird, fairly busy week full of bizarre (but interesting) twists and turns.

Soccer last night was a jol. Body is really sore after all the running etc. It's a more fun way to get fit than say, running on a treadmill, or jogging out the same route everyday.

Johnnic are phoning me at 14H30 to do a telephone interview, and since I'm doing a half day only today, will probably take the call in the comfort of my own home ;-)

Not sure what is going with the Medical Writer assessment. I apparently typed the fastest and most accurate (not that that means anything), and I think the quality of the other aspects was good. I'm good friends with the assessor, so I think there's concern that giving me the position will look like some kind of bevooroordeling (nepotism). So now the suggestion is that all of us go for individual interviews. Interesting.

The All Blacks game is tomorrow, should be a cracker.
Dad's birthday on Sunday...will probably get him a Jeep shirt.

Tonight I have a squash game with J, and probably stay home for a just before the end of the month salty crack snack. Or might go out and watch Fantastic Four. Am enjoying these other sports enough to seriously consider chucking cycling for good. Someone emailed me and said Roadies are a vindictive bunch. Not sure if I particularly like the cyclists I've encountered on the Hub. There are one or two people I'd have coffee with, but they tend to be cyclists that are also duathletes... Pure cyclists are fussy wooses.

I think cycling attracts a perfectionistic streak, and so they also tend to think their world is the universe entire. Not quite. Having cycled a lot I've realised to what extent it dominates the rest of your life. Like Lance I think you occasionally need a new lease (on life I mean). And recently I've had a photo exhibition, and just yesterday sent The Holiday off to Human & Rousseau Publishers. The triathlon thing still interests me though.

My Tri-Nations story has moved up a slot making it the second most popular story this week on Ohmynews. Today I've got a front page story on SA Cycling being 'Too White' on reporter.

2 hours to the Big Weekend.

Eat Meat At The Expense of Many

“Meat feeds few at the expense of many...”

10kg of vegetable protein produce 1 kg of meat.
900 l of water are needed to produce 1 kg of wheat.
100 000 l water are needed to produce 1 kg meat.

Furthermore, there is a quote from “Diet for a Small Planet” where the author, Frances Moore Lappe, asks the reader to visualise sitting down to eat a large steak. "Then imagine the room filled with 45 to 50 people with empty bowls in from of them. For the ’feed cost’ of your steak, each of their bowls could be filled with a full cup of cooked cereal grains.”

“...food experts point out that the world hunger problem is artificial. Even now, we are already producing more than enough food for everyone on the planet - but we are allocating it wastefully.”

Meanwhile in financial news:

52,000.00 KRW = 400.148 ZAR

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Medical terms: Pleurisy

From Wiki:

Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs, which can cause painful respiration and other symptoms. Pleurisy can be generated by a variety of infectious and non-infectious causes. The effects of pleurisy can often be felt long after the condition has gone away.

House of Flying Daggers


Watched this last night on DVD...

The Holiday (Chapter Seven)

Fire

Sparks and stars. Pink flares and fireworks. Is this a dream? Lights moved between the stars, and then violent pink fireworks roared demonically overhead for what felt like hours. They sounded like the screams of big animals, behemoths – like elephants. And when he opened his eyes there was just the comforting crackle of burning wood, the hiss of wet wood on flame, and the warm blanket of smoke. His head ached, and his body burned, but he felt if he moved he might awaken himself into a more acute awareness, and he wanted to sink deeper into the soft passing away of existence. No, rather slumber than having to face the world and all its pain (including his own). So he courted sleep, and he was not far from it. He drifted on that periphery of consciousness, like a child skipping on the edge of a cliff.

There was no day or night, just oblivion, and inexplicable lights. Pain came in waves, the sleep drug grew stronger, deadening each successive wave.
Perhaps they were helicopters, or satellites, or missiles at various times of the day.

…perhaps they were drawings or some television program…

…perhaps it was something from a radio…

…or words of the passenger next to him…

…is that you, God…calling me…

…but I don’t believe in you…any more…

But the sky was alive with lights, and the curtains of smoke only made the illusions more mystifying. When at last his eyelids opened and dark pieces of chocolaty Earth fell from his lashes, onto his nose, he thought he was looking at an eclipse. Had God turned the day to night? His fingers twitched in the mud. Instead of an elaborate eclipse, it was thick smoke still pushing itself hard against the sun. It was also sweeping over him, urging him to cough and stinging his eyes. It was this squeeze on his lungs that drove him from the comfort of a sleep that would have undoubtedly become a permanent state if he had been able to remain there.

He knew himself to be incredibly weak. It took a great deal of strength to merely turn his body, to lift a hand to shield his mouth. His body screamed as blood that had not circulated for hours, now drove sharp pins and needles into incisions and scalded flesh. Around him was the ash of burnt bark. He climbed over fire hardened mud, emerging slowly out of his shallow grave. Hugh’s hands broke the soft ash that had once been powerful and muscular tree trunks.

From the top of the grave he saw the smoking landscape sweeping around him. Yellow flowers of flame were dancing with delight on a dry branch that had somehow been spared by the first firestorm. Lightning cracked, he hobbled in a pathetic attempt at a reaction. He realized that pregnant black cloud columns still remained, hovering behind the long gone typhoon like governors meant to maintain the status quo.

He coughed, and felt his ribs stab with pain. Blood began to ooze from the side of his head once more, and from a coin sized hole under his ribcage.
His throat felt dry. His nose was filled with snot.

He stumbled with the smoke; sometimes singeing the soles of his feet on a glowing coal. After two hours of moving slowly with the curtains he found the curtains opening to a yellow sea. It had a petroleum glow about it. The gray drapes allowed sick veils of golden sun to filter through. The beach smelled of rotten fish. Their silver bodies lay everywhere. The white beach sand was all black; covered now by what seemed like thick layers of waterlogged sawdust, wood pellets, bark and small branches. Here and there a solitary tree. Here and there a dead body. Sometimes an arm. Sometimes a chair. Here and there dead birds, a goat, a car tire.

He walked along the beach for a long time before he realized what he was doing. He just wanted to find another survivor. He noticed a few birds, seagulls, feasting on the dead fish. He saw an octopus scavenging in the shallow water; it bulged, swapped colors and skulked away when it sensed him.
He did not see any other person.

Silky blonde hair on one side of his head had turned into a burnt crust of hardened blood. It was banging painfully against his head while he walked, so he held a hand to hold it in place.
He realized the shirt had been torn and burnt off his back, that he’d lost his shoes and his watch. In his pocket he still had his iPod and a credit card, but that was all.

He stood for a long time in one place, and finally, registering the seagulls again, knelt unsteadily and fingered the water at his ankles for a fish. The waves heaved the silver bodies about. He glanced at the fish in his hand. It showed no signs of physical injury. He made small grimace, bit into its side, and was surprised at how rough it was, and filled with bones. He ate two small fingers of flesh, then picked up another fish. This one was rotten. He tossed it aside, and gasped. He was suffering an emotional attack, and shock. He struggled to breathe. Pinched his eyes shut. Opened them, rubbed them, opened them again, pinched them shut again.
Could this be real?

More than four hours later, he was standing exhausted from the walk, in Puerto Princesa, or what was left of it. He’d walked by the airport, one of the few buildings left standing, except that it had been destroyed by a terrible fire. A Boeing had been thrown across the runway and speared its wing into the building before exploding.

The rest of the town had been leveled, with barely an erect wall in sight. He thought he was near Mendoza Park (except place names didn’t seem to matter any more). He encountered a few small children here. These followed him for a while, until they saw the gaping wound under his ribs and realized he was far worse off than they were.
He spent some time scratching between building debris, and finally found what he was looking for. He pulled out a scissors, and sliced off the painful wad of black gluey hair. He tried to cut the rest as well, but lifting his arm hurt too much. He was about to toss the scissors away, then thought better of it and stuffed the scissor into his back pocket.

He found some shoes in the debris, and a pile of Nike shirts. The shoes were too big, but he couldn’t find anything else worth wearing. Then a shirt. He didn’t care about colors, he pulled the first one he could find out from under some bricks and metal poles.
‘Just do it’, it said in unusually small and modest letters on the back.
“Do what?” he murmured to himself. He was about to step away when his eye could the strap of a daypack. He pulled it, but it was broken. He searched for another one, but it was even more damaged.

He found a shattered ATM and fished into the broken metal canister under the faceplate. He stuffed some money into a plastic bag lying nearby. Dead bodies everywhere. Some of these people had survived, they must have, but there had been no one to rescue them. Why had the government not sent a team to rescue them? Did they have better things to do?

It was warm even as it rained. He opened his mouth and licked his lips and chin. He found tins and broken fruit from demolished roadside stalls. He opened a can of coke, and put two more in his bag. A few steps further he found bottles of water, picked one up and threw out the one coke can. For some reason he stayed close to the road. It felt as though it might take him somewhere, anywhere, as long as he could move beyond all this.

Under his eyes it was wet and cool. He pawed his cheeks a little while he walked. He didn’t understand. His fingertips were wet, and not with blood, with water. Through his fatigue he imagined that it was raining again, except for once it wasn’t. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. Not tears of sadness, tears of strain, but in his mind, he was walking in salty rain.

SA Cycling ‘too white’


While there is transformation in almost every other sport, it is notably absent in cycling

At the South African Cycling Championships held in Bloemfontein earlier this month, it was obvious that cycling has advanced a great deal over the past few years. Many riders are now producing performances that match international standards. One vital aspect of this sport that has broken away, to judge from the all white competitors, is that Cycling South Africa seems to have forgotten to address transformation.

While mainstream sports like Springbok rugby and the Proteas have gone to great lengths to accommodate more representative teams, and even other sports like hockey are adjusting to these imperatives, cycling has until now been completely overlooked.

It’s important to bear in mind that during the Olympics of 2000, even though the men’s hockey side qualified, they were not allowed to participate because the team lacked appropriate representation. In the same way, the cycling team for Beijing has not been selected, and one fears that if transformation isn’t implemented in some drastic fashion very soon, there will be no cycling team headed for the Olympics. This would naturally be a sad day both for the cyclists involved, and the South Africans supporting them.

The goal is to have teams (whether swimming, playing hockey or cycling) that are based on at least a 50/50 representation. South African cycling has a tough road ahead to meet these goals, as it appears, just from a cursory inspection of the hundreds of riders at the 2007 South African Championships, there was a mere handful of black riders. This proportion will have to increase something like 10 fold within the following few months.

Khaya Majeke*, manager of the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) is very serious about this; he has suggested that if sports show a lack of transformation, people should be found “on the streets, or in Alexandra. SASCOC,” Majeke said, “will insure demographic representation [in sports].”

The present Olympic team comprises 45 white and 28 black athletes. However SASCOC was irritated by the comparison made between the South African and Australian Olympic teams of 2004. South Africa managed just 9 medals in 2004 (with a budget of R60 million), while Australia harvested 49 medals (with a budget of R120 million). SASCOC said it preferred to make comparisons against other African countries.

Majeke has made it clear that the first step to dictate team composition will be based in setting criteria and authorizing an agreement to this effect by the Presidents of respective Sport Federations, and pending their approval. Mr Cedric Frolick, an ANC MP has demanded that those sports that do not conform to these prescriptions be identified.

*Translated and adapted from Gert Coetzee’s ‘Spanne se ‘kleur’: Druk al hoe groter’, Volksblad, 20 June 2007