Friday, September 28, 2007

Hijacking: Where are you the most vulnerable?

In front of private residences 51%
Victims sitting in parked cars 10%
At traffic lights 7%
At a stop street or yield sign 6%
At business premises 5%
At shops, telephone booths, etc 3%
At other intersections 1%

Recession Too Mild A Word

By Pablo Ouziel

Yet yesterday in Crain's New York Business this could be read: "Only weeks after financial-sector employment in the city hit levels not seen since the technology-stock bubble, investment banks have switched into firing mode and halted most job searches ...

As a result, at least 10,000 Wall Streeters of all stripes could lose their jobs by year's end, according to estimates from Manhattan recruiting and consulting firm Options Group."

For the rest of this Ohmynews article, click here.

Capture the news on your cellphone

Become a part of the news reporting process with News24

Next time you witness something newsworthy that you think News24 Users would like to see, just snap a picture or a video on your cellphone camera and e-mail it or MMS it to photos@news24.com.

If it's a big scoop, we'll contact you immediately, get your details, and publish it live on News24.
You could also win big in our That's News to Me competition!

News24 Users have got into the swing of things already with these great galleries:

The big brrrr by Various News24 Users
Heavy rains in Cape Town by Various News24 Users
Fire in Stellenbosch by Various News24 Users
A UFO or a vapour trail? by Deon Williams
Armed robbery in Newlands by Various News24 Users
Shooting in Fourways Mall by Andre Raubenheimer
Bomb blast in Algiers bu Elies Belazouz
Mozambique demolition by Lorinda Steenkamp
Turmoil in Durban by Various News24 Users
The lunar eclipse by Various News24 Users

NVDL: You can do the same by submitting it to info@reporter.co.za and be paid for its published.

China’s Future Is Drying Up


By JIM YARDLEY

SHIJIAZHUANG, China — Hundreds of feet below ground, the primary water source for this provincial capital of more than two million people is steadily running dry. The underground water table is sinking about four feet a year. Municipal wells have already drained two-thirds of the local groundwater.

South-to-North Water Transfer Project Above ground, this city in the North China Plain is having a party. Economic growth topped 11 percent last year. Population is rising. A new upscale housing development is advertising waterfront property on lakes filled with pumped groundwater. Another half-built complex, the Arc de Royal, is rising above one of the lowest points in the city’s water table.

“People who are buying apartments aren’t thinking about whether there will be water in the future,” said Zhang Zhongmin, who has tried for 20 years to raise public awareness about the city’s dire water situation.
For more from this New York Times article, click here.

Training Day


Needed some physical exercise after a controversial end to the day yesterday:

Swim: 2km
Time:42min
Weight: 85.15kg

SA's Crime Question(s) - SOLVED!


Why does South Africa have such a high crime rate? Why are more people murdered and raped in South Africa per capita than anywhere else on the planet? Because the people in charge of crime - like the police commisioner - are also criminals. It stands to reason that the land of milk and honey for criminals is a land where those who prosecute and arrest are fellow criminals. That wasn't such a long walk in the park was it?

And since crime is such a profitable business (the insurance companies have to agree), why do anything about it?

Well, for one because the majority of people (called voters) are the main victims of crime. Another reason to perhaps start to think about looking at murder investigations - you know where someone is found dead, with a knife in their back and then you try to find out who did it and make sure they go to jail - is that, well, this country is hosting the world's biggest international sports festival. Yes, you may have heard of it: it's called the Soccer World Cup.

A lot of businesses, see, want to profit from this. And government could do well too. So there's this idea that if we do something - something real that is is, beyond fudging statistics - some people stand to make lots more money. It's a tough one I know. The easy money from ATM heists, the constant streams from petty crime, or the jackpot from luring overseas business. The one is easy money, the other - tourism - is even easier. I know, it's a tough call.

But going after crooks is a good start. And starting at the top probably makes more sense than starting at the bottom, with the symptoms of corruption in this country.

For those on the ground, here's a useful tip for combatting crime in your area. If you see beggars, layabouts, drifters etc roaming around, don't reward their presence by giving them money or food. When you do, they will stick around for more handouts, and scobe out the neighborhood while you're at it. If you care about the poor, set up a safety house somewhere and have people put money and effort into soup kitchens, that sort of stuff, in designated areas.

The 3 Laws of the Internet

1. Do Not Be The First

Because of the pace of innovation, and the cost to originate, you either have to have incredible momentum, or a failsafe patent. Even so, software duplication saves an incredible amount of overhead and thinkTime. Think of Netscape Navigator and orginal search engines like Yahoo.

2. Do Not Be the Last

Operating Systems like Linux have come to the party a little too late. What came after the Apple iPod? Can you name the most recent MP3 player. The last is like Rambo 5 - probably not worth your time.

3. Do Not Volunteer

Maintain your privacy. Volunteering information on the internet, especially private information is risky. You may think participating in online surveys is harmless, but entire databases consisting of profiles are being setup by marketing companies. When you fill in a survey you volunteer plenty of information that's unique to you - identifiable through the unique code your computer uses every time you're connecting to the internet. Be equally careful emailling bank or credit card information.

The Cigarette Bush


...Higher up on the plateau our ranger points out the cigarette plant, a flower that requires a specialized tool to extract nectar. Only the orange breasted sugarbird has the curvature right, and so only these birds can pollinate cigarette bushes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Time is key, but Unique Visitors still King

From Bizcommunity:
By Louise Marsland

The multi-media convergence of content online is producing new opportunities for advertising online and additional measurement options for publishers of content online. The future is clear: the internet is a growth medium globally for advertisers and once South Africa has proper high-speed broadband internet access, web access will explode locally. Will your brand be ready?

Speaking at the Online Publishers Association of South Africa seminar yesterday, Wednesday 26 September 2007, OPA chair and GM of the Mail & Guardian Online, Matthew Buckland, said with the future going digital, no brand could afford not to have an online advertising strategy.

While South African online publishers are still, frustratingly, having to educate clients and agencies alike about the power of the interactivity of online as a medium...they are, however, still implementing and investigating new technologies and applications to provide readers and advertisers with the best multi-medium and multi-platform options.

Buckland's future trends:

  • Multimedia ads: convergence of TV and online advertising.
  • Broadband: bigger ads, more creative rich media ads. Buckland doesn't believe the ad industry has been very creative online to date.
  • Profiling of users: behavioral targeted advertising.
  • More targeted advertising: less wastage, higher click through rates.
  • New types of content: advertising on UGC and niche audiences
  • Increasing home use: as broadband takes hold.
  • Globalisation: advertising local and international (ie, Facebook).
SA users are currently the sixth biggest on Facebook in terms of users globally. And there are SA advertisers on Facebook: "that's money flowing out the country", says Buckland. But the same works for SA publishers: they should be accepting international advertising.

Many content platforms: cellphones, Playstations, Internet-enabled fridges! "Content is being delivered to all Internet-enabled devices. Even the most sophisticated Internet fridge with a panel delivers advertising and you can download recipes; it will in the future be impossible to come across a digital device not connected to the Internet,"Buckland explained.

NVDL: Buckland goes on to posit the importance of TIME on site. Time spent online is key; we need to move away from measurement metrics of numbers to volume of activity.* Think of it as someone surfing through the channels of SABC or DSTV. How much time do they spend watching specific content from one service/content provider to the next? What are they watching the most? It’s important to differentiate online between the idea of a reader and viewer.

In order to measure reach and exposure of online advertising, measurement needs to delve deeper as different website visitors have different levels of activity, interest and engagement with your content and advertising*.

*From Bizcommunity

Friedman On Energy Efficiency - Walmart Style


NVDL: I enjoyed The World Is Flat, but I have to agree with James Howard Kunstler. Friedman may be the golden boy of the New York Times, but sometimes it's patently obvious that a substantial fraction of logic just isn't there. The same of course is true for the majority of Earth's human population.

Take this article on Energy Efficiency. Is Wal-Mart a poster child for energy efficiency? Not on this planet? On which planet are you Mr Friedman?

You see to even start talking about Energy Efficiency, the last company you want to give a badge is WalMart. Why? Because it's entire substrate is based on wasting energy. The Walmart's and Pick 'n Pay's may be the darlings of suburbia, but if you remember, it was these supermarkets that put local producers out of business in the first place. The bakers, the butchers and the candlestick makers all disappeared. In their place we got everything we wanted at low low prices - but shipped from far away. Canned goods, fishing rods and toilet seats from China, maize flower from the USA, wool from Australia and eletronics from Japan and Korea. Try get those things made locally. Try to find the local expertise. It's gone.

So all these things have to get packed and insulated - there's an energy input in itself - and then conveyed in massive metal crates on ships. These horizontal skyscrapers then lug all this stuff to harbors around the world, and then this stuff is trucked around to cities and stores. Who carries the cost? The planet. Cheap and abundant Oil runs these warehouses on wheels. So what happens when oil is no longer cheap, and no longer abundant? Answer: no more warehouses on wheels. Simple.

In fact far more efficient in the scheme of things is local farming doing its thing well and selling at local markets. It's healthier, and in the grand scheme of things, the overall costs - and YES THIS INCLUDES ENERGY COST! - is lower.

The future by the way portends the end of WalMart. When energy costs reach a certain critical level, globalisation will shift gears until it hits reverse. Then we return to local industries, and we turn to organic systems around us. Let's hope by then the planet's weather systems are still benign enough to allow us to try the local route. Given the neverending belching of exhaust fumes, and the temptation to turn to coal after oil, it's probable that we will attempt to farm the whirlwind.

Lead, Follow or Move Aside
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

China today is entering a really delicate phase on the climate-energy issue — the phase I like to call “The Wal-Mart environmental moment.” I wish the same could be said of America and President Bush.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman
Go to Columnist Page »
The “Wal-Mart environmental moment” starts with the C.E.O. adopting a green branding strategy as a purely defensive, public relations, marketing move. Then an accident happens — someone in the shipping department takes it seriously and comes up with a new way to package the latest product and saves $100,000. This gets the attention of the C.E.O., who turns to his P.R. adviser and says, “Well, isn’t that interesting? Get me a sustainability expert. Let’s do this some more.”
The company then hires a sustainability officer, and he starts showing how green design, manufacturing and materials can save money in other areas. Then the really smart C.E.O.’s realize they have to become their own C.E.O. — chief energy officer — and they start demanding that energy efficiency become core to everything the company does, from how its employees travel to how its products are manufactured.
That is the transition that Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s C.E.O., has presided over in the past few years.


Last July, Mr. Scott was visiting a Wal-Mart in Las Vegas on a day when the temperature was more than 100 degrees. He happened to notice that a Wal-Mart staple — inexpensive Styrofoam coolers — were not being promoted by the store’s associates. As Andrew Ruben, Wal-Mart’s vice president for sustainability, told me: “Lee walked into the store and said, ‘It’s 105 degrees. Why aren’t we selling any coolers?’ The associates said, ‘We don’t want to sell Styrofoam coolers because of their impact on the environment.’ So Lee called us afterwards and said: ‘We’re going to have to figure this out.’ By that he meant innovation of a different kind of cooler” that doesn’t come from petroleum-based Styrofoam, which is not biodegradable and usually not recycled.

Wal-Mart on Monday also announced a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project (C.D.P.) to measure the amount of energy used to create products throughout its supply chain — many of which come from China.

Said C.D.P. Chief Executive Paul Dickinson: “Wal-Mart will encourage its suppliers to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately reduce the total carbon footprint of Wal-Mart’s indirect emissions. We look forward to other global corporations following Wal-Mart’s lead.”

China’s leadership is not where Lee Scott is yet. Chinese officials still put their highest priority on growing G.D.P. — their bottom line. But for the first time, the costs of this breakneck growth are becoming so obvious on China’s air, glaciers and rivers that the leadership asked for briefings on global warming. Many Chinese mayors are looking to get clean-technology industries — like wind turbines and solar — started in their cities.

At such a key time, if the U.S. government adopted a real carbon-reducing strategy, as California and Wal-Mart have, rather than the obfuscations of the Bush team, it would have a huge impact on China and only trigger more innovation in America.

Mr. Bush will be convening his climate photo op — oops, I mean “conference” — in Washington tomorrow, which will include Chinese and Indian officials. But, as Rob Watson, the C.E.O. of EcoTech International, which works on environmental issues in China put it: “The Chinese are not going to take anything we say seriously if we don’t set an example ourselves.”

David Moskovitz, who directs the Regulatory Assistance Project, a nonprofit that helps promote green policies in China, was even more blunt: “The most frequent and difficult question we get in China with every policy initiative we put forward is: ‘If it is so good, why aren’t you doing it?’ It’s hard to answer — and somewhat embarrassing. So we point to good examples that some American states, or cities, or companies are implementing — but not to the federal government. We can’t point to America.”

Too bad. “It was America which put environmentalism on the world’s agenda in the 1970s and ’80s,” recalled Glenn Prickett, a senior vice president for Conservation International. “But since then, somehow, the wealthiest and most powerful country on the planet has gone to the back of the line.”

Leadership is about “follow me” not “after you.” Getting our national climate regulations in order is necessary, but it will not be sufficient to move China. We have to show them what Wal-Mart is showing its competitors — that green is not just right for the world, it is better, more profitable, more healthy, more innovative, more efficient, more successful. If Wal-Mart can lead, and California can lead, why can’t America?

NVDL: Because the thinking there is faulty. The thinking is based on previous investment, when everything must be overhauled. Lifestyles must change, and naturally, Americans don't know how to do that. Not many do.

MidEast Money


From The New York Times:

“I was on the phone with my mother last night and told her I was in Dubai,” said Mr. Rubenstein, a white-haired 58-year-old with large tortoise-shell-rim glasses, explaining the challenge he faces. “Of course, she asks, ‘Is it safe? There’s always bombs going off and wars,’” he recounted, rolling his eyes for effect. “I told her Dubai is probably a lot safer than Florida.”

NVDL: There's a saying amongst the arabs that goes something like this: My grandfather rode a camel, my father had a Mercedes Benz, I use a lear jet. My son will ride a camel. I wonder if the same psychology can be applied to these Las Vegas-type citadels gleaming their silver spires in the desert, air conditioners blowing around the clock to drive out infernal 50 degree heat. Can the same psychology be applied? The answer is that in a Post Carbon World - by that I mean post Oil (not post Coal) - when the oil money no longer flows, these energy sapping palaces will not surface. Sorry guys.

Girl quits Winfrey Academy

From Sowetan Online:
by Canaan Mdletshe

Mom says daughter was ill-treated

Philanthropic TV personality Oprah Winfrey may have tried to light up the lives of some lucky South African girls with a R300 million state of the art school.
But for 12-year-old Aviwe Ngubo, her brief stay at the institution was a nightmare, says her mother, Bongiwe Ngubo.

“I have pulled my child out of the school and I regret the day I sent her there,” she said. “She was treated like dirt in that school and she suffered emotional abuse.”

For more, click here.

NVDL: Oprah recently mentioned on her own show that the school was not 'too strict'. She described the need to protect the girls from drug dealers etc. How though, to protect the girls from within, from snobbery and bickering?
DSC06313-1

Midnight Oil


Not sure if it is the slogging over sanddunes at Gaukamma or scrambling up koppies in search of bushman caves and painting, but my legs - my body - is wasted. My also be the altitude re-adjustment. From Jozi to the coast, 4 days to adjust and then BOOM! - back again.

Last night my head wanted to go to gym but not my flesh and blood. Felt really tired:

Run: 20 min
CKal: 223
Weight: 85.5kg

Am impressed that after all the feasting, especially carnvivorous guzzling, my weight hasn't breached the 90kg barrier.

Meanwhile after gym I returned to the office to finish a piece of writing I started working on. Finished after midnight! Crazy!

Did You know?

From eighty20:
Men Talking the Talk

The average monthly cellphone bill is about R178 for men, almost 46% higher than that of women.

Total population of South Africa

The total population of South Africa at September 2004 was 46.5 million (up from 44.8 million in 2001). 36.8 million are black, 4.4 million white, 4.12 million coloured and 1.2 million Indian/Asian

She's all that

There is no statistically significant difference in happiness between single men and single women, but married women are statistically happier than married men. (Source: The Eighty20 Spring Happiness Checkup)

A woman needs a (jobless) man like a fish needs a bicycle

50% of women in South Africa with babies under the age of 2 are single (never married and not living together) (AMPS 2006 RA)

Today, tomorrow, together

2006 was the first year where there were more South African adults with a bank account than without. (Finscope 2006)

Foam (Part 2)


Another exhibition candidate...?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sea(e)scapes


Pictures of Buffalo Bay taken over the weekend.
Around the corner was much calmer, and a lot of surfers were out there, making the day count for something. ~ NVDL

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea. ~ Isak Dinesen

The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. ~ Annie Dillard

Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war. ~Loren Eiseley

Our Addiction to Oil: One Molecule Could Be The Cure


From Wired.com:

On a blackboard, it looks so simple: Take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel. One, two, three, four — and we're powering our cars with lawn cuttings, wood chips, and prairie grasses instead of Middle East oil.

Unfortunately, passing chemistry class doesn't mean acing economics. Scientists have long known how to turn trees into ethanol, but doing it profitably is another matter. We can run our cars on lawn cuttings today; we just can't do it at a price people are willing to pay.

Enzymes

The problem is cellulose. Found in plant cell walls, it's the most abundant naturally occurring organic molecule on the planet, a potentially limitless source of energy. But it's a tough molecule to break down. Bacteria and other microorganisms use specialized enzymes to do the job, scouring lawns, fields, and forest floors, hunting out cellulose and dining on it. Evolution has given other animals elegant ways to do the same: Cows, goats, and deer maintain a special stomach full of bugs to digest the molecule; termites harbor hundreds of unique microorganisms in their guts that help them process it.

No walk in the park

For scientists, though, figuring out how to convert cellulose into a usable form on a budget driven by gas-pump prices has been neither elegant nor easy. To tap that potential energy, they're harnessing nature's tools, tweaking them in the lab to make them work much faster than nature intended.

Addicted

While researchers work to bring down the costs of alternative energy sources, in the past two years policymakers have finally reached consensus that it's time to move past oil. The reasoning varies — reducing our dependence on unstable oil-producing regions, cutting greenhouse gases, avoiding ever-increasing prices — but it's clear that the US needs to replace billions of gallons of gasoline with alternative fuels, and fast. Even oil industry veteran George W. Bush has declared that "America is addicted to oil" and set a target of replacing 20 percent of the nation's annual gasoline consumption — 35 billion gallons — with renewable fuels by 2017.

But how?

Hydrogen is too far-out, and it's no easy task to power our cars with wind- or solar-generated electricity. The answer, then, is ethanol. Unfortunately, the ethanol we can make today — from corn kernels — is a mediocre fuel source. Corn ethanol is easier to produce than the cellulosic kind (convert the sugar to alcohol and you're basically done), but it generates at best 30 percent more energy than is required to grow and process the corn — hardly worth the trouble. Plus, the crop's fertilizer- intensive cultivation pollutes waterways, and increased demand drives up food costs (corn prices doubled last year). And anyway, the corn ethanol industry is projected to produce, at most, the equivalent of only 15 billion gallons of fuel by 2017. "We can't make 35 billion gallons' worth of gasoline out of ethanol from corn," says Dartmouth engineering and biology professor Lee Lynd, "and we probably don't want to."

Eat or Drive?

Cellulosic ethanol, in theory, is a much better bet. Most of the plant species suitable for producing this kind of ethanol — like switchgrass, a fast- growing plant found throughout the Great Plains, and farmed poplar trees — aren't food crops. And according to a joint study by the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy, we can sustainably grow more than 1 billion tons of such biomass on available farmland, using minimal fertilizer. In fact, about two-thirds of what we throw into our landfills today contains cellulose and thus potential fuel. Better still: Cellulosic ethanol yields roughly 80 percent more energy than is required to grow and convert it.

For more visit Wired.com

Who I Are


Identity is an immensely powerful driver. Sometimes it's an overt force, sometimes it's subliminal, often it's both. Everyone and every thing has an innate sense of who and what it is, and what its purpose is. What must I do? Who should I be? What is behind all this? If we don't know these answers, even when they're not posed consciously, we're driven to find out. The entire Body Of Religion is based entirely around resolving this mystery. But is it really so mysterious?

Clarity is especially clear in Nature, where different animals are driven by curiosity, even if that means making them vulnerable to predators/pain. Porcupines have this effect on lions. The fact that it is such a curiosity almost counts more against the poor creature than its bristly countermeasures. Various creatures - plants and animals - use curiosity to lure other creatures into their clutches. So it is interesting that this powerful sense of 'who I am' and 'what are you' is about as powerful as the survival instinct. Why shouldn't it be. Instead of just living we can FLOURISH if we discover some of the hidden subtlties going on around us. The tree of life that we're a part of grows vigorously in different direction, and as Life moves into space, curiosity pulls it into the bright light of Living and Flourishing.

Human Beings suffer from a chronic sense of Lost Identity. Who are we? What are we supposed to do? The lazy, easy route is finding God, and giving 'God' the answer to all these questions. In fact this question - what is the meaning of life? - is far more complex than just, 'God's will for me'. It's an answer, but very unspecific. And to be realistic, it pretends to satisfy the original question, but really, it doesn't. It is still a private spiritual matter between you and the universe to find how you're supposed to fulfill a personal and collective destiny (yours and the universes).

You, as a human being, must find your answer to that. It may mean being a gift - a giver - to your community. It might mean being a discover, an artist or an explorer. It might mean following your passion, however idiosyncratic. It might mean working your way to an answer, going on a journey. It may mean finding out what it is to be a father or a mother.

This is why we are all so fascinated with celebrity: we’re trying to find answers to the question who are we? We are our choices, and the choices of others.

Buffalo Bay: Scenes From a Beach









These images were photographed on September 23 on the Garden Route in the aftermath of a cold front. Light was glassy clear and the scenery pristine. Buffalo Bay is a long astretch of Beach in the Goukamma Nature Reserve, close to Knysna.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Urgent Action Called For At Climate Summit

From CNN.com:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- With tales of rising seas and talk of human solidarity, world leaders at the first United Nations climate summit sought to put new urgency into global talks to reduce global-warming emissions.

President Bush, with Japanese envoy Yoshiro Mori, attends a dinner after skipping the day's sessions.

What's needed is "action, action, action," California's environmentalist governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, told the assembled presidents and premiers on Monday.

The Bush administration showed no sign, however, that it would reverse its stand against mandatory emission cuts endorsed by 175 other nations. Some expressed fears the White House, with its own forum later this week, would launch talks rivaling the U.N. climate treaty negotiations.

President Bush didn't take part in the day's sessions, which drew more than 80 national leaders, but attended a small dinner Monday evening, a gathering of key climate players hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban set the day's theme in his opening address, declaring that "the time for doubt has passed" on the issue of global warming.

NVDL: To still have discussions on the 'ifs' of global warming has become ludicrous. "Do you think this is caused by global warming?"
When we see weather anomalies now like droughts and floods, the cause is almost certainly global warming/climate change. Indeed, we should be asking: how can we plan, what can we do now, not only to adapt to increase temperatures and changing patterns, but how do we see our sells maintaining our current lifestyles over the short term.

Travel: South Africa,The coast of many colours


The Independent.co.uk

From a dazzling kaleidoscope of spring flowers to the seclusion of a very green resort, Rachel Holmes takes the drive of a lifetime along South Africa's western shores

It was spring in South Africa - wildflower season - and my partner and I were off to tread lightly among the daisies - something I've longed to do since I was a child, growing up in the country. Having experienced the splendours of the well-trodden Garden Route eastwards from Cape Town along the Indian Ocean, we were eager to explore the road less travelled up the Atlantic west coast and into the Northern Cape interior.

There was a problem, though. As regular travellers, we were experiencing the frequent fliers' guilt. The flowers of the Cape are orange, violet, pink, and every vibrant colour in the spectrum - but were we green? We'd already burned carbon footprints into the ozone to get to South Africa, and like many stressed, time-impoverished late-30s holidaymakers, we had no intention of compromising on our creature comforts. Was it possible to plan a nature-trip through the Cape while trying to minimise our contribution to the destruction of the planet? The answer (in part) was to make our final destination Oudrif, a retreat in the Cederberg mountains dedicated to diverse holiday activities, luxurious relaxation - and sustainable tourism.

A drive of just over an hour on the R27 from Cape Town took us to the West Coast National Park, renowned for its annual fireworks display of daisies which flower for a few brief weeks in the Postberg section of the reserve. It's a spectacular drive: the highway runs up the coast between the Cape Fold Mountain Chain to the east, and the glittering sand dunes that border the turquoise Atlantic to the west. In the rear-view mirror, Table Mountain and Cape Town floated in a purple haze under a clear, sunlit sky. We dutifully obeyed the road signs marking tortoise-crossings: these creatures are endangered in the Western Cape, and all species are protected.

Inside the park, on the way to the Postberg daisies, we carefully skirted a huge puff adder in the road, and made several stops to admire less threatening wildlife, including ostrich, quaggas, zebra, and a whole range of boks; springbok, blesbok, gemsbok, bontebok, steenbok, grysbok.

The daisies are as much part of South African iconography as the Springboks, Table Mountain and Nelson Mandela. But despite the images of colourful landscapes I've seen since I was a child, nothing prepared me for the sumptuousness and power of their sensory overload. Viewed from behind, facing the sun, they spread out like a dazzling carpet. Then, when you look at them from the front, they burst into intricate details of pistils, petals and stamens. We found ourselves happily dazed.

Apart from the glorious springtime spectacle, the area offers whale-watching and environmental courses. If you want to stay in the park, Kraal Bay is a lovely hideaway. You can rent a houseboat either fully serviced or self-catering, and dive from it into the topaz lagoon that spreads out from the sparkling white sandy beach. The park authorities also have a house to rent in Churchaven, a picturesque 19th-century fishing village with a white-washed Anglican church overlooking the flamingo-filled bay. It has morphed from sleepy hamlet to exclusive leisure destination.

We had lunch at Geelbek Restaurant, among the stone fountains and shady vine-draped pergolas of this historic and graceful Cape Dutch-style country manor. The local wine list and reunion with much-loved friends promptly put paid to any daft notions of sticking to our itinerary.

Paternoster, next stop on the R27, is a restored Portuguese village of whitewashed stone cottages, brightly coloured wooden boats, sun-drenched beach, and what's possibly the most reasonably priced fresh lobster in South Africa. Those in the know go to the Voorstrand Restaurant in a century-old tin beach shack. Tastefully understated, Paternoster is posh in the way of holiday-home Cornish seaside villages: but walk 30m up the road and it segues into what remains of the old town - poor, overcrowded and unrestored. The bald, intimate inequalities of this uneven development are a telling aspect of the west coast experience.

Just a little further up the coast, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve offers a wonderfully located campsite in Titties Bay, right on the water's edge amid the rocks. It is presided over by Cape Columbine lighthouse, the first beacon sighted by ships from Europe rounding southern Africa.

A predilection for industrial aesthetic took us on a rewarding detour to admire the state-of-the-art Saldanha Steel mill. Commissioned in 1998 and recently completed, this sublime Bauhaus-style factory is a triumph of modernist functionalism and total design - and the only steel mill in the world to have eliminated the need for coke ovens and blast furnaces, making it a world leader in emission control. The salt-factories, concrete breakwaters and flocks of flamingos at Velddrif and Laaiplek at the mouth of the Berg river continue the symbiosis of industry and wildlife.

The holiday resort of Elandsbaai has a spectacular beach, as wide as an eight-lane motorway. It is frequented mostly by South Africans - but known internationally as one of the coast's best surfing spots, notwithstanding the fact that the ocean feels like liquid ice.

The R27 veers inland here, but there is a way to stick to the coast: you can pick up a permit for around £2 in the saloon of the run-down Elandsbaai Hotel. The document allows access to the graded dirt track that runs adjacent to the state-owned railway line.

The first major settlement at the end of this route is Lambert's Bay. It offers open-air seafood dining at the Muisboskerm restaurant, Khoi rock art, and boat trips to see Bird Island's gannet-breeding colony. From here, the rutted and potholed road to Doring Bay is a dramatic route of wild coastal veld, sand dunes and sparkling salt-pans. We drove to the wave-beaten cliffs and headlands of Doring Bay, a quaint and characterful working fishing port with a pungent fish factory, railway workers' homes, and hoary fishermen working from rowboats. Die Anker - bar, restaurant, guesthouse and cornershop in one - is the only place for refreshment. It is undistinguished in everything, except for its notable fish and chips, served on the deck of a wrecked boat cemented to the front of the building overlooking the ocean.

Strandfontein, 8km up the coast, is good for a swim before you turn inland, via the extraordinary salt-pans of Papendorp and its nearly deserted tumbledown village.

The route inland takes you through the winelands of the Oliphants river. Between stretches of scrubby veld and fynbos, we drove over bridges spanning reclaimed riverbeds now verdant and lush with grapes - the result of an innovative irrigation scheme which has rehydrated (and revitalised) the local economy. As you can't swim in these rivers of future wine, the hot springs at Citrusdaal are worth heading for. Farm stalls on the way sell plump dates, oranges, olives, nuts, honey and "novelties" (half orange, half naartjie) to nibble while you take to the steamy waters.

After stopping to buy rooibos at the tea factory in Clanwilliam, we made tracks to our final destination - Oudrif. This peaceful retreat is located in 200 hectares of remote, pristine, red stone wilderness straddling the Doring river in the ancient Cederberg region (between 500 and 345 million years old). The area was once an inland sea; the tidal lines on the tops of the towering koppies and mountain escarpments are still visible. Fish fossils more than 400 million years old have been found here. The rugged landscape is strewn with artefacts left by Stone Age peoples and by extraordinary open-air galleries of ancient San and Khoi rock art, still sometimes referred to by the old-fashioned and patronising description of "bushman paintings".

The Cederberg is to African art history what Italy is to Renaissance art. Around 8,000 years ago, * *the San stood in front of the blank canvas of rock overhangs and cave walls with red, yellow, maroon and ochre natural pigments ground into a fine powder and mixed with water, blood or plant juices. Guided hikes to see this mysterious art are one of the main reasons for visiting the Cederberg. Bill Mitchell, who runs Oudrif, is known for his knowledgeable tours, punctuated by plunges into refreshing cave rock pools.

The Cederberg has a long history of conservation. As far back as 1876 the British geographer Sir James Alexander complained of the wanton destruction of the ancient cedar forests for economic expansion. His intervention resulted in the appointment of the first forest rangers. In 1897, new fast-growing plantations were established to prevent further cedar harvesting.

We arrived at Oudrif after dark, illuminated only by starlight. The African sunrise revealed the style of the location. Oudrif has five straw-bale cottages and a large central boma (open-plan dining and lounging area) with huge outdoor fireside, braai, and sprawling veranda designed in harmony with the natural environment. The cottages and boma are constructed using the 200-year-old building method of plastering straw bales for use as building blocks, and painted in biscuit and cornflower tones. The eco-friendly result is both practical and delightful. Inside, the spacious and comfortable cottages all have lounge areas and separate shower-rooms. The combination of art deco furnishings with streamlined modern African design is understated and tasteful, with added details of beaded curtain tie-backs and artisan wire light-pulls.

You are not going to meet the crowds here: Oudrif accommodates only 10 people at a time. The ambience is intimate and relaxed. Though you are so close to nature, it is quietly luxurious - and fully catered, from pre-breakfast muffins and coffee to starlit, fireside wilderness haute-cuisine dinners. For us, cold beers were an essential accompaniment to our secluded late afternoon skinny-dipping and lounging by the river while everyone else was sleeping.

Bill runs the place with his fellow owner-manager Janine Rawson, supported by their border collie Bella. Once a prominent Cape Town chef, he has a laid-back charm and constant bright humour, sparkling eyes and the intelligence of the innovator and humanist. Janine is an equally luminous host: a qualified field guide with expert knowledge of local plant and animal life, and natural medicinal cures. She also has a philosophy of environmentalism that should have the ear of international policy-makers and governments.

Off-grid and with no external power, Oudrif is designed and run to lessen environmental impact in every way possible. A solar pump provides water from the river, and solar panels charge batteries for electricity. The fridges and freezers run on gas, the building fittings are recycled (the hardwood cottage doors were salvaged from a bank), and the straw itself is a renewable resource and excellent insulator, reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling. Janine has raised an organic market garden of vegetables, delicate salads (including piquant wild rocket) and herbs from the hard red-stone earth.

For all this, Bill and Janine do not paint Oudrif with the eco-tourism brush. "People are by their presence destructive," says Janine, "but every action makes a difference, however small." Working for neutral impact, their aim is to re-stabilise overgrazed and eroded land. It is inadequately described as a holiday resort, though it offers diverse activities: hiking, rock art, swimming, paddling, sunbathing, wildlife, fly-fishing, bird-watching, guided tours through the rooibos farms. Then there are the long, restorative siestas, stargazing, excellent food and a well-stocked library. And, as we discovered as we were enveloped in the landscape of phosphorescent daisies and wildflowers, the spring here is breathtaking. In truth, it is even more spectacular than in the West Coast National Park. Once you've seen them here, you can close your eyes and take these daisies with you everywhere.

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE
GETTING THERE

British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com), Virgin Atlantic (08705 747 747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) and South African Airways (08707 471 111; www.flysaa.com) all fly from Heathrow to Cape Town. From today, Flyglobespan (08705 561 522; www.flyglobespan.com) starts flying from Manchester.

To reduce the impact on the environment, you can buy an "offset" from Climate Care (01865 207 000; www.climatecare.org). The environmental cost of a return flight from London to Cape Town, in economy class, is £21.20. The money is used to fund sustainable energy and reforestation projects.

STAYING THERE

Oudrif, Doring River, Cederberg Mountains (00 27 27 482 2397; www.oudrif.co.za). Rates start at R425 (£30) per person per night, full board, including activities.

Kraal Bay houseboats (00 27 21 689 9718; www.houseboating.co.za). Rental of a four-person houseboat starts at R945 (£66) per night. Beach Camp, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (www.ratrace.co.za). Camping from R110 (£8) per person per night, including entry to the reserve.

VISITING THERE

West Coast National Park (00 27 22 772 2144; www.sanparks.org/parks/west_coast). Rooibos Tea Factory, Clanwilliam (00 27 27 482 2155). Farm tours also available, R35 (£2.50) per person.

EATING & DRINKING THERE

Geelbek Restaurant, Churchaven (00 27 22 772 2134; www.geelbek.co.za/restaurant.htm).
Voorstrand Restaurant, Paternoster (00 27 22 752 2038).
Muisbosskerm Open Air Restaurant, Lambert's Bay (00 27 27 432 1017).

FURTHER INFORMATION

South African Tourism: 08701 550 044;

Kagga Kamma


Kagga Kamma is situated in the Swartruggens region, which can be described as a southeasterly extension of the Cedarberg. The Swartruggens plateau is bordered on the east by the arid Ceres Karoo.

The close relationship between the Swartruggens and the Cedarberg is geologically visible in its typical reddish brown weathered sandstone formations, as well as its plant cover, which can be described as a drier mountain fynbos. It is largely treeless and is dominated by a variety of shrubs with interesting local names such kakiebos, klaaslouwbos, koringbos, renosterbos, sneeubos, wolwedoring, taaibos and skilpadbessie. Protea species, so characteristic of the Cape Mountains are not as widespread in the drier Swartruggens region, but do occur in some of the higher areas.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE RESERVE

Willie de Waal, Pieter de Waal and Pieter Loubser bought Kagga Kamma as well as three adjacent farms in 1986. The property covers some 15 000 hectares and the new owners were impressed by the natural beauty and seclusion of the area. They built a small stone cottage in 1987 to enable them to entertain their friends at Kagga Kamma, but soon realized the need and potential of sharing it on a wider basis and preserve the area for posterity.

Thus in 1988, they decided to transform Kagga Kamma into a game reserve. This caused a variety of logistic problems. There were no proper roads, and some 20km of road had to reach Kagga Kamma. Finding an adequate source of water proved to be equally formidable. After sinking 10 different boreholes without success, as the pneumatic drills could not penetrate more than 30 meters into the solid rock formations, the owners in 1989 bought the farm Grootvlei, immediately to the south. Grootvlei had water of a high quality, which was subsequently piped to Kagga Kamma over a distance of 8km.
In 1989 the first antelope were reintroduced and the first chalets were also built.

For more info click here.

Putting Your (My) Foot In It

I'm at a swanky restaurant and I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable because...well, I'm ridiculously under dressed for one (I'm wearing under the knee cut off terrorist pants and flipflops), and for another, I'm dining alone.

At tables on my left there's a couple, and beside them, a couple, ad nauseum. What makes this set up even more deplorable is that my waitress has decided that at least as far as I am concerned, she will bring the full and utter meaning in the word WAITress upon me. I do a fair bit of ceiling staring, I stare into the fire, I review all the photos I've taken today, then this week, then go through each picture I have ever taken in my entire life. Even after this my neighbours - the happy couple - are on course two, rapidly moving to course three, while I remain stuck on course numero uno.

I decide on a brilliant scheme. I will sneak around the corner of the restaurant and visit an internet station. Not only will this allow me to give the waitress a jolly good up-yours-old-sport, and allow her to spend anxious minutes agonising on where I am (and will I ever come back) - and while she is practising her apology I can feed my internet addiction.

So now for a quick, discreet exit, followed by consternation and hopefully PANIC for my waitress. When I stand up my slip slop snags the heel of the table - which has four low splayed legs - and with a cheeky little kick I manage to wrench it free. I notice the table is tottering. Fortunately it totters back to where it was, the plates doing a brief hysterical shriek and clatter. In the echo I skulk around the corner, head almost disappearing between hunched shoulders.

Miley Cyrus

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kunstler: Shock & Awe

From Kunstler.com:

With gasoline prices still skulking in the neighborhood of $3-a-gallon, despite oil priced above $80-a-barrel, political and economic leaders can pretend a little while longer that things are okay on the real life American scene. But between the dollar tanking in response to the Federal Reserve's Easy-Money-for-Big-Players policy, and the start of the home-heating season, you can be sure we are headed up to the $4-a-gallon range for happy motoring fuel before New Years.

There is still broad disagreement among commentators as to whether we are headed into a wild inflation or a grim deflation, but the emerging pattern looks to me like a big ocean wave that gathers itself into a high cresting peak and then collapses under its own weight -- that is, a technical wild inflation resolving into the low slop of people unable to buy anything. However you cut it, and from whatever angle you look at it, the bottom line will be a steeply lower standard of living for most Americans.

Of course, the US government's official inflation index is worthless, since it doesn't factor in the two vital commodities that normal people can't live without: food and gasoline. But measured against meaningful indexes, there's no question that the dollar is rapidly hemorrhaging value. Last week, the dollar reached new lows against the Euro ($1.40+ to one), oil ventured past $82-a-barrel, and gold topped $740 an a troy ounce. Food commodity prices have also been soaring, with the price-per-bushel of wheat topping $8 -- meaning more expensive Hot Pockets for American microwave food junkies in the season ahead.

It appears that Fed Chairman Bernanke's interest rate cut was designed mostly to help bail out the big banks, which are in desperate need of cheap loan money to cover the losses that they are suffering from not being able to unload tons of worthless mortgage-backed-securities.

Secondarily, the Fed governors might hope that their lowered rates would soften the blow of re-sets on millions of adjustable-rate mortgages -- but mortgage rates have de-coupled from Fed rates, so that may just be whistling past the graveyard.

The next two months will see a much bigger wave of re-sets than months previous, and the re-setters themselves have to figure in some idea of real inflation if they don't intend to lose money on those contracts -- and whoever these parties are at the re-set end, after years of slicing, dicing, re-bundling and re-selling, they are not liable to be in a charity business of buying houses for people at a loss to themselves in interest rate differentials. So, bottom line again, those poor shlubs who signed "creative" mortgages are going to get re-set upward pretty steeply whatever the Federal Reserve does. The political fallout from folks getting tossed out of repossessed houses is sure to get worse.

There's also no guarantee that the Fed rate cuts will rescue any big banks, investment houses, or hedge funds. Sooner or later, to either meet redemptions or admit losses, they'll all have to roll out those mortgage-backed securities, CLOs, and other fraudulent items currently hiding in their books, and ask the world what they're worth paying for. The world will answer by wrinkling its collective noses at the odor emanating from these bundles of financial offal, and that will determine whether some of these outfits stay in business or sink into the mire of financial history.

... what happens as the oil export crisis gathers force and we begin to get supply-and-allocation disturbances. . . ? Or what happens when the US military starts competing with agri-business and commuters for oil? Or what happens geo-politically when the contest for dwindling oil supplies from the exporting nations begins to affect relations between the major importers, namely, China, the US, Japan, and Europe? Or what happens politically on the domestic scene as times get hard and the public looks for targets to direct their righteous wrath against?

What all this come's down to is the sense of a nation absolutely fooling itself that it can carry on in the way it is used to. I'm hardly an advocate of the US giving up and committing suicide. What I advocate is a broad recognition that reality is compelling us to change our behavior. Reality is trying to tell us that we can't run an economy based on nothing more than investment schemes without directing investment into activities that produce things of value. Reality is telling us to be very worried about living arrangements that can only function with copious imports of oil from people who are disgusted with us. Reality is telling us that we can't divert our food crops into making motor fuels without people becoming unable to afford either fuel or food. Reality is telling us to redirect our culture more toward things-we-do-with-other-people and less toward things-we-do-with-new-things. Reality is telling us to shift from avoidance behavior and denial to engaging with reality in order to lead lives that are consistent with reality.

The next several weeks are liable to be a time of great stress as these realities become increasingly undeniable. I imagine the public chatter will become increasingly delusional as the wave crests. When it it finally comes, the shock of recognition that we are a bankrupt nation will present itself at first as a great silence. The public's collective jaw will fall open, but no sound will come out. That will be the true moment of shock and awe.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Are We Chokers?


So we won against the Tongans. What was the score? 30-25 to us or to them? Skinstad - wearing a red Tonga shirt - called it correctly when he said it could 'easily have gone the other way'.

And this is Tonga (and prayers to God) right? Not New Zealand, not Australia, not even England! What was all that hype after the England game about 'we [the Boks] weren't going to let them [England] through our defence to score anything'. Suddenly the Bok defence becomes a permeable membrane. What is going on guys? One minute invincible, the next pushovers?

We've been here before. Are our guys (ruby players and cricketers) capable of doing the hard work? Yes. Have they got the guts and determination? Definitely. Do they believe in themselves? Yes - but only to a point. And therein lies the rub.

Duplicitousness

You can't fault our guys for not being consistent. Why? Because motivation and inspiration can't lie. When the pressure is immense enough, the flaws begin to show. And the flaws lie deeply in the South African psyche. Stuff that won't surprise anyone in this country: quotas, corruption, management style, the culture of dishonesty that insidiously declares: this is what South Africa is all about. All that bad stuff that goes on unrepresented...can we truly stand up and say we represent the country...in other words...only the good stuff? It's a false statement, and we know it.

To Serve

South Africa has a lot to learn about how to approach greatness. It should not be a selfish psychology (even if you can carry off the pretense that it isn't). Officials need to do service to the sport, so to the players. Too many people are in service to themselves. So there's a lack of trust. And a lack of trust causes a lack of confidence, and a lack of confidence brings about a lack of consistency. Ergo: when it comes to the big match points. Can he kick it over, can our cricketers make a conventional tally? Not every time.

That is the difference between our teams and the New Zealanders and Aussies. Their confidence is real because it is based on reality. Theirs is a unity in management and also amongst the players. Sport wins. Not individuals. Agendas are not in play. Racial cards adminsitrative power plays are not tossed onto boardroom tables at a moments notice.

We've seen our cricketers choke in all the big games. Will the Boks rediscover their true grit? Will they be able to play like a unified team? What if 15 players had the strength of an entire nation? We may never know.

The ‘Whose-your-daddy’ Girls



The heartache behind women looking for father figures

A lot of girls find older guys attractive. Yvonne Scott says so, but movie zeitgeist - of late at least - seems to support this view.

The Wackness and Meeting Venus are contemporary examples of this phenomenon. But while Ms Scott is advocating guys up to the age of 25 as ‘suitable’ dates for high school (teenage) girls, these movies go to the extreme.

Eew!

The Wackness is about a dagga smoking therapist who becomes smitten with a teenage patient (played by Ben Kingsley and Kate Ohlson respectively). Although the kissing scene lasts a few seconds, no one knows yet why or how the teenager ends up kissing a man 3 times her age. But apparently they never see each other again (in the movie), and the kiss serves as a catalyst for the grandfather (I'll bet) propelling him towards some sort of happily ever after.

Girls From Venus

In Meeting Venus we see a similar theme: a very old man becoming obsessed, even falling in love with a young woman more than half a century younger.

For me Meeting Venus was an important lesson, even a reality check. After all, everyone will get old and lose their attractiveness, but is anyone ever too old to be attracted to youth and beauty? This to me is the central theme behind the whole parody of young girls hanging out with much older men. It’s not necessarily a theme unique to the male sex either.


Eina

Obsessions with youth are part of the archetypal story of how we go into the good night; how we face death. Some might argue that we don’t need to die before we breathe our last breath. Others will say: Accept the inevitable eina, and move on.




Middle Ground

Moving away from ‘extreme age differences’, it’s interesting to look at this closer to home; from a more Southern African perspective. The Mswati Reed Dance in Swaziland is a useful example.
Virgins younger than 22 years of age dance topless, and while it originally wasn't ostensibly a ceremony for the king (the ceremony was conceived for the Queen Mother), the king attends and uses the venue to choose a wife. Sometimes he takes a few extra days to make up his mind (and who can blame him for that?)
In 1999 the then 33 year old king picked a 17 year old schoolgirl to be his eighth lawfully wedded wife. This year the 39 year old king – who makes Hugh Hefner look like a Georgian Monk by comparison – had around 100 000 young maidens dancing for his pleasure.


Making Eyes?

A British newspaper, the Telegraph, pointed out in its article ‘Swaziland King has eyes for 14th wife’ that “many of them [were] hoping to catch his eye.”

Yvonne Scott mentioned exactly what the attraction was in these circumstances.
"[Older men] are mature, over the trying-hard-to-impress-age; they have cars, and are allowed to grow their hair to a hot length."
She adds:
“Of course another very appealing aspect of dating an older guy is the prestige that goes with it.”


What is more prestigious than being chosen by a king? It must be something like a beauty contest for all these girls, with the rewards being crowned princess, and the title becomes a lifelong commitment.

Drawing The Line

Of course Scott astutely placed a cap for herself and her peers on how old the older man ought to be. She said 25 years for high school girls; Mswati is 39. I wonder what the proportion of the 100 000 under-22 maidens have mixed feelings about Mswati’s age. A poll would be interesting.

Sugar Daddy

While it is perfectly normal for teenage girls to prefer older boys, there is a dark side to the more extreme Sugar Daddy Syndrome. It has its roots in childhood, and is based on a desperate yearning of a young girl for a father figure.

Perhaps the father figure was entirely or partially absent, or perhaps the child was adored as the ‘apple of her father’s eye’. Then divorce or death caused a permanent separation, bringing the warm cocoon of safety and attention in the young girl's life to an abrupt end.
Girls seeking partners or husbands who are able to provide this ‘Daddy Safety’ do so without knowing it. Can absent fathers ever be replaced?

Impossible Task

It is easy for men to wrongly assume that their partner’s strong desire for personal security is a normal one, or that the extreme and insatiable fantasy of being ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ again is a conventional one.

Men who lavish their girlfriends with gifts, taking them out constantly to restaurants and on luxurious weekend trips may unwittingly find themselves eventually adding the role of father to being a husband or boyfriend. This is often more responsibility and pressure than a man can bear.

Unhealthy


I’ve seen this scenario unfold, and it ends very unhappily ever after. A friend of mine who idolized his wife and lavished her with caring attention finally got divorced. His beautiful wife is now engaged to an almost 60-year old man (about twice her age). In retrospect my friend – who is my age – must realize that he had an impossible task in store for him when he got married. Did his wife even know she was looking for a husband who could heal and answer her painful need for a gentle and doting father-figure?
Martian Perspective


From the male perspective, there is always the incredible power and beauty of youth. With so much pedophilia doing the rounds, it is not appropriate or politically correct for older men to openly admit that they find teenage girls or twenty somethings attractive. But women at this stage are at their most attractive.
The power and beauty of youth has a bitter edge to it though. It is said that ‘youth’ is wasted on the young. At a certain age people may find themselves ‘over the hill’, and may wish they had enjoyed their lives more and hesitated less.

In Meeting Venus we see this heartbreaking reality poignantly represented when the old man waits desperately on the pier to meet his young friend. He waits even long after it is obvious that she is not going to arrive.

The beauty of youth abandons us all in the end. When we see beauty enfolding in others around us, we watch with awe and some sadness. Their time, and not ours, has come. Put the past away, and let them have their turn.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Long Weekend Send Off (Video)


Humor-funny Compilation - Click here for more home videos
Put yourself in the right frame of mind before you leave for the long weekend. This is upbeat, fun and funny. Enjoy your extra time off. I know I will. ;-)

The Perfect Woman


Brains, brawn (including boobs) and a touch of spunk*.

*Noun
1.
spunk - material for starting a fire
kindling, tinder, touchwood, punk
igniter, ignitor, lighter - a substance used to ignite or kindle a fire
2.
spunk - the courage to carry on; "he kept fighting on pure spunk"; "you haven't got the heart for baseball"
mettle, nerve, heart
braveness, bravery, courage, courageousness - a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear

Who is Worse - Mbeki or Bush?


NVDL: It's a tough call. Bush pushed his country into a dumb war. Okay, probably his reasons were dumb, setting up a police station in Iraq to secure access to Iraqi oil was arguably not so dumb. Mbeki on the other hand is very soft on a national holocaust called AIDS. With over 5 million dead, I think it's no contest here, but I could be wrong. W. still has time to send a few more nuclear capable aircraft into US (and other) airpspace. Perhaps we shopuld hold off on answering this until we have the next South African President, who may well be the worst yet.

From The Guardian:
[Mbeki] behaves as if South Africa's Aids disaster is no such thing. It is as if another of his rivals for worst President, George Bush, were to pretend the Iraq war was a little local difficulty.

During Mbeki's first five-year term, he used to say, with the enthusiastic backing of his Health Minister, a doctor, that Aids was not a sexually transmitted disease and that the anti-retroviral drugs that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives around the world were poisonous. He also famously declared that he knew no one who has Aids.

Since then, Mbeki has been bludgeoned into grudgingly starting to have anti-retroviral drugs handed out. The government's official policy on Aids today is medically sound at last. But Mbeki continues to show an abject lack of leadership, indicating - as his firing of the Deputy Health Minister shows - that he is less than half-hearted in his commitment to the cause; that the great $64,000 question of South African politics - what the hell is going inside Mbeki's head on Aids? - remains unanswered. Because he is an otherwise eminently rational, intelligent man.

While Mbeki has battled with repression, the crisis has cried out for Diana-like theatrics. Mbeki should have gone out into the worst-affected areas and held the hands of Aids patients; he should have publicly celebrated the Lazarus-like return to life of people on the anti-retroviral programmes; above all, he should have gone out of his way to set people straight on Aids, to counter the ignorance and confusion he himself has sown, contributing immeasurably to the scale of the catastrophe.

Mandela, deep into his eighties, has done all of that and more. But out of Mbeki, not a peep. His tragically ludicrous Minister of Health continues to go about creating the impression that beetroot and garlic are as effective in countering the effects of the HIV virus as the anti-retroviral medication.

The one person in government who has had the courage implicitly to defy Mbeki both by pushing hard for the new government strategy on Aids - approved last March, when Tshabalala-Msimang was on sick leave, recovering from a liver transplant -and by showing active leadership on the matter was Madlala-Routledge. So much so that she has become a much respected figure in the global Aids community. As such, she was invited to attend an international conference in Madrid last June on the latest work in the search for an Aids vaccine.

I spoke to her last week in Cape Town, and she told me she accepted the invitation because of the opportunity it provided 'to make a strong case on behalf of the victims' to scientists and European parliamentarians who would be in attendance. She flew to Spain, but barely had she landed in Madrid than she received an order from Mbeki himself to fly straight back. Which she did, but this did not prevent Mbeki from firing her. The reason? That she had flown to Madrid without his permission.

Since then, the South African press has published an avalanche of reports on the alleged alcoholism and kleptomania of her former boss, Tshabalala-Msimang.

Under the front-page headline, 'Manto: a drunk and a thief', the top-selling Johannesburg Sunday Times claimed the Health Minister continued to booze after her transplant, and revealed that in the Seventies she was expelled from Botswana for stealing from patients at a hospital where she was a medical supervisor.

Beyond the office-holding ranks of the former heroes of the ANC's liberation struggle, the clamour has been insistent for the reinstatement of Madlala-Routledge and the firing of Tshabalala-Msimang. Mbeki's response, typical of the small-mindedness that defines him, has been to order the former Deputy Health Minister to repay the government for her trip to Madrid.

He seems oblivious to the callousness of the message he is sending in persisting with the buffoonish Tshabalala-Msimang, a drinking buddy of long-standing, in a ministerial post that Mandela would have considered the most critical in his government by far.


· John Carlin is writing a book on Mandela to be published by Penguin Press (US).

Warning: Triple Witching Hour

The market is expected to undergo volatile trading this morning with triple witching taking place between 10.10 am and 10.30 am (London time). Triple witching refers to the expiry of the contracts for stock index futures, index options and equity options all on the same day.

The final hour of the stock market trading session on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December, when option contracts and futures contracts expire on market indexes used by program traders. The simultaneous expirations often set off heavy trading of options, futures and the underlying stocks, which can cause large fluctuations in the value of their underlying stocks.

'Lecture of a Lifetime'

From ABCNews.com:

Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has terminal cancer and expects to live for just a few more months.
This week, he said goodbye to his students and the Pittsburgh college with one last lecture called "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams," on his life's journey and the lessons he's learned

The Wall Street Journal called it "the lecture of a lifetime" and those who have seen it have more than agreed.


Watch Pausch's 'Lecture of a Lifetime'

From Metafilter.com:
Randy Pausch is a pioneer in virtual reality, a computer science professor, a Disney Imagineer, an innovative teacher, and the co-founder of the best video game school in the world. One year ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a long and difficult fight he's been given just a few more months to live. This week he gave his powerful, funny, and life-affirming last lecture to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University, entitled "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams".

BBC admits new breaches of trust


The BBC has confirmed children's show Blue Peter broke guidelines in a vote to name its cat, as it revealed three other breaches of editorial rules. The cat was called Socks after staff changed the results of an online poll. Viewers wanted the cat named Cookie.

BBC 6 Music's head of programmes Ric Blaxill has resigned after two further instances of fictional competition winners on his station were revealed. Another rule breach concerned a film show on the Asian Network.

The BBC said a number of disciplinary proceedings had been undertaken.
From BBC.com

More on this riveting topic:
CRISIS HITS TV INDUSTRY
GMTV's phone-in boss steps down
PM wants TV row 'sorted out' fast
GMTV boss resigns over quiz row
ITV 'expects' phone-in criticism
'Tougher rules' for TV phone-ins
Record fine over TV quiz phone-in
Five in record Brainteaser fine
BBC COMPETITIONS CRISIS
BBC admits new breaches of trust
Producer fired over phone row
BBC sets up standards panel
Editorial leaders suspended
BBC suspends all competitions
Q&A: BBC's editorial lapses
Director general's key points

NVDL: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sort of stuff making the news...

Beware: The Voice In Your Head


"I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is."

NVDL: I've heard this sort of thing a lot. It's difficult to convey just how NUTS it is. It basically operates out of a mindset of: 'oh well, I give up. I'm not sure of my beliefs but I'll basically keep up the habit because it seems to be working.'

This is known as 'the psychology of previous investment'. It's why people stay in doomed relationships, it's why we spend a fortune on fixing a car (ultimately more than the car is worth), it's why we spend the whole weekend watching TV. We do it because we're too lazy to THINK. Real thinking is difficult and painful. It requires concentration and discipline. Think critically, and once you find your answers - through careful consideration - new choices, new actions are required. This involves more painstaking decision making. All other 'thinking' is mindless meaningless rumination.

So the next time someone speaks or emails the delusional sentence quoted above (or if you're a subscriber), bear this in mind: Don't guess. Don't assume. Find your answers. Knock on the door. Otherwise you're a fool living on delusions, and that makes you a danger to yourself and to society in general.