Thursday, January 31, 2008

The World Is Changed

A winter swimmer towels off beside a stranded ship on the banks of the Yangtze River in Hubei province. As the Yangtze froze, its height fell to its lowest seasonal level since records began in 1866, affecting shipping, fisheries and water supply. - TIME

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. - Galadriel, Lord of the Rings.

China advises millions to abandon travel plans

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China has taken the step of asking millions of migrant workers to forego their annual Lunar New Year trip home, saying the worst winter weather in 50 years is expected to pummel the country for at least another three days.

Trucks are trapped at the Yunmeihua Exit on the Beijing-Zhuhai Highway in south China's Guangdong province.

"For the sake of their safety, and relieving the stress on transport, I advise migrant workers to stay in the cities where they work," Zheng Guogang, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told the state newspaper, China Daily.

The trip is often the only bright spot for workers who toil all year long in factories far from home. For an estimated 178 million people -- the size of the combined population of Italy, France and Britain -- the annual trek is sometimes the only opportunity to see family that they leave behind. This year, the holiday begins February 6.

On Thursday, crowds thinned -- but only slightly -- at China's major train stations. Masses of desperate travelers took advantage of the break in the weather and crammed into buses to carry them out of their misery. In southeastern Hunan province, trains that had been stranded for 40 hours finally began rolling.


NVDL: The Lunar New Year is a major big deal in the East. It's like Christmas in the West. Everyone goes home and spends time with their familiers, and there are several cultural/traditional activities around this time of the year.

What the world eats (TIME MULTIMEDIA)

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City

Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

To view the rest of this fascinating slideshow, go here.

Bat deaths in NY, Vt. baffle experts

ALBANY, N.Y. - Bats are dying off by the thousands as they hibernate in caves and mines around New York and Vermont, sending researchers scrambling to find the cause of mysterious condition dubbed "white nose syndrome."

The ailment — named for the white circle of fungus found around the noses of affected bats — was first noticed last January in four caves west of Albany. It has now spread to eight hibernation sites in the state and another in Vermont.

Alan Hicks, a bat specialist with New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, called the quick-spreading disorder the "gravest threat" to bats he had ever seen. Up to 11,000 bats were found dead last winter and many more are showing signs illness this winter. One hard-hit cave went from more than 15,000 bats two years ago to 1,500 now, he said.

By Michael Hill.

Inflation surge to 8,6% will test Bank’s mettle

SA’s main inflation gauge surged to 8,6% last month, a near five-year peak, but the Reserve Bank is expected to keep interest rates steady when its policy meeting ends today, to help cushion the blow that power shortages will deal to the economy.

The annual rise in inflation measured by CPIX accelerated from 7,9% in November, surpassing forecasts and climbing further above its 3%-6% official target range for the ninth month in a row, Statistics SA said yesterday.



One lucky couple stands the chance to win a two night stay at the 4 star Protea Hotel King George!

The Protea Hotels King George, synonymous with luxury accommodation stylishly designed rooms and old-fashioned attention to detail and service, overlooks the famous George Golf Course.

The hotel has two swimming pools and a terrace with views of the spectacular Outeniqua mountain range. Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy three of the country's top hiking trails namely Otter, Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua. The hotel also caters for the avid golfers who will be able to walk out of their rooms and onto the fairways of one of the top golf courses in South Africa!

For more information, and to enter, go here.

Looking For An Argument?

No, I'm not going to send you to a SkyNews website. There are crackers being lit in response to David Bullard's column: Knuckleheads at the ANC ought to take some responsibility
You will need to be registered to throw your toys. To start, go here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Preview Of 2010 World Cup Opener (VIDEO)

The stadiums, the teams. It is going to AWESOME.

Lekker Kos? Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil. It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

Just this week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the country’s rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles were lost.

The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050, which one expert, Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations, says is resulting in a “relentless growth in livestock production.”

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius.

Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

For the rest of this excellent and incisive New York Times article, go here.

Madiba Magic Keeps The Lights On In Houghton

Okay so I live in the neighborhood of Madiba...unfortunately not quite a stone's (a bouquet's?) throw away. I say unfortunately for more than obvious reasons. Some friends of mine live closer and they NEVER EVER experience power failures. I am like 1km away and the lights are off and on so much I sometimes feel I'm in a 24 hour disco. Okay, slight exaggeration. Thing is, whenever I call them they say they're still watching TV and shame, do I want to come for dinner (a nice warm meal with refrigerated refreshments).

Alrighty then. Last night at just such a dinner banquet (regrettably no bouquets for after dinner tossing into Madiba's garden) I asked when DO they ever experience power cuts. Answer: Never.

It's the Madiba Magic. Is Mbeki as magical I wonder?

10%: Are You Able To Cut It? Huh? Punk?

So Eskom has laid down the law: 10% or else. Do you feel efficient? Punk? Well there is a very, very simple way to cut 10% or more. Easy. Want to know what it is? When you get home from work, do not turn on the TV, do not cook food, do not take a hot (or even cold) shower. Do not pass go, just go to bed.

Realistically though, with a little bit of consistent discipline, 10% ought to be a snip. We will probably realise just how inefficient (read: wasteful) we are. Ne.

All of us are lazy when it comes to leaving lights, computers and other gadgets on. The Times has a great headline which expresses this lack of efficiency quite ironically:
The Lights Are On But Nobody's Home. Excellent !-)

NVDL Marketing Madness

I'm printing new business cards (above show front and back of cards) and some stickers (similar to top image) to advertise my blog on my car and other vehicles. Have a look.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to remove Spy-shredder and MalwareAlarm

Click here to check whether you have it.

Download the free scanner, run a scan, and remove.

I Scream

Last night I did the unthinkable. I got up at about 3am, opened the freezer, and started chowing icecream. Now first off, I haven't had icecream in my fridge for yonks. I basically feel like a Jew walking around Germany wearing a Swastika: Ja vol, very uncomfortable. Why? Because my stated intention is to lose weight, do the Ironman, blah de blah, yada yada yada.
I didn't even go to gym yesterday (although I did do some exercises on the carpet - no, not those kind of exercises...)

I'm also holding back on two very gloomy stories. If you think this blog has cornered the market on gloom and doom, the two stories waiting in the dark corridors will probably propel you into a depression. Basically they amount to a probable end game scenario in this country, against the backdrop of world woe. If you read this stuff you might not be able to sleep for a while (I am struggling, as the thought originator). Do you really want to hear this?

If so let me know.

What Can Your Company And You Do To Save Energy?

We have just received an email from the Operations Manager at Avusa asking for suggestions on what we can do to contribute to energy savings. This is commendable. Has your company opened up a suggestion box? Here are my suggestions:

-It should be compulsory that unattended computers be switched off, particularly when left unattended over weekends and overnight. Unattended offices should have lights and airconditioners turned off.
- Cycling to work should be encouraged, with a special section allocated for bicycles. Bicycles should also allowed to be brbought into the building and stored out of sight (security currently does not allow bicycles inside the building, which discourages the use of R20 000+ bicycles since they have to be stowed in the basement where they are easily stolen).
I live 5km from work and could get here quicker if I was able to cycle here. Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes to get here when I could make the trip by bike in 10.
-Lift clubs should be encouraged so that one person one vehicle setups can be avoided.
-Flexitime ought to be implemented so that there is not a simultaneous rush home with subsequent simultaneous overloading of the network. A steady stream throughout the day can be encouraged, and if necessary, a night shift can allow for more even use of energy.

Anyone have other ideas? Here is an example of an entire lifestyle shift by a New Yorker.

Website Of The Day: Hot Chicks With Douchebags

Pictures of hot chicks with total and complete douchebags. With commentary. Vernon would be perfect for this slot, but not sure if S would still qualify as a hot chick. What about Hot Guys with Gold Diggers?To check this out, go here.

Gunmen kill Kenyan opposition lawmaker

Ethnic fighting has claimed more than 800 lives since disputed Dec. 27 vote

KISUMU, Kenya - Gunmen killed an opposition lawmaker in Nairobi early Tuesday, an attack likely to stoke the ethnic fighting that has gripped Kenya since last month’s disputed presidential election.

As with the gangs that have killed rivals and torched homes in western Kenya, groups of armed youths began gathering after the shooting in the capital’s Mathare and Kibera slums. Since the Dec. 27 election, the death toll has soared over 800.

Two gunmen shot opposition lawmaker Mugabe Were as he drove to his house in suburban Nairobi, police said, adding they did not yet know if the political turmoil had motivated the slaying.


A Few Pointers For Bafana (VIDEO)


Weather Record + Warning


Highest Daily Rain 45.4 2006-01-02 78.8 2008-01-28

Fire Warning

Conditions which could lead to the development and spread of runaway fires are expected in places in the Cape Metropole, Swartland, West Coast District, Boland and the Breede River Valley.

Black Death did not kill indiscriminately + H5N1 Breaking News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Black Death that decimated populations in Europe and elsewhere during the middle of the 14th century may not have been a blindly indiscriminate killer, as some experts have believed.

An analysis of 490 skeletons from a London for Black Death victims demonstrated that the infection did not affect everyone equally, two U.S. scientists said on Monday.

While many perfectly healthy people certainly were cut down, those already in poor health prior to the arrival of the plague were more likely to have perished, they found.

"A lot of people have assumed that the Black Death killed indiscriminately, just because it had such massive mortality," anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University at Albany in New York, said in a telephone interview.

People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. "But there's been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead," DeWitte said.

The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe's population.

DeWitte analyzed skeletons unearthed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London, dug especially for plague victims and excavated in the 1980s, for bone and teeth abnormalities that would show that people had health problems before they died of plague.

She found such abnormalities in many skeletons, suggesting these people had experienced malnutrition, iron deficiencies and infections well before succumbing to the Black Death.

The proportion of people with such signs of frailty in the cemetery, compared to those who appeared to have been of robust health before the epidemic, indicated that the infection was somewhat selective in who it killed, DeWitte and Pennsylvania State University anthropologist James Wood reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some experts have thought the Black Death -- named after the black spots the bubonic form of the plague caused on the skin -- killed indiscriminately regardless of age, sex or level of health because it was so virulent and the European population so immunologically unprepared, DeWitte and Wood wrote.

"The Black Death was highly virulent and undoubtedly killed many otherwise healthy people who would have been unlikely to die under normal-mortality conditions," they wrote. But people already in poor health were more likely to die, they wrote.

By Will Dunham

Bird flu spreads to fresh areas, culling target jacked up

NVDL: H5N1 unleashes a cytokine storm, and the degree of this reaction is directly proportionate to immunity. In a bizarre and macabre twist, the healthier you are, the more your body would fill up with puss.
(Wiki: a healthy immune system may have been a liability rather than an asset).Thus H5N1 has been found to be most lethal in healthy individuals aged 20-40. Naturally people suffering from AIDs etc. present a brush fire scenario for such an epidemic. The story immediately above was posted yesterday. The story below was posted 12 hours ago:

Indonesia logs 4 H5N1 cases; death toll reaches 100

This story appeared 58 minutes ago:
H5N1 bird flu detected in two Thai provinces

This story appeared two days ago:
Sixth swan tests positive for H5N1 bird flu: British officials

Three women take turns to ‘rape’ hiker

Mpumalanga police are appealing to the public to help them arrest two men and three women who allegedly forced a 20-year-old man to have a sex orgy with the three females.

The man was hitch-hiking along the Nelspruit road.

Police said the victim was coming from work going home in Block B near Tonga on Tuesday night when the incident took place.

Tonga police spokesman Constable Mzwandile Nyambi told Sowetan that the man got a lift from the suspects who were dressed smartly and formally.

They told him that they were heading towards his direction.

“It was too late for him to get taxis. He stopped a white Toyota Venture whose occupants, two men and three women, told him they were also going his way,” said Nyambi.

The driver of the vehicle then drove to the Riverside Mall in Nelspruit where the five spent almost an hour discussing unknown issues with the man.

The victim’s ordeal started near the Barberton road when the men pulled him out.

“After passing the Barberton road, the two men got out of the car, pointed a firearm at me and ordered me to have sex with the three women,” said the victim, who cannot be named.

by Given Mahlalela

One kill led to another

Gardener Richman Makhwenkwe was so desperate to cover his tracks after killing his girlfriend that he murdered everyone who crossed his path.

The Johannesburg high court heard that the 28-year-old gardener first killed his girlfriend for selling his belongings. He then went after the man who bought his belongings and killed him.

Later, he allegedly went after three women who he thought had seen him bury the first two victims. He raped, robbed and killed them on separate occasions.

The charge sheet says that in November 2005, Makhwenkwe returned home to find that his girlfriend, Zoleka Kula, had sold all his belongings. He allegedly raped and killed her before burying her body in a shallow grave in a veld in Moffatpark. He then went to find the man who had bought his belongings, killed him and buried him in the same veld where he buried the girlfriend.

He had spotted three women walking across the park on both occasions that he was burying his victims. He decided to go after the three women and killed them one-by-one on different dates.

Inspector Kobus Coetzee, who was at the time stationed at Booysens police station, told the court that Makhwenkwe of Bassonia in Johannesburg, was his gardener.

For the rest of Dudu Busani's Sowetan Online story, go here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nature's Skin (Photography)

Kunstler: Race Doesn't Matter

It does and it doesn't.

It matters that a partly African-American man is being taken seriously as a candidate for president. I am not being facetious when I say it would be uplifting for the American public to elect someone for the content of his character. Mr. Obama's character seems at least as good as any president I've seen in action.

I'm not sure how much it would really matter geopolitically, but it would seem advantageous if the US were represented on the world stage by someone with whom people in other nations could identify. It would surely entitle America to some claim of authentic moral high ground -- of real fidelity to our stated principles of fairness -- at a time when our national credibility is in a slough.

I'm satisfied that Mr. Obama is comfortable with his own persona. he doesn't appear to be either hung up on his racial background or disregardful of its subtler meanings. Of course in a better world, where the old "one drop rule" didn't apply (the mentality that one drop of black blood makes someone "black"), Mr. Obama would would be justified in calling himself black or white. In any case, his own apparent comfort has allowed other Americans to feel comfortable with him, and about the better angels of our nature as a people.

Lately, I have been reading Niall Ferguson's history of World War Two (War of the World). Though I have heard, seen, and read other versions of the story a zillion times, Ferguson freshly emphasizes the importance of the racialist ideas that motivated both the German Nazis and the Japanese in launching the war. These ideas appear in hindsight to be utterly insane, and the cruelty and carnage that grew out of them was so exorbitant that it comes close to negating any claim the human race ever might have made previously, through twenty-five-hundred years of history, to a moral standing above the dogs and crocodiles. The behavior of the Nazis themselves was bad enough, but they somehow managed to inspire nearly every other European nation, or ethnic group, or pseudo ethnic group to behavior so grotesque that one truly wonders how these groups recovered their bearings later on in the 20th century. Their demoralization should have been complete. Instead of just Herman Goring committing suicide in his jail cell at Nuremberg in 1945, one concludes after reading Ferguson, all German survivors of the Third Reich should have just marched off a cliff somewhere. The Japanese treatment of the Chinese, Malays, and every other Asian sub-group wasn't any better.

The world can't afford to repeat that kind of thing again. But the world is heading into a stressful situation that could provoke another wave of worldwide conflict -- not to mention the kind of internal conflicts that induce ethnic cleansings and genocides within nations. So, from my point of view, the further America removes itself explicitly from a collective racialist mentality, the better off we would be. But there is a catch: if perhaps Mr. Obama wins the Democratic Party's nomination, and goes on to win the White House, and the nation enters the socioeconomic convulsions I call The Long Emergency, and Mr. Obama is overwhelmed by its overwhelming problems... would he be singled out for blame? Surely there will be a lot of finger-pointing and scapegoating. Would Barack Obama become a tragic figure? The answer may be that anyone who occupies that office during the next term could end up a tragic figure.

Anyway, Hillary was back out on the stump yesterday, in the pulpit of a black Baptist church in Memphis, sounding as phony as the day is long, and it was just gratifying to know that she had just been soundly beaten. She sounded and looked discouraged, her voice lingering in that lower-register monotone that makes her come off like a regional director of the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Mr. Edwards, who I have supported and continue to support, could not shake the look of a whipped dog, too, after losing badly in his birth state. But he swore to continue on further through the primaries, and his pluck seemed genuine enough.

The night before, when the returns in South Carolina were final, Mr. Obama made a speech before his supporters, who were chanting "race doesn't matter! race doesn't matter!" as if to convince themselves as much as the TV viewing audience. The higher truth might be that it would matter if it didn't matter. But it does in many ways.

The winning candidate concluded his remarks that night by invoking the slogan "Yes we can!" It was stirring to hear, and of course it projected the simple message that his campaign would remain "positive," in the current popular therapeutic sense. But at some point, Mr. Obama will have to rise above the platitudes and generalities and answer some questions as to yes we can... do... what....? The candidates all yammer about "change," but I suspect they don't quite know how much change this nation is really in for.

Quote of the Day

"A recession, which was nothing more than a risk scenario six months ago, is now turning into our main scenario," Yamakawa said in a report released Friday.

More Rain in Sodden California

A series of fierce storms has caused deadly avalanches, flooded streets and set off mud and rock slides in recent days. Some areas have received more moisture in a week than during the entire rainy season last year.

Three skiers were killed Friday by a trio of avalanches that swept through canyons outside the trails of Mountain High ski resort at Wrightwood, northeast of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains. A fourth man escaped the avalanches.

Avalanches are unusual in the San Gabriel Mountains, but the peaks had been hit by 3 feet or more of new snow this past week, drawing thousands of skiers and snowboarders.


European Stock Markets Follow Asia Lower

European, Asian Markets Slide on US Recession Fears

LONDON (AP) -- Global market turmoil extended into a second week as European and Asian markets tumbled Monday in the wake of Wall Street's drop on Friday amid persistent worries about a possible U.S. -- and worldwide -- economic slowdown.

"With no market moving news out today, the slide follows on from losses suffered in the U.S. markets at the end of last week and in Asia this morning," said Nathan Miller, a trader at CMC Markets in London.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE dipped 1.9 percent to 5,754.9 around midday. Germany's DAX slipped 1.6 percent while France's CAC 40 declined 2.2 percent.

China's benchmark index plummeted 7.2 percent to its lowest point in six months on concerns that a recession in the U.S. would mean less demand for Chinese-made products.
By Toby Anderson, AP Business Writer


Indigo Landscape (Photography)

JSE Delusional

So here's the setup: we don't even have the electricity to run our economy, but the JSE is just ticking along as usual. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The mines are losing RX billion a day, but no probs, the prices of the metals just shoot up and everything is still hunky dory? Umm....kooo koo. Something is very wrong with this perpetual 'sunny-side-up something for nothing' approach.

The All Share is now at 25755.290, down 2.82%. It ought to be closer to 23 000.

Lack of Transformation at Eskom: Who Do We Fire First?

The main reason the Jake White is no longer coaching the Boks is because he didn't - apparently - make transformation enough of a priority. By the same token, heads need to roll for lack of transformation - infrastructural - at Eskom. This isn't about a feel good factor in the national interest, it's about the actual functionality of the country as a whole. Ssssh...what do you mean the government doesn't care about that? Ssssh...what do you mean This Is Africa?

The front page of the Sunday Times covered exactly this issue. What is happening in South Africa mirrors what is happening in the USA. People get swept up in endless debates about what was said and what was done. We get bogged down in the details, making our case, but never move on to the next step.

In the case of the war on iraq, Americans and international commentators quarreled and chattered endlessly about contradictions and inconsistencies. No one went: okay so that is a given. We are being bullshitted. This being the case, how do we put bums in seats that reflect waht we (the people and voters) want.

In our democracy too we too quyickly wring our hands and say; ag, that's government, you can't trust them, and then continue on with our lives." That's an abdication of responsibility. We vote for our leraders, we have the power to vote them in, and vote them out. What happens, as we all know, is after voting them in, they run amuck, because we don't really hold them accountable in a meaningful way. The media holds them accountable. But ordinary citizens don't seem to do more than read the papers, moan and groan, and then continue. We need to identify a system for accountability. Who do we address our letters to? How do we arrange town hall meetings? What is the process for impeachment, where does it start? How do we smack politicians on their wrists? How can we fast-track the firing of non-performers, liars and thiefs?

Our failure to act is essentially an endorsement, and makes us complicit in the corruption, and our national road to ruin.

My Obituary

It’s not the end of the world that I’m gone – well, it’s the end of mine. I’m not going to pretend; my life wasn’t quite what I thought was destined for me, I had expected a lot more, but it was still fun in an ironic Bart Simpson sort of way. For a good few years it was a fairy tale wasn’t it; it had all the elements too: plenty of adventure, romance, castles, wild faraway places and animals, and all the family privileges of princes and princesses. The dragon though was mysteriously absent, or so we thought.

I had high standards once upon a time, and I saw these slip starting in ’89 and ’98, despite a lot of best efforts to keep the show on the road. Instead of giving up I realized there was a level of functionality I was prepared to tolerate, even if I didn’t always accept it. Perhaps I got into the habit of making concessions.

To my family – I knew you all a great deal better than you know, and loved you all a lot more than any of you realize. It is the secrets we keep that are the roots of dysfunction. Perhaps we feel if others knew some details about us they would no longer love us. That is a risk we ought to take, because perhaps we can be loved in spite of our imperfections. Isn’t that what love is all about?

I’ve learned that we all deserve to be loved. We don’t deserve it more if we work harder, because we’re richer or thinner, or simply as payback. We simply deserve to be loved for being who we are. If we as individuals can accept that, without trying to earn it, we save ourselves and those around us a lot of grief. It is the perfect way to start.

Meanwhile, I am at the end. As I say, I can’t boast that I have had the best life possible. Far from it. It’s been exceedingly lonely, but others have been lonely too, and sometimes we are better off for it. I am not saying I was. Perhaps I got to write a few stories, perhaps I was able to steer clear of collective delusions. Did it do the world – or me – any good, my knowing this, this hard gained ‘insights’? It is odd how company – even good company – allows us to forget, or care less, about reality. For our wishes to come true there is always a price, and a price even in the pursuit of their not coming true.

Being dead, do I now believe in God? No. It was always vanity to believe we human beings had a special relationship with God, that he would look like us and we like him, we would talk to each other and make promises, and have rules, and that both God and ourselves could be dismissive of all the other creatures in the world. That is not who God is, and not whom we ought to be.
Each person truly, deeply, knows the truth. But we are not good listeners. We can’t even listen to ourselves – the truth from the inner child speaking softly into our own hearts. If we cannot pause to listen, then nothing else will reach us. We want to believe what we want to believe.
I want to believe there is life after death. There is in the sense of one’s children, and the results of one’s actions, the memories and words and traces of energy left behind. Do you really think that we die to live again as ghosts in grand invisible cities? Grow up. As a species, we need to indulge ourselves less.

If God is the unconscious intelligence, the Is, the way we are all connected, the energy, the Force in all things, then I believe it. God does not know my name, but he speaks to me and you not in words but in the wind, the waters, the sands that have flowed against my skin and my blood, like ribbons over paper, sauce on pasta. The one makes the other; giving it flavour, giving it purpose, feeding it, changing it, cooking it, coloring it into something else.
That is my view anyway. It may be absolute reality, or may not be. Whatever you believe is right for you. I always wanted to believe in something that could be right for everyone.

Like McCandless, I know happiness is only real when shared, and it is our relationships, our connectedness, that imbues our lives with meaning, and love. This is what pains me. I have shared a lot less than I hoped I would. And in this sense I have both been incredibly blessed and incredibly poor, but mostly, I feel: poor. I have become very disconnected at times – to people sometimes, and to nature. At others I have been intensely connected – to people, and to nature. The highlights must include swimming with wild dolphins, standing on Kilimanjaro’s icy, scalding summit of incinerated crust, the night on Mount Saint Michel, the moon over the Sea of the Philippines at midnight, catching and eating a fish at Kob Inn, a girl on a horse on Hout Bay beach, the first kiss (and other firsts ;-) the car accident that gashed open my knee, a birthday in a hospital bed, the triathlon win in Korea, those first rides on my Zipps, and so much more magic and personal chaos wrapped into holidays and all of our various ambitions.

I could have and should have achieved great things, perhaps in any one of the things I pursued. I loved them all. The soccer, the swimming, the triathlon, the writing, the photography, all those books, all those movies, all those ideas. When I look back now I see I am also greatly to blame for not putting so many of those ideas into action. Time passed since the first ideas, and now other companies exist, famous people, who simply followed their dreams. I followed many dreams. I traveled to many places in the world and I have seen some things you wouldn’t believe. Does anything specific stand out? Did I do anything of significance? I fear no.

Again there is this ‘Saving Private Ryan’ sense that I feel I had to earn the right to live. I think it’s more a case that I wanted to give, to live, the gift of life. And I am sad and dismayed because I know I did not, I didn’t do it fully enough. Of course, million s have had their lives cut short by war, disease, bad luck. Many more have squandered more than I have, but my life was mine for a while, and I would have enjoyed enjoying it for all it was worth. Isn’t that a life worth dying for?

I would have loved to have made movies, and published books – that would have meant something. You know I postponed this sort of voyeurism for a long time as I feared it would remove me from a firsthand experience of life. It would have made me a compulsive obsessive perfectionist, always analyzing, always observing, always reflecting and rendering. What about living! Getting involved! I think I am that person anyway, and, I am someone who participates. For human beings I now realise, stories can be even more important than reality. We still have a lot to learn.

It has been very difficult – for me – to live in the world. It is so vulgar at times. So insensitive and shallow – I mean – as an average. I am a great deal more sensitive than the average, and I have hoped to harness this in service to the world. This is difficult when people are driven to distraction, unable to listen, and lacking in the ability to recognize value or meaning. Many simply do not care, and think my ‘caring’ is arrogance or hubris. Perhaps it was.

I have experienced a lot of pain in my naïve appreciation of beauty and truth. It is a curse sometimes to be so acutely aware of the lovely subtleties in the world, to see meaning and metaphors in so much. People are confused by this interest. Love of beauty is not necessarily personal. It is artistic, and intimate, but not necessarily personal. Some are freaked out by this, which I can understand.

I have also been corrupted – my life is not one of innocence and good deeds. I have had an Anakin Skywalker spirit where magic and chaos promised so much, but doubt and chances conspired heavily against me. I did better than him to resist the Dark Side. God knows there was enough Darkness and Emptiness and Loneliness. More than a Fair Share? What is fair these days? What is the going rate?. What haunts me still is this knowledge: When so much could have been gained but was instead lost. This is true for me and the whole world. Knowing this about oneself is frustrating; it is difficult to not have a great deal of anger. Knowing it about this country and the world is even more vexing. How…why did we…do we allow it?

McCandless too owes some of his strangeness – I believe, I understand – to his prolonged celibacy. To be true to ourselves we have to acknowledge and accept that some things aren’t perfect, and neither are we. There is desire and despair. It may be difficult to accept the limits of perfection in a world where perfection is a recipe for success, but perfectionism in relationships is a recipe for disaster. Whose perfectionism should be preferred then? Whose do we choose? How much is gained? How much is gained?

I am grateful for a special life. I have been blessed with so much. Chaos and Magic. That’s me. If I have a regret it’s that I didn’t spend more time with Candice. And that I turned down a chance to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. There might be more but they don’t come to mind. Since I don’t have children there will be no life after death for me. That’s also something I am prepared to live with…well, die with. If you think about it, everything is what it is, we are all supposed to be exactly where we are supposed to be. We can learn from this psychology. So much of our lives we spend resisting. So much is inevitable. So much is simply what it is (despite our imaginings). Acceptance is also happiness. There is joy in simply living, in breathing, in being. I’ve found that; I’ve experienced that.

As the end credits roll, you will see a lot of names, in no particular order. You all meant a great deal, and shaped me in an important way. Thank you. Goodbye.
Corneli Vorster, Francois Muller, Fransa Nel, Tammy Nzar, Mandy Thompson, Jenny Lake, Justus and Ane Visagie, Paul Hunt and family, Sharon Heath and family, Leslie Wright and family, Samantha Flint, Tammy Flint, Greg Flint, Welma Flint, Shannon Harris, Paddy Harris, Nicky Poulos, Daniel Schoeman, Albert Albertyn, Tico Hersch, Tanya and Madeleine Smit, Juliette Meyer, Allan, Katherine and Janet Muir, Mark Collie, Simon Gray, Penny Predeaux, Werner Allers, Anya Louw, Joanne Schrock, Hugo van Zyl, Garth McCarthy, Marie Goddard, Buddy Goddard, David Maartens, writers Ayn Rand, Enid Blyton, Jim Kunstler, Alex Garland, Douglas Coupland, and finally Alex Otto and family, CJ, Candice, Mom and Dad.

Weather Warning

Conditions which could lead to the development and spread of runaway fires are expected in places in the Cape Metropole, Swartland and Boland.

Meanwhile has anyone seen the damage done to houses in Scarborough. To see, go here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Best of Botswana (PHOTOGRAPHY)

So you think I'm a good photographer? These photographs were all taken by my father, and make my stuff look like fingerpaintings. It's good to have more Nature content now, as I feel 'Nature' is such an important resource for what is vital and good. Don't you get a sense of that just looking at these images?


Australia Foams At The Mouth

Amazing phenomenon in sea south of Brisbane

Amazing photographs of "Crazy ocean foam ... near Sydney" like the two shown on this page are so weird that many web surfers (and some real ones) think they must be fakes.

They're real all right, but they were not taken anywhere near Sydney. They show masses of foam four meters (13 feet) deep, washed up at Yamba, a small beach and fishing resort 677km (421 miles) north of Sydney, Australia's largest city, but only 287km (178 miles) south of Brisbane, its third city.

Last week, a similar phenomenon occurred further north, at Point Cartwright, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane.

It may be significant that Yamba lies at the mouth of the mighty Clarence River, while Point Cartwright is at the mouth of the Mooloolaba River.

A quick check shows that the Yamba photos were the work of a commercial photographer, Bill Counsell, who is more used to recording outdoor weddings. His dramatic pictures of the foam have circled the world, copied on hundreds of websites and blogs, usually without a credit line.

Counsell sold his photos to the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the London Daily Mail, and then they took off in a media frenzy, being copied globally in the press, on TV and the internet, usually without permission.

A website in Ukraine displayed the photos with captions in Cyrillic script.

"I've had an amazing response from all corners of the world, from men's girly magazines to German science magazines and everything in between," Counsell told OhmyNews International.

By Eric Shakle. Images Bill Counsell.


Olympic Thoughts

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent - Not Sure Who Said This But It Wasn't Me

I emailed Ryk before the Olympic Final in 2004 (a long time ago before the advent of Facebook, and before he got 2000 emails a day), and the above quote was signatured to my email. He said 'nice quote', and for an Olympic Final it's probably has to be a vital part of your psychology. They went on to break the world record - as everyone knows - with Ryk swimming the anchor leg in, I think, the fastest time of the 4 swimmers. It's what epitomised Lance Armstrong's approach to the Tour de France. It is an excellent dictum for life, love, work and sport.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New York Turns To Korea: From Bi Bim Bop to a Huge Spa

AS extravagant real-estate costs and gentrification do away with most of Manhattan’s ethnic neighborhoods outside Chinatown, the valuable commercial strip of West 32nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway remains firmly, surprisingly, overwhelmingly Korean. It is here that many New Yorkers and visitors first taste kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables), bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef) and bi bim bop (Google it), and here that Koreans and Korean-Americans gather for parties and social events.
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Many will say you haven’t experienced Korean New York without a trip to Flushing, Queens, but you can easily fill a weekend without leaving Manhattan. Among the culinary choices on and near West 32nd Street, Kunjip is your standard Koreatown restaurant, offering generous portions of do-it-yourself barbecue, other traditional Korean dishes and several brands of soju, the clear Korean liquor. Across the street, Woorijip is an informal, by-the-pound Korean buffet that also stocks Korean snacks like spicy shrimp crackers and sweet rice drinks, good for a quick lunch or bargain dinner; Korean-style fried chicken — with a full bar — is available at the largely hidden, chic gathering place Bon Chon chicken.

At the upscale vegetarian spot HanGawi, which back in the day got two stars from Ruth Reichl when she was restaurant critic for The Times, you remove your shoes as you would in a Korean home; it features rice bowls and hot pots with a stress on ingredients like mushrooms and tofu, and reasonably priced prix fixe menus take the stress out of choosing. (There are plenty of other upscale Korean spots elsewhere, such as Woo Lae Oak in SoHo.)



NVDL: Of late I have been missing Korean food 0 spicy - a lot. Especially the barbecue-do-it-yourself meals (with bulgogi) would be a huge hit with South Africans. Anyone want to start a Korean restaurant with me?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Botswana Land and Cloudscapes (PHOTOGRAPHY)

US on our Power Problem: S. Africa power cuts spark World Cup fears

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- A "national electrical emergency" has been declared in South Africa where power cuts are affecting millions of people and casting doubt over plans to host the football World Cup in 2010.

The power cuts mean commuters must navigate intersections with no working traffic lights.

Authorities on Friday outlined steps to combat the problem that is stirring anxiety about the future of the largest economy in Africa.

The power has gone off across the country frequently in the last few weeks -- sometimes for up to five hours at a time -- as demand exceeds supply.

President Thabo Mbeki has admitted that his government failed to plan properly after being warned about possible shortages years ago.

The Department of Public Enterprises said power interruptions constituted a national emergency and outlined steps that could bring higher energy prices and more conservation.

"The unprecedented unplanned power outages must now be treated as a national electricity emergency situation that has to be addressed with urgent, vigorous and coordinated actions," Public Enterprise Minister Alec Erwin told journalists.

"We are viewing the next two years as being critical," he said. In two years, South Africa will hosting the World Cup finals with 300,000 visitors expected.

The South African Tourism Services Association said this week the crisis jeopardized the World Cup.

"Will people come to SA to see them if they know they will be going back to hotels and guest houses with no power? That means no hot meals, no clean laundry, no lights," said Michael Tatalias of the tourism association, according to The Associated Press.

Tourists stranded

The power cuts mean commuters navigate intersections with no working traffic lights. Restaurateurs wait in the dark for customers. And hospital administrators rush to find power for emergency rooms and intensive care units.

And the problem was cast into sharp relief when a few hundred tourists at Cape Town's Landmark Mountain were stranded in a cable car after the power went out.

The state-owned electricity supplier, Eskom, initiated rolling blackouts after concluding that "demand for electricity may exceed the available supply from time to time." Usage went up 4.3 percent last year, the Department of Public Enterprises said Friday.

The power outages have called into question the government's ability to meet its target of 6 percent growth. They also have imperiled efforts to combat a 25 percent unemployment rate.

"Unfortunately, it means job creation will not be as prevalent as intended," said Azar Jammine, chief economist at Econometrix, a South African company that provides economic analysis. "And the ability to reduce inequality between rich and poor will take much longer to achieve."

New reality

A man who sells newspapers told CNN that power outages often caused delays at the printing press. That means his product sometimes arrives too late.

"Our late edition comes very late," he said. "When it comes, customers have already gone. Sales are bad."

At a normally busy Johannesburg restaurant, the staff lit candles and lingered at lunchtime one recent day, surveying empty tables half an hour after the lights went off.

"It's been happening for the past two or three weeks -- happens in the morning, the afternoon," one employee said. "We just have to take it day by day."

South Africa has made much progress since its transition from apartheid to democracy in 1994, but deep disparities remain, according to the World Bank, which provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries.

"South Africa is a society where deeply entrenched poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and loss of human dignity among the majority of the black population co-exist with economic wealth, scholastic achievements and a 'first world' lifestyle among the white population at par with the richest countries in Europe," the World Bank says.

New power plants are on the way, but analysts say the new capacity will be ready by 2011 at the earliest. As people adjust to the new reality, utility officials at Eskom are trying to rally their countrymen during a difficult situation.

"All South Africans need to pull together and save electricity," the utility says on its Web site, "because every little bit of saving counts."

CNN's Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg and Mark Bixler in Atlanta contributed to this report.

NVDL: South Africa: A country at war with itself, and then it shot itself in the foot.

Durex Ad


True story: I went to a DVD store in Norwood and after handing over my credit card for a 20 DVD Rental package, I backed away from the counter to check a section of nearby shelves. Funny thing: the lady in the snakeskin leather jacket was suddenly standing right beside me, keenly observing my interest in the selection. Very friendly.

I went back to the counter, picked up my two DVD's and absently fished in my pockets for my credit card. Not there. Not on the counter either. I checked my pockets again.
"Strange. Where's my credit card?" She gave me a puzzled look. I started to lean over the counter... "Oh, here it is." She slipped her hand against the very back end of the counter and gave it to me.

It occurred to me when I drove away that it was the first time she had ever joined me on the other side of the counter, apparently 'assisting'. What she had obviously done is quickly removed the card from the counter when I turned my back, and then moved quickly away so that I wouldn't suspect that this had happened when I wasn't looking - how could she if she had been standing beside me all this time. Disappointing behaviour.

Weather Warning

Heat wave conditions are expected over the interior of the Western Cape as well as the western parts of the Northern Cape today, persisting until Sunday.
Conditions favourable for the development and spread of runaway fires are expected in places in the Boland area.

Energy From Lightning - Seriously

Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a storm, in the movie Stardust you see a ship rigged to capture lightning. Obviously it's a helluva big discharge but perhaps our best scientists can spend a few dark and stormy nights doing some serious research. What do they say? There's enough energy in a single bolt of lightning to light up a whole city for a year?

My suggestion to get around the discharge issue, is that you immediately distribute from the lightning rod conductor into a capillary network of lines leading to a massive cellular structure of batteries. The object of the exercise is to conduct as much as possible, and store as much as possible. Hence you'll be needing ultrathick copper cables that unravel into hundreds of football field sized 'stations' filled with storage batteries.

That's the theory anyway. What has been done, in this field, is:
Lightning research

From Wiki:
One strike has enough energy to light 150,000,000 light bulbs.
About 95 people die from lightning yearly in the U.S.
A single thunderstorm can release 470 million litres of water (that's the volume of 16 Washington Monuments).
One storm can discharge enough energy to supply the entire U.S. with electricity for 20 minutes
A large Midwestern cumulonimbus can tower 20-25 km (Mount Everest is 8.8 km high.)
There are approximately 2,000 thunderstorms at any given moment worldwide.

Or contact: Division for Electricity and Lightning Research, Uppsala University, Dept of Engineering Sciences

Eskom: Too Late To Apologise

It's getting a bit much now isn't it. While out on a cycle this morning, a friend of mine who went on holiday in Australia said it has been very difficult coming back after spending time on the beach and in the sun and trying to re-adjust to cold, wet, rainy, blacked out South Africa. I've always imagined Aussie as an idealised version of SA.

But since we're here, we have to make do. Here are two useful thoughts.
1) Given the levels we've seen of corruption in government and that includes public service offices, is it really that surprising that we're starting to find systems breaking down? Is it surprising when people are appointed willy nilly to further transformation rather than on merit? It may feel good politically to put bums in seats, but in the end, I'm sure everyone would prefer the lights on. You can't just put any bum on a seat; it can't be your buddy or your girlfriend's cousin's husband. Those bums in seats, whoever they are, need to be doing their jobs. Sorry, that's the way it works if you want things to work. It's the same with the rugby team: does it do anyone any good if our national squad can't win a game? I don't know about you, but I still don't have the guts to watch Bafana play. I'm not convinced they can win, and until I am, I'll probably forget the Boys are playing as I did during their match against Angola. They drew 1-1. Once again, nothing spectacular. My point is, until people in positions do what is expected of them, we're going nowhere fast. Lack of accountability is a problem.

2) Energy is no longer cheap. Why? Because the number of users has grown. That's code for: there are two many people using up resources. Food, fuel, electricity. NoHow long before people start to adjust family sizes? At the moment people can't even

- and at this point the power cut out.
Not going to continue the point. On the way to work on 94.7 they had an Eskom adapted version of the Wackhead Republic Timbaland song: Apologise. Excellent. I'll post a link to their podcast as soon as they put it up. Zzzt.

From 94.7 News:
SA dealing with biggest power cuts ever
Eskom says one quarter of the country's power supplies are out of action.

That has caused the biggest rolling power cuts to day, with the utility being short of around 4 000 megawatts of power.

Eskom's Andrew Etzinger says planned maintenance and technical faults have hit Eskom's power supplies hard.

This has been huge in terms of power cuts. Eskom has literally no reserves of power and has to take several of its power stations off the national grid to fix them.

As a result of that planned maintenance and then because of problems with a couple of other units, Eskom has had to switch off large areas.

Areas that are controlled directly by Eskom, such as Sandton, have been hit the hardest because it's easier for Eskom to switch them off and on.

This is the worst blackout the country has had so far, but Eskom says it's working furiously to make sure that power cuts on this scale don't happen again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Road in Black and White (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Leon Schuster Eskom Music Video (HUMOR)

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What's The Point Of A Blog?

A blog is a chance to get a detailed behind the scenes picture of your favorite writer, celebrity or normal person. It's more detailed orientated than Facebook, it's more personal than email. In my case, when I have stuff appearing in publications, it can be viewed first here, with bonus footage/content. Also, while we may be used to a one-way flow of data (from a page through our eyes into our brains), a blog allows the opportunity for the reader to respond. Increasingly, you might find a curious detail and want the writer to expand on it. Or, as is often the case, you want to show/tell the writer that you are more intelligent than he/she is.

I started to appreciate the power and usefulness and thrill of blogging while living in Broadband Heaven - South Korea. I had read what I thought was a rare and astutely insightful book (The Long Emergency - by Jim Kunstler)and then was referred in the epilogue to his blog ( It's not the best design, but he writes well, has in the millions of visitors and it was fascinating following his commentary on events (updated daily and a column weekly), and seeing how predictions and reality became increasingly congruent. I have also emailed the author a few times and received several interesting responses, which is something you could never do until modern times. The same thing occurred with Weston DeWalt, author of The Climb, who actually contacted me via reading my blog.

It is amazing that we have the capacity now to read one another's minds, and for one person to infiltrate millions of minds, and for those millions (I almost said 'minions') to respond en masse. Kunstler says he wades through masses of emails each day.

The point of a blog, for me, in the beginning, was to provide a place for those people who wanted to get in touch with me, to visit (instead of sending group mails and getting 5 irritated responses each time). I am still shocked, surprised, awed, weary of the fact that what is published on the web can be read by a little girl on a computer in Australia, or a hairy nosed scientist at the North Pole, and everywhere in between.

I only worry that few of us take this technology seriously. So much - the majority by far - of what enters the public consciousness is drivel. And drivel begets drivel. Drivel and our fascination with drivel (rather than what is necessary) is what has driven us to where we are as a civilisation, and we know it is not a safe, happy, sustainable or even sane place. Blogs - if enough people experience a koo koo moment - may be able to reverse this effect, this mental malaise. Change begins with a change in mindset, and blogs can do, I believe, plenty to shift the zeitgeist to a more meaningful level of functionality.

The Bathtub Test

During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director how you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalised. "Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub, and then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub."

"Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would use the bucket because it's bigger than the spoon or the teacup." "No." said the Director, "A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?"

Drought could force nuke-plant shutdowns

LAKE NORMAN, N.C. - Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer.

"Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. "You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants." He added: "This is becoming a crisis."

By MITCH WEISS, Associated Press Writer

NVDL: Notice how frequently we see the ord 'crisis' appearing?

Girl switches blood type after liver transplant in first known case: doctors

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian girl spontaneously switched blood groups and adopted her donor's immune system following a liver transplant in the first known case of its type, doctors treating her said Thursday.

Demi-Lee Brennan was aged nine and seriously ill with liver failure when she received the transplant, doctors at a top Sydney children's hospital told AFP.

Nine months later it was discovered that she had changed blood types and her immune system had switched over to that of the donor after stem cells from the new liver migrated to her bone marrow.

She is now a healthy 15-year-old, Michael Stormon, a hepatologist treating her, told AFP. Stormon said he had given several presentations on the case around the world and had heard of none like it.

"It is extremely unusual -- in fact we don't know of any other instance in which this happened," Stormon told AFP from the Children's Hospital.

Kalahari Survivor

Playing this game ain't for the faint hearted.

“I smell rubber burning.” We’re just arriving in Kuruman when Candice, my sister, screws up her nose. Thin curtains of smoke curl up through the dashboard like a diluted Death Eater. The car jerks to a stop on the side of the road and while Candice contemplates running in the opposite direction, Casey Senior, my father, quickly lifts the hot hood; hand sized flames dance over the Turbo’s incinerated carbon fibre cover. There’s a short puff of white smoke from a fire extinguisher, and then languishing fumes and black smoke. For the amount of smoke and flames, we’re surprised that there is no collateral damage to the Landrover’s engine. But then the Landrover is the best, the toughest 4x4xfar.

We spend the next morning visiting at least four different mechanics and metalworkers in Kuruman, and none are able to provide us with a remedy. We decide to push on to Mabuasehube nonetheless.

The trick is to drive at a speed low enough not to activate the turbo. This means keeping the revs down. But we’re well aware that somewhere beyond Hotazel, the going gets a lot tougher as tar roads give way to swathes of sand. And it is as we drive by the Hotazel turnoff, that the clutch begins to slip. Everyone knows Botswana is not for the faint hearted. It’s a dry country with few home comforts. It belongs essentially to the wild animals, and even they know, weakness, or sickness, isn’t tolerated for long. So if you suffer from ASS (Anakin Skywalker Syndrome) – “I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough irritating and it gets everywhere.” – if that’s you then Botswana is most definitely not for you.

So with a clutch that slips at high revs, and a turbo threatening to start a fire under the hood at any moment, we push on past the Manganese mine settlement that is Hotazel, and into the gathering storm clouds at the apex of the white smear of our road. The cement colored roads sometimes bleed red; they take us through ancient river beds and across the border at McCarthy’s Rest. We get out of the vehicle and we see it is covered in a mustard colored dust. It is a mixture of powdery red and white sand. The heat is stifling. I am aware that not far from here we were still driving through pleasantly wet and cool rain. Here it feels like another country.

The sky is almost completely blue, and the sun mercilessly hot. Cicadas chisel in the background as we hand over our passports. Then there is a 21km stretch of road to Tsabong – the last human settlement before Mabuasehube. It is here that my father looks up and old acquaintance, a fellow called Rusty, who is an expert on Landrovers. He’s famous for this quip: “Landrovers are for old men.” He says this because Landrovers have very soft suspensions, it’s a comfortable vehicle, good value, and iconic. But make no mistake; the technology is dated and after being in service for some years – as one would expect – Landy’s start to become like old men. They develop all sorts of niggly problems, though nothing major. Rusty looks at the engine. Within seconds he diagnoses the problem: the clutch is set too high, and minutes later his assistants have made the necessary adjustments. The clutch does not slip again during the course of the trip.

Rusty also confirms that the Landrover will be fine in the more extreme conditions at Mabuasahube. Turbo or not, he reassures us that we are not mad to continue into the wild. The road from Tsabong is exhausting. There is 60km of fairly decent dirt road to start off with, and then 50km long ribbons of sandy triplicated highway. Tyre pressures may need to be lowered where the sand is very mushy. A skillful driver in early morning or more or less damp conditions might do the drive in an hour and a half as we did. But it’s easy to imagine spending a large portion grinding away at loose sand. The late afternoon is the worst time to drive long distances on sand as it’s then that it gets hot and loose. The 110km to Mabuasahube gate requires high levels of concentration, particularly where the tracks of trucks are wider than the Landy’s tracks, forcing the wheels out of the deep ruts on one side, then the other side. Going from a side rut to the higher middle ruts feels a lot like a water-skiing and trying to mount a speedboats’ arching froth trail. You feel like the vehicle angles and swerves as the sands change from somewhat compact to very soft cushions. It will take the amateur some time to master this maneuver. Unfortunately, the best way to do it is quickly and confidently, which means mistakes can happen. A roll on the soft sand ought to shake up everyone inside, but probably won’t damage your vehicle as much as one might expect.

The conditions here going through these long grueling sandy ruts are a tough ask even for the best 4x4’s. We see two burnt out 4x4wrecks not that far apart that have been dragged off the road. Small fragments of melted engine lie like small black stones in the sand. One has white paint on it: ‘Berties Landy’. In Botswana people have driven over crusty pan surfaces and then watched their vehicles drown within minutes in black mud underneath. In one case a man attached a cable to a boulder to winch himself out of thick mud, and the boulder dislodged and landed on his vehicle. Yes, this can be an unforgiving country; it requires the same alertness and concentration, the same consciousness the animals have of what is happening around them. People must also maintain a high standard of attentiveness rather than complacency in order to stay out of trouble.

The air is unusually wet and filled with dancing butterflies. This proves to be a hugely mitigating factor. Rain has turned the winding heaps of mushy, powdery sand into a half decent substrate. We’re able to fly along at a brisk 70km/h without straining the engine unduly. What’s incredible is that the ruts are so deep, my father is able to take his hands off the steering wheel for hundreds of metres while chatting to us (with a wry smirk), while our vehicle navigates itself through curves and what not.
Driving here feels less like driving and more like the indistinctive, softer steering of a boat softly undulating through choppy sea. It’s actually a lot of fun. It’s the perfect playground for a Landy.

The sun has gone down when we reach the impressive gate complex at Mabuasahube. The gates are closed but not locked. I get out and open them, and we drive in. Although we booked in advance, one is expected to sign in. But no one is about. We decide to sign in when we’re on our way out again. In Botswana, they are far more lenient to this sort of behavior than on the South African side of the Transfrontier Park. I open a boom gate and another gate, and then we are in the park. We soon find Gemsbok and Springbok drifting across the moony landscape of a pan at dusk. We reach Lesholoago Pan (17km from the gate) sometime after 7pm. The facilities have been specially designed by an expert from England to integrate the visitor as much as possible into the environment. Whilst the campsites are basic, they are nevertheless put together very nicely. We find we prefer the open air latrines and showers to the stifling enclosed latrines.

The name of the pan, it turns out, means “Death” (Mabuasahube means ‘Red Sand”), and my father says we must make sure there aren’t lions in these open ‘6’ shaped structures. He tells us to have a look at the bite marks on the toilet seat. “A lion did that,” he explains, bringing the reality of camping in Botswana back into focus. It is while we are eating delicious wors off the braai and chewing the meat off our chops, that my father casually informs us that this site is also the venue for his most frightening encounter with lions during his 20 years traveling through Botswana.

What happened was a group of half a dozen or so young male lions approached their camp sometime after midnight, and begun to run amuck. My father who was sleeping on the roof of the vehicle, felt the vehicle rock violently as one lion chewed (and tore off) the mudguard, while another presumably was standing on his hind legs, wondering whether supper was within reach. A far worse fate was in store for my father’s friend, Tico, who had been sleeping in a tent on the ground. With a uselessly thin layer of material separating him from the lions, his heart started beating in overdrive. He could hear roaring, a chaotic ripping (a mattress was torn in two) and the clattering of dishes. At once stage a lion lay right beside him, against the tent. Frozen, armed with a bottle of wine, he was too terrified to move. This went on for three hours. He said the next morning that his heart hurt because it had beaten so fast for so long.

When you travel to Botswana, these stories get told again and again, and you don’t get tired of hearing them. While someone is talking you will look into the darkness, shine your torch, and see if you find a few pairs of yellow eyes staring back at you. “Lions,” my father says, “have eyes that dip only slightly as they advance towards you. Jackals and hyenas bob up and down.” There’s almost a military aspect to all this information, in the sense of knowing how to survive the approach of a potential opponent. In Botswana we are definitely not the masters of the universe. The lions are.

Our second campsite is at Mabuasahube Pan, a beautiful site that has been earmarked for the development of a lodge. It is rumored to have diamond deposits as the pan is situated on a Kimberlite pipe; hence it’s unusual pinkish color. We decide not to camp in the area designated to us, as there are people right next door, so we drive up the dune to the next camp site. Here we meet a host of charming creatures, from a large group of ground squirrels, to the ‘flying bananas’ as we call them – a pair of hornbills busily looking after three young chicks in a nearby nest.

Our first night at Mabuasahube Pan is awesome: the sky turns to fire, and all three of us run around like maniacs with our cameras. The following night there is a sudden swarm of termites just after dusk: with all sorts of critters – geckoes, a scorpion, squirrels and a mouse – guzzling the writhing seed shaped bodies. This is when Candice came up with the brilliant idea to cook some and eat them. They taste buttery, and their legs crunch in your mouth. After that, all hell breaks loose. One of the fiercest, most deafening storms I’ve ever experienced starts crashing around us. And it doesn’t let it up; it goes on and on. We start off standing under the A frames but we’re soon soaked: gusts blow the rain horizontally through it, and another burst of light and deafening sizzle sends us sprinting into the Landrover. We sit there eating biltong and taking in the storm. It reminds me of being at a drive-in, watching a horror movie.

We don’t sleep too well that night, as the wind blasts the tent until the wee hours of the morning.

Our final camp site is Mpaathutlwa Pan (which means, Giraffe’s Stomach) 12 km from the gate. It’s January 19th, my 36th birthday. By this time I have filled up 4 memory sticks with photos, including pictures of the three hornbill chicks we saw in the nest. There is so much you cannot photograph though, you just have to enjoy it.

The Kalahari Robin runs beak open over hot sand and when it flies; its wings beat so vigorously it sounds like someone shaking a wet cloth next to your ear. We see storks riding an invisible tornado. With outstretched wings they swing vertically as the moving pipe of air rotored them higher and higher. They remind me of fish in a tropical sea. Once they attain the height they want, they peel off and then fly in straight lines to where they want to go. We see large birds of prey like the Bateleur and Tawny Eagles, and hear the soft hoo of a white faced owl at night. We also see birds fly into the air (making the noise of a Gatling gun) and then boomerang back and land like a parachute, legs hanging, not far from where they take off. Other pheasants fly vertically as we approach, do a crazy somersault and land straight back down. We see Steenbokkies almost on clockwork at 1km intervals. We are transfixed by the most elegant of antelope, a herd of Kudu, and during a visit to Khiding Pan we see a community of perhaps a dozen Bat Eared foxes. The plant life is also amazing. Did you know that there is an underground tree (with only leaves exposed) in the Kalahari? Where it grows, nothing else grows. The driedoring (Rhygosum tricotonym) is also interesting in that each branch divides into a perfectly proportioned triangle of three.

So why do we need to go into the wild? Is it curiosity? The desire to be dirty? Don’t laugh – camping in the Kalahari can be uncomfortable. With sand everywhere, you can go to bed feeling decidedly greasy and grimy. My advice: do what the Asians do. Get a wet cloth and wipe hands, arms and face. Or if it’s warm enough, take a shower. On hot days shower with clothes on. In terms of footwear, I’d recommend open shoes, because I don’t like the feel of trapped sand rubbing between shoe and skin. My sister and I wore flip flops, but beyond the confines of the camp, sturdier footwear is necessary to protect against needle sharp thorns. The good news is, in Mabua at least, you won’t suffer from pesky mosquitoes. There’s just not enough water for them. Your shower water comes from a distant borehole (about 300 metres deep) piped to the various campsites.

In the Kalahari you are tested and measured. We believe it is valuable that people interact with animals; probably it does more good for the people than the animals. People ask, What is there to do out there? Well it’s like one big beach isn’t it. Take along bats and a ball. Young children are vulnerable, liable to get bored and so are best left at home. You will find yourself as you get closer and closer to the Kalahari. It seems to me it is all about Discovery. This place is a writer and photographer’s dream, a place of diesel and dust, and sun, sweat, and soil in a vast wilderness.

It is such a compelling experience that you may well suffer withdrawal when you are back in civilization. Unused to road signs, fences, barriers or controls, I missed the first few Stop signs when we were back in Kuruman. Back in Johannesburg I went to gym and while swimming in a swimming pool – a rectangle of water suspended in a building in the city – I realized with some sadness that this is about as far from the Kalahari as one can get. I yearn to return. You will too.

2624 Words

National Weather + Fire Warning


Isolated heavy falls of rain which may lead to localized flooding are possible in places over the western parts of Limpopo Province.


Weather conditions favourable for the development and spread of runaway fires are expected in places in the Cape Town Metropole, Boland and Swartland.

How do I sue ESK'MON!?

The power has just cut out at work here in Rosebank. Again. The only reason I'm able to post now is because we have a generator system, a backup for this sort of scenario. But others are not so fortunate. And this is happening like every freaking day.

This morning before I left for work the power was off. When I arrived home from work, off again. At work it went off twice. Lord knows how businesses deal with power outages during the lunch break; especially fast food places. That's when a lot of office workers (read: people with bucks) provide a surge of commerce. Keep this up and its basically like a Mafioso shooting you at the kneecaps. You're going be out of business big time.

I suppose salads aren't a problem to make for a power(less) lunch. Maybe we'll see some innovation. Obviously they can cook the stuff in advance and have it on standby, kept warm in special bags a la Mr. Delivery. Which reminds me; surely home deliveries could do really really well when people are paralysed (unable to cook in one suburb) whilst elsewhere food can be cooked and delivered. Anyone listening?

Personally the outages haven't affected me that much. Er...until today. |When I wanted to eat breakfast this morning the milk was vrot. I checked the label and it was due to go off after from the 25th (tomorrow) onwards. So who can I sue? Clover, or Eskom? Hundreds of thousands of other people are going through the same thing. Eeesh. And food prices are set to rocket as farmer's pass on their costs to us. Tourism is also likely to suffer. We may not be able to hold the 2010 World Cup. If you were sitting in Germany or Korea, would you want to visit a country that can't keep and lights on and is overrun with hijackers, murderers, corrupts commissioners and presidents? We'd better shape up or we are going to be a pariah again, as in a joke, a Bart Simsonesque underachieving cautionary tale of a country.

Seems like one of the habits we'll be changing in the immediate future is the milk we buy. Longlife from now on. I wonder what else? If everything is going to get expensive, will we see more people riding bicycles to work and eating less meat, or are we going to take the road more travelled (by car) and insist, force things to remain convenient and easily consumed, despite the obvious - that we are well past this sell by date?

Meanwhile, a tip for Eskom: why is Gauteng bearing the brunt of these blackouts. This is the engine of the subcontinent. Why not just turn off Bloemfontein?

Study: Bush, aides made 935 false statements in run-up to war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.

The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources -- mainly quotes from major media organizations. Video See CNN viewers' reactions to the study »

The study says Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein's possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq's links to al Qaeda.

Bush has consistently asserted that at the time he and other officials made the statements, the intelligence community of the U.S. and several other nations, including Britain, believed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

He has repeatedly said that despite the intelligence flaws, removing Hussein from power was the right thing to do.

The study, released Tuesday, says Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.


NVDL: Koo koo, Bush was busted eons ago.


Right now it is 11:11 and I've just had a small epiphany. My birthdate is 19/01/1972 and if you add all those numbers up you get: 1+9 = 10 (1+0 =1) = 1 /0+1=1/1+9 = 10 (1+0 =1 + (7+2 = 9) = 10 = 1=0 = 1 = 1/1/1

Someone I know who is into numerology says a 1/1/1 personality is a dominant sort of personality who doesn't really like being told to do anything. Sounds um...fairly accurate.

Freeing the Lance (Armstrong) in You (Me)

Freelance writing isn't the easiest job in the world is it? To register with the Southern African Freelancers Association (SAFREA) go here.

Meanwhile, here's my power bar (instead of pizza) powered mission statement (an extract from a recent email to BW):

I have been published in Shape, go!, Heartland, Sunday Times, a few paying local and overseas websites. An article will appear in this Sunday’s Sunday Times. My goal is to be recognized as an important voice. Not quite like Barry who is sort of specialized. Sort of like a mix of Noam Chomsky and Jim Kunstler ( who talk variously and meaningfully about important matters in the sense that one is recognized as a bit of an intellectual, a sane and sensible voice in the media maelstrom. I’d be distinctive in that I would add to the dour political comments an occasional artistic view or appreciation of the world. I also believe in altruism and sustainability, and see writing as a vital way of reforming the zeitgeist/world. It’s one way to shift our collective psychology to begin to affect urgently needed lifestyle changes.

I think what I bring to the craft is great visuals, useful analogies, and also a firsthand hands on approach. I don’t like the idea of the survile weakass loser nerdy reporter who goes grubbing for stories. I prefer the idea of the writer as a well established, successful human being in his or her own right who also has experience in other things (in other words, is balanced and doesn’t relie solely on writing for ego satisfaction). That’s why I enjoy interviewing successful swimmers, because I was a good swimmer and sportsman, and I get where they are coming from, and can ‘talk their language’. This provides far more insights than a wannabe going: “I can’t even swim one length. How do you do it?”

I also want to go a lot further, publishing fiction, making films, affecting change. Getting involved, but as an independent, not joining clubs or working through some other voice. I’ve been very frustrated in the area of getting my fiction manuscripts actually read by publishers. Friends have read a manuscript called HOLIDAY, some have read it again and again 2 or 3 times. Yet the publishers turn their noses up at it. As I say, I suspect they don’t even look at it from the generic responses. Even the latest Time magazine writes about Apocalypse New – saying there is so much end of the world stuff coming out – I am Legend, Cloverfield. HOLIDAY was inspired by a similarly post apoc book called The Road.