Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Power, what power?

This last week was a bad week for power outages. By the end of the week I was starting to feel like I had some kind of bad power karma. It started last weekend with a 2 hour power outage between midnight and about 2am at work which, for a change, were non events since the generator actually did what it was purchased to do. The problem was that I didn't know about the outage until monday morning when I arrived at work which means that the monitoring system ain't workin' like it ought to. Turned out that since we spent a good deal of the previous week putting the new switches into the server room the SNMP card in the UPS's hadn't been reset and because of this, it was refusing to notify anyone of mains power availability. Wierd I know but this is the way it works. Went out on tuesday night to Rosebank to see 'An Inconvenient Truth' which if you're a greenie you have got to see. On the other hand, if you are are an energy junkie then you REALLY have to go and see it. Got a bit schmaltzy in a couple of places which I didn't feel were required in order for Al Gore to make his point but on the whole, a pretty good movie and well worth watching. Back to my energy woes, about 30 minutes before the movie starts we were just finishing supper when, bang, darkness descended and when you're in a mall, it really is absolutely pitch black. Generators kicked in and the emergency lighting switched on so we could at least finish the dinner but alas, no movies tonight. Received two complimentary tickets instead which we had to use within 2 weeks which was pretty mean of them I thought. Had to call it quits for the evening since caron's favourite cave 'Exclusive Books' closed its doors the moment the power went of. Wednesday morning, up early to go to gym. Had a great ride although I really do prefer to be out on the road as I did on Tuesday morning. Got to the showers, that's strange, nobody else is showering. After a couple of minutes waiting for the hot water it became painfully apparent why. No friggin hot water and I do NOT like cold showers. I have had more than my fair share of cold showers but by this time it was a bit late; so cold it was. After the initial shock, it was vaguely pleasant in a sado machocistic kinda way. Thursday evening, we go out for supper and again, no electricity! This is starting to get like the racist joke about what did people used to using in Zambia before they had paraffin for lighting ... electricity of course. Since there wasn't any electricity, the range of dishes one could buy was somewhat diminished and I ended up have portuguese sardines which if you haven't had them, don't. Unless of course, you enjoy trying to separate a gazillion bones from the flesh. A very delicate operation and not entirely successful, had to chew really well to prevent some body piercing where I don't want it. Friday evening, tried the movies again without too much hope and wonder of wonders, electricity. The movie, of course, is basically about our excessive energy usage and the effect that the production of energy is having on the environment. From what I have experienced this week we ought to be well placed to sell some carbon credits since we never seem to have any to electricty to use ourselves. Saturday morning we drive down to the dam, switch on the lights in the caravan and blow me down. No electricity. What the expletive is going on! In one week, I experienced no less than 5 different power outages, all in different areas and on different power grids. I have to admit that the cold showers was actually scheduled maintenance as I found out afterwards and the caravan was simply because the switch board had tripped most likely due to a lightening strike which is a fairly common occurance. But still, three times in a week ... living in darkest africa is starting to take on some real meaning.

Had the most fantastic weekend after I had calmed down after the electricity fiasco. With the yacht still in Durban there was precious little to do, in fact, there was absolutely nothing to do except read which is what I did almost the entire weekend. Finished 'The God Delusion' which I thoroughly enjoyed and is recommended reading especially if you think you're not going to like it. I've handed it over to my father for a different, independent view point which I'm sure he'll enjoy sharing with me at some stage. On sunday afternoon I saw a rubber duck being launched and it all looked pretty normal until the crew member started to pump up the pontoons and I repeat, after it had already been launched. There is something deeply perturbing about starting the motor on an inflatable boat and driving out into the middle of the dam while the crew member furiously pumps away to prevent the boat deflating. Some people are just plain wierd.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Taxi Triangle

I think I have a Taxi Triangle just down the road from me. At least once a month there is a broken down taxi sucked dry of it's will to live in the left hand lane, all within about 100m of each other. Now, taxi's are pretty hardy individuals so this triangle must be pretty powerful and it is a mystery as to why it is never a car or a motorbike. It only seems to affect Taxis. I do wish that it wouldn't just such the life out of the Taxi but that it would remove the entire Taxi to some other place and time.

Coincidence? I think not! We have a Taxi Triangle.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chance Irony

Yet again, I find myself having to take a couple of days at work to recover from the weekend. Not for the usual reason though! This time the weekend was squashed into nothingness between friday and monday, i.e. I worked just about the entire weekend. Saturday night was particularly bad, started at 20:00 and finished at 03:00 just in time to wake up at 06:00 to go back to work. I would not make a good medical person since I generally spend sundays after late nights trying to ignore things and not react. I know that I am not thinking nor behaving rationally so I try to think and behave as little as possible. Caron would definately agree with the behave as little as possible part at least. So between work and .... work, there isn't a whole lot to tell about the weekend. It was however rescued from the abyss of wasted weekends by a single incident that happened on Sunday afternoon when a few very old (both meanings) friends whom we see very seldom came over. I really should have planned the late night better but I didn't have full control over that.
I have been reading the "God Delusion" which I am finding fascinating, can't really give a recommendation since I haven't finished it yet but thus far, if you are spiritually or intellectually adventurous, give it a go. The chapter that I have been reading is about whether the complexity that we see in the natural world came about 'By Chance' or by 'By Design'. 'By Chance' implying evolution and 'By Design' implying by god. The argument goes that it is highly improbable that the complexity all around us came about by chance therefore it must have been by design and therefore there must be a god. QED.
Back to Sunday afternoon, I was lying outside in the shade of the plum tree, and no, a plum didn't fall on my pip, when Paul arrived. What a coincidence he has just bought the same book and even more remarkably we happen to be reading the same chapter. Remarkable, what is the probability of that happening. Highly improbable I would say, too improbable for it to have happened by chance, it must have been by design. Hmmm, and here arrives the irony. Why would god have it that both of us read the same book that is dedicated to proving that he doesn't exist?
Ok, Ok I can hear the inquisition at the door already demanding that I shouldn't be comparing apples with pears and I have too agree but only insofar as comparing 'By Chance' and 'By Design' is also comparing apples with pears.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dysfunctional Capitalism

Notwithstanding what I said in my previous post regarding Adams invisible hand, a couple more thoughts. Competition within certain industries can sometimes lead to undesirable consequences such as a loss of quality. By way of example, the repeated electricity blackouts in the north east of the united states which happened in the early 90's ('93 I think) and then again in the early 2000's ('04 I think). The point is that they happened and after 10 years, the underlying situation had not been corrected and it happened again. My contention is that this is an illustration of competition taken to its extreme where the scramble for customers has driven prices down to such a degree that the business itself is not really sustainable. In order for the companies to provide the cheapest rate they have had to, over time, optimise their businesses to such an extent that if there are unexpected loads there is no 'fat' (excess capacity) available and hence the power outages. Now the question is, why was there not sufficient excess capacity? Did the engineers just miscalculate the demand curve over time? Were there more than one unusual event and the engineers had only calculated the demand from a single unusual event? Was there not enough capital expenditure due to the requirement to make profits or if there were no profits, to merely stay in business?
I think that it is possible for competition to drive prices so low that the quality of the service is undermined and that this is detrimental to the customer, perhaps more so than if the customer had to pay slightly more but have a better quality service. Of course there is the risk that the 'slightly more' just goes to the bottom line and there is no improvement in the quality of service.
Surely, in the same way that competition tends to drive prices down to a point, there should be an opposing principle which prevents the quality of a service from deteriorating past a point. This should be the customer choosing a more expensive quality service over a cheaper option with less quality but what tends to happen is that customers choose the cheapest option and then berate the supplier for not having the quality of the supplier which they rejected.
I think that what I am saying is that there are certain industries, fundamental ones, like electricity and telecoms, where the quality of the service is of such importance that there has to be excess capacity to cater for the unknown and that in these industries, perhaps competition is not the smartest idea.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sundays should all be like this

After Saturdays exertions it was great to wake up late-ish i.e. after 07:00 having had an absolutey awesome nights rest. It is a pity that it requires so much exercise to get to sleep so well, Caron on the other hand needs no invitation to sleep. She's a total natural. Took the cars for a wash 'n polish before we went to our local nursery which has an excellent restaurant on the one side. A bit wierd having a restaurant in a nursery but it actually works quite well. I normally get to read the newspaper while Caron goes plant hunting. A friend of mine refers to this as dog food shopping, he buys the plants, she plants the plants, the dogs eat the plants, he buys the plants etc, etc, etc.

Very nice setting, loads of parents and children but we just sat quietly in the corner minding our own business, reading our newspapers. We spent most of the time looking for properties and trying to assess the market for a possible splurge on a property. It's just investigating at the moment and I actually don't want to move since we are quite happy in our current home but the times, they are a-changing and we need to move with them.

Went to see several properties in a number of suburbs and were happy to see that, once you reconcile yourself to spending ludicrous amounts of money, there are actually some really nice homes available.

Went past Kirsten and Carls for a very pleasant, as usual, visit. Kirsten was her usual feisty self and Carl was the suitably demure husband. Hmmmmm!

Crater Cruise 1, Roland 0

The weekend started really badly. Did a seemingly innocuous release of some software at 07:00, did the test transactions. Everything seemed fine but at 15:00, one of the support staff came through with a wierd problem that really shouldn't have happened. Very strange, on some phones it works 100% and on others it works 50% and yet others, it doesn't work at all. The same friggin' code. By 22:00 we still hadn't made any real progress on the problem so I decided to rollback the changes which, thankfully, we managed successfully. I think this might be a first, I can't actually remember rolling back a change before so we score 100% on actually being able to rollback but 0% for having to do it in the first place. We still haven't decided quite where the problem is, the phone application (or its developer really) reckons it is the servers problem (or the servers developer actually) while the server reckons it's the phone application but it really could be either and it is really difficult to work out which of them it is.

Got home at 23:00, put my bike on the car and packed the kit for tomorrow. Finally got to bed just before 24:00 which was way past when I would have chosen to retire for my beauty sleep. Awake at 04:45 to get ready to go to Parys on the Vaal for the annual "Crater Cruise", I don't know who named it a "Cruise" but I think he (or she) is liable to be found guilty of false advertising. Technical it isn't but a "cruise" it really isn't. Arrived perfectly in time, got myself ready and was at the starting line 15 minutes before the start which makes a pleasant change. The first half of the 105km mountain bike race was pretty easy with some tar and lots of sand road which although somewhat sandy in places was definately manageable. Corrugations are a bit hard on the rear end which made me look enviously at the bikes surrounding me. They, almost without exception, had both front and rear shock absorbers which looked a really good investment to me at the time. I seemed to spend the entire race with people overtaking me, sure people often overtake me but I also overtake people. Well, not on this race, it was pretty much one way traffic with me on the receiving end.

Got to half way a little worse for wear but not too bad. The halfway drinks stop was pretty cool because they stop the clock for you so you can spend as much time as you want there without affecting your time. I can't quite remember now, but if there were two water stops in the first half of the race there must have been six in the second half and I can see why mountain bikers have a different reputation to the road riders. At one of the water stops people were stripping down and jumping in the river before climbing back on an going again, not exactly going for personal bests. Very festive atmosphere and my theory about misery loving company was truly vindicated. As long as you can see everyone else is in pain, you can just manage to keep it going.

The one descent was a bit hairy, a little like riding on ball bearings, you just gotta go. If you try to be cautious you are just going to fall and hurt yourself. Riding through thick sand is really funny you have just gotta pedal like crazy and stick to one direction. Changing direction is sure fire disaster evidenced by the one rider in front of me who took a tumble. No harm done, it seems falling off is part of mountain biking but most of the falls are at low speed so other than a few bumps and scrapes, no harm done although I have heard of some real horror stories.

Saw a guy I recognised from gym, he wanted to know how I was doing. A bit sore I replied, "Where" he asked to which a passer by replied "hell, where do I start? pretty much everwhere!" maybe it is easier to name the places that don't hurt. Even my jaw hurts at the moment.

As evidenced from the innocuous "Cruise" title, the organisers have a cupboard masochist somewhere in their organisation. At 90km when everyone is pretty much toast we came around a bend and the friggin' path just goes straight up this rock slab. Big arrows so there is no way anyone could think that this couldn't possibly be the route. I like, almost everyone else saw this and either thought or said "F*ck!" and promptly dismounted to push the bike up the slab. About 1/3 of the way up there was an unhappy face painted on the rock face, arsehole course layer. At 2/3 there is the word "sorry" painted on the rock face, as if that would get him out of the sh!t he would be in if anyone knew who the sadist was. At the top was another "sorry" just in case we missed the first one. Bastard! Just after the top there was a guy sitting on the side of the track with his bike slap bang in the middle of the path. Everyone had to ride around it which was inconsiderate of him. I looked at him and before I could get the question out he answered with a "No, I can't move my bike. I pretty much can't move at all!" and everyone graciously smiled at his pain and cycled around his bike happy that someone was feeling worse that they were.

On the descent my saddle bag parted company from my saddle which was a great excuse for a break to sit down and SLOWLY work out what to do with the saddlebag. It was about 40 deg. Celcius by this stage so you can feel the sun burning through your shirt as you ride. The last 10km seemed to go on forever and just when you can actually see the finish, they take you on this little loop away from the finish. This included about 500m of cycling on a railway track which was rough, loose rock and sleepers and if you weren't careful you come up against a railway line which is sure fire accident material. Came around the last corner to be confronted with a steep makeshift bridge over a road but there was fortunately a "Chicken Route" arrow at the bottom which I thankfully took and finally crossed the finish 05:35 later. The first guys in took 03:10 which is truly remarkable. On a normal 100km road race the pro's normally come in 40 to 50 minutes ahead of me so I thought maybe an hour and a half would be a reasonable time to be behind them. 2 and 1/2 hours is not on but I don't know what I can actually do about it.

Had the most fantastic swim in a fountain, ice cold water to cool my core temperature down and clean me up. Got back in the car and had a snack. By the time we had left parys for the drive home I was fast asleep and only woke up as we reached the outskirts of joburg. Thank goodness Caron was kind enough to drive there with me, wait for the race to finish and then drive back. I don't think I could have managed the drive back.

Defending the Caveman

Went to see "Defending the Caveman" more or less by accident. A group of people had arranged to go and see it at the Monte Casino theatre and one couple, George and Yvonne, somehow forgot (unbelievable as it may seem) that they were going to be overseas at the time of the performance, hence our short notice invitation to go and take their tickets. Both Caron and I have actually seen it before when Tim Plewman performed it at the Alhambra Theatre and remember it as side splittingly funny so we weren't exactly unpleased to have an opportunity to see it again. Until after the show, that was.

The show is a humorous dissection of male and female relationships within the gender boundaries as well as across the gender chasm. It looks at how men a.k.a "The Caveman" behaves and interacts with other Cavemen and then how they try and interract the same way with Cavewomen, which doesn't exactly work leading to some of the many situations that we see in our daily lives. Likewise, Cavewomen try to interract with Cavemen in the same way as they would with other Cavewomen and needless to say, has no more success than the Caveman has with Cavewoman. Stereotyped, the two sexes certainly are and in reality everyone is a bit of mix of both stereotypes but the stereotyping enables the play to bring out the humour of the interractions.

The play basically pokes fun at the two sexes explaining their behaviour by relating it to the behavior of their ancestors with a little more sophistication than the Caveman bashing the Cavewomen over the head and dragging her over the threshold. A little but not much.

One particularly funny episode was related to choices. Given choices A or B, Cavemen choose one or the other. Cavewomen choose C exasperating Cavemen while in their own minds C is a perfectly logical choice out of A OR B. I had a great real life example of this on the weekend. Went to visit family and the argument went like this. Cavewomen paints a toybox and accidentally sprays some of the cottage pain windows because she is painting too close to the windows with the roller. Caveman, asks politely (this particular Caveman is about as un Cavemanish as they come) why she painted so close to the windows when it was pretty obvious what the result would be. Cavewoman roars to life and asks "So when last did YOU (you slacker) do something around the house?" which, while a valid question has nothing to do with painting too close to the windows. Valid answers (for a Caveman) to the question would be something like "I did it especially to annoy you" or "Whoops, didn't think of that!" or "I like speckled windows, don't you?".

One woman, unable to keep quiet anymore shouted from the front a question which absolutely proved the point that was trying to be made. I think she wishes that she hadn't blurted the question out afterwards but too late, too late she had to dispense with her 7000 words a day and she was way behind having had to sit in silence for the better part of an hour.

While the play was funny, it wasn't nearly as funny as I remember it. Maybe just the rosy glow of memories but I don't think so. There was way more basic sexual innuendo in this one, designed to get cheap laughs, instead of witty wordplay saying and meaning the same thing. At least for me.

Note to self, if George ever arranges something. Check that he is actually going to be in the country on that date.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Adams invisible hand ...

I have a passing interest in economics, can't really explain why and I sometimes wish it really would just pass on and leave me alone. But it doesn't. Picked up my "Dummies guide to Economics" which I am trying to drag myself through just so that I can have a more balanced view of economics after reading "The Growth Illusion". I can't bring myself to just plough through the book so I read it in fits and starts but one particular thing really got my attention this weekend. It has to do with Adam Smiths famous "invisisble hand" theory which basically states that due to competitive pressures between businesses, the customers of these businesses get the best products and services at the cheapest rates due to the competition between them. So even though the businesses may not have their customers best interests at heart, due to competition, they are forced to always become more efficient and hence keep on beating the competition and hence giving the customers the best deal.
Now, to my mind, the older an industry, the finer the margins due to competition and the more the pressure to use technology to stay just one step ahead of the pack. The point I want to pick up is do do with the tighter margins since by definition, this means less profit which would explain why investors are continuously looking around for the next best thing, they are just looking at getting into other industries or companies where the margins are easier. My point is that in mature industries, the customers of these mature industries should be getting the products or services at very close to cost which leaves precious little for profit. How then, do we have real wealth being generated out of these supposedly mature, low margin industries. Thus far I have two possiblities, one that mature industries compete, but only to a point and that point has to do with how little profit the industry as a whole will put up with, not with how low can prices go for the most quality. The second is that maybe the "invisible hand" really isn't visible for a good reason, maybe it doesn't exist since competition doesn't really exist. More on this when I have thought some more ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Up, Up and Away

A travel filled week. Caron departed on Tuesday for London so I was left to be a bachelor for the week. Not that I did much bacheloring seeing as I flew to Cape Town on Wednesday and back on Thursday evening. Quite amazing how flying does actually tire one out even though you are just sitting there doing absolutley nothing. It is similar to travelling in a car, you just sit there and when you get to your destination you feel tired after having done ... absolutely nothing.
Went to Cape Town to help with the launch of a new product which I am particularly proud of since it incorporates several technologies which are pretty rare and in some cases unheard of. You will probably find a geek hiding in a corner somewhere else in the world also thinking that he has invented something earth shatteringly brilliant. Time will tell if it really is novel or if it is just part of a large wave of innovation happening on cell phones. The launch went pretty well with some insightful after launch questions which is normally a good sign that the audience was at least awake.
Met three people which I happen to know (two separate ones going to Cape Town and one on the way back) going through the airports. What are the chances of that? Obviously greater than zero since it happened but still!
Went to go and see "The Devil wears Prada" for management lessons in the vein of Atilla the Hun and his management principles. I think I need to get a lot tougher at work, maybe wearing Prada is the secret. Originally it was going to be just Kim and myself going, that was on Monday. When I looked at the internet to book on Tuesday it was only on at some obscure cinema in Krugersdorp. Now, if a movie opens in a single cinema in Krugersdorp it means that the distributors really, really, really don't expect it to do well. Kim was insistent, she wanted to see the movie. Logged in to book on Wednesday and, relief, it is now showing just about everywhere. Need to book for Kim as well as Laurel now, hang on, yet another email. Kim, Laurel and friend Glenda. Better book quickly so the guest list doesn't get any longer. Going out with two divorcees and one of unknown marital status is going to be intimidating enough with anyone else joining the fray. By Friday the composition of the party had changed totally. Kim was sick so she couldn't make it. Replaced by Tony. Glenda couldn't make it at the absolute last minute due to someone hopping over the wall of her complex so it ended up Laurel, Tony and myself. Very enjoyable, maybe not a great movie but well worth seeing. While we were watching it in Sandton, Caron was busy watching it in the aircraft en route back to SA, talk about a virtual date.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sunday, a day of Rest

Not! Inveigled into doing a mountainbike race around nothern farm which is part of johannesburg water which they have opened up to mountain bikers. It is actually a great place to ride once one has come to terms with the concept of riding through a sewerage farm. I think what they do is use the treated and purified sewerage to water the crops and provide fertiliser since it really is a working farm and very, unusually very, green.

The race only started at 08:30 which was really pleasant, actually got to sleep in until 06:00am before trekking off to Jasons house. He lives pretty much next to diepsloot which is a squatter camp. Left my car there and we cycled around diepsloot to northern farm, arriving uncharacteristically early, for jason that is. There was even a queue to enter, normally we pitch up so late that there isn't a queue and everyone is waiting at the start. Saw a couple (guy & girl) on a tandem mountain bike which is rather unusual, people normally struggle on the technical sections as it is, it must be just about impossible on a tandem. They really looked like they know what they are doing, maybe I should suggest this to graeme and sit back with my video camera and watch the action. Hmmmm!

The start was downhill on a dirt road with 'speed humps' to direct water from running straight down the road. Watching the pack descend was a bit like watching a bunch of springboks gamboling, as cyclists would reach one of the speed humps they would launch themselves into the air so there was this sort of ripple of airborne cyclists as the pack descended the hill.

As usual, we started out too fast, I always do this and I always promise myself that this is the last time I'm going to be so stupid as to start too fast but it is actually quite difficult not to. Jason left me behind at the first uphill which is better than last time when he left me behind within the first 20m. The course was a really great blend of dirt roads and quite technical (not that I can really give a qualified appraisal of this) single track. There were a couple of sections that, when I saw them I thought "No, surely not, we can't ride up there" but since the guy in front of me did it. I had to do it too. One in particular was about 3-4m high and shaped like a breaking wave, the top was actually over vertical. You just peddle like shit and push the handlebars as far forward as soon as you get to the top. Quite amazing what can actually be ridden over.

The race consists of two laps around and I found jason waiting for me at the half way stage wanting to know if I had had enough. Male ego is a strange thing, on the one hand it makes you do stupid things like say "Of course, you don't want to stop now do you, I'm only just getting into it" when what you are really thinking is "Will the pain ever stop". On the other hand, not stopping when it is sensible to do so enables one to accomplish things that, without an ego, would clearly be impossible.

We carried on. As I said before, it is a working farm and the sprays had come on ... and we had to ride right through them. Yuck, a sewerage shower! Not good, I really hope their treatment plant is up to scratch. Went into survival mode at about the 3/4 stage. Fell off during a very technical section and came so very close to seriously damaging myself. It was on a diagonal ascent up a steep bank with trees and roots to negotiate on the way up. Got it all wrong and fell off downhill, now this would not ordinalry be a problem with there were lots of root at mid calf height and my foot went in between them. If I had overbalanced at that poing it would have been goodbye knee. Fortunately you only realise just how much danger you were in after the fact.

The end came and not a moment too soon. 3:13 of tough going for 60km. Not exactly burning up the veld but I did finish. Now we just had to ride home, it was only 5km or so but it felt like a lot more.

Spent the rest of the day walking around like a cowboy, my butt was so sore and of course everyone just loved seeing me in pain. Mountainbiking is a lot more taxing on the rear end than road riding. It was so good to get home and have a shower and stop looking like a racoon, all dirty and dusty with white patches around the eyes from the glasses.

Took the fogies to the airport just to make sure that they did actually leave to go and visit my sister heidi in edinburgh, scotland. It only took me an hour to pickup the folks, drop them at the airport and get back home. Seeing as I wasn't expected back for 2 hours I used the remaining hour to go and take my car for a much needed wash.

Got home just in time to have a bite of supper before the hordes all went home. Took the opportunity to ask why aldon hadn't cleaned the braai grid after he had used it seeing as he took me to task for the same sin earlier in the afternoon. Maureen, saw the funny side, I think aldon either didn't hear me or just ignored me.

Phew, quite a weekend.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Day started early again. Did a 60km road ride with Ross. Very demoralising this. Ross basically hasn't ridden for a year and just gets back on the bike and does 60km at an average close to 28km/hr. This really just isn't acceptable. I have been riding pretty much continuously and I was the one keeping up. Not fair.

Finished the ride, went shopping for a pair of running shoes which I have been trying to buy for several months now. The shop finally has my size in, they had to order it specially for me or so they say so next week I am going to try some running.

Spent some time fixing various things on 'The List' so I could avoid any accusations of being a slacker.