Thursday, November 30, 2006

Richard No More

Richard was discovered, squeaky clean but very dead, trapped in the dishwasher. The victim of caron's domestic urge to clean everything.

RIP Richard

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Too much PT

My yacht is finally back on the Vaal, thank goodness. Tim and I went down to Durban on the weekend to fetch it in a Mitsubishi Colt 3.0l V6 which was kindly lent to us by Rob. The weekend went like this. Woke up at 05:00 on Saturday morning to fetch Tim at 05:55 and then drove down to Durban which is an 8 hour drive at 110km/hr. Not great fuel consumption but not too bad, coming from the super meagre 2l diesel we were expecting the worst. We were not disappointed on the return trip. Packed up the yacht, dropped the mast which proved to be a non event, packed everything ready for towing early on Sunday morning. Tried to pump up the tyres of the trailer but after finishing the first tyre, the pump had an internal malfunction and blew the fuse in the car. Not knowing this, someone else at the club let us use his car so we blew his fuse as well. Way to go boys!. Spent about 30 minutes trying to get the tow hitch to work since it was rusted completely solid. Nothing that a rain of hammer blows and lots of Q20 couldn't sort out though. When we tried to manoevre the trailer the one wheel just slid along the ground instead of rotating, not a good sign.
Tim has just purchased 1/2 of an 36' Atlantis which he tried to convince me to take a 1/3 share in. I was surprised to hear that he had shelled out for 1/2 because it is quite a lot of money but in retrospect, I am really happy that I declined. It would have been the wrong thing for me to have done since Caron is not that enamoured with sailing and there is a definite upper limit to the amount of money I am prepared to spend on it.
Went to collect the keys from the now ex owner who kindly offered us accomodation for the night not to mention supper. They were having people over for a braai in any case so two extra people didn't really make much of a difference. After the day I wasn't that keen on going and I don't like imposing on people that I haven't even met but we 'had' to go there anyway to collect the keys. Amazing how when Tim needs to do something it's a 'have' to whereas when anyone else needs to do something it is definitely a negotiation.
Had the usual awkward vegetarian thing which I solved by buying a vegetarian burger beforehand and then putting it on my plate in the place of the spare ribs and sirloin. I'm sure most vegetarians would empathise with this, what happens when one goes out, for instance, to a braai is that there is normally lots of salads and stuff, more than enough to have a good meal but the carnivores just can't take the sight of a plate without some dead, half incinerated ex animal on it. So you get comments like "Are you sure that you've had enough?" and one can see the host desperately thinking about what they could possibly rustle up to take the place of the ex animal. They really don't need to but they just can't help themselves so to solve this, I came prepared with a veggie burger which did the trick. No awkwardness on the part of the hosts and no empty plate for me.
Quite a pleasant evening which really highlighted the differences between Johannesburg and Durban/Capetown living. In Johannesburg weekends are the brief interlude marking the end of one and the beginning of the next week whereas in Durban, weeks are what separates one weekend from another. In durban it is all about life style, in johannesburg it is all about the work.
Woke up at 04:30 on Sunday morning, had breakfast and thanked our hosts for the evening, it really was kind of them to have put us up. Hitched up the trailer and started the drive but it really felt like the trailer was dragging so we stopped about 3 times in the first 2km to check the bearings and sure enough there was something really, really wrong. After only a couple of km's the bearings were hot to the touch and the brake drums where untouchable. We both had visions of having to strip the wheels and rebuild them from the bearings up while the vagrants around the bonfire 50m away watched us. Not good! Fortunately Tim spotted a place where the brake rod went through a tight sleeve which wasn't moving because it was rusted fast. More blows with the hammer, lots of Q20 and a couple of twists with some vice grips and the problem was solved although it took several more stops before we were completely happy.
Had our usual political/religious/scientific/philosophical arguments which I thoroughly enjoy. Came up with an interesting point which goes like this. One of the fruits of being a christian should be that said christian commits fewer sins than he would otherwise have done if he wasn't a christian. Now measurement of sins is a little tricky because it leads to awkward questions like what exactly is a sin and are all sins equal which I, for one, am not going to venture an opinion on. One can however draw a comparison in that sin, like divorce is very much frowned upon in the church and unlike sin we really are able to measure divorce. Unfortunately divorce in or out of the church affects approximately the same number of people which begs the question, if the frowning on divorce does not lead to an appreciable difference in the divorce rates can one say that the frowning on sin in general does not lead to an appreciable difference in the sin rate. If so, what exactly is the point of the religion if it does not lead to an appreciable difference in how one lives one's life? Phew, that was a mouthful.
Got back to Deneysville at last after yet another 8 hour drive, very thankful to have this part of the journey over and done with. Put the mast up which is quite a mission because as you push it up you have to move closer to the fulcrum and as you move closer, you have less leverage until the mast starts to support itself whereupon it gets easier. The problem is the period just before it starts getting easier, I pushed so hard against the mast with my should that I have a 75x5mm blood blister across my shoulder from the pressure of the mast. It looks like I have been caned across my shoulder.
Finished getting the yacht ready to sail again and left for home which we got to at about 19:00, pretty exhausted and very glad to see Caron again. Fuel cost for the weekend was a cool R1500.00 (max consumption was 22l /100km) which is what I would normally expect to spend in about 3 months of normal fuel consumption. Ouch! Great to be home.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nooooo! that's disgusting

If you manage to get through Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat" without thinking this at least once, you are dangerously close to being mentally disturbed, please visit a psychiatrist and/or psychologist immediately. I think the script was written to find as many holy cows as possible and then to stamp all over them. I think he can say "mission accomplished" (unlike GW) although if I was him, a few extra body guards would probably be a good idea for a while.

Having now seen the movie, I think a fitting response to it would be to think of the most polically correct person you know and inveigle them into going and see it. I'm sure they would love it, not!

P.S. The age restriction is there for a good reason.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

94.7km of Rain

Sunday morning awoke with a low, ominous blanket of cloud. Uncharacteristically, this had actually been predicted by the weather bureau so we were all a little surprised that it really was cloudy and wet. Awoke at 04:15, breakfast and dress in cycling gear and bolt out of the house to fetch Ross at 05:15. The 94.7 cycle race has full road closure which for the cyclists is a huge bonus, for the rest of Johannesburg it is an annual exercise in forced relaxation. Essentially what road closure means is that the roads, almost 100km of them in a big circle, are closed to traffic at least from the start of the race to the end. This includes traffic attempting to cross said roads and pretty much puts paid to any plans to get into the circle if you are outside and outside if you are inside. Needless to say, Ross is outside and we are inside so I had to sneak across an intersection dodging the traffic cones, bales of hay and steel pedestrian barriers to fetch ross and then sneak back across the same intersection to get to the starting line which we managed in ample time. Got our bikes off, kit and food on and went to the pens waiting for the start. To put it into perspective, there are about 28 000 cyclists in this race which is an awful lot of bicycles and people so the organisation has to be absolutely top notch otherwise there would be total pandemonium
The gun goes and we're off, I'm in group F and I really hope it doesn't stand for Fall in the wet. As usual everyone, myself included, start too fast. It is just about impossible not to but after about 10km the brain kicks in and remembers that it still has about 85km to go and at this rate, the last 10km is going to be real hell. Up the first serious hill which is a fair hill but since you have just started it feels like just about nothing. It rained for the following forty kilometers which made negotiating all the really nice descents in this part of the course a little bit nerve wracking. Went past where Kim and Laurel said they would be, no Kim and Laurel. Went past where Kirsten and Carl would be, no Kirsten and Carl. Not that I blame them, standing in the pouring rain watching bedraggled cyclists coming whizzing past doesn't rate all that highly in my book at least.
The watering stations are looking forlorn, all the helpers standing under the tents and all the cups of liquid refreshment standing untouched on the tables. With all this rain about it is hard not to be taking in enough liquids.
Had a horrible moment where I thought I could hear the 'psssss' of a puncture but it didn't seem to go down so it must have been the water on the road. Though of making 'psss', 'psss', 'psss' noises and watching the reactions of the cyclists around me but I preferred the thought of finishing the race in one piece.
Felt quite strong at the half way make at 01:32 but I had really been hoping for less than 01:30. Just after the halfway mark there was a religious banshee screaming from the sidelines about how inconsiderate we all are by blocking the roads (which is true) and that she has to get to church and that we really shouldn't be riding on a Sunday, we should also all be in church. Much humour erupts from the peleton, I quietly think that church hasn't exactly helped her, perhaps she should give up on it.
Turn onto the N14 and into the wind. Very strange wind this year it comes and goes when it feels like it and no matter which direction one is cycling you get occasional headwinds, tailwinds or no wind at all. Anyway, headwind it is and the bunch sucks itself together and I take a small turn in the front so that I can at least say that I didn't draft the entire way. Off the highway and pushing quite nicely now, much better than last year. This year I can actually respond to the bunch and manage the surges whereas last year I was totally incapable of doing this by this time.
Climb the penultimate hill strongly and surge down to where the finish line was last year which I would have clocked in at just on 3 hours. They've moved the finish line 3km's down the road and up another hill but I'm feeling strong so not a problem. Went over a timing matt about 500m before the finish and a lot of people stopped pedalling but I wasn't feeling so bad so I just kept on going to where I could see the finishing banner. Passed an ambulance attending to someone prostrate in the bushes beside the road, must have been a casualty of the bunch sprint and crossed the finish line feeling like I could do another 20 or 30km's easily. Time: 03:07:53. Ross finishes after me which is a good sign since he started later than me. His time: 03:07:53. The same to the second. Hard to believe but true.
Met up with Caron and Jason in the BB&D tent, Jason did a 02:51:00 which is pretty awesome since the pro's did about 02:20:00 and lady pro's did 02:48:00
Overall it was a fantastic race, very well organised and thoroughly enjoyable.
Dropped Ross off and went home to shower, nap and read Q&A the rest of the day.

P.S. Tim did a 04:21:00 which I'm not going to comment on and no, he didn't crash.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Of Spiders and Motorcycles

We welcome two additions to our household this week. The first is Richard the Rain Spider, as pictured below, who has taken up residence in the kitchen. Seems fairly demure so we are letting him live there, hopefully the cat or the maid doesn't get him. Kinda out there having a wild spider living in the kitchen. I wonder what the famdamily is going to say when they come over for supper on Saturday.

The second addition to the family hasn't actually arrived but her arrival is inevitable.

I was sitting in the traffic on tuesday and after 45 minutes I was only 1/2 way to work which is just such a waste of time and it was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back. The time has come to move to two wheels. Instead of going to the office I went to the local BMW dealers and bought a BMW F650GS which is a on-road off-road, single cylinder thumper. This move is not as sudden as it might seem as I have been toying with the idea for a couple of years but the timing and frustration levels weren't right. There are actually a few of reasons that I have bought a bike, firstly so that I don't have to spend so much time in the traffic every morning and evening. Secondly, they pollute the evironment less than cars, thirdly, I want to see whether we can move to a one car family and fourthly, they are great fun. At the moment, we will be keeping both cars and seeing how it will work out but if I look around me in the traffic, almost without exception, each car only has one person in it, the driver. And these are all the people that complain about the traffic when they themselves are responsible for the problem in the first place. I would definitely be in favour of some kind of legislation that penalises cars that only have one person in it. I find it ironic that the cars which are creating the actual pollution and congestion problem are also preventing its solution. Most people commuting would be able to cycle to work and if that doesn't suit them, ride a motorcycle to work but a large part of the reason that they don't is that it is too dangerous because of .... the cars.

It is over a decade since I last rode a bike on a regular basis so I am a little nervous about getting on my brand new, scratch free, beemer but there isn't any other way to do it than just jump on and go.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blue arsed weekend

Went out on friday evening for dinner and a movie called "Children of Men" which looked the best of a sorry selection of movies and now, having seen it, the others must be pretty awful. The best part by far of the movie was Michael Caine who was excellent as the disillusioned journalist. There was precious little to recommend it other than that, no convincing story, no twist in the tail. Just a dark, morose, movie and it could have been such a good movie since it is based on a really novel premise. Pity. When the trailers are more enjoyable than the movie, the director has missed the target.

Saturday was a bit frenetic. Vet to get Al checked up, somehow he knows when he has to go to the vet because he makes himself scarce just when you need to put him in the carry case. Back home, drop cat. Off to woolworths for weekly shop, back home to drop shopping off. Off to picture framing shop to get yet another photograph framed. I am now only two pictures away from finishing my gallery which has taken over the one whole wall in the lounge. Quite nice walking into a shop and the proprietor greets you by name and knows exactly which frame to use so it only took 5 minutes to choose the borders and disappear towards Fruits and Roots for a healthy breakfast. Saw Chris and Theresa briefly at Fruits and Roots, Theresa looking a little awkward for some reason. Off to the bicycle shop to buy a saddle post with a shock absorber built into it. Time will tell how well it works but at R200.00 it is much, much cheaper than buying a full suspension mountain bike at R10 000.00. Quite looking forward to trying it out on the mountain bike. Home for a moment to drop Caron off before traipsing into work to help with a change control. Stopped at the bookshop on the way home to buy fedora core manual. Home, change into my tux which is about 20 years old and gets worn approximately once every two to three years. Pleased to say that it still fits more or less. Off to Carons' companys end of year function.

Arrive at the function and the first thing we see is a semi naked man in the parking lot who turned out to be Robin, an old colleague of Carons. He was getting changed in the parking lot and I couldn't resist the opportunity to get in a couple of wolf whistles and comments to which he responded in kind. The function was held in a hangar which doesn't sound like a great place to hold a function but Carons company is large enough that it actually felt fine. Evening started off with a fashion show. Yes, a real dinkum fashion show complete with gorgeous models. Some of the models were a bit inexperienced and you could tell that they were very self conscious which I totally understand. I could never be a model aside from the obvious problems of only being 5'6 and not particularly photogenic. Made the mistake of letting one of Carons work colleagues get me a drink, it must have been at least a quadruple whisky. No friggin' food at the function and definately very little vegetarian food. Went home really hungry which didn't bode well for the ride on Sunday morning. Dropped Caron off at home put the bike rack on the car and went to work at 23:30, completed the afternoons change control and got back home at 00:30, exhausted.

Alarm woke me at 04:30, couldn't believe it was time to get up. Took a while surfacing and was a little late which Glynne took great glee in pointing out to all and sundry. The gentle 80km ride turned into a bit of a race with 5 people in the group. After about 30km we were averaging just short of 30km/hr which is very fast for a training ride. Fantastic riding, great weather just a pity about the speed. Ross and I turned around at 35km while everyone carried on since neither Ross nor myself wanted to do too much. I think I was feeling the aftereffects of the late night, alcohol and lack of food because I didn't feel strong at all on the ride. Finished the ride, dropped Ross off at his house and went home.

Shower, catnap and back into the car to go down to the dam (90 minutes) to see Kirsten and Carls new weekend cottage. Some cottage. Very nice motorboat with 200hp motor, plenty of vooma!. Had real duzi of a thunder storm which was awesome watching it over the dam. If you aren't going to make it big in this life at least organise that you have a family member or a friend that does so that you can at least taste the life. Pack up house and boat, drive home, buy Indian takeaways, retire home. Exhausted.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Brother Ariel and Sister Bob

Aside from their countries of domicile and the fact that they both manage to breathe while at the same time not being able to think, they have nothing to do with this post.

I woke up today thinking about the similarities that exist in between Israel and Zimbabwe and how it is somehow completely acceptable to hold a particular view on one country and the contrary view on the other country. Surely we should be more consistent? This would be the point where Patch would say that he reserves judgement until after the case has been made so here goes.

Several years ago Zimbabwe, ably led by Bob, decided that the Zimbabwean land had originally been stolen by the Farmers from them, the original inhabitants, in the first place so the land was forfeit and ripe for annexation at the point of a gun if required. Well the point of the gun was required as well as some 'legal' skulduggery and intimidation of the judiciary because, strangely, the farmers felt they were being hard done by and fought back with everything they could short of firearms since that was a war they had already lost twenty years previously. Most opinions of this land grab was that the farmers were the aggrieved party and that running people off their land at the point of a gun was not the done thing.

Onto Israel which prior to 1948 was substantially owned by the Palestinians, post 1948 it was substantially owned and more so as time went on by Israelis, the Palestinians having been moved off their lands at the point of a gun or by 'legal' dispossession if required. Most opinions of this land grab is that it is entirely justifiable and just what are the Palestinians complaining about?

My point is that I find that often people are sympathetic to the plight of the Farmers but not to the Palestinians and conversely, sympathetic to the Zimbabweans but not the Israelis. Surely one should be sympathetic to the plight of the Farmers and the Palestinians or on the other side to the Zimbabweans and the Israelis if one is to remain consistent in ones' political leanings?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Three things

This is one of those weeks where the world turns ...

Firstly, I don't find it often that I am proud to be a human being, on the whole we've made a pretty good job of ruining the planet as well as one anothers' lives. We seem to have a real knack for destruction of any kind.

What prompted this was PW Botha's funeral which Thabo Mbeki as well as other well known anti apartheid activists attended. Here we have people who fought tooth and nail against an (elected) dictator, who never repented nor seemed to feel remorse for the suffering he caused, going to his funeral to pay their respects. They didn't have to go to the funeral, the ANC offered a state funeral to the family who declined so there was absolutely no reason for any anti apartheid activists to have gone, they had already gone the extra mile by even offering a state funeral.

Perhaps they just went to make absolutely sure that he was gone and six feet under but either way the message came out loud and clear that it is possible to let the past go and concentrate on the future. All it requires is real people displaying genuine leadership.

Secondly, Schabir Shaik entered prison for a 15 year jail term. Although there is still a long road ahead, there does seem to be a real chance that we have an independent judiciary. In first world countries this might be taken for granted even when it isn't true. Here, it is definitely not a given, so to see an associate with very strong political connections having to go to jail for 15 years for corruption, is such a ray of sunshine.

Thirdly, Bush loses the majority in both Congress and the Senate. It remains to be seen if there is any change following from this, I have my doubts, but anything has to be be better than Bush with a majority in both houses. Personally, I don't expect very much because I reckon that the Democrats are just the Hyde part of Jekyll, they're actually the same underneath. Hopefully I am wrong.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Walk on the Wild Side

Well, quite a weekend of kill or be killed. Unfortunately I was a witness to one murder, the perpetrator in two and almost the victim in a third. So I use a bit of literary licence, so what!

I think it is just that time of year because both Caron and I are absolutely exhausted and not the pleasant exhaustion that comes from exercise. As a result, neither Caron nor myself can actually remember anything from last week, it is like we tore the week out of the diary so my most distant memory is that of Saturday morning which I actually remember quite well since it started at 04:30.

Met Jason at Cycle Lab to go for a long medium pace ride. He was quite pleased that I arrived after him, not that I was late it's just that he was actually there before me. My how things change. Started the ride at 05:30 just as the sun was starting to peep over the horizon. What an absolutely fabulous day. Spring time is just fantastic in Joburg. Cool mornings, clean (relatively at least) air, gorgeous soft light, hot days and rain in the afternoon to cool it down for the evening. Absolutely perfect, such a pity one has to have the odd oppressively hot and freezing cold days to make one really appreciate the good days.

Met up with two guys cycling at about the same pace as ourselves who asked how far we were going. 100km was our answer thinking this would get rid of them, their reply was a nonchalant, we're doing 150km, mind if we join you for a while? Hmmm, oh well Ok, if you put it like that. They then proceeded to regale us with horror stories about falling off bicyles and motor bikes and breaking and scraping just about everything possible. Not so sure I want to be riding with people this accident prone. Call me superstitious but ....

We all cycled along quite nicely for about 60km when we got to the Krugersdorp hill which is a long grind up about 5km of relatively gentle gradient with periodic steep parts. Jason, as usual, takes this to be a personal challenge to be conquered at as fast a pace as possible so I hung on for dear life about 100m behind him, losing ground inexorably. When we got to the top we turned around to find them expecting them to be just behind us but they were't there, they must have been at least 1000m behind us which made us both feel pretty good although neither of us said anything. Not good form to gloat and there is always a chance that they were conserving their strength for the extra 50km they were doing ... but I doubt it. Nobody likes to get dropped.

Took our leave of them so they could continue on the 150km and had the most fantastic ride, easy spinning down gentle slopes with the wind behind us was just bliss. Phoned Caron and Cathy (and Kelly) to meet us at the design court for breakfast which was great if a little dangerous for the ol' wallet. Meeting wives in a centre dedicated to decor is probably not a bright idea to be repeated too often.

Went to Kim and Laurel for lunch which was delicious as usual. They both seem to cook so well or maybe it is just that Caron and I put our energy into other things because the cooking at home is not what one would call spectacular. This would also explain why we eat out so often. After lunch it was my turn to put up, fix and otherwise make myself handy around their house which was about the time that the first murder happened.

In the last few years there seems to have been a dramatic influx of indigenous birds back into Johannesburg and one of the birds to have made a reappearance is the Burchells Coucal which is a beautiful bird with a beautiful call but some nasty psychopathic behaviour. It's a predator but not the kind that waits for prey to be at least full grown, it preys on other birds eggs and chicks. Hauling them out of the nest and killing them while the parents frantically dive bomb the coucal hoping to distract it. The hapless pigeon parents were a bit late and the coucal had already killed the chick so the dive bombing only had the effect of making the coucal drop the carcass which the garden boy promptly picked up and put into a plastic bag. The coucal then spent about 10 minutes on the ground looking for the carcass where it knew it dropped it before Kim went and retrieved the carcass and put it back on the ground. Within about a minute the coucal was back and away with Saturday lunch. We might not have lions roaming the streets of Johannesburg but this definitely qualifies as a wildlife kill.

Finished the handyman act and retired to read "Spud" which is quite a humourous account of boarding school life circa 1990 in the Natal midlands. Feeling a bit two toned due to not putting sun tan cream on this morning since I thought that the sun wouldn't be too hot by 09:30 when we stopped riding. I was wrong and I now have an exceptionally marked farmers tan, think badly sunburnt. Actually quite sore especially under the shower. Went to bed early and woke up late ... at 04:45 on a Sunday morning can you believe it. Met Tim, Ross, Mike and a new guy Ralph for a 60km cycle to the botanical gardens and back. Still a little sore from yesteday so I took it relatively easy most of the time but couldn't resist putting some effort in on the last few hills which left everyone except Ross trailing far behind. Ross has deep seated psychological problems and just cannot let someone beat him. He would rather bonk (hit the wall, not the usual connotation) than let someone get away. This is a really fun trait to have in someone because they can't help themselves and you just have to push yourself a little bit to watch them bursting a foofie valve determined to beat you. Thoroughly enjoyed the ride, particularly the last hill where for a change I felt really strong even dropping a gear and sprinting up the steep bits.

Yesterday was the SIL's (Sisters in Law) house handyman stunt. Today is home handyman, specifically the gutters need cleaning and if there is one handyman type chore that I really detest, it is cleaning the gutters. Spotted some carpenter bee holes in my rafters. Carpenter bees are very large and have a nasty habit of burrowing into rafters, I have read that this does not significanlty weaken the structure but I dont' see how it can't. This is definitely a case of NIMBY (Not in my back yard) and the bees had to go. Sprayed DOOM into the hole and waited for the bees to exit and die. One got out of his hole before I had a chance to spray it and terrorised me for a minute or two before making himself scarce. I really wish they didn't make homes in rafters, and it's not like there isn't a whole lot of dead wood around for them to choose from. Dying to make a wisecrack about some people being deadwood but I have to restrain myself.

Onto the dreaded gutter clearing exercise which normally just entails using a long ladder, clearing leaves out and using high pressure water to dislodge the rest and wash it down the drainpipe. This works fine for most gutters but one, in particular, can't be done like this. It is about 6m off the ground and well out of reach of the ladder so one has to approach it by walking down the roof and squatting near the edge on the 45 deg roof enabling one to use both hands to scoop the dead leaves out of the gutter. This leaves (pardon the pun) one's nose poking out over space, in this case about 6m of vertical drop and this is not a good time to get vertigo. So there I am perched precariously on the edge when out pops a spider from the pile of leaves between my hands and skoots up the roof heading for you know where. I am not normally scared of spiders but there are limits and having a spider trespassing over one's privates is way over the line. Needless to say, vertigo went out the window and I moved rather rapidly backwards up the roof on all fours as fast as I could thus denying the spider the opportunity to latch onto anything .... well, the gutters are finished now and no, I didn't kill the spider.

Spent the rest of the afternoon reading which completed a very satisfying weekend.

Oh yes, enjoyed a lack lustre All Black side walloping England.