Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tough weekend

I've been dreading the arrival of this weekend for a while because I knew it was going to be tough weekend. Saturday morning Caron and I met Jason and a couple of his mates, actually about a dozen of them out at Northern Farm for a mountain bike ride. They had started the ride at morningside which is about 25-30km away from Northern Farm and ridden there. Took my leave from Caron who was going to potter around and then go back home while I joined everyone for the ride all the way back to morningside which would make my ride about 60km and theirs about 90km. Very pleased that Caron appears to be enjoying the mountainbiking so I want to encourage it as much as possible. They guys with Jason are clearly in a very different league to what I am used to, for starters, no less than three of them had bicycles in the R40-50k range which is avery different kettle of fish from my R4k bicycle or Jasons 'will pay you to take my bike' range. Jason still hasn't settled on a new mountain bike and the Sani to C draws very near. He has high hopes of buying one of the expensive ones second hand but he clearly isn't listening to the guy that owns it's wife who firmly rejected the idea. At least until she gets a nice brand new, very expensive bicycle herself. Going around Northern Farm with this bunch was educational, we were going up quite a tough hill, Jason and I (more me) struggling to keep up and we hear from the front. "Ok guys, time to pick up the pace!" "How?" I wonder to myself but fortunately some of the other guys aren't in much of a better place than I am so I manage to hang on. On the way back I was cycling next to Jason (another one) my heart rate monitor reads 165, his reads 106. How is that possible, it's not like I'm really that unfit. Ok, he has been known to actually win the odd race and everyone seems to know him. I lost count of how many times he stopped to greet people and then catch up to us, apparently with ease. Fell off four times on the way back, twice because Jason stopped at a crucial point in a tricky section which I would have made if it wasn't for the obstacle in the way. The other two, one was me attempting the impossible. Everyone else just dismounted and walked over the sand and the last I should have managed but didn't. Very glad to get home, I hadn't taken food for such a long ride so I ended bumming food of Jason and others who kindly gave me enough to make it home. Lay on the concrete in the shade for about 5 minutes before I tried to move. Serious energy depletion. Washed the bikes and oiled the chains before putting them away for next weekend. There is quite a lot of effort that goes into mountain biking but once you get your head around the fact that it is just part of it and absolutely has to be done, it isn't such a chore. Cleaned my roadbike as well which was looking decidedly neglected.
Went to Sandon with Caron for lunch and to buy Carls birthday present before coming home to a much needed afternoon nap. About 18:00 a friend popped over, he was feeling that life was just getting a bit much between work, family and financial problems and he just needed a safe place where he could vent a bit without offending or creating more problems which we were happy to be able to give to him. I think he left feeling much lighter when I had to go off to work for the first change control for 2007. We have been working on some technology which will mean that in future we won't have to bring the system down for anything, we will be able to upgrade hardware, operating systems, applications and as far as I can think, anything, without stopping the service to customers. We're quite pleased with ourselves, the traditional way to give this level of performance is to throw an awful lot of money at it and I think we have managed it by purely doing it with software. Time will tell but I have a really good feeling. We also installed our automated installation software which means that the tagging, compilation, installation/patch creation is all completely automated as well as taking the installation/patch and deploying it onto the production servers. It's such a win, what used to take us hours manually we can now do in minutes.
Finally crawled home at 02:00 feeling a bit wasted only to wake up at 05:00. Why is it that the later one goes to bed, the earlier one wakes up? It just isn't right.
Went off to the motorcycle course which was extremely worthwhile, so much so that every motorist should do it as well. Not so much to impress on them that they ought to be mindful of motorcyclists but it would really help them in driving their own cars safely. It really helped that it didn't only consist of lectures but on the road tuition as well. Very enjoyable, I think I should make a point of taking it every year or two. Made it home safe but very tired but only finally went to sleep at about 22:30, go figure. Normally, nothing will keep my eyes open after a change control and I have to go our to see a movie but this evening, not a problem.
I must have been quite tired because I was seriously grumpy the whole of monday but by tuesday I was much better and with the change control and all the little issues that it creates sorting or sorted out, life was looking up.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New years revolution

I mean resolution. I have accomplished a new years resolution, ok it was last years resolution and I had to break one of this years resolutions but I think it was worth it. I resolved, last year, to try and get Carl onto a bicycle, preferably his own, out of genuine concern for his state of health as well as to create a supply of amusing anecdotes which inevitable accompany cycling. He responded by declaring his new years resolution to be NOT to get a bicycle which stumped me for a year. This years resolution was to keep him off a bicycle, prompting him to ... buy a bicycle. Mission accomplished.
Not knowing an awful lot about bicycles they asked me to accompany them to a couple of bicycle shops to try and pick a couple of bikes suitable for them as well as all the accesories they would need which, since they had nothing, was a considerable list. We started off a Cajees Cycles which has a reputation (unjustified as I found out) of being the cheapest place. Typical of Indian shops, the price is never the price but even after discounted "Best Price" and a nod of the head, it was still the same or more as Linden cycles which is where we eventually purchased the lot. The lot being two cheapish mountain bikes, bike rack, pumps, saddle bags, gloves, shorts, bottles, toolkits, puncture repair kits, you get the picture. In the end the accessories cost almost the same as the two bicycles which really surprised me although a substantial portion of the accessories was the bicycle rack. It was great being out shopping, buying all sorts of goodies and leaving the wallet pain in someone else's wallet. Carl was looking decidedly stricken by the end of it.
Shopping should be added to my list of addictions since it definately does seem to give one a slight state of euphoria which some people find addictive.
I have recently completed reading "Unintelligent Design" by Robyn Williams which I found to be ok, not great, but ok and I would hesitate to recommend it even though I agree with most of the contents. The author quotes another author Susan Greenfield as follows:
"Professor Susan Greenfield likes to refer to two general ways of getting the most from life: being 'in the moment' on the one hand, and working for more distant ambitions for yourself, your family or even your society. Orchestrating the appetites of the moment is one of life's skills. Those not good at it turn to 'in your face' turn-ons like drugs, violence and crime. Those of us with greater hedonistic experience and skill cannot understand how anyone can want to choose crack cocaine and oblivion over chocolate, Mozart and beaches. (I am being glib - I should remember the lessons of Matthew Chapman in Dayton and the way poverty obliterates choice.) Long-term goals provide the satisfactions of service and achievement. Both ingredients, immediate and far-reaching, provide plenty of point and meaning for the average life."
Hope I'm not breaking copyright here but an interesting point of view as to why people get addicted. Talking about addiction, someone I recently met, met a real drug dealer and posed the "So why do you do it?" as in sell drugs question to the dealer and his answer was fascinating. The dealer drew a paralled to the natural world where predators for instance, a hyena, will prey on the old and/or weak of a herd and he saw himself as the human equivalent, sniffing out the weak in human society and consuming them. I don't believe him for a second but interesting point of view and it just goes to show that people can justify just about anything. If a drug dealer can find it within his conscience to morally justify the damage he is doing, I can't see anyone not being able to do so.
After spending the whole morning, we finally emerged from the cycle shop fully kitted out and ready to roll. Carl managed to destroy his bike within a day so it had to be returned to the bike shop. He says is was an assembly defect, I'm not so sure.
Sunday morning, Jason and I did a 100km in about 4 hours and for a change I felt that I was really pushing him right up until the last big hill at about 96km when he started to creep away. He just doesn't give up, it is very frustrating. Absolutely fantastic ride out in the country, beautiful views, fresh cool air and good climbs. I hadn't brought any energy gel with me and as luck would have it, at about 40km there was this PERC promotion table in the middle of nowhere handing out complimentary sachets of energy gel and cramp stop which I was very grateful to help myself to. I wouldn't buy the energy gel, not because it doesn't work but because it is so sweet that in any race more than 80km, it is going to be unpalatable. I took my GPS with me to measure the climbs but the ride looks so flat even though there are a couple of quite nice climbs.
Had supper with Pippa and Glynne which was very enjoyable. Glynne wanted me to join him on a 2km swim. Last time I checked, I didn't resemble a fish so I politely declined. Maybe not so politely. Glynne was a bit pissed off that I hadn't contacted him to join us for the mornings ride and that I had said that I was going to be away. That was before I got the opportunity to fulfill last years new years resolution and I just couldn't let that get away from me. Can't really blame him, I should've invited him so I felt duly chastised.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mr Fixit

It's a new year but some things don't change. If you have a house, you have to fix it continually and in my particular case, if your sisters in law have a house, you get to fix it - continually. And so it was that I found myself at Kim & Laurels putting up shelves in the girls room, setting up climbing rings in a tree and adjusting a dangling cricket ball so that it is a better height to have a good swing at with the bat. While I was there someone was talking about putting some steps up the pin oak and into the branches which sounded pretty cool to me so I got some spare wood from home, shaped the top edge to give a good grip and a bunch of 6" nails and nailed the steps onto the tree. I definately work too much with a keyboard because after driving in 6 nails my forearm was aching, this is not good. I shudder to think what it is like to use a hammer all day. We now have a set of steps up to the first set of branches about 4m off the ground. Had a lesson showing Samuel and Hannah how to climb safely and making sure that they understood that falling out of the tree was going to be a hospital affair not just a couple of bruises. I think they got the point. Made Samuel go up so that I could check that he had actually listened to what I had to say about climbing and he more or less got up to where the branches started before he bailed out, clearly unhappy about the height. Next it was Hannahs turn who went straight past and right up to the branches. I think they are going to really enjoy this, I will wait for the request for a tree house before I start thinking about how to build it. A couple of days afterwards Hannah and a friend climbed right up into the branches and were talking to passers by and having a great time. Sage, who can only just reach the first step was obviously feeling left out told Kim that I must come over with my car and build her a ladder too. I offered to build a 6m Sage ladder but it was politely declined. Sorry for you, Sage.

Went over to my folks for supper on Saturday night and only left just before 23:00 which must be something of a record. Quite an enjoyable evening, my mother has actually been reading this blog and true to form continues to complain about my habit of missing out on commas and full stops so here they are :
.,..,,....,..,,....,..,,... .,..,,....,..,,... .,..,,... .,..,,...
that ought to suffice for a couple of months of writing. She continues to be amazed that I can actually write, actually, so am I.

Sunday morning Caron and I put our moutain bikes on the back of the car and headed out to Northern Farm where we had a fabulous ride. Caron on her own and myself on my own. I had my GPS with me so I was going up and down every road that I could. I normally just go around the perimeter but there are so many roads that I only managed to map about 1/3 of the area in the 2 hours I was there. Had an absolute ball whizzing down some of the roads, there are these large bumps to direct water away from the road and at speed you take off over these. Gotta be a little careful about landing in the same path as one took off from otherwise there would be a pretty spectacular moment. Found some really nice shady routes through some pine forests as well as a whole bunch of dams which I didn't know about. It sounds like my sister and brother in law are readying themselves to buy mountain bikes for the family so I am going to have to bring them out here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


It has taken precisely two days of work to completely obliterate any R&R I might have had at Lapalala and there wasn't that much there in the first place.
Lapalala is a wilderness area about 2 hours north west of Johannesburg in what is normally a very dry and hot area. The last time we went there was about 7 years ago when it was described as a wilderness area and not a game reserve and true to the name at that time, we didn't see a single head of game. Not one of the blighters stuck their heads out of the dense bush for us to have a peek at. Things have certainly changed, they've cut down or rather "thinned" sections of the bush so that people like us can actually see the game. This is decidely tourist friendly but is not so flora friendly. Caron and I were expecting the temperatures to be 35 deg. C or above and we knew that there isn't any airconditioning so we were very pleasantly surprised when it rained just about every day and was overcast to boot.
We drove up with Caron's two sisters, Laurel and Kim and their offspring Samuel (11), Hannah (9) and Sage (2) a.k.a. "The Savage" pictured below.

Sage, of course, provided the entertainment as well as the torture for the trip, she was particularly worried that the worms under the ground were going to get her if she went barefoot.

Thursday: arrived safely and followed the signs up ever narrowing roads, the thinner the road the thicker the sand got. The accomodation was comfortable but rustic, it must have been a proper lodge at one stage and we pretty much had it to ourselves. There was one couple already there but they were very quiet, probably intimidated by Sage. On the way in I was just rounding a corner when I spotted a snake lying in the road which we managed to miss after some heavy braking. Not knowing my snakes very well and having to rely on memory, I think it was an African Rock Python. Whatever it was, it was over a metre in length and about the thickness of my wrist. Very pretty indeed. Just after we arrived back Samuel found a stunned pygmy kingfisher, the smallest of the kingfishers. It had flown into one of the glass windows and all but knocked itself out. After about 30 minutes of recovery, firstly on Hannah's hand and then on a branch it flew off to a more secure perch and spent another 30 minutes recovering before disappearing.

On Friday we had a power failure. There must be something about me and power failures, they seem to follow me around. In the afternoon we drove out of the reserve to the nearby Rhino park which is operated by the Walkers who really put Lapalala on the map but who are no longer involved there. At the Rhino park we were lucky to see a young female being fed with pellets and even managed to hand feed the Rhino. Quite remarkable, the Black Rhino has a top lip a bit like an elephants trunk but obviously a whole lot shorter and no nostrils. If you hold out a hand of pellets it will clean the pellets out. Here we have firstly Samuel and then Hannah feeding the Rhino.

When we returned from the Rhino's the power was still out and things weren't looking so good, our food had survived one day but any longer and we were going to be in dire straits, possible diahorrea straits. Elias organised some gas fridges which worked a treat until the power was restored mid Saturday morning.

Our first game walk was on Saturday morning with Elias the guide who was nothing short of fantastic, he has a really good general knowledge and the odd thing he didn't know he would look up and come back to us like the gregarious spotted cockroaches which were quite amusing, a bit like a herd of sheep but small and insectivorous. The destination of the walk was a small dam which had canoes so I took all the children including Sage paddling and startled a water monitor lizard, just a baby one but boy could it move. The place where the canoes were stored had an old canoe to the one side and the termites had built a mound directly underneath and into the canoe which destroyed the canoe because, in picking it up, they had to use so much force to break the termite mound that they broke the back of the canoe as well. Seeing into the mound was fascinating, I always thought the passageways were small, like the size of the termites but they aren't, they're about the size of a wrist and the actual termite nest is a few metres away from the mound. The mound acts like an air conditioner and collects cool air which is fed through to the actual nest. Neat hey! Spent most of the rest of the day reading and writing which was very pleasant. I was reading next to the pool and Caron was swimming and throwing a ball to Samuel and a couple of times when Caron was distracted by Sage, Samuel took the opportunity to hit Caron on the head with the ball. She obviously wanted to get even but trying to hit someone on land when you're in the water is near impossible so she asked me to catch Samuel which I proceeded to do but he very cleverly jumped in the water out of my reach since I was in normal clothes. Unluckily for him I don't mind wet clothes and jumped in on top of him, clothes and glasses 'n all. He got such a shock that he sucked some water in, either up his nose or into his lungs and promptly burst into tears so I had two women looking at me accusingly so I spent the rest of the afternoon being grumpy because there was absolutely no reason to believe that I had done anything wrong and yet I was the first one accused.

Sunday we spent most of the day relaxing, swimming in the pool and reading and writing until our game drive which was pretty awesome. We saw blue wildebeest, rhino, impala, tsessebe, nyala, kudu, warthog, giraffe and the inevitable baboon but over and above the game, the bush we drove through was just absolutely beautiful. We saw a giraffe trying to mate and I was happy to see that it isn't only human females which give the males a hard (no pun intended) time, it seems to be a law of nature. Just before sundown we saw a golden orb spider which was really worth a photograph as shown below but the bastard went and expectorated/defecated all over my hand and camera. Perhaps the fact that I was lobbing small stones and twigs into his web to see him scuttle about had something to do with it ... maybe.

We only got back from the game drive at about 19:30 so Sage went straight to bed and left the rest of us in peace to see the new year in which was a pleasant if quiet affair.

Monday dawned way too early. It felt like we had only just gone to sleep. The walk was to a section of the Palala river where there are some bum slides. We had only just go there and of course Samuel has to wade into the middle of the river which is only about thigh deep, needless to say that he was swept off his feet which sent Elias running down the river to a point where he would be able to catch him, there being hippo and crocodiles in this river after all. Samuel managed to swim to the side and came out making light of it but his face when he fell in was totally at odds with his bravado afterwards. Simply put, he shat himself. Hannah, quite uncharacteristically, was very hesitant getting in but she eventually did and enjoyed it, I think. I took Sage down the bum slide and things were going pretty well until she saw some vegetation under the water which was when the wheels came off. Uppie, Uppie, UPPIE is Sage speak for I'm terrified, pick me up. Very nice place to walk to.

Not much to Tuesday, we went home. As usual, Kim made (or should have) the rest of us feel bad about how much work she does cooking and generally organising everything. One day we're going to have to do something about this, maybe tie her hands together, I'll have to think about it.