Thursday, May 31, 2007

Solar powered refrigeration

Trying to be a environmentally conscientious person these days is fraught with danger sometimes from the most unexpected of places. On Sunday afternoon Laurel plus all junior members of the family pitched up to have a shower since their water was off due to a leak which the municipality was busy fixing. No problem, they bathed and showered as did we before we went out for supper. The next morning, I got into the shower and it just wasn't as hot as it usually is but I wasn't really thinking about it. When Caron got into the shower it went from reasonably hot to icy cold as the last of the hot water ran out. One VERY cold wife with a sense of humour failure spells danger. I sidestepped the issue and referred everything to Laurel even though, in reality, I should have seen this coming. Laurel on the other hand, definitely didn't see it coming.

Tree Huggers Unite

"Environmentalists are much too concerned with planet earth. Their geocentric attitude prevents them from seeing the greater picture -- lots of planets are much worse off than earth is."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Social Butterfly

Last night I arrived home from work and just stared at the fire. There was no energy left to read, write or even let my eyeballs be amused by the flickering images on the TV. Why? you may ask and the reason is very simple - too much socialising in too short a space of time. Gone are the days when I had to force myself to stay at home one night a week.

Friday night we met George, Yvonne and Tony to go and see a movie. We were going to see Spiderman 3 but the girls weren't so keen so we ended up seeing pirates of the caribbean 3 which was ok. The movie had everything but somehow missed the mark but I can't point to any one glaring weakness and yet we all came away somewhat unsatisfied. Maybe what it missed was the freshness of the first one.

Saturday we had invited Jason, Cathy, Rob, Vivette, Ross and Alida as well as assorted children around for an early dinner. I made a roast lamb in the weber which, I am told, was delicious. Very enjoyable evening, lots of laughter and several bottles of wine demolished. I think everyone else enjoyed it too. Ross, Jason and Rob are all cut from the same cloth, they all love pain and the more of it, the better. Jason is now trying to talk me into doing the comrades which, while my mind is kind of partial to, my body is most definitely not. After a while on the back foot I decided to get on the attack and suggested that we do the "Freedom Challenge Race" which is the 92km comrades run and the next day you start the 2200km mountain bike ride towards Cape Town and if that isn't enough - to finish it off you do the 5 day Berg River canoe marathon. How is that for extreme. Jason wasn't quite so keen and the conversation changed tack.

Sunday we went paddling with Tony and no, we still haven't fallen in, before meeting Pippa and Glynne for supper. Glynne ran to the restaurant - he's not well but then most triathletes aren't. Quite enjoyed the paddling but it is going to take some time before my hands get the calouses required for paddling. I even managed to get some photographs of Caron who, if you don't know, is extremely camera shy. I had her in a fix, either she could smile and be sweet or swim in the 4 deg. C water. Smile and be sweet it was.

Notice how tony is posing for the photograph.

Safely back at the side of the dam.

Monday I met Carl and Wayne for whisky and cigars at Katzies. There was only the three of us instead of the usual five to eight. About 21:00 a good looking girl of east european origin walked up to us and handed out cards advertising "The lounge" which is a lap dance club which is a euphemism in itself but I do happen to know where it is because my offices are less than 100m from their front door. The look on Waynes face when he was informed what it was was, as mastercard would say, priceless. Wayne is a christian pastor so probably not part of the primary target market.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Winter has Arrived

I arrived home from a fairly successful trip to Cape Town, I must say that there is something about Cape Town which I just instinctively like. I had forgotten to take my dark glasses with me which I didn't think would be a big deal but I won't make that mistake again. Driving over the pass between franschhoek and stellenbosch late in the day, it was pouring with rain and the sun was directly in front of me. The reflection of the sun on the road was just incredible, I just couldn't see where I was going and almost had an accident purely from not being able to see the road at all for what felt like a minute. Not to mention the damage to my retina's.
Tuesday morning Winter arrived with a vengeance, it was barely above 0 when I left home on my trusty steed and the experience turned out to be quite pleasant. Not too bad at all although I will admit that the bike has electric heaters in the handgrips which work rather well. By that afternoon there were photographs of snow in Plettenberg bay which is a seaside resort known for sun and wind. I have copied a couple of photographs by LisaG from the website below.

All you northern hemispherians reading this might think that snow is so ho hum - yawn; but down here, it really is quite unusual. Remember, the sun shines down here - a lot.
By the time evening arrived I was starting to feel pretty grim and by midnight I was in the midst of a mini fever. Like a mild dose of malaria, loads of shivering and shaking but not much else. Needless to say, neither of us really slept at all and I had to drag myself out of bed in the morning to go off to work.
At about 16:00 Laurel phoned to beg me to go around and fix some heaters that they had purchased to the wall in the childrens rooms. What was I meant to say? - freeze, so I found myself wielding the hammer and drill at about the time that the power failed at work which led to a cascade of phone calls and SMS's in between working and supper and general conversation. Unlike most women, I am incapable of concentrating on more than one thing at a time so juggling hammer, SMS, phonecall, drills, hammer, more phonecalls, forks and knives was particularly challenging.
Which brings me to today which is just peachy as the photograph below will show.

Roaring log fire, wine, books and comfortable chairs and of course - a wireless internet connection. Dreams are made like this.

Weekend Broken

It's been a tough week but things are finally starting to look up and it all started on last friday night when Alistair and Megan arrived, not they actually had anything to do with it. Saturday morning started at about 02:00 pretty much just after I had gone to bed when my cell phone kept on bleeping at me to inform me that all was not well at the office. It had the really annoying habit of bleeping and then waiting just long enough that I had to actually wake up to think about what to do next before it would bleep again to tell me that all was well. Then it would wait just long enough for me to fall back to sleep before bleeping again - it must be psychic.
After this weekend we are now both thoroughly convinced we were not intended for parenthood. If it wasn't for the tv and dvd's I think we would have been in real trouble but fortunately both megan and alistair love the tv. Maybe it is the feeling of being able to move one's eyeballs without engaging the brain or any other part of the body that does it for them but dragging them away from the tv was no mean feat. This leads me to the conclusion that my sister doesn't let them watch enough tv and they are suffering from tv starvation so when they arrived here and we weren't too firm with them they just naturally took the gap. Alternatively of course, we could have planned this to ensure that we never get them again. Damaging their eyeballs from overuse, what were we thinking? Hmmmm!
Saturday night was a change control night so I only arrived home at 01:00 and we woke up to a rainy day. This global warming thing must be happening, it is very unusual for us to get rain at this time of the year. We were going to go paddling with the little 'uns but the rain put paid to that and we went out for breakfast at Sandton city. At this point i went and hid in my study and refused to come out until it was time for me to leave for Cape Town at about 12:00 conveniently leaving Caron to the attention of the two little monsters. I was blissfully unaware of the goings on after I left but I have it on good authority that they had a decent tiff just before they were about to bath. What a relief, they are normal after all.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Children 42, Roland 0

I'm tired and lacking of inspiration. I should recover within a couple of days.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Psychologically Incapable

Caron, once upon a time, tried to donate blood but after several attempts gave up or rather was told by the nurse to give up. She even received a document from the nurse stating that she was psychologically incapable of donating blood - every time the needle came anywhere near her she would faint. I can't donate for a different reason, they rejected my blood as not being of sufficient quality muttering something about malaria ...
As mentioned previously, my sister and brother-in-law have dumped their spawn on us for the weekend while they swan around in Prague courtesy of said brother-in-laws firm. In preparation for this event, Caron and I underwent a psychological self test to find out exactly how much trouble we were going to be in for. The results where not encouraging, according to the profile we both, by a long way, have our lowest scores in the personality types necessary for parenting.
This weekend is going to be interesting indeed - too late to bail out now. Kirsten and Carl flew out yesterday.

Furry People

"There is something both worrying and obscene about society's requirement for adult women to remove the body hair that proclaims them sexually mature adults, and turn themselves into facsimiles of pre-pubertal girls."
Shazia Mirza, Mail&Guardian 18/05/2007

Life and Religion

"When life asks questions that test our resolve and fortitude, we often turn to the mysterious and mystical for answers. That way, we do not have the difficult taks of looking at the man in the mirror and telling him to change some of his ways."
Mohlomi Maubane, Mail&Guardian

Sport 'n Entertainment

[politicians] " ... who help remind us why sport matters. It's because without the mindless pursuit of a variety of funny shaped balls we might actually be forced to take seriously the mindless utterings of elected officials [politicians]."
Andy Capostagno, Mail&Guardian 18/05/2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Round and round the puddle

I haven't mentioned, I think, that we are now the proud owners of a K2 Kayak which we can use to paddle around Emmarentia Dam which is a tiny puddle of water not far from us. The kayak is over 6m long so putting it onto the roofracks means that there is over a metre of kayak sticking out over each end of the car and driving the car with the kayak on top makes me feel like I am about to put the bow through some hapless cars back window. On Sunday afternoon we packed the kayak up, fetched Hannah and went paddling mostly expecting to fall in which I am happy to say, we didn't do. Things are a bit wobbly at the moment and we are only just beginning to get the hang of how to actually paddle - it ain't the easiest of things in the whole world. In all we did five laps, three with Caron and two with Hannah and I can see how this could become quite a strenuous sport. Just after Hannah's second lap when we pulled to the shore there was a grey haired guy who turned out to be Bill, the Dabulamanzi kayaking coach, who reprimanded us for not having Hannah in a life jacket. After having reprimanded us, he then proceeded to explain the basics of how to paddle and it isn't the same as what I've read in a book on paddling. Really quite enjoying this and Caron is not quite as tense as she was the first time, I think next time I'm going to force a capsize so we can just get it over and done with. Bill confirmed that we had purchased exactly the right kayak which was a relief because when one is new to something one is never quite sure whether to believe the salesman or not so if you want to take up kayaking, I would recommend Canoe Concepts. I'm sure we're going to be doing some more paddling next weekend with more children so I am going to have to buy some lifejackets before the weekend.
While we were paddling around, a couple who were picnicing beside the dam had their umbrella blow over and into the water. It landed upside down and the wind carried it ever further from the shore so we headed it off in the kayak and returned it to them. The next lap, the umbrella was in exactly the same position on the shore just waiting for the next gust. Some people obviously don't learn. It was surprising how fast the upside down umbrella moved over the water and I felt a bit like a boy scout - my good deed done for the day.

Not mine ....

... but I wish it had been, hope you enjoy it as much as I did. To whoever the author was, thanks for the laugh.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Red Fort of Agra

This was taken in one of the rooms of the Red Fort in Agra, India.

Back in the Saddle

I went back to the hospital on Thursday morning to have the bandaging removed which is something I have been looking forward to all week. It is the little things that I have been really missing like the ability to walk up steps without looking like C3PIO. The ability to shower is not to be under-rated either as I am sure Caron would agree and nor is the ability to easily get into and out of a car. The most painful part of this entire operation was the removal of the elastoplast along with a layer of skin and the removal of the residual sticky stuff with Acetone. Acetone on raw skin is rather sore but considering that this was the most pain that I have had to experience, I think I got off rather lightly. Best of all, the doctor said that I could basically carry on with all normal activity so i joined Jason for a ride on Saturday at Northern Farm. It was just an hour of exercise but I seem to have been able to keep up ok. They might have been going slow for me but I don't think so and I definitely struggled on the hills. Since it is approaching mid winter here, I thought that there wouldn't be any mud but it wasn't to be. We went through the agricultural sprinklers several times so there was loads of mud and muck around. I was a bit worried about the treated sewerage on my wounds but it all seems to have turned out ok. I had just packed up the bike and was about to head off home when Jason came back to borrow my rear wheel for someone else whose tire had burst - hopefully I will get my wheel back sometime next week. It was great to be back on the bike, especially after how I felt on thursday when I could barely trust my legs to support my weight when descending steps.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Me, Myself and I

Snap of me skiing at Avoriaz in 12" of powder snow. Quite and amazing experience.

Computer Conundrums

Both Caron and I work in the IT industry and have on occasion between called computer professionals although quite what that actually means is open to debate. Most of the time it is quite useful being in the IT industry because in general conversation with someone new you always have one of two following conversations, usually the first.

Either it goes like this:
New Person: "So, What do you do?"
Us : "We're both in the IT industry"
New Person: A glazed look descends over the the persons face as they desperately
think of how to change the topic.
New person: "Oh, that's interesting, What do you actually do?"
Us : "Well, Caron is a Business (sometime Systems) Analyst and I try and do as
little as possible!"
New Person: laughs giving him/her enough time to think and then change the topic.

OR it goes like this:
New Person: "So, What do you do"
Us : "We're both in the IT industry"
New Person: Eyes light up, Aha! - fellow practitioners of the dark arts.
New person: "Oh, that's interesting, What do you actually do?"
Us : "Well, Caron is a Business (sometime Systems) Analyst and I try and do as
little as possible!"
Us : Oh shit!, we're going to have to talk about IT all evening, better change
the topic soon.
New Person: laughs
New Person: "I'm in quantum encryption"
Us : Eyes glaze over, where is that alternative topic.

Yes, IT is definitely a conversational black hole one way or another.

Besides the conversational difficulties that IT brings, you also become the general family "Computer" person because, since you work in IT (pronounced "it" :-)), you have to know everything about what is actually an exceptionally large field. Thus it was that my Brother Bruce pitched up at our house with his daughters MP3 CD player and the CD of MP3's that he burnt for it. Problem is that it doesn't work on the MP3 player, nor in the machine that he burnt it on but mysteriously does on a friends Mac. Pretty wierd if you ask me. Caron who is the champion music fundi around here puts it into her laptop and sure enough there is absolutely nothing on the CD - no wonder the MP3 player won't work. As a last gasp, I put it into my linux machine and voila, there are all the MP3's clearly on the disk. We copied them off the CD, over onto Carons laptop and burnt another CD and now it works in the MP3 Player. I should try and figure out why this has happened but I just don't have the energy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sea Anemone

This was taken at Sodwana Bay on 2 Mile Reef. It did need some touching up to remove the sand speckles caused by the surge at the time of the photograph but otherwise not much work required.

Making Globalisation Work

Joseph Stiglitz (ex chief economist of the world bank as well as a nobel economics prize winner) gives his view of what is wrong with the current international economics system as well as what should be done in order to address some of the structural inequalities that exist. If anyone is curious as to why the third world seems to be beyond hope then they should read this book - it presents quite a balanced (my view of course) view of what the problems are. Best of all, Stiglitz presents some suggestions for reform of the current system which seem pretty reasonable to me although I dare say that the devil is in the detail. Interestingly much of this book seems to resonate with "The Growth Illusion" although Stiglitz fundamentally seems to believe in economic growth as the solution whereas "The Growth Illusion" questions the fundamentals of economic growth as a driver of living standards. Highly recommended reading although not exactly easy going.

Not so fast ....

Hmmm! I'm getting more than a little bored sitting at home now which I take to be a good sign. If I'm really sick I am very happy to just laze around at home doing absolutely nothing but as soon as boredom sets in, it is time to get out of the house and on with life. So yesterday morning I convinced Caron to take me to work for a half day which seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a good idea, it is just the consequences that aren't so cool. After enduring the 40 minute grind through the traffic which really reminded me how wonderful it is to do it on the bike I arrived at work to negotiate my first obstacle which was the stairs. It doesn't sound like much of an obstacle but you just try climbing or descending stairs without bending your knees - it's not so friggin easy! I spent a productive few hours at work before the frequency of phone calls asking why I hadn't already left increased so Aubrey, our driver, took me home. I found out later that both Kim and Laurel had given Caron a blast for letting me go to work in the first place. Worse still, Caron, not happy at my progress towards the back door at work took to phoning my colleagues and asking them why I had not yet left. Very underhanded I would say but quite effective.
Today I'm feeling fine but my left foot has kind of seized up and I can barely wiggle my toes. My right calf feels a bit like I've pulled some stitches out but obviously I can't see this to confirm and it always feels much worse than it actually is.
Aubrey arrives at 09:00 so today is going to be interesting.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Showering ain't what it used to be ...

Having one's legs wrapped up like a mummy makes the most mundane of exercises and chores into epics and before the operation nobody bothers to mention these minor difficulties to one. Getting clean has taken on new meaning to me of late. Mostly due to Carons insistent nagging I succumbed to the lure of the shower on Thursday evening silencing the small voice in the back of my head that this was a bad idea. The bandaging on the outside is just elastoplast but on the inside there is a woolen bandage before the actual dressing and none of them are waterproof, in fact the woolen bandage is particularly good at absorbing water. Knowing this, we thought that wrapping the bandages in cling-wrap with a plastic bag over my foot would keep the water at bay. Good idea in theory, not quite so good in practice so about a minute into my shower I could feel myself starting to squelch around in my plastic bag so my pleasant shower was cut very short. Even then once the plastic wrapping had been removed parts of the bandages were damp or in same places thoroughly soaked. Thoughts of smelling like a wet dog for the next week went through my head so I spent the next two hours next to the gas heater turning myself over like a rotisserie trying to dry the bandaging out. Small soggy areas were dealt with using a hair dryer while I recovered my sense of humour - lost during the rotisserie experience. As things turned out I don't smell like a wet dog - I think. At least nobody has passed any comments yet.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Advertising Rant

Sitting at home not being able to do a helluva lot I've been watching an inordinate amount of TV, in particular MNet which is a satellite TV station for which I pay an exorbitant amount of money each month. The way that I thought this was meant to work is that if I choose to watch the content on one of the SABC channels for which I pay almost nothing to receive I have to put up with advertising which is where the SABC makes their money. This seems like a reasonable deal to me but if I am paying for the content surely I shouldn't have to put up with advertising since MNet should derive its income from the subscriptions. In fact, since time is money or so I am told, MNet should pay me for my time that they waste with the advertising that I am forced to endure. In fact in the old days, one of the stated benefits of MNet was that one could watch without the annoying advertising interruptions.
Not going to happen I know but I had to let it out. Somehow it doesn't seem right that I am paying MNet for the pleasure of watching seemingly endless advertising.

All cut up

Well here I sit at home waiting for my legs to heal enough that I can resume a normal life. To recap what has been going on during the last couple of days - about six months ago, after Caron had been nagging me for about 3 months I went to the doctor to have a cholesterol test. Pretty innocent I thought, especially being a mostly vegetarian - I mean exactly where is all this cholesterol going to come from - Lettuce? Anyway after a few months I ran out of excuses and dutifully went to the doctor who told me that my I HAD to (doctors bold) have the veins in both of my legs removed. Not a pleasant thought so I went to the specialist with Caron threatening bodily harm if I didn't and he confirmed that I DEFINITELY HAD to have the veins out. I think that the doctors are in cahoots but what can one do, certainly can't argue with them with my knowledge of medicine so Wednesday morning I found myself at Olivedale clinic at 07:00 for the operation.
On Tuesday evening, knowing that they were going to shave my legs if I didn't, I borrowed Kims' hair clippers to take most of it off. Caron thought I should shave a spirals up my leg or maybe a patchwork quilt type of effect. Shaving ones legs is not as easy as one would think, I know that the ladies (at least most of them) do it all the time but as a guy, it really isn't that easy - You should try it sometime. Doing the lower leg was pretty innocuous but as it got higher and higher towards you know where you get this really uncomfortable feeling. There is something awfully wrong with having a razor anywhere near there - really, you must try it. :-)
Having arrived at what felt like the crack of dawn bureaucracy lumbered into action and I was finally wheeled into the operating theater like a bug about to be dissected at about 11:30. I remember watching the anesthetist stick the needle for the drip into my arm and then the warm burning feeling of the anesthetic working its way up my arm.
Next thing I knew I was back in the ward with Caron next to my bed. Coming around from anesthetic is no fun. You might be awake but you really aren't all there - it felt a bit like an out of body experience. I spent the night in hospital which was pretty grim, I don't know how they expect people to recover in hospital because it seems to be impossible to have a decent nights sleep there. If it isn't the nurses asking you questions, changing the bed or waking you up for coffee then it is new patients arriving at all hours of the night. I was very relieved to be told to bugger off home at about 10:30 on Thursday morning. The thing I disliked most in hospital was being completely dependent on other people, no cell phone, no internet, no wallet, no watch, no transport - Nothing. Very helpless feeling.
The beds all had their own TV's with a variety of channels from which to choose but you had to have your own earphones. Earphones could only be obtained from the pharmacy and they cost R15.00 which was a big problem for me since I didn't have any money - Caron having finally got her hands on my wallet. Secondly, the thought of walking to the Pharmacy which was a mere couple of hundred metres away was just too much. Eventually a nurse took pity on me and I tried to make a mental note of her name so I could repay her but the anesthetic and pain killers seem to have robbed me of my razor sharp memory and I promptly forgot her name. She'll never read this blog but I was very grateful for the headset.
So now I sit at home, my view is shown below and I have the internet as well as my cell phone back and life is pretty good. Bandaged legs notwithstanding.