Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blinded by Faith

This, believe it or not, (I assume that the Star newspaper hasn't made the story up) is the true story of several people who by staring into the sun have seriously affected their eyesight. Duh!

The reason that they were staring at the sun is that a local teenager has been making claims of seeing the virgin mary by looking directly into the sun. Quite how she knows it is the virgin mary baffles me but then who am I to tell her that it isn't the virgin mary - I having never actually met the virgin mary.

My problem is this, the church is big on the faith thing. Healing, moving mountains, walking on water etc, etc all of which strain the bounds of credulity. Knowing this, the church simply takes the line that if you don't accept it you just don't have enough faith, you sinner. Well now we have a really good example of people putting their faith where their mouth is - and now they're almost blind.

I challenged a friend of mine to explain why he, as the church representative in our discussion, could possibly think that teaching people to suspend one's natural scepticism of extraordinary events could not eventually lead to situations as above. His reply was that the church teaches that one should 'test everything' which is a fine argument but I suspect that if people actually practiced that, there wouldn't be anywhere near the number of religious people in this world.

If one had to 'test everything' it would lead to the church/mosque/etc having to produce actual evidence of all sorts of things, like does god actually exist, let alone minor issues like water mysteriously turning into wine.

Another soapbox rant, I'll have to go and get my camelhair underwear out and indulge in a little self flaggelation. :-)

Nepali Photos

These are all from a trip I did to Nepal, long, long ago when the Dinosaurs and Caron were young.

This was taken just next to the ghats where they burn dead bodies on big piles of wood, little wonder there are hardly any trees left in Nepal. Once the body has burnt (at least mostly), the ashes are swept into the stream in which the girl is wading checking for I know not what, I think they may have been her fish traps.

Prayer wheels, little ones. The buddhists have really got it waxed, every time a prayer wheel turns is sends up a prayer so some bright buddhist attached one to a water wheel so it turned 24x7. How is that for a serious volume of prayers going up.

Nepali porter carrying heavy loads, I saw a porter carrying 54kg's (6 cases of 12x750ml bottles of beer) on his back up and down the Nepal mountains and they make the mountains really, really big over there. Commenting to an inn keeper later that day he said that was just average, the really top porters would be lugging over 100kgs around! No wonder their life expectancy is so short.

Photograph of Old Man Inc. (Ohio, USA) is an authorized retailer for

goods and services provided by Rolands Blog.

A potter in Kathmandu, it's a bit hard to see from the photograph but his wheel is a tyre that has been filled with concrete and to make it spin he stands up and 'stirs' the wheel like a big pot until it is going fast enough at which point he quickly makes a couple of items before he has to get the momentum back up again.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cabbage Farming

There is a popular myth amongst IT people that cabbage farming is the way to really make some money. This topic normally surfaces when the long hours are starting to take its toll but for some reason it surfaced on Friday much to Kobus' amusement.
Kobus' addition to the anecdote was to relate his father-in-laws rules about cabbage farming, his father-in-law being a farmer. There is only one rule - Don't farm cabbages. This should preferably be painted somewhere in large letters on a wall that one walks past every day because after 10 or so years of not farming cabbages it somehow starts to look attractive once again. It is only when ones' father has been a farmer and ones' fathers father, you get the picture, and each one in turn has tried cabbage farming several times - all with disasterous results does one realise that cabbage farming is a bad idea.

So much for cabbage farming.

iPod Accessory

Caron has been lusting after a particular iPod accessory and today we finally went and ordered the worlds most expensive iPod accessory, a Mini Cooper S. Caron is overjoyed, I'm just feeling poor again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cape Town Photos

The following were taken at the Cactus farm in Robertson, the campground between Paarl and Fanschhoek and the campground in Tulbagh respectively.

Monday, June 11, 2007

White Winter Weekend

Caron and I were away for the weekend, originally we were going to go on a small hike up the Drakensberg near Mont-Aux-Sources which is one of the highest points in South Africa at 3282m. By Monday evening, there were odd references to "cold" and "windy" and "uncomfortable" and by Tuesday there was open rebellion and my nice little hike was scuppered to be replaced by a day walk. Same destination, we just weren't going to spend the night up on top of the Drakensberg.

We drove down on Friday evening to Windmill Bungalows which are self catering bungalows on the edge of the escarpment just south of Sterkfontein dam. Brilliant position but rather basic and as luck would have it, by the time we arrrived, our pre-booked room had been let out to someone else so we ended up in a much larger bungalow for the same price.
We weren't feeling very hungry due to all the junk food that we had consumed on the way down so we just went to the bar for a drink before retiring. When we walked in there was a girl sitting really, really close to the log fire and I jokingly asked her if she could get any closer to the fire. She promptly not only moved away from the fire but left the room entirely, I didn't think it was that bad a comment.
We woke up early on Saturday packed and were at the start of the hike after driving around Sterkfontein dam and through Phutadjithaba by 08:30. Phutadjithaba may have the worlds most polite taxi drivers, I have been coming to this area for a couple of decades and their courtesy has always struck me as I drive through. It was very encouraging to see that where there had been shacks a few years ago, there is now RDP housing which is very basic but much superior to a shack. Where there had been RDP, there were now either additional rooms or in the odd case a entirely new face brick house with tiled roof. I think what was so encouraging was not the fact that there is great housing on show because even the best houses are still quite modest but the fact that there is a definite general improvement in the standard of the housing.
By 08:30 we had started walking, me with the backpack and Caron without one. By the time we, or rather I, reached the chain ladder I was about 500m ahead of Caron. A fact that did not go un-noticed nor un-chastised by the party waiting at the bottom of the chain ladder. Fortunately I did have a pack on whereas Caron didn't which at least gave me a little respite.
After negotiating the first portion of the chain ladder we realised that the wind on top was going to be blowing so we put on some extra clothes to keep the wind at bay and sure enough, there was a nice fresh breeze on top - along with a dusting of snow.

Caron doing her michelin man impression.

A short easy kilometer or two brought us to the edge of the amphitheatre and a view of Eastern Buttress, Devils tooth and the Inner Tower which Rob is going to climb in a couple of weeks time.

We had lunch in the lee of a large boulder next to the frozen Tugela river and then wandered up to the Mountain Club Hut which is starting to look quite dilapidated. Someone has not only taken the glass out of the windows but in one case, the window frame as well. As a result, hikers have torn down some of the ceiling board in order to shut off the window so all in all it was a bit sad to see.
We were just leaving when the group that we had met at the bottom of the chain ladder arrived to take up residence in the hut - it is going to be a really chilly night for all of them. That's for sure. When we were looking around the hut we found a very nice sheath knife one of the previous parties had left behind. Someone, somewhere is busy kicking himself.

We took a very leisurely stroll back down stopping at anything that caught our eyes like the frozen stream sometimes or just magnificent views like the one below.

If you look carefully you will just be able to see Caron walking on the path at the bottom of the photograph right in the middle. It does give a sense of the scale of the cliff above her.

Got back to the car park and wrote down the names of all the parties in the last 5 days along with phone numbers but I doubt if I will be able to track the owner of the knife down. Gotta at least try I suppose.

We arrived back at the Windmill Bungalows for a really hot shower, great meal in the restaurant and then drinks at the bar and finally a warm bed while the icy wind howled outside. Maybe this isn't so bad after all.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


"The key to flexibility is indecision"

Moral Indecision

Having been born and (mostly) raised in South Africa during the 1980's and early 1990's prior to 1994 I have had the opportunity to see and experience the dramatic changes both positive and negative but mostly positive that have occurred in South Africa.

Now, having got that out of the way one of the things that really used to irritate me when I was travelling overseas pre 1994 was how fellow travellers used to do two things. Firstly, they assumed that since I came from South Africa I was automatically racist, no questions asked and secondly, they assumed that they weren't, again, no questions asked. I always got the impression that somehow, they thought they were on this higher moral plane than I was and I couldn't understand why because at the end of the day, people are just people.

After a while it dawned on me that the reason that they could project this higher morality was mostly that they came from an environment where their attachment to their morals was never put to any kind of a test and their morals certainly didn't come at a price. It really struck home one day when I was discussing a moral question regarding red people oppressing blue people in narnia and it was really, really easy to take a principled moral stand and I suddenly realised that the main reason was not that I am some kind of moral hero, it was that I was totally free of consequences of any kind. I really could just say what I thought was fair and right.

Moving closer to home where the red people are oppressing the blue, if you're a blue and take a principled stand that takes moral courage because when the consequences of your stand may entail loss of income, loss of family and friends, prison and worse, one tends to think about the stand a whole lot more carefully.

Again, closer to home where the red people are oppressing the blue, if you're a red and take a principled stand that takes even more moral courage because the consequences of your stand may entail an even more drastic loss than if you were a blue.

So what is my point from my soapbox? My point is that as an outsider, taking the moral high ground and bludgeoning a red is really easy and doesn't take much moral courage at all. Being a blue or a red however, and taking the moral high ground takes real courage and people who do this are to be admired. This is not to say that one must just keep quiet just because one is an outsider, on the contrary, one must speak up but all the while remembering that if one was a blue or a red one might not think the same way.

I have kept referring to red and blue but I am really referring to any group that is prejudiced towards another group. This would include gender, colour, religion and any other group that we care to create.

Phew, I think that is enough moralising for a year or two.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Plant Park

A few weeks ago when we had the monsters for the weekend we went to visit the Plant Park which is a nursery with an outdoor restaurant and a very good childrens play area complete with a train, lots of animals and other entertaining (for children) thingys. At the entrance of the park there is a koi shop which I have never actually been into because I just can't see the point of keeping them. A sentiment shared by Patch after some greedy kingfishers scoffed all but one - a rather expensive way to feed kingfishers if you ask me. It took him weeks to see that there was actually one left because it hid almost permanently under a rock on the bottom. Maybe they're not so stupid after all. I didn't have my camera with me but I made a mental note to return and take a few pictures which are shown below.

The first I liked because of the grotesque distortion of the the fish just under the water. The second because of the total lack of individuality of fish which are in themselves highly individualistic. The last one for the recurrent images of fish as shown in the bubbles floating on the surface of the water. I've printed them on 10x15" paper and I just need to get them framed now.