Monday, August 27, 2007

Moving on ...

There comes a time they say, when it is time to move on. Which is what happened on Sunday morning when we went down to the dam to pack up the caravan and leave it to the next owner to create his own good memories before handing over the baton to the next owner. As we were packing up we looked around at the quarry dam, bright in the spring morning and thought about all the very enjoyable weekends we have spent down here and wondering whether we should just really be keeping it but the truth is that we just don't get down enough because 'other' things are more important, more pressing or just more attractive. So now the decision is made and we leave the caravan behind, thankful for the memories we have but looking forward to making new ones elsewhere.

It is hard to believe just how much 'stuff' we had piled into the caravan and now it is all sitting in the garage waiting for us to find it a place to live in a house which is already quite full. Somehow I am going to have to convince Caron to let some of the kitchen stuff go - no easy task I might add. Caron is leaving for the UK on Wednesday so maybe a good spring clean is in order while she is away.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cyclist proof fences

Jason and I set out on our fairly standard mountain bike route starting at my house, all the way out to Northern farm and around and then back to Jason's house where Caron kindly picks us up. I changed my brake pads during the week and although the wheels weren't running entirely freely, I thought they weren't too bad. How wrong can one be! I was puffing and panting my way up the very first hill when we met Kim (not SIL one) and Andrea who were on their way up to Emmarentia for their traditional saturday morning cycle. We contemplated joining them but thank goodness we didn't - they would have left me far behind. I was really struggling to keep up with Jason and even had to pedal downhill while he freewheeled which wasn't a good sign. Stopped to check the brakes which had got a bit more sticky, so much so that even pushing the bike downhill it would stop unless one was actively pushing it. We had done about 8km so far and as luck would have it, we were just passing Fritz Pienaar cycles so we stopped and begged some help. A little knowledge can go a long way and in no time at all my wheels were spinning beautifully. What a difference, could match Jason for pace and even give him a bit of a run for this money.
Seeing as we had lost so much time already we took the opportunity to go and have a look at one of the mansions which are being built quite close to where Jason stays. The particular one in question was simply enormous - 2000m2 under roof. That is twice the size of my entire property under roof, it was so big that I have difficulty thinking about what they are going to fill it up with. You know you are looking at a completely different league when you walk into the helicopter garage. Quite unbelievable and the mind boggles was to why one would spend so much on a house.
After leaving the mansion, we were approaching a fence which has a pedestrian gate in it but it is quite a pain because to get the bicycle over one has to carry it above one's head. Conveniently, someone had destroyed the fence right next to the gate just inviting one to circumvent the fence. It was a good plan except for the single strand of barbed wire that caught me across the chest and forced an undignified dismount. As I was falling off I thought I would grab a fence post but there was a whole lot of rust corrugated iron attached to it so I decided that the ground was the better option. A few cuts and grazes later I now have to come to terms with several years worth of teasing I am going to be in for every time we approach another fence. It was very lucky the strand wasn't 6" higher and that it snapped as I hit it - it really could have been quite bad.
After the brakes and the barbed wire, the rest of the ride was rather mundane by comparison. We had forgotten our Northern Farm entrance cards so we skulked around the side and climbed over the barbed wire fence to get in. As I climbed over the fence I had visions of slipping and getting another taste of the barbs but it wasn't to be.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ron Paul on the Mighty Dollar

Very interesting read on Dollar Hegemony according to Ron Paul especially where he alludes to Iraq having actually sold oil for Euros instead of Dollars prior to the invasion of 2003.

Not that I agree with everything Stephen Weinberg says but ...

Physicist and Nobel prizewinner Stephen Weinberg describes religion as an insult to human dignity. "Without it," he says, "you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion."
Stephen Weinberg

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Black Book

Went to see the film "Black Book" by Paul Verhoeven on Sunday evening with Pippa and Glynne. What a great movie but definitely not for the prudish nor the faint of heart. Pretty intense viewing but highly recommended and it really does put the issues we have in South Africa in a very different light. Compared with the conditions shown in the movie we live in paradise but it is a pity that it takes something like this to put things into perspective. Watching it was a little weird because it was in Dutch with English subtitles and although my Afrikaans is pretty poor I could definitely follow the audio while reading the subtitles at the same time. Came out of the movie a little traumatised and that was just from watching what actually happened to people. I don't know how those who survived WWII actually managed to move on with their lives. Not exactly a feel good movie.


I have been warned that the ubuntu would eventually get me and so it has. Ubuntu, for those non-'it' people out there, is a version of the linux operating system which has been making huge inroads into the linux world and is specifically targeted at the desktop - and area that linux has traditionally been very poor at. It is not that linux couldn't be used as a desktop OS it was just that you had to be quite technically competent in order to get it working and keep it working. Ubuntu is like linux for dummies, unbelievably easy to set up and unlike windows it comes prepackaged with pretty much all the applications one would normally use. If you don't like a particular package like I prefer Thunderbird to Evolution as a mail client, installing Thunderbird is a breeze just do the obvious and click on Applications -> Add/Remove and in no time at all it's installed.

There is one problem with linux which hasn't been sorted out and I'm not sure that there is a solution. The problem is that each distro (ubuntu in this case) comes out with a new version pretty much each year so it means that you should be upgrading your system each year. The upgrading isn't so bad but getting ones' data from one to another can be quite a pain and of course there is the risk that if you do something wrong when you backup your data - you might loose it forever. For myself, the solution lies in having two harddrives which I use alternately so at any given time, the one harddrive has the old operating system on it with all my data and the other has the new operating system on it with all my data as well. When I need to upgrade again, I simply reformat the old hard drive and install a clean operating system on it and copy all my data from what was the new drive but is now the old drive if you get what I mean. For real backups I just use a USB drive and copy all my data onto it once a month. KISS.

So, all in all I would highly recommend that anyone tired of paying for software whose capabilities far exceed one's requirements give ubuntu a go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I finally took the plunge after many months of vassilation and bought myself a new camera which is a Panasonic DMC-FZ50 and I am currently alternating between feeling like I have bought a lemon and feeling like it takes fantastic pictures.

I thought I would be clever and use a high quality test photo of which I have a high quality photo print and take a photo of this with the new camera and compare this with the original. Very bad move, left me quite depressed as the photo is quite unlike the original and it doesn't seem to matter how much I tinker around with it in UFRaw or RAWStudio I just can't get it right and the focus is awful, the noise is awful. Really just very disappointing. Then I took a photo of my cat, the male one with no balls in both a figurative and a literal sense.

It doesn't show up in such a low resolution shot but the camera actually handled the shot reasonably well. The eyes were about as sharp as I could reasonably expect and there is nice detail everywhere and the blue cushion really is about the right shade so now I have one good and one really poor experience.

This camera has introduced me to a whole new sub-culture within the photographic world. The world of RAW which only serves to strength the maxim that if you need an acronym to describe it - watch out. One of the reasons I am and have been keen on digital photography is that I don't have to waste time with developing and printing. You should just point the camera, shoot, print - that should be it. I have been sadly misinformed - there is indeed a digital equivalent of developing a photograph which is what RAW is all about. That and sounding really sophisticated and pretentious of course. The other thing RAW is really good at is taking up unbelievable amounts of disk space - by the time you have the original (20Mb), the thumbnail (2Mb) and at least one or possibly two GIMP images at 20Mb each one is looking at between 50 and 100Mb per photograph. Suddenly my 120GB hard drive and 500GB backup drive aren't looking so big anymore.

Very unsure of what to do about the camera at the moment so I'm going to have to shoot for a while and see how it goes, I doubt if I could return it to the shop in any case.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Weekends Past

Aaaaaarghhhhhhhh! What a weekend. Not a weekend at all really more like an extended form of purgatory. Every year Caron & I start running out of steam in about October or November and from there we just manage to survive to the December break to start all over again. This year, we're that tired and it is only just August. Not sure how we are going to survive. I don't know what business is like elsewhere but it is absolutely cookin' down here - every evening I get home and it feels like the day went by in a blur.

The weekend started off with a public holiday on the thursday when I finally had some time to re-arrange the wiring under the desk. Wiring must obey some kind of a universal law which states that given enough time it will get inextricably tangled up without any human intervention which means that, as you guessed - there was a rats nest of wires under the table which needed to be sorted out. It is all neat and tidy temporarily now and the one pc has been retired in favour of the linksys router/hub which makes things much less complicated. It was really great, I replaced three pieces of kit - a switch, a wireless hub and a PC based firewall all with the linksys. Probably not the most exciting piece of news for most people but for the technically literate - I now have gigabit wired network and 108megabit wireless network at home. Pretty cool - well I'm excited about it even if nobody else is.

Friday, August 03, 2007

If you feel like this ...

Apply for leave right NOW!

Global Warming

In light of the recent deluges it has become apparent that maybe we need to evolve somewhat to be more marine like. In an effort to get a head start on everyone else, go and buy yourself a pair of the latest fashion shoes from paris.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Ventures, they say, are only 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration so naturally I, like everyone else, wants to be doing the 5% rather than the 95%. About a year ago, I was sitting in a fish shop in Rosebank mall on my own (because Caron was overseas) ordering supper and I had never heard of the line fish. Being quite keen not to deplete fish stocks to the level of extinction and having read an article by SASSI I was quite keen on following their list but I simply can't remember 10 things by rote let alone 20 or 30. Sitting there cursing my memory, or lack thereof, it occurred to me that it would be really cool if I could just SMS the name of the fish to a number and it would send me the information. Hence was born FishMS of which I can claim only two things, the original idea and the name - everything else which as I have mentioned is the 95%, belongs to Tony and Barry as well as SASSI. Tony for the actual development work which wasn't trivial as well as operational responsiblity and Barry for financing, philosophical backing and encouragement and finally SASSI who have done and continue to do an excellent job of the publicity.

Tony came through the other day with an arbitrary magazine with some recipes in the back. One of the recipes was for fish and next to the recipe were suggested altenatives to the one in the actual recipe since it happened to be an orange category fish. In addition, the FishMS number was shown with a brief description of what to do to check whether the fish you are buying is endangered or not. Seeing this, and I don't think SASSI had anything to do with it, was really one of those warm fuzzy moments when one briefly feels that the little people in the world really can make a difference.

FishMS has now had numerous articles in quite a diverse number of publications and there is even a movie about it which actually won an award of some sort. You can check it out on youtube at FishMS


"If you never want to run the risk of being in trouble for something you did, it's quite simple - just never do anything"