Monday, October 29, 2007

Darwins Angel ...

"John Cornwell is convinced that The God Delusion requires a response that is light-heartedly vigorous" and vigorous it is but rigorous it isn't and most of the Christians that I know would be horrified at the concepts that he espouses in their collective names, my opinion of course. I was particularly amused that he, correctly in my opinion, took Richard Dawkins to task for having a very miserly bibliography but then omitted to have a bibliography at all in his riposte. If this is quality of the response to Richard Dawkins, religion really is on the back foot. Read it for yourself as an education in how not to debate.

Weekend boring weekend

The last couple of weekends have really been nothing to write about. Last weekend Caron spend most of the weekend at work leaving me to knock around on my own, this weekend past it was me that spent the entire weekend at work leaving Caron to knock around at home. Definitely not the nicest way to spend one's precious two days of rest a week. I would that I could at least say that the time was spent constructively but it wasn't. The accountants at work think that we are over paying for our electricity but because the building is so badly wired we have had to get an electrician to rewire the distribution boards so that each wing of the building can be accurately metered. This basically entails tracing each and every circuit, switching the entire building off, rewiring, and then switching it all back on. This without interrupting operations - we are a 24x7 operation after all. My experience with power is that when you fiddle with it, things just seem to blow up of their own accord and sure enough, I was not disappointed. My one UPS, all R 20k of it refused to switch back on so it is off for repairs which I hope aren't going to be too expensive. It would really be ironic if after all this we end up paying more for our electricity than we currently do.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Theist 1, Atheist 0

I've been thinking lately about why people want to believe in a religion, it can't be entirely because religion is forced on them by indoctrination, social pressure or other means. If religion was forced onto people they would have long ago rebelled en mass I think. An alternative explanation would be that people actually want to believe. Misguided or not, people seem to want it.
So what is so attractive about religion? I don't have a definitive list but to start with under the general title of "Great Marketing":

Life after death! If you simply utter a few words or perform a ceremony then magically you are entitled to the good life after death. This is great marketing because who is to say that life after death isn't great, it 's not like we can really quiz the dead to find out if it (heaven or hell) even exists so it is pretty difficult to negate this. Theists die and go to Heaven, cool. Atheists just die, period. Not so cool.

No Responsibility! If you as a person do something that you feel is morally reprehensible and you're a theist, just offload it to your deity of choice who kindly takes care of it - it's as if you didn't do it. But the fact is that you did and this is just a way of avoiding the fact that you have not lived up to your own expectations. Theists get forgiven, cool. Atheists just have to live with their own inadequacies, Not so cool.

I am sure that I will find a few more as time goes by which I will blog as I go.

"The Royal We"

We, not the royal one, sat up late last night to watch the finals of the rugby world cup, desperately hoping that South Africa would win. We, the royal one, are desperately in need of some kind of good news because the political front in South Africa is looking anything but rosy at the moment. The 80 minutes seemed to go by in a flash and the last twenty minutes were nerve wracking where we had the victory within our grasp and all we had to do was not do anything stupid which quite often happens in these games. This morning the papers blared that "We" are the champions which is really quite far from the truth, as if by some mysterious means the good intentions of everyone supporting the springboks actually made a difference. It wasn't "We", it was the 40 odd people that make up the team, coaches and management that actually deserves all the credit. Of course that takes all the fun out of it, how can one follow a game passionately without being part of the "We". There's nothing quite like winning to make the royal we feel just a little bit better about ourselves even when there is absolutely nor reason to do so.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rugby World Cup

We watched the Rugby World Cup semi-finals last night and England beat France which is turning the RWC into something of a farce. Since England won the previous world cup, they haven't been able to beat just about anyone - and now they're in the final. The question to ask is, if a team can string together a good series of results only once every four years do they deserve to be called 'The best team in the world' aka World Champions?

Change Control

"The process of removing existing bugs in a system and adding new ones."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Crater Cruise 2007

Well, one thing is clear, training once a week for the crater cruise just isn't enough. Had a very tough race right from the first 100m until I crossed the finish line six hours later. Six hours of pedaling, no wonder my rear end felt like the saddle had been surgically implanted. Of the six hours I would guess that about four of them were after I had run out of food reserves and I spent about 3 hours resisting the impulse to bring whatever I had down, up. They've changed the route a bit this year, substantially for the better but some of the rocky descents were so rough that it was tough to just hold onto the handlebars let alone steer and brake. I think I'm going to wake up with aches and pains in muscles I don't know that I have. At the end of a race I am normally ravenous, not this one - I think I was so tired that even though I knew that I should eat, the thought of it was repulsive. Spent the rest of the day drinking and having small snacks when I could stomach them. By the evening I was feeling a bit better and on Sunday morning, I felt great. At the second last water stop about 70km through the race we got talking to some guys sitting just behind us. He was reminiscing about how he sat in exactly the same place last year and swore that he was never doing it again, as did I and yet there both of us were - torturing our bodies for some undefinable reason. Due to the amount of rain we have been having recently, not only was the vaal river full but there was lots of mud that needed to be pedaled through which was great fun if a bit messy and I am really glad that it wasn't 100km of mud.

Woke up on Sunday morning just before 08:00 to a brilliant summers day. Cool, clean and fresh from the 30mm of rain that we had overnight.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lesotho hideaway

There are three things that I think we are going to particularly enjoy about Lesotho, the clean air, the absolute quiet and the rugged beauty of the mountains. The next morning I wanted to go back up to the top of the ski slope to take a photograph of the resort but unbeknownst to us, there was another, heavier, snowfall. On the way up we stopped to take a photo of the stream shown below and the two herdsmen walked about a kilometer back towards us to say hi. In typical tourist fashion I thought that they want to beg for sweets which is a very common occurrence but not these two. They wanted to know what 'that' was, pointing to my camera. They had never seen a camera before so they insisted on me taking a photo of them.

The gumboots and the blanket are very typical local dress, you see everyone wearing it.

From the top of the ski slope looking back to the chalets, ours is the one in the middle. There are a few more to the left but they look quite lonely in relationship to the mountains. The resort is 3 years into a 15 year development plan so hopefully, by the time it is finished, it won't look quite so lonely.

I am particularly pleased with the following photograph because my camera managed to capture it without blowing out the highlights nor losing detail in the dark areas.

The road was particularly slippery here, in fact so much so that we weren't able to pull off from here and I had to reverse down onto the tracks before I could go forward. Seeing the snow and ice at this time of year and the chains that the trucks use in order to get up the roads leaves me in no doubt as to exactly why the road on this particular section is in such poor repair. Below is caron waiting patiently for me to stop buggering around taking photographs. Very chilly out, not only because of the snow but the wind was howling as well.

The return trip was uneventful and we had another late night sitting through the two remaining quarter finals. South Africa vs Fiji was very tense and at one stage it looked like Fiji might run away with it but the Springboks really pulled it together in the last 20 minutes and the final score looked way more comfortable that the game actually was. We got to half time in the Argentina vs Scotland semi before my eyelids couldn't stay open anymore.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lesotho hideaway

Ever since we went skiing at Afri-Ski in June this year we have been thinking about whether it might be a good idea to buy the rights to two weeks a year at the resort, one of which would be a ski week. After much deliberation and thought we decided to give it a go so we paid the deposit but since we haven't even looked at the chalets we felt like we're buying something completely blind and although it isn't exactly expensive, it's not a trivial amount. Early saturday morning we left and made a brief stop at the vaal dam to make an inventory of the yacht in preparation for selling my 50% share. The drive down to Afri-Ski takes about 5 hours including stops for coffee in Bethlehem and the border. Afer filling in all the border paperwork with a red pen because it was the only one we had, we had the uncomfortable experience of having our paperwork torn up and an admonishment that it had to be in black. The official went and stamped our passport in any case so I don't know what the point is of the paperwork. The drive is quite beautiful and the Moteng pass is just fantastic, I keep on thinking that it would be a great cycle up but having done it a couple of times now, it would entail a serious amount of effort and definitely too steep for my road bike. As we came around the bend towards Oxbow lodge we were greeted with this sight which, to put it in perspective, is normally a placid stream that one can simply step across. The black dot on the road is my car which gives some sort of scale to the width of the river.

Apparently they had 105mm of rain the previous evening which from the size of the river and the number of rock and mudslides we saw at various parts of the pass, I can quite believe. When I say rocks I am talking about boulders about 1/2 the size of a car lying in the road after plummeting down the mountain side. We reached the resort without any further incidents although we did see a car in the ditch having skidded off the road because of ice. Below is the view from the verandah of the chalet we are keen on and we have a view directly up the ski-slope, not a bad view at all. Even though we are now officially well into summer it was -0.5 deg. C. Pretty chilly for africa. We had a good look around the chalet which is really quite nice before heading back to Oxbow lodge for the evening.

The 'Shack'

On the way back we were stuck temporarily behind a truck with some indeterminate white load under a cargo net - it was only when the white stuff started to move that we realised that they were sheep pinned down under the cargo net to prevent them falling off the back. Pretty undignified from the sheep's point of view. Talking about sheep, back at the lodge we watched the two semifinals Australia vs England and New Zealand vs France and in both cases the favourite lost. England played really well and deserved their win as far as I could see, very clever game plan and forced Australia to play to England's strengths. Not very upset to see Australia go out but felt very sorry for New Zealand to lose due to refereeing decisions which were either debatable or clearly wrong. I'm getting a little tired of the debate where poor refereeing decisions are covered over by the attitude that it all comes out in the wash. It doesn't - some poor refereeing decisions have little or no bearing on the end result of the game but others definitely do and with three match officials on the ground you would really think that they would pick up pretty much all infringements and definitely the major ones. Referees, like players, are professionals and should come in for criticism in exactly the same way that players do.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Friggin' busy weekend

This was one of those weekends where one just rushes from one thing to another without a break in-between. It's great for making life interesting but not very restful. A brief summary:
Friday night - Recover from the week, Caron only arrived home at 20:30 and we watched a bit of the England vs Tonga RWC match but couldn't keep our eyes open so we only saw about half the game.
Saturday - Shopping for food for Sunday and a mask for Caron's end of year function. I had an altercation with an imbecile in the parking lot who just couldn't be bothered to park in a parking bay thus impeding traffic around the parking lot. On one hand I should have just kept quiet but on the other, the sheer laziness and inconsideration to others that this shows just gets me going and this led to a bit of a scene. As we were leaving another guy turned up and asked what was going on and immediately picked up the altercation where I left off which made me feel a bit better. When we arrived home I welded up an addition to one of the tables in the workshop to hold a bicycle rack so that I can work on bicycles more easily. Fiddled with the gears on my road bike and repaired the puncture on my mountain bike. This is not a trivial task, getting the tire off was difficult enough but getting it back on was a nightmare. You need at least three, preferably four hands to do this because as soon as you get close to lifting the last bit of the bead of the tire over the rim, it sort of moves around the rim. Eventually I used a backpack tie down to secure the tire so I could use both my hands to work from one side but it was very frustrating. By the time I had finished this, it was time to get into the tuxedo for the masked ball which turned out to be ok as end of year functions go. There was one memorable occasion at the event, if only for the bad taste it left in the mouth. The comedian who was hosting the evening decided that it would be cool to have a competition to see who had the largest stomach and you'll just have to believe me but it wasn't a pretty sight all that blubber wobbling around. And this just before the main course was served. Ughh, enough to make carrots and celery unappealing let alone an eisbein. We escaped early and got home around midnight.
Sunday - Up early for a race - 60km mountain bike race with about 10 extra km to the start and back. What a fantastic race, for some reason I much preferred the second half, possibly because I didn't fall off the second time around. There was one particularly steep section and I chose the wrong gear and where I tried to change down, the chain slipped off the chainset so I was left spinning the cranks at 150rpm as I fell sideways. I didn't even have time to get my feet out of the clips but no harm done to anything other than my ego. Spent about 40 minutes trying to catch a girl in front of me, always good inspiration, but she would pull away on the hills and I would make up a bit on the downhills so it took ages. I eventually caught her only to have her puncture and since she didn't have a pump or repair kit or anything else actually, not even a camelbak, I stopped to help but the puncture wasn't repairable unless I wanted to spend about 40 minutes on it so I gave her my pump and hoped she would wait at the finish and give it back. I really enjoyed the second lap of the race for some reason, possibly because I was just racing on my own overtaking the odd cyclist. I finished in a time of 3:18 so at a guess, I would say that my time without the stop would have been about 3:08 but it is very difficult to tell. Retrieved my pump at the end from Melody Johansson and met the two Jasons. Jason had come 4th overall in a time of 02:20 almost an hour ahead of me, other Jason did a very respectable 02:50 something putting him somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes ahead of me. On the way out I was telling Jason about helping Melody when she drove past us in a car so I pointed to her and Jason was so busy trying to see into the car that he almost cycled into the back of another car. Very funny from my point of view. Cycled back to Jason's house and drove home barely able to keep my eyes open. Washed my bike, prepared the lamb and chicken for the weber later on and had a 20 minute nap before the family arrived at 15:30 - all 18 of them. I always find it incongruous that I, as the token vegetarian in the family, almost always end up cooking the meat at these family type functions. The family has about 5 birthdays all within 10 days so there was lots of present swapping but the book that we gave my nephew, Harry Potter and the something of something, didn't go down so well with the parents. I can't quite fathom the objection but then I'm not a parent - maybe it is another one of those imponderables. Family finally left just in time for Caron and I to watch the Springboks vs the USA which they won comfortably. It is going to take all week to recover from this weekend.