Monday, December 29, 2008

Some presents are more effort than one thinks

A few months ago Kim and I were standing under her large Pin Oak looking up into the branches and discussing how it was just begging to have a tree house built in it. Little did I know just how much effort building a tree house 5m off the ground actually is but now I know so my career as a builder of tree houses is officially over and emotional blackmail isn't going to bring me out of retirement.

It's not that it is that difficult, it's just really awkward working between the ground and 5m off the ground. The first thing was to build the "A" shaped structure on the ground which I then lifted into the tree with a minor whoopsy on the way but nothing broken or damaged. Once in the tree I added on the rectangular piece which one can't quite see in the picture. Having finished that I put the OSB board on and nailed it in place and rigged the suspension wires to points that weren't resting on boughs. A dash of paint and 20 hours of work later; voila! I really hope that Samuel and Hannah use it because if they don't; I'll be a bit pissed off to put it mildly.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quote of the day

"Common sense is soluble in testosterone!"

The Toyota MTN Cycle Park

Ok, I think I'll get the embarassing end result out of the way first. The score, jump 3, roland 0.

Since all my riding partners are away having lazy holidays I thought it would be fun to go and try out "The Toyota MTN Cycle Park" located where Main road goes over the N1 so I put all the kit on and chugged off to see what gives. The entrance fee is R50.00 which is pretty steep but unlike Northern Farm which charges R10.00 the Toyota MTN cycle park really does put a lot of effort into enabling you to have a whole bunch of fun. Fun in this instance means that you have at least a chance of breaking something, most likely your bike but there is a indemnity form you have to sign before you get in to take care of liability in the event that you break yourself instead of your bike.

There is a perimeter jeep track with well marked entrances to to the single track which eventually exit back onto the perimeter track. All single track is one way which is great and hopefully nobody is going to meet someone going the wrong way. The single track is graded into green, blue and black like ski runs and like skiing, black is to be taken with caution. There are tons of arrows but I think it would have been better to have made the arrows the same colour as the grading.

I started off on some greens, then blues and finally some blacks which I found to be pretty challenging. A note on the establishments use of "caution" signs; they really mean it! It would really be best to get off and have a good look at whatever one should be cautious about and going slowly doesn't work as often you need some speed to be safe.

Next to the BMX track there are several drop off's which were great fun but there was one I didn't do because I think I would have been arse over kettle. For the record it was the one with the roots half way down. The first drop off I did was exhilarating but the first jump at the bottom caught me by surprise but no problem, a quick jump and I flew over it and almost landed straight on top of the second jump which would have been a spectacular stop. As it turned out I just used the compression from the landing from the first jump to launch me over the second one; I must have looked like a kangaroo bouncing over the jumps. Great fun!

On to the jump that I couldn't get right pictured below. The problem with this jump is that you need some speed to clear the 1.5m gap but the S curve before the jump means that although you can get the speed it puts you on a path to the bushes. Landing a little short is not an option on this jump unless you don't mind buying a new back wheel each time you visit so speed is vital. Direction is unfortunately also vital. Hmmm, eish and eina!

Note the caution signs, they aren't joking! I think that the line to take would be starting at the left of the path and take off should be just to the left of the black stump. That way you ought to land in the middle of the right curving path after the jump. I think, but not having successfully negotiated this I can't say for sure.

Note the expropriated pavement waiting to buckle some back wheels; I think the bike shops may have had a hand in constructing this jump!

First attempt I wasn't going anywhere near fast enough, being cautious and all that and the back wheel caught the pavement and I took a sideways dive into the bushes on the left. Second time, a bit more speed so I cleared the pavement easily but the aim wasn't so good and I ended up doing a forward roll over the handlebars in the bushes. Third time speed was good, direction better but landed very hard and lost it taking a dive into the bushes on the right. This is going to take a few more visits I can see. Anyway, nothing broken but I think that I'm going to be a bit sore tomorrow morning! I can however confirm that the bushes to the left and rights of the path make for a pleasantly soft landing should one get it wrong!

Christmas 2008 at the Vaal

Caron and I have given up trying to second guess what the other actually wants and solved the annual gift buying conundrum by going shopping together; the one chooses and the other pays. It takes the surprise out of opening one's present but there can be nobody other than yourself to blame if you don't get what you actually wanted and having to wait until christmas to actually open the present made it still feel like a gift.

The morning started with the holmes tribe for early morning coffee and breakfast which was a bit of a quiet affair since there was only one child, sage, at home and there is a limit as to how much noise a single child can generate. Put another child into the equation and all bets are off; it is not a linear equation.

After breakfast we drove down to the Marina Letata on the Vaal to have lunch with Kirsten, Carl, Bruce, Charmaine, my parents and assorted children which was very noisy and chaotic especially in comparison. After lunch charmaine and I took the children down to have a swim which started out innocently enough but ended up as shown below:

From left to right Liam, Jordynne, Austin, Alistair and Megan

Alistair, Liam and Austin leapard crawling through the mud. Alistair looking a bit confused as to whether this really was fun or not. Megan on the other hand had no such qualms and really got into the swing of things.

The five mud monsters.

This looks like one of those photos to be buried away and resurrected on someone's 21st.

As the children progressed from clean to completely filthy charmaine was worrying what grandma was going to say when she saw the demise of jordynnes brand new red and white costume. Nothing as it turned out and I got the distinct impression that somehow we, as adults, are missing out on a whole bunch of fun because we collectively refuse to be children again. Towards the end of the mud bath Austin and Liam were running down the banks and diving headfirst into the mud and sliding a few metres and right into the water; I would do this as well but I think I might break my back.

After the photo session everyone waded out to relatively deep water to wash the mud off and out of their costumes before the rest of the parents saw them. Megan managed to drop her bikini top so there was this frantic search by everyone to locate it while megan kept her modesty intact by keeping her shoulders well below the water surface. The whole episode was very funny as viewed from the sidelines of course.

That was pretty much christmas for 2008; I think that the mud wallow is going to be remembered for a long time to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boep Club 2008

It's a terrible thing to have to admit but I get together with a few like minded guys while the wives are at book club to drink whisky, smoke cigars and generally chew the fat. After a while this acquired the unfortunate name of "boet" meaning "brother" club which has since been corrupted into "boep" meaning paunch club. I think the book club think that they're very clever! At the end of each year we have taken to going away for a weekend which is proving to be quite a win. This year we buggered off to Sondela for the weekend; five christians and me, the token atheist.

Sondela proved to be an inspired choice of venue because it's actually a game reserve but with no predators so one can walk, run and cycle everywhere so the mornings would start off with a two or three hour cycle followed by loads of nothing, a braai for supper before we settled down to the real reason for coming to Sondela ...

The first cycle ride on the saturday we had but a small taste of the sand that was to come on the sunday; fortunately we were blissfully unaware of our fate at that stage so we thought the deep sand was pretty cool and experiential. The wildlife at sondela is pretty chilled and you can get quite close to them before they move off as you can see from the next photograph.

Although this looks quite far away they weren't more than 20m. We saw nyala, zebra, giraffe, kudu, eland, warthog and wildebeest which made for quite a satisfying morning. Actually one can't lose by cycling in the park, if you see game it makes the ride and if you don't you still get a great ride to enjoy. The afternoons were spent slumming it at the pool which as you can see looks decidedly dodgy ...

Just next to the pool in the picture was a large heated spa pool with jets'n all which we migrated to in order to get out of the sun of course. We were all sitting in the pool when a group of young afrikaans boys (approx 13 years old or so) asked to jump in and when they did so the pool overflowed which led to the usual jokes about fat people and water and in one of the lulls in the conversation we heard a quiet "Ja rynauw" from one of the boys to another which had us all laughing. There is definitely something about afrikaans and humour that english just doesn't have, I can't quite put my finger on it but somehow jokes and banter are just that much funnier in afrikaans.

Back to the lodge for the traditional bush supper of meat suitably singed; oh and a potato and some green stuff as a concession to me. Here we have hennie striking the traditional south african pose as he tends to the fire.

We were there for three nights and each night the menu was identical and did anyone complain? No, did anyone even notice that we'd eaten the same on all three nights? Again no, but if there were the wives with us would there have been complaints? Absolutely and not because the food wasn't good nor balanced but it simply wasn't different; guys just don't get this need to have different food all the time. We're actually quite happy to have the same meal for at least 3 or 4 nights at a time. Two weeks might be pushing it but changing every night definitely isn't necessary as long as the food is good.

The next morning hennie, carl and myself went for another ride which would prove to be quite a learning curve about riding in deep sand. There is only one word for it; don't! We struggled up these gently sloping hills sweating like pigs in the hot morning sunshine and sucking in great lungfuls of air, the heart rate monitor going peep, peep, peep or in english "slow down, you're about to die!". Hennie had the narrowest tyres so he was battling the most and fell a little bit behind so carl and I waited halfway up a hill only for him to come cruising past us like he was on tar. Big lesson to learn here, when riding in soft sand let your tyres down to 1 bar and it is impossible to describe how much easier it makes the riding. Amazing! and even more amazing is that we, all three of us, should have known this because we have all looked at people in 4x4 struggling in the sand because they stupidly hadn't let their tyres down. At the top of the hill we climbed up to the trig beacon which had an awesome view over the valley.

After recovering from the ride we read, ate and slept before venturing out to the pool in the middle of the afternoon only to have to endure the sight of two teletubbies cavorting in the pool. Whatever happened to the svelte young damsels in bikini's - very disappointing. Some of the people really did look like they had swallowed a webber braai. Back home we went for the final braai

Packing up the house the next morning carl picked up a plastic bag and was just about to throw it away when something made him look inside only to find a mouse looking very dead. That was until one eye opened, didn't like what it saw and went straight back to playing dead. Very cute indeed.

So that was it; what a great weekend.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Builder v. 1. The process of turning good quality input materials into poor quality products.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon

I got a phone call this evening from both my parents and my brother to tell me to rush outside with my camera and capture the moon as this only happens once every 500 years or some other very infrequent period so out I went and this is what I shot.

Pretty cool I think. You can find more information here