Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are you a smalltown boy?

Ever listen to a song often and suddenly listen to the lyrics and realise what it is about?

The Bronski Beat was a bit of a one-hit-wonder with "Smalltown Boy." It was more famous for Jimmy Somerville who sang in a range including a distinctive falsetto and went on to the Communards.

Smalltown Boy is one of my favorite eighties songs. It strikes me that the lyrics talk to some of my past and perhaps many bloggers out there.

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
But the answers you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Pushed around and kicked around
Always a lonely boy
You were the one
That they’d talk about around town
As they put you down

And as hard as they would try
They’d hurt to make you cry
But you never cried to them
Just to your soul
No you never cried to them
Just to your soul

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Cry , boy, cry...

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Monday, December 05, 2005

One of the greatest acts of SA sporting patriotism ever?

Roland Schoeman has turned down Quatar's R20m offer to swim for them at the next Olympics.

In my previous post I mentioned that I would fully understand his decision if he had accepted the offer.

His statement makes him the hero of legendary proportions:

Schoeman pledges loyalty to SA
05/12/2005 12:19 - (SA)

From News24.com

Johannesburg - Swimming sensation Roland Schoeman has rejected a multi-million dollar offer from the Gulf state of Qatar and opted to continue swimming for South Africa.

"After serious and thorough consideration I have decided to stand by my initial decision not to swim for Qatar.

"I have given instructions that the negotiations following the second approach from Qatar to swim for them should not be pursued any further," said Schoeman through a statement read by Swimming South Africa (SSA) president Jace Naidoo in Johannesburg on Monday.

Qatar, known for offering athletes lucrative packages to become adopted citizens, had approached Schoeman earlier this year but the Pretoria swimmer declined.

Last month Qatar made another offer which would have certainly inflated Schoeman's bank account and there were fears from SSA that Schoeman would take the offer considering how Schoeman has been in the past about the lack of financial reward in the sport.

Schoeman made it clear, though, that no amount of money would make him change his nationality and that taking the Qatar offer would have been a short term gain.

"The stability and democracy we (South Africa) have attained thus far has not been founded on pursuing short term gains.

"It has been based on a willingness to seek long term solutions to promote the well being of all the people of South Africa. I believe that this should be true for me as well.

"While I am significantly poorer today than I could have been, I feel tremendously blessed that it is Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika that will be played if I win a gold medal," Schoeman's statement read.

Naidoo praised Schoeman for his patriotism also giving an indication that Schoeman could possibly be the man to lead the South African swimming contingent to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia next year.

"Throughout this entire saga, Roland has acted in forthright and honest manner and with integrity towards Swimming South Africa. For this he must be commended.

"We now look forward to building on the recent success of Athens 2004 and the World Championships this year and preparing for Commonwealth Games," Naidoo said.

Truly inspirational.


Why I said ‘no’ to millions from Qatar - I’m just a proud South African, writes ROLAND SCHOEMAN of his decision to reject a deal to swim for the oil-rich Arab state. It would have meant big money — but he wants to go on swimming for SA

Is it the turn of the nice guys?

Triumph: Jim Furyk poses with his trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. Picture: AFP
I'm a nice guy. This can be a problem.

For example girls say they "just want a nice guy." Meanwhile, many girls just want to tame a bad boy.

So I love it when nice guys win. And I loved it when Jim Furyk won at the Nedbank Golf Challenge yesterday. Furyk became known as Gentleman Jim after he disqualified himself here in 2001 for what seemed something very trivial, cleaning and placing his ball twice (allowed on the US PGA Tour) in the same spot instead of just once (the rule on the European Tour and here in 2001).

The infringement didn't give him any advantage to speak of, and he only realised his mistake once he had signed his card. Instead of a penalty he had to be disqualified. “Rules are rules,” he said at the time. Unlike most, Furyk did not pack his bags and leave but instead played on as a marker in the tournament to ensure that his fellow-competitors would not be compromised by his absence.

Photo: SuperSport
I made an oft-travelled pilgrimage to Sun City on Sunday to follow the golf. I had picked Furyk as my man to win on Friday, and after following the early pairing of Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia for the first nine holes and a quick lunch, I then fell back to follow the Furyk and Donald two-ball. It certainly was up-and-down with Furyk bogeying twice - no more down than when he bogeyed the 18th - a putt that would have given him an outright victory. By this time I had retired to the public hospitality tent. The 18th green was packed, and I was exceptionally out of it after the heat of the day.

The four-way play-off was about as riveting as you get in golf. I was over the moon for Furyk when he chipped in to win. A victory for nice guys and gentleman.

The eighth green at the Gary Player country club - rated by Ernie Els as one of the finest holes in golf

New headlines:

Furyk holds nerve to win
'Gentleman Jim' finally wins at Sun City
Furyk wins dramatic playoff
‘Gentleman Jim’ gets his reward
Furyk has "good reason" to return

Watch the video of Jim Furyk's final round - and the swing commentator David Ferherty once likened to "an octopus falling out of a tree" - click play to begin streaming (video courtesy of the Nedbank Golf Challenge website):

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Postscript: IITQ must have been in many TV shots on Sunday. He was right there next to Furyk during the drama of the 14th when Gentleman Jim's ball got buried in the bush. Did you see him?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is that your nose growing Mr Zuma?

So apparently Mr Zuma has admitted he had sex with the woman claiming she was raped - but it was consensual.

Is he serious? He claims they were involved in an ongoing sexual relationship.

The woman claiming rape is a know HIV+ anti-aids activist. This woman sent her underwear in for semen tests. Which presumably means there was unprotected sex.

Mr Zuma, do you expect us to believe that you regularly had unprotected sex with a person known to be HIV positive? It seems far more likely that you lost control...

Would you take a public servant hostage?

I'm not sure I'd have the guts to, but I certainly understand this guy.

Imagine being poor. You fight your way to getting your matric (school-leaver's exam). Probably studying by candlelight, going to the library because you can't afford books. Studying in your third language. You look forward to getting a job. Repaying your parent's pride and hard work at scraping together money to get you through school.

And then you apply for your identification document. Again getting tour little money together to pay for ID photos. You queue for five hours at a home affairs office. You wait and months later, you get the document - and it has your name spelt wrong.

In the mean time, you have a job offer, but you cannot be hired because you have no proof of identification.

You reappply for identification - and wait two years. Often queuing at the home affairs office - again for over five hours at a time. Each time to be told your ID is not ready.

Is it any wonder this guy snapped, taking a home affairs manager hostage with a toy gun?

I hope a judge dismisses this and lets the guy go. Under South Africa's Public Finance and Management Act, civil servants can be held personally accountable for poor management. Maybe it is time somebody did lay a charge against the minister of home affairs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Do you love pandas?

Thanks to the cute good looks, pandas might very well avoid extinction.

Tai Shan made his media debut at the National Zoo in Washington DC today.

If you're South African, let's have a wide chorus of "Agh shame!"

Tai Shan on the 2nd of August.

Tai Shan on the 10th of November.

And now, live on IITQ cam! (courtesy of the panda cam at the National Zoo of course - 15m limit, subject to cam not being overloaded). Click play to begin live streaming.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This makes my blood boil.

I was in Cape Town the day another heist like this happened, standing in my parents' garden. We heard the shots and ensuing chaos as the drama unfolded just over a kilometer away.

I was so impressed at the police work that had apparently traced the men from a cell phone dropped at the scene.

It seems that the police and prosecutors involved in this case were less competent.

Now these guys will doubtlessly kill again.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Does Jo'burg have a visionary?

The 100-year-old oak tree in Greenhill Road
I've spent a lot of time in New York. When visiting Manhattan, it is impossible not to be impressed by Central Park. The incredible vision required to set aside a park of this scale on an island desperate for space has to be admired.

In Johannesburg, our "Central Park" is perhaps the trees that shade our city. Six million trees make Johannesburg the largest man-made urban forest in the world.

I've gathered the following quotes from the rather excellent Johannesburg website from an article detailing the history of Johannesburg's trees.

Before gold was discovered in the area in 1886, there were several farmers on the Witwatersrand. These early farmers brought seeds from the Cape and planted acorn, oak and walnut trees. The Bezuidenhout family, among the first white settlers in the area, built their farmhouse in 1863 on the farm Doornfontein. They planted fruit trees in Judith's Paarl and Cyrildene, east of the city centre, but they no longer exist.

On the other side of town was the farm Braamfontein, owned by the Geldenhuys family. Louw Geldenhuys built his farmhouse against the Melville Koppies ridge, and his wife, Emmarentia, planted an oak tree and five palm trees in front of the house. These trees still exist, as does the house, gracing the suburb in an old-world splendour.

When the suburb of Emmarentia was laid out in 1937 the town planners wanted to cut down the oak tree as it was in the path of the road being laid out. But Emmarentia put her foot down - the oak was to stay. The tree is now on the pavement, the road kinking around it slightly.

By 1904 a parks department had been established, and by that time the city had four major parks: Joubert Park (17.5 acres), End Street Park in Doornfontein (4.5 acres), Oval Park in Parktown (3.5 acres) and Jeppe Park (2.5 acres).

By 1934 the number of parks had increased to 67, and there was an active tree-planting policy by the council, with 8 000 trees being planted each year.

Over a million trees were planted in the present-day Zoo Lake and the Johannesburg Zoo areas, in what was called Sachsenwald (later Anglicised to Saxonwold and now a suburb of Johannesburg), an area of 1 300 acres. They were blue and red gum trees, quick-growing and ideal for use as mine props. Oaks, pines and wattles were also planted. Picnic spots with benches were created in the forest, and it became a favourite picnic and riding area for Randlords and their families in nearby Parktown.

Remnants of the forest can still be seen in the zoo and in the parkland around Zoo Lake. Suburbs in the area reflect this history in their names: Forest Town, Parkview and Parktown.

Tree entrepreneur William Nelson, according to Smith, had nurseries in Turffontein, where "by 1896 he grew some 30 million trees, shrubs and plants for general distribution". His business was known as Nelsonia Nurseries. He apparently planted "66 miles (106km) of trees along the streets of the newly established suburb of Kensington". The task took six months to complete. She says it's believed to be the first time street trees were planted in South Africa on such a large scale.

Read the full article, together with the one detailing the census performed to arrive at the figure of six million.

Now you might be wondering where this is heading - what's the question?

Well I believe Johannesburg's heritage is under threat. Recently a billboard company cut down 68 trees to allow better sighting of their advertisements. This made the news and the resultant cost borne by the city to replace the trees (R700 for a sapling - the original mature trees would have been worth over R9000).

This weekend I drove to the World of Golf - a fantastic golf practice facility for driving, putting, chipping and putting, etc. The road linking Woodmead Drive with the K101 leads to the World of Golf entrance. It was an avenue lined on both sides for over a kilometer with tall pine trees - probably each about 15 to 20 meters high. Pine trees are a disputed asset in South Africa. They are thirsty aliens in a dry land. But these lined an otherwise dry unoccupied area and survive on Johannesburg's abundant summer rains. They are now almost all gone to make way for an office development - Woodmead North. The office development is on land situated behind where the pines lined the road. The trees would have provided a feature to its entrance.

This is a happening that it being repeated through Johannesburg as urban densification takes place. Densification is in fact a strategy promoted by Johannesburg's local government to deal with the new Sandton CBD's effect on transport systems and access by poorer communities. Take a drive through possibly South Africa's richest suburb, Sandhurst. It is made up of estates that border the Sandton CBD. It is a magnificent area and populated by beautiful trees. A key landmark is the estate bordering Sandton Drive - a veritable forest. It is now being developed by Investec with high density housing. The rest of Sandhurst is rapidly being subdivided as landowners scramble to make the most of a buoyant property market.

This destruction of beauty is not unique to Johannesburg. I often run on the mountain in Cape Town and all along the borders of Newlands Forest, suburbs are creeping ever higher - most notably on the eastern boundary shared with Kirstenbosch. New houses cling to the slopes at heights that take a good half an hour to reach on foot.

South Africa's cities need some visionaries who put a foot down against the destruction of natural beauty. Frankly, they need a few people like the William Nelson mentioned above.

Which is the best restaurant in South Africa?

95 Keerom
City Bowl, Cape Town
9th Avenue Bistro
Greyville Durban
Auberge Michel
Sandton, Johannesburg
Cape Town
La Colombe
Constantia, Cape Town
Lynton Hall
Pennington, KwaZulu-Natal
Yum (Greenside)
Greenside, Johannesburg
The Eat Out Johnnie Walker restaurant awards for 2005 are out. And Yum of Greenside, Johannesburg is tops again.

Yum is certainly one of my favourites. But I have many.

Recent experience highlights a fantastic meal I had at Georges on 4th, Parkhurst, Johannesburg, two weeks ago. Their grilled vegetables and gnocchi rates as one of the finest pastas I have ever had.

Speaking of pastas, Assagi of Illovo, Johannesburg is my favourite Italian restaurant and rated as such by many Jo'burg-based Italians. The Giovannis on Rivonia Road Sandton is pretty good too, and makes a great pizza.

Yindees of Cape Town is my favorite Thai restaurant - just awesome.

Wierdly, Le Quartier Francais of Franshoek did not appear to make the top 10. This after it was recently declared one of the world's top 50 restaurants by the UK-based Restaurant Magazine.

Aubergine and Lemongrass
Hillcrest, Durban
The Bell Pepper
Kensington, Johannesburg
Chefs in Motion
Lonehill, Johannesburg
The Grill Club
La Pentola
Riviera, Pretoria
Madame Zingara
Cape Town
Hazelwood, Pretoria
Ritrovo Ristorante
Waterkloof Heights, Pretoria
Singing Fig
Norwood Gardens, Johannesburg
Smoke Cafe & Grill Lounge
Groenkloof, Pretoria
Melville, Johannesburg
Illovo, Johannesburg
Yum (Greenside)
Greenside, Johannesburg
Which is your favourite restaurant? If I get enough responses, I'll create a poll of results. The Eat Out peoples' choice list is shown to the right.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What should Roland do?

RELUCTANT: Roland Schoeman has asked Ernie Els what he should do about the offer Picture: ROBBIE SCHNEIDER, Sunday Times
I feel for Roland Schoeman. He is one of South Africa's best sportsman ever, in a sport where heroes don't enjoy much financial success.

Anybody who knows something about swimming knows it is one of the hardest sports in which to succeed. It requires at least 5 hours a day of practice - head down in the water, alone with your thoughts.

And Roland Schoeman is tussling with his heart. He has been offered R35m to swim for Qatar up until the 2012 Olympics. Read more here. He is one of the world's top swimmers. Yet he has not even made enough money to be a Rand millionaire.

I hate the thought of him turning out for another country. Yet I won't begrudge the guy if he decides to make some money.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Can SA turn crime into advantage?

Carnage: A cash van lies on its roof after being ambushed during a heist which left one security guard dead and two injured. Photo: Steve Lawrence, The Star
When you're down, you notice negative things. In my state of low spirits over the past few weeks, I have been really worried about the state of apparently increasing crime in the South African news.

The armed heists of cash-in-transit vans, the robberies of grocery stores, the attacks on tourists and the muggings on Cape Town's Table Mountain have all featured in my conciousness.

And then I read this report about a pardoned killer killing within two weeks of his release, robbing a little boy of his father and child support.

Of course South Africa suffers crime because of massive poverty and we are not unlike Brazil and Mexico in having to deal with the problem.

But while we focus on job creation we have to get tough on crime. Build more prisons. Increase the numbers of courts.

Perhaps we can be innovative about incarceration. Let's create work gangs to do work that is too lowly paid (as a result of Chinese competition) for local minimum conditions of employment. Let's use work gangs to perform the back breaking infrastructural work required in rural areas. Let's send a message that prison is not just a place that the weaker criminals need to fear rape, etc, but a place where those that prey on the weak will be made to pay.

And let's keep the criminals in prison. I love this country and have chosen to stay. Poverty is no excuse for crime. Ask those who really are desperate and are willing to work for anything.

I do believe in Guilianni's "broken window" philosophy that if you fail to take care of the small things the big things get out of control. Witness the crimes such as those committed by the hammer killer. There is no excuse of poverty there. Would these take place if we were absolutely intolerant of crime?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What validates me?

Work has validated me. It allowed me to be the best. To be a success.

Yes of course I know that who I am as a person validates me. My values, the people who love me, etc. But society measures us by our success in sport, business, academics, etc. And my sustained success came in business. I have felt worth more.

So of course humility beckoned. The past six months have been the worst of my life. First I left the firm I had given my life to for the last nine years - due to disagreement with the shareholders over purchasing the business. Not the way I wanted to leave.

For the past 4 months I have been working on what should have been my dream project. But it has been a nightmare. Perhaps I scoped it poorly during the sale, perhaps the team members didn't do their jobs properly, perhaps the client is unreasonable. None of that matters when you're fighting about deliverables at the end.

Luckliy I met someone a month ago and for once my private life is looking up.

I just want to get through this and take a break before considering what I do next. Man I'm tired.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Could South Africa take two titles in the New York City marathon?

Last year Hendrik Ramaala won the mens challenge in the New York City marathon. Will he defend his title against the challenge from world record holder, Paul Tergat?

But South Africa already has one title. Our world record holder in the wheelchair marathon, Ernst van Dyk, has won his first New York marathon title in a new course record!

South Africa continues to amass a disproportionate number of sporting title when you consider our relative size.

Well done Ernst!

Oh so close

Paul Tergat, left, of Kenya, crosses the finish line ahead of Hendrik Ramaala
Tergat beat Ramaala in a lunge for the line! Here are the last few moments of the race from the race website:

12:23 p.m.: Ramaala and Tergat ran stride for stride up Park Drive to the finish. Tergat briefly fell behind Ramaala, but then drew even again. Coming up to the line, both men lunged, but it was Tergat who broke the tape as Ramaala tumbled to the pavement. Both were given the same time, 2:09:31 unofficially, but Paul Tergat is the ING New York City Marathon 2005 champion.

12:17 p.m.: Keflezighi is off the pace now on Central Park South, so it’s Ramaala and Tergat dueling for the victory. It’s the defending champion versus the world record-holder. Now Tergat has a few steps on Ramaala. Ramaala is still in contact as they turn into Columbus Circle. It’s not over.

12:15 p.m.: 4:55 for the 24th mile, as they reach that marker in 1:58:54. Ramaala is making his bid for the win, and Tergat is covering his moves. Keflezighi sometimes looks like he’s falling back, but then he moves back up into contact; he’s not doing the lead work or creating the surges, just answering them. 25th mile in 4:48, 2:04:45.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Must SA move to a cashless society?

It is that time of year. Cash van heists are a weekly occurence in South Africa around the Christmas season.

Last year there were 192 cash van heists, executed by well armed criminals with AK-47s and R5 rifles and military precision. There has been a 12% rise in the January to October period this year. More in this Mail & Guardian article, The season for stealing.

The police appear to have made strides against crime in South Africa. I say appear, because there is an embargo on the release of crime statistics. This is a debatable policy. As a citizen, I would like to know what is going on in my country and the success of the police who are after all public servants. However, South Africa has done a remarkable job of improving the positive attitude in the country and this was perhaps a prerequisite to the economic transformation we are experiencing, which will in turn create jobs, alleviate poverty and remove a reason for crime.

But as the police have made strides against hijacking and robbery, organised criminals have looked for other targets. The R130m that was stolen by gangs of armed robbers was, you'd have to say, easy money. 10 heavily armed men against three guards in a van are going to win most times.

Of course South Africa must address the reasons for crime and take the criminals out of society.

But in the meantime, let's get cash out of circulation. Enforcing this has never worked. Many cashless society projects have tried and failed throughout the world. However, society responds better to rewards and penalties in the form of discounts and pricing. These do exist in that retailers do not pass on the card transaction fees for credit and debit card transactions. But the cost of handling cash in South Africa is enormous. Retailers must pay huge amounts to transport cash and banks charge extra for taking cash deposits.

Make it obvious - offer non-cash discounts at the till-point. Let's get cash out of the system.

See We’re being robbed blind.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Are South African police out of control?

Police all over the world take bribes and abuse their power. But South Africa's low pay conditions and disillusionment over unsuccessful prosecution after hard police work seem to have bred far greater levels of corruption.

Some of you may have seen the Special Assignment (South African news actuality program) on corruption at the Booysens Police office where illegal immigrants are regularly rounded up and then bribes are solicited.

Many of us will have heard of a friend caught beyond the legal blood alcohol limit who managed to bribe their way out of trouble.

But it was a shock to me on Tuesday night when I got pulled over and the cops went out of their way to find something to pin me for. Sadly they didn't have to go far because it was one in the morning and I had just nipped out to drop a friend off at their hotel. I didn't take my wallet as the drive is literally five minutes. And my driver's license was in my wallet.

The conversation:

Police: Mr IITQ, good morning (they'd got my details from their database before pulling me over.
Me: Good evening officer.
Police: I see this car is registered in Bedfordview, have you moved?
Me: No, the car dealer registered the car and they are in Bedfordview.
Police: Ah. Can I see your driver's license please? (meanwhile other officer is inspecting my registration disk - I thank the lord that is up to date).
Me: I'm really sorry officer, I just nipped out and didn't take my driver's license with me.
Police: Ah. That is a problem you see. Do you have any other form of ID?
Me: Sorry officer, no.
Police: Mr IITQ this is a problem. You see, if I give you a fine you could give me the wrong details and disappear. I have to take you back to the police station. Is there anybody who can come bring your driver's license?
Me: No sorry officer - I live alone.
Police: Mr IITQ, this inspector here will drive with you to the police station and we will have to lock you up for the night.
Me (irritated as I know these are all scare tactics to push me into offering a bribe): Officer, I know I have done wrong. But I left for such a quick drive that I did not even bring my wallet (true and signals I cannot pay them). I am afraid you will have to take me to the station and I will have to call my lawyer (escalates the issue to a level I knew they did not want to go to).
Police: Mr IITQ, once you have spent a night under those grey blankets, I promise you won't forget your license again. Next time, bring your license. You can go.

Man I was angry. And a little scared at how vulnerable a normal law abiding citizen is to an abuse of police power. Of course I was in the wrong, but being locked up in a South African police cell is a serious issue - and unwarranted for a misdemeanor offence.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Do you get good builders?

Some of you may remember my builder.

There have been a few issues since the building was completed. I have also had his suppliers knocking on my door because he has not paid them and gave my address when he got credit from them. He has not paid them despite the fact that he went to Mauritius on holiday during his contract with me.

One of the things he screwed up was the wiring from my lounge home theatre to my bedroom. So last night after not really missing TV in the bedroom (not something I am a fan of anyway), I crawled around in the dustiest corners of the roof, locating the cables he had thoughtfully coiled up and not connected, and pushing them through very small crevices betwen the back of the wardrobe and the wall. Hours later (I have discovered it is useless to try and rush DIY - do it properly the first time), I connected the TV and turned on the plug.

Thankfully the electrician he subcontracted did a good job of the electricity board and the trip saved my other appliances.

I gradually worked backwards to the extension cable the builder had installed to my bedroom TV.

Who wires a plug like this? I recall learning how to wire a plug in standard 2 / grade 4 science.

I reckon there is tens of thousands of rands of sub-standard work left by my builder. The pond is a nightmare and needs relining - this because he went on the cheap and used waterproofing paint rather than waterproof concrete. The verandah roof is built at too flat an angle and despite the ton of waterproofing he used, it still leaks. The braai chimney does not draw properly. I am petrified of the arch he built over my folding doors to the verandah - it is 5m and was specced as a iron beam - he built a concrete lintel.

I don't have the energy to track him down now and stand behind his creditors.

Next time I build, I will hold the retainer for six months beyond the completion date - you only discover these things then.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Who is IITQ?

In response to that damn Chitty - second time he's tagged me - here are 20 random things about me.

  1. I was born in Cape Town and lived in the same house from birth to when I turned 23 and boarded a bus for my first job in Johannesburg. I came from a lower middle-class home where my parents did everything for us to have opportunities they did not.

  2. I only got my driver's licence at 21 - luckily I had generous friends who picked me up to go out.

  3. It was also at about this age that I somehow attracted fights. I was at a friend's house party when a mate comes up to me and says, "Hey, this bloke just walked in and hit Jerry." I race around the corner and straight into a fist. A short while later I was at a friend's holiday house on the Breede River. These guys followed us home from a party and laid into us. I got my nose broken then. I forget the rest, but they probably involved The George, a rough biker pub in the Cape Town city centre, and other places of ill repute. It got to the stage where a friend was having an argument with this huge guy in Dirty Dick's in Hout Bay, when he turned towards me and said to the giant, "This is IITQ, and if you want to take it further, he's your man." At which stage I volunteered to help beat up my friend.

  4. I was sick in my first year at university, failed and had to leave to repeat it through correspondence.

  5. My parents still do not believe I was ill in my first year and blame things on what they view as my alcoholic tendencies.

  6. I aced my repeat year and was allowed back into UCT to finish my degree.

  7. I made friends with a whole group of people beyond my school friends due to the experience, including one of the most incredible people I've met. I fell in love with him, but he was straight and I remain confused.

  8. He was the overachiever's overachiever, breaking academic records and doing well at sport. I wished I had tried harder before that point rather than just believing I could do anything if I wanted to. I have vowed to make the best effort of every opportunity since then.

  9. I played club rugby for Villagers in the last season I was eligible for the under-21 league. It was the best sporting experience of my life and I wished I could have played more - time has not allowed. Perhaps this is as well, as every week I spent about 3 hours in the sports injuries clinic nursing various injuries. I also spent time at three practices and one match a week, and lots of gym to ensure I minimised the potential injury threat.

  10. The nicest thing anybody ever said to me happened during that year. As I entered a beer tent at the Constantia Fair, two young guys were coming out. The one guy pulls his friend back and says, without a hint of sarcasm, "Hey buddy, let this guy through, because otherwise he'll squash you." I'd never walked with my chest puffed out before that moment, but I did for the rest of that night.

  11. I like to keep my options open - even though I like closure. I considered studying architecture, accounting and advertising when I went to university.

  12. I was very unpopular with the Western Cape matric examiners for this, because I did art, accounting and computer science for matric. They usually scheduled the province's year end exams for these on the same day and they had to re-organise their entire schedule because of me.

  13. I started in my last job nine years ago and broke global promotion records for the company. Nobody knows that except some of my ex-colleagues. That doesn't matter - I do.

  14. I have come to know that downs follow ups and vice versa. Despite my success at work, I still mess up. My latest project has been an absolute nightmare and my overambitious scoping has resulted in my request for forgiveness by my client for delays in results.

  15. I am very hard on myself and while I believe that I am in control of my destiny, I am working at acknowledging that I am not fully responsible for everything that does not go according to plan in my life.

  16. Much of what I have felt and done until about two years ago was motivated my Cape Town Southern Suburbs boys schooling. I struggled for acceptence and never really forgave the little boy I was. That's pretty pathetic, but I'm closer to forgiving him now.

  17. Despite all this, I enjoyed much of school and was involved in everything. I did athletics, cricket, rugby, cross country, houseplays, seven subjects, etc.

  18. I am a eclectic music fan and enjoy everything from pop and dance to rock and classical. One of my favourite pieces is "Vide Cor Meum" from the movie Hannibal - it is hauntingly beautiful.

  19. I have travelled a lot and seen many cities. I love New York and would still like to live there for an extended period (although I have been there many times). I love Boston and despite pushing away attempts by my previous employer to get me to do my MBA (although a long time ago now), Harvard is something pretty special. I love London and stumbling from pubs late at night. Soho streets are like carnivals at eleven o'clock at night. Stockholm blew me away - a city built on an archipelago where the water running between buildings is so clean that salmon fishermen stand and fish outside office blocks. But that has made me appreciative of every city. Cape Town is unmatched for natural slendour, Johannesburg has the buzz of a frontier city - on the forefront of the African renaissance. And places like Knysna are as beautiful as any.

  20. I planned my career when I was sixteen and had very definite ideas of where I should be by thirty-five. I'm thirty-two now and have decided to take time off to completely reconsider what I plan to do with my life. That said, I am very happy with what I have achieved and the day-to-day life I have lived over the last nine years.

There you go, now I definitely can't meet anybody who has read this blog. I've also given the National Intelligence Agency clues to find me if they don't like my Zuma post...

In the hope of bringing them back to blogland, I'm going to nominate some old favourites: Dodge, Rantscribe, you've been gone too long guys. Chris, I'm nominating you because I think I'd find your response funny even if you didn't intend it to be!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How will SA survive the Jacob Zuma affair?

The Jacob Zuma affair has the potential to radically destabilise South Africa's miracle transformation. If you are not aware of the history, you can read more in these articles:

Shaik found guilty - 2 June 2005
Mbeki briefed on Shaik ruling - 2 June 2005
Zuma gets the sack - 21 June 2005
Zuma withdraws from ANC structures - 20 June 2005
Zuma in court on June 29 - NPA - 21 June 2005
Scorpions raid Zuma's home - 18 August 2005
Bar condemns Scorpions raid - 19 August 2005
Zuma: Cosatu warns of 'turmoil' - 18 August 2005
Alliance in-fighting continues - 26 August 2005
ANC's NEC endorses Zuma inquiry - 10 September 2005
Zuma arrives at court - 11 October 2005
Mbeki T-shirt burning riles ANC - 12 October 2005
Zuma condemns T-shirt burnings - 19 October 2005

The News24.com Zuma files
Photos: news24.com

In an Op-Ed piece last week in the Sunday Times, "This is not a game. Our future and our way of life are at stake", Roger Hartley raises the alarm on the impact of the trial. While the piece seems alarmist, it is probably correct in it's view that the Zuma trial is one of the most severe tests of our country's democracy and rule of law since 1994.

Worried about the low level of thinking behind the calls for Jacob Zuma's charges to be dropped - amidst claims that he is a good man and cannot be guilty of crimes, I browsed over to Friends of Jacob Zuma. The site is for posting of messages of support, but largely for fund raising for Mr Zuma's defence. The intention is apparently to raise R12m. This is because Mr Zuma is a poor man - despite his recent purchase of another house for R3,9m.

This pearler is the lastest on the messageboard:

There is no other person to lead this our nation in the future. Love you mr future president. Please make me minister of finance, as i have A for maths and accounting at school. I also know how to deal with money and people. i will be loyal and disciplined. Please at least think about it.

This post is far more alarming in that it exposes the trbalist faction that has developed in the course of the Zuma affair:

I greet you,I am one of the most patriotic South Africans from Mandeni KZN,I just want to say that even when all South Africans have turn against you but all the Zulus will stand by your side untill the end and we hope that in each trial the Lord will give a blessing,In every storm the Lord wil give a rainbow. Zulus alone are South Africa itself,Fight the Good battle Msholozi omuhle even when it feels like you are at the end of the road do not let go,for they shall never convict you. Kind regards M.F.Ngema. The African Dream

Tribalism is something that simmers under the surface of South African politics. The ruling structures are dominated by Xhosa men and Zulus regard Jacob Zuma as their hope.

This holds the greatest hope for those wishing to see populism outweighed by those supporting justice in the next election. A research report out today indicates that the massive support Zuma is largely confined to Kwazulu-Natal. Two thirds of South Africa support the sacking of Zuma from deputy president - see SA approves of Zuma axing.

This does raise the spectre of tribal violence if the trial does not go Zuma's way - and supporters are unable to gain ground through political support.

I narrowly missed national defence force call-up during the early nineties. Friends served in the army in KwaZulu-Natal. They saw violence you would never wish on anybody.

I hope we can avoid any repeats of that.

Oh, and by the way, if you try and post an impartial message on the Friends of Jacob Zuma message board, it is censored. I posted something like the following:

Jacob Zuma seems to me to be a man who, if guilty of corruption, probably didn't see the favours he allegedly gave as being wrong. Whether he did or didn't, if the facts are shown to indicate his guilt, I hope the supporters on this message board show equal support for the due process of law.

It didn't appear.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Is it acceptable for the Judge Hlophe affair to be settled amongst the involved parties?

For those of you who do not know, we have been amidst a serious set of allegations of racism in the judiciary in South Africa. Judge Hlophe, Judge President of the Western Cape, made allegations of racism last year, calling the pace of transformation too slow. He further alleged that black judges were belittled by colleagues and members of the bar. This resulted in much consternation and recrimination. Read more here. An offcial enquiry was launched and is due to deliver findings shortly.

Last week, new allegations regarding Judge Hlophe himself were raised. It was alleged that the Judge President called an attorney "a piece of white shit," apparently for, again allegedly, criticising a judgement handed down by a black acting-judge. More can be read here.

It was also alleged that Judge Hlophe told colleagues that he allocated a sensitive case regarding mother-tongue language rights for learners at the Mikro school in the Western Cape to a judge apparently regarded as conservative, because, in Judge Hlophe's alleged words, he [Judge Hlophe] knew that "Judge Wilfred Thring would fuck it up" and it could then be reallocated on appeal. On learning of these allogations, the advocate presenting the case chose not to appeal. More can be read here.

Today's stunning news is that the involved parties have chosen not to take the matter further, in the interests of the public. More can be read here.

Of course this entire affair is damaging for the transformation of the judiciary. And of course transformation is one of the most critical challenges facing South Africa. But not dealing with this matter is a slap in the face to all those affected by racism in South Africa. Without the guts to have open investigation and fair and due process, transformation stands little chance. Most galling of all, however, is that Judge Hlophe's claims made earlier this year resulted in a wide spread investigation and certainly fueled the fires of all those who regarded the judiciary in South Africa as a lagging remnant from our apartheid past. Every person who felt they were a victim of a racist system had reason to question the fairness of a trial.

An entirely different process has now been followed regarding possibly the most serious allegations raised against a South African judge. No transparency was ensured, no due process was followed. Instead a group of the judiciary met behind closed doors with the Minister of Justice and the whole matter disappeared. It provides grounds for anyone with a view that transformation is motivated by new racist agitators to point fingers at a system they might choose not to believe in.

I believe that the vast majority of our legal profession are hard working and underpaid. I believe that the vast majority of our judiciary are fair and learned men and woman.

But you can bet that if I'm ever involved in a legal case that I feel is not going my way, with Judge Hlophe presiding, I will motivate for his recusal. Such would be the implications of any doubt as to the integrity of our judciary. And that cannot be good for our democracy.

Monday, October 17, 2005

How do you treat sick koi?

Sorry, your browser doesn't support Java(tm).

As befits the bad karma I am enduring, I am suffering the agony of sick fish.

One of my nerdier pursuits growing up (there were many) was keeping tropical fish. From that experience, I knew that keeping fish was a challenge. A river is a true miracle. It somehow keeps things in balance and fish happily survive. But I thought koi were going to be easier. Koi are a type of carp, and carp inhabit the most fetid streams and pools. Not mine it seems. (Not that the 8000 litre beautiful pond I have is a fetid stream - all water tests are good).

The first sign of trouble was flashing. Flashing is when a fish darts up to a surface and does a rapid turn trying to scratch an itch. It flashes its underbelly and hence the term. So I thought, mmm, I recognise this. My tropical fish once had white spot. Quick treatment should do the trick.

A short while later one fish died. Another developed dropsy. While I have been working crazy hours, I have been reading bits and pieces on the net, and the news was not good - dropsy is always fatal.

But I chose to persevere. My reading told me that salt was the treatment of choice. Which is good, because there are a million medicines at inflated prices in most fish shops. The fish responded well and started looking normal - with the exception of some ulcerated patches.

I treated the water with potassium permanganate - a dangerous affair, as overdosing kills gill tissue and fish die from suffocation.

After a week of good progress things regressed again. I tried Methylene Blue to treat the ulcers which had now spread to two other fish - including one of my big guys - a fish of about 35cm.

And now a week later, the big guy's ulcer is looking suspciously like "hole in the head" - a horrendous condition that literally results in holes appearing in the affected fish's head.

I did another potassium permanganate treatment tonight - together with a concentrated salt and potassium bath. Sadly, the poor guy that started the trouble with dropsy is looking worse for wear - I think the potassium was just too much for his overloaded system.

I am a little suspicious of the shop I bought my fish from. They all come from the same place. It is the biggest koi dealer in Johannesburg. When buying there, I also noticed two of their fish had fin rot. Of course, this hasn't been bad for them - I've probably spent as much on medication as the few thousand I spent on the fish.

Right now I'm thinking of getting an expert koi keeper in - I don't have time to deal with all of this now. And my koi were supposed to relax me...

Some useful koi links:

FishDoc - The home of fish health
Koi Vet
Fish medications
A summarised guide to koi disease and treatment
An excellent guide to treating Koi - with videos
Koi Carp - the world's best selling Koi magazine
Koi anatomy

My biggest, healthiest koi - OJ - about 40cm.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

So what happened to Depeche Mode?

I am a Depeche Mode nut! Growing up, DM seemed to resonate with me. Martin Gore's lyrics, the avant guarde nature of their music, the phases they went through.

And boy have they gone through a whole lot of phases. They certainly have some stamina - watch out Rolling Stones, we may see Depeche Mode last 40 years from their appearance at the beginning of the eighties.

Depeche Mode are credited with being one of the most influencial bands of my time. Vince Clark, now of Eurasia, once of Yazoo, started with the Depeche Mode boys. DM defined the eighties synth that was to become techno. They graduated from that to the harder edge of Songs of Faith and Devotion.

The harder edge almost destroyed David Gahan who fronted the image and took its drug fuelled excesses to the brink as he overdosed on a heroin / cocaine speedball. He survived.

The band came back with Exciter. Sadly it was not one of their most exciting albums. Nothing like the incredible Ultra.

I was at the Songs of Faith and Devotion concert in Cape Town in the early nineties. It was amazing - Depeche Mode are known as a fantastic live act. They were enjoying themselves in South Africa and Cape Town in particular. Apparently, whereever they played, they'd fly back to Cape Town to party at Deviate, a techno club above the then infamous goth club called The Playground. Not surprising considering the phase the band was going through and the fact that Deviate was the biggest drugs scene around.

While the Exciter album was only average, the DVD was fantastic. It was a recording of a live stage performance in Paris - I highly recommend it if you want to get a taste of their live act.

Now DM are back. In breaking news, brought to you by IITQ, we can tell you that the new album Playing the Angel has just been released. The first single is titled Precious and in an exclusive preview, we bring to you the music video for the song. Click here to launch the Apple Quicktime video (10 MB). We really like the sound. A really mellow, slightly melancholy feel with some beautiful Martin Gore lyrics.

You can watch the Electronic Press Kit for the album here (Apple Quicktime, 29,6MB).

Lyrics for Precious from Playing the Angel by Martin Gore

Precious and fragile things
Need special handling
My God what have we done to you
We always tried to share
The tenderest of care
Now look what we have put you through

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give

Angels with silver wings
Shouldn't know suffering
I wish I could take the pain for you
If God has a master plan
That only He understands
I hope it's your eyes He's seeing through

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give

I pray you learn to trust
Have faith in both of us
And keep room in your hearts for two

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give

The album has just gone on sale in Europe and the UK and will go on sale in the US from October the 11th.

To go to the Depeche Mode site, click here. It's an award winning site with tonnes of DM stuff.
To see information about the new album, click here.

I see that the band has a tour lined up, but with no dates yet slated for a South African appearance. MMmmm. Might have to catch them in New York or Europe. The tour line up is here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Could we actually challenge in the America's Cup?

No one expects us to have a hope of winning the America's Cup. Anybody with the smallest amount of knowledge about sailing (and I have a bit less than that), will tell you that America's Cup sailing is one of the most expensive, technical sports in the world. Teams practice for years and boats are released in multiples to fine tune the designs.

So it was heartwarming when the chairman of the Meditteranean Shipping Company in South Africa, Salvatore Sarno, became passionate about giving South Africa a chance in the America's Cup. Heartwarming, but not exactly something to believe we had a hope in.

But now, a little while later, Team Shosholoza are placing behind the America's Cup contenders in competition! Team Shosholoza were named "team of the day" after finishing fifth in two races on Friday to score fourth place overall behind the big guns of the America's Cup - BMW Oracle, Team Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand - on the first day of the Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9 fleet racing event held off Sicily.

Today they placed third in their first race and seventh in the second - enough to keep their overall fourth position heading into the final day tomorrow.

A New Zealander once told me that every second house in New Zealand had a boat in the driveway and someone who played rugby in winter. The America's Cup is a chance for them to compete with the giants - the USA.

So in a country where most people will not even have heard of the America's Cup, it is truly amazing that the SA team has progressed so well.

Overseas commentators are equally impressed. According to one of the official race commentators Matt Sheanan, as quoted on News24: "They are looking like one of the pros, they have great pace and are doing beautiful manoeuvres. They look slick, composed and confident. They have come a long, long way in the last year. What a lovely performance from the South Africans."

The America's Cup followers seem to be enjoying the romance of South Africa's entry. The following is an excerpt from the America's Cup magazine:

Finishing strongly

At first glance, there’s not much to link the powerhouse BMW ORACLE Racing team with the fledgling South African Challenge, Shosholoza. The Americans are in their second consecutive campaign, a big-budget effort with the power of global brand-name sponsors and Larry Ellison behind them. In the case of Shosholoza, it’s not just the team that is making its first foray into the Cup; it’s the first challenge from the African continent....
Read more here.

I like Captain Salvatore Sarno's quote from the article best: “We’re not here to bring the America’s Cup to Africa. We’re here to bring a little bit of Africa to the Cup.”

Even if you know nothing about sailing - or don't really want to - take a look at the Team Shosholoza site. You'll need a Macromedia Flash installed in your browser (most browsers have it standard) and be prepared for a heavy graphics load. But it has some beautiful photos and is well designed.


  • Shosholoza in the top four with BMW ORACLE leading the pack

  • Alinghi win but Shosholoza star

  • Shosholoza astounds critics

  • Shosholoza steals the show as visitors to the America's Cup Park pass the one-million mark

  • Shosholoza sailors can hold their heads high
  • Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    Can we be friends?

    Chitty's post reminded me of my perfect girl. And here. And here.

    Truth is, I never really give up. And some part of me still says, "Don't burn the bridges, be there if she is keen one day."

    That's hard. When I told her I was moving on, there were a lot of tears. She had said that she wasn't ready for a relationship in a non-commital kind of way. Some months later I said I needed to put some space between us for my own sanity. The tears made it worse, like she did feel something. She told me she was still in love with her ex. I told her she needed to sort that out, give a last try, but I wasn't going to just hang around and not know if I stood a chance.

    Since then, it has been difficult, we've met for lunch. Other times we've been supposed to meet and it hasn't happened. Sometimes we've talked and mostly we haven't talked very often.

    My best friend and his wife were on the beach the other day and bumped into her - with the ex. I spoke to my friend later that day and he told me about it. Funny - it still hurt. My dream girl with someone else. Just after I spoke to my mate, Keira-girl phoned. I didn't let on that my mate had told me anything. It was a bit tense.

    I phoned her tonight and all the tension was gone. She was so happy to hear from me. She mentioned meeting my friend, perhaps listening to hear if I had heard she was with the ex. I didn't let anything on. We just chatted like old friends.

    I've moved on. I've seen other girls. But of course I'm looking for the signals. Yeah, I'll be a friend. I'll phone. We'll meet. Once burned, twice shy - but she'll always be the girl that took my breath away when I was 21 and who I finally got introduced to 10 years later and had a chance with. Maybe dream girls are just meant to be dreams.

    Sunday, October 02, 2005

    How much is a good cuppucino worth?

    I bought a Krups esspresso/cuppucino machine about a year ago. Without doubt one of my best purchases ever.

    I feel on top of the world when I start my day properly. Getting up early, drinking an awesome cuppucino and reading the news before heading off for work.

    I have always been of the belief, "Buy the best you can afford." And so while I choked at the price when I purchased this beauty, I do not regret parting with a cent.

    A Nestlé hot chocolate with frothed milk is something equally luxurious, and that drunk, I am now ready for bed.

    As I always say, life is too short for instant coffee. Night all.

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Can anything stop terrorism?

    During the worst work week of my life, a stray thought or two has wandered towards holiday - and Bali. I've often thought that the safest place must be one that has recently been hit by terrorism. Lightning striking twice and things.

    So today's blast is all the more shocking to me.

    I worked in Jakarta a few years ago and was stuck in traffic thinking that the world's fourth most populous nation was the number one for traffic jams - not realsing that the reason was a bomb only a block or two away. Shortly thereafter there was the enormous bomb at the hotel I had most of my meetings at (after I left) and then the bomb in Bali.

    Terrorism knows no logic. Indonesia needs development - you have no idea of the poverty there. It is in your face all the time. Their urban development means that you have skyscrapers next to squatter camps. The 1997 Asian crisis meant that there was not even money to dismantle cranes - 40 storey high towering cranes stood rusting years later. Yet the threat of terrorism will mean that tourists and business will be lost.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    What makes Aussies such good sportsmen?

    One of my lasting sporting memories will forever be the fighting finish of the Presidents' Cup at Fancourt in 2003. As the officials debated what the result would be if the playoff match between Ernie and Tiger was called off due to bad light, the players debated what to do: call it off or come back the next day. They were informed that if they called it off, the Americans would retain the cup. Only if they came back and won, would they win the Cup.

    At this point Stuart Appleby declared that there was no way in hell they were giving up the Cup and that they would cancel their flights and be back the next day. This sparked mass consternation as everyone pondered the complicated logistics. Ultimately, this caused Player and Nicklaus to agree to share the Cup.

    Sadly, Appleby missed his final putt today and lost his chance to draw his match with Tiger. But along the way, he holed eveything within a mile. What a fighter. Typical of a good Aussie sportsman. Lots to learn from them.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Will you give one minute of your life to stop AIDS?

    Some time ago a social worker from Kwazulu Natal spoke to our company about the effect of AIDS on whole communities in the region. She talked of whole villages where only grandparents and children survived - all adults of 20 to 60 were dying from AIDS.

    She showed us stories of individual children and the effect of AIDS on their upbringing.

    There were not many dry eyes as she showed us drawings by these children and narrated the stories behind them.

    The newspaper article below tells of one such story. It does not mention AIDS. This is the tradition in Africa. It is considered shameful to die of the disease - so people don't admit to it. I am surmising the mother died of AIDS and the father is dying of AIDS.

    If you would like to make a difference, there are many opportunities. From volunteer work in the affected regions to donations.

    If you would like to donate, you can do so through The Nelson Mandela Foundation at www.46664.com.

    If you donate, please leave a comment below this blog entry - I'd like to track its impact. I'll total the amounts disclosed in the comments and display a running total on the blog.


    This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on September 16, 2005

    These boys shoulder a huge responsibility...

    Solly Maphumulo
    September 16 2005 at 07:42AM

    Themba and Thabo should be doing what other boys do - playing soccer, climbing trees and watching television.

    But 12-year-old Themba and his nine-year-old brother Thabo shoulder a huge responsibility.

    They look after their seven-month-old sister, Precious, and their bed-ridden father, Jimmy.

    They also looked after their mother, Sbongile, before she died on Monday at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, where she was admitted with abdominal pains.

    'I have to make sure my family are okay'

    On Thursday, Thabo didn't go to school. It was his turn to look after Precious and their dad, although Themba couldn't wait to get home to cuddle his tiny sister.

    When Precious began to cry, he rocked her, making soothing sounds. Then, putting a dummy into her mouth, he whispered: "Ungakhali Precious, ngikhona" (Don't cry, I'm here).

    "I have to look after my father, my brother and my sister," Themba said. "I don't mind because I'm the oldest, and that's what I have to do. "I don't have time to play with my friends after school... I have to make sure my family are okay."

    The boys clean the house and scrub the floors, wash nappies, and cook and feed the family.

    On Thursday Thabo woke up to feed Precious, cleaned the house and made his father comfortable.

    'She was sick for a long time'

    "It was my turn; that's what me and my brother agreed," he said. "Tomorrow I go to school and he stays at home."

    Jimmy, who was too weak to talk much on Thursday, said he was proud of his sons.

    "They are good boys because they are looking after me and Precious. They also comforted me when I heard that Sbongile had died."

    Although she died on Monday, Jimmy has been too weak to go to the mortuary to identify the body. Also, there isn't enough money to bury her.

    "My mother was in terrible pain and God chose to take her away to rest," said Themba.

    "She was sick for a long time. She was always groaning. That broke my heart.

    "I cried when I heard about her death, but I remembered what our Sunday-school teacher taught us. She said that if someone dies, they will rest peacefully.

    "So I think my mother is resting because she was suffering. I watched her and cried every day," said Themba, stroking his sister's cheeks.

    Sbongile had always wanted a daughter, so she was over the moon when she gave birth to a girl.

    She loved her so much, she named her Precious.

    "I will look after Precious properly, so that my mother can rest properly," Themba vowed.

    The brothers comfort Precious when she's inconsolable, and rock her to sleep when she wakes up crying in the middle of the night.

    Money is hard to come by and the family survive on donations from neighbours. Sometimes they go days without eating.

    When the family moved into the abandoned home in Protea Glen Extension 4, Soweto, there was no roof, so Jimmy found a few sheets of corrugated iron and spent his days turning the house into a home.

    Then both parents became ill. He and Sbongile grew weaker and, before he could finish putting a roof on the home, they both were confined to a mattress, leaving Themba and Thabo with the adult responsibility of looking after them.

    On Thursday, Gauteng department of social services assistant director Zandile Makgalemele promised to assess the situation.

    "If the children are young, they cannot look after a bed-ridden father and a baby," she said.

    Child psychologist Ruth Ancer said the boys had been robbed of their childhood.

    "Childhood is about discovering something about the world and yourself. Children discover a lot of things through playing. This should be the time they develop confidence. They shouldn't have such enormous responsibilities."

    Ancer said the boys needed time to grieve for their mother, not to become little adults overnight.

    She urged the government to provide facilities to help the children and others in similar situations.

    "It is going to be stressful and frightening for the boys to look after their father, who is not well. They also have to look after their seven-month-old sister.

    "That is too much for the boys - they don't have the maturity and skills to do that," Ancer said.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Do you want to be eaten?


    Police remove 43-year-old Bernd-Jurgen Brandes' remains from Armin Meiwes' house
    Photo: BBC
    SABC 3 is broadcasting some pretty unbelievable documentaries at the moment. They air just after Oprah at about 23h30. None more unbelievable than tonight's feature about this German incident. This bloke fantasises about eating another bloke. Luckily for him, he hooks up with somebody who wants to be eaten - in a newsgroup catering especially for people like this.

    The downshot of writing this blog entry is that those newgroup members might find their way to this blog. Begone you sickos - find help!

    Back to the incident, the eater meets the to-be-eaten. He slices off the latter's penis and they share the delicacy. 3 hours later, the guy still hasn't died. So the eater plunges a knife into the eaten's throat. He then eats the dead guy over the next few months.

    The guy then brags about his deeds on the cannibalism newsgroup, where a potential-cannibal-with-a-conscience alerts the police. Who then find the dude in a small German village.

    More on this gross story can be found in the following BBC report.

    The interesting part about all of this is the psycologist's explanation of the perpetrator and victim's state of mind. Apparently the cannibal was lonely and by eating his victim, is always close to that person. The victim felt weak, and by being eaten, felt wanted.

    Man, more than anything this illustrates (albeit the most unbelievably extreme example) the importance of a healthy self image. Every unhealthy relationship and sexual deviation is based on fulfilling a personal need rather than being a celebration of the other.

    Armin Meiwes was convicted of killing Bernd-Jurgen Brandes. However because it was consensual, he was sentenced to only 8 years. He will likely be released in 4 years.

    Who knows what is next on the SABC3 late night slot!

    How do you delegate well?

    I'm crap a delegating. As a leader and manager this is a problem.

    The problem starts with my perfectionist streak. And to be honest, the fact that I like things done my way. The other is that I tend to play very senior roles and don't have time to help with the nitty gritty.

    I've tried various means of addressing this. The most successful is when I am supported by experienced team members. I'm at my worst when I have a junior team. I am fairly good at coaching, but it takes time and means you have to allow failure and help with recovery. Management consulting doesn't have much time for that. It means you have to get to the point of failure very quickly so as not to derail delivery. That means regular deliverables with very quick and honest feedback.

    But frankly, I think I am too soft. Friends at my level have shaken their heads as I shoulder the team's accountabiltiy for delivery. And that is the big issue. Getting team ownership of the problems.

    Now the current problem has been getting an Excel based model owned by the young inexperienced modelling team. I gave up. I'll sort it out next time...

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Is there something wrong with me?

    I feel like I'm in a trap:

  • I keep on meeting someone long distance

  • I think I get taken for coming on too strong

  • The people who fall for me, I'm just not attracted to at all.

  • And then it seems like others create distance. Ignored calls. No call to me.

    Another weekend it seemed we both enjoyed and then nothing.

    I know I'm a nice guy. I know I am kind. I am intelligent. I don't think I'm unattractive - I can't see a hunchback in the mirror...

    The long distance thing is wierd. Is there no one compatible in Jo'burg? I hope there is not something deeper there. Like a fear of commitment...

    ...but if there was a fear of commitment, how could I get taken for coming on too strong? And I am comfortable with taking things as they go. I make a great friend. I'm absolutely fine with a fun sexual relationship and just seeing where it goes, or acknowledging it won't...

    Man, as always, it is when you're not looking, hardly interested, that others are interested in you. Now if only that could be somebody I liked...

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    Why did I get these Koi?

    I have this thing with fish. I've kept tropical fish at various times growing up.

    So when I altered by house, I built the mother of all Koi ponds. It is literally a moat that runs the length of my house.

    So I bought another three Koi today - bringing my total to eight. Not cheap either.

    SO why did I buy them? I'm seeing more and more parallels between myself and Carter Duryea (the kid from "In Good Company" - see post below). The picture below is of Carter talking to his fish in his office.

    Now, got to stop procrastinating and finish the ton of work I need to do before tomorrow. AAAAhhh!

    "Here Boy!"
    Photo: Universal Pictures

    Who is Elon Musk?

    Thank goodness for Carte Blanche (an excellent South African TV investigative journalism program - along the lines of the US' 60 Minutes). Without it, who would know that we have another South African dot com billionaire.


    as photographed for

    Elon Musk is a Pretoria Boys High alumnus who founded Zip2 and co-founded Paypal. He invented technologies used by The New York Times and others. He is listed by Forbes as one of the richest people under 40.

    Elon seems really different from Mark Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth has used his money to go to space and is now building a Linux distribution called uBuntu. Ubuntu, incidently, has rocketed to the top of the Linux distribution popularity stakes. Shuttleworth has promised that Ubuntu will always be free and is instead planning to make money from its sponsoring company, Canonical. Why is Elon different? Carte Blanche asked him what he thought of Shuttleworth's trip to space. He responded that his motivation is to do something to advance mankind. He has founded Space X to make affordable space travel possible. Instead of paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a space launch, Space X will make a launch possible for a mere $16m. His plan is to take this further to passenger travel to space.

    More details about Elon musk can be found here:

  • A 2003 Forbes story about Elon Musk and Space X

  • The Carte Blanche transcript

  • Elon Musk's Space X

  • Elon Musk is 34. This is making me feel very old. I'm 32 this month. I was one of those who dreamed of being the next Bill Gates when I was a kid.

    Watching Elon Musk and Shuttleworth, especially at this point in my life while I am deciding on my future career directions, I wonder whether to choose the road less travelled and go for glory. Or to play it safe and be comfortable. Writing it like that makes the choice seem obvious. More thinking to do.

    October 5, 2004 - Falcon I at SpaceX launch pad, Vandenberg Air Force Base
    Picture: SpaceX

    Incidently, Forbes has many more lists than just the richest people. Find, for example, the world's most overpriced places here.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Is Google Earth the most unbelievable?

    For those of you gobsmacked by Google Earth - yeah, pretty incredible - you'll be blown away by World Winds from NASA.

    It allows you to zoom around the world applying various overlays to satelite data.

    It is a humungous package - 181MB of download - and bandwidth hungry - it downloads up to date satelite info depending on what you zoom in on.

    It has unbelievable amounts of info - even cataloging fires buring all over the globe.

    Here's a shot of Hurricane Katrina:

    Is the death penalty wrong?

    'I threw myself over my sisters because I did not want them to watch mommy and daddy die." These were the courageous words of an 11-year-old girl of H section Umlazi, south of Durban, who watched in horror as her parents were shot and killed by a gunman while they were in their car on Wednesday.

    The brave girl then carried her three-year-old sister and together with her other sisters, ran down the road in search of help.

    "We are all alone now because they took away our mom and dad," she said with tears in her eyes.

    The children's grandmother, Mam Nene, said she had no words to describe the pain she was going through.

    "My daughter was a teacher and my son-in-law was a traditional healer. They were both earning an honest living."

    "I still can't believe that they are both gone. I am so hurt I don't know what to say," she said.

    Nene said she had no choice but to gather courage as she was now left with the responsibility of raising her grandchildren.

    "I am old now and live far from these children, they are at school in Durban. It's all up to God now to look after us - He is all we have," she said.

    From The Independent Online, 2 September 2005

    I think there is a quote from the Bible, saying vengeance is God's.

    I don't think the death penalty is about vengeance. I think it is about removing people from society.

    In nature, animals that cannot contribute to a herd are weeded out.

    At its essence, society is a similar concept. Social sciences, such as economics are all about contribution to society and the corresponding right to compensation by society. Trade ensures that those who do not have the skills required to contribute remain poor - an incentive, if you like, to acquire relevant skills / means of contributing.

    When it comes to morals, similar principles apply - if your morals are consistent with society's needs, you have a set of human rights.

    However, if you choose to trample on the rights of others, you forfeit those fundamental rights yourself.

    Think of the ripples of tragedy from this heinous crime. A little girl and her siblings whose family apparently had the means to help her become relvant to the New South African economy. Now she will be dependent on a poor old grandmother. What hope does she have?

    This in addition to the horror they will have embedded in their minds for the rest of their lives.

    Who are these friggin heartless creeps?

    Every time I read about a maimed baboon in the Cape my blood boils. The latest is about a baboon found at Glencairn in Cape Town that had been shot with a pellet gun and poisoned. See here for more details.

    Baboons are highly socially developed animals and you can imagine what the troop went through as they watched one of there members get sick.

    But this is just the latest in a long line of mistreatments. A few months ago, a nearly blind baboon was rescued - blind from poisoning.

    Alone and scared: The blind female baboon hides in a tree at the Fisherman's Pub in Kommetjie.
    Photo: Brenton Geach, Cape Argus

    Thank goodness for the people who care and fund the baboon watchers - a full time group of guys who follow the baboons around to make sure they don't cause trouble and people don't mess with them.

    To give you an idea of the crualty of baboon poisoning, Jenni Trethowan, who manages the baboon minders, said the young female appeared to be losing her eyesight, her tongue was swollen, she walked awkwardly and kept rubbing her jaw.

    She had called in primate specialist Dave Gaynor, who said the baboon's symptoms were consistent with poisoning by an insecticide called aldicarb.

    "She gets left behind by the troop because she can't see properly, and then she calls them back and they return. We want the SPCA to dart her and get her out, but we could not get hold of anyone at CapeNature for permission. Now we've lost her."

    I won't mince my words here: this is because of the fuckers who have built in environmentally sensitive spots like Scarborough in Cape Town. Who are they to say, "I want to live in naturally beautiful spots but only on my terms."

    Baboons have always been an issue around the Cape Town mountain. As kids, a friend and I were chased by a male baboon the size of a small car. Let me tell you, frightening stuff. At Smitswinkel Bay, you have to keep the doors and windows locked to avoid having a baboon troop invade in search of food.

    But you take that risk if you choose to stay in those areas.

    Thank goodness for people like Jenni of Baboon Matters in Kommetjie, who coaxed the blind baboon down from a tree and tried to catch her with a blanket. The baboon, however, managed to get away. Jenni finally managed to get her caught and treated. Brave woman!

    The baboon minders also seem to be genuinely concerned about their charges:

    From the Argus, 24 May 2005

    A young female baboon is suffering from suspected insecticide poisoning and Eric, the dominant male of the Kommetjie troop, was spotted at the weekend with a broken leg.

    This comes after two baboons were shot dead in the southern Peninsula last week.

    It is thought that the female was poisoned in Da Gama Park with insecticide, but it is not known whether Eric broke his leg in a fall, whether he was shot or hit by a car.

    Jenni Trethowan of Baboon Matters, who manages the baboon monitors, said on Monday that monitors Mzukisi Ntewu and Sana Nyasani had spotted Eric limping.

    "The monitors are very concerned. Eric is something of a living legend and they're very attached to him. We would like to dart him and treat his injury, but we decided to leave him with his troop, because William, another baboon, practises infanticide and Eric would not be there to protect the infants from him," Trethowan said.

    I say put the baboons in a room with the people who tried to poison them. Baboons can kill a leopard - I am sure a yellow-bellied coward should be no problem.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    A tree stronger than a bridge?

    As I watch the footage of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, it blows me away (sorry, only saw that after I'd written this...) that in the scenes of devastation, trees stand amongst the wreckage, while concrete bridges lie in pieces.

    The power of nature vs. the pride of man. Humbling stuff.

    Trees stand amidst the destruction
    Photo: ABC News

    A highway leading to New Orleans lies in pieces

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Don't you hate being ignored?


    People should know that if they're busy, whatever, just answer and say, "Can't talk now. Can we chat on Wednesday?"

    But you know when the phone rings and you know you're being ignored?

    Dammit. Drives me up the wall.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Am I gay?

    Not exactly a question that drives most of us mad, but a few may have considered it.

    Why don't we all ask the question? Well I guess there are a few possible answers:

  • We push the question out of our minds because we're so uncomfortable with society's / our friends' / our family's reaction to the potential answer

  • We are revolted at the thought of gay life and wouldn't even consider being with someone of the same sex - not even a kiss - yugh!

  • We are just so straight (attracted to the opposite sex) it's not even a possibility

  • Being gay would mean being less male / female

  • If we were prepared to ask the question, then the answer must be obvious - we're gay.

  • There is a question?

  • Well those of you who read this blog know that I question most things.

    It's not exactly a new question.

    Some years ago I fell in love with my best friend. Before this I'd felt attracted to some guys, but rationalised it away. So isn't the answer obvious then? Thing is, just as I'm attracted to some guys, I'm still attracted to some girls. See for example Keira, Natalie and Scarlett. Big fan. And believe me, the thought of most guys fills me with the typical guy reaction - yugh! So I'm bisexual then. Right?

    Never one to go with the flow, the real question for me has been why would I feel either way.

    I guess this comes down to the nature vs. nurture question. Let me say right now I'm a big believer in the nurture side of things. Babe raised by wolves thinks it's a wolf, behaves like a wolf, etc. I always think there is truth in both sides of any argument, and so I hear the fact that some people might be predisposed to being gay or not.

    And let me say that I hear the argument that says just go with what feels right. I'm not a big believer in this though. I like to know why or if there is a why. Yeah, if I can't figure out the why, or realise there is no specific why, then I'll go with the feeling.

    Let me also say that I completely hear the argument that says be true to yourself. I'm ready to be straight or gay - or bi. Easy to say, but I do believe that living a lie is pointless and not only hurts you but all those around you.

    So why might I feel one way or the other? And does the why matter?

    It's funny. I'm attracted to guys who could be me - only better. Better looking, better at sports achievement, whatever. Complication - they're always straight.

    Like the best friend. Wow. The ultimate over-achiever - sports and life in general. Good looking. I told him about it and we lost touch for about three years. He's in a different country. We correspond now and talk on the phone and will doubtless get together in the future. He's pretty supportive and has only really said "Be true to yourself" with regard to my discussion with him from three years ago.

    Maybe it's an overachiever / perfectionist thing. I believe that what some of us look for in girls is based on the same issue - we're as good as the fish we catch. Doesn't just have to be girls. It could be any of the trophies of success such as cars, houses, etc.

    But why guys? I struggled for approval / fighting unfair times at school. Sometimes I wonder if I'm still looking for approval.

    So that's the over-rationalising part of me. I'm sure many people will just say "Deee Ni Al!"

    Never one to attack things from one angle, after years of putting it off, I bit the bullet (so to speak) recently and went out with a gay guy. It was fun, but frankly, no more fireworks than I've had with some girls.

    I smiled at eKapa's strip joint experience recently. Those girls didn't feel my hipbone. HA HA HA. But there's another post (Oy vey, the pun opportunities are endless, aren't they).

    David Bowie was once asked about his sexuality (given the Ziggy Stardust days, not surprising). They asked if he was bi-sexual. He replied, "Actually I think I'm tri-sexual - I went through a phase where I'd try anything!"

    I'll experiment some more and we'll see. At the same time I'm working on being happier with me. I've been pretty happy with me for the last 10 years or so. I have achieved. I'm good looking. I have a good sense of humour. I'm fun to be with.

    I know the secret is getting over myself. Part of that is forgiving the kid that was me from a long time ago. He was a pretty good kid. Didn't deserve a lot of the shit he went through, which was more about the other kids than it was about him.

    I'm also pretty secure in who I am. I adore sport. I love being a typically straight acting guy. Whether I am straight or gay won't change or endanger that.

    Wow. Funny how we tend to challenge everything at the same time isn't it? Interesting times.