Sunday, January 30, 2005

Is there a photographer in me?

So I finally did it. I decided to take the plunge into digital photography. After much research and toeing-and-froeing between the Nikon D70 and the Canon EOS D20, the Canon won.

I placed my order through eBay and on the 11th of January I finally received my precious cargo. Opening a big parcel from overseas is always exciting, but this is one of the most exciting yet. I have never owned a camera (the small instamatic I bought overseas to take some snaps does not count). At school I used the school camera for my art photos and at varsity I looked down from the Jameson Hall steps at the mist over the Cape and wished I had a camera.

So here is my camera:

My first photos:

The fantastic dog I bought my parents as a six week puppy is now two years old.

A chameleon in my parents' garden.

The road in the Karoo - its beautiful colours and contrasts.

The incredible afternoon Free State rain.

Good photos are happy accidents at the moment. This camera has so many functions, it is going to take a while to learn. But I am having a ball!

Some really good photos taken with a Canon EOS 20D can be seen here.

Why do some people think they are above the law?

Quick rant. I wish that police would immediately confiscate cars with no numberplates and lock up the owners.

Who are these people who pull up to a red light, and then just carry on through?

Drives me up the friggen wall.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Why are kids so cruel?

Just watched Missing on MNet. It was about this kid that got picked on at school. Bullies picked on him. Then this girl set him up: got him undressed, tied up and then brought a whole lot of her friends in to laugh at him. Then they circulated a photo they'd taken of him. So he ran away and tried to hang himself.

Kids look for differences and prey on those. They look for similarities and try to belong to those. I guess the cruelty is about making themselves feel better about themselves and their insecurities.

I know a fair amount about Freud and Jung - the two "opposing" schools of psychology. As I do with most "opposing" opinions / schools of thought, I think their is truth in both. Rather than the oversimplification that Freud says "blame it on your mother," the idea that we are products of our experiences growing up is an important one.

But I don't believe in absolving adults of accountability because of their experiences growing up - that's too convenient, and pop-psych crap.

Nevertheless, I had a tough time growing up. I never understood why I attracted attention growing up, but I got tonnes. It wasn't just when I was 9 - it went right until I was about 17. And I wasn't a pathetic kid.

In retrospect, I wish I'd clocked a few of those kids early on. I will certainly advise my kids to, as a last resort and after due warning, smack a bully - especially a verbal one, hard. Ten to one, it'll shut them up. Obviously I'll spend time teaching them to love themselves too. That's the most critical thing.

Part of that is being happy with who I am now. I am. Part of it is, but that's not enough.

A big part of life for me has been growing to forgive the kid I was. Telling him he's worth loving.

This is a pretty deep, dark post. But tonight's TV show reminded me of the importance of looking after the kid within - and the kids around us. Never underestimate the effect of bullying - especially emotional on a kid. No kid wants their parent to get involved in their battles. Helping a kid cope is complicated but essential.

Friday, January 21, 2005

How do you heal a heel?

Or more precisely, how do you heal "Plantar Fasciitis?"

There appear to be two major causes of heel pain: heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. Other causes are listed in the table below. A heel spur is a bony growth on the underside of the heel bone. The spur, visible by X-ray, results from stretching of the long band of tissue that connects the heel and the ball of the foot. Both heel pain and heel spurs are frequently associated with inflammation of the band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the ball of the foot. The inflammation is called plantar fasciitis and can be quite painful. The condition occurs when the plantar fascia flattens out and elongates beyond its normal extension, causing the fascia to tear at various points along its length, including at the heel bone. I have the latter, plantar fasciitis. I am ready to cry (I have been in reduced activity mode for the last five months after straining a ligament in my neck at gym, and I have a road race coming up at the beginning of March, for which I need to start training).

Differential Diagnosis of Heel Pain

Disease or injury Differentiating clinical features
Neurologic causes (entrapment syndromes)   Radiating burning pain, numbness and tingling, especially at night
Tarsal tunnel syndrome   Diffuse symptoms over plantar surface
Medial calcaneal branch of the posterior tibial nerve entrapment   Medial and plantar heel symptoms
Abductor digiti quinti nerve entrapment  Burning pain in heel pad area
Skeletal causes  Bony point tenderness
Calcaneal stress fracture activity   Pain with weight-bearing; worsens with prolonged weight-bearing
Paget's disease  Bowed tibias, kyphosis, headaches
Tumor  Deep bone pain; constitutional symptoms late in the course
Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever's disease)  Posterior heel pain in adolescents
Soft tissue causes   
Fat pad syndrome  Atrophy of heel pad
Heel bruise  History of acute impact injury
Bursitis  Usually retrocalcaneal; swelling and erythema of posterior heel
Plantar fascia rupture  Sudden acute, knife-like pain, ecchymosis
Tendonitis   Pain with resisted motions
Plantar fasciitis   See text.

The following from The American Family Physician website - a fantastic resource.

The disorder classically presents with pain that is particularly severe with the first few steps taken in the morning. In general, plantar fasciitis is a self-limited condition. However, symptoms usually resolve more quickly when the interval between the onset of symptoms and the onset of treatment is shorter. Many treatment options exist, including rest, stretching, strengthening, change of shoes, arch supports, orthotics, night splints, anti-inflammatory agents and surgery. Usually, plantar fasciitis can be treated successfully by tailoring treatment to an individual's risk factors and preferences.

Resting provides only temporary relief. When you resume walking, particularly after a night's sleep, you may experience a sudden elongation of the fascia band which stretches and pulls on the heel. As you walk, the heel pain may lessen or even disappear, but that may be just a false sense of relief. The pain often returns after prolonged rest.


In general, plantar fasciitis is a self-limiting condition. Unfortunately, the time until resolution is often six to 18 months, which can lead to frustration for patients and physicians. Rest was cited by 25 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis in one study as the treatment that worked best.

The major issue is the healing time. I have had this condition before when I ran a lot more than I do now. It did take a very long time to heal.

The treatments described by The American Family Physician include:
  • Stretching and Strengthening

  • Modifying shoes

  • Arch Supports and Orthotics

  • Night Splints

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents

  • Iontophoresis

  • Corticosteroid Injections

  • Surgery

  • And these are just to speed that extremely long 6 to 18 month recovery time.

    Bollocks. I am getting old and the body is creaking.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Why must builders lie?

    Addendum / update to a previous post.

    So now we are merely 3 months late on finishing the last few things on a 3 month project.

    The difficulties appear to be related to installing a patio roof and pond without a leak. About fifty waterproofing treatments down the line, both still leak. Of course I will only know if the patio roof still leaks if we have some more rain, so I am praying for another Jo'burg monsoon. But, I know the pond still leaks as it dropped overnight again. And every time I speak to my builder, he mentions how much he has spent on waterproofing - a fact I ignore and ask when he will have finished with a working solution.

    I have consoled myself with the fact that my place looks awesome and that my builder appears to have integrity. That was until I became suspicious of my built-in-cupboards. I originally asked for the quote on cherry wood veneer. After accepting his quote he convinced me to go for something darker to match the rest of the woodwork. I agreed. Now, looking at the edging, I wonder "This looks like melamine.." Sure as shit, I check with a wood supplier today and that it is.

    So, my builder is desperately trying to complete things so that I will pay him the outstanding balance. At that time, I will bring my knowledge of his deception to light. Fucker.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    What do women want?

    Right - I'm going to get pasted on this one. Having read the highly entertaining debate on SV's blog and having had this discussion at a party last night, I thought I'd have a bash through sharing my experience / opinion. Also, I had some feedback on my Kiera-girl experience that I did not necessarily agree with - but the saga there continues and I'll post the outcome one day. But we're very good friends at the moment - at least.

    My opinion and experience refers to a sampling of women in the under 30 age group who want to marry and have kids one day. I believe that what women above 35 want may be significantly different. Opinions welcome. Is Sex in the City a reliable gauge?! I've spent a lot of time in New York, and I must say, women there are different! Also, I am more experienced with women than some, but less experienced than many. :)

    I do not speak for the male population, nor is my opinion of what women want descriptive of all women.

    The first thing: what women say they want and what they actually want is often poles apart. I say often. Now and again the stars align and you meet a woman who says what she wants and means it. And most often us men will miss that and think, "So what does she really want?"

    Right, on to my experience / opinion.

    I do believe that girls and guys do have completely different starting points to assessing one another. Part of that is because the consequences of a sexual relationship are so different. Guys can walk away. Girls could be left with a baby. Fundamentally guys start with "Will this girl be fun to be with?" I believe girls start with a far more long-term screen.

    Of course there are guys - and girls - who start by saying, "Wow this person will be great in bed."

    I agree that dishonesty to get something from someone is despicable. Sadly there are many dishonest guys out there looking for nothing more than another notch on their bedpost.

    I believe that basically (and absolutely, oversimplifying) women are driven by three powerful forces: I'll call these the time-bomb, the father effect and the bad-boy effect.

    The time-bomb effect: as women approach 30, behavior actively changes to hunting. Spurred on by the realization that time may be running out, women appear to be far less tolerant of anybody who isn't marriage material. Now this is crucial, because it defines a starting screening position, and this is a fundamentally different starting position to guys.

    The father effect: I have to agree with Ranty - women look at men as potential fathers. It is not the starting position but it often follows quite quickly (depending on the severity of the time-bomb effect - age related).

    The bad-boy effect: this one mystifies me. It is somewhat contradictory to the first two. Absolutely, there are many girls who like nice guys ("Jacques Kallis seems such a strong, stable and nice guy"). But experience the Vin Diesel explosion - "Oooh, he's nice. I wouldn't mind him with some strawberries and cream." And of course there is Brad Pitt - bit of a mixture: bad boy in Thelma and Louise and A River Runs Through It. Good boy in others. But then there's Toby Maguire. So I'm a bit lost on this one. What I do know is that no girl likes a wimp. I believe girls want a guy who'll stand up to defend them. Makes for good genes too!

    I do not believe that it as simple as many believe that most girls look at a guy for company, intelligence and personality first, and that guys look at women for their looks.

    Anybody who denies that sexual attraction from both sides is fundamental to a relationship is just off their head. And anybody who thinks sexual attraction = supermodel looks is just inexperienced. Attraction can be based on the way someone laughs, the way they smile, their complexion, and yes of course, their looks. But some people will find someone else the most attractive person in the world - while others will disagree. Even if that attraction is based purely on looks. Witness any feedback on I am sure everybody's experience will show that their ratings are fairly widely dispersed.

    Witness also "Bum guys" vs "Legs guys" vs "Tits guys." 'Nuff said.

    All this stuff about girls are heroin-chic waifs because that's what guys dictate is a load of crap. Did anybody see the Feeders program on TV about the guys who are attracted to grossly overweight women? To each his own. Ultimately we each have to be happy with ourselves. Whether we are is a product of our own experiences. If we were teased at school because we were overweight, we'll probably feel better being thin. Kids look for differences and prey on those. If cosmetic surgery helps remove a deep-seated insecurity, then fantastic. If the person feels better about themselves, chances are others will too.

    But I digress. Attraction is key. But perhaps girls do give attraction more time to develop than guys.

    If there is attraction (at some level), then I believe we come to the fundamental difference in starting points. And I'm not saying this all happens in the first five minutes or from across the room. Girls start the screening process above, and guys think "Is this girl fun to be with?"

    And this is where things often go wrong. When guys feel themselves being screened they typically back off. "Whoa, this girl's way too intense. Why is she checking me out as boyfriend? I was just having fun."

    It is not that guys are fundamentally scared of commitment, or just want sex. If a guy is having the time of his life, he'll get to the thought, "Hey, it's fun being around this girl and I want this to continue. I could marry this girl."

    As for the desert island question on SV's blog. It would depend. Who I was attracted to. And for me that remains a fundamentally face-to-face measure (which is why I try to meet an Internet date as quickly as possible after I have determined whether they are an axe-murderer or not). It wouldn't be much fun being in bed with either the Ice Queen or the Bomb-In-Bed if you weren't turned on...

    And guess what? Guys also want someone who loves them when they're down, when they're not the image of Brad Pitt they were when they were 30. It wouldn't be fun otherwise. :)