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

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.