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 Zuma files

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.