Sunday, May 31, 2009

Can the favourite win a reality TV event?

So Susan Boyle came second in "Britain's Got Talent."

It seems like she's had a tough week (and here, and here).

Susan Boyle's performance in the final:

After becoming a world-wide sensation, she lost. It really makes me wonder if the favourite can win a public vote. David Archuleta, Adam Lambert and now Susan Boyle.

Is it a mixture of complacency on the part of those supporting the favourite and frantic support on the part of those supporting the underdog?

That said, the act that won Britain's Got Talent, Diversity, are very, very good.

Diversity's first performance:

Diversity's semi-final performance:

Embedding disabled - watch here

Diversity in the final:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is the true cost of an employee?

I was sitting with my PA today going through a list of outstanding to-do items.

I asked, "Why is my dry-cleaning taking so long?"

"What dry-cleaning?" she asked.

"The dry cleaning I left in the black refuse back next to your desk with the note," I said.

"IITQ, there was nothing here."

"You're kidding me. Did the maid throw anything out?" I asked.

"I'm not sure. I don't think so. I walked in with her and there was nothing next to my desk," she said.

"Fuck. Somebody has stolen the bag. Get A to check the access control to see who has been in the office," I said. "This is a disaster. I think there was an Armani suit in the bag with shirts and ties - that's about R30 000 worth of laundry."

Later that evening I got a call.

"IITQ, I've been retracing my steps and I think I may have thrown that bag out..."

My PA wanted my bank details. She wanted to go and organise a loan to pay me back. I said, "Wait, let me go home and see exactly what was in the bag. Besides, its a mistake. I'm not going to make you take a loan."


4 imported shirts
2 imported silk ties
2 pairs pants for a suit - local, not Armani

Small mercies. Not an Armani suit, so about R14 000 damage rather than R30 000.

I wanted to cry. What a waste. I've been so careful with cash. I hate wasting money.

Some of it was my mistake. Perhaps I could of put the clothes outside the bag for her to see. But she was expecting the dry cleaning and a black bag placed next to her chair should have merited an investigation.

It made me think of the true cost of employees. Idle time, telephone, bandwidth, food, etc. And screw ups.

What to do about the fuck up. No, I'm not going to make her take a loan. Or dock her salary. I'll probably make her work in some extra time.

And it's all relative. My gran is really old and is sicker than she should be because of nursing and doctor tardiness. She's frail and a screw up could mean she dies. Big picture stuff.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What next for Susan Boyle?

So Susan Boyle became a worldwide celebrity after her incredible first appearance on Britain's Got Talent.

She was back for the semi final and only a fool would bet against her winning this season. Simon Cowell must be salivating at the money he'll make off her...

It's another great performance. She's better when she really unleashes than she is in the softer moments (light and shade), but that's being picky.

It's really sweet she just wants to perform for the queen. She clearly has no idea of what awaits her as a worldwide celebrity.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Did America vote against Adam Lambert because of his sexuality?

I've often described the American South and Midwest as very similar to the South African Afrikaner north - conservative and Calvinist.

Was that proved on American Idol last night? What a shocker result. This was the best top 10 ever - but headed by the most talented contestant ever. Adam Lambert has had people talking for the last few months.

And he lost to Kris Allen.

The press and Internet has been going wild with discussion about the conservative US vote. This Reuters blog discusses the issue.

There are rumours this could be the last American Idol. It's future revolves around Simon Cowell and after tipping David Archuleta last year and Adam Lambert this year, he's questioning his future commitment.

That will be sad. It was the best top 10 yet and the best finale. Black Eyed Peas, Lionel Ritchie, Cyndie Lauper, Rod Stewart, Kiss, Queen - amongst others! It was polished, well put together and well hosted. With a shock in the last minutes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Does Eskom deserve our anger?

It grates me that professional analysts can make statements / give opinions based on completely incorrect facts.

Take this piece based on a Moneyweb interview with Cadiz' Peter Major.

Eskom deserves our anger

Peter Major says that the electricity utility has behaved badly.
Felicity Duncan
15 May 2009 18:38

It's no secret that many consumers were enraged by the power failures that bedeviled the country's electricity supply last year, as well as the sharp tariff increases that have followed.

However, businesses, especially power-intense businesses like mining, were hurt much worse by the problems. In January last year, for example, Eskom told its big mining clients that they would have to reduce their usage by 20% (later adjusted), which meant that production and safety at the mines were severely compromised.

They then also faced massive increases in their costs. This, combined with other cost increases, has made it increasingly difficult for mines to produce profits in South Africa.

Explained Cadiz Corporate Solutions' Peter Major: "We always complain or acknowledge how hard and how sticky these mining costs are and how the last few years I think they've been rising at a compound rate of way over 20%, probably closer to 25% per annum for the last three, four years.

"So they're probably going to be lucky to get away with a 10% labour increase and now that you've got a 34% increase in electricity and that's probably their biggest cost component after labour, so it shows that the pressure never comes off mining companies."

Eskom has defended itself by saying that it had been significantly undercharging South Africans for electricity for many years, and had therefore had trouble maintaining the grid, and that the current big increases are needed just to enable Eskom to break even. But according to Major, this is no excuse.

"It's true [that Eskom has been undercharging] but it kind of angers us because we expected Eskom to be managing itself correctly and we never wanted Eskom, we never expected SA or anybody to be subsidising us, because you build a business and you want certainty in your business and if you see the cost increase of electricity has been 7% a year or say 2% below inflation for five or ten years, you kind of build that into your price, you assume those guys are running that business properly.

"Now after years and years, they say, "Oh, we weren't running it properly, now we're going to slam you with 35% this year on top of the 40% last year" and now you're shell-shocked, what's going to happen next year, will we have another 25, 30% body slam? I think we have a right to be angry here. It means that this company was not managed correctly at all and for a long time."

Old regime - thousands of megawatts built that were mothballed due to the "total onslaught" strategy. No power stations were built subsequent to the eighties due to the surplus power. Factor in the cost of capital incurred each year on . .more dormant assets and work out whether the old pre-1994 regime was that good.

Next, look at the last power station we did build - Majuba. Built on what turned out to be an unusable coal field. Now that we need it, Eskom has to truck in coal supplies from all over.

Then. Consider that Eskom presented its planning in 1997 showing South Africa would run out of power in 2007. But the government and NERSA followed the California debacle by spending the next 10 years attempting to get private companies into a market with the lowest (uneconomic) price of electricity in the world. Seemingly, NERSA and the government forgot (as did California) that security of supply was the first and most important priority. In desperation, Eskom began building Braamhoek (peak power) anyway, under an arrangement that a new entrant might take this over if one was found.

Finally, consider that Eskom began applications for a smoothed set of increases in 2003, warning that without these, the price would have to radically escalate as a future build began. These were denied.

As a paid analyst, do your homework.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fatal attractions?

Boy do I have a few.

Of course there is the straight best friend (M) (and here). He's still the person I fantasize about settling down with. Never going to happen but he is the benchmark. And still my best friend.

I got missed call from the girl of my dreams (Ng) (and here, here, and here) this week. Not sure what it was about. Despite her now married status, my heart still skipped a beat.

There is another really good friend (Nb). Probably the one friend who actually loves me. He phones and I hear the smile in his voice when we talk. He is married with two kids. If things were different he'd be the perfect guy to settle down with.

There is the guy who works at my client (R). The guy I hit on anonymously (and here). Who is now a very good friend. I had dinner with him, his wife and two gay friends of his on Friday night. He stopped by to watch the rugby at my house on Saturday. And I played golf with him today. Oh my word have I got the hots for him (no he does not know it was me that sent him the email).

Interestingly, I had dinner this week with the first guy I'd ever been with. Amazingly that was five years ago. What a sweet guy. He is still in a relationship, but things were really close to boiling over. They didn't. Damn.

Unrequited love has really bothered me. I love being with M, Ng, Nb and R. However, after I've been with them I do feel really down, knowing that despite how I feel about them, nothing will ever happen. And I wonder why I can't meet someone like them who is available. I am trying. The dating sites (here), the anonymous email to the guy I hoped might respond. With regards to girls, there is an opportunity, but she could be on the rebound and at 29 is likely to be looking for "the one." I'm not sure I can handle that pressure. With regard to guys, short of going to a gay club - something I really don't think is going to deliver an eligible guy - I'm not sure what more to do.

In the meantime I'm accumulating best friends I have feelings for. Damn.

Friday, May 15, 2009

So did you vote DA or ANC?

Why might I ask?

The current all out war emphasizes all that is bad about both.

The stupidity of the DA anti-Zuma campaign shows an opposition unable to campaign on policy - but instead is anti-everything. I once suggested this to Tony Leon after another anti-ANC crime diatribe. He looked genuinely hurt. "I thought my speech was quite positive..."

Further, it is actually an indictment on the DA that they are 15 years into democracy and still predominantly white and male. Joe Seramane is used as quota chairman despite his very real struggle credentials. I'm white and male and I don't relate to the DA leadership. My workplaces and social life are more integrated.

On the other hand, the ANC and communist responses have been nothing short of staggering. Particularly the responses of their youth leagues. Grief. I wrote more mature letters at 6 years old.

Frankly, the responses are transparent. The ANC has merely been paying lip service to democracy. Threatening to make the Western Cape ungovernable betrays their inability to countenance opposition and debate. Further, their insistence that Zuma must not be criticized because he is president is immature and dangerous in the extreme. You earn trust - no matter who you are. Further, the essence of democracy is the ability to criticize freely. Would the ANC have insisted that Americans refrain from criticizing George W. Bush?

All that said, whether quoted out of context or not, Zille's reference to Zuma's aids risk to his wives was ill-considered and frankly, naive.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What is the catchiest song you know?

Bloody hell, this MGMT song "Kids" must be right up there...

Loving it!!

Kids - MGMT

You were a child,
crawlin' on your knees toward it.
Makin' mama so proud,
but your voice is too loud.

We like to watch you laughing.
Pickin' insects off plants.
No time to think of consequences.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wanting,
To be haunted.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

The water is warm,
but its sending me shivers.
A baby is born,
crying out for attention.
Memories fade,
like looking through a fogged mirror
Decisions to decisions are made and not fought
But I thought,
this wouldn't hurt a lot.
I guess not.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

Control yourself.
Take only what you need from it.
A family of trees wantin',
To be haunted.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Have you seen the new Golf ad?

Really top ad. Really love it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Have you seen genius on Idols?

Most of the time Idols shows performers with potential. They're just kids that might turn into stars. Sometimes you see the transformation taking place. Sometimes you see brilliant talent.

And sometimes you see genius.

Last year it was David Cook singing "Billy Jean."

This year it was Adam Lambert singing "Mad World."

This guy is genius. He reminds me at times of Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy) and Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars).

The reason the videos above are genius and not just talent is interpretation. Yeah they are iconic songs. But you forget they have ever been sung before when you hear Cook and Lambert sing them.

As big a fan as I am of David Archuleta from last year, when I heard Cook sing Billy Jean I thought, "Wow - genius. This guy deserves to win."

Ditto for Adam Lambert. It was evident he was a cut above early on in this year's American Idol. But the Mad World performance will stand out amongst all artists - not just Idols hopefuls.

Tears for Fears - Mad World lyrics

Songwriters: Orzabal, Roland;

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Goin' nowhere, goin' nowhere
Their tears are fillin' up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dyin'
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad world, mad world
Mad world, mad world

Children waitin' for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sits and listen, sits and listen
Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dyin'
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad world, mad world
Mad world, mad world

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dyin'
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very
Mad world, mad world
Mad world, mad world
A raunchy young world
Mad world