Saturday, November 8, 2008

Die Lang Wag Is Oor...Of Is Dit?

Die lang wag is oor…of is dit? Ek is nie seker of ek verlig moet wees en of ek pissed off moet wees nie. Ek het voorheen vertel van my soeke na nuwe, soos in wat ek nog nie na geluister het nie, maar nie noodwendig nuut op die mark nie, Afrikaanse Rock/contemporary musiek.

Donderdag aand let ek op het my kredie kaart ge-reimburse vir die verlore CDs wat ek in Julie bestel het, maar steeds voor wag. Wat gaa aan? Ek was onder die indruk hulle gaan dit weer stuur. Alhoewel ek in my laaste email aan hulle gesê het: Gee my geld terug of probeer weer die CDs te stuur, het ek benadruk dat ek die CDs bo ‘n terugbetaling sal verkies. Hul laaste email het genoem dat hulle sal kyk na my saak maar ek het nooit weer van hulle gehoor nie.

Vrydag oggend dog ek toe, bogger dit en bel hulle. Vind uit wat de hel gaan aan! Miskien is ek gelukkig en ek vind ‘n warm liggaam aan die anderkant van die lyn wat net die nodigste belangstelling in haar/sy werk toon op ‘n Vrydag middag, wat my dalk kan help met die eerste probeerslag. No stonewalling or phone transfers.

En wragtig! Surprise, surprise! Die eerste persoon kon my binne ‘n minute vertel hoekom my ‘n krediet gegee het in plaas daarvan om weer die CDs te stuur. Company Policy. Verlore aflewerings word gekanseleer en geld word terugbetaal. Gesê op ‘n mooi manier sodat ek kon verstaan Policy word met ‘n capital P gespel. Ek vra toe of hulle nog voorraad het van die CDs wat ek bestel het, en “ja” sê sy. Ek moet net weer deur die hele order process gaan. No problem. De Nada.

Nou’s die vraag hoe drasties is ek? Om te reorder is ‘n breeze, maar wil ek weer sit met die gesukkel as dit nie hier annkom nie. Moet ek ‘n donkie wees en my kop twee keer stamp? Ek het Dinsdag vir die donkie (Democratic Party) gestem en…maybe I should ride my luck. What luck? Of moet ek vir familie vra om die CDs vir my te koop en aan te stuur. Maar ek kan klaar sekerige gesigsuitdrukkinge sien; What a pain in the butt? Nee! Daardie paadjie is nie ‘n opsie nie. Of moet ek maar wag totdat ek weer eendag in Suid Afrika uitkom en dit self koop. Maar dit kan ‘n lang wag wees.

Terwyl ek nou sit en skryf en Fourplay my ore bestreel met hul funked-up jazz, het ek nog nie besluit of ek drasties genoeg is nie. En dit lyk ook nie asof ek baie opsies het nie. Tenminste, die Rand het heelwat verswak teenoor die Dollar en dit is voordelig vir my. Die hele transaksie sal nou goedkoper wees. But money can’t buy you love. ‘n Mens het mos ook maar behoeftes, dan nie?

Nee, dit lyk my ek sal maar weer moet bestel en hoop vir die beste. Wat ‘n palawa (spelling?) om net ‘n bietjie musiek in die hande te kry!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chasing Geese

My house backs up to Millennium Park, a recreational and sports facility with soccer fields, baseball parks, play areas for smaller kids, walking and running trails and more, including a man-made lake with fish, ducks and geese.

Every night just before sunset the geese become noisy, calling each other. Time to go! For some or other reason they don’t like sleeping in the park and they fly off to somewhere. The ducks stay behind and find sleeping place around the lake.

For some weeks now I have tried, when I have a free moment to indulge in photography and get home from work before sunset, to catch the geese on camera, flying off into the sunset. Unsuccessfully, I might add. If I get too close to the lake I will not have the wide shot I am looking for. If I stay to the north they would lift off to the south. Somehow they just don’t want to cooperate with me. (Ha-ha.)

But sometimes I get lucky and get a nice sunset. Like this burning-sky sunset.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon In Autumn

Falling Leaves by Gabriel de Jongh

Sunday was one of those perfect autumn days here in Kentucky. The early morning coolness was burned off by noon, leaving a cloudless blue sky. The temperature topped out at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight, lazy breeze now and then, just enough to gently loosen the leaves from the trees to let them drift, glide and twirl to the ground, and to give autumn its alternative name of fall.

The afternoon was spent fiddling around, playing with the granddaughter after her midday sleep, but in general doing nothing really, just sitting on the ‘stoep’ (porch) and watching the day go by. The extra hour we got today with the return from daylight savings time also helped to prolong the nice day. For dinner I decided to ‘braai’ (BBQ) tuna steaks on the grill and to open a bottle of Chateau Souverain Chardonnay 2005 from Sonoma County to accompany it. Seeing that I had a lot of mushrooms and wanted to use it in some kind of warm mushroom salad or side dish I search some of my favorite food websites and came across a truly South African inspired potato and mushroom bake at Cooksister’s blog. Luckily I had the recipe’s secret ingredient, a packet of Knorr brown onion soup, in the pantry from a previous trip to South Africa and the dish came out really well. But the star was the wine.

Surrounded by the Groot Drakenstein Mountains in the southwest, the Simonsberg Mountains in the west, the Klein Drakenstein Mountains in the north, the Wemmershoek Mountains in the east, and the Franchhoek Mountains in the southeast, and receiving cool sea breezes during the evenings, the Franchoek (“French Corner”) Valley is ideally located to produce top class wines. The valley, originally called Olifants Hoek (Elephants Corner) because of the many elephants that use to roam the area (the last left in 1850), and later called Drankenstein (Dragon rock) by the Dutch, was populated mainly by the French Huguenots in 1688 after the Edict of Nantes revoked religious freedom for Protestants in France. With them came their knowledge of wine. One of the amazing things of the valley is its ability to produce many top cultivars in a relative small area. You’ll find the classic whites like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay here, and also the royal reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. On top of that the valley is renowned for its methode Cap Classique Champagne and rather surprisingly, Ports.

When I came to the United States I brought about 100 bottles of Cape wine with me stacked away between furniture and other household goods. Actually, it was in storage in Cape Town harbor for 6 months and spent 2 months on the sea before it all arrived in Kansas City about 8 months our arrival. Among the wines were 6 bottles of Chamonix Chardonnay 1995, bought on the Chamonix estate in the Franschhoek Valley. Made in the old French style: Deep golden yellow color, strong butterscotch and Cape gooseberry undertones and woody, very woody. This was not a lunch time wine, far too heavy for that. It needed strong flavored foods to stand up to the wine. Smoked or blackened salmon, veal or coq au vin are possible companions for the Chamonix Chardonnay 1995. Alas the estate doesn’t make the old style Chardonnay anymore. Today’s Chamonix wines are modern and lighter, which off course is the current trend in Chardonnay production.

For many years I have been on the lookout here in the US for a Chardonnay similar to Chamonix. I haven’t found it yet, but I am sure it exists, just not in my price range. Last week I was at a dinner at the Old Owl Tavern at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and I notice they were selling a Chateau Souverain Chardonnay by the glass. (The wine caught my eye because I recently bought a bottle, but has not yet opened it. Until Sunday.) To try it out I ordered a glass with my blackened salmon. Unfortunately it was not quite at the right temperature and it certainly didn’t taste or smell like the bottle was just opened. It lacked that just-opened-bottle freshness explosion when it interacts with the taste buds. But I smelled and tasted enough smokiness and woodiness to hint of something better.

According to the information on the bottle Chateau Souverain’s 2005 Chardonnay was made from grapes coming from three areas in Sonoma County, which in my mind add to the complexity of the wine. From the Russian River valley it gets its honeysuckle floral aromas and tropical fruit flavors, from Alexander valley its pear and peach flavors and from Carneros its ripe apple and lemon-citrus. French barrel fermentation adds oak and spice.

Alas, the Chateau Souverain is not a Chamonix (actually it is closer to the modern Chamonix Chardonnay than the older ones), but for the first time I found something that was close to what I was looking for, a good woody Chardonnay.

I found the pear, peach and citrus flavors prominent, inducing a hint of creaminess, but very nicely balanced by the spiciness from the oak barrel fermentation. The color was leaning ever so slightly towards a deep yellow-gold, but not going all the way and held up against the fading light of this lazy Sunday it showed a tint of green in it. However, the impact of the oak barrels, which are custom made on the estate, infused the golden liquid with a rich smoky-woody aroma on the nose and taste buds and provided a strong, long-lingering after taste.

Chateau Souverain’s 2005 Chardonnay may not be Chamonix Chardonnay 1995, but it had more than enough structure and character to stand up to the Tuscan-flavored grilled tuna and richness of Portobello mushrooms and creamy brown onion flavors in Cooksister’s “My big fat South African potato bake”.

Gabriel De Jongh painting from

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Dogs

I know dogs hate the 4th of July,
but I wonder if dogs enjoy Halloween as much as their owners?

The Trick or Treat Dogs

The Extraterrestrial Dog

Darth Vader's Dog

If ever there was an expression that said it all, it must this one.


The book dog.

The Last Crusader (in Highlanders colors.)

The Junk Food Dogs

But not to be outdone by the Banana Boys.

And lastly...

"Pink toe nails and dirty with the money" (Mark Knopfler)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Short Romance

I suppose it was just a matter of time, with most polls now favoring Barack Obama to win the election, the Republican Congress wannabees changing strategies from negative attacks to damage control and rumors of heated differences between McCain and Palin strategists, before the troubles of the backyard spill out on to the front lawn.

In the short span of 3 months their sudden and surprising romance went from this

to this...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Into The Blue Haze

Billy Cobham and his fusion friends, Alfonso Johnson, Tom Scott and Steve Khan, are seriously freaking out some Punk Funk in my ears while I am recalling last weekend to write this post. Their 1979 album of Alivemutherforya must be one of the best fusion albums ever produced.

For nearly ten years now, when ever we get the opportunity, we slip away to the Great Smoky Mountains, and specifically Gatlinburg, for a long weekend or so. The past weekend we did it again.

There’s something in the mountains that draws one back. We love to get a chalet up in Chalet Village (bit expensive but worth it, much better than a hotel room) and we try to stay out of town. We just want to rest, take in the surroundings, sleep late, lazy around, and totally unwind. We did kind of plan this trip because it’s fall and the Smokies is famous for it fall colors, and that means crowds. On top of that, they also had the yearly Fall Festival and a Craft Fair. More crowds. (Gatlinburg is famous for its many crafters that live in the area.) So planning ahead was very important in order to get a good chalet.

I expected more color, but we were just too early for the changes at lower altitude. But then, to experience great fall colors you have to get the timing just right and have luck on your side. Nature is not really famous for playing along with your plans. It’s got its own plans and will drop its leaves depending on his own circumstances. And if you work for a salary you don’t always have the freedom to drop everything to go and watch nature’s antics. Yes, the leaves started to change color, but only at higher altitudes. Our timing was out by about 2 weeks. But our circumstances were such that this was the only week we could get away by ourselves to the mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy for most of the time with a misty rain now and then. Nature’s own plans again. Off course when we had to leave on Sunday, the grey was gone; the sky was blue and clear with not a cloud in sight.

But coming home the traffic was a bitch! Bumper to bumper, stop-start from Dollywood Lane in Pigeon Forge to the I-40 and there must be 30 or 40 sets of lights until you get to the highway. And even the highway home was very busy and the the average speeds were slower than usual. In the end, the usual 3 and a half hour trip took longer than 5 hours. But the few days away from work, children and everyday rigmarole was priceless.

A near constant blue haze hangs over the mountains, hence the name Smoky Moutains. The haze is caused when the plants release water vapor and terpenes, natural oils produced by the plants, into the air. I took this photo from one of the many lookout points we stopped at along Newfound Gap Road.

Driving along Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park, half of it in the state of Tennessee and half in North Carolina, is a unique biosphere and have more than 10,000 plant and animal species documented.
On Saturday when the rain stayed away, although still cloudy from time to time, we drove from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap and then on to Clingman's Dome (2,025 m/6,643 ft), the park’s highest peak. The road goes up to about half a mile from the lookout point on the Dome.

Beautiful fall colors
The end of the road at Clingman's Dome, the 3rd highest peak in the Eastern United States. We decided against climbing the last 500 feet to the lookout point because of a cold wind that was blowing and from below we saw that the dome was constantly cover in a cloud (top left), which would have made decent viewing from there impossible.
A gently flowing stream now, but the Little Pigeon River can turn into a roaring beast in spring time as the snow melts.
The view from Newfound Gap. The original lowest gap through the moutains was at Indian Gap, but during the 19th century they found a lower path, hence the name Newfound Gap. The existing road through the mountains was built in the early part of the 20th century.

After we returned from the drive through the park we visited some stores in town and at Sleepy's we bought a wood carving of bears "Wipe Your Paws". The Black bear is the maskot of the National Park and there are about 1,500 bears in the park.
This is the view we had from the sofa in the sitting room or
from either of the 2 decks of the chalet.
Heaven on green cottonballs!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Mole Hunt

When I started out to redesign the garden it was not the long term planning or the hard work of transplanting plants or the heavy loads involved in building stone edges that worried me, it was the moles. I said then I will have to find a way to stop the moles from turning my new lawn into the catacombs of Rome.

That is exactly what is happening now. There seems to be one in the very back of my property, tunneling in their usual stomping ground, but this fall he, she or it, let’s call it it because I don’t know the sex, has also moved closer to the house and into the newly planted lawn. Off course moles love a soft, watered lawn, and after tilling the soil and sowing the seeds one has to water to make the seeds grow. Not so? Exactly what the mole doctor ordered. So what am I to do next?

Internet research tells me I have many choices but the tools available on the market produce little or limited results. Great! I have already tried the granules that are supposed to chase them away with the smell to an area I don’t mind them living. But that just infuriated the mole and it invaded another area of my yard and he dug twice as many tunnels as before. I am now trying the poison peanuts, but I have already noticed that after you killed one in a specific area another comes along a day or three later and claims the territory. Moles are very territorial. A few years ago I tried the mole traps, unsuccessfully I might add, my cat had much more success catching them than I, and research tells me moles are mostly too clever to get trapped by unprofessionals like me. So, it seems I either live with them or I turn into a Carl Speckler (Bill Murray), the obsessed golf-course-lawn-loving greens attendant in the movie, Caddyshack.

I don’t mind living with wild animals in the yard as long as they are beneficial and don’t give me additional work. I rather have a mole digging tunnels than picking up shit after a dog. Moles certainly are beneficial and good for my garden. They eat all the grubs and worms and other bugs that would normally attack plant roots. They are good for aerating the ground beneath lawns. So they are beneficial, but it’s the extra work they give me that I don’t want. Hell, that’s why I changed the garden, to have less work. I have noticed in the past that there where moles dig their tunnels the grass dies and moss or weeds take root in the open patches. But I don’t want a patchy looking lawn either so I will have to continuously seed and water (extra work) or fight them, which my logical brain tells me is rather futile because if I succeed this fall, they will be back next spring again.

In the mean time, I don’t know when to give up and I still have some fight left in me. So, Mr. or Mrs. Mole, I am not going to become Carl Speckler, but I am going to give you my best shot.

To be continue…

PS: January 10, 2007, East Germany.

A 63-year-old man's extraordinary effort to eradicate moles from his property resulted in a victory for the moles. The man pounded several metal rods into the ground and connected them - not to household current, which would have been bad enough - but to a high-voltage power line, intending to render the subterranean realm uninhabitable. Coincidentally, the maneuver rendering the surface of the ground uninhabitable as well, electrifying the very ground on which he stood. He was found dead some time later, at his holiday property on the Baltic Sea. Police had to trip the main circuit breaker before venturing onto the property.

Rumor has it they figured out the time of death by looking at his electric bill later.

Brothers in Arms

Will it be a fart against thunder, a storm in a tea cup or just a tiny splinter from the beam?

I have so far refrained from commenting on the Thabo Mbeki resignation or firing, which ever way you look at it, simply because I don’t really know Mbeki. I left SA when Nelson Mandela was still running the country and I have only read on the Internet what Mbeki achieved or did not achieved in his presidency. What his achievements mean to the everyday person in his everyday life I can’t say. And the new temporary President I don’t know at all. Never even heard or saw his name before. However, the possible split in the ANC could have repercussions for expatriates.

I, like many other South Africans that have left the country may always have the hope of one day returning, maybe to retire there. After all you can take an Afrikaner out of Africa but never really take Africa out of the Afrikaner. The current storm in a tea cup with the possible split in the ANC can cut both ways. Let’s face it; the ANC did bring a form of political stability to South Africa after 1994, albeit crime did climb sky high. But compare to what happened in other African countries after a change in long time rule the ANC did not do too badly. But it also brought arrogance and a sense of “we can do what ever we want” in parliament, which is not good for politics because it can lead to another Zimbabwe. On the other hand a split in the ANC into 2 parties, the doves and the hawks, or the moderates and the hardliners could have positive and negative implications. Positive because it can lead to more balanced politics in the country and negative because it could result in a civil war. It’s not too far fetched with some hawks exclaiming that they will kill for Jacob Zuma.

But will there really be a significant split? Will Mbeki really join a new party after a lifetime of serving the ANC? Will the ANC high command really allow something like that to occur? And will those that are now doing the tough talk and breaking away come up with policies that differ enough from the ANC’s to become a real political power? After all, the split it seems to me is more about power than policy. And that’s hardly a sound reason for starting a new political party. Obviously only time will tell, but it does make for more interesting times ahead for South Africa.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Die Lang Wag

12 weke! Dit is hoe lank ek nou al wag vir om my CDs te stuur.

In ‘n vorige pos het ek geskryf oor my soeke na nuwe Afrikaanse rock musiek. (Rock het nog nooit werklik goed vertaal na rots or ruk en roll toe nie.) Ek het uiteindelik ‘n paar CDs by gekry waarin ek belangstel (daar’s maar min om van te kies), meestal compilations van verskeie kustenaars, dit bestel, en toe begin die lang wag.

In Julie het hulle my laat weet my shipment is gestuur, maar dis was die laaste wat ek van hulle gehoor het. Twee emails later na hul customer care departement, op soek na die “geskeepte” CDs (ek kan sweer die Union Castle is nog steeds deel van hul supply chain) het ek uiteindelik iets vanaf hulle gehoor. Natuurlik het hulle eers verskonings probeer maak dat oorsese verskeeping nie traceable is nie, maar hulle het belowe om die CDs weer te pos sienende dat dit verlore is. Ek sal maar nog moet wag en sien of dit hier sal uitkom.

M stuur my biltong as sy gaan kuier in die Kaap en ek kry dit om en by 3 weke later. Soms nog voor sy terug vlieg. En in January het ek ook CDs gekoop by hulle en dit binne ‘n maand ontvang. Nee, ek dink M is reg. Dit het mootlik nooit die Poskantoor gehaal nie of dit het “verdwyn” in die Poskantoor “stelsel”. Blame the ghost workers.

Om te vertel wat ek bestel het is irrelevant; Dis soos om die vel te verkoop voor die bok geskiet is. As die CDs ooit eendag hier uitkom, en ek het daarna geluister, kan ek weer hieroor gesels. Intussen moet ek maar wag.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Financial Bailout

This is suppose to be historic times we live in.
Strange how history seems to repeat itself.
Especially in the political arena.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Feeling of Freedom

Very few people have the ability to transform the sound of music into the feeling of freedom like Niel Young can do it in Unknown Legend.

Einde Van Ons Bloed, Einde Van 'n Volk

einde van ons bloed
in die stilte van die heuwels
is die gekreun van brons ossewaens oorverdowend op die gemoed
ongefokus staar die oog en wonder
oor die vele stryde wat nog sou woed
was dit maar die begin
van die einde van ons bloed
skreuend en voetsleepend word ons meegesleur
deur die vallei van herinneringe soet
en gelos as slagoffers van ‘n edele stryd
wat binne woed and brand soos ‘n vulkaniese gloed
die landskap is stil en smeulend, swart gebrand
net hier en daar ‘n enkele kaal boom wat kla
daar is geen stem meer wat uitroep
ons vir jou suid afrika

Ek het vanoggend 'n damn goeie blog inskrywing gelees oor die "afgestorwe Afrikaner volk van Suid Afrika. En terwyl ek so gelees het, het ek weereens besef dat die geskiedenis van nasies maar net die gevolge is van 'n reeks besluite wat geneem word van geslag tot geslag. Die uitslag op die lange duur is soms niks anders as 'n simple twist of fate soos so goed beskryf deur Bob Dylan.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Automakers Jumped On The Wagon Too

The more I read up on the current bank and credit crisis the angrier I get. Although I am not opposed to a financial assistance package to prevent the credit crunch from bringing the country to a standstill, a straight forward bailout package rushed through Congress, adding on more pork fat as it roll along with little strings attached is unacceptable.

Talk about more pork, as a side note, they are now trying to add $25 billion bailout for auto companies. Why? These palookas have been making shitty cars and bad decisions for years now while the writing for change was clearly on the wall. Now that the gas price is sky high they can’t sell their gas guzzlers, their biggest money makers, anymore. Last I looked there were no reports of financial troubles in Toyota or Nissan or BMW. If there are they are sorting it out by themselves. Why the hell should the tax payers bailout Ford and GM and Chrysler? And it is truly a bailout, here’s the check, no questions asked. No, they were just as greedy as the bank executives, with no financial foresight. But again, as proven so often, the lobbyists in Washington are far more influential than tax payers. They have the ears of Congress because they have the money for their elections.

Politicians are now farting stink bombs at the speed of light because the want to return to the constituencies to fight an election and they are now in panic mode. That’s why they are rushing. They think if they do nothing they will be roasted at home, probably true, but in the meantime Main Street is protesting the high bailout plan. Personally I feel Main Street is expecting something to happen, some help to organizations that was really dragged into this mess without a choice, but Main Street much rather want to see help for Joe Regular Guy and most certainly not something that will broke the bank (pun intended) for the tax payers. Damn, didn’t President Bush do that already? I know lobbyists is behind the automakers bailout and I am convinced lobbyists is also to some extend behind the financial bailout of banks, although I am sure the Fed and the Administration are also pushing just as hard if not harder for the bailout. After all, this crisis could in later years maybe be seen as a defining moment in the Bush presidency. (He certainly will be remembered for some significant events on his watch, the 9/11/ attack, the financial crisis of 2008, the questionable war in Iraq, etc.)

To me democracy means “we the people.” Period! That means no place for lobbyist. They don’t have a vote as a group. They have a perfect venue to push their case, their vote in an election as individuals. I know Sen. John McCain is a gambler, hence his knee-jerk reaction in selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate. I am not saying it’s a good or bad decision. I simply don’t know. Time will tell. But if McCain can guarantee to me that he will get rid of lobbyist, he will have my vote.

Alas, that won’t happen, getting rid of lobbyists that is, because the First Amendment clearly protects the freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, and a fifth freedom…the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.", in other words, lobbying.

“But Sen. McCain I will settle for less. No earmarks, thus no bailout for automakers. They are on their own.”

PS: There is a lot of blame going around and many should rightfully share in the blame. The Administration through the years, Congress, both a Republican and Democratic one and off course Wall Street. Here is how Wall Street points out the Government’s contribution to this issue.

At Last...The Lawn Has Been Established

Two weeks after sowing grass on the new lawn. It is always difficult to start a lawn from scratch, but I am very satisfied after the first seeding. More than 98% sprouted well. Today I over seeded again on a few small patched that sprouted sparsely, hence the patches of straw. Now I'm done. I will have to wait until the seedlings are about 4 -5 inches high before I can give it its first cut.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kentucky Horse Farms

Few things are as Kentuckian as horse farms and few Kentucky residents have captured them better than Gene Burch.

Keeneland race course in spring time.

Fall in Kentucky can be as spectacular as fall in New England.

Mare and foal in the winter snow.

All pictures courtesy of Gene Burch Photography.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cancel Your Credit Cards Prior To Death!

Be sure and cancel your credit cards before you die!

A lady died this past January, and ABSA, (the Amalgamated Bank of South Africa) billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been R0.00, is now R60.00. A family member placed a call to the ABSA Bank call centre:

Family Member: 'I am calling to tell you that she died in January.'
ABSA: 'The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.'
Family Member: 'Maybe, you should turn it over to collections.'
ABSA: 'Since it is two months past due, it already has been.'
Family Member: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?'
ABSA: 'Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!'
Family Member: 'Do you think God will be mad at her?'
ABSA: 'Excuse me?'
Family Member: 'Did you just get what I was telling you . . . The part about her being dead?'
ABSA: 'Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.'
(Supervisor gets on the phone.)
Family Member: 'I'm calling to tell you, she died in January.'
ABSA: 'The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.'
Family Member: 'You mean you want to collect from her estate?'
ABSA: (Stammer) 'Are you her lawyer?'
Family Member: 'No, I'm her great nephew.' (Lawyer info given)
ABSA: 'Could you fax us a certificate of death?'
Family Member: 'Sure.' (fax number is given )
(After they got the fax)
ABSA: 'Our system just isn't set up for death. I don't know what more I can do to help.'
Family Member: 'Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don't think she will care.'
ABSA: 'Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.'
Family Member: 'Would you like her new billing address?'
ABSA: 'That might help.'
Family Member: ' West Park Cemetry, 12 West Park Road, Johannesburg, Plot Number 1049.'
ABSA: 'Sir, that's a cemetery!'
Family Member: 'Well, what the &%$# do you do with dead people on your planet?'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Does the Whole Wide World Hate America?

“America the moral pimp of the world
Say ‘in God we trust’
The killing they do
Is in His name they must
Some of these leaders
Had the Bible in one hand
In the other young guns
To do their killing on foreign sand”
Why does the whole wide world hate America,
How come the whole world hates America

The Whole Wide World Hates America – Anton Goosen

When I heard those words for the first time it didn’t ring any warning nor did I care for political reflections. I was fighting my own inner war. I was completing stacks of forms and going backward and forward between to go or not to go. A few months later we left South Africa to boldly go where none of our kin has gone before, into the whole new world of America.

Bushrock (of a white kaffir of Africa) was one of the last South African CD’s I bought that Christmas of 1996 before departing. According to the sleeve cover I bought it Vibes for R24.99. One of the biggest cultural bargains I ever scored in my life. So little money for so much musical insight and entertainment. I would come to listen to it many times over the next few years and still do. In my humble opinion and I generally hate to make these kind of comparisons, but I feel Bushrock was Anton Goosen’s Highway 61 Revisited. Not only was the album written in a reflective period in Goosen’s life, searching for his roots, musical roots; a time of hope, (listen to Rainbow Nation,) and a time at a crossroads; the music was simultaneously new and matured, and most appropriately also at a crossroads where boeremusiek met the sounds of Soweto and the townships, marabi.

I am getting those emails again, just like 8 months ago when the Stock Exchange dropped into the New York Bay and caused a ripple across the world. Then people’s pension funds in Johannesburg took a dive and some wanted to know what we’re up to on the other side of the pond. Now those emails are flying and screaming again, ‘insinuating’ that I actually had control over the matter: Hey, when are you going to get rid of Bush and his cronies? He let the stock exchange crash again. He is asleep at the switch. Actually, SEC chairman Cox is being accused of doing the sleeping, but Bush is having his “you’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie” moment again when his Press Secretary, Dana Perino exclaim that Cox has Bush’s confidence, Cox is a Bush appointee, while the stock exchange is tumbling again. However, many more cracks are now visible than 8 months ago. And let’s face it, if you want to blame President Bush for the current economic crisis, go ahead. After all, he got a balanced budget and a surplus bank account when he took office and now we are in the deepest shit ever no matter which way you look at the numbers.

But, “I didn’t do it, ok, and I have no control over the economy. And if you think your pension fund is closer to the South Pole than Ushuaia, well, my 401K is right there with your pension fund, frolicking in the frosted frozen wonderland.” I know the screaming is not directed at me but simply because I am in America. But the emails do arouse the question: Why does the whole wide world hate America?

Contrarily to popular belief, I read this last year in some travel magazine, we are not the loudest travelers in the world, the Italians are, and we’re not the rudest tourist in the word, the French are. Based on a recent survey done by, 4000 hotel owners and managers place the Chinese as the worst travelers and the Japanese as the best. Americans are the 11th best. But the perception lingers, doesn’t it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Big Garden Makeover

It is the first day of fall and so close now, so close to putting the last few pieces of the puzzle in place to complete all the planned changes to the backyard garden makeover.

The construction site look is gone, the potholes have been filled, the transfer of plants to new and existing beds and borders are completed and this week I will be putting in the last, thank goodness for that, of 3.5 tons of rocks as edging to some of the beds and borders.

There were Saturdays when my wife would come out into the garden and search for the mad dogs or the Englishmen, but she only ever found a mad South African American in the Kentucky midday sun. And we have had our fare share of blazing hot days in August when the thermometer climbed to 95 plus degrees Fahrenheit day after day.

Making new holes and transplanting flowers in the murderously hard clay soil was difficult at times, but leaving the rock work for last, and I had no choice in the matter really because it just the way the plan goes, when most of my energy after a long summer is sapped and my weary body is carrying several minor injuries from the constant toiling of the land, will finally push me over the edge at actually wishing winter would come. And I never wish for winter.

For the past three weeks, every Friday afternoon I took my trusted Dodge Ram truck (bakkie), drove to the local quarry outside of town, scampered over 12 feet high hills of “shot rock” as the industry call these rocks and individually selected a ton or so of these limestone rocks, which individually weight between 20 pounds for the small ones and up to 80 pounds or more for the bigger ones. Threw them down the rock heap, loaded them onto the truck, came back home and unloaded the rocks onto a small wagon and using my one manpowered human engine to pull the wagon to the backyard to dump the rocks where I need them for the edging. Early Saturday mornings I was out in the garden, again individually selected the rocks and man handled them so they would fit neatly into one another, well kind of; these aren’t neatly squared bricks, they are rough-edged rocks of all shapes and sized, to make a walled edge for the borders. So in essence I have handled each rock four times, meaning in total I have moved 14 tons of rock, by hand, the past 3 weeks. To say I sometimes felt like shot rock is an understatement. I am blasted. But I have about 45 rocks left before I can say “That’s it, I’m done”.

But that’s not really true either. After the completion of the edges I still have to layout a floor of flat rocks underneath a tree where I created a seating area and where I will be installing a Victorian wraparound-a-tree bench. The new lawn has been sowed and the new grass sprouts are abundant after just a week. Hopefully that will complete the work on the “new” garden for the year. Of course, there is still weeding and cleanup in fall, but that’s nothing compare to what was already accomplished this summer.

Well, this was no instant garden and the complete results will not be seen until next year spring/summer when the flowers bloom around the central green lawn. And that’s the only drawback to all the hard work. No instant gratification.
One of the many changes was to the entrance to the backyard. I removed a high maintenance, variegated Willow bush and change the bushy, overgrown look to a more formal style, less maintenance garden.

In the southeastern corner of the yard I completed the Contemplation garden by putting in wooden edging, removing overgrown honeysuckles and replacing it with evergreen arborvitaes and yews and filling in the garden space with flowers, installing a new arbor and putting down a floor for two chairs and a table. I will add a vine next spring to cover the arbor.

Comtemplation garden detail. I call it the comtemplation garden after the true meaning of the word, to seperate something from its environment (the rest of the garden) or to enclose, because this garden is now totally enclosed by vegetation and the only entrance is through the arbor. It is a great place to sit if you want peace and quiet.

Before: Wide view of the backyard in April 2008 at the start of the makeover.
After: And here is the backyard in September 2008 after moving all the plants to better organized beds and borders and creating a central lawn. I also replaced the old small shed I built several years ago with a bigger Amish style cottage. Portions of the stone edging walls I built is also visible.