Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Organised Crime

Gauteng, South Africa, Metro policeman pulled Sipho’s car over and told him that because he had been wearing his seat belt he had just won R5 000, in an Arrive Alive safety competition.

Sipho could hardly believe his luck.

“What are you going to do with your cash?” asked the traffic cop.

“Well I guess I’m going to get a drivers license,” Sipho answered.

“Oh, don’t listen to him,” yelled Dipuo in the passenger seat. “He tries to be smart when he’s drunk.”

This woke up Rodger in the back seat who took one look at the cop and moaned, “I knew we wouldn’t get far in a stolen car.”

At that moment there was a knock from the boot and Zakes’ voice said, “Are we over the border yet?”

The cop fainted.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Job Interviews

A guy applies for a job at a new South African Government Department.

The interviewer asks, "Are you disabled in any way?"

"Yes!" the guy says, "...a landmine blew my testicles away!"

"O.K. you're hired!" the interviewer announces, "Working hours are from 8 till 5 o'clock. Make sure you're here by 10 every morning!"

Puzzled the guy says "8 till 5, why do you want me to come in only at 10?"

"This is a government job," the interviewer says. The first two hours we just sit around scratching our pointin you coming in for that....!"

But Bob, You Don't Understand!

I see South Africa is starting off the New Year with another spell of rolling blackouts. The government is now hinting at quotas. Seems like everything has to have quotas there.

I can just imagine the following conversation taking place.

American business man: “Hey Johan,” pronounced Jo-Ann, “why didn’t you came back to me about that email I sent you? I gave you a great price. I thought you would jump at the opportunity.”

Johan, Managing Director of a factory in South Africa: “What email?...Oh shit. The bloody power is off again and I can’t check my email.”

Bob, Vice President of Sales in an American company: “Well I had to make a decision by end of day. Sorry. But what are you guys doing about the company that supplies the electricity in your area? ”

Johan: “What do you mean by what are we doing. There’s little we can do. There’s only one supplier in the nation, Eskom. All they try to tell you is use less energy. I mean what kind of company tells its customers buy less.”

Bob: “What about the top management? Can’t the business sector and general folks put pressure on these guys to perform? Surely you can use the newspapers and TV to drive home the message.”

Johan: “Ja, but Bob you don’t understand. Eskom belongs to the government; it is part of the Department of Public Enterprises.” (What an ironic name.) “So the top guys are government appointees. They think like the government, and talk like the government. For goodness sake, the President’s spokesperson says it’s actually a positive situation that the country is growing to the extent that it is actually exhausting its electrical capacity. What bull is that? The idiot is now trying to insinuate we are victims of economic growth. Such a typical politician’s answer. Incompetence to plan for the future will never cross his mind. Sure the government has done some good to built village after village, providing new houses with electrical power to more people, to plug in their fridges and stoves, but they never took that one little step back in the beginning and ask where they are going to find all the electricity to feed these houses. What did they think? Electricity flowing through a hole in the sky like a never ending waterfall?”

Bob: “Johan, it seems we all have our problems. What you are experiencing now will happen in the near future here in the States too. Already California has its rolling blackouts from time to time. Demand has increased dramatically, but no one is building new power stations. Private companies claim the government regulations are too stringent, can’t make a decent profit. Claim they can’t build a plant in a desolated area either because it will be too far from its consumers. The government is doing nothing because they say it’s not their business to supply electricity. And the public; well the tree-huggers don’t want the environment damaged and although the Massachusetts and Maine coasts are ideal for generating green, wind energy, the rich don’t want their $10 million sea view spoilt. Everyone wants it in someone else’s backyard. But that’s also untrue. If I have to built a high tower to generate wind power in my backyard the neighbors will very quickly complain that the monstrosity will drive the value of their property down.”

Johan: “Ja I agree. People? We have the Cape, which is not called the Cape of Storms for nothing. The old Vaalies use to say the Cape is like a baby; if it’s not wet it’s windy. Lots of wind! But I don’t think the government will allow any private company to interfere with its electrical supply business (Strategic asset of national importance of course) by setting up a wind farm off the Cape coast. An ideal place though. I am surprised the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) guys have not yet convinced their buddies in the government to set up an alternative power generating industry. The “commissions” on offer for “consultations” are probably not yet big enough. In the mean time Eskom is spending big bucks on BEE companies that supply goods and services. So why whould the BEE boys worry to layout cash borrowed from the government for a wind powa-steshun.”

Bob: “Johan, time for me to go. I’ll keep you in mind when we have another sell off of raw materials. But I think next time I should call you instead. Your telephones are still working all the time, right?

Johan: “Ja, for the time being. The cell phone business is in private hands. Better you call me instead of emailing next time. Thanks for the offer. See yah.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Most Depressing Day of the Year

What does a scientist do when he is bored? He develops a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year. Today, January 21, 2008 is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Now our esteem researcher, Dr. Cliff Arnall from Cardiff University in Wales, has calculated that the 3rd Monday of January is truly a Blue Monday. He factors in bad weather, credit card debts from Christmas spending, failed New Year’s resolutions and a few other categories to get to his conclusion.

Well, let's see. If you are a Green Bay Packers or San Diego Chargers fan you will be depressed today because your teams lost the championship games yesterday. The fans don’t need a scientist to tell them that. I can sit here and think up 50 other reasons why people can be depressed today, but it is a futile exercise, because I can also think of 50 reasons why this theory is fallible. For the other factors used, what if you are a level-headed person that bought small Christmas presents cash and within your means and you have no credit card debt? What if you don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions?

What Dr. Arnall could have and maybe should have done was to sample actual people across the world and have some real data to back up his theory instead of coming up with a mathematical formula. Probably the only group of people that is depressed today is the taxpayers of Britain who had to pay this guy’s salary while he came up with this nonsense. In the mean time I think he is the laughing stock of the depressed world. Mathematically speaking of course.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Does This Goal Count?

The "Siberian Express"

the “siberian express” has arrived in kentucky,
causing temperatures to plunge and freeze any kind of moisture in its path. it is rare in the middle of winter (it’s january for goodness sake) that fairbanks, in the heartland of alaska, is warmer than danville, kentucky. This phenomena called the pacific-north american circulation, is happening more frequently the past 11 years according to scientists. another sign of global warming? it doesn’t come every winter, but when it does it can have disastrous consequences, like the challenger disaster of 1986 which liftoff after such a blob of icy weather moved away from florida, but the cold damaged some o-ring seals, which later malfunctioned and caused the fatal explosion..

it’s saturday night and I am cozy inside a warm house, eyes squared after watching two excellent character-study dramas back to back on tv. afterwards i took a quick peek at the thermometer on the porch. outside it’s currently 12 degrees fahrenheit / -11 degrees celsius. add the wind chill from the breeze and it feels like -2 degrees fahrenheit / -19 degrees celsius. this is serious cold weather for kentucky. i am sure i am bound to lose several plants that won’t be able to stand this cold for long. and as the night wore on and with no cloud cover to trap any radiated heat from the earth it will get even colder tonight. good night for watching tv!

the “siberian express” has nothing to do with siberia or russia. It is a term the weather people use to describe the blobs of frigid artic air that escapes the north pole and the artic circle, race down the eastside of the rocky mountains towards the mexican gulf, where it turns north again, and run up the atlantic coast. it is caused by warm air pushed north from the equator, passed hawaii, which cause the jet stream, that band of winds that blows about 3 miles above earth’s surface, to wobble and move over the north pole, picking up the frigid artic air and carry it down south into the usa and canada.

after dinner i perused the movie guide and found the ballad of jack and rose with daniel day-lewis and camilla belle. good movie. excellent soundtrack too, which includes the likes of bob dylan, nina simone and john mayall. day-lewis in his usual uncompromising and intense manner is brilliant. this is only his 5th movie in 11 years. the man doesn’t work too hard, but when he does he is outstanding. really one of that weird, gets-under-your-skin kind of movies that pushes the envelope on some emotional issues.

so from one movie with a disturbing, jealous daughter to another about a rebellious daughter’s fling with a disturbing, real mental case, urban cowboy, in down in the valley, starring one of my favorite actors, edward norton. both movies do a good job of illustrating the fact that the world is made up of all kinds of different people facing similar common life challenges such teenage rebellion, death, and broken dreams.

my challenge is to stay warm tonight.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Health and Happiness

I have always maintained that if you have the 2 H’s in your life, you’re doing fine. Health and Happiness. The old belief that money can buy happiness and maybe even both, at least money can buy better healthcare these days, but not a new health, is still a debatable issue. Even though Princeton University researchers found the “link between income and happiness is mainly an illusion,” what is not an illusion to me is the definite link between good health and feeling good or happy, which ever way you look at it.

This week, totally unplanned and highly annoying, my health took a little knock and my happiness level went down with it. Being sick sucks! I woke up Monday morning feeling good, ready for the week, tuned in for work, lots to do. But by 10 am I was bent over by pain in my stomach and back. As if an invisible poltergeist attacked me in the first 2 hours at work, ripping at my stomach and pounding me where I perceived my kidneys are. I had a very mild form of this kind of pain a month ago when I was in Mexico. I took an anti-acid tablet and forgot about. But Monday’s pain was different or was it? It certainly was far more intense. Was there maybe a link between this week’s and last month’s pain? By 2:30 pm Monday I was at the doctor’s office, not because I’m curious about a possible link, but because no anti-acid or pain pill I took at 11 am was any good. My “happiness level” decreased dramatically and it’s all because my health level went south.

At the doctor’s office they immediately sent

me to the Lab area, stuck a needle in my arm and I sat there watching the essence of my life, the red gold, being pulsed into three glass tubes, never to return to my body again. Parts forever lost. They also sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound the next day, just to check if the kidneys, liver, pancreas and gallbladder are all still cozy with each other. But by Wednesday they told me I was invaded by Mr. Helicobacter pylori, or H.pylori (pictured on the right). Another H, but a bad H.

This little microscopic bugger with his longer version of a Homer Simpson hairstyle is the one that causes peptic ulcers in humans. Nasty buggers! So he and maybe many millions of his closes friends and family members must have been inside me in Mexico already, went dormant or just quietly multiplied and waited. Sharpening their spears. When the conditions were right again on Monday they launched their attack. My natural born germ killers were caught totally off guard.

The best defense now is to start a chemical war against the Pylori clans. They must be annihilated otherwise they will just keep coming back and attack again, like an irritating little Maltese poodle yapping at your ankles. So no peace treaties will be signed and no prisoners will be taken. Full blown chemical warfare. Eight pills a day for the next two weeks, the PrevPac the nurse called it, plus the painkillers, if needed, for the back. And that’s interesting. The stomach pains are mainly gone now, but the lower back pain is forever lingering around like the constant drone of lawnmowers on a sunny Saturday afternoon in spring.

I could have been infected anywhere, it is a common enough infection, but it reminded me again that one’s health and life can be so easily impacted. Our bodies can only live in that small range of conditions before it protests or being attacked. Our body is so frail, but it’s all we really have. All we can really call our own. The only thing we were given when we came into the world and the only thing we’ll carry around until death. A body and a brain. Health and Happiness. The two H’s. The rest is just stuff.

And although my life is only a tiny blip on the timeline of the big picture, it is still precious to me. Better health, especially for my inherited sensitive stomach, will also occur if I watch my diet better. I will have to decrease my intake of the “world foods” I so like to cook and eat. The rich Italian, the spicy Spanish and Mexican, the unfamiliar Turkish or Moroccan, the hot and aromatic Indian, and the flavorful French. The experimental spirit need not be stored away or abandoned, just a reduction in consumption occurrences and quantity is required. Too good is not always so good it seems.

1) Waking up strong in the morning by Alison Nolan
2) Happiness (Red) by Katie Coffin

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What a Weird Kinda Day?

Okay, it started out normal with none of my numbers matching the Powerball Lotto numbers. I don’t know why I keep on trying, but who knows…Somebody’s got to win. And if you don’t play you can’t win.

After lunch I drove to pick up my son at his work and got caught in a short but heavy hail storm. All traffic came to a halt for a few moments. Got home to drop him off and the whole neighborhood was under police and ambulances and part of our road was blocked off by police cars. Three houses down a man, sitting in his car in his driveway, blew his head off with a shotgun. Yeoh! Made me think of that Beatles song “…/he blew his mind out in a car/…A crowd of people stood and stared/…”*

Just before 5:00 pm the internal shelter alarm at work went off because of a tornado warning. Everyone of course stopped what they were doing and calmly rushed to the shelter. Luckily nothing happened and we were “released” 10 minutes later. Outside it was pouring with rain and lightning was lighting up the sky like a Christmas tree.

After work I had to go and buy some groceries and while looking at the meat a “belated St. Nicolas” in a butcher’s uniform came along and re-prized several packages of meat. I’ve seen those bright orange stickers before and being an avid cook and always on the lookout for a good cut on a special prize, I checked it out. I had to look a couple of times because I couldn’t believe my eyes. You know that “Oh my gosh” kind of look. He marked down a pack of three Rib eye steaks, which usually sells for $9-10 per pound and which previously was marked for $20.45 for the pack to $4.89. I checked the sell by date and it was okay. Now, being a carnivore by nature and genes (veggies and fruit is by choice, but I also like them) I immediately picked up the pack, stupidly ask “St Nicolas” if this is the per packed or per pound price, and he said: “That’s my final answer.”

I heard the music go on in my head, I turned, smiled, put the meat in my cart, turned back to “St. Nicolas” and followed him all the way as he was re-prizing more packages. A pack of chicken drumsticks was previously $4.16 and I got it for 36 cents. Braised steaks were previously $7.19 per pack and I got it for $1.47. Whow! Except for one pack of meat I didn’t want, I picked up every pack of meat as soon as he re-prized it and put them in my cart. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. I didn’t get the Powerball, but I certainly got this jackpot.

Back home the kids were happy to dine on last night’s leftovers of penne and sweet basil and tomato marinara and I was too happy to comply. With the wife visiting family and friends in Cape Town and sightseeing in Mykonos on the West coast and who knows where she'll go (I hope she snap some photos for later posts on this blog) I happily dined on a glass or two of Merlot, several thick slices of well-aged Parmesan (they go so well together), followed by a green salad with marinated artichokes hearts, marinaded mushrooms, lot’s of crumbled goat’s cheese, mixed olives and a Greek vinaigrette.

All that must now still happen today is me getting to bed by 10 o’clock. Now that will be unusual and abnormal. But it’s unlikely to happen because I got a three month financial forecast and a monthly departmental report still ahead of me tonight.

But what a…different…kind of day! It felt so eventful and spontaneous.

* Lyrics: A Day In The Life by Lennon and McCartney.
Art: Spontaneous I and II by Lanie Loreth