Showing posts from January, 2009

living large?

I was reading a speech posted on Toomuchcoffee made by Johann Rupert at the University of Pretoria recently and was really interested by a couple of points.

He claims that "prior to a century and a half ago, the standard of living was roughly the same all over the world. It didn’t really matter whether you lived in New York, London, Paris, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Cairo, Nairobi, Beijing, Tokyo or Manila - the standard of living was roughly the same. In the past century however, the standard of living in various countries has changed dramatically so that today we have developed nations and undeveloped nations.

During this period some societies clearly prospered, some trod water and others actually went backwards. Africa has gone backwards. It’s got nothing to do with us being African or black, forget this old racist line of ethnicity. If so, why did similarly educated people with the same ethnic background end up experiencing such different qualities of life? I was in East German…

Will books still kindle our creative fires?

Today post is by guest Karen Bruns, who shares her thoughts on books in the digital age.

I'm totally sold on the idea of (almost) instant reading pleasure. My idea of heaven is to be the guy in the library in the Robin Williams movie "What dreams may come". Actually, heaven in that movie is enough to make me a really good girl... all that wet paint!

But officially the Kindle is not available in South Africa yet, so I asked Karen for her thoughts on our relationship with The Book.

Over to Karen:

As a child I really wasn’t that keen on the idea of school – institutionalised hell had been my brief experience at the local Maltabella-enriched playgroup. But what were the options at a time when Veldskool was the educational antidote to the perils of suburbia? 70’s South Africa did not see any advantage to individualised home schooling.

Bloody-minded and unwilling, I only agreed to enlist at the local primary so that I could learn to read for myself. My adults were undisciplined, n…

passages of power

On Wednesday I interviewed a professor at the University of Cape Town. Prof Mike Inggs celebrates his 21st year in the Engineering faculty this year, and he has been studying various aspects of radar technology for most of that time. He told me many things that were really interesting, but he may be surprised that the one comment that really stuck in my mind was when he that he didn't know if the study of radar would continue after he was gone.

(The picture of radar here is pretty misleading in this context, but it is pretty. And nothing says radar more than a green screen. With blips. The kind of radar that Prof Inggs and his team works with does far more. More about that another time.)

"Often when a professor retires, that's the end of it," he said. "New people come in with new interests and ideas, and knowledge is lost."

Guest writer Skoorby has written today's post, and he has some really interesting things to say about transitions and how they can hap…

of hope deferred

On the last day of 2008, 589 912 matrics received the exam results which would have such an impact on their futures. A staggering 38% of them failed (224 166 young adults) and are likely to add to the 60% unemployment we already have among 18 - 35 year olds in South Africa.

I interviewed some of the lucky few who not only passed, but obtained distinctions and bursaries for their university education.

They were all quick to acknowledge that they owed their success to the tuition they had received. Sadly, that tuition was not at their schools.

The students I spoke to were all part of the Metropolitan Actuaries on the Move Programme which identifies learners in township schools who have a flair for mathematics and science and enrols them in a two-year programme that builds those skills. The programme offers extra English, maths and science training on Saturday afternoons as well as courses in study techniques, computer training, life skills and career counselling during school holidays.


working together

I found this amazing video on one of the blogs I read yesterday (not sure which one it was, so sorry not to acknowledge it).

It's the kind of thing that makes you feel that everything will really be ok, and that we can work together to make the world a better place.

It seems appropriate to post it today, as a celebration of the hope (and not the hype) of Barak Obama's inauguration.

Remember if you're in a low-bandwidth area (like most of the known world) then push pause instead of play and let the video load first so that you don't get driven insane by the breaks and bufferings.

when service is no longer pear shaped

I've been tagged by Hannah on a photographic meme which is doing the rounds. The idea is that you must post the fourth picture in your fourth picture folder. No matter what it is. Without editing.

Ok... here's where I admit to a little bit of cheating. While Hannah is one of my culinary heroes, and I really, really wanted her to win Masterchef 2007, she had never heard of me. So I asked to be tagged.
And, the second bit of cheating... I first checked what my fourth picture in my fourth folder was to make sure I was happy about posting it.

It's a picture of Aurora in the Western Cape where Greg and I didn't go for our anniversary lunch.

We'd heard about this "really lovely little restaurant". There it is, in that brownish building across the field filled with spring wild flowers. We got there at 12am but it didn't open until 12.30, so we spent the time admiring the views and chatting to some sheep. (I introduced them to Greg and explained that he, unlike…

all that stuff

I don't have a pic of Rooi Els, but the middle of Table Bay is a good place to scream your freedom to the world.

Today I have asked Pete Carruthers of the business support site Pete's Weekly to be my guest and give us his take on what's really important in 2009.

Here's what he has to say:
By now you will have noticed that the entire world financial system is geared towards making you spend more. That's not you in the generic sense - I mean you, personally .

The world economic system is built on the two of us continuing to buy stuff. (That's just you and me.) So what happens when we stop? I am glad you asked, because I've decided to take a break, and that means the entire economic crisis is your fault!

It's not enough that we spend what we earn. Growth means we have to spend a bit more than we earn. And the system will do whatever it can to help you do just that.

But what happens when you lose your job? Or you can't import anymore because the Rand has gon…

Five questions from Denmark

One of the great benefits of blogging is that you get to meet new friends from all over the world. I get really excited when I check my Google Analytics and discover that my blog is being read by people I'll probably never meet.

It has also led connections with some people I really hope I do get to meet, like Julie from Moments of Perfect Clarity.

One of the blogs she was reading had taken part in an interview game, she followed suit, and now it's my turn.

Like all these blog chains, there are some rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

So here goes: my five questions and answers:

1. You're a freelance journalist -- what kind of assignments…

reading the signs

I know today is almost a third of the way into January, so you may think its a bit late to start talking about new year resolutions. Most people have probably broken their resolutions by now anyway. I wonder what the problem is? Is it that we make resolutions that we don't really want to keep (so we can justify ourselves by saying "At least I tried") or is it that the new year is the worst possible time to make resolutions about anything?

Why do we bother with resolutions at all? My theory is (do I sound like Ann Elk?) that it's just another attempt to control our futures. And so few of us succeed because we don't clear out the spiritual, emotional and physical clutter in our lives that gets in the way of us tapping into new opportunities.

In the Dogon country of Mali, the villagers consult diviners like the one above to get answers to the questions that are concerning them. They ask about their health and their families, their crops and their futures. The position…

Unconditional love

I was reading an article (somewhat bizarrely, at about one of the less publicised killers in Dakar, and it got me thinking about work and desperation and hunger and ignorance and unconditional love.

And how, for good or evil, we are all linked together.

"First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared.

Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed."

As people all over the developed world become aware of issues of global warming and sustainability, and as we learn to "do the right thing" and recycle, there are unintended consequences. I've handed in my share of old car batteries, but after reading this story, I'm wondering how I may have contributed to this tragedy.

I thought of the mothers who carried that …