Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gruesome pictures, nausea and lovely ladies

I've done trillions of training courses at work. Some of them were as follows:

Corporate Culture - I already wrote about that one. Keep it in the blue.

Tagging and isolating level 1:

This is about how isolated items like electrical breakers or mechanical valves should be tagged when they have been isolated, so that some other idiot cannot just walk around and open a valve while you're sitting inside the sewer pipe, or switch on the breaker while you're sitting with your hands on the switchboard terminals while your feet are dangling in the murky water.


After this course, which is only an "awareness" course, I'm officially only "aware" of tagging, and I may not isolate anything myself. I do know what a personal danger tag looks like and I will need to get someone to isolate something on my behalf, and then add my personal tag. I need to remove my personal danger tag on the same day, before I leave, otherwise someone else will have to fill in registers and whatnot.

See, I did learn something. I've worked in the same industry in Africa for 12 years without ever seeing one danger tag. We normally took a piece of scrap paper, and wrote big swear words on them and said "DON'T TOUCH", or "LOS UIT -hakahana, voertsek". Or, if you really wanted nobody to do anything, you'd write "please open this valve". Then you were sure no-one would ever open it until the note was removed.

Electrical safety-something (Level 1, of course):

During this course we were shown some nasty pictures of guys who were fried when doing stupid things on high voltage circuits. I felt very sick and dizzy after this one. I felt the bile rising up in my throat, but because I've been in many African environments that were vomit-inducing, I could fall back on my good African "hands-on" training experience and therefore managed to overcome my motivation to vomit.

I wonder if I'll ever use my expensive Fluke multimeter again. (By the way, according to the lecturer, this is the preferred instrument to use. It was almost like a Fluke propaganda meeting.)

If I understand things correctly, I may not touch anything in a switchboard - I need to have the local electrician there to do it. Another lesson learnt. For 12 years, I've been powering up, wiring, doing terminations, ripping out cables, and I even pulled cables through trenches and dug holes for cables, drilled holes for instrument cables through 250mm thick concrete tower walls, etc...

Not that I have any desire to stick my fingers into switchboards anymore. Not after those photos.

I just wonder what I'll do with all my multimeters. They have not been inspected and tagged by an approved inspector-and-tagger, - also something quite new to me. Even your extension power-lead has to have a tag from an authorised inspector.

Chlorine level 1 - this was a good one:

This was all about chlorine, why we dose our water, and what happens if we don't. Also, what happens when you drink a bottle of Chlorine, and why it could be hazardous to your health. Ah, I can still remember the good old days at school when we built chlorine bombs. My safety training at NamWater was limited to the following: If you recognise the fumes that are similar to the chlorine bomb's familiar smell - get the hell out of wherever you are. And get as high as possible, because chlorine gas is heavier than air.

(As if anything could be lighter than air? - eish)

(If any of my new colleagues are reading this - I'm just kidding, OK - this is South African humour, it's difficult to explain...)

The general safety course to obtain my Blue card:

The guy who presented this course claims to be the guy who originally took the photograph of the idiot who is welding with a plastic bag over his head - the one I sent around on my email joke-list a year ago. Apparently this was somewhere in Asia - Indonesia, I think.

Here we also saw some gruesome photos. Think safety. Think gruesome. Think vomit.

Then came the one about working in cramped spaces. Or rather "Confined Space Entry". And I know, most of my sharp readers will think this is training for small people like jockeys, but it's not. It's about anything that may look as if it could kill you. Don't go there without a permit. Don't do anything without a permit. Don't die without one - the paperwork is just too much for the colleagues you leave behind.

Then I did the JSA course (level1):

When I asked someone what JSA stood for, I got a bad stare from everyone, nearly the same type of stare you'd get in South Africa if you asked who Naas Botha was. Everybody knows this. It's a Job Safety Analysis, you dummy! What I can remember about this course was that the lady who presented it was really good-looking, and so were some of the students. We had a lot of ladies from the OSH branch, and they made it difficult for me to concentrate on the work. People like that should be models or TV presenters - don't come to a workplace where people work with things that may need JSA's. Someone could get killed. And then someone else has to struggle with the paperwork...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Barbeques and braais

I finally found some decent boerewors around here. You get "Boerwurst" sold almost everywhere in Perth - even in Coles and Woollies. But it's a thick old sausage that I don't like very much. The people from Pretoria and Cape Town - who don't know what good wors is - think it's the greatest thing in Australia.

But to someone from Windhoek this is just not good enough. I had my wors brought in from Gobabis when we lived in Windhoek - (Die Plaaskombuis, 200km from Windhoek - best stuff money can buy.) I actually prefer some of the Aussie sausages to this thick old dry "boeretjorts" that we find Down Undah.

But I've found a good butcher in Duncraig who makes a thinner Boerewors that is spiced the right way, and doesn't dry out like a piece of clay when you barb it. What a delight!

I am thinking about making my own biltong and boerewors - there sure is a market for this stuff in Perth, if you keep in mind that people pay $16.99 per kg for boerewors, and $55 per kg for biltong. Maybe I should exploit the Saffer-market in Perth.

(Or rather, my wife should, I am not allowed to have a second job while I'm on my 457 visa...)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Plugs in the bathroom

Once you start “working” in Australia, you notice that OSH is a dangerous swearword that is used all the time. (Occupational Health and Safety). “Osh” sounds a lot like “eish” - need I say more?

Safety here, safety there. Rules, rules, - wear your safety goggles, your hard hat, your safety boots and your high visibility vest - even sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts and wide-rimmed hats are prescribed everywhere. (And they don’t consider condoms as part of the standard safety gear, like they do in iAfrika.)

We recently got an invitation to our year-end function - they added a friendly reminder that we need to remember our long-sleeved shirts and wide-rimmed hats. Eish. Sounds like fun.

And then you go home and what do you see?

An electrical wall outlet right next to your washbasin in the bathroom. The light switch is on the inside of the bathroom - not the outside, like we’re used to. Totally unacceptable according to SABS wiring regulations:

All this talk about safety, and then you see things like this. What will your hardhat and high-visibility vest help you when you plug your hairdryer into the wall socket, and electrocute yourself in the bathroom while your standing there barefoot, holding the dryer in one hand?

I recently saw photos of high voltage powerlines going right over a school playground. (My apologies to Mark for stealing his photo) Eish. Talk about crazy - even in squatter camps in South Africa people toi-toi about the powerlines that apparently cause cancer, diarrhoea, syphilis and AIDS. Here they build them on the playground.

Just imagine all the fun when the guy with the high visibility vest and hardhat chokes himself in front of 200 kids on the playground while doing maintenance on the power line...what a great idea!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pirates of the Namibian

What a weird and wonderful world this is. Now we are back to the times where pirates attack ships and rule the seas. They even take over oil tankers the size of three aircraft carriers. Unbelievable.

With most attacks ending after million-dollar payouts, piracy is considered the biggest economy in Somalia. Pirates have raked in up to $US30million in ransoms this year.

And during all this, I am still waiting for my beloved container to arrive on the shores of the Land of Opportunity. Yep, you guessed it - those Somalian pirates have somehow taken over my ship, and they are going through MY stuff in my container as we speak. They are drinking the few bottles of good South African red wine that I loaded, and they're lying with their stinking dirty criminal feet all over my leather couches. My 10 year KWV brandy is being consumed by a drunk black pirate with an eye patch and a hook for a claw, while he is reading my John Grisham collection and tearing pages out of them to smoke dope.

They are using our trampoline as a gangplank and they use this to force the ship's original crew to jump into the sea.

They hooked up my DSTV decoder (the movers packed that before I could tell them to leave it in Africa - I can't use it Down Under) onto my surround-sound system and they're watching Rugby games at decent times, while I have to sit and watch them at 01h00 in the morning because Australian clocks run too fast.

They are playing with my children's toys, and fighting about it. They are using my computer to access porn sites and send ransom notes. (And send emails to their mothers, of course. )

They are abusing my nice double-bed in ways I don't even want to think about.

All this while I am waiting patiently - waiting for a phone call from someone at the harbour saying:

"This is the coast guard - we have your container. Please come out with your hands above your head. We have you surrounded"

Christmas will have a new meaning if that container makes it in time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some assembly required

“These Romans are crazy”, Obelix would have said.

We ordered a new dining table, with 8 chairs, a coffee table and a smaller side table from Harvey Norman. (Harvey Norman is not some guy we know, it’s the name of a big store in Australia, nearly like our “Uncle in the furniture business” down in Biltongfontein.)

That was a few weeks ago. They did not have enough stock, and yesterday I got the call: my stuff is here. We were so happy about our new furniture, because we are still waiting for our container and we are borrowing from everyone we know, and using “verge collected items” for furniture.

The driver called this morning to confirm that he would be here somewhere between 10h00 and 13h00. He pitched up at 12h40. Now I know what “somewhere between 10h00 and 13h00” means...

So, these two guys park the big truck in front of my house. First they load off the chairs, then some flat boxes. I wait for the table - I wonder where the table is, but I say nothing. I don’t want to seem greedy.

By the time I pay the bill and sign the invoice, I realise that this is it - the three flat boxes are my three tables. The truck driver says: “Seeyalater mate”, and there he goes. I desperately want to tell him that I ordered a table, not a flat box, but I just shut up.

So, this is how it works - you have to assemble the stuff yourself. Here I was, thinking they would be bringing me a table, and instead they bring me a big wooden Lego set.

The Romans are crazy.


Side table

Coffee Table

Dining Table

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some fly stories

I found this interesting site about flies. If you live in Perth, you'll understand why I find that amusing. These little monsters can be quite irritating around the barbies at the park.

Anyway, here are a few interesting facts:

You wouldn't be the first to wonder, "What can we do?"
About the only answer is: support your local CSIRO entomology branch! Their dung beetle programme is working. In a decade or two, the bush-fly numbers will have dropped way down. You'll still see bush flies -- a few here, a few there. But not black clouds of them. Future generations of Australians may wonder what all the fuss was about.

If any place should have an awful fly problem, it's Southern Africa. A close relative of the bush fly is there, the weather is perfect for breeding, and there are plenty of large animals dropping dung. (Even elephants.) But bush flies are scarce.

What stops them is armies of African dung beetles. Many of the beetles are perfectly adapted to elephant dung, horse dung, rhino dung, zebra dung, cow dung -- in fact, to dung from any of the large herbivores. About 2000 species of African beetles feed on herbivore dung.

[Ok, let's just make another comment here: In Southern Africa, animal dung is not the only dung freely available to flies...]

One thing people ask about the dung beetle programme is, "What if the beetles get out of control and start eating other things, like crops?"

No way. To repeat: the mouth parts of dung beetles are so precisely adapted to sucking juice from dung that they can't live on anything else. If they can't find fresh dung, they die. End of story. (Their larvae can chew and tear a bit, but they can't live outside of dung. So larvae are no danger either.)

Other sceptics wonder if we might be importing diseases when we bring in dung beetles. A fair point. But CSIRO has it covered: no beetles are brought in -- only their eggs. And these are all surface-sterilised.

Powerful stuff, isn't it? Maybe I should have packed a few dung-beetles into my suitcases before I moved Down Under...

While writing this post, I suddenly remembered a movie we watched when we were still young. (We actually slipped in, under the age restriction of 16...)

The movie was called "The Fly". This guy got into a transporter thing, similar to the star Trek transporter, and a fly got in there with him. When he rematerialised, the fly was merged into his body, and he became one ugly little monster...

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm safe now

The results of many hours of rigourous training. The hardest part was staying awake...but I made it!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our first Birthday in Perth

It was Anica's third birthday today - she's the first Weck to have a birthday in Australia!
Just like back home - a large piece of rump is always a good thing.
Good for you, good for the environment.

Three candles to blow out - this takes a lot of effort from a three year old girl!


It's my party...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm being followed...

To celebrate my first official "follower", I posted some pictures for you. All taken with my brand new Canon EOS1000D. These were all taken in my neighbourhood.

This guy is a proud Eagles supporter - (one of the footy teams in Perth)

Some stuff out on the verge - I am seriously considering grabbing that Weber. There must be a good reason why someone would throw that out? Maybe he grilled a dog in it or something?

One of our local parks, within walking distance of our house.

A close-up on my barbie, just after the rain

Most of the "white goods" are marked with these labels - they indicate the efficiency of the equipment.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What happens when you shop on the verge

So, here I was doing the Aussie-thing, and collecting stuff off the verge. It feels really creepy - you drive around, and when you see a heap of nice stuff you stop and check it out. The mental picture of a dirty Nama scouring through your garbage bin in Windhoek suddenly comes to mind, and you feel really creepy. Then, you think with your brains again, and just go ahead and do the Verge-collection thing with pride.

To my defence, I can also add that my container, (that was supposed to land at Fremantle on 2 October), has still not entered the harbour, and my hired furniture was paid for by my company for one month. Now I need stuff until my container arrives.

I picked up tons of stuff. Coffee-table, TV sets, study desk, chairs and tables, bikes for little Anica, an ironing board - the list goes on and on.

But here comes the creepy part. We were in need of a garbage bin for the kitchen. And there I saw a nice one, standing on the verge. It looked great, and only had a little bit of junk in the bottom. I grabbed it, brought it home, and started cleaning it out. It wasn't too dirty, and was in great condition. But what I found inside was what bothered me. It was this:

See what I mean? Some criminal owned this garbage bin, and now I got that from the verge - me, a stand-up guy with no criminal record, never done nothing wrong - and I get a second-hand garbage bin from a criminal. Eish.

That's what happens if you shop on the verge. You have to learn to live with it. Don't tell my mom...