Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly

While I drove home tonight on the Mitchell Freeway, I was stunned by the most beautiful sunset. Light blue sky mixed with different shades of red-and-white clouds. It was such an awesome sight, and reminded me of the good things in life that we should be grateful for.

It also reminded me of a country that I've left behind. A beautiful country with the most amazing variety of natural wonders:

Awesome sunsets, very similar to the one I witnessed tonight. A dry deserted desert with sand dunes that build an everlasting relationship with you in a weird and unexplainable way. A country with huge farms and national parks that proudly display animals like cheetahs, rhinos, springbuck, kudu, zebra, lions, elephants, and the most beautiful antelope of all - the oryx.

The northern areas with the Kavango river, the Zambezi river, and the Kunene, places that you can't describe in words. The flat dry south with its comical array of people, and some of the toughest buggars you'll ever see. And then there is the Orange river, the diamond-infested perimeter that borders the great country on the Southern tip of Africa.

But there are other things that I also left behind in that place. And they still take away any desire that I have to ever return. I made a decision to provide my family with a more stable, longer-lasting secure future. And Western Australia really fits this description.

Meanwhile we are seeing friends of ours in a situation that I never wish upon anyone. Seeing a marriage fall apart because of a friend's selfishness is not a beautiful experience.

Children should have the privilege to live in a stable country, but even more - in a stable home. Wasn't this the main reason most of us moved out of Africa in the first place?

This whole scene plays off like a horror movie in front of us, and we can't really do anything about it. My father left us when I was 5 years old, and this has left a scar on me - something that I have had to deal with, whether I wanted to or not. He has nothing to deal with apart from a little bit of guilt, which apparently is easy to handle. But to a young boy, losing his father due to the fathers choice is a little bit like being crippled for life.

I wish fathers would think about this before they jump into bed with the first blond who is available.

I also saw some awful video material about the hooligans that are crippling the society in South Africa. Criminals who rule and destroy on a daily basis. It just breaks my heart when I see the destruction and hate that is handed out all over Africa. What a hopeless mess.

But, as I said, I have much to be grateful for. What a good life. Making the right choices is a very important part of your life - your choices direct your future. And some choices are not easy to make.

And I'm not saying I made all the right ones. But at least some of them turned out quite positive.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Something old and something new

Well, one of the requirements for my Permanent Residence Application is that I have to prove that I can actually understand English. I wrote the IELTS language test at Curtin Uni a few weeks ago, and got my results today.

I scored an average of 8.0, which, according to the definition, means

In the meanwhile, I'm busy arranging to go for my practical driver's asessment. Yikes. I obtained my licence 20 years ago, and now I have to go and do it all over again. I wrote the Learners test a few months ago, but because Namibia and South Africa are not recognised countries, I have to do the practical asessment in order to convert my Namibian Driver's licence to a WA licence.

I hate this. I think this qualifies for some sort of legal complaint somewhere?

Anyway, in the meanwhile I have been searching for some new blogs to add to my blogroll, and I have stumbled across a few. Have a look - many of them are travelling blogs; people who travel around Australia in caravans, and that sort of thing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Over The Moon

Today, 40 years ago, I was still in my mother's womb. I was getting exited about the idea of getting out into the world, and just two months later the world got what they were waiting for. And the planet has never been the same since...

At the same time, one of the most amazing engineering marvels in the history of mankind was being realised. A man set foot on the moon.

The whole world was amazed. I grew up in this generation - the generation that knew that anything was possible. A generation that believed that one of these days, travelling to the moon would be like flying to New Zealand to watch the Tri-nations. Shuttles would take off and land every 30 minutes, taking smiling families away on a trip to the moon.

The moon itself was supposed to have been prime property by 2009. Most western families should by now be able to spend a little money on a nice holiday house near the Sea of Tranquillity.

But, alas, development on the lunar surface is lagging behind, and property agents are hard to come by - even though we're already far into the new millennium.

What went wrong? What happened to the great engineers, the brilliant minds, the people who could accurately land people on the moon with technology that wasn't close to anything you can find in a normal cell-phone today? What happened to the dream?

The Second World War fuelled technologies that were unheard of before Herr Hitler stepped onto the stage. The Cold War fuelled the Space Race, but once the Moon was colonised by the Imperialists, the Russians focussed more on putting millions of AK47's into the hands of children and idiots. The Space Race soon became history, and little Vietnams erupted all over the globe.

The Space Shuttle was one of the last great engineering feats in the Space Race. These old busses still run well past their due date, because no one could come up with something new that was affordable and had a reason to exist.

Wouldn't it be great if some foreign Enemy would start focussing on Space again? Let's hope the North Koreans start sending people to Mars - I am sure this will bring back "good old American know-how". And tons money, of course. Lack of decent funding is, after all, what caused NASA to scale down to such an extent that they could hardly land an unmanned probe on Mars without demolishing it.

As soon as someone starts nailing pegs into the lunar surface, you can bet someone else will want to do the same.

We can only hope. I can't wait another 40 years. Someone has to take the torch and run with this.

See you at the Sea of Tranquillity - one of these days, I hope.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The grand total of far-below-average stupidity

I saw a headline, and clicked on it. Yeah, I know - big mistake. Don't click on something just because you saw it on CNN's website. It could still lead you to a loony - if not downright offensive and potentially dangerous - article. Apart from that, you and your PC may be negatively impacted upon because of this ugly virus that infects many people on earth - the Stupidity Virus A1H1. Guess what the A and the H stand for...

(Hint: put two ss'es between the A and the H)

But I have to add that I was conned. I saw the word "Numerologist", and I thought this meant something intelligent. Being an engineer makes me attracted to numbers - it's one of those geeky requirements for becoming an engineer. Before you are allowed into the engineering faculty they ask you - "how did you like maths in school, young man?" If you didn't enjoy maths in school, chances are good that you won't enjoy studying engineering.

I don't consider myself a mathematician - I've done enough maths at university to know that I barely have a grasp of basic calculus. But I probably know a little more than mister average. And I am still fascinated by the subject.

Anyway, I saw this reference to Michael Jackson and "numerology", and I clicked. I had to see this - there must be tons of statistics and mathematical formulas - sounds very interesting.

The page opened up, and I looked into the face of this brilliant mathematical scholar. She doesn't seem too bright, but hell, most nerds look awful.

And then I started reading.

A new world opened up before me - a world of severe stupidity, in the name of numbers. What utter blasphemy! How can you connect numbers, real, sensible good old numbers - with crackpot theories like this?

So, to explain further, here is a little lesson in so-called "numerology" :

"Numerology deals with the influence of numbers on personal characteristics and human affairs"

OK, well, so far so good - no harm done? But wait - there's more!

"McCants -- who has appeared on nationally syndicated television and radio shows and is known as the "Numbers Lady" -- said that by taking Jackson's birth date (August 29, 1958, or 8/29/1958) she could chart his personality.

His was "six life path," she said, meaning he was magnetic and drew people to him. That, coupled with the fact that he was born on a two day made him irresistible, she said."

Wait. Please give me some facts here. Numbers please. Anything mathematical that I can relate to - please?

What I can tell you is that there are more than 6 billion people on this planet at the moment - not counting the dead ones. There are only 365 days in a year. I am not sure what the definition of a "two day" is, but lets say it's all the days that have the number 2 in them. There are at least 12 "two days" in every month of the year, except for February. This makes the chance of any single person on earth to be born on a "two day" quite high - in fact almost 2 billion people can claim this, if I roughly estimate that a third of the planet's population was born on a "two-day". (12 days - roughly a third of a 30 day month. )

There are potentially 16,438,356 people on earth who were born on the same day as Michael Jackson, or Britney spears, or any of the other so-called examples that Glynis mentions. In fact, I share my birthday with that same amount of people, give or take a few thousand.

Now, if you were to give me FACTS, and real statistics, you may convince me of some special magical "connection" between a specific number and someone's character, but the proof has yet to be shown.

When you go on and read the rest of this nutty article, you can understand where all this hocus-pocus comes from. According to Psychic Eddie Conner, :

"Unlike other souls that stay in the nonphysical realm anywhere from 70 to 150 years, he said, he believes the singer's soul will return quickly -- within the next 20 years -- because Jackson was such a perfectionist that he will want to "pick up where he left off."

O yeah, I forgot all about the "coming back" thing. But wasn't he already Elvis in a previous life? Or Bach? Or Beethoven? Or Charlie Chaplin?

According to another "expert" in this "scientific field",

"Rourke said he fully expects people to come forward claiming to have communicated with Jackson, but that any credible professional psychic or medium will not attempt to connect with Jackson for at least six months to a year and will only do so at the behest of a family member or an intimate friend of the singer..."

Yeah right. I can't wait to hear what he's got to say in 6 month's time, that he can't say right now?

Where do these people come from?

Here's some more maths - I statistically calculated that 45.65% of the people who read this article, will actually believe this bull and will one day proclaim to their kids that they spoke to MJ in a séance at the local circus. And he told them to BEAT IT.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A little entertainment while I'm out of ideas

What a way to go!

When I read the headline of this article, I originally thought this should be a great way to leave Mother Earth. But if you read the whole story, it's really sad. So near, but yet so far...

A MAN fell into a vat of hot melted chocolate and died overnight at a factory in New Jersey in the US, a spokesman for the local public prosecutor said.

The 29-year-old man was among four workers on a platform above the vat who were dumping in pieces of solid chocolate to be melted down, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

"He somehow slipped and fell into the vat," Mr Laughlin said. "Inside the vat, he was hit by a piece of equipment called the agitator that's used to stir, and that killed him."

Mr Laughlin said the vat at the Cocoa Services plant was around 2.5 metres deep.

"At this point there's no suggestion of foul play," Mr Laughlin said, adding that the man appeared to have died instantly from the blow to the head from the agitator.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The thong thing

Yesterday we had our monthly "branch morning tea". The whole bunch of us cram together in a spot that is not suited for so many people. It kind of brings back some memories of Africa - a bunch of people huddling together in a small little space, even though there is a massive piece of uninhabited land in the outback begging for some humans to populate it.

Once you have a cup or a mug in your hand, you desperately try to push your way through the crowd to get your hands on a muffin. The whole table is full of nice goodies, and you struggle to make up your mind. In the meanwhile, other potential clients are waiting patiently for you to make up your mind and push back through the dense crowd with a mug in one hand and your muffin in the other.

Once we were all settled in, and no one was still crying from hot tea that was spilled over them, the boss made a speech.

And this is what I want to tell ya'll 'bout. Part of speeches at work always have to include "the safety bit". That part of the pep-talk where they remind you of all the terrible things that could, would and indeed often do go wrong, causing fatalities, down-time, and all sorts of other bad things.

Quite recently a lady was injured going down our escalator, due to a power failure that caused the escalator to stop, and the momentum to take her down.

Our manager reminded us that indeed, even in common situations we face every day, we can expose ourselves to terrible hazards and threats. So he went on to discuss the escalator incident further.

You see, what happened was that just the other day, something else happened to a young lady who was making use of an escalator. Her thong got caught in the escalator, and she was severely injured.

This is where I nearly swallowed my whole muffin in one go. I couldn't believe my ears! How on earth did that happen? It took me a few moments to realise what he was talking about. He was referring to thongs, like in sandals - those thingies you put on your feet.

My thoughts were somewhere else. See, when I hear the word "thong", I think of a small piece of clothing that normally is worn to modestly cover a lady's unmentionable areas. I could just not imagine how on earth she got her thong stuck in an escalator.

Just another lesson learnt Down Under. I really can't get that picture out of my mind, though...