Some Freedom

Today is a public holiday in South Africa. The first of three this week. On May 1st, we have the ubiquitous Worker’s Day and on the 2nd, an “extra” public holiday which was only granted in late March, for reasons that no-one really knows or wants to ask about in case it gets taken away again. This means only 2 working days, which means that we have the obligatory dose of Short Week Service Syndrome ahead.

But celebrate, for today is Freedom Day – the National Holiday to commemorate the 1994 General Election and the “official end” of apartheid. While many were delighted to welcome the non-racial elections, there were some disappointments, not least the poor showing of the DikWankWetla Party, who only managed to capture 0.1% of the vote. I know very, very little about the DikWankWetla Party, but they have an absolutely awesome name and for that alone are probably worth a vote even if their policies are a little ropey.

So. How has SA done over the last 14 years?
I guess that would be one of those questions with a host of “no win” answers, basically drawn out along racial lines. Let’s just say that the majority of people in this country are better off than they were pre-1994.
Of course, it hasn’t worked for everyone. Somehow today, it was even more saddening to see the beggars with small kids and babies in tow at the traffic lights. Some freedom for them. One wonders if they recognise that today holds any special significance for the country.
I gave away an entire 2kg bag of apples on the 3km run back home from the supermarket. Not much, I know, but trying to help, at least. One day, I hope 0.6 will understand why he didn’t get his Granny Smiths today.

Happy Freedom Day, South Africa.

The JonnyHarvard post

There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship.

So said Mark Twain. And yes, we all look to further ourselves, we strive for knowledge, for education. Some more than others. One of those “some” is Jonny Faull, 6000 miles… own political analyst.
Jonny was the one swimming against the tide of “experts”, when last March he predicted a Zuma win in Polokwane, 9 months before it happened. He was the one on the front line in Zim last month acting as an independent observer during the elections which Bob/Thabo/Morgan/Simba* won. He talks politics honestly and frankly, basing his opinions on solid logic facts, with no subjectivity and no emotion save for his obvious passion for the discipline.  
He has written articles which have been published in newspapers across the world, from Cape Town to New York. He plays football, is well respected in the Cape Town knitting fraternity and has recently taken up basketweaving as a weekend pastime. He uses the word “fabulous” like there is no tomorrow – a fact that, given his apparent clairvoyant skills, is somewhat disturbing.

And now, he has been accepted to study a Masters in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Yes – that Harvard University. An honour indeed and one that he has worked so hard to achieve. 
Just one issue. Cash. Moolah. Spondulicks. Or as we call it here in South Africa: “Money”.
Five hundred thousand of our South African Rands, to be precise.

And that’s where you can help out. In order to raise funds, Jonny has already sold all his worldly possessions. I know this for two reasons. Firstly, because I myself picked up some awesome (some might say “fabulous”) bargains including his beautiful collection of handcrafted woollen tea-cosies; and secondly because he has been seen wandering around Cape Town CBD wearing just his underpants. Evidently, there were no takers for those at the garage sale.

What he needs now is more money. And you can help by pledging on his website. I would urge my UK and US readers to be particularly generous. You’ll hardly even notice the hard currency equivalent of R500 disappearing from your bank account.
You could either have that 12th bottle of disappointingly watery beer or you could send Jonny to Havard.
Think about it. Well, actually – don’t: it’s a no brainer.
Jonny says:

I believe that the Kennedy School MPP will complement and deepen my political, economic policy and analytical skills base and consequently enhance my capacity for contributing to the consolidation, and vibrancy of democracy in my country and region.

And while that may be true, I can’t help but think that it would like a paler version of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Surely, that’s got to be worth your cash alone.

* delete as applicable when we actually get some results.

Never read the small print

I’ve hurt my arm.

It’s nothing serious, but it is pretty painful. My doctor sent me for precautionary x-rays, which showed that everything is ok bonewise. She also gave me some anti-inflammatory tablets which she enthused about. In fact, she got quite carried away, reminding me of my wife when she discovers something else she can do with MS Excel.
Sheesh – accountants/doctors/other happy professionals.

Anyway, such was the doctor’s excitement over these tablets, I found that my scientific curiousity had been somewhat stimulated. I was almost quivering with mounting anticipation as I headed home from the pharmacy.
As soon as I got in and had removed the scrambled egg from the carpet, sofa and curtains (see: 2-year-old, having a), I went through the HUGE package insert. After a while, I realised that despite my years of medical training, I was struggling to understand a word of it. Then I realised I was looking at the Afrikaans side.

Etorikoksib word omvattend in die lewer gemataboliseer en minder as 1% van die dosis word in die urine as onveranderde geneesmiddel herwin.

Which, for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is pretty remarkable. And probably accounts for the mean oral bioavailability of 100%, which impressed me too.
Etoricoxib (the English spelling) is a COX-2 inhibitor. Stop sniggering at the back. 
Hmm. That’s obviously enough of the exciting pharmacology.

I moved onto the section entitled Side Effects and Special Precautions.  Yes – we’ve all seen renal failure, dyspepsia, nausea, dizziness, headache and the obligatory DEATH (“Don’t say we didn’t warn you, Mr Thousand!”). However, I was taken completely by surprise by what I read after those little gems. It was there I came across the best side effect I’ve ever heard of:

“detachment of the top layer of skin from the lower layers of the skin all over the body”

How cool is that? You too can be a snake for a day. Just don’t roll in salt afterwards.

I’m off out for a curry this evening – can you imagine the reaction as I moult gently into the shared naan bread?
“Hmm – this is a bit flaky tonight… not up to their usual standard.”

Problems in Zim, Problems in Sheffield

Just when the poor people stuck just over the border (though admittedly a border a long, long way from me here) thought that bent elections, crooked politicians, ridiculous inflation, food shortages, violence and intimidation were the only minor issues they had to face upon getting up this morning, comes this.

Yes, according to the BBC News website, African leaders have now taken their lead from Thabo Mbeki and Mad Bob and are further conspiring against the Zimbabwean people – and not just any Zimbabwean people – some the most vulnerable: Amputees.


BBC News spells it out clearly. No arms for Zim.

I am appalled.  How are these unfortunate people supposed to find gainful employment when their prosthetic limbs are denied entry to the country over some inconsequential political spat?

Meanwhile back in Sheffield, copper theft from electricity substations is out of control, apparently.
No – wait – surely I mean Cape Town?
Hmm – this is the perfect home from home, it seems.

How did I make it to Monday?

Ah. Monday morning. My favourite time of the week. Apart from all the other ones, of course.
But I was actually quite delighted to make it through to this particular Monday morning.

As my alarm sounded (thankfully slightly later than the infamous 5:19), I rolled over on the 30cm strip of mattress which remained unclaimed by my wife and her onboard foetus and lazily reached out from under the security and warmth of the covers for the TV remote to flick on the news. I was greeted by the beaming face of Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, South African Minister for Public Service and Administration. This was slightly perturbing, as I hadn’t actually switched the TV on yet. I opened my eyes again and Geraldine was gone. Shame – she could have got me a coffee.

1029_largeGeraldine – too 80’s popstar for Government?

Such are the hazards of waking up after a hectic weekend involving curry, a heated political argument with a couple of lesbians, a singing fibreglass train, a tub of pink butter icing, a Castle Milk Stout or two, a giggling monkey, an essential visit to a local pharmacy and an urgent – but minor – service for the new vacuum cleaner.
And if you think I’m lying about any one of those, then you’re unfortunately mistaken.
Unfortunately for me, at least.

The big event of the weekend was a second birthday party for our son. No-one is more surprised than me that he’s made it this far*, bearing in mind that for at least some of that time, he’s been in my care. A whole 731 days** is not to be sniffed at, but judging by the green ooze permanently emanating from his left nostril, sniffing is an art which he has yet to perfect anyway. Photos of the party, selectively edited to avoid any audience exposure to catarrh, will be posted to flickr at some point this week.

Roll on 5pm Friday, at which point the madness restarts. Albeit hopefully with less pink butter icing.
In the meantime, a combination of Placebo, Arno Carstens, REM, Smashing Pumpkins and an occasional coffee will aid with my further recovery.

OK – perhaps he is as well.
** It’s a leap year, remember?