Sensationalist reporting is back!

Today’s Cape Times runs a front page story on the a problem which put the Table Mountain Cableway out of action for a whole 35 (thirty-five) minutes yesterday afternoon. Woo. [link]
Yet, despite the fact that there were a total of no injuries, no snapped cables, no plunging tourists, merely a blown fuse, we get 1000 words and an overflow onto page 3 about upset people waiting to use the cable car and how Eskom cut the power to it in January (an incident objectively described by the reporter as the passengers’ “worst nightmare”).

Nerish Rempul of Durban, who was looking forward to his third cable car ride, said the situation was “terrible”.
“I’m here with two friends but we’re leaving now. We probably won’t get another chance to use the cable car because we’re going home tomorrow. It’s truly terrible.”

No, no, no. Honestly, are all Durbanites quite so dramatic?
“Truly terrible” is when the local bottle store runs out of Castle Milk Stout.
A half-hour delay on the cable car is “mildly irritating”. In fact, if you happen to have some Castle Milk Stout with you when you get delayed, then a half hour delay can even be “quite alright” as it means “extra drinking time”.

All in all, reporter Caryn Dolley has done her best to make a story out of nothing, and she must have been amazed when it ended up on the front page, pushing murder, rape, earthquakes, fishcake recipes and rugby deep into the bowels of the paper.

I hate it when the press do that – not least because I don’t have time to get to page 18 on my tea break (although I often don’t have breadcrumbs to hand anyway) – but the South African press is worse than most when trying to drum up a story that isn’t. I might have hinted at that here.
My annoyance primarily stems from their cherry-picking and publicising the worst and most violent crime stories in order to get readers: a process which has the unfortunate side-effect of making the world think that we all get hijacked at gunpoint on a daily basis here in SA, which in turn keeps the tourists away in their droves (which then reduces income, increases poverty and… er… fuels crime).
This is counterproductive.

Some would argue that this tactic only works because people want to read about the worst and most violent crime and they’d be right. Without such tales, dinner parties in the better-off areas of SA would be strangely quiet, save for briefly mentioning how badly the Bulls are doing, questioning whether Julie is going to report her gynaecologist to the HPCSA and passing on the latest ZumaRuma™*. But that doesn’t excuse it.

To the editors of the South African press, not least Tyrone August of the Cape Times. Up your game please. This is rubbish.

* ZumaRuma – a piece of information (which may or may not be true) about our country’s president-in-waiting. 
   e.g. “Jacob Zuma ate my hamster”. (This may or may not be true.)

South Africa’s Electricity Crisis – Update

My South Africa’s Electricity Crisis post has turned out to be one of the more popular ones on this site, so with there being significant developments in the ongoing saga, I thought I’d update you, the 6000 miles… reading public, with the latest news.

As from Monday, we now have pre-emptive load shedding. Which means that now we are told in advance via schedules when our electricity will be cut and we can plan around it. We can pre-empt the pre-emptive load shedding, if you will. This makes things a whole lot easier. In fact, when you know that you’ll have no power for two hours at 10am on a Tuesday, you can work through almost seamlessly.
But it’s still not enough for some people.

The recent change in tactics comes simply because people in South Africa have not saved enough electricity to avoid mandatory power cuts. We were asked as electricity consumers to save 10%, we didn’t – it’s that straightforward.
It has polarised public opinion, according to the media. As a country, we are now split into two groups (something we’re rather used to here in SA) – the Savers and the Moaners.
This is actually not strictly accurate: there is the third group – quite a large group – which never had the luxury of electricity to begin with. I hesitate to call them the Dark People for obvious reasons. Anyway, they don’t count here, apparently.

The Savers (and I count myself among this group) cut down their electricity use. We installed energy saving CFL lightbulbs, we switched our geysers (water heaters) off for several hours each day, we stopped using standby on the TV etc etc.

The Moaners (quite rightly) blamed Eskom and the Government for the crisis and refused to do anything to help. Consequently, despite the best efforts of the Savers, we are back onto not having any power at certain times of the week.  And this time, it isn’t the fault of Eskom or Government, it’s the fault of the Moaners. Because you see, they had the opportunity to avoid this situation but they chose not to.
Instead, they keep working on their time machines in an effort to go back to 1998 and pre-empt the whole thing. Which obviously won’t work, because if they had managed it, we wouldn’t be having the problems now. Although there’s always the chance that they might stop their parents from ever meeting, which would be a welcome development (if you enjoyed Back to the Future trilogy, you’ll understand where I’m coming from).

Look, it’s not an ideal situation, but at least it’s an improvement on what we had before. What irritates me is that with a little more public buy-in, it could have been even better. We could have avoided having power cuts at all, but you people thought it was better to whinge than to actually do something about it. And guess what, judging by what I’ve heard on the TV and radio, you still think it’s better to whinge than to actually do something about it. Idiots.

Finally – “just” 800 days until the start of the 2010 World Cup and every one of our stadiums is on or ahead of schedule. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Wembley. 

Sorry – It’s a Short Week

There’s a story which goes about these parts that tells of a bloke who was nailed to some of bits of wood a couple of thousand years ago (give or take), meaning that my pregnant wife can gorge herself on chocolate throughout March and April.
So she says anyway. Personally, I think she made it up simply so that she could gorge herself on chocolate throughout March and April.

And why not?

She’s spread the word about as well. Women all over Cape Town can be seen gorging themselves on chocolate. And wine. And now, we even have a Chocolate Gorging Public Holiday on Friday which means that this is a short week. And that is a superb reason for the level of customer service in this fine city to drop to new lows.

Yes, because Friday isn’t happening in work terms, apparently neither is the rest of the week. If you thought that load-shedding was slowing down the economy, you were right. But it pales into insignificance next to Short Week Syndrome. Deliveries which didn’t make it through when they were due last week, mysteriously won’t be delivered this week either. Why?

“Sorry – it’s a short week, you know?”

Yes, I do, but the first four days are still fair game, are they not?

But it’s hopeless. You can’t fight the system.
Well, you can, but you’ll suffer a humiliating defeat on penalties.

Talking of poor service, a new Cape Town blog has sprung up: Welcome to the Metrosnail – presumably the work of some discontented Cape Town train user. I was looking for fun and amusing comment, but I found none. What I did find was an article about the upgrade of Cape Town station which was cut’n’pasted from a City Council website article from May last year. Cutting edge stuff, then.

Seriously, if you’re going to write a moany, whiney blog; at least put in a bit of effort to make it interesting, relevant and – dare I say it? – original. Don’t just publish rubbish and hope that your leap onto the 2010 bandwagon will be enough to make your blog “cool”.

Of course, you won’t find this blog moaning and grumbling about inconsequential matters. Except today, obviously. But that’s ok, because anything goes in a short week.

“Overall, it’s gone exceptionally well”

So says Dr Basil Bonner, head of the emergency unit at the Milnerton Medi-Clinic of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2008 via iol.co.za. (Thanks, DC)

I’m very glad to hear it, Baz. Let’s see what the good doctor is referring to, shall we?

About 65 people had to be taken to hospital during the Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town, two of them with suspected heart attacks.

“We had two serious head injuries, a third with a fractured hip and pelvis, and two patients, both in their 60s, with unconfirmed heart attacks. They’re in hospital having tests done,” Dr Basil Bonner, head of the emergency unit at the Milnerton Medi-Clinic, said on Sunday.

“Overall, it’s gone exceptionally well”

Yep – that all sounds just peachy! For a moment there, I was mildly concerned that you might just have been pulling the wool over our eyes and that someone might actually have got hurt while preventing me from taking the family for a relaxing Sunday on Seaforth beach.
But no. Obviously not.

From time to time, the local* doom and gloom merchants accuse me of wearing rose-tinted spectacles**.
However, I think that even they would have to agree that any optimism I dare to show on this site pales into complete insignificance against your blinkered view of the facts.

In fact, I was wondering if I could borrow your phrase to describe completely overlook any bad day I may have in the future:

Yes, I did crash the car twice on the way to the lab this morning. And when I got here, I found that all the data that I’d collected over the past 3 years had been corrupted and the back-up discs had been accidentally sold to a user called BackupDiscSmasher on eBay. Then my hand slipped on the ill-thought-out XDR-TB release lever and consequently, I released a large cloud of XDR-TB across Cape Town. Thus, I was summarily dismissed from my job.
On the way home I crashed my car twice more and arrived back just in time to see the last bits of my house burn down after an electrical fault on my PS2 lit up the pile of braai wood (Namibian Camelthorn, nogal!) I was hiding it under.

But… “overall, it’s gone exceptionally well.”

Mmm! I feel better already.

* local to that pessimists forum, anyway.
** which (proudly) I am, compared to their grey-tinted ones.

It’s Argus Day!

Oh joy!

The annual Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour is here in Cape Town once again.
Each March, the largest timed cycling event in the world effectively paralyses the city for the day and increases the square metres of lycra to local population ratio far beyond safe limits.

So why do I love it so much?

  • For the two weeks (although this is now stretching towards a month) prior to the event, cyclists in the city are apparently permitted to ignore any traffic rules. Extra points are given for going through red lights and causing accidents, which are then blamed on anyone sitting in something with an engine (and helpfully, with insurance too).
  • On the actual day, residents of the city get woken up by the television helicopters flying the route from 6.15 in the morning. On a Sunday. Thanks.
  • It’s a wonderful day out there today, but can I take my boy to the beach?
    No, I can’t – because all the roads are closed.
  • Better not have a heart attack today if you live on the route. Getting an ambulance to you will probably take a bit too long. Anyway, it’s far more important that some poorly-prepared 55 year old from Bloemfontein gets to the local cardiac care unit first, because he has a bike and is wearing lycra.
  • For the next three months, we have to endure people talking about how they went “sub four” and what a struggle it was in the wind.  Then, for the nine months following that, we have to endure people talking about how they’re going to go “sub four” and that they hope it’s not windy.    

“Come now, 6000” some people say. “It’s just one day of the year!”

And they’re nearly right. They just missed a bit:
It’s just one day of the year TOO MANY!