Sick of poor decisions

“Where are you?” queried the emails.
“What’s going on?”
“What must we do?”

Such is the awesome and addictive power of 6000 miles…that when I was struck down – pretty heavily struck down, too – by a particularly nasty illness this last week, desperation set in for some readers.

But it’s ok. I’m back. And I’ve got lots that I want to write about. Although I haven’t been able to get near a computer to actually document my thoughts, I’ve been having plenty of them. Some of the more interesting ones were sadly only accessible while my temperature was in the low 40’s.
Thus, I can only remember odd bits of them. Bits that involve parrots.
I told you they were odd.

While I was away on my journey to Virusville,  South Africa beat England in a unusually interesting Test match in Birmingham. Through glazed eyes (via the disappointingly weak interweb surfing capabilities of my aging cellphone), I read and agreed with Brian Micklethwait’s take on Michael Vaughan’s resignation as England captain following that game.

How thin are the threads that these things hang by!  In England’s second innings the day before yesterday, Vaughan was looking good, until he got himself out with a silly shot.  And yesterday, South Africa’s captain Smith would have been given out, caught off the glove off Panesar, if “Hotspot” the latest analytical gizmo – it shows where balls strike by photoing heat rather than light), had been helping the umpires instead of only helping the commentators to make idiots of the umpires.  Smith was then on about 70.  He went on to make 150 not out and win the game for his team.  England might well have won if that decision gone their way, and if England had won, Vaughan would not now be stepping down.  He might have made some runs in the final test against South Africa, and gone on to lead England in the Ashes next summer. As it is…

Yet another dodgy decision with massive implications. And yes, I know that referees and umpires are only human and these things happen, but with professional sport being what it is these days, isn’t it time that the technology which is available is applied so that careers aren’t ended and millions of pounds aren’t lost simply because of the actions of of an inept official?

So now we have a South African with a South African name captaining the England cricket team and a South African with an English name captaining the South African cricket team. And, if the papers are to be believed, they hate each other. Ooh – the drama.


A couple of tossers with a coin

I like this photo from the BBC News website. Pietersen looks like he’s missing a pint pot and is looking in completely the wrong direction. Smith looks like he’s missing a brain and is looking directly at the money.
Which sums them both up nicely, I think.

EDIT: more (slightly surprising) opinion and a nice pic of Newlands here.

Welcome back!

What with one thing and another, I haven’t been able to turn out for my football team – at least not in a playing capacity – for over three months. So, it was with some trepidation and a level of fitness one might expect of an average American teenager that I made my return in for the black and white wizzzzaaaaaaards in the shadow of the World Cup stadium in Green Point last night.

It was a beautiful evening; as I headed towards the hallowed turf I snapped a quick shot of the sun sinking into the South Atlantic – all was well with the world.

Sunset
Hellish scenes on the way to footy

Then I shook hands with the captain of the opposing team (made up of staff from a local Investment Management company) shared a joke with him and the ref and got on with the game.

It quickly became apparent that the current volatility in the world’s stock markets was causing the opposition no end of irritation. Since grievous bodily harm is generally frowned upon in the offices of such organisations, it was perhaps no surprise that they decided to take out their combined frustrations on the 7-a-side team of punchbags which had been set out in front of them. Within 90 seconds of the kick off, the same team captain who had been laughing and joking a moment earlier had mutated into the evil bastard son of Vinnie Jones and Beelzebub himself. As I fended him off at a corner, I found his studs high on my inner thigh, where they left an interesting and somewhat painful runic marking*.

Owch.
Studs up

I looked to the referee for some sign of action. To be honest, I’d expect to see more sympathy in the eyes of a suicide bomber. Fortunately, being from Yorkshire, I’m not one to fling myself Porra-style to the floor each time someone comes near me, which was just as well as I soon realised that the “Ass.” in “Investec Ass. Management” probably stood for “Assault”.

Meh – I survived. But I was hoping for a more gentle re-introduction to the beautiful game.
Next week, we face a team of lawyers. I can hardly wait.

* 24 hours on, these markings are outlined with a spectacular array of purple and deep blue. Beautiful. Magnificent. Bloody sore.

SA crime – the moaning continues

Sadly, South Africa is known, amongst many other things, for its high crime rate. But there came some good news on that front today with the release of the latest crime figures, which show a marked decrease, especially in many of the more serious crimes: murder down 4.7% and robbery with aggravating circumstances down 7.4%, for example. Well, I think it’s good news, but others aren’t happy.
Once again, (I always have to clarify this bit before I talk about crime in SA), I do recognise that South Africa has a problem with crime and I do recognise that something needs to be done about it and that people have a right to expect the government to do something about it. 
However, with the murder rate down to its lowest level in six years and a overall decrease in crime, I think that it is obvious that the initiatives and efforts which are being put in place to combat crime are beginning to work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are very few people who seem to recognise this, though.   

A lot of the negative comments I have read on various SA websites and forums on this subject fall broadly into four categories, which can overlap Venn diagram style, to allow maximum pessimism.
Firstly, there’s the Mugabe reaction: these people have read and heard that crime has decreased, but they are simply ignoring the news and pretending it hasn’t happened. That way, they continue to have something to moan about and a reason to live.
Secondly, the negative optimist approach – and no, that’s not an oxymoron. These people note that crime has fallen, but are not happy that there is still crime happening. In the negative optimists’ world, there is no murder, no robbery, no vandalism and everyone obeys the speed limits. These people should have listened to Safety and Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, as he was presenting the report this morning: 

He told media in Pretoria during the presentation of the annual crime report that even though the statistics indicated a steady decline, crime levels were still very high and “unacceptably so: Government wanted to see a more drastic decline.”

 See? He agrees with you. Crime is still unacceptably high. But it’s down.

Next up, my particular favourites: the nit-pickers. They will pick and choose the worst stats to illustrate just what difficult circumstances South Africa finds itself in: Yes, murder is down, rape is down, robbery is down, but what about truck high-jackings? Did you see that truck high-jackings were up?
Finally, the never-believers. They stand by the words of Mulder & Scully. Trust no-one. These stats are all made up by the Government to make us feel better, when really, crime has sky-rocketed. They cite the fact that these figures are only for reported crime. Which is absolutely correct. However, I defy any government, worldwide, to present accurate statistics on unreported crime, because, you see, it’s unreported.
However, in the unlikely event that the Government has completely fabricated the figures presented today, then I feel that they could have done a much better job on reducing truck high-jackings.

So, there you have it. Once again, I’m fed up with people moaning instead of doing something proactive, like joining their neighbourhood watch. I’m fed up with people only looking for the bad news instead of being happy that there’s actually some good news. I’m fed up with people having foolishly high expectations and feeling angry when they are unfulfilled. Bring forth your predictable and ill-thought-out comments.

One final thing – I’m also growing a little tired of Italians ruining my weekends. This time, the act was repeated by the utterly appalling one-sided refereeing of the Euro 2008 Final by Italian Roberto Rosetti.
Yes Roberto, handball and headbutting are against the rules in football.
German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann thinks the Euro 2008 final was fixed:

“The referee was a catastrophe and sometimes I think it is fixed when I see such a referee, who is biased and not correct in his decisions.”
For example, A Spanish player (David Silva) head-butted our player (Lukas Podolski) and the referee saw it and the linesman saw it.”

Now, I’m no fan of Lehmann’s, but I’m in full agreement that something weird was going on with the refereeing last night. One dodgy decision after another – all in Spain’s favour. How strange.

 

Are Italians naturally dull?

Having swum down to Newlands in miserable conditions on Saturday to watch the rugby, I was disappointed with the atmosphere, the standard of play and the complete lack of general excitement that usually surrounds an international test match. Sure, it could have had something to do with the weather, but being the scientific kind of person that I am, I then extended my research further the following day.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to watch the second bit of my experiment, because it was a Ferrari winning at the French Grand Prix. Formula One is only worth watching for the crashes, and what with all the new safety equipment and silly little rules from the FIA, even those are getting a bit few and far between and less exciting when they do happen. For the rest of the time, it’s just like a procession, with the fastest car starting in pole position and then going round and round the track with no-one able to catch it or overtake it. This fastest car is usually a Ferrari – and Ferrari is?
Yes – Italian. Exactly.

Incidentally, have you noticed how irritating it is when people think that they are “in the know” by referring to F1 drivers by their first names?

Ja, Kimi had a great race as he followed Filipe around the track for 79 laps…

Presumably, these are the same bores who refer to Star Wars films as “Empire” or “Phantom” and their favourite bands as “Jovi” or “Leppard”; their movie and musical tastes giving us further insight into their sad little lives.

Anyway, by now, a pattern was beginning to form: Italy + Sport = Dull.

A last chance to disprove my theory came with the eagerly-anticipated Spain v Italy Euro 2008 quarter final clash. And, dear Lord (even if you did vote ZANU-PF) – they went out of their way to hammer the point home. 90 minutes of the most excruciatingly dull viewing I have experienced since I last watched an F1 race. And then another 30 minutes of extra time as added punishment. What did I do to deserve that?

It seems to me that a country with such a proud military history (well, until about 100 AD, anyway), a wealth of national monuments and treasures, a pretty cool, bouncy, upbeat national anthem and moreover, a well known reputation for passion and excitement, can turn out such mind-numbingly boring sporting performances.

Has the true Italy come to the fore? Is this what Italians are really like, their genuine characters previously hidden under a thin veneer of heated, volcanic emotions?
I don’t want to believe it, but the evidence of late is pointing firmly in the direction of dull.
Convince me otherwise. Please.

Not in Kansas anymore

UPDATE: Looking for pictures of the 30-31st August 2008 storm? Try here!

As I stared, bleary-eyed, out of the bedroom window into the cold and dark of the Cape Town morning, I was once again blown away by the sight of the lights of Muizenberg glittering on the ocean. What a view. Despite the atrocious weather of the past 24 hours, I am very fortunate to live here.
It was only a few minutes later, standing under a very welcome steaming shower, that I realised that we live about 10km up the road from Muizenberg. Something wasn’t right.

It turns out that rain over the past 24 hours had turned my back garden into something akin to the ocean. As the gloomy, grey morning struggled to be slightly less gloomy and grey, I caught sight of an aging hippy in a wetsuit with his longboard next to my braai, anxiously looking across the lawn for any sign of sharks before he paddled out towards the birdbath to wait for the next big breaker.

It’s true that it has been a pretty torrid couple of days weather-wise for the residents of Cape Town. One of those times that you are glad that you aren’t living in a shack in a township or a tent in a temporary refugee camp (sorry – “displaced foreign nationals site”). Glancing at the SA Weather Service website, I see that Kirstenbosch – home of the famous botanical gardens and just around the corner from us – had 135mm of rain dropped on it in the last 24 hours. That’s 5½ inches for you oldies out there.

S'wet
Kirstenbosch: Rather damp

Still, this is winter in Cape Town so we really should be expecting the wet and the cold. Interestingly, in exactly 2 years time, the entire world will have descended upon the Mother City for the 2010 World Cup. I’m already buying up Pak-a-Mac’s by the lorryload which I will sell at a vastly inflated mark-up to ill-prepared Europeans who think it’s hot and sunny here all year round.

The profits will be used to install some sort of drainage system into my garden before high tide floods my living room.