Black Friday at 6000 miles…

South Africa has been completely taken over by Black Friday. More so this year than all the other years, as Americreep continues to insidiously envelope the entire world, bit by bit.
Next year, we’re going to do Thanksgiving as well. Turkeys.

Probably.

I’ve ignored the phenomenon completely, save for marvelling at all the camera lenses I (still) can’t afford at Orms. They’ve knocked a bit off a lot of nice stuff, but as with a lot of SA retailers, there are none of the HUGE discounts which are the norm in the USA today.

I’m here to remedy that, with an incredible 6000 MILES… BLACK FRIDAY DEAL for my regular readers. And also for everyone else.

In a moment of madness, I have decided to give you all up to 90% (Ninety Per Cent) off your 6000 miles… read today. Forget the 10% that [a jewellery store] is willing to discount your necklace. Roll your eyes at the 50% that [a well-known supermarket] is giving you off your instant coffee (limit of 6 per customer). And laugh loudly and falsely right in the face of [the online retailer] whose site isn’t even working.

lol wut? Remind me how your business works again? (aside from repeatedly breaking promises on delivery times)

Anyway, enough of taking the piss out of the opposition. I am offering ALL POSTS on 6000 miles… for an incredible NINE TENTHS OFF for TODAY ONLY!!

To take advantage of this amazing offer, simply read ANY POSTS on the site between the hours of 12 midnight this morning and… er… 12 midnight this evening, and pay JUST 10% of the usual fee of R0 (£0, $0). You will not find a better discocunt anywhere today.

Remember: IT’S JUST FOR TODAY: BLACK FRIDAY!!! BUY! BUY! BUY!

bye bye

Some thoughts on Uber in Cape Town

Hello guys. Hello gals.

I have a problem with Uber in the Mother City.

Let me first set the scene. Some background, if you will.
I think Uber is a great idea. In a country where we still have yet to cross the hugely important barrier of drinking and driving becoming socially unacceptable, any alternative means of getting oneself home after a night out is not only welcome, it’s vitally important.

And Uber is easy to use. It’s there when you need it, you don’t need to have cash on you, you press a couple of buttons and you’re sorted for your journey. When it first arrived, it felt like the future. In some ways, it still does.

There have been problems. Implementing a business model which was devised for the heady, First World streets of San Francisco and New York into South Africa hasn’t always been straightforward. But I’ve spoken to a huge number of drivers who have had their lives changed for the better by working for Uber here in Cape Town. The flexibility around working hours, the opportunity of income that they wouldn’t otherwise have had and the ease of becoming a driver, with no specific skills or education required, are all things that most cite as benefits of working in this system. And of course, it’s hard work and everyone along the line needs to take their cut, but no driver has ever told me that he wished he didn’t work (or have to work) for Uber. The overriding sentiment is positive.

But I’ve noticed a concerning change in the standard of my Uber drivers recently. More and more often, I’m getting drivers that are simply not very good at driving, that are new to the area and that don’t inspire any confidence in getting you to the end of your journey safely. And that’s not good.

Take last night. Dinner out in Woodstock, with an early start. Uber booked, arrived on time, but then missed the turn into our driveway because he was looking at his phone instead of looking at us frantically waving at him, and then almost took out two other vehicles in trying to pull over to get to us.

Despite us helping with directions, the journey was uncomfortable. Too much time staring at the phone next to the handbrake, excessive acceleration followed by excessive braking – like a learner driver – and the moment where he thought that he’d taken a wrong turn and decided that trying to stop in the fast lane of Hospital Bend was a good thing to do while he sorted things out. I thought we were going to die.  He claimed that he’d never driven on Hospital Bend – weird for a driver in Cape Town, but ok – but given the fact that it’s quite clearly a five-lane-each-way highway with traffic travelling at 80kph, there’s really no excuse for even considering stopping there, especially with two passengers frantically telling you to please keep driving before the rest of the N2 ended up right up our arses.

I (briefly) found religion. And it clearly paid off, because we got to the restaurant physically unscarthed, but mentally scarred.

But this scenario is becoming more and more common. I’m seeing more and more inexperienced drivers – not just inexperienced in working for Uber, or in driving in Cape Town – but inexperienced in actually driving.

As if further proof was required, we didn’t even get into our second Uber last night, because he crashed into a moped on the 60 second journey to pick us up from the restaurant. According to witnesses, it wasn’t the fault of the moped. Just saying.

Our replacement driver was a local guy, who claimed to know the roads, but took us via some bizarre route home against the wishes of the GPS “because it avoided the traffic lights on the M3”. The fact that we live a couple of hundred metres off the M3, we ended up going through 6 sets of robots instead of 3 and we got stuck at a level crossing we should never have been anywhere near seemed to escape him. He was a nice guy, he was a confident driver, but he ripped us off by (deliberately) taking a illogical longer route.

I didn’t think we were going to crash at any moment though.
Which was nice.

So I was unimpressed with all three of our drivers last night. The longer route thing pisses me off (and I told him so), but it’s the continuing theme of limited driving ability which I find far more concerning. I’ve seen people saying that this is a purely Cape Town-based problem with Uber, but I can’t comment, having limited experience of using the service in other SA cities.

Has this been your experience too? And with seemingly so many more “learner” drivers around, how do you avoid getting one on your next Uber trip? I’d love to know.

WSW

And so, without any more ado, and not ever so much fanfare, here’s one of the photos I took over the weekend. It’s quite dark (hey, it was night time), and so it looks MUCH better on black, but to look at it like that you’ll have to click through to Flickr here.

This was a 30 second exposure looking WSW (240.99º to be exact) from Suiderstrand bay. Next stop heading straight out from here is Necochea, Argentina, 6819.62 km across the South Atlantic.

But I didn’t go there. I wandered the 100m or so back up to the cottage and had a brandy.

Four photos from the weekend: here.

Faster wifi on planes

The future is now.

To be honest, the future was actually already then, when I was on a flight over Turkey, tracking my flight over Turkey en route to nearly kill my Mum by walking into her kitchen while she thought I was 6000 miles… away.

Wi-fi on planes is incredible. Not just because it’s useful as a communication, productivity and time-passing tool, but also because of the way it works. From your device to the on-board router, then pinged from the top of the plane moving at close on 1,000kph to a satellite about 35,786km up (which itself is moving at 18,000kph) and then down to earth and then – obviously – back again.

Like, I said: Incredible.

In fact, the only issue with the wi-fi on planes is that it’s not very fast. So sending photos or anything larger than a Whatsapp message takes ages or doesn’t really work at all. Especially just after dinner.

But now it’s about to get better:

Emirates has partnered with Thales to bring 50Mbps connectivity to its Boeing 777X fleet in 2020.

That’s five times faster than I get at home. Five.

And look, I know I’m very lucky to have a generally stable internet connection at home. But my house stays where it is and is attached by a long cable to the place where the internet comes from (which also stays where it is). It’s relatively simple to get internet to go back and forth along that cable. But they still can’t do it at more than 10Mbps.

I think the potential solutions here are fairly obvious: move my house to an Emirates 777 (clearly not an option), or park an Emirates 777 in my back garden (it could be a contemporary sculpture).

The neighbours might not be happy, but at least they’d have really speedy internet.

Pub quiz redux

Ridiculously busy day ahead, so just a few bits and pieces about last night’s pub quiz, penned as I enjoy my thirteenth coffee of the day.

BUZZIN’, MAN!!!!

First off, let me tell you that last night’s pub quiz was a lot of fun. Good beer, good pizza, good company, great service at Fireman’s. Our awesome threesome did really well, finishing in (a mildly disputed) second place (out of 25 teams) after a bit of chaos involving a couple of vague questions in the final round. In a quiz with just fifty questions spread over 10 subjects and 2½ hours, you might argue that there’s no excuse for vague questions, and I would agree.

What is the plural of Opus?

Turns out that there’s more than one correct answer. Never a good idea for a last round question.
(Opuses/Opera, by the way.)

And did Quentin Tarantino really direct Natural Born Killers? No. He didn’t. So if you’re going to ask a question about that film, don’t state in the question that he did. People will get confused. There will be disputes. However, that was nothing compared to the outrage earlier in the evening when the answer to one of the Sports Round questions:

What is the national sport of Bulgaria?

turned out to be:

It’s a trick question. They have no national sport.

Did you get it? No. Neither did anyone else. But really, with just five sports questions to write and a near unlimited supply of options available to you, how utterly lazy is that?

Do. Better.

But I’m making it sound like a disaster. It wasn’t. It was fun. In my defence, I did say that above.

Crossword Man was there. Inspired by 6000 miles… (!), he wants to start his own blog. I know, right? He was asking a lot of questions about blogging, most all of which made more sense than the Bulgarian one above, and one of which was “can you post a blank post?”. I didn’t know that answer, so I tried it. The rest is history. Quite why you would want to post a blank post is a little beyond me, but each to their own. Perhaps he was giving me a hint?

It was our first pub quiz in several months. I knew that something had been missing from my life; I just didn’t know what.

We won’t leave it so long next time.