Exploding wind turbine

The recent wintery weather that has battered Scotland (see these pictures on the BBC News website) led to a wind turbine at the Ardrossan Wind Farm bursting into flames.

A small amount of detective work led me to more photos as part of this flickr set.

Oooh – I bet Paternoster simply can’t wait!

2 Comments | Tagged , , , | Posted in flickr, in the news, uk

New Pet Peeve

This one’s pretty simple: people taking video of school events on iPads (or any other 10″ tablet, for that matter).

We all like to have a visual record of our children’s school shows. Hell, I’m there like a bear with my camera and the good old Sony camcorder, frantically recording each and every moment for posterity and my son’s 21st birthday party.
But here’s the thing – I don’t have a massive camera. It fits right in front of my face. The camcorder is even smaller – palm of your hand job. It could almost be used for covert surveillance – assuming that the person you were surveilling had some degree of visual impairment. My point is this – it doesn’t get in anyone else’s way. And that allows them to take photos and videos of their child, singing their heart out about some allegedly Wise Men chasing a comet.

Not so, the iPad. Like a Bishop’s Boy, it can’t wait to tell you that it is an iPad and – this year, for the first time – it can’t wait to get in your way when you want to watch your kid’s Christmas production:

Hold it up a bit higher, love – some people can still see past it!

The weather was terrible, the light was awful and most every one of my photos features Steve Jobs’ finest work to date. And let’s face it, he’s unlikely to top it now, is he?

Of course, I’m in no way suggesting that people shouldn’t use their iPads for videoing school concerts or other events. It’s a great way of recording proceedings and it’s absolutely lovely to know that you have an iPad. I’m merely saying that if your primary method of digitally preserving the school nativity play involves you holding something the size of a piece of A4 up above your head for the entire gig, maybe you should consider the people behind you, who have also come to see their kids’ performance.

2 Comments | Tagged , , | Posted in annoying people, learning curve, the parenting bunny

Keep the change

Fresh on the heels of the weeing on bougainvillea saga, here’s some more Popular Mechanics Top Tip Letters Page brilliance from Al de Bruyn:

Keep the change
Finding change for car guards at short notice can be a pain. To solve the problem, I store a few coins in my car’s ashtray, pressing them edge-on into a blob of Prestik to stop them sliding around.

This. Is. Genius.

It’s a problem we all have. You park your vehicle, give the car guard a nod and a wave – maybe even ask his name if you have time, but try to avoid getting into a deep conversation about the continuing political ambitions of Joseph Kabila – and head off to your meeting/football match/dinner.
Upon your return, a couple of hours later… erm… was it Charles?… well, whatever – the car guard is still there. And he’s awake. Amazingly, your car seems to still be exactly where you left it as well.
Who could have predicted this scenario, save for everyone, ever?
Surely some sort of reward is due for security services rendered? But you have no change at short notice.

What now?

The first place that every single South African driver looks is in their ashtray, for the simple reason that that’s where every single South African driver keeps their change. Even smokers keep their change in their car ashtray, because they use the roads for their ash and cigarette butts. Al de Bruyn’s masterplan gives us nothing innovative or helpful here.

But then, as you get into your car, lock your doors and glance nervously around to see if… erm… was it Alfred?… well, whatever – is hanging around looking for some payment from you: disaster strikes.


You fumble; dazed and confused by the plethora of assorted metal discs that lies before you. Panic is setting in – you’ve been in your vehicle for almost seven seconds now and… erm… was it William?… well, whatever – wants some money.


Actually, you’re going to relax, chill out, smile through your window at… erm… was it Douglas?… well, whatever – and glance down at your ashtray, in which there are 6 coins of varying denominations, stacked, in order of value – edge on, nogal – in a piece of Prestik.
How long have you been parked there? How dodgy is the area? How is the weather? Did… erm… I think it was William, actually, wasn’t it?… well, whatever – remember you? These are the questions you will be asking yourself as you reach towards the carefully ordered small change, all so very perfectly aligned in your ashtray. Al’s method means that once you have decided how much you wish to pay your car guard, some rudimentary mental arithmetic is all that will be needed to select the appropriate coinage required to make up the requisite sum.

I like Al’s idea. My evenings out and about in Cape Town are regularly spoiled by the spectre of having to find change for parking guards at short notice. It occupies my mind from the moment I park my car, preventing me from conversing with my friends over dinner or analysing the football over a beer at Fireman’s. Yes – Zuma does face many challenges in the run up to Mangaung, but do I have a R5 coin for the car guard? Indeed, that was an incredible cross-field ball from David Silva, but I’m going to look properly tight if I can’t find more than 50c in my car ashtray.

And may I suggest some degree of future-proofing for Al’s Bruyny plan? (see what I did there?)
With inflation constantly inflating, it won’t be long before every informal roadside transaction (careful now) is carried out with notes, rather than coins. For this reason, you should maybe keep some notes in your car ashtray BUT – use a paperclip to stop them from sliding around.

That little gem for the future is on its way to Popular Mechanics right now and it’s going to win me a Jigsaw Sawing Station Combo Kit from Bosch.


Leave a comment | Tagged , , , , , | Posted in learning curve, that's a bit mad, this is south africa

All mouth and no trousers?

Big words from the Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle this week on two new plans to improve road safety in the Province. Firstly, he outlined plans to institute huge fines for parents who do not belt their children in when they are in the car. And those driving on the roads of Cape Town will note that this is a very common issue. Very common.

Currently, SA law only made provision for fines of about R200 for failing to use seatbelts, Carlisle said – and children were not differentiated from adults.
He said the provincial government wanted this increased to between R4 000 and R6 000 per child, which was in line with countries such as Britain, the US and Australia.

This is, without doubt, a good idea.
The statistics stated within that report are horrendous and include (but are not limited to):

  • 85% of parents do not strap their children in.
  • Road accidents remain the top non-natural killer of children in the country.
  • Between 200 and 300 children treated for trauma at the Red Cross hospital every year, between 70 and 90 percent had been injured in car crashes.
  • About 8 000 children die each year on the roads.
  • About 89 percent of those taken to the hospital for treatment had not been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crashes.

So of course, I’m fully in support of any steps taken to reduced these injuries and fatalities. Who wouldn’t be? Reinforcing the laws around kids and seatbelts is a good idea and upping the fines for those who don’t comply is a no-brainer.

The trouble is that it’s illegal to talk on one’s cellphone while driving, to speed and, in fact, to not wear a seatbelt yourself. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. But people still do it. And they do it because they can – and do – get away with it.
Remember this?

The spokesman for Cape Town Traffic Services, Kevin Jacobs, said 4 184 drivers in six months had been fined for the unlawful use of a cellphone while driving.

From which I calculated this?

4,200 in 6 months. That’s 700 a month. Or 24 a day. 1 an hour.
In a city with 3,000,000+ inhabitants. It’s a drop in the ocean.

So the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them. As Mrs El Presidenté said of the “Buckle up your kids, or pay” article, on Facebook:

Nice idea, but exactly how are they going to police it?

And I agree: this is pretty much worthless without backup. However, I’m also aware that the first step is to at least have decent laws to enforce. At the moment, we don’t even really have that. So this is a move in the right direction.

But perhaps a better way of making the roads a safer place to be is to change driver attitude and raise awareness of the effects of poor or illegal driving practices. And Robin Carlisle has made plans here too, with the new Crash Witness website, featuring genuine CCTV footage of accidents on the Province’s highways.

Described as:

Not for sensitive viewers /Ayilungiselelwanga abaButhathaba / Nie vie sensitiewe kyker nie

it is obviously designed to encourage drivers into thinking before they engage in dangerous driving. When I visited the site yesterday and again this morning, the videos refused to play – which merely served to encourage a lot of frustration here Chez 6000. I had to have a couple a Red Bulls to calm myself down before hitting the M3 into town.

I very much doubt that it will be possible to measure the results that Crash Witness may/will have in the Western Cape. I presume that beneficial effects from this type of thing have been shown elsewhere. But again – anything which improves the safety of our roads has got to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Do you buckle your kids up when you are driving? If not, why not?
Do you use your cellphone at the wheel? If so, why? What would make you stop?

9 Comments | Tagged , , , , | Posted in annoying people, economic issues, in the news, learning curve, politics, positive thoughts, this is south africa

Monbiot goes Nuclear

George Monbiot has a moment of clarity:

It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year, the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

As a result of shutting down its nuclear programme in response to green demands, Germany will produce an extra 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. That’s almost as much as all the European savings resulting from the energy efficiency directive. Other countries are now heading the same way. These decisions are the result of an almost medievel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo.

We may have mentioned the Germany faux pas here and here.

What follows Monbiot’s terrible admission is generally a plea to his fellow greenies to look again at nuclear technology, specifically a GEH proposal to build an Integral Fast Reactor at Sellafield in the UK, capable of using the waste radioactive material from other nuclear plants. The alternative plans for the waste – as described by George, at least – do seem far less palatable.

All in all it’s an interesting read and, if one is being rational, then supporting GEH’s plan seems like a no-brainer:

So we environmentalists have a choice. We can’t wish the waste away. Either it is stored and then buried. Or it is turned into mox fuels. Or it is used to power IFRs. The decision is being made at the moment, and we should determine where we stand.
I suggest we take the radical step of using science, not superstition, as our guide.

That last line is the kicker though, and probably explains why George’s is likely be the only green voice calling for a new reactor in Cumbria. Sad, but true.

A fully referenced version of this column is available here.

7 Comments | Tagged , , , | Posted in annoying people, in the news, no electricity