Jacob Maroga saved my hearing

Coming hot on the heels of my (as yet unpublished) Jacob Zuma Ate My Hamster post comes some unexpected praise for those masters of the dark arts – Jacob Maroga and Eskom.
For those who aren’t in the SA loop, Jacob Maroga is the CEO of Eskom and Eskom is the company which provides South Africa with electricity.

Sometimes, anyway.

We simply don’t have enough power to go around. I told you about this last week. Then they went and stranded the cable car on Table Mountain – a story which the BBC chose to illustrate with a picture of City Hall taken in 1968.  
Anyway, although I’m pretty sure that the CEOs of major SA industry don’t read this site*, it seems that this week, they have taken my advice and are getting down to the business of dealing with the power outages, rather than moaning about them. Good for you guys.

Anyway, back to my praise of Jacob and Eskom. Why? Because load-shedding has its benefits too.
Obviously, these don’t include the my safety cabinets losing power and MDR-TB starting to drift throughout the lab. That’s not particularly beneficial to anyone, although the shrieks of glee of the recently-freed airborne bacteria was heart-warming to hear.

No. I refer to a particularly ironic and comedic incident as I headed down to the Waterfront for lunch today. Crossing Dock Road, I could hear the sounds of the minstrel jazz band playing along to some cheesy backing track for a crowd of tourists.
Picture the scene. It’s a wonderful atmosphere – the sun is shining, there’s a light breeze and a happy vibe. A backing track plays through a tinny amp while the band – none of them a day under 70, I swear – sit under the trees in the dappled shade; one on bongos, one on a Hammond organ (or similar), one on oil-can guitar and another who occasionally shakes a tambourine, blows a trumpet or sings.

Improvisation is the name of their jazz game. The cerebral musicality of jazz mixed with the visceral groove of funk. 
And their repertoire…? Extensive.
Stretching today to a bloody awful instrumental version of the 1987 Starship hit Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Except that then, Maroga and his Eskom boys stepped in, load-shod – and promptly stopped them.

The irony was lost on the tourists, many of whom were only continuing to endure the overly cheesy soft rock hit while trying to work out if the keyboard player was in fact dead or just asleep.
The guitarist spat on the floor, shook his head in disgust and took out a cigarette. For the next two hours, the Waterfront would be listening to the Sounds of Silence…

* They will when I publish details of the ANC President and his rodent-munching antics – senior management loves JZ gossip.

It’s all got a bit silly

I’ve chosen to hide the BA038 post so that people can calm down just a little. It was all getting a bit silly. Especially from 86.130.225.6 – the queue to use that PC to send grammatically poor emails and make inadvertently amusing comments must have been hectic. That’s true dedication from those 1 people, right there.

Sure, it was great for traffic, but actually I would prefer fewer, but higher quality readers. Having half of South Oxfordshire on my back because they disagreed with my opinion was fun, but I soon tired of trying to translate the comments into English so that I could respond.
Contrary to what is apparently popular belief, 6000 miles is not an open forum for petty insults and misspelled threats.

So – can we get back to life as normal, please?
(That’s power cuts, sunshine, crazy politics, beer – and an unhealthy dose of TB…)

Have a special day.

Constant whining sound from crashed plane

Some people just shouldn’t open their mouths. One doesn’t have to look any further than the excellent (and blogrolled) spEak You’re bRanes to learn that. That site alone shows the dangers inherent in allowing people a soapbox and an audience.

And now there’s example number two: Mark Tamburro.

Mark is from Oxford.
Immediately, that puts him into one of three categories: 

  1. Stuck-up, pompous arse.
  2. Ill-educated druggie.
  3. Cool, good-looking bloke who just works there and will be moving to South Africa soon.

Mark was on the BA038 flight whose engines apparently failed on final approach to Heathrow last week. 
Immediately, that puts him in one further category:

  1. Bloody lucky to be alive.


Great bit of parking

But now Mark is on the BBC website (and many others) moaning about how crap the staff at the airport were, landing himself (if not his plane) quite neatly into the pompous arse group and  reminding us of his disappointing inclusion in the bloody lucky to be alive category.

Mr Tamburro said he and his two travelling companions had to leave their hand luggage in their overhead lockers on the aeroplane and so had no money or personal belongings on them

He said the BA staff who were looking after the passengers rationed water, the only drink which was initially offered to them in the departure area, and did not offer any food.

His story doesn’t quite tally with this post from one of BA’s ground staff at Heathrow though, which makes very interesting reading. And it’s also interesting to note that he seems to be the only one of the 136 passengers that’s whining about their treatment.

A quick google of Mark shows us that he is a little overweight, owns a bit of a racehorse called Cossack Dancer and has a beard. It also tells us that he writes letters to the council  moaning about them setting taxi fares so high in South Oxfordshire. Except that, as any fule kno, the council doesn’t actually set the taxi fares in South Oxfordshire. Oops.

Is this painting a picture for you, too?
People like Mark annoy me. He’s just been fortunate enough to survive a plane crash in which even the pilot thought “everyone on board was going to die” and all he can do is whinge.
I think that Mark might just be setting himself up for a little bit of extra cash from his compensation claim.

Incidentally, since Mark works for Nokia, he may be the perfect person to explain to investigators, BA and Boeing as to why the plane’s computer system didn’t respond, as he’s obviously an expert on crap, bug-ridden software. 

Update: Tues 22nd Jan.

Just read a ~2000 word piece on the BA038 incident in today’s Cape Times, which they shamelessly stole borrowed from The Independent in the UK. 16 passengers interviewed (not including dear Mark) and not one complaint. And that despite being thrust with a microphone. The evidence just keeps adding up…  

Update: Thurs 24th Jan.

Ooh look! It’s back (by popular demand).
Please THINK before you comment. I’m in a particularly “deletey” mood today.

South Africa’s electricity crisis

Woo. “Crisis”. There’s a strong word. But yes, that’s what it is.

It’s a complicated story, but it boils down to this: years of poor planning and underfunding, coupled with a healthily growing economy simply means that there isn’t enough electricity to go around. And therefore, in order to protect the national grid from damage through supplying electricity that’s not there and being hopelessly overloaded, Eskom, the national electricity supplier, has introduced load-shedding. This is a system whereby, when demand exceeds supply, they cut power to areas of the country so that the remaining areas can get on with life.

You can see the issues. Industries are in the middle of production runs, businesses are working on computers, residents are cooking dinner. And then – click. All is calm, all is bright. Apart from the bright bit, obviously. 
And you’re taken back to a previous time, before electricity had been harnessed and controlled. A wonderful age, with steam trains, gas-lamps and cheeky schoolboys playing with sticks and hoops and running across cobbled streets in front of horse-drawn carriages. Quaint, but actually bloody annoying.

There are upsides. Generator and candle sales have never been better. But they are the exception in this sorry tale. Businesses can’t cope, they’re losing money hand over fist. Householders complain, but except for the odd case*, it’s actually just an inconvenience. A culture of blame ensues – letters to the local press name and shame electricity wasting buildings and lament the fact that streetlights are left on during the day. Misinformation abounds. Eskom is a laughing stock and it just wouldn’t be South Africa if there was no racial issue in there somewhere:

We always had enough electricity when the whites were in power!

Yes. Of course you did. That’s because outside investment in the country was virtually nil and the economy was held together with duct tape and a weekly prayer to the bloke upstairs.

There is an even darker side to this though (no pun intended). The past participle issue.
How do you describe, when complaining to your drinking buddies, the local paper or anyone who is still bothering to listen to your incessant and pointless whining, what happened when your power was cut yesterday afternoon? Were you load-shedded? Or load-shod?

I shouldn’t laugh, but it is funny when people are moaning. I understand their frustrations, but they start inventing new words. They think I’m making fun of their plight and slap me, which does temporarily halt my mirth, but only until their next use of “load-shod”.
“Load-shod” just sounds funny, while “load-shedded” is clumsy and doesn’t work.

But it’s ok – I can help you out. If you want to avoid these amusing or difficult phrases, just don’t tell me about it.
It’s symbiotic. You don’t get your tongue twisted, I get a nice peaceful morning in the dark. Lovely.

Look – I’m not saying that these power cuts are a good thing.
They aren’t. Power cuts are a bad thing.
Nor am I saying that you don’t have a right to be annoyed, irritated, frustrated.
Of course you do. It’s annoying, irritating and frustrating.
I think that what I’m saying is that since there is no light at the end of the tunnel – literally, it seems – just stop moaning – how does that help? Be a bit more proactive. Work around it as best you can. You’ll live. Really**.  

And never – never – use the word “load-shod” in front of me and expect me not to giggle.

* Standard hysterical over-exaggeration: “What about all those people on life-support systems at home?!?!?!”
** Terms and conditions apply. Like not being on a life-support system at home.

It’s a father’s job, right? Wrong.

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Shameless plug 2: Long overdue pics on my flickr.

There are certain things that only a dad can do for his son. Buying him his first razor, teaching him how to shave, driving him to the nearest hospital with a blood bank and so on.

Of course, little Alex is some way off those days. Although that doesn’t stop him experimenting with my shaving foam if it’s not strategically placed out of his reach. He is growing up quickly though and indeed, he starts playschool on Thursday. It was this momentous occasion that tempted me into an extravagant, yet important purchase this lunchtime: A Winnie the Pooh backpack. Too cute.

The boy loves Winnie and since Disney took over the rights to his image (the bear, not my son) and americanized it, there’s no shortage of Pooh-related merchandise out there for parents to waste money on. Yes, it’s horribly commercial, but worth every penny when you see the look on his face (my son, not the bear). And I do draw the line somewhere safely on the sensible side of large purple dinosaurs.

The backpack is great. I brought it home this evening, beautifully wrapped in a plastic carrier bag and presented it to Alex in the living room. He tore it open impatiently, desperate to get a better view of the smiling ursine visage within. 
Winnie may have been grinning inanely, Alex may have been giggling gleefully, but his mum’s face was a picture. A watercolour of rage. Rage, disappointment and a touch more rage. And then a little more disappointment on a sideplate. Would you like fries with that?
Hell hath no fury like a woman mother scorned.
Somewhere just next to my left ear, a little voice whispered, “Oops. You just broke another one of those unwritten parenting laws, didn’t you?” I glanced down to see who it was doing the whispering, just in time to see a fluffy little bunny wabbit blasted from my shoulder by my wife’s laser eyes. I swear I heard it let out a fluffy little bunny wabbit scream.

It has left an unsightly burn mark on my t-shirt.

Alex likes the backpack, although it irritates him that he can’t see Winnie and friends when he has it on. Also, by the time it’s got everything he needs for playschool in there, he won’t be able to lift it either. But these are mere details.

The fluffy little bunny wabbit was correct. If you’re a dad, you must stick to the birds and bees, football and shaving. Son’s first backpack falls strictly under the heading of maternal duties.
Fathers across the world, you have been warned.