Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The ancestors totally saved us!

Well it turns out that the time (and presumably money) spent by the Dobsonville Roodepoort Leratong and Johannesburg Taxi Association and Faraday Taxi Association on having the Bree Taxi Rank in central Joburg cleansed of evil spirits was well worth it.

The two associations were so fed up at the violent rivalry between their own members that they hired had a team of sangomas (they like to call themelves "traditional healers", but I prefer the term "witchdoctors", or better yet "charletans").

So, instead of addressing their members and adjusting their business processes to ensure that these people refrained from murdering each other in the spirit of wild-west competition, these two corporate entities decided to appeal to the magical powers of the ancestors to settle it all. But I digress.

After the cleasing ceremony on the 25th of October, the taxi rank has remained entirely free of violence! Wow! The ancestors totally did it! Their magic fixed the problem.

That was until Sunday night when in two separate incidents, three men were gunned down in what is believed to be taxi-related violence. Looks like those sangomas have their work cut out for them. Blessing one taxi tank doesn't seem to have done the trick. They'll have to bless them all, as well as every road, intersection and parking lot where taxis are likely to travel.

Good luck to them!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No condoms for you!

As if the HIV situation in South Africa isn't bad enough, what with our Minster of Health promoting her personal ideology as a cure for AIDS. For the second time in as many months, a massively public retraction of condoms has been implemented by none other than Her Dumbassness.

Even though she allegedly stated that she didn't want these recalls to influence the public, I can just imagine her doing her little Happy Dance in her office at the news that real effective prevention strategies have suffered yet another blow.

The conspiracy theorist in me tends to think that this was somehow deliberately orchestrated so as to convince the public that condom use is not an effective strategy to prevent HIV infection, a stance that Manto has tended toward in the past. At the very least I think this demonstrates gross incompetence on the Health Department's behalf that these condoms were not sufficiently tested before being released.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that these defects were found and the recalls executed. But I believe that if the Department of Health were as dedicated to combating this plague as they claim to be, those condoms would never have been issued to begin with.

Manto has shown time and again that she cannot be trusted, and that she does not have the welfare of the South African public at heart. Even when she does something that appears to be heading in the right direction, she has earned nothing but derision and ridicule. These ineffective and half-hearted attempts at appearing concerned do not detract from the fact that she is presiding over a genocide. She must be removed from office with a minimum of haste, and must be held accountable for her crimes against humanity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I know, I've ranted about this before...

... but why the hell aren't we telecommuting?

The technology not only exists, but it is pervasive and even somewhat affordable. For a lot of people, possibly even the majority of people working in the corporate world, there is simply no need for them to be physically present in an office for eight hours a day, five days a week.

I realise there are exceptions. Some people really do need to be physically present most of the time. It makes sense for those people to commute. Is it true for everyone? Nope. Most people only need to be physically present for four or five hours a week (based on my own, completely thumb-sucked estimate... but I'm willing to bet I'm not far off).

I also concede that although the technology exists with which to have remote meetings through conference-calls and video-conferences, these are often awkward to administer and are usually an unfavourable alternative to a face-to-face meeting. But I also believe that this is a temporary situation, and as the technology matures it will eventually become the preferred option.

Exceptions aside, there are a great many people who spend a large percentage of their working hours in front of a PC and on the telephone. Is there any reason why such a person should have to spend hours in traffic (not only wasting time, but spewing exhaust fumes) when they have, in all probability, a PC (possibly even a laptop) and a telephone at home?

These people should be working at home most of the time, and only have to report to the office as needed, say for team-meetings or other such administravia that would be too difficult or expensive to orchestrate electronically. But even that should sort of thing should be phased out and replaced with cheaper and easier alternatives... it's just business sense!

The backward-thinking and change-phobic people who I have to share this planet with frustrate me no end. Even if shown in simple logical steps that the old way of doing things is now no longer the best way, they will still cling the the old ways, invoking silly non-sequiturs like "Email is not the best means of communication" and "you need to be able to share knowledge and experience with your coworkers." as if those problems hadn't already been solved by the technology years ago.

In the old days change always had to take a generation or two. Old farts, educated in a particular way of thinking would resist change as long as they were in power. Only once the next generation, educated in the newer way of thinking came to power, following the retirement or death of the former regime, could change be instituted.

Unfortunately we don't have time for that anymore. Change happens too fast now, and those blockheads who are incapable of rolling with it cost the rest of us time, money and, in the grand scheme of things, our very climate!

What frustrates me even more are those idiots who are in a position in which they have the authority to institute telecommuting policies in their own organisations, recognise the potential benefits such policies would bring, and STILL do nothing about it. I don't understand people like that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Rugby Cult

I am not a sports fan. I have nothing against sports in general, in fact I think it's a good idea. But I have absolutely no interest in any kind of sport.

What annoys me is this culture of rugby fanaticism in this country. Meeting after meeting is littered with one sports metaphor after another, most of which are lost on me. Although it's irritating, I can usually put up with it, but every now and then (around the time of the Rugby World Cup Final) it reaches a ridiculous fever pitch, and I feel like climbing out of my skin!

The Final is tomorrow night, apparently. So today, just about every male with an IQ <120 is walking around in a green and yellow shirt, chest billowing with pseudo-patriotic pride.

I think that's what irritates me the most about all of this. These are the same idiots who enjoy almost nothing more than to stand around the braai, with a Castle Lager in one hand, a cigarette in the other and spouting endless diatribes about how shitty this country is: crime this, BEE that. And they're right.

Things in South Africa aren't all puppies and rainbows. We've got some difficult stuff going on here. While I can appreciate the welcome diversion of some mass entertainment, I don't understand how an ordinary, more-or-less reasonable person can switch so wildly from being so anti-patriotic to being violently patriotic at the drop of an oddly-shaped ball. And then back again before the hangover has worn off!

So to anyone who I may not have told this to personally yet: No, I will not be watching the game tomorrow night. I would rather stick glass in my eye. You are welcome to watch and enjoy it to your heart's content, but don't expect me to. I am not being unpatriotic by not watching the rugby. "Supporting" the Springboks (or Proteas, or whatever the hell they're called now) does not equal patriotism. I don't know any of those guys personally, and I have no interest in the game itself... what possible reason would I have to subject myself to that? None at all. And 'none at all' is exactly how much time I will waste on that moronic game.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chore Buster - Automatically organize your chores for free

Chore Buster - Automatically organize your chores for free

Some time ago I designed a system based on this same principle to manage chores at home. If only I had thought about providing a website and offering the service to others, I might have made two million dollars!


Church and state?

After reading this article by Cassiem Khan, the country director for Islamic Relief Worldwide -- South Africa in the Mail and Guardian, I am almost at a loss for words. Almost.

In case you don't feel like reading through the original article, I'll summarize in the language of my personal bias:

Khan appears to be upset that Christian faith-based organisations receive more government funding than Islamic faith-based organisations. He feels that he's being discriminated against.

Firstly: duh. The majority of our government and parastatal officials are either Christians themselves, or at least harbour a pro-Christian bias. Their ideology (made up by nomads, sitting in tents in a desert many centuries ago) teaches them that non-Christians are not to be trusted, and are infidels. You, Mr Khan (like me) are not a Christian, and are therefore not to be trusted.

Although your organisation claims to "...promote[s] sustainable economic and social development by working with local communities - regardless of race, religion or gender", I sincerely doubt that your members truly subscribe to that whole-heartedly. The problem is that your mission is at odds with some of the basic tenets of the Muslim faith, namely that the Prophet commanded his followers to murder all infidels (non-Muslims).

Murdering and helping the infidel poor are mutually incompatible.

So, one is forced to ask the question: are you really an Islamic faith-based organisation, as you claim to be? If that is the case, then your mission is most certainly not to help the poorest poor (unless they happen to be Muslim) and you should not receive any government funding. Or, are you really a humanist organisation, with an honourable mission masquerading as a faith-based agency in order to swindle funding out of gullible governments such as ours?

I hope, Mr Khan, that it is the latter. I can more easily support the Robin Hood approach than the alternative.

Secondly: what is our government doing giving our tax money to faith-based organisations to begin with? By handing over funding to religious organisations, the government is essentially endorsing their practice. Regrettably, I don't know whether or not our country's constitution supports the separation of church and state the way the constitution of the United States does. I would expect that it should, but I could be wrong. (I would appreciate it if anyone could point me in the right direction to find that out)

Regardless of whether or not that separation is legislated, it's just a good idea for precisely this reason. You invariably end up in a situation where certain religious groups will be more likely to receive funding simply because they happen to share their ideology with a majority of whichever individuals happen to be in power. Minority faiths will tend to be marginalised, and groups like Islamic Relief, no matter how much good work they may actually be doing, will tend to be denied funding solely on the basis that they pray to the wrong invisible sky-daddy.

The only reliable way to avoid this sort of situation altogether is to simply deny funding to all faith-based initiatives, and instead put all funding through secular organisations. This will encourage the charitably-minded folks to align themselves with those secular organisations, with which there should be no substantial ideological clashes. Those folks who are adamant that charitable works must be done in the name of the sky-daddy of their choice, can continue to operate their faith-based organisations with funding received from the ample pockets of any individuals or corporates who feel so inclined.

Separation of church and state is a fundamental aspect of a democratic system of government. The quicker we can get that bedded down, the better it will be for all of us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Danie Krugel... where are you?

Those who may not have followed the exploits of this charletan freelance investigator may not be aware that Danie Krugel has built himself a magic box quantum machine capable of tracking DNA over large distances.

(I love the strikeout effect thingy, don't you? I learned that from Phil Plait.)

Krugel made a big name for himself with his highly publicised attempt at tracking down the bodies of several girls who have been missing since the 80's. He has yet to find them, but you shouldn't let that discourage you... it doesn't seem to have discouraged him at all.

For a concise history of his exploits, visit Moonflake, or for a summary of it all see Skeptiko.

With this guy's brilliant invention, there should no longer be any excuse for any missing children. He should be able to track down any missing child in minutes, right? Or at least give the local cops a good idea where to look, and move onto the next case. Right?

Even if he declined to share his technology with anyone (which appears to be the case) it shouldn't take him more than a couple of weeks to sort through the backlog of missing children files on the SAPS books. By now he should be able to accept fresh cases with regularity, and knock a couple out before lunch. Right?

So imagine my surprise when I read about little Londiwe Nzimande who has been missing for almost two weeks. Why has Danie Krugel not been alerted to the case and pointed his quantum machine at a DNA sample of hers to see where she is?

Where are you, Danie Krugel? Londiwe's family are desparate. Why won't you help them?

Manto could speak out, she just doesn't want to

Allow me to translate the statements made by our beloved Minister of Health at a press conference today.

"When the time comes this minister will speak out,"

Translation: I am so important that I have to speak of myself in the third person. And I don't want to say anything.

"I will not be pushed into a corner to say things just because it is for public
consumption. I have a legal opinion and I will stick to it."

Translation: Just because you, the public who were responsible for electing my party into power, want an explanation around the allegations against me doesn't mean you're going to get one.

"At an appropriate time that will be determined by me - because it is issues
about myself - at that particular time I will make a determination."

Translation: I don't want to say anything now. I could, but I don't want to.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Journos, I say to you now: knock off all that beaming!

As a Trekkie, there is one thing that sticks in my throat every time I 'come out' as such to someone new: the inevitable jokes.

Joke: Something about Klingons and Uranus. Har har har.

My response: You know what? In my >10 years of being a serious Star Trek enthusiast, it's never occurred to me that saying "Klingons and Uranus" in the same sentence sounds like your saying something disgustingly biological. How fortunate that I have you, idiot dear stranger, to enlighten me to that fact. How silly of me not to notice. And how inconsiderate that every other idiot stranger I've met has never pointed that out to me. You must be some sort of moron linguistic savant.

The fact that in none of the >700 episodes or ten feature films of this monumentally successful entertainment franchise that has inspired not only hope in the minds of countless fans, but also the creation of some of the most life-changing technologies you take for granted, not a single Klingon came anywhere close to the planet Uranus (unless he was flying past it to get somewhere interesting) seems to elude you entirely.

But that joke... that was funny.

Joke: "Beam me up, Scotty". Har har har.

My response: How clever of you to reference the most commonly misquoted phrase from the Star Trek franchise and repeat it as if it's supposed to be in some way amusing. Just because I don't see the humour in it doesn't mean that none exists. You must have a crass vastly more sophisticated sense of humour than I do, and the humour of it, while obvious to you, would fail to amuse a seven-year-old flies completely over my head.

The fact that in not a single episode or feature film of the entire Star Trek canon did any character at any time utter the phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" seems entirely irrelevant. The sheer idiocy originality of your stupid clever joke outweighs the inaccuracy of it.

That joke... that was funny too.

I don't understand what makes humans think that by blurting out the first ridiculous thing that springs to mind, that automatically makes them clever, funny or original. The first few dozen times I encountered these I chuckled politely and moved along swiftly. But it becomes more and more difficult to endure... each troglodytic attempt another missile assailing my sensibilities... until some day I'll snap, set my phaser to "Cellphone Radiation" and give them all cancer.

See? It's not that hard to come up with an original Star Trek joke. They may not all be funny, but at least they're original!

Uh... where was I?

Oh, right.

What brought this on is the current onslaught of articles reporting the casting of the new Star Trek XI feature produced by J.J. Abrams. The last couple of months have seen much speculation in the entertainment and geek media around who would be cast to play the familiar original characters in Abrams reboot of the franchise. There is a stark contrast between the geek media articles on the subject and the mainstream entertainment stories. The mainstream ones are easy to spot... guess why. That's right, they all conform to the following two templates:

"[So-and-so] beams up to Star Trek XI."


"Beam me up, [So-and-so]."

Hundreds upon fracking hundreds of them! Don't believe me? Here's a sample of the ones just from the last week: here and here and here and here and here and here... you get the picture.

If these morons don't knock it off, I'm going to go mugato on their backsides! (See? Again, not very funny, but original, no?)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quote for the day

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing” – Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I am teh win

This morning I used a quote in a management meeting:

"Always two there are, a master and an apprentice."
- Master Yoda

I can has moar internets?

I live in perpetual frustration at the state of telecoms affairs in this little backwater of ours.

We have a world-class GSM infrastructure with world-class connectivity and world-class bandwidth, but we have the most bizarre pricing system imaginable. R80 (+- $11) per month for 100MB. Sure, I can upgrade my data bundle, and the prices do improve as it increases, but not by much.

So what are my alternatives?
  1. I can use my GSM connection for mobile use only, and then do all my other surfing and downloading at work. Sure, that works to an extent, but it’s just a matter of time before the company I work for notices that I’m downloading over a gigabyte per week in MP3s (podcasts, not pirated music). That’s what I’m doing now, and it’s no good.
  2. Upgrade my GSM data bundle to a substantial amount, and use my cellphone as my home Internet connection to the extent that I would really like to. Costs a fortune.
  3. Get some other broadband at home. There’s a large continuum of packages available, wireless or fixed-line… but they’re all either prohibitively expensive or essentially useless (I cite iBurst’s 40MB per month package as example… who could possibly get by on 40MB per month? WinXP’s automated updates alone are usually more than that!)

I dunno… way I see it, it’s Hobson’s choice. I’ll have to sell my soul (or give up some other luxury, like food) to afford the bandwidth I’ve come to require. No fair.

I feel like becoming one of those pathetic street-corner beggars. I'll go stand at the 14th Avenue on-ramp to the N1 with a card-board sign saying "Will work for bandwidth!"

Monday, October 01, 2007

Podcast review – Skeptoid

There are two broad categories of podcasts: commercial podcasts made by corporations or other people in the interests of advertising or furthering their brand, and non-commercial podcasts made by clubs, societies or interested individuals designed to promote a particular point of view. The podcasts I’ve reviewed so far fall into the former category, so it’s time to look at the latter. Which brings me to my current favourite podcast: Skeptoid.

Brian Dunning (“from”) has really impressed me, not only with his podcast in general, but in his outright refusal to accept any money for the creation of his podcast… neither in sponsorships or private donations. I especially enjoy this, as it lends considerable credibility to his opinions.

The podcast itself is excellent. It’s short (seldom longer than 15 minutes) and is released more-or-less weekly. Dunning doesn’t spend a lot of resources on sprucing up the presentation of it (with the exception of the occasional appropriate mood-music), and relies instead on the strength of his well-written and well-researched content to carry it… to great effect!

Of all the podcasts I listen to, this is the only one I feel compelled to keep and listen to repeatedly. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of Dunning’s arguments, I do find Skeptoid to be a valuable resource of information on a variety of topics of interest to the sceptic, and the highlight of my podcast playlist.

RSS Feed: (right-click on the link below and select “Copy Shortcut”, then paste it into your podcatcher or feed reader):