Thursday, October 21, 2010

French make toyi-toying look like child's play

I am not Sam. I don't eat eggs and ham. But here... I .... am.

No apologies this time. I've had complaints, I've ignored the cries and you all got over it. I don't know why I don't blog any more. I still rant. It's not like I've run out of material. There's plenty to get angry about. I just don't care to put it on the blog. Does this make me a bad person? Unarguably, yes. Do I care? Not even slightly.

Latest rant topic: The French.

I don't know many French citizens. Those I do know, I like. But as a nation, I hate the French. I do not understand their accent, and they don't understand mine. Once I've given up trying to communicate in broken basic French, I switch to the classic s-l-o-w and LOUD tourist English, well known to all western travellers. And invariably the French person I'm trying to speak to, asks me if I can speak English rather. This really, really annoys me.

I also don't like the French because they take striking and rioting to a whole new level. Please don't give me that shit about "it only happens in Africa". Things fall apart and people do stupid mob activities everywhere. But particularly well in France.

They are currently demonstrating (read: burning cars and generally looting with gay abandon) because they do not want the retirement age to go from 60 years up to 62, amongst other obstructive and uneducated demands. Never mind the fact that France has the lowest age of state pension (and therefore the longest burden of retirement on the state) than any other country IN THE WORLD; and, like every other European country, are currently staring down the barrels of a very large budget deficit. Never mind all that. They don't want to have to compromise to save their own flipping arses down the line. So unions are bringing the economy to a standstill, because they are too short-sighted to realise that if the amount of years worked is not extended across the population, there won't be any pension to claim anyway.

But I'm sure when they look back from their rotting and neglected rocking chairs at the age of 90, retired for 30 years and eating cat food out of the tin, they'll stutter to themselves, "hey, didn't we have fun blockading and burning and generally running amok back in 2010? We got our way and it was totally worth it."

It's never cool to know that you are going to be doing a shit job with shit pay for longer than you expected. Newsflash: every other country is going through similar reforms. It sucks but it's happening everywhere.. a little economic phenomenon called a recession. You might've heard about it? Pension ages are rising. State funding is being cut. Jobs are being lost. But the French are being a nation of whining, temper-tantrum throwing pre-teens about it, because apparently they don't deserve to have it happen to THEM.

Mostly the French irritate me because, due to their little frothy fit that they are currently throwing, I might not have a train to catch to visit my boyfriend in France next week. And then I'll be really upset with the whiny, whingy nation of nancy-pancy striking bastards.

See...? The rage is still there.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This article irritates me. Here's why:

Trailing American Christin Wurth-Thomas by some 20 metres with just 100 metres remaining, Semenya breezed past effortlessly to win with several strides to spare in a world-class time of 1min 59.90sec.
Yes, it's from the Telegraph, so yes, I shouldn't have even read it.
Most of their submissions irk me. But I'm already in rant mode and there's no off-switch.

1) "It's obviously a human rights issue but human rights affect everyone in the race, not just one person," said Britain's Jemma Simpson, who finished fourth in 2min 0.57sec. "The rest of the field just gets ignored."
Okay, first things first. Jemma came fourth. So apparently she only has grievances with one person who beat her - what about the other two? Is she standing up for fellow athletes, or just irritated because she (personally) has no means of competing with Semenya?
2) "As athletes we feel frustrated because everyone is allowed to give their opinion except us," said [Diane] Cummins. "If we give an honest opinion, we're either seen as bad sports or we're not happy because we're being beaten.”
Diane came 8th. So not only can she not compete with Semenya, she couldn’t compete with most of the field. So yes, Diane. You as a sore loser.
3) She adds: "Even if she is a female, she's on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So, from that perspective, most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man."
Fair enough. From what I have read in the papers, Semenya does border just on the female side of the chromosomal balance. But I would be very interested to see the results of similar tests for other female athletes, such as Mauresmo, the Williams sisters, a number of female hockey players (certainly the ones I used to play against.. I couldn't keep up with the national players. Hmmm... they must've had male hormones, it can't possibly have had anything to do with my natural talent - or lack thereof) and a few gymnasts to boot.
4) "It is certainly frustrating to be running against someone who seems to be doing it effortlessly," said Cummins. "We all believe that Caster Semenya, pushed to her full potential, could break the world record.”
Sorry, Diane… what was that? You resent her for beating you with ease? All I could hear was - Sore. Loser.
5) "That's [the women's 800m world record] 1:53, and that's what college guys are running. From that perspective, she's far superior to any female 800 metres runner we've ever had."
So what you’re saying, Diane, is that it is physically impossible for top world class female athletes to run against college-level (i.e. second rate) male athletes? Any woman who can do that is clearly a man? But clearly, someone has done it before because the record is there to be broken...
In 1976, a Russian lady called Tatyana Kazankina set the world record at the Montreal Olympic Games in the 800m, running 1:54:94. In 1980 Nadezhda Olizarenko (also from Russia) set a world record and also her personal best over 800 metres with 1:53.43; which record stood until 1983, when it was bettered by Jarmila Kratochvílová.
Kratochvilova entered a one-off 800m race in Munich, reportedly as a training exercise. She broke the world record with a run of 1:53.28 - with ease. At the World Championships 10 days later, she won the 800m easily (in what is still the 5th best time ever in the event). Kratochvílová's 800m time is still the official world record, and is currently the longest standing individual world record in any track and field event.
Several other female athletes who would’ve whipped a few college-level male athletes’ butts before even giving you, Missus I-Came-Nowhere, a second glance. Kratochvilova’s record stood for over two decades without anyone griping about her being a man.
Basically, everything is impossible - until someone proves it otherwise. Breaking the four-minute mile was considered an impossible barrier... until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. Since then, it's become a competitive standard. Surely everyone knows the improbability of Ussain Bolt's records - and he was setting world records in his teens.
Again, I don’t deny or refute that Semenya has gender issues. She has had to undergo serious hormonal treatments and medication, in order to compete on the international field. You can be sure everyone from the officials, to competitors, to the public will be watching every single thing that Semenya ingests, digests and subsequently ejects before race day.
Call me a cynic but it’s no small secret that professional athletes (male or female) do everything in their power to aid their competitive edge. A vitamin here, a blood transfusion there… it seems to me these girls are griping because Semenya has an edge over them naturally (in the loosest use of the term). Unfortunately their performance enhancing efforts can’t get them to the same level as a testosteronerally-weakened Semenya. And they’ve got fat sulky lips about it. Boo. Frikking. Hoo.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another baking blog

On Sunday, with the low cloud setting in for the week, Mills and I decided to stay in and bake cupcakes. It's not something we do often, but having recently moved into a flat which hosts both a microwave AND an oven (oh the indulgence) we decided to make use of the facilities.

We had all the essentials as we had previously attempted cupcakes in the microwave in our old flat, and not with bad results either. It can be done - they're not the airiest of cupcakes, but they do the job. Anyway, so I did a brief perusal of the recipe books, found one that looked like it required minimal effort and we got to work.

First things first, deciding which bloody attachment to use on the hand beater. I usually go with the egg whisk looking-thingies first. But that didn't seem to be doing anything for softening the marg, so I switched them out for the swirley-looking attachments. That didn't do much either, but it did a splendid job of gathering all the marg in one lump around the swirly attachments. Back to the egg whisk thingies... and then I decided I was bored of that process, so we started adding the sugar and egg anyway. Then the flour. Now we're getting somewhere... once the cloud of floating powder had cleared enough to see the bowl, we realised our mixture was starting to look like dough.

Mills was in charge of the measurements of all ingredients. This is because I treat recipes and measurements as a hazy guideline, at best. For the most part, I use recipes as a bit of prereading inspiration and then I do what the hell I want - so I don't know if it even falls under "following the recipe". I substitute when I don't have a particular item (and am too lazy to go to the shops) and I use guesswork for amounts - which usually works out okay in cooking, but baking does not allow for the same flippant disregard. So Mills, being anal to the point of micrometres, is in charge of measurements when it comes to baking.

Right... Milk. I'm in charge of mixing (I always like to stir, no matter what the substance) and Mills is pouring...

And pouring...

And pouring.

And our mixture was rapidly becoming less like dough and more like porridge.

"This seems like a lot of milk," I shouted over the noise of the whirring hand beater. "Ja, it does..." he agreed as he tipped the last of a full cup measure into the bowl, adding "...and we've still got another two of these cups to go!"

I decided this needed some fact-checking. "How much does the recipe actually call for?"

"Seventy five mills," he casually replied, measuring out another 250ml.

I screeched to a halt. "SEVENTY FIVE? Or seven hundred and fifty?"

His eyes widened as his brain clicked from automatic to "oh shit".

I looked at our bowl of dough-flavoured porridge and decided a time out was required. After a regroup of our senses, we chucked it all out and decided to start again. This time, using just leeetle bit of milk.

We both commented on the fact that the mixture seemed very solid for cupcakes, but we were sure of the measurements this time so plodded on anyway. We portioned the blobs into the baking tray, put them in the oven... as recommended, for the time recommended. And then we waited - patiently. No opening of oven doors or any amateur mistakes like that.

When it came to taking them out, we noticed that the tops were definitely more crusted than we anticipated, but we plowed on with making our butter icing. Mmmm... icing sugar... good.

Finally it was time to ice our much anticipated cupcakes. A few sprinkles on top and... voila! C'est magnifique!
It was only on taking the first mouthful that I realised our "fairy cakes" were in fact a recipe for scones. And scones, it turns out, go much better with whipped cream than with butter icing.

Just something to keep in mind in future... scones are not the same as cupcakes.
Note to self.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Toilet Paper

Yeah, you heard me. Toilet paper. TP, LP, bogroll, the thinking man's note book, that stuff.
So simple, so elementary, so useful. So fucking annoying at the most inopportune of daily moments.

Take for example the bog-roll in our office loos. It shouldn't stretch your imagination too much if I ask you to picture a standard communal/staff loo. The toilet paper is of course deeply ensconced in a metal casing. With a lock on top. Because of all things to steal, managers HATE to see whole rolls of TP waltzing out the door in their staff's back pockets.

Post-it notes and pens are fine. Epson finest quality printing paper? That's right there in the storage cabinet. We've got reams of the stuff. Free access to it - no questions asked. One-ply bottom of the range, most-quantity-for-least-quality, cheap-ass TP? We lock that shit away.

Anyway, so... metal casing. A tiny slot at the bottom (or the side, depending on model or sadistic tendency of the maker) through which the long-suffering cleaner/toilet staff will patiently feed the one-ply, recycled paper. And then the bog-user can patiently, and with great care, break off individual squares at their own discretion (we have no choice... the paper is so fine and the serrated line is so effective that even the minutest gust of wind is likely to break the perforations). So, square by precious square you are able to gather enough to complete your daily business.

But this only works for the first roll - and only as long as it does NOT break off at that precarious point when the weight of the remaining roll will rip the free end back through the feeding slot. Anyone.. it can happen to anyone, okay - because the toilet god hates us all. But most of all, the toilet god hates chicks. Especially chicks with tiny bladders. He is definitely a misogynistic god.

So there you sit, ablutions done, gently... geeeently... attempting to coax the toilet paper just a leeeetle further out of the metal box. Just one, maybe two more squares that's all you need to complete the deed. Suddenly, you feel the pressure changing. No-no-no-no-no! Riiiip... *Klunk* (heard from the back of the metal case as the toilet roll bashes against the wall with momentum from falling backwards and out of reach. If you listen closely, you can also hear a cackle and a hoarse whisper of, "my precious, I have you all, my precious.")

Frantically, you try to regain control of the toilet paper roll (oh, the saddest of power struggles). You can get one, maybe two fingernails through the gap in the metal box. You can almost, almost rock it back and forth... maybe just enough to find the torn remnants of your bogroll. You claw, you plead, you wheedle... but you cannot find purchase. There is nothing to grip. Eventually you lose patience (and all trace of sanity). You scratch at the inaccessible toilet paper like a cat that can smell the catnip but can't find it, attempting to create a new edge... a desperate attempt to start again. But now, contrary to all indications shown previously, you simply cannot get the 1-ply, rice-paper thin bog roll to break. It has taken on the consistency of malleable rubber. You can dent it, but you cannot tear it.

Realising that you have to be back your desk to coordinate a conference call in less than two minutes time, you gouge your finger around the side of the roll and scrape it back. Finally! You have succeeded getting some loo paper! Sure, it's the size - and length - of your index finger (which is now bleeding somewhat profusely), but it feels like one-ply gold sheet in your hand. Plus you have created a new edge with which to pull yourself to freedom to the end of this lavatory break.

You just wanted a wee... why couldn't you have been born a man? The world is their urinal; they don't have to fight for their dignity (and three squares of toilet paper) every time their bladder calls.

Yeah, this may be one occasion where I'll admit to having penis envy...
In. Unzip. Wee. Zip up. Wash hands [optional]. Out. Done.

Oh god, I need to wee. Again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WARNING: This post may contain traces of swearing. If you don't like it, don't read it.

I blame the sun. The weather has just been too damn good for my passive-aggressive rants. There has been no incentive. But don't worry, the rain is back, the weather is turning. And I've just been through a UK airport.

Fuck I hate it. Just thinking about it gets my blood pressure up again. Inevitably I end up a) squeezing my eyes closed trying to will myself to not scream, hiss in someone's face or worse, attack a self-important uniform or b) in tears of pent up frustration, due to suppressing the mentioned emotions.

We had checked in online. You know, that marvelous little time saver, that they encourage you to do so that you can skip queues and have far more enjoyable travel experience? "Thank you for checking in online, if you do not have luggage to check in, you may proceed directly to departures. Have a nice flight!" or cheery misleading words to that effect.

What it doesn't say (well it does, in the fine print somewhere at the bottom of page 3 on your unnecessarily long boarding pass print out, just below the rental car adverts and above the gratutious hotel promotions) is that if you are a non-EU traveller, you have to get a stupid fudding piece of worthless crap red stamp from the airline you are flying with, to say that they have checked your documentation. But most times, this little red stamp isn't necessary (as it wasn't over Christmas and Easter when I flew in and out of the UK in the last 12 months), so we don't usually bother.

So, Mills goes to check in our one item of baggage, I wait in the background. If we can avoid them seeing that I am non-EU, it is usually much faster because the staff on the SleazyJet (or whichever airline we're flying) check-in counter, don't know which countries are EU and non-EU; they don't recognise a valid visa when it is sitting under the nose and inevitably we end up having to call over support staff while I explain that the card they are looking at is in fact valid EU identification. So we try to avoid them seeing my passport at all - it's USUALLY easier.

This time it wasn't. Checked in, boarding pass ready, we successfully beat the Russian tour group who appeared to also be milling towards the departures pathway... Definitely want to stay ahead of that confusion. Unfortunately the dudey checking boarding passes decided that, on this particular occassion, I did need the red stamp. I have no idea what determines when you should have it and when it doesn't matter. I think it largely depends on just how inconvenient it will be to my particular travel plans.

So I shouldercharged my way through the Russian cattle pack behind us, back to the SleazyJet (or equivalent) check-in counter, slammed my boarding pass on the counter and stated that I need a red stamp. Without looking up check-in dudette muttered, "what nationality?" She stamped the paper without asking for ID or even if I have a visa. She didnt even open my passport, and I don't think she looked at where I was going. But what a relief to know they have that red stamp system in place. Very effective measure of control.

Shouldercharged back to the departures queue, which was by this stage full of Russian tourists, lowing gently in their herd. Shoved red stamped boarding pass under dudey's nose and moved through to hand baggage - where this particular airport has decided to re-institute the "all liquids must be in a clear, see through, plastic bag".

Really? This hasn't been required for any of my flights this year. In fact, I'd actually heard vicious rumours and seen in articles that airports were easing the restrictions on liquids. But apparently, this particular airport had heard that the talent scouts for the "Anal and Aimed at bottlenecking painful Processes" awards were in the vicinity. And there were several contenders.

Right, so liquids must go into a clear plastic bag. I don't travel with one any more (because everyone else seems to have done away with this tedium, have I mentioned that?) But don't worry, for just 50p you can buy an empty plastic bag. Ja... about that... fuck off.

Instead, I grabbed a handful of my liquid/flammable products and simply held them in my hand. When I got to the front of the hand baggage queue, I shoved it into the lucky uniform's face and informed them that I didn't have 50p to buy a piece of fucking plastic (not in those words... I may have been irate, but I'm not stupid and I'm not finishing up a weekend away with a full body cavity search). Amazingly, she was able to produce a clear piece of plastic to hold my terror-inducing liquid and flammable products, for free.

I went through hand luggage without further incident. And here's the kicker - on the other side, I realised that I had only put half my liquid products into that essential "do it now, or admit that you are a suicide bomber" plastic bag. The other half went through without so much as a blink from the scanning operator. So I implore anyone who can answer this, to please explain... what the fuck is the point?

Monday, June 21, 2010

This sport is full of Kaka

Okay, I have to take a deep breath before writing this. It is not going to be objective - no pretense of that - but I am going to try to keep it lucid. I am going to try to explain why I don't make a habit of watching football/soccer on a more regular basis.

The sport itself is truly skilled. While most people in the world have trouble running in a straight line, these guys do it (not necessarily in a straight line, which makes it even more impressive) while propelling and controlling a ball - avoiding the overwhelming evolutionary temptation to simply pick the damn thing up. Also footballers are uber-fit, arguably some of the fittest athletes in the world. And yet, most top level footballers take pride in portraying themselves as eleven-year-old nancy-girls, desperate for sympathy from their overbearing mothers.*

I hate the fact that players are molly-coddled with a pet prodigy kind of affection when they make a habit of diving and performing after they've taken a glancing blow. I don't have a problem with actively looking for a penalty. Yes, it's frustrating - for both the fans and the player who has been forced into a wrongful position. But I think that is all part of the mental strategy of sport. Rugby teams do it. And I'll be the first to admit that I've put a few balls on to unsuspecting feet in the hockey-D (and received a fair few too). It happens.

But I hate that football (not soccer - I think that countries who still call it soccer are not [as] guilty of this) has made a culture of theatrical dives. Prima donna rolling and writhing is acceptable behaviour for a professional, grown man. This, in my eyes, puts international footballers on the same level as "professional" wrestling. When they do actually get hurt, I feel something similar to gloating... I feel like they deserve a little pain. Does that make me a bad person?

Don't get me wrong. I don't for one second think that these footballers can't handle pain. There's no doubt in my mind that they can. They are professional athletes, you don't get to that level without a little eina. Drogba is currently playing with a "FIFA-approved cast on his elbow". That's pretty hardcore. But the fact that they put such effort into acting hurt... that's what makes my blood boil. Just play the bloody sport. You've got the skill, we all know that. Now use it.

I've watched most of the World Cup games. I love the vibe. I've even downloaded a Vuvuzela app on my Koekie Kumquat... so that when Cloggies or Poms complain to me about the darn "South African trumpets" I can respond noisily without saying a word. But when I watch a South American team playing, I am reminded of why I cannot watch this sport on a regular basis. Because I cannot handle the theatrics every time someone so much as nudges past their elbow.

This is what I see on the screen:
It starts with a gentle tap from an opposition player in a stationary position... and the Brazilian is off! First, he opens the routine by pirouetting three times on the spot. Then he seamlessly bends his knees, crouches forward, and springs into elegant dive, twisting one-and-a-half times before planting his hands firmly on ground and completing seven elegant head-over-heels tucks... before eventually coming to a rocking stop, writhing back and forth while wailing and clutching at his left knee. No, it's his right knee.... No, it's his ankle - his left ankle must surely be broken! Bring on the stretcher! Oh... wait... it appears that no foul was awarded. He's shaking his head in disorientation and disgust, but after several months of therapy he may just be able to walk. He's up... he's limping... for all of one-and-a-half steps. Oh, he's fine.
(Hey, I warned this wasn't going to be objective. )

Once they've finished flailing on the ground and nobody has sufficiently bought their Raspberry Award winning act to give them a free kick, they decide that this is clearly because the ref simply can't see more than 30cm in front of his face. Which is something that we have all thought at some point in just about every sport. The footballers remedy this situation by aggressively demonstrating their case by shouting and flailing their arms directly in to the face of the ref. Again, this frustration is something that translates to every sport - but the difference is that even if you don't agree with the decision, in other sports (rugby, hockey, tennis) he who holds the whistle (or the mic, in tennis) has the final say. Massive, single-celled tighthead props might offer a monosyllabic objection to a rugby ref, but that's it. It's not a discussion, it's a decision. Footballers don't respect the ref, and I just can't bring myself to accept that.

I hate that Kaka got a red card in the recent Brazil-Ivory Coast game. The Brazilians had been diving as their livelihoods depended on it (as they do), and the Africans were getting visibly more and more agitated by this football style. Eventually one of the Ivory Coast players played them at their own game. He took a (horrible, over-dramatised) dive. Kaka got carded for it. Subsequently the Brazilians were the victims of an unjust decision and the Ivory Coast team were villified for their "cynical" behaviour. Say what now?? When the Brazilians were theatrically tripping over their own toes, the commentators were playfully offering constructive criticism on their diving technique. I wish the Africans hadn't played The Samba Kings at their own game, but they did. And they did it better.

But that match, and the way it made my blood boil, epitomises why I do not watch more football in a football-mad world. I would love to see a siting regulation set up for footballers. Where, upon subsequent TV-footage review, they could be penalised, post-match, for "cynical" and unsportsmanlike behaviour. In my happy (wishful) world - diving / tripping over your own feet / sending a swift elbow to your marking opponent's solar plexus would get you banned for the next three or four games, depending on perceived intention and severity. Then maybe I'd start watching.

But as it currently stands, I have full respect for the sport... I just have no respect for the players.

* Here's a video montage of some great nancy-girl Raspberry winning examples:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monte-Carlo... almost as over-rated as Cape Town

"Koekie, have you met Roger Moore?" I was casually asked. As in, Sir-Roger-Moore? Um... no, I do not get much opportunity in my daily, mundane routine to meet Sir Roger Moore.

"Oh well, let me introduce you now! Kate, this is Sir Moore and his wife, Kiki."

That's how my week ended last week. I met James Bond.

I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty damn cool. But the week wasn't all A-list cavorting and hob-nobbing. In fact, it started out pretty shite.

My plan was as such - I was catching a taxi from my (new) flat in Amsterdam to Schiphol at 8am. I was flying out at 9.25am. I was landing at 11.30ish and would then hop in a pre-booked car from Nice to my hotel in Monte-Carlo, where I would check-in, freshen up and meet our TV stars arriving from the US.

8am came, and went. With no taxi. I phoned the taxi company, had a general argument with the operator who couldn't understand why I was upset that when I phoned to ask where my (pre-booked) taxi was, he replied with, "oh, I'll send him now."

You're only sending him NOW? I'm supposed to be halfway to the airport NOW.

Taxi arrived at 8.30. I arrived at the airport at 8.45. Of course, despite already checking in online, I still had to stand in the same queue as everyone else to get my baggage checked in. And, of course, being a first world country, everything is "Self-service!" (supposed to be read in a tone of mocking merriment - because big corporations would have us believe that doing away with real live people who can actually help is in the best interests of the general population. Which it is, of course, not. It is however in the best interests of their Accounts Payable budget. So who gives a snot about service with a smile, right?)

Anywho, so... of course... I get stuck in the queue behind the purple-rinsed granny flying to Florida - apparently for the first time - who has never seen a keyboard, never mind a touch screen. And as I watched in growing agitation over her shoulder, I was trying not to scream as she typed her destination into the self-check in machine, oh so bone-achingly, slowly... index finger extended... hovering... circling... *F*... pausing... concentrating... selecting... *L*... look down at paper... squint back at screen... extend index finger... hovering... searching... *O*... MY... GOD.

I had to remind myself that society does not take lightly to irrational, verbal attacks on pensioners. It's not her fault. Eventually I lost patience, grabbed the closest unfortunate lady walking past in a blue uniform and hissed, "she needs assistance, for the love of all sanity please get her off that machine!" I followed this successful diversion by shoving my way to the front of the queue next to me. I made my plane on the final boarding call.

Arriving in Nice, I learnt that drivers across the continent had no interest in transporting me. It was not specific to the Netherlands. Because I was there for a work event, I had been informed that a car had been arranged. There was nothing. No signage, no sign, no welcome. I eventually managed to get hold of a representative for the event and was greeted with the assuring tones of someone who knew absolutely nothing about my presence... "Koekie? From where? XYZ Studios International? I don't have that on my list of cars today. Sorry."

Awesomeness. So I forked out 100-euros for a taxi, which WILL be expensed back.
But it wasn't over yet.

Finally at my hotel, I went to the reception desk to check in.
They asked for credit card details as a deposit. Now... I don't own a credit card. I do not need a credit card in my personal life and I do not think that I should have to explain to a snotty Frenchman who is effectively nothing more than a bloody concierge on the doorstep of society, why I do not have my own credit card. But I digress. I know from past experience that hotels will always accept a cash deposit, which I asked to do instead...

Fine. That will be 2000-euros in cash. In case you thought that I had a seizure when hitting the zero digit, I'll put that into words: two thousand euros, in cash.

Right. Now that is a problem. Can I put it through as a bank transfer?
"Nooooh," said the keeper of the key, while sneering down his freakishly elongated nasal passages (perfect design for a Frenchman in customer service), "because zhen we will only get zhee deposit when... eef... zhee bank clears it tomorroh".

Well, fuck you very much. My colleague attending the event was on a plane at that stage. The only other people I could contact were all in the US, where it was the middle of the night.

And so, that is how I came to wander the streets of one of the most expensive, high-brow cities in the world, looking - and feeling - like a worthless bum who'd stolen a laptop.

But it did get better. While being pretentious and snooty, it is a spectacular city. And to be honest, I think the locals that I met were humble and just all about having fun (except for that front desk receptionist at my hotel; he was a big fat meanie). It's actually the tourists and the celebrities, tottering about in their haute couture, who make the city so over-rated.

But then again, I did meet some fantastically professional TV stars. On several occasions the Prince breezed past me (I didn't get to say hi, I was too busy being pressed up against a wall by his body guards. Sounds dodgy, but I promise I was only intimate with their elbows). I met James Bond, as well as some rappers of yester-year.

But the character that topped my list of heroes wasn't an on-camera personality. He's a local in Monaco. He's just your average family guy who makes a habit of escorting and playing tour guide to the stars. And he was the security/personal assitant assigned to Holly, Kendra and Bridget when they came to Monaco a few years ago. He was the person Kendra called when she got arrested outside the Prince's Palace at one o'clock in the morning. Which I found delightful. I met someone who worked with The Girls Next Door... that makes him a rock star, certainly in my books.

The red carpet: with the cool kids from NCIS and Dexter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ever had one of those days...

Where you have to do something painfully trivial and administrative at a governmental department... so you get there nice and early and you brace yourself for the torture and frustration...

But then everything goes swimmingly. You are in and out in under 3 minutes, without any glitches. And the service is friendly. And there are no queues. And the train connections work perfectly, and you are at your desk only half an hour later than you normally would be, despite warning your boss to expect only half a day of productivity due to bureaucratic obstruction.

And on arrival at your desk, you find a neat little envelope encasing two free movie ticket vouchers - for doing nothing in particular, just your job - valid until the end of the year.

And you don't spill anything, or knock anything over. And nothing has exploded. Or torn. Or shattered.

And you don't want to leave your desk at the end of the day - for fear of the giant seagull that is just waiting to crap on your head as soon as you step outside. Because there has to be something coming. Right?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I actually wrote this yesterday but didn't have time to post it:

So, I've been AWOL. Again.

I'm not really sorry about that, because this time I've had a real excuse, well several excuses. You see, we've been hopping up and down the continents again - flitting to South Africa and back. Yes, the second time in three months. And guess what - we're going back again in June. Sometimes you do stupid things.

Another stupid thing is that we're moving house in amongst the chaos. We are relocating most of our worldly possessions this Saturday. Well, we're supposed to be anyway. But we've yet to pack, or book a van, or get keys to the new flat*. Hopefully this will all be remedied within the next few hours or so, but still. Stupid timing. Especially as we've just gotten back from SA (again - did I already mention that?).

And although we made it through North Africa without anything too frightful happening, I am adamant that I got a bout of food poisoning during the last flight. Serves me right for eating in-flight chicken, I guess. I've never been a queasy flier, but for the first time in my life I can fully appreciate the precarious mental state of nervous passengers. The flight from Cairo to Amsterdam was interminably long... and it seemed like every bump of turbulence was actively forcing bile further and further up my throat. Fortunately nothing happened on the plane (I'm pretty sure other passengers cannot say the same), but we had the foresight to remove some of those all-too-incriminating air sickness bags for the rest of our journey home. Because I needed it on the train.

Oh, that poor train conductor. She looked about 22. Possibly her first week on the job. She asked for my ticket and I responded by informing her that I was going to be sick. NOW. I grabbed the air sickness bag and vommed in the general direction of her shoes. She did not stick around. I didn't blame her. And that set the general gastro-trend for the next few hours as my internal organs marched to the beat of "heave, retch, hiccup, burp".

Through it all, I have to say, Mills was my hero. He shepherded me home after the flight, with much patience, as I had a quiet word with several dustbins, corner walls and garden beds along the way. He carried both my luggage and his, without complaint. He cleaned me up when all I wanted to do was sleep (while I had missed the conductor's shoes, I had not missed my hair). He patiently tipped water down my throat, by the tablespoon, in an attempt to stop me from dehydrating too much. What a winner.

48 hours later and I am no longer walking like a geriatric impersonation of my dearly departed Nana. I can stand up straight. Cramps no longer dominate my breathing pattern. So now I can finally get round to packing up the house for the move. Which has to happen this weekend because next weekend we're going to Paris to watch the French Open. Again. (For those who are wondering how we can afford all this... here's the secret... we haven't spent any money on a house, a wedding or children. Investment-shmestment. Roll that up and save it in your pocket for a thoughtful smoke later.)

Shortly after Paris, I'm jetting off to Monte Carlo for work. Then Mills is in Boston and New York. Then we're back in CT for the World Cup. "Oh-so-glam, dahling..."

Oh yes, and we just have to move and do all the relocation paperwork in between. We may be living like the rich and unfamous, but unfortunately we don't have the people to do the legwork. Which makes our lives all the more interesting. It's going to be hectic in the next few days and weeks. So I can't promise regular blogging. In fact, I can promise that there will NOT be regular blogging. But this is me checking in to say that I am still alive and kicking. Despite Egypt Air's best efforts.

And just to prove that some things will never change, this is what I did first thing on arrival back at my desk:

Ah, it's good to be back in the daily routine.

*I'm happy to report that we have since gotten keys to the new flat and booked a removal van. We still need to pack though.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just an average day at my desk

Slow afternoon. Oooh, I have yoghurt still to be eaten!
Yay, that'll get me through the rest of the day.

Go to kitchen, collect spoon. Come back to desk. Sit down. Look at spoon, ponder what that's about. Oh yes, yoghurt... Yay!

Go back to kitchen, collect yoghurt, which will complement the already-collected spoon nicely.

Open yoghurt. Mmmmm... mmmmman-gooooo. I like.

Lick spoon, stare at computer screen, put spoon down into little single serving yoghurt. Start typing.. it's what I do.

Aw, shit.

Massive spoon has tipped out of teeny-weeny container, splaying massive spoonful of yoghurt in trajectory. Mess. Grab handy wet wipes for this very purpose (never one to be called a slow learner).

Clean up operation complete. Or so I thought...

See, this is where it gets a little blurry. Some how, in the midst of all of this, I must've absent-mindedly scratched my ear. Because I now have yoghurt in my hair, and in my ear. Which appears to have been a lot easier to do than it has been to undo.

I've heard yoghurt is good for the skin.

I have a very healthy right ear now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

If there was one thing I could do without in the office... would be awkward birthday gatherings. God, I hate them.

The general rule seems to be that the birthday person should provide cakes or snacks for the office community. I think this is rotten, stinking rule. Not only are you being forced to share your birthday with people you don't care about, and haven't selected to spend most of your waking hours with, but you also have to pay up and force them to "celebrate" with you. Urgh. Just so you all stand around awkwardly, as you patiently tell every person as they arrive what you did/are doing for your birthday, what presents you got and how old you are. And then... once you've run out of those topics and the cake is all but consumed... everyone inspects their fingernails to avoid eye contact, there are a few nervous smiles at nothing in particular and eventually someone mumbles something about those invoices not filing themselves and you are released from the horrific social torture.

And there is always one persistent pain-in-the-ass who insists on forcing a painful and listless "haaap-peeee-buuuuurth-day-to-yoooooooou," out of the audience. And then you all have to either sing along (I don't. I refuse point blank) or wait with a grimace until it's over.

To make the torture even worse, some offices expect co workers to put together a collection for an insincere, but well-meant, gift. Which you probably don't want, and wouldn't have chosen. In these circumstances, I feel inclined to say (and have actually done so in the past - but people thought I was joking): how about I not bring any food, and you don't buy me a present, and we just call it quits?

I sat through this actual conversation at an awkward birthday gathering. To avoid naming names, I'm going with the characters from the US Office series. Which is quite apt anyway. Sometimes I really do think I am living The Office. I wish I had a camera to pull faces at...

[To set the scene, we had just gotten to the point of awkward silence, nervous smiles and inspecting under nails to avoid eye contact]

Birthday Boy:
Is it really sad that the first person to wish me happy birthday this morning was my divorce lawyer?
Jim: Yes.
Phyllis: Hey, come on - cheer up. It's your birthday!
Birthday boy: It's my birthday and I'll whine it I want to. [Mild tittering. That was almost a joke... awkwardness slightly less palpable. Maybe this isn't so bad?]
Dwight: It's his birthday and he'll wank if he wants to!

End scene. What the hell do you say after that?

I can understand why corporate bigwigs and HR would think it's a lovely concept. What a motivating idea, getting to know your team mates and other departments a bit better - without out it having anything to do with expenses! But, gawd, I hate the birthday burden.... so much that I am seriously concerned that one day I am going to actually vocalise my thoughts. You know, instead of saying, "well, thank you for the cake - enjoy the rest of the day"... I'm going to say, "Well, I can't be asked to pretend to care anymore. And I hate apple crumble." Or more succinctly, simply screaming incoherently while mashing cake into my face and hair. And then running out of the room.

I know of an employer that gives staff the day off on their birthday. Now THAT is motivating. It's not disruptive, everyone else just gets on with a usual productive day without having to pretend to want someone else's cake choice. The birthday person gets to spend it how he or she actually wants to spend it, instead of having to pretend that they actually like their colleagues.

*Disclaimer: I know that there are actually environments where the birthday gathering is not an awkward affair. I have worked in such environments, where it is actually fun to get away from your desk and have a little social natter over cake and a scone. Sadly these are the exception and for the most part, I would prefer not to have to deal with birthday obligations at work.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I've grown quite addicted to Google Wave. You know that little hoojamagiggy-option that allows you to search the interweb in "real time"... i.e. Google it, but get updates pushed through as they are uploaded. So you get news websites, and blogs and Facebook and Twatter status updates as they become available.

I don't sit on it all day, but if I see a news story that is happening NOW then I'll set that up as a search and basically follow commentaries and news stories or eye witness reports as they happen. As you can imagine, there is a lot of brain saturating excrement to wade through, but I think this is actually what keeps me enthralled. It's the best way to watch the stream of consciousness from The Sheeple.

I've done this for the little mini-earthquake in LA; to follow the recent - and bloody - Kyrgyzstan overthrow (Internet may have been shut down, but people were still tweeting in the country from their mobiles, another example of how governments are struggling to contain knowledge flow); as the Thai situation became more and more restless; ET's funeral... (very disappointing results - the most interesting tweet was Philip De Wet pointing out that a small group of young (black) children managed to throw a total of precisely two insults before being chased away by (black) police. Sheesh, if we can't put together a serious race war, how are we ever going to get a solid bureaucracy set up?) End parenthesis. Where was I going with this? Oh yes. So Google Wave. Today I am following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland.... just to be sure I knew AS SOON AS the island went under. Because I'm a self-proclaimed curtain-twitcher. If there's something to watch, I wanna see. Even if it means living vicariously through the interweb updates. Ag man, relax, I do have a point here somewhere....

As I said, the updates are sometimes newsy (CNN, BBC, News24 links) but most of the time they're just Twatters doing what they do best. So "Iceland volcano" has allowed me to peruse some of the following perspicacious pearlers:

- GLOBAL WARNING: Earthquake n China Volcano n Iceland. This is n the last 48hrs

- Our world is falling apart: Earthquake in China & Volcano in Iceland. First Lady Michelle Obama in Mexico. Explosions in Baghdad.*sigh*

- Cyclone in India, Volcano erupts in Iceland, 6.9 quake in China....what's next!? Seriously? <--crazy br="">
- Earthquake in China, cyclone in India & volcano erruption in Iceland? WTF.... 2012.
We do love a bit of spice, don't we? My favourite from that selection is the one that mentions Michelle Obama. In Mexico. With all the other global catastrophes. Overlooking the fact that I cannot find any tangible link why she should be included in a doomsday update, she's actually in Haiti. Was that meant to be the connection? Because they are noticeably different countries. I know they're both south from where you most likely are, but one is a devastated little island, the other is quite close, on the same continent and pretty much hinged to your country... oh, never mind.

Here's my theory (I told you there was a point here somewhere) ... because of social media like Twitter, and Google and Facebook and general increasing connectivity, we are more likely to hear about these things as and when they happen. So yes, it's going to feel so much more dramatic. Kind of like being at the scene of an accident, as opposed to hearing about it in a conversation. Also, it's no secret that our population is exploding exponentially in every corner of the world. So shock statistics that we hear so regularly shouldn't really be that shocking. I think that earthquakes and floods and landslides and viruses etc etc aren't necessarily getting more lethal - but more people are dying each time BECAUSE THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE TO DIE. Surely this is an obvious correlation?

At random (okay, my year of birth, so maybe not so random), I tried to look up a few examples of "big" happenings around the world in 1981. A quick search (not via Google Wave) produced this :

- Two major earthquakes (in Japan and Greece, about a month apart)
- Two devastating tornados (across the US, one month apart)
- Four major fires across Europe, the UK and India.
- Seven air traffic incidents, including commercial plane crashes and hijackings.
- Six shipwrecks, two train disasters, several celebs of various nationalities dying in car accidents, and a mine explosion in Tennessee.
- Political upheaval in Peru, the Iran-Iraq War, strikes and hunger demonstrations in Poland, unrelated riots in Hong Kong, Liverpool, Brixton and in several places in South Africa.
- I was born.

Without internet and our immediate news/shock reporting, most people will have only learnt about these events - if at all - in bits and pieces (or 20-something years later). If not, one might well have been forgiven for thinking that we were living in a crazy, crazy world that was surely going to spin off its own axis at any given moment. Back in early 80s.

Friday, April 09, 2010

TGIF... yesterday

I spent the whole of yesterday thinking it was Friday. The realisation - when it finally happened at 4.30 PM - assaulted me like the full frontal vision of a flasher in a playground. It was not pretty. I had even written a post about it being TGIF, which it was not. I lost interest after that.

How messed up can my calendar-clock be... especially as it's been a short week anyway. I spent the whole of Tuesday thinking it was Monday, and then spent the whole of Thursday thinking it was Friday. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Alien abduction. It's the only realistic explanation for my confusion.

Ag man, what a shutty week to not be in SA. I feel so left out. No one's threatened to touch any one on a Dutch TV studio. And no one's petulantly thrown any journalist out for asking questions at a press conference (serious thought though: why didn't the other journos show any solidarity? There must be more to this story than what we're seeing on youtube).

However, I do get the impression that there's actually a lot more happening in South Africa, when viewed from the outside. Does that make any sense? Let me try to explain... Some of the UK and Dutch press are merrily flinging poep about how the SA situation is so much more violent and volatile now that ET has been killed. But yet, despite this, people living in South Africa (outside of Ventersdorp) are not preparing for the onslaught of a race war. I spoke to a friend earlier today when she was at the shops and was horrified to learn that she was not stocking up on tinned goods. How will she survive when the country implodes?

To my friends and family living in SA - did you know that you are currently living through increased turbulence and violence? No, really.... stop going about your daily lives and pay attention. What do you mean all skin colours are still mixing and using the same entrances and facilities?? Clearly you are not aware that the English football team have been personally threatened with machetes when they arrive next month? Yes, that's right. It's not about you, or He Who Shall Not Be Named, or the Only White Baboons. It's about the England fans and players. They are the real targets here. Also, Dutch supporters have been warned not to wear orange as this will draw attention to them as 'tourist boers'. Because the fanny packs, black socks and jesus-sandals won't do enough to highlight that.

Fortunately, the papers conveying these messages are not exactly known for their political analysis. They are more readily known for their page three models (top-heavy plain Janes, without a concern for modesty). So readers of such papers aren't likely to be going to the World Cup anyway, as they don't have passports and can't be asked to relocate their caravans.

Okay. I said I was going to step away from the politics. But I can't.
It's too entertaining.

And as for that petty Visagie/eNews performance... Only in South Africa can a racially and culturally charged incident become a joke - and a dance remix - in under 24 hours. The term, "too soon for jokes" holds no weight when it comes to idiotic statements and bumbling buffoons of all shapes and colours. This is a splendid thing, because it means that (despite what we might bitch and moan about) we do actually enjoy freedom of speech in SA.

Puerile politicking aside, we do make me proud sometimes.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010



Stepping away from politics. It's hard to do... I have so much more shout about, but unfortunately I can't type any louder than the gazillion idiots who are merrily declaring that South Africa is the most unstable country. Ever. Apparently, we are the only country to EVER suffer from political tension, and crime, and high-profile people doing stupid things and possibly being targeted for the trouble they cause. And because we are the first - and only - country to ever be inflicted by wounds of the past and subsequent differing points of view, the whole nation is clearly going to implode in the next few weeks (oddly enough, this hasn't happened yet, despite this doom being declared with certainty on a monthly basis). On the bright side, such implosion would spare SA from enduring the apocalyptic crisis that the world is going to experience in two years time.

Anyway. While ET was inadvertently making the wrong kind of headlines this weekend, I was in the UK moors with Mills and his siblings. I feel I need to educate you all on what it means to spend Easter with the Mill-family.

Step 1:
Argue about where you are going to spend Easter. This has to be somewhere where you haven't been before. It does not matter if it is in the house next door to the house from last year, you cannot revisit a location.

Step 2:
Once suitable accommodation is found, Easter Eggs must be purchased. This is not a simple case of one egg, one mouth. There are various categories of egg entry to be considered. The first is the Most Impressive. This is normally a collaboration of one ostentatiously large egg, with a selection of fine chocolates in a basket the size of a shoe box. Bonus points are awarded if the giant eggs are individually labeled, with the recipient's name hand-painted in icing. The second category is Quantity Over Quality. This entails sourcing the smallest - but most numerous - eggs commercially available (these will then be hidden individually). Shopping completed, the eggs must be transported with care to their final destination. Breaking eggs en route is considered sacrilege and will be result in a loss of status at the family gathering.

Step 3:
Set aside at least one full evening before Easter Sunday to coordinate the rules and allocate hiding areas for the Mills' Annual Yolk Hunting Easter Madness (MAYHEM). The first and most prominent rule of MAYHEM is to take MAYHEM seriously. Jokers and non-Mill family members who do not demonstrate the expected reverence for the occasion are not welcome or appreciated.

Step 4:
Once each couple has been allocated their hiding location (i.e. one pair will have the kitchen and garden, the next will have lounge and driveway etc), the pairs divvy up their collection of eggs and hide them for the various seekers. There are no rules as to where eggs can be hidden. Removing light bulbs from ceiling fittings and replacing them with appropriate sized eggs is accepted - and applauded. Curtain linings, dustbins, vacuum bags and full baby bottles are also on the list of approved (and used) locations.

Note: Attempting to peek at another couple's location prior to hunting is NOT appreciated, and will result in severe reprimands.

Step 5:
Eggs hidden. Now everyone must gather to listen - and pay close attention - to what they must each look for. Serious participants will have pen and paper ready to take notes. "Koekie - you are looking for nine thumbnail-sized eggs, three have white wrapping, three are red and three are black. You are also looking for two bunnies - one with gold foil, one with green. You must also find seven Milka eggs, about the size of your pinky nail. Mills- you are looking for nine thumbnail eggs (two white, five red and two black). Your two bunnies are in gold foil and red foil. You have five Milka chocolates and one marshmellow egg...." Each couple will do the same respectively for their recipients.


The hunting can begin. Shoving, tripping and snatching are allowed but considered unsporting if done to small children.

I generally just grab whatever I see and stash it all away like a rabid squirrel, whether I'm supposed to find it or not. That's how we did it in my family and old habits die hard. I also find it comes in handy at the end, because I have tons of leverage to barter with. This is considered good game strategy by non-Mill family members, but is not appreciated by MAYHEM founders.

Every event will end with a MAYHEM audit to check that each participant has in fact collected the correct number - and colour - of eggs. This audit is also used to tally how many eggs are still outstanding.

Eating eggs before the final audit is completed is frowned upon, as consumption of Easter Eggs is not the MAYHEM objective. If all Easter Eggs are found and accounted for, the MAYHEM event is deemed a monumental failure by true participants.

The ultimate goal of MAYHEM is to hide the eggs so well that the only chance of them being uncovered will be during a future spring clean, or archeological dig.

MAYHEM. The True Easter Spirit.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Another one to add to the list

To reference a former Apartheid Minister (Jimmy Kruger), the death of Terre'blanche "leaves me cold". As of this weekend, the man has been added to my Why are we still giving these idiots free press? list. I had a similar reaction to the major hoopla around the death of Michael Jackson. I know they were in no way comparable during their lifetimes (other than the fact that both had an unhealthy fixation on being whiter-than-white), but as far as I'm concerned they were both pathetic and pitiful characters, years if not decades, before they died.

I am not glad that he's dead, not by any means. I genuinely don't care. It's a horrible story, but the fact that he was "hacked to death" seems blatantly obvious that this was not in retaliation to He Who Shall Not Be Named singing out-dated resistance songs. This was a personal vendetta, and let's be honest... ET wasn't one for making cross-cultural friends, was he?

Despite the fact that the Dutch press are still incorrectly reporting that "Blank Zuid Afrika wil moord wreken" (White South Africa wants to avenge murder), I'm glad to see that the actual revenge call has been retracted by the AWB* (are these people still clinging onto this whole ideal? I thought they had fizzled into nothingness). The headline was in the Metro Nieuws this morning and for a moment I couldn't read further, due to the pulsating red that had clouded my vision. Being a blank Zuid Afrikaanse myself, I had to take a few lustrating breaths to refrain from screaming out loud. It was a small taste of how Muslims must feel every time they see a headline implying that Islam equals terrorism. Do. Not. Generalise. I am not one of THEM.

I'm not saying that the murder should be ignored. It must be investigated and I genuinely hope that justice is served. But there is a page on the BBC allowing readers to have their say on whether ET's death will "lead to further instability" in SA, and there seem to be a lot of people on the interweb who do actually think this could well be the case. I really think this is giving a sad old bigot too much credit. says it best (as they usually do): Outpouring of apathy as 49 non-neo-Nazi South Africans also murdered.
Allemachtig, please don't turn him into a martyr. He didn't die fighting for a fascist and out-dated cause. More likely, he was killed because he was a mean bastard of an employer. There's a substantial difference.

*Alleen Wit Bobbejaans

Wednesday, March 31, 2010



I'm working on a new term, a phobia that is very real for me. Fear of fat strangers, or other people's fat. I may have mentioned this before. I am a weightist. I am impatient and intolerant of fatty-boom-batties.

Before I get this rant-train properly started, let me defend myself here: I'm not a complete bigot. I'm not talking about a few kilos overweight or a slightly higher BMI. I'm not talking about folks who are "bigger boned" (like most of the Dutch nation) and to be honest I'm jealous of woman who actually have hips. Yes, I've heard the arguments. I know there are genetic builds and medical conditions and in certain cultures, blah-blah-blah. Maybe I'd be of a different mindset if I wasn't built like a hungry waif. Maybe. But I'm talking about huffing-and-puffing to get up two steps. Not being able to walk or move comfortably, breaking into a sweat at the mere thought of slight physical exertion. Overweight to the point of threatening your very existence - but not letting that be a warning to your lifestyle, because isn't that what mobility scooters are for?

My xenoadipophobia is most active on public transport. Fatties get on a sort-of full compartment, look at option A (a normal sized adult male) or option B (me), and sit next to me because I don't take up as much room as option A. Urgh! Thank you, please do come and squash your flab up against my leg and shoulder. I know it is physically impossible to push your legs any closer together, but I'm still going to pull up my nose. Because your foreign fat is now touching me. Ew. And you're sweating. So let's add another sense to that revulsion. BO. Yuck.

This situation can also be compounded if said-fatty is a smoker. Yes, because they aren't doing enough to slowly kill themselves with obesity. If the heart's going down, the lungs might as well go with it. Mmmm, stale smoke on top of BO and uncomfortable invasion of my physical space. When this happens, I literally (and without any subtly) pull either my top or scarf or whatever item of clothing I can find to cover my breathing orifices. Thereby sending a clear message of "you stink, and I think you should know this". It's not the most PC of things to do, but I'm not on the train to make friends and neither is Smokey McFattison. Clearly.

Another alternative and possibly more horrifying is the fatty mom. Okay, these are definitely not the biggest of the fatties, mostly because they actually do burn off some of their calorie intake by chasing after their (inevitably numerous) toddlers, but the horrifying part is watching as they build an over-sized mini-me of themselves. A little fatty in the making. I watched a kid, still pram-bound, eat an entire burger from Burger King. And even when he got about halfway and tried to pass the rest of it to his mom, she simply rotated it and passed it straight back to him, with instructions to finish it. That's it Mom, combat those school yard bullies by making sure your kid can simply sit on them by the time he's six! I know sweet fanny-adams about raising kids and healthy diets, but I'm pretty sure fast-food burgers are not on the recommended daily intake list.

I'll not go into how I feel about airports and airline weight restrictions. That's a whole 'nother rant in itself, which I have covered before. Mills reckons karma is a (fat) bitch and one day in the not-so-distant future, I'm going to balloon to monstrous proportions. I say bring it on. Then I'll get a mobility scooter, I'll take full advantage of the fact that it's "intolerant" to charge fat people extra on full flights and I'll sit next to - and sweat on - the skinny-assed kids every time. Splendid.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can we really learn from our past?

A few years ago, I went to the Apartheid Museum. It was mortifying, horrific, shocking and wonderful. All at once. But the exhibition that struck me - and has stuck with me the most - was the archive footage of international news broadcasts. This is what the outside world was seeing, while we - the white folk in South Africa - were obliviously listening to the news Riaan Cruywagen was presenting, on a need-to-know basis. And there was a lot that the government felt we didn't need to know. Watching those news broadcasts, aired at the time in Europe and America, I could finally understand (at least to some degree) why foreigners have on occasion looked at me with such disgusted interest when they learn that I grew up in Apartheid.

Disgusted interest. I think that describes it quite well. "You're white. And South African. You're a racist bigot. What was it like?"

I'm not saying that whiteys had absolutely no idea of what was happening. They knew something was up, but it was certainly a sheltered knowledge. The fact that there were violent uprisings out 'there' was sometimes reported on TV, but it was shown as ANC and IFP, political - dare we say, tribal - clashes.... not a rebellion fighting the oppressive regime. The extent, the circumstances, the socio-political causes were simply not comprehended by most of the lighter bretheren. As a kid, I knew something was happening because we had to practice "bomb drills" in case the violence actually did get to our school in sheltered suburbia. Although, to this day, I still do not understand what sitting under your desk, holding your hands over your ears and chanting "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." will do in the case of a mob or bomb attack.

These days we know about the mechanisms of Apartheid, the press censorship, the media who succumbed or didn't ... about journalists who obstinately and blatantly argued that we were not getting the full story in our own country, printing "blanked out" sentences in their own publications to try to show that information was being withheld. About people who fought and died for their cause.

Back then, they didn't have the Internet. But you can be sure, if they did, they would've used it. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia have all become examples of news disseminating media globally. These days every news website has an opinion section. Almost every story can be commented and further opined upon. And boy, there are a lot of opinions out there. The fact that we can see all these postulations, right or wrong, means that we have freedom of speech and similarly freedom of press. In case you were wondering, that's a good thing.

Reporters Without Borders, a transnational organisation that monitors press freedom internationally, indicates that more than one third of the world's population currently live in countries that do not allow press freedom. The good news is that at this stage, South Africa is not one of those countries. But we were.

He Who Shall Not Be Named (because people are already paying too much attention) is trying to bring us back to those days. Although, to be honest, I think that statement allows him too much precognitive credit. I don't truly think that he is actively trying to destroy press freedom in South Africa. I think he is just too stupid to realise the repercussions of what he is inciting with his every breath into a mic. He has no education, he has not one modicum of common sense (as demonstrated on a daily basis in the public domain), but unfortunately he has become an over-sized mouth piece to a similarly uneducated demographic of our population.

He is a representative of the ANC, who in turn represent the proud nation that Nelson Mandela amalgamated with so much love and dedication... but his actions represent nothing less than a return to atrocities committed during Apartheid... which is the polar opposite to what Madiba envisaged. The thought makes me angry.

This is me taking my stand against that day returning.

You can find out more about the inspiration behind this post, here.

Just a few others who've also spoken out

Friday, March 19, 2010


Delayed trains, missed connections, get to work to discover mini-yoghurt has exploded in handbag. Stomp feet, have a brat attack, begin clean up. Lip balm and wallet are not going to pick themselves out of that goo. Clean and dry bag, try to rescue borrowed book from yoghurt stain. Nasty purple colourant not helping.

Coffee. Now. Three attempts to make one cup. Forget to put a coffee pad in the machine, berate self, chuck out hot murky water/milk mix. Start again, remember coffee pad but tip over mug as removing from machine. Deep breath, control urge to headbutt machine - or anything nearby. No more milk. Mop up mess. Start again. Resort to creamer. Carry successful mug back to desk with the double-handed coordination of a three year old.
That's my day so far. Now, let's flashback to yesterday when my shoe attached itself to my pedal.

I was wearing my comfy soviets (yes mother, the same ones stolen directly from your cupboard). What I didn't realise was that left shoelace was coming undone. What I also didn't realise was that the slightly undone shoelace had hooked in my left pedal and with each rotation was slowly winding itself around the pedal. As I cycled, the lace came more and more undone... and more and more wound around the pedal.

I had inadvertently created a shoestring spindle and an effective one at that. I didn't know my foot was merrily engaged in this process, until it came to me stopping at a traffic light which - unless you are part of a traveling circus - usually entails dismounting from the bike. As a habit, I generally put my left foot down first. This did not end well, considering that my left foot was by this stage tightly strapped to the pedal. If you've ever tried to dismount from a racing bike without first clicking your feet out of the casing, you'll probably understand my panicked confusion as my bike started to topple with me on it.

Fortunately I am a quick-thinker (on a good day) so I was able to correct this fast enough and successfully averted a full body/ground collision. But... being attached to a bike and hopping on one foot is a dance that is not often seen unless you are part of, or visiting, the previously mentioned circus. I was finally able to remove foot from shoe, and hence myself from my bike, but not before drawing a few stares. You'd swear they'd never seen a bike wearing a shoe before. Weird.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Classic Humour

Aaah... there's nothing like a good hearty chuckle, especially at someone else's expense (but often my own, too). A few of my favourite sources for such entertainment:

1) Situational. Like the recent evening that we spent with another young couple - where she and I 'accidentally' saw the answer on the back of the card, just as her boyfriend was about to act out "catwalk model" in charades. Yes, we should've told him, but he is about as macho as you can like to get and he had already started his runway impression.

So we let him go...and go... and go... feigning complete non-comprehension (although his runway walk was unnervingly good)... until he gave up on being a flamboyantly effeminate model and actually got down on hands and knees and pretended to be a cat. That was the closest I've come to wetting my pants in my adult life. You had to be there, I'm sorry you missed out.

2) Funny-because-it's-true news stories. Like the recent screening of porn on a children's network channel in the US. A spokesman called it a "technical glitch". With an uninterrupted duration of two hours. My understanding of a glitch is a "brief or sudden interruption" but sure.... I guess a glitch can also be a complete fek-up that continues for several hours. Eskom had a few of those in 2008. "Whoops, glitch... we'll be back up and running in the next few days!"

Seconds or maybe minutes - glitch. Hours = technical ERROR. Anyway, the real humour here is that this happened in North Carolina, one of the notoriously conservative Bible Belt states.
"The error occurred on the Kids On Demand and Kids Preschool On Demand channels where clips from Playboy TV appeared in the top right hand corner. A menu of available children's programmes was listed on the left of the screen, but nude women engaged in explicit conversations appeared where previews of children's shows normally appear."
You gotta love it when a plan comes together.

3) A well-written column. Dave Moseley, Chris Roper and Carol Lazaar have always been entertaining. Recently, Ben Trovato was brought to my attention (thank you, Mozzie). I love a good tale, especially one that ends up in the emergency room with an unsympathetic wife:
"...Brenda said girls against boys. "The way of the world," said Ted, racking the balls all wrong. I nudged him out of the way and he fell over the pool dog, who I have trained to retrieve balls that often ricochet off the table and disappear into places where no human would wish to go. Ted approaches pool in much the same way that he approaches his job - in a crablike fashion through the side entrance when no one is watching. I, on the other hand, approach the game like I approach an open bar - fast and recklessly.
Brenda and Mary play like all women play - they talk, giggle, drink, lie and cheat from start to finish. It's one of the reasons I married her. The only difference is that back then we would play for sexual favours and these days we play for the electricity bill. But let us not go down that filthy mugger's alley again.
Like all good pool tournaments that go on until 5am, the margin of error was inordinately high. Three windows were broken from balls cannoning off the table and the dog retired to bed in disgust..."
Pure poetry. You can read the full column here - it's worth it. Really.
I may be going back for more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Science doesn't stand a chance

Los Angeles has just experienced a small earthquake this morning (their time). This in itself is not big news, especially following the devastating quakes experienced in central and southern America recently. But out of interest, I was following updates with Google Wave - most (pretty much all) of my colleagues live and work in LA and I have to admit that it has been pretty interesting following the Twitter updates as they were added.

Most of them are just standard this-is-me-thinking-aloud statements, like: "omigod, 4am - jolted awake cos of the earthquake" or "4.4 mag earthquake just hit LA!"

But one caught my attention:

"Wth. A magnatude of 4.4 earthquake at 4.04am. That is either a coincidence or someone planned it......"

[note: "Wth" most likely translates to "What The Hell". Spelling and italics are directly quoted. As are the gazillion ellipses at the end. Because everyone knows if you're not actually saying anything but you want people to think you are, you should end your sentence with as much implied mystery as possible]
And so, the conspiracy theories start.....

Omigod. 4.4 mag at 4.04am.
This must be a sign. But of what...?
Wait, it happened on the 16th of March 2010.

Four times four equals... sixteen!!!
Are you freaked out yet?!

If this isn't enough to convince you that there are ulterior forces (or should we say FOURces?) behind this recent event, read on.

March is the third month of the year. 03.2010
If you remove all the zeroes (which don't count for anything anyway), you're left with a 3 and a 21.

Three added to twenty one is twenty four, which is also a multiple of four! This can only mean one thing....
The Fantastic Four are real and they are behind the recent spate of massive earthquakes!
AND the next big earthquake is going to hit on the 24th of the fourth!

It has been predicted by web-bots, Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar, so it must be true!!

In your face, Tectonophysics. Your science will never compete with irrational arguments and fabricated calculations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nationale Hoerendag

Hey everybody - Happy National Prostitution Day! Streetwalkers and ladies of the night be proud, as the BNN (a Dutch broadcaster) calls for equal recognition of the oldest profession in the world. Their general shout out is, "if you get a National Secretary Day, why is there not a National Prostitution Day?" And they have a point, don't they? So this is me doing my bit to say, give your hooker a bunch of flowers and maybe a nice card today. She's worth it.

Moving on.

Facebook. I like it. I use it a lot. I particularly like the photo update section because this is where I can see who has just been to a wedding, who's put up their connubial shoot, who's updated pics of their sprogs. I am not a hypocrite, just because I don't want these for myself it doesn't mean I don't enjoy seeing such updates in my friend's lives. But at the moment, the only photo updates I can see on that particular page are "who has peeped your profile" compilations. It is driving me nuts. I don't care. I don't care who's looking at who's profile within my circle and I certainly don't care which friends are looking at other completely random profiles. And most of the updates are not on my friend's themselves but merely because they've been gawking Whothehellcare's profile. Of the 16 places available, three are ligit photo updates today. I can't wait for this fad to fizzle or implode, so that I can actually get back to cyber-stalking my friends online. Because that's what Facebook is all about, innit?

That said... maybe this profile peeper thing could have its merits. F'instance: if someone gets tagged on their ex's profile and then their current girl/boyfriend starts throwing a hissy fit (preferably publicly, as a comment on the actual photo compilation, so that I can read it please) because they always knew that he/she still had a thing for him/her.... yesssss, this could have possibilities. And that's definitely what Facebook is all about - laughing at people losing the plot on public domain. Okay, maybe the Profile Peeper can stay - but it'd better start providing some worthy entertainment soon.

In other news, it's recently been established that I can't count. This is what happens when you don't edit wot you right. You develop eleventy fingers. True story.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cluck off, it's Friday.

This week has been useless. I've wanted to blog, but couldn't find anything to get rage-worthy about, or couldn't concentrate on any one thing so couldn't narrow it down. But now I feel bad because I haven't produced anything. I feel like a bad mother, who has just left her kids to starve because she couldn't think of what to cook. Or something. Hey, there's good reason why I don't have kids. That's one of them.

Okay, so here's some random stuff.... stream of consciousness style.

Earlier this week, I was 'had'. Like "PSYCH!" or punk'd... had. First, lemme tell you that I have an iPhone - I finally won that little (admittedly petty) battle and got an unlocked sim. She's called Kumquat Koekie and has been working fine. To be honest, the whole process seemed a little bit too easy compared to my usual fights. So when I recently sent an sms to a friend (who has a Crackberry) and got an automated response informing me that smses from unlocked iPhones are undeliverable to this particular sender, I flew into a little mini-rage. The audacity of these fekking mobile providers, who the fek do they think they are completely dominating our lives and dictating what we do, who we consort with and how we do it! I instructed Mills to contact the friend (we were going over to visit them shortly) and muttered and stomped much like an angry bag lady on the walk over to their place.

On arrival, the first thing my friend asked was how my iPhone is working out. That's when the light started to come on in my head. Admittedly, it had taken me so long that it wasn't a very loud or instantaneous click. It was more like an energy saving lightbulb that takes several minutes to get up to full brilliance. Aaaaw man. I'd been had. He grinned with nefarious glee, delighting in my realisation. He'd sent the 'automated' response and was over the moon when he got a second similar sms from Mills, knowing that I had been hook-line-and-sinkered with his text. Well played, my man. Well played.

Anyway, other than that - Kumquat Koekie is working as well as any piece of technology within my daily contact can be expected to function. She's only been dropped three times, and I've had her for almost a month. She's holding up well.

Thinking of things accidental, I got off to a sterling start this morning. First I clamped my left ring finger in my uber-hot, ultra-iron-all-hair-dead straightener this morning. Two hundred and thirty degrees of skin pealing heat. Then I clamped my right ring and pinky fingers in the fold-up table on the train, forgetting that when you close those contraptions they generally spring shut with some velocity. So before 9am, I was three fingers down... eight to go. Not bad, even by my standards.

And to the end the week, I leave you with yet another stunning example of love between boyfriend and girlfriend:

4:27 PM Koekie: how're the tikka masala preparations going?
4:30 PM Mills: well.
I have taken the chicken out.
Koekie: good good
4:31 PM approved
Mills: if I leave it long enough it may cook itself
Koekie: here's how you'll know:
first it needs to defrost
then it'll probably start clucking...
4:32 PM **pah-keurrrk**
Mills: cluck you
Koekie: then, then the clucking dies down, you'll know that it's cooked
Mills: ha ha ha thats quality humour
Koekie: I'm presuming that you're laughing at your, rather than my, humour. Although mine is clearly of a far more developed standard.
Mills: yes cluck face
4:33 PM never gets old
Koekie: right back at ya, cock
4:36 PM Ja, in your face
You have nothing
4:38 PM Mills: cluck off
4:43 PM yeah thats right, sit quietly in the corner
4:45 PM Koekie: go chanticleer yourself
yeaaaaaaah - I just went medieval poulty on YOUR ASSMills: I bite my thumb at you sir
4:53 PM Koekie: you bite your thumb at me? I bite my thumb at you...

Thereafter followed a rather broken Shakespeare recital attempt. If this doesn't demonstrate a solid adult relationship, I don't know what does.