Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kryptonite really exists!

lex luthorNot that I need to tell you this, but, according to Wikipedia, kryptonite is a fictional element from the Superman comic book series. The element, usually shown as having been created from the remains of Superman's native planet of Krypton, generally has detrimental effects on Superman. The name "kryptonite" covers a variety of forms of the element, but usually refers to the most common "green" form.

Researchers of the Rio Tinto mining group have found that the mineral actually exists!

After its discovery, the researchers enlisted the help of Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum:

'Towards the end of my research,' says Dr Stanley, 'I searched the web using the mineral's chemical formula, sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide , and was amazed to discover that same scientific name written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns'.

'The new mineral does not contain fluorine and is white rather than green, but in all other respects the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite. We will have to be careful with it - we wouldn't want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!'

Read reports here and here. Although kryptonite's discovery has only just been reported, I was impressed to see that Wikipedia had already been updated with the information:

In April of 2007, scientists found traces of a mineral matching the chemical composition of kryptonite, in a mine in Serbia. The mineral found does not contain fluorine and does not emit a green colour, instead it is white and emits a pinkish glow when exposed to ultraviolet rays. Nevertheless, the mineral is essentially kryptonite. It will formally have the name of Jadarite, named after the Serbian town where the mine is located. Most importantly, the mineral is harmless and has no known dangerous or toxic properties.

Now that kryptonite is no longer fictional, will I get to find my Superman?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Today is Four-twenty

Not heard of the term before? Nor had I until today. My son told me about it - he heard about it for the first time yesterday.

From Wikipedia: 4:20 or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a term used in North America as a discreet way to refer to cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis culture. Phrases such as "420 friendly" sometimes appear in roommate advertisements, indicating that the current occupants are tolerant of cannabis users.

And this site tells me that Hitler was born on this day in 1889.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Father and son stuff – teach him properly

Read part 1 here.

A couple of hours after he arrived here, I took my son for his first stroll around Amsterdam. He was overwhelmed. A rush of new sights and sounds engulfed him. The sensory overload was obvious - his eyes shone like those of a kid in the proverbial candy store It’s not his first trip overseas but it is the first time he’s had an adult’s freedom in a European city. Not just any European city, either. This was Amsterdam! He’d seen several coffee shops when we’d taken the tram to my flat from Central Station but we didn’t see one for at least 5 minutes once we started our stroll.

‘Where’re the coffee shops?’ he asked.

I pointed out the first one we passed. ‘Let’s go in,’ he said.

‘No, not yet, there’re lots of them around. Later.’

At that stage, I was still pondering the quandary of whether having a joint with him was cool or not. He was definitely going to have one at some stage, probably sooner rather than later. Perhaps I’d go in with him and have a drink while he had his first legal puff? Or we’d just go in, have a look then walk out again?

As we got closer and closer to Walletjes (the red light district), we saw more and more of them. If anything, delaying the moment when we finally entered one, was definitely uncool. I saw one that also served alcohol. In we went.
Read more..

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Father and son stuff - cool or uncool?

Having not been around my son for most of the past 5 years, I’ve missed out on most of his ‘coming of age’ events. You know, important things like when he first got pissed. I don’t know when that happened. Probably several years before the time when he and his friends redecorated the kitchen, sitting room and front lawn with pools of their vomit. I may not have been there but I heard all the gory details. Has he lost his virginity? I’ve no idea. But he’s the sort of kid who’d let his parents know. Perhaps not actually volunteer the information but he’d readily discuss it if asked. I do, however, know his tastes in music (evolving) and clothes (unchanged) of the past few years.

So, two years ago, being told that he’d been called a ‘wigger’ by a group of Bishops boys when seen at Cavendish Mall with the friends he usually hangs out with didn’t surprise me at all. Style is symbolic of identity. That’s not an absolute truism but, as generalisations go, it’s a good one. Rap and hip-hop are often associated with drug culture. Nowadays, they’re also associated with misogyny and homophobia, things I know he’s not guilty of. Recently, his tastes have veered towards dance music. To some, ecstasy may be a bit passé but, not so many years ago, it was synonymous with dance music. So, do his music tastes say anything about his attitude towards drugs? It’s so easy to generalise and get things horribly wrong.
Read more..

Read part 2 here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Today's UK Investment Tip

In the UK, an increase in the cost of postage gets advertised several weeks/months in advance of the price change. First and second class stamps are designated as such, ie the monetary cost is not printed on the stamp. Next time a price change is advertised, buy stamps in bulk before the price change and save handsomely.

The recent increase in first class postage was 2p per stamp. A 1000 pound purchase of stamps would give you a healthy 20 pound return on your investment. Keep them beyond the next increase and the return will be even higher.

Clever, huh?

Now I wonder how long it would take for you to use/sell a 1000 pounds worth of stamps? Mmm... quite a while, I should think. Let me check with my colleague who told me about this scheme, having recently done it himself.


Dutch television really isn’t the best. Yes, I know that Endemol (inventors of Big Brother) is Dutch but doesn’t that say it all?

Pin-ta-nel (*).

It’s all panel discussions, game shows, dire pop music (you really have to see and hear it to believe it!) and ads.


Not only do the ads go on and on and on, but many of them are way too long. Some of the funny ads are no longer funny by the time they end several long minutes later.


British 'yoof' television is bad enough with its weird camera angles and 'yoof' slang – watch Channel 4 over the weekend and the British version of MTV and you’ll know what I mean. The Dutch variety is worse. Pin-ta-nel. It follows a similar format but seems more dependent on overly enthusiastic voices and sentences ending with forced shouts. Pin-ta-nel. You should see the ringtone ads. Pin-ta-nel. Awful. Fucking awful, I tell you! Pin-ta-nel. Pin-ta-nel. Late at night, it’s all bare boobs and pouts luring you to ring premium rate numbers and visit sex sites. Surely no one falls for that stuff?

Pin-ta-nel, pin-ta-nel, pin-ta-nel!! It’s driving me mad!

(*) Dutch web domain (.nl) as said in Dutch: punt (fullstop) en el. Talking of web domains, why is it they some countries don’t have the ‘co’ in their web domains? Instead of dot-co-en-el, here it's dot-en-el. Not that the constant repetition of punt-co-en-el would sound any better, mind you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I’m surrounded by them!

The big boss is one, the head of technical writing services is another, as are most of her team. I’m talking about sexual deviants. You know, poofs and dykes.

Although I already have my own personal faghag in the office, no one else 'knew' about me in the office until Sunday when I bumped into the big boss at the Amstel Tavern. He didn’t seem surprised to see me there but if he did wonder if I was a fellow deviant on my entering the place, I’m sure it didn’t take him long to be sure of my credentials as a card-carrying poof. It was one of those nights where the last few hours of it no longer exist. I even lost an item of clothing, my coat, à la 'my favourite jumper'.

I saw him today. He approached me with a huge grin on his face. My grin was probably of the sheepish variety. Apparently, I didn’t do anything too embarrassing although I was seen gyrating oddly. Standing up and on the dance floor, I hasten to add.

Unlike my jumper, my coat hadn’t been kidnapped by an undesirable. I retrieved it last night after my Dutch class.

I’ll probably discover a whole lot more of the fraternity when I attend the monthly GALA get-together at Café Rouge tomorrow evening. My faghag discovered its existence today and emailed me about it. Now I'm their newest member.

For an organisation that tries to be 'inclusive', even allowing hetties to become members, it doesn’t have such an inclusive name. Obviously, GLBTA doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as GALA does, but what about all the B’s and T’s in the organisation?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Check this out. Amazing!"

ten years
The first entry on Scripting News effectively ushered in the first blog 10 years ago. In the intervening years, these online diaries have been touted as the future of media, labelled "pathetic drivel", and caused court cases, prison sentences and international incidents. But love them or loathe them, bloggers around the world have ensured incredible growth for the medium.(full article here)

Ten years ago, I'd just finished my MBA and was already a very seasoned user of the web. Blogging didn't enter my radar until some three years later when I read an article about blogger.com. I liked the idea, printed the article and put it in my file of 'interesting things', planning to return to it some day. The file gathers dust on top of the bookshelves in Cape Town.

Fast forward another four years and I was introduced to my first blog by Mike. After a brief stint of 'guest-blogging' on his blog, I set up this blog with its first entry entitled 'Test'. And that was that for almost a year when I began blogging in earnest. Sadly, that memorable first entry disappeared into file thirteen.

Eighteen months later, I'm still here, wittering on about nothing despite often wondering why I do it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Procrastinating by posting

I’ve got a major deadline to meet today and I just don’t feel like doing the work right now. It’s all about averages (rolling and otherwise) and excesses to do with facility limits and outstandings for related borrowers and outstanding groups. You wouldn’t feel like doing it either, right?

So, being true to my character, I’m procrastinating.

After visiting most of my usual websites, I had a look at my blog stats to see where my visitors have been coming from. Seeing what gets people here via search engines can sometimes be quite amusing. Ages ago, procrastination and boredom even led me to post the results of my analysis of how search engines were reaching me.

Today, I’m going to do the same:

Terri recently presented me with a Thinking Blogger award (I have yet to make my presentations). By ‘thinking’, I think she may have meant ‘thinking in the gutter’.

The shattering of a myth

four seasons maputoOver the years, urban legends have circulated about the hotel. It is said that fleeing Portuguese settlers poured liquid cement into the plumbing system, or down the lift shafts.

"Savana"'s investigations, however, show that this is just a colourful myth. (full article here)

I was living in Maputo when that hotel was built. My school wasn't that far away from it and we used to pass it on our way to the Costa do Sol. All the adults I knew loathed the way it dominated the skyline in an area devoid of buildings. All the kids I knew were excited by it - tall buildings were cool!

My family stayed on after the Portuguese fled the country in 1974. I was living in Maxixe by then but often saw the building when in Maputo. And I 'knew' that the building had been sabotaged by the embittered fleeing Portuguese. I last saw it in 1996 when I visited Maputo for the first time in 19 years with my wife.

I told her the story about the cement in the lift shafts.

Now it's gone and with its demise I've learnt that something I believed for so long was completely untrue.

The BBC has a good series of pics showing its last moments or you can see a lot more pics on a blog wholly devoted to its demise.

UPDATE: This story corroborates the truth of the so-called urban myth. What is the real story, I wonder?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My own special SoulCollage

The lovely, talented Caroline has made me my own special SoulCollage. She's not sure what it means but was thinking about my nomadic state when she made it. I don't know what it means either but my immediate interpretation hinged (unintentional!!) around the half-open door.

It's not fully open as my wanderings are not always enthusiastically embraced, reluctant if you will. You could also say that the jetfighter in South African colours says much the same as it is flying past the mountains instead of towards them. The panels in the closed door are windows to places that differ from the one that the other door opens to. The seascape is one I know. The northern mountainous region is one I don't. Not yet, that is.

Attributions for the photos Caroline remixed:
Thanks, Caroline.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fretting about my fiets

What do I usually do on a Saturday night? Get pissed and get laid, right?

No, not last Saturday. Instead, I spent a lot of time looking out of my window. There’s a lot to see out there, not just on a Saturday night. But it’s not something I usually do (read the above implication) unless it’s to see if the ‘Big Banana Shop’ (a rather dodgy name for a perfectly normal delicatessen that sells nothing more unusual than hash lollies) is still open.

I was checking to see if my bike was still where I’d left it.

After cycling home that afternoon, I’d parked it outside my front door, locked its wheel lock and gone upstairs. Perched on its bikestand thingy, out there in the busy street, it looked very vulnerable. Tethering it to something would have made it look far more secure. ‘I really should have bought a chain lock for it,’ said the voice in my head. I’d bought one for my son’s bike, but not one for mine.

As the evening wore on, the number of bikes parked around it dwindled until it stood on its own. Could it look more vulnerable? Yes, it could! I began checking on it every twenty minutes or so. Each time I looked, it was still there. My constant checking made me feel a bit foolish. And then, just after ten, it wasn’t there! My heart filled with panic. ‘I knew it! I knew it!’ shouted the voices in my head. My brain flooded with recriminations, all of them directed at me.

It’s estimated that there are 600 000 bikes in this city of 750 000 people. That’s a fuck of a lot of bikes! Yet still they get stolen. Which explains why you can buy a bike that retails for €150 on street corners for €30. A very tempting discount, I’d say. ‘Don’t do it,’ says every Amsterdammer. ‘It’s bad karma’.

Buying a stolen bike is bad karma? Does anyone actually believe that? Does anyone actually believe in karma, bad or good? Not I, Mister Super Rational Me. No, as tempting as it may have been, I didn’t buy a stolen one. Buying one from a bike shop seemed to be the easiest option. And being easy, that suited me just fine even if it meant paying much more for it. So much for counting my cents and the euros looking after themselves. This time next year, I'll be a millionaire? I don't think so!

Anyway, I rushed downstairs to see. See what, I’m not sure. The thief nonchalantly puffing on a fag as he prepared to mount? Fingerprints left on my door as he supported himself while perpetuating the evil deed? Other incriminating evidence that would lead to his apprehension and the swift return of my bike? I looked towards the canal. Nothing - no sign of it. I looked in the opposite direction. A bike, an omafiets like mine, was parked about five metres from my front door. It was mine! Why the fuck would someone want to move my bike? I moved it back to its previous position and went upstairs again.

My vigil began again.

In between looking out the window every twenty minutes, my ears did their best to pick out bicycle-stealing sounds from the noise of the revellers outside. Roman Polanski’s ‘The Pianist’ was in the DVD player; not the most light-hearted film I’ve seen for a while. I don’t mean any disrespect and I would never presume to suggest that my concern for my bike even remotely approximated the fear of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, but, well, you know...

That after-supper joint had been rather strong.

The more the film engrossed me, the less vigilant I became. By the time it had finished, I’d probably not looked out of the window for over an hour. It wasn’t there again! Fuck, fuck, fuck! The panic returned; a short-lived panic this time. Someone had moved it again. Could someone be trying to scare me deliberately?

Calm down, Alan, it’s just a bike.

My son’s bike was in the hallway so it didn’t need to be chained to anything - I took his chain and chained mine to the railings on the canal. Why hadn’t I done that right from the beginning?

Nominated for two, won one

Yes, I won an award in this year’s South African Blog Awards! A new category, nogal (*). I’m the first winner of the GLBT category, one of three new categories introduced in this year’s awards.

It feels good to be a winner but it would have felt better had I done better in ‘Best Overseas South African Blog’, a category I won last year. Oh well, win some, lose some.

Congratulations to all the other winners.

(*) An Afrikaans word used in South African English slang as an exclamation - even!