Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Invention of the Year - 2010

I love magazines at this time of year. I fall for all the famous catch-phrases. “ The 50 best Inventions of 2010 – Time Magazine”, “ Jumpstart your life in 2011” - Men's Health, “Hottest albums of the year “– GQ ; I actually bought the GQ because of the feature interview with Ryan Reynolds but you get my point. It is the one time of the year when I read a lot more magazines than books. To be a honest between all the family get-togethers, chores (cos your domestic worker is generally on annual leave), and everything else, Dec – Jan is probably the time of year when I read the least books, but I digress.

My pick for “Invention of the year – 2010” has to be “The Straddling Bus”. Unfortunately, Time Magazine only found it to be the 18th best invention but I do not believe that they rated their inventions fairly but rather grouped them together so the feature would read better i.e Inventions 17 - 21 were all transport related and appeared on a double page with an image of the future incorporating all these inventions across the 2 pages.

The brainchild of Shenzen Huashi Future Parking Equipment, this bus will be raised 2 metres above the roadway allowing cars to pass underneath and will span 2 lanes. It is considerably quicker and cheaper than developing a subway system and has none of the disadvantages associated with a BRT e.g. A dedicated lane. If you still require convincing, check out this presentation that has been translated to English and explains the entire concept.

There were lots of jaw dropping options to chose from with this years inventions (The geek in me wanted to pick the XOS – 2, an iron man like suit developed by Raytheon Sarcos) and lots of annual favourites that must make the list every year e.g. Flying car, personal jetpacks and some or other new cell. I decided on the straddling bus because I believe it to be a viable option for cities like Durban that would never invest in a subway and where the BRT system has not borne the anticipated fruits expected of it. The improvements/ investments made in public transport infrastructure before the World Cup remains and there is now more people utilising public transport. If we have any realistic dream of hosting the Olympic Games (which I believe we do), then these are some of the ideas we need to start seriously considering. Even if it just ran from Umhlanga to the Durban CBD (i.e along the M4) and from Pavilion to the Durban CBD. I know that many of you reading this must be thinking what a na├»ve idealistic fool, and I confess to being one but if we don't at least dream of a better tomorrow, we have zero chance of achieving it. To prove this, I have attached a picture below taken from Popular Science Monthly - August 1925. It may have not all been realised but some of the ideas from that vision in 1925 are already commonplace in most first world cities!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SA vs India: T20 @ Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

There is very little that I can remember getting this excited about, but this match, this venue, this occasion... It crosses all my boxes. Although I am still perplexed why Cricket SA has decided to stop using Computicket for Cricket sales as PostNet stores are not as accessible as most supermarkets. Follow the link below to check the preview article I wrote for Durban Live

This is also going to be the first live sporting event I take my daughter to. Admittedly she is a lot more excited about seeing Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra sing and dance on stage but I am hoping the atmosphere will blow her away and we would be able to go for more matches together. Call it my parenting fantasy but  I always envisioned my daughters being big sports fans and tomboys in general. My mother has other ideas and she is currently winning but this match is the Ace up my sleeve. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Losing the plot in 'The Lost Symbol'

The Illumnati, the Vatican and now the Freemasons. It's obvious that the secret society at the centre of Dan Brown's next novel will be Al Qaeda. They are bound to have fanatical members that follow the ideals too literally; they are secretive (you don't get much more secretive than living in a web of caves); and there are bound to be a host of new symbols for Robert Langdon to interpret.

I am a fan of Dan Brown novels. I think he researches them well and he weaves many facts into the narrative to add to the excitement and broaden our understanding of history and especially symbology. Don't misunderstand me. I do not think the stuff he wrote about Jesus Christ in the Da Vinci Code is fact because I had the unfortunate honour of previously reading the book he took most of his ideas from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail' and therefore knew already that the Priory of Sion was considered by many researchers and journalists to be among the biggest hoaxes of the 20th Century but that did not detract from the novel which I could not put down and finished within 2 days.

Image Source: Wikipedia

His latest novel, 'The Lost Symbol', was not as good. It was entertaining and a good read but the tension and suspense seemed forced. Expect spoilers from here so stop reading now if you intend reading the book. The relationship between the antagonist and the good guys was revealed too early to the reader so when it is finally revealed to the characters in the book, the reader is not at all surprised by the reaction.

The aspect of the book that frustrated me the most however, was what can only be described as Dan Brown's 3 chapter apology to Christianity for the 'Da Vinci Code'. I am all for apologies when you believe you did something wrong but make a personal statement in the media. Don't weave it into your next novel because there is a strong liklihood that the people you are aiming to please, are not reading. This came at the very end of the book as well, so the protagonist had died, the world was saved and Robert Langdon is in the company of a beautiful woman, but the reader has to read on so he can understand how Science is only now beginning to catch up to religion (i.e all the miracles can be explained now with science) and that religion held all the answers all along,  but in code. The epilogue was so drawn out that even Robert Langdon needed a nap in the middle of the explanation!

My only hope while I wait for Dan Brown to unmask the next secret society is that Ron Howard chooses to not turn this novel into a movie.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making sense in the silly season!

The one conflict that I have with writing for websites etc. is that I have less time to write on my passions or whims cos let's face it there are only so many hours in the day and with a full time demanding job and the demands of modern day fatherhood.

This article is unique however, because it is one that I would have ended up writing on my blog in any case. It is biased, considering I am on the Board of Goveners for Child Welfare - Durban and Districts but hopefully a reader would take the ideas and run with it because I believe social responsibility to be a very personal thing that cannot be dictated if it is to be sustainable. I encourage people to start small but be consistent. Start with the R10 a year it takes to be a member of Child Welfare. If you feel like it, give R50 a month to an organisation via debit order. Visit the old age home once a month or donate all future unwanted stuff, that would normally just occupy space in a landfill, to the SPCA charity shop.

Making sense in the Silly Season - Article on Durban Live

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The best burger in Durban?

Recommending food is such a brave thing to do (yet we do it anyway) because people have very individual tastes and the mood and company that you are in can very easily influence your perception. For what its worth, I rate the Dagwood Steak Burger at Primi Caffe in Durban as my current favourite burger in Durban. Here's my review.

My review for Durban Live on the Primi Dagwood Burger

It is huge, very filling and very expensive so be warned!

Friday, December 10, 2010

What a Lotto Shit!

One of the big news stories today was the revelation of the National Lotteries board decision to donate R40 million to the National Youth Development Agency's world youth festival. This was in addition to the R29 million given to the agency by Government to stage the nine day event and host 30 000 youths from around the world. If those figures astound you, they should, but the NYDSA have stated that this is still far short of the R 370 million they required to host the event. WTF is unfortunately the only response that I can muster at this moment.

I serve on the board of a rather large charity organisation and I assure you that the Lotto allocation we received this year was a fraction of R40 Million. Furthermore, we received our funding last month for an application that was made in 2008 and it came with specific stipulations on how it should be spent. I wonder if the NYDSA were given similar guidelines, i.e. “Comrades. You can spend this money on champagne, but not on caviar.”

Why is South Africa stomping at the bit to host every conference imaginable. Yes, I understand that there is the tourism benefit etc etc but somebody needs to do the math and determine whether this is a sound economic strategy. As for the Lotto Board. I think you need to revisit your mandate. Yes, I understand that your first aim is to tempt our poor citizens of their weekly wages with the dream of striking it big and 'Tata my millions', but surely your next priority, after taking your bonuses, has to be the redistribution of that money to the development of our country. How hosting 30 000 students from around the world can be a higher priority now than the rising poverty, unemployment and crime in our country is incomprehensible.

On a brighter note, in a story that shockingly only managed to make pg 21 of the daily newspaper I was reading, seventeen additional US billionaires including Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg have joined other wealthy American billionaires in pledging to give away at least half of their fortunes in a campaign spearheaded by two of the world's richest men, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and financial guru Warren Buffet. 'The Giving Pledge', which was launched in June now have a total of 57 billionaires who have publicly stated their intention with a letter explaining this decision. The full list of billionaires and their letters are available on

I must firstly sympathise with the heirs to these fortunes who may just be realising that their inheritance has been halved and then express my gratitude to the capitalist American billionaires who are prepared to put the wellbeing of the less fortunate back on the agenda. It was Winston Churchill who said,

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Julian and the Wiki-Nauts

OK. there is no Golden Fleece in this story but you have to admit that it is as entertaining and the first battles are thankfully being waged in cyberspace. There is no need to summarise what has been happening with “Cable-gate”, because it would be outdated before I complete the paragraph. But, I have some opinions on this saga and unlike people in the US who are being advised that commenting on this issue in social media would not be in the best interests of their career, I have the freedom to express them.

When I first heard that the Police were looking for Julian Assange on sex related charges, I was not surprised. Were you? You have to agree that the guy always seemed a bit weird although I thought the service being provided to the global community by Wiki-leaks was admirable. It is only when insiders are allowed to become whistle-blowers that there can be any meaningful change as history has illustrated most recently with the smoking industry. As far as I am aware, Wikileaks don't fabricate stories or provide an opinion on circumstantial evidence. They merely expose the hidden by providing proof, and sometimes that information is useful i.e. the recent leak of US Army documents confirming the number of civilian deaths in Iraq. People against the occupation of Iraq were often accused of exaggerating civilian casualty numbers but now they can use the numbers tallied by the US Army themselves. But the nature of these sex charges!

His accusers (both of them) have essentially said that consensual sexual encounters have became non-consensual when condoms were no longer in use. If that confuses you, let me attempt to explain further. It is alleged that Mr Assange had unprotected sex with one of the women, while she was sleeping! Why the other lady was upset by this act, is unclear but I am going to stop here and let Glenn Beck of Fox News, with the aid of a chalkboard and barbie pictures try and explain the events of Mr Assange's one night stand. He does it so much better!

The decision by Amazon to stop hosting Wikileaks was a brave move for the retailer, especially considering that it is Christmas time and that they have a completely online business model which may now be the target of hackers sympathetic to the Wikileaks cause. The move by PayPal and Mastercard to stop the transfer of funds to the organisation however, was a bit excessive. Wikileaks is not a terrorist organistaion and their was no legal reason why one should not be allowed to contribute to it. Since the hackers and I share a common viewpoint on this, I assume my blog is safe for now.

However this situation plays out, I am fascinated with the emergence of Superpower - ed individuals in the global landscape. The media etc. still refuse to acknowledge China as a superpower so I suspect that in the absence of another superpower, America is forced to wage war on these Superpower-ed individuals. And these individuals and their supporters are compelled to fight back. Regardless, it makes for interesting reading. I am going to conclude in support of a statement issued by a Pakistani judge on Friday when he was asked to rule on whether Wikileaks should be banned. He said,

We must bear the truth, no matter how harmful it is.”