Thursday, May 26, 2011

Saving the Planet, A quarter mile at a time

I have recently been posting and reading up a lot on ways to save the planet..... That is actually a silly statement. The planet is not in need of saving. The ability of our planet to sustain us a species requires work. The planet will continue to be here, even without us. Douglas Adams said so.

Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. The reason that mantra is so stated is because it is in order of priority. Recycling, which I have been focusing on is actually the least I could do to save the planet because it requires energy to make the waste usable again. So I started thinking, what can I start doing to lower my carbon footprint by either redusing or re-using. Whilst chatting to Sherwin, an old racing buddy who many in Durban refer to as 'The Grand Guru of Automative Environmental Sustainability', we discovered a great way to save the planet. Replacing the disposable air filter in my car with a High Flow Performance Air Filter by K&N.

If, like my wife you rolled your eyes at this suggestion, think about it for a minute. Over 100 million disposable air filters are discarded each year (Source: statistic at the back of the K&N box). That is enough to fill Moses Mabhida Stadium to the arch 50 000 times (source: internet blog. No verifiable source required. If that does not sit well with you, I could always just write, 'INDEPENDENT STUDY'). But seriously. This filter is made of multiple layers of treated cotton gauze that provides great filtration (and also high airflow rates) and should last the life of a vehicle provided it is cleaned every 50 000 miles (That stat is not made up and is actually the manufacturers recommendation). Usage of this filter would actually reduce the waste burden created by disposable air filters made of paper or other synthetic materials.

Additionally (and this is the equivalent of cracking an egg and getting two yolks), the improved airflow results in increased combustion efficiency which would result in more engine power and hence better fuel mileage. I challenge you to find another device that would make your car sound better whilst saving the environment. This is actually my first pass at a more comprehensive study I plan to discuss with my wife on why a Jackson supercharger could effectively save a tree in the Amazon every time I go to get bread from the shop. Until then, I will continue to try and save the planet.... a quarter mile at a time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Retrenched Parent: Seeking new role!

 "Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  ~Elizabeth Stone

I love that quotation because it best describes my experience as a parent. The other quotation that also speaks to me is,
"Children are a great comfort in your old age - and they help you reach it faster, too. " ~Lionel Kauffman

My eldest daughter turns 5 next week and I am livid with all the authors of all the childcare and parenting books I have read ever since that morning my wife and I first saw those two red lines  on the home pregnancy kit. While you went on and on about baby-proofing your home,  how to deal with tantrums (which I prefer regarding as fiction) and learn through play techniques, you neglected to devote a chapter to (or even mention) what we should do when our little toddlers start growing up! Nobody warned me that your child's 5th birthday was to be considered a watershed event.

What follows may be considered pride and boasting by some but if they do then they clearly do not understand the relationship between fathers and daughters because fathers are incapable (until they are teenagers) of referring to their angels in any other way. My little girl has recently moved into her own room, and sometimes tells me that I can leave before she is  even asleep. That she'll fall off to sleep on her own! It is with great sadness that I realise that this, in some way marks a change in our relationship, one that we are unlikely to recover as she grows in independence, learns to read etc etc. I am also particularly upset that she is now learning to tell  time because I can no longer lie to her that it is bedtime, when trying to get her to bed early! I understand that this is the natural progression of things but wanted to just share this brief note to all the other dads out there, so that the transition does not take you by surprise like it did me.

But do not despair Dads, for even now I have conjured up little tricks/ techniques to at the very least extend your role for a few more years. These tips, some may say manipulations, include but are not limited to:
  • Slowing the pace at which they learn to read (For anybody who has not heard of sarcasm or read any of my previous blogs, I feel compelled to state here that I am not Taliban or Taliban-lite but only mention the word Taliban in  my blogs to get a few more hits from people in the CIA, MOSSAD etc.)
  • Keeping her Pyjama's in  a drawer that is out of reach. Success with this method may require the removal of all stools and step ladders from the house.
 Luckily for me, I have a second little girl who just turned 1, so I still have at least another 3 years of usefulness but I am often reminded of what Sydney J. Harris once said,

"The beauty of "spacing" children many years apart lies in the fact that parents have time to learn the mistakes that were made with the older ones - which permits them to make exactly the opposite mistakes with the younger ones."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Don't spoil MY day by spoiling YOUR ballot! - SA Elections 2011

On Wednesday, May 18th, South Africans will go to the polls in Municipal Elections to determine their councillors and who will run their municipality for the next 5 years. For the majority of the residents in my Ward (Ward 23 of the Ethekwini Municipality), if the voter turn-out in the 2006 elections are anything to go by, it will be just another mid-week public holiday. You get the same excuses:

> My vote does not make a difference
> Why waste my time, all politicians are crooks
> There is no party that I believe in etc etc.

I am not here to criticize your opinion. Or go off on a idealistic soliloquy on how we should embrace our democratic duty because of the many who have sacrificed their lives to afford us this ideal. Or to state the obvious, that there is no such thing as a non-participatory democracy. If you do not vote, then for the next 5 years you should not complain about the lack of service delivery. This is your only opportunity to have a voice in the direction your community is heading in. If you are happy to let others determine that direction for you, then you are entitled to that belief. I love democracy, everybody has a role!

The new 'in-thing' amongst otherwise very sensible people is to vote but to purposely spoil your ballot. It is delusionally believed that this will send a message to the powers that be, that people want to vote but just don't have a viable alternative. I can assure you that all the ruling ward party would see is another unsatisfied voter who chose not to support the opposition. Score! And if voters turn out in large numbers and spoil their ballots, all you could possibly hope to achieve is a voter education program before the next election. Most importantly, do not come to the voting station with the intention of spoiling your ballot, because those queues are long enough without your anonymous pointless rebellion. Just stay home and enjoy the day off from work.

Symbol for the Socialist Green Coalition

I was shocked when I discovered the number of candidates running in my Ward (17 candidates). Why don't they all have posters? How will I chose? Luckily for me 9 of the candidates did not reside in the area so that narrows the list down considerably. To be fair, I was never going to consider voting for the Vryheidsfront Plus or the Afrikaner Christen Alliansie! To narrow the list further, I decided that any party that does not have a poster in the community will also be excluded from my list. The only party that could have a justifiable reason for not having posters is the'Socialist Green Revolution' because there are no state owned printing firms and it would be a waste of paper. I promise you, that had I arrived on election day and saw that name on the ballot sheet, I would have voted for them. Had this occurred then I would have asked a friend to slap me thereafter (because true friends never slap hard at moments like these). I will not go into the details but their website was an eye-opener into the level of naivety/ idiocy I would have helped gather an additional vote. They go the extra mile ( on their merry journey to la-la land in that they not only demand that Eskom supply the country with free electricity but also supply households with the means for renewable electricity production. As much as I want to continue with the sheer stupidity of that statement (which appears on their Manifesto), I will stop.

This is the first time I have taken such an interest in a municipal election and found it to be a very entertaining, yet informative ride. For example. The current ward councillor has defected (or been fired, depending on the source) from the ANC and is now running with the IFP. What is interesting is that both the ANC and IFP are running with the campaign “look what we have done for you over the last 10 years” yet they are both referencing the same work done. In a recent twist, the councilor has now reported the ANC to the Independent Electoral Commission for planning to bus in 450 former shack dwellers who were relocated to homes in Welbedacht so that they may swing the vote in this ward. One cannot help but wonder whether he would have blew the whistle on this if he was still the ANC candidate?

Even the runner up in the last municipal elections, Sokhalingam Pillay is now running as an independent. I am not sure why the Minority Front have chosen to replace him but I would never be able to bring myself to vote for the Minority Front. I don't wish to elaborate on this standpoint only to say that the wig and the returning 2006 election posters points to somebody who is trying to hide something and I am also against 'Leader for Life' Parties, which incidentally is the same reason I would not vote for the 'Truly Alliance'. When the posters first started going up, I was intrigued by this party but more specifically, it's name. 'Truly Alliance'. It just did not sound right. The word 'truly' was just the wrong adjective to use before alliance unless you were trying to emphasise that this alliance is now 'truly' an alliance. Then one day on the way to work, it all made sense. The leader of the party is former Municipal Executive committee member Tony Adams, hence the T A is simply an acronym for his name. It is the only thing that makes sense and for the record, Truth Alliance would have been a much better party name and achieved the same ego mileage for Mr Adam.

As a candidate for councilor the individual that has impressed me the most thus far is independent candidate Ish Praladh. With the exception of a poor picture choice for his election poster, his campaign has been the only real 'campaign'. He has posters everywhere, a catchy slogan (Stop the Rot!) and has been seen regularly campaigning in the area. Whether driving in the back of a bakkie or directing traffic after mosque prayers he seems to be the candidate who wants this job the most and if he can bring the same level of professionalism to his job as ward councillor that he has brought to his campaign then I would be impressed. He is also chairman of the Reservoir Hill's Ratepayers association and appears to have a long history of community upliftment.

I know what most of you are thinking. I am no better than the guy who votes based on the plate of Biryani he just ate and all this electioneering is just 'promises and lies', but one has to believe that tomorrow will be a better day and that there are people out there who will deliver on their promises. Otherwise, what's the point. However, I would like this blog to send out just one clear message.

If you intend spoiling your ballot paper, then please stay at home!