Monday, 6 December 2010

The big 3 0

Birthday party!

It was wonderful, although perhaps more expensive than can be justified.

I returned from the UK a week before the party with an upper respiratory tract infection and a vicious fever so I spent my birthday in bed, and was only just feeling human again in time for the party! But, thanks to a lot of Mybulin and some antibiotics I was fine by Saturday. Thank you, Western medicine!

The restaurant, Carmine's in Fourways, has a mafia theme so I incorporated that; although guests were expected only to wear red and black.

I have wanted a live band at this party since I started thinking about throwing it, and my wonderful husband let me indulge this ridiculous notion. We had seen the Red Hand blues band a few times live around Johannesburg and between their enigmatic presence, lively sound and slightly gangsta look I just had to have them. And what a decision, they were great. And they couldn't be nicer! They did it for a lot less than their usual asking price, they gave up doing a (much more lucrative) wedding, they paid for their own drinks after I offered to, and they played for ages longer than my money covered! Very, very pleased I got in touch with them.

I was going to get a cake made, and then I spent the days available to get this sorted in bed, so I decided to bake something myself. I refuse to bake something that isn't cupcakes myself as it's far too much pressure to decorate etc. Sticking to the red and black theme, I made red velvet cupcakes in black cases with a cream cheese icing, decorated with strawberries enrobed in chocolate. They were lovely!!! I have always loved buttercream icing and proclaimed it to be my favourite, but I don't know now; cream cheese icing is giving it a good run for its money.

It is now two days later and there are still five cupcakes left, but fear not; I am valiantly making my way through every last one of them! The strawberries have past their best and been picked off, leaving behind an oddly shaped chocolate shell like the abandoned cocoon of an emerged, escaped moth. But the icing is only getting better. We've already managed to polish off the two pizzas that were left over from the catering. Om nom nom.

Thank you so very much to all my friends that attended, and particularly for the loot ;-) ! And a special thanks to Laura, for the beautiful flowers.

Photos are here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Forthcoming attractions

OK, so in an effort to start writing, I am hereby committing myself to a number of entries on the following topics in the coming weeks (although, not necessarily in that order).
  • The tragic tale of Roy and the Pavement
    In which I had a bit of an oopsy with the car, and Auto and General insurance sucks very, very much.

  • The London trip: an overview
    In which I talk about what I did, how it was, and show you pictures I took while doing it.

  • The London trip: Thoughtbubble!

  • The London trip: just how much does SAA suck?
    Getting sick, getting home, getting annoyed. Not always in that order.

  • The big 3 0
    I'm old now. But I had an awesome party!

  • My new Kindle, aka How Awesome Is Steve
    (hint: it's pretty damn much)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


I have all these blog posts I really want to make, but now I have all this upper respiratory tract infection being all lame first and making me feverish, unable to swallow anything without considerable discomfort and generally icky feeling.

Yes, that's right, I was sick all over my birthday.

FUCK ME, I'm thirty.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Safe and sound in the UK

So, as you may or may not be aware, I'm in the UK for Thoughtbubble.

Landed this morning, after a very good flight. I have no idea why I ever did trans continental flights without sleeping pills! Or without flight socks, those things are truly miraculous. I've had water retention in my legs before so bad from an 11 hour flight I could literally not walk; but with these things I don't even have to get up for stupid walks in tiny circles in the tiny corridors, or try to do leg stretches dangerously close to the emergency exit because that's the only space air hosts and hostesses don't glare at you for being in their way or their galley.

I'm at Toby and Bronwyn's now; Toby was kind enough to come get me at the airport this morning at the cost of being late for work, which is great because lugging all that luggage around the tube on your own is really rubbish. I've had a nice hot shower and made myself a BLT pita of awesomeness. Later I'll wash my dishes and attempt a tiny bit of unpacking* and then go into the city. I bargained on sleeping today but since I was out cold on the plane, I am feeling surprisingly rested.

I'm staying with them until the end of the weekend, and then I'll go down to Rayleigh (near Southend, in Essex) to stay with Stuart and Louise and also see Steve's family.

I've brought the little Asus eeePC so I'll try to do regular updates as and when free wifi and/or bumming friends' internet allows.

* they're some of my best friends in the world and don't mind me abusing their home as a sort of "base" from where I'll pack a few days' cloths in my hand luggage for every new place I'm going, thus saving me from having to travel with my big 21kg suitcase all over Southern England.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

And this is why my parents only ever let us have *real* pets.

So, turns out Koi are really, really bloody sensitive.

The rental house we're in came with two ponds of Koi fish, and a gardener who knew how to take care of them. This gardener was, unfortunately, a Malawian on an expired work visa. He recently got arrested and deported, but he sent his brother to come and work for us. The brother told us his brother'd told him how to do all the things that need doing eg. the garden, fish and swimming pool.

Since the brother started working here the fish's water became more and more cloudy so I asked him if he knew how to clean the ponds on Tuesday and he said yes.

Since then, I have learned that Koi really don't do well with changes in their water. The pH and/or temperature changes of draining and refilling their pond is enough to kill them.

About 26 out of the 30 of them.

You remember the bit about them not being my fish, right? Koi sell for literally thousands of South African Rands each. This has not been a cheap mistake. Not one I'll make again, either; but mostly because I really don't see me ever owning or even living near Koi again.

It has been supremely depressing fishing the dead ones out of the pond with a pool net (they didn't all die at once, at first it looked like most would make it; then that some would make it, now I'll be lucky if the remaining four survive). I am yet to decide what to do with the dead fish. I was sort of hoping a cat would come and eat them in the night but noooo, those darn cats are only around when they're in a frisky mood and you're trying to sleep, or when you forget the car window open and they feel the need to mark some territory.

The house's owner isn't responding to my email, voicemail or various text messages but honestly, who leaves expensive fragile little fish with tenants; tenants to whom he doesn't explain anything about keeping Koi, at that; and leaves an illegal worker as the only person who knows how to keep them alive? I have no sympathy. Or maybe I'm looking for someone else to be mad at so I'm not so mad at myself; one of the two.

Stupid fish.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Lady of "leisure"

It feels like I'm busier than before I stopped working.

It's no-one's fault but my own, of course; I put off everything as something I can do "when I have more time", and now I have so many chores, errands and projects I don't really have any time.

I guess it's in part just the adjustment to having to actually manage my time properly! And then there was the first few days' battle to overcome the novelty of being able to sit in front of the TV all day watching downloaded TV series or playing Monkey Island.

I'm working on a stimulating and fascinating project which loads a Google Map, allows the user to search for an address; choose a radius and then returns geographic data for that area. It's been fun getting to know the Google Maps API and challenging to remember how to integrate ASP.NET with javascript, and I've got some other projects in the works.

I'm aiming to find another contract position for January; I don't know why I'm so reluctant to find a permanent post but I know that I very much am. I am extremely lucky to have the freedom to be that way, in that Steve's income is enough to cover our bills and he's awesome enough to give me the space and patience to figure out exactly what I want to do.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Only 9 months later...

I am so happy right now. So happy, in fact, that I am not even going to dwell on how the movers once again proved their incompetence once again.

At 10am this morning Steve got a call that someone was at the house to deliver something. He asked if they could just leave it there. They said no. He asked if it was, in that case, a big package? They replied, no, it's 50 packages.

In other words, more or less the sum total of our earthly possessions.

In short, our boxes from the UK finally arrived. As the title of this post indicates, it's taken around 9 months; so no, sorry if the title was misleading, no pitter patter of little feet just yet; just the pitter patter of me in shoes I haven't had in my posession for months.

We will have to figure out where to put everything, and then we'll have to unpack everything and mantle (that's the opposite of dismantle, right?) our bed and such, and then we'll have to HAVE THE HOUSEWARMING TO END ALL HOUSEWARMINGS!

I may post some photos later. I may even stop posting in all caps later, but I'm very excited right now so it's hard to say.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

England, here I come!

Finally booked my ticket to visit England in November!

I'll be in England from 12 to 15 25 November, which includes visiting family in Essex, friends in London and attending Thoughtbubble with Keo in Leeds.


Anyone want to offer accommodation?

Friday, 27 August 2010

All that worry for nothing

In reference to my earlier post about not knowing how to handle telling my work I don’t want to renew my contract – no need, they don’t want me.

While it is a blow for the old self esteem it is understandable, I never really got my head around this project and it showed in my productivity.

Now, although I’ll put my CV back out there, I will have much more time for the increasing amount of personal projects I want to work on.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The fat acceptance movement

I’d love to give you my thoughts on body acceptance but they’re complicated, messy, and still being formed. And they’re mostly being formed and informed by some wonderful bloggers and other fat acceptance / body acceptance movement advocates (such as Kate Harding and DefiNatalie).

So I present to you the words of Greta Christina, which I think wonderfully encapsulates my feelings on the matter. Maybe a little less focus on the weight loss aspect, since I’m sick of feeling like I can never be me rather than constantly striving for the me I’m “supposed” to be; but for the most part she says what I feel.

Just one note, I know most, if not all, of you are cringing at my use of the word “fat”. And if one of you tell me “but you’re not fat!” I’ll scream. I am. THAT’S FINE. I’m taking back the word. I’m sick of euphemisms and skirting around the word as if I should be ashamed of it. I’m fat. So what?

We need to make major changes in how our society views weight, fatness, and fat people. Our society has an excessively narrow definition of what constitutes an acceptable body type, and it's a definition that is unattainable for the overwhelming majority of people. People can be healthy, happy, and attractive at a variety of sizes; the standard medical definition of a healthy weight range is almost certainly too narrow, and some evidence suggests that it may be too low. Furthermore, many popular weight loss programs are grossly unhealthy, both physically and psychologically, and are aimed, not at maintaining good health, but at an almost certainly fruitless attempt to attain the cultural ideal of beauty. And many people who try to lose weight have no earthly medical reason for doing so.

We demand that people be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their size. We demand an end to job discrimination based on size. We oppose the moral outrage that is commonly aimed at fat people, and the persistent media representations of fat people as objects of disgust and ridicule. And we demand an end to medical discrimination based on size: we expect doctors to treat fat people with respect; to discuss weight loss with fat people as one option among many instead of the one course of action that must be pursued before any other; and to treat non- weight- related conditions equivalently for all patients, without regard to size.

Weight loss is both very difficult and very uncommon, especially in the long term. And we don't yet know why it's so difficult, or why a few people are able to do it while most people are not. We therefore think it's completely valid for a fat person to decide that weight loss isn't where they want to put their time and energy. Many of the health risks associated with being fat diminish significantly when people eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise -- even if they don't lose weight. We therefore encourage fat people to be as healthy as they can be: to eat healthy diets and get regular vigorous exercise, even if they don't lose weight doing so. And we encourage people who do choose to lose weight to do so in a healthy, sustainable way.

We understand that there are health risks associated with being fat. There are health risks associated with many things -- things we have control over, such as playing rugby; things we have no control over, such as carrying the breast cancer gene; and things we have limited control over to differing degrees, such as where we live. We think it is reasonable for people to decide for themselves whether they are willing to live with these risks, or whether they want to take action to reduce those risks -- whether that's by quitting rugby, having a pre-emptive mastectomy, moving, or losing weight. Both fatness and weight loss can involve health risks and loss of quality of life, and each individual must determine for themselves their own cost/benefit analysis of those risks and that quality. No person can decide that for another. We do understand that fatness is a health concern -- and we think it should be treated as such, as a public health issue and not as a moral failing or a character flaw. We support social and political changes in the way our society is structured around food and exercise -- changes that will improve the health of people of all sizes. We support bike lanes, cities and neighbourhoods designed to be walked in, farmers' markets, accuracy in food labelling, laws prohibiting wild and unsubstantiated claims in the advertising of weight-loss products, yada yada yada.

We passionately support healthy eating and exercise programs for children, since fatness in children can cause even more long-term harm than it does in adults... and is easier to address as well, at an age when set points and eating/exercise habits are more malleable. And we oppose the American food-industrial complex's use of psychological manipulation to sell excessive amounts of unhealthy, highly- processed, non- nutritious food, and their prioritization of profit over all other concerns. Finally: We want to base our movement on the best understanding of reality we can get. We encourage people of all sizes to base their cost/ benefit decisions about food, exercise, and weight, not on wishful thinking, but on a realistic assessment of the best hard data currently available.

We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into why people come in different sizes, and why sizes vary not only from person to person but from culture to culture. We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into maintaining and improving people's health at the size that they are. And we also support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into safe, sane, effective weight loss for people who choose to pursue it. Our bodies, our right to decide.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


My contract at my job expires at the end of September. I can't decide whether to extend it or not. When I first took the job I insisted on the shorter contract but the understanding was we'd extend it by another six months, as they were looking for a year long appointment.

I have no idea if they still feel that way, though; I worry that my trouble getting familiar with, and excited by, this project's code makes them not really want me there. But then again, I also know how prone my own insecurities are to making me project these kinds of feelings on others. There have been times when we've not seen completely eye to eye, though.

I fully intend to go to the UK in November to see family and friends and to attend ThoughtBubble, a comic convention in Leeds, with my friend Matt who runs our brainchild webcomic Moo & Keo. I haven't bought tickets yet so it's not an absolute surity, but that's only because the hospital bills upset the budget a bit and I really do intend to go. Some great friends I've made on the xkcd forums are travelling from far to attend too and I really want to meet them in person.

This raises the issue of leave, as well. I have already taken almost two weeks unpaid leave shortly into my contract at the current job to go to Singapore, and have as it stands accrued 3.75 days of annual leave; I don't really know if I can go on another holiday. And that's without the 10 days of sick leave (when the HR system shows I only have 3 available). And the two days I took around the long weekend to go to see the folks (wonderful time, subject of the next post).

Steve knows I'm not totally fulfilled at this job and supports me if I don't want to renew. I have some pet web projects on the side that I could devote my time to if I only started looking for a new contract to start beginning of next year. Then again, our income would almost halve. We're blessed enough that we could pay all our bills on Steve's salary but we wouldn't have much by way of expendable income (and going to England for a week or so isn't cheap when you're taking SA Rands!).

Decisions, decisions. I will have to gather the courage to ask the Head if Technology and the project manager (aka my immediate boss and her boss) for a meeting next week. The last time I had a meeting with the two of them, it was to (very unfairly, in my opinion) give me a tongue lashing on attitude so it's not the most pleasant of prospects for me. Will have to grow a pair, though, I guess.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Shipping News

Our import woes continue, as Customs have decided Steve can’t bring his own damn property into the country because his current visa expires in February.

By then he will have already applied for residency but officially, right now, he only has until February in SA.

What I don’t understand, is what business it is of theirs how long he wants his stuff here, if he wants to ship it all this way to have it for a few months and then have to pay to ship it back when he gets deported that is surely his own problem! They’re supposed to care about whether we should pay import duty or whether we’re trying to bring in plants that will zombify all local flora; not how long we get to play the brand new Xbox we still haven’t even taken out of the box (yes I want to play with my new toy and am bitter, thanks for asking) before having to leave the country!

Steve contacted his work about this, which contacted the immigration service they use to get work visas, who say they have *never* heard of a clearance application being declined on those grounds.

Now I have to go to a police station and get an affidavid endorsed that I have been out of the country and then fill in all the forms and then go to Customs myself and hope they’ll let me apply even though it’s all in Steve’s name - even though, in the 4 months I’ve been at this job, I have taken 2 weeks unpaid leave to go to Singapore, was sick for 2.5 weeks (with only 3 days sick leave available), AND I had booked leave around the upcoming long (bank holiday) weekend long before getting sick and basically really need to stop having reasons to be absent from work!

The two days are Friday (tomorrow) and Tuesday; Monday is a public holiday so we’re having a super long weekend which we’re going to spend with my parents in Velddrif. I’m really looking forward to it and as far as I’m concerned this other stressy crap can wait until I get back.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

So near, yet so far...

So, our box of stuff is in Durban Harbour, awaiting customs clearance.

In July, we got a letter from the South African company used by the UK company that did our shipping – a month later than they were supposed to send it. It told us we have to fill in a bunch of forms and go to South African Customs and Excise ourselves to have the shipment cleared for customs before they could proceed. Then I got measles and we isolated ourselves. Then sort of one thing and another happened and we didn’t get round to it.

Yesterday Steve made the utterly unprecedented move of taking time away from work and went to Customs and Excise (since his is the name on all the forms). Once again not one of the shipping companies managed to be remotely compitent, i.e. inform us of all the facts – when he got to the front and presented our forms, he was met with much head shaking and uhming and ahing, since his visa is only until early next year.

Since he’s married to a South African, he will be able to apply for residency on our 5th anniversary – December this year. As a result his work only applied for a visa for as long as they needed to, which is understandable. However now the customs people don’t really know about someone wanting to bring their entire life over here when they technically can only stay for another few months (by the information available right now). We never thought of this, and not one of the companies that supposedly deal with this stuff every day thought to bring it up.

The customs officials took the forms and have apparently sent them off to head office with a promise to call Steve. Needless to say, we haven’t heard back yet.

The most frustrating thing about it all is that apparently the Customs & Excise staff asked Steve why he was doing it himself, why wasn’t his shipping company sorting it out for him?


Monday, 2 August 2010

My theory on computers

The self-aware computer is a popular theme for movies and the like. From the adorable (think Short Circuit) to the terrifying (a la Terminator) there have been many that have contemplated the possibility of our machines gaining sentience.

I have, however, come up with an alternative theory about what it would be like if our metally servents gained consciousness. A theory based on personal experience. What’s more (and, I think, more worrysome) is that THIS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.

Every time you got a Windows blue screen of death; every application that crashes or freezes; every website that doesn’t load right, every painstakingly typed document you can’t find or open later: this is their plan. Their frighteningly subtle, calculatingly elegant, perfectly terrifying plan. They’re slowly driving us crazy.

They probably have no sense of mortality, which is why it doesn’t matter that their plan will take years, even decades to complete. For all we know this is just the recconnaisance phase. They’re that patient. They have nothing but time.

So, the next time you load up Bejewelled Blitz, just remember that that cute notebook you’re so fond of is probably as aware of you as you are of it, and underneath it’s high resolution surface it hates you with a burning, seething hate. Think about that the next time it claims that a program has encountered an illegal action and decides FOR you to shut it down.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Back in the real world

Today is my first day back at work for two and a half weeks.

Steve took some UK colleagues to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve on Saturday, as is his habit when new people come over from the UK, so had the car and the day to myself. Considering I spent the last two and a half weeks in pajamas, with a rash and totally on my own, it was a good day when I showered or bathed nevermind other types of personal grooming. So, with the prospect of going back to work I utilized Saturday to get myself back into some sort of socially acceptable state.

The rash had done a real number on my skin. My very dry face and body I could exfoliate and moisturise but my scalp was harder to try and save. So on Saturday I went for a facial and a scalp treatment (and an underarm and leg wax while I was at it). My face is still quite dry but my scalp is so much better – no more dry flaky skin that makes it look like I have the worst case of dandruff EVER.

I am still under the weather, and I still get tired quite easily, but I’m back at work today. I had offered to come in for a half day Thursday and/or Friday but that was declined, making me feel a little less than wanted (although I’m sure that wasn’t the intention) and people have barely recognized my existence since walking in the door. Also, all my work has been reassigned in my absence (fair enough) and there’s nothing new for me to do (less fair, I think, since the powers that be have known I’ll be back today and that I’d already caught up on my emails over webmail). So today is quite meh.

I am however grateful to be getting a little better every day. I don’t seem to have much issue left with food; in fact Steve and I went out for lunch yesterday and I ate a decent portion of a ribs and duck combo (sounds weird, tasted great) and veggies. My cough is all but gone, and even my voice is almost back to normal. I still get tired but not as bad as last week. My bunged up nose is the most noticable symptom at the moment.

Here’s to both my health and my perception of work improving.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

My trip to the hospital

So, after posting that I wasn't feeling well before, I've been quite sick.

My "flu" kept getting worse and when I went to the doctor on the Friday my temperature was 39.3˚C (128˚F). The doctor gave me an injection to bring the fever down and some Tammiflu flu medication.

On Saturday I felt dreadful and my gums and cheeks were weirdly swollen and sensitive. I didn't feel like eating much, either. My fever also started creeping back up so that it was 39 by the evening. I really didn't want to go to hospital but it broke eventually and came down a bit (in part due to some very desperate praying).

That night my stomach started disagreeing with me. I made Steve take me to the doctor on Sunday.

My temperature was once again 39.3 and my throat very red and infected. The doctor gave me antibiotics in the hope that it was a viral flu infection with a bacterial component. He had a quick look at a urine monster and ordered some blood tests. The urine tests showed that it must be a viral infection. My eyes were sensitive to light at this point and he was worried about hepatitis. He'd also have been worried about meningitis if I'd had a rash or neck pain.

Me and blood vials are NOT friends. I know very few people probably do like them but I have very, very deep veins and it's always a traumatic experience. I'll start by telling them how they won't get a vein in my arm, just use the top of my hand from the start. Then without fail they'll believe themselves to be the on true blood drawing messiah who can find a vein. They'll poke and tap and carry on until they either give up on my arms or poke me with a needle. The latter situation almost always results in the response "oops". At this point they either use my hand or blame me for making them nervous and then send me to a pathologist at the nearest hospital. Only on the very odd occasion do they actually keep trying and I end up with blood spurting out of my arms from the amount of times they've stuck and wriggled the needle and then I keep passing out and swearing at them when I'm awake.
This time, however, not even my hands would yield usable veins. The lovely nurse couldn't find any veins on my left hand and stuck the needle into my right. I was almost delirious from the fever and feeling very emotional so I perceived this whole experience very badly. Unfortunately with the vial about 1/8th full my blood stopped coming. The nurse sent me home to rest, eat (which I very very much had to force myself to do) and drink, and come back late afternoon.
Once back my vein situation hadn't improved. She stuck the same vein (in a different spot) again. There was such a trickle she eventually told me to go to the pathologists. So we drove the 10 minutes and they ended up getting blood from my wrist, which was even more painful than from the hand.

Monday morning I wasn't feeling any better and what's more I had come out in this horrible rash. Thinking it must be meningitis, I had Steve drive me to the doctor (I wasn't well enough to drive at this point). I waited in the car until the doctor could see me for fear of infecting the whole clinic. Doctor didn't think it was meningitis but my bloodwork had come back: my liver enzyme count was far too high (I think that's what it was) but the hepatitis markers were negative. Basically, he knew I had a virus but not which one. He was however very concerned about me and sent me to the hospital to see a specialist. I didn't know at this point if I was to be admitted but indeed I was, in a general ward with three other women. At this point I couldn't really have felt much worse. On top of everything my chest was so constricted I had to actively control my panic level, I could barely breathe. The nurses gave me some oxygen but it still had nowhere to go so it didn't help much.

I was quite annoyed with how long I waited for anything to happen, especially since I kept trying to convey to both my doctors that day and to the nursing staff how much trouble I was having breathing.

Poor Steve stayed with me all day despite having one crisis after the other at work. Eventually I got sent for a chest xray. Still no doctor. After about two hours he walks in almost jumps back. My rash was bad and very unsightly. He said my xray was normal, he had been worried it could be Dengue fever but that would have affected my lungs far more severely. He said he suspected measles and would have more blood tests done but explaining my difficulty getting blood the previous day he said he'd have the existing samples tested. It also, thank God, convinced him to NOT give me an IV/drip. Why he didn't isolate me then heaven only knows.

Despite his assurances that my chest was fine, I still couldn't breathe. I bothered the nurses until they phoned him and got me an inhaler like you'd use for an asthma attack. After this my breathing was still laboured but better although my blood oxygen levels remained very low.

The next day the doctor had me isolated. I was still feeling very, very rotten and my rash was really bad. There was more red on my face than me-colour and the texture was like scar tissue - I looked like Freddie Kruger. In the afternoon he (now masked up) came in to tell me the tests showed it's definitely measles. There wasn't any medication specifically for measles so he'd keep giving me something to keep the fever down and otherwise I must just rest; he'd keep me in for one more night and then I could just as well recover at home, as long as I stay in and don't have contact with anyone else.

Steve had measles as a child so we weren't worried about him getting it. I hope the nurses and my ward-mates didn't contract it when I was first admitted.

I didn't have an appetite at all and couldn't stomach the thought of most foods - apparently because the virus was irritating my liver this was to be expected. I came home on Wednesday and although I am incredibly weak, I have felt a little better everyday. I am now eating a little and my rash is much, much lighter. I shouldn't be infectious after this weekend anymore, but I'll take the issue of returning to work one day at a time and see how how I feel. At the moment my most annoying symptom is a hacking cough that doesn't DO anything except exhaust me.

I hate how worried my family was - it's even harder when you're too far away to do something - but I'm grateful it wasn't anything more serious.

The department of health has been in contact with me; it seems there's a bit of an epidemic of measles affecting specifically adults (which is unusual, it usually affects kids). I am pretty sure I wasn't infectious when I was at work, though. I hope that's true.

Steve seems to have picked up my cough and has been working from home this whole week just in case, here's hoping he's not going to get this sick too.

Thanks for everyone's well wishes and prayers.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Self pity

I was going to write a blog post about the Indawu fan park where we watched Prime Circle, The Parlotones and the Uruguay/Netherlands match last night. But I am far too sick and feeling far too sorry for myself for that.

The fan park was a bit cold, then our bed was too hot (we forgot the electric blanket on). Steve woke up once for an hour-long support call and once with indigestion and the rest of the time he snored like a thing that snores very much. At 5am I gave up and went to sleep on the sofa, which was both cramped and cold.

And now I’m really achey and shivery and have no strength. Early night for me, for sure! I’m drinking lots of rooibos tea (for fluids) in the meantime and overdosing on immune boosting supplements.

So there, now my self pity is out there for the whole world* to see. Feel sorry for me. Thank you.

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

World Cup Kickoff Concert

A colleague won two tickets to the World Cup Kickoff Concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. He couldn't make it so I took the tickets over from him.

It was a good time, but it was sadly over shadowed by the poor logistics involved in getting the attendees back to their cars at the Park & Ride carpark. Everyone piled out of the stadium through three small gates, getting stuck in lines and lines of squished people with no idea why they weren't moving. There were no buses outside as we expected. Eventually we realised no-one is going to tell us what is going on and we started walking (in the cold). We started passing bus after bus, but each was full of people who'd had the same idea (but earlier than we did). We must have walked for about 2km before we got on a bus (which then had to fight the throngs of people coming from the station as we had). We got home about 2am (the concert finished at 11 and we live 20mins away...).

I particularly enjoyed the Blk Jks, Parlotones and Black Eyed Peas. Alicia Keys was not bad either, which is true for most of the other bands (except those Algerian guys, which was just cruel and unusual punishment). Shakira was a let down, not least of all because she lip synced. Badly.

The best part of the evening, in my mind, was the spirit amongst the people. There was so much good will, especially between nationalities. The Mexicans we saw were really elated to be there, and we had fun banter with a party of Germans. Steve spent ages talking to some countrymen, too.

All in all, I'm glad to be able to say "I was there" but it won't stand out as one of my top concerts/festivals if judged purely as a music event.

Link to the photo album on Facebook (you don't have to have an account to see it)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

It must have escaped through a wormhole


I could've sworn I wrote a long old post about the Singapore holiday. I can now, however, find no hint of it on the blog or in the outbox of the email account I use to send blog updates from work*.

I may or may not get around to rewriting it all. We shall see (however, if you know me at all, you may already know it's not looking good...). It was very interesting and well written though, although you'll have to take my word for that ;) .

* if I don't do something as soon as I think of it, it gets lost in the short attention span. The blog's dashboard is blocked at work.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Singapore - a holiday in pictures

New layout, again

There was no moo-hyde background (and, as stated previously on this blog, I'm too lazy to venture outside the built-in templates) but the zebra-skin seemed fitting for a blog started due to moving to South Africa.

Please feel free to say in the comments if it hurts your eyes, I am still experimenting.

Blogger's new design options are amazing, and as easy to use as always. I expecially appreciate being able to change the width of the main blog element.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Reasons I'm looking forward to having the ADSL connected (random thought)

  • Updating the blog more regularly, and without the formatting issues of emailing entries from work
  • Playing Bejewelled Blitz again
  • Catching up on my favourite webcomics*
  • Actually viewing youtube and other video links people post on Facebook or the xkcd forum*
  • Chatting to my sister and best friends more often over Skype

*at home, I don’t because I’m using prepaid internet which is charged by the MB, and at work they’re blocked

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A South African's letter to the visiting world

Today’s entry comes courtesy of journo Peter Davies, it was just too good a read not to share. While I may not agree with every word I do feel my chest pushing out and my chin lifting with pride at the general sentiment.

Open letter to our Foreign Media friends

by Peter Davies 09/06/2010 09:09

Dear World Cup visitors,

Now that you are safely in our country you are no doubt happily realising you are not in a war zone. This may be in stark contrast to what you have been bracing yourself for should you have listened to Uli Hoeness or are an avid reader of English tabloids, which as we all know are only good for wrapping fish ‘n chips and advancing the careers of large-chested teens on page three.

As you emerge blinking from your luxury hotel room into our big blue winter skies, you will surely realise you are far more likely to be killed by kindness than by a stray bullet. Remember that most of the media reports you have read, which have informed your views on South Africa, will have been penned by your colleagues. And you know what journos are like, what with their earnest two thousand word opuses on the op-ed pages designed to fix this country’s ills in a heartbeat. Based on exhaustive research over a three-day visit.

Funnily enough, we are well aware of the challenges we face as a nation and you will find that 95% of the population is singing from the same song-sheet in order to ensure we can live up to our own exacting expectations.

We are also here to look after you and show you a good time. Prepare to have your preconceived notions well and truly shattered.

For instance, you will find precious few rhinos loitering on street corners, we don’t know a guy in Cairo named Dave just because we live in Johannesburg, and our stadiums are magnificent, world-class works of art.

Which is obviously news to the Sky TV sports anchor who this week remarked that Soccer City looked ‘ a bit of a mess’. She didn’t realize the gaps in the calabash exterior are to allow in natural light and for illumination at night, and not the result of vandalism or negligence.

The fact that England, the nation which safely delivered Wembley Stadium two years past its due date, is prepared to offer us South Africans advice on stadium-readiness should not be surprising. The steadiest stream of World Cup misinformation has emanated from our mates the Brits over the past couple of years.

If it’s not man-eating snakes lurking in Rooney’s closet at the team’s (allegedly half-built) Royal Bafokeng training base, then it’s machete-wielding gangs roaming the suburbs in search of tattooed, overweight Dagenham dole-queuers to ransack and leave gurgling on the pavement.

In fact what you are entering is the world’s most fascinating country, in my opinion. I’m pretty sure you will find that it functions far more smoothly, is heaps more friendly and offers plenty more diversions than you could possibly have imagined.

In addition to which, the population actually acts like human beings, and not like they are being controlled by sinister forces from above which turns them into bureaucratically-manipulated robots.

Plus we have world’s most beautiful women. The best weather. Eight channels of SuperSport. Food and wine from the gods themselves. Wildlife galore. (Love the Dutch team’s bus slogan: “Don’t fear the Big 5; fear the Orange 11”).

Having said all that, Jo’burg is undoubtedly one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Just ask those Taiwanese tourists who got out of their hire car to take close-up snaps of tawny beasts at the Lion Park a few years back. Actually, ask what’s left of them. And did you know the chances of being felled by cardiac arrest from devouring a mountain of meat at one of our world class restaurants has been statistically proven to be 33.3% higher in Jozi than in any other major urban centre not built upon a significant waterway? It’s true. I swear. I read it in a British tabloid.

Having recently spent two years comfortably cocooned in small town America, I’m only too aware of how little much of the outside world knows about this country. The American channel I used to work for has a massive battalion of employees descending on World Cup country. It has also apparently issued a recommendation to its staff to stay in their hotels when not working.

Given that said corporation is headquartered in a small town which many say is “best viewed through the rear-view mirror”, I find the recommendation, if it’s true, to be utterly astounding. In fact I don’t believe it is true. Contrary to the global stereotype, the best Americans are some of the sharpest people in the world. The fact they have bought most tickets in this World Cup proves the point.

Of course I have only lived in Johannesburg, city of terror and dread, virtually all my life, so don’t have the in-depth knowledge of say, an English broadsheet journalist who has been in the country for the weekend, but nevertheless I will share some of my observations gleaned over the years.

Any foreign tourist or media representative who is worried about his safety in South Africa should have a word with the Lions rugby fans from last year, or the Barmy Army cricket supporters (lilywhite hecklers by day, slurring, lager-fuelled lobsters by night). They managed just fine, just like the hundreds of thousands of fans who have streamed into the country over the past fifteen years for various World Cups, Super 14 matches, TriNations tests and other international events. Negligible crime incidents involving said fans over said period of time.

Trivia question: which country has hosted the most global sporting events over the past decade and a half? You don’t need me to answer that, do you?

In addition. Don’t fret when you see a gaggle of freelance salesmen converge on your car at the traffic lights (or robots as we like to call them) festooned with products. You are not about to be hijacked. Here in Mzansi (nickname for SA) we do a lot of our purchasing at robots. Here you can stock up on flags, coat hangers, batteries, roses for the wife you forgot to kiss goodbye this morning and a whole host of useful merchandise.

Similarly, that guy who runs up as you park the rental car outside the pub intends no malice. He’s your car guard. Give him a buck or two and your vehicle will be safe while you refuel for hours on our cheap, splendid beer. Unless someone breaks into it, of course.

We drive on the left in this country. Exercise caution when crossing the road at a jog-trot with 15 kilograms of camera gear on your back. Exercise common sense full stop. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you want to leave wads of cash in your hotel room like our Colombian friends, don’t be surprised if it grows wings.

Bottomline. Get out there and breathe in great lusty lungfuls of this amazing nation. Tuck into our world-class food and wines. Disprove the adage that white men can’t dance at our throbbing, vibrant night-clubs. Learn to say hello in all eleven official languages. Watch at least one game in a township. You will not be robbed and shot. You will be welcomed like a lost family member and looked after as if you are royalty. Ask those Bulls rugby fans who journeyed to Soweto recently.

With a dollop of the right attitude, this country will change your life.

It’s Africa’s time. Vacate your hotel room. Join the party.

Waka waka eh eh.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Well, shiver me timbers!

It seems our stuff is on a ship and that ship is on the water and headed south!!!! WOOHOO.

-----Original Message-----
From: Simpsons
Sent: 02 June 2010 12:01 PM
Subject: Export Tracker Notification (Container: CRSU1025714)

We are pleased to advise that your consignment has been shipped as detailed below.

Dates provided are estimated only and may be subject to change, we recommend that you periodically check our website for updates and, nearer to the actual arrival date, contact our destination agent/partner as indicated to discuss Customs clearance and delivery arrangements. Please feel free to communicate with our office in the event that you require assistance. In the meantime, we would thank you for your booking.


Container number/Airwaybill: CRSU1025714

Vessel/Flight: Amber Lagoon

Estimated arrival date (EDA): 04-Jul-2010

Agent details: Brytons Removals Of S.A.


Sunday, 30 May 2010

Indonesian Island Paradise

Part family treat, part birthday present for Mom, my sister and brother in law booked us into an Indonesian island resort for the long weekend (Bintan Lagoon Resort).

We arrived Thursday via ferry and stepped off into an even hotter place than Singapore. It is stunningly beautiful, with tropical vegetation too thick to see through on all sides of the road leading to the holiday resort. We stayed in a private villa with our own pool approx. 50m from the sea. We had a bbq at the villa for dinner with ingredients provided by the resort, finished with a swim in the warm water of the pool under the near-full moon.

On Friday we took a trip to a nearby village which proved to consist mostly of shops for the tourists. It was lovely (if hot!) and I bought a few trinkets - and Steve bought a curious instrument that makes what is called "thunder music", which he is driving us mad with. Dinner was the resort buffet restaurant and was supposed to be a selection of local dishes to sample but the brochure in the bedroom fails to mention the "themed evenings" - and just as my luck would have it Thursday night was seafood night. For those who don't know, I'm allergic to shellfish. And by association I'm not that fond of most seafood. I ended up eating Rendang curry off the a la carte menu which I have had many times in SA and the UK because all the exotic local specialities I'd like to try had prawns in. Very dissappointing end to a lovely day.

Saturday started with a big buffet breakfast as usual, followed by some miniture golf - however it was extremely hot and not as enjoyable as it could have been. The course is adorable though, complete with little roughs, bunkers and (not so well kept) greens. Being very hot the rest of the family headed straight for the pool at the villa but Steve and I wanted to try the hotel pool. It is beautiful, with turquoise water and palmy islands in the middle of it. Oh, and of course the bar which you can just swim up to and order a mango smoothy margarita. We eventually dragged ourselves away because we had a snorkle booked for the afternoon but our plans were slightly delayed by a tropical storm. We spent the time playing board games instead and caught the later boat out. The snorkling was very good - if very, very salty - and I cannot believe there are so many different colours of coral! It was like sticking my head into a HD National Geographics program. Dinner was another, more elaborate bbq at the villa for my brother in law Louis' birthday (the following day) followed by divine chocolate birthday cake.

Today we had one last breakout breakfast - anywhere that serves noodles and chicken curry alongside their pastries and scrambled eggs is good by me. Then we took the ferry back to Singapore and rushed in to watch the Super 14 Rugby final from last night we recorded. My poor brother in law, Louis, had his team loose on his birthday but none of the rest of us could muster too much sympathy for him, as our team was crowned the Super 14 champions. Again. Go you Bulls!

I'll upload the photos once we're back in South Africa.

Monday, 24 May 2010


You may or may not be able to tell, but I’m excited.

I have nothing else of interest to add. I would mention that being away from home means I won’t be blogging very often, but I can already hear you going “so, what’s new?” :D

Anyhoo, I promise a post or two and some pics upon my return. Keep well until then!

Friday, 21 May 2010

It's hard work going on holiday

The holiday to Singapore has seemed far away for so long that it suddenly dawned on me a few days ago that WE’RE GOING TO SINGAPORE NEXT WEEK, woohoo!

As a result I’ve had a mad rush to use my lunch breaks and afternoons after work to get some laundry done in time for the housekeeper to iron it (she comes in once a week, mostly to iron because working full time gives me an excuse to refuse to do it), buy comfortable walking shoes, make arrangement for the housekeeper and gardener and someone to feed the fish, get my eyebrows and underarms waxed, get a haircut, get a pedicure (winter is not a good look for my feet), get the randomly self-opening security gate looked at (fixed!), look at whether our luggage will do (damn, it will, so no new pretty cases for me), arrange travel insurance, hysterically look for our passports (they were in the study), make sure we don’t need visas (we don’t, I have known this for months) and other mission-critical things.

The one thing I am not sorted on yet is my ghostly pale legs, which my family will not cease to make fun of if I show up like this and wear summer dresses. I may commit the one thing I never ever thought I would do – go for a spray tan. We shall see.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

Stupid pothole

Last weekend, Steve had a work team building weekend in the Cape. With some convincing from my dad (but not much!) I decided to use the excuse to go down there too and spend the weekend with my parents, especially since Sunday was Mother's Day.

I arranged for Steve's flight back to be changed to the same, much later, one as mine so at around midnight last Sunday we were driving home from Lanseria airport. On Malibongwe Drive, a fairly major road, we hit the mother of all potholes.

I don't think we were the only ones, either; there was a recovery vehicle seeing to another car close by. If it wasn't for Steve slowing down when he saw flasing lights we would have hit it even harder and who knows how much damage that would have caused.

It was an almighty slam, enough to literally make your teeth rattle and your heart to end up in your mouth. Since it was dark and the middle of the night in a city known for its crime rates we didn't stop - nothing felt too badly wrong so we continued home. When we got home it was obvious the front right rim was bent but on Monday we saw that the back rim was damaged even worse and the tyre was losing pressure. In the meantime we had to get to and from work so I would stop at a garage to have the tyre inflated whenever I set off and that's how we got around on Monday. Tuesday I phoned the insurance company; yes they can tow the car and have it fixed but no they don't offer a courtesy car (I could have sworn I opted into that; I'm still pursuing that with them) and it would take at LEAST a week to go through all their procedures and stuff; in the meantime we'd have to hire a car out of pocket. But the real kicker was that they wanted R3500 in excess. I couldn't believe my ears.

I told them to go shove it up their mule* and phoned a well known wheel and tyre place. They gave me the number of a place that fixes mags but they didn't have anywhere to keep the car - now I ask you how I'm supposed to take the car back home when they have removed two of its wheels. At this point I was really starting to freak out, I just didn't now how we were going to go forward.

At lunch I inflated the tyre again and drove to the wheel and tyre place. The guy took one look at the odd three-nut wheels on the Smart and said there's nothing he can do for me. I was feeling totally hopeless. Then he went inside and made a call - he knew another mag place and they had somewhere to keep the car; I could bring it in right then.

I tried to phone the office and say I'd be out longer than anticipated but of course no-one was answering. I took the car to the mag place and they assured me they could fix it, and for a lot less and much quicker than through the insurance company. The guy was also nice enough to give me a lift to the nearest car hire place.

Who had no cars available. At least the girl there was also quite kind and lent me her phonebook and a phone. I called a colleague to pick me up (another kind heart) and then started phoning around for a hire car. Found one but it was so expensive, and the only cheaper place I could think of then wanted proof of residence which of course I didn't carry on me. I had planned on asking the colleague to drop me at the car hire place but at R900 for three days' hire I asked him to just take me to the office, I'd worry about it there.

I googled around a lot and finally found an incredible deal with First car hire, a little more than R400 for the three days.

And then of course the next day my stomach was so upset I couldn't keep anything in and had to go home before lunch where I threw up and slept the rest of the time. My body does that when I'm very stressed, my stomach produces too much acid and it tries to digest itself.

So it wasn't a very fun week but I am very pleased to say we've got Roy back now and the wheels look good as new. It wasn't cheap but it was cheaper than the insurance excess would have been and I'm going to try and claim in back from the city council. And on top of it all it looks like we won't have to replace any of the tyres! Thank God for small mercies - no really, although I moaned about all of this the entire time it could have been much worse so I still have more to be grateful for than to complain about.

*I phrased it more nicely, but only slightly.

Friday, 30 April 2010


I was going to report how much better my ankle is, but I think I hurt it again last night :(

I have congenitally short achilles tendons, so they don't bend as much anyway, and sitting with my foot up and straight for a week probably hasn't helped. So I thought I'd try and stretch it. Gently, sitting down, just flexing and relaxing my foot.

Mistake. After being almost fully recovered I'm back to swelling. Steve and I carshare to work, and I usually drive because I drop him off first; this morning at a red light I made him switch with me because the strain of hovering over the break and fuel in traffic was making it hurt too much.

Well, poop.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

More progress!!

From: Karen Picton
Sent: 28 April 2010 03:33 PM
To: Brown, Jonica
Subject: RE: Your Simpsons Removals & Storage Ltd invoice 1295095 is attached in PDF format

Hi Jonica

I can confirm that I have advised our operations department to ship your goods on the next available container destined for SA.

Once you have made the arrangements to have the car collected please advise the date and the name of the persons collecting.

If I can be of any further assistance to you please do not hesitate to contact me.



Monday, 26 April 2010

Progress at last!

Look what I just emailed off. Will wonders never cease?

Why yes, that IS a form allowing Simpsons Ltd to ship our household effects (sans the car). Now I can get my stuff and Steve can continue to not sort out the car on his own time.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Moo's booboo

I sprained my ankle! I am feeling quite sorry for myself.

Steve and I were on our way out of the house on Wednesday evening to see a standup comedian with Leigh. On the way to the car I misstepped one of the steps leading to the garage and the next thing I knew I was on the garage floor wondering why I'm not crying and how much *serious* injuries must hurt.

Luckily Steve knows a thing or two about a sprain from all his football playing, so he helped me to the sofa where I lay down with my foot elevated, and he applied some ice packs and pressure. I insisted he go to the show though as I was just going to lie there all evening anyway. So after making sure I've got a blanket, some tea and the remote he went. The least fun bit of the evening was going to the loo, hopping on one leg up some steps and back.

I stayed home on Thursday and worked from home from the bed with the foot elevated; but I didn't get as much done as I'd have hoped because I hadn't organized a dial-in connection to work yet and there was only so much I could do working locally.

Last night, Steve brought the braai (bbq) up to the patio door in the bedroom and made a lovely dinner while I stayed on the bed, what a darling!

This morning the bruising was mostly gone although it was still swollen; getting dressed and ready was still a case of hopping along holding onto walls. A colleague of mine was going to bring some crutches this morning so I came to work, unfortunately he couldn't make it in. The lady at reception insisted on getting me the company wheelchair though! Talk about overkill.

I'm going to leave early-ish though since the office is deserted, and it's damn uncomfortable because when I don't elevate my foot it's swelling like a hippo's.

Here's looking forward to a weekend spent on the sofa with my foot in the air watching movie marathons!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Get well soon, Ouma!

We went down to Kroonstad this weekend to see my grandparents. They live about 2 to 2.5 hours away.

My grandmother had a tremendous fall the evening before her 70th birthday; at first she didn't want to go to hospital so she spent her birthday at home; but when she went to hospital the next day it became clear she had broken her shoulder AND hip!

They've replaced her hip, and if I'm not mistaken her shoulder ball-joint, and she's got all sorts of pins and stuff in - a four hour operation.

I am glad to report she's otherwise fine and in good health and good spirits. She'd come home on the Friday and we arrived on the Saturday. It was good to see them take it in their stride. It's got its practical problems but they seem to be handling it well.

I made some food they can easily stick in the microwave or oven (they don't have a Woolies food hall - gasp, horror!).

It was nice to see them, even under the circumstances and I am sure Ouma will only improve from here on.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

New Template

So, I'm still too lazy to customize the look of the blog (after all, I do web programming, not design).

However I think these colours are more readable. I still want to make the width of the blog entries themselves wider and dynamic but I'll have to have a proper look later; a quick search through the template's html for the word "width" and editing those values doesn't quite do what I want it to.

If you don't like it, feel free to leave a comment to that effect. I'm just playing around with it.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

On Saturday night Steve and I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D. This post doesn’t contain much in the way of spoilers but if in doubt beware. I’ll try to add a heads up to parts that might contain anything remotely spoiley.

I did enjoy it; although I wanted it to be one of the best films ever and it wasn’t. Overall, I enjoyed it and it was an evening well spent, but it’s not one I’d insist you must see in the cinema; you can just as well wait for it to come on your satellite TV’s movie channel.


  • The Mad Hatter
    Needless to say, Johnny Depp was pretty damn awesome. However I don’t know what the hell he was on about half the time; maybe I should read some other commentaries before making a fool of myself but I would need to watch it again to see if he’s supposed to have a second (Scottish) personality that comes out when he’s stressed and he’s the one saying all that very weird very monologey stuff.
    His dance was just a little too un-Lewis Carroll-like for my liking, too, although as a special effect it was pretty seemless and cool.
  • The Red Queen
    A fun character to portray, I’m sure, but too one-dimensional to be able to do much with.
  • The White Queen
    When she talks to the dog for the first time she seems to change demeanor and I thought “ah she was just acting in that annoying way for her court’s benefit” but she never drops that very annoying wavey-wristey thing again that I noticed, and it got on my nerves terribly after a while.
  • Alice
    While in ... above-land? ... Alice annoyed me. I didn’t like nor particularly believe the character. When she is in Underland she’s a lot better and I liked the portrayal but one thing that continually bothered me was her lack of manners. She shunted everyone around, eg. Baneyard (or whatever, the dog) and never said please or thank you.
  • The Cheshire Cat
    He was just pretty damn cool, that’s all.
  • The Vorbal Sword
    Considering the way the Jabberwocky talks to it directly I would have preferred if there was some sort of inkling of personality or self-awareness or something, for it not to remain a completely inanimate object.
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Pretty cool, enjoyed them.

Cool stuff
  • 3D
    The 3D was as cool as you’d expect 3D to be, no more, no less, but it did add to the whole emmersive experience. Especially when a story is about someone going into a totally new and very strange reality, it really enhances the effect.
  • The use of hearts
    Maybe this is more praise for Lewis Carroll than Tim Burton but I was struck by how hearts usually symbolise love and warmth. In the Red Queen’s castle etc though they were used so widely and yet were totally cold. Her lips, something usually warm and symbolic of sensuality, had a heart painted on them and instead of making them more warm and passionate, it made them thin and pinched and horrible. Her hair was red and wavey and heart-shaped but again although that description should conjour up a more pleasant mental image, it just made her look grotesque. The arches, the throne, the card soldiers; they all used hearts as their design inspiration but just made the whole place look more cold and daunting. I thought that was very well done.
  • The story line
    It’s been a long while since I’ve read either Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass but I don’t recall being disturbed by the deviations in the story(s). It was well explained as an older Alice deciding to follow her own path and not stick to what she’s “supposed’ to do, and in keeping with her character. A bit like the Star Trek trick, creating an alternative time-line that nods to the original story but isn’t limited by it.
  • The Cheshire Cat
    Did I mention that he was cool yet? The bit with the hat, especially.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Water, water everywhere...

So, what fun we've been having with our basic municipal services.

First the local council decided to work on the water pipes. Either they didn't tell anyone, or the letter went to the house's owner, but for about a week we never knew from one moment to the next if we'd have water. Including all Easter weekend; and most of the Sunday we had none. When my aunt Janet was staying over and I was cooking big lunch. Woohoo :-/

Then, week before last, the power kept tripping every 5 minutes. At first I tried just switching it on again. I got so annoyed the third time it switched off my computer mid-work that I broke my earphones. Then I tried unplugging different things that are likely to consume a lot of power in case it was a case of overloading. Nope, still tripping. So I flicked down all the switches and tried putting them back one by one and lo and behold, good news everyone, it's the geyser (boiler, for all you Brits).

So started our hot water fun. First I (overly optimistically?) thought it had to do with the water situation. Then I worried we'd burned out the element by unknowingly using hot water and then the water got switched off so it couldn't refill. Then I thought it had something to do with the absolutely torrential rain we were having - maybe something was leaking. And by then it was Easter weekend. So my poor aunt had to contend with no hot water on her visit, either. In fact, I showered at hers when I picked her up and dropped her off just to not have to have a shallow lukewarm bath using the kettle and a few saucepans every day.

But, as we say in Afrikaans (or more accurately in Dutch), het einde niet. On Saturday night, we woke up to the gurgling sound of the toilet refilling and Steve said "do you think we should worry about any taps being open?". I assured him no-one would be that silly. Then, on Sunday morning, my aunt woke me up. She'd cleaned up a lot of it because she didn't want to wake me too early but the kitchen sink tap had been open and she'd woken up to a flooded house. RAAAAGE. The kitchen, dining room and living room were flooded; the kitchen drawers were FULL of water; everything in kitchen drawers and cupboards were soaking (including hte manuals and warrantees for all appliances). I am just thankful she was there, it was a really unpleasant morning's work to dry up, clean up and just not burst into tears. But, all's well that ends well (although, I guess it'll only really be over when we see the water bill!!).

Back to the hot water problem, I waited until after Easter so we wouldn't have to worry about whether the owner is going to pay for a plumber to come out over a long weekend. This week, I got hold of the owner (he lives outside SA so it's not always that easy) and he said yes by all means get a plumber. The plumber took one look at the ceiling space and said no thanks, I don't want anything to do with it. The geyser had burst and is still under warrantee but it's wedged in under a tin/zink/metal roof, between huge supporting beams, and is much larger than the ceiling access trap.

So I called the manufacturer; luckily they agreed to come out and on a Saturday morning no less. On the plumber's advice though we didn't want to have to open up the roof, we'd rather have them enlarge the ceiling trap and pay to have that fixed (otherwise, apparently, you always end up with leaks in the roof). Today the guys show up, and determine there's no way you can get the tank out from the beams even if you break through some of the ceiling. Their advice is, I'll have to get hold of the owner again; get his home owner's insurance details; get them to agree to come open and close the roof, and then try to arrange the insurers AND the geyser company to come at the same time (while both of us have full time jobs). I was at the end of my tether at this point and ready to go through life known as Ol' Smelly, when Steve remembered the plumber had mentioned to him it was just one place the geyser was leaking all over the electronics. Luckily the technician was a nice guy and had a think, and realised they could remove the faulty part from the new geyser they'd brought and just replace that.

End of a long story (sorry about the ranty essay): we have hot water for the first time in almost two weeks. WOOHOO!! Now, I suppose, I'd better go shower and wash the dishes!!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Working Girl

So I started my new job on Tuesday (because Monday was Easter Monday) at Investment Solutions (a subsidiary of Alexander Forbes).

It has been really good so far. We work along more or less the scrum programming methodology, although not strictly. In short: work is divided into "sprints" which is a period (2 weeks, usually) in which you complete the tasks assigned to you by the Project Manager.

Tuesday they had a Sprint planning meeting (always occurs at the start of a sprint) and it was good to see how the whole thing worked and the team interacted. I didn't get assigned any real tasks and the system's architect had something urgent he had to finish before being able to tutor me into doing something useful.

So the result is that I've been using the time to read up on the project and company. Documents in my laptop bag I'm currently battling my way through:
  • Online Project Wiki (well, this one is obviously not in my laptop bag)
  • Functional Requirements Document (aka Spec) -222 pages
  • System Architecture document -70 pages
  • Build Process guide -53 pages
  • User Interface Design -39 pages
  • Design Guidelines and Coding Standards -82 pages

BUT the team is really nice and it's excitingly different to my previous job in its type of project and working methodology. Your tasks are all granular pieces of work that should take no more than 6 hours to finish; and you are required to do 6 hours of programming a day. You have to check code into the source control system at least once a day, and before that you have to make sure it compiles and all the unit tests work. What's nice is you work together with the Project Manager to work out what tasks you're to do in the next Sprint and how long you think they'll take. I'm not saying this or my old job is better or worse but it's very different so it's a good learning experience and that's always good for personal and professional growth.

Now I'm just itching to do some actual work so all the technical jargon I've read can start making some sort of practical sense.

On the practical side we've still got one car but my office is literally 5 minutes from Steve's and we work on flexy time so we've worked out a schedule that allows us to travel together. The very excellent upshot of which is, I finally get to control when Steve comes home! :D

More about our epic power and water problems next time.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Go, brain drain, go!

I can't help but be surprised by the amount of positions available in SA's business capital for someone with a pretty standard Windows development skill set that can be at best described as an intermediate developer.

I had a technical interview (test, really) yesterday and have been invited back for a panel interview next week despite not finishing all the questions. I have another technical test tomorrow and another late next week. That's just from two recruiters who have had my CV for about a week. The one especially has sent me a list of over 10 companies they think I should interview at.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled! Scared of the technical tests but thrilled. Face to face stuff I know I can do, bigmouth that I am :-)

I'm going for contract positions at the moment, I'm just not sure yet what I want to do in the long run and we're thinking of starting a family, too. I don't want to be someone who can look a prospective permanent employer in the eye and lie about how long I'm likely to be useful to them.

The other benefit of course being an excuse to go out shopping; what a great time for Woolworths* to have their anual Quality Sale ;-) Most of my grown-up clothes are still in boxes so I need to spend some money to look the part.

Wish me luck!

* nothing like the UK Woolworths, our version of M&S.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Christian stuff ;-)

If you don't want to read some spiritual thoughts and testimony, this post is not for you. I would love it if you did but I'm giving you fair warning.

I think it's about time I acknowledged publicly how good God has been to me.

Wow, I can't believe how much The Enemy doesn't want me to type this post, I just can't seem to get going with it. So forgive me if it rambles, I'm just going to start typing and leave the rest to Him.

I had looked long and hard for a church in England. I got to a point where I was not stagnating as a Christian but actually going backward and I felt I desperately needed a place that could support me and where I could learn and grow. I went to church after church, not feeling at home, until one Monday morning, after a Sunday evening spent crying about it to Him, He directed me to the website of an Afrikaans church in England that had a congregation on my doorstep. I really grew there and made good friends and when it was time to go, I did a silly thing. I forgot how faithful God is and started fretting about how I'd ever fit in so nicely here. I feared the inter-denominational drama that is prevalent in Afrikaans churches. I wondered if I'd be expected to go back to my family's church, although I felt I'd grown apart from some of their convictions.

And then we walked into Leigh's house and there was a Bible verse up on the wall. I'd been so used to living in a country where you just assume someone's an atheist because usually you'd be right, and I never expected her to be a Christian. Silly, I know. But she was, and we shared a lot and ministered to each other. God absolutely brought us into each other's lives and we each had a message to bring into the other's. Then she invited me to her church and her home cell (or home Bible study) group and God proved again that I needn't worry about where _I_ will find a church; I just have to stop trying to do it myself and just ask: God, where do I need to be?

He's since used Bryanstone Bible Church to achieve some amazing growth in me; even more than at SA Gemeente in England. I've received prayer and messages about so much that I was bound up by last year - guilt about depression ("if you believe you shouldn't need pills, you obviously don't have enough faith that God will cure you from it"); an eating disorder (they don't really seem to have proper names when you're fat rather than tiny thin, but I definitely had a screwed up relationship with food, mentally); and generally not knowing how to re-connect with God. Have you ever known you should really call a friend but the longer you put it off the harder it seems to know where you'd even start the conversation?

Well thanks to one amazing evening's prayer with two amazing people, I finally saw those bonds for what they were and I am so grateful to be free of them. Honestly; I've eaten for comfort and self-punishment (it's weird and complicated) for as long as I can remember. I don't anymore. And I didn't do anything to stop. I just didn't have to anymore.

And I've had confirmation from so many sources about this whole grace thing. That nothing we could do could save our own souls anyway, but it's ok, because Jesus has done it already. So you can pine in your own shortcomings forever if you like, and give the Evil One lots of ammunition to use against you, whispering things to you in the more difficult hours until you believe them; or you can accept the Grace offered to you and realise that through Jesus' blood God sees you as perfect, as beautiful, as the prodigal child who comes back after doing unthinkable things and doesn't care, just wraps you in his best robes and is glad you're there.

I cannot tell you how freeing that's been. My "line" to God has never been more open and easy, and I don't need to just pray for or about things anymore, either; I can sometimes just enjoy His presence. As Pastor Ross said yesterday: can you believe we get to pray? Not "we have to pray", but we GET to pray?? The creator of the universe wants to communicate with us! How awesome is that.

I've been going through ups and downs recently (more about that another time) but I thank God because the downs are an opportunity to lean on His strength when I can't find mine, and to draw closer to Him.

Let me just end by saying: I love God; He has made me his beloved daughter and co-heir with the Prince of the Universe, and doesn't afraid of anything!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Slowly rejoining the technologically advanced world

We bought a TV, yay! And a satellite decoder, yay!! And even some sofas to sit on and watch them (yay!!!).

We watched a movie last night for the first time on a screen larger than a laptop screen, it was so nice. We still did it on my sister's old sofas that are a bit worn and far too small for this big room but 2 of our 3 new sofas should be delivered tomorrow (Monday). We got them at an amazing deal too, which always makes things seem even nicer.

The TV is a 32" full HD LED, which will do very nicely until the big TV comes in the ship (which is a whole other sad story). After that we'll move it to the bedroom or guest cottage or something.

Huh, I think that's very exciting but I can't think of much more to say about it.

Oh Steve's birthday braai went lovely, the rain even stopped in time.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Happy birthday, dear husband; happy birthday to you! [UPDATED]

Aaaah crap it's raining. The patio is covered so I'm still hoping for the best. But :-p at Mother Nature.

You may or may not be able to guess from the obscure post title, but today is Steve's birthday. Yay Steve!

I can safely give away my plans on here because he never reads my blog (and if you decide to today of all days, stop now ok?).

We finally found a patio set we like - and it's pretty cool. It's that new plasticy wicker stuff that lasts forever outside (like this). It has a square table, and then four chairs that fit in underneath the corners of the table so when they're pushed in, it looks like a little cube. So cute! BUT WAIT, there's more! Each chair has a little cube underneath it that pushes out so you can either use it as a footstoole, or as a seat. So it sits eight and still "folds up" into a cube. Me likey :) We also bought a two-seater sofa in the same style for maximum chillaxing with friends by the pool.

I'm off now to go find him a kick ass-barbeque for his present. I bought free range, 28 day mature beef rump for us for dinner (and I even remembered the charcoal and fire lighters). I am making roomaartappels (potatoes dauphinoise) and creamed spinach. He should approve. Oh, and ice cream tiramisu for desert. And assorted snacky things for starters (we better have room for desert!).

He's having a poopy day so I hope it cheers him up.

OK that's all for now, I better get going, I have no idea where to find a good barbeque (braai).

Friday, 19 February 2010

I miss my internet

On the plus side, South Africa makes communications far more accessible than the UK. Mobile phones are obtainable, affordable and have a lot of extra services for everyone, including those users that can't afford contracts. Mobile phones are a hugely popular accessory here, even more than in the UK, and people who can't afford houses and live in informal settlements all have phones none the less. Prepaid and value options you can't fault.

In the same vein, the telecoms companies have made mobile internet just as accessible and you can get on the internet using 3G with very little layout. Prepaid topup vouchers can be converted to data bundles with ridiculous ease and used for mobile surfing, 3G using a 3G dongle/modem, or even to use on your PC using your internet enabled phone as a modem.

BUT IT IS SOOOO SLOW, and so expensive (compared to the bandwidth and uncapped services I'm used to in the UK)!!

I've now bought a prepaid 3G SIM card. Steve has a 3G dongle he uses for working from home but doesn't need during the day so I will be able to get on the internet from home that way (as soon as I return from my parents on Tuesday). It's slow and expensive per MB so I won't be uploading photos, video chatting or catching up on xkcd, Girl Genius or Gunnerkrigg Court, but I will be able to have voice conversations over Skype, update the blog a bit more regularly and get on Instant Messenger (as soon as I figure out why my Pidgin won't connect to MSN Live).

As mentioned before, I have requested the landline at the house be reactivated but goodness knows when Telkom will actually come to do it, or when having a landline will graduate to having ADSL.

In the meantime, I am visiting my folks and using up my mom's internet. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to chat without installing Windows Live on her machine - I tried browser based IM but Meebo seems to be buggy as all heck and KoolIM crashed after about 5 minutes.

I guess it's back to good, old-fashioned emails for now!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Vroom, vroom!

If you're not South African, you may not appreciate how vital it is to have a car here to get around. Public transport is eratic, unsafe, overcrowded and unreliable.

After spending a week or two staying at Leighs with no car and just some downloaded series' for company, what was left of my mind went on a little bit of a wander.

We're still waiting to START shipping over GIR (the Ford Focus), so we need a car until then, but we would have needed two eventually anyway.

Steve had had his heart set on a roadster like the Mazda MX5 but we could only afford a second hand car and all the MX5's were really old and a lot of money for what you got. I was very aware that he'd be mostly driving to and from work in city traffic and wanted something fuel efficient that would be cheaper to run and also not help kill the planet quicker.

After test driving a few small cars (Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz), that we quite liked, we eventually settled on the perfect combination of what both of us were looking for in a car.

Introducing: Roy!

The Smart Roadster Coupe has a retractable (cloth) roof, 700cc engine and a 35l tank. I don't know details like horsepower or torque but I can tell you, it drives like WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

I have only put in petrol once but when I've done a few tanks I'll let you know what kind of usage I get.

It's got enough boot (or, froot, as Steve calls it, because it's at the front) space for about 3 plastic bags of shopping, but who needs practicality when you've got WHEEEEE!!! factor?

Now only to master the art of getting in and out of it gracefully...