Friday, October 31, 2008

Land of the robots

South Africa is overrun with robots.

The cities and towns are full of them.

Standing there on every corner at every major intersection.

Yes, "robot" is what South Africans call a traffic light.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And the heavens open

The Johannesburg / Pretoria area has the best thunderstorms of any place I've ever been. Not particularly windy, but the combination of torrential rain and incredibly scary lightning and thunder has got to be experienced to be believed. And it seems this time of year to happen two evenings out of three. As it is right now. Every bolt of lightning seems like it's right on top of you.

The locals seem to be used to it and strangely resigned to their appliances being regularly fried. I suppose it hides the fact that the underlying infrastructure is pretty poor to begin with. We're suffering serious Internet withdrawal symptoms right now even though we've had enough bandwidth for long enough each day for email and (light) blogging. At least on the days when the wireless router isn't hit by lightning. It's a bit of a shock (intentional pun) when you're used to a totally, totally wired lifestyle.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today we attended a braai. That's what South Africans call a what we Aussies call a barbie. They take the process of burning meat in the great outdoors very seriously. There's nothing quite like visiting a country and eating the wildlife. The impala sausages were particularly good.

My colleague who hosted us lives on top of a hill outside Johannesburg with a great view.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tom Tom, Dumb Dumb

I acquired a Tom Tom satellite navigation unit early last year (I say "acquired" since I used points from my American Express) and I've generally been quite happy with it. At least happy enough that I purchased additional maps for a trip to Australia earlier this year, and just recently I purchased more maps for a trip to South Africa.

I'd managed to successfully install and use the Australia maps and followed the same procedure for the South Africa maps, so I was a little surprised on driving out of Johannesburg airport that it failed to show our location on the relevant map.

I eventually discovered after browsing some of the configuration menus that you have to tell it which map to use. It hadn't even occurred to me that this was the problem. Not for a second. Not even a nanosecond. Why not? Because it's a damn GPS unit. It knows where the bloody hell it is. That's what it does. That's its karma. And if it knows where it is, it knows everything it needs to know to automatically select the right map to use! I just didn't imagine for a second that any half competent software designer would have designed it any other way. So I've come to the conclusion that since Tom Tom is a Dutch company that Tom Tom must be Dutch for Dumb Dumb.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Best argument yet against the bailout

Here's the best argument I've seen yet against the $700 billion bailout:
Once signed into law, Treasury would begin a process to determine the assets it will buy and the manner it will set a price. Like everything in government, this is a moment that is lobby-able. Expect swarms of financial services lobbyists, investor groups, housing advocates, and others to try to game the system for their individual clients or members.
If you don't believe we're on the path to the mother of all special interest feeding frenzies, think about this. In the midst of what our political leaders claim is the greatest economic crisis to face America since the Great Depression, a situation so dire as to require unprecedented urgent and bipartisan legislative action on massive scale, Senators could simply not restrain themselves, adding $150 billion of pork to the bailout bill.