Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recycling roundabout

A few years ago when I ran the Himalayan Stage Race in India, I had the fortune to visit Dehli and Agra (and revel in the congested 7hr / 250km drive between the two cities). There I realised what 1.3 Billion people means and also decided that as far as waste and consumption goes, there's little hope for us humans and our trash and the poor planet. There's just sooooo much of it!

Even so, I find pleasure in recycling and that itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny bit of hope that recycling my plastic, glass, metal and paper waste helps even a little.

At my previous home, I would put my recyclables aside for a friendly recycling collector, Gerald. I figured it was far more pleasant to find out what he wanted and to put it aside for him rather than for Gerard to have to scratch through trash for these items, which he then takes to a recycling centre to earn a little income. We had a good thing going. And then I moved (and Gerard moved on a short while later too - stable employment in the Northern suburbs at what I think is a furniture manufacturer; I hope he is still there - a really decent guy).

For quite some time there was a recycling centre at a local mall and I'd stop past every week or so to drop off recyclables. And then they disappeared it.

My local hardware store has bins outside - one each for the four recyclable groups; so totally insufficient for plastics. I phoned the people who manage the bins; their number was printed on the panels on the roofed frame housing the bins. It wasn't a very satisfying conversation. I've used it for a few weeks.

About two weeks ago I saw that the panels had been removed and the setup looks like it too is going to disappear.

So, I got online. In this day and age where the environment and recycling is so in, I can barely believe that in my area there are no recycling centres. My closest is a Pikitup Garden Refuse Site in Sandringham. Many of the Pikitup sites have recycling bins too. It's not convenient, but currently my only option. I was very impressed with the cleanliness and neatness of the site and the friendly guys who assisted me.

Pick 'n Pay has bins for batteries and light bulbs. But you've got to ask / hunt for it because it certainly isn't placed in easy view...

Yesterday I went to Makro. As I grabbed a trolley, I noticed that there were signs cable-tied to many of the trolleys promoting a Samsung electronics recycling facility - "Eat. Sleep. Recycle" were the words on the sign.

I asked two Makro guys where this was (I assumed it would be in Makro) and what electronics could be taken there - only Samsung, or any? They didn't know a thing about it (even though there were trolleys left-right-and-centre promoting this) so they took me to the Samsung guy in the electronics department. He didn't know, said he hadn't been told about it and suggested that I phone Samsung. It's enough to make me see red, green and blue.

"No," I told him, with a smile, "the signs on the trolleys are in this store to promote this service. You work here and you work for Samsung so you're going to phone them and find out and I'll come back shortly so you can tell me."

It was one of those days for me.

I went back a bit later and he took me to a container outside the doors where you can toss in any electronic products - and not just Samsung.

"See," I said, "now when other people ask, you know the answer."

I've just found this media release about Samsung's partnership with Makro (and DESCO - the recycler) on this e-waste recycling initiative and here's a list of drop-off points for South Africa.

Today I took an old happy-snappy digital camera (after about five years it had done one too many races and it had stopped working completely and Sony said it would cost more to fix than to buy a new one) and a printer (it has printing issues but can still scan) to the container. A car guard saw me and he wanted the goods. I told him of the issues and he still wanted them.

I figure that is recycling too.

My guess is that a lot more people would recycle if facilities were convenient, accessible and well managed. It really is easy to rinse containers and toss them in a tub to drop off once-a-week or two. It greatly reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfill. Like massively. And your eyes will pop at the volume of plastic in our lives -this is evident only when you separate your trash.

I don't know whether recycling everything I can is enough to save the planet... but it makes me feel better.

Little O mistakes

Ja, with FEAT on this coming Thursday, I'm a bit behind the times. Nonetheless, here's a bit of my O magic from this past Sunday.

My club, Adventure Racing Club, hosted the bush O event at the Hennops Trail venue North of Jo'burg. It's a great area with a good mix of terrain and distinct features. I wasn't involved with the planning, just with the on-the-day helping so I was through at the venue really early to set up start, finish and registration, with assistance from other club members not involved with the planning.

I only started running just before 11 - it was already plenty warm out.

I found the terrain to be pretty decent. A lot of the open ground was pretty runnable and some was very runnable with few rocks. There were also some steep climbs (many close contours) and I was a total lazy butt, walking them.

Overall my navigation was exemplary. But I did have two wee wobbles.

Here they are:

Control 4 to 5

Fairly straight forward and a short distance of maybe 150-200m between the controls. My initial line was A-ok, but just short of the actual control location. There were also a few other cliffs around, that were not boulders (I've drawn them in red). I came down and when I saw the cliffs I totally expected to see the control. Curious... nothing.

I actually thought I'd overshot so I backtracked thinking I'd missed the right cliff. I then stayed on the correct level, walked past my previous point on top of the cliff and within a metre or three saw the control. Doh!

Control 11-12

I know, I know... what was I thinking! Clearly a no brainer too...

Here's what happened. Follow with me.
Leaving Control 11 - no problem. Easy. My options were to go to the left or the right of the ridge. Note the cliffs marked - thick black lines (no, not the path), the boulder cluster (sold black dot) and knolls (brown dots) and boulders all over (quite big ones in reality). It was a clear feature. I decided to some up from below - nice, pleasant terrain.

I must have come up very near the control but I was not yet looking for it. If you draw a straight line along the ridge, it looks like the control is just to the right of it, at the end, eh? Well, it wasn't. Thinking I had the wrong boulders, I dropped down a bit, saw the fence and headed up.

I figured that since I'd messed up from the bottom, I'd correct my alignment from the top. Truth be told, there wasn't really anywhere here to hide the control that I shouldn't have seen it. But, you never know.
So, I tracked along the right-hand side of the ridge (coming from the direction of 11) and ended up in the same place.

There was another guy with me here - he'd come from on top - where I'd initially approached from below.

Then I started thinking... if the control is clearly not at the end of the ridge, to the right, where could it be? Look at the contours... And the contours show the control at the end of the spur - a cliff and boulder cluster marked. So I went to the end of the spur... and found the control. Clear as daylight.

There were a few controls from here to the finish - all in close proximity.

I drank all my water out there, had a good glug when I came in and headed out again to collect controls - penance for wasting time on two very easy controls. hahahaha.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Fair experience

On Saturday Staci and I did our first crochet stall at a fair and it was a pretty good experience. The Vaaloewer River and Country Market is a new, annual fair in the village of Vaaloewer, just upstream of Parys.

The market didn't have a lot of traffic but nonetheless we had a some sales. Not a lot, but some. Our friend had the stall next to us and she didn't have that many sales either.

Of the people who did come past... they were generally really sweet and delighted to have a wide range of headband colours and flowers to choose from. A few stood out: like the one lady we noticed some time later walking around the market wearing her navy headband with its white daisy and she looked amazing. Another lady bought a flower to pin on to her hat; another bought a mint green headband and pink rose-like flowers and she put it on immediately.

Another lady bought a large flower as a brooch for herself and she wanted another in autumn colours for her daughter, who lives overseas. So we whipped one up there and then for her - she chose the colours and came to fetch it some time later. She was delighted.

We received a number of compliments too on our work, especially from women who crochet too. That's always nice.

For the rest, we so enjoyed parking off on our camp chairs, chatting to each other, other people and friends who stopped past.

That night both Staci and I enjoyed watching dvds at our own homes with nothing in our hands - for the first time in two months!

I'd do this again but definitely not with any regularity. It's a huge amount of fun but time-consuming work.

We've still got stock so we're looking at other fair options and may also have an open day for friends and relations as we'd put them off getting flowers and headbands until after the market.

What is meningitis?

Adventure racer Rika Viljoen is currently in hospital with bacterial meningitis and like the rest of the the AR community, I've been reading up on this illness. This piece that I've written should answer your questions around how Rika got bacterial mengitis.

You've probably heard of meningitis and know that it has something to do with an infection and the brain and that it generally is not a good thing to have. You're right. And that's essentially what it is - an infection of the brain.

The most common symptom is a headache and a stiff neck; those affected can't tip their head forward to touch their chin to their chest.

Fever (increased body temperature caused when the body sends out the artillery to deal with the invaders), confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises are also symptoms.

There are two common agents that cause infection - viruses and bacteria. And it isn't any one specific virus or bug (bug is lingo for bacteria); a variety of each are responsible. Parasites, funguses and non-infectious agents (like cancer, cysts and certain drugs) can also be responsible.

On the virus front, enteroviruses (responsible for a range of diseases including polio, chronic fatigue syndrome and non-specific illnesses where fever, headache, sore tummy, sore throat and muscle pain are symptoms), herpes simplex 2 (genital herpes), the chicken pox and shingles virus, mumps virus, HIV and a virus carried by rats that literally goes straight to the head of the infected person.

In adults, the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus) together cause 80% of bacterial meningitis cases.

Meningococcus live in the nose and throat of 5-15% of adults as part of the normal flora, causing no trouble.
Pneumococcus also just hangs around and you can have it and not be ill. It's the fellow responsible for causing pneumonia and when you're susceptible (lowered immunity, elderly, children) then it takes advantage of the situation to cause a range of illness from a snotty nose to a sinus infection, middle-ear infection, pink eye to pneumonia.

It's important to diagnose what has caused the meningeal infection because treatment needs to be specific for the organism. First treatment line is antibiotics (for meningitis caused by bacteria) and antiviral medications (for meningitis caused by viruses).

We're invaded by a multitude of viruses and bugs all the time and just because you have flu or a sinus infection it doesn't mean that you'll develop meningitis.

There are three membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. These are called the meninges.

So looking at the three layers there's a soft, form-fitting base layer (against the brain - capillaries penetrate this layer), a light-weight, loose-fitting waterproof shell and a storm-weather, thick and durable waterproof jacket (below the skull). Fluid (Cerebrospinal Fluid - CFS) flows in the space (subarachnoid space) between the loose-fitting shell and the base layer.

And then there's this wonderful mechanism called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). More than 100 years ago it was found that if a blue dye was injected into the bloodstream of an animal, if showed up in tissues of the whole body except the brain and spinal cord.

Infectious agents have to get through the meninges or BBB into the CFS to cause meningitis, which is an infection specifically of the loose-fitting shell (arachnoid mater) and the form-fitting base layer (pia mater) of these layers as well as the actual brain tissue, which become inflammed.

With is being not-so-easy for bacteria to get into the meninges and CFS, how do they do so?

They gain access either through the bloodstream or by direct contact with the CSF and meninges via the nasal cavity or skin. Invasion of the bloodstream is most common. You need to have head trauma (injury / skull fracture) or an infection of the throat or sinuses that has made contact with the subarachnoid space.

On Friday, while at work (she's a school teacher), the first sign for Rika that something was wrong was that she had a really bad headache and her vision was affected to the extent that she couldn't see properly. She was taken straight to casualty by a colleague. The hospital sent her home having diagnosed a sinus infection. On Friday night she was in pain and not doing well. Richard too her back to the hospital.

I think meningitis was confirmed on Saturday (lumbar puncture is performed to extract CSF) and treatment initiated.

And this is the key element here: sinuses are one way for bacteria to get into the CFS.

Sinuses are air-filled spaces around the nasal cavity. There are four of them. Many major blood vessels, supplying blood to the brain, lie next to the sinuses - and that's how infection is transferred.

You could have a sinus infection every season and never get meningitis. It's really a combination of factors (severe infection in just the wrong place) that results in the conditions that lead to meningitis.

Treatment is specifically geared towards fighting the infection (intravenous antibiotics) and probably also corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and swelling of the meninges and resulting pressure on the brain. Sedation is common practice.

Bacterial meningitis is a very serious illness and Rika has a battle on her hands. Being young, fit and healthy is a big positive in her arsenal in her fight against this infection.