Tuesday 27 April 2010

Laugh - again and again (14 times!)

It was by chance that I caught that Takeshi's Castle on Animax at a friend's house last year. I didn't even know this stuff existed. I laughed so much that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I caught the show again about a month ago and found it just as amusing. Occasionally I've found similar Japanese variety show clips on YouTube.

Tonight I stumbled across this collection of 14 Crazy Japanese TV Clips. As I type this I'm still working my way through them. That bug-scooter one is a winner (you've just got to love the outfits) and the marshmallow game is a hoot.

What is it about these shows that so appeals to me? The crazy, unflattering outfits, the tacky sets, the pure silliness and fun of the games, the enthusiasm of the participants and the total lack of inhibition.

I'd fancy a job thinking up these games - for a month or two anyway. As for being a costume designer for one of these variety shows... hard to be taken seriously if you apply for a 'real job' if you've got that on your cv.


Sunday 25 April 2010

Wet, wet, wet - SPUR Adventure

On Saturday we had the 5th annual Gauteng SPUR Adventure event, one of four in the Series, at Groenkloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria. Despite Friday being an absolutely perfect day, the expected cold front moved in bringing with it cold, cloud and rain from Friday evening and all the way through the weekend. As such, the SPUR Adventure was a wet, wet, wet (and muddy) event.

Attendance at this race is usually in the region of one thousand participants; about 750 on the Adventure Challenge course and the rest on the Nature Trail (run/walk) and Bushbaby Trail. SPUR brings along their bells and whistles for the event area (super branding, co-sponsors, Coke Gig Rig, SPUR burger truck, children's entertainment) to make this a superb family event.

Unfortunately the event was well and truely rained out - but still we had around 60 participants on the Adventure Challenge course, about 20 on the Nature Trail and a handful of children. I was delighted that the Adventure Challenge people so enjoyed riding and running in the rain and mud and was even more impressed at the number of parents participating with their children and the astounding number of young girls taking part.

I've had a couple of days out at Groenkloof planning and refining the route. We used this venue last year and I knew that in a few places some tweaks to the course were needed. Just over a week ago I opened up some animal trails I'd used last year, which - with an additional year of growth and good rains - were very overgrown. During my meanders in the area I was fortunate to see the kudu, giraffe, zebra and a lone wildebeest a few times.

On Friday when I was out tagging the route for the run section, giraffe were my company. I took a pic of Ugene Nel, co-ordinator of the Series, taking a look at these lovely animals.

And later on Friday I went running on the run route and the Nature Trail with SPUR's marketing manager, Etienne Ralphs. We saw the giraffe a few times at different places, three lots of kudu and two groups of zebra. It was drizzling and absolutely amazing conditions for an afternoon run. The next pic is of Etienne. How cool for these Cape Town guys to enjoy these highveld wonders.

After the race, winners Ryan Hodierne and Brian Gardner told of nearly being run over by giraffe on the run route. Ryan said that a number of giraffe ran across the trail, between him and Brian - and they were only about 10 metres apart. Colse call! Thankfully they were not injured - we'd have a hard time explaining the cause of any giraffe-incurred injuries to a hospital. They'd probably send us all for breathalysers!

As for the event, it was great - despite the rain. My thanks to the participants for enthusiastically taking part, and enjoying the course, in the wet, cold and rain. My marshals stood out in the wet and cold, making sure the participants were taken care of - and they also picked up the tags and boards marking the course afterwards. And also to SPUR, Etienne and their partners for presenting this event annually. It's the best family-orientated sporting event around. Also to logistics-Peter for his team's work. And, of course, to Peter for his assistance pre-race and on the day and also Ugene, for co-ordinating everything to make the event happen. It is always super to see you both.

Till next year.

... but she's really nice

I lost it at lunch today over an issue that comes up time and time again.

The guy says something to the effect of, "We saw Joe last week. And you know Joe's daughter is gay, but she's really nice". After a few hours of nothing but negativity about every type of person different to him, this was the last straw.

Someone's sexual orientation has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with their personality - whether they're nice or not. This guy's comment (he's not alone - this is a common one) implies that, collectively, people who are attracted to the same gender are nasty people. Their clarification, "but she's really nice" separates the person they're talking about from the masses because, unlike 'them', "she's nice".

Consider a heterosexual couple. Let's say that I'm telling you what I did over the weekend. "I saw Jane on Saturday for coffee. She's married to John, but she's really nice." This isn't something you'd hear because it doesn't need qualification. Why then does a person's personality require qualification if they are not hetro?

Since what happens behind closed doors [generally] stays behind closed doors, heteros have the benefit of not being judged over their sexual preferences, which may range from vanilla to bizarre fetishes. For all I know, the dude at lunch may like dressing in lycra and getting his wife to spank him every Friday night. Either way, it is irrelevant.

Just as I believe in a genetic continuum or Bell Curve (possibly an inverted curve with 'normal' in the middle) of sexual development (intersex*) so I also believe in a continuum of sexual preferences.

Who you do and what you do does not determine whether you are nice or not. People are just people.

* The conversation went the Semenya-hermaphrodite-intersex direction and the dude got another blast from me on this issue. He lives an existence of ignorance and prejudice. These excellent articles by sport scientist Ross Tucker on intersex conditions, written in response to the Caster Semenya issues, make for interesting reading - on The Science of Sport and, more in depth, on Competitor Running.

Sunday 18 April 2010

3rd ADAC Award

I am delighted to announce that http://www.ar.co.za/ has received another Award from Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge for this year's event (4th edition of the race). I will again open applications for the three places on Team Team www.AR.co.za; but this year I'm a little more focused in what I'm looking for - quite different to the previous two years. To be announced during this week.

Lotta and Abu Dhabi Tourism, thank you.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Telephone etiquette

et·i·quette (noun) - conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.

This morning, a guy made a business call to me at 06h43. On my cell phone. There are various problems with this situation.
  1. Office hours are usually 08h00 (or 08h30) to 17h00. Phoning people outside of office hours means that you're calling them in their non-work (as in 'personal') time. Aside from this being bad business manners, in the morning the person you're calling could be eating breakfast at home, preparing children for school, taking a shower or rushing to get dressed and out of the door to go to work.
  2. He phoned me about Let's Play, where I stopped working in October 2008.
  3. He phoned me to ask about jumping-friggin'-castles. Considering this guy is in the children's sport business and that his company (there are franchises) has been a Play Partner of Let's Play, he should know that Let's Play is Supersport's social reponsibility initiative. Let's Play is not a jumping-castle-for-hire company. He would know this if a) he paid a little attention and b) he checked their website before phoning.
This aside, the dude woke me up.

Yes, at 06h43 during the week, I am usually asleep. Fast asleep. I'm a night-owl and I rarely go to sleep before midnight so I sleep until just before eight - the opening of customary office hours. People who know me well know that I'm quite happy to take their calls at 22h00 to discuss quantum physics, the state of the nation and Johnny Depp's latest movie. Mornigs, before 08h00, are out-of-bounds.

Since you don't know the lifestyle habits of the person on the other side of the phone, it is a good idea to keep common courtesy and polite behaviour in mind before pressing that green button on your phone. Etiquette generally dictates that you phone people during office hours - even if you're a friend making a chatty call.

With this in mind, a friend, who knows my later-than-most morning habits, phoned me on Monday morning at 07h10. This is more irritating than Let's-Play-dude because she knows me well. "Oh, did I wake you up?"

My grandmother, who is French, has a rule that you never phone people before 09h00. OK, so things in Europe get going a little later than here, but it is still a good idea - whether your call is personal or business related - because you give the person a chance to get into work, make a cup of coffee, start up their computer and nail a couple of emails.

Just. Friggin'. Wait.

Speak, dude
Many telephone conversations go like this...


Me: "Hello. This is Lisa speaking."

Other: "Hello. How you?"

Me: "I'm fine. Who are you?"

Other: "I'm mmbbiiim."

Me: "Who?"

Other: "Mmmbbiiim."

Me: "Can I help you?" (I realise I'm not going to work out the name)

Other: "Ja."

Me: "What are you phoning me about?"

Other: "I got your number from the website."

Me: "Which website? What are you phoning about?"

And so the conversation goes. Like friggin' blood out of a stone.

A more appropriate version would have been...


Me: "Hello. This is Lisa speaking."

Other: "Good morning. I'm phoning from / about  [now I can place the person in context] and my name is Joe. Can you take my call now?"

Me: "Yes, sure"

Other: "I've been on your adventure racing website - wonderful site - and I have just read the article on choosing the trail shoes and I would appreciate your thoughts on socks."

This person will get my enthusiastic response because he has done some reading for himself and he is asking something that has not already been answered on the site.
  • Studies have shown that the receiver will hear your name better if you say if name AFTER your situation (place of work or the topic you are phoning about).
  • And say your situation and name clearly. The receiver shouldn't have to ask again.
  • Even if you are a friend, say your name. I may not recognise your voice immediately, especially if I rarely speak to you on the phone. If your number is on my phone, I'll answer my phone with, "Hi Joe".
  • Cell phone reception is rarely crystal clear. Speak clearly and boldly. Don't be a wallflower on the phone (landline included).
  • If you phone to speak to someone, speak. Telephones are for talking. I can't see your body language and facial expressions over the phone, dude.
  • Ask if the person can take your call. They may be driving, on their way in to a meeting or at lunch. Just because a person answers their phone, it doesn't mean that they have time then for a 10-minute discussion.
  • Be clear - and concise - when it comes to what you are calling about and asking for. Get to the point.
Telephone manners say a lot about you. Think before you dial or you'll be classified as an ill-informed, incoherent and inconsiderate moron before you've said three sentences. And that's no way to get a positive response from the receiver or to initiate a business (or personal) relationship.

Monday 12 April 2010

Go Suikerbosrand!

With Go Multi editor, Deon Braun, in town for the weekend, I was keen to show him how cool Jo'burg really is. So we headed out to Suikerbosrand on Sunday afternoon to take a spin around the Bokmakkerie day walk trail. Unlike the overnight hiking trail to the East of the Reserve, which is overgrown and up to your eyeballs in grass, the day trails are well worn, regularly used and well maintained. I haven't been on the day trail for about six years, so it was as much a treat for me as it was for Deon.

What do you get when you put two trail-loving journos on a trail under perfect conditions (blue sky, ideal afternoon temperature, rain nourished veld)? Lots of photos!

Deon thoroughly enjoyed the trail and gives it a resounding 9.5/10 for scenery, technical elements and pure enjoyment.

Lookin' out across the Witwatersrand. The rains have been good to the area.

Groupie photo

Nice tree...

Jakkalsdraai trail circuit run

The Crater 24hr Jakkalsdraai Trail Team Relay has been on the calendar for two years. I had initially considered entering a team but with only two other takers and a fading inclination to spend the whole weekend at the event (with post-race sleepiness), I instead chose their six-hour solo option.

* Pic - coming through the timing/spectator tent for another water refill

Really just interested in being out there for a run and to check out the event, I started running at 12h00, with the 24hr relay teams, instead of 15h00, with the other solo runners. I wanted to start earlier, to finish earlier and head back home. I've had weekend after weekend with events and activities so although I wanted to take part, I wasn't quite in the mood to finish at 21h00. The event kindly accommodated my quirky request.

While I had the benefit of daylight throughout my run, I also had the sweltering heat of this perfect summer's day - and it was h.o.t. out there, especially between 12h00 and 15h00. The relay runners, doing one lap each of the 3.4km loop wouldn't have been too affected; but running consecutive loops meant exposure to the sun's full glory.

The route is a tough one, especially over the first half; it goes up, up, up. And then there's the most glorious downhill and a stretch along the flooded Vaal River that is deceivingly longer than you expect. The trail is good quality and overall it is a good mix.

Route profile from my Suunto. The red dots indicate a lap completed, marked at the timing table. I changed shoes at the end of lap 2, socks at the end of lap 4 and filled up water after every lap.

There were maybe 10 teams and 15 solo runners -  a tiny field for an event that really is superb and has a lovely atmosphere and vibe. The transition area was set up with tables and chairs under a big white tent, DJs spinning good tunes and an outside area, with grandstands, for spectators and waiting teammates.

The route itself was very well marked with bunting demarcating turns and white paint on trees and jutting-out rocks. As this race goes through the night, the race organisers (Attie and his team from RIDE magazine - the same bunch who organise the 24hr mtb relay in the Parys area) had taken care to make sure that the route would be clearly visible in the dark and that rocks likely to trip you up were highlighted.

My mom came through with me, being on standby to fill up my water bottle and offer boiled potatoes and other munchies I'd prepared (thank you mom). I drank a bottle each lap - around 500ml every 26-30 minutes. And I was still thirsty!

I had a lovely run, completing 11 laps in 5h13. I had plenty time for another full lap (just under 30mins for a lap, including stop for water refill, munchies and quick chat to Attie outside the tent) but was happy with my afternoon and my legs still felt good. The other solo runners were not quite halfway by this stage - I thought about them as I drove home.

Jakkalsdraai is a super concept and we can expect to see other course options like a 6hr relay added for next year. This will open the event up to people and their friends who are keen to play for 6hrs, but not to commit to a 24hr day of running.

Monday 5 April 2010

Meeting an extraordinary man

Wooooohooo! A highlight of my weekend was meeting trans-Atlantic rower Peter van Kets at the airport this morning.

I've blogged about him quite a bit since December, with postings here and on http://www.ar.co.za/2010/04/home-pete-home/ (Adventurers & Expeditions section), when he first set off for the start of the Woodvale Atlantic rowing race. I'd also chatted to him on the phone in November when writing up profiles on a number of South African adventurers.

What Pete accomplished out there on the Atlantic - positions aside (first African to row the Atlantic; second placed solo) - is nothing short of extraordinary. To spend 76 days alone on a 'tin can in a washing machine' is incomparable to anything else. You can't get off, you can't get help in any hurry and if you want to get anywhere, you've got to sit on that sore-encrusted butt to row with your blister-upon-blistered hands.

While Pete did the manual labour, he also had a super crew at home who put out notices on his progress, monitored ocean currents and weather patterns to position Pete in the most favourable lines, took care of technical issues and problems that arose and, of course, provided ongoing enouragement and support. It was as good following Team Pete's involvements through the postings on http://www.own-your-life.co.za/ as well as Pete's experiences on the ocean.

It was an absolute treat to meet Pete and his wife Kim this morning. And this photo will long be treasured.

Audio magazines

"What?" I hear you ask. "What is an audio magazine?"

"It could be," I reply, "the future."

This afternoon, while contemplating how to deal with my ever growing pile of semi-read magazines, I had an epiphany.

I remember listening to stories on the radio after school in the mid-80s. My great-aunt would tune in to dramas. And then we stopped listening when the visual world of television took over the listening and imagining world of radio story-telling.

Some two decades passed before I dipped my ears into the world of audio books, spurred on by recommendations by Jenny Crwys-Williams on her 'Book Show' slot on 702 radio on Wednesday afternoons. Sure, I generally only listen to audio books on long drives, but I enjoy them and have found that it takes a while to adjust your ear to listening, as opposed to absorbing information that is primarily visual.

I've recently been listening to an audio book, which I saved on my computer. It's highly entertaining and I feel like I'm killing two birds with one stone; reading a book and completing other tasks.

But what to do about all of these magazines that I manage to only superficially flick through - mostly looking at the pictures - before I'm distracted by other things and the next magazine arrival? Electronic magazines (ezines) fall into a similar category because It requires me to flip the pages on my computer - an object I already spend too much time plugged into - to read articles of interest. There are so many articles - possibly quite interesting - that I just haven't come close to reading in the magazines scattered around my home.

And why don't I get around to reading these magazines, afterall, I plough through book after book? After a day (it's a long day that extends well into night because 99% of things I do are computer and online based) spent glued to my computer, answering dozens of emails, updating websites, writing articles and surfing the web for information and entertainment, I've had about enough of looking at and watching things.

I don't have a tv (by choice) so I frequently listen to the radio at night. It's on in the background while I mess on my computer, cook and such; but because they talk such trash at night, I may tune in to a music station or, as I've been doing recently, I listen to an audio book.

Now imagine an audio magazine where the tracks are sections in the magazine - interesting facts, how-tos, newsy snippets from the past month, interviews (where the person being interviewed actually speaks!), informative feature articles on people, places and things... even recipes! You could listen to the CD (or MP3) in the car or while washing dishes, cooking dinner, making school lunches, running/spinning in the gym...
I had a brief look online and there's currently no such thing. But maybe it is just me - I think it would be cool. Certainly an audio mag wouldn't replace a printed mag (just as ezines haven't replaced print), but as an alternative format.

History does repeat itself and listening to an audio magazine would take us back to those days when time moved more slowly and we listened more than we watched.

Friday 2 April 2010

Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do

I like daisies. Like sunflowers, who are related-family members (Asteraceae), they're warm and happy with friendly faces. Although sunflowers are my Number One favourite, daisies - and especially Barberton Daisies (aka Gerber after their botanical genus) - rank right up there too.

Early this week on 702 (talk radio station) there was a suggestion that Jo'burg residents sow Namaqualand Daisy seeds now so that they'll be out during the World Cup. Jo'burg is brown and drab in winter, so a flush of oranges and yellows will be welcome. Unfortunately, with 10 weeks to go until the World Cup, it's a bit too late as it takes 100-120 days for flowering. Still, I thought it would be a super thing to do anyway. The gardening lady on the radio said yesterday that if you give them a bit of a fertilizer boost along the way and keep them moist, you can get flowering a bit earlier.

I hit my local nursery on Tuesday afternoon to buy seeds and selected two packets of a 'Namaqualand Flower Mix'. This morning, just before the rains started again, I sowed them. The pavement garden at my place has bothered me for ages as it has plants, but soil is still visible. I don't like seeing soil in flowerbeds. I'm hoping the spread of flowers, expected to be in full swing by mid-July, will look like the picture on the packet - colourful and abundant.

BEFORE: There are seeds all over the soil parts. Day One; 100 to go.

If you like this idea, give it a go. And if you don't have a garden, sow the seeds into a container to create a mini-garden.

I couldn't resist the Gerber seeds at the nursery. I've got them in egg trays to grow them to seedlings before moving into pots.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Knit Wit

As mentioned in a posting a week or three ago, I've taken up knitting after a 15-year hiatus. And all because a little girl asked for my help with her knitting. My first project was a knit-purl scarf for my dad in a simple pattern varying these two simple stitches. Never one to stick with the mundane, I've moved on to patterns that read, "k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k3, s2kp, k3, yo, k1...". A week ago I didn't know what these abbreviations meant, much less how to knit them. Thanks to the internet, I'm busy with two fancy-pants patterns.

Scarves and neckwarmers are going to be my knitted item of choice - repeated pattern, quick to complete and useful items for friends, especially with winter coming. Big projects like jerseys are just not my thing. I found a super website - Knitting Pattern Central, which lists loads of scarf (and other) patterns with links to the pattern on other websites.

At a needlework shop yesterday - yes, I'm hitting wool shops now - I saw a pack with special 'Furry' wool. It knits up into a furry little animal. With many friends having babies and even more children's organisations always looking for toys, these may be fun to make and giveaway.

Most surprising of all is how chuffed I am with myself for getting these patterns right. Pure delight in something so absolutely simple. Lovely!

Now that I've got the hang of eyelets, dropped stitches and yarn overs my next challenge will be cables. I can remember my great-aunt juggling cable needles to create mesmerising designs. As a young child I would sit on the floor (still only for half a moment) to hold her wool, feeding it out as she knitted. But first I've got to finish my 'cherry leaf' and 'seafoam and waves' scarves.