The problem with road building in Johannesburg

October 22 2013


I’m currently involved in a campaign to try and stop a road being built through a local nature reserve, and one of my concerns is that whatever gets put in the plans won’t matter once building commences. Because roads are really badly made in Johannesburg. When I lived in Shoreham, a 100 yard pedestrianised area took nearly a year to finish because of the incredible layers of engineering and planning that went in to it. That was ridiculous. But so is the picture above. It’s the new intersection between Maxwell Drive and Old Pretoria Road – finished about three months ago.

This weekend it rained. Quite heavily. It’s the first rain this road has seen. And already it’s too flooded to drive on, causing traffic to back up and – eventually – the lights will fail.It hasn’t rained for 12 hours, and the pool of water is still there.

Quite how that happens is beyond me. It rains heavily for six months of the year here. You’d think someone would have remembered to put the storm drain in?

My first 3D prints

September 25 2013

3d Print number 1So yesterday was a bit of a breakthrough. After only a year of trying, I made some things with my 3D printer. The first (above) is a mount for the electronics. I found out that the reason I was only getting half-prints like this:

failed octopusWas because the connections on the RAMPs shield were moving around too much.

Then I made this:

3d print 2It’s a waving octopus from Thingiverse. With his head caved in because I didn’t use enough infill, I think. Also, I think the extruder temperature is a bit too high, and the extruder itself was set a little low and melted some of the layers at the top.

I guess this means it’s going to rain soon…

rainspiderDiscovered lurking above the towel rail the other night. Looking me straight in the eye as I looked up from drying my hands.

The swiss-cheese rocks of the Dolphin Coast. Weird or what?

August 17 2013
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Alien-looking rocks on Salt Rock beach, a set on Flickr.

While on holiday just north of Durban, in a little town called Salt Rock (complete with ‘Salty’s’ – the hard drinking bar for salted types) we came across a small area of these rocks.

They were just under a headland, so I assume the odd patterning is a result of multiple currents in the undertow and some pumice-like lava rock. I can’t find anything online which explains this kind of wear (primarily on the land-facing side of each rock), but it certainly looks cool.

And by the way, the government has changed your name…

July 20 2013

Tabby's birthday cakeCongratulations to wife unit on scoring the ultimate birthday cake for seven-year-old’s birthday. Also, kudos to seven-year -old for appreciating one of the best animated heroines of recent times.

Nothing is free

July 19 2013

I read this piece by Jay Naidoo at the Daily Maverick earlier, and there’s a quote in it from Nazma Akter, the general secretary of the Sommilito Garments.

Sramik Federation, turned to me and said, “We need people in the West to understand that there is nothing free. When you buy cheap clothing or buy one and get one free, realise that nothing is free. Someone has to pay. Here it is the workers with their lives. Our lives are cheap. While we know we have to fight for union rights here, our struggle is interconnected and global.”

It’s been going round in my head ever since, so I had to put it here to exorcise it somewhat. It should be printed above the doorway of every Truworths, Topshop and Macy’s in the world.

It’s soon going to be a year since I moved to South Africa, and I find I’m really having to fight the temptation to normalise so many of the things that are wrong here. Most of all it’s the constant refrain that somehow, economics justifies paying people less-than-subsistence wages and only by allowing economics to run free will they be saved.

Meanwhile, the relatives of the Marikana were just told that they have to pay their own legal expenses to be represented at the inquiry. Despite the fact that the only reason they’re there in the first place is because the family breadwinners were shot down by the police. And yet no-one seems outraged by this. | Meet the Tweeting badger of Johannesburg Zoo

June 29 2013 | Meet the Tweeting badger of Johannesburg Zoo.


June 18 2013

VIDEO: Shoreham footbridge demolition gets underway – Local – Shoreham Herald.

Microlighting in Johannesburg

June 1 2013
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Microlighting in Johannesburg, a set on Flickr.

So this was my Christmas present from Tamsin. Which I finally cashed in. Today. A microlight flight over the outskirts of Johannesburg/Centurion, in a pretty spectacular part of the farm belt.

Back in Brighton, we’d watched people doing some new hang-gliding/microlighting crossover thing off of Devil’s Dyke, and I mentioned I’d always fancied trying it. And now I have. Lovely.

Views were amazing, but the headwinds were pretty strong – which meant the whole ride was quite bouncy. Got some good pics though.

Also, I saw bees. Apparently, they’re kept to pollinate the maize fields, and the hives are usually moved the hives down to Cape Town this time of year for the winter crop down there (it’s too dry in Joburg to grow maize at the moment). Which seems like a long way to take bees for a holiday to me.

Take a Girl Child to Work Day

May 29 2013

Read the wrong way, Take a Girl Child to Work Day could sound rather sinister – imagine it said in a ‘bring your Earthling followers to the meat grinder’ voice, for example. But it’s actually a pretty cool annual event designed to expose school kids to the world of work and hopefully encourage them to do something about the shocking gender parity stats in South Africa, which only get worse when you throw race in to the mix.

According to a report released on Monday in State Owned Entities (SOEs) – ie the public sector – only 16% of board members are women, and  22.5% of all board members are black. Bring a Girl Child to Work Day isn’t a panacea for this state of events, but at least it’s about encouraging young women to think of roles they can train for and aspire to during their lives, rather than give up in despair at the awfuleness of it all (which is probably what I’d do). It’s organised by phone company Cell C – which would usually make me write it off as a marketing gimmick – but has been around long enough that I don’t think of their involvement any more than I think Mars is integral to the London Marathon (Mars does still sponsor the London Marathon, right)?

Anyways, we’re taking part in Take a Girl Child to Work Day tomorrow, and by ‘we’ I mean one of the websites I help to oversee, Girl Guides. Only in a rather unfortunate turn of events, we’re taking our work to girl childs rather than the other way around. Because we work from a very small office, we asked Cell C’s organising team if they wanted to send two children to spend the day with us, guest editing the Girl Guides blog. One Monday, Lungelo – our writer – and I went to meet the kids at their school, Phefeni Senior Secondary in Soweto. It’s in a really neat little tourist area, just behind the famous Mandela Family Restaurant, which as far as I know has nothing to do with the Mandela family but is indeed a restaurant.

Only we found out that the school was expecting to send 20, not two, kids to us.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the funds to pay for a bus to shuttle 20 kids from Soweto to the other side of the CBD, nor do we have the space in the office to do anything useful with 20 school girls should they get there. Other than shut them in the podcast studio and hope they can figure it out for themselves. Which meant that the whole thing was in danger of being called off. For us, anyway, not the national project, obviously.

Fortunately, the teachers at Phefeni have agreed to reverse things around. Lungelo and I are going to work from the school tomorrow, and do a high speed introduction to journalism session with a guide to setting to setting up a Tumblr blog for the school instead. Hopefully our complete lack of preparedness and my vague terror at the idea of having to keep a class of 20 school girls interested in what I do for a living for more than a couple of minutes won’t spoil the day for all. I think it’s going to be kind of fun, and with a bit of luck, useful too.

Will report back tomorrow… or not.