Wednesday, 30 June 2010

FIFA HQ in Jozi was robbed

Ha ha. Looks like it was an inside job, as it so often seems to be! No less than Septic Sepp deserves.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Photos of poor witmense

It's just been done again by a guy called Finbarr O'Reilly - see what you think.

I think Kevin Bloom missed the point, and shouldn't be attempting to compare with Goldblatt, whom he admits photographed working class Afrikaners anyway. This O'Reilly chap just wants to show the ignoramuses out there that, like, oh my god, white people in SA can be poor too. All that stuff about essentialising and groupyfying is way more sophisticated than what this oke was trying to achieve.

If It Was My Home - Visualizing the BP Oil Spill

If It Was My Home - Visualizing the BP Oil Spill

Sunday, 27 June 2010

can you tell that i'm in work avoidance mode?

(i.e. in that you're getting a whole bunch of inane posts from me)

But. I had to share some of my experience of watching the world cup here in the U.S.A. I had promised the people involved in this story that I wouldn't post anything about it on Facebook. But I didn't say anything about blogs.

On Saturday, I sat down to watch the USA / Ghana game. For a split second, I felt a little torn about who I should support. Whilst my loyalties obviously lie with Ghana, I think the US doing well in the world cup is generally a positive thing. This round, the bars have been unusually packed for every game, all matches are broadcast on free television, there were even a couple of people blowing vuvuzelas. I think that having this country actually compete with countries like Ghana, and realise that they might not win, is good for their psyche.

Having realised that it would be even better for the national psyche to just get beaten by Ghana, however, I warned all the people I was watching the game with (exclusively Americans), that I would be shouting for the opposite team, they being the last African team left in the tournament. To which a friend responded. "Well, I mean, now that we have a black president, can't we also be considered an African team?"

That aside, it was this particular friend's wife who made the most phenomenal comment during the game. She says: "hang on, why is that Ghana player wearing a U.S. jersey?" To which we responded, "you mean one of the black players on your team??" To her credit, we had been drinking an awful lot of beer, prosecco and high-school style mixed alcohol punch; and immediately after saying it she was extraordinarily embarrassed.

Back to writing about criminal procedure for me.


Friday, 25 June 2010

update on my insane neighbourhood

This just in:

"We just returned from a wonderful week on Ocracoke. To commemorate the trip, I brought back a beautiful shell that I found while kayaking on Silver Lake. Well, didn't that shell sprout legs and walk across my desk at work two days ago. So much for reliving the relaxation of the beach. Turns out the shell contains a marine hermit crab that is now doing quite well in a makeshift "salt-water tank", despite being out of the water for several days. Basically, I would like to return him to the wild. I thought if there were any well meaning neighbors headed to Ocracoke we could try to catch a ride for "Rayburn" (my daughter named it). While I'm sure the crab would prefer his island of birth, I'm sure any tidal marsh would be preferable than his current tank, so we would certainly consider other locations. The crab would, of course, be willing to cover his share of the gas money.

Thanks for considering,

P.S. I am fully aware that one should not remove living things from their
natural habitat and, rest assured, I will no longer be taking out the
inanimate objects either ."

Bringing the Gees!!

My WC Photos to date

England V Algeria
Cameroon V Netherlands (voice still gruff from last night!)

All about the fan walk and watching the passing parades! Oh, yes, and seeing some footie :)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Vuvuzela song

Don't worry - no actual vuvus were hurt making this song.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Count down reaches fever pitch

vuvuzela's are going crazy all over the city, fireworks are popping in the city bowl and the mountain is all lit!

Living in Small Town America

My neighborhood list-serve is a constant source of amusement to me.

It ranges from the completely weird ...

(see: "I need to order frozen mice soon and would like to split the order, to save on shipping. Any hungry mouths out there? Please reply off list. Ron")

... to the not infrequent "OMG I saw a black person walking in our neighborhood" variety of postings. They are usually couched as something along the lines of "suspicious person seen riding bicycle. didn't seem to be riding very expertly. and they were black. so they must have stolen it. go look to see if your bike is still on your shed, and if not, we'll organise a lynch mob." ( kid you not)

The sort that I'm copying below crack me up the most. Completely ostensibly innocuous, but highly symbolic of why I don't quite feel like I'll ever fit in here. I've deleted all the names in case there's some kind of an issue with privacy infringement... (read from the bottom up).

WHHNA - LIST: Package found!!


Let me second ......'s appreciation of Scotty. Scotty was once delivering something to our office (in the 'hood), and when no one answered, he made a home delivery (also in the 'hood). We aren't even usual customers, since FedEx drivers, etc. aren't unionized and so we typically use UPS; so this was way above and beyond the call of duty.) ...And such a warm person Scotty is to top it all off.

Glad for your happy ending, ...!


-----Original Message-----
>From: ...
>To: ...
>Subject: Re: [whhna-list] Package found!
>It may have been Scotty, who is an incredibly wonderful fed-ex
>delivery person. He goes way out of his way to be helpful.
>On Jun 9, 2010, at 1:54 PM, Meg Gray wrote:
>> I am embarrassed, but also relieved to report that one more walk
>> around my house was all it took to find the package. The Fedex
>> delivery person very kindly (and cleverly) put the box under our
>> grill cover- and as it turns out, the box was black just as the
>> cover, so it was completely camouflaged. I wondered why it
>> appeared our grill had doubled in size! So, the good news is
>> twofold- no stolen package and we have a delivery person willing to
>> put the extra effort in to ensuring packages do not get damaged by
>> rain!
>> --- On Wed, 6/9/10, .... wrote:
>> From: ....
>> Subject: [whhna-list] Package taken from front porch
>> To:
>> Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 1:42 PM
>> I had a package delivered this morning by Fedex at approximately
>> 10:30. When I arrived home around 1:30 to pick it up (I was
>> worried about the rain) it was missing- not on my front or back
>> porch. I am hoping a very kind neighbor took it inside for me, but
>> if that is not the case, I am afraid it was stolen. So, please be
>> careful with your own deliveries.
>> ..... Englewood Avenue
>> _______________________________________________
>> WHHNA General Mailing List

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

arts n crafts!

I am totally on the World Cup spirit! Lu and I have even painted our own Makarapa's! (Check out her baobab one in the background) - Arts n Crafts is cool - felt like I was back in pre primary school :)

Monday, 7 June 2010

Some gems from my beloved employer

My employer takes security pretty seriously. We deal with a lot of confidential and/or priveleged information. All staff are vetted by the NIA prior to getting a job (well actually it starts after you are offered the job. Unlucky for you if you get booted 2 months in.). And you know, our offices must be secure and stuff. So we have a security team, one of which claims to be an ex-NIA agent. Sure.

Anyway they very infrequently send around completely random bits of 'advice', which are always entertaining. Part of today's 'Security Awareness Flash' are no different. It concerns the World Cup and appears to have been written by ADT. Don't touch me on my studio, people.

"For those of you who are going to the games, the trouble you are likely to come across will be either a few drunken yobs looking for a fight or pickpockets."

Yeah drunken yobs I'll help you look for those pickpockets! 

"The World Cup will attract international pickpockets from around the world."


"The SA authorities estimate that approx 300,000 Africans will come over the borders for the tournament. The borders will not be able to cope with the surge and checks will be cursory in most cases. Babies will be abducted for scrupulous adoption agencies in Nigeria and the like."

I'm not paraphrasing there - the third sentence was acutally put after the second sentence. And shame poor Nigeria. Even their scrupulous adoption agencies apparently steal babies from the other end of the continent.

Well done Andy Faull

His book about the SAPS (now SAPF, mind) is getting plenty positive attention. I reckon writing a book is one of the toughest jobs, so congratulations to him.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Cool fixture follower

From the clever Spanish press.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Minister takes it seriously (sort of)

Pravin had supper with some banks. He chatted to them about executive pay, new Basel requirements post-crisis, and ... the Banking Enquiry recommendations. Treasury then released a big long statement (13 pages dedicated to just the Enquiry) saying banks are expected to do x, y, and z by some unspecified date. 2 years of formal Enquiry work and report writing and 2 years of follow-up research, politicking, begging and pleading, has come to this one meeting.

I still think it's massive progress. They've promised a 'market conduct' regulator! At the very least a super-Ombudsman (though no-one is sure what sort of powers either might have, following from what laws. Detail!). Retail banking is the only consumer-oriented sub-sector in financial services that doens't have such regulation or oversight. No wonder customers never know what they're being charged for, much less penalised for. Coupled with the incoming Consumer Protection Act, this promise of more market conduct regulation might shed some light on the giant grey area that is customer 'service' in SA's retail banking industry.

We've also been promised a proper switching regime. Will it be something resembling the UK's, where the customer literally has to only issue instructions to the current and new banks, and sit back and verify information? Customers can even demand the process be completed within the 3 week preiod recommended by the Financial Services Authority. Soon, dear friends, we'll see how/if you will be able to vote with your feet slightly more easily than before.

That's assuming, of course, you can find something out there that is obviously cheaper. I have two responses to that. If the cost of switching comes down, and you no longer think it will take months to move all your debit orders, you're facing a stronger incentive to look than before. And if you do look, it doesn't take long to identify Capitec, FNB (EasyPlan and Smart), and Nedbank (Everyday, I think?) as the cheapest, and actually very cheap. Slightly more exotic are Bidvest and African - also cheap but probably less 'trusted'. After Saambou, Saffers are big on trusting their banks.

What about their actual fees, you say? They're too high, you bellow! Before responding please be reminded that the authorities are dealing ONLY with retail transaction accounts. Personal current accounts, as the British call them. They have nothing to say on interest rates, overdraft fees, mortgage fees, etc. In fact anything related to credit products fall under the regulation of the National Credit Act.

That said, they may have made some inroads into banks' penalty fee practices concerning dishonoured debit orders. Penalty fee reductions should occur on all accounts, but Treasury chose to focus on low income customers only. Who knows why. Either way though it's a big deal because this penalty is one of the few that isn't already regulated, and banks do make a great deal of non-interest income out of them. Explicit regulation of this fee would have brought some certainty; we'll have to see what Pravin's public guilt trip can generate. Will it make a difference to the banks that haven't already made changes?

What other fees could one reasonably expect to be 'force' down? Maybe ATM fees, and maybe some payment card fees. Needless to say there are no risk-free solutions. Right now if you want cheaper cash withdrawals, use a retailer, not an ATM. Not even your own bank's ATM. And to be perfectly frank on the payment card front all the clamour is for changes that help retailers save money on processing cards, which may in turn help customers with ever so slightly lower shelf prices. But those customers will probably need to pay more for their credit and debit cards. Swings and roundabouts.

On the myriad prices for all the other retail bank account services, I have the following to say. If you squeeze a water balloon (one that isn't too full) in one area, what normally happens? It pops out in another area. That's the problem with multi-product, highly differentiated oligopolies where the bigger players weild considerable market power. As long as they have market power, they can recoup profits lost as a result of direct regulation, from you. No regulator can, nor should, try to squeeze the balloon on all sides simultaneously. Not because it might burst, but because it can't be done efficiently and effectively. I mean really, how many South African regulators have got price regulation right?

No, the real solution is to reduce their market power. The only way to do that is to have more banks, switch more frequently between banks, or both. And we are getting there! Slowly. You, the customer, have the power. Go forth and switch, hopefully away from one of the big 4 baddies. Don't give me your rubbish about a 'relationship', or your home loan, or any other kak. And the trust thing! Don't get me started. Our banks are expensive partly because they come under the some of the most stringent prudential regulations found anywhere in the world. The reverance for, and fear of, RISK within the black walls of the SARB is quite something to behold. So stop your whining about size and reputation. Capitec is as solid as ABSA ever will be - it's run by like-minded ex-broederbond members.... (I think! Ha ha. But I mean how else do you get a banking license from Errol Kruger?).

More competition will (most often) get you better prices. More competition in banking has to bring some prices down, surely? I'm convinced that unless you are worth millions, more competition is the way to go. It will help you get better service for less far more effectively than any 'relationship' you might foster with a mid-level branch manager who failed accounting and became a banker instead. Think about that next time you apply for a loan, retch over your monthly bank charges, or are simply forced to endure another ridiculously expensive and mostly incomprehensible Standard Bank marketing campaign. Just don't ever apply for a loan from Capitec! Ha ha now you are confused.