Thursday, 13 December 2007

A new post for a new look (for the new year)

Ta-da! What do you think of the new look? They say that a change is as good as a holiday, and seeing my holiday only starts tomorrow, today was a day for change.

I'm quite chuffed with myself - made the new banner from a chopped up email advert for a restaurant, cut and paste and moved around on Paint (the only image editing software this useless PC has). No Photoshop, as you can tell. But still, I like it. And seeing its my blog, I guess that counts for something.

But I really would like your opinions (especially positive ones).

I know it's a little early for the new year, but your truly is leaving tomorrow and has no plans to touch a PC until she returns in early Jan, when she must also stop speaking and writing in the third person!

Well, my lovelies, if I don't blog soon, wishing you a lovely holiday, a blessed Christmas and lots of beautiful moments that will become cherished memories.

Monday, 10 December 2007

My pseudonym

I have a pseudonym! This is a pen name, for those who were unaware of the meaning of this interesting and intellectual sounding word.

As a journo, I kinda assumed I would need to write under another name at some point in time, but I must admit that I had hoped it would be for more noble reasons. I imagined needing to use a fake name to protect myself from the wrath of the government after exposing an enormous spy scandal, or from the Italian mafia for blowing the lid on their crime syndicate.

But alas, my alter ego, Justine White (the feminine version of my brother's name + my mother's maiden name) came about through rather boring means. We freelance to a lot of publications and we sometimes write entire magazines. As such, a reader might notice that ALL the copy has been written by no more than two or three people, which looks a little unprofessional. So, instead of hiring more writers, we just change some articles (usually those we wrote that we dislike) to somebody else's name. Dishonest? Maybe, but that's how the industry works. I know one political writer who has a different name for every party he write about!

I have to say that I findhaving a pseudonym quite exciting. When I have to write a sparkly article on the useless CEO of some giant corporate, I like to fantasise that Justine will write a scathing story of his incompetence for the front page of The Sunday Times. Alternatively, when I'm writing a piece that I'm just hating, it's quite nice to blame it on Justine.

On the other hand, it does mean that some things that I am proud of are published in the name of somebody who doesn't exist.

Nevertheless, Justine has her uses. Maybe I should start a blog in her name...

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Beary unhappy

Sometimes being a journo is great - interviewing fascinating people and learning new stuff everyday, not to mention press trips, samples and other freebies.

At other times, it's not so great. In fact, today I feel like a squashed cabbage leaf.

My colleague and I were invited to a media event at a local shopping city, where we could create our own Christmas teddy bear. Thinking that it would be a nice excuse to escape the office December doldrums for an hour or two and do something fun, we went along. What wasn't stated in the invitation was the fact that the basic empty soft toy shell was the only bit that was free - all (ridiculously overpriced) accessories were for our own account.

After choosing a soundchip for our bears, and having them stuffed and fluffed, we were taken to the accessories shelves by over-enthusiastic helpers who urged us to pick shoes, sunglasses, cutesy outfits and any other bear-sized item we desired. "Oh no - you must take the raincoat too!" they'd gush, marvelling at our precious creations. "And what about a little backpack? It doesn't look complete without it."

It was only when we were directed to the front counter to pick up our bear's birth certificate that we found out we would be paying for these. My little bear, wearing a cricket uniform and sunglasses, plus the can't-do-without-them shoes, came to just over R400. For those of you who aren't from my part of the world, that's about US$60-odd, 40-something euros or 1,770,505 Zimbabwean dollars. In my books, that's an expensive outing!

And I'm not the only idiot that fell for it. We all left vowing not to ever write about the place (except bitching about it on our bogs, of course) and not to recommend it, which, I imagine, is not exactly the press impression a store wants, is it?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

South African Blogs - an endangered species

Oh dear... You know blogger has this cool links thing going so you can click on a word in someone's profile and be taken to a list of other people that have used that word? Well tough if you don't know.

I thought I'd check out some other SA or Jozi blogs, so I clicked on the words "South Africa" on my profile. Lo and behold... a list of 24 000-odd bloggers from sunny SA popped up and I happily started cruising through some of them.

I discovered:
There are lots of teeny blogs of bored highschoolers who think that the rest of the world cares who they kissed last night or what colour shoes they're going to wear to the Matric formal.

There are lots of bitchy blogs. For a nation of supposedly happy and good-natured people, there are a lot of bloggers out there who could do with a good dose of Prozac. Ok,I know that I'm not all sunshine and roses either, but man... there are some seriously nasty rants going down in the Southern Hemisphere!

There are lot and LOTS of failed blogs. Not failed as in I didn't like their look; failed as in the authors wrote one post saying how great it is to have a blog and then quit. So much for perseverence.

Please somebody direct me to an SA blog worth reading!

Monday, 3 December 2007

First post of December

It's the third of December, which means that my holiday is only 11 days away! I can hardly wait. I've finished the December deadlines, and now I'm spending my days trying to convince uncooperative people to grant me interviews for my January stories before we close on 14 Dec. But, being uncooperative people, they are not cooperating in the slightest. Strange, that.

I have realised something about the general South African and blogs: most of them don't have one and few even enjoy reading other people's blogs. So imagine my excitement when I discovered that some of the poor people on my monthly communal email list have actually been following my blog!

This could of course be because I tell them to in every email I send, but seeing nobody usually follows my advice I doubt it. I'm left to assume then, that they either really like this blog or they have way too much time on their hands. It's probably the latter, being December, and my comments and number of visitors will almost certainly drop drastically come the new year, but for posterity's sake I am going to enjoy deluding myself that their reason is in actual fact the former. It's better for self-esteem, self-acceptance and all those psychological good things that motivational speakers always talk about.

Nationwide could do with some of those now. The airline has had its entire fleet grounded and is facing suspension. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for suspending unsafe airplanes, but I feel sorry for a) the 6 000 passengers that were stranded without an option of catching another flight and b) the Nationwide staff that have nothing to do with maintenance, but who are still being clobbered along with the rest.

So sympathy to Nationwide employees, and rude words to SAA.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Slideshow all in order (at last)!

I am as happy as a small amphibian in a large predator-free lily pond - I have finally sorted out the slideshow so that it is actually showing my photos. The others that it was showing were admittedly much prettier, but I did feel like a bit of a plagiarist (albeit an unknowing one, seeing I have no idea who the pics belong to or why they ended up on my little blog).

Now I can sleep at night. If my vacuum-obsessed neighbour, snoring husband and and crazy cats shut up, that is. The house sounds like some eery percussion band at night. A bit like the song from Triplets of Bellville, actually.

Well, toodle-doo for now. Be blogging again soon. Unless I die of sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

No impact people

Check out this fascinating blog:

This guy, living in the middle of New York City (not the cleanliest place in the world), decided to live for a year with as little environmental impact as possible. He took his wife and daughter along for the ride, living by beeswax candlelight, recycling his own excrement and other crazy stuff that I would never dare to do. Makes for interesting reading!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tis the season to be sleepy

Today is a November day, which means that my brain is suffering from severe end-of-year-itis. I have been saying things like "there is a silver cloud to every lining" and losing my lunch inside my office organiser (although I haven't as yet, as my colleague has, put my shoes in the fridge).

Simply put, this is the time of year where brains switch off, although work continues. The result is that next year, when we all return to work, broke and miserable with the sound of shopping-centre-tinkly Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer grating away at our abused ears, we will have to re-do everything we did between mid-November and closing time anyway.

Which is why I am blogging instead of getting a headstart on my January work. After all, I did just find myself writing holiday instead of Holland, and sleep instead of slight. I think a break from the real world in necessary.

Wich gives me a verry good reasin for terrible spelling ennyway!

Until the next post, wishing the world a merry pre-holiday!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Nationwide: bolts to blame?

For a pic of the engine that got away, go to:

There are now suggestions that no birdie flew into the engine, but that there was a problem with the bolts. As this is not our first bolt incident (, I would like to put forward that perhaps an SABS official was bribed?

We need to stand against this - South Africans should not condom *ahem* I mean condone such behaviour. (for those who don't get it:

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Nationwide airplane drops the engine

Transport around South Africa is a favourite subject that everyone enjoys moaning about. Usually the thread of the conversation centers around how terribly our minibus taxis drive, the lack of bus and rail services we offer and the mess that the Gau-Train is creating in Sandton.

Of course people also moan about airplane delays and SAA's blatant disinterest in customer service (or is that just me?), but rarely do we have to close one of our major airports twice within the week. Maybe the fact that the entire Cape Town International airport is approximately the size of the waiting area at Heathrow or JF Kennedy makes it seem unimportant to the rest of the world. The fact, however, that it is the gateway to South Africa's tourism hub of the Western Cape, makes it pretty damn important to us.

Now there may be a saying that any publicity is good publicity, but I think in Nationwide's case this may may an exception. After losing one of its engines during take-off, the airline freaked its passengers out just a teensy bit. Fortunately nobody was injured. Those of us lucky enough to be on other flights were, however, treated to three hours of enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the airport.

With not enough seating to cater for even a third of the people waiting for the airport to re-open, the crowd in the departures lounge were able to practice their balance (shifting from one foot to another for three hours of standing with yor luggage can be beneficial), patience and people skills, while shorties like me practised holding their breath (being at armpit level in a crowd SUCKS). We could even fill in convenient little cards answering the question, 'Have you enjoyed your journey through our airport?', distributed thoughtfully in boxes on every available wall by the South African Airports Company just for this reason, I'm sure. Needless to say, their customer services department will have some colourful reading material coming its way.

My airline was kind enough to realise that, with the only coffee shop packed to the max, and after hours of standing, its passengers migt be a tad hungry, and dutifully provided us with gourmet refreshments comprising a tiny packet of peanuts and a bottled water or juice box.

We were at no point told about the engine-dropping incident (probably wise not to tell a crowd of grumpy passengers that one of the airplanes they were hoping to embark onto had decided to shed an engine on take-off). Instead we listened to a recored message played over and over about a plane running into some problems with debris (the word for engine in airlinese) on the runway.

Luckily, the captain on my flight believed in honesty being the best policy, and informed us all of the situation as we were about to take-off after finally boarding. He obviousy also has a gift in evangelism, as I've never seen so many people on a plane start praying so quickly.

After landing safely, albeit many hours late, I realised that we had been very lucky. Rather 3 hours late than leaving earlier and being on the flight that lost an engine.

There was a hit song in the 80s of the classic song with slightly different lyrics. Here are my suggestions:

Drop the engine
Let's try an air balloon
Drop the act now
We'll never reach the moon
Drop the pretence
This is no easy ride up
Don't use your right wing
We only need the left one

Liable, damages, prosecute, grievances... you'll see me in court, you'll see me in court!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Tell the world on

The death of chivalry and service in SA

Today's a day for a good rant about South Africa's (lack of) service.

Let's start with Sun City. One of South Africa's top tourist destinations, Sun city offers a world of facilities, a range of accomodation and, of course, much gambling. Hubby had never been there before, so as a joint birthday present for the two of us from my folks this year, we were given a weekend at the Cabanas family hotel there.

Our room was not up to scratch (single beds when we'd specifically requested double and phoned to check, shower that didn't drain, bedside lights that didn't work etc), so I wrote a polite letter to the general manager detailing the problems we had experienced. I got a phone call from him awhile later. He couldn't remember what my complaint was about (the first sign of bad management), but he wanted to give me his cell number so that I could call him next time I came to the hotel and he would check the room and give us free breakfast.

So, instead of assuming responsibility, this moron wants me to spend my airtime calling him so that he can check a room that should already be in good condition (seeing I will be paying good money to stay in it), and give me a free breakfast that is already included in the price of staying at the Cabanas? That's fantastic service, isn't it? I think I'll recommend the experience to all my friends: "Visit the Cabanas - you get shoddy rooms and an incompetent manager, but at least you don't have to pay for your complimentary breakfast if you complain!"

Sun City, however, is not a patch on South African Airways.

I don't have a credit card, so I asked my mother to do me the favour of booking a flight to Upington for hubby and I to visit the in-laws in December. She did so, but booked it in my married name. As my ID book is in my maiden name, she needed to change the booking to the correct name, so she called them back to make the adjustment.

They don't do adjustments.

She had to cancel the tickets, forfeit a portion of the price and book new tickets. The woman who booked the tickets gave her two wrong numbers to call, told her she would have to pay double the original amount for a new set as the lower-priced ones were not available (despite the fact that my mom had just cancelled two of those, making a pair available) and generally had no clue about how to do her job.

But what else would you expect from the airline that issued my husband and I tickets on opposite ends of the plane on our first day of our honeymoon? As SAA is the only airline flying to Upington, you have no other choice, so they really don't give a flying (excuse the pun) ehm... truck about customer service.

All this sunshine journalism about South Africa being a great tourist destination forgets to mention the bit about getting to that destination.

Ok, enough for today. If you want to check out more ranting, visit, a brilliant South African customer service website.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

First doodle

I'm not really sure why I'm starting a blog. Probably because I have spare time at work for a change.

Amazing how one has endless ideas that one longs to jot down, but as soon as the opportunity arises, they all flee one's mind like cats that have just spotted the mother of all Rotweilers.

Well, then, let me borrow from someone of greater eloquence and leave you (or not, depending on whether anybody ever reads this or not) with a quote for the day:

"If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and would explode once a year, killing everyone inside."
By Robert X Cringely

Yes, my technology is being particularly stroppy today. The printer, the office network, the server and the fax machine are in the process of planning a revolution. I can feel it in my bones.

If my first post happens to be my last... I'm probably lying dead in a pile of ink and toner, with reams of fax paper stretched tautly around my neck.