Friday, 29 January 2010

I love my new gadget!

For Christmas TSC gave me this nifty little voice recorder. I have been wanting one for ages and I am loving it!

I used to have one of those old tape recorder dictaphones. Sorta like this:

Once, after taping an interview for a story, the thing fell off my car seat and the "record" button got switched on. I taped over the whole interview without knowing it. Since then I haven't trusted the things. The tapes stretch, you have to flip them over after 45 min and they are heavy to haul around in your handbag all day long.
My new little Olympus thankfully has a "hold" button, so hopefully there will be no more accidental over-recording. This amazing device can also record hours of interviews, save them in different folders, transfer them to my PC when I connect it via USB and all sorts of aother fancy things.
Of course, I still take written notes during interviews anyway. Just in case ;-)
Anyway, just thought I would share my glee. I'm so much happier now that my foot is better! And it's Friday. Woohoo!
Have a good one, y'all.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Kitty Shower

My foot is foot-shaped again! Yesterday it looked a bit like a pink balloon. This is good news.

This (below) is also good news for those in the JHB area who love kitties and want to help out:

*click on picture to view it in full (can't get it to fit on this page properly. Meh)

There's also a wishlist and other ways to help out on the website, if you'd like to help out but can't adopt a kitty or don't live in Joburg.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Fun times, my foot!

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday. I was out doing interviews on a large building site for most of the day. That would suck normally, but yesterday it sucked even more than usual because on Monday evening I was stung on the soft part of the bottom of my left foot by... something (I thought it was a bee at first but the reaction has been too severe. I'm thinking wasp, TSC reckons small scorpion), and it's still giving me trouble.

I had gone outside to get some herbs from the veggie garden and stepped on something on the lawn on my way back in that sent fiery pain through my whole foot. After staggering into the kitchen, I examined the foot and found a stinger sticking out, which made me think it was a bee, although it could've been another insect whose stinger was pulled out when I stepped on it.

I've been stung by bees four or five times before and all those times it was sore at the time but quickly passed. With this sting I could literally feel the toxins flowing through my foot (I had tried to scrape the stinger out with a knife, but it hadn't worked, so in desperation and pain I resorted to pulling it out with my fingers, which probably squeezed more poison into my foot. Yes, I'm a dumbass, I know).

I hopped on one foot up the stairs and crashed onto the floor in the bathroom once I'd pulled our first aid box off the shelf. TSC was on the phone and came running when he heard me (poor man probably thought I'd fainted and fallen on something with all the noise I was making). I found some antihistamine cream and tried to rub it on the now violently red and painful-to-the-lightest-touch area.

After a couple of minutes the pain subsided a bit and I was able to hobble downstairs and make supper with TSC. My foot was a bit swollen, so before bed I put some anti-inflammatory gel on it and figured it would be better by morning.


Yesterday I woke up to find my foot had swollen so much that I was barely able to fit it in my shoe. With a site visit up ahead, I had no option but to don closed shoes (and a safety helmet. So hot. Or not). Thankfully the interviews were conducted in the site's showroom, so I only had to pegleg my way to and from the parking lot and to the toilet. But after four or so hours, the foot was even more swollen from collected fluids thanks to gravity.

I drove myself home, made some two-minute noodles (they didn't feed us the whole day on site and I was starving). Then I collapsed on the bed with a pillow under my foot. And there I stayed for most of the evening, getting up only to make supper, call my mom (she's a doctor) and take a shower.

Following my mom's instructions, I took antihistamine and anti-inflammatory pills, applied some Voltaren to the swelling and got back into bed with my foot up high.

Today the foot looks just the same - grotesque. It's quite fascinating. In fact, I nearly took a photo. But then I realised nobody wants to see that ;-) I really wish the pain, itchiness and swelling would go away now. It makes walking, driving and normal life very difficult.

But anyway, on to more pleasant topics... Guess who found the camera cable?
So, at last, here are some pics...
The view from Sani Pass Hotel. The scenic views are one of the best things about this crumbling old place.
Flowers at the top of Sani Pass, near the Highest Pub In Africa
The mountains on the way to the pass itself
The bread baked by a Basotho woman we visited in Lesotho
TSC and I on horseback
The river at Sani Pass Hotel
The waterfalls at Sani Pass Hotel
My "baby" marrows when we arrived home (the furthest one to the left that you can hardly see is the size you normally find in stores)
A selection of veg picked from my garden
My parents' boat, which TSC and I got to experience for the first time at Bronkhorstspruit Dam during the holiday

Monday, 25 January 2010

Suggestions welcome

Last year I mentioned I'd like to do a swap circle sometime early this year. And seeing the year is already getting on (?!?!?!panic much?!?!?!), I'd better get my A into G. So, I would like ideas, please. How is the best way to do this? Should people just bring their stuff and haggle among themselves (could be entertaining)?

Should I invent a currency for the day (I'm thinking Clams, like the Flintstones used)? I could make one Clam equivalent to R5. Then everyone could give their swappables a monetary value, round it off to the nearest R5 and put a Clam price on it. Then when you arrive, you hand over your stuff and get its value in Clams, which you can spend on other people's stuff. Does that make any sense? Probably not.

I think I should also give folks the option to donate any stuff that doesn't get swapped to a suitable beneficiary (not me, clowns. I mean like the books left over can go to a library, the clothes to the children's home my mom works with etc...). I'd be happy to do the deliveries of the stuff.

In fact, maybe I should ask everyone who comes along to bring something from the charity's wishlist if they can (for instance, at the moment I know the children's home needs tupperware containers and bath towels).

Of course we'll have to set some rules in place. Like no bringing your manky old socks to swap. What do you think?

And while I'm asking, how was the weekend for everyone else? Mine was good. Ended up having a spontaneous supper with our neighbours on Sat (they whipped up a three-course meal out of thin air. It was impressive) and went to see Phillygirl in her new place yesterday and caught up with some other bloggers too. Then it was church, coffee with mates and off to bed so that we could both get up early for gym this morning and TSC could get to varsity on time on his first day back.

He's been on holiday for almost two months (I miss that about my student days), so I think he's glad to be back in a way, despite the fact that it's going to be loads of hard work.

Well, have a fab week, people.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Let's (not) go to the mall!

Yesterday after gym (good grief swimming kills me!) I briefly visited the mall to pick up a birthday present for my boss. It feels like forever since I've been into a mall. I've been avoiding them because a) it's January and I am flat broke b) I don't like malls very much (artificial lighting, large groups of pushy people and enclosed spaces combine to make me feel a bit trapped) and c) there are waaaay too many temptations at the mall.

I'm not a fashion follower by any description (I think brand names are a waste of time and until recently, when my colleague Roo "educated" me, had never heard of Ed Hardy, Jo Malone or Baby Phat etc). In fact, I bought my Matric dance dress (the South African version of your prom, for non-saffers) at a fleamarket for a whopping R350 (less than $50) and I do most of my clothes shopping at sales and factory outlets. I am also lucky to inherit clothes that my mom is done with. She has great taste and I look forward to her cupboard clean-outs with anticipation.

I like things this way. I enjoy my clothes and look just fine in my cheap ones (to my knowledge, that is). I get a certain satisfaction from putting together an outfit I think is nice without spending much money, and from the fact that I can spend a little cash on other things instead, like my garden, crafting, spoiling TSC, going out to dinner occasionally or nice birthday gifts for friends.

But, for some inexplicable reason, when I am broke (pretty much the end of every month) I have this wicked urge to go out and just blow money. On clothes, on homeware, on anything really. I don't (not because I have great self control but because I have no money to blow and haven't allowed myself the temptation of owning a credit card). But I want to spend. And so walking through a mall is pure torture.

Those retail magicians make the store windows seem so pretty, sparkly and inviting. And then they put up great big "SALE" signs on top of it all. They're usually red, which should be a warning. Red is the colour of danger in nature. Red is the colour for 'stop'; the colour of blood. But not in a mall. In a mall, red is the colour of "if you buy this record your life will be better".

And once you're actually inside a store, there are all sorts of clever tricks retailers have to make you spend your hard-earned bucks. Thankfully, there are people with too much time on their hands helpful folks out there who have dedicated themselves to exposing this treachery. For Sarah and Po, there is even an article by some guy meationing how Barry Manilow aids and abets these merchanisers and how not to be a hamster.

I have my own solution. And it is simpler, better and faster (unlike a certain bank): DON'T GO TO THE MALL.

That is all.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

World Cup stuff

For those of you who live underneath a rock, 2010 in South Africa is synonymous with the FIFA World Cup. It's been the topic of conversation for what feels like forever, with people debating safety issues, whether or not the stadia will be ready, if small businesses will benefit from the event at all, how to get hold of tickets etc...

And I have been wishing that I could disappear to anywhere else in the world for the period because everyone keeps telling us how bad the traffic will be, that prices will skyrocket on everything from airplane flights to toilet paper and that we'll be stopped by daft tourists wearing socks and sandals every five minutes to ask us why there are no elephants wandering the streets with them or where they can get a stab-proof vest.

But, since we listed our spare room on an accomodation website and have started getting some interest and even a booking or two, the World Cup is beginning to feel more real to me and like something I would like to be a part of. No, I am not a soccer fan and yes, it's true that I have little faith in our own team, but it is actually pretty cool that our country is kicking off the new decade with such a big, exciting event that is getting people thinking positively about SA (except the Brits marketing those stab-proof vests, that is).

Hosting people will be a way of being part of the event and I'm looking forward to showing a few visitors a little bit of this awesome country and its culture, whether that means having a braai with some boerewors or taking them to see some lion cubs at the Rhino and Lion Park.

Now if I can figure out this ticket application process we might even get to go to a game!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Bring back Saturday!

I think that it's only once you're back at work after a holiday that you realise how truly short weekends are. *sigh* And this rainy weather is not conducive to office productivity. We're all dreaming of being home in bed with a good book and a mug of Milo.

The weekend was a good one. We spent Friday evening chilling at home watching How I Met Your Mother upstairs while Isak watched some big soccer match in the living room. We could hear him cheering once in awhile, so it must have been good.

On Saturday morning, I hit the gym for an aqua class, which left me feeling alive and refreshed - a good way to start the weekend. When TSC arrived back from his golf lesson with a mate of ours (late, of course), I made us all a big breakfast of poached eggs, toast and bacon.

Then Isak finished up the last window, TSC and I did a few chores and we all headed to Pretoria. We dropped him off at the station to go home, sending some Christmas presents, veggies from my garden and a load of clothes with him, along with his pay. I think he was hoping we'd give him the R1 000 he needs to cover the monthly installments he's skipped on his furniture repayments, but we just don't have that money to give him.

We then went to spend the rest of the afternoon with my folks. It was good to see them again and we enjoyed a family supper along with my brother and a friend at the new Simply Asia near their house. My dad's latest is to wag his finger at me and say, "Don't put this on your blog!" if he thinks he's said something I could tease him about ;-)

On Sunday morning TSC and I went for brunch with them at the Primi Piatti in Irene Village Mall. The food was great, but it took forever to arrive even though we were the only people in the restaurant. We finished quite late and had to rush back to Joburg in time to make a friend's birthday braai before church. We didn't take meat with us, having just eaten, but TSC (of course) ended up cooking everyone else's food because he's brilliant behind a braai.

This is his last week of holiday before he starts varsity again. On the one hand, I'd like him to finish the projects he was meant to do this holiday (installing shelves in the study, fixing the leaking toilet etc), but on the other hand I think he should enjoy a last week of rest before the craziness begins. Third year is sure to be tough and I'm not looking forward to the stress on him and on us. That said, I'm sure he'll enjoy the new challenge and the fact that he doesn't have to do statistics as a subject this year!

I'll have to plan something nice for this weekend to end off his holiday on a high note. I would ask for ideas, but seeing he's now reading my blog, if you do have any brain waves please email me at doodlesofajourno at gmail dot com. Ta.

Have a fab week.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Just not fair

In late December last year, TSC got a call from a painter he used to work with when he was still in construction at the last company he worked for, let's call them Asshats Inc. This guy, Isak, was stressing because it was past Christmas and he hadn't been paid yet. He has two kids and a wife to feed, and he was at the end of his tether.

TSC deposited R300 into his bank account to tide him over until the end of the month, when the company promised to pay him. Last week, Isak called again. He still had not been paid. He'd managed to stretch that R300 (about $40US) for two weeks, but he once again couldn't put food on the table.

TSC and I discussed what we could do to help. We don't have spare money just lying around, especially not in January. But we decided that seeing we need to strip and repaint all the windows of our house, we would take a few hundred Rand out of our savings and hire Isak to do the painting. That way, he keeps his dignity and doesn't have to stress about paying us back, and our windows get sorted out. Plus, while he's with us we can feed him and save him buying groceries.

So Isak came to stay with us on Wednesday. We took him to see Avatar in 3D (his first time in a cinema), which he loved. At one point, during a fight scene, he took the viewing glasses off, saying that the characters were "just too close".

Chatting at home over supper afterwards, he told us that he has been working for Asshats Inc for four years and that they periodically treat him like this. Currently, he reckons that over 100 people and their families are still awaiting December payment from the company. He has been unable to buy his kids Christmas presents (I'm sending him home with some) or purchase their school stationery.

These workers from Asshats Inc are hardworking labourers who support their families on an absolute pittance. They have trade skills, but no training that would allow them to move into a career that pays better. Most earn around R2000 a month ($270US).

When the company doesn't pay them on time, they can't put food on the table, pay their bills (Isak has defaulted on his furniture repayments) or clothe their kids. Yet they are terrified to report the company to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) because they're sure they would lose their jobs. In the middle of a recession, construction jobs are hard to come by.

Most are paid in cash and don't pay tax, so the company simply denies that they work for them. The tragedy is that this seems to be the norm in construction in South Africa.

Isak, as a sub-contractor, issues the company with written invoices for work done and receives payment by direct deposit into his bank account, so he at least has proof that he works for the company. I'm chatting to a friend whose mom is a labour lawyer to see what his options are. We're also looking out for a driving job for him as he does have a driving licence and is reliable and willing.

He doesn't drink or gamble, is a church-goer and devoted father and I just can't get my head aeround the fact that such an honest, hardworking man should be made to suffer like this. It's not right. And it's definitely not right that Asshats Inc continues to get away with treating their employees like dirt.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Quick update

  • Blogger has been giving me the finger yesterday and today, so let's hope this goes up.
  • TSC, yes, my darling TSC, has surprised me by starting his own blog. Never in a million years would I have thought this could happen. Yay!
  • I cannot find the flipping camera cable, so photos will have to wait until I've sorted out the study (am reorganising, so there are boxes and paper everywhere). I tried to load a few pics last night from the home PC, but the formatting in Blogger was out of whack, so you'll have to wait.
  • I'm going now.
  • Bye.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Movies galore

Today I remembered the camera. And forgot the cable to link it to the PC. Chop.

So more written nonsense for you lot. A brief collective movie review, if one could call it that, of the movies I've seen in the last while. Would love your thoughts on them too.

This was not a bad movie. It wasn't great, but it was enjoyable enough. We saw it because TSC and I both adore Bruce Willis (Not sure why, admittedly). The concept of the film is that in the future world, people have bought perfect surrogate bodies that they control from their homes. While the surrogates go to work, party hard and do anything else their owners imagine, the real people hide at home behind closed doors, chubbier, more wrinkled and generally less attractive than their airbrushed "surries". Then a murder takes place and a person is killed through his surrogate. This changes everything. And, of course, Bruce is required to save the day.

It's an interesting idea, although difficult to translate into a mere two-hour film. The don't-be-too-dependent-on-tech moral is very clear, but the gaps in the created world and the storyline are annoying. It's entertaining, but not as memorable as it should be.

The tagline, "This is not a love story. this is a story about love," says it all. The film follows Tom, a greeting card writer, and his feelings for Summer, the girl he believes is "the one". An offbeat, sweet indie film, the movie portrays Tom's journey in a non-linear but entertaining manner. Great music, laugh-out-loud funny moments, heart-breaking emotional scenes and a gorgeous scene straight out of a Broadway musical made me love this movie.

We saw the premier of this movie at Montecasino. Blergh. What a load of hype for nothing. For a film by Guy Ritchie, the director of my favourite movie, Snatch, as well as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (we will ignore the fact that he also directed Swept Away starring his looney ex-wife, Madonna), it was a disappointment. I also adore Robert Downey Jnr, but found that he mumbled his way through Sherlock's lines so that for half of the movie, none of us could understand what on earth he was saying. It felt like the movie went on forever. And I'm sure there will be a sequel. Which I will not be watching.

Let me say upfront that this movie is not about the plot. You know within the first few minutes of the three-hour epic exactly what will happen. But that's not the point. The glory of this movie is the rich new world that has been created - Pandora. I could cast aside cliched script and ignore Sam Worthington dropping his American accent (he's an Aussie) so long as I could gaze on the phosphorescent plantlife and be transported into the world of those tall blue humanoids for a bit longer. Technologically, this movie has given us a leap in film-making technique that we last saw with The Matrix. Despite a predictable storyline and stock characters, this film does what sci-fi is meant to do - transports us into a new world.

We saw this last night. It was really good. And then it ended. Abruptly. In the middle of the most important bit, I think. But maybe that was the point. *sigh* Let me backtrack. It's about this man, a widower and lecturer, who arrives in Manhattan for a conference to find two immigrants, Tarek and Zainab, living in his apartment. They have been leased the place in real estate scam. He reluctantly allows them to stay as they have nowhere else to go, and then becomes involved in their lives and ultimately Tarek's struggle to avoid deportation.
Despite my annoyance at the ending, I would recommend seeing it, even just so that I have someone to discuss it with ;-)

Those of the films I have seen on cimema recently. Any other recommendations (and don't tell me Couples Retreat).

Monday, 11 January 2010

Random thoughts

*sigh* My first working Monday of the year. Blergh.

Well, at least this was a good weekend. We watched loads of How I Met Your Mother episodes (I just don't get tired of them). On Saturday I also hit the nursery with my Christmas voucher from my folks and spent time pottering and planning in the garden. We had a relaxed braai on Sunday for lunch and then headed to church. It was chilled, all in all.

I must admit, one of the other highlights of the weekend for me was enjoying the fruits of my labour from the veggie garden - carrots, gemsquash, courgettes, sweetcorn and beetroot. Yum!

I forgot the camera again today. Dumbass. So my plan of posting loads of pretty pics here instead of trying to wade through the New Year slush of my mind to write something sensible has failed.

After such a long break, it's actually difficult to get back into the swing of blogging. I guess that's why so many bloggers fall off the face of the planet post-vacation. But I did keep a paper journal during the holiday, so I guess I just can't quit writing. It wouldn't feel right ;-) Also, despite not being in the office, I have been doing some freelancing admin and writing, so I'm easing myself back into things.

My goal is to be freelancing fulltime in six months time, so I have to get serious about this stuff. And every client, no matter how big or small, brings me closer. My other goal for 2010 is to stop being late. I hate being late and yet I generally am. And then I get grumpy. Being late stresses me out and makes me miserable, so it makes sense to stop doing it. Will keep you posted on how that goes.

I have now (temporarily) run out of babble. Have a fab week.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A few lessons learnt this holiday

  • There is no substitute for quality time with really good friends.
  • I will never entirely get over Cape Town.
  • A long stretch of relaxing "us time" at the end of the year is the best possible thing I could wish for TSC and me.
  • My mom is the most amazing present-giver I know.
  • My brother and I have not yet outgrown the sibling arguments.
  • Our cats appreciate us a lot more when we've been away for a bit.
  • Saving enough money to have a holiday that doesn't revolve around financial stress is a really good idea.
  • That said, there is a lot of fun stuff you can do without spending much money.
  • Spring cleaning is cathartic.
  • Leaving your veggie garden for five days may result in an untamed jungle developing (my baby marrows / zucchini are about six times the size one finds in grocery stores).
  • Good music makes a long car trip seem much shorter.
  • TSC and I are so blessed with the life we lead.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A holiday moment

Since I am officially back at my desk, wondering at the fact that it's a new year and yet my spam remains the same, I will choose to dip into my holiday memories and write about one of the perfect moments from the past few weeks.

It was day one of the Cape Town trip. I am not counting Friday 11 Dec, which was a frustrating day all round. This was Saturday morning. We were staying with our dear friends Nicola and Matt (Nic is my best friend) and we all got up early to find a perfect Cape Town day - sunshine and no wind - awaiting us.

TSC and I were desperate to see the sea again, so we all headed to Camps Bay beachfront for breakfast. We found a parking space (a small miracle in itself) and a little restaurant offering a great breakfast special.

After the meal, we wandered along the beach in the sun, occasionally daring to dip a toe in the clear blue freezing cold water. Nic and Matt even had a (very) brief swim. On our way back, TSC noticed a flipper in the water. There were two whales swimming in the bay! In all our years of living in Cape Town, we never once saw whales at Camps Bay, so it was something really special. People thronged to the water's edge to watched them rolling about and splashing their tails.

Before heading home, we drove Chapmans Peak Drive around the coast - beautiful! It was such a perfect morning and the best possible way to start the vacation.

Pics tomorrow, if I remember the camera.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Hello world

Happy 2010! Hope everyone had a fantastic festive period. Personally, it's been an awesome holiday and I'm not keen for it to end. I go back to work tomorrow though, so end it will.

Forgive the lack of blogging and reading, please. I realised that I needed a break from all things digital for a bit. It was good for me. I missed this space though and am thrilled to be back, despite the daunting number of items in my feed reader.

Have a fabulous day. Be seeing you shortly!