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Charmaine

charmaine In an effort to increase my blog's readership, I am going to Extreme Lengths. Charmaine says it's not interesting enough, because it doesn't have enough about her in it. So here is a post all about Charmaine. Isn't she photogenic?

Blog readership += 1.

Democracy

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to South Africa first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the R.S.A.

Almost by Leonard Cohen

Doing a Wine Route

One of the first things anybody says when they find out that I've moved to Stellenbosch is "Oh, we must come do a wine route!". There are, indeed, a huge amount of wine farms in the area. Well, a week ago, when I went down to Capetown, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and invite everybody I saw to come do a wine route. The date set was this last weekend, Saturday the 23rd of April.

At one stage, the number of people coming reached seventeen, which worried me somewhat, but the final entrants were: the Morreira sisters (Shannon and Kirsten), Chris Robson, Pippa van Straaten, myself, Jeremy Alcock, and Cathy Irwin and a friend of hers joined us later. There was some strife about transport - Pippa lives on Robben Island, and it was not easy to get her out to Stellenbosch, but we managed in the end.

We visited L'Avenir, Muratie, and Uitkyk.

L'Avenir was pleasant, although Chris made the faux-pas of asking to taste the very same wine that he had just tasted - this lost us the good will of the helper, and she was rather cold to us after that. This did not affect Jeremy, who rather liked the Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, and desired to buy a bottle. He discovered that the wine had not been "released" (it's like being published, but it's not a book) yet. When he enquired, the manager came down and released the wine then and there - Jeremy bought the first bottle of the stuff! Oh, they also had dogs that looked like pigs and ate corks.

Muratie was fairly pleasant, it had a nice homely feel about it - it looked like they had specially trained spiders to spin the cobwebs to give it atmosphere. They had port as well (or "fortified wine"). We were quite disturbed when we got there to find a fowl (a pheasant or something? It was large and white. Could've just been a chicken, actually) lying on its back with feathers all around it, looking very unwell. We figured it had been mauled or something - not nice at all. We alerted the lad behind the counter, and he came out to see. After standing around it scratching his head for a bit, he prodded it with his foot, and then turned it over, so it wasn't lying on its back any more. At this stage, it ran off into the bushes looking ruffled. Apparently the dratted thing was merely drunk.

We moved on to Uitkyk, after a minor altercation about whether it was "Uitkyk" or "Uitkyks", which ended with Kirsten's map being torn. We tried hard to pay the lad behind the counter, but he kept dismissing us with waves of his hand. The wine was fairly nice, although we did have to endure a good seven minutes of organic chemistry when we asked about the taste. We finished with some brandy, and then thought we'd try Le Bonheur, but when we got there, it was shut. At this stage, we moved back into Stellenbosch, had some late lunch/early supper, and went out - Shannon was desperate to have a drink at the fabulously named Mystic Boer. After an enjoyable evening, we ended up back at my house, drinking hot toddies and watching Pink Floyd, and passing out on the floor.

It was a very enjoyable weekend, and we've all mumbled about doing it again Real Soon Now.

Bloggers of the world, Unite

There has recently been a spate of comment/trackback spam on a lot of blogs - this is one of the main reasons why I upgraded serendipity not so long ago. The point of comment/trackback spam is that it adds a link on your page to somewhere else, via certain keywords. One of the most prolific spammers has consistently linked the words online poker to one of their own sites. What this means is that when you search google for those words, their site comes up first.

In what has been called vigilante justice by some, and democracy in action by others, the blogosphere have decided that enough is enough, and they are trying to googlebomb the words "online poker", to make them point to the wikipedia entry of the same name. The argument is that people who want to know about online poker will find the wikipedia entry much more useful than some spammers site. There are various arguments and counter-arguments (this will cause spammers to work even harder and cause even more damage; this is no better than the spammers themselves; etc). I am clearly in favour of the googlebomb. Maybe it's just peer pressure. I do know that I was incredibly annoyed by all the comment/trackback spam I got.

See Slashdot for more details.

America

For some time now I have thought it possible to believe that America was going insane. In her own way. And why not?

Countries go insane like people go insane; and all over the world countries reclined on couches or sat in darkened rooms chewing dihydrocodeine and Temazepam or lay in boiling baths or twisted in straightjackets or stood there banging their heads against the padded walls. Some had been insane all their lives, and some had gone insane and then gotten better again and then gone insane again. America: America had had her neuroses before, like when she tried giving up drink, like when she started finding enemies within, like when she thought she could rule the world; but she had always gotten better again. But now she was going insane, and that was the necessary condition.

In a way she was never like anywhere else. Most places just are something, but America had to mean something too, hence her vulnerability -- to make-believe, to false memory, false destiny. And finally it looked as though the riveting struggle with illusion was over, and America had lost.

From London Fields by Martin Amis (written in 1989), which I have just finished reading.

It's just not cricket

cricket I was warned about the "cricket plague" in Stellenbosch. Now, at first, I had visions of men in white hats and pads going around threatening people with their cricket bats. As I near the end of my fourth week in this town, I realise that we are talking Jiminy Cricket, his brothers and sisters, their cousins, their friends, their friends' friends, and every other bloody cricket they've ever met. The place is swarming with them. I'm not good at quantizing (is that a word?), but I'd say there are about two to every square meter sometimes. One of the little buggers tried to climb up my leg (inside my trousers) while I was eating supper just now. I've never seen anything like it. And why crickets? Why not a decent plague, like locusts, or boils? Crickets are ridiculous little creatures.

cricket Update: the culprit has been identified. His name is Gryllus Bimaculatus. Mr Bimaculatus (or Gryllus to those of us who have gotten to know him well enough to refer to him by his first name) is a small herbivorous cricket, fond of humid climates.

HOWTO: Visit Jonathan

Hereby the official How To Visit Jonathan In Stellenbosch.

First of all, we need to get to Stellenbosch. Use this map to get you there.

This map shows vaguely what Stellenbosch looks like once you're here.

However, once you're in Stellenbosch, you need to find me. If it's between 8am and 5pm between Monday and Friday, I'm at work. That is at Adept Internet, at 20 Plein Street, on the corner of Plein and Ryneveld. We're above Cafe Nouveau, on the second floor of the NPK Gebou. If it's still quite early evening, I might still be at work, otherwise I will probably be at home, at 60 Jonkershoek Road.

This map shows Stellenbosch in more detail, with a couple of landmarks marked in, including where Adept's offices are. On this one, you can see where my flat is - the blue and red blob in the bottom right corner.

Update: Plus, a map of the wineroutes, broken into one for Greater Simonsberg, Stellenbosch Berg, Helderburg, Stellenbosch Hills, and Bottelary.

Support your local Soldiers For Jesus motorcycle club

I was sort of expecting to spend the weekend quietly working on my thesis, or something similar. As it turns out, that's not exactly what happened. I left home at 7:30am on Friday morning, and woke up in the same clothes in Capetown on Sunday morning, very unsure of where I was.

What happened was, Tristan drove out to Stellenbosch on Friday afternoon and picked me up from work, and took me back to Capetown, and so the weekend began.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived in Capetown, we (Tristan and I and his two digsmates, Rory and Rigard) went off to some party hosted by some girl called Bianca (why are all the women in the Western Cape called Bianca?! What is it with being called Bianca!? There were two Biancas in Ms Matieland, and another three cropped up at various stages this last weekend!). The idea was that everybody brings a pizza topping, and they make pizzas, and we eat them. However, we didn't really know any of the Biancas at the party, or anybody else, so we just drank beer and ate all the pizza and acted like prats.

They kind of asked for it. They all informed us that they didn't want to be introduced to us because they'd forget our names, except for one guy, who informed us that he wanted to know our names because he was doing a memory course that meant he could remember everything, and he wanted to try it out on us. Which, of course, was just asking for it. Thereafter, every hour, on the hour, we changed our names (I became Kevin at 8pm, and Cedric at 9pm), and he lost track completely, and wasn't sure whether his memory was going, or whether we were causing trouble. I think we may have set his memory course back weeks.

Then there was this stupid pretentious girl who wanted to disrupt society with neon-coloured string. I mean, come on. She explained to us that they were going to "six major cities" in the world, and trying to break people out of their ruts and disrupt their conformist world- views. A very admirable fight-club style goal, although she seemed to think she was being novel and revolutionary, but who hasn't watched a movie about somebody who tries to make people think a bit differently? Even American Beauty was about that. And she honestly thought she was being amazingly intelligent. And here's the thing - she wanted to do it with neon coloured string. Her grand idea was to go and thread bits of string everywhere, weaving a sort of neon-coloured web around people, and this would make them think outside of the box. She says she did it in a restaurant, and "people really responded". I mean, I would respond. My response would probably not be polite, though.

I asked her if the neon-coloured-ness of the string was important, and whether people didn't respond as much to string that wasn't bright pink. She just sort of looked at me and said "Neon string is pretty". I suspect that Capetown hippies prioritize prettiness a lot more than me.

She got a bit exasperated with us by the end. I think she was upset that we came to her house and ate her pizza and didn't think she was being cool. She finally said "My god, don't you understand? It's all about being empowered!", to which Rory replied "But I don't need to be empowered, I'm male." She sort of looked at him for ten seconds, and then left.

At this stage, we decided we should probably leave, too, so we went to the Long Street Festival. Apparently there is a street in Capetown that is long, and it is called Long Street, and they had a Festival on it on Friday night. They shut the whole road off, and had music and alcohol and stuff.

The first thing we did when we got there was verbally abuse the skateboarders that were doing demonstrations on a half-pipe in the street. We were loudly enquiring as to why they were so kak, and whether they had meant to fall off their skateboards. Rory eventually hustled us off after a bit of that, and we found a marching drum band, which we joined. It was actually very awesome, toyi-toyi-ing down Long Street surrounded by hippies playing drums. They didn't seem to mind that we joined them, and it was great fun. We had a police escort and everything. One thing that was quite weird was that at one stage, this brass band sort of just joined in. They weren't there when we joined the drum band, and suddenly there was a small coloured guy with a trumpet next to me, and he didn't seem to be playing anything to do with what the drums were doing. Then his backup arrived, and they marched with us, and may or may not have been playing with the drummers - it didn't sound like it to me.

The place was swarming with Capetonians, and they were all weird. The thing that stood out for me was seeing two Capetonians walking together: one had a shirt that very clearly said "Support your local Soldiers For Jesus motorcycle club", and the other one's shirt very clearly said "I was born with nothing, and I still have fuck-all".

After that we moved further down the street and watched a fashion-show thing which was utterly unimpressive, so we moved on and watched some bands.

I really don't understand Capetonians. The band we watched had won the Battle of the Bands, so you'd think they'd be good, right? Well, the lead singer had this bright purple wig, and white paint all over his face (I think he was a him, although he was rather Marilyn-Mansonly androgynous, and she could have just been an incredibly ugly woman), and was dressed like the artist formerly known as "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince". The bassist had a weird Twiggy style side-parting and was wearing a horrible tuxedo, and the drummer had a big fedora on and a Hitlerish mustache. But the thing that really took the cake was the frontman of the band, who had absolutely nothing to do with the music, and didn't play a single instrument or sing a word. He started off the show bent over, presenting his very naked rear-end to the crowd. I say "very naked" because he had no clothes covering them. He did, however, have flowers in his bum. And, yes, I said "in". He then spent the rest of the show wielding an axe vigorously at the crowd, and stomping around the stage, but not in time to the music. He was wearing a ski-mask, and crotchless trousers (with a sort of loincloth thing thank god), and he was covered in fake bloodstains, but you could actually see him pop to the back of the stage in between songs to give himself a few more squirts from the tomato sauce bottle. You will be glad to know that he removed the flowers from his nether parts, although you won't be so glad to know that he used his axe to chop them up and shower the audience with the resulting pot-pourri (although the smell was not as pleasant as that normally associated with pot-pourri).

I promise you, the above description is deadly accurate.

On Saturday, we went to watch the UCT Rag floats parade, which I thought was silly. After we'd had a beer or two and watched that, we moved on to Stones and then to Cornerhouse, which is the most awesomely fantastically disgusting and manky club you've ever seen. They have carpets on the walls, but not on the floor, and you can't actually see anything except the vague outline of the bartender in the UV light. I also discovered that they sell wine in, like, pints. Tassenberg, nogal.

Adeline came to find me after her shift, and we sat outside talking, then she drove me home and bought me a pie. I shall buy her a small South American country when I have saved up enough.

At this stage I had vaguely begun to wonder if/when I would be returning to Stellenbosch, and how I would get there. It wasn't that much of an issue yet, since there was still a braai at somebody's house on Sunday, which turned into a game of Pictionary.

Finally, Bryony drove me back to Stellenbosch. I eventually arrived home at 8pm, so tired, so dirty, so sore, so smelly, so broke, and so happy...

It was a damn fine weekend is the point I'm trying to make. Although since I spent most of it in the clothes I wore to work on Friday, they took a bit of a beating. My executive work pant got torn.

Anyone lived in a pretty how town

Anyone lived in a pretty how town

By e. e. cummings


anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Blog Upgrade

Sick of getting trackback and comment spam on this blog, I updated the spamblock plugin, which then broke comments, because it was designed for Serendipity version 0.8. So I decided to upgrade my blog. Having already helped Dom fix his disastrous upgrade mistake, I was much wiser, and able to do it flawlessly.

Hah, whatever. I porned it horrendously. Not just the blog, but my whole page. Firstly, Serendipity's upgrade instructions are abominably vague, but I gave it various bashes, and got various errors and failures. Unlike singe, I had backed up my database properly, although even this gave me problems, since I discovered that my databases are over 100megs in size, storing every web visit I've had in like... years, and every URL pasted on IRC in months, and so on. This meant that when I tried to edit the SQL dump, both vim and joe vomitted and passed out. Finally I had some SQL which returned my database back to its pre-upgrade state, and I had a backup of my blog directory in its pre-upgrade state, which I copied back into my web directory.

Now, perhaps somebody can explain this to me. I fully intend to go and look at the source for cp(1) and at stat(2), but why does this happen?

~/tmp/bar$ ls ../foo
one     subdir/ three   two

~/tmp/bar$ cp -R ../foo .
~/tmp/bar$ ls
foo/
~/tmp/bar$ ls -R
foo/
./foo:
one     subdir/ three   two
./foo/subdir:

~/tmp/bar$ rm -rf foo

~/tmp/bar$ cp -R ../foo/ .
~/tmp/bar$ ls
one     subdir/ three   two
~/tmp/bar$ ls -R
one     subdir/ three   two
./subdir:

Simply appending a "/" to the end of the directory you are copying (which happens automatically with tab completion) means that you copy everything in the directory, instead of the directory itself. What's that all about? Anyway, the upshot of this little "quirk" is that I copied my blog into my web directory, overwriting my .htaccess and my index.php (fortunately there were no other name clashes, but it was a bitch to have to try to clean up, yay for 'ls -ltr'). I then had to grab my .htaccess and index.php from rucus's backups. When I did Dom's database restore from backups, it was just grabbing them from server's /var, which is a 4.8 gig partition. My webstuff was from shell's /home, which is a 60 gig partition, and takes slightly longer to restore from. What I'm saying is, it was a bitch.

Anyway, I eventually got everything sorted, the upgrade seems to have gone smoothly, although it broke the theming on my homepage. Serves me right, though:

<optika> D-Arb: skins are for animals.
<D-Arb> optika: skins are for keeping water in
<optika> that too.
<singe> D-Arb: and blood
<Vhata> singe: that's crazy talk

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