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California

This is what my music history on last.fm currently looks like:

Music History

Once again, I am off to California. My company is flying over the eight employees in the Cape Town office who are not already there, so that we can have the whole company together in one place for some training, meetings, and a "year-end" party, before it gets any bigger.

I'll be leaving tomorrow, the 3rd4th of October, and coming back on the 22nd. My birthday is on the 12th, which is Columbus Day (the day Christopher first sighted America), a public holiday in the US, so I'll get a nice long weekend while I'm there. I had a look for some events that are going on while I'm there, although I didn't find many that appealed to me. Neil and I will be visiting some local geeks at the Python User Group and the Linux User Group, for a start. I also noticed that the Kings of Leon are playing while I'm there, as well as... believe it or not... Well, have a look.

If you have any other suggestions for things to do while we're there, let me know. I'm keen to head out of down, do some wine tasting, and maybe even head to Yosemite.

California, here we come!

O Me Miserum

Since I last wrote anything, five days ago, the following things have happened to me:

  • I had a job interview with Google over the phone.
  • My car got broken into - two windows were smashed and my CD collection was stolen
  • I went to Cape Agulhas and stayed at a backpackers there.
  • I received confirmation that I could move into an awesome little house with two very cool people, quite close to where the old house is.
  • I rescued all my possessions from my house and stashed them at a friend's house, but not before my landlord made another threat to call the police.
  • My laptop ceased to function under mysterious circumstances that may or may not involve me having to pay for a new one, depending on the warranty.
I won't lie, I'm feeling a little hard-done-by. I've had a trying enough time with the whole landlord fiasco - I don't need to rush around trying to get windows fixed and insurance companies to pay up, and at the same time deal with a possible cost of R7000 to replace a laptop. Not to mention being cut off from the world and unable to work while the laptop is away.

It's funny how one reacts when a lot of nasty things happen at once. It gets to the stage where you start thinking that the gods have a personal vendetta against you, and every little thing starts taking on a tinge of persecution. Even spilling your coffee, or having a light turn red just as you get to it, starts you off on a "WHY ME!?" rant.

Things aren't that bad, though. The Google interview was fine - the next round is tomorrow, and it'll be a 45 minute technical grilling. Adeline said I could leave my car with her while I went to Cape Agulhas, and she shopped around and found some windows that were cheaper than the R2600 that she was originally quoted, and had them put in while I was away. Cape Agulhas itself was beautiful and restful and enjoyable - lovely people and a lovely time. Now that I'm back, my laptop will probably be fixed for free on the warranty, and the insurance company are paying up for my windows. I'll be moving into the new place sometime this week. Until then, I'm staying with Adeline. Life goes on.

(What happened on Sunday night, when I went to rescue my possessions from the house, is the topic of another post, some other time. Suffice it to say, I struggled not to burst into tears in front of the landlord. More on that later.)

Doing the Cape

We in the cape were recently graced by a visit from Megan (say it with me, Meeeee-gan, gotta pronounce it right), and it fell upon me to entertain her for some of her stay. I wanted to make the most of her time here, so I decided to see if we could cover as much as the Cape offered. As it turns out, the beautiful Western Cape came through with flying colours.

After picking Megan up from the centre of town after work on the Wednesday, we went through to Kenilworth so I could show her my new house, and had a drink at Banana Jam while we were there. From there, we drove to Stellenbosch, and had dinner at the Mystic Boer, which Megan thought was fantastic, and where we were joined by Tania for a bit.

On Thursday morning, we went down the road to Lanzerac, where we had breakfast - R95 for a buffet of the most fantastic food, in the most beautiful surroundings. From there, we moved on to my favourite wine farm, L'Avenir, where Megan bought some Chardonnay that she thought was great. After that, we visited Asara for another set of tasting, before leaving Stellenbosch.

On leaving Stellenbosch, we avoided the N2, and instead drove down the R310 (Baden Powell Drive), along the coast to Muizenberg. This is a very beautiful stretch of road that runs along the beach for some distance, past False Bay, occasionally wild and windswept, and very pretty. We ended up in Kalk Bay, and had a nice calamari lunch at the Brass Bell, before driving on down the coast towards Cape Point.

We actually got as far as the Cape Point park gates, but we decided not actually to go into the park, and instead turned around and drove up along the Chapman's Peak drive, round past Hout Bay, to Llandudno and Camps Bay. This drive is absolutely stunning - a twisting road that winds round the mountain, overlooking the Atlantic ocean. There are a few downsides, such as a tollgate and the potential for large rocks to fall on your head, but apart from those, it's a lovely experience.

After tea in Rondebosch, we went to dinner at Anatoli's in the Cape Quarter, which was a very interesting experience. It's a Turkish restaurant, with a lot of atmosphere, and Genuine Turkish Dudes as the waiters. The starters are mezze, which they bring to you on a huge tray covered in little bowls of Stuff, and you pick a couple. For mains, they have several dishes which they've cooked up, along the theme of lamb, chicken, beef, rice, kebab, sort of thing, and you can go and have a look at them and pick a helping of whatever bubbles the best. Anyway, it was a nice evening, wrapping up a pretty perfect day.

The rest of Megan's stay involved other Cape Town delights: A Wild West party in a house overlooking District Six and the Bay, a walk up Signal Hill, a nap in the afternoon, and all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Zone in Observatory on Saturday night. Easter Sunday saw us having a picnic in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and everything wrapped up with a nice meal at Cafe Paradiso on Kloof Street on Monday night before Megan left.

In summary, Cape Town, the most beautiful of cities, surprised even me by what it had to offer, and I think I enjoyed the week almost as much as Megan did. I wouldn't live anywhere else for anything.

Solid photographic evidence was obtained everywhere that we went...

The Beauty of Argument

Adeline, that tiny ray of sunshine in an otherwise cold and inhospitable world, has written a very eloquent description of why she enjoys arguing. It is a treatise that, in short, I agree with. It is, in fact, something I have been trying to explain to people for a long time now.

To quote Adeline, "those of you who know me will also know that I love a good argument". This might not be quite how you would put it. You would probably say something more along the lines of "fercrissake, that pedantic bastard just won't let a point go", or worse. And, indeed, maybe I do tend to push things a bit far, but it is always because of this same love of argument.

I know what I think, and what I believe. And I know why I think these things, and on what grounds my beliefs rest. I like to think that I have thought everything through, and have found a consistent, logical world view. If somebody disagrees with me, then it is not merely a "difference of opinion". We are rational, intelligent human beings. I firmly believe that if two people are both in possession of the same information - the same premises, if you will - then they will come to the same conclusion. So, when I find somebody that disagrees with me, I want to explain my reasons for holding my belief, and I want them to explain theirs. I want to find the discrepancy in the foundations of our thoughts, and to discuss the two different versions, and discover which one is better. And I know that I will change my beliefs if I find that the other one is better. I hope that the opposite will be true.

It is not about trying to force the other guy to accept your opinion. In fact, I suppose it's not even about trying to find the best out of the two opinions. It is a process of dialectic. I present a thesis, you present an antithesis. We discuss. Eventually, we reach a common ground - a synthesis. Through our giving and taking of ideas, we refine our thoughts and eventually reach a point on which we agree.

Not everything can be dealt with like this. Aesthetics are a matter of personal taste - you can't argue about whether something tastes good, or whether a sound is pleasant. Experience is also something that cannot be shared - if I have an experience that you do not, this will alter my thoughts or beliefs, and no amount of discussion will change how we felt these experiences. However, setting aside these most subjective of factors, I really do believe that through discussion and argumentation, two people can refine their models of what they think, and most importantly, why they think it, until they agree.

I'll say that again - the most important thing is why you hold your beliefs. Without knowing this, you cannot argue. You can just repeat your point again and again, until the loudest one wins. However, more importantly, without knowing why you hold your beliefs, you cannot call them true beliefs. Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. An unexamined belief is not worth holding, either.

I've lost count of the number times I've been called a pedant. And they say it like it's a bad thing. Yes, I'm pedantic. Yes, I correct errors where I see them. That's just another way of saying "I try to be correct in everything I do, and where things are not right, I try to make them right". How can striving for perfection be bad? I probably go over the top. In fact, I know I do - I push this to extreme lengths, I get heated, I raise my voice in excitement. I'm not the perfect Discussion Artiste, by any means. But I cannot, cannot understand somebody who does not see the value of two rational human beings exchanging their ideas in order to come to a greater understanding, and who does not understand the beauty of argument.

On Transience and Loss

Having just started a new job, and moved to a new town, I find that I have a different outlook on things. I find that after waking up in the mornings, and getting ready for work, I stop and look around me, and pause for a few seconds to cast my mind back over the previous day, and consider the possibilities open to me for the new day, and I ask myself the question that we all find ourselves faced with at some stage in our lives:

Where the hell are my keys?

No, seriously, every single day of work so far (that's only two days, in total, but still) has started with me losing my keys. Yesterday morning, they were down the side of the couch, but I still haven't found them since I noticed they were missing this morning (I have spares). But it's not just my keys, either - I discovered on Friday that my British passport and South African ID book were not where they usually live, which is in a special place on my desk, just to the left of a pile of blank CDs, in front of my Tazo collection, and sort of to the right of the bowl I used for my breakfast. The passport has since turned up tucked into an envelope full of Ubuntu Dapper CDs that I haven't touched since I received it in about August (I last saw my passport in February). I'm sure the keys and ID book are somewhere in this flat, but I've ransacked it high and low, and can't find them. I expect that they will turn up inside the bread bin, or behind the toilet cistern, or possibly taped to the underside of the icebox in my fridge. Until then, I soldier through my grief.

Update: WHO PUTS THEIR KEYS IN THE POCKET OF THEIR BAG WHEN ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS WALK INSIDE AND PLACE THEM ON THE TABLE? Anyway, thanks, St Francis. See what you can do about my ID now?

Status Update

Just an update on where I am and what I'm doing. I am no longer working at Adept Internet - I have moved to OpenVoice, and today was my first day.

Adept is based in Stellenbosch, but OpenVoice's offices are in Millenium Park in Century City. As a result, I am moving from Stellenbosch to Cape Town, and I'm renting a place in Kenilworth - this means that I'm swimming upstream mostly, when I drive to and from work. I haven't actually moved house yet - I only signed the lease on Saturday. I spent last night in the Rondebosch Safehouse, and will probably stay in Stellenbosch tonight. I'll move sometime in the next week or so, although Megan's single main request for her holiday in Cape Town this week is that she spend some time in Stellenbosch. I'm taking Thursday off work (my fourth day, I know!), so that should be fine.

Today started off with insomnia, and then lost car keys. I left home at 7am ("Leave early", they said. "You don't want to be late on your first day", they said) and got to work at 7:25am. Everybody else rocked up at about 8:45am, which meant that I had a solid hour and twenty minutes to get really well acquainted with the parking lot at our offices. (It's a very nice parking lot, by the way.)

This job seems interesting, with a nice environment, and lots of opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it. In addition, I now get to live in the Mother City proper, about which I am very excited. Onward, 2007!

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