Big Picture: Earth Day

While we were caught up with our own issues surrounding the South African Elections we (meaning I) forgot that it was Earth Day also on the 22nd of April – but the rest of the world and Boston.com’s Big Picture didn’t.

Today is Earth Day, a day set aside for awarenesss and appreciation of the Earth’s environment, and our roles within it – this year marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. As a way to help appreciate and observe our environment, I’ve collected 40 images below, each a glimpse into some aspect of the world around us, how it affects and sustains us, and how we affect it. Happy Earth Day everyone. (40 photos total) – source Boston.com

big_picture_earth_day_20091

This view of Earth, featuring North, Central and South America was taken by the NASA probe called Messenger, while conducting a fly-by of our planet in order to pick up a gravity-assist boost on its way toward Mercury. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Voting in South Africa

So yesterday we had the day off so that we could vote in our general elections. I was wondering whether it would go swiftly (like the previous elections) or not (like the 1994 elections, where I waited in line for over 4 hours to vote). Thankfully the voting proceeded very quickly, and surprisingly, around the country, without any serious incidents.

The wife and I took a brisk walk from our house to the local voting station a few blocks from our house. We joined the back of the line – just outside the door and we were then promptly escourted to the correct queue based on our surnames and that we were in our own voting district (apparently the IEC had changed the rules recently to allow anyone to vote at any voting station, however if you were outside your registered province you could only vote for a national party not a provincial one).  

We presented our Identity Document, had our names checked on the register, got our fingernails marked with indelible ink (actually when I first read what was written on the little bottle I thought it said inedible ink!) to prove we voted and couldn’t vote at another station again. We were then given our voting ballots at the next table (one for provincial and one for national) and then waited for an empty voting booth to go and cast our votes. I noticed that they ensure the different party names are in random order each year and not alphabetical to ensure certain parties (who shall remain a nameless candidate) tell their voters to mark the first one on the list. We made our marks, dropped them in the highly secure (?) cardboard boxes and off we went – less than 15 minutes after joining the queue.

Uneventful, quick and hopefully our little marks will help make a difference. We’ll see in probably a few days time once all the voting districts ballots have been counted and audited (?) what the results are. 

The rest of the day was just as uneventful, except for a minor bit of surfing the web and some more training in Counter Strike, for the next weekly battle after work on Friday. Ready team, breach, bang and clear – move, move move!

Clever Election Marketing Strategies

The South African Elections are just around the corner, litereally as they’re tomorrow, Wednesday 22nd April 2009.

Wimpy are offering a free cup of coffee to anyone on election day who proves they’ve voted – see video below [via CherryFlava]

And not to be outdone – Nando’s are doing something similar offering a “voter’s roll” with the (here’s the catch though, where Wimpy doesn’t have a catch) purchase of any chicken meal. [via CherryFlava]

nandos-voters-roll

Some more clever electioneering marketing from Nando’s is the following advert which has the ANCYL president Julius Malema fuming and threatening militant action if not withdrawn. Take a look for yourself, you decide. [via News24]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJl65WCe6hs&feature=player_embedded

New Philips Carousel Cinema 21:9 TV Series

LG brought us the new TV Series called Scarlet, which we all thought was a new show that would be aired on TV, which slowly revealed itself as a new series of TVs brought to you by LG.

Now Philips, with the help of Stink Digital, bring you a cinematic short film of a frozen-in-time police shoot-out with armed clowns. They used this promote how well the 21:9 aspect ratio lends itself to cinematic films in their new range of TVs.

There’s a microsite too if you’d like to see what the movie looks like on a 21:9 Philips television with Ambilight technology enabled. Or you can just view the briliant short-film in the embedded video below (coincidentally it’s 2 minutes and 19 seconds long). Enjoy, I know I did – and now I want one too! [via Onelargeprawn]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YFkcwtpGZo&feature=player_embedded

Easter Weekend Away – Citrusdal

After almost a year we took a nice little holiday – away from work, the hustle and bustle of city living, the Internet and the kids (yes, they’ll get their turn too soon to go on holiday with us again – we just needed a much deserved break). 

On a very early Thursday morning (6am in the office) my mate, Mielie, and I had some coffee and breakfast before diving into the day’s work so that we got our hours in to be able to leave at 3pm that afternoon. In the meantime our wives were preparing the packing for our long weekend away. We managed to leave the office just after 3pm. I headed home and packed the last things in the car (Dina had thoughtfully packed as much as she could already, leaving the bigger, heavy things for me).  At about 4:30pm we hit the road, heading north on the N7 (which snakes north through South Africa, but not too far off from the west-coast.

Allandale Farm is just outside Citrusdal, (surrounded by the Cedarberg mountains) which is about 170km (102mi) outside of Cape Town. The drive through was pretty easy and we were there in a little over 2 hours (which included two police blockades since they were checking vehicle and driver’s licenses).

directions

We arrived a little before 7pm that evening. Elmarie took us to the guest house and showed us around and handed us the keys. The guest house is situated a few kilometers from the main farm house and has a nice big covered patio with braai area 3 bedrooms and can sleep a total of 11 people although you’d probably only comfortably have about 6 people staying there at the same time. 

guest-house

Dina had arranged a nice big lasagne dish from the Italian Club for us for supper so that we didn’t need to cook that evening after a long day at work and the drive through. Freshly made with imported Italian pasta, needless to say, it was delicious! So much so, that I asked Dina to order some imported Italian pasta from them upon our return to Cape Town.

The weather played along with us perfectly – the days were quite warm (although never unbearable) and the evenings perfect, no wind and not cold – but one thing was for sure we had a fire going in the fireplace on the patio each and every night. And did we make a fire – just take a look at the photos below to give you an idea.

fireplace1

fireplace2

fireplace3

Again it also goes without saying that the evenings were filled with laughter, warmth and atmosphere from the fire, Jack on ice and Texas Hold’em Poker!

It was absolute bliss to not have to worry about how late we “partied” or how late we got up and everyone got up when they wanted – which was anything between 7 and 9 in the morning. I must say it was nice not having to drive into work the next morning or have to worry about work and strangely enough, 4 days without access to the Internet didn’t kill me! 

The mornings we just hung around each doing their own thing or playing board-games or catching up on the weekend’s Rugby on the telly thanks to the satellite TV available to us.

There were lots of lovely Cosmos flowers around the guest-house, with a few bees too doing their pollen-collecting routine. I took a few photos of them to see how they’d come out with our Sony Cybershot.

cosmos-flower1

cosmos-flower2

At our disposal during the hot weather we had a pool – but no ordinary pool, a converted farm dam. They’d built a traditonal farm dam on top of a hill just a little way from the guest house. They’d sandblasted the inside and put tiles a filter and a pump with salt-chlorinator turning it into a lovely (and very chilled) pool. It shocks the system when you get in as the water was quite cold but very, very much appreciated in the warm weather and didn’t take too long to get acustomed to.

farm-dam-pool

Another favourite spot in the late afternoons until after sundown was in the garden in front of the house – nice garden to relax in and take in the surroundings.

garden-sundowners

Someone, I won’t mention Mielie’s name, thought it’d be a great idea if we (not really active software developers) climbed up this little mountain viewed from the guest house.

mountain-view

So Sunday afternoon around 12:30 we packed our survival supplies (cooler bag with a couple ice-cold beers and the obligatory water bottle and some chocolates for energy), kissed our wives goodbye and told them we’d see them in about 3 days or so. They thought we were joking and just heading off to the pool. Little did they know we were crazy and were actually on our way along and up the montain. We took the camera with so that we could document our journey into the wild.

survival-trip1

survival-trip2

It appeared that not too long before we planned our trip there were a few fires on the mountain and surrounding areas. This protea plant seemed to be smack-bang in the middle of the fire-ravaged portion of the mountain, yet it was tough enough to survive. Just take a look at the close-up picture of one of the surviving plants.

burnt-protea-plant

protea-plant-survivor

Here’s what the kitchen-lounge area looks like inside the guest-house. You can view more information on the Allandale Farm website if you’d like to visit yourselves – we’re definitely going to make a plan to go next year again.

guest-house-inside

Mopane Worms – A taste challenge

I’ve always enjoyed trying new things – never afraid to try something at least once. My wife seems to think I’d do well on a show like Fear Factor.

A friend went to visit family up in the Limpopo Province and I asked him if he’d bring back some Mopane worms for me to try. I’d never tasted them before and was keen to try them out.

Some say it’s a delicacy but in fact it’s a traditional source of protein for some South Africans. The mopane worm is actually the caterpillar of  a species of moth found in South Africa.

Needless to say I’ve had fun eating a few in front of colleagues, grossing them out – after all it is Friday.

😉

live-mopani

The mopane (Gonimbrasia belina) worm

adult_emporor_moth

Adult Emperor Moth from the Mopane worm

dried-mopani

Dried Mopane worms - a tasty mid-day snack (sitting on my desk)

I just love this description on the Wikipedia article:

When the caterpillar has been picked, it is pinched at the tail end to rupture the innards. The picker then squeezes it like a tube of toothpaste or lengthwise like a concertina, and whips it to expel the slimy, green contents of the gut.

Oh and if you think you can handle worse – why not check out The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in the World – thanks Baldricman.

VOTD: Susan Boyle at Britain's Got Talent 2009

Susan Boyle, 47 year old single woman from Blackburn in the United Kingdom entered this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition. I must admit that I was a little worried when I first started watching the clip. 47-year old woman with a very strong accent, not someone with x-factor, as Simon would say, going on stage in front of millions of viewers, a packed audience, and now millions of viewers via YouTube, singing the broadway production song I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.

Take a look below for yourself and let me know what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

Note: if you cannot view the video for any reason – follow this link to view it on YouTube.

That’s right, almost 5 and a half million views on one YouTube video alone. Here’s an excerpt from one of her fan-sites that got over 6000 hits from around the world in four days.

At around 11am on Tuesday 14th April, I finally managed to get this site online. However, at that time I had no idea that I would get people from all over the world would come here. So a big hello to my American, English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Canadian, Dutch, Australian, Japanese, Philippino, French, and Swedish readers! I love you all! Love you like I’m sure Susan does. – source Susan Boyle Fan Site

It seems Susan had bigger ideas than getting a record deal throu the BGT show.

It appears that Simon Cowell will give Susan a record deal, even in the unlikely event that she doesn’t win. However, Susan is more interested in finding herself a man. The 47 year old admitted on Saturday that she has “never been married, never been kissed.”

Despite the show being British, Susan has attracted fans from all around the world. The Sun reports, “Radio stations and newspapers from the US to Australia viewed the clip online and are now lining up to talk to her.” This website has only been online for, at time of writing, 7 hours and has already attracted over 400 visits from the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Ireland and Germany. Susan says, “I had no idea the show was a worldwide thing.”

Susan hopes the show will find her love, she says she doesn’t “intend to be alone for long.”  – source Susan Boyle Fan Site

I really take my hat off to you Susan – you’ve definitely show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and given half a chance. Good luck!

Below is a video interview with a reporter from the West Lothian Courier.

Update: 20 April 2009
It seems Susan is set for stardom. Simon Cowell says she will have a number one US album. Oprah Winfrey was so taken by her performance that she’s inviting her on her show. Even Larry King’s CBS crew have gone over to the UK to interview her and locals. More on The Gurardian website.

Planetoid photography

My brother has been experimenting a little this past weekend with taking panoramic photographs and then stitching them carefully together, touching them up a little and then almost wrapping them around a sphere to produce the result below called planetoid photos because they resemble planets or spheres.

I’ve tried my hand at taking panoramic shots with our compact digital camera but haven’t been in a good enough location to get the preferred results. I’ll definitely need to try this for myself soon and see how they turn out.

poolanoid_01

poolanoid_03

tokai-gardenoid-v2

Look out Twitter, here comes Flutter!

Twitter has become synonymous with micro-blogging and it’s gaining users quickly. But with the Internet moving so fast these days it can be come difficult to keep up with hundreds (if not thousands) of people’s Tweets of 140 charcters. Flutter posts or flaps as they like to call them are only 26 characters long. iPhone users will love it because there’s an auto-posting application for the iPhone too!

Welcome to the new technolgy called nano-blogging: Flutter

Now you can tweet, erm, flap even faster!

Check out the video below for more cool info. [via 2oceansvibe.com]