Big Picture: Halfway in – 2010 World Cup

I’ve posted a number of blog posts on various photographs from Boston.com‘s Big Picture photo gallery – and I guess it’s just fitting that I share these.

The World Cup is in full swing in South Africa and so far it has been regarded by FIFA as perfect – let’s hope we can live up to their expectations and keep the standard that high for the remainder of the tournament.

Nearly halfway through the month-long 2010 World Cup Tournament in South Africa, over a dozen teams have been eliminated from the original group of 32, with the Round of 16 beginning tomorrow, June 26th. Television and web viewership has been setting records all over the world as supporters tune in to watch the events in South Africa and react along with the fans and players in the stadiums as they celebrate their wins and suffer through losses. Collected here are recent photos from the 2010 World Cup, as some of the players and their supporters have been experiencing it – in South Africa and around the globe. (43 photos total)

Serbia's Milan Jovanovic (center) scores past Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (right) and Arne Friedrich during a Group D match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

South Africa – World Cup 2010

There were many sceptics when it was first announced that we were drawn as host nation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. For years after, there were many that said we could not do it, even rumours about Australia being asked to be a ‘backup’ host nation.

Well, it’s been 4 years along and we’re just past half-way through all the games for the 2010 World Cup. What do people have to say now? Just positive things – all the stadia were built on time and to the FIFA standards. Additional infrastructure, road upgrades and additional public transport (free to game ticket holders) and very well organised safe and secure venues, fan parks and fan walks. Even as someone working in the city center, right smack-bang in the middle of the fan-walk no less, I’ve not been inconvenienced any more than I’d normally be in normal traffic. In fact with the school holidays coinciding with the World Cup traffic has never been better or easier.

There are always security people, officials and/or ushers wherever you look and they’re friendly and helpful. Where are all the sceptics now?

As for Bafana-Bafana? Many are saying they, and we the South African host nation, should be disgusted in ourselves? First host nation to be knocked out of the first round World Cup.

Excuse me, did you forget to take into account we’re ranked 83rd in the world? Did you forget to take note that between ourselves, and two previous world cup winners, France and Italy. We tied with 17th ranked Mexico in our opening game. We were the only country team of the three to actually win a game? One of the games, which knocked out the former world cup champions, France?

Well done South Africa, well done Bafana-Bafana.

Enjoy a short video clip put together (it has done the round as a PowerPoint presentation too).

Fila said it best, “have faith, like rugby balls!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW4nwsqgz8I

Poison – a close call

We had a scare yesterday afternoon – Shadow had managed to get hold of an old bag of snail-bait in the garage but was more interested in tearing the plastic bag apart than actually eating the snail-bait.

However, he did ingest some of the snail bait. Now I wasn’t initially too concerned since we’ve always been taught that invertebrate poisons are generally not deadly to vertebrates – however, it seemed to have affected him.

About 4 hours later he started shaking, breathing very heavily and convulsing. This all just before we were about to go through to Stellenbosch to visit family for the day. I was still on my way home from dropping off the kids at my folks and Dina called to say that he was having, what looked like, seizures, and all his muscles were constricting – he was also salivating quite badly. She called the veterinary ER who said we should bring him in immediately since snail-bait is very deadly to pets and he might die from it if not caught and treated early enough as it attacks their nervous system.

I raced back home, picked up Shadow and Dina and raced off to the ER. Unfortunately our vet, literally a few blocks from our house, is not open on a Saturday afternoon so we had to race to the nearest one which is, under normal circumstances a 20 minute drive. I raced as quickly as I could, driving in the emergency lane to get to the ER as quickly as possible.

He was immediately taken in and there was a strong possibility that if they could not get the seizures under control quickly enough that they’d need to put him in a medically induced coma until they could flush out the toxins from his system. Unfortunately it had been too long since he’d ingested the poison to induce vomiting, which is the usual course of action immediately after ingestion.

We didn’t have much choice but to leave him there for the night. Later that evening I gave the ER a call and waited for a call back from the doctor on the prognosis, who at the time, was busy with two other consultations. He called back about half an hour later with some great news. He was so amazed at Shadow’s reaction and improvement to the medication to flush the toxins from his body. He said we should call again in the morning and find out whether Shadow’s situation had improved or not. The worst-case scenario would be that he’d need to be put down since the cost of keeping him in a medically induced coma is highly expensive and not always successful. Thankfully, Shadow seems to have some great genes in him and a very good immune system to be able to bounce back so quickly. The next morning, before we could call, the doctor called back to say he was amazed at Shadow’s recovery and we could come and collect him this morning still.

When I went to pick Shadow up the doctor told me again how amazed he was at his recovery and that he’d never had a case of poisoning before that the animal went back home the next morning. Shadow’s due for another course of inoculations next month and they also want to take a blood sample again at that time to do liver function tests to ensure there’s no damage to his liver from the poison and that he’s recovered nicely.

He’s definitely doing much better as he was jumping up and down playing with Charlie as soon as we got home – close call.

I had to vacuum the front garden to suck up all the snail-bait that was left in the grass to ensure that he didn’t accidentally eat more of it while playing outside. Can you picture it? Having to vacuum the garden?

*whew* that could have gone horribly wrong. So what do we take away from this experience – treat all poisons as deadly, no matter whether it’s intended for vertebrates or invertebrates.

Free Digital TV Channels available in SA

A few weeks ago I bought a new TV. A nice shiny, new Sony Bravia 40″ EX400 series digital LCD TV. It’s a nice step up from our 28″ Philips CRT TV that we’ve had for almost eight years now.

It’s a great TV and I’m glad we made the choice. It’s a full HD digital TV with a great picture and flexible set of features. It has a digital and analogue tuner built in, multiple analogue and digital inputs as well as a USB port for watching DivX encoded movies directly off of a USB stick (I bought a 16GB memory stick just for that purpose).

But I digress – the actual reason for this post is related to the digital tuner. When I first plugged in the new TV and went through the setup process, part of which is auto-tuning, it picked up 12 over-the-air digital channels as well as the 5 terrestrial analogue channels.

I know there’s been a lot of media reports about digital TV coming to South Africa and it being a requirement for broadcasting the 2010 FIFA World Cup (which by the way got off to a cracking start, even though it’s difficult to work with vuvuzelas blaring in the city all day and night long) but I was always under the impression that you needed a set-top box to decode the over-the-air (not satellite) digital channels. So when I did the initial setup of the TV I wasn’t surprised that none of the digital channels the digital tuner in the TV picked up were not displaying, since I didn’t have a decoder.

However, this morning I happened to switch to the digital channels accidentally and they were being broadcast and displayed on my TV. The following channels are being broadcast and unscrambled by my TV’s digital tuner:

  • e-TV (a free terrestrial channel)
  • eAfri (not sure about this seems to be airing similar programs to e-TV)
  • Mstar (showing infomercials in between airing movies, not latest block-busters)
  • National Geographic (the one reason I wanted satellite TV)
  • eClassic (e-TV broadcast programs, not same airtime as e-TV)
  • BBC Lifestyle (one of my wife’s favourite satellite channels)
  • Koowe (kids channel, by the looks of it a South African channel)
  • MK (music video channel)

Yes, I know, for those who have satellite/cable TV this is nothing exciting – but for those of us, like me, that don’t think paying the premium price you have to pay to get satellite TV is worth it, without having full choice of which channels you want to watch – I think it’s great! Yes, we’ve got loads of movies on DVD but it’s now nice to have a little bit more choice in our TV viewing, and we’re not (for now) paying anything above our usual annual TV licensing fees.

I’m hoping this is not a once-off (testing) thing or at the very least it’s accessible to us through-out the broadcasting of the World Cup, and of course first-prize, available to us in future.

Are there any other South Africans out there that have seen this with their own digital TVs?

Update:  28 September 2010

It would appear that testing has resumed again since there are 8 digital channels available free over the air again. I’ve picked up the following channels again:

  • e-TV (a free terrestrial channel)
  • eAfri (not sure about this seems to be airing similar programs to e-TV)
  • VUZU (wide variety of programmes)
  • Blitz (SuperSport blitz sports news and highlights)
  • Mstar (showing infomercials in between airing movies, not latest block-busters)
  • Action TV (movies and TV-series programmes)
  • Mzanzi Magic (local music, documentaries and TV-series programmes)
  • Koowe (kids channel, by the looks of it a South African channel)

Tune in and enjoy while they’re available.

Update:  23 October 2010

For about a week now we’ve also been able to tune into MNet and CSN (Sport channel showing Supersport and Indian movies when not broadcasting sport). Not complaining, just saying 🙂

Update: 14 March 2011

For the last couple of days transmission has been scrambled and none of the channels were showing anything – not even the digital version of free channel, e-TV. Tonight, however, it appears test broadcasting has resumed – free digital TV for a little while longer – yay!

Book Review: A Million Miles From Normal

So a little while back I got a comment on either a blog post or a twitter post (not entirely sure) but it was from someone called Paige Nick. On her profile was her website – I had a look and thought to myself, hmm, this woman sounds interesting, let’s stalk follow her for a while and see what she has to say (twitter) and write (blog) about.

Her ramblings and posts often are  a million miles from normal – but then again who wants to be normal anyway? Along the way, I heard that her first book had been published this year and those that had read it thoroughly enjoyed it. I asked Paige about it and she said it’s a romantic comedy, not your average guy’s reading material but the reviews were so good that I thought I should give it a bash too.

I’ve got to be honest, my preferred genre of fiction novels is action and suspense thrillers. But hey, I enjoy the odd romantic comedy now and then so I was keen to give it a read.

Excerpt from the book’s back-cover:

All Rahcel Marcus wants is a cool job, a guy who has all his own teeth and a decent cup of tea. Is that too much to ask?

Rachel Marcus has a great life and an amazing job as a top copywriter at an advertising agency in Johannesburg, or rather Rachel Marcus HAD a great life and an amazing job as a top copywriter at an advertising agency in Johannesburg – right up until she got fired.

Now after reading that, and getting to know Paige, through her blog posts and twitter updates, it was easy to relate Rachel Marcus to a real-life person and I almost felt like I knew her so I enjoyed her character from the get-go.

Paige’s writing style makes for really easy reading – and the story line makes it really hard to put the book down – had I not only had time late in the evening to read her novel I would easily have been able to read it in a single sitting.

The story also reads easily and even though there are sections with more descriptive writing than dialogue you don’t get bored – Paige has definitely found the right balance there.

Since we’re in the social-networking age Paige has made nice use of Facebook status updates throughout the novel as Rachel shares her thoughts and plans with anyone out there who is listening.

There’s a great array of different characters in the novel – I’m sure you can relate to one of them or more likely know of or work with some of them. There are a few twists and surprises in the book which also make it one of those novels that’s difficult to put down.

If you’re interested in buying a copy – head on over to Kalahari.net and get your copy.

Now I just need to get Paige to sign my copy – I’ll even buy her a cup of Five Roses 🙂