Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Winter morning in Rosebank, Johannesburg

Rosebank must be one of the few places in South Africa that is actively 'Under Construction'. I used to work in Rosebank in Bierman Road, during the time of the 'one way detour', and just two years later certain precincts have become well nigh unrecognisable.

Opposite the Gautrain Station is a veritable amphitheatre of new buildings, including a new Holiday Inn. Meanwhile, just 15 kilometres away, central Johannesburg - parts of it certainly - seem to be crumbling and disintegrating. Gutted shells of building everywhere.

It's possible that the Gautrain may bring life back into the centre city. I hope so - it's still got a lot going for it. Some of South Africa's most beautiful old buildings for a start.  But Johannesburg still faces major problems in terms of integrating its public transport.  The Gautrain is a good start, but more needs to be done in terms of setting up public transport infrastructure.

GALLERY: Central Johannesburg [send us your pictures today]










Rosebank Station in Pictures

The route from Park Station (Johannesburg's CBD) to Rosebank opened last week. I strongly recommend taking the Gautrain into the CBD as the central city is a confusing warren of one way streets. If you do decide to drive in, make sure you have a navigational gadget with you. If not, budget an extra half hour to fourty five minutes to find the address you're looking for.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Global Warming: A Growing Woe

I am of the opinion that the whole so called global warming/climate change issue is too complex a subject to just apportion blame willy-nilly onto the veritable human being, especially as no real workable solutions are put forward by the activists and pundits of global warming/climate change theories.

We live in a self perpetuated and accepted way of life that puts much emphasis on finances and wealth. We mostly all work for a living because of that culture: Those that sponge of the system are looked upon as just that; spongers (why don’t you get a job, you lazy good-for-nothing so-and-so.)

The accepted capitalist system is devoid of emotion and empathy: two human qualities that make life liveable and mostly comfortable. We are becoming automaton of technology and convenience while overlooking the consequences of those actions (I have money, why should I care.) Anyway there are enough charities to contribute too to pacify that nagging conscience.

I am also of the opinion that the capitalist system as we know it is long overdue for a makeover. The fact that the living-wage gap (rich vs. poor) is getting larger by the moment, is enough of an indication that all is not well in the land of finances.

Add to the above equation an emotional subject such as global warming/climate change and a calamity is created at the forefront of the human perception and psyche. The situation is mostly aggravated by the fact that traditional means of incomes are threatened by the call for closure/minimalisation of factories, manufacturing plants and energy utilities – oil is bad, coal is bad, CO² is bad, methane is bad, flatulence is bad, meat is bad, mercury is bad, sugar is bad, cholesterol is bad, obesity is bad, paper is bad, planes are bad, motor vehicles are bad, smoking is bad, fertiliser is bad, et al.

The above-mentioned commodities supply a large percentage of workers with employment/wages on a global basis.

The call for cleaner and renewable energy utilities is adding to this woe for most of the proposed renewable energy generating theories require little human intervention and hands-on skills (not labour intensive); and are expensive to boot.
Developed countries are being asked to provide assistance (money) to developing countries so that they too can implement ‘earth saving’ initiatives. This in itself is seemingly the-proper-thing-to-do, but the underlying catch is that it’s the tax-payers living in the developed countries that will have to foot this noble expense. It must be said that altruism and charity, although seemingly noble, do not fix the underlying problem(s).

So yes, global warming and climate change is a reality of life on earth. It has been for countless of centuries and nothing we do will stave off that inevitably. And yes, our contribution to that ‘inevitably’ can also be counted and measured. And yes, many proposals have been put forward by pundits and activists alike – some more aggressively than others, to what needs and must be done to put off that ‘inevitably.’

What most do not want to take-in is that the problem is not that simple to solve. Those that are at the forefront of the war for change, are mostly gainfully employed or living of the welfare of others, or living on some plot of land (usually wrongly occupied or left behind as an inheritance) growing their own meagre crops feeding themselves and their offspring: close to nature, so to speak.

What most also do not take in is that there are factors outside the control of the veritable human being viz. Volcanic eruptions, solar flare-ups, earth’s passage through the galaxy/universe, moving tectonic plates, etc, that add to the ‘inevitably’ equation.

The ‘legacy’ issue also plays an emotive role in the whole cry for survival i.e. what of the future of my children, what about the poor animals, etc.

And then there is technology; another detractor.

Technology has provided a portion of the human race with tools that have made the acquisition of knowledge easier and cheaper. Technology has also provided a portion of the human race with powers that were previously not easily enacted i.e. freedom of expression (good and bad,) global empathy (good and bad,) power to circumvent despotism, cyber anarchy, etc.

Technology has also provided a portion of the human race with feelings on invincibility and immortality i.e. blogs will live long after one has expired, I can say what I like to whom I like without fear of physical consequence, the power of anonymity, governmental/corporate feel-good marketing campaigns, etc.
And not forgetting the power that technology has granted the giants of human-thought-manipulation i.e. the media, the swaying of public opinion, bending of outcomes to suit a given objective, popularising a certain way of life, sensationalising a happening for the sake of profit, etc.

I have over the past years made it my business to follow the reasoning behind the global warming malady by reading, watching, researching and pensively thinking about the issue at hand (from both sides of the spectrum.) I have also, in view of the few points mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, tried to formulate an opinion that encompasses the problem as a whole, without going off the activist deep-end.

My take on the problems facing the required ‘global warming’ mindset change always comes back to one glaring point: economics. What happens to the petrol industry workers when the petrol plants are done away with? What happens to the meat farmers when people minimalise eating meat? What happens to the livestock when people discontinue feeding on them? What happens to the pilots when people minimise flying? What happens to the motor vehicle industry workers when motor vehicle manufacture is minimised or done away with?

Thus in essence, solve the economics of living and the problem at hand is minimised!

Although the predicament of the human-inflicted global warming danger is a growing one, being self-centred and antagonistic in forcing people to change their sceptical fearful mindsets will not change the internal motivational drives of the human being.

The needs and wants of the people need to be addressed and pacified. Workable solutions have to be constructed in such a way that either alternative gainful employment is generally guaranteed or, that a new means of income generation is devised i.e. doing away with the traditional capitalist way of doing business.
Irrespective of what is said and done, my overriding opinion is that the inevitable will happen and that no amount of political posturing and or activist will and or new-age bluster will change that ‘inevitably.’

It is the now-or-later scenario that remains on the table.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Online Shopping: What do you think of it?

During the past holiday season, my fancy took me to surfing online shopping sites. A form of consumerism that is becoming popular in leaps and bounds.

All at once I could view, compare and critique items across a wide spectrum of commodities and articles and suppliers; all from the security of my home PC. It was like entering a new world. One where fancies, likes and imagination could be satisfied on the spot. Of course, the money issue did put a damper on the googly eyed adventure. In essence, a reality very much like the traditional way of shopping; except for the armchair bit.

In between the hours spent online, I kept thinking as to the popularity of the medium at hand: Is the South African populace in tune with this medium? Which population demographic finds this electronic shopping experience attractive? What is popular? What about the legal paperwork? Probability of scam attacks and phishing expeditions?

To the first and second question, in speaking to friends and acquaintances, I derived that generally middle to high income households have shopped online: be it tickets to a movie, to a motor car. Most also tried their hand at grocery shopping. Thus the appeal is there.

What was fascinating is how members of the lower income demographic made use of internet cafes (the least of all secure sites) to carry out their order of business (The numbers in question were few but growing.)

The interesting bit came in the guise of some using the information at hand to do comparisons, then going to a physical shop to purchase the selected item in question. Fear of Credit Card information theft and of the faceless entity behind the online fa├žade were the greatest deterrents to actually buying online; specially when substantial payment had to be made (I use one dedicated credit card with low limits to transact across the world wide web.)

Thus more questions came to mind: What would make the online experience more palatable and attractive? What would make the existing system more secure? What would quell the fears a consumer has about shopping online? What impact would the incoming consumer protection act have on the online shopping fraternity (would online service providers have to be RICA’ed or FICA’ed?) Would this action put to the inherent consumer fear of shopping online? Would a ‘comment box’ assist the consumer in voicing their opinions on the service, articles, etc?

The one avenue I found in my searches relates to the commonality of after-sales support more so than the offering of an online shopping portal. In the whole, retail companies offer online after-sales support structures: An operator will contact a consumer after a certain lapse in time to find out about the satisfaction perception. If positive, then all is well, if negative, then how can they assist!?

The above process tends to mostly placate and pacify consumers to the inferred ethos that the company cares.

As a whole, those that can, make use of online shopping to buy low to mid-priced items. The caution factor kicks in where huge payments have to be made. Here the consumer will go to the physical shop and pay there.

The lower income groups use the net more for comparison and availability purposes rather than outright online buying. The picture with the lower income groups is that the mindset is changing as the costs of internet hosting are dropping. The advent of intelligent mobile phones is also helping to change the mindset.

Personally I found the whole exercise insightful and calming: the threats are there, but with a small amount of internet savvy, threats can be managed and overcome.

Will I continue to buy online?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

USA'

The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
clipped from finance.yahoo.com
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.
61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck,
which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007
83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people
66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans
36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings
A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement
24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year
blog it

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Photography: A World of Possibilities.

What an interesting hobby photography is. It is everything art is plus more, much more.

I was bitten by this rather ubiquitous art form while doing research for an online shop that is slowly getting itself of the ground. The range of camera paraphernalia that one has to choose from boggles the mind. Boggling the mind is actually putting it mildly. And that is even before one gets to take a photo of something that the minds eye see as emotionally attractive.

On the camera front, the choices are enormous but mostly controlled. Nikon or Cannon, Pentax or Lomo, Sony or Kodak. The variations are quite painful to the novice photographer, but it will mostly come down to quality, price and what effects one desires from the light capturing machine of choice. The most difficult part for me was deciding on the amount of Mega- pixels my prospective camera can capture images at. Lets just say that I am still flabbergasted.

The next catch comes when one needs to choose a lens to attach to the body of camera. Choice is part of life but wow, when it comes to choosing a lens, the possibilities are endless. What usually ends up happening is that one will settle for a middle of the road lens assembly and grow the arsenal from there.

Modern cameras are mostly equipped with various capturing settings of which one will be AUTO. This setting allows one to start shooting immediately - this is unlike the photographic machines of old where patience was a pre-requisite: Visualise the shot, prepare the settings, aim, shoot and hope that the settings were befitting the shot at hand; or that the roll-of-film was not defective. Then there was the developing processes to account for…

Once I settled on a camera with , the correct Mega-pixels and a lens, I needed to choose a camera case, a memory card (to extend the amount of photos I can take in one sitting,) a flash unit and a tripod; and not forgetting the blasted batteries (normal or rechargeable!?)

Finally I paid and left the shop full of apprehension and trepidations all rolled into one. Where to begin? What to Shoot? Did I buy the right camera? Must get the batteries charged…endless thoughts of doubts and misgivings.

But I learnt quickly. The best way to learn is to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Having digital technology at one’s beck-and-call means that a photograph can be viewed immediately and settings adjusted on the spot, thus alleviating the patience paradox of old.


Now what do I do with my Kodak mik-and-druk?