We can ensure the best rise to the top

On weekdays I prefer working out at the gym sometime between 11 am and 1 pm. That way I break my day. I can be super productive in the morning, pushing to get things done before I head off and then super productive in the afternoon again after I am back and filled with all the good stuff that flows around in my veins after pumping iron for an hour or so. But yesterday (like too many other days recently) was different. I changed my schedule so that me and my fitness freak daughter, Mandisa, could start our workout at 3pm so as to coincide with my office’s load shedding induced down time. I was not at all happy about this inconvenience. I am not at all happy that Eskom is now causing me daily to lose money in business. But I was happy though that I got slightly more time, between bench press and back squats, to think a little. To ruminate. To ponder on the peculiar situation in which we find ourselves in this beautiful country.

80588451_10159291912078975_7313168396902727680_n.jpgLets start perhaps with what we know. We know that we have all the essential ingredients as a country to deliver world beating performance. We have just this week delivered a South African Miss Universe.  We have just last month delivered South African victors of the Rugby World Cup. We have in recent years effortlessly delivered Elon Musk and Trevor Noah onto the world stage. The evidence is clear, unequivocal and indisputable. We have the right stuff! We are able to dominate the world in a broad range of disciplines. But friends, how then do we explain Eskom, SAA and Mayor Bobani?

It seems perhaps that South Africa exists in two realities. One in which we are the absolute shit and another in which we are just plain shit! How is this even possible? Well I am glad you asked, because this gives me a chance to try out my theory on you.

My suggestion is that where we have succeeded so spectacularly as a country is where we have figured out mechanisms that allow for the best of us to “float to the top” of our chosen field. We have seen this in rugby, we have seen this in the Miss Universe contest and in the worlds of technology and entertainment. But where we have developed institutions that have built “filters” that prohibit the best from rising to leadership and decision-making positions, there we find failures like Eskom, SAA and the NMBM. Perhaps it’s just a simple case of where vicious competition is obvious and clear to us, we rise and where we are blinded to it, we fail. I say this because somewhere in our collective South African consciousness we must know that we have no choice but to put our best foot forward in the Miss Universe competition. If, in that contest, we had used our Eskom mindset, we would have held back Zozibini Tunzi in favour of a lesser competitor whose surname just happened to be Gupta. If we had used our SAA mindset in the Rugby World Cup competition, we would not have even made it to the first game. We would have insisted that a 15 man team is just not big enough and that we refuse to come on the field unless we can meet our job creation goals by having a 40 member squad!

If we were living in Southern Sudan, it would perhaps be understandable that we are experiencing Stage 6 load shedding or that we couldn’t figure out how to run a little airline with 58 planes (for heaven’s sake American Airlines has 1500 planes!). But we are not living in Southern Sudan. We are living in a country with significant human resource. South African has proven in the Miss Universe contest, in World Cup Rugby, in Elon Musk and in Trevor Noah that we can build systems that allow our best to shine and to make the world a better place.

But don’t get me wrong. I am not talking to you about politics (or the delusion that causes people to think that they can make any real change by queuing up once every four years at the ballot box). No. That’s not what I am after. What I want to see in each and every one of us is that we make sure, that within our own sphere of influence and control, we insist that the best of the best be allowed to float to the top. The best people, the best ideas, the best products and the best technology. And yes, you do have power and sway. It may be in your kid’s hockey club where you insist that the best kids make the first team. It may be in your office, where you make a scene where you encounter nepotism. It may just be you, on Instagram, promoting what you know to be the best sirloin steak in town or making a fuss about sub-standard service at the bank or being ripped off with data prices by your cellular company. It’s our duty every single day to reject bad design, bad coffee and bad attitudes. Each and every one of us must demand the best and we must insist that all that is not up to the task is sent back to try again.

 

Believe me. Our country depends on it! Our country depends on you!

 

Unboxing the Davey (DC10M-2) Sump Pump

I have no “Town Water” at Pebblespring Farm – I rely entirely on natural sources, either collected off my roof, or from the spring. Submersible pumps are therefore quite important to me for three reasons:

1 – to draw water out of the spring into the aquaponics system.
2 – to circulate water in my aquaponics system
3 – to irrigate (fertilized water) from the aquaponics system to my garden and orchard.

The Davey Sump pump (DC10M-2) and the Resun King 3 are roughly the same price in South Africa (Around ZAR 1000 or USD68 ) – my feeling though is that the Davey Sump pump gives much more pump for your money!!

Watch the cool video that Tim made for you!

Dynamite the only option for Red Location Museum

There was beautiful rain on the farm on Saturday night. It’s been very dry here, so the sound of rain on the tin roof as we huddled in front of Netflix was even more pleasant, even more comforting than it would usually be. Except of course that the tiny cottage we live in is located in a little patch of third world where, for some reason, the internet goes down every time there is the smallest drop of rain.

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Photo courtesy of Wolff Architects

With no connectivity, activity in the cottage quickly gravitates to reading, playing chess or trying to teach our enormous great dane “Tank” to add “lie down” to his small repertoire of tricks. My grown son Litha, was slouched behind the Weekend Post. “Dad…What can we do to get it opened?” He asked, referring to the headlines talking about the “Disgrace” that the beautiful Red Location museum remains closed to the public for six years now. “It’s not that simple” I mutter vaguely as I try for the third time to reset the WIFI router. His question interests me though and we end up debating the issue well into the rainy night. The exchange got me thinking about the issue and wondering if this whole matter has been thought through properly.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the buildings that make of the Red Location Museum precinct are the best collection of contemporary buildings in the province. The buildings were lovingly designed by Jo Noero, an architect deserving of the highest levels of respect. I suppose, though, the question still remains “Why does the museum remain closed?”

Perhaps there’s more to it this than the lawlessness of the local neighbourhood? Perhaps there is more to this than the fumbling incompetence of the three spheres of government that have power and sway here.  I’m beginning to think that the real problem is that Red Location Museum was way ahead of its time. But not in a good way.

I have visited Berlin. There is a Holocaust museum there (as there are in many other parts of the world) While these museums are all different, they have one thing in common. They were built after the holocaust was over. Just like the Vietnam War memorial was built after the Americans lost the Vietnam war. Just like the little memorial I visited in Buenos Aires was built after the Falklands war. I suppose it’s a matter of timing.

Mayor Nceba Faku was the best Mayor PE has ever had, but perhaps he got this wrong. Perhaps he declared victory in the struggle for liberation against apartheid too soon. Perhaps the people struggling in desperate poverty to this day in Red Location and hundreds of other places like it, may say that it is even now, 25 years after 1994, still too soon to celebrate or to memorialise victory.

After all, our World War 2 hero, Winston Churchill did not declare victory on “D-Day” when the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy. No. They pushed on, did the dirty work and cleared Europe of every last Nazi Pantzer, released every last Jew, Gypsy, Gay and Slav from the concentration camps and then, and only then, declared victory on Armistice day.

I guess that the city’s great thinkers, like the erudite and well-spoken Rory Riordan, who worked tireless to ensure the Red Location museum received funding, got built and became more than a mayor’s pipe dream, will argue that I am misguided. He will point to the projected economic impact and how the tourists could flock there, spend their Euros and Pounds and Zim Dollars and thereby stimulate the economy and create a better future for the poor and destitute of Blawa, Ndokwenza and Katanga. Well friends, I am afraid the jury is out on this one. In the thirteen years since the museum was opened in 2006, it could not even generate enough tourist spend to keep its own little museum restaurant running let alone stimulate the rest of the region’s tourist economy!

I am afraid colleagues this project is a failure. It is a failure despite the good work of Noero, Faku and Riordan. It is a failure by the ancient measure of that most famous of roman Architects, Vitruvius. Even before the time of Jesus, Vitruvius helped us understand that in order to for Architecture to be enduring and cared for, it must prove itself against the age-old tests of “Firmness, Commodity and Delight”. Yes, Red location Museum is “Firm” (It hasn’t fallen down). Yes, it is delightful. But no, it does not offer “Commodity”. It is not used. It has no function in this particular time, in this particular economy and under these particular social conditions. By the measure of the great Vitruvius therefor, The Red Location Museum is failed architecture.

Of course, we are concerned as tax payers that we have spent so much money on these buildings. We feel therefore that something productive must be forced upon them. This mistaken thinking, friends, is the “sunken cost fallacy” AKA “throwing good money after bad”. Even the Berlin Wall and the Sardinia Bay Life Savers Club were demolished when we reached consensus that building them was a mistake.

Perhaps then, if anyone ever resuscitates Mayor Faku’s great plan to demolish the freeways that devastated the once bustling and thriving Strand street, they may also be so wise as to add the Red Location Museum onto the list structures to be dynamited!

Night Patrol 27 October 2018

I hate it when my night Patrol duty falls on a Saturday night. That means I must leave Poppina in the cottage alone with Tank. And another thing – this was the third Saturday Patrol I’ve had been allocated this year. It doesn’t sound fair. In fact I had almost forgotten about the patrol and just remembered 30 minutes before I was due to report at 19:00.

 

The way it works here, it that the patrol vehicle is parked at the Service Station just up the road from me at Cow’s Corner. So I drove up, bought some snacks for the road and signed for the keys with the lady in the shop. My co-driver didn’t pitch. I contacted him, but his was pissed off because he didn’t receive the email roster that sets out the dates for all the night patrollers. I am perhaps more forgiving. I admire the volunteer energy that the people heading up “Farmcomm” put in, including the people that assemble and send out the night patrol roster.

 

Normally, not much happens on my night patrol shift, but last night was different. About an hour in to the three hour shift there was a call in the two way radio. Neil and his wife, from just over the road from us had been attacked. 4 men in balaclavas beat the two pensioners and took a shot gun, a 9 mm hand gun and cell phones. Very quickly the radio control guys stepped into place and coordinated the activities of the many “responders” who arrived at very short notice in their private vehicles. You see, each Farmcomm member has a two way radio. Many keep it on their person at all times. So if there is an emergency the response can be quite rapid. Some responders were directed to form cordons along certain roads, others were directed to launch the drone which is now fitted with a Fleur night vision camera of sorts. I was tasked to park at the corner of Kragga Kamma and Louisa roads, to direct police and other emergency personnel who were beginning to arrive on the scene. While this was going on the attackers were being pursued. The place where they cut the fence into Flanagan’s farm was found and as the police dog unit arrived they tried to find a spoor. The pursuit of these attackers went on until early hours of the morning. We come very close to apprehending the suspects as they took refuge in thick bush between Doorly and Destades road.

For much of the time from when the attack happened at 8ish until we received the order to stand down at 2:30, I was part of a vehicle cordon. Basically a row of cars parked along a road with lights shining so as to back it impossible for the attackers to pass. So I had a bit of time to think. At first my mind moved to how sad it is that we have this crime situation that requires all of us in this neighbourhood to lock ourselves in hour houses as soon as the sun goes down and to live behind high fences protected by viscous dogs, alarm systems and armed response companies. No it’s not nice. But I think what is good is that the community has organised itself and is taking responsibly for its own security. (Collaborating with the police of course.)

My mind also wandered to how futile it is to feel sad about this situation (or any other I suppose). The situation “just is” and I am faced with the option to deal with it or to move somewhere else where I may not have to deal with it. I have chosen to be here at Pebblespring farm. For better or worse, this is the decision I have taken. And with that mind-set, my only choice is to find joy in making every effort I can to protect my family and prepare myself as best I can to be able to deter and resist intruders. It feels better to have this mindset. It in fact feels better actively pursuing attackers at 2 in the morning. Just knowing that I am doing something perhaps. Not waiting for them to take the initiative and spoil my day.

I have a lot of work to do to be fully prepared. But that’s what I have decided to do.

 

By the way we never caught the guys, but we learned a lot and we are getting better with each of these “operations”