Clive Weir is not a fanatic

I know this, because he says he is not. Right there in the second sentence of his fanatical rant. I know that Cliver Weir is in shock, because he says that before he says he’s not a fanatic.


Clive is upset because Sheffield City Council made the decision to cut down some trees in Rustlings Road, Sheffield, despite a long campaign by some residents to keep the trees. The cutting down was done earlier this week, at dawn, by a private contractor – Amey – accompanied by a “massive police presence” (12 officers).
Given the unholy fuss about this seemingly underhand approach, one has to wonder why they went via this route. Perhaps because if they hadn’t, there would have been a riot. I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

Immediately after these sort of allegedly anti-environmental actions (I say ‘allegedly’, because the council are replacing the trees with… er… even more trees than they cut down), local news sites are a great source of amusement. I cut to the chase, and went quote chasing in amongst the looney fringe of the STAG (Sheffield Trees Action Groups) FB page.

I was not disappointed. Non-fanatic Clive Weir’s post was the first one I saw.

The word ‘fanatic’ is defined as:

a zealot, bigot, hothead, militant. Fanatic and zealot both suggest excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief. Fanatic further implies unbalanced or obsessive behaviour.

This obviously doesn’t refer to Clive Weir though, because he is not a fanatic. He does seem ‘somewhat disappointed’ with the city councillors though:

The people of Sheffield had an opportunity to rid themselves of the autocratic fascists that hide themselves under the banner of labour.

But wait, Clive. Knowing that they had this opportunity, they surely took it, right? Right?

What do they do?, vote them in again because they have been brainwashed by genetics to deny any competent dialogue .

Seems a reasonable excuse to me. But then I’ve been fortunate to avoid being brainwashed by genetics to deny any competent dialogue.

Or… or have I? [sudden concern]

Although I’ve been a microbiologist since I can remember, I have some knowledge of genetics through my degree in Biomedical Sciences, and I can only imagine that Clive is trying to hint at some sort of genetic brainwashing programme here, selective breeding or eugenics. It’s fanatical stuff.

Clive continues, wholly unfanatically:

I would need a lot of money to take on this bunch of knuckle dragging bipeds.To call them monkeys would do an injustice to the primates!

Which primates, though? Because both these groups are primates: the monkeys and the councillors. So are you saying that calling the monkeys monkeys would insult the councillors? Or calling the councillors monkeys would insult the councillors? Calling the monkeys monkeys would insult the monkeys? But they are monkeys. Eponymous disparagement. Is it rude if it’s the truth?
Ironically, monkeys mostly live in trees. Not in Rustlings Road though. Well, not any more.

And then, the bombshell:

What are you playing at you idiots,have you all got your heads up your own backsides, or too busy licking your fellow councillors?

For those of you who thought that Clive was some sort of fanatic (he’s not), did you get that? These are elected officials, paid to serve the people and they seem to be engaging in contortionism and somewhat iffy-sounding oral practices instead of voting not to cut down trees. Suddenly, Clive’s apparently misplaced anger is wholly understandable. Cutting down a few trees in a posh bit of the city has “pressed the button” and Clive is going to reveal all he knows about the goings-on in the Council Chambers. Already, we know that this includes bending, stretching, recto-cranial insertion and hot colleague-on-colleague tongue action.
Watch this space. Well, that space.

Clive needs to find peace. Mi Riam has him covered:


I can’t help that we’ve been here before, albeit more locally. Perhaps some candles placed in the shape of a fish would work here too.

“We are one, we are one, we are one! Wake up! Wake up! Rise with the rising sun!”

That rising sun now far more visible thanks to the lack of arboreal obstruction, of course. So every cloud has a silver lining.
And you’ll be able to see them better too.


I’m sorry, Carl? Gorilla? As in Gorilla gorilla gorilla? Do they really bulk buy a load of trees and start planting them either on common land or ask people if they can plant trees at the end of gardens?

I mean, I’m no expert on primates (although I now have a little more clarity on how not to insult them) (see above), but I’ve never seen this sort of behaviour on any of David Attenborough’s auspicious documentaries. I have a friend in the DRC – I’ll ask her if she’s had any gorillas come around and enquire about potential arboriculture opportunities.

I’m not promising any return to the entirely non-fanatical STAG page, but it would seem almost foolish not to, given the rich vein of potential blog-fodder on there.

In the meantime, go hug a tree. It might be the last chance you ever get.

Hay Ewe

I ate some lovely meat on our weekend in Franschhoek. But then, under my windscreen wiper when I got back to the car, which had been parked on a backstreet (it was Van Wijk Straat for the purists out there) yesterday:


I left it big for the impact. It is quite impactful, isn’t it?
But yes, I see what they did there… And it’s pretty eye-catching. So… what and why?
I turned over, and found out…


u wot m8?

I think they may have slightly missed their intended market with this effort.
And “The Garden of Vegan”? “Country Moosic”? “Pigcasso’s Art”?

Each to their own, of course, but this really isn’t even close to my own. And… and… a free… cow dung… bookmark? That’s what I will be given if I turn up to this event? That’s what you will reward me with for supporting your cause and spending my valuable time at your grand opening?

A cow dung bookmark.

Do you actually want people to come along or not?

Let’s make electricity

Shall we? Well, we need to.

We’re short of electricity. We have been for a long while. Things have been better recently, but that’s mainly due to the economic downturn rather than any huge increase in generating power.

So, we need more electricity so that when things pick up again (lol!), we are ready to go and there are no further instances of “rolling blackouts” or “loadshedding”.

Much has been made of the SA Government’s insistence of going down the nuclear route. Currently, we have just one nuclear power station, just up the road at Koeberg. The alleged R1 trillion deal with Russia would add several more, and also the opportunity (so the cynics say, at least) for massive kickbacks, corruption and general naughtiness.

The cynics may well be right. But their fears are not what this post is about.

Brian Molefe, group chief executive of Eskom, allegedly recently stated that nuclear was “the cheapest option” and a local fact checking website went after him on that claim. They found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that his alleged claim was incorrect. But his inaccuracy is not what this post is about.

Here’s a screenshot of a graph that Africa Check’s data generated (geddit?):

Fullscreen capture 2016-08-25 120214 PM.bmp

And you can see that Brian was incorrect. Naughty Brian. Well done, Africa Check.

Thankfully, one thing everyone can agree is correct is that South Africa needs to generate more electricity. Oh, and that we really can’t afford to pay any more for it. So, what exactly are our options?

There’s hydroelectric. Clean, renewable, easy, cheap. It would be lovely to run our country with electricity from mountain streams and melting snow. But we don’t have mountains streams and melting snow. In fact, we have a few issues with the amount of water we have available for anything full stop. Put simply, there just isn’t enough water to make HEP a viable option.

There’s coal. Coal is cheap, we have lots of coal and we have lots of big coal-fired power stations. But coal is filthy. It makes shedloads of greenhouse gases and a billion other pollutants that no-one wants. Greenpeace says no to coal, and it’s just about the only thing I agree with them on. Going forward, coal should not be on the table (or in the furnace) for generating electricity.

Next up is gas. It’s there with wind and nuclear as a level levelised cost. Now, I happen to know that just under the Karoo is (conservatively estimating) about 450 000 000 000 000 cubic feet of shale gas. And I’d tap that gas. We could drop coal, drop our carbon emissions and make lovely, relatively clean, relatively cheap electricity. Except the green people aren’t happy with the plan to extract the shale gas. We’ve covered this… er… “extensively” on 6000 miles… I don’t think I need to go into again. Shale gas would be brilliant for SA. But the bunnyhuggers are determined that it won’t happen.

There’s nuclear – right there. Reasonably cheap, very clean, super reliable. Look at Koeberg – running without any big problems since 1984. There may be issues about corruption, but whatever methods we choose, this is electricity generating infrastructure on a massive scale. Sadly, there will always be those opportunities.

Still, wind looks like an option. Until you do the sums, that is. Remember that the nuclear option is for 9.6GW of electricity generation. Now look at this:

At 3MW per massive 145 metre (90m hub + 55m blade) turbine, you’d need 3,200 turbines! And that’s assuming 100% efficiency. Wind farms don’t do 100% efficiency. Wind farms only do about 30% efficiency (and I’m being nice here). So basically 10,000 turbines to guarantee that 9.6GW figure. If you’ve seen the blot on the landscape that is the Dassiesklip Wind Farm near Caledon, you’ll see how much of an eyesore just 9 (nine) turbines can be. And how much space they take up.
Dream on.

Look at the left hand side of that bar chart. Realistically, you’d probably have to rule out solar on the grounds of price. Oh, and also, the ridiculous scale required:

To achieve the 9.6GW capacity planned for this nuclear thing, we’d need something about 33 times the size of the current largest solar park in the world. That would cover 32,043 hectares and would cost about $33 billion.

So, no. Nuclear might not be the cheapest option for generating electricity in South Africa. And Brian Molefe shouldn’t be saying that it is. But until someone comes up with any other viable option – and I really don’t see anything reasonable on the table or anywhere close – it might well be the best option for electricity generation in South Africa.

Whether you like it or not.

Checkers Outrage

A local supermarket chain is currently running a promotion whereby, for each R150 spent in their store, you get an item from their (and here I quote) “#CheckersLittleShop big brand mini groceries”. These are miniature versions of some of their more popular (some might say iconic) local brands. There’s also an educational arm to it – “Become an entrepreneur – Encouraging tomorrow’s tycoons” .
Nice. Cute.

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Not everyone thinks so though. Some people on Facebook are outraged.
Now there’s a surprise.

Fullscreen capture 2016-07-131 121801 PM

Blimey. Who knew?

Where to begin? Let’s go through this spectacular rant piece by piece, shall we?

The starvation and the unemployment figures, the drought. All of these things are sadly true. As is the fact that Checkers paid an ad agency or promo agency to come up with this c**p, as the erstwhile commenter comments, erstwhiley.

But then it all goes a bit off the rails. The fact that Checkers paid an ad agency or promo agency to come up with this c**p has very little to do with the elevated levels of our grocery bills. There are bigger things at play there. Inflation, the somewhat disappointing exchange rate, the price of manufacturing goods and transporting them, because of  the higher price of oil and therefore petrol; the cost of fertiliser. Starvation and unemployment have little or no effect of the size of your grocery bill. The drought does make things more expensive though. So, only 1 out of 4 guesses on the causes of higher grocery bills. You’re playing catch-up now, furious Facebook commenter.

We move on to the second paragraph, and it actually starts rather well, with another solid fact, describing the mini plastic & polystyrene mock ups of products that Checkers sell in their stores as “Mini plastic & polystyrene mock ups of products you sell in your stores.”
As a description of the mini plastic & polystyrene mock ups of products Checkers sell in their stores, it’s near perfection.

And what happens when the promotion is over? Where does she think these things end up?

In our oceans. In a trash heap where most of it might never biodegrade.

Well, yeah. Or it might get recycled after a couple of years being played with in a kid’s doll house. To be honest, we all know that plastic isn’t great for the oceans or renowned for its biodegradability, but then, we all continue to use it, don’t we? And while I appreciate the need to cut down, these are awfully small things. “Mini”, some might say.
One fewer 2l fabric conditioner bottle will offset a full collection and more.
And, if that “most of it might never biodegrade” line above is the case, then all toys made of plastic (and everything else besides) should be banned. Immediately.

Bye bye, Barbie. Barbie, bye bye.

Meh. I’m unconvinced. If only there was one final line to persuade me that the inconsolably annoyed and ranty Facebook woman has a point.

Maybe, a child might actually mistake it for food and try eat it and accidentally choke and die?
Shame on you.

Yeah. “Maybe” that “might” happen. Equally, that might happen with a piece of wood or a rock though.
Yes, these are mock-ups of groceries, but they are also in their mock-up packaging. If a child mistakes a genuine bottle of All Gold Tomato Sauce for food and ingests it, it will also die, because it’s a glass bottle.

Additionally, some of them are mock-up detergents, moisturisers, deodorants and nappies. Your child deserves to die if it eats that and chokes. Darwin’s Law, that’s called. Shame on it, more like.

But then, there is a plus side to all of these pitiful arguments. Because if they’re true…
[But they’re not – Ed.]

Shut up.
Because… if they’re true, and Checkers’ promotion is actually responsible for all of these things: unemployment, malnutrition, the drought (lol… as if the drought is Checkers’ fault, ffs!), the inability of plastic to biodegrade within any reasonable timeframe, oh, and and infant asphyxiation, then surely if or when Checkers choose to end the promotion, surely all these nasties will become a thing of the past.

Could Checkers (possibly inadvertently, but still) could they have come up with a plan to literally end world suffering, simply by causing it all in the first place?

Or should Ms Ranty Facebook lady go and find something more beneficial to do with her time than blaming everything ever on a 6-week promo in a second-rate local supermarket?

Your call.




(Hint: It’s the second one.)

(Number 2)

The electric car conundrum

Petrol is going up again next month and people are understandably searching for alternatives.

Look, electric cars are great. Some of them are even really cool. We saw loads of them in Bergen, each with the number plate prefix ‘EL‘ to signify the green credentials of both the vehicle and owner. And that’s not unusual for Norway. Check this article from 2 years ago:

Norway, with a population of only five million, now has on its roads 35,000 electric vehicles (EVs), which also represent 14.5 per cent of new vehicle sales. Figures show another spike last month with 1,346 sales.

Onward and upward. What nice people, concerned about CO2, the greenhouse effect and climate change. But hang on, it seems that the electric car boom is driven by tax breaks, subsidies and privileges, rather than altruistic environmentalism:

Those benefits are incredibly generous, including exemption for VAT and car tax as well as access to bus lanes, free parking, free toll-road use, free ferries and employment tax benefits. A recent study suggested this equals as much as £1,000 a year in savings over the life of an EV.

Never mind. A by-product of this apparent greed is fewer car fumes in the city. Winning all round.

ecbergenEVs plugged in at the Bergen rådhus

One drawback with electric cars, however, is that they require electricity to run. Bugger. But in Norway, this is fine, because almost all of their plentiful electricity comes from the plentiful water falling down the plentiful waterfalls on the side of the plentiful mountains. And that’s very clean and green.

In South Africa, we don’t have enough water or big mountains to work this way. We do have shedloads of fossil fuels though, so we make our electricity by burning those. Thus, following the electrical supply audit trail upwards, when you plug in your EV in Cape Town (and good luck with finding somewhere to do that, by the way), it’s basically running on coal, like an old steam engine. Filthy.
So, right now, there’s really no environmental benefit to driving an EV in South Africa.

And they’re massively expensive. Massively, massively expensive. Like solar panels. But more so.

There is some evidence that people don’t think past what’s immediately in front of them though. Look at these guys, for example: Scootours. Now, this looks like a very, very cool idea, and one that I am determined to try. But their claim that it’s green? Well…

Fullscreen capture 2016-05-20 090012 AM.bmp

Yes. Going down a hill “propelled by gravity” is environmentally neutral. Well done.
But that vehicle taking you to the top of the runs? Fossil fuels, mate. And the laws of Conservation of Energy mean that the whole uphill thing will be especially dirty, heading up Kloof Nek and generating all that potential energy for you and your huge scooter.

I suppose that the thing with electric cars is that you would need to measure the amount of damage that burning petrol is doing versus the coal to make the electricity for your EV. But that difference is likely to be minimal. There was the option of buying clean power by subsiding the 4 wind turbines near Darling, darling, but they proved to be so inefficient that the company went bust.

Darling Wind Farm was one of the first two wind farms in South Africa. It is located 70 km (43mi) north of Cape Town, between Darling and Yzerfontein on the west coast of South Africa. It is an Department of Energy demonstrator site with the 4 turbines constructed. The second phase, 6 additional turbines, was never completed.

Darling Wind Power company is subject to liquidation. The DWP Board adopted a resolution to liquidate the company. Expected to operate at 28% capacity and deliver 13.2 GWh per year, it has only been delivering 8 GWh per year at 19% capacity.


OK. Once we get our clean electricity sorted (hello nuclear) and the price of cars with big batteries comes down to at least reasonable levels, we can revisit the electric car in South Africa. But these things aren’t going to happen before petrol goes up by a Rand per litre in a fortnight’s time.

And so that’s why you need to try out our massively efficient public transport system [cue laughter] or start walking.