Proceeding well

It’s back to school for many South African kids this week. Not for Alex and his friends in Cape Town, of course. As ever, the Mother City is a little slow to catch up and our lot only go back next week, but Gauteng and the inland provinces are back already.

And how.

Stories of boozing on the way to school, desks being chopped up for firewood and a dagga [cannabis] plantation “the size of a football field” in one school yard. And those are just the sensational stories that made it into the newspapers.

Hunter’s is the perfect refreshing thirst quencher for any occasion”

Also, I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but they’re also wearing masks. Is that really part of the uniform?
An extra day’s detention right there, I think.

The dagga plantation story was also in the Sowetan along with a picture of the offending crop. Since the paper also named the school, I think you might already be a little late to harvest your share, but if you’re in the local area, then it might be worth a quick recce.
The intergalactic street names in the vicinity of the school in question suggest that the dagga has been growing there for some time – even, like, back when the houses were being built, man. Right on.

We asked people passing by if they were aware that there was dagga at the school and the response was shocking. Everyone knew about the plants. Even a seven-year-old boy said: “I can show you what a dagga plant looks like. People smoke it every day in the yard.”

Give the lad an A for Botany and an F for a bright future. Still, at least he’s learning something.

On the front page of South Africa’s largest circulating daily newspaper, the Daily Sun, were photos of pupils from Alexandra High School sitting at the metal frames of what were once desks. According to the report, the wood had been stolen for fire wood.

All of which is highly suspicious, since surely the metal frames would also have been sold for scrap as well. People need money for food, not just fuel for the fire to cook it on.

I don’t know about you, but these sorts of stories don’t fill me with optimism about the forthcoming school year and its chances of success. But then I’m not Charles Phahlane of the Gauteng Education Department, am I?
Because Charles said:

“We are pleased that the first day of schooling in Gauteng proceeded well.”

Which is what is known in South Africa as a Basil Bonner of a statement. Lest we forget, Basil is the official doc in charge of the medical teams for the Annual Cape Argus Prawn Rally Cycle Tour who came out with this pearler back in 2008:

About 65 people had to be taken to hospital during the Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town, two of them with suspected heart attacks.

“We had two serious head injuries, a third with a fractured hip and pelvis, and two patients, both in their 60s, with unconfirmed heart attacks. They’re in hospital having tests done,” Dr Basil Bonner, head of the emergency unit at the Milnerton Medi-Clinic, said on Sunday.

“Overall, it’s gone exceptionally well.”

Which has to be one of the most inappropriate uses of the words “exceptionally” and “well” ever, in my opinion.

Charles has obviously studied at the Bonner School of Blinkerdom if he can helpfully ignore these drink, drug and desk debacles, although when the media tried to tackle the department on the issues, they was sadly and conveniently unable to garner a response.
Would it be a bit of a stretch to suggest that the department was on a bosberaad, smoking weed and drinking cider while sitting around a campfire made out of Alexandra High School’s desks?

Yes, I think it probably would be.


Sunday stuff to do – blogging about space rock

It’s Sunday and there’s stuff to do. Exciting stuff like polyfilling and painting, poisoning the front lawn, drinking beer and watching football. Being mindful that any one of those activities could go on late into the night and also aware that there have been strange server error things going on at the far end of my internet and equally odd connection problems at this end, I thought it best to pop a quota photo up just in case I don’t get time or inclination to blog later.

But then came the story of the meteor over Gauteng and suddenly, the quota photo plan was reserved for another day. Big quota photo fans need not be disappointed as all (if not more) of my quota photos come from my flickr photostream, so you can always go on there and fill your boots, pixel-wise, if that’s what floats your metaphorical boat.

But on with that meteor thing. Twitter has been going mad – well, there were a couple of mentions, anyway – with people claiming to have seen it, claiming that a friend had seen it or claiming that they hadn’t seen it but wishing that they had seen it.
But what were people actually seeing? Eyewitness News sets the record straight. Sort of.

Johannesburg and Pretoria residents have come forward, claiming they spotted a meteor in the skies on Saturday night.

People in Gauteng saw the bright light at around 11pm on Saturday night, heading towards the north of Pretoria.
“We saw this big green ball of fire: it kind of came out of the sky, out of the blue,” one resident said.
“There was sudden flash. Like an orange stripe in the sky, followed by a very bright explosion where the sky lit up as if it was daytime,” another explained.

So it was green out of the blue (blue skies at 11pm?!?) and “it kind of came out of the sky”.

Now, even granted that this individual must have been shocked at such a shocking experience, that’s a whole lot of confusion in one single sentence. I defy you to succinctly imagine something “kind of coming from the sky”. Sure, I can imagine something coming from the sky and I can imagine something not coming from the sky. However the concept of something “kind of coming out of the sky” confuses me.
It’s like picking up one of Telkom’s stiff little ADSL hamsters in Bloemfontein and declaring it “kind of dead”.
No, a meteor is an all or nothing thing. And they always come from the sky.

I’m actually discounting the second witness statement completely as he was probably just drunk and passed out before waking up at sunrise. Thus, the sky lighting up “as if it was daytime” was probably due to it being daytime. The orange glow would have been wholly unfamiliar, given the recent weather in Gauteng.

This story is ongoing. There has been no official response as yet, because it’s Sunday and all the Government departments and official bodies in South Africa are closed. Not that I want anyone to invade or anything, but if you’re going to (and who’s to say that you haven’t already?) then Saturday at 11pm would be a great time to do it. That way, you’d basically have about 30 hours grace to settle in and make the Union Buildings your own, unpack some boxes, do a spot of decorating, change the locks etc (bring your own locksmith) before anyone realises what is going on and starts grumbling on Monday morning.

And even then, they’ll probably only moan if it’s raining and they can’t go and lie in the sun on their unexpected day off.

UPDATE: Wow. OK, now I get it.

Footage from the security camera of the Mustek building in Midrand of the meteor shower that took place on 21 Nov 2009. 

Death by virus

The recent outbreak of presumed viral haemorrhagic fever in Johannesburg has understandably got the tabloid press into a frenzy and once again proved that they will do anything to sensationalise a story. It has also shown that their knowledge of microbiology is non-existent: they probably think “bacteria” means to return home sadder than when you left.

Authorities have not yet identified the causal agent of the outbreak, which has claimed three lives, hence it’s monikers “Mystery virus” or “Killer virus“.  The Times has a timeline of the outbreak, wonderfully titled “Chronology of Death*”. The fact that the likely culprit is endemic in parts of South Africa anyway hasn’t stopped the reporters hiding their disappointment at the lack of further victims behind expert analysis – like that of ex-Springbok rugby star turned epidemiologist** Corné Krige, whose cousin was the index case.

A concerned Krige, who captained the Springboks to the 2003 World Cup, said it was scary that the killer virus had not been identified.

The Times has labelled the health department “clueless”, when in actual fact, their response to this potentially very serious outbreak has been exemplary. They have contained the infection, limited its spread in a very short time and therefore avoided causing widespread panic – even in the face of some truly dreadful reporting.  

* To be said in a deep movie announcers voice.
** No.