the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Boys' Weekend

Ronwen's away for a long weekend, so it's a boys' weekend at home. Today is putting-off-doing-the-DIY and pizza and halloween chocolate mini-rolls. In other words, pretty much the same as if Mom were home but with a bit more "I want moooooommy" from time to time.

One small consolation for being at home without my dearest wife is that I get to sleep with the bedroom curtains open. On Thursday night that meant waking up during the night with heavy rain against our bedroom window.

I love the experience. It reminds me of one of my res rooms when I was university. My bed was right next to the window during what turned out to be a really wet summer, and I would regularly be woken up during storms with rain hammering against the glass right next to me.

The difference being that in the carefree days of being an idle student, I'd just go 'aaaaaaah I love rain' and roll over and go back to sleep, whereas on Thursday night I drifted off to sleep again thinking "dammit, I really need to fix the roof of the garden shed."

{2017.10.21 11:57} : Comments (0)

Budapest

I went to Budapest this past weekend. It's a beautiful city.

That is only sort of tangentially what this post is about.

Architecturally, Budapest is not London, but shopping-wise, it boasts many of the same retailers. And so you get that strange experience of the familiar with the unfamiliar.

The thing that tickled me the most, though, was that the hotel restaurant had Rama margarine, same logo and everything. What had hitherto felt like a quintessentially South African thing actually turns out to have been just another Unilever brand, kicking around in Germany for nearly a century, and available in over 96 countries.

At least we have Ouma.

{2017.09.15 22:16} : Comments (0)

John Wick: A review in one line

They killed his dog and stole his car, so he shot them all in the face. Entertaining.

{2017.08.26 22:03} : Comments (0)

QOTD

Trump is something the nation did not know it needed:

Fastidious people who worry that the president's West Virginia and Ohio performances - the alpha male as crybaby - diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it. There will be 42 more months of this president's increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations...

People forget that all the power they want their team to have to get things done, doesn't stay with their team forever.

{2017.07.29 22:49} : Comments (0)

Fly Tipping

This was all over the papers today: Travellers leave bath tubs, fridges and mattresses behind among 250 tonnes of waste after being evicted from field .

We've been following the story for the past few weeks. The field is just down the road from where we used to live, and my cycle route to and from work still takes me past it. With the recent heat, the area is starting to smell decidedly fruity, and I can't imagine the people in the expensive houses across the road are enjoying life very much at the moment.

A few years ago (when we still lived close by), plans were put forward to build flats on this field, and we got letters in our post boxes and petitions trying to prevent the development. Density and traffic and character of the neighbourhood etc etc. NIMBYism must've won, because nothing happened with the field. So when we first saw mention of the rubbish, I had chuckled and thought the owners would probably be saying "serves you right, enjoy the stench".

Reading this article though, the field is apparently co-owned by a group of local owners. Perhaps they bought up the land after the last episode? Were these the owners who were trying to develop the land?

Imaginations in the M-P household are running riot. Is there more to this than meets the eye? 250 tonnes of waste in 2 weeks, including bath tubs and fridges? That's industrial scale "doing stuff", but what? Nefrarious plots and schemes to reduce the value of the land before some developer swoops in to buy it and sling up flats, with local residents saying "fine, anything but more Travellers"? I wonder.

{2017.07.24 21:38} : Comments (0)

Somerdale to Skarbimierz

A long but interesting article in the London Review of Books: Somerdale to Skarbimierz: James Meek follows Cadbury to Poland (via).

It covers the moving of one of Cadbury's factories from the UK to Poland, Cadbury's takeover by Kraft, how Poland has grown post-communism, helped by EU funding, the general migration of jobs to Eastern Europe, but without the kind of economic security which wealthy Western countries had previously enjoyed. All that, tied into Brexit and the effect on UK communities as well as Poland's current right-wing, increasingly authoritarian political landscape.

Overall I disagree with Meek's conclusions about the economics of it all, but there's enough reality in the article to challenge whichever political viewpoint one might hold. One can't ignore the social cost and injustices highlighted in the article, yet neither can one ignore the extent to which regulation and lots of state money results in perverse incentives and corporate capture.

My favourite line of the article is this:

These countries, until recently, were totally indifferent; they didn't pay attention to even more painful processes going on in Eastern Europe. The only advice they had for us back then was for us to work harder. We took it as good advice.

{2017.07.05 23:15} : Comments (0)

That Turned Out Well

UK elections are over. Can the divisions now heal, the nation asks? I think not, if my Facebook feed is anything to go by. Everybody still hates everybody else.

Thoughts:

  • Theresa May: hubris, meet nemesis.

  • Jeremy Corbyn: meet the opposition benches. Again.

  • Everybody else: soz.

{2017.06.13 22:09} : Comments (0)

Being offline

Technology is great but I don't like the idea of voice-activated personal assistance devices, thank you, especially ones with an internet connection and which connect to the mothership.

At the same time, it's a given I think that they're going to become ubiquitous.

This xkcd hits the nail on the head. How will society deal with this 'intrusion' into our privacy? Do we get to the point where you go to visit someone and have to politely ask them what devices they have, and to unplug them from the wall? What about smart mobile phones?

{2017.04.17 22:59} : Comments (0)

The Original Alternative Facts

Steven Landsburg:

To what extent have the churches, by training people to accept obvious nonsense without blinking, created the conditions in which Trumpism can flourish?

I was having a grumble about this just the other day. Fake news is suddenly a big issue, but human beings have been doing fake news and alternative facts for, like, ever.

(and to be fair, religious types are not the only ones guilty of it).

{2017.02.23 21:24} : Comments (0)

The Phlebotomy Visit

I needed to visit the local hospital for a blood test. I arrived early but a few dozen people had arrived even earlier than me and the place was already packed. All the seats were taken up and we were queuing up down the corridor, all holding our little pieces of paper with numbers on them from the number dispenser.

I ended up getting into a conversation with 3 other gents who were standing around me. There was plenty of can-you-believe-its and moaning and grumbling about the state of the world and the hospital in particular. I enjoy these impromptu exchanges because you often get to see the world through lenses rather different to those you're used to.

And so the anecdotes about what somebody's mate the copper goes through, or the state of the NHS and the daft things the government has done, or the crazy 'elf and safety that firemen have to deal with, or some or other crowd of workers are getting shafted with their pensions, or how hospitals are too noisy these days and nurses keep switching on the lights at crazy hours "cause they say they got to see what they're doin' ain't they" and so and and so on.

Amidst the grumbles and the banter, one fellow ends a soliloquay with something along the lines of "and you know, it's our fault really, because all this 'appens but we let it 'appen, and none of us ever says nuthin' about it".

True, true, they nod, and then one dude says "I'll tell you one thing about us English though. Nobody else would be standing here crackin' jokes about it like this" and some chuckles and "yeah", and then the dude remembers that although I'm not enough of an outsider to not fit into the conversation, my contributions have not been in an accent which could remotely be described as 'English'.

"Sorry mate", says he awkwardly, "I didn't mean to cause offense by saying that, I, uh"...

"Not at all", says I, "us South Africans are the same, if anything I think we're a bit worse"

"How so?"

"Well, our humour's probably a bit darker than yours"

"Really, why, what would you be joking about here?"

"Well, we'd be joking about the same sorts of things, but we'd also start cracking jokes about people dying in their seats while waiting..."

"Oh." ... the dreaded "oh" - the one you get when you realise that the locals have a line, and what you've just said has put you firmly on the wrong side of it.

Slightly awkward silence before the conversation moved on. I decided not to continue with my planned riff about the lady in the corner probably having pegged it 3 days ago and nobody noticing until the smell got iffy, but we should check what her number is in case it's earlier than ours and we can toss a coin to see who gets it.

So anyway. Things I have learned today: it costs a doctor 70 quid to get the hospital property management company to get a picture hung in their office, firemen have to take a fire engine out of service and call in contractors if a light bulb blows, policemen have to buy their own batteries for their walky talkies, and get into trouble and have to fill out half a day's paperwork if they take out their truncheons, you never want to go to the hospital across the river from Big Ben because that bell is bloody loud when it rings at night, and there's no damned point breaking your neck to get to the hospital early for a blood test because there's only one person on the early shift and the pace won't pick up until the rest of the staff have arrived, anyway.

Oh, and in the UK: people dying in queues is not funny.

{2017.02.13 22:15} : Comments (0)

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