Friday, 19 September 2008

Living an illusion part 2

During the sixties and seventies people pondered the meaning of life. The world was full of young people seeking alternatives to simple material gain. A favourite phrase, coined by Dr Timothy Leary, one of the gurus of the new age was Turn on, Tune in and Drop Out. Get out of the rat race, expand your consciousness and get in touch with what is happening around you.

One of the great all-time imponderables of life - the search for meaning - became a key focus. A time of rebellion, rejection of the 'establishment' and taking on new values were a feature of the youth.

Murray had grown up in Hampstead - a good middle class suburb in North London. At the age of fifteen he had shoulder length hair and a bushy beard. He too, was interested in finding out what it was all about.

"Why are we here? What are we doing on this planet, and what are we doing to it?

In the same year his grandmother passed away. They had been very close in a rather strange way. She could never understand the long hair. A fifteen year-old with a thick black bushy beard!

At her funeral Murray just laughed. He couldn't help himself.

His grandmother's death had a profound effect on the boy and he found his thoughts turning more and more to the Secret of Life.

After completing his schooling Murray sought out an adventure.

The journey began in London. Across the channel to Amsterdam. Hitch-hiking through Italy, Greece and on to Turkey. To Kabul in Afghanistan - home to some of the world's finest hashish - and on across Asia. At every stop Murray asked the same question. "What is the secret of Life" but he got no answer.

As the journey drew him eastward Murray began to get hints of a man that may be able to provide the answer. On to India. The gurus sent him here and there, but every lead was false. Eighteen months of travelling, living as cheaply as he could was beginning to have its effects on the young Murray. He was missing his family and friends. Everything they did here was wrong. Murray began to miss those same conventional features of his home that he had hated so much.

His journey took him through India, to Opium dens, Hindu temples and the “Mighty Ganges”.

Travelling on a train one day Murray met a bearded guru that told him of a 330 year old Tibetan Lama that knew the secret of life.

With a dwindling money supply Murray began this final stretch. As he neared his target more and more people confirmed the story. High in the Himalayas was a little cabin.

As Murray entered the dimply lit room his eyes fell on a man of infinite age. The Lama's white beard extended towards his belly and he was dressed in a simple robe. After sharing a bowl of rice, the old man asked Murray about his quest.

“Ever since I was a child I have wondered about the meaning of life. But when my granny died my thoughts turned to finding it. I have travelled through Europe and Asia. I have explored the length and breadth of India. Finally, my quest brought me to you. Will you tell me the secret of life?"

The old man puffed away at his pipe and took a sip from his glass of water.

"Young man," he began. "The secret of life is something that I sought for many years. It is something that many are afraid to find. But I found it. Yes I have the secret of life."

The young man waited expectantly, but the Lama remained silent. "Would that be something that you would share with me?"

The old man took another long puff on his pipe and gazed at the young man's eyes. "The secret of life" he began "is in old British army socks."

Murray could not believe what he was hearing. Old British army socks? He was angry. "I have travelled thousands of miles across the world to find the secret of life and you tell me that it’s old British army socks?"


But Murray was adamant. "No. It is not possible. Old British army socks are not the secret of life!"

The old man stared in disbelief. "You mean I've been lining all these years on an illusion?!" The Lama rolled over. He stopped breathing. He was dead.

Murray's quest was over. He returned home penniless to begin a conventional life in the West. He knew that he would never find the answer.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Living an illusion

In 1929 Wall Street was experiencing a bull market like never before. Making money on the stock exchange had never been easier. Every Tom, Dick and Harry became an investor. It was very difficult to put a foot wrong.

As more and more people entered the market, share prices rose faster and faster. It didn't really matter ehat share you bought - every share was a winner! Investors invested on borrowed money. The banks were only too pleased to lend the money - debt produces an income for them.

What went wrong?

Someone suddenly realised that share prices were way beyond reality. A company that was perhaps worth $50,000 was trading on the market for ten times its value. At times even more. A share price that reflects a 100:1 price earnings ratio is clearly not a good buy. But who cared? Share investments were bringing in huge returns!

The first crash of 1929 happened on 24 October to be folloewed by Black monday on the 28th.

The world has changed considerably since then. Govenments will intervene in most circumstances.

The current crisis is one of the worst for many tears. But the checks and balances seem set to cope withthe masages!
South Africa may bit be totally imune

Flowers in the sun

Some of nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature
scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snowflake.

- Rachel Carson

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Sunset across the suburbs

The Village Walk, Sandton

A view of the Village Walk in Sandton, South Africa.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Nine-Eleven seven years on

Today was seven years after the traggic events of September 11 2001. I remember watching the TV and seeing first one tower then the other collapse.

Since then I have heard many conspiracy theories about the events of the day. These are all plain nonsense. While the events may have suited GW Bush's foreign policy agenda, I don't believe that he would have done this to his own people.

Many people at the time saw this as a world changing event. The threat of terrorism has grown larger and more brazen. The war on terrorism has seemingly not been a success. Terrorist attacks are frequent, though none have matched the twin towers.

The world is not a safer place. In fact many more people live in fear than ever before. The war in Iraq has opened the doors to a whole collection of terrorists of all discriptions.

Osama bin Laden remains a free man. He still manages the occasional broadcast on TV. The Talliban was seemingly defeated but has risen once again from the ashes. Iran has threatened ...

Priorities change. What were once sacred rights in a Western Democracy have been sacrificed in favour of terrorism. So where is the world headed now - and have the terrorists won!?


This is my bed too, you know

Monday, 08 September 2008

Zuma raping lady justice cartoon causes outrage in the ANC

The South African Sunday Times latest cartoon by Zapiro (follow the link to view) has caused great offense to the ANC.

The cartoon portrays Zuma (the ANC president) opening his belt while the lady Justice is held down by members of the tri-partite alliance.

The ANC, COSATU (the trade union movement), the ANC Youth League and the SAPC have all been outraged that the Sunday Times saw fit to publish the cartoon.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that since the ANC conference last December, and entirely new leadership was elected. The new leadership, together with the leaders of the other alliance parties has seen fit to publicly attack the judiciary on a number of occasions. Even the constitutional court has come under attack. The most frequent accusation is that of a "political agenda" whenever something does not go their way.

The conviction of fraudsters within the party was a result of a "political agenda" on the part of the judiciary and the Scorpions. The Scorpions are the South African equivalent of the FBI. The "New" ANC has seen fit to place the disbanding of the Scorpions at the top of their list of priorities. Why? The Scorpions were responsible for investigating the corruption case against Zuma, fraud against Tony Yengeni (he was convicted) and for uncovering the entire Travelgate scam. The Travelgate scam involved many MP's.

They fraudulently claimed huge sums of money for travel that did not take place and shared the proceeds with a travel agency that helped to facilitate this fraud. The MPs were let off with a fine following an admission of guilt. All have kept their parliamentary jobs and are now part of the new ANC leadership.

Jacob Zuma has been implicated in a number of offences including accepting bribes while negotiating the arms deal. He has thus far tried to prevent the evidence being used and has attempted to stop the trial through one court application after another. He still has more up his sleeve. He is intent on stopping the trial.

Zuma's allies have also tried to prevent the trial from taking place. They claim that it is a political trial. The leader of the ANC Youth League has threatened to kill to prevent the trial. He has promised to eliminate the counter-revolutionary forces. These counter revolutionary forces include the judiciary.

Unfortunately the cartoon is very apt. Carl Niehaus - a former ANC MP has spoken out against the new order. He finds the new trend within the ANC - of viewing parliament and the judiciary as tools to carry out party policy - as worrying. It is the first step for the party to self-destruct.

The ANC has long been a party of high integrity. The leadership had morals and values. The new leadership does not.

Sunday, 07 September 2008

Freedom of Speech

In an article published in My Digital Life I explored certain aspects of freedom of speech. This topic aroused some debate.

The main discussion centred on whether there should be limits to freedom of speech. Some hold the view that freedom of speech should be absolute. It is better to know what the extremists are saying than to drive them underground.

But there is another aspect. What about hate-speech? How do you deal with speech that incites people to violence?

One example of the dilemma is illustrated in the speeches of Julius Malema - the president of the ANC Youth League, the division of South Africa's ruling party. Controversy erupted a few weeks ago when Malema stated in a speech that he would "kill for Zuma". Considerable anger was evident as a response to these words. Who would he kill? Are we on the hit list?

Malema promised not to use these words again, but followed with a statement that the counter revolutionary forces would be eliminated. It turns out that he didn't mean that either. He meant "removed".

Words are no mere words. They are powerful weapons. Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can really harm me.

In the context of South Africa which emerged from being a totalitarian state to a democracy just 14 years ago, it is difficult to support any form of censorship or prohibitions against freedom of speech.

There was very little opportunity to debate anything in those days. The media was muzzled. The population was muzzled. Books were banned. Films were cut or banned. Even songs fell victim to this tyranny.

Today, there is freedom of speech. It is guaranteed in the country's constitution. But hate-speech, racism and incitement to violence are exceptions.

But the right to freedom of speech means that we are responsible for what we say. This freedom should be used responsibly.

Monday, 01 September 2008

The early experiences of XP were similar to Vista ...

Microsoft released the first version of XP in 2002. XP received a very cool reception. It did not capture the imagination of the public. SP2 arrived providing a radical change for this troubled operating system. The second service pack did much more than fix the bugs. It provided a whole new look and feel to the Windows environment.

I remember being warned about SP2. I was told not to install it. It was very unstable and caused major problems to machines everywhere. It was too late. I had already installed the upgrade.

SP2 proved to be a huge improvement over the original release. It solved many of the problems. As with all software releases there were some new issues, but regular updates eliminated most of these. Eventually most Windows users had changed to XP and were quite happy.

Just as XP has stabilised Microsoft released Vista. XP did not require a hardware upgrade. In fact it ran faster than the Windows 98 that I had been running. But Vista is seriously resource hungry. Get a new machine with a fast processor and 2 GB of RAM. You will also need a large hard drive. Vista uses lots of space. But with a fast machine, Vista runs quite quickly.

After three months I am quite happy with Vista. It has some great features to find your way around. On a fast machine it is fast. But its attempts to solve problems when something crashes are all in vain. I have yet to see Vista identifying a solution.