DIY stairway to heaven

Staying on top of a hill means you have beautiful sunsets and views of rolling hills that never end…

It also means a loop-run from home ends in tears or swearing, and your yard is gardening hell. We have a three-tier backyard. Getting from the first tier to the second involves planning, hiking shoes and is not recommended for people over 65.

Tier two is the perfect size for a nice thatch lapa and a pool, so we decided to improve accessibility by building flight of stairs.

We weren’t too sure about the structural integrity of the embankment, so we decided to use concrete to build our stairs. With some advice from my handy dad, we decided our stairs should be a comfortable 29mm(h) x 29mm(w) at 45º with a landing or two every five steps. This would give us enough freedom to not cast the whole thing in one batch, but rather do it in sections using the same frame.

We would build a reusable wood frame that we would assemble, cast concrete, disassemble and repeat till the stairs reached the top.

I drew up some plans. We wanted to work out what the least amount of treated super-plywood sheets were that we had to buy.

12We headed to Timbercity and we asked them politely to give us four treated super-plywood sheets, pre-cut into the sizes above, and delivered to our home.

This took quite some time as they had a Christmas/New years backlog.

The wood arrived on Friday while we were attending a wedding. Saturday morning we got started.

3456We finished the frames and we decided to move them to the garden the following morning as it started to rain.

Moving these frames from the 1st floor to our garden was going to be a task as they were bulky and heavy. While we were deciding if we were going to disassemble the frames or not, we discovered that the rain had damaged one of our panels.

This was in fact not treated wood like we politely requested. If we should pour concrete onto these frames, the water would damage them. Our stairs would need a lot of finishing as it would be wrinkled and we would have to throw away the wood after using it only once. We were stressed. A week earlier we had organised two guys to come and help with the concrete on Monday. It was now Sunday.

I eagerly volunteered to go back to Timbercity as I wanted to give them a piece of my mind. My husband said he would start disassembling the frames and carry all the wood downstairs to the garden.

Timbercity was obviously closed because it was Sunday.

I went to the hardware store, and they suggested I use varnish. It would’ve costed an arm and a leg, so I decided to phone handy dad again. He suggested Creosote. The hardware store guy told me it would take 3 days to dry.

I decided that Builders Warehouse was my last hope. A guy there suggested that carbolineum was the answer to all my problems.

7Carbolineum is a blend of creasote and coal-tar. It smells like the stuff they used to make our roads from and is sticky as hell.

89The husband assembled all the parts and we started painting. We even got a friend to help us out.

101113It felt like 45ºC, but the man at Builders assured me that the hot, sunny weather would help our cause.

The beer, I assured everyone, would help for the sunstroke.

12So Monday the concrete started flowing:

15

14Tuesday it continued but it rained out:

16

14Wednesday:

1920Eventually it ended up here:

IMG_0055We’re still not done… 😉

Olympics 2012 – The most antiviral thing in the world.

Olympics 2012

As a South African, I was close to tears with utter excitement when Chad le Clos, stunned Michael Phelps in the 200-metre butterfly to win Olympic gold by 0.05 seconds. It was a moment that South Africans could watch over and over again. I wanted to share this moment with my dad. He had predicted the South African swimmers would fair well in the Olympics, and I thought he might appreciate Chad’s victory even more than I did.

Sharing information in today’s age is usually a click away. But I, and most probably a heap of other people in the world accessing the BBC, NBC or any Olympic streaming website, was fairly annoyed by the following message: “Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory.”

The BBC is not allowed, The Guardian reports, to broadcast “anything online outside the UK from the Olympic Park or other Olympic venues.” That includes radio shows broadcast from these venues. I thought the BBC was global news brand? Well clearly not: “As the official Olympic Broadcaster in the UK, the BBC geo-blocks its online content, so that video and audio streams are not available to audiences outside the UK.”

TechCrunch had an interesting post on how the sales of UK VPN’s spiked just before the Olympics kicked off. For all the normal, less technically inclined people out there, a VPN would give you a UK IP address and with that, users can visit the BBC’s site, as if they were in the UK. All the online Olympic goodness would be just a click away.

My initial shock and horror, when I got denied access to a video of our medal winner, most probably occurred because I am a bit of an information brat. South Africa has fairly loose media morals, we don’t restrict internet activity like China, Iran, North Korea and the Emirates. The online-world and its wealth of information, is available to all with internet access. I started investigating other media locations. YouTube was filled with Olympic videos that had been removed because they violated copyright.

The more time I spent on finding a videoclip of our brand new Olympic rock star Chad le Clos, the more apparent it became that the IOC had paid a lot of people, to make sure the 2012 Olympics the most antiviral thing on the internet.

I find this so unusual, and completely counter productive. I don’t think the IOC will lose a tremendous amount of money by streaming a time delayed channel or two somewhere. One up! They can make even more money by selling ad-space on their delayed streaming channels. Something like this YouTube channel would be great, if it wasn’t geo-blocked.

Am I the only one totally confused by the logic in geo-blocking an event as big as the Olympics?

Do you believe in talent?

Pure Talent

So, I’ve heard a few motivational speakers in my life, or read the odd motivational blog on “how to be a great manager.” And I have found that they have a few theories that I don’t quite agree with. One of them really irks me…

They have this thing that they preach, which goes something like this: “We are all born equal.” Genetics or talent does not exist and has no effect on success. Everyone can be a professional athlete if they choose to do so.”

I don’t know if they’re inspired by the Declaration of Independence – “All men are created equal” (Which I think is fair when you’re talking about basic “human rights” or the law), or if they’re preaching a false sense of equality as a security blanket for stupid people, because a positive outlook improves productivity and stimulates the part of you that wants to succeed?

Surely all this ego-stroking would make people inflate their self value. And if everyone is special and equal… surely no-one is really special then?

Are we born with talent or do we eschew the averaging effects of socialisation and hang onto that which we all are given? If Inborn talent is a real thing, and the effects of education is real too, surely the key, then, is to know your own talent and then milk it for all that it’s worth. Right?

Are we afraid of excelling, or are we afraid of insulting people by having a genetic advantage in/on certain things? I do not mean this in a generalising/racist, dodgy kind of way. I believe some people are born with business skills, some people are born athletes, some people are born artists. I believe your life is made up of choices. You can do anything you put your mind to, but if it is not one of your talents, you will not necessarily be the best at it.

Do you believe in talent?

New House Problems

How it always starts: “I need more space [Living, Storing, Packing, Gardening, etc.]”
Initially you just browse around… Later, it becomes a small obsession. You scour every single corner of the internet for a new home. Property listings becomes you.

Finding “the one” completes you. You don’t see the truckloads of money, broken security gates, paint chipping off the walls or wasp infestations. You see your unborn children and puppies frolicking in the halls and garden. Every problem you encounter, makes you feel alive. You take each project on with a sparkle in your eye, and a jump in your step.


My new house encounter was a tad different:
My husband goes to property auctions weekly. His main focus: Townhouses. He buys and sells them to make a little profit on the side. Last year November, he mentioned that if he saw a house for a good price, he would bid on it. Not to resell, but for us to live in. I was interested, but skeptical, because I know a lot of things can happen at these auctions. Banks pull properties out of auctions, because families come up with the money, or because they miraculously sell them before the auction. Sometimes they even bid on their own properties.

Every Sunday afternoon, we would drive around and look at properties that were on the Sheriff’s list. I saw one or two houses that I fancied, but nothing ever came of it…

We were planning a scuba holiday for December, so we didn’t go on our usual drive that Sunday. The Next Friday, while I was sitting at my desk at work, I received the following sms:

“Hey, we have just bought a house. I’ll phone you later.”

I didn’t have the address, area, anything to spy on my own house. I had a tiny little meltdown. Emotionally I was hopping between black widow to extreme excitement.

My husband phoned me an hour after that. All I wanted was the address. Knowing my Googling intentions, my husband gave it to me and warned me that the Google pics were taken in the good old days. The house needed some TLC.

That afternoon, I saw our house for the first time. It was a 5 bedroom house with a granny flat.

It needed some TLC.

Black Tuesday

Black Tuesday, the darkest day for South African democracy since 1994.

Members of parliament will almost certainly pass the protection of information bill, otherwise known as the “secrecy bill”. The South African public will be deprived of free information.

Military intelligence, like weapon designs, could make us vulnerable if leaked. But we have not been reading about these topics in our newspapers. We have indulged in a feast of corruption, shady arms deals and financial scandals. Stuff that makes Nixon look like a toddler.

The ANC is now attempting to muzzle our press. The new laws would make it a crime to leak, possess or publish information deemed classified by the government, with whistleblowers and journalists facing up to 25 years in jail. Surely this bill is in direct conflict of the international human rights laws?

The apartheid government muzzled our newspapers. I thought all the political violence in our country happened in the name of freedom. Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and association. Robert Mugabe pulled the same move as he has steadily eroded the freedoms of his people. It’s frightening that we do not learn from our mistakes.

As a blogger, I rarely write about politics or government related topics. But if times should get tough, I would like to have a voice.

I’m joining my first protest – I’m wearing black today.

Fesignerd’s Top 10 Pet Peeves Listicle

I hate puppy spam.

I hate it when a new roll of toilet paper is glued together so tight, it makes finding the start and end on scotch sticky tape seem easy. I hate it even more if you do manage to unravel that same loo paper on the unglued side, and somehow always get the short end.

I hate price stickers – You always need some volatile, highly flammable liquid to remove the sticky residue from your brand new [insert purchased product here].

I hate it when people in cars feel cloaked and safe enough, to pick their noses and teeth.

I hate it when people leave things open, like toothpaste.

I hate people who do not comprehend personal space.

I hate losing… at anything, to anyone.

I hate feeling stupid or uninformed.

I hate people who has the world on a silver platter, that choose not to take it.
(Usually pretty girls and 2nd/3rd generation rich boys. I hate generalising. *chuckle*)

I hate the Fox network for canceling Firefly.

Traffic

Traffic

I had the great fortune of spending three hours in traffic yesterday. Accidents have a way of turning most highways into a four lane parking lot. This drives me insane – I found myself going through the natural grief recovery steps:

1. Denial – “No, this can not be happening to me.”

2. Anger/Resentment – “GET OUT OF MY WAY! Don’t you dare! ARE you insane WOMAN!? Stop texting! MOVE ALREADY!”

3. Bargaining – “Perhaps I can take the next off-ramp, and try going through the suburbs.”

4. Depression – “The inroads are most probably clogged up too – I’m doomed…”

5. Acceptance – “FML”