Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Namaqualand's transformation

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While living in South Africa, a neighbor recommended we should visit Namaqualand. Apparently it was just the right time. I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but I was prepared to take her word for it. So we went.
The 1111 km (690 miles) was quite a long drive and we hoped it would be worth it. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at our destination and we found a brown colored, barren land. This, this is what we had come all the way for! 

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Not that we were alone. There were hundreds of other people there, strolling around, emerging from tents, having breakfast on blankets.

We soon found out that some of the people were reporters and photographers, having camped out at this location for days. According to them, any moment now something amazing was about to happen.

“This happens but once a year,” one of the reporters told me. “One moment there’s nothing but barren landscape, the next a sea of flowers explodes before your eyes.”

Flowers? Where were these flowers going to come from? I saw nothing but soil and rocks.

"You just wait," he said, "just tight and you’ll witness something you won’t forget for the rest of your life." So we waited.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. During mid-afternoon, dark clouds gathered over Namaqualand and when the first drops of rains splashed on the ground, everyone got terribly excited. 

Within minutes, I could see why. Patches of color started to sprout from the barren soil and the more it rained the more flowers started to bloom. By the end of the day, there were flowers as far as the eye could see.
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This video shows the event in a way that I could never explain. Not to worry, you don’t have to watch the whole 51 minutes of it (although you might want to). At the 45 second mark, you can see Namaqualand’s transformation. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Gx-aCsURq0

If you prefer photos, this reportage shows some beautiful images.

http://www.atlasofwonders.com/2013/02/namaqualand-flower-power.html

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kicked out of Capri



As much as I hate winter with its snow and sub-zero temperatures, I’m not a fan of summer either. I can handle the season up to 27 deg C (80.6 deg F), but anything more than that is just a little too much for me.

This is a relatively new condition. In my younger days, the heat didn’t bother me at all.

I remember a time when we traveled to Granada, Spain. One of the hottest regions of the country. It was not unusual for the temperature to reach over 40 deg C (104 deg F) but I wasn’t bothered at all.

While in Granada we visited the Alhambra and Generalife. It was hot as hell, but the heat didn’t have an effect on me. We walked around for hours, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures, and we didn’t care about the heat.





The following year we vacationed in Capri and walked all over the island, including Villa Borghese and its gardens. The sun was beaten down on us, we had little or no protection and no water. Were we bothered … not in the least.



Not only did we walk for miles in Capri, at one time we even ran. That is … I ran.

In one of the gardens of the island, where we enjoyed a delicious ice cream. The scenery was beautiful, trees and flowers everywhere and live size statues of angels and the twelve apostles dotted the grass.


Before leaving the garden, mom wanted a picture of St. Peter, she suggested that I pose with the saint.

In doing so I draped my right arm around the statue’s neck and with my left hand pretended to pull his beard.

My goodness had I made a mistake in doing that. The gardener came charging at me, pitchfork in hand, swearing at the top of his voice. He yelled in Italian, and even though my Italian vocabulary was limited, I understood that my actions had been disrespectful to the saint.

Seeing him waving that pitchfork I wasted no time. I took off as fast as the grass and my flip-flops would allow me. The gardener, even though he was well into his sixties, was in surprisingly good shape.

I can’t remember how long the spring lasted, but I outran him. When me folks caught up with me they told me they had to pay a considerable amount for them to keep the camera and to keep the police out of this matter.

They were also told to leave Capri as soon as possible. So we did, we visited the Blue Grotto and then we headed back to them mainland.



If you like my blog, please visit my website at
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friday is Cat Day - Talking cats



It is generally accepted that dogs bark and cats meow. But if that is the case, my lot didn’t get the memo. I have five cats and not one of them knows how to utter a proper meow.


Chanel has plenty to say, but when she opens her mouth she sounds more like a frog than a cat. Chanel has no clue of course and happily babbles along.


Mickey is a very quiet cat, but if he does decide to start a conversation he sounds like a bird, a very tiny bird. There are also occasions that he seems to suffer from laryngitis … he opens his mouth, but no sound comes out.


Charlotte doesn’t say much either. Days can go by without her saying anything at all. When she does “meow” she sounds like a sheep, a very tired sheep.


Gabriel has his ups and downs. There are days that he lets himself be heard, and then there are days that he sulks. I can tell when he’s in one of his moods. When he does “meow” he turns the occasion into a serenade. He sounds so pitiful it would melt a stone heart.


Holly has plenty to say, usually between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. She talks to the walls, she talks to the doors, she talks to the fireplace … we are convinced she sees things we don’t. When Dieter goes to bed at 11:00 he shushes her with a stern “Holly, be quiet”, to which she promptly replies with a string of protests. Every so often she parks herself next to his bed and talks to the nightstand.


So no, our cats don’t meow. Perhaps we should adopt a sixth cat, one who knows a proper meow and who can show this lot who it’s done.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Do job seekers have rights?





All over the world people have rights. Men have rights, women have rights and children certainly have rights. African Americans have rights, gays have rights, the disabled have rights and a whole lot of other people have rights too. The only people who do not seem to have rights are job seekers.

Potential employers can engage in false advertising, toy with their emotions, offer them less than minimum wage salaries, and when they complain they don’t have a leg to stand on.
Anna (not her real name) who complained about false advertising received the following message from the Ministry of Labour.

This issue is not covered under the Employment Standards Act. The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) sets out minimum rights for most employees in Ontario workplaces by setting standards for such things as payment of wages, public holidays, hours of work, overtime pay, vacation time and pay, pregnancy, parental and personal emergency leave, and entitlements to notice of termination (or pay instead of notice) and severance pay. Hiring is not covered under the ESA.

In another instance Anna applied for a job where the employers offered her less than minimum wage. Again she complained to the Ministry of Labour. To the best of her knowledge, paying less than minimum wage is against the law. 

Apparently it isn’t. The law on minimum wage might as well not have been written, because employers can pay whatever they want. It’s up to the employee to take it or leave it.
This time Anna got this message.

This issue is not covered under the Employment Standards Act.The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) sets out minimum rights for most employees in Ontario workplaces by setting standards for such things as payment of wages, public holidays, hours of work, overtime pay, vacation time and pay, pregnancy, parental and personal emergency leave, and entitlements to notice of termination (or pay instead of notice) and severance pay. Minimum wage is not covered under the ESA.

This is not very encouraging. Companies can advertise jobs that don’t exists, can pay whatever they want, and according to the Ministry of Labour it’s none of their concern. When will the law give job seekers some rights?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A funny story about a spider



Blogging inspiration is running a little low these days, so a friend suggested that I dig into past experiences and share some of those.

Not a bad idea. So I thought about it and at first I came up with nothing. And then I saw the name Ray, and that gave me an idea … a story about a spider.

Don’t panic, I’m not going to tell you some frightening story. Quite the contrary, I’m going to tell you a funny story.

A funny story about a spider? I can imagine you have your doubts. The words spider and funny don’t exactly fit each other. And you’re right, I’m the first one to agree … spiders are a lot of things, but funny they are not.

Personally I’m terrified of the ugly creatures, but I’m also fascinated by them. So let someone mention the word spider and I’m all ears. And this is where Ray comes in. Ray told me a funny story about a spider. Not just any spider either, a tarantula.

If you have doubts about the authenticity of the story, I can tell you right now, it’s not a lie. Ray was a reverend and in all the years I knew him, I never caught him in a lie, big or small. So here it goes …

It happened a long time ago, when Ray was still a boy in a school in Barberton, (South Africa).  He was on his way home, on a particularly hot day in December, walking a dusty road, flanked by fields of corn.

At one point, he got the distinct impression that he was being followed; but, when he looked over his shoulder there was nobody there.  He walked a few meters more and looked back again, but no, he was all alone.  Or so he thought.

After yet another couple of meters he turned around again, but this time he looked down and saw that an enormous tarantula was about three meters away from him.  Ray took off like an Olympic sprinter, despite the heat and the poor condition of the road.

When he looked behind him, hopeful to be as far away from the spider as possible, he noticed to his surprise that the eight legged monster was following him, sprinting with all its might.  Ray recalled running even harder, panting, and praying for help.  (Even back then he was very religious) and he fully expected help.

When no help came and Ray’s heart, lungs and legs could no longer keep up the tempo, he knew had to slow down.  But he did not want to slow down.  He had to get away from that brown haired spider that was still following him!

Eventually, he had no choice.  The temperature must have been a scalding 43 degrees C (110 degrees F), and his body was giving out.  Expecting that the tarantula would be upon him within seconds, he looked back and noticed that the tarantula had slowed down too.  Weird he thought, and he slowed down his pace even more and the tarantula did the same.  Finally, Ray came to a dead stop and so did the spider.

Ray stood there, looking at the beast, completely puzzled.  When he had rested a bit, he moved forward.  As he moved, so did the spider.  Ray was not in the habit of swearing, but he admitted thinking at the time “Well I’ll be damned.”   When he increased his pace, the spider again mimicked his movement.

Eventually a couple of trees came into view, and thankful for the cool of the shade, Ray decided to take a break.  He was no longer scared of the spider, as it seemed to mean him no harm; but, he was rather fed up with it.  He did not seem to be able to get rid of the hairy beast.

It was no surprise to him that when he got to the trees and stopped, so did the spider.
But this time, when he moved further down under the trees, the tarantula remained where it was.  Ray moved further and further, but still the tarantula did not move.  After a while Ray went on his way, and the spider stayed behind.

When he got home, and told his family about the spider, his mother nodded with understanding.  “You seem to know why the spider was following me,” Ray commented.

“Of course I do,” his mother said.  “The tarantula was hot and was walking in your shadow to stay cool.  You said so yourself that as soon as you got to the trees, the spider didn’t follow you anymore.”

It made perfect sense.  The tarantula had walked in Ray’s shadow the whole time and had increased its pace when he increased his pace, and had slowed down when he had slowed down.  As soon as they had reached the trees it found another source of shade and did not need him anymore.

Ray did not like spiders, but he had to admit, it was a rather ingenious trick, and proved that they were much smarter creatures than he had previously thought.  Ray also used this story as a spiritual lesson.   People too often want to think the worst of others, especially if their appearance is different.   We suspect negative intentions when there really aren’t any intended.  

Now when you see a spider remember, not every one of them is out to get you.  In fact, most will do everything they can to get out of your way.







Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday is Cat Day - I'm ready for my close up


Unlike people, cats are very photogenic. To take a good picture, they don't have to select the right outfit, do their hair and put on makeup. They're perfect, even if they just got out of bed.


LOOK INTO MY EYES


I PUT A SPELL ON YOU


THIS IS MY GOOD SIDE


COME ANY CLOSER AND YOU'RE GONNA EAT THAT CAMERA


MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL ... WHO IS THE CUTEST OF THEM ALL?