Thursday, February 10, 2011

Highway Robbery by SANRAL

Meet Nazir Alli, the CEO of our national roads agency, SANRAL. He is the person responsible for the highway robbery that is being imposed on Gauteng highways: additional toll gates on existing roads. He also lied to the public at a press conference by saying that the highways would save motorists 20% on their travelling time, and a 10% reduction in travelling distance.
What a load of rubbish. The highways have been around for decades, so how does the imposition of tolls reduce the travelling distance by 10%? Is he an incompetent moron or just a liar? And before the construction began the speed limit was 120km/h: now it's been reduced to 100km/h. It defies the laws of physics to explain how this reduces travelling time by 20%.
There is even a petition web site against the tolls roads. There are more lies on the SANRAL web site, which is hosted in the USA. It denies that the toll system is double taxation. This is technically true because it is actually multiple taxation: we pay a tax on fuel (roughly R2,47 per litre of petrol) which is supposed to cover road construction and maintenance. Then we pay a vehicle registration fee every year to be permitted to drive on the roads, and of course there is plain old income tax and VAT.
But all of this money is not enough for the ever-greedy gravy train, which wastes money on corrupt tenders, fancy perks for bureaucrats, and salaries for CEOs like Nazir Alli. His job is to tell the lies that would otherwise be told by the Minister of Transport. Very cosy. And this from the guy who in November 2009 presented a paper to CESA:
Ethics not part of a process; it is the framework within which business must be conducted - Nazir Alli
Nazir Alli, CEO of SANRAL presented a paper on the ethical issues in Engineering Practice in which he asked if CESA has the courage of its conviction as well as the relevance of the organisation around ethics and fraud. Alli states that SANRAL has a duty to the public and that SANRAL’s view is that good governance is the solution with all the liabilities and accountabilities that go with it and that this is the framework in which business must be conducted. He also requested CESA to look at performance indicators in the fight against corruption. He also stated that Oil, Arms and Construction are the most corrupt industries in the world and encouraged members to make use of the SANRAL tip offs hotline.
He also told a reporter:
He said, “There was a study done by the South African Chamber of Commerce which says that we were losing R15 million an hour due to congestion,” he said. “Either we do nothing or else we do something about it.”
His "solution" is to redistribute the congestion (at a profit of course). Public transport is either too unreliable or too unsafe to use instead of a car. I can't see myself taking my laptop through to Midrand and back every Friday. Instead I'll have to pay an extra R75 for the privilege.
Another thought: The Luddite part of my character wants to just screw up the whole system by driving at 60-80km/h in the middle lane of the 100km/h road just to screw up everyone else's journey, including all those blue light convoys. I can't wait for the Madam and Eve cartoons about this.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Why We Get Fat

This book could not have come at a better time for me. Because of my cholesterol levels, I was told in November to cut down my fat intake and eat a more healthy diet. What I wasn't told was that most "low fat" foods replace the fat with sugar or other processed carbohydrates, which are more fattening that the fat itself.
Gary Taubes explains this in his latest book, "Why We Get Fat", which draws from research over the last 100 years, and debunks many popular myths about healthy eating. It's available from Audible. I wish the narrator would not replace the word "causal" with "casual" or "causality" with "casualty" (they mean different things and aren't wrong in the original text) but apart from that the audio book is very readable and accessible, and I have ordered the hardcover book which should arrive next week sometime. I may even lend it to my doctor. Once I have lost or gained weight as a result of changing my eating habits, I'll report back. I have decided not to have any sugar in tea or coffee, and not to eat any bread until my weight goes down to a healthy level.
If you need any motivation to cut down on junk food, sugar, carbohydrates and so on, you could always watch the movie "Supersize Me". Scary.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The phone is in the washing machine. Not good

Mobile phone design has still got a long way to go: why are they damaged by water so easily? I left my phone in my trouser pockets and then put the trousers in the washing machine. After about 20 minutes my wife rescued it and we left it to dry out for a few days. In the meantime I needed a phone.
I found one from a most unlikely source: the Game store in Cresta. Their shop "assistants" are usually noted for their surely disinterest, but this time I managed to find someone who could help, and R760 later I had a smart new Nokia 5130 XpressMusic phone. Unfortunately it has some built-in Vodacom features, but still works fine on the MTN network. Of course MTN were unable to help, being either "out of stock" or the queues were too long. It took a few tries to get the MMS and WAP settings, but I persevered and I'm back on the phone network.
As a laptop owner I really don't see all the fuss over smartphones, as this phone plays podcasts and audio books well, has 2GB of MicroSD storage, and can make calls, and send text messages. It even has an Opera browser although the screen is tiny. It's still good enough for getting the cricket scores though. And it's about 15% of the cost of a smartphone.
Update Wednesday: Now that the phone has dried out it seems to be working, although the screen flickers a bit. I retrieved all my data from the phone, including some cotacts I had lost. I guess the "old" one (8 months of use) is going to get relegated to being a "standby" phone because the 5130 does a better job of playing music files, even though it is half the price. Weird.