About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

01 May 2016

Tienie Pritchard Museum

The Orient hotel is full of sculptures from celebrated South African sculptor, Tienie Pritchard, including a full blown museum dedicated to his works. I didn't know of his works, although I have seen his "George Harrison" or "The Miner" statue many times outside Eastgate Mall. The museum gives a run down of his many works, with photos and details of works that are not on display. There are some stunning pieces and it's well worth a visit.






30 April 2016

Dullstroom

Dullstroom is well known as fly fishing destination and it is a great destination for a relaxing weekend in general. The village itself is quite small with a few shops; and it can also be a great base to explore this part of Mpumalanga. We stayed in a self catering farm chalet (Dullstroom Cottages), a few km out of town; and that was really part of the charm. I don't think it's a place that merits a return visit if you are not into fishing; but definitely works for a few days away.

Art of Food

Having "gourmet" as part of your name usually implies trying very hard to be posh, but not quite getting there. Art of Food in Dullstroom lives up to this stereotype- it's more Tashas than Test Kitchen. The food is very good, and very well priced; but portions are quite large and so is not very conducive to a multi course meal. Of the three dinners we had in Dullstroom, this was the best - so if you are staying over in Dullstroom- make a reservation.

Pilgrims Rest

Pilgrims Rest lies on a spectacular twisting mountain road between Graskop and Lydenburg - and it's a great drive despite the potholes and slow trucks. Sadly, the town itself is a bit of a let down. Not all old houses and buildings need to be maintained - and this is one such case. There are the requisite curio stalls, some restaurants and pubs, and a great pottery and glassware shop. Maybe, I just don't find the era interesting, Pilgrums Rest is a nice curiosity; but it's nothing special.



29 April 2016

Curio D'Afrique

Graskop is a strange location to have a shop specializing in African Art - not just the curios that every tourist attraction hosts; but really impressive sculptures from across the continent. But there is a steady stream of visitors that go to God's Window and surrounds, so there is a market.

The quality and range of items is amazing - masks, fertility artifacts, statues, bead work, sculptures - it's worth visiting just to see the great range of artwork. And the prices are very reasonable - in fact for some items it may be cheaper to drive to Graskop, stay the night and buy the artworks than buy equivalent works in Johannesburg.



28 April 2016

The Pinnacle

It is less well known than God's Window, The Pinnacle has had some development since my last visit with a central curio stall, better parking facilities and more fences by the cliffs. The pinnacle rock is the highlight, but there is also the top of the waterfall nearby.

God's Window

The view of Blyde Canyon from the cliffs at God's Window is breathtaking, especially on a clear day. It has been 5 years since the last time, and remains an impressive sight on a return visit.


26 April 2016

Basic Income

One platform that I really liked (and perhaps the only one) from the EFF in the last elections, was their proposal for the Mandatory Basic Income. For some reason, I have seen two very interesting articles on the same issue in the past two weeks - the first discussion was on the Freakonomics podcast, while the second was an article on Vox.com on an experiment in Kenya.

The concept is simple - give every citizen of a country a guaranteed base income. Some models have the income go down as the citizen gets paid by other sources (employment, investment); while others have such income as supplementary to the guaranteed income. In most models, there is no other state support (such as unemployment insurance). South Africa already has something that can be used as a base - the child support grants and other similar social grants; but the amounts are minuscule and sometimes may incentivise the wrong things.

In my mind, basic income should be a foundational platform. In South Africa's Bill of Rights (Chapter 2 of the Constitution), as well as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights envisage that all persons have the right to shelter, food, water, health care and education - and this is an area that most countries fail. The basic income, as expanded upon by the Freakonomics podcast manages to be the rare initiative that makes sense both as a libertarian and a liberal - it manages to address freedom of choice and meet the social need.

If the basic needs are met - it frees up capacity for individuals to pursue their ambitions - be the best artist they can be without wondering how to put food on the table; or train to be the best sportsperson as you don't need to worry about how to put in 8 hours a day at work and 6 hours a day in training; or start the business you want without fear of living on the streets; or send your children to school because you don't have to rely on them to get work.

Funding basic income is obviously a problem. For the tax payer - it's easy - it's a tax break. But the approach may spur innovation and small business; so it's not necessarily a tax hole. And off course, how much is basic income? A basic income of R4500 (which I think was the EFF value) per person in South Africa equates to roughly 225 billion Rands, a month - a fifth of South Africa's annual budget! One can take the approach of - basic income but nothing other than basic infrastructure (roads, airports etc); or adjust the income parameters to have different values for children than adults. 

As the Freakonomics podcast highlights, there is potentially a very big looming robotics and automation revolution - one that might further reduce job security; and further entrench the gig economy. In such a scenario, basic income may not be a luxury - it may become a necessity. It is something that needs further investigation.

17 April 2016

Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra - Music from the Silverscreen

Two of the points I made about the JPO were that it needs to perform on more suitable days (like the weekend) and that it needs to perform more accessible pieces to attract new audiences. The Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Pretoria seems to have addressed both of these points - they perform on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, and while their programme for the season is varied - it certainly features some very accessible pieces; such as the performance this past weekend.

The programme featured a variety of orchestral (and some choral) pieces from a variety of movies - Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Crimson Tide, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Prince of Egypt and most of the Star Wars Symphony and finishing off with a wonderful Clarinet (or was it an Oboe?) piece from the little known "Made in Heaven". It was also a nice touch to include projection of movie excerpts during the performance - although the excerpts were not directly aligned to the music itself.

The choral performance was unfortunately weak - the voices just didn't project well enough (and it was particularly noticeable with the theme song from Prince of Egypt). Other than that, it was a wonderful concept and a great performance. 

The orchestra does not perform too many times; but they are certainly worthwhile to keep track off and support.

05 April 2016

Tesla will be here ... someday

Friday, and for that matter, the weekend was dominated (rightly) by political news. So, it slipped past most media notice that Elon Musk will bring finally bring his Tesla to the country of his birth. As noted by Musk himself, the Tesla 3 is the culmination of a very long strategy on how to make mass scale electric cars a reality - and in a country blessed with sunshine, it's about time.

I was considering getting a new car this year - and I did go to have a look at the i3. But despite many promises by BMW, I am yet to actually get a test drive (and they have stopped keeping me up to date every Friday with excuses). But the i3 (and the Nissan Leaf) are rather poor cousins when compared to the Tesla - especially in terms of range. Whereas the i3's extended range is about 200Km, the Tesla's starting range will be about 340Km. The Model S' extended range is already in the region of 430Km, which is plenty for most use cases in South Africa.

But the key to Tesla is the whole package that it brings together - not only the car, but also the charging network. In every country it operates in so far, it has built out the charging network, so I expect that it will be the same in South Africa. 

I did some calculations with the Nissan Leaf, and also with the i3 and now with Tesla. Even with escalating electricity prices in South Africa, the cost per Km is less than a 3rd of a petrol vehicle. Yes, the initial investment is significantly more; but I think the numbers will work out over the long term (assuming warranty and service levels are the same as Model S and X). 

But it will be a long wait - the Model 3 is only scheduled for delivery in the US at the end of 2017, and I expect SA to be the last of the Left Hand Drive markets to be available; so nothing before end of 2018 at the earliest in my view; probably mid-2019 realistically. 

I think I can stretch my current car until then - and it allows me to save up :)