Sunday, 13 April 2014

Are you too smart to engage?

I don't typically talk about politics on my blog.  The main reason is that my blog is supposed to be about me and my journey in finding myself and the challenges I face.  And I have always felt that writing about politics and matters of the state make it about everyone else.  But this is where I have come to the realisation that talking about politics is very much about me too - not only does politics and legislation have a huge impact on my life, it is my opinion that counts too.  So it is time I started being a little more verbal about some of these issues.

I would like to quote Plato here and this forms the theme of this post and many more just like it:
“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by their inferiors.”

Now where to start.  Quite honestly this could turn out to be a long post but I will try to keep it short and keep to the facts as I see them and perhaps it will be the first of many such posts.

The first issue I want to address is our new toll roads - or eTolls as they are called here.  This has been a
eTolls
very controversial subject here since we hosted the World Cup in 2010.  Besides the white elephant stadiums that we are left with (another legacy of the World Cup), we are also left with having to fund the upgrading of our national highways in Gauteng.

Now I know you are probably thinking why are we bitching about the upgrading of our national highways.  It is not the upgrading of our national highways that we are bitching about - we are bitching about the fact the tax payer has to pay a toll to drive on these roads.  These are roads we have always driven on at no cost (or direct costs as the case may be).  They didn't build new ones, they merely fixed existing ones and added a new lane here and there.  We, the tax payer has already paid for the capital costs of these roads.  And it is due to neglect and the lack of maintenance that these upgrades were required in the first place.   Not to mention the fact that we pay a small fortune for petrol in our country which is loaded with various taxes and levies which are supposed to cover the cost of maintaining and improving our roads.  I'm not sure what you all pay for petrol but we currently pay over R14 a litre for ours (about US$1.5 per litre) (Refer to Worldwide Retail Prices of Gasoline  here (US cents per litre)

I have also been told that part of the agreement with FIFA was that we were required to provide highways with a minimum of 4 lanes to the stadiums and the airport and other such relevant routes if we were to host the World Cup.  They didn't care what the cost of this was or if we actually needed more lanes.

So SANRAL (our national roads agency) put out a tender for the upgrading of these roads.  Another huge controversial issue as the tender and subsequent business plan is flawed in many ways.  The tender was awarded to a non-resident company, so much of the money raised actually finds its way out of the country.  But besides that, the installation consists of elaborate gantries and inefficient means of collecting the tolls.  I'm not going to quote facts a figures here as these are freely available on the web and I will post a few links at the end of this post for those of you who want more information.

We do not have a public transport system and there are also no viable alternative routes so we are forced to use the tolled highways now.   This has put huge financial pressure on the average tax payer who has to get to work or get around on a day to day basis.

One of the big issues for me is that you have to register to use these roads and you are offered "reduced rates" if you register and pre-pay for the usage of these roads.  I feel this is discrimination at it's best and I am so fed up with being discriminated against in various ways (a topic for another post).  I will have to register to take advantage of special rates and I have to have a little electronic device in my vehicle.  

According to various articles I have read recently, up to 90% of people who use these tolled roads have a) not registered and b) not paid after receiving a bill in the post.  I am not quite sure how they intend to recover this money as they cannot prosecute everyone concerned.  I am currently part of the 90%.

I have not registered either and have received many bills in the mail.  I am very sensitive to my information being shared and would like to know how the administration company knows where to send the bills to if I have not registered.  I have certainly not given the licensing department permission to share my information with any third party companies and I feel strongly about my rights being compromised here.

Please read some of the articles below and share your thoughts on this issue.  I would be interested to know what you all think.

http://www.outa.co.za/site/about-outa/why-we-oppose-e-tolling/
https://www.jp-sa.org/eTolls.asp
https://www.facebook.com/TollCrusher
http://www.citypress.co.za/news/whistleblower-worked-sanral-tells-thuli-madonsela-e-tolls/
http://www.iol.co.za/motoring/industry-news/just-nine-percent-pay-e-toll-bills-1.1670399
http://citizen.co.za/154001/half-billion-e-toll-debt-drivers-say/


Lanthie Ransom

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I Joined The Mile High Club

Just kidding!  Also not possible to do in a Cessna c172.  Well at least not comfortably anyway.

If you all read my previous post What Would I Do With R5Million, I mention that I would love to learn to fly.  I gave my list of things to do some serious thought and realised that some of these things were possible without having loads of money.  So in true Lanthie style, I decided to take up the challenge and try to do some of the things on my list.

I did some research on Saturday, reached out to some friends and then actually called a pilot training centre and made a booking to go on my first test flight.  The booking was made for today at 4pm.  I suddenly realised yesterday morning that this would conflict with my belly dance class and as we are well into rehearsing for our next show, I could not miss a class and would have to reschedule my flight.

So I called them and my flight was rescheduled for yesterday afternoon at 4pm.  They called me mid-afternoon and told me the weather was not being very accommodating and it was recommended that I postpone my flight.  So we rescheduled for Sunday at 2pm.  I was a little disappointed as I was really looking forward to my first flight.

I was on my way to the office at 7.30 this morning, stuck in traffic when my phone rang.  It was my instructor asking if I was free this morning and he could take me up at 11am.  So I made a few phone calls and rescheduled my meetings and went for my very first flying lesson.

I must admit I was a little nervous when I arrived.  I have been on loads of planes and travelled the world,
but I had never been on a small aircraft before.  I walked into the hanger and made my way up the stairs to the reception.  I was greeted by a very friendly young man behind the counter.  He introduced himself as my instructor.

I had to fill in some paperwork and then we headed downstairs to the plane.

I knew what a Cessna c172 looked like but didn't realise how small it is.  My car is bigger - Okay I admit I drive a big 4x4 but I still expected it to be a lot bigger.

The instructor gave me a set of headphones.  He explained some safety checks to me and explained what to do in case of emergency.  Landing with the door open / unlatched being one of them - not something I want to envision doing any time soon!

I had to pretend to be a contortionist to get into the plane and finally found myself sitting in the pilot seat.  My instructor then explained various dials and switches to me while he went through his safety check.

We then taxied towards the runway and he let me take control.  It was a little tricky using my 2 feet to steer rather than my hands on a steering wheel but I quickly got the hang of it.  Apparently you only use the stick when flying.

We were parked while he went though various safety checks again and waited for the tower to give us clearance.

Eventually we were given the go ahead and finally I was in the air.  It went a lot slower than I thought and I couldn't believe that we could fly at this speed.

We were up for about 5 minutes when the instructor handed control over to me.  WOW!  I could not believe I was in control of a plane in less than 5 minutes!  This is seriously stuff that dreams are made up of.

Alright, I must admit it is not rocket science stuff and piloting this plan is a whole load easier than driving my car.  But still - I WAS FLYING!

We headed out towards the Hartebeestpoort Dam.  The instructor was very patient with me and obliged me by answering the gazilion questions I had about the various instruments and what each one did.  I could not have wished for a more patient man.

We were up in the air for about an hour and before I knew it, we were landing.  I took over control once again when we were on the ground.

I definitely want to get my PPL license (Private Pilot Licence) and will make every effort to get it.  The only hurdle here is money to pay for it all.  So all donations are welcome - please feel free to leave me a comment if you would like to sponsor me (And Yes, I am being dead serious!)

A friend went up with me and took loads of photographs - hope you like them.  There is some amazing scenery.









Hope to be posting loads more pics of my flying in the near future.


Lanthie Ransom

Saturday, 8 March 2014

What would I do with R5Million (US$500,000)

A friend recently asked me what I would do with R5million (about US$500,000), assuming I would not give up my job.  Off the top of my head I gave a fairly boring reply as follows:

I said I would like to pay off my apartment, put some into savings or investments and then risk some of it on new business venture/s.

So after being accused of being boring I decided to draw up a list of things I could do or buy that did not fall into the "boring" category.  Now this is not exactly a lot of money but it certainly is enough to have some fun with.  Some of these require quite a bit of money, others I could and should do as time allows.   In no particular order and without giving it too much thought ......

  1. Learn to fly - My brother has a helicopter license and my mother had a private pilots license.  In fact I did some research into this and I could get my license for around R100,000 (US$10,000).  So very easily attainable.
  2. Perhaps buy a small aircraft like a Cessna - something big enough for 2-4 people.  
  3. Actually fly a Spitfire or similar fighter aircraft -this would be amazing!   And yes, I'd like to fire it too!
  4. Learn to skipper a boat - Well perhaps I should just buy one and find some awesome guy (with penis pointers or perhaps just a really great looking bum to look at) to skipper it for me while we sail off into the sunset and anchor off the Mediterranean coast or something.
  5. Buy a small personal submarine - Something suitable to view marine life with. Of course I would have to buy a suitable boat / yacht to launch it from
  6. Buy a Harley Davison or Indian Motorbike and do a Cape to Cairo or route 66 run or something similar
  7. Go and live in a small beach house in Mozambique for a few years
  8. Open up a beach bar 
  9. Go on a world tour - stopping in each country, getting to know the locals and moving on as and when I choose.
  10. Buy a bright RED Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche or other sportscar.  Not sure which - will have to take a test drive in them all first
  11. Buy a lifetime supply of Cadbury's Creme Eggs
  12. Visit the 7 wonders of the world
  13. Go Scuba diving in the great Barrier Reef
  14. Take some of my best friends on a long holiday to the Maldives or Seychelles or some other exotic island
  15. Take some of my best friends on a skiing holiday
  16. Go swim with the sharks (Yeah, Maybe I'll stay in the cage)



So how would you spend half a million dollars - just for the fun of it?


Lanthie Ransom

Monday, 3 March 2014

Big Brother is sharing my information!

A friend if mine recently returned form Dubai after being out of the country for the last 4 years, so she had to re activate all her banking profiles again.

Things are a little simpler nowadays in as much as you can open a bank account online, which she did.
 However, they could not authenticate her online and she had to go into the bank itself.  At the bank, they scanned her fingerprints ( a very new concept to me as I have ever been asked for my fingerprint scan at the bank - but then I avoid banks like the plague).  Only to find that her fingerprints do not match those on the Home Affairs database of our country (South Africa).

As a result she had to go to the Home Affairs department with a letter from the bank and they had to take new finger prints and issue her with a new ID document.

At first I thought how clever.  But then on second thoughts I was a little pissed off.

What gives Home Affairs the right to share my information with banks or any other institution?  I understand the necessity of being on a national database from an identification point if view.  They issue me with an ID document which I present when required to the relevant institution.

I have serious issues with these institutions accessing my information without my permission though.

My ex said he thought that perhaps we gave blanket permission for the government database to be shared and perhaps when we opened a bank account we agreed for them to be able to verify our identity with the national government database.  But quite honestly I have a real problem with this.  How can  I give the government blanket permission to share my information?  And what right does the bank have to access this information when I have a government issued ID document which I present on request to those I choose to show it to.

I can understand having my information available to certain government institutions  where my safety is concerned.  But sharing my information with third party institutions certainly does not have my blessing.

Yes one could argue that it makes life simpler.  With all this information being shared and easily available, it is easier to verify or authenticate your identity, especially when opening up accounts etc.  But I want to choose when and how and with who my information is shared - and not blanket approval either.

As far as I am concerned, this also makes identity theft so much easier if non-government institutions can access my information.  The other question that comes to mind is how does the government actually verify that the bank has my approval to access the information in the first place - do they ask for signed proof perhaps?  It is all a little dodgy to me and does not have my blessing.



Let me know your thoughts on this.  The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am.


Lanthie Ransom

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A sobering thought...

Hi there, Dale from Diary of an Internet Nobody here again.
Just thought I'd share my latest post with Lanthie's lovely readers.
It's a subject that's currently close to my heart and one that I'm sure many of you have experience of.


My dad told me once about a bloke he used to work with who was a serious alcoholic.
He was apparently unable to get out of bed in the morning without first having a quick couple of shots from the bottle of vodka pick-me-up in his bedside drinks cabinet.
He then drove to work, refreshing himself occasionally from a handy second bottle he had stashed in the glove compartment and for the rest of his working day in the office he functioned perfectly well, providing he kept himself topped-up from bottle number three, hidden in the drawer of his desk.
I remember thinking about this, doing some brief calculations and coming to the conclusion that it had to be an exaggeration. Even over the space of one day this guy had to be putting away a bottle and a half of vodka. Surely nobody could function with anything like normality with that much alcohol in their bloodstream, could they?
Over the years I've known some folks who "liked a drink", but my experience of them has been almost exclusively in situations (pubs, clubs, parties, etc) where the rest of us were also in some way intoxicated, so their conspicuous consumption was always less, well, conspicuous.
In other words, I've never consciously thought about the normal daily routine of the bench-or-ditch common-or-garden alcoholic.
Until recently, that is.
An old friend I hadn't seen for a long time had been in touch and, having cheerfully informed me on the phone that since we'd last met, he'd "turned into a right old alchy", told me (with what I thought was considerable hyperbole) several stories about waking up on public benches after consuming superhuman quantities of vodka, once even attracting the attention of a passing group of local church-going musicians who took pity on the insensible stranger and installed him in a pew to sleep it off, where he later awoke to the strains of a religious sing-song.
Enough to sober anyone up, you would have thought.
Now, I'm not prone to unwarranted sympathy (possibly an understatement) and although I accept that alcoholism is an illness that nobody would choose, I don't have much patience with the "Oh poor me, feel sorry for me, I can't help myself" attitude in any situation, let alone one that has such a devastating effect on anyone that suffers from it, not to mention the pain and anxiety it causes those around them.
So if my newly-pickled old friend was expecting me to reinforce any notion that this was all just boozy high-jinx, he was going to be disappointed.
After expressing suitable (and genuine) sympathy for the situation that had brought him to the brink on which he now teetered, I proceeded to give him a bloody good talking to, mainly on the theme of "Stop being such a fucking idiot, if you carry on like that you're going to kill yourself" with a side order of "I shall be really pissed off with you if you die after finally getting back in touch", all of which seemed to gratify him in some way, if only because he'd forgotten that I'd tell him what I thought, without sugar coating it.
Since then we have stayed in touch and he has visited on several occasions, each time looking more like his old self, only now he has a new topic of conversation; how he's doing at his alcohol meetings and which of the various "managed recovery" programmes is the most effective.
However, things are not always what they seem to the uninitiated and, while it's true to say that a casual observer would have noticed a marked difference in his appearance over the last few months, they probably wouldn't have been aware that he was still needing to consume a few restorative drinks to regain his equilibrium for the day.
So I was treated to the frankly alarming sight of him transforming, Jekyll and Hyde-like, from a rather shaky, pale and irritable shade of his former, fun-loving and mischievous self, back into the old friend I know and love over the period of about an hour or so, during which time he drank a 25cl bottle of anonymous Co-op vodka, each barely-diluted slug visibly reviving his good spirits. (no pun intended).
Always present though, is the self-knowledge of his situation.
Our son asked if anyone could give him a lift to work and we had to say no as my car was out of action my friend had to refuse on legal grounds, later saying;
"That's really bad isn't it, saying I can't drive because I've had too much to drink, by",...glancing at the clock,..."1.30 in the afternoon"
Well, quite.
After having given him yet another unsympathetic lecture later that weekend, he said it would be great if I would go along to one of his meetings with him.
Almost before the sentence was out of his mouth I said "No! Definitely not. No no no no no."
"But why not?" he asked, "My dad wouldn't come with me either"
"Because I wouldn't be able to maintain the correct level of politely diplomatic sympathy" I said.
"Oh but they'd love that", he said, enthusiastically "they like it when people don't take any bullshit from them"
I declined nonetheless, I'm not really designed for support groups, although I'm impressed with the help and support this particular group has given my friend. It's now down to him to find the inner strength to follow the advice they share, often gained through bitter experience, when there isn't anyone around to save him from his own demons.
As he recently told me, after encouraging me to write this post;
"The worst of it is this little man who sits on your shoulder. He's called The Trickster and he says things like 'Go on, have a drink it's not really bad for you' and 'Go on, you need another drink NOW' I hate him"
I can only hope he realises how serious his position is, because the threat to his health is very real and if he doesn't follow the advice of those of us who do give a shit about him, even if he doesn't give a shit about himself at the moment, then there is a very real chance he won't be around to listen to me lecture him, and that would really piss me off.
It would be a very great shame indeed and a terrible waste too, to throw away so much for the sake of so little.
So if you are reading this, and I know you are, stick to your plan mate, we're always here if you feel you might stumble.
If it wasn't for the fact that I'd be hugely irritated by the whole self-indulgent experience, I'd set up my own version of a support group.
I can just picture the scene now;
In a community hall somewhere, a diverse selection of ordinary people slowly assembles, quietly taking their seats, arranged in the ubiquitous, non-hierarchical circle, they carefully avoid each other's eyes, as if, although having been drawn here by a common bond they are nevertheless not comfortable with the fact.
A member of the group with a more confident air about them than the rest says brightly, "Right, who wants to start?"
There is a pause, then one of the other members of the circle silently nods, closes his eyes briefly as if to prepare for a distasteful ordeal, slowly stands up and says;
"Hello, my name's Dale, and I have a friend who is an alcoholic"
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