Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pinelands canal breaks its banks

In the 34 years I have lived here, I have NEVER seen this before...

In order from the top of the river, near the Freemason's Lodge, down to the back of Pinelands High School.

Video links on YouTube:

The standing waves below Howard Drive bridge are amazing, but don't show up well in the photos, and I didn't capture them in the videos! Imagine what this will look like after another few days of rain.

Working prisoners - a multi-faceted solution for our city?

Today I read the following post by Terri Noskov on Facebook:


You all remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona , who painted the jail cells pink and made the inmates wear pink prison garb. Well.............


Oh, there's MUCH more to know about Sheriff Joe!

Maricopa County was spending approx.$18 million dollars a year on stray animals, like cats and dogs. Sheriff Joe offered to take the department over, and the County Supervisors said okay.

The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. They feed and care for the strays. Every animal in his care is taken out and walked twice daily. He now has prisoners who are experts in animal nutrition and behavior. They give great classes for anyone who'd like to adopt an animal. He has literally taken stray dogs off the street, given them to the care of prisoners, and had them place in dog shows.

The best part? His budget for the entire department is now under $3 million. Teresa and I adopted a Weimaraner from a Maricopa County shelter two years ago. He was neutered, and current on all shots, in great health, and even had a microchip inserted the day we got him.. Cost us $78.

The prisoners get the benefit of about $0..28 an hour for working, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day. Most of his budget is for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals..

I have long wondered when the rest of the country would take a look at the way he runs the jail system, and copy some of his ideas. He has a huge farm, donated to the county years ago, where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand.

He has a pretty good sized hog farm, which provides meat, and fertilizer. It fertilizes the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and you can buy a living Christmas tree for $6 - $8 for the Holidays, and plant it later.... We have six trees in our yard from the Prison.

Yup, he was reelected last year with 83% of the vote. Now he's in trouble with the ACLU again. He painted all his buses and
vehicles with a mural, that has a special hotline phone number painted on it, where you can call and report suspected illegal aliens. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement wasn't doing enough in his eyes, so he had 40 deputies trained specifically for enforcing immigration laws, started up his hotline, and bought 4 new buses just for hauling folks back to the
border. He's kind of a 'Git-R Dun' kind of Sheriff.




Sheriff Joe Arpaio (In Arizona ) who created the ' Tent City Jail':

He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.

He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights Cut off all but 'G' movies.

He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then He Started Chain Gangs For Women So He Wouldn't Get Sued For Discrimination.

He took away cable TV Until he found out there was A Federal Court Order that Required Cable TV For Jails So He Hooked Up The Cable TV Again Only Let In The Disney Channel And The Weather Channel. When asked why the weather channel He Replied, So They Will Know How Hot It's Gonna Be While They Are Working ON My Chain Gangs.

He Cut Off Coffee Since It Has Zero Nutritional Value. When the inmates complained, he told them, 'This Isn't The Ritz/Carlton......If You Don't Like It, Don't Come Back.'

More On The Arizona Sheriff:

With Temperatures Being Even Hotter Than Usual In Phoenix (116 Degrees Just Set A New Record), the Associated Press Reports:
About 2,000 Inmates Living In A Barbed-Wire-Surrounded Tent Encampment At The Maricopa County Jail Have Been Given Permission To Strip Down To Their Government-Issued Pink Boxer Shorts.

On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached
138 Degrees Inside The Week Before. Many Were Also Swathed In Wet, Pink Towels As Sweat Collected On Their
Chests And Dripped Down To Their PINK SOCKS. 'It Feels Like We Are In A Furnace,' Said James Zanzot, An Inmate Who Has
Lived In The TENTS for 1 year. 'It's Inhumane.'

Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: 'It's 120 Degrees In Iraq And Our Soldiers Are Living In Tents Too, And They Have To Wear Full Battle Gear, But They Didn't Commit Any Crimes, So Shut Your Mouths!'

Way To Go, Sheriff!

Maybe if all prisons were like this one there would be a lot less crime and/or repeat offenders. Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves.

Obviously, our system of justice is different. Our prison system is different. However, wouldn't it be amazing to have the same kind of practical, levelheadedness when it comes to the running of our cities?

Can you imagine, in Cape Town, if we could use chain gangs to create infrastructure for townships? Our prisons are overflowing, yet sitting in them is the man (and woman) power to literally dig and lay thousands of trenches for all the water & sewage pipes, and electrical cabling, needed to provide flush toilets for all the townships. (Yes, we would need to rehouse many people to be able to put this infrastructure in place, and getting that planning permission to create new suburbs, and getting people to agree to move, is difficult.)

Imagine if we used prisoners to grow and harvest their own food. Not only would they be learning valuable skills, but they would be saving taxpayers oodles of money.

Imagine if we used prisoners to care for all the stray pets? 

Not only does work give a person a sense of self-worth, which is VITAL, but working the soil, working with animals, it does something to a person. There is something to be said for working with living things that can't talk back to you. Research shows that the elderly and the young benefit from living with pets. Surely working with pets will also be beneficial to the souls of prisoners? And farming... I know that not everyone is stimulated by working in the garden, or planting things, but working the soil brings peace and restores the soul. There is some mystical connection between us and the earth - we are all, after all, created things.

What if we trained prison gangs to remove alien vegetation and plant fynbos - as part of the Working on Water, or Working on Wetlands projects? Imagine the amount of water that we could save! (Imagine the money we could save too, not having to employ people to do this.)

What about sorting rubbish? If we used prisoners to sort rubbish into recyclable materials, not only would we be saving the earth, but they could then use the very recyclable materials they sorted to generate income. There is already an arts programme in several prisons, teaching prisoners how to be artists. They could use the recyclable materials in their art work. Or they could make useful items and sell those. (Or, worst case, they could simply send the stuff to the city's recycling plants.)

What if we used our prisoners to build better prisons? I would imagine that on the site of current prisons there is space to put up additional buildings.

Or what about getting them to build houses for those on the city's waiting list for RDP houses?

Or what about getting them to cook food for the homeless?

Or what about getting them to make park benches and clean up parks?

Or what about teaching them how to sew and knit, and getting them to make blankets and clothing for those who are affected by the flooding on the Cape Flats every year, and prepare disaster relief packages in advance?

And that's just thinking about things to do here in this city. I don't know what needs other cities might have, but I'm sure there's a lot prisoners could be doing, to give back to the city that is paying for their upkeep, to give back to the communities they have robbed, threatened, destroyed, killed members of...

The devil makes work for idle hands. By teaching our prisoners skills, by giving them work, by helping them to be useful we give them a sense of self-worth, a vision for the future, hope for what might happen when they have served their time. In the same way that we need programmes for our teens, to keep them off the streets and off drugs, we need programmes in our prisons to help those who seem beyond help.

Or am I just being a hopeless romantic? If it can be done by one sheriff in the USA, then why can't it happen here in Cape Town?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


will smith's reaction to miley cyrus on stage vma awards

I was as gobsmacked as they were.

If you missed the news this morning, you didn't miss anything, really. Miley Cyrus strutted her stuff on stage, in a nude-coloured bikini - while being totally sexually explicit.

I was horrified though, for several reasons. Let me count them for you.

  1. Her antics were broadcast while my kids were with me, watching breakfast TV. (Now is not the time to have the discussion about whether kids should be a) watching TV at all, b) watching TV while eating, c) watching the news.) I usually screen what my kids watch - I don't even like them watching violent cartoons. Yet, here - WITH NO WARNING about adult content beforehand, my kids got a serious dose of sexually explicit content. I am not impressed, SABC.
  2. What message is she sending to career women? To me, it says that the only way to be taken seriously as a professional, as a woman, is to take off all your clothes in public, and behave like a slut.
  3. What message is it sending to all the millions of young girls who idolise her? It's like the whole '50 Shades of Grey' thing all over again. This sexually explicit behaviour is not normal. Yet, our teens are being fed a constant diet of acceptance of aberrant behaviour. If you want to behave like that, fine, but do it in the privacy of your home. I still believe that sex is beautiful, but private. It's not something we splash across the front page of the news.
  4. More people (myself included) are talking about this, rather than... oh I don't know - a million other issues. I mean, we could be talking about the troubles in Syria right now, where a country stands poised on the brink of a serious ethnic cleansing. We could be talking about Marikana and Lonmin. We could be talking about the impact of rising fuel costs on the food security of South Africa's (and indeed, the world's) most poor. We could be talking about the ongoing persecution of Tibetan Buddahists, or the ongoing Christian martyrdom in the East. We could be talking about the 11cm of snow (!!!) predicted to fall on Table Mountain this weekend and the impact of climate change on our endangered fynbos. We could be talking about SO many other things, yet instead we're all talking about Miley's antics.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we shouldn't be talking about it, because it does raise important issues regarding the morality of famous people, the morality of programme developers, etc. But I am horrified that this was the current trending topic this morning. I'm sure that the reason she did it was to get a reaction, to put her name in lights, as it were. She definitely succeeded there.

But how tragic that her atrocious behaviour should cause more outrage than the other topics I mentioned above. Clearly there are some sins that we regard as worse than others. The fact that people in Syria are killing each other is not as morally abhorrent to us as Miley's actions on the stage last night. Clearly, sexually explicit behaviour is worse than taking a life.

Now, again, don't misunderstand me. We need to have the conversation about the implications of Ms Cyrus' actions. We need to talk about the message it has sent to young girls, to the general public, about women and the role they hold in society. That is a very important discussion. And maybe this is the time for it, I don't know.


Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the number of children who are addicted to Tik on the Cape Flats?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the gang violence that last week saw several schools on the Cape Flats being closed?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the ongoing corruption in government?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the number of people sleeping rough in parks and under bridges every night?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by ... and the list goes on. And on. And on.

How is it that we have become so desensitized to some sins, but not to others?

I don't have an answer, and I am just as guilty. The fact that I'm writing this blog post, rather than one about the school closures last week, or whatever, means I'm just as guilty.

And yet another problem is that by the weekend, no-one will really care. There will be some other hot topic to talk about - in CT that will probably be the frightful cold and snow predicted to fall on Table Mountain. By the time the weekend rolls around, people will have moved on. News happens so fast, and there is SO MUCH of it now that we are a global village, that one is simply overwhelmed by the barrage of issues to care about.

I do care about what is happening in Syria. I don't know what I can do though, except maybe to pray (not that prayer is a small thing!). I do care about the school closures, but again, what can I do about it? I do care about the kids on tik, but what can I do about it, particularly as a whitey? I do care about so many different issues, but if I was to give myself to all of them, I would either spend my life curled up in a little ball, sobbing on the floor all the time, or I would be dead from emotional exhaustion.

Maybe the trick is to find ONE THING to care about. Maybe if we all got a download from God about one issue he wanted each of us to tackle, then all the issues would get covered, and fixed.

But how DO we respond to a world that is broken and crying out for healing?

I'm busy teaching a section to the Gd 11s on the 'Human Impact on the Environment' at the moment. We look at water availability, water quality, food security, pollution, climate change, solid waste treatment, etc. It is potentially a hard-hitting section. This is the section in which we can turn our kids into Eco Warriors, if we wanted. It definitely is an area in which we get to talk about morals and ethics and all that good stuff.

Yet, I remember when I was at varsity, being taught about the evils of dams - how they destroy natural vegetation, even entire ecosystems; they disrupt the food chains and webs, they reduce biodiversity, they completely mess up EVERYTHING. I remember walking away from a 2 week block of lectures with an aching heart, coming home, and crying about it. I wept over the destruction that man has caused to this planet, all because of our greed. I wept at our blindness to see how we were only creating MORE problems for ourselves in the long run. I wept over the lost biodiversity, the fynbos species that we will never even know we lost because some of them might only have had a range that was smaller than the dam built over them. It sounds silly now, but back then, I can't even begin to tell you how heavily it weighed upon my soul. We are supposed to be the custodians of the earth, after all.

Then, just as clearly, I remember thinking to myself that if this was how much it affected me, I simply could not walk around thinking about it any more. I assigned my grief and pain at the impact of humans to a little box that I have never really dared to look at again. Because I felt so dis-empowered to fix the problem, or to do anything about it at all, I dare not allow myself to get emotionally involved with the problem.

I find myself reacting in a similar way now. I can't physically care about all the issues. I know I should be outraged by all of them. I know I should be on my knees beseeching God to INTERVENE in all of them. I know I should be lobbying my local counsellor, raising awareness, fighting the good fight, ... But I can't, and I don't, because I've already had so much pain in my life I honestly can't bear the thought of actively opening myself up to any more.

And I think that's why so many people have reacted as they did to Miley's antics. Here's a quick 'little' issue we can all jump up and down about, yell and make a bit of noise about, and then congratulate ourselves that we are good people because we said something about it. Maybe that's an oversimplification. Maybe all the yelling and outrage is because it enables us to point fingers at someone else for a bit. If all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing, then each of us is, in a greater or smaller measure responsible for all the evils of this world - climate change, intolerance of other's religious/ political views, pollution, poverty, etc.

It feels good to rant and rave about someone else's failings and mistakes. It's a lot harder to acknowledge that I am responsible for X or Y, and to take ownership of trying to fix it.

And maybe that's the lesson we learn from Miley - she's our scape goat, because we're too cowardly to own our sinfulness and really do something about it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My little bookworm

I know I'm biased, but isn't this just the cutest kid? In the past year, she has gone from strength to strength in terms of her reading. She is now reading Roald Dahl, the Secret Seven, and has read all but one of the Horrid Henry series. She reads everything she can get her hands on. 

Sometimes it is highly annoying - she reads at the table, while brushing her teeth, while driving in the car, while walking around, while dressing... We have already started with the arguments about when it is or is not appropriate to be reading.

On the other hand, I am THRILLED with how much she is reading. I love that she loves reading. I love that she is being stretched like this. LONG may her love of books continue. Kids who do well at school are readers. Although, having said that, I was more interested in reading than studying... And I would often not do my work, or do it poorly, in order to get more time to read. Hmm... Like mother like daughter, I suspect. At least I know how she feels in this regard, and can empathise. When that book has you in it's grip, sometimes even breathing seems less important than finishing the story!

Speaking of which, I have some reading to catch up on... 😉

Friday, August 09, 2013

How to end poverty

Amongst the people I follow is a guy I knew way back when I was still involved in camping with Scripture Union - Brett Fish Anderson. Today he posted a link to an article he had read years ago by Peter Singer that really challenged him on the issue of giving, and ending poverty.

Now the name Peter Singer should ring a few bells with some of you - he was the guy who really got the world thinking about vegetarianism and animal rights. Anyway, you can read Singer's article on poverty here.

As it happens, God has been raising the issue of giving with me again just recently (ever since I completed my tax return last weekend, in fact). He's been challenging me again to think about how much I give, and why I give. I was, therefore, massively challenged by Singer's article. Essentially, Singer's premise (back in 1999 when he wrote the article) was that if everyone gave $200 to an aid organisation of their choice, they could save the life of a child (pay for food and medication from age 2 to age 6, which is past the worst danger zone for children in poverty). He then argued that it would be very easy to raise this money by simply doing away with luxuries - not eating out for a month, not going to the movies every week, not buying designer clothes every month, simply doing without something for a short period of time.

Now, $200 in 1999 is roughly equivalent to R2720 today. That's a lot of money, I know. Assuming that a meal out costs R300, that is 9-10 meals. i.e. if you eat out once a month, then across the year, by simply not eating out you can save a child's life. That's a pretty profound thought, isn't it?

When I shared the link to the article on Facebook it sparked a lot of debate, about whether Singer was advocating giving out of guilt, or simply saying that it was the right thing to do, and whether the fact that he didn't seem to be a Christian made a difference to what he was saying and whether we should listen to him or not.

For me though, the issue I was left debating was how much is ENOUGH to give. At what point do we draw the line. No-one disagrees that giving is good - for the giver as much as the recipient. Certainly, God expects us to give. 'Freely you have received, freely give." Matt 10:8 "For as much as you have not done it for the least of these, you did not do it to me." Matt 25:45

But how much should we give? Is it a percentage of what we have? If so, what percentage is the 'right' one to give? 1/10th? And should that be counted before or after taxes?

This topic has been dealt with by many greater academics than I, in much greater detail and much more clearly than I can express. But one image keeps returning to me - that of the poor widow, standing at the Temple, giving her last coin to the Temple coffers. Jesus sees her, and commends her. It wasn't the value of the coin that she gave, it was the faith that she demonstrated. It was the fact that she chose to put the things of God before her own needs.

How many of us can say the same - that in our materialistic culture we are willing to sacrifice for God? Are we willing to sacrifice a new pair of jeans, or a meal out, or a box of chocolates, let alone our last anything, for His sake, to save a child? Yes, we have necessities, but is going to gym one of them? Couldn't we exercise more cheaply by running on the road, or buying a bike? Yes, we need to eat, but do we really need to buy the most expensive foods, or shop at the most expensive shops (or at Woolies)? Yes, we need to cook, but do we really need that 7 plate gas burner stove top? Yes, we need to get around, but do we really need to buy a new car, or will an older 2nd hand one suffice?

So, how much is enough to give back? I don't think there is a figure. I think that the question should rather be turned around - not, have I given enough, but, what else can I give?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

All I want is a room somewhere..

...far away from the cold night's air...

and how cold it has been! Snow on the Langeberg mountains around Cape Town this weekend... maybe we should take a drive up and play in it before it melts. Hmmm...

But why am I singing about a room somewhere? Because right now, all I want is a quiet place, with no-one else around, where I can read, sleep and relax, with no thought about work. Ek is uitgeput en gedaan. Work has been good, mostly (although I've had a few crises this week that have left me drained and demotivated), but between work and the freelancing I'm doing, and Expo, I am feeling very thinly spread.

So just say no, right? That's that answer, right? Sadly, it isn't. We are seriously cash strapped - these petrol increases and poor Rand: Dollar/ Pound rates are taking their toll, in addition to all the unexpected medical and car bills we've had. Rather than live off the credit card, which is never an option, I've taken on additional work. Not heaps, but enough to help us with our day to day expenses so that we can begin to pay off the credit card.

With this long weekend, I would love nothing more than to spend the weekend relaxing with my family, but I have Expo work to do, and school work to do, and freelance work to do. But I also need time off.

And so the tussle begins. Where do I draw the line? Don't get me wrong - I love my job (except for marking!), I love my freelance stuff, I love Expo, but I do not love the amount of time it takes to do all of these things. When I die, my last thoughts are not going to be how I should have spent more time working. Rather, they will be that I should have spent more time with my kids, with my hubbie, with my family, with my friends.

So - against my better judgement, this weekend, I am going to TAKE TIME OFF. I am going to lie in bed and read. I am going to play with my kids. I am going to go for a run and go to gym and walk the dogs. I am going to look after the introverted part of me that just needs some peace and quiet.

Because if I don't, I might just kill someone.