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Old Takkies

In an effort to link my work, please take a look at my new project that is a collaboration of South African Stories.

The idea is the following, from my about page – somewhat of a South African History through the words of strangers.

Sometimes things are just the way they appear.

And sometimes they aren’t.

When I first came up with the idea for this website, I was driving from George to Oudtshoorn a few weeks after being married – on my first trip back to South Africa after being in the U.S. for a year. It was one of the most beautiful roads I have ever been on, not because of the scenery or the car I was driving but because I was back home.

And what I had first planned was a very elaborate story of South Africa from two points of view, mine and an unknown second writer who I never found. It stuck in my mind, though, and whenever I mentioned it to people the idea itself was received well.

So on a Sunday evening while preparing for a busy work week I decided to just stick my head down, register a domain and take this whole thing to the web.

That was exactly one week ago and what has happened in the last seven days has been nothing short of amazing. I started by letting people know about my idea officially, through Facebook, forums and personal emails. (I even tweeted the concept)

By Friday I had 12 confirmed and committed writers (some who have had very successful blogs, some who even had contracts with very well known publications and some who haven’t written at all) – all to whom I am grateful to for being involved in something that has no structure or grounding yet.

What will follow will be one big experiment. I don’t have a business plan or an exit strategy, not do I have a topic past the first one. But what WE have is (with no doubt at all) a great collection of stories to share.

And shared they will be. The writers have been mandated with just one task – to write the truth.

There will be no pushing of agendas, personal or political. There is no aim to encourage or discourage people from being in and/or leaving South Africa at any point. And above all, there will be no fiction.

So that’s it, just some good old stories told by a great bunch of people, every day, every week until whatever happens next.

Biltong Box

I’ve been craving biltong way too much lately so I went sourcing the webs and didn’t come up with anything really decent. The best I could find was around $25 for 1lbs (450g) plus delivery.

So I built my own box today.

Components :

1 x wardrobe moving box (home depot)
1 x set of shower curtain hooks
1 x lamp
1 x plastic bucket (small)

It took me all of 10 mins to do, with some strategically and very scientifically placed ventilation holes.

The idea is that the lamp heats and dries the meat while the air circulates due to the ventilation (hot air rises remember).

I took a simple recipe for the meat itself:

4 lbs of flank steak cut into 6 strips (with the grain)
Salted for about an hour with coarse sea salt
Dipped quickly in vinegar to wash the salt off
Seasoned with black pepper and some other spices I found lying around

I now have the strips hanging from the built in rod of the box and will check on them in a few days. The plastic bucket at the bottom should catch the blood drippings so that I don’t ruin the box and can use the whole contraption again.

Smokeless Cigarettes – NJOY

So a company in South Africa operating from this website has started distributing a product called NJOY, a so-called “healthy alternative” to cigarettes and tobacco products.

It’s basically an electronic aromatiser that creates a vapour containing some scents, tastes and a little nicotine to give you the feel and look of smoking a real cigarette. There’s even a light at the front to mimic the cherry.

The benefits of course include the fact that there is no actual tobacco, no “smoke” for your friends and/or baby and you can conveniently sit in your office and smoke inside. Your boss is sure to love that, smoke or no smoke – but it’s still listed as a benefit on the website.

As a recent ex-smoker (170 days today) I think it’s a novel idea and I even looked into myself when trying to quit. The problem of course is the nasty little chemical called nicotine.

As one of the most addictive substances known to man (put it up there with cocaine and methamphetamines), it affects you physically and emotionally. It is a powerful stimulant (or sedative, depending on the person) that raises your heart rate and blood pressure and due to it’s very short half-life (60 minutes) you also require regular doses.

Smoking is still legal, I accept that, and I fully support all of the efforts to educate people including the ban on advertising and the warning labels. But what gets to me is that this product can be freely advertised anywhere it seems (including pages on Facebook) without anyone batting an eyelid.

I’ve been engaging the Facebook user that created the page (representative of the company, nameless for now) who is claiming on their behalf that the product improves health by the reasoning that people are quitting smoking and removing all of the other BAD chemicals. I like that, but just in case you were wondering, here are the health risks of nicotine which they are not sharing with you.

Increased heartbeat
Increased blood pressure
Dumping of glucose stores (not good for diabetics I’m sure)
Increase LDL levels (bad cholesterol)

For those very reasons, nicotine alone can be a cause of heart attack and/or stroke.

If you really want to quit, you need to quit and not keep the actual addictive substance in your body, it just means that you are leaving yourself a door open to fail. Fake cigarette to real cigarette does not seem as bad as no cigarette to real cigarette.

Here’s one last statistic, the nicotine patch (and gum) has a very low success rate – so this product will undoubtably follow that trend.

Sources here

Magic vs Cavs – Game 6 (2009)

I managed to buy some “brokered” tickets a week or so before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, a semi-final if you don’t understand the way this works.

Orlando Magic vs Cleveland Cavaliers – with Magic leading the series 3-2 (best out of 7 wins the series and goes to the final).

I’ve been to a couple of games before, but this was a real spectacle with the festivities starting in the streets way before the game got underway.

The Amway Arena is one of the smallest I believe, with around 17,000 seats but the vibe was amazing with at least 95% being Magic supporters (who would travel from Cleveland anyway).

The game itself was pretty exciting, but the Cavs seemed to give up early with even LeBron James looking tired – he has carried the team through the whole series up to now.

Short and sweet, look at the pics.

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training

Without getting into the very technical aspects of a HIIT (high intensity interval training) session – I will do my best to explain why you should and of course, why you possibly should not be doing this exercise. If you decide to start a regime, be prepared for extreme weight loss and increased fitness.

Simply put, HIIT training is a form of interval training, meaning that you are varying your intensity throughout your workout, but it does have some differences to traditional interval training.

1) The workouts are very short, while some extremely fit individuals may be able to go for longer than ten minutes, it is unlikely that you will get that far in your first few workouts, if ever.

2) The “intense” part of the training is just that, intense. Imagine a 100m sprint in the Olympics, that’s intense. Sprinting on the treadmill at gym, not so much.

3) A HIIT session is not only taxing physically, but also mentally. Your body will be aching and telling you to stop way before you get to the point where you need to be to complete the session – you have to be able to push through that pain.

Given all of that, there are two reasons you should not do this type of exercise.

1) You are unfit and looking for a fast weight loss trick – you will only hurt yourself.
2) You already train too much and are likely to push yourself over the edge into the depths of over training.

One of the best ways to achieve a true HIIT session is to sprint on the track. Do a short warm up of around 5 minutes jogging, after some stretches of course. Once you are ready and warmed up, start the sprinting. As fast as you can, and as fast as your body will allow you to run, sprint for around 20-30 seconds.

You will unlikely make it to 20, but keep that goal in mind, you can’t quit after 5 or 10 seconds and expect the results.

The technical reason for this is that you want to use as much oxygen as possible in your blood and get to the point where your body cannot supply enough oxygen quickly enough for your current intensity.

So the aim is to get your heart rate up, way up. Some people use heart rate monitors for this, you can look into some very fancy ones that have alarms for when hit a certain heart rate. Personally, I use the Polar F6 watch with chest strap. It’s accurate and has all the settings I need. The max I let myself climb to is around 190bpm at which point my watch goes crazy telling me to stop. I always recommend speaking with your doctor before doing this exercise, this may be way too high for you.

Once you are done with your sprint, start walking, cool down just a little and let your body catch up. This is where the experimentation starts. Some people suggest another 30 seconds rest, some 10 seconds and some a full minute. You need to play around with times.

My times are never the same, mainly because two days are never the same, I have different energy levels and don’t always train at the same time everyday. Unless you are very focussed on these variables, do what feels right, but don’t rest for too long.

I usually stick to around 30 seconds rest, or until my heart rate has dropped down to around 150 bpm.

And that’s it, repeat 6-8 times keeping in mind that your very last sprint of the session must be the hardest and strongest – your entire training session rests on the intensity of the last spring. Your heart rate will be at it’s highest and your body will need the most recovery from that last run.

Once you are done, have some water and throw up if you need to. (If you don’t feel like throwing up, you probably didn’t train hard enough). I recommend eating something soon after training. I find a low carb protein shake works just fine for me so that I don’t crash immediately. You will find that you will sleep very well that evening.

A lot of people talk about doing HIIT training. Most don’t and have never actually trained sufficiently to get to this point. And that’s not a bad thing, interval training alone is effective, just not AS effective.

Just remember to always experiment. It IS possible to do this training in the gym – I like the spinning bikes or eliptical machines. I wouldn’t recommend a treadmill in case you are ok with possibly falling off.

Just be safe, take a days break between each session and no more than three session per week, and make sure your doctor ok’s this type of training before you start.

Stomach Vacuums

Here is an article that I found that really describes the concept of a stomach vacuum. By strengthening your inner abdominals (the ones that actually hold your gut in) you can greatly decrease the size of your belly and drop some real inches from your waistline.

Traditional ab exercises strengthen and build the abdominal muscles and can easily increase your waist size. This is a forgotten technique much used in the older days of bodybuilding, start the challenge and see if it works for you – it has for me so far.

Video follows the article.

The Stomach Vacuum
By Karen Sessions

The vast majority of people who engage in countless sets and repetitions of abdominal exercises such as crunches, leg lifts, and twists fail to see dramatic improvement, as if something is lacking. Are you among those who religiously train your abdominals, yet still fight the distending gut syndrome?

I can teach you a simple technique to reduce your midsection in as little as three weeks! By incorporating this technique, with your regular abdominal training and proper diet, it will reduce the size of your waist, and help to give you a carved midsection!


This is exciting news, but it does come along with some prerequisites which are, pre-established clean eating habits, adequate water intake, and a low to moderate body fat percentage. Depending on how you hold your weight, anywhere from 12 to 15% is acceptable.

Some Background

Before we jump in over our heads let’s discuss the reason behind this specialized technique. This exercise I am speaking of is called the stomach vacuum. Relax, we are not going to pump or vacuum your stomach. This isn’t a liposuction technique. The stomach vacuum was widely used in the early days of bodybuilding with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Corey Everson and has become what I refer to as, “the forgotten abdominal exercise.”

Have you ever noticed how slim, trimmed, hard, and defined the physiques of bodybuilders were in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s? Many of today’s top-level bodybuilding competitors have a distended midsection. This could be due to the drug abuse problem and growth hormone, but it is also connected to the fact that many bodybuilders have simply skipped over an important training tactic.

The Inner and Outer Abdominals The abdominal region is composed of internal and external muscles. The external muscles are known as the rectus abdominus and the external obliques.

Crunches cause the rectus abdominus to flex. Crunching forward a third of the way up targets the entire rectus abdominus. Once the movement goes past this active zone your hip flexors come into play, taking emphasis off your abdominals.

Your obliques are targeted to a greater degree when any twisting action takes place, such as twisting crunches where you bring your elbow to the opposite knee.

The Real Inner Abdominals

The transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus are the inner abdominal muscles. These muscles are rarely discussed, and are the most neglected. These muscles lie beneath the rectus abdominus, and external obliques.

The inner abdominal muscles support posture, and control deep breathing during power movements, such as heavy squats. They are the muscles responsible for back support. Since they are rarely targeted they are often weaker.

By building a stronger inner abdominal wall you can limit and relieve back pain, improve posture, create a tighter midsection, and add explosive power to your training.

The Benefits of the Stomach Vacuum

The stomach vacuum is an isometric contraction of the transversus abdominus. As previously stated, a stronger transversus abdominus can create a stronger valsalva maneuver (the powerful exhale necessary to contract a muscle during an intense workload).

The stomach vacuum is one of the best exercises you can perform to shrink your waistline in a very short amount of time. Many people can lose an inch or two from their midsection in a little as three to four weeks with this technique, provided the prerequisites are met. Also, building this area of the abdominal muscle will help you gain more control over your abs, and assist you better in explosive lifts. Stomach vacuums take practice, but they are extremely effective.

How to Execute the Stomach Vacuum

To execute the stomach vacuum stand upright and place your hands on your hips or over your head, and then exhale all the air out of your lungs, completely. As you exhale, expand your chest and bring your stomach in as far as possible, and hold it in. Do Not Hold Your Breath! To be blunt, simply suck in your gut. Visualize trying to touch your navel to your backbone.

This is an isometric contraction, like flexing your biceps. You breathe normally while flexing your biceps and you should breathe normally while executing the stomach vacuum.

Sets and Reps

Counting reps with this exercise is bit different. One isometric contraction of “X” seconds is one repetition. For example, if you suck your gut in for 10 seconds, that’s one repetition. If you do that two more times, that’s 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Now, before you go saying things like, “‘you can’t spot reduce,” “it won’t affect skin elasticity,” and “you can’t get abs by holding your breath,” you have mistaken the point of this article. This article is not claiming to do such miraculous things. It’s not about holding your breath or spot reduction. What this exercise CAN do is strengthen and stabilize your core so you have more control over your abdominals, and prevent the loose belly hangover from an underdeveloped transversus abdominus.

There are macho men out there who think since this exercise doesn’t require slinging hundreds of pounds of iron that it’s not effective. Nonetheless, the transversus abdominus is a muscle and it needs to be trained. Just because it doesn’t take a fancy machine or an ego-boosting exercise to do it doesn’t mean it’s less effective. Effective training is about intensity and form, not macho egos, and grunting under a stack of plates.

Training Guide for the Stomach Vacuum: Training days for the stomach vacuum are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or every other day. While the abs can be trained more than other muscle groups, they still need their rest. Therefore, doing them daily won’t be as effective as you may think it would be.

Week #1 – 20 Seconds – 3 Sets Week #2 – 30 Seconds – 3 Sets Week #3 – 40 Seconds – 3 sets

The idea is to keep progressing in seconds (reps) or sets. You can set your own start point and progression phase. Eventually try to work up 4 sets of a full minute.

As an added bonus, you can use the stomach vacuum when doing your regular abdominal work. Focus on pulling in on the transversus abdominus as you do your abdominal work. Simply do this by pulling in your stomach as far as possible and flex your groin muscles, as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.

Conclusion to Stomach Vacuums

Once mastered, the stomach vacuum can be performed in a standing, kneeling, seated, and lying position. Now you don’t have an excuse to avoid abdominal training if you are stuck in traffic or can’t get away from your desk.

Karen Sessions has been in the fitness industry since 1988. She is a nationally qualified bodybuilder and holds two personal training certifications. She has written 6 ebooks on fitness and has helped hundreds of clients transform their bodies.

Article Source:

Modern Warfare 2 Gameplay Video

Modern Warfare 2 Trailer

R10,000 fine for this guy

Today was a little strange. We have just finished moving house – the unpacking is done and the furniture is all assembled and arranged perfectly. The cable-guy is coming out tomorrow and I even have a working garage door (after searching for the remote for three hours).

The last thing on my list was to sort out the front lawn, we currently have the “worst front yard in the neighbourhood”. Seriously, there is a monthly prize for the best front yard in our area. So, I made a decision that that leaves needed removing and the grass being cut and I did the manliest thing I could think of – I called a contractor.

I know how to use a lawnmower, but I have no will to, especially in Florida heat and humidity. So I find the closest work crew and give them a call. A few hours later a typical lawn service guy arrives, dirty-ish, smelly-ish and without pen and paper.

After a few minutes of discussing the benefits of the shade from my trees he asks where my accent is from. “My mom” didn’t sound appropriate so after telling him and discussing Charlize Theron’s “stellar” career for another ten minutes he drops the bomb on me.

“Don’t take offence to this”. Bastard, I know what’s coming. As a South Africa who has travelled overseas enough times since 1994, I brace myself for the inevitable.

I’ve had “so you’re racist” many times before, especially in London, but this was something different.

He briefly told me how he was from Tennessee and that they practically started the KKK (or something like that) and how he understand how complicated things can be. Then he promptly told me that he knows how “YOU” people always say that you had nothing to with apartheid and blah blah blah.

I was getting bored, until he starting dropping the “K-Bomb”. He basically told me that I shouldn’t worry about his crews, they are from Jamaica – and that I just shouldn’t use the word “kaffir”, even though they won’t know what I’m talking about.

Now I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I have heard that word, as long ago as Lethal Weapon 2 since I’ve heard it out of an American’s mouth, so it really took me by surprise.

It’s been wearing on me all day, because I don’t know how to take this.

He’s either blatantly implying that he thinks that I’m a racist and I mustn’t act like one, or he is himself and was very close to giving me the secret white-cloaked handshake.

The fact that he knows a word restricted to our little country that well, makes me think the latter – and I’m going out to buy my own lawnmower right now just in case my neighbours get the wrong idea.

Does make me a little bit sad that I have just been stereotyped, though.

Shark Diving – Bahamas

My wife’s family had planned a cruise to the Bahamas a few months ago and even though we are close to signing the final paperwork on our house we decided to go along anyway.

It was a lot of fun, except that I would never recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines to anyone. As far as freestyle dining goes the idea is great but after having made my own stale bread burger for lunch three days in a row I decided it’s not for me, and neither are lazy Indonesian waiters who got a mandatory tip out of me (charged to my credit card no matter how hard they slammed down my plate of food in front of me).

Three nights, two and a half days and two full stops in the Bahamas. The first day was spent drinking and walking around the boat looking for drinks, and a little sunburning. That’s it.

The second day was the big one that I had been excited for, yet dreaded just a little. We stopped in Nassau early in the morning but woke up late because our transfer was only scheduled to pick us up at 11:45 am at the port.

After an hour in a bus listening to an expertly recited account of the history of the Bahamas (by Fred “not a tour guide” Rodriguez) we arrived at a seemingly famous dive outfit. Famous because the owner is an expert in his field of providing expert shots for many movies, including Jaws, a couple of James Bond’s and apparently a Salma Hayek visit.

So the deal was this, two dives, one boat and a South African photographer from Durban. The first dive was planned as just an orientation of sorts with a brief swim along a wall that disappeared very steeply into the dark of the ocean. We saw a number of sharks, especially during the initial decent as we approached a very baron area in the reef. They say about ten, I’m not sure, I was trying to breather under water for the first time in four years (three years officially so that they’d actually let me dive).

It was all very calm, though. I didn’t feel threatened at all as they kept their distance and really didn’t look that big (apparently ten feet at adult size).

The dive was relaxing and I managed to see two Lion Fish that had apparently visited all the way from Asia (a brief fist fight broke out on board about their region of origin).

We then had half an hour rest on the boat, which is always my favourite part of diving as I get to sit around and try not to throw up while staring at the horizon. (Two Dramamines didn’t help me much, but did make me tired).

The second dive was the feeding, where we were instructed to sit tight, keep our arms to ourselves and just watch the show. The feeder came down once we had all been given our positions with a metal bait box full of fresh, bloody fish. Within seconds, and I mean seconds the water was full of sharks (approximately 40 of them).

They didn’t care for us at all, or even Gary the fat Grouper who was chilling waiting for his own meal (which he got while being chased by three sharks).

The feeding was a little frantic and I was knocked on the face a few times by shark fins (no soup). They got really close but didn’t as much as look at me twice with their beady yellow eyes.

In short, dive with sharks at Stuart Cove’s, don’t use Norwegian Cruise Lines to get there.

Pictures below, scarier than it looks.

HDR Experiment

I played around with some free HDR software today for the first time. HDR as I understand it as an absolute beginner is portraying a very wide range of intensity levels in a single image. To do this, multiple shots are taken at different exposure levels and then combined to produce a final output.

If you’ve ever tried to capture an image of a sunset with the beach or trees in the foreground you will most likely end up with a very dark foreground and a perfect sunset, mainly because the camera compensates the exposure for the bright sun and speeds up the shutter.

Our eyes are good at displaying an entire scene, cameras are not, that’s why multiple images are needed.

For this sample, I took 8 images with a 1/3 EV (exposure value). There is some blur in some spots due to trees on a windy day reflecting off the car.

I went quite extreme in this example, to the point where it looks totally fake (although a technique often used in car magazines). My background didn’t help much, an unused parking lot would have looked much better.

But notice that the detail in the tires is shown, along with the bright reflections on the car itself. The driveway as well shows the full detail that is washed out on a regular exposed picture.

The third picture is with a little less processing, something more realistic but with the benefits of the full range.

If you look at the roof of the car you will see my biggest mistake with this image. The roof was overexposed in all 8 images, so it stayed like that in the final product.

These are just my first try, my next attempt will be with a landscape shot, with less post processing to achieve something natural.




White People Dancing

What can I say about this ad. It’s been on TV for a while now so obviously the company likes the response that it is getting. A junior ad executive somewhere is wondering what he really has to do to get fired from his firm.

What a plan, though. A 40-something divorcee is out partying at a club dancing to what must be an 80’s classic rock song and the best thing about her night is that she doesn’t have heartburn anymore?

Wrong. The only thing coming out of her mouth would be sweet nothings to one young buck after another.

Her best bet to stop the heartburn, stop using over the counter medication which doesn’t work (really it doesn’t, I’ve used this stuff) and stop drinking the SoCo and lime. While she’s at it, her ex-husband is sick of paying for her Vegas weekends, grow up.

Timelapse Scion tC – Moving Car

This was totally impromptu. As my camera was still setup and my interval timer still plugged in, I decided to let my wife drive, opened up the sun roof and held my camera for dear life. This was part tripod and part my cramping fingers holding as steadily as I could (at least in the right direction around some hairy corners).

You’ll notice the speck of dust on my filter a lot more in this video unfortunately, if you are looking carefully enough. I was very surprised with the light. I thought the sun was going to ruin in and got my wife to take a side route out of the direct light, which actually lost too much light. It’s amazing how quickly the light really does disappear during a sunset. Overall, I like the way it came out, even though it’s way too dark (especially when YouTube converts it, that and no stones hit my camera.

Timelapse Traffic

This is one of my latest attempts at the timelapse photography, with some not so perfect results.

First of all, you might notice (hopefully not) a speck on my lens, or rather my ND filter. Secondly, the shutter just wasn’t right and I was getting too blips and sometimes the effect of traffic moving backwards – which is fine if you think this is South Africa…otherwise not so much.

Next time I’m going to experiment on a corner instead to get more movement from the traffic (with slower cars at intersections) and try to capture the actual direction of the cars, we hope.

Lightpainting 2

Here’s some more attempts at lightpainting, with two objects close to my heart – the Athenian owl and my PS3 controller. I really didn’t get too many good ones out of this.