Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Friday, 25 April 2008

This morning...

This morning, shortly after we got up, Jorge said to Tatiana, "Oh, Ana called for you."

Startled, Tat answered, "Who's Ana?"

"How must I know? Call her anyway," he replied, handing her the piece of paper with the name and number.

Tat ambled over to the phone. "Ugh! Mom! Look at this!" She pointed to the name, 'Ana Conda'.

"That is probably just your dad's idea of a joke," I said. "Call her anyway."

Tat is a good girl and listens to her parents.... sometimes. She called...

I tried hard now to remember her reaction, but Tat suggested that it wasn't repeatable. It went along the lines of... "Argh! What the.... DAD!!" Yes, that was a more simplistic version.

Why all the fuss? The number was to the local zoo. Naturally. Where else would Ana Conda live?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Safe - a Picture Perfect theme

With this theme, you get a little peek into my world, or should I say, out of it. I took this photo sitting at my computer. The window next to me was open. The photo I took was of the reflection in the window and our neighbour hanging out her laundry and, yes, the security bars too. Every door and window here has security bars. Before we moved in, the people who lived here had been burgled three times in as many months. Everything had been stolen. We took no chances. We would move in on condition the owner improved security. Between the bars and our dogs, I guess we're safe enough.

So this week, I don't have a very aesthetically pleasing photo. I came up with bars, bars, and more bars. I have photos of some lovely bars and fences, if something like that can be called lovely, but they're not very original as photos. Perhaps this photo will also give you an idea of why I crave wide open spaces...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Exercise is bad for you

I have proved it conclusively.

As some of you know, I have been trying to get fit... to my downfall, of course... quite literally. Trouble is, I tend to tackle things with gusto. If there's a new anything to be learnt, I climb in, boots and all and learn it. If I take on a new hobby, I never start small. I jump in at the deep end and either sink or swim. I have always held to the belief that if you're going to do something, do it with gusto and with gusto is the way I go.... down.

I have been feeling rather energetic. Actually, that is a lie. I have not been particularly energetic, as I've been sleeping badly, but, thanks to the exercise I have been getting, when I have been on the move, I have not been as out of breath as before. Last night, we needed some bread to go with our soup. I offered to dash up to the bakery, two blocks away. The air was cool... lovely... so I skipped out of the yard and prepared to run up. I had hardly gone half a block, when I found myself airborne.

You know that old expression, "The bigger they are the harder they fall"? As I was telling a friend, I came down like a felled Redwood. We live on a very busy road, a throughfare between two major roads. This was right in the heart of peak hour. Need an audience? I will find one. I think the ground vibrations stopped traffic. One motorbiker pulled up next to me and asked if I need the hospital. It is worthy of note here that he didn't get off his bike to help me up from my nose-to-the-ground position. "No, no," I assured him, wishing the ground would do its job and swallow me up. After all, it must have been a huge hole in the ground to make me trip like that, right? Another one of the milling passers by helped me to my feat (deliberate typo... that was a Feat). Thank goodness for the dark. They couldn't see my red face.

Now, I'm weird. I usually, at this point, try to pretend nothing has happened, so I took a few wonky steps in the direction of the bakery. Then I looked up and saw the crowd in the doorway of the pub across the road and the people buzzing in and out of the bakery further ahead. Memories of the queues at this time of the night and the curiosity of the natives made me back off. No way could I face that, so I hobbled home.

At this point, Tat took over as chief nurse in residence. Jorge went to the pub to fetch some bread. On his return, "Did you trip over that crack in the sidewalk outside so-and-so's house?" Poor delusional man. No matter how much I told him it was a crater, he just missed the point entirely. Truth is, it doesn't take more than a hairline crack to topple this biped. I think I will just stick to walking in future. We all know I can't run to save my life *sigh*

Sunday, 20 April 2008

One of *those* days...

I woke up late this morning, groggy, as always. I'm not a mornings person on the best of days, but some days are harder than others. It doesn't help that I've been sleeping badly, usually waking up with a crick in the neck and a creepy feeling from disturbing dreams. Who knows why. Perhaps my brain is revolting against the newly imposed fitness regime. Can't blame it, really.

I stumbled to the kitchen to find Jorge pouring coffee from the flask. I make the coffee at night, as the coffee pot is really small and we drink our way through three of those pots for breakfast. This is my way of ensuring coffee when I wake up. Jorge poured the coffee into the mug and the mug was full... no room whatsoever for milk. I like my coffee really strong, and I make the coffee for the flask super strong with this in mind, but with a lot of milk. I have always had it like that and after 22 years of marriage, you'd think he would know that. *rolls eyes* I quietly freaked. We emptied some of the coffee and I added the hot milk, then slunked off to the computer to wake up. I was just getting into my mail, when I reached over and accidentally hooked the handle of the coffee mug, distributing a fair quantity of the brew over my desk and lap. Naturally, I expressed my dismay rather loudly and not very politely. Ok... I'm awake now... enough already. Jorge grabbed a towel from the other room and I set about mopping up. Whew... the keyboard was dry. I lifted it to mop underneath. Oh blast.... some of the coffee was on the underside of the keyboard and ran in through what I can only assume were drainage holes in the keyboard. What on earth were they thinking putting holes there?!

A second or so of typing proved beyond doubt that my keyboard was in serious trouble. I powered off and stripped the keys, figuring I may as well clean them at the same time. It was, as I expected, dry underneath, so I put the keys back. I then opened the back. I checked, Jorge checked... it all looked dry. I put it together and it still didn't work. We figured a new keyboard was due then. Trouble is, this is the start of a long weekend, so the earliest I could look for one is on Tuesday. I borrowed Jorge's keyboard to answer a couple of messages, while he took mine to strip it completely and attempt a fix.

Thing is, when Jorge sees either one of the women in the house upset for any reason, he starts getting stupid. He mocks frustrated tears (I cry very easily... yeah... I know it is dumb, but it's just the way I was made, I guess). The more he made stupid comments, the more angry I got and the more I cried. The more I cried, the more angry I got with both him and myself. Add hormones to that and you have a weepy killer on the loose. I eventually blew up, yelled at him, yelled at Tat for trying to play peacekeeper (that, after all, is my role... how dare she take it), grabbed my keys and my purse and stormed out. That was probably my best move of the day.

I walked and walked. I saw streets I'd not been to before. I saw a property that would leave Alice bewildered in Wonderland. Choose a door?

Here, when a property is demolished or abandoned, they put a wall up in front. I guess this lot just got creative. Judging by the plant growth, that property has been vacant for some time. A lot of those doors would be made from what is called 'noble wood' here, Ipê or Pau Brazil. When we find old doors that have been thrown out, we salvage them. Jorge makes the most amazing things from that wood and you can't buy it any more, as it is protected now.

I walked on, did some shopping (needed to get supper goodies for Monday when the shops will be closed), and walked some more. I found myself down a couple of cul-de-sacs and had to turn around. I'm sure I must have looked like a lost bag lady with my shopping bags, stopping, gazing at scenes, walking deep in thought. My appearance couldn't have helped, as I stormed out without the usual 'fixing up'.

I made a friend or two on the way... .

Right next to this kitten's home was a home that was something out of a Garden and Home magazine. Ok, it was not a large home, but it was beautiful. I stood for a while admiring the garden, with its resident rottweiller before spotting the kitten on the wall. She looks like a raccoon, don't you think? The marking isn't so clear because of the darkness of the photo, but she was pretty. Anyhow, this house, by contrast had a cheap, coloured whitewash, bright blue and badly painted.... that part which still retained some of its paint. Movement up the driveway caught my eye. The scene was one I hadn't seen in a while.... two women doing laundry at their outside basin. I thought of my washing machine that I curse... then I thought back to my first two years here in Brazil, when I was the one outside at the basin, scrubbing. I am grateful for what I have. It's not perfect, but it beats a whole lot of lifestyles.

I finally made my way home. Tat was baking banana bread and Jorge was nearly done with the keyboard, which is now working beautifully. Life goes on. Tomorrow will be better. I learned a few lessons today... good ones.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Fragile - a Picture Perfect Theme

Fragile..... blue balloon, blown up in a moment of fun, caught in the bars. Will it pop? Will it break? Fragile is tougher than we think. Fun.... and happiness.... is fragile too... to be caught and held... and treasured... in case it bursts.

The balloon is blown with a straw from a tube of gunk, a Christmas stocking gift to Tatiana by her godmother that gets taken out occasionally to play with... only occasionally... because we want it to last as long as possible, of course

Visit Picture Perfect to play along. Yep, I know I have 3 photos instead of one.... ; )

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Mono #2

I know it isn't Monday, but here goes...

Personally, I prefer this photo in colour. I lamented the loss of those lovely rich browns and greens.

Click on the image to view a larger version

1) Opened a my photo in Photoshop, duplicated it, cropped it, then duplicated the layer.

2) Looked at the channels tab (in the layer palette), saw which needed to be bumped up by selecting either the red, blue, green and deselecting RGB (click on the little eyes to select and deselect a layer)

3) Added an adjustment layer > and selected Channel mixer. Selected monochrome and moved the red, blue and green sliders until I was happy.

4) Added an adjustment layer and selected levels. Played around with the top slider to intensify the black and white

5) Selected the stalk to bring out the texture. Added an adjustment layer - levels - and pulled black over quite a distance

6) Selected the cap to bring out the white flecks. Same process as above, except bringing the right hand white slider over more

7) I had lost detail in the underside of the cap, so I selected that next. Added adjustment layer - levels again. This time, I pulled the black slider on the lower sliding thingamebob to the right to lighten it. That brought out its existing texture.

8) I wanted the mushroom to stand out without interference from the wood texture, so I merged the image, duplicated the layer, applied gaussian blur (20), then changed the layer blend to soft light. I didn't want to lose the texture in the mushroom, so I selectively erased using various opacities in my eraser tool.

I took a screenshot of my layer palette to make the whole thing at least halfway more understandable....

And here is the final product for disection ; )

Click on the image to view a larger version

Monday, 14 April 2008

Random silliness

Ok, no smarmy comments about the photo! It is disgusting. I was lamenting to Tat last night that I shied away from cameras for so many years, we have few photos of the two of us having any form of fun or bonding time. Add to that the fact that I'm usually the one behind the camera.

A few days ago, Tat was going through her wardrobe, sorting the clothes between keepers, donation, and tossing. She unearthed her old swimming cap and goggles (both regulation swimming items here).... if you can find a swimming pool. We were already laughing over the trying on of some really old out-grown clothes. I took the cap and goggles and... well.... Tat decided it was photo-worthy. I look gross, but the memories are good : )

Last night, Tat and I decided we were going to try Pilates. We survived the first 14 minutes, with me huffing and puffing, red faced, falling all over the show (I have no balance whatsoever and even less flexibility), but yes, we survived.... Tat survived rather more gracefully than I did. Our torturer then told us to lie down on a mat. Well... we only have one mat between the two of us. I had a good idea of what was coming next, so I said.... let's turn it sideways and share. Good idea! Then we had the problem of how to watch the screen while prostrating ourselves on the floor. We decided to watch first, then, if humanly possible, do the movement, while listening to her instructions. The space on the floor here barely fit the two of us side by side. The computer screen way up there out of sight. The %*$# woman wanted us to lift our heads and shoulders off the floor, and while keeping those in the air, we had to lift our legs... one directly in front and the other up in the air... straight too, mind you! She then started scissoring her legs, still with her shoulders off the ground, both legs straight as pins and never touching the ground. She knocked herself on the nose with her shins every time!! Methinks she wasn't made of plain ol' rubber, but of silicone! Ok, so we lose nothing by trying. I have no idea what happened next. Tat was on the floor on her part of the mat. I looked out the window and said, "Omg, the neighbour's window is open!" Tat looked over her knees, which were, by now, in the air (she is so good!). I just packed up laughing.... and laughed and laughed. My belly ached, I laughed so hard. Tat started laughing. The in-the-air legs were soon banished. There was no helping it. I had the giggles... no... I had the *caps lock* giggles. The tears were streaming. Tat kept stopping laughing and giving me a serious look to stop me laughing. It made me laugh harder. It was as though a mechanism was triggered that couldn't be untriggered. We never did get further into that workout. Needless to say, the idea of Pilates has been scrapped until I can learn to stand on one leg and wrap the other around my head....

Tonight, we'll do a workout called, "The hotpants workout." Makes you wonder, huh? It is a dance workout. You work out, rather vigorously, while dancing. There is a guy doing it with 4 slinky looking women around him. Good cardio stuff that, and fun. Now I just need to figure out which is my left leg and which is my right. We should get this right... right? Hey... I'm working out... what more do they want?

Friday, 11 April 2008

Happy Birthday, George!

Gelukkige verjaarsdag, George... waar ookal jy is.

Today is my brother's birthday. George Michael van der Merwe... the forgotten one... the one who got the least attention... the one who became the black sheep of the family, but was actually the gentlest and kindest. I got to know him so late.

George was the last of my mom's kids. The man who fathered us left before he was born, so George never did get to see him. He has always suffered over that. I remember telling him that the man wasn't worth it and the young teenager yelled back that at least I had the chance to decide that for myself. I was taken away from my mom at the age of 3. Hamish lived half between my gran's place and my mom's. My sister had all my mom's attention. George just had to muddle along as best he could... and best was rather hard for him. I remember his first grade report, "George keeps making funny noises in class." Ever the one calling for attention. The family thought the report card was amusing. Over the years, he found ways to get attention... few of them good. He was always up to some mischief or another. I just used to hear the tales. I never got to see him.

In 1982, I was sent to boarding school. No one told me I'd find my brother there. No one told me we would bond. No one warned me that I would miss him so much. The following year, I was sent to a different boarding school. George was the one thing from the old school I missed desperately. We wrote to each other regularly. I teased him that he had to become a doctor because his handwriting was so hard to read. After I got married, we got together again. It was during his obligatory tour with the army. He came to stay with Jorge and I for a while. That was good. One morning, when I was cleaning, I found a photo in among his things. I hated the photo and didn't want it, but I flew off the handle, accusing him of theft. I know why he took it. It was the only photo we had of our father. Eventually, Jorge took him back to the army base. I didn't see him again. I was so petty. I lost my brother over something so stupid. If only I could find him to tell him I'm sorry.

Family is precious. Relationships are precious. Why did I learn too late that words spoken can't be taken back? I wanted to post this as a private post, as it is of little interest to anyone but myself and, possibly, my brother, but I have decided to leave it public. Maybe... just maybe... he is looking too...

In the photo, I am the one on the tricycle. Next to me is my sister... a little less than a year younger than me. Then George, the youngest, sitting next to my mother. In the background is Jim's work van. Photo taken on Christmas day, 1971.

Hobby - A Picture Perfect Theme

I know I'm breaking one of the first rules here, but I couldn't resist this postcard from South Africa. I think a few of my photography friends can relate ; )


The hobby isn't mine, but Tatiana's. It started when she was being homeschooled. As a social science/geography project, she had a goal to collect at least one card from every country and one per state from the larger countries. The project involved writing and organisational skills too. We both thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, we enjoyed the project as a family. A huge wall map marked where the postcards were from. The highlight of our day was visiting the post office to see if another card had arrived. Tat's collection is now huge and we've slowed down with the collection somewhat, but looking through the albums is enough to revive interest.

Unlike regular deltiologists, we collected cards of all shapes and sizes. At first, we prefered the cards to be written on and stamped. It made it more personal. An added bonus was if the person wrote a little about themselves and their country. Later, we went through a phase of preferring mint postcards in envelopes, as the post office was damaging them. The photo above is just a tiny sample of her collection. She now has 717, excluding those that aren't sorted into folders. There are some very old postcards in there now, from the early 1900's and some really unique ones, like the emboidered Spanish one pictured here and one with a sample of South African beach sand. One last photo ; ) This just to show how much work went into the collection. Each postcard is set onto the page with cutouts - no tape or glue involved, so as not to damage the card. Alongside, Tat would write details about the card, where it is from and who sent it with any extra information if there is any.

I was just thinking that the postcard collection is much like a Picture Perfect by snail mail. What a thought : )

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Police given 'shoot to kill' order - news article


April 10, 2008 06:33pm

Article from: Reuters

SOUTH African police must shoot to kill and ignore regulations in the battle against one of the worst rates of violent crime in the world, a government minister says.

"You must kill the bastards (criminals) if they threaten you or the community. You must not worry about the regulations," said Deputy Safety and Security Minister Susan Shabangu.

"I want no warning shots, you have one shot and it must be a kill shot," she told police officers, according to the Star newspaper today.

South Africa suffers some of the highest levels of violent crime in the world, with murders, hijackings and rape an everyday occurrence.

Police figures show nearly 20,000 people are murdered a year, sparking public anger at the inability of authorities to ensure safety.

Ms Shabangu told an anti-crime meeting in the capital Pretoria: "I want to assure the police station commissioners and policemen and women from these areas that they have permission to kill these criminals," she said.

"I will not tolerate any pathetic excuses for you not being able to deal with crime, you have been given guns, now use them ... If criminals dare to threaten the police or the livelihood or lives of innocent men, women and children, then they must be killed."


This news article was sent to me this morning. For my newer friends, if there is one thing I am passionate about, it is my homeland, South Africa. I left very reluctantly. It is no secret, though, that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, with rape and hijacking being at the top of the list. I was there when neighbours were being gunned down. I was there when girls were dragged into public ablutions and gang raped. According to friends and family, it is worse now. Killing is done for the sake of killing. Then I read an article like this. Those who know me, know that I am opposed to violence, even for the 'greater good'. I don't believe so much in the abolishing of guns simply because that puts the guns into the hands of the criminals, leaving citizen Joe Soap defenceless.

I still have to form an opinion about this article though. What do you think?

I know an article like this brings about strong opinions. I'm game for that, but please keep it clean and respectful.

Wednesday, 09 April 2008

I touched history


There is a black lady working at the pub Jorge frequents. She makes the most heavenly coxinha's. She asked if I could work on a photo of hers. It had a corner torn off and was heavily finger printed, where the finger prints appeared to have removed ink. The photo was a 2 x 3 inch print. She wanted a large print out of it. For me, the challenge was a relatively unique one. This is the first black face I have worked on. I found that... well... noteworthy. What was more noteworthy though, was that this photo is of her father, one of Brazil's last slaves. He is pictured here, sitting in front of his slave hut. Now that, to me, is a unique experience, restoring a photo of a slave for his daughter. There is a whole time perspective thing going on in my head too. He looks to be around 40 here. She is 65. When I think of slavery, I think of 'very long ago', but not really if this photo is anything to go by.

Anyone here give time management lessons? This is harder than it sounds... the whole time management thing. I start my day checking mail. Someone sends me a link to look at. I open the link. Then another friend contacts me with a "What do you think of...?" and I start a reply. I remember that I wanted to post a blog on "The wisdom of flings" and open a post before I forget. Just then, I remember I haven't eaten yet, so I amble to the kitchen. I come back with a plate and Jorge will say, "Have you started on that photo of John Doe yet?" I open the photo, so I don't forget to work on it and remember the first link I was meant to be looking at. I look at the link and go to reply. While I'm replying, I see an e-mail from Someone Important. I start a reply to that e-mail because, after all, it is from Someone Important. By the time I'm into my second hour of my day, my pc desktop looks a mess and I have no idea any more what I was going to originally do. I often just end up giving up on the lot of them. How is that for productive? My off-pc activities are pretty much the same. So if you find that I'm not 100% *there*, you know why. It is because I'm not 100% *there*. Where I am.... well, that is anyone's guess ; )