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DWol  ·  9 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 3: The suspended revolution

Thinking about this a bit more I feel it highlights something that I've been struggling to make sense of - complexity. Our first tendency is to try and look for simple explanations which can boil down an event or thing such that we draw some conclusion from it. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that almost any problem which is an important problem is probably a wicked problem. One with multiple layers of complexity that take a lot of work and understanding to peel back.

(That's one of the things I wanted to do with these posts - start to peel back at least some of those layers to see what can be learned in looking at far-away issues with a bit more context than usual.)

The trouble with grappling with complexity is that it gets paralysing after a while - my work is in trying to make mining do better and it's a daily struggle to convince myself that I can even make a difference. Trying to imagine solutions to or even causes of internecine political conflict on the other side of the country is even harder.

How do we manage actually understanding problems on a fundamental level without becoming swamped by the complexity of it? For now I'm taking the route of digging deeper where I can - maybe there is light somewhere down at the bottom...

DWol  ·  9 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 3: The suspended revolution

I'll be honest and say that politically motivated killings are not something I know much about, at least in terms of getting below the surface. Certainly in the past it was much worse, even with the "rule of law" associated with an iron fist minority government and pliable Bantustan leaders.

The proximal cause is essentially political infighting and maneuvering by internal ANC factions. Why it can happen in the face of laws and democracy? More difficult. On the one hand it's clear that the police don't actually have the power/resources to prevent this kind of thing happening. But on a deeper level, and in line with what I was saying above, the situation (or more accurately, the system) on the ground has not really changed much since the IFP/ANC/Third force "war" in the 80's and 90's. I guess what I'm saying is that the rule of legitimate law can hardly break down if it was never built up to begin with.

cgod  ·  9 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The killings sound pretty distressing but when you frame them as a symptom not a cause it sounds even worse.

Thanks for your posts about SA, I wish there were more internation perspectives on Hubski.

DWol  ·  9 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thinking about this a bit more I feel it highlights something that I've been struggling to make sense of - complexity. Our first tendency is to try and look for simple explanations which can boil down an event or thing such that we draw some conclusion from it. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that almost any problem which is an important problem is probably a wicked problem. One with multiple layers of complexity that take a lot of work and understanding to peel back.

(That's one of the things I wanted to do with these posts - start to peel back at least some of those layers to see what can be learned in looking at far-away issues with a bit more context than usual.)

The trouble with grappling with complexity is that it gets paralysing after a while - my work is in trying to make mining do better and it's a daily struggle to convince myself that I can even make a difference. Trying to imagine solutions to or even causes of internecine political conflict on the other side of the country is even harder.

How do we manage actually understanding problems on a fundamental level without becoming swamped by the complexity of it? For now I'm taking the route of digging deeper where I can - maybe there is light somewhere down at the bottom...

DWol  ·  10 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Two Americas

Thanks for this.

I think the ideas she puts out here do not necessarily only apply to America - exceptionalist thinking is probably what defines the border between nationalism and patriotism. I abhor it for its tendency to need an us and a them - to know others only by analogy.

I see nationalism as a blind identity-driven thing that will only work in the most trivial of cases and definitely doesn't translate to the globalised world we have today: Neville Alexander wrote a whole book about the national question in South Africa. His thesis was essentially that every historical attempt to define the nation was doomed to failure because they ultimately rely on a flawed definition of what it must be. I don't think the question has actually been answered yet: "What is a South African?" has not been settled. Where exceptionalism comes in is that it makes you think that at least you know what a South African is not. Africa, but not that Africa, right?

In that way I'd like to imagine a different kind of feeling (patriotism?) that is more focused on doing the things that are good for all mankind, but just doing them in the place where you happen to be and which so intangibly forms your identity. Not really sure about this but it's a thought. It's probably more pragmatism than anything else.

In any case, I think the takeaway from the article should not be a narrow realisation of "America's other reputation abroad" but more about the introspective elements to it - trying to imagine a different way of locating yourself in the world. I actually think there's something profound hidden here but I haven't been able to crack it.

DWol  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: July 26, 2017

Thirsty is a good word.

The Cederberg is equally stunning in its own way. We stayed on a farm there on the way down and were quite excited to check out the prehistoric Khoisan rock art they apparently had.

Turns out the previous guests who stayed there had chiselled it out of the rock face and taken it with them... utterly mind-bending. This stuff is sometimes thousands of years old...

Dala  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I have this urge to find those people and remove their faces with a chisel.

kleinbl00  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

...

...

...

I mean, JESUS.

DWol  ·  60 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: July 26, 2017

Trip report

Went on a road trip with the family through South Africa's closest relative of the Empty Quarter, the Northern Cape. It's both the biggest and least populated province and the landscapes are beautiful in their brutality.

The journey started driving up through the Tankwa Karoo, where the SA version of Burning Man takes place.

According to the people on the other end, only an act of God saved us from a flat tire on the shale dirt road where donkey carts are a serious form of transport. We stopped over in Calvinia, where my great uncle used to run the show with a massive sheep farm, on the other side of those yonder mountains:

He sold it when he retired (at 70-odd) but apparently couldn't stop the itch so promptly started farming again further south. Go figure. Passed through a bunch of frontier towns that have all seen better days and could use a bit of hope. We slept over on the banks of the Orange river, in between the table grape farms which jut out into the arid veld. Most of the crop is destined for Europe and the US east coast.

Next day we were on the last leg of our Kalahari anabasis. Remarkably, it rained on the way. At some point the geography changed and we started to drive through the dune veld - where the sand has been grown over and stops shifting. It creates an interesting effect where you get to glimpse into one "dune row" after the other as the road cuts through. Maybe one will have a bird or some meerkats, or a wind pump. And then just grass and acacia forever, as far as I can tell.

The last 60km were along the most harrowing dirt road I've ever been on. Saw a dead kudu along the way which means someone fucked up - they go for $3000.

I thought I'd seen the milky way before but apparently that was all a ruse and you need to head out into the Kalahari to see the real one.

goobster  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Mmmmmm... tasty, tasty kudu!

When I was in Cape Town/Stellenbosh area, I talked to some people from Namibia, and asked about what it was like to get back there. From their reactions, I took it that traveling across the Northern Cape was about as easy as getting to the Moon and back!

Your photos show a more lively landscape than I expected. Beautiful. Sparse. Amazing.

Thanks for sharing.

kleinbl00  ·  60 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Your photos have made me intensely jealous and intensely thirsty.

Bucketlisted.

steve  ·  58 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    We recommend some off road riding experience before you attempt this tour.

ya think?

.

.

This looks awesome.

kleinbl00  ·  58 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Somewhere I have a link where you can sign up to ride a 125cc motorbike across the Australian outback. Why a 125? Because what's your hurry, man?

steve  ·  58 days ago  ·  link  ·  

and at 125... you'd sip the petrol (which is like $6365 per litre down under).

DWol  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thirsty is a good word.

The Cederberg is equally stunning in its own way. We stayed on a farm there on the way down and were quite excited to check out the prehistoric Khoisan rock art they apparently had.

Turns out the previous guests who stayed there had chiselled it out of the rock face and taken it with them... utterly mind-bending. This stuff is sometimes thousands of years old...

Dala  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I have this urge to find those people and remove their faces with a chisel.

kleinbl00  ·  59 days ago  ·  link  ·  

...

...

...

I mean, JESUS.

DWol  ·  88 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible

Some quick thoughts from my side:

This idea hasn't really made its way down south so much in my experience. I don't think this is a information dissemination issue because many other ideas coming from this "sphere" have entered the discourse. Which is interesting because SA's cultural and language plurality should make it a big pitfall if the author is to be believed? (Not to mention power dynamics)

Maybe part of it lies in that there is not really a unified South African identity yet. So it is still seen as (broadly) good to try and assimilate or show internalisation of different aspects from different cultures? The idea that it's incontrovertibly bad seems a stretch.

More generally, culture/identity and so on are such complex things that it's probably difficult to apply broad strokes to it in any case.

DWol  ·  88 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: June 28, 2017

Went to the store to buy chicken, was confronted by a lot of commotion outside - policemen on the ground shouting at colleagues of theirs running around on the roof. A group of bystanders started to form around a lady who said that there had been an attempted armed robbery - moving from a cellphone shop to into the grocery store itself. Unfortunately for these geniuses the area's police station is right across the road so at least 4 were apparently caught after a shootout (!).

___

On a different note, had some interesting work-related ideas and I thought it might be interesting to share:

So a big part of my work involves modelling mining site water balances. One of the most important factors from a risk perspective is the effect of rainfall on dam storage levels. Both in the sense that you can have too little water (halting or otherwise affecting production) or too much water (Bento Rodrigues).

Luckily, rainfall is one thing there is an abundance of data on for long time spans and across a broad spatial scale i.e. finding historical time-series data for whatever area you are interested in is not hard. The question is then: how best to take into account the change in rainfall over time from a modelling/simulation perspective?

On the simpler end you have the approach I took last year in my preliminary research - average out historical data into two annual groups, a wet and dry season. This is a bit too simple however. The next step is to add a bit of spice by propagating the variance of each seasonal value through the model (probably Monte Carlo?). That way you can see the sensitivity of the outputs to the input as well.

I've however been looking at some work by others that seems to hint that we need to go further. In particular, the effect of this kind of (hourly/daily/monthly) variation is felt dynamically - the water-related processes can hardly be assumed to be at steady-state. So now we need to set up a dynamic model of the process.

The last spanner in the works is that, in many places, there are climatic oscillations which act on scales bigger than a year (e.g. El NiƱos and the like). The effect of this is to cause more incidences of droughts and "floods" than what would be expected by chance, if chance were defined by the distribution of values historically (according to these guys).

Their analysis was purely historical one, looking into it from the euphemistic perspective of portfolio risk... for me it raised some important questions as to how to incorporate this in a predictive model to evaluate processes in the design stage, or help current operations to adapt to un-envisioned risks. Today I read about a Markov chain-based model that incorporates the chance of switching from e.g. a wetter-than-usual to a dryer-than-usual rainfall histogram based on the historical tendencies.

I think this stuff has some wider implementation possibilities - many ore bodies also have this kind of dual character. Complex mineralisations can have you switching from a low-sulphide to a high-sulphide ore. If these are just averaged out, you lose a lot of important insights into how, maybe, the downstream flotation is affected or even the potential for acid rock drainage impacts. So a lot of interesting work to be done in this space!

DWol  ·  109 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: June 7, 2017

A day of contradictions...

Massive frontal storm has been rolling past since last night. Schools and universities closed across the province. Where I am there's been power outages and trees falling over but I'm told there's been flooding and thousands displaced in the low-lying areas.

Further down the coast lightning has caused some massive fires fanned by the wind but unfortunately they have not had any rain to counter it. My old roommate is from there and his hometown of 70k people is being evacuated. It's big pine plantation country and it seems the town in basically encircled by flames.

There's not much info coming through right now as it's the middle of the night so we'll only really know the extent of the damage tomorrow... :(

DWol  ·  110 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Shake it up. Offer up one somewhat unpopular opinion that you hold.

I think the biggest strangeness in this whole debate is that there is now supposedly a dichotomy between organic and GMO.

In my mind I don't see them as mutually exclusive but I guess it depends on how you define such. If all crops used by humans have been "genetically modified" in some way, how the modification or trait selection is a problem in and of itself is not clear to me.

Arguably the debate should be more around the systems which underpin them today - increased fertiliser usage, land degradation, monoculture, seed monopolies, scale of production etc.

For example, imagine a scenario where GMOs are developed for the public good - drought resistance, productivity increases, whatever. These are then cultivated in line with organic "principles" i.e. companion cropping, no-till, reduced reliance on synthetic fertiliser - take your pick. Where is the contradiction? I'm not sure there is one and maybe it can help to address the problems with food production we have today.

DWol  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 1: Somewhere to start

Thanks. I think you've actually captured my intentions quite nicely.

The primary reason why I wanted to do this was to try and capture my thoughts somewhere where it can have some value-add, and I think hubski is the right kind of space for that.

Underneath that is however the fact that I've been thinking a lot lately. I went through what you might call a "life changing" experience last year that really shifted my perspective on a lot of things.

South Africa is my home. I don't want to live anywhere else. But it's become clear to me that we can't just rest on our laurels and expect things to get better organically. At the very least it's necessary to start to define what kind of a future is the one I want for myself and those around me. This definition in turn requires that I grapple with the big issues so that I can have a clarity of purpose in what I do. 50% theoretical framework, 50% moral conviction.

The big question that umbrellas over all the others is one of identity and belonging. How do define myself and what I stand for in a country with mega baggage and a suspect future?

So no, it won't be a sociology lecture, not least because I'm an engineer but also because of the perception thing I spoke about - I can only work with what I've got and what I get from others (this touches a bit on the subsequent responsibility to hear what others have to say).

Lastly, being an engineer, this is really my first foray into 1st personal writing so you may need to be gentle in that respect!

kleinbl00  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·  

One of my favorite screenwriters is a South African engineer. You'll do fine.

DWol  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 1: Somewhere to start

Definitely more philosophical. It was constituted following a national canvassing of demands from the townships and homelands. So it was like the consolidated voice of a large percentage of the oppressed.

At the time, non-whites had incredibly limited political representation and so it was a major act of defiance to demand the things set out there. In fact the huge meeting where it was proclaimed was broken up by the police on the second day. A few years later the organisations involved would be banned.

Ever since it served as the foundation of the struggle (for most) in the sense that it showed what was required, culminating on its influence on the Constitution.

DWol  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 1: Somewhere to start

I'm not 100% sure what you mean. Do you mean the legal situation that led to the Charter being written in opposition to the laws of the time, or more around the process of its drafting?

arguewithatree  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·  

More like subsequent cases that uphold the charter. Or is it more philosophical than literal?

DWol  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Definitely more philosophical. It was constituted following a national canvassing of demands from the townships and homelands. So it was like the consolidated voice of a large percentage of the oppressed.

At the time, non-whites had incredibly limited political representation and so it was a major act of defiance to demand the things set out there. In fact the huge meeting where it was proclaimed was broken up by the police on the second day. A few years later the organisations involved would be banned.

Ever since it served as the foundation of the struggle (for most) in the sense that it showed what was required, culminating on its influence on the Constitution.

DWol  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 1: Somewhere to start

Thanks, I think this is a great question.

Certainly in the general sense there is agreement (with some caveats that I'll get into now-now). Within the Constitution the main source of these ideals is in the bill of rights (SS 7-39). The rest deals with more procedural stuff relating to how government will function etc. I believe the US constitution has a similar setup.

There is broad agreement largely because of the relatively consultative process which produced it - during the transitional period (~90s) there was engagement between the various political groupings and the old regime culminating in an interim constitution that paved the way for a democratically constructed one after the elections.

As such, it reflects the politics of the day - in South Africa the Overton window lies very much to the left, at least in the talk-space.

The devil is in the details however. There are two main issues/debates as far as I have eyes to see:

The first is the idea that the Constitution did not go far enough in pushing for revolutionary change. There is a view that is gaining more traction than it used to have that the 1994 dispensation represents a suspension of the revolution. I think there is perhaps something to this, although I cannot throw my weight behind it entirely. S 25 for instance guarantees the right to property and prohibits expropriation without compensation. The question is then how this squares with the process (which is mandated in the same section) of righting our history of marginalisation and dispossession. In essence, who should own the land and how to shift? I won't get into the specifics here but I hope it illustrates this type of clash.

The second issue is the question of how to actually do the practical legwork in trying to guarantee the rights. This is where the debate more commonly lies. For instance when people protest and demand access to sanitation, they can rest assured that the Constitution guarantees the right to adequate housing, with sanitation almost assuredly being a necessary condition for such.

There is yet much to be said here but hopefully that goes some way to answering your question!

DWol  ·  172 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: April 5, 2017

Hi all

For the last while now I've been mulling over an idea to write a series of posts about some of the big debates and problems where I live in South Africa.

In many ways I think the (unique?) situation here has a lot that can be learnt from, so I wanted to canvas whether there would be any interest in something like that?

Maybe to give an idea, these are some of the types of things I'm thinking of:

Current symbolism vs historical value

How to navigate the space between symbolism from the past and its historical context? This is best exemplified I think by the removal of a prominent statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes from its place at the University of Cape Town.

Spatial justice vs the invisible hand

The aftermath of forced removals and apartheid spatial planning have left immeasurably deep scars on South Africa's towns and cities. What must be done to deal with this legacy and where does the government's responsibility lie?

from Unequal Scenes

Some others

Decolonisation of curricula

Promotion of local languages vs English as the language of business, science etc.

Rights of local communities around mining operations

Fee-free higher education

The land question

Race, class and identity in post-apartheid society

etc.

So ja, maybe something along those lines. Curious to hear what people think. Mzansi by natives?

Cheers

De Waal

ButterflyEffect  ·  171 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Honestly don't have much feedback to give, provided my general lack of knowledge on this subject. That said, I would certainly read further posts on the topics! Just your summaries had me interested.

Dala  ·  171 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I second this!

lil  ·  170 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Please please write these entries. I'm very curious about S. Africa after Apartheid and after truth and reconciliation.

DWol  ·  676 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Do you have cash on you?

Haha yes I suppose this is confusing, I'm not talking about metered taxis but rather minibus taxis which operate more like public transport. They only drive certain routes and you just get on and off wherever along the way. At the moment there are a number of reasons why expecting them to have card machines would be strange but in terms of the future it's certainly possible that this might change.

As for the meter taxis, here there are two options: you can either use the fancier "brand name" guys which are starting to have card readers more often, or the pirate style guys who drive busted 1990 Camry's and take the taxi sign off the roof when the cops are nearby. Needless to say they don't take plastic.

As for POS I was under the impression that certain account/card packages do carry charges for the user. Otherwise I don't know why they would list it as a charge in the brochure? Like you say most people (myself included) don't worry about the cost to the vendor so ja...

Minimum transactions are just a thing here then I suppose, it might again have to do with preventing people from making large numbers of card transactions and racking up fees for the business - perhaps the fees are relatively higher?