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Cape Town

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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  ·  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 Niños 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  ·  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... :(

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  ·  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!

DWol  ·  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  ·  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?

DWol  ·  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  ·  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


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


De Waal

DWol  ·  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?

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

This is pretty interesting.

I tend to use my card wherever I can but that doesn't cover nearly enough of the occasions where I'd spend money to say that I don't need cash and so I usually try to have what must be about 15 USD on me.

Firstly, taxis only take cash and actually I think they prefer coins. On campus I don't think any of the food vendors take cards and while there are ATMs it's quite a schlep with queues and all.

Not to mention that most of these transactions are going to be like 2 USD so the POS card charges wouldn't be pretty.

Bars/clubs are another one - minimum card transaction is often about 6 beers' worth so obviously it's best avoided. I also don't think I've ever seen anyone pay entrance with a card.

It would be nice if something like m-pesa would take off because after all that, carrying cash is a bit of a liability. Some people are saying that they have like 40 USD which is a bit much for me to risk...

edit: my roommate informs me that he never carries cash (mugging risk), and that he draws money when he does need it.

Put it down to like 50% lighting, 50% potato camera

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