30 June 2006

Telkom Disconnected

Telkom, the state-owned (and still monopoly) phone company is one of my favourite crowds to rag on.  They make it so easy!

The phone is sort-of-dead this morning.  Loud crackling noises; people unable to call in - the phone bleeps briefly and the caller gets cut off; crossed line with neighbours down the road.  The problem has been the subject of numerous fault callouts over the past 6 or 8 months, and has never been solved.

Tried several times to log the fault by phone.  First had to discover that, because it is a DSL line, the fault must be reported to a different call-centre whose phone number utterly fails to appear on any documentation.  Several attempts to call needed, because I keep getting disconnected from the call-centre mid-conversation due to the fault.

Inspiration: At least the DSL is still working, so let's see if I can log the fault via Telkom's website!  Fill in the relevant details on the fault-reporting page; click "Submit".
OnlineFaultReporting web exception
We appologise for the inconvenience,
but the page that you requested can not be processed correctly. Please report this to the system administrator.
Copied from the Telkom website: misspellings all their own.

But!  There's no "Contact the webmaster" link to be found on their website. Oh well, back to trying to phone the fault in.

Please, God, give these buggers some real competition and put them out of business soon.

Air Traffic Control

Over recent months we have seen a large increase in light-aircraft traffic overhead, using local farm-fields for take-offs and landing.  So here is a letter I have just sent-off to the Civil Aviation Authority - lets see how they respond...  I'll refrain from ranting about the abysmal design of their website :-)

I am writing to express my deep concern with a recent marked increase in air-traffic (light aircraft) in our area - the Rheenendal area north of Knysna.

Over the past few months I have noticed a very marked increase in air traffic in the area, evidently taking-off and landing using local farm fields, as I am unaware of any licensed airfield in the area.

I particularly strongly object to such traffic due to:
  1.  Noise nuisance
  2.  Invasion of privacy, as these aircraft frequently take-off directly overhead my dwelling, and
  3.  Hazard to a source of my income: I am an organic vegetable grower, and the pollution caused from hydrocarbon emissions from aircraft has, in several cases around the world, resulted in organic growers losing their organic certification.

Please advise me

  1.  Whether any airfield has been licensed to operate in the area,
  2.  Who is responsible for authorising the use of farm-fields for
      light-aircraft traffic, and
  3.  What can be done to stop such overflight.

25 June 2006

Time-out in the Garden

Finally got to spend a little time in the garden.  We had some decent rain (25mm) the other day, so the soil has had time to dry out a little, and is quite workable, though still quite damp.

Cleared out one of the beds - a Chilli bed in my 7-year rotation scheme, but, since no Solanums are going to grow through the Winter, I've planted some Swiss Chard seed and transplanted some Leeks into the South end, and I'll put more Onions into the North end.  I really don't have enough space for all the Onions sitting in trays.  I know J thinks Onions are a waste of time, being so cheap in the shops, and taking up valuable garden space for such a long time, but I like them.  They do a lot of good for the soil, fumigating it, and are pretty undemanding.

Time permitting I will finish clearing one of the new beds tomorrow, and put some more Cabbages into it.

I'd really love to have a week off for the garden.  I've been so tied to the computer for the past 5 months, and I'm sick of it.

21 June 2006

Cold Front

Looks like a cold front on its way - and fast, too.  Good.  We need a decent rain.

So outside to chop some firewood - on the optimistic assumption that the wind won't be too strong for a fire.  (Our chimney doesn't work worth a damn in wind, and ends up sucking all the smoke back into the house.)  Need a new axe-handle; the handle has split lengthwise inside the axe-head, so the head is wedged none-too-securely. Then my chopping-block split.  Oh well, more firewood, says the Optimist.

Just one of Those days.

14 June 2006

Coming Back to Life

Finally getting this blog thingie back online, now under my shiny new personal domain...  I guess this means I start from scratch again with Technorati rankings and such - oh well, no great loss.  I now feel in position to try a few theories I've been harbouring for a while.

03 June 2006

And the Sins of the Fathers...

A recent essay at The Survival Acres blog touches on many of the terrifying issues that confront us – global warming, peak-oil, overpopulation, the deep degradation of the environment necessary to sustain all life.

If there's any conclusion there, then it would seem to be, "What is going to kill us off first: Global Warming and its consequences for the global food supply that the over-abundant human population relies upon, or Peak Oil and the resulting collapse – starting potentially within 2 to 6 years – of industrial/technical society?"  Either way, the results would seem to be eerily similar – mass starvation, coupled with lawlessness, roving hordes searching for food, burning the last of the trees to keep warm...  The stuff of so many D-grade sci-fi movies.

Let anyone who doubts the sort of behaviour outlined above go to a squatter camp anywhere in Africa and count how many trees remain, how much vegetation, how many animals are left.

The heart of the question is, "Is it at all possible to maintain any form of technological society in the face of the impending human disasters before us?"  Or are we doomed to a collapse back to Stone Age technologies and Stone Age human population levels – perhaps only a few hundred-thousand human beings on the planet?

The author of Survival Acres seems pessimistic.  Or perhaps that's just "realistic".

Perhaps I am just a little too unwilling to give up a fantasy.  The fantasy that we can keep something of our modern technological ways.  Perhaps even improve on our present society, creating something more humane, more attuned to our needs and the needs of the rest of the ecosphere about us.  But we certainly cannot do it at current human population levels, and we certainly cannot do it at First World levels of energy consumption, even assuming much-reduced human numbers.

How many people can the Earth sustain?  For a long time the conventional wisdom seems to be that a population of about 1 billion (that's the American "billion" –  1 000 000 000) though recently I have seen some writing suggesting that 2 billion might be sustainable.  Personally I doubt the higher figure, but either way we are in for a hell of a ride as the population crashes from the present levels of somewhere betwee 6.5 and 7 billion!

Can we live on much lower energy levels?  Certainly!  Concensus among experts I have read seems to suggest that the most energy we could reasonably expect to sustainably generate would be around 20% of current First World consumption.  (Not sure if this is purely at a household level, or whether it includes the massive industrial and industry-agricultural inputs.  Anyone?)

The problem and the challenge is how to manage a transition from our present societal structures and dependence on Big Energy to something that will simultaneously allow us to go forward retaining the good bits of our society (and I would call the Internet one of the Good Bits) whilst also surviving the terrible, tragic process that surely faces us.

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