Archive for January, 2010

Visit to the Durban Natural Science Museum and Art Gallery

January 27th, 2010 Fred 1 comment

During our short holiday in Amanzimtoti, we drove out to Durban on Saturday 16 January.  My mother-in-law, Daleen, wanted to visit some of the flea market stalls.  Unfortunately, these were closed and we were looking for something to do.

I vaguely recalled visiting the Durban Museum (or more formally the Durban Natural Science Museum) as a child.  I also seemed to remember that it was somehow close to the Durban City Hall.  A quick look on the GPS confirmed that there were indeed a museum located by the Durban City Hall.  So off we went.

The Durban City Hall is a beautiful old building.  I read on the Internet that the building was completed in 1910, and that it is build with Edwardian neo-Baroque architecture.  I have no idea what this type of architecture is, but I found it to be really beautiful.

The building is decorated with many small sculptures.  We didn’t spend a lot of time outside the building, but I am sure that if you took the time, you would see many wonderful small details.  At the moment, some parts of the building is being renovated.

There are also many beautiful statues in the garden in the front of the building.  They seem to commemorate the Anglo-Boer war (one of the statues read that the statues commemorate those who died in the period 1899-1902, and from there my inference).  The statues seem to be of people with English names, so I presume it in honour of the English side of the war.

I seem to recall that there were big statues of animals (as part of the museum display) in the garden as well, but I may be mistaken.

Walking down the street on the way to the entrance of the museum (on the side of the City Hall), we saw the Royal Hotel across the street.  This is the subject of a famous Afrikaans song by David Kramer, Royal Hotel, and I just can’t help thinking about the lyrics:  “Hier sit die manne in die Royal Hotel, ek ken mos vir almal ek is almal se pel, luister ou vrind daar agter die bar, hoe lyk dit met nog so ‘n doppie daar!”

Just a little further down the street was this interesting little building.  I have no idea what this building is all about, but it looked quite “cute”.  I looks quite European in its architecture.

Erik was riding on his Oupa Willie’s shoulders as we were walking.  For a moment, it looked like he may fall asleep, but it true Erik style, the tiredness only lasted for about 10 seconds….

And so we entered the Durban City Hall through the side entrance.  There is a public library on the first floor, the Durban Natural Science Museum on the second floor and the Durban Art Gallery on the third floor.  What surprised me greatly was that there were so few people visiting these, especially since entrance is completely free.  I guess in today’s age, most people don’t care much for culture.

The building’s interior is just beautiful, complete with red carpets on the stairways.  The rails are beautifully decorated, the tiles are laid out with interesting patterns, and the roofs have large open and intriguing spaces.

The Museum is mostly decidated to the display of various forms of animal life, mostly birds, mammals and insects.  In the first section, we walked through an area with many displays depicting various South African birds.  Erik enjoyed it very much, and was running around looking at the birds and saying “Ha-ha” (Where we live, the hadidas usually come to drink water in our swimming pool, and the sound they make is ha-ha, and so Erik associates that sound with birds)

They also have a large section on mammals.  I find it interesting to see all the trouble they have to go through to set up all the displays.

This is a Japanese Spider Crab.   When stretched out, this one has a span of 4m from tip to tip of those giant claws.  They say that there are ones that grow to have a span of 8m…. this truly scares me!  It is like something out of a horror movie.  Remind me never to enter any water in Japan….

What would a museum be without a giant dinosaur!

Just below the dinosaur is this crocodile.   We posed Erik on the croc to take a photo.  As we moved on the the next display, Erik ran back to the croc and got onto it himself, riding it like you would do a horse!  He has really shown the croc who is the boss!

After the museum, it was time for a quick break (and a nappy change)!

And so we headed to the third floor which houses the Durban Art Gallery.  One of the halls is filled with cables, tied from one end of the room to the other end.  Although I have no idea what this is for (probably just for the sake of having the cables…), I found it quite expressive in a way.  It is refreshing to think that the art gallery are willing to host a hall just filled with cables.

Walking through the cabled hall, there is another hall with some art by a black South African, a Mr Hobo, so I guess this can be called “Hobo Art”.  He made eight different sculptures from different materials such as rubber.  The room is tinted red through a lamp with a red bulb, giving it a very peculiar feeling.

The main display room has various pieces of mostly modern art, such as the one pictured below.  Some of them are very disturbing and provocative, which I find strangely attracting.

And then there is the future of transport…. this bicycle comes complete with a built in TV and video player.  I am sure by adding a dynamo one might actually get it up and running outside the confines of the art gallery…

I enjoyed our visit to the museum and art gallery – it was quite interesting.

Erik on the Beach

January 20th, 2010 Fred No comments

Below is some photos from Erik’s first vacation by the sea.  Erik is growing up so fast, and is repeating words that he hears.  One has to be careful what you say!  So we tried to teach him to say “see” (sea).  And he is trying very hard, pronunciating it without the “s”.  It sounds something like “kee” when he says it, and it is just lovely to hear him say it. 

Erik is not scared of the water at all.  Even with the waves crashing on him (yes yes, we are only playing in the very shallow water) and getting some of the salt water in his mouth, he just says “nog”, “nog!” (more, more!).

He enjoys just sitting in the shallow water and getting his feet buried when the water runs over it.

And it is great fun to play in the sand and to help dig holes and build sand castles.

If you work so hard digging a hole, surely you should be allowed to sit in it, not so?

Or you should be allowed to bury your father in it…

“Kom oupa, kom ons gaan hardloop op die strand!”

“O, maar dis lekker in die water!”

When it gets cold and the wind starts blowing (which happened on a couple of days), it is time to dress up a bit warmer and sit snugly with mom.

In general there were very few people on the beach (the schools started and most universities also started during our week in Amanzimtoti, so there were only a few holiday makers).  And although there were not that many lovely ladies in bikinis ;-) , it was still very enjoyable.

On the Sunday (which was by far also the busiest day), there was even someone flying over the beach, grabbing the attention of many of the beach goers.

And what will an outing to the beach be without ice cream!  (And a girl in the background picture ducking not to be in the photo, shortly thereafter producing a brush to straighten the hair!)

Erik’s First Encounter with the Beach

January 20th, 2010 Fred No comments

Our short holiday in Amanzimtoti represents Erik’s first time by the sea.  These images were taken when we arrived on Friday 15 January 2010, just after we unloaded our baggage from the vehicle.  We went for a casual stroll along the main beach (no swimming).

This picture below is just about one of the first pictures of Erik on the beach (we have walked from the stairs in the background).  He is just smiles all round.  Dis lekker by die see!

Erik is swinging on Grandpa Willie’s arm.

Adele and Daleen is enjoying it too.

Of course, walking on the beach makes a lot of footsteps, soon to be washed away.

Me and Erik enjoying a moment just staring out across the mighty ocean.

Making Time to Blog

January 20th, 2010 Fred No comments

It has been a little over two weeks since I created my blog.  I guess my initial idea was that I would write a little bit each day, something like an online diary, just letting people know what is happening in my life and what I am thinking about.

In these two weeks, I managed to make only a few posts.  Every day, I have all these ideas about things to put up on my website, but I just never get round to actually sitting down and blogging about it.

I guess the trick is to make a little time every day, your “blog time”, and to get into the habit of writing down your thoughts during that time.  Any avid bloggers out there that can make some suggestions?

On two related ideas.  Firstly I am wondering whether to change the publishing dates of my blog entries to reflect the historical time an event happened, rather than the actual time of blogging… I guess both have their pros and cons.  Secondly, I am resizing the images I upload to about 600×450 pixels and saving them in .jpg low quality.  These result in images with file sizes of about 12-14KB, which loads quickly and don’t take up to much storage space on my web server.  I might be mistaken, but I suspect most people will only browse through the images, and never really print them, so this shouldn’t be an issue.  Any thoughts on these two topics?

Categories: Technical Tags:

Mr Cool’s Going to the Sea!

January 20th, 2010 Fred No comments

Have you seen this little guy?  He was last spotted on his way to Amanzimtoti in a Nissan X-Trail.  If you get in contact with Mr Cool, please watch out!  He has dangerous smiles and he is not afraid to use them.  Please watch out, as he may melt your heart!

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Stupidity is Not a Disability

January 15th, 2010 Fred No comments

Yesterday, on our way to Amanzimtoti, we stopped at a garage just outside Heidelberg.  There was the following sign up in front of the disabled parking:

I thought it is extremely funny and I guess it doesn’t really require any explanation!  But I am sure it is very effective in stopping people from misusing this parking spot.  Or perhaps not…

We stopped at the garage for something to eat at the Steers.  Unfortunately the cashiers just ignored us (they were busy cashing up) and so I had to throw my toys out of the cot to get some reaction.  But when the food arrived (we ordered spare rib), it was truly delicious, the best I have had in a long time.  And the manager offered us some free ice cream as a consolation for the bad service.

We arrived in Bethlehem, and stayed over at Adele’s family, uncle Henry and aunt Meisie.  We also had a brief visit at our friends Elanze and Wessel, who moved from Pretoria to Bethlehem in December.

And this morning we headed off to Amanzimtoti, for Erik’s first visit to the sea!

Going to Amanzimtoti!

January 14th, 2010 Fred 1 comment

So, we will be heading off to Amanzimtoti this evening, for a short holiday (14-22 January).  By we, I mean, myself, Adele, Erik, Willie and Daleen.  Tonight we will drive to Bethlehem in the Free State and stay over at Adele’s uncle and aunt.  And then tomorrow we will complete the journey to the sea.

What makes this quite special (apart from the fact that we haven’t been to the sea for quite some time), is that this will be little Erik’s first encounter of the sea!  I wonder what his impressions will be and I cant wait to find out.  But I am sure he and all of us will enjoy it plenty.

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Get yourself a Gravatar!

January 5th, 2010 Fred 2 comments

A what?  A Gravatar – or Globally Recognizable Avatar.

Ever noticed the little photos next to people’s comments in blogs and other online postings?  Similar to the photo that you use in your Facebook account?  These are called avatars – some iconic representation of your online identity.

So what is a Gravatar?  The clever guys at the Gravatar website created a service where you can upload a picture (or multiple pictures) that serve as your avatar.  The avatar is associated with your e-mail address.  So, rather than uploading an avatar to every blog where you make a comment, the blog can simply ask the Gravatar website for the picture associated with the e-mail address (which presumably the blog will have, since you will probably have subscribed to it using your e-mail address).

So basically this enables your picture to be displayed with all your online comments across multiple websites – no need to upload your picture multiple times.  Nifty!

Of course, the blogging software used will need to be Gravatar enabled.  But it seems that most proper blogging systems, including WordPress ( which I use for this website), automatically queries Gravatar for user avatars.  In fact, initially I couldn’t figure out how to upload my own avatar to my website, until I realized that Gravatar is automatically referenced.

What a cool online service.  It just shows you, there is still room for innovation!  (I am probably behind the time – being new to the whole blogging scene – but I am truly impressed, thinking to myself, “hmm, why didn’t I think of that?”)

Categories: Technical Tags: , , ,

How did I set up my Blog?

January 5th, 2010 Fred 7 comments

Setting up my blog was surprisingly easy.  Let me tell you the story, maybe it will encourage you to set up your own blog.  It is really much easier than you might think.

I wanted a blog with my own name attached to it, not one which is associated with a blogging site like Blogger or Blogspot.  That meant that I had to register my own domain name and then have it hosted by some hosting company.  Some of my other websites are hosted by Host4Africa, and I decided to use them again.  And as always, their service was suburb and I can highly recommend them to anyone (to all my questions they usually respond to within half an hour and their systems are professional, automated and allow you a lot of control).  I filled out an online application on their website at 4:28 pm yesterday, and by 5:13 pm I received an e-mail that I could log in to the system and begin to configure my website.  This means that I now owned the domain name and that a DNS entry would be generated to associate by website address with one of their computers.  These DNS entries propagated throughout the world through the night, and by this morning my website was ready (and I did not lift a finger).  Yesterday no website, today website.

How much does all of this cost I hear you ask.  The domain registration is R150 (this is levied not by them but by the people responsible for the .net domain name).  In addition they charge an administration fee of R50 (which covers both the registration of the domain name, and doing the DNS entries).  And for R9.99 per month (and a collection fee of R4.50), I get unmetered bandwidth (the site is hosted in the United States), 50MB disk space, 5 e-mail boxes and support for technologies such as PHP and MySQL.  Cool huh?  So it works out about R200 per year and about R15 per month, or about R30 a month if you factor in the yearly cost.  So for the price of two 2l Cokes or half a Ster Kinekor movie ticket, I get to say what I want on my own blog under my own domain name.  Kudos to Host4Africa!

The next thing was to set up my blog.  I decided to use WordPress, one of the most popular pieces of bloggin software out there, being used by more than 200 million bloggers.  And the best of all is that it is free and distributed under the GPL licence.  The newest version at the time of writing is version 2.9, and takes up about 2.4MB.  It can be easily downloaded from their website.   Once downloaded, I unpacked the .zip file on my local hard drive, and used the FTP program FileZilla to upload it onto my website.  FileZilla is a free open source tool that I can highly recommend.  The WordPress software uses a database to store the blog entries, and so I had to create a database on my website.  I did this using the control panel provided by Host4Africa.  After that, all I had to do update a single configuration file with the database name, username and password.  And voila, my blog was up and running!

The default WordPress theme is a bit dull, so I checked for other themes on the WordPress website and installed one (using the blogging control panel, really easy) that looks a bit more appealing.  All of this took me perhaps 20 minutes (admittedly, I am somewhat more familiar with the involved technologies, but it is actually so easy that anyone can do it).  Hooray for modern technology!

I Started Blogging!

January 5th, 2010 Fred No comments

It finally happened….   I started blogging!

It is something I wanted to do for a long time, and I guess with 2010 having just started it brought with it new inspiration.  So watch out world, Fred has his own blog and he is not afraid to use it!

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