Saturday, 25 October 2008

Election Spending Is Morally Repugnant

Jeanne Cummings, in an article on, reports that Senator Barack Obama is set to break fundraising records for his current bid to take the Presidency of the United States. It is reported that his campaign has raised over $600 million thus far while Senator John McCain has raised about $250 million.

In a world of dire global poverty and economic hardship, this kind of spending on an election is morally wrong. An America-based charity Feed The Children encourages donors to spend 
$14 to feed a family in poverty for a month.

$1 million would therefore feed over 71 000 families for a month

Total US election campaign fundraising of $850 million would feed over 60 million families for a month!

I am forced to wonder if those who so gladly gave to the election campaigns would be as happy to donate to charities which make a difference to everyday American families.

This is not to mention the millions in Africa or Asia whose lives would be made more bearable each day through food-aid or micro-loans for business development or clean water tablets or primary healthcare which would be enabled through the money used for this election campaign season.

Am I the only one who finds the election spending way over the top? I simply cannot reconcile this type of spending on an election when every day I see poverty all around me and know that every night children go to bed hungry.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Run Your PC on Freeware Only

Besides a Windows operating system, could you run your PC entirely on freeware? is a cornucopia of freeware and is a great starting point should you be looking for quality software available at no charge.

There is a particularly interesting list of 51 Essential Freeware Programs which is followed by a long list of reader comments filled with suggestions and comments.

Some of these programs I have used, but most of them are new to me and I will be using several over the coming weeks.

Subscribe to the Freeware Mission RSS feed -

Monday, 20 October 2008

SA Gold Mine Holds Clue To Life On Mars

Scientists have reported a fascinating discovery in a rock fissure in the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg nearly 3km below the earth's surface. They found rod-shaped bacteria, named Desulforudis audaxviator, in water extracted from a rock fissure.

This bacterium exists in total darkness with no oxygen and in a temperature of 60 degrees celsius. However the most important aspect of this discovery, according to researchers at the
Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California, is that the bacterium lives in its own ecosystem - the first known species to do so.

"One question that has arisen when considering the capacity of other planets to support life is whether organisms can exist independently, without access even to the sun," says Dylan Chivian, the bioinformatics lead scientist at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Berkeley, California, who studied the gene samples found in the fissure water.

"The answer is yes, and here's the proof. It's sort of philosophically exciting to know that everything necessary for life can be packed into a single genome."
(quoted in the Sunday Independent 19 Oct, page 5)

It is believed that this kind of organism could survive below the surface of Mars as it gets its energy from hydrogen and sulphate produced by the radioactive decay of uranium. It is also believed that it builds its organic molecules by itself out of water, inorganic carbon and nitrogen from ammonia in the surrounding rocks and fluid.

Another fascinating aspect of this bacterium is that it can't live in oxygen which suggest that it hasn't been exposed to pure oxygen for a very long time, perhaps millions of years. Scientists believe that the water the bacterium lives in has not seen light for more than 3 million years!

D audaxviator's name comes from Jules Verne's
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which a message in Latin deciphered by Professor Lidenbrock, Verne's protagonist, reads in part, "descende, Audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges". It means "descend, Bold traveller, and attain the centre of the Earth".

Friday, 17 October 2008

Misleading advertising regarding software

I am increasingly frustrated with computer stores and general department stores whose desktop PC and notebook advertising tells customers what wonderful value they are getting because software is bundled with the machine. However on further investigation one notices that the software is open-source and available for free on the internet! The most common seems to be bundling Open Office as an extra-value add-on.

The consumer, who may not know any better, is thrilled to receive an office suite with their purchase and the assumption is made that they have been offered a wonderful bargain!

I believe that this kind of advertising exploits the average Joe's lack of knowledge and is exploitative. At the very least it is misleading. Surely this is unethical?

What do you think about this? Leave a comment and let me know...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Proudly South African - The SA Navy Band entertains

The South African Navy Band was once described by former President Nelson Mandela as a national treasure. Despite having grown up in Cape Town and being part of a musical family, I had never heard the Navy Band until this evening when they gave of their time to travel to Worcester at the invitation of the Institute for the Blind

Local schools were invited to bring their music pupils along and so I joined several of our school's musicians for the concert. Our school has a particularly strong link to the Navy Band as our music teacher is an ex-bandman. 
What a wonderful evening we experienced! The band played a wide selection of music ranging from a medley of Wagner melodies to big band standards and a foot-stomping selection of Mango Groove songs. At one point several youngsters were invited to come up to the stage and play a wide selection of percussion instruments with the band. My son gladly obliged and had a super time with maracas. A stand-out of the evening was the way in which the band involved the audience and kept all ages richly entertained.
The audience tonight was a smorgasbord of Worcester society but no difference of race, age, gender, socio-economic status, cognitive ability or physical challenge could prevent everyone present from thoroughly enjoying the evening together. It was a prime example of how music bridges the divides we put up between ourselves. It was also wonderful to see young people, children and teenagers, enjoying music and seeing how much fun it can be to make music together.
It must also be mentioned that there was no charge for this concert. It was done as a gesture of good faith towards the Institute for the Blind and as a service to the community of Worcester. 
The SA Navy Band clearly has a much larger task than simply providing music at ceremonial occassions and I wish them well as they continue to serve South Africa through the medium of music. We can certainly be proud of this section of our military!
Watch this video (from a festival in Germany) and enjoy!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Living in Jozi

We so often hear of people leaving the shores of South Africa for a myriad of reasons which I am not going to get into here. What I do find fascinating is the ever-increasing number of South Africans who end up back in South Africa after a stint in another country.

The stories of these folk are very interesting and I am thrilled that my good friend Mike has set up a blog detailing his return to our shores and his experience of living and working in Johannesburg. He has already had run-ins with bureaucracy and has a story to tell about the Joburg traffic department! However his overall experience has been a positive one and I invite you to click through to his blog and read all about it for yourself.

Click here - Living in Jozi