Saturday, April 9, 2016

A little game reserve in Swaziland

Nope. I'm not telling you where it is. Because it's that good. Small. Welcoming. You can walk around and take pictures and see animals and hike.. and really have a wonderful wildlife experience.  Unlike the Kruger where you're confined to your car, this place really lets you roam. And as long as you don't go swimming you should be out of reach of their most dangerous predators (the Crocs!).

Here are some pics of the place.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Apple woes..

At various points in my life I've made some BIG decisions.  One was to propose to my now wife.  The other was to have a Dog. And when we didn't kill the dog, to have children.  Other BIG decisions, though lower on the Richter scale of BIG, still meant a big change that altered my routine, way of thinking, even life.  One of these was the change from Canon to Nikon.  It is fitting that as this blog calls itself "fotografic" I should have at least ONE big decision that is photo related.. But wait, there's more!!!  Another big decison in around 2001 was from film to digital.  And again in 2015, from digital to film!  But probably the most important BIG decision (after my wife, the dog and kids) was moving from Windows to Apple.  That was a biggie... I mean I was CIO at my contruction company for many years, growing up from a 9600k modem connection in 1994 to VSats and Lotus Notes and Cisco routers and whatnot.  Windows at the time was my life, and I spent as much time tinkering with the innards of my personal laptop as much as actually using it to do things.  Updates, defrags and compacts, shutdown-restarts ad infinitum, blue screens of death, format and re-instals.. The endless software updates (from windows 3.1, windows NT, 98, 2000 and .. oh.. I forget) and incompatibilities that came with every major release..
So one day after a bit of research (Apple users looked so relaxed!) I decided to make the switch.  The fact that my Dell imploded due to some rather dodgy video card did help the decision along.. 1 year guarantees my foot!
So I went out and bought a shiny new iMac and the world was a wonderful new place to be in.  Routines were completely irrelevant now!  I could simply DO stuff on my computer (I was about to say PC... but now it's a MAC) and all that time spent upgrading and whatnot was saved..

Or so I thought.  The change came in 2008.  Since then I'm onto my second Mac, now a Macbook pro, a zillion times faster than the iMac, with 5 times as much ram and hard disk space.. But I seem to be spending more and more time.. upgrading.. and updating.. and cleaning (though thankfully no long defrags into the night). Apple has become just as bad as Windows ever was, and I am now spending more time under the hood than behind the wheel.  Which is unfortunate because while I knew what was going on with Windows I have absolutely none when it comes to Apple.  It just works.. or at least it's supposed to. 

Maybe I exaggerate when I say it's as bad as Windows.  I mean it's not like I have constant virus warnings or peripherals that refuse to work.  Most of that goes quite well.  It's in the little things that SHOULD work but don't.  As this is a fotografic (sic)  blog, let's talk about my photography.  I have close to 60K pictures in my Lightroom library. I have an iPhone, which is purported to be the best mobile phone on the planet.  And the two have decided they don't know each other anymore.  It's like a relationship gone sour.  And this is a problem because Apple sold me a phone which has 16gb.. except it only has 12.  And that means that after they've installed their Bloatware, and I've installed all my bloatware on it, there is scarcely any space for pictures!  And when I want to download them.. I CAN'T!  Solution?!  Well, I one involved in IT.. I can always find a work-around.. but that implies more time playing under the hood, and less time deleting the 90% crap pictures I took and concentrating on the few decent images that I made. And printing them out.  And framing them. And getting all warm and gushy when people notice them and say how spectacular they are.. Yes, I know I'm dreaming, but it's what you do when you own a Mac.

So does this mean that I made the wrong decision when I forsook Win for Mac? Or Nikon for Canon?  Or my dog for kids?! :-)

Of course not.  It's just the realisation that big changes are not the panacea that they are made out to be, or marketed as.  Certainly apple has made many things easier, but it brings it's own frustrations. And the more I bump up against the walls of the closed garden that is Apple's way of making it's products, the more I become frustrated by their arbitrary decisions on how I must use their products, as well as the momentary glitches that mar their earlier rise to popularity.

Apple has become obsessed with it's own beauty and, much like Narcissus staring at himself in the pond, it simplifies it's products to the point of no return, objects for the mere purpose of being beautiful, and not longer about satisfying our ever increasing need for personal expression, for working with our tools in ways that we want and not necessarily in the way that GOD (aka Steve) intended.  Where will it all end?  Where does a great company like Apple go once it's reached it's zenith?  Well we're either about to colonise Mars, or they will go down.  I can only hope that some humble pie will force them to turn off the reality distortion field that Steve installed and start thinking wholistically about their products, and acting proactively with their customers. 

Rant over.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tour de Maputo - Coming Soon!

The Tour De Maputo will be taking place in December.  Here are updated posters and dates. We'll start in the 5th and 6th, with final stage still on the 13th.  We've swapped around the stages to make it possible to do 2 back to back stages easier and reduced the distance and changed routes slightly to make them easier to manage and support, as so far race support seems non-existent.  It's the end of the year, no-one has any budget, and everyone in the club wants to race and not to help out.. so it will be a self-timed and self-policed race.  That's fine, we've managed before.  The big innovation will be doing a MTB version at the same time and on the same routes (with less distance).  That should bring together a rather different bunch of riders together!  Come out and have some fun.

Oh, and lastly, 350mts pre-registration at Betinho Bikes and 400mts registration on the day (if we manage to fit you in).  So rather pre-register.  The above are actually the T-shirt designs, which if I manage to confirm numbers will be ready for the final stage on the 13th. But no promisses!  So just KEEP CALM and ride the Tour de Maputo.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Thank you for your feedback on iTunes..

I get this inevitable feeling that Apple is heading for a fall.  Call it a presentiment.  A gut feeling.  A company that rises so fast and is based on consumer products, tied to the whims of the general populance, and that dances to it's own tune (sorry, couldn't resist) making products that people don't need (an Apple watch.. seriously!?) and yet so valuable in the sphere of international investors smells of a house of cards.

Ok.. generalised rant over.

Now to specifics.  You might have noticed from my previous post that my whole itunes library disappeared from my iPhone after I updated the iOS.  I normally am a bit more circumspect about this sort of thing.. but the blasted red dot on my settings was nagging me for months and, well... I succombed. No sooner had I done that and my whole music collection disappeared.  This is more than mildly annoying.  I've put time and effort in collecting, cataloguing and playlisting my music.  And although it's still on my Mac, it's not like I walk around with that glued to my ear, is it?!  My iPhone is my music in my car, playing through my speakers, in the plane with me playing through my earphones.  I don't live for my music.. but I miss it.  And for something to not work like this is more than mildly frustrating.  What is incredibly frustrating is the canned message I got (picture above) when I sent my message of displeasure to Apple.  The forums are alight with problems similar to mine.. but no message from Apple saying "we're working on a fix. Oh, and by the way sorry for the f#$% up."  I thought we customers were kings. But in the Genious world of Apple we are mindless lemmings ready to buy the next product.  So why bother with customer service. 

Stay tuned for more updates on my music saga as it unfolds!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Apple core..

I am livid. LIVID!  AND NO, I’M NOT using Microsoft.  I’m an Apple user.  Supposedly a subset of contented people, one of the guys in black turtlenecks that drives a Saab or a Volvo stationwagon, who leaves on a Thursday for a long-weekend and comes back on a Tuesday morning..  A guy who lives in a spacious modern apartment with a lapdog and a professional wife who makes more money than me. And I’m happy because I use Apple and others have no idea.  I have great gadgets which just work and I get on with my life.  But that all ended today.  You see I recently updated my iPhone 4Gs (admittedly a rather old model.. as they’re about to release the 6s in September 2015).  And I only updated it because of apple’s insistence.  They stick a great big red marker on your phone and if you don’t want to look like an idiot you end up clicking it. Sort of like the big sticker on the red button which reads DO NOT PRESS and which everyone ends up pressing anyway…
And so now I have an unintelligible music program and NO music.  There I was trying to connect the Bluetooth to the car system and show my son how the music sounds..  I’m fiddling trying to find my 60gb worth of music and just miss being hit by the bus that has just hurtled past.  Great one Apple.  All those health apps eating up space on my phone and it wouldn’t have made much difference to my health.  I chuck the phone on the dashboard so there’s no more temptation to fiddle and leave the radio tuned into the horrible sound of 50’s music. Ah, the joys of LM radio.
You see I think Apple has made a fundamental miscalculation.  Whereas the whole concept of i with a lower case i is that the internet is pervasive, like ether or air or whatever.  We are supposed to breath it in.  But the reality is that spotty coverage, high costs (in Africa, Australia and Italy, the three places I travel to with some regularity) and intermittent quality mean that we’re better off with our off-line stuff than trying to download a radio signal.  I’m tired of trying to access the supposed 30 minutes free wireless you get in café’s.. By the time you set it up, IF YOU MANAGE, the capuccino’s cold!   And another thing.. this idea that phones should have microscopic sim cards that no-one else supports, technology that doesn’t place nice with other systems except itself (isturbation?) have turned my apple from a nice shiny white thing to one that seems rotten to the core.  Music I like to manage. I like to download myself or cut it from my cd collection, not using iTunes.  Photos that I want to copy to my hard-drive and manage in Lightroom.  E-mails that I want on my desktop and not on some cumulonimbus cloud somewhere. Software that I pay for and own, not rent (ok, that’s more an Adobe thing).  And updates for all my devices, not only the ones that Apple thinks I should used.. I mean, I still use my 3Gs, and so does my mother.  A little update of that system wouldn’t hurt sales of the iPhone 6, I’m pretty sure.  I mean Fujifilm with their eternal updates for even discontinued cameras have shown what sort of customer loyalty you can generate doing that. To be fair Apple does that, just not for all models.  Oh and Apple, let me download the updates I want, and not forcefeed me the ones you think I need. And why the hell do I have to download 10gb worth of files for a Mac, iPhone x 2, iPads x2. Couldn’t it just be one file?  I mean bandwith COSTS!   It’s either that or wait till midnight for happy-hour.. and even then the downloads crash because they’re so damn BIG.  Remember bloatware.. It seemed that only Microsoft had that disease.. Well, it looks like Apple is pretty bloated itself.
Yes, I’m definitely fed up with apple. Enough to abandon ship?  Maybe not my Mac, still a nice computer that doesn’t crash like my old Microsoft powered one.  Maybe not my iPads- my kids use them more than me. Certainly my phone, though.  My next will not be an iPhone 7.  I mean who wants a phone where the company can’t even get their grammar correct (small i followed by an uppercase.. that should have been a warning sign!).  No I’ll go for one of these chinese jobbies, with dual sims, and android system and just about all the same apps I need.  And I’m pretty sure they won’t delete my music on my device!
Apple, you’ve been warned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Le Figaro Restaurant Review

In late 2014 a new French restaurant opened in Maputo (Mozambique) called "Le Figaro".  Located on Avenida do Zimbabwe in the heart of the NGO/Embassy district, it feels a bit isolated, especially at night, when the majority of workers go home and the streets empty out a bit, but this may be an advantage as it's the only restaurant in the area.  The restaurant is in a semi-detached house which has been renovated to accommodate the open plan dining area below, with a rather cute bar in the back.  I first visited the restaurant shortly after it had opened last year and there were quite a few teething problems, which I guess could be explained away by the newness of the restaurant, new staff etc.  Hastily printed menus, an incomplete wine list, and uneventful generic food were the highlights of that experience.

So I had high hopes a few months later for our June Maputo Wine Society Dinner that was to be held there.  With a simplified menu with 2 choices for starter, main and dessert, the evening promised to be interesting, and as it would be open only to the Wine Society we had the cook's undivided attention.  To make this easier we pre-booked our meals.  The winelist was organised by Herman, who has taken over from Denise in running the wine society, and rather than being the selection of Le Figaro's french wines, we were going to taste some of South Africa’s best.

As for the Menu:
Starters -  Beef Carpaccio or Rilettes de Canard
Main - Boulibasse or Beef Bourgugone
Dessert - Chocolate mousse or Crepe suzette

The menu was fairly simple an considering there were 46 of us this was probably a good thing.
The Rilettes were made of duck meat strips and had a rather unapetising look and feel to them and the taste was nothing to write home about.  A thinly sliced salad and gerkins accompanied the starter  
The Carpaccio option was much better, thinly sliced though it lacked a little seasoning.  It’s ironic that an Italian dish was the best of the starters. 
The Boulibasse was massive pieces of overcooked fish with little flavour, swimming in a watery soup. 
The Beef Bourgugnone reminded me of what South Africans might have imagined a Spaghetti Bolognese would be like.. chunks of meat with barbecue sauce on a bed of pasta.  Ok, I might have exaggerated a bit there.  Truthfully the sauce of the beef was edible and tasty but I suspect that not enough wine was used in making the sauce, which requires A LOT.  The meat was tough and not cooked for the proper length of time..  It should have been soft and tender.  And the fettuccine lurking at the bottom of the plate were simply out of place.
The desert - unfortunately I didn’t taste the Crepe Suzette, which came with a spray of whipped cream.  Instead I had the chocolate mousse, a massively sweet affair with a floury texture.  The dollop of generic cream on top was ordinary.. Thankfully no cherry on top, and I managed to wash out the taste with a glass of desert wine...

As this is a restaurant review I won’t go into too much detail about the wine we drank that evening, especially since the Society brought it’s own.  I didn't have a chance to survey Le Figaro's own wine so I cannot say anything about that.
Onto our wine - I have to say that Herman really excelled in the choices and it was all excellent.  From the aperitif Rosé and Setubal Muscadel, to the starter Meerlust Pinot Noir and Eikendal Cabernet-Merlot, the main Springfield Chardonnay for the Boulibasse and Beyerskloof Cabernet for the Bourgugnone, to the Special Late Harvest Nederburg for dessert.. they were all fantastic and made the laughter flow and the conversation bubble along, notwithstanding the rather ordinary food.

Le Figaro is a nicely styled restaurant venue with clean toilets (PLEASE remove the plastic from the chrome saintaryware…) with excellent waiters who managed to navigate the chaos of a wine tasting evening with extreme skill and professionalism.  I really have to stress that last bit as it's not always easy to find good staff.  As for the restaurant, the cook definately needs to up his or her game  especially since Maputans have an extremely discerning palate and high expectations from restaurants.  Maputo was once the home of the continent's best restaurant, the Ngumi (now sadly closed) and there are any number of excellent restaurants that serve different style foods with excellent ingredients, imagination and that taste great.  Ordinary French food has no place in Maputo. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


NOPE, that's not me amongst the finishers of the 100km race!

You may have noticed by the silence of my blog that cycling has not figured large in my life lately.  Indeed I've taken a sabatical from my two-wheeled steed.  I seemed to have reached my limit on it.  Races were no longer fun.  I was struggling to finish, whereas before I'd be struggling for the winning sprint.. In almost 100 races I'd amassed 7 wins and no small number of podiums, both in Mozambique and abroad.  So my cycling success was tied to my cycling life.  But when my competitiveness took a dive so did my interest in the sport. Those 5am wakeup rides in the middle of winter are hard to justify when you can't put two pedal strokes together. I'm running out of mataphor's here!!!
Anyway fast forward a year and I'm finally (after a few attempts) back on the bike, in a manner of speaking.  For three weeks now I'm managed to do my daily rides like a diligent schoolboy, although the longer rides still elude me.  Family commitments you see.... But still, I was doing a lot better than a month or 6 ago.  So when the opportunity to sign up for a race in Swaziland came up I couldn't resist.  Obviously this would be a warm-up event for me, a training ride.  Plus I'd made a promise to my 8 year old son, who is as competitive as they come, and who wanted to taste success in a big race.  His race would be 20km long.. long for an 8 year old, but considering he'd done 16km a year back with me at his side, I thought it couldn't hurt him (too much).  And so I decided to do the 50km event.. not exactly something I'd like to brag about, used to doing the longer events.. but that way I'd be able to catch my son (I reasoned).  Plus I'm not in tip-top shape yet, and I'd yet to break the 50km barrier anyway in my training rides so far.. So it seemed a reasonable ask of my body. 
So the race day approached and so my preparations and training ramped up.. I perfected the art of the negative taper.. i.e. to ride harder and longer as race day approached! Well, when all else fails, try doing the opposite of conventional wisdom!  I even had my son out riding whenever possible, tuning up his bike, making sure his kit was all sorted, bike serviced and gears ticking over perfectly.

We left for Swaziland on saturday hoping for light traffic but encountering a wall of cars that would have discouraged anyone.. The traffic extended from Maputo all the way to Boane.. something unprecedented.  I shudder to think what this city will be like in a few years..  Once in Swaziland we took a detour to check out the race distance for my son, a 20km out and back route.. And boy was I surprised.  I'd done this race 3 times in the past, coming in 4th overall and 1st vet once before.. But I had completely forgotten what the first hill looked like.. A long straight wall that would have daunted any cyclist let alone me in my relatively untrained state, and let alone my son who was going to do only his second major race.. and 8 years old to boot!  It was savage.  I brushed off the worry from my face and told him he'd be fine.. I thought.  Worst that can happen, he'll have to walk it.  Well actually, the worst that could happen would be that he couldn't finish...

So the next day it was an early and rushed wakeup.  The whole family piled into the car, scoffing stolen croissants from the just-opened breakfast room in the hotel..  A long drive to the start and then I quickly set about assembling the bikes, pedals, wheels, break levers.  The frenzied pre-race meet with other Moz riders ensued.. and the bad news that Miguel Duarte, last year's winner and our main Club rider stuck at the border with car trouble. And if that wasn't enough.. he had James Gabel's bike!  James, who had won the 50Km last year, had come in the day before and was looking forlorn..  His form had seen him enter our "elite" ranks and he was regularly 2nd to Miguel, and his lighter weight potentially propelling him further up the ranking.  He'd have to sit this one out.. Anyway, prep not over yet.. Fit the race numbers and timing chips.. All set to go.  My proposed warmup didn't happen as prep took too long so I joined my 50km peloton, waving to my sons and wife, while they waited for the 20km start. 
And we're off!  The peloton starts at a blistering pace and I'm clinging on to dear life when I feel the squish of my tyres and realise that I've forgotten to pump them up.. as well as my son's tyres.  So as I try to whip out my phone to call my wife BANG a crash in front of me and all of a sudden 4 riders are down, and I have no option but to screech to a halt.  I check to see if they're all right.. more wounded pride than any blood, so I'm quickly off in search of the peloton, which has not waited a second to put the nail in our coffin!  I hopscotch off riders, avoiding the headwind where possible and work my way back to the main bunch, but it's hard work..  By the time I see them they're halfway up the hill and stragglers are falling off  the back like water off a ducks back.  I join one of these straggler groups, but the peloton is truly on it's way..  Finally I can get my phone out and call but no cel signal!! Arghh!  So now back to the business of racing..  I'm with a young kid, in his teens, who's setting a strong pace but has no idea of riding in a group, constantly in the gutter and avoiding the huge amount of glass by miracle..  We're soon joined by another rider who yoyo's off the back as we push on.  With my weight advantage and aero position I take up the work on the descents and flats, and try and hang on for dear life on the climbs where the kid really sticks it to me..  Now we're four and reaching the turn point but then chaos as I'm in front on my own, one rider's gone straight past the turn and the young kid is stuffing his face 100m behind me.. I judiciously wait for him and we get back into our rythmn, me pushing on the descents and he doing the climbs.  By now the wind is side/back so not too bad.  We're joined again by the yoyo champion who immediately starts trying to outsprint the kid!  I tell them to cool it. Too early to fight.. Let's get closer to the finish.  We settle into a syncopated rythmn and halfway back are joined by another rider from behind. 

He's big and strong and sets a pace at the front which I try and emulate. However the legs are getting tired and painful. Am I the only one?  Finally we reach the long descent and I'm on the front powering in my 53x11 and reaching some seriously fast speed.  It feels good to be going so fast, but my partners are letting me do all the work here!  Anyway, two more climbs to go to the finish.. I'm looking at my odometre and wondering how long this pain is going to last.  A 50km race may sound easy, but it's just as hard as a long race... It's just that the suffering last less!  I've finished my turn on the front and the big guy is back out front tapping an nice rythmn.. The kid is hanging back and yo-yo is really starting to worry me as he's not doing any work.  We crest the hill and the finish is in sight, just under a km away.  It feels so close that I'd almost like to sprint from here, but experience has taught me otherwise.. the final rise just before the finish kills any long-distance escape.. I'll have to chose my time carefully.. The young kid pushes his way through us and yoyo goes to the back, rising out of his saddle and waiting to pounce.. The big guy is on the left, they kid next to him and I line up on the right, my ear cocked to hear any gear changes from yo-yo behind. The line gets closer.. the tempo increases..  The line could be 100 or 200 or even 300m away.. I can't tell. But I go. Not a sprint in the conventional sense.. there's no energy for that. But a good powerful dig and head down as I push and push on the pedals.  the first 20 strokes are done almost with my eyes closed.. I open to check I'm still going straight and then under me to see if I'm dragging anyone with me.  No shadow. I'm on my own.  I look down at my wheel and push as hard as I can, but my cadence is slowing as the rise starts sapping at my speed and energy.  The finish line is getting closer.. I look through my legs again.. Still no shadow.  The line comes fast. I pedal faster, some magic extra ounce of power coming through the legs.. I'm across!  Had that been a sprint for first, your attention in reading thus far would have been warranted.  But that was for 12 place! Sorry to disappoint.  Still it felt good.  The instinct for the sprint is still alive and well.  I hooked up with the kid right after.. he finished 4th in our sprint.  He was 14!  I told him he'd become a really good cyclist soon.  He was really quite strong. YoYo also came past for a hand-shake.  He'd managed 2nd in the sprint.  I didn't see the big guy after that.  He must have worked really hard to catch us + the work on the climbs must have taken it out of him..
My kids ran up to me as I finished.. and I hesitantly asked how my son had done.  I saw the course.  I felt the headwind.  The first climb were my peloton had it's crash was quite steep and long.  I wondered if he'd managed to finish... HE HAD!  Not only that.. a healthy time of 1:20! I set out trying to catch him, estimating his speed at 2:00 hours..  I WAS impressed.  Unfortunately his agegroup was 12 years and under, with most kids at the upper end of the scale, so he was only 8th in his agegroup.. So his disappointment showed a bit.. But all things considered... I truly was impressed.

A few minutes went by and then I saw Rory McBride coming through the finish.  He'd beaten his race time from last year, and managed under two hours.  Then James Gabel came through on a Mountain Bike!  Quite incredible the organisers had found him a bike and though he started quite late managed to catch quite a few backmarkers and even helped one of the ladies back to the podium!  His missfortune turned into a mini-victory, a test of perseverance in adversity.  I for one was impressed.

An hour later the 100km riders were coming through - a tight bunch of 12 riders that had stuck together all the way.  I managed to shoot off a few frames as they came through the finish.. The usual suspects were there, Calvin Lowe, William Kelly plus lots of new names and faces. And at the back of them I spotted Emil.. He'd had a bad puncture at 45km and after trying to swap out the tube and puncturing again ended up using a Goo wrapper to keep his tyre intact, so DNSed.  He waited for the peloton to catch him on the return leg and rode in with them.

So how did the Clube de Ciclismo de Moçambique do in this race?!  Considering the DNS's and DNF one might be tempted to call it a Comedy of Errors.  However I felt it was a real success. Different riders went to the race with different objectives and all managed to get something out of it.  Emil managed to finish with the lead bunch.  James had a good strong ride notwithstanding riding an MTB.  My son managed to finish his race, rode faster than many adults and rode on his own.  I managed to finish my race and have a half-decent sprint at the end.  Rory beat his previous time.  Rui and Miguel managed a decent training ride in Goba.  No, not a comedy of errors but a case of a silver lining in every cloud.

Lastly a big thanks to Newcom Wheelers (race organsing club), Dups (sponsor) and Cycling Association of Swaziland.  They put on a fantastically organised event with great race support, water points, police escort, media attention, trophies and prize-money for the finishers and a welcome food area post race.  Results were issued very quickly by the timing company.  And lastly the Swazi hospitality and sportsmanship really makes us want to come back every year!

Dups Mafutseni Race - 24th of May 2015.  Race results available here.