It’s Official

Me and Leigh-Ann got engaged yesterday on the London eye.  I waited until we got right to the top, went down on one knee and asked.  Thing is, no-one else of the 20+ people on board noticed, since they were looking out, and not in 🙂

 

Some London site seeing

Today we spent some time in London city itself, visiting some museums and finally taking one of the open top bus tours.  If this rain would just stop for a bit, maybe we'd be able to do more.

Our first stop was the British museum, where we saw a lot of artefacts from Egyptian, Roman & Persian times.  Quite interesting, but we couldn't stay too long, this place definitely did not interest children.  Next stop was the Natural Science museum, lots more interesting stuff to see, with lots of fossils and other displays.  A day at the museums is not the most interesting place for a five year old, so we had to move quite quickly through most of it, until we got to the T-Rex display, where we spent some time.

For lunch we tried Burger King for the first time, needless to say I will not be doing that again, as bad as McDonalds, if not worse.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on an open top bus, with us sitting in the covered part of the top section because of the rain.  The plans were to stay in London for dinner and then go on the eye, but then rain started getting worse, so we decided to come home and try that another day.

My Sunday was spent doing some gadget shopping, as I was looking for an iPod replacement after mine decided to stop working a while ago.  After visiting about 40 electronics shops and comparing prices, I was very tempted to buy myself a UMPC, but they are still a bit pricy, coming in at around 750 pounds.  I settled on the Archos DVR, which is basically a personal video and music player with 80GB of storage, a 4" display, and the ability to connect to any TV/AV device and record from it, or play back to it, as well as change channels etc when necessary.  I'll be doing a bit of a review once I've had it for a while.  I've seen these second hand on Bid or Buy & eBay for around R2,500, so when I managed to bargain the guy down to 200 pounds I was quite happy, this one came with a remote & tv pod, which the second hand ones didn't have.

Bombs in London

I saw the news this morning that they found two car bombs in Central London yesterday.  Very crude devices with Petrol and nails as the ignitor and shrapnel.  Probably only someone sending the new prime minister a message that he should be awake.  We're not close to the centre of London at this point so no need to worry.

UK – Day 1 & 2

Our first day in the UK was spent doing as little as possible.  We took a walk to the shops to get some required supplies, after getting things confiscated on OR Tambo because of the ridiculous fluid limits on personal luggage, you are allowed to take as much fluid as you want, as long as there's no more that 100ml in a container.  What is that going to help?  They actually force you to put all the bottles in a clear re-sealable plastic bag, providing you with a nice big container, should your plans be to mix all those fluids for whatever sinister reasons you have.  IDIOTS!

We did go for dinner at one of the local pubs, where the food was not so good, but the beer was.  Then at 9, one of  the waiters walk up and say we have to leave now.  WHAT? We had just ordered a new round, and barely taken a sip.  And we behaved!

So the bartender says that they are only licensed to have kids in the establishment until 9, and he'd gladly refund our money because he forgot to tell us earlier.  Cheapest round I've ever bought, downed the pint, took my money and left.

We're now visiting some friends, and I got my first drive on a Nintendo Wii yesterday.  Now this is definitely a console I will buy, and a great pity we do not get them in SA.  For those of you who don't know what a Wii is, look at http://www.nintendo.com/channel/wii.

Brilliant concept, and even one you can let the kids play all day, since you get some serious exercise while playing.  The controls have motion sensors in them, so with the sport games we played, you actually swing the control alike a raquet/club/bat/bowling ball to play.  Great fun, I'll be looking for one before we come home.

Travelling from Paris to London

Today was spent going from Paris to London.  We took off early from the hotel and caught the train into Paris, from there changing onto the Eurostar.

A 3 hour train ride later we were in London.  I kind of expected that travelling at 250+ km/h would be more impressive.  It was fast, but didn't feel that way with the smoothness of the train.  I'll definitely have to do the same speed in a car to get the full effect.  I also expected us to be in the chunnel for about an hour, but we were out in about 30 minutes flat, the only signal that we were now in the UK was the english road signs.

Once in London, we had to do some more train riding to get to Leigh-Ann's sister's place, where we could catch up with her parents before they went back to SA.

And once again, at 9:30 at night, the sun is still shining, and my body clock is now seriously screwed up, not sure when to sleep and when to be awake.

 Later…

Paris – Day 3

Today we spent the day at Euro Disney.

To be honest, had I known what I know now, I would rather have gone to Paris again.  Not because I didn't like Disney, purely because it was too busy.

Everything, from getting into the place to taking a piss required standing in a que!  Some of the rides had estimated waiting times of 90 minutes or more.  Needless to say, I gave all the big-name rides a skip.  I cannot handle standing in so many queues.

Next time, I'll make sure we come out of season, and spend at least 3 days in the park.  The place is too big to try and see everything in one day.

Out of the things we did do, the Studio Tour was brilliant, with a set that simulated earthquakes, had some fire, and doused the lot with 265,000 litres of water in about 2.5 seconds.  An impressive sight indeed.

The pirates of the carribean boat trip was quite good.  And we attempted a trip through the haunted house, but that is clearly not for young kids, with Josh crying most of the way through.

 My legs are pretty sore from the previous two days standing and walking, and with today's added, it's getting worse.

And at 21:15, we wtill have as much daylight as at 5 in the afternoon in SA.

Anyway, tomorrow we take the Eurostar to London, I'll keep you updated.

 Lessons learnt:

Try to travel out of season, and find out what's in and out of season in your destination.  It seems to be school holidays here, with most of the people in Disney speaking some European language.

Book all the tickets you can upfront, it will make lafe a bit easier, and less shock on the wallet.

Paris – Day 1 and 2

Arrival 

We arrived in Paris just before 7 on Saturday morning.  The sky was overcast, but luckily not raining.  It felt like we landed in Joburg and then taxied to the Charles de Gaule terminal.  Once in the terminal building, things looked a bit confusing.  It is a ompletely round building with a lot of tubes interconnecting floors in the middle of the circle.  Luckily it is all well signed, in English, French and German.  Until you get the the exit of "Terminal 1", which is a train station, but only signed in French.  It took us a minute or two to figure out that this train was only the transport between terminals.

Once at the right terminal, we quickly found the train out to Paris, where we had to change over to another line.  The guy who sold me the tickets only circled the where we are, and the final destination station on the map, which is also all French.  But luckily we could figure out fairly quickly how the underground system works, and where to change lines.

We arrived at the hotel at 10, only to be told that our room would only be ready at 3 in the afternoon.  So our only option was to leave our baggage at the hotel, and start the sight seeing.  All three of us a bit grumpy after the little sleep in the plain.  At 2 in the morning I was wide awake, my body refusing to sleep in thise cramped conditions.

We had lunch at Planet Hollywood in the Disney village, and then took the train back to Paris.

Following all the signs in French again, I decided to rather go up to street level and walk around a bit instead of changing trains onto the Metro system.

As we came out of the Chatele station, the first landmark we saw was the L'église Saint-Eustache church.  What an impressive building, I'll upload some photos when I get home.  From there we took another train to the Champs-Élysées, yes I can now pronounce it properly, and walked down the famous cobbled street to the Arc de Triomphe.  This is clearly the hangout of the rich on weekends, with all the top shops having a presence and we saw lots of Porches and Ferraris driving along the road.

At this point we were all too tired to continue walking and we hopped back on the train to return to the hotel, with all three of us falling asleep on the train.  Luckily you get jolted awake by the door alarms every time before the train pulls off again, so we didn't miss any stations.

We checked into the hotel, and wanted to take a nap before dinner, but the nap turned into a thirteen hour sleep fest.  I woke up once at 23:00, it was still light outside, and again at 4:20, can't help that my body is conditioned to the time.  And again at 7:30.

Day 2

When seeing how busy the hotels and Disneyland is on weekends, we decided to go into Paris again, and do Disneyland on Monday.  So after a quick breakfast it was us and the train again.

First stop was Notre Dame, an even bigger cathedral with very impressive architecture.  The Mass service was on when we arrived, but that did not stop us or any of the hordes of tourists to walk around in the cathedral.  You only got moved out of the way when the clergy took their walk out of the service.  With the long lines we did not go for the tour of the towers, opting to go wait in line at the Eiffell tower instead. 

The tower is a lot bigger that I initially thought.  There were long lines from each of the ticket stations at the four pillars, so we chose what looked like the shortest, and started the long wait, taking turns to go to the loo and going to buy food, had a standing lunch in the line, and a mere hour and a half later were in the lift on our way to the top.

With an impressive view from the top of the tower, we spent quite a bit of time there looking for all the famous landmarks.   We wanted to stop for a drink on the way down, but could not get ourselves to stand in another line for this.

From the Eiffel tower we went to the Louvre, no I had no intention of walking around there with a five year old, but I did want to see the buildings from the outside.

Once again, we were tired of walking and decided to go back to the Disney Village for dinner.

Lessons learnt so far:

The food in Europe is expensive and not that nice, so far.

If you greet the French in french, you can switch to English & sign language from there to get what you need, and they'll be very friendly about it.

Never buy direct tickets to a place, with a day pass you can get anywhere, and it it cheaper.

Don't convert back into rand, it breaks your heart, and your wallet.

 

So now I'm sitting here, battling with a French layout keyboard, and not having seen any dark since I left the plane, and today we attempt Disney, while most of you work…I still come out tops 🙂

What would you do?

Two Choices

What would you do? You make the choice! Don't look for a punch line; There isn't one! Read it anyway. My question to all of you is: Would you have made the same choice?

 

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
"When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

 

The audience was stilled by the query.

 

The father continued. "I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child." Then he told the following story:

 

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

 

Shay struggled over to the team's bench put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his Father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

 

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

 

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

 

The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

 

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

 

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!"

 

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

 

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

 

Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet were screaming, "Shay, run home! Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

 

That day, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

 

Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his Father so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

 

AND, NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people think twice about sharing.  Public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

 

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people on your address list that aren't the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up that opportunity to brighten the day of those with us the least able, and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

 

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

 

May your day, be a Shay Day, sunny today tomorrow & always!

 

Part of unofficial statistics

So, I’ve finally become part of statistics (unofficially, more about that further down).  Me and one of my teammates were riding out in the South of Johannesburg, trying to get in some base mileage before the next Vets tour in two weeks time.  When on the Eikenhof road two guys crossed the road in front of us, pointing a gun at us, and telling us to stop.  The one holding the gun asked for 50 bucks (looks like he knows the exact amount us cyclists normally carry on long rides).  I tried to get the money out of my pocket, but with the winter gloves on it is an impossible task.

The second guy came around behind me, took my hand out of my pocket, and helped himself to the money my mobile phone, and a packet of jelly babies.  And then started pushing the bike telling me to go.  I went slowly at first, listening for sounds behind me, because they hadn’t let my teammate go yet.  So I was kind of waiting for a shot, or shouting, or something, not wanting to look around in case they do start shooting then.  About 200 metres down the road I snuck a quick look, and very relieved saw my teammate not far behind me, also riding.

We carried on down the road and stopped at the police station about 10 km further.  When we told them we’d just been robbed at gunpoint, they looked up for a few seconds, and turned around and carried on talking amongst themselves.  Nice service SAPS.  Don’t tell me to at least report a crime, and then not even be willing to take down my statement or let me use your phone!

Maybe the police should have a website where we can report these crimes, without having to go to a police station, since they’re not going to do much anyway.  At least then we’ll have more accurate crime statistics in this country, and not the bullshit (this is my site, I can say what I want) they’re feeding us at the moment.

Starter

So I'll start this off with a bit of background about myself.

My name is Barend Burger, I'm 30 years old, and am currently working at a bank as the software development manager.  I've been doing the software development thing for 12+ years, and am still enjoying it very much, becasue it offers a new challenge every day.

My other interests are mainly sport, partaking and watching.  My main sport is cycling, I race competitively in the Vets 30-34 licensed section, I'm not quite up there with the big boys yet, but I have been improving steadily over the last year, and I'm hoping to be there by the end of the year. 

Second on the list of sport is squash, which I play at least twice a week.  I used to play Gauteng league, but have given that a skip for the last two years, because my club has two very strong local leagues going on the same nights, and I'd rather support my own club than another. 

Third on my list of sports that I partake in is golf, but unfortunately I do not get that much time for it, because cycling takes up most of my available time.  I play off a 24 handicap and am playing right on my handicap at the moment.  If I had more time, I would probably be able to improve it slightly, and it would also be easier if my home club was somewhere other than Krugersdorp.  For those of you who don't know Krugersdorp, it is a fairly difficult course, and protects your handicap very nicely.

Other than sport, I read a lot to keep my mind occupied, novels and non-fiction, I try to balance it, reading one novel for every non-fiction book, but I don't always have that luxury.

So that's me in a nutshell.