Mar 012015
 

While the rest of the world are rushing out and “investing” in generators for fear of how bad the rolling power outages may become we’ve taken a different tack.

For everything you acquire in life there is some logic in applying a return-on-investment thought process. Is it really worth the spend? Will one really use it? Is it worth the x hours of life I needed to spend shackled to the desk to earn the cash to buy it?

For that reason I’ve never got my head around the generator panic-purchase thing. It’s a fear-driven response to something, that while inconvenient, has never really effected me that badly. Sure, there have been the odd evenings when the power has gone just as we’ve fired up the oven, but they haven’t been so frequent as to prompt me to part with upwards of R8000 for a decently sized personal generation plant.

As Danger Dave once said “South Africans braai. We’re born ready for power cuts“.

Problem is the classic open-coal fire, while good for searing steaks, is pretty limited and very fuel-inefficient. One typically needs half a bag of charcoal briquettes to merely braai the chops for a family of 4. Do that every night and the charcoal costs start to approach the sticker price of a generator.

Enter a superb South African invention – The Cobb! Last night we grilled a 1.5kg beef roast on only 10 charcoal briquettes. Superb meal, totally off-grid and super fuel efficient. It’s small and portable and so, for us, doubles as a camping cooker as well as an easily portable oven for the yacht which, in winter, will double as a cabin heater. Money well spent.

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

cobb2

Once the coals are well alight pop in the roast and close the lid. Crack a good bottle of red and relax!

cobb3

After 2 hours of slow roasting we have a superbly done beef roast. Bon appetit.

 

 

Jun 262014
 

Yesterday was one of those days, a blue Monday in the middle of the week. One of those days where everything seems set against you and your purpose.

It’s interesting that these kind of days always seem more likely when one isn’t quite so happy with the way things are.

Coming off a bit of a grumpy day after closing down the MX-5 opportunity disaster [and to be honest, berating myself a little for my weakness and inconsistencies] yesterday just flowed on from there.

The factory in China is the bane of my existence at the moment. They debate every little request, usually with ‘No’. It’s super-frustrating trying to meet a customer project specification with a crowd like that who doesn’t even address the project specification but just forge ahead with their standard concept.

Anyhow, that’s par for the course as a PM, so no real complaints other than I’m tired and want to try something different down in Glencairn. Biggest challenge is, and remains, the wonderful back-office staff and unfathomable procedures, processes, forms and ‘rules’. On top of all the other frustrations, when someone cannot give me a good reason or cannot explain what a piece of data required is for other than ‘That’s the form, that’s what is required, I don’t no why” then I find it hard not to show my frustration.

The point of all this whining ?

I’ll tell you why. Because I care! I care to be seen as a competent professional. That’s what I do and to a certain extent, it reflects on my abilities when I cannot focus the team all in the same direction. I don’t buy into the CMA management approach, a woolly masses “as long as it’s someone else’s fault” approach. I’m invested in the job while I’m here and take it’s success seriously [probably too seriously if I’m honest with myself]

I suppose the other thing that grates, a lifelong ‘wound‘ that gets prodded with regularity, is the fact that no-one listens. I hate that, especially when their stance has no logic behind it [and let’s be honest, “because it’s always been done this way” is just plain stupid, like a parent telling their child ‘because I told you so‘].

After a stint away from this specific corporate, I certainly was under no illusions that things would be different in the back-office on my return. What I do find strange in myself is that the frustration levels seem similar to those when I left. This is surprising. The role I left behind, a middle management position, had a direct requirement to address the engineering and project management efficiencies and as a result it was difficult to take the ‘not listening‘ to heart. Returning as a bottom-feeder, there is no such requirement, no reason for me to feel it my responsibility to identify and correct broken and inefficient processes. And yet, there it is, the same feeling of frustration?

Life is too short for this. I’ve made my choices and I’m satisfied with where my career job is and will be. It’s not always like this and as life progresses, this kind of knee-jerk response becomes less and less frequent, an aberration in what is normally a fairly relaxed, stress free life. The challenge is to withstand the constant barrage of this for another 5-10 years and then, let’s be honest, the new life will have different challenges.

As in all things, living on the edge is fine in short bursts, but when it’s done continuously, living with no buffer, no breathing space any small thing can turn into a major life-threatening crisis. The buffer in this case is a Cape Town break. The decision to not do the China trip is taken, no matter the consequences. Time to forge ahead and take a couple of days to recharge that buffer.

May 132014
 

Yesterday I gave the ‘car-free’ life a good go but I must admit, I honestly don’t know if living without a car here is desirable.

Sure, I’ll agree, it’s doable, but is it desirable?

Yesterday was a wet, wet day on the Peninsular and the walk to Fish Hoek from Glencairn seemed to take forever. My mission – buy some slime for the MTB wheels. Maybe I should have taken the bicycle. That would have been quicker.

What was knocked off in a 20 minute run earlier the same morning takes eons longer when you’re walking.

Sam’s reply: ‘It’s all in your head’ is true, but it’s still hard to think of the limited time here and to be using up half a day finding slime seems somehow wasteful.

In the end, instead of walking back, I caught the train. The late afternoon saw me exhausted. Maybe it will be different when I really have time?

Jan 122014
 

Living an hour from the boat is a pain.

I guess if you have time and financial resources for fuel, an hour is nothing. With nowhere to be  on Monday morning you could perhaps not worry too much about the distance unless, like me today, you’d driven all the way only to find that you’ve forgotten the 8 & 10mm drill bits at home :-/

So, 2018 has, as a goal, life within walking distance of the boat. A lifetime of 200km round trips between home and the yacht have worn thin now.

May 282013
 

I don’t believe it’s really possible to have true friends in the work-team context. Yes, you can be friendly with people, but, when the chips are down and the pressure is on, everyone reverts first and foremost to protecting their patch, doing what they “think” is expected of them, putting the “friendship” a distant second. It’s just part of the game so understand it, don’t be freaked by it. It’s just the way things are.

Another corporate driven by sales and revenue and only paying lip-service to margins and delivery efficiency. These KPI’s drive management behaviour toward the team as well. No “What are you struggling with in doing your job?” But purely a “How are the numbers and the forecast looking?” And this question gets asked each and every week without fail, ramping up to each and every day almost at key quarter and year-end dates.

The corporate is not the most efficient place to work. The open plan office and it’s distractions. The army of back-office admin staff and systems that need to be massaged to work. The plethora of people and functions that need guidance and decision making on what and when to do. On top of all that, people with their egos and agendas advancing their pathetic little careers. My word. No wonder I’m drained.

Tired of work and hassle and pressure from people ALL the time. Tired !!

The next gig has to provide me time. Time to think, time to run, time to sail. Time to just live life a little more than is currently possible.