Monday, March 20, 2006

The Live Coverage Of The Commonwealth Games Has Me Hooked

I'm not a big sports fan, which is no surprise to anyone that knows me, but every year I look forward to Wimbledon (I only recently realised that my life-long dream of winning Wimbledon would not actually ever come true), and every four years I look forward to the Commonwealth Games and the Summer Olympics, because I love the opening ceremonies and it's so fascinating to see all these sports on TV that are usually not shown otherwise - such as shooting, diving, and weight lifting - as South Africa is really a three-sport country: cricket, rugby and soccer (with A1 and Formula 1 Grand Prix racing thrown in for good measure).

If you're a fencer, as I was for eight years, or a swimmer, or a cyclist, or into pretty much any other sport one can name, the coverage is minimal (or nonexistent in the case of fencing, weight lifting, and shooting), as is the actual support for the sports by official bodies in the country that have the money and interest in supporting them.

Rugby, cricket, and soccer.

The coverage of the Winter Olympics is also minimal, with access - this year - given only to those who can afford satellite TV, so I missed out on interesting sports such as the luge and bobsledding. My "highlights" were one-minute recap reports on TV news broadcasts.

At the moment the Commonwealth Games are being held in Melbourne and, because we have such a strong team, they've been showing as much as they can on the official broadcaster's channels, so everyone has a chance to see them. That is, of course, if you're prepared to stay up until 11pm to watch the highlights, or get up at 2am to watch the live coverage.

So you can imagine what I did this weekend. I'm paying for it now, because I didn't sleep much, but I couldn't drag myself away from the TV. At first I only watched the highlights of sports I actually like (or find fascinating), such as weight lifting and swimming, but soon I found myself watching seven-a-side rugby, because South Africa was "playing" (I put that in inverted commas because otherwise it would indicate that we did well), and couldn't believe how much fun a seven-player, "seven minute per half" rugby match could be. There was no time wasting, as there is no time in a 15-minute match, and the pace was fast and furious. I've never enjoyed rugby so much in my life (or, well, at all before).

And I just couldn't stop watching. Soon I was into the live coverage as well as the highlights. It helps knowing that you don't have to get up early the next morning, I suppose.

I did my best to avoid field hockey for two days (I hate field hockey), but then couldn't resist it any longer, and, wanting to see how our national teams were doing, even found myself watching that at one in the morning.

Track cycling. Marathon. Triathlon. Swimming. I'm addicted. To sport. It's been weird.

And we're even winning medals!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Afternoon Monologues From The Public-Address System

Currently we are experiencing rolling blackouts and random power failures and all sorts of things like that all over the province. I won't go into it (at least, not today), because it will end up in a big old boring ranty blog post. I'm sure there are enough Cape Town and South African blogs that have covered the drama.

Our office building recently managed, somehow, to obtain power from somewhere, so our lights are always on these days (although nothing much else is rescued), which is very exciting. However, our servers and other vital business tools, and the lifts, tend to come and go as they please, like yesterday. Yesterday, while we were busy finishing off our deadline production - already a day late - the servers suddenly went down, quickly followed by the Internet connection and the email system. And then the lifts stopped working, which is one thing we've become used to. So what do you do when you can't do anything? I found some personal work (for one of my web sites) that I could do, but everyone else was bored and wandering the hallways (but not the staircase). We were all too annoyed - being so close to being done with our deadline work - to banter, so there was only one thrilling exchange I can share with you:

20060302 12:25
Male Colleague: "I'm not saying this because I just walked into the office...but...there is this weird food smell down the passage."
Me: "Yes, I smelt it earlier. They're making food down there [for an article] or something." [Turned out they actually weren't.]
Male Colleague: "No, it's in the corner there. It's a human smell."
Everyone in the office (confused and utterly grossed out): "What?!"
Male Colleague: "It's someone's cooked lunch. Down the passage, in the corner. It smells awful."
Everyone randomly: "Yeah."
Male Colleague (to himself): "...the smell of stress and sweat..."
Female Colleague: "You're very poetic today."

Personally, I thought perhaps someone had died from boredom in a corner somewhere.

The server, Internet, and email all eventually returned, but not the lifts. It seems that the building-operations people have some sort of super-power control over them. We learnt this via the building-wide public-address system, something that no one knew existed until the first round of power failures in November, when we were all startled on one particular day by the sound of what seemed to be an airport public-address sound, and then suddenly an ethereal voice floated out of speakers in the passageway ceilings throughout the building, which we had previously not noticed were there. (So who knows where all the secret mini cameras and microphones are hiding. *Ack!*)

The same thing happened yesterday afternoon. Repeatedly. In response we all mocked the ethereal voice and then most of the staff packed up their stuff and rushed to the lifts to get out of the building (the easy way) while they could.

Bing Bang Bong [the sound of the office "airport" announcement system].
[Announcement in Afrikaans about the lifts.]
Then (transcribed verbatim): "Attenshin all staff. Wisitors. The lifts will be operated from...sixteen thirty...till sixteen...forty five. From thenwidths, the lifts will be shtohpped again. Thank you."

Bing Bang Bong.
[Announcement in Afrikaans about the lifts.]
Repeat announcement in English: "Attenshin all staff. The lifts...will be operated...from half-past four...till quarter-to five. The lifts will be operated...from...half-past four till quarter-to five. You've got only fifteen minutes to make use of de lifts. Thank you."

Bing Bang Bong.
[Annoucement in Afrikaans about the lifts.]
Repeat announcement in English: "Attenshin all staff. De lifts...will in working order for fifteen minutes...and from...then won't be...working...again. It will only be working for fifteen minutes. Thank you.

Female Colleague #2 (walking past our office as she's leaving for the day): "Ok. We're taking the four-thirty flight."

By now half the staff from our floor are milling around the elevator area. The lifts have been so busy that they haven't come up to the 20th floor. I walk past.
Me: "Have you missed your flight?"
Female Colleague #2 (with a wry smile): "Our flight's been delayed."

We hear loud shouting coming from down the corridor and look out to find two people from the maintenance and building operations department(s) shouting into their cellular phones (one to Otis lifts, I think) about the fact that they have missed the window for the lifts and blah blah. They don't even work on our floor. I don't know where they came from (or how they got here).

I only left the office just before six, so I had to take the stairs. On the plus side, I set a new down record. (It's the little things that keep us sane.)

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More Merriment In The Office (Alcohol Was Involved. Again.)

So for nearly a week I've been debating as to whether or not I should post this, as I think it's rather risqué (what would my conservative readers think! heh heh) but a number of people who have seen it say I should so, well, here goes (and, hey, it's either talk about this, or talk about power failures and local-government elections):

The day after we drank the Absolut Raspberri vodka, we drank the Absolut Raspberri vodka again. The first time was largely for research purposes (we like to say, anyway), and it proved to have been a vital decision, as it turned out that one of the facts in an article that featured the Absolut Raspberri vodka was wrong, and we only found this out after we opened the bottle (it had to do with the colour of the liquid versus the colour of the bottle). The second time we drank the Absolut Rasberri vodka because it was there. And we could. So we did. We were on deadline, after all. And it was sucking badly. Again.

Then the following happened: *
20060224 13:03
Our boss comes into the office after having been AWOL for a day, even though vital decisions had to be made during that time, and asks a female colleague to prioritise a certain job, then leaves.
Me: "What you should have said was: 'That will not be convenient.'"
Female Colleague: "That will not be convenient."
Me: "Not to me, to [our boss]!"
Female Colleague: "True."
Female Colleague (to herself): "'That will not be convenient.' I must be careful what I say after a few sips of vodka. I might say something I might regret..."

A male colleague, who has been working very hard and has been in a bad mood because of all the deadline crap going on and nightmares he has had to deal with, suddenly looks up from his desk and asks: "Do I look drunk?"
We all stop and look at him.
Me: "Do you feel drunk?"
The male colleague nods vigorously with a wry, dozy smile.
Me: "Awesome!"

A gay male colleague says something to a female colleague in Afrikaans, but I don't catch half of it and can't interpret the rest, so I sit at my desk frowning at him because I'm trying very hard to figure it out.
Gay Male Colleague (frowning at my frown): "Don't give me cliffs."
Me (gazing at him in confusion): "They're not 'cliffs'." [About five minutes later someone mentions that he meant "furrows".]
Gay Male Colleague: "Don't give me eyeballs."
Me: "I'm not giving you eyeballs. You like to be eyeballed-....."
(beat, wherein my brain manages to react before my mouth)
Me: "...I stopped before I took that joke any further..."
(Much hilarity ensues.)

A gay male colleague starts to sing and chair groove to some Mariah song that suddenly starts playing in his head.
We all stop. Appalled.
Another gay male colleague: "I swear, if that comes on the radio, he turns it up..."
A female colleague (even more appalled): "...No, nooo!..."

A female colleague (to a male colleague): "...I can't because I'm going to the opera tonight."
Me: "Are you really?"
Female Colleague: "Yes."
Me: "On purpose?"
Female Colleague: "Yes."

* References to individuals have been almost completely removed, otherwise they will kill me. They might anyway.

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