Author: mtb

A small confession…

… I love pulp fiction. No, not the movie, which I have not seen for some reason, but the genre. Today I picked up a large stack of issues of pulp comics, mostly from the War Picture Library. These are set in World War 2, with accurate equipment and real battles. The stories are fictional though, and usually at least slightly fantastic. As a whole, the stack of cheaply made comics on the floor next to me has little to recommend it: the stories are trite, predictable, characters are one-dimensional, there is often minimal moral ambiguity, in many cases they are thinly-veiled propaganda, and filled with casual racism, outdated stereotypes, and sexism (if in fact any women appear). And at the same time, enormously entertaining. But pulp in general appeals to me. I enjoy listening to old radio shows, which are often pretty pulpy, filled with lantern-jawed detectives, distressed damsels, bizarre aliens, and vile villains. I have a bunch of out-of-print ebooks of things printed in the 1930s and 1940s. The Indiana Jones movies (which I love, even the Crystal Skull) are firmly rooted in pulp fiction. Pulp fiction is just fun. It will not make you think, it will […]

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Open South African Geological Data

In the last couple of years, I have had a growing interest in the open data and open access movement. I have not really done too much yet, being located on the periphery of what might be done, and with a lack of a specific project/problem to tackle. That said, I think that I have found one: Open geological data in South Africa. I have a vested interest in being able to use geological data freely, most regularly useful for me would be a digital map of the boundaries between different rock units as found on geological maps. Since a large portion of South Africa’s economy is reliant directly on mineral resources, it makes sense to have information pertaining to it to be available. While lithological data is available, much of it is at too high a scale to be very useful for looking at specific sites. 1:1 000 000 scale data is available, provided that you have a log-in at ESRI and can run ArcReader. That information can be found from this page. The link to the more detailed 1:250 000 scale maps is broken. The people responsible for collecting this data in South Africa are the Council for […]

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Worthwhile Causes

Over the last few months I have come across two causes that I think are worth supporting. Map Action The first is Map Action ( http://www.mapaction.org/ ). This organisation is based in the UK, and provides first response mapping in disaster situations. This may sound a trifle odd, but think about it: if the midden hits the windmill in a big way, you need to know where the most manure is, in order to start organise sorting it out. You also need to know what is needed to clean up the manure. So the maps that get made are relevant to the situation, answering questions like “Is there a first aid post in this area?”, “Which areas have clean water?”, and “Where are communication lines cut?” which are of immense importance when organising a relief effort. The people on the ground are all volunteers, and drop everything at short notice to go and provide vital initial mapping services. Once other relief services, such as the Red Cross or MSF, become more established, Map Action hand over to them. Now, partly because I love maps, I think that this is fantastic. It utilises modern software, a diverse group of people and […]

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Dasher – Non-traditional Input Methods

Just a short note to prevent this being submerged in a tidal wave of baking and food. Today a friend of mine pointed me at Dasher ( http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/TryJavaDasherNow.html ), which is a dynamic input program. Basically, it allows you to do away with a traditional keyboard, and have your input be based on a lexicon. What this means is that it take predictive text, but you only need one finger (or IR pointer on your head or a mouse or whatever) to actually type. One thing that I have already noticed is that you need to have a pretty good idea of what you want to type before starting, or you end up getting lost. I have installed it on my handbrain (which is what the characters in Howard Tayler’s webcomic call PDAs and mobile phones), as an experiment, and I pity the poor sap who tries it next. I have found it fairly intuitive, except for punctuation, on first use. The software is also available for normal desktops. My technology is slowly becoming unusable for anyone else though, given that I am running Linux with a tiling window manager (Arch Linux with SpectrWM if anyone cares) on my laptop. […]

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Accretionary Wedge 61 – What do I do?

Mika, over at GeoMika is asking what everyone does on a day to day basis. So, since this might be useful for other people, here goes. I work for a small geotechnical engineering company. My background is normal, academic, geology (plus computer science, but that is another story), so I have not really studied for my job. Much of the fieldwork is similar, although there is a far greater focus on “soft” geology, and soils. On a day to day basis, I could be doing one of three things, essentially. Fieldwork Reporting Proposals and general admin Just as an aside, since most of the readers of this post are likely to be non-South Africans, I have no idea how general my experiences are. I think that a bigger company would be much more compartmentalised, whereas everyone where I work does a little of everything. Fieldwork This is a major part of my job. Usually at least two or three days in every two weeks will be spent out of the office. The places we cover vary, from the middle of town looking at an existing shopping centre to a couple hours off the last tar road in the bundus. Usually […]

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Call for posts – Accretionary Wedge, Geollowe’en Edition

In the absence of anyone more suitable, I am going to be hosting the November Accretionary Wedge. It being November’s, it will be Hallowe’en themed, or much more appropriately, Geollowe’en (which works pretty well with my accent at least). So, keep an eye out for the geological pumpkins, rock candy (that is a thing, right?) and trick and treating trilobites in order to share them here. This call for posts is a bit early, in order to allow people to keep an eye out in a few weeks. Deadline to be around 14 November-ish? I am not really sure that I will have much to post myself, since South Africa does not do the whole Hallowe’en thing in any sort of seriousness, let alone Geollowe’en, but I look forward to what other people have spotted. Comments are open on this post.

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Greytown MTB Festival

The 12th of May, mothers’ day. Fittingly, my mum decided that she had nothing better to do, and came along. Also the Greytown MTB Festival’s main race. I had signed up for the 20km race. Leaving Eshowe early we went the back way, via Middledrift and Kranskop. Our reward was watching the sun rise over the Tugela Valley. Arriving at the venue, it was cold. Like frost and blizzard cold. Well, not quite, but certainly much colder than a Zululand boy likes. The turn out was pretty good, with a number of people milling around. The coffee stand was doing a roaring trade. The profile showed a relatively non-scary race ahead, with no huge climbs or descents. The announcer pointed out that I was in flagrant violation of the CSA rules about “both wheels needing to be the same size” or similar malarkey, which I think amused him as much as it did me. The start was fairly flat and uneventful, going along some good farm roads. The marshalls were generally flabbergasted at my coming through. I managed to stay in touch with the field here, but got left behind on a long, sweeping downhill, so I was soon in […]

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Construction Day

So I built a few things today. The first was finishing my stilts off: I think I might need to replace the current velcro straps with something that I can pull tight, but we shall see. These are a pretty modest 50cm or so high, and largely experimental. I might make so taller ones once I get the hang of these. The second item was a rola bola (also termed a balance board). Basically a PVC pipe and a 12mm thick board of shutterply. Feels very strange, sort of like floating. The last item was a box to put all my toys in: This still needs to be painted, but has room for quite a bit more stuff. It currently has a whole mess of balls, mostly for workshops/teaching, my clubs, a diabolo and a couple sets of poi. Quite a successful day, I think. If anyone wants designs or more photos, email me or get in touch on twitter.

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Zini Buffalo Classic

The first of my local races for the year is the Zini Buffalo Classic. I did it last year, and it is the first race in the Big 5 Mountain Bike Series. I did four of the five races last year, and apparently have become a bit of a talking point. It seems taking on 25km worth of mountain bike race on a unicycle gets one noticed. My sister, her husband and my mum decided to come along, just because. So we all trooped down to Mtunzini. At the start were many familiar faces from last year. Lots of the usual reaction (something along the lines of: “No bloody way” or “Are you actually serious?”) while waiting for everything to get started. I did offer to swap, but no one took me up on it. Strange, that. Last year I did the race with Johnny, but I think he was on call or otherwise engaged. The start was the same as last year, down the fairway and back up the next one, then into the Zini River Estate and down to the river proper. Someone had realised that it was better to let the faster 50km riders go in front […]

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Landscapes

Yeah, so this is not a race report, but it is of interest. The current curator of @curateZAR happens to be a travel nut (that might be putting it mildly…). Since I travel a far bit in northern KwaZulu-Natal, I figured she might like some of the photos I have taken. Without further ado: Hope these are enjoyed.

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