Personal view: Consider being an organ donor

This is just a personal plea – have you publicly stated, and do you family know, that when you die you want your organs donated to help others?

Why wife was recently part of the medical team that supported the 19th World Transplant Games in Durban. When she came back she had so many stories of people whose lives were radically changed because someone else died and allowed their organs to be used.

A touching part of the games was a ceremony held, with representatives of major religions, to commemorate and pay tribute to those who had died and donated their organs.

My wife also met a woman whose teenage daughter had died and had allowed her organs to be donated to other people who needed them. The woman said it helped to make her daughter’s life mean something – that through her, someone else could live.

This month in South Africa is organ donor month and the Organ Donor Foundation is looking to sign up donors – here at http://www.odf.org.za/

Why not do something about donating your organs now? You could save a life.

Top programming languages

I was interested to see an index of the top programming languages in 2010.

What struck me about the list:

  1. Java and C, the most popular
  2. C# growing against VB
  3. Objective C (the language for Apple iPhones and iPads) growing significantly
  4. Transact-SQL (for SQL Server), RPG and Assembler still in the top 20 … and growing
  5. my old language, SAS, dropping

Movie pirates beware

A company I know in Johannesburg recently received an email from Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles – and it was not good news.

Someone in the company had downloaded a Paramount movie from a file sharing site. The scary thing was that the time between the download and the email to the company CEO was less than 4 days.

Paramount had got the IP address, traced it to S.Africa, contacted the service provider, who had identified the company owning that address, and Paramount then got the CEO’s email address and contacted him directly.

Apparently there is no law suit pending but the CEO has to inform Paramount what follow-up actions the company will take.

So if you download copyright material (movies, music) from file sharing sites, be careful. You could be in for a nasty shock.

Google Wave

I am really intrigued by the announcement of a new product from Google – Wave (http://wave.google.com). A review in TechCrunch commented that it is “one of those products that you have to see in action to understand.” Reading the article proved the statement – I only vaguely understand what it is planned to do. Google describes it as “a new model for communication and collaboration on the web.”

Entertaining the old-fashioned way

Earlier this year I attended a Boy Scouts camp fire evening. The event was the culmination of my younger daughter’s PLTU (Patrol Leaders Training Unit) course, which is an rigorous outward bound course over 10 days.

Scout camp fires consist of songs and stories, all done around a large camp fire with lots of audience participation. For kids and adults alike it was a thoroughly entertaining evening, and it got me thinking how our western-based society has lost this old-style form of entertainment. Events like this bring people together in a way that modern TV-oriented entertainment can never do, and it’s sad that people seem to be losing the old ways of entertainment.

In early 2008, many South Africans had to re-learn how to amuse themselves when the country went through a few months of “load shedding” (power cuts by Eskom, our one and only electricity supplier) necessitated by a lack of power generating capacity. At first I considered evening black-outs a problem, but it became quite pleasant as we discovered how to entertain ourselves as a family – reading, studying or playing games around one table in our candle-lit kitchen.

As a proud father, I have to announce that this PLTU was for girl scouts only, and there were 32 girls on this course; and my daughter was awarded the best scout of the course.

Thanks FedHealth

In South Africa we have a public health system which provides medical care and hospitals, but if you earn a salary, most people prefer to belong to a medical aid scheme. This is medical insurance which gives you access to private medical care, hospitals etc, but doesn’t have the problems that one hears about from the American HMOs.

One of the biggest medical aids is Discovery, which came out about 15 years ago with some innovative products. I was a member of Discovery until last month. However, I have been finding Discovery less and less helpful in providing its basic services – payment for medical care – and more and more focused on other non-medical-related products like insurance and its Vitality products.

The crunch for me was when my eldest daughter, who is a full-time student studying engineering, turned 21 and Discovery raised my monthly insurance premium by 30 percent because I now had another ‘adult’ dependent on my benefit scheme. Like many other countries, the cost of medical care in South Africa has been exceeding inflation for a number of years, and because of this increase I was only able to afford hospitalisation and some very basic medical cover for my family through Discovery.

At the end of 2008 I was fortunate to find out about a company, Care Line, who provide medical aid advisory services. They gave me some alternative options, including the Maxima scheme from FedHealth. For less than I paid Discovery every month I was able to get hospitalisation cover and much broader medical cover from FedHealth Maxima.

I became a member of FedHealth in February and received my first payment for medical costs – a podiatrist visit – today. Thanks FedHealth. I wish I had been a member earlier.

Words for our time

At this time, with the world economic situation and the inauguration of new US president Barack Obama, I saw this comment and I thought it still very relevant.

Abigail Adams, wife of the second US president John Adams, wrote these words to her 10-year-old son, John Quincy Adams (later the sixth president):

“These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

Quote thanks to Ray Pritchard

That ‘empty nest’ feeling again

Nearly a year ago I wrote what it felt like when my son left home to spend 6 months in Cape Town with Youth With A Mission at DTS (discipleship training) . Back then I said it was going to constitute his ‘gap year’ before going to university. So much for that idea!

He came back in June and soon announced that he wanted to go back to YWAM - but as a leader. That shook me for several weeks, it did not match ‘my plans’ for him. But I soon learned that he had set his mind on it and would not be swayed.

So after a few months of him being at home, and doing odd jobs to earn money, we said good-bye to him again today. Our church (Rosebank Union) has agreed to provide some financial support, as have various friends from the church, and he was given an official sending at the morning service.

He is going to WYAM with great enthusiasm, and a level of maturity he didn’t have a year ago, and we hope these next six months will give him a clearer idea where he should go with his life.

That’s not to say that my ideas for him have completed changed. I still believe that a university degree is a good thing and would stand him in good stead. But I am beginning to accept what he sees as his direction in life. I also realise that I have to put my trust in the Lord that He will guide and protect my son.

Value of open standards (in car spares)

While I am one of those who likes the value of (some of) Microsoft’s proprietary standards in software, I learnt the value of open standards in motor vehicle spares when we went on holiday.

When we went on holiday to the Kwazulu-Natal coast (by the Indian Ocean) we took my wife’s Toyota Condor because we had a lot to transport. A few hours out of Johannesburg, in the middle of the Free State province and 40km from the nearest town, the car suddenly lost electrical power and stopped.

Two and half hours later, though, we were back on our way to the coast. The problem was with the car’s alternator, and while it took nearly an hour for the Automobile Association (AA) to get a tow truck to our location, and a half hour to get the car towed to a garage, it took hardly anytime for the repair – the reason is that Toyota parts are readily available in South Africa.

Toyota assembles cars in South Africa and has the largest share of the passenger motor vehicle market. With its local assembly it has also opened the parts market to several manufacturers, effectively making Toyota parts an open standard. Even though we were in a small town in rural South Africa, getting the spare Toyota alternator we needed was not a problem.

Compare that to the situation of people driving several (of the less popular) American or European cars in this country. The only places that can repair those cars – Chrysler, Renault, Volvo, etc – are in the major centres, and it is only there were you can get parts. A break down of those cars in the middle of nowhere means you are well and truly stuck, and will probably require a long and expensive tow.

The experience has made we realise that in this country it is far better to drive one for the cars that are assembled and have larger market share here – Toyota, Nissan – than a fashionable car, like a Lexus or the Renault I used to drive.

I have to complement Microsoft, therefore, on the way it has made its users dependent on its proprietary software. What will it take for other software vendors to get local customers to appreciate the value of open standards in software?

First rains of summer

Johannesburg had its first rain storm of the summer yesterday afternoon. This being a summer rainfall area, we haven’t had rain since July, and the weather recently has been very hot and dry. So what we had was most welcome. Hopefully the moisture that has now been put into the atmosphere will be enough for some bigger storms and more rain.