Smath's blog

Sugar wisdom

4 March, 2010 - 21:17
Friends, I hope you have a little sick bag handy.

Sometimes I am a sentimental, soppy girl.

Huletts in South Africa produce the little sachets of sugar that just about all restaurants here use. About 4 years back, they started printing inspirational quotes on the back of each sachet.

Here are a few that I scanned. I'd like to collect more of them. It's a really cute idea that Huletts have had and I love the sentiment behind it. Mostly when I read them (and I read them every time) I think to myself, "Y'know, they're right."

The "Do Not Contact Me" Database

2 March, 2010 - 16:27
Sound Bites by TheGiantVermin on Flickr

As all and any South African will tell you, we have a real problem in this country with phone pest marketers. No company is willing to admit to where it is that they actually got these numbers, other than to blame it on the mysterious National Consumer Database. It's true, I consume right up there with the best of them but I have never once agreed (to my knowledge) to be pelted with such a volume of telesales calls, or any at all for that matter.

Now, I realize that it is not a big deal to simply tell the poor sap on the other side of the phone doing their low-paying job that I'm not interested. In a parallel universe where I am a better, purer being I'm sure that this is what I do. However, the biggest offender so far has been Vodacom, and reasons that belong in a post of their own this company strips straight through any amount of composure and patience I have.

Most recently I had a cold call from Virgin Mobile, offering me a Special Deal! for new customers.

Me: But I am already your customer.
Her: *silence*..... Oh, o-raait.
Me: Why are you phoning me? Where did you get this number?
Her: It comes from the National Consumer Database.
Me: I want to be taken off this list. I never signed up for it
Her: You can't come off the list. There's no hope. Perhaps you should change your phone number.

I have had this same phone number for a long, long time. I'm coming up for my 11th year, and I'm not about to change my number so that these fools stop trying to sign me up for new phone contracts. The irony sickens me.

Refusing to believe that this was indeed a hopeless situation, I googled it and as it turns out, there IS hope! I found this discussion forum. Sweet, sweet music to my eyes.

The Direct Marketing Association of South Africa has arranged a service for you to bulk opt-out from all of it. There are many companies who are members, some big ones being Vodacom, Cell C, Edgars and Absa.

Dubious? I was too. One has to fill out registration form brimming with the personal information that you are trying to hide. Also, the form is hosted on a different domain, and not secured (https). They have a phone number so I called to figure out whether they seemed legit or not, and they do.

The dude I spoke to seemed professional, and he did not try to coerce me into filling anything in. He said that it takes 4-6 weeks before companies pick up the updated circulated list. If after signing up for that Do Not Contact service one of the member companies still spams you, you lodge a complaint with the DMA and they take matters up with the company.

I've now filled it in and am hoping for the best. Still a little cynical - this does sound too good to be true. If I now start getting an unholy amount of spam I will let you all know.

And probably change my phone number.

Thought for the first Monday of March

1 March, 2010 - 22:11
William Butler Yeats photographed in 1911 by George Charles BeresfordFrom Mr William Butler Yeats's He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven:

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I believe that a lot of the time people don't consider others in this manner. It's something that I'd like to be better at too.

Best you get theft cover on your groceries

19 February, 2010 - 18:04

Today I received a spam email from Woolworths. Bizarrely, it was an advertisement for insurance. Even more bizarrely, it was an advertisement for insurance of groceries.

Who are they trying to target here? There is a big income / lifestyle gap between the wealthy and the poor in South Africa, as is the case in most places throughout Africa, and the only people who could really afford to insure their stupid Woolworths groceries are the privileged ones.

But they wouldn't, because should their groceries be stolen (as this advertisement is suggesting) they can easily afford to buy more. And as for poorer people, they don't shop at Woolworths ever, and even if they did, these are people who don't even have enough money to pay for health insurance and are unlikely to want to insure their bread, milk and mielies.

I understand that it common for insurance companies to play on peoples' fears in order to sell their products, but to what point have we been pushed here that the insurers want us to start fearing the theft of our groceries out of our cars? Or maybe I've missed the point and they're making a statement about the rising cost of living in South Africa.

All around, this campaign is in poor taste and poorly thought out.

PS Woolworths, why in the whatshisname are you spamming me? Jerks.

MySQL Search and Replace

17 February, 2009 - 20:51

I've recently been moving a drupal site from one hosting environment to another, and the folder structure between the two within Drupal's sites/ is not identical. The main headache I was having was getting all nodes containing attached files and images to display properly. The Drupal image module is particularly unhelpful and unsympathetic about such moves.

A google search brought me to this page on

update table_name set table_field = replace(table_field,'replace_that','with_this');

So to fix your file paths on a Drupal site that you're migrating that will ultimately live in a different directory within your sites folder,

UPDATE files SET filepath = replace( filepath, 'sites/all/files', 'sites/' );

Bubblegum photo shoot

3 February, 2009 - 16:11

This was in my RSS feed from Popgloss. The pictures are such fun. They were taken by a photographer by the name of Craig McDean.

Bubblegum fashion editorial

Generous - Calm - Selfish - Angry

25 January, 2009 - 12:59

From Seth Godin's blog post, Lonely, scared & bitter.

From Seth Godin's blog

All that's in the blog post is that image. Seth never seems to fail at making a good point using very few words. For that I admire him.

Tokyo Holiday (October 06) photos

10 January, 2009 - 17:08

More than two years later and I have finally put the first batch of my photographs from my round-the-world holiday in 2006 online. See them here.

It's been wonderful sorting through them, I am re-living the holiday that I had and what it felt like to be there seeing these all these crazy things, and every day something that was completely new to me.

I had a little oopsie along the way in my sorting process - I deleted my "Sorted and ready to upload Tokyo Pics" folder which contained roughly 50 photographs. I immediately googled for recovery software and found and downloaded something within minutes. I know that the more you move files / use programs after deleting something the slimmer your chance of recovering the data is.

I have mixed feelings about the utility I got: It did find some files, though there were odd results. It "recovered" images from my web browser cache and mixed up the titles of those with titles of my Tokyo photos. Still, it was able to get a couple of things back for which I am grateful, and most excitingly it did this to a previously boring-ish photo I had of some daisies:

This cheered me up a lot.

I will be returning to Tokyo later this year and where I was excited before, after going through my photos I now absolutely cannot wait.

They do what with their pets?

10 January, 2009 - 02:03

Scott and Scott were in Cusco yesterday on a stopover on the way to Peru. Apparently the town is a lot nicer than both of them were expecting. For the most part, the locals still dress in traditional clothes made from alpaca (wool? fur?? silk?! Not hide, surely.).

And there are apparently alpaca everywhere. I was delighted at the thought of this, I love alpaca. They're so gentle and sweet and silly-looking (like a few of my friends, now I'm thinking about it). Some of them roam around freely, a lot of them are peoples' pets.

Later on Scott came back online and was telling me how much they liked the place, and what an amazing dinner they'd had that night.

[ smath ] Oh nice! What did you have?


[ hadsie ] ..... nothing...

El Ateneo: On being gorgeous and serving up an undesirable salad

6 January, 2009 - 20:16

This is one of the most spectacular, if not /the/ most spectacular, bookstores I've ever been into. It's called El Ateneo and is on Avenida Santa Fe in Buenos Aires' Barrio Norte. It is actually not a bookstore at all, but an over-the-top multi-level 1920s theatre. Cameras are flashing all around me - this is a place in tourists' guide books. It's that kind of a big deal.

I decided that it was time to get out of the apartment today and spend some time working in a fresh location. El Ateneo is only a few blocks from the apartment so I've come here to try out their lounge/stage/restaurant.

They should stick to books.

After waiting for about 20 minutes before being able to flag the attention of a waiter I was then able to communicate that I wanted something (a drink? a menu?!). I always begin by asking whether they speak any English, just incase, which this chap did not, and he looked more than a little befuddled when I tried to explain that I speak "Ingles. I speak Inglessss!!!". Nope. Nada. No intiendo. You'd think that, sitting down in a restaurant there would only be one of a few things that I might be asking for by vigourously gesturing and charading around with my hands as though I were reading something. After an awkward exchange and a further awkward silence he evaporated off into the back somewhere and eventually returned with a menu.

I ordered sparkling water, which is commonly served here, and a caesar salad. Those are safe enough, I thought, and this place looks nice enough... ? No...? No!! When he returned, he presented me with sparkling water and a salad (at least this mission was not a complete failure).

I've had worse salads than this, but not many.

The croutons.. I think if they were to have served me neat oil there would have been less oil than is on these croutons. As a special surprise, there was also chicken ("pollo") in the salad. And special chicken it was too - this chicken contained parts of a chicken that I don't believe any chicken actually has. And thanks to the oiliness of the croutons, it was sticking to both them as well as the cheese. I decided that it wasn't worth trying to explain to the waiter that the menu hadn't mentioned anything about pollo at all, and that the pollo that he had presenting me with was causing me to experience a mild gag reflex.

I don't expect to get anything out of writing about this, or turning anyone away from the place. I'm frustrated is all. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires at some point though, definitely go here for the books and the pizazz.

And right now I smell something burning, so I'm going to power down my notebook and leave.

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