A PBMR in every home, you got to be joking?

PBMR safety? You got to be kidding
PBMR safety? You go to be kidding

SOUTH AFRICAN apartheid energy throwback, Eskom has announced its latest scheme to “find other uses for the PBMR”. Hawking white elephants around the globe in a time of economic crisis might seem like a bad joke if it weren’t for the seriousness of nuclear proliferation in an age of cross-border war, the high probability of an accident resulting in contamination, emissions and radiation and the high chance that human error will compound problems related to economic greed.

Unlike conventional nuclear plants, the PBMR is a technology that does not have any safety features other than the strange and untested claim that the nuclear pebbles are better for you, (in fact so better for you that they may even beat organic lettuce and tofu in a head-to-head competition for palatability, reliability and sustain-wattability, see below) For instance there is no containment building in the actual design, “perhaps to make the design economically feasible” proposes, Anthony Frogget a researcher at Heinrich Boll Stiftung. Surely Eskom is asking a bit much from the public to continue bankrolling a couple of atomic pebbles whose safety is in question, spending money that according to Richard Worthington, could be better spent on solar power?

I therefore offer you some uses for the mothballed PBMR you might not have thought of:

  1. Ultra-expensive paper-weight on the next President’s pebble-desk.
  2. Hot-water heater for HIV-free showers and extra-marital sex parlours.
  3. Julius Malema would look good next to the PBMR
  4. PBMR makes wonderful neighbour, great for bringing down property prices.
  5. If you had a PBMR in your backyard, you probably are not losing any sleep over the cellphone radiation issue and don’t mind microwaves from nearby relay masts. So let’s just up the dose even further and wait until the cost of x-rays come down.
  6. Police decoy on the Cape Flats, if the toxic waste gets stolen we won’t have to worry about it.
  7. PBMR makes for a brighter future for the SABC board who won’t have to worry about their hairdos since they will all be bald, and glow in the dark.
  8. The Proudly South Africa campaign can now be renamed Proud to have a Rare form of Cancer thanks to the PBMR campaign!
  9. If the Springbok rugby team had a PBMR they wouldn’t have to worry about not scoring because the other team wouldn’t bother to show up, ditto for our Olympic athletes.
  10. We could send the PBMR to Zimbabwe where it would deflect attention away from Robert Mugabe and inflation by keeping a starving, yet happy population busy figuring out the half-life of radiation and the value of Strontium 90.
  11. The Day After and China Syndrome, are two super-scary flieks about nuclear contamination but if we put the PBMR in the Karoo, we could sell tickets to the next End of the World movie, along with scary disfigured mutant rodents and wild Proteas that really eat people.
  12. Not to worry, Eskom says PBMR waste could be sent to the Middle of the Sun, using a R50 billion space rocket that will cost R300 trillion rand to launch.
  13. The People’s Republic of Blakvakistan wants one so that they can threaten the free world with atomic cigars and glow-in-the-dark missiles after the price of oil collapses.
  14. We could send the PBMR to the Middle East where it would bring about world peace by killing everyone there who isn’t dead already. Ban Ki-Moon included.
  15. Finally, PBMR is better than owning a PVR and watching Charlize Theron and Sevende Laan and provides hours of entertainment for the whole family. If you buy one from Eskom, we’ll throw in a complimentary set of steak knives, rubber gloves and a decontamination suit.

Bill Gates’ Microsoft Government — One Happy World of Windows?

THE image of Bill Gates and his wife Melinda sitting in a cramped shack somewhere in Cape Town, sheepishly listening to the “plight of the poor” on the way to a “Microsoft Government” conference on the foreshore, is somewhat disturbing. Here you have one of the richest men in the world without so much as a personal computer. No Internet, not even Windows XP “the Lexus of software”. No larney network, think about that for a while — this could be rough paradise in a world in which the chintzy metalic
“connected laptop” and hyper-titanium “cross-linked, silicon machines” have outstripped our own human connections, not to mention consciousness.

Do machines think? Have Robots like Bill Gates taken over the world? If Microsoft hadn’t invented the err, computer, it would have invented the computer virus. Come to think of it, perhaps Windows 98 is pre-operating system HIV, while Windows XP is post-mobile HIV, can’t seem to remember when last people believed in a world without computers, a world without people like Bill Gates.

What a pleasure it would be, instead of emailing each other, we would write simple letters with pen and ink. Instead of mobile phones interrupting our patter, we would ignore the “ringing” telephone that would tell us how exactly how urgent or depressing a particular phone call was. Remember the social etiquette associated with landlines?

Nowadays people just drop in uninvited or simply stop calling out of embarresment. The power of one-button dialing and caller-tones has put an end to all that idle chitter chatter one had that passed for intimate and private conversaion. Windows on the other hand has destroyed the desktop, and our memories, and unleashed code kids unable to read and write in English.

Microsoft English and the Encarta Dictionary replaced Oxford and South African English. We are caught in a world in which the super-rich exist alongside shacks. What would I want to tell Bill if I had five pico-seconds of his time? Well it would be this — we need to end the digital divide, stop the knowledge gap that prevents us from communicating with each other because there are not enough libraries, because most of our nations literature is still not accessible online, because we are losing out to the spew of crap that emanates from the USA, that flows in a one-way direction only.

As Brian Eno once said, “the trouble with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” How, I would want to ask Bill, do we put more Africa into the computer age without destroying something special and unique about ourselves? How do we avoid turning into Microsoft clones and XP idiots? Anyone reading, or is this just a blog for robots?

UNIVERSAL SERVICE: ADSL and the story of industrial-strength greed

IN THE beginning, the so-called dot-com economy was based upon the notion of a frictionless environment i.e. the internet. The idea was the massive savings created by reducing distances and communicating easily across the planet would be passed onto the consumer and everybody would win.

Then along came the robber barons of the service industry, basking in the glory of “managed complexity” and new acronyms like ICT. They were all good capitalists and saw a good opportunity at cleaning up the competition, siphoning off all those fads and novel savings and patent banking the difference, instead of passing on the friction-freeness to the consumer.

Lets give you an idea of why Telkom is stuck in a virtual freeze, attacked by Hellkom and MyADSL — unable to provide half-a-service while charging exhorbitant rates for its “pipes”, its own network that is already paid for by our tax rands, but which invariably turns into a shopping mall for ICT engineers who think they can outsmart us, blog-rats.

The fact is once a line is installed and paid for, there is no real cost to ADSL except for the small service fee which goes towards upkeep. How much should one be paying for service? What would you charge to keep the network up and running? What would your rates be for watching the 0s and 1s go around and around?

However, since the service-side of the sector was privatized, TELKOM does not provide a service as such. What it provides is an excuse to simply fleece the consumer and siphon off profits to its shareholders who want locked in dividends and locked in clients.

This means that we are paying double for a line that must first be hooked up to a private service providing company in order to fully function. Result? ADSL is enormously expensive. Forget about those glossy ads spinning lies about R240 a pop. What you get is double-dibbing down the line as busker after busker rips off the “locked in consumer”.

For R240 one should get ADSL plus service and whatever benefit one deserves. But in order to keep service privides in business, companies like MWEB running, the South African consumer is ripped off by the only provider of ADSL lines in the country — TELKOM, the monopoly provider.