Monthly Archives: June 2010

To the left


By 8am, I had given my phone number incorrectly once and misunderstood 3 times. The day was going well. Everything according to the usual pattern of life.

I sat in the waiting area reciting my mantra… I have plenty of blood. My veins are strong. Uh yes. My veins listened to the squalling brat further along and started getting jittery. I swear I could hear them planning their escape route. I was handed a number. Has anyone ever noticed that the 6 and the 9 are remarkably similar on a white piece of card? That predicament at least provided about 5 minutes of entertainment for my fellow sufferers. The little girl pointed out that they must have it wrong. To her, it was clearly a 6.

I eventually went in. The sweet could-be-anyone’s-grandma lady smiled encouragingly. "I can do this," I thought. She tied the rubber band on – thin government issue bands… it snapped. Oh yippee… off to a good start! She tied another one on. I wish her good luck and she gets her weapon of choice out. She says, "Don’t worry… it’s right here. I can feel it," patting the crook of my arm encouragingly. By this time, my veins are tying themselves in knots trying to get away. I can hear them, "Mummyyyyyy! Where can we hide?"

To be sure, I don’t mind needles. I take injections as bravely as the next guy, even usually joking about them, and occasionally, I’ve even successfully had blood drawn with minimal fuss. She stuck the needle in. A little to the right. No. A little to the left. No. Pull out a little. Let’s try deeper. Nope… too deep. Out again. Upper left corner behind the right hand joint. Yep… that’s the way it went. I watched her face changing expressions. She was starting to worry that I had no veins. "Ah!" she says, "It’s way over on the left hand side!" She nods at me as though to let me know to make a note of that for the next brave soul who foolishly thinks drawing blood is easy. She actually looks like she’s discovered the answer to the secrets of life. I’m happy for her. My arm is hurting. Drip, drip, drip. She nudges the uncooperative vein. Drip, drip. *sigh* By the second vial, she had nudged the vein into little squirts instead of drips.

"Does it hurt more coming out or going in?" she asked, as she waited to see if I’d freak as she removed the needle. HUH? She can’t be serious. I look at her blankly. I’d say it hurts more going in, wouldn’t you? Take it out already!

Hm… the rest of the day should go well now, right? : )

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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in health



Pigs ears and sugary deliciousness

Here they call them ‘palmiers’. Back home, we called them ‘pigs ears’. Who cares? They’re good! I found a weekly fix. There’s a biscuit seller in the street market near my young student on a Wednesday that sells these bits of bliss and they’re fresh and crunchy and buttery and sugary. Did I say they’re good?

It more than made up for the rest of our eating today. We found some relatively cheap fish. I’ve been craving fish. Fish is hellaciously expensive here, so we never really get it. We decided a fish braai (bbq for those not in the ‘know’) would be just the ticket.

Can we say flakey cardboard? Pfewy! It was awful! We stuffed the fish with tomato, onion, herbs, spices, and all things tasty. The filling was nice… the fish… ghastly.

Just so you know, this is what a fish braai is meant to look like:
Thank you to Shane for the inspiring blog of what we miss so much.

I’m busy transferring and backing up mountains of data from what feels like centuries ago. There are plenty of "Wow! What on earth was I doing with that?!" moments. Why do I keep it all? I haven’t looked at this stuff since the initial backup years ‘n years ago. I should, of course, be planning my lessons for the week… and translating ghastlygynea (sic) stuff for tomorrow morning. I need a prepared script… in Portuguese… because my translator is sitting in England and the prospect of taking Jurgis, however capable as a translator, into the gynea’s office with me is rather… uh… no… ain’t gonna work. Yep… taking myself off for my once-a-decade visit to a lady doc.

I did no Lithuanian study this weekend. Bad. In fact, come to think of it now… I’ve done very little of anything remotely useful this weekend. Looking at everyone else’s blogs, you’ve all been so busy. Must be the summer weather up there. Here it was just another middling warm day. Winter? Hmph!


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Posted by on June 27, 2010 in food


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Bits and bobs

Romany went for a bath this weekend. He came home, thankfully not smelling like a poefte (male of questionable orientation who uses too much Eew de cologne). It’s a new pet parlour. They’re nice there.

Specs is eating me out of house and home. Yes, I know it’s winter, but… ! If she wasn’t going on old-woman and definitely spayed, I’d think she was pregnant.

Lithuanian lessons are coming along quite well, all things considering… like the fact that it’s a bleeping difficult language. Suddenly I’m finding many people online giving lessons. How nice. Thank you very much ; )

My heart is aching for my friends who are going through so much.

I teach on the road in a canary yellow VW Beetle. How cool is that? And in the process, we solve the world’s problems.

My most basic student is finally making some progress with her English. Her kid is struggling at school. She asked me for suggestions. She’s taken up my suggestions and is so excited. It’s been fascinating to watch.

Sometimes words hurt. Sometimes it’s easy to brush them off. Sometimes not. It’s a lesson for me…. to watch what I say.

I really, really, really feel like some chocolate cake tonight.

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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in Uncategorized



Dogs! Argh! We’re into day 2 of our regional water cut. The pleasant enough,but extreeeeemly slow chap at the water department said it was due to a burst water mains and water would be restored the same day. That was yesterday.

The air is dry. There are pollution warnings out. This photo is from our local news. The airport is on a ‘fly only if necessary’ due to the pollution.

Uma faixa de poluição está sobre a cidade de São Paulo.
Foto: Luiz Guarnieri / Futura Press
This photo is from a different news agency. Apparently admissions to hospital have increased by 70% today due to respiratory issues.

Sao Paulo smog 2
Our water system is here complicated. We run off a cistern on the roof. This is because of the city’s frequent water cuts. A storage box of water means that, during a cut, we still have water for a while. That’s all good and well, but…. unless we go outside to the yard wash tank, which is fed directly from the street, we have no idea the water has been cut or if it’s been restored.

Enter dog.

The son of a second-hand sea sausage used the standing space in front of the water tank as his personal WC! Let it be known that I leave home by torch light – It was dark when I checked the status of our water supply!

Apparently, I will have plenty of luck today, especially since I couldn’t wash it off.

romany on duvet
Does this look like the face of evil terrorism??


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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in dogs, sao-paulo, weather


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It’s a bug!


Jurgis sent me this article, taken from: Actually, the site has some great tips for your pc in general.

For those interested in computer security and, more to the point, curious about what the heck they’re talking about anyway, this is a good read. I consider myself to be fairly tech savvy, but found this to be very informative.


I did a spyware scan the other day and it turns out that I had some “Trojans” and “tracking cookies” on my computer (my program got rid of them). I have no idea what a Trojan is; as a matter of fact, I don’t understand what a lot of things mean in regards of spyware. Is spyware the same as adware? I am totally confused.

And for good reason. There are so many nasty “bugs” running around the internet that keeping track of them is almost a full time job.

Below is a list of basic terms that I have compiled that will hopefully help ease your confusion a bit.
ADWARE: This is a software program that is installed without a users’ knowledge that the program is being installed on the computer. Adware is typically used to track the computer user’s browsing habits so that ads can be specifically geared towards them. A great example of adware is fills in web forms, but it is one of the most aggressive adware programs out there. Not only does it bog you down with advertisements, it also bogs down your computer by stealing disk space, memory, CPU time, etc.

Adware also includes tracking cookies (see cookies below).

BACKDOOR SANTA: Okay, so you download something off of the internet that you can really use. The problem with this particular program, however, is that while you may able to use it, the program is busy collecting statistics of your computer use, the sites you visit, what you purchase, etc. When it installs this programs (without your knowledge), it also opens a door for other threats to get in. You will have no idea this is going on; no pop-ups, no extra advertising. A couple of examples of Backdoor Santa programs include Alexa and Hotbar. If you see one of these toolbars unexpectedly show up in your browser, go into Add/Remove Programs and remove it immediately; you have been hit by a Backdoor Santa.

BHO: A Browser Helper Object is a program that runs automatically when you open your browser. While some BHO’s are useful (Adobe Acrobat is one; it has a plugin enabling you to read PDF files), there are many BHO’s that take over your home page and then direct you to adult sites, or sites that are loaded with spyware.
There are trojans that use BHO’s to change, add or delete registry settings and download executable files, all unbeknownst to you. The result is a very slow computer, and it’s slow because it has been hijacked through a Browser Help Object.

BLENDED THREAT: A blended threat is an attack that seeks to make the most damage and highest speed of toxicity by mixing up different threats. A blended threat will use the characteristics of both a virus and a worm, for example, and takes advantage of a computer’s vulnerability. A blended threat might send a virus via an e-mail attachment, coupled with a Trojan Horse that will cause serious harm to a user’s computer. Nimda (admin spelled backwards) was a huge blended threat (virus/worm) and spread itself through e-mail, jeopardized websites, among other things. It became the internet’s most widespread blended threat.

BOTNETS: Botnets are a group of computers that are connected to the internet and have been taken over by hackers. The hacker is in charge of all of the computers and they behave like a “robot network” (hence the term “botnet”). The hacker who has taken over a network (small or large) can then use all of these computers to infect other computers with viruses, distribute any kind of malware, or use it to inflict any number of malicious activities.

BROWSER HIJACKER: A couple of months ago my daughter was doing some research for one of her classes and went to Google to type a search term in. She was automatically redirected to another site. And another. She couldn’t even get back to Google; she had to close out her browser.

Her computer had been hijacked. A browser hijacker redirects a computer’s usual browser settings to those of their customers’ websites and can also add their favorites to your own. The hijacker writes external code that will change your home page to one of their choosing, in addition to changing registry settings so that even if you manually change your home page back, it will automatically revert itself to the hijacker’s hope page choice.

The hijacker sometimes plants a special file that redirects your computer to one of their choosing, such as an adult site or a sponsored search.
When I went to get rid of this thing that my daughter had contacted, I found that the hijacker would not let me open any of her anti-spyware programs, and would not let me access any page to download anything to get rid of it. I ended up doing quite a few things to get rid of it; it had compromised her system pretty badly.

COMPUTER VIRUS: Computer viruses are programs that are written to intentionally infect and destroy your computer. Executable files are the easiest way for a virus to get into your system. A virus is inactive until it is activated, i.e. running an infected file or starting a computer with a disk that is already infected. A virus runs the gamut of making your computer behave oddly all the way to erasing your hard drive. Viruses do not infect zip files, unless the zipped file was infected before it was zipped (compressed). Viruses sometimes copy themselves to infect other computers, thus the virus grows. Every program that is infected is in effect acting as its own virus, causing the virus to spread.

COOKIES: No, don’t think chocolate chip. Cookies (on computers) are small files that are downloaded to your computer to send information back to its website. They are normally a good thing. Let’s say you are an eBay user. You would normally have to log in every time you go to your account if it weren’t for the small cookie that has been placed on your system. By having that cookie, your computer is saying,”Okay, we’ve been here before, it’s safe to go here again, we don’t have to provide ID”, thereby eliminating the annoying always-have-to-log-in situation.

Here’s the however.

However, certain websites place their cookies (called Adware tracking cookies) on your system that send information to them regarding your online activities and then send that information over to their parent company, all without your knowledge. The information on the websites you visit allows them to display advertisements that attract your interest.

Tracking cookies are not necessarily dangerous, they just slow down your system a lot; you could even find yourself receiving pop-up ads even when you aren’t on the internet.

DIALERS: Dialers are pieces of software that get installed on your computer and have the ability to make phone calls from your modem without the user’s knowledge or consent. They connect your computer to other computers (usually pornographic) through your telephone line and are usually pay-per-call, so you are charged the whole time you are connected.

GRAYWARE: I hadn’t even heard of this one. If an application is classified as annoying or objectionable, yet it isn’t considered to be dangerous or as serious as malware, it is called Grayware. Grayware can encompass Adware or dialers; they are pretty much programs that have been written solely to harm someone’s computer. (What possible enjoyment do these people get from hurting my computer? Do they sit around and laugh about “all of these people who are probably not using their computer right now because of us”? Seriously, don’t these virus/malware program writers have anything else to do? I digress.)

KEYLOGGERS: “The World’s Best Keylogger! Capture every keystroke guaranteed! Secretly record everything on your computer!” Yeah, that’s all fine and good if you think your kid is logging in hours in the internet on some sites he’s not supposed to; some companies use them to monitor their employees’ activities. Unfortunately that isn’t the only thing keylogging is about.

A keylogger is software designed to record everything typed into a computer – passwords, user id’s, e-mail addresses, credit card numbers, etc. It can be installed the same way any piece of spyware or malware can be done. You can get it by going to certain websites, or you may download a file that has a keylogger attached and you probably won’t even notice it. Without your knowledge someone is watching every keystroke you make.

MALWARE: Malware (short for malicious software) is software designed to invade a computer without the owner’s consent. Malware encompasses viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware. In short, it is the general term for all malicious software.

PHISHING: Phishing is email fraud, plain and simple. I don’t know if you ever get that occasional e-mail from a poor misguided underprivileged soul needing “only $10,000”; that’s Phishing. Most Phishing e-mails look pretty legitimate. “Banks” will send e-mails reporting of fraudulent schemes and ask for private banking information that “will help them determine if you have been a victim” and redirect you to a fraudulent site where any information that is given to that site is sent to the attacker. I once got an eBay e-mail informing me that “suspicious account activity” and that I needed to log in and check my account. I am usually on top of things and knew this was bogus and reported the e-mail to eBay. Had I clicked on the link provided, I would have been redirected to the attacker’s site of choice, not eBay. The lists of Phishing scams are endless.

SPYWARE: Spyware is tracking software that hides itself and gathers information without the computer user’s knowledge or permission. Spyware collects personal information, redirects a user to websties that have viruses or forward browsing preferences on to a thrid party. Spyware is just what it says: It “spies”.

STALKING HORSE: Stalking Horses are bundled into many popular programs and are often presented as additional software that you need. The Stalking Horse then sends ad networks send ads to your computer.

TROJAN HORSE: A trojan horse is a highly damaging program that can wreak havoc on your computer. The difference between trojan horses and viruses is that a trojan horse, unlike a virus, does not copy itself; rather, it disguises itself as a legitimate program and has destructive code built in so as to destroy a computer system without the user’s knowledge.

WORM: A program that makes copies of itself over a network, using a computer’s resources, shutting down systems, as well as damaging and compromising the computer’s security.

I hope this guide gave you a better understanding of all of the lovely computer hazards we all face. It is quite daunting out there! In Part 2 of this series I will give you ways to protect yourself, as well as non-failing programs that will rid you of most of this garbage.

So be safe – it’s a jungle out there!


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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


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A nation of extremes

world cup ribbons

Every road I walk down either has ribbons over my head or paint underfoot. No one talks of anything else. If there’s a television, there’s a crowd. Yes, world cup has arrived again. I tend to try and ignore it, aside from appreciating the effort that has gone into painting and beribboning roads, but tonight…

I just read a news article:

Aguenta, coração!

Cardiologistas fãs de futebol dão dicas para você segurar a emoção durante os jogos da Copa.

Cardiologists are warning fans not to overexert themselves with emotion during the World Cup. I believe it. Football is more than a religion here. Jurgis grew up on stories by his parents of Brazilians throwing themselves off buildings during big matches.

Extreme much?


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Posted by on June 10, 2010 in brazil, festive


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I stood where I couldn’t see the future, but it came anyway
and it was the future I wanted
and needed

See… it’s like this…

Near home is the bus stop. Two buses come by there, taking vastly different routes. When I got to the bus stop, there was a chill wind blowing along the river and a mom with what seemed like a hoard of unruly, noisy kids. Where I was standing I could see a few kilometres down the road to see the oncoming traffic and, naturally, oncoming buses.

I looked and couldn’t see any buses at all. The kid picked up some litter, then threw it down again. The other kids were yelling among themselves as unruly kids are wont to do. On a whim, I decided to go to the next bus stop around the corner. It would be peaceful there, albeit less pretty.

Courtesy of Murphy’s Law, the bus I was to take pulled up behind me just as I approached the corner. I knocked on the door, hoping for a kind driver. Many will let you on at a corner. This driver ignored me completely. He didn’t wait at the bus stop either, as most other drivers would do, so muttering curses under my breath, I stood waiting for the next bus. A man stopped to ask for directions. The sun was warm. There was a breeze causing the towering eucalyptus trees to sway in the distance. Not so bad.

A few minutes later, the bus arrived. There was actually seating. As I got on and headed for my seat, it occurred to me that the previous bus would have contained the noisy hoard I was trying to get away from and the next bus didn’t take too long to follow anyway. Seems he was doing me a favour.

Those who know me, know I spend probably far too much time stewing over the future… but today, I realised that the future is going to come anyway, probably in spite of me and what’s more, it will probably be just the future I want and need… sooner than I expect. A load was taken off my mind today and the ‘future’ ball is once again rolling. Worth a celebration, don’t you think?


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Posted by on June 9, 2010 in future, life



Saterdag Sokkie jol

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Posted by on June 5, 2010 in music


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The beauty in pollution

The early morning sun
pours its molten gold
over the dark city skyline
causing the dark grey
silhouette edge to shimmer

The sky lightens to a murky haze
its early glory
all but forgotten

sunset 2
Light fades and transforms –
Nature is not done with us yet!
Brushes dipped in fire and dust
she paints our world
in a cloak of splendour

For a while, all is right with the world as we gaze in awe

sunset 1

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Posted by on June 1, 2010 in poetry


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