Sunday/ how to write about loss

My brothers and I learned tonight that our beloved mom had passed away in the early hours of Monday morning in South Africa.


Above: a stanza from a 2003 poem by Johann de Lange (Afrikaans). I tried my hand at a rough translation, on the right.

Friday/ feeling 7 years old again

My passport renewal application form with photo & check was ready to send in on Thursday.
I could fill out the form on the computer to print it. All good.
I practiced a few times to make a recognizable signature with my right hand’s four fingers; signed the form, and signed the check.
I enlisted the help of friends to fill out the rest of the check, and to neatly write the date on the form.

There was no mercy at the post office, though: I had to fill out my own address and the passport center’s address three times with my left hand (on the priority mail envelope, and in teeny-tiny letters on the certified mail slips).
It was hard work!

The bane of the left-handed writer: smudging ink that is not completely dry. Hopefully the letter-sorting machine is smart enough to make out my squiggles.
For a few minutes there, I felt 7 years old again, concentrating hard to get the letters right :).

Friday/ soft butter and left-hand keyboards

The iPhone’s Left Hand Only keyboard helps a little bit (QWERTY keys squished towards the left). A quantum leap of help, though, would be an Afrikaans language keyboard/ dictionary option to pick for sending Afrikaans texts. Of the 11 languages used in South Africa (Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venḓa, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, English), the iMessage app supports ONE: English. Apple! You’re $3T global company. Help us out, please.


My butter dish now resides on the kitchen counter, and not in the fridge.
A hard block of butter is annoying for two hands, and absolutely does not cut it for a one-handed toast butterer.

I also discovered that there is a Left Hand Only keyboard setting for my iPhone.

Saturday/ mugging for the camera

We did not take a group photo last year, and I insisted we do one this year. I set my camera up on its tripod, and had it take 8 pictures, 3 seconds apart.
Hold still! But no — the objects being photographed got a little restless towards the end of the photo shoot.

Are we done yet? How many more pictures will that camera take? (That’s a chocolate mousse cake in the foreground).
At the back: Gary, Steve, Ken, Bill, Dave.
In front: Bryan, Thomas, Paul, Willem.
Sam the Brittany, and Mr Squirrel, staring each other down, sort of: one is the hunter and the other is the prey.

Thursday/ another trip around the sun

I had a lovely day here in the Northern Hemisphere. It was not too warm and not too cold.

I have now completed exactly sixty trips around the Sun, and that earned me felicitations from family and friends (which I appreciated very much).

The Thursday night social tennis group also made a fuss over me— with cupcakes and beverages and a little gift bag and balloons. There will be more festivities on Saturday, when I plan to have a few friends over.

Wednesday/ I have my electric car

Well, the wait for my Tesla Model 3 (Long Range AWD) car was over on Wednesday.
A Tesla delivery person showed up with my car at my house shortly after 10.30 am. I signed some papers and handed over a check. We linked up my phone with the car, and that was it, for the delivery.

As for getting behind the steering wheel, completing the setup of the car on the touchscreen, and starting to drive it: I am very fortunate to have friends that have been Tesla owners for awhile, and that have provided me with invaluable pointers and ‘tech support’ from the day I had put in my order nine weeks ago. It would have been a very steep learning curve, with many stumbles, without them.

The 15-in. touchscreen shows the car’s position in traffic, its speed and a navigation map with (optional) driving directions. The screen is also the interface for entertainment and a host of other controls for the car.
There is a standard turn-signal stalk & a gear selector stalk (R N D P) by the steering wheel, and buttons on the wheel for volume control & the sideview mirrors.

Modern cars are all high-tech, but one can argue Teslas are a notch or two above that. The software that controls the car’s interface and functions will be updated from time to time through my home wi-fi network. The car has no key: your phone is the key. ‘The car knows you want to drive when you get in’, as Elon Musk likes to say. On long trips, the navigation map will work out which chargers to go to, and will indicate how many open chargers are available at nearby locations.

My car came standard with some Autopilot* functions – which I can choose to engage at any time. I opted out of getting the ‘Full Self-Driving’ functionality. (*Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system: automated steering within a clearly marked lane, and matching the car’s speed with that of surrounding traffic. ‘Full Self-Driving’ is automated driving functionality that actively guides the car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal and taking the correct exit).

The picked the greenhouse at Volunteer Park as the backdrop for my ‘here’s my new car’ picture. It’s brand spanking new, un-scuffed and spotless only this one time, right?
A peek inside the car. The dashboard is very clean — shockingly clean, I thought, during my test drive back in April — and devoid of control buttons and dials. The table below has some of the car’s features.

I love the high-tech, but at the end of the day I am just thrilled to have a car that drives on electricity. No more fill-ups at the gas station for me.  I hope that in the not-too-distant-future, all the cars in the world can become electric.




The body is mostly steel, with some aluminum. The 2021 Model 3 replaced the chrome door handles, side mirror trim, window trim, and camera covers with a black finish. It has a double-paned windshield, a powered trunk, and a new center console. Tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection. Curb weight is 4,072 lb (1,847 kg).
Motors Two electric motors (‘dual-motor all-wheel drive’).
Front motor: Alternating Current (AC) Induction.
Rear motor: Alternating Current (AC) Permanent Magnet.
Transmission Automatic, one-speed fixed gear, 9:1 ratio.
Battery 82 kW-h capacity. Rated range of 353 miles (568 km).
Wheels Aluminum, aerodynamic covers. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system; regenerative braking to extend battery power.
Controls inside LCD touchscreen in landscape orientation that combines the instrument cluster and infotainment. Heating and air-conditioning cooling efficiency increased by heat pump with octovalve.


Friday/ a rainy day, long ago & far away

Here’s a picture (circa 1966) that I found in a shoe box of pictures. It’s a rainy day scene at my family’s house in Vereeniging, South Africa, where I grew up.  I’m not sure if the picture was taken to capture the soggy grounds, or the Cadillac in the driveway! Maybe both.

Some some ten years later, in 1975, the low-lying areas of Vereeniging would flood, during a wet summer season, and muddy river water would creep up to within an inch or two of flooding my parents’ home. We were very grateful that the wooden floors and everything in the house were spared.

It’s 1966 and the house on Doon Drive in Vereenging is brand new (sparse starter lawn and stack of pavers!).  That’s my grandfather’s 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and (I think) my dad’s 1965 Fiat Familiare in the garage. The TJ on the Cadillac’s plate stands for Transvaal Johannesburg (province, city). The white Land Rover at the back made several journeys to Botswana and back, and later on would stay put in Botswana.

Tuesday/ career milestone

In the elevator lobby at my firm’s Seattle office today. I had just handed in my company-issued computer, and my badge.

My long sabbatical from work had came to an end by last week, and it was finally time to decide: to go back to full-time work, or not.  I decided not to.

So 8½ years with my firm, and its many adventures in the world of SAP* projects, have come to an end. I am still working on what the future holds.

*Enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations.

Sunday/ Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!  Thinking of my dad with fond memories, on this Father’s Day.

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The year is 1985, and this picture was taken in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. From left to right : my brothers Chris, Martin, Dad, Mom, my brother Piet, me.


Monday/ everything must go

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The set of Chambers’s Encyclopædia was probably acquired by my great grandparents (printed in 1917).
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Check out the Encyclopedia’s entry about atoms – still very controversial in 1917! This was just a few short years after Ernest Rutherford proposed that matter is made of atoms.

All that remained at my mom’s house at the end of Monday were paintings on the walls, boxes with documents, and stuff in the back yard.

My brother and I stopped several times while we went through the stuff to check out documents. Some go back 30 years, and the set of Chambers’s Encyclopædia goes back – oh, about a hundred years! 

I finally got a quote for shipping three pieces of artwork to Seattle : SAfr R 22,619 (which is US$ 2,310).  What! Are they wrapping the items in gold foil? I said.  Turned out that is for sending it by airplane, that’s why it’s so expensive.

So we had another appraiser come out and provide a quote based on volume.  They fill up a shipping container with items that go to the same city, or at least to the same area, overseas.  It will probably be a few hundred dollars for me. 


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From a pamphlet from General Motors South Africa, detailing the technical specifications of my dad’s beloved 1976 Chevrolet Truck.
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That’s me in the mirror .. the two queen size beds and bases, and their stands, have been bubble wrapped. The dining room table in the back was trouble. Two door frame openings on its exit route, with the door wide open against the wall, would still not let it through as is. So we took the two doors off their hinges, carried the table through in one piece, and put the doors back!
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Here’s a catalogue of the small tools factory that my dad worked at (he was managing director of it) for many years. He would bring home some of the items like the scissors, the metal saw, and the drills, and explain to us at the dinner table what made it a great product!  .. part of the salesman that he was.

Sunday/ remembering Robin

We lost our friend Robin Robinto cancer recently. She passed away on June 15, 2014 after a long and courageous battle, at age 60.  As her sister Kate told us, “Our bird has gotten her wings.”   She was able to spend the last few months of her life in Cincinnati with her sister Kate, step-father, and many nieces and nephews. 

So Robin’s good friends Ken and Steve hosted a commemoration today for us : just a few of Robin’s friends and colleagues, telling stories of how she touched our lives. 

Sunday/ Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, especially to the ones in my family!  We salute you.  It was my first Father’s Day without my dad, which made for a day of reflection and remembrance for me.

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My dad and I in 2005 at a wine estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa.  Yes, we love the Mercedes SL500 – not ours, of course.  My dad loved cars. He started out with Fords and Chevs but later in his life owned several different Mercedes Benz models, and would trade in his 5 or 6 yr old model Benz for a newer one at the local dealership, every few years.

Sunday/ the tree is gone

I had the removal of one of the three big trees in my back yard scheduled for this past Friday, and it went ahead even though I was traveling.  The arborist that took the tree out stopped by today (just to say he planted a sign out on the sidewalk to advertise his business).   Seattle City Light had to take the power line coming into the house by the corner down for the day, and it took them until 12 noon on Friday to get here – but after that everything went well.   (Yes, I don’t like to take out trees, but this one has been making trouble for me for a number of years by giving squirrels access to the roof, dumping pine needles into the gutter, and it’s in the way of a new fence that has to go in right about where it stands).

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This is all that remains of the Douglas Fir tree (also called an Oregon Pine) at the northwest corner of my house. The wood will still be hauled away, of course.
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And here’s a hairy worm on the garage wall, now painted a chocolate brown color (previously green, same as the house) with white trim.

Tuesday/ Dad’s memorial service

It was a very emotion-filled day for the family,IMG_2044 sm starting with pulling together all the logistics for my dad’s memorial service : the flowers, the pamphlets to hand out, the tributes from my dad’s four sons each (that the minister was to read; we could not trust ourselves to do it), the refreshments to go with the tea for the guests, and the cash payments in envelopes for the staff at the church. But everything went without a hitch, and we took pictures of the family afterwards.  The four brothers together made for a rare picture : two from the United States, and one from Australia joining the one that is in Stellenbosch.

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Do we look like brothers? It’s Piet, Willem, Martin and Chris from left to right.

A Tribute to my Dad

Our family received very bad news today. My dad had passed away somewhat unexpectedly at the age of 79, on Monday tonight in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
He leaves behind my mom (to whom he had been married some 55 years), his four sons, seven grandchildren and a brother.
He was born in 1934 in the district of Calvinia
in the Cape willem2005 002 smProvince of South Africa, the middle one of three boys.
He was a mechanical engineer, a no-nonsense kind of guy that said once : there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, just follow the logic, and there you have your answer. For a large part of his career he was the managing director of a small tools manufacturing factory in our home town of Vereeniging, where I attended both primary school and high school.
In his spare time my dad loved to work with metal and especially iron.  He could design and make anything from garden furniture to trailers for his motorbikes and boats.  He also installed a small-block racing engine in one of his beloved Chevrolet trucks, a truck that took the whole family on many tours through Botswana and Namibia.   He and my mom also oversaw and had built a number of houses, two of them in Vereeniging, and most of the others in the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay where the family would spend a few weeks for many summers.
We will all miss him very much.  We feel blessed and lucky to have had him for a long time.
The picture : One of my favorites, one that I took in 1986 of mom and dad at home in Vereeniging in South Africa.

Tuesday/ broken side mirror

So .. how did this happen? (Broken rear view mirror on the IMG_5844 smdriver side of my venerable 1996 Toyota Camry Driving Machine).  Well, it really wasn’t my fault .. I had the car parked flush to the curb while I was at dinner on Friday night.  When we arrived back at the car, I noticed the damage.  The perpetrator left a note and a phone number on the windshield, though, explaining that she clipped the mirror while driving, and damaging it.  (Which I really appreciated.  It makes a big difference knowing it was an accident and the person is owning up to it, as opposed to me thinking it was a random act of vandalism). She will send me a check for the damage.  The Toyota garage is ordering a new mirror and housing.  There are only two such mirrors with metallic blue housings left in the country, said the spare parts guy.  Which makes me wonder what I would have done if there had been none.  The options would have been 1. Pick another color. (Maybe);  2. Go hunt in scrap yards for blue 1996 Toyota Camrys. (No); 3. Do nothing. (No);  4. Use it as an excuse to get a new car?  The straw that broke the camel’s back. (Maybe!).

Thursday/ forty-nine

So, here we are at August 19, 2010 and it’s my 49th birthday.    Yes, I’m going for it! – the big five-oh.   There’s no stopping me! : ).

But first today’s stop at 49.  The card in my hand shows 七七  qī ​qī​  seven sevens  (equals  49),  written in simplified Mandarin.     I don’t have a cake here in China, but I plan to go to Hong Kong for the weekend tomorrow.  It  just happened that three of us from work made have plans to go to the fancy Felix restaurant on top of the Peninsula Hotel.  So we will have a toast for my birthday there.

And since I love numbers,  here are some references to the number 49 that I like :

* 49 is the square of 7 and is therefore the fourth squared prime number.
* It is the atomic number of indium.
* It is the number of strings on a harp.
* The 49th parallel runs between Canada and the USA.
* The 49th State of the USA is Alaska.
* The term 49er is the moniker of one who participated in the 1849 California Gold Rush, as well as the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

Tuesday/ tennis anyone?

No, it’s not your eyes .. the picture’s quality really is that bad.  My apologies – but it’s all I have to prove I actually went out and played tennis tonight.    The temperature chart below is for Dameisha, and it shows average highs of 34 C (92 F).    The humidity is what really matters and boy, most mornings at the bus stop I pull out my hand towel and wipe my face and neck and arms.