Sunday, September 17, 2006

Training and Enrichment

My work took me to two very diverse training/enrichment programmes in the last two weeks.

The first was a flashy conference on Higher education and community engagement. The conference was attended by 200 - 300 representatives of the elite of higher education in South Africa and we were treated to five star food, hospitality, and very stimulating discussions and debate. Several remarks were made by international experts that South Africa was ahead of even developed countries as far as the conception, debate, and implementation of community engagement in higher education was concerned. It was very stimulating and I am still busy internalising a number of the concepts that were discussed there.

The second training programme that I attended was organised by "Working on Fire." It was a basic two-day course on fire safety, the prevention and combat of Veld, Forest, and Mountain fires. The training forms part of a workplace skills development programme for farm workers and is in all likelihood positioned somewhere in the FET-range (accessible to people with a Grade 9 certificate). We arrived at the place for the seminar and the presenter was an hour late; there was no coffee, tea or refreshments of any kind. (We hoped this would change on the second day, but it just got worse when the presenter, who was late could also not find the pictures that he wanted to show us on his laptop; and still no coffee, tea, or refreshments). At the end of the second day we were all placed in a squad and made to jog military style to the area where we would be introduced to fire-fighting equipment and its correct use.

The surprising fact is that the training that I received from "Working on Fire" caused a greater paradigm shift in my thinking and my actions, than I got from the very high quality conference on Higher education and community engagement.

I've always gone out of my way to involve myself with fire fighting. A fire poses an immediate challenge that requires a person to think strategically and solve problems. It is always exciting. I realise however that I was extremely lucky not to have been injured or killed in the process.

My approach to fighting fire has almost always been one similar to the one used by "Van der Merwe" who came rushing into the fire where other teams had given up on the fight. He did not even stop his bakkie. His people just jumped out and fought for life and death, extinguising the fire. When commended for his bravery he explained that he had no intention of killing the fire, but that his bakkie's brakes had failed.

Anyway in the future I will be a much more effective fire fighter and team player.

The most frustrating part of both of these training opportunities was that I had to find alternative means to get to them because my Gomoto was broken.

The Real Cost of Owning a Gomoto

I took my Gomoto GT in for its 4000 km service 12 days ago on a Wednesday. I was then told that I should not expect to get it before Monday.

When I heard nothing from them by Tuesday, I called. I could only get hold of the manager of Scooter World late in the afternoon. They had not yet looked at the motorbike. Neither had they ordered the parts that I requested to have replaced. Apparently two people had just bought brand new motorbikes earlier in the week, and they would not work and that took priority.

I phoned again on Thursday afternoon, and this time I became really unhappy when I was told that they would work on my bike as soon as possible.

I see that I missed a phone call from Gomoto / Scooter World on Friday. No message was left. Unfortunately I was in a seminar that kept me busy until after business hours.

I have no idea what the status of my motorbike is. I hope and trust that it will be ready tomorrow morning.

My bike has now been out of commission for three weeks. It was broken for a week before I could find the time to take it in to be fixed. Now it has been at the repairs shop for another two weeks. If I was running a small business, or if I had to use the bike to commute to work every day, I would now have been livid.

I do use my bike on a daily basis. This hiatus in its working condition has caused quite a lot of discomfort. I am fortunate because my wife owns a car. I needed to plan carefully to slot my travels into a time when her car was available.

Riding a Gomoto is pleasurable. Three weeks without this pleasure! Very Upsetting.

Update: Monday, 18 September

I called Scooter World this morning. Everything has been fixed.

They were just experiencing a few challenges with the wheels:

1. It appears it is not possible to replace the spoke wheels with rimmed wheels in this model.

2. But they will replace the spoked wheel at the back with a new one. This happens under warranty, and therefore I will not be paying as much. This is very good news for me.

3. I received another call from the owner of the shop in the afternoon. The wheel will be delivered tomorrow afternoon and I should be able to collect my bike at 17:00.

4. The final cost for fixing the clutch handle, and servicing has now been reduced to R500 and something. That is much better than the R1200.

I feel much better, and my liking for the manager at Scooter World has gone up again!

UPDATE: Wednesday 20 September 2006

Frustration levels are back to RED ALERT! I made all my arrangements to get a lift down to Scooter World to collect my Gomoto, on Tuesday afternoon. At 16:35 I called. A lady answered the phone and gave me a message that I could collect the motorbike at about 12:00 on Wednesday. It is now 11:40 on Wednesday. I don't have access to a lift until this afternoon and all the business that I had to do in town has to wait until somebody finally feels that it is important enough for them to fix my bike. I'm too scared to even call. I will just become more and more upset!

FINAL UPDATE: Wednesday 20 September 2006

I finally collected my Gomoto at 15:00 in the afternoon. The seat was not bolted on. I guess that is the result of me taking it apart before I took it in to them. I forgot to take in service booklet to have it signed, so I guess I will have to visit the shop again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Mnn, I've not tried this before. :-)
Picture from: bikepics.


Unless I take one of my own photos and turn it onto its side.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

Aquila, posted the following graphic on his blog to indicate the driving statistics of a typical morning trip from his home in Northriding, Johannesburg to his office in Sandton.

This graphic clearly illustrates some of the poignant thoughts of the social philosopher, André Gorz, who argues in an article "The Social Ideology of the Motorcar" that cars "are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people." Paradoxically, however, the motorcar has become a "luxury object that has been devalued by its own spread."

This sounds very theoretical, but what it comes down to, is that it is just not practical for every person to own and drive a motorcar as they wish to. In South Africa only a small portion of the population owns a motorcar, and already the roads are clogged up to the extent that, in some places, it takes 52 minutes to travel 15 kilometres.

Compare this to many other developing countries where a smaller section of the population own cars and many more people drive around on motorbikes not unlike the Gomoto. The streets might seem much busier and slightly more chaotic and noisy, but I would like to presume that the population as a whole experience slightly more freedom of movement than we experience in the South African metropole.

I love my Gomoto 125cc GT motorbike. :-) Your ride to freedom.

(Thanks to Aquila for the picture - he often photographs other cars on the road. Thanks also to Kabir for sharing this very insightful article with me. I will be commenting on some other aspects of what I've read later.)

An Apology to my Readers

When I set up my blog, I used all the conventional internet wisdom that I know. I used a "disposable" e-mail account so that I do not put myself at risk for spam or unwanted consequences of going public in an online way. (I have some friends who would be even more paranoid. They would even manufacture complete pseudo-identities in order to protect their real identity. I did not do that.)

In the beginning I feverishly checked in on my gmail account to read statistical reports from the statistics engine I have on my site and to check for e-mail. As time went on, I lost my enthusiasm for statistics and google ratings. I write primarily as an expression of what I enjoy, not to promote my writing etc. (Perhaps the fact that my blog receive 2 hits on average per day made my visits to my gmail account demotivating).

This week-end I discovered how this back-fired. I began to suspect that one of my readers had tried to contact me and I checked into gmail. I got quite a shock when I realised that three individual readers had tried to contact me. Some as far back as three weeks ago!

Two of these readers wanted to ask me some questions before they bought a Gomoto for themselves. One reader sent me a delightful article by a fellow Marxist/socialist like myself, André Gorz and I will certainly give a review and response to this article very soon. I am SO upset with myself for not checking in more frequently.

Fortunately one of the readers have gone ahead and invested in a Gomoto completely independently of me! I hope that I could set up an interview with him to get his perspectives on the motorbike. Perhaps we could even ride to some destination together.

I have remedied the situation. In future any e-mails sent to me via my blog will be delivered directly to the e-mail address that I use every day. Chances are that I will not miss any feedback aymore.

I apologise for managing this aspect of my blog so poorly. I promise that it will improve with immediate effect.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Long Ride to Freedom?

Life happened to me this week, and I was not able to even think about my broken Gomoto until yesterday (Wednesday).

I offered somebody with a bakkie a two-litre Coke and off I went with the Gomoto in a few pieces to Scooter World.

I asked for a 4000km service. I also asked them to figure out why the Gomoto could not start and why the headlight keeps going on and off intermittently while I ride.

I explained that my spokes were busy breaking and then I was presented with a seductive option. Gomoto no longer keep those spokes, but they are prepared to replace the weels with mags at half price. Normal price is R500 per wheel, so I can get two new solid-rimmed mags for 500.

Added to my list is replacement of the broken clutch bracket, broken ignition lock nut, broken break-light switch. (Somehow, Reynard had absolutely no recollection that I had been to his shop about 5 weeks earlier to order those same parts in order for me to replace them then.)

I asked how much it would cost. Obviously I was not able to get a final answer, but I was informed that it would be in the vicinity of R1200.

Now I know that I am definitely being a bit unreasonable here. I am replacing a whole lot of broken parts. And some of the parts are broken due to my own negligence. But I still can't help feeling a bit done in. When I bought the motorbike I was told that I would pay about R220 for a service. Technically that is still the case, but here, after 3700 km's I find myself paying R1200. (I should probably not have ordered the mag-wheels, but who can argue against the fact that the company will not be manufacturing/importing spokes anymore).

I'm wondering if this is not the beginning of my own "Ride to Freedom". The last time that I found myself in this situation was when I bought my first computer and found that I was paying copious amounts of money to have other people install operating systems and fix hardware. I took some risks and today I hardly have to pay anybody to do anything on my computer (which runs Linux).

Next time I will probably buy myself a little electrical meter and take the advice of people like Francois (who is a regular and welcome commenter on my blog) to do things myself. Surely I should be able to figure out how things work. That will certainly be my first step on my ride to freedom.

Hmmpf... I'm still cringing at the fact that I'm paying 1/7th of the price of the bike for its first decent service at 3700km. (Oh yes: And it really hurts me that I take the bike in on Wednesday, but can only expect it back on Monday or Tuesday! Am I from a different world? Is this normal?)

Friday, September 01, 2006

3708km: Electrical Woes

My Gomoto takes me everywhere. Yesterday it took me to the dentist to have my tooth extracted. I've never experienced so much physical violence directed towards me in my whole life! But my Gomoto provided me with a comforting ride back home (despite the fact that my whole body was shaking from shock). The Gomoto could do nothing for me however, when the anesthetic worked itself out of my system. Not even my wife could do anything for me. She was getting really frustrated with me tossing and turning and eating Myprodals like Smarties.

This morning (still with a throbbing pain in my mouth), I put my daughter on the seat behind me on the daily creche' routine. It is spring day and she had to take flowers to school. I don't have any flowers growing in my flat, so I stopped at about three places to help myself to some flowers. About 500metres into the journey, my Gomoto decided to just switch itself off. I let out an expletive and reached for the remote control in my pocket to switch it back on again. But nothing happened. So I stuck the key into the ignition and turned it. The familiar blue light came on, and went off immediately. Nothing could pursuade my Gomoto 125 cc motorbike to start. So I left it on the side of the road, walked my daughter to school, and returned to try to switch it on again. It seems the Gomoto is quite a stubborn creature, and I ended up pushing it up the hill back to my flat.

In the garage I found a size 10 and a size 14 spanner and removed the seat. I found a 15w fuse. It is definitely blown. I happen to have another 15w fuse lying around and stuck it in, but still to no avail. I pushed and pulled on some of the wires. Checked the batery, looked at all the connections I could see. But still nothing.

So I called Scooter World in the Strand, and the verdict is that I need to bring my motorbike in to them. They are too busy today to come fetch it themselves. I'm not quite sure if I am going to be able to do that. I don't have many friends with bakkies. (One friend recently bought a Landrover, but I don't think it is up to carrying this kind of load :-). I'll wait until Monday and ask Scooter world if they could please come and fetch it. (At a cost of R30. VERY REASONABLE).

In the mean time, without my Gomoto Freedom, I'll sit at home and feel sorry for myself with my throbbing mouth and jaw.

I hope Scooter World will provide promt service and help me get back to my usual freedom as soon as possible.