From Addo Elephant Park

Wed, 2009/07/15 - 11:20am | Your editor

Going on safari is great fun but the Internet doesn't work well. The elephants interfere with the vibrations when they hoot, according to Ella, 8. Actually the area under the electric lines is particularly rich in minerals that the animals want to eat, and they often do congregate there.


Another feature of safari life is sex. Don't look children at what those lions are up to. Humans are also heavily involved in the process, and every time we visit the ladies' room we can pick up free condoms. There are two varieties, the normal male kind, and another which is new to me, a sort of baggy horrow that the woman wears inside what Ella calls her privates, which keeps the male happier, I believe.


Anyway, here is good news from China before we return, for paid subscribers only, to sex.


Investors who thought they could buy in cheaply may be intrepreting China developments wrongly, write Michael Kurtz of Macquarie Research (Australia). He thinks there is limited downside.

  Read more »

Feather palaces

Tue, 2009/07/14 - 2:52pm | Your editor

South Africa had three boom and bust cycles with the ostrich feather industry which rose in 1750 or so, and finally died out with World War I. Each time the price commanded for the white feathers of the idiotic bird hit levels comparable to gold as fashion dictated fluff. Each time the price collapsed when fashion changed.


Now the meat of the pea brained nonflying bird is considered to be particularly healthy and we are in a 4th round of ostrichism. The last lot managed to build unusually pretty houses for the dealers and growers of the birds. The best financial results came from those who diversified into citrus fruits and alfalfa, tobacco and hops, and did not put all their assets into ostriches.


We could not ride the beasts because of downpour but the grandkids settle for horrible ostrich eggs with stuffed baby ostriches inside, perfectly revolting. We saw some caves at Cango in the Little Karo. They are big but one visitor summed it up in the comment book: so much money to do down into a hole in the ground...


Coooll. Comments for paid readers follow.

  Read more »

not yet decided

Mon, 2009/07/13 - 11:01am | Your editor

I promise never to write about rugby again without checking with the males in my family who went to British boarding schools and learned the game there. Both my husband and son criticized my report from the laundromat last Thursday. My husband had left the place to be sure I did not ask him to help fold the clothes. My son is in Boston. Here is what reader MF wrote:

”I love your preamble - and I hope you don't mind me making corrections. I think you are referring to the Hout Bay Bird Sanctuary not Haut Bay (the Afrikaaners don't go for anything "haut" being very earthy). Read more »

From the laundry

Thu, 2009/07/09 - 4:10pm | Your editor

At the Haut Bay bird sanctuary, I saw a pair of black swans today. Plus a nestful of eggs.


This is significant because for a long time European were convinced that black swans did not exist. Until they were found in Australia.


Animals are full of surprises. I learned at the Cape Town aquarium that people are 40 times as likely to die from defective toasters as from shark bites.



Sharks just have a public relations problem. Joe Shaefer, who I quoted here earlier this week, swam in a cage with sharks here in South Africa. I cannot do the same, but only because it is winter now and the water is too cold. Of course I do not want to swim, even, with a toaster.


Another insight from the zoologists. Eagles love living in cages, despite being a symbol of freedom, as long as they are fed. But parrots, which people cage all the time, become neurotic and upset when confined.


All this animal life results from travelling with two of my grandchildren, both temporarily aged 8.

  Read more »

Robbie Burns Note

Wed, 2009/07/08 - 11:49am | Your editor

The best made plans of mice and men gang oft agly, wrote Robert Burns, whose 250th birthday we are celebrating this year.

From the top of Table Mountain here in Cape Town you can see examples. Off in the distance many container ships and tankers are lining up to enter the port. Because of new docks being constructed and existing contracts, many docks are out of service. And demand is up as vessels aim to avoid the pirate-infested east coast of Africa and the Straits of Malacca. Instead they are sailing the long way across the Indian Ocean to land here.

You can also see the Cape Town soccer stadium which is under construction, maybe. Today the construction workers begin another South African national sports event, striking for more than the 10.9% wage boost they were offered. The country risks failing to meet its obligation to the FIFA World Cup group to build 10 stadiums here by December deadline.

And John Merriwether's most recent hedge fund venture, after losing 44% of its investors' money, is closing shop. The comeback kid, after his Long Term Capital Mismanagement misadventure, has managed to fail again. Read more »

From Table Mountain

Tue, 2009/07/07 - 6:30pm | Your editor

It may be the construction workers' strike or the Chinese blocking communications for  the Urumqi uprising but I cannot use the Internet well today so my message will be short and sweet.

Chinese stock which rose sharply in the last quarter have fallen back on the news of unrest and may be a bargain. That is if the Beijing govt and the minority Uigurs get together and do a deal to improve their standard of living. China, having so many Han Chinese, has a problem dealing with a minority by race, religion and language. But in an expansionary economy there should be room for aid.

That's the bad news. The good news is that with the Medvedev talks, it looks like Pres. Obama has won a few goodies, like the right to overfly Russia to support the Afghan War, and a reduction of nuclear weaponry by both sides. There are probably a few codicles we will only know about in 25 years.

Gen. Joe Shaefer in today's Seeking Alpha draws some stock market conclusions. Two of his ideas are Global Investing picks. You can learn more by reading his article or by subscribing. Read more »

Cape Town Taxis

Mon, 2009/07/06 - 8:41am | Your editor

 We spent the July 4th pre-holiday on Friday, when U.S. markets were closed, with a trip to Robbin Island, where Nelson Mandela and the ANC leadership were imprisoned for decades after they began to rally the country against Apartheid in the 1960s. The island is a 45-minute sea journey from Cape Town harbor.

 Before you go at the dock exhibit, during the trip on a TV video, and once on the guided bus trip of the large island, a Unesco Heritage Site, you are bombarded with tales of the suffering of the ANC men imprisoned there (women were incarcerated elsewhere), but the main purpose of locking them up was to isolate them from the country and control the flow of information. From their cells, they could see Table Mountain in the distance and Mandela, who also is a talented amateur painter, made a landscape in oils showing the city's iconic peaks through the prison bars. Read more »

Groote Schuur Omens

Thu, 2009/07/02 - 7:10am | Your editor

     Groote Schuur Hospital for many of us is forever associated with the first human heart

transplant, by Dr. Christiaan Bernard a brilliant breakthrough from a medical backwater.

But now the same major Cape Town hospital is associated with another development, shocking rather than uplifiting, a general strike by the country’s highly qualified multiracial doctors fed up with low wages paid them under South Africa’s national health plan.

      The strikers are taking care of emergencies, but not elective treatments, and radiology and X-rays are being delayed because they are elective. If I were suffering from pain from a broken bone I am not sure I would agree with this division.

        Doctor strikes in South Africa are a warning to U.S. politicians planning reforms to our own medical insurance mess, with high prices, multiple and confusing plans, misplaced subsidies, and many uncovered people. There are no simple answers to the health care conundrum. Read more »

Surf and Surf

Wed, 2009/07/01 - 7:17am | Your editor

      The day after you visit wineries you feel truly rotten. Over breakfast at our bed and breakfast in Rondebosch, a Zambian lady doctor told me that when you taste 15 different wines in a day it is better to spit them out rather than swallowing. I had no idea!

       Cape Town travel is also better thanks to Dr. Z. Instead of taking cabs we are taking taxis, which are not the same as cabs; they are vans fitted to hold about 18 passengers each, the nearest thing this city has to public transport. Fares are 5-8 rand depending on distance. The vans are have a driver and a whistling shouting conductor who herds people on from the bus stops.

       Because so many people benefit from the lack of decent transport, they have managed to block any move to rational people-moving here by terrifying the politicians, and probably bribing them as well. Read more »

Cape Town News

Tue, 2009/06/30 - 3:39pm | Your editor

Yesterday problems on the hosting site kept me from filing. Today it is worse because after a day touring South African vineyards, my head is not clear. But I did promise to keep in touch with you and happily there are two Cape Town by-lined articles today.
 But first apologies to readers. I have no idea why Michael Jackson died so young and cannot answer the question of TL. Nor do I know how long Bernie Madoff will live on but I am pretty sure he will die behind bars. And as for PH, I have no comment on Indonesian banks recommended by Barrons' for the simple reason that the magazine barely circulated outside the USA. Therefore I have not read the article and cannot tell you if this makes good sense.
 Instead I will be looking at South African stock ideas. This will benefit us all because we will be buying without the great Barron's roundtable follower mobs, probably getting better value. Read more »